Burst.com Follows The Expected Path: Sues Apple For Patent Infringement

from the who-didn't-see-that-coming? dept

If you didn't see this coming, then you obviously haven't been paying much attention lately. Just last week there was an article saying that Burst.com would sue Apple and now it's happened. Burst.com is known for having patented a method for moving large pieces of content online at faster speeds. Years back, the company was talking to Microsoft about doing a deal, but eventually Microsoft backed out and upgraded their Windows Media player in a way that blocked out Burst and seemed to copy much of what Burst's technology did. It seemed like a clear case where the bigger company had unfairly picked the brains of the small company, only to turn around and try to put them out of business -- though, there were some who simply accused Burst of having sour grapes about losing in the market place, combined with a questionable business strategy that included being all too trusting of Microsoft -- an obvious competitor. There are also those who suggest Burst's patents aren't anything special, and never should have been granted in the first place -- but that's an entirely different discussion. Burst eventually won a $60 million settlement with Microsoft, helped along by a suspiciously timed missing chunk of Microsoft emails that discussed their meetings with Burst. Of course, rather than get back into the business of providing actual products, Burst.com figured out that the patent licensing world was a lucrative one -- and set its sights on Apple. Last year, they approached Apple, suggesting that the company pay it 2% of iTunes' revenue. Apple then went on the offensive in January, proactively asking a judge to either invalidate Burst's patents or declare that Apple wasn't infringing. Just to make the litigation circle complete, after a few months of trying to reach a middle settlement ground, Burst has now gone ahead and sued Apple on its own -- meaning yet another high profile patent battle for everyone to follow.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    ownerer, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 7:35pm

    lol

    roflcopter

    they will prolly get a shit load of money too

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 7:40pm

    Well the short answer is - always enough -To solve those problems you must use your real name, file signature, size of the data fork, size of the resource fork). Then, it allows the user to decode the file (of course!). Several working modes are offered: decoding of the data fork alone, of the resource fork alone or of both forks, and conversion to MacBinary. This mode can be useful if you want to reinstall a Macintosh file on a Macintosh medium, which would be necessary to execute a program, for an example.
    This utility can be downloaded from this site.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    nex, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 7:40pm

    Just because a company decides to enforce the hard work and money they have put behind their creations, doesn't mean they are in the business of lawsuits. I clearly remember Apple threatening people who mentioned Ipod in any of their websites or products with a lawsuit... If it is one to pay here, it's Apple. Jobs is one of the first advocates of screwing the next guy for small violations... If you ask me Apple is getting what they deserve.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2006 @ 7:50pm

    Re:

    Just because a company decides to enforce the hard work and money they have put behind their creations, doesn't mean they are in the business of lawsuits.

    Indeed. But, we weren't inferring that the company is now in the business of lawsuits, they very clearly admit that. So, I'm not sure what the above statement is supposed to mean. We weren't suggesting anything about the company -- just pointing out what they, themselves, have clearly decided as a strategy.

    I clearly remember Apple threatening people who mentioned Ipod in any of their websites or products with a lawsuit... If it is one to pay here, it's Apple. Jobs is one of the first advocates of screwing the next guy for small violations... If you ask me Apple is getting what they deserve.

    Ah, the old two wrongs make a right rule. Forgive us if we'd rather the system worked right -- and no one be able to abuse it.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 7:53pm

    Re: Re:

    "just pointing out what they, themselves, have clearly decided as a strategy." Did they say that lawsuits are a strategy to make more money? Looks it to me that you are clearly "suggesting" they are. you must be one of those metro-sexual pro mac users? right?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    nonuser, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 8:25pm

    these guys are full of it

    Google "US Patent #5,164,839" for the patent text (one of them anyway).

    The claims seem to be the result of a brainstorming session of likely business trends in the young digital recording industry, incorporating then-new storage devices such as CD-ROM. The invention section discusses, at a very high level, the use of analog-to-digital conversion with the use of off-the-shelf components and suggests that compression can be employed to advantage. However, that was obvious to those in the videoconferencing business, who had been experimenting with and marketing various digital compression techniques for audio and video since the early 1980's.

    I'll grant that I'm not a practiced reader of patents, so maybe one of the inventors who frequents these boards can have a look.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Clint, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 9:45pm

    The greatest occupation in America

    Patent lawsuits and celebrity lawsuits are the equivalent of robbing a bank in the old west. These people suck at life.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    gwenda, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 9:49pm

    Re: these guys are full of it

    Didja ever hear of Elisha Gray?

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2006 @ 10:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Did they say that lawsuits are a strategy to make more money?

    Er, yes, they did say that. They said that they're focusing on a legal strategy and hoping for a big payout talking to a variety of companies that they would like to get licensing from.

    As for the rest of your comment, I'm not sure what you're even talking about, so I'm not going to bother replying.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 11:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Mike, I think that you are missing the point here. What your reader meant was that people have a right to defend their IP. If the company is now in the business of protecting their IP and not a product-focused business it is because the Microsoft monopolists violated their IP and that is all they have left.. Your comment makes it sound like property rights are a bad thing -- very Larry Lessig of you.

    You are very articulate, but answer the spirit, and not the letter, of your reader's comments.

    Reader, what's up with that metro-sexual comment? Attack the argument, not the person dude.

     

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  11.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2006 @ 11:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    What your reader meant was that people have a right to defend their IP. If the company is now in the business of protecting their IP and not a product-focused business it is because the Microsoft monopolists violated their IP and that is all they have left..

    Okay, so after they won $60 million from the lawsuit... they couldn't invest that into making products? No, instead they went for more patent lawsuits rather than investing that money into bringing a product to market.

    Your comment makes it sound like property rights are a bad thing -- very Larry Lessig of you.

    Huh? I'm afraid I don't understand this comment. My point on property rights has been clear. They have both positive and negative effects. Unfortunately, too many people ignore the negative effects, because they tend to be "unintended." I think they should be brought out in the open so that we can have a real discussion. If we're looking to encourage innovation, why aren't we looking at both effects, and measuring them to understand how to minimize the negative effects and encourage the positive ones? Instead, all we get are people insisting there are no negative effects, and the positive effects are perfect in every way.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 11:37pm

    I have to agree with Mikes last point. $60 million in the bank and do they try and make a product?

    The whole point of patents was to give the inventor a reasonable amount of time to make a profit from their idea. The spirit behind that was that you create a product or service based on this new concept, not sue everybody you think you can get away with. This patent-sitting does nobody any favours - except the lawyers of course who love it.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Gerard Jeronowitz, Apr 17th, 2006 @ 11:53pm

    irony?

    It's somewhat interesting that Burst is suing over inappropriate use of their intellectual property, yet on their web site they use the terms "Windows Media Player" and "QuickTime" without attributing the trademarks.
    It's not that their web designer didn't know how to do that, there are "R" and "TM" marks all over their site for their own properties.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    mojoPAGODA, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 12:14am

    Patents and tactics

    Mike's comments regarding the unintended negative effects of property rights were very good, I think. Patents have always set a critical line between allowing creative development and discussion in the world of ideas and providing the very same people a financial incentive to develop those ideas (which can often be difficult to develop) through giving them exclusive and monopolistic protection over that idea for a short period of time. Where that critical line is set, of course, is the big issue. Different countries have diffierent approaches to where this line gets set, and it seems to me and alot of other lawyers (ok, I admit it, I'm a lawyer) that the US sets this line too far onto the side of "protection" and not enough on the line of "creativity". Thus, protection of the ideas becomes a greater incentive than the ideas themselves and someone like Burst will therefore tend not to produce new products or ideas but seek to protect the few they had to begin with.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    TT, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 12:37am

    Re: Patent Sitters

    They are looking for justice regarding the plundering of their IP. They won 60 mil--most of which was paid out to the lawyers and the stock holders in a special dividend. A classy move by a rare CEO who is actually looking out for the interests of the stock holders.

    A. They don't have 60 million to "make a product" and B. Microsoft ruined them as a company years ago. They have no staff, no facilities, and no capital to "make a product." What they do deserve is to be compensated to the degree that others have made a fortune using the technology they pioneered, and hold patents for.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 12:38am

    Re:

    Just because a company decides to enforce the hard work and money they have put behind their creations

    Go read the patents Burst and Apple are fighting over. They're so dead stupid your average community school dropout could infringe them given the same problem to solve. A patent office rubber stamp doesn't mean the idea is good, workable, or even non-obvious these days. It just means they paid their filing fee and filled out the forms without getting too much drool on them.

    I clearly remember Apple threatening people who mentioned Ipod in any of their websites or products with a lawsuit

    No, you remember Apple threatening people who published pre-release details of upcoming products. Y'know, disclosure of trade secrets.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    TT, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 12:39am

    Re: Patent Sitters

    They are looking for justice regarding the plundering of their IP. They won 60 mil--most of which was paid out to the lawyers and the stock holders in a special dividend. A classy move by a rare CEO who is actually looking out for the interests of the stock holders.

    A. They don't have 60 million to "make a product" and B. Microsoft ruined them as a company years ago. They have no staff, no facilities, and no capital to "make a product." What they do deserve is to be compensated to the degree that others have made a fortune using the technology they pioneered, and hold patents for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 1:24am

    Perhaps one day someone will tally the costs of all this pointless litigation and we'll get fair review of the value of patents in the US. I'm not a proponent of software patents, but if I were I'd have granted a patent to Lempel and Ziv who's dictionary compression techniques are still used today. Their invention was non-obvious and I can test this by asking all of my peers whether they could have thought of it given a pencil, some paper, a cup of coffee and five minutes of quiet time. The answer is obvious to anyone technical. The LZ78 algorithm clearly required a good deal of thought.

    The problem is that the 5 minute test fails with most patents. I'd say that 99% of all patents filed over the 10 years pertaining to the IT industry protect problem solutions that are mind-numbingly obvious. Put any engineer in a room first thing in the morning after a heavy night's drinking and ask him to solve the problem proposed by said patent and most of the time he or she can.

    In this sense patents become more an intellectual land grab than "a means of increasing innovation".

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Laughing, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 2:23am

    Burst was going downhill way before any of this happend, then they see Microsoft as a two-fold savior, either they get bought-out by Microsoft or if rejected they could go back and sue them, a win-win sitution...

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 6:22am

    Re: Re: Patent Sitters

    What CEO doesn't look out for the interests of its shareholders? Thats why companies hire CEO's. Its all about the shareholders. Thats why so many CEO's get stock options. Their job is to increase the value of the stock. The y don't care about the company, just the stock. This is the problem is American corporations today.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    foxdeman, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 6:55am

    Re: Re: Patent Sitters

    >They are looking for justice regarding the plundering of their IP.

    That is one of the biggest points of contention here. Did Apple and Microsoft say "humm, look at this little companies technology! Lets steal it!" or did they develop it independently? If I was writing similar software I would have come up with something that infringed on that patent as well. The problem is it may have been novel to a patent inspector 5 years ago, but it is quite common knowledge now.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    jscrew, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 8:03am

    e.g. patent 4,963,995

    Okay, I read the first 20 or so claims of this patent on the uspto website. I didn't bother reading the rest, because I had already done something similar back when I was in COLLEGE (circa 1999) with PHP and MySQL, having no prior knowlege or this patent. I thought it up in less than 5 minutes, and had it implemented in a day

    So if, I programmed up a little app that stored a/v files and information thereof using a text file and/or database, then took a feed from an analog/digital video camera and stored the information from that feed digitally, I would be violating the first 20 or so claims.

    This things violates the 5 minute rule, in that anyone reading it will be asleep in 5 minutes.

    The summary for this patent sounds like what any mom-and-pom video store that allows you to convert your old VHS home-moves and store them on a DVD has been doing for years! Burst certainly didn't shut them down, or the companies who created the equipment so they could provide this service.

    This is a digital extension of the old side-by-side tape deck dubbing/copying (or beta-max conversion to VHS), and putting the finished tape up on a shelf ("library").

    This is no more an original piece of work than "Steam-boat Willie"(tm/r -- Disney) when they ripped off Buster Keaton's "Steam-boat Bill Jr."

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Axe, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 8:51am

    Boy this is a touchy one

    I think we all pretty much agree that the patent system is behind the times. I guess the next question would be; Is the government even seriously looking into patent reform?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Mousky, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 12:24pm

    Re:

    Actually, the whole point of the government granting a limited-time monopoly over a process was to give the inventor the opportunity to recover their research and development costs and earn an income. There is absolutely no guarantee of profit

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Sly, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 2:43pm

    Patents and property rights

    I see comments like that by foxdeman and ask this question. If you owned a piece of land that you later found that someone had built a house/store/structure on without your permission, is that forgiven if they did't know you owned it or did not even bother to search to see if it was owned? I think not. There are other parts of the law to cover intent but a patent right is a patent right and that gives the patent owner the right to exclude others during the period of limited monopoly that is granted by the US Constitution. It seems you all want to crucify patent owners for exercising their rights.

    And before you all jump to the patent troll argument that says that only those who invent or make products should be able to enforce their patent rights, I ask the following question. If you bought a house from someone and hired a contractor to fix it up and then sold it for a profit are you a real estate troll?

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Bob, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 5:00pm

    trolls

    "If you bought a house from someone and hired a contractor to fix it up and then sold it for a profit are you a real estate troll?"

    If you buy a piece of land you have no intention of building on, then try to sell it for twice as much to someone who DOES want to build there, you are a real estate troll. That is the more apt analogy to this case. The key point is that the patent holder is not generating anything of value for society, but merely trying to collect a "toll" from those who are.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Apr 18th, 2006 @ 8:35pm

    Re: trolls

    Hey, Sponge Bob,

    How many patents do you hold ?

    None would be my guess...

    Maybe you should try to invent something useful, spend years of your life working late nights without any compensation, spend your hard-earned money to buy materials and to pay patent attorneys and PTO, just to see some idiot here calling you bad names and accusing you of extortion...

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Jim, Jun 16th, 2006 @ 6:28pm

    Re: Re: trolls

    Right on Dude. I can't believe how smug posters buy into the spin of the "woe is me" billionaires.

    Burst tried like hell to get their product out there in the streaming world. They did all the things you'd expect of guys who had a good idea and wanted other people to buy it. What happened is the less creative, but more arrogant and powerful vultures decided to borrow it. At least they paid back their stockholders who got hosed. They'll probably do it again if they get into Steve's jeans.

     

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