The law firm representing web patent opportunist UDTL put out a press release today ... to say it won't talk to press.
Merchant & Gould, a Minneapolis-based law firm, has been sending generic letters to developers who use the W3C's RDF (Resource Description Framework) claiming that their software which processes RDF content infringes two patents filed by UDTL.
UDTL, or "UFIL Unified Data Technologies" is a private sideline of one Babak Ahmadi, who filed the patents Patents #5,684,985 and #6,092,077 in 1994 and 1998 respectively. But Ahmadi has got some big money backing for his speculation, in the shape of bailiffs PEARL or Patent Enforcement and Royalties Ltd. PEARL sponsors patent infringement litigation in return for a part-stake in the claim, and a share of the spoils.
"PEARL intends to generate strong, long-term growth of its cash flow through reinvestment of its revenues into ever-greater numbers of patents. It plans to distribute any large cash recoveries to shareholders through a generous dividend plan," according to its mission statement.
And PEARL appears to value its investment in Ahmadi's web patents highly: as highly as its investment in a hair dryer safety mechanism, according to a rather out-of-date page on its website.
We called Ahmadi, but a voicemail message says he's out of town. (Although we know he isn't.)
We asked Merchant & Gould attorney Dan McDonald if he was aware that UDTL was a only one-man operation, but he referred us to today's new press release; the law firm is only taking queries from potential licensees.
But these may be thin on the ground, according to experts.
"It's fishy," says Bruce Perens. "It looks like it's restating the basics of computing and creating new names for them," he told us. "There are very complicated names here for some very simple things. And the prior art cited in the patent is very very poor."
And prior art is where Ahmadi's claim stumbles, according to regulars on the W3C's RDF mailing list, who've cited a host of examples dating back to the early1980s.
Today, the Merchant & Gould press release said UDTL was offering "licensing agreements or other joint busoiness opportunities.
"At this time UTDL, PEARL and Merchant & Gould are not conducting interviews."
But if Mr Ahmadi would care to contact The Register, we'd very much like to discuss his claim. ®
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