Yet Another 'Inventor' Of Wireless Email Comes Forward -- But Wants To Fight With Products, Not Patents

from the good-for-him dept

One of the more ridiculous patent lawsuits over the last decade (and one that's received enough attention that it may help push through some patent reform) is the NTP-RIM case, that ended up with RIM (a company that successfully developed a mobile email solution) having to pay $612.5 million to NTP (a company that simply bought some very broad patents, most of which were eventually were found to be invalid, from a guy who was unable to build a successful product for the market). After the case ended, the news broke of some pretty clear prior art in the space that had been kept out of the trial. Now, there's another guy who claims to have prior art predating many of the patents in the space. However, rather than get patents, the guy actually built some products -- and he's about to hit the market with the latest version of his mobile email service that will sync with all kinds of email accounts. He seems to relish the idea that any one of those companies with patents would try to sue him for his offering -- since he's got plenty of evidence going pretty far back concerning what he's been working on. What's great here is that this story highlights a few of the points we've tried to make concerning the problems with the patent system. First, with many products, there are many different groups working on similar solutions at around the same time, entirely independently. Giving one a monopoly on that solution is counterproductive to the goal of promoting innovation. Second, you don't need patents if you plan on just competing in the marketplace. This guy didn't rush to the patent office, but he worked on building a product that would satisfy the needs of customers, and know that even though there are bigger players in the market who could "copy" his ideas, he thinks he can stay ahead of the pack by out-innovating them. That doesn't require patents, it just requires knowing your market and continually innovating.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    wifezilla, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 7:06pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    "This guy didn't rush to the patent office, but he worked on building a product that would satisfy the needs of customers, and know that even though there are bigger players in the market who could "copy" his ideas, he thinks he can stay ahead of the pack by out-innovating them."

    He is so right!

     

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    Pedro, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 7:48pm

    What does this have to do with the rising cost of Tortia's in Mexico?

     

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    Wyatt, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 8:02pm

    Tortias

    Tortias play a direct role in providing email service on a cell phone on so many levels.

    This guy is a champ. Too bad people will never follow suit. Patents are for stupid people and stupid companies that know they can’t innovate beyond a point of usefulness.

     

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    angry dude, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 8:22pm

    Mike's lies

    "NTP (a company that simply bought some very broad patents, most of which were eventually were found to be invalid, from a guy who was unable to build a successful product for the market). "

    Mike, you really not just an idiot, but also a shameless liar !

    NTP DID NOT buy their patents from somebody.
    NTP was founded by the original patent inventor Thomas Campana and patent attorney Donald Stout.
    Campana was too early with his ideas and he didn't have the necessary resources and connections. He DID build a functional protytypes (read "products") and showed them at Comdex.
    he almost scored a contract with AT&T but it fell apart at the last moment. Life is just not fair to a small guy withy no money and no connections.
    Campana died of lung cancer before RIM paid a cent for his patents.
    For you to call a deseased inventor bad names is jujst plain disgusting.
    Shame on you, Mike

    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/dec2005/tc20051208_033879.htm

    P.S. I suggest to name your shitty blog "techlies"

     

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      Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2007 @ 10:56pm

      Re: Mike's lies

      NTP was founded by the original patent inventor Thomas Campana and patent attorney Donald Stout.

      ...based on work Campana had actually done for another company. NTP was *not* as you imply, founded to build this technology.

      Campana was too early with his ideas and he didn't have the necessary resources and connections. He DID build a functional protytypes (read "products") and showed them at Comdex.

      So he failed in the marketplace. Why should anyone else pay him for failing?

      Campana died of lung cancer before RIM paid a cent for his patents.

      You mean the patents that were later found to be invalid? The patents on ideas that were obvious and were on ideas that had prior art?

      Can you explain why RIM should have had to pay for such patents?

      For you to call a deseased inventor bad names is jujst plain disgusting.

      I never called him bad names. I called the patents and the stance his company took bad names. And I stand behind both claims.

       

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      Joe Smith, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 11:28pm

      Re: Mike's lies

      NTP bought the patents from Campana's bankrupt company so that Campana's creditors never got paid. Campana had the opportunity to sell his product to AT&T but he could not produce a product that could find a place in the marketplace.

      The suppression of the Goodfellow work sure looks like obstruction of justice or something pretty similar to me.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 8:36pm

    ^^ simmer down broham, its just the intarnet.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 9:18pm

    Calm Down

    Angry dude, you should subscribe to a blog that caters for your sort of views - some sort of tech right wing nutblog.

     

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    Bobshaker, Apr 16th, 2007 @ 10:53pm

    "Tech right wing nutblog" LMAO. That is funny. and yeah good for him. It's the typical mentality of companies to try and monopolize all their products than innovate. Are humans really so utterly stupid?

     

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    Quantum John, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:57am

    Don't forget money...

    "...he thinks he can stay ahead of the pack by out-innovating them. That doesn't require patents, it just requires knowing your market and continually innovating."

    Depending on the product, it can also require substantial amounts of money. And if you're an unfunded inventor, with established well-funded competitors, how can you raise capital without the protection of a patent? The possibility of patent protection encourages the unfunded inventor to innovate, and gives him/her a chance to get funding. After approximately 20 years, the patent expires, allowing everyone to use those innovations, but by then, the inventor may have become a new competitor in that industry.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:32am

      Re: Don't forget money...

      The possibility of patent protection encourages the unfunded inventor to innovate,

      That's the theory, with no evidence, that patent proponents repeat ad nauseum. They also like to claim, with no evidence, that if patents promote innovation in one field then they must automatically promote innovation in another field. This is hand wavingt.

      The reality is that most real life technology products are covered by many patents, big companies have big patent portfolios with expensive lawyers retained and the balance of power between large company and small inventor if anything is worse in many technology areas because the small innovator cannot use their nimbleness to do an end-run around the big company's entrenched position.

      Patents in reality, not in the willfully ignorant world the patent cartel lives in, are doing substantial harm. Until patents, at an absolute bare minimum, recognizes the existence of simultaneous independent invention, they cannot be taken seriously as a tool for encouraging innovation. Many inventions are simply things whose time has come (ie. all precursors available) and are going to be independently invented many times. Not to mention the PTO's complete inability to truly assess originality in all of technology - that's humanly impossible.

       

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        identicon
        Quantum John, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:41am

        Re: Re: Don't forget money...

        >>The possibility of patent protection encourages the unfunded inventor to innovate,

        >That's the theory, with no evidence, that patent proponents repeat ad nauseum.

        No evidence? So if I provide evidence, you'll apologize for repeating the comments that patent opponents repeat ad nauseum?

        I am about to file a patent application for a product that will be very expensive to produce. Once I have patent protection, I will seek to raise funds, and for that, patent protection is a critical aspect. Who would invest in me if I could be trounced by the major players in the field that are extremely well funded?

        Evidence: If I could not get temporary patent protection, I wouldn't bother developing this idea, because I would expect to lose it to established companies. Why wouldn't I simply beat them by innovating faster than them? Because I cannot afford to develop and market even the first iteration on my own. Once more for effect: I am pursuing this idea only because of the time-limited protection offered by the existing patent system.

         

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          angry dude, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:51am

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

          Hey, Quantum John,

          Don't bother - you can't convince Mike.
          He has never invented anything useful in his entire life (other than this shitty blog propagating lies) so he won't understand inventor's motives and incentives.
          He also does not know economics.
          Hell, he doesn't know anything at all..

           

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            Not so Angry dude, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 7:45am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

            Time to up the anger management meds dude. First rule of debate, If you can't win the argument with facts make personal attacks on your opponent. Seems you already have this one figured out. Besides, It must be almost time for recess isn't it? ;-)

             

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          Vic, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 8:19am

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

          Patents as temporary protection for original ideas that someone has and wants to develop -- that's exactly what the patent system is for.

          But where somebody patents something obvious, does nothing to develop the patents, waits for someone else to come up with a similar idea and develop it into a product, waits until the product is successful, and THEN comes out of the blue and asks for money, that is abuse of the system.

           

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          ttyp, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 8:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

          I am about to file a patent application for a product that will be very expensive to produce.

          Then it must not be a software patent, by definition. That's what we're talking about. A lot of software patents cost little more than the drink the cocktail napkin came under.

           

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            angry dude, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 8:58pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

            "I am about to file a patent application for a product that will be very expensive to produce.

            Then it must not be a software patent, by definition."

            yeah, by your idiotic "definition".

            Ever seen a robust speaker-independent speech recognition software which can be "produced" for pennies ?

             

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 8:17am

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

          No evidence? So if I provide evidence, you'll apologize for repeating the comments that patent opponents repeat ad nauseum?

          That's it, try to distract the reader with irrelevant nonsense about apologies.

          I am about to file a patent application for a product that will be very expensive to produce. Once I have patent protection, I will seek to raise funds, and for that, patent protection is a critical aspect. Who would invest in me if I could be trounced by the major players in the field that are extremely well funded?

          Sounds suspiciously like the standard "story" trotted out by PTO employees. It has little to do with reality. Repeating what I said in my previous post (which you have conveniently ignored) big companies have big patent portfolios, you will have to deal with the big companies whether you like it or not. Patents are a tool used by both small and large players. They don't change the balance, just tax everybody.

          I've known several people who applied for patents. All but one had a bad experience. The only successful one was an academic who earned a little extra money on the side. He would've published his idea anyway, that was the job he was paid to do, but he took advantage of the system.

          Evidence: If I could not get temporary patent protection, I wouldn't bother developing this idea, because I would expect to lose it to established companies. Why wouldn't I simply beat them by innovating faster than them? Because I cannot afford to develop and market even the first iteration on my own. Once more for effect: I am pursuing this idea only because of the time-limited protection offered by the existing patent system.

          This is typical of the fallacious reasoning of patent proponents. You claim that patents encourage you to invest? Fine. Problem is that you completely ignore, they somehow don't exist, the billions of people who have a disincentive to work in the area of this idea because of your patent. Or even just the possibility a patent which acts as a chilling effect on getting things done. That discourages investment.

          With billions of people in the world most inventions are independently invented many times. Patent proponents conveniently ignore this.

          In any case, as any VC will tell you, ideas are a dime a dozen, it's execution and management team that count.

           

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        identicon
        Chris Maresca, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 9:37am

        Re: Re: Don't forget money...

        Funny enough, most startups and VCs we work with (some 30+ to date, along with big VCs like SevinRosen, Walden and NEA) usually fund companies before they have patents.

        Only after funding does the patenting process begin and, even then, a lot of companies don't even bother with it.

        At least in the tech industry (and I suspect in a lot of others), time to market is absolutely the most critical thing, not usually whether you have patents or not. Which is why a lot of tech startups spend huge amounts to get their product out the door and known.

        Chris.

         

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          identicon
          angry dude, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 9:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

          "Only after funding does the patenting process begin and, even then, a lot of companies don't even bother with it.

          At least in the tech industry (and I suspect in a lot of others), time to market is absolutely the most critical thing, not usually whether you have patents or not. Which is why a lot of tech startups spend huge amounts to get their product out the door and known."

          Shut up Chris,

          Just tell this nonsense to Vonage investors...

          They sure spent A LOT of their money on getting their "product" known...

           

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            Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2007 @ 10:45am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

            angry dude,

            I'll note that, as per usual, you've ignored the points that myself and others have stated in response to your comments. Instead, you've come back and spewed insults at myself and others.

            It's pretty difficult to take you seriously when you don't even bother to respond to people who show that your statements are wrong.

            It's even more difficult to take you seriously when you simply resort to personal insults every time someone takes you to task.

            If you want to talk about this stuff seriously, that would be great. If you just want to insult people, there are plenty of better places to do that.

             

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      Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2007 @ 10:47am

      Re: Don't forget money...

      Depending on the product, it can also require substantial amounts of money. And if you're an unfunded inventor, with established well-funded competitors, how can you raise capital without the protection of a patent?

      This is not as hard as you make it out to be. Our capital markets are incredibly efficient and effective in moving money to where it's needed -- and increasingly, investors don't care about patents.

      Even if you have "well-funded" competitors, if you really have something that's a breakthrough and believe you understand the concept better than anyone else, you should be able to continue to out innovate them. History is littered with small companies out innovating much better funded bigger companies -- often using their "bigness" against them.

       

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        Quantum John, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

        Re: Re: Don't forget money...

        >This is not as hard as you make it out to be. Our capital markets are incredibly efficient and effective in moving money to where it's needed --

        Based on my research and experience, I believe that's true only for specific niches. For example, if you're looking for VC funding for a growth stage for a high-tech or life-sciences company, you have a large number of firms to choose from. However, there are many circumstances for which you will find zero or very little interest from VCs. Banks are always available only if you have sufficient collateral.

        >and increasingly, investors don't care about patents.

        Do investors no longer perform due diligence? Due diligence has always included consideration of what the barriers are to your competitors doing the same thing you intend to do. Patents are not the only form of barrier to entry, but they are a powerful one.

         

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          Chris Maresca, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 2:33pm

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

          The problem with patents is that it's not really a barrier to entry. Plenty of other things are, like a huge consumer base. Look at YouTube, no patents, yet it sold for 1.3 billion because it owned it's segment. That's why I was discussing time to market, since that helps build other barriers to entry.

          The other issue with patents is that, at least in the tech business, pretty much anything you do will infringe on a patent somewhere. The net effect of that is that everyone is instructed by lawyers to never look at any patents while simultaneously filling for their own patents. Their own patents would presumably be used to defend against any lawsuits arising from patent infringement.

          That sort of scenario works well when all parties are technology producers, it's sort of the Mutually Assured Destruction of the tech world, basically everyone has patents pointing at each other, insuring that no one will pull the trigger (which is often referred to as the 'nuclear option' at large companies). The real issue is that it doesn't work with organizations that do nothing but accumulate patents, as these have nothing to lose by suing a company (e.g. they don't make a product that could be subject to a counter suite). Or where, like Vonage, you don't have any way of counter attacking your opponent.

          The net result is that almost all patents in the hi-tech business, particularly in software, are defensive in nature, which is not really the way the patent system was designed to work....

          Investors don't really care about patents largely because they understand this dynamic. They worry about 'underwater patents' (patents which are not widely known about and usually held by firms that accumulate patents but don't plan on producing anything) in general, but there is not much they can do about them, so it's usually just a point of discussion.

          Chris.

           

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        Quantum John, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 1:38pm

        Re: Re: Don't forget money...

        >History is littered with small companies out innovating much better funded bigger companies -- often using their "bigness" against them.

        It also occurs to me that a number of small companies have been killed by large well-funded companies despite the small companies having innovative products that were superior in quality and lower in price. Microsoft, for example, has often played the role of squasher-of-innovators.

         

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          Chris Maresca, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 2:39pm

          Re: Re: Re: Don't forget money...

          That's because the most important thing in a new tech business is not technology but sales. And most startups fall over because they fail to understand this.

          Microsoft was successful not because it had the most innovative technology, but because it built a new business model that fueled software sales.

          This is a reality that most technologists (including myself for years) don't like to hear and refuse to acknowledge, resulting in a large amount of tech failures.

          That said, most large tech companies can't innovate, so they can make great partners for small companies.

          Chris.

           

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    John Waddle, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:11pm

    Its all about the money.

    As an engineer for an avionics company, we almost never patent anything, even if it is patentable. Why? Because we don't have the money to defend the patent in court or pursue any unpaid royalties. We'd rather make new and better products.

     

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    Deltamod, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 5:05am

    Patents

    Looks like there are two fundamental truths about the patent system:
    1. The validity of a (of course) technology patent will ultimately be decided by a judge with an arts degree; and
    2. The evidence supporting any such validity decision will ultimately be filtered by unscrupulous lawyers preying on said judge's lack of technical prowess. Having met both Goodfellow and Campana in a previous life, I'll side morally with the one who didn't sell his soul...

     

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