TechCrunch is named in a lawsuit, and the mudslinging begins*


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With so many new tech applications and devices being invented every year, there are bound to be some patent lawsuits. But few of them name TechCrunch, the blog created by Silicon Valley bigwig Michael Arrington, as a defendant.

It’s a bit complicated, so bear with us. Earthcomber, a Chicago company that makes a location-based application for cellphones, recently sued Loopt, a company we wrote about briefly last month, for allegedly infringing its patents.

TechCrunch’s Mark Hendrickson wrote a short piece about Earthcomber’s lawsuit, calling it ‘a desperate attempt to get the company some attention.’ (The post also originally described the lawsuit as ‘rather absurd,’ but that characterization has been removed.) The bottom of the post included a disclosure that Loopt is a TechCrunch sponsor because TechCrunch promotes a co-branded community on the Loopt service.


Then Earthcomber amended the lawsuit, adding TechCrunch as a defendant. Earthcomber President Jim Brady said in a phone interview today that TechCrunch was added because it has a product co-branded with Loopt, called Loopt tc, that infringes on Earthcomber’s patent. He said the lawsuit against TechCrunch had nothing to do with the negative blog posting about his company, and that he called TechCrunch to find out if it was going to continue promoting the product, but he never got through to Arrington.

‘TechCrunch can say whatever they want, and I applaud them,’ he said. ‘But no one has the right to infringe on a patent that I worked very, very hard for many years to bring about -- not just on paper but in reality.’

Regardless of Brady’s intentions, the lawsuit did not make Arrington very happy. In a post on TechCrunch today, he accused Earthcomber of filing the lawsuit ‘out of spite’ because he didn’t return Brady’s calls. He concluded:

We will not be bullied, and people who file frivolous lawsuits need to be put down. I would rather run TechCrunch into the ground and go out of business than let this guy win.

His campaign against Earthcomber has drawn some detractors. Some readers wrote in comments on the blog that they were disappointed that TechCrunch was shilling for a company in which it had a business interest. Said one: ‘I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, and this is the first time a post has really popped out to me as maliciously biased.’

Arrington is a controversial figure: In April, for instance, he made waves in the L.A. tech scene by supposedly kicking Pete Cashmore, of rival Mashable, out of a Hollywood party. But would he really use his blog to run a start-up into the ground?


-- Alana Semuels

* This post was updated to reflect TechCrunch’s removal of the words ‘rather absurd’ in describing the Earthcomber’s patent infringement lawsuit.