First National Bank of Omaha has been sued by an intellectual property company that says the country’s largest privately owned bank is infringing upon its computer-related patents.
Intellectual Ventures, based in Bellevue, Wash., filed a civil lawsuit against First National late last month in U.S. District Court in Omaha. The suit says First National’s systems infringe upon patents owned by Intellectual Ventures on matters related to computer security for electronic transactions.
The suit also cites firewalls, cryptography and distribution of digital property as areas in which its patents have been infringed by First National. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified compensatory damages.
First National, the largest bank based in Nebraska with $16 billion of assets, had no comment, said spokesman Kevin Langin, citing a policy on pending litigation. Attempts to reach officials with Intellectual Ventures were unsuccessful.
Intellectual Ventures was formed in 2000 by a former top executive at Seattle-based software giant Microsoft Corp. It buys patents related to computing and computer systems, speculating they will be worth more in the future.
The First National lawsuit, one of several filed recently against banks nationally, says Intellectual Ventures owns 70,000 patents and has earned about $3 billion since 2000.
The company has attracted a degree of controversy, said Christal Sheppard, a patent law professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law. She said Intellectual Ventures buys broadly worded computer technology patents from their inventors, waits for businesses to infringe upon them, then sues.
“Some people call them a patent troll,” Sheppard said. “The politically correct term is patent assertion entity.”
The five patents at issue in the First National suit date from as long ago as 1998 and as recently as 2009, according to the lawsuit.
Sheppard said such cases usually get settled out of court, as companies figure it will cost less than years of legal fees in preparation for a trial they might not win.
The U.S. Congress, Sheppard said, is aware of the patent controversy surrounding computing, and the enormous costs that must be shouldered by companies seeking to defend allegations of patent infringement over computer technology. She said there are three or four bills that address the topic.
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