Last week, Theta Chip, LLC filed lawsuits in federal court against Canon USA, Nikon, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Sigma for infringing a specific patent that covers removable memory cards in cameras and image rotation in camera menu systems, among other things.
As digital imaging patents go, this is a relatively mundane patent that appears to have ended up in the hands of a patent troll.
Theta Chip is the current assignee/owner of a patent for a “digital imaging system.” The patent was filed in 1998 and approved in 2005, published as US Patent No. 6,937,356.
The patent was initially filed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., which now goes by Panasonic Corporation. In 2014, Panasonic assigned this patent to Chinese company Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
In February 2019, Huawei assigned the patent to the notorious patent troll, IP Edge, LLC, based in Houston, Texas.
POLITICO Datapoint identified IP Edge as the top patent troll in 2016, noting “IP Edge and its many affiliates targeted more than 400 defendants in 33 patent litigation campaigns, accounting for 14 percent of all NPE litigation. Non-practicing entities, such as IP Edge and Leigh M. Rothschild, routinely add hundreds of defendants to a campaign as part of their strategy to simultaneously claim patent infringement against multiple companies. An NPE is any patent holder that does not actively manufacture a product or provide services related to the patent. ”
On May 22, 2019, IP Edge, LLC assigned the patent to Theta Chip, LLC. The assignment of the patent was recorded with the USPTO on May 28, 2019. All five of these lawsuits were filed in federal court on May 29 and May 30.
Theta Chip is a Texas limited liability company with an address in Plano, Texas. Specifically, it’s its principal place of business is at 6009 W. Parker Rd, Ste 149-1004, Plano, TX 75093-8121, which is located here:
This thriving tech company and patent titan’s home office is a mailbox that it rents for $20 per month.
Theta Chip appears to have no other presence online and no attachment to any actual electronic products other than this patent and one other former Panasonic patent (US Patent No. 7,271,930 also assigned by IP Edge, LLC) for printing images from a camera.
In the lawsuits, Theta Chip alleges the following infringement for essentially every camera manufacturer:
Nikon has been and continues to directly infringe one or more claims of the ‘356 Patent in at least this District by making, using, offering to sell, selling and/or importing, without limitation, at least Nikon Coolpix S800c Camera (“Exemplary Nikon Products”) that infringe at least exemplary claims 10-11, 13, 17-18 of the ‘356 Patent (the “Exemplary ‘356 Patent Claims”) literally or by the doctrine of equivalence. On information and belief, numerous other devices that infringe the claims of the Patent-in-Suit have been made, used, sold, imported, and offered for sale by Nikon and/or its customers.
Each lawsuit attaches an exhibit wherein Theta Chip highlights the patent claims in relation to website printouts or product manuals for the various reference products.
The referenced product for each of the manufacturers is as follows:
There has been no response from any of the camera manufacturers yet. I’ll be following these cases to see what, if anything, materializes out of allegations in the lawsuits. I would reach out to the camera manufacturers about the lawsuit but I think we all know what the party line would be. If anyone related to the lawsuits wants to reach out and talk off the record, you know how to reach me.
If this is the result of the first two days Theta Chip owned these patents, I suspect this won’t be the last we hear from Theta Chip, LLC either.