Miami company on a litigation spree using expired patent year 6 electricity unit

What followed Atlas’ acquisition of this patent was a litigation storm. In 2013, Atlas began suing medical device makers whose products used wireless technology, including cardiac monitors and insulin pumps. Atlas acquired the patent for $50,000, then sought $1.2 billion in damages from one medical device maker.

After no success suing those companies, Atlas launched a second wave of litigation, this time suing power companies, claiming their smart meter technology infringed on its patent. In January, Atlas sued TECO Energy subsidiary Tampa Electric, a suit that is still pending.

Few will comment publicly about the cases, including TECO (which is now part of Emera Inc.), Atlas IP and Atlas’ manager, Matthew Pasulka. But in court documents filed in several states, defendants have vigorously battled the patent infringement claims with some attorneys calling into question Atlas’ decision to pursue what they consider frivolous litigation. In turn, Atlas vigorously argues its lawsuits are proper and that it is simply defending a valuable asset.

But a federal judge in Illinois said in a 2016 opinion dismissing an Atlas lawsuit against Commonwealth Edison, "In short, Atlas has brought a hopeless lawsuit of precisely the sort that the last decade’s interpretation" of court rulings and federal rules "were intended to dispose of quickly and even to deter outright."

But when the patent was filed on Jan. 29, 1993, it described a new way for a wireless hub to connect and transmit information to additional "communicators," or devices so that they would not interfere with one another, while dramatically increasing battery life.

Ultimately, inventors apparently found other ways allowing devices to communicate and Patent 734 languished. Eventually, it would be acquired by WiLAN Inc, a Canadian firm that licenses patents to more than 250 companies worldwide. Attorney Matthew Pasulka was the firm’s president.

"If people were using the patent while it was still in force, thy can still sue even if some years later and the patent’s expired," said Jim Bessen, a lecturer at Boston University’s law school who studies the economics of innovation and patents.

Problem was, the deal to acquire those microchips fell through and no Medtronics product used them. But Atlas said it soon discovered an alternative infringement theory once it viewed evidence from Medtronics revealing more technical detail about how its products worked.

Other lawsuits have been no less successful, though appeals on some are pending. The manner in which the defendant’s wireless devices communicate, lawyers have argued, is different from what the suits describe and the Patent 734 infringement theory is faulty. Atlas then began suing power companies, the suits often containing nearly identical language.

While many patent infringement suits are valid, he said, there is nonetheless a growing concern in some industries about the costs of defending such litigation. Some, Bessen said, prefer paying a modest licensing fee rather than accumulate tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation costs.