Southern California’s Snapchat is an anomaly in many ways. Its product is designed to disappear from users’ devices within 24 hours. The popular social media phenomenon also has no corporate headquarters, a rarity in an age when Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon show off their wealth and power with lavish company campuses.
Snapchat finds itself in a common position among tech giants, however: seated in a courtroom, facing patent infringement claims. In the case of Snap Inc (owner of Snapchat), Reuters reports that it faces an intellectual property claim brought by a Chicago company, Vaporstream Inc.
A federal judge in Los Angeles (the city where Snapchat has office buildings, but no official headquarters) recently declined to invalidate secure-messaging patents held by Vaporstream, saying that Snapchat had not demonstrated that the patents are of abstract concepts that cannot be patented.
The 12-year-old Vaporstream creates and markets secure and ephemeral messaging software to businesses, including a Manhattan hospital and a Michigan utility company.
Early last year, the Chicago-based company filed suit against Snapchat, alleging that nine of its closely held patents had been infringed upon. The patents are of a system that diminishes the digital trail of electronic messages.
Snapchat asked for summary judgment, arguing that the patents broadly describe concepts not eligible for patents under Section 101 of the Patent Act. That’s the portion of patent law interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to mean that abstract concepts cannot be patented.
The case is being heard in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
We don’t know what the outcome of the patent dispute will be, but we do know that those who believe their intellectual property has been misappropriated should speak as soon as possible with an attorney experienced in patent litigation.