MacroSolve adds Sears to companies sued for patent infringement

The Oklahoma company owns a Web forms patent granted in 2010

MacroSolve, an Oklahoma company focused on enforcing its patents, has added Sears to a growing list of companies it has targeted with patent infringement lawsuits, it said Wednesday.

MarcoSolve, in announcing the lawsuit against Sears, didn't say where it filed the case. Several other patent lawsuits brought by the company were filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a court where many such cases are filed.

MacroSolve owns U.S. patent 7,822,816, covering a method for the management of data collected from a remote computing device including creating questionnaires and making the responses available on the Web. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the patent in October 2010.

The patent addresses mobile information collection systems across all wireless networks, smartphones, tablets and rugged mobile devices, MacroSolve said in a press release.

MacroSolve didn't respond to a request for comments on the lawsuit. A Sears spokesman said the company doesn't comment on active litigation.

Earlier this month, MacroSolve filed a patent infringement lawsuit against retailer Bed, Bath and Beyond. In November, the company filed patent lawsuits against Redbox Automated Retail, the video rental company, and American Express. In 2012, MacroSolve also filed patent lawsuits against several companies, including Target, JetBlue Airways, JPMorgan Chase, AOL, Bank of America, Marriott, Geico, Facebook, Yelp and Newegg.

Patent blogger Florian Mueller wrote about MacroSolve in 2011, when the company was filing patent lawsuits against small developers.

He called the company "dangerous" then. "They're definitely a prime example of the patent troll problem plaguing many U.S. businesses large and small these days," he said in an email Wednesday.

But Chandran Iyer, a patent lawyer with the Sughrue Mion law firm in Washington, D.C., said it's premature to label companies like MacroSolve as dangerous without knowing the merits of its cases. "If the case has no merit, there are mechanisms within the civil procedure rules that will allow for the plaintiff to be sanctioned," he said in an email.

Companies that don't make products based on their patents, sometimes called non-practicing entities (NPEs), are causing problems in the U.S. patent system, "but we have to keep in mind that there are different types of NPEs," he added. "I'm sympathetic to NPEs that had a product at one time but for various market reasons their products are no longer in the marketplace."

If MacroSolve distributed products "at one time which their patents cover and they are now trying to monetize on these patents, I don't have a problem with them bringing the lawsuits, as long as they are meritorious," Iyer added.

Last August, MacroSolve sold its Illume Mobile app developing unit to DecisionPoint Systems for US $1 million in cash and stock. MacroSolve would focus instead on patent enforcement and licensing, company officials said then.

The company filed several patent infringement lawsuits, including some against small developers, in 2011.

The cases against some of the companies, including Facebook, JPMorgan Chase and Marriott, have since been dismissed.

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Grant Gross

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