Before the popularization of the world-wide-web and the Internet, Alabama inventor Richard Mettke invented and later patented the technology behind what is rapidly becoming a fixture in many airports, malls, and other common areas similar to the widespread availability of ATM machines and public telephones. Public Internet kiosks are beginning to pop up in airports, cybercafes, and shopping malls throughout the country. These public Internet kiosks allow business travelers in airports, for example, to utilize the time they would otherwise waste waiting for connecting flights by checking email, browsing the web, and conducting online business over the Internet. Some owners of Internet kiosks stand to gain considerable revenue from such systems by charging users for the time spent online as well as by selling advertising space to be displayed to users of the systems or to interested passersby. A number of small businesses have begun to place Internet kiosks in various common areas that have a large captive clientele. However, larger companies like Hewlett-Packard have now begun to enter the Internet kiosk business, also hoping to cash in on the growing popularity of the Internet.
Mr. Mettke, an Alabama resident, is the inventor of the Internet kiosk system for which Mr. Mettke was recently granted U.S. Patent No.5,602,905. Mr. Mettke filed his patent application in early January of 1995, when the Internet was just beginning to find acceptance with the majority of its present users through popular web browsers such as Netscape and Internet Explorer. Mr. Mettke has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Federal District Court in Birmingham, Alabama against Hewlett Packard and its business partner, North Communications, for infringement of Mr. Mettke's patent.
Edward Goldstein and Darin Duphorne of the Houston, Texas law firm, Tobor & Goldstein, L.L.P., represent Mr. Mettke in Mr. Mettke's struggle to enforce his patent rights against Hewlett Packard and others.
Mr. Mettke's attorneys hope that this lawsuit against powerhouse Hewlett-Packard will firmly establish Mr. Mettke's patent rights and will set the course for future license negotiations with other companies that Mr. Mettke's attorneys believe may also be infringing Mr. Mettke's patent. When asked how Mr. Mettke came to be represented by Houston attorneys in a lawsuit in Alabama, Mr. Duphorne said: "Many people have brilliant ideas. Mr. Mettke, though, is one of those rare individuals who actually did something about it. Mr. Mettke obtained his own patent, which is a considerable undertaking. Appropriately, Mr. Mettke broadcast a plea for representation on the Internet, his medium of choice. Our firm responded to the call." Tobor & Goldstein take great pride in regularly representing individuals against the likes of Hewlett-Packard, although the firm's clientele includes many well-known corporations. "It's a delicate balance", says Mr. Duphorne, "to represent individuals and large corporations. However, in a country where innovation often drives the economy, the fruits of that innovation are often stolen from individuals and corporations alike. Our firm believes that Mr. Mettke, like our corporate clients, deserves the very best representation our firm can offer."