Secretive Patent Holder Sues Lots Of Companies For Remote Activation Software

from the gotta-get-it-done-before-bilski dept

Brian points us to the news of yet another questionable patent lawsuit filed by yet another shell company, yet again in Eastern Texas against a ton of software companies. The patent in question (5,222,134) is for a "secure system for activating personal computer software at remote locations," and was originally filed back in 1991 and granted in 1993 -- meaning that the patent is actually nearing end of life. Odd, then, that it was suddenly noticed that all these companies were infringing. The lawsuit is filed by a shell company called BetaNet, and no one seems willing to speak. The lawyers representing BetaNet won't say who is behind the company, or how they even got the patent. This is typical. Many of these types of lawsuits are filed by shell companies to hide who is actually behind them. As for the defendants, here's the list:
Adobe, Apple, Arial Software, Autodesk, Carbonite, Corel, Kodak, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, McAfee, Online Holdings, Oracle, Rockwell, Rosetta Stone, SAP, Siemens, and Sony.
Obviously, none of those companies could have come up with ways to remotely activate software without this patent (yes, that's sarcasm). As the Register notes in the link above, even some of the software products listed as violating this patent don't seem to involve activation at all, raising serious questions about how they could possibly violate this patent. This sounds like yet another case of someone having read the book Rembrandt's in the Attic and deciding to go trolling for companies to sue with a meaningless patent.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Dave, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 1:47am

    Actually every single one of those companies has atleast one product that has online or remote software activation. Doesn't give the lawsuit anymore grounds for this being a clearcut patent infringement but the companies DO have activation of some sort.

     

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    GOOD, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 3:15am

    Maybe if it costs too much they wont do it

    MUHAHA yes this for once prevents technology we can all do without HAHA

     

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    HOW they violate, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 3:17am

    what you dont know about in secret

    like i dunno how they backdoor you and then if all is good they allow the product to work better
    and if not start messing your stuff up.

    add conspiracy theory why you would sue software makers that dont use activation software when thats what the suit is about

    yes strange indeed
    feels like an ACTA + BIDEN meeting all rolled into one.

     

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    NullOp, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 4:08am

    Hiding

    Is it not written in the Bill of Rights that you have the right to face your accusers? I guess thats only true if your accuser isn't some low-life company fronted by shiny suited lawyers...

     

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      Designerfx (profile), Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:15am

      Re: Hiding

      what are you talkin? they are confronting their accuser, which is a shell company. What I want to know is who is the company not included in this mix. That can probably be figured it by either a: what field is all this competition in or b: if it might be one of the companies being sued themselves to use it as a method of payment to the shell. How to figure that part? Watch the first company who settles.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:23am

    Not that it matters, but think back to what "remote activation" was in 1991. You may think it is a pain now to allow your computer to talk with their server for a few seconds. Back then it probably would have involved long distance charges on your phone bill or at best an AOL account :)

     

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    Kazi, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:38am

    Why not look at the Patent and see to who it is licensed? From there just do some investigating. There can't be a secret patent holder ...

     

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    Lobo Santo's Ugly Sofa, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:40am

    This is one of those cases where there needs to be a limit, similar to those of trademarks. If you don't zealously protect your patent, you either lose it or the rights to go after infringing companies.

    Online secure software activation has been going on for quite a long time (before it was done on dialup, or done by calling an 800 number that got you a confirmation code to enter). It hasn't been a hidden feature or something that is not discussed publicly.

    Thus, while I am all for the patent system, this is certainly a case where the patent holder long since stop caring about the market place, that the market place widely uses this sort of technology, and as such, they should lose the right to come back many years later to try to collect for a wrong that they could have stopped probably 10 or 15 years ago.

    I suspect this is a case where the patent trolls found someone with a very general patent about to expire, and offered them a little cash for something that they figured had little or no value and only a few months left to run. Then they turn around and launch a lawsuit like this. It is something that the lawmakers in Washington should consider.

     

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    Vincent Clement, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:56am

    Software should not be subject to patents. End of story.

     

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    Michial Thompson, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 6:08am

    Prior Art does exist prior to 1990 on this one

    Even before 1990 I had software that connected to a server (remote to the PC) to validate that the software was authorized to work on that PC....

    In apx 1987 I wrote an court reporting software package where one of the requirements was that not only the user but the computer they were running on was authorized to run the software. The fear at the time was that the document would be overseen by someone that was not authorized to view it.

    Again I rarely agree with Mikee, but when it comes to software process patents I actually agree that they either need to be done away with or revised completely.

     

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      freesoftware (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 8:13pm

      Re: Prior Art does exist prior to 1990 on this one

      Do you remember what software it was that connected to the server to validate that it was authorized? I am very interested. Thanks.

       

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    Angrie Doode, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 7:34am

    Punks

    Punkie punks dont know anything about patents
    This is legit and they will win

     

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    godzulu (profile), Dec 17th, 2009 @ 7:58am

    try this guy - he's in Dallas and all he does is sue over patents - Erich Spangenberg

     

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    interval, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 8:10am

    "I hide with my patents and wait for you to use 'my' technology, then I spring my trap: $millions!! What a country."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

      Re:

      So what you're saying is that if you have an idea, but not the resources to bring it to fruition then you just shouldn't bother with a patent? I don't think so. Take a seat junior.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    And oh look the same 2 guys invented the internet! I thought it was George Bush.

    4688170 A global data network communication system for communicating between diverse computer systems

     

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    tracker1 (profile), Dec 17th, 2009 @ 9:30am

    Nuke the software patents.

    I'm pretty sure there's prior art to this. Beyond even that, there shouldn't even be software patents. I can't think of anything in software for the past 20 years that's been worthy. If this patent were in say 1980, I could maybe see it as innovative, but by now it would be expired. Beyond this, software patents shouldn't last for more than 5 years, even if they are truly worthy, since that is a couple of lifetimes in software terms.

     

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    angry dude, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 6:40am

    idiot punks

    "... to sue with a meaningless patent"

    This certainly doesn't look like a "meaningless patent" if it is cited by a hundred of other patents

    Mikey, get your shitty act together

    You are an annoyance to any intelligent human being

     

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    staff1, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 9:25am

    shill is a shill

    "The lawsuit is filed by a shell company called BetaNet, and no one seems willing to speak."

    They're in litigation. Of course they won't speak. Why would any patent owner ever speak with you anyway? You are the king of shills for corporate America.

     

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    Tammy Messina, Oct 19th, 2010 @ 8:12am

    lawsuit

    Sound's like the people bringing the suit are really reaching, here not to mention the fact that they're going against industry giants with unlimited resources. At this point remote control software is so common it's hard I think it would be very hard to prove an infringement in court.

     

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