The CEO of Life360, a startup that has created a family-and-friends location service with more than 33 million registered families and a freshly secured $50 million in new financing, has taken an interesting approach to a particular patent holder.
When you run a tech company and begin to see a huge amount of success, you sometimes draw unwanted attention, so it was no shock to CEO Chris Hulls when his company started receiving lots of "invitation letters" about discussing licensing a patent. This is usually the opening salvo for patent holding houses who want quick settlements. But Hulls' response to one company was quite different:
Instead of "paying up," or offering a denial to the idea that his company's product violates some obscure patent, Hulls offered this response:
Dear Piece of Shit,
We are currently in the process of retaining counsel and investigating this matter. As a result, we will not be able to meet your Friday deadline. After reviewing this matter with our counsel, we will provide a prompt response.
I will pray tonight that karma is real, and that you are its worthy recipient,
Hulls admits to that he was feeling "a bit aggressive" after getting the new funding and ignored his lawyers' advice "and sent them a snarky response." The patent-holder, Advanced Ground Information Systems (AGIS), sued Life360 on Friday—and it included Hulls' "Piece of Shit" note in the complaint.
"We're getting sued for having markers on a map showing where people are and allowing communication between them," he told VentureBeat. "I could show them a Star Trek episode from the 1960s" that was similar.
While Hulls has called AGIS a "troll," AGIS does actually offer a product called LifeRing - designed for use by the military and first responders who want to use handheld devices to keep track of each other's location. Inventor Malcolm K. "Cap" Beyer, a former Marine, founded AGIS shortly after the September 11 terror attacks.
AGIS is arguing that Life360's product violates four patents, Nos. 7,031,728, 7,764,954, 8,126,441 and 7,672,681. The newest patent, issued in 2012, describes a "method of establishing a cell phone network of participants with a common interest." According to the AGIS complaint, the patents are infringed by Life360's smartphone apps, which include things like software "that allows a user to touch a family member's symbol on a map and initiate a rapid voice communication or text message."
Despite concerns about the court case, Hulls says he feels good about his decision to respond to AGIS.
"My plan is to take this fight for the duration, invalidate the patent, and make sure they can’t do this to anyone else," he said. "We are right in the sweet spot where I can still make these brash decisions and apologize for the mess later.”
Source: Ars Technica