Guy Claims His Patent Covers Everyone Making Computers, Cell Phones, Hard Drives, DVD Players, HDTV & MRIs

from the you-probably-infringe-just-for-breathing dept

Joe Mullin has been digging into the saga of Gregory Bender -- a guy no one seems to know anything about, but who just a few weeks ago started suing some big name companies, such as Broadcom, Freescale, AMD and National Semiconductor for patent infringement. A week later, he had also sued IBM, Agilent, Cirrus Logic, Siemens, Nokia, Sony, Motorola, and ST Microelectronics. Apparently that wasn't enough, as a week later, he filed new lawsuits against AT&T, AT&T Mobility, Sony-Ericsson, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi, Seagate and Western Digital. At latest count, in the last month or so, he's filed 22 lawsuits against 28 different companies.

The patent in question? It's for a buffered transconductance amplifier, and Bender is claiming that basically all computers, mobile phones, hard drives, DVD players, HDTVs and MRI machines violate the patents. Bender may or may not have a valid claim... but the patent was granted in 1992, and it appears it will expire at the beginning of August, so it's not entirely clear why Bender waited until now to sue -- or what he's been doing with his life in the interim. Mullin's questions concerning that were answered with a: "He is a private person. He does not want publicity." Then, perhaps he shouldn't have sued pretty much every high tech company out there claiming they owe him money...


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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:18am

    ...why Bender waited until now to sue...

    Because now he can sue all these companies and walk away with more money than a lottery winner.

     

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    Skeptic, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:20am

    The circuit doesn't look unique even for the late eighties.
    I doubt he will get very far.

     

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    Fry, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:27am

    Hey Bender

     

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    Lonnie E. Holder, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:37am

    Interesting...

    Mike is correct. This patent will expire 04 August 2009.

    Mike's question regarding why he waited this long is an extremely valid question. There are two issues here.

    First, you can only claim royalties going back six years.

    Second, since the value of these electronics have gone down, the amount of the royalties will be substantially less per unit than they would have been a decade ago.

    Third, I suspect that he will have to explain why he waited so long to sue. His patent has existed for nearly 20 years. All of the defendants will argue estoppel because of the length of time his "invention" has been practiced.

    Of course, any of the defendants could pretty much stop this litigation in its tracks by requesting a re-examination of the patent. Most courts will halt litigation until the re-examination is complete, which would delay litigation for years.

    Will he get very far? I do not know. However, he has put himself in a position where his chances of success have been significantly reduced because of his failure to act.

    Incidentally, he let his patent expire when the third maintenance fee became due. He petitioned the USPTO to accept the late maintenance fee because "the dog ate his homework." Just kidding. He says that his computer fell victim to Y2K, and then it got a virus. He though he had all his important dates added to his calendar, but missed this one. You can guarantee that defendants will make use of that little tidbit as well.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:05am

      Re: Interesting...

      >Mike's question regarding why he waited this
      >long is an extremely valid question.

      How about he really needs some money and asked a patent lawyer if his patent was worth anything. The lawyers go nuts and the guy looks like an idiot. Just a guess mind you but someone could get a movie out of this.

       

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        Tgeigs, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:12am

        Re: Re: Interesting...

        "Just a guess mind you but someone could get a movie out of this"

        Maybe, but who would put out on DVD once this lawsuit halts DVD Player production? :)

         

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      Jose_X (profile), Apr 19th, 2009 @ 9:18pm

      Re: Interesting...

      I knew someone with a patent on gaming consoles (taken out, as a graduate student, in the first half of the 70s decade) who also let the patent expire.

      He was a very nice person. Lawyers wanted him to act. Lawsuits are not in everyone's blood. It affects your life negatively (these are engineers, remember).

      Not sure what was his deal. He did have great plans for using the money to improve the technology infrastructure of the country where he was born. He also planned to fund a one person company he owned which was prototyping (with very inexpensive parts) some products to cater to the electronic hobbyist. He was on top of the state of the art (as well as you can be when you don't work in special labs) in a number of tech disciplines. He loved to spend the day on engineering. Did I mention he was a nice guy?

      Perhaps not everyone that takes out a patent feels good about it afterwards. After all, no man is an island. Is having an idea a few months or years or seconds before anyone else worth a 20 year monopoly on the general concept or worth a guaranteed income stream? And to add insult to injury, a patent writer likely is not the first person to think fully of the particular invention, but merely the first person to file for a patent on it.

      Having waited so long, likely didn't help either. The fear of change and of ensuing court battles may have also played a part. Finally, one probably expects to have the media's (and new well-funded enemy's) cynical microscope placed on your life. People that don't live normal lifestyles can get extra apprehensive about the inevitable public focus that would ensue.

       

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    Lush McLushy, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:48am

    I know where he's been!

    He's been on a bender for the last 17 years.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:01am

    Props to Patents

    I'd like to give a shout out to the US Patent System here. Only in America can you claim rights to "Technology" as a whole. In retrospect, I think I should have patented the power cord 20 years ago. Then the world would owe me billions because the patent office happily issued me this patent.

     

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    Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:07am

    Obviously Bender wanted to maximize his profits so he waited until his glorious invention was used in as many devices as possible. So immediately after patenting his buffered transconductance amplifier, he used it to build a time machine and went into the future, our present, to file his lawsuit.

    This also explains why there's so little information about him, because he has not exited in our time-line for several years.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      Ima:

      The problem I have with waiting so long is what I stated above. Sales of these devices peaked and then declined. Also, the relative value of his design has decreased because the price of all these devices has declined. He also waited too long. I see a lot of questions being asked that may lead to him getting nothing.

       

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    Shevonne, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    No WAY

    There is a law (forgot the name) that doesnt allow this type of patent cause it hinders innovation.

     

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    angry dude, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:05am

    retards as usual

    Has it ever occured to you, my little retarded friends, that in many cases it is almost impossible to detect the fact of infringement

    if a patented feature is buried inside a very complex high-tech device (like cell phone) it is vurtually impossible for one guy with no resources to reverse-engineer the device to find infringment

    I can only guess which company out there infringes my patent (unless somebody on the inside tips me...)

     

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      kirillian (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:36am

      Re: retards as usual

      welcome back angry dude...missed ya...course, we had Weird Harold instead, but, still, not the same.

       

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      Shawn, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 8:08am

      Re: retards as usual

      I'm so sick of rude "know-it-alls" on blogs. This person writes as if he was raised in a kennel. Very rude and insulting behaviour over a friendly discussion?

       

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        ehrichweiss, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re: retards as usual

        angry dude uses the word "retard" because that's what all the school kids called him each morning when he stepped off the "short bus", and being one of little mind, he uses it as some form of retaliation against his bullies from back in the day.

        Tell us about your extra chromosome, angry dude. While you're at it, tell us all about ALL YOUR INVENTIONS!!! You talk about them so much but never seem willing to actually describe them.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 11:50am

      Re: retards as usual

      Here's a hint: They all do. Sue them all!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:25pm

      Re: retards as usual

      I can only guess which company out there infringes my patent (unless somebody on the inside tips me...)

      Especially since it's imaginary and exists only in your little mind.

       

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    Steve, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:16am

    Direct ripoff of Comlinear Corporation work

    I worked for Comlinear starting in 1984 designing amplifiers. We had a core technology--current feedback as applied to op amps--that no other competitor had at the time. This is the core technology in Bender's patent, but our *products* predated his patent by a decade. Wikipedia has fairly accurate info:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current-feedback_operational_amplifier
    You may have to splice the url.
    Bender does not have anything original in his core idea. I did not wade through all the claims.

    Steve

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:32pm

      Re: Direct ripoff of Comlinear Corporation work

      Bender does not have anything original in his core idea. I did not wade through all the claims.

      I didn't either. When I saw his claim that his amplifier had "no slew" I decided that he was probably full of kaka and didn't read much further.

       

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        Steve, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re: Direct ripoff of Comlinear Corporation work

        Actually, 'no slew' is true in an ideal world, on paper. Comp cap charging current does not come from a fixed current source (tail current in traditional), but rather from the output stage via Rf. If the output and the input buffers can support the current, there is no slew limit (ideally speaking). Practically, it is quite high, far higher than voltage feedback amps.

        Current feedback op amps are one of those paradigm changing things. They act very similar from the outside in a lot of ways, and quite differently in some details.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 9:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: Direct ripoff of Comlinear Corporation work

          Actually, 'no slew' is true in an ideal world, on paper.

          Only using imaginary ideal components, which do not exist. You could build also build perpetual motion machines if you had imaginary ideal components. But in reality, you can't. So this guy's claim of having invented an amplifier with zero slew is obviously bunk. And the patent office didn't even catch it. Of course people have gotten patents for other similarly impossible things, like faster-than-light warp engines for spaceships, so that's no real surprise.

          Practically, it is quite high, far higher than voltage feedback amps.

          Far higher than voltage feedback amps, true, but still very far from infinity.

           

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    Omali, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    Here's hoping Gregory gets barred from filing patents, and sulks back under his bridge with the other patent trolls.

    Gregory's playing Russian Roulette with the judicial system, throwing out a pistol and seeing who ends up shooting themselves with it. Here's hoping he gets laughed out of court.

    And if that poster above me is indeed Gregory; Just because you got a patent on something you didn't invent, don't market, and only have to suck money out of it doesn't mean you get to sue every company out there just in case they may be infringing on your bogus patent.

    "my little retarded friends,"

    You're not one to talk.

     

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      angry dude, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:45am

      Re:

      Dear techdirt moron

      for your information patents are property
      there is no law requiring you to market your invention

      also, judges do not like fishing expeditions - you gotta have a pretty solid case of infringement otherwise no litigator will take your case - the court can sanction plaintiff attorneyes for lack of due diligence

      YOu are sitting at the kiddie table tonight, punk

       

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        :Lobo Santo, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 8:22am

        Re: Re:

        He's like the little retarded puppy!

        Never learns anything, but you miss him when he's gone.

        Welcome back.

         

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        The infamous Joe, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:46am

        Re: Re:

        for your information patents are property
        there is no law requiring you to market your invention


        I thought the entire purpose of the patent system was to give incentive to creators to invent something for the betterment of society by giving them a temporary monopoly. If you invent something and sit on it, or worse, use it to stop *others* from bringing the invention to the market, then you're clearly acting counter to the entire purpose of the system.

        So, hiding behind the patent system to pressure (or outright take) money from other businesses that you have no sensible claim to is a perversion of the entire system, and is what gives the patent system the appearance of being broken.

         

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        Troll, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 11:52am

        Re: Re:

        A troll is a troll is a troll is a troll.
        Plz no feed the troll

         

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    Matt Bennett, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    In a way, this is better than other similar patent cases, cuz at least the patent isn't super-generic. He lays out the design and purpose pretty specifically.

     

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    bender, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    bite my shiny metal ass
    i'm just playing the long con

     

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    HPIguy, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:43am

    He waited so long becuase he's been really busy on the set of Futurama.

     

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    angry dude, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    more info

    This is not the first lawsuit with this patent

    The lawsuit Bender vs. Texas Instruments was filed back in 2006 and it was SETTLED

    A pretty strong indication of patent validity

    You can kiss Mikey's stinking ass all you want but we have laws in this country (so far at least)

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 8:26am

      Re: more info

      Ahh...SETTLED...lots of things get SETTLED for lots of reasons.

       

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      Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:08am

      Re: more info

      Settled? What did it get settled for? Was it TI walking up to Bender and saying "Look, we can put you into the poor house over this lawsuit. How about you drop this and we'll call it settled."

      I can't find any details on Google. Only that he sued, nothing about settling.

       

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    Sam Anwar, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    How to steal inventions?

    I don't understand much about this whole concept of stealing ideas from obscure patents that were never implemented or marketed, so I am just curious as to how all those large companies such as IBM, Sony, etc... "stole" the "invention" from the original "inventor"? Or did they? I mean was it a coincident? Or do all those companies have dedicated people that just spend their day searching for inventions to steal? How does it work?

     

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    TravisO, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 11:27am

    This is why I...

    patented the negatively charged particle, your very existence is in violation and I demand retribution!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:29pm

    Funny how WH is absent and AD appears ...
    and then AD is adsent and WH appears.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    Joe Bender

    Perhaps it would be better if they all paid up?

    Actually, the transconductance amplifier (buffered or not) has been around longer than anyone you know, except me - and when I built my first one, it was already old.

     

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    Heather Lucero, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 9:18am

    Gregory Bender Patent Infringement

    The question was "who is Gregory Bender and why has he waited so long to sue?". The answer is that Gregory Bender is an eccentric genius with some personal issues (not unlike some other inventors of the 20th century: Nicola Tesla ring a bell?). He is, however, brilliantly creative and was working on this technology since the mid-1980's when we would sit in his dorm room staring at an oscilloscope and making diy circuits with materials from Radio Shack. He deserves to have his contribution recognized and compensated just as surely as the "rabbit ears" guy and the intermittent windshield wiper guy. And, yes, they made movies from those, too.

     

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