Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), already facing a number of patent lawsuits over its Kindle e-readers, was hit with a new one this week.
In a suit filed Thursday in Seattle federal court, a shell company called Network Presentations Solutions (NPS) accused Amazon of infringing its technology by offering “Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers” on the Kindle, the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch.
NPS claims the Kindle devices infringe US Patent 5,748,190 because they are “personal computers that show Sponsored Screensavers .. at predetermined times of inactivity.”
So who is NPS and what do they invent? Well, nothing it turns out. The history of the patent in question shows that it was issued to a Norwegian in 1998 and has since passed through a series of hands until it was obtained late last year by Acacia Research Group. Acacia assigned the patent to the NPS shell in December.
In intellectual property circles, Acacia has been dubbed the “mother of all patent trolls,” a derogatory term for companies that don’t produce anything but instead collect patents to sue those who do.
Despite the passage of patent reform legislation last year, the “troll” business model is flourishing as veteran patent lawyers leave their law firms to form venture capital funds that invest in the lawsuits.
Acacia is seeking damages and the destruction of all Kindles that have the infringing screen saver.