Rates Tech. Inc. v. Speakeasy, Inc., No. 11-4462 (2d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
RTI owns patents relating to the automatic routing of telephone calls based upon cost. Aware of infringement by Speakeasy, a telecommunications company, RTI offered to release Speakeasy from liability in exchange for a one-time payment under RTI’s tiered pricing structure. In 2007, the companies entered a “Covenant Not to Sue” with a payment of $475,000 to RTI, and a provision barring Speakeasy from challenging, or assisting others in challenging, the validity of the patents. The agreement defined “Speakeasy” to include both Speakeasy and Best Buy, which had previously announced plans to acquire Speakeasy. Three years later, Best Buy announced a plan to sell Speakeasy and merge it into Covad. RTI again learned of an infringement and notified Covad. Covad sought a declaratory judgment that the patents were invalid. The action was later dismissed voluntarily. RTI initiated the present lawsuit. The district court dismissed, holding that the doctrine of licensee estoppel, under which a licensee of intellectual property “effectively recognizes the validity of that property and is estopped from contesting its validity,” is unenforceable in the context of challenges to patents, and that the no-challenge clause was contrary to the public interest in litigating the validity of patents. The Second Circuit affirmed.