Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Aug 2010 22:11 UTC, submitted by lfeagan
Legal Most of us here are not particularly big fans of the concept of patents. Most of us are aware of the significance of patents, we just believe the system has gone out of control and needs a serious kick in the butt. Well, it turns out not even the richest people on this earth are immune to the call of the patent troll. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has filed a massive patent lawsuit, using broad and vague patents to sue just about any big name in the business - from Apple to Google.
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ugggg
by poundsmack on Fri 27th Aug 2010 22:19 UTC
poundsmack
Member since:
2005-07-13

There is now a third thing to be sure of in this life besides "death" and "taxes" ...Thing #3, the computer and technology industry will never have a single day of the year without some ongoing lawsuit. if you used half as much money as your spending on court fees in R&D you'd have the potential to have made a product that could carry your company into the future, instead of attempting to leverage something so far from the past and patent troll the hell out of the industry... this mind set has to change people...

Reply Score: 10

Patents Wars
by Praxis on Fri 27th Aug 2010 22:28 UTC
Praxis
Member since:
2009-09-17

Is it just me or are we seeing more software patent suits than ever these days? Its been a common saying that everybody is violating everybody elses patents, the patent office will grant pretty much anything that uses words they don't understand. But for a while at least it seemed that everybody was locked into a patent cold war where the patents are the nukes and if everybody actually enforced everything they had a claim to the result would be MAD. But now that has changed and everybody is suing everybody. The is going to get very ugly before people come to their senses and fix the damn patent problem.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Patents Wars
by darknexus on Fri 27th Aug 2010 22:32 UTC in reply to "Patents Wars"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

The is going to get very ugly before people come to their senses and fix the damn patent problem.


Good! Let them sue each other and let them kill each other off. Sometimes a fire has to run rampent to clear the way for new growth to spring up, and it's about time most of the big tech companies burned.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Patents Wars - burn like the banks
by jabbotts on Sat 28th Aug 2010 00:16 UTC in reply to "RE: Patents Wars"
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

A cleansing controlled brush fire may help but that's assuming the Gov won't step in and extinguish it with torrents of money.. sort of like the Banks that should have burned themselves out. (did any of the bank executives not get there bonus even though they'd run the industry into the ground?)

Reply Score: 5

symbolic sacrifice?
by sPAZbEAT on Sun 29th Aug 2010 09:41 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Patents Wars - burn like the banks"
sPAZbEAT Member since:
2009-07-17

this only from skimming news articles... some financial or bailed-out executives gave up their salary (for a year), but kept the other forms of income. i don't think any execs accepted anything near as low as (equivalent of) $20k/yr

Reply Score: 1

RE: Patents Wars
by RichterKuato on Fri 27th Aug 2010 23:27 UTC in reply to "Patents Wars"
RichterKuato Member since:
2010-05-14

Am I the only one who believe there will be no fixing of the patent problem? Even after the eventual Patent War what guarantee is there that things will get fixed?

I don't want to cynical but I mean Patents (and Copyright) have been around a long time and it seems that despite the lack of any evidence (proof, data) of them actually promoting the progress of science and useful arts, even after centuries of their existence, we still have them. You'd think in a free country that by now the laws would be abolished in favor of citizen rights. In fact their scope and terms have only increased.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Patents Wars
by reez on Sat 28th Aug 2010 00:06 UTC in reply to "RE: Patents Wars"
reez Member since:
2006-06-28

Am I the only one who believe there will be no fixing of the patent problem? Even after the eventual Patent War what guarantee is there that things will get fixed?

I don't want to cynical but I mean Patents (and Copyright) have been around a long time and it seems that despite the lack of any evidence (proof, data) of them actually promoting the progress of science and useful arts, even after centuries of their existence, we still have them. You'd think in a free country that by now the laws would be abolished in favor of citizen rights. In fact their scope and terms have only increased.

As much as I hope you are wrong, I think you are right.

The only way I see is that it becomes a really big topic in media and stuff.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Patents Wars
by somebody on Sat 28th Aug 2010 00:10 UTC in reply to "RE: Patents Wars"
somebody Member since:
2005-07-07

the only sure solution that comes to my mind is if 2012 prediction would come true.

although, still someone might sue nature that total world catastrophe is in his intellectual portfolio

Reply Score: 2

profiting from misery!
by sPAZbEAT on Sun 29th Aug 2010 09:35 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Patents Wars"
sPAZbEAT Member since:
2009-07-17

such a *novel* idea

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Patents Wars
by Tuishimi on Sat 28th Aug 2010 02:09 UTC in reply to "RE: Patents Wars"
Tuishimi Member since:
2005-07-06

No you are not the only one. There just does not seem to be a spark under the pants of the gov't to take a look at this and see what can be done.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Patents Wars
by ARUmar on Sat 28th Aug 2010 04:53 UTC in reply to "RE: Patents Wars"
ARUmar Member since:
2009-10-08

foreshadowing ? http://j.mp/b20oCU

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Patents Wars
by Neolander on Sat 28th Aug 2010 08:36 UTC in reply to "RE: Patents Wars"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Am I the only one who believe there will be no fixing of the patent problem? Even after the eventual Patent War what guarantee is there that things will get fixed?

I don't want to cynical but I mean Patents (and Copyright) have been around a long time and it seems that despite the lack of any evidence (proof, data) of them actually promoting the progress of science and useful arts, even after centuries of their existence, we still have them. You'd think in a free country that by now the laws would be abolished in favor of citizen rights. In fact their scope and terms have only increased.

If I had to defend the patent system, I'd say that while it's easy to show when it doesn't work, it's hard to show when it actually works. That because patents are supposed to act as a motivation, a hardly measurable data. First for researchers and engineers (because they may get financially rewarded for their work). Second, what's more important, for the executives above them (R&D is a risky investment, patents make it potentially more profitable).

If we got rid of patents altogether, chances are that companies would spend even less money in R&D that they currently do. So maybe just fixing the patent system would be a better idea.

There are many problems in the patent system, and I bet several can be easily fixed.
* People at patent offices have ridiculously short delays to make a decision. A relative who works at the European Patent Office told me that they've got... two days !!! Try to make some serious work in those conditions ;) Obvious fix : longer delays (I think one month is the bare minimum)
* Patents last too long. 20 years was okay for slowly-evolving technology, but several piece of techs today can have an interval of less than 2 years between two releases, and hence 10 generations of products before a patent expires sounds too long. Obvious fix : reduce this to 5 years.
* We award too vague patents. With things like Apple recently patenting a rounded parallelepiped and Allen patenting "browser use for navigating through information", there's clearly something wrong. Sadly, this one sounds difficult to fix, because the concept of "vague" can hardly be translated in legalese, so I don't think we can do anything about it.
* Patents are transferable. This is probably one of the biggest mistake ever made in industry laws. It does nothing to help innovation, and it's the direct source of existence of patent trolls. If a company wants a patent, it should have to hire all the alive inventors of the patented device first ;) Obvious fix : remove this clause from the law.

Edited 2010-08-28 08:40 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RE[3]: Patents Wars
by anda_skoa on Sat 28th Aug 2010 10:34 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Patents Wars"
anda_skoa Member since:
2005-07-07

* Patents are transferable. This is probably one of the biggest mistake ever made in industry laws. It does nothing to help innovation, and it's the direct source of existence of patent trolls. If a company wants a patent, it should have to hire all the alive inventors of the patented device first ;) Obvious fix : remove this clause from the law.


A company could still become a patent troll by creating some and then releasing thir R&D staff and just keep the laywers.

I think an important additional rule would be that the patent holder is explicitly required to actually make use of the patented technology within a certain time period, e.g. two years.

Failure to do so should invalidate this patent's protection.

The base idea of patents is to allow inventions to be used for competitive advantage while still having the involved improvement published.
If a patent holder is clearly incapable or unwilling to actually make use of the improvement, they should no longer be allowed to keep others from trying.

Reply Score: 6

RE[4]: Patents Wars
by monodeldiablo on Sun 29th Aug 2010 00:49 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Patents Wars"
monodeldiablo Member since:
2005-07-06

I think an important additional rule would be that the patent holder is explicitly required to actually make use of the patented technology within a certain time period, e.g. two years.

Failure to do so should invalidate this patent's protection.


DING DING DING!! We have a winner!

By making no other changes to the system than this, we can ensure that patents are used for their intended purpose. No need to even touch the Constitution, as this is completely in line with its intended purpose.

Bad patents are a bug, and this is a simple, elegant fix.

Reply Score: 3

RE[5]: Patents Wars
by Bounty on Mon 30th Aug 2010 16:05 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Patents Wars"
Bounty Member since:
2006-09-18

"I think an important additional rule would be that the patent holder is explicitly required to actually make use of the patented technology within a certain time period, e.g. two years. Failure to do so should invalidate this patent's protection.
DING DING DING!! We have a winner! By making no other changes to the system than this, we can ensure that patents are used for their intended purpose. No need to even touch the Constitution, as this is completely in line with its intended purpose. Bad patents are a bug, and this is a simple, elegant fix. "

What would you define as a making use? Do you have to have a product, prototype, drawings, research or what? If you have a product, does it have to be competitive or can I sell a quantum computer that can only add 1+1 while I work out the bugs (which may take a few years)

Edited 2010-08-30 16:06 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Patents Wars
by RichterKuato on Sat 28th Aug 2010 13:22 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Patents Wars"
RichterKuato Member since:
2010-05-14

I imagine that the reason it's hard to show that patents work is because they don't work. Patents are supposed to promote progress, and progress is measurable. There is no historical data suggesting that Patents have increased progress when introduced to countries and industries, however there is some data suggesting that it might have reduced progress.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Patents Wars
by SteveNordquist on Sun 29th Aug 2010 03:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Patents Wars"
SteveNordquist Member since:
2007-05-04

Of course not; every day the new structuralists working on hammering bills into readability (and often enough, back out) in the capitals get discouraged that way. But then they work against it a bit.

As it is we have no consistent set of laws; but we try to enforce one and encourage people to make decisions they can be happy with. What Paul Allen's doing endorsing an attorney to enforce '90s ebullience (undo my stock un-backdating!) I don't know. All that's missing is the GigaOM pic of Allen saying COMMON SENSE. I OWNZ IT.

Reply Score: 1

Don't feel sorry for Innovative Apple
by Mr. Dee on Sat 28th Aug 2010 00:10 UTC
Mr. Dee
Member since:
2005-11-13

Because just the other day they were threatening to file a lawsuit against Google over H264 codec. We also know Apple has an obsession with patenting everything. Please, do not bring Microsoft's name into this either saying its some conspiracy, the guy left the Company ages ago, this is from his other investments part of Vulcan ventures.

The problem with a lot of persons who a quick blame everything on Microsoft is, they like pick and choose who they blame. When its Apple, oh they are just protecting their innovation, when its IBM, they should do it. I don't want to hear anything bad about Microsoft on this matter. If you have a problem with Paul, have a problem with Paul and leave it at that.

Reply Score: 0

tyrione Member since:
2005-11-21

Because just the other day they were threatening to file a lawsuit against Google over H264 codec. We also know Apple has an obsession with patenting everything. Please, do not bring Microsoft's name into this either saying its some conspiracy, the guy left the Company ages ago, this is from his other investments part of Vulcan ventures.

The problem with a lot of persons who a quick blame everything on Microsoft is, they like pick and choose who they blame. When its Apple, oh they are just protecting their innovation, when its IBM, they should do it. I don't want to hear anything bad about Microsoft on this matter. If you have a problem with Paul, have a problem with Paul and leave it at that.


You're a joke. IBM patents the concept of patenting the concept of patenting, for every thought they call R&D.

They filed probably 10x more patents, per year than the top 9 following behind them.

Apple's not even close to them. But just keep dreaming it's not true and Apple is the king of patenting.

Reply Score: 1

BallmerKnowsBest Member since:
2008-06-02

IBM patents the concept of patenting the concept of patenting, for every thought they call R&D.

They filed probably 10x more patents, per year than the top 9 following behind them.

Apple's not even close to them. But just keep dreaming it's not true and Apple is the king of patenting.


Then you should have no problem posting a list of all the patent-related litigation that IBM has initiated, along with Apple's list for comparison. Of course we both know that list wouldn't support your Apple apologetics, otherwise you would have already posted it.

Reply Score: 4

viton Member since:
2005-08-09

http://taylorflatt.instablogs.com/entry/ibm-remains-us-patent-leade...
"IBM, for 16 straight years, has dominated in most patents per year."

Reply Score: 2

Priest Member since:
2006-05-12

Patents != initiating patent-related litigation.

IBM does file the most patents, but they largely use those patents for defensive purposes only.

If IBM ever went belly up, the IP alone would be worth a fortune.

Reply Score: 6

Tuishimi Member since:
2005-07-06

I partly agree with you.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708412/quotes

Perhaps he simply wants a "piece of the action."

Reply Score: 2

ozonehole Member since:
2006-01-07

I don't want to hear anything bad about Microsoft on this matter. If you have a problem with Paul, have a problem with Paul and leave it at that.

Sorry you don't want to hear it, but Microsoft is a major part of the whole patent problem (not just this case specifically). Since the 1980s, they've lobbied hard to bring us this whole rotten software patent system. Microsoft was one of the key companies (but not the only one) that forced software patents onto Japan and Australia. They tried (but fortunately failed) to ram software patents down the throat of the EU. If Microsoft had used its considerable lobbying power to fight software patents (rather than promote them) it's possible this whole f*cked-up system wouldn't exist.

I admit that Microsoft isn't the only villain in the patent wars. However, they've probably done more damage to America's intellectual property laws than any other single corporation. Every single software patent lawsuit has Microsoft's fingerprints on it (along with IBM's, another notable patent troll). Ditto for Apple, Oracle, Nokia, Lexmark, Intel.

This was quoted by Fred Warshofsky in "The Patent Wars" of 1994. The text is from an internal memo written by Bill Gates to his staff. Part of has appeared in another Gates memos.
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. ... The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors."

Reply Score: 6

Stephen! Member since:
2007-11-24

They tried (but fortunately failed) to ram software patents down the throat of the EU.


Given their tendency to fine Microsoft, it doesn't seem like the EU would want to do them any favours.

Reply Score: 1

Awesome quote!
by UltraZelda64 on Sat 28th Aug 2010 00:45 UTC
UltraZelda64
Member since:
2006-12-05

"Cry me a river. Let these idiots sue each other straight to hell."

Good one. ;)

Reply Score: 6

RE: Awesome quote!
by r_a_trip on Sat 28th Aug 2010 12:49 UTC in reply to "Awesome quote!"
r_a_trip Member since:
2005-07-06

The only problem I see with this is that the general populace will foot the bill. Less R&D, less progress, more expenditure on lawsuits and slower progression of the state of the art.

All in all, the patent wars will be very costly, for everybody.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Awesome quote!
by monodeldiablo on Sun 29th Aug 2010 01:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Awesome quote!"
monodeldiablo Member since:
2005-07-06

Two words: open source.

Patent torpedos only work with the following prerequisites:

a) a single entity to sue
b) a legal framework in which to bring a suit

Because of this, there's nothing keeping a collaborative, distributed, international project from implementing whatever they feel like, completely immune from the threat of lawsuit and dissolution.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Awesome quote!
by vivainio on Sun 29th Aug 2010 16:05 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Awesome quote!"
vivainio Member since:
2008-12-26

Two words: open source.

Patent torpedos only work with the following prerequisites:

a) a single entity to sue
b) a legal framework in which to bring a suit

Because of this, there's nothing keeping a collaborative, distributed, international project from implementing whatever they feel like, completely immune from the threat of lawsuit and dissolution.


This is true in the same sense as the following statements:

- copyright laws can't kill piracy
- drug laws can't kill international drug trafficking.

Open source is not meant to be some seedy operation on the fringe of legal establishment, done by "rebels" in their mothers basements. It's a honorable activity, often funded by companies paying real money for development, and should be recognized by legal system as such.

If I was an IT manager that had to choose between an open source project with unclear legal status and a proprietary project with an (apparently) clear one, I'd choose the proprietary one.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Awesome quote!
by chrish on Mon 30th Aug 2010 13:34 UTC in reply to "RE: Awesome quote!"
chrish Member since:
2005-07-14

Actually, all of the innovation will just move out of the US and into countries that aren't crippled by the software patent system.

You're already starting to see this sort of problem due to outsourcing software development, and the same thing happened with manufacturing in the 70s and 80s.

I keep hoping that this stupidity will torpedo software patents, but companies keep paying up or cross-licensing. And you can't cross-license with a patent troll because they don't actually make anything or do anything useful.

Reply Score: 2

fantastic.
by sPAZbEAT on Sun 29th Aug 2010 09:42 UTC in reply to "Awesome quote!"
sPAZbEAT Member since:
2009-07-17

i own the patents on hell

Reply Score: 1

Is this even news?
by WorknMan on Sat 28th Aug 2010 00:54 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has filed a massive patent lawsuit, using broad and vague patents to sue just about any big name in the business - from Apple to Google.


Wow, a massive patent lawsuit. In other words, it's Friday. What else is new?

Reply Score: 2

Americans have become...
by Nanotube on Sat 28th Aug 2010 14:16 UTC
Nanotube
Member since:
2008-05-11

...a nation of sewers (pun intended).

Reply Score: 2

Can't help...
by Valhalla on Sat 28th Aug 2010 16:34 UTC
Valhalla
Member since:
2006-01-24

but to think that this is yet another Microsoft 'attack-by-proxy'. They are the one big fish left out of this lawsuit, the lawsuit is launched by a microsoft co-founder (through one of his companies). The good news is that these so called patents are so obvious that HOPEFULLY they will be disregarded or atleast manage to put a giant spotlight on how absurd the US patent system has become.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Can't help...
by chrish on Mon 30th Aug 2010 13:37 UTC in reply to "Can't help..."
chrish Member since:
2005-07-14

Actually, two big fixes; Amazon is left out too, and from the description in the article, it seems like this law suit should be all over them.

The article mentions that he's still a big MS shareholder, but only mentions that Amazon is based in his home town... does he show up on Amazon's list of major shareholders?

Selective enforcement of patents should make them invalid.

Reply Score: 2

unless pa claimed to be antipatent,
by sPAZbEAT on Sun 29th Aug 2010 09:15 UTC
sPAZbEAT
Member since:
2009-07-17

he's not genuinely borking himself.

if this lawsuit doesn't go well, he can "take it to the next level" by suing the patent office.

i know enough to have definite opinion, but the 3 items you have there (from arstechnica) look very vague, and/or "obvious".

maybe i can sue almost everyone who sells or profits from objects that can make marks on objects for the purposes of communication.

yeah! these fellows were the first infringers! http://images.google.com/images?q=cave-paintings

Reply Score: 1

Comment by ssa2204
by ssa2204 on Sun 29th Aug 2010 20:08 UTC
ssa2204
Member since:
2006-04-22

What is interesting is that this news was released on Friday. At least here in the U.S. it is common practice to manage the news cycle by doing press releases on Friday that will be expected to be received negatively. For example there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the grand quitter $arah Palin chose a Friday to announce that she was ditching office to whore herself out. While tech sites may follow this, they know that come Monday nobody else will. And in the court of opinion they got their first shot they way they wanted. People will remember the headline...but not the substance.

I wonder by the way if anyone has a chart, in percentage, to the number of patent suits in the tech industry over the past 20-30 years. I would hate to say without facts, but it does leave the impression that the issue of patent suits has exploded the past 5-7 years culminating to a point where nothing can get done. At the very least without any question they need a system whereby one can actually figure out and find what is and is not patented. I would also think that an eminent domain could be made use for unused patents.

Reply Score: 2