Automated Transactions LLC, the Wilmington, Del., firm which has been suing banks and credit unions around the country alleging that their ATMs violate patents it holds, has received a significant legal setback to its litigation.
A panel of judges charged with consolidating similar cases that appear in different venues ruled this week that the Automated Transactions cases around the country are similar enough to warrant being included in one central case which will be heard in Delaware and before a court which has ruled against Automated Transactions in the past.
“This is a huge win for my clients,” said Robert Stier, partner and senior trial lawyer at the Portland, Maine, office of Pierce Atwood LLC. “So long as the troll could divide and conquer, banks were at a disadvantage. Today’s ruling is a game-changer because it unites the banks against their common enemy.”
The lawsuits will now be heard by U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, a Delaware jurist experienced with patent cases who previously invalidated one of Automated Transactions’ basic patents.
Stier noted that there are potentially 28 cases pending in 10 judicial districts that will be affected by Monday’s ruling.
Stier carefully avoided predicting what the court would do next, but said he anticipated the court would rule first on what exactly the patents claims covered and that, in turn, would indicate whether those patents covered ATMs or not, a claim he frankly doubted.
“None of these ATMs can be used to buy airline tickets or send flowers, so my clients don’t need a license under the patents. But they’re still threatened with expensive patent litigation if they don’t pay,” Stier said.
“Unless they join together, it’s very, very expensive to stand up for their rights. Of course, the troll knows this, and until now, it has managed to intimidate more than 140 banks into settling,” he said.