Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 4th May 2010 12:40 UTC
Legal All the way back in 2007 (The Year Gilmore Girls ended), a company called IP Innovation sued Red Hat and Novell over a patent related to the concept of virtual desktops. It seems like common sense hasn't been drained entirely from the US justice system, since yesterday, the courts declared said patent invalid.
Thread beginning with comment 422772
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
vodoomoth
Member since:
2010-03-30

My fear is that they've completed the 2010 quota for rational decisions and will now return to the normal US legal level of clear thought for the remainder of the year.

Oh, that's sooo nasty of you. But I love it.


No, no one comments on the 2007 reference to the ending of Gilmore Girls?

Well, not much to say... although such an association would have (probably) never come to my mind.

Look at that patent for instance:
http://www.wikipatents.com/US-Patent-7028023/linked-list
It has been granted in 2006, and it's about patenting linked lists! The USPTO gave it a pass. I wouldn't be surprised to find multiple duplicate patents if I had time to review all this crap they call inventions.
I don't believe the court takes the USPTO seriously at this point.

Patenting linked lists... I am so baffled I don't even know what to think. Linked lists. Are we talking about the data structure that Donald Knuth wrote pages about in TAOCP?
But the biggest concerns I can think of right now are 1- what the USPTO thinks of itself after such blunders and 2- what the American people think of the USPTO.

Reply Parent Score: 1

lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

Patenting linked lists... I am so baffled I don't even know what to think. Linked lists. Are we talking about the data structure that Donald Knuth wrote pages about in TAOCP?
But the biggest concerns I can think of right now are 1- what the USPTO thinks of itself after such blunders and 2- what the American people think of the USPTO.


Company A submits an "invention" of linked lists for a patent application, claiming it is innovative and original.

Clerk at USPTO has never heard of linked lists.

USPTO takes company A's money, and awards them a patent.

Company A sues company B, C, D, E & F for billions.

Company B, C, D, E & F point out prior art from 1955-56 by Allen Newell, Cliff Shaw and Herbert Simon at RAND Corporation, and in Donald Knuth's work, TAOCP. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linked_list

Case is thrown out of court. Company A's patent is invalidated.

Huge WOFTAM.

I'm blowed if I can see the point of it all.

Edited 2010-05-05 09:52 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

Q: "I'm blowed if I can see the point of it all."

A: "USPTO takes company A's money,"

Reply Parent Score: 4

spiderman Member since:
2008-10-23

Company A has deep pockets and many connections in the legal field.
Company B has 3 busy employees, and owes a lot of money to the bank. Company B has invested all the money from family and friends to put up a product that would threaten company A profit margin.
Company B counts on the revenue that their product will bring to pay back its debts and develop new stuff that would further steal market from company A.
Company A sues company B over frivolous patents it know full well will be invalidated in the end.
Judge orders company B to stop selling its product while investigation on alleged patent infringement is ongoing.
Investigations takes 3 f--king long years before judge finally decides that the patent is invalid. Something everybody knew since the start but the legal system had to "investigate", go to higher court and all the usual legal bullshit.
In the mean time, Company B has gone bankrupt. The bank has sold all of its assets and the product from 3 years ago is obsolete.
Company A wins.

2nd option

Company A is a patent troll with deep pockets.
Company B is small but starting to be successful and win money.
Company A: I want 10% of your revenues now, or I sue.
Company B: You can't win, your patent is shit.
Company A: Wanna bet? Look at what happened to company C... What will your customer think about you? and some more FUD.
Company B: OK then but you will only get 5%.
Company A: 8%!
Company B: 7.5%!
Company A: deal! win!

I can see some other scenarios where Company A wins if they are not as stupid as the patent troll that goes after Red Hat and Novell (seriously, what did they think?)

Edited 2010-05-05 12:54 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

steogede2 Member since:
2007-08-17

The linked list patent in question isn't a simple linked list. It is patent for a linked list with two or more pointers where each item is pointed at two or more times - so that the list can simultaneously ordered in two or more orders.

Yes, its bullshit and trivial - i.e. if you are set the problem of maintaining two sort orders with a single linked list, I can't see a more obvious way to do it. However, it got me to thinking, is there any prior art? I imagine there probably is somewhere, but unless someone can find it, the only way to invalidate it is to show that it is obvious - the whole system relies on that subject measure. It's obvious to me and you, but what about a judge whose never created an algorithm in his life?

It also got me to thinking about what a waste of time the whole patent system is. Say you come up with a good idea that you think is original - you search for existing patents and prior art and find none, and file your own patent. You get some VCs behind you and start getting, five years later you're just about to start turning a profit when somebody undercuts you using your patented invention. Turns out they have prior art and there is nothing you can do.

Software patents aren't just stupid because they make software development a minefield, always having to make sure that you aren't infringing. The are stupid because they offer a false sense of security - you may have a field full of mines, ready to destroy your competition, then again they might all be duff.

How do you check that there is no prior art in closed source software world? Reverse engineer every piece of software that you think might contain prior art (probably against their EULA)? The same could be said for regular patents too, I imagine - but at least with a mechanical object, it is typically straightforward to see how it works. Another issue with closed source software, how easy is it to identify infringement, let alone prove that infringement?

Reply Parent Score: 1