Truth in East Texas

The SE Texas Record Sep. 26, 2009, 5:13pm

Kids say the darndest things. And so do adults. All's that's lacking is innocence.

Take this knee-slapper from Longview attorney Eric Albritton: "Truth is truth in East Texas!"

That would have had Art Linkletter and his "House Party" audience rolling in the aisles.

In point of fact, truth is truth everywhere, but what passes for truth in some locales is a sinister impostor elsewhere. East Texas, to the best of our knowledge, has yet to be dubbed "the birthplace of veracity."

Still, it was a fascinating line, uttered with a semblance of sincerity and a touching teardrop. Albritton gave the performance of his life in court this month, in his defamation suit against Cisco Systems and Richard Frenkel, a former Cisco lawyer who blogged anonymously as the "Patent Troll Tracker."

But he must not have considered it a brilliant performance, for he agreed to a confidential settlement the day before closing arguments and jury deliberation were to begin.

The Texas lawyer to so-called patent trolls had accused Frenkel of publishing false and defamatory statements about Albritton and fellow East Texas attorney T. John Ward Jr. conspiring with a district clerk to alter court documents.

Ward is the son of T. John Ward Sr., the judge who's helped make the Eastern District of Texas a rocket docket for patent litigation.

"Conspire" might have been an imprudent choice of word, but the fact remains that Albritton sought to have the Oct. 15, 2007, date of his filing of ESN v. Cisco changed to Oct. 16, without going through the proper procedure to do so. The patent Albritton and Ward accused Cisco of infringing was issued on the 16th.

Imagine that -- filing a patent infringement suit the day before the patent in question was issued. That would seem to raise certain questions about truth, even in East Texas.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Richard Schell ruled that the Patent Troll Tracker blog focused on issues of public concern and that Albritton would have to prove malice to obtain punitive damages.

Albritton settled soon after. And that's the truth.

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