Smart Phone Motion Control Patented; Held By Shell Company

from the let-the-lawsuits-roll dept

Aubrey Wells was the first of a lot of folks to send over John Paczkowski's excellent analysis of a highly questionable patent that was issued recently concerning motion control on a smartphone. The patent (7,679,604) is incredibly broad, and appears to cover technology that is in use in many current devices. What's odd, however, is that the inventors on the patent appear to be Google and Apple engineers, but the patent itself appears to be held by a shell company, of which there is little available information. This suggests (though, it's not definite) that it's a typical patent litigation setup. It's pretty common for patent holders to set up shell companies to sue others with -- in part because it allows them to hide who's really behind the patent, and who's funding the litigation. No lawsuits have been filed yet, as far as we know, but with a patent so broad, it seems likely that we'll see something soon.

Of course, this is the same old story. The idea behind motion sensing in a mobile device is hardly a new or non-obvious idea -- the problem was really just that the hardware wasn't there yet. There were, certainly, other motion sensing technology out there, and there is absolutely nothing in this patent that furthered the art. This sort of interface was coming whether or not it was patented. But that's what happens with so many patents these days -- the focus is on patenting the obvious and then suing everyone who implemented it.

Update: Hmm. The plot thickens. There's some evidence that this may be one of Intellectual Ventures 1000+ shell companies. The shell company discussed here, Durham Logistics, is apparently owned by Memscom LLC, according to the Nevada corporations listings. Memscom's address is the identical address (suite and all) to an Intellectual Ventures office. Could be a coincidence... but... certainly there's some evidence that this patent is held or controlled by Intellectual Ventures. Why is IV controlling a patent created by Google and Apple inventors?

Update 2: Thanks to some sleuthing in our comments and various others via email, it looks like the engineers in question both worked at Arraycomm back in the day when this patent was filed, but Arraycomm dumped some of its patent portfolio along the way, and somehow or another, this patent appears to have ended up with this company -- almost certainly a part of Intellectual Ventures. Notice how far this patent is from any actual innovation. This is not how the system is supposed to work.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Mar 25th, 2010 @ 6:09am

    Damn that's broad.

    So what are we talking about here, an accelerometer, giro, a mercury switch? Or is it like my Nexus 1 with a compass and GPS?

    From the full text of the patent after it starts to go into server side and client side stuff, it starts to sound like that Google Sky Map program I have that uses the GPS, compass, server software, and client software to show me all the stars in the sky behind the phone.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 6:26am

    Re: Damn that's broad.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Hammer, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 6:38am

    Time to close this loophole?

    Allowing the "borrowing" of patents or whatever that enables the creation of shell companies to hold patents solely for litigation?

    There would be no reason for the company to hide its identity if this wasn't an unethical move.

     

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

  4.  
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    Pixelation, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 7:31am

    No motion

    I'm going to patent a system where the motion sensor is used to detect no motion.
    I thought of it, it's mine. Mine, mine, mine. Dammit.
    Now to prepare to sue the makers of motion sensing phones.
    Ha-ha, my evil plan is in the works.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 7:49am

    "Of course, this is the same old story. The idea behind motion sensing in a mobile device is hardly a new or non-obvious idea -- the problem was really just that the hardware wasn't there yet."

    and this is one problem with our patent system. Patents on new solutions to new problems don't make good patents. Patents on new solutions to OLD problems tend to make better patents. See the following link for details.

    http://ideas.4brad.com/archives/000061.html

     

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  6.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 25th, 2010 @ 8:12am

    Isn't this obvious

    Isn't it obvious that the gyro is there to control the phone? If there is a hardware invention to control the phone, then it seems to me that software used to implement the hardware should be obvious.

    I guess that is why I don't work for the patent office.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Damn that\'s broad.

    typohttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typo

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 8:53am

    I'm patenting the XOR gate. Pony up, beyotches!

     

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  9.  
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    a-dub (profile), Mar 25th, 2010 @ 9:07am

    Thats what Im talking about...its open season on any common technology. After reading this, I've started the patent application process for stranded metal fibers. Once this goes through Im going to sue everyone that makes any type of wire. Damn Im gonna be rich!! It's like a modern day gold rush. Patent and sue.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Brandon, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 9:21am

    A, continuances..

    So, it looks like this was actually a double continuance patent from 2001, when both of the authors worked at ArrayCom, according to:

    http://www.iwpc.org/towertop2000.htm

    and http://home.pacbell.net/cuhlik/cu_resume.html

    ArrayCom is still in business. Chris was at RedWave right around then, which went out of business. Its possible that John was there too, and that the patent applications were bought when RedWave went out of business.

     

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  11.  
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    anymouse (profile), Mar 25th, 2010 @ 9:33am

    Old Idea new tool...

    Wow, who would have thought that motion sensing control would have been a good idea? Oh that's right, gaming companies have been using this type of technology for decades, but apparently, anyone remember the really old Atari motion sensing joysticks (yes the technology sucked at the time, but the idea was great 25 years ago....).

    http://www.mathpirate.net/log/tag/joystick/

    Next up will be patenting intracranial motion sensing as applied to horizontal perpetual motion.... more commonly referred to as, "Not falling down while walking".

     

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  12.  
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    Daddy WarBucks, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 10:36am

    Too much money

    "What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?... Money.” –Vanilla Sky
    Money is the overall determinant of who gets what in the world and Google/Apple have enough to get what they want. Period.

     

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  13.  
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    Richard Corsale, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 11:45am

    the worst bit is..

    The worst part of this story is that it was JUST granted. Now, before any of the "hawks" chime in on this one, I'll say the same thing to them that they always insist that we didn't do... R.T.F.P really.. read every claim.

    Not since 2005 have I seen one this vague make it through the unbelievably rigorous tests that the USPTO puts on idea ownership.

    I really would like someone to defend this patent, or even play Devils advocate. Not so we can grab our pitch forks, but so we can understand how this could be viewed as fair or inventive. Obviously, this was viewed as inventive by someone at the USPTO... I just want to get a glimpse of what they use as a metric for "invention".

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Mr Big Content, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 2:44pm

    Work Smarter, Not Harder

    On the contrary, that’s exactly how the system is supposed to work. Make as much money for as little effort as possible—isn’t that the American Way?

     

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


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