Monday, April 18, 2005

TRADING TECHNOLOGIES ON THE WARPATH AGAIN: Man Group Plc, the world's largest publicly traded hedge-fund manager, was accused recently of infringing trading software developed by Trading Technologies Inc.

Trading Technologies sued London-based Man Group and its Man Financial unit on April 13th in U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleging infringement of patents on a program used by traders to buy and sell futures contracts. The suit asks the court to block Man Group from using the software.

The lawsuit is the fifth filed by Chicago-based Trading Technologies since it was granted patents to the technology last year. A judge in February said Trading Technologies would probably win a similar infringement case against Espeed Inc., the electronic bond-trading unit of Cantor Fitzgerald LP.

Interestingly enough, Trading Technologies (TT) was awarded two UK patents on its MD Trader product, which it claims is used for half of all global electronic futures trading. The software allows traders to enter orders and compare prices across exchanges and TT claims this entitles it to a 2.5 cent per trade fee on the 'big four' futures exchanges – the Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Eurex US and Euronext.

Query: has Trading Technologies (or any other holding company, for that matter) ever attempted to enforce any of their foreign-filed patents? To my knowledge, I have never seen any of the holding companies sue defendants outside of the US. It would seem that places like the EU, which is considerably more hostile to software patents, would be good test cases for advertizing and marketing systems that would putatively be "free" from such infringement actions. Now, I imagine that getting around the inducement/contributory infringment issues would be a prickly situation, but it could be interesting to see if the anti-software types could produce real-world examples of pro-competitive environments being encouraged in the absence of "pure" software patent protection.

Just a thought . . . .

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