Tons Of Companies Sued Over Broad Patent On Controlling Workstations In A Computer Network

from the sue,-sue,-sue,-sue dept

As we keep waiting for a Supreme Court ruling in the Bilski case (any day now...), Glyn Moody points us to the news of a lawsuit that has been filed against 26 different software companies for violating an incredibly broad patent (5,832,511) on "Workgroup network manager for controlling the operation of workstations within the computer network" (say that 10 times fast). The list of companies sued is a who's who in software:
Apple, Activision, Adobe, Autodesk, Capcom, Citrix, Corel, Dassault, Delcam, Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Frontrange Solutions, IBM, Intuit, Konami, Digital Entertainment, Maximizer Software, Nuance, Parametric Technology, Sage Software, Sega, Skype, SPSS, Teradata, THQ and Legacy Interactive
I'm sure none of those companies could have possibly come up with a system for controlling the operation of workstations within a computer network without this patent. At some point, isn't the fact that such a vast number of companies appear to have come up with the same basic thing independently a perfect prima facie case of obviousness?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 12:12am

    No matter what you say about this patent, its absolutely ludicrous that these lawsuits have only been filed NOW, after dozens of companies have already been using such technologies for a decade.

    There needs to be a time limit set on this crap. Use the patent, or forfeit the license for that work. You don't get to wait ten years and rake in billions of dollars using ambush tactics.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 7:07am

      Re:

      "You don't get to wait ten years and rake in billions of dollars using ambush tactics"

      Actually you have 20 years.

       

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        Sethumme, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re:

        But 20 years was picked as the length of time a patent-based monopoly should be allowed to exist. The act of holding off on litigation while competitors blatantly use the "inventions" covered by your patent should be treated differently.

        Perhaps if illegally using Intellectual Property is considered stealing, then the doctrine of adverse possession should also apply.

         

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    Terry W, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 12:38am

    Hmmm, filed on 3rd Nov 1998

    I don't see this really going anywhere, certainly not with Citrix who created "WinFrame" in Windows NT 3.1 in 1995.

    It should hopefully die quite quickly.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 12:51am

      Re: Hmmm, filed on 3rd Nov 1998

      Well, actually, it was filed Nov 12, 1996. 1998 was the date of approval.

      Doesn't change the prior art, though.

       

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      Michael, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 4:18am

      Re: Hmmm, filed on 3rd Nov 1998

      The patent isn't for a remote control system for workstations, or a central server and thin clients like WinFrame. It is more like an Active Directory Group Policy system for specifying what applications and files should be on a group of workstations in a network and then enforcing that by adding or removing the appropriate files and applications automatically.

      In 1995, this was a somewhat innovative plan, but hardly something that was due patent protection.

       

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        JEDIDIAH, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 11:13am

        I'm sorry but your shell script is a patent violation.

        Sounds like something that any competent Unix admin could recreate with some shell scripts and a vague description of the requirements.

        Something in Unix or Novell probably already did this sort of thing in 1995.

         

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    abc gum, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 4:37am

    Who is missing from this list?

    "Apple, Activision, Adobe, Autodesk, Capcom, Citrix, Corel, Dassault, Delcam, Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Frontrange Solutions, IBM, Intuit, Konami, Digital Entertainment, Maximizer Software, Nuance, Parametric Technology, Sage Software, Sega, Skype, SPSS, Teradata, THQ and Legacy Interactive"

    Hint: 500 lb gorilla

    Also, why was this not filed in E Texas?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 5:14am

    Why is Microsoft not in the list? This smells fishy... I mean, Microsoft IMHO is a better target than, say, Skype or Corel in this case. At least, it's a good target to have lumped in with those others.

     

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    Liquid (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 6:20am

    The context how this is worded through's me off. After reading patent it's just the order of operations on how each device talks to each other in the collective.

    "Workgroup network manager for controlling the operation of workstations within the computer network"

    That right there makes it sound like they are talking about programs that specifically control the end machine. You know like being able to remote in, and control what processes/applications/etc... run on a given machine in the collective.

    Like I said maybe I am not getting it.

     

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    Liquid (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 6:20am

    The context how this is worded through's me off. After reading patent it's just the order of operations on how each device talks to each other in the collective.

    "Workgroup network manager for controlling the operation of workstations within the computer network"

    That right there makes it sound like they are talking about programs that specifically control the end machine. You know like being able to remote in, and control what processes/applications/etc... run on a given machine in the collective.

    Like I said maybe I am not getting it.

     

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    a-dub (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 6:57am

    The patent covers everything...active directory type functionality, file level restoration, and terminal emulation. All current operating systems, data backup software and remote control software appears to violate this overly broad patent.

     

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    BwainHertz (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 7:40am

    Not just MS missing, what about Novell

    Novell was doing that stuff even earlier. MS started to build LanManager to catchup with Novell. Novels "Bindery" had this a version 1.0. Where did the MS term Registry come from.? The "Bindery" grew into a networked directory of trustees and rights called NDS, and now eDirectory. MS built AD to catch up and $$$$ to eventually overtake.

     

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    identicon
    staff, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 8:28am

    a shilling we go

    Are you telling me someone says they developed a technology before Apple AND IBM?? Please, say it isn't so!

    Who says they came up with the invention independently? All that tells you is that they're good at following others.

    Time and again you prove you know nothing about patents or patent law. PLEASE write about something else!

     

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    Vic Kley, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:12am

    broad patent clobbers large companies

    Masnick, it is not the purpose of patent law to ignore the rights of a patent holder if you and even a court of law finds that another had invented the idea independent and without knowledge of a prior invention. It is the law that such independent inventions occurring after the first documented inventor infringe the invention patented if a jury or judge so finds.

    Further Masnick, please explain why these poor benighted companies having independently invented the method in question didn't each file their own patents? Certainly if IBM invented it, they would have rushed to have patented it, perhaps they all applied for patents and learned about the invention (it is not a new patent) and then kept quiet. Of course they are not talking to us or to you Masnick.

    IBM collects hundreds of millions every year in patent royalties, is that all right with you? Its only when the little guy might be paid for his inventive contribution that you cry out "injustice".

    Definition of Masnick - an apologist for big money and hypocrisy.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:27am

      Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

      ...please explain why these poor benighted companies having independently invented...

      This article appears to be premised on the assumption that each of the name defendants came upon the "invention" wholly independently. This is an assumption that at this time does not appear to have evidentiary support.

      Given the general thrust of the claimed inventions (each claim is a patent is deemed separate and distict from all other claims), it seems a bit of a stretch to immediately assume independent invention is presented here.

       

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        Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

        This article appears to be premised on the assumption that each of the name defendants came upon the "invention" wholly independently. This is an assumption that at this time does not appear to have evidentiary support.

        Oh really. Are you honestly suggesting that all of these companies found this patent from a no name company and used it to create their own, very different, solutions?

        That would seem rather unlikely, don't you think?

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 10:57am

          Re: Re: Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

          Every automobile utilizes some form of a transmission, be it manual, automatic, variable, etc. This does not, of course, suggest or imply that every manufacturer of automobiles has the capability of developing and manufacturing transmissions. That capability resides with but a few companies.

          The same may very well hold true in this instance. While not beyond the realm of possibility, I have to wonder if some of the listed companies have the in-house capability to develop and implement network control systems and methodologies of the type described and claimed in the patent. EA? Sega? Corel? Nuance? Intuit? Skype. Etc.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 11:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

            The 'control system' described in the patent is so broad and lacking details that noone can even implement THAT given the patent itself... it is missing thousands of details that make it work.

            Simple point is, you're not talking about transmissions, you're talking about something so much more broad it is hard to even make an analogy to cars... something akin to 'method to make car move without using feet'.

             

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 11:22am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

              ...and if what you say is true as it relates to each of the claims, then Section 112 will figure prominently in any defense.

               

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          identicon
          Ronald J Riley, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 3:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

          "Are you honestly suggesting that all of these companies found this patent"

          Yes ! !

          Patents are crucial for small companies to protect their development expenditures.

          Ronald J. Riley,


          I am speaking only on my own behalf.
          Affiliations:
          President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
          Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
          Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
          President - Alliance for American Innovation
          Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
          Washington, DC
          Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

           

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

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

        And where is your evidence to the contrary?

        Oh, right, you have none. Vague insinuations are much more effective than evidence, though, right?

         

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    •  
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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 10:30am

      Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

      IBM collects hundreds of millions every year in patent royalties, is that all right with you? Its only when the little guy might be paid for his inventive contribution that you cry out "injustice".

      I have gone after IBM multiple times for its own patent practices. Why you ignore that, I have no idea. In fact, at times I have been quite harsh when talking about IBM's patent practices.

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20061023/105908.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articl es/20090108/0230453331.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100406/1628178904.shtml
      http://www .techdirt.com/articles/20090914/0259236178.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091216/18064573 91.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071021/141623.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/2 0080806/1909201916.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071226/112149.shtml
      http://www.techdir t.com/articles/20091230/0957277551.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080313/221036.shtml
      ht tp://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080416/232750.shtml
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20081231/1222 003266.shtml

      And that's just the first dozen I found in a quick Google search.

      My position on patents has nothing to do with small or large companies. In fact, I have said many times that I believe big companies are definitely bigger abusers of the system than small companies. So I really don't know where your claim is coming from.

      However, given your past commenting practices on this site, I assume you will not reply. Vic Kley and "staff" seem to show up, post a single derogatory comment based on zero facts, and then never return when I respond. They're not here to discuss the points.

       

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

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 10:46am

      Re: broad patent clobbers large companies

      Definition of Kley - a giant condecending douchbag.

       

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    killercool (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:32am

    Ummm...

    Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, BUT...

    Isn't a "workstation" by definition a computer terminal that is able to be accessed, and thereby "controlled" via a network, since without that network, it would be a PC? I believe the structure is something like:

    Mainframe---> Multiple workstations

     

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    Elsee Sea, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:51am

    independent invention is no defense

    generally, independent invention is no defense to patent infringement. now, copyright...

     

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    Elsee Sea, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:52am

    wait 10 years, or 20 years

    a good defense here will likely be the laches doctrine, which in patent infringement cases is generally around 6 years from learning when a party is infringing.

     

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    identicon
    Elsee Sea, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 9:56am

    large number of infringers NOT EQUAL TO obviousness

    Article says "At some point, isn't the fact that such a vast number of companies appear to have come up with the same basic thing independently a perfect prima facie case of obviousness?"

    First a large number of alleged infringers is does not mean that the patent is obvious. It could mean many things not germane to this comment.

    In patent law, a finding obviousness generally requires prior art, the operative term being "prior." See 35 U.S.C. §§ 102 and 103, and associated case law for elaboration on prior art.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 10:35am

      Re: large number of infringers NOT EQUAL TO obviousness

      First a large number of alleged infringers is does not mean that the patent is obvious. It could mean many things not germane to this comment.

      In patent law, a finding obviousness generally requires prior art, the operative term being "prior." See 35 U.S.C. §§ 102 and 103, and associated case law for elaboration on prior art.


      Yes, I know. And as I have pointed out for years, this is a major PROBLEM with patent law that I was trying to highlight with this post. The patent system is supposed to only allow patents on inventions that are new AND non-obvious to those skilled in the art.

      However, for years, they only paid attention to the "new" part. Prior art tells you what's new. It does not tell you what's non-obvious. I believe that multiple independent inventors should be seen as prima facie evidence of non-obviousness. I know that's not the law. I'm saying it should be.

       

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        identicon
        Elsee Sea, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 3:10pm

        Re: Re: large number of infringers NOT EQUAL TO obviousness

        Multiple independent inventors who invented AFTER the patent was filed should never be seen as prima facie evidence of obviousness. Your article presents no evidence that there are multiple independent inventors who invented this PRIOR to the patentee.

        If you insist that multiple independent inventors should be evidence that a patent was obvious, even if the patent was issued, hypothetically 10 years ago, and the multiple independent inventions happened today, then it is likely that every patent in the system can be invalidated, simply by the existence of a large number of indepedent inventors after the patent was filed. In my opinion, this would be POST ART, not prior art, and is not the way any patent system in the world works.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Ronald J Riley, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 10:52am

    TechDIRT Ignorance

    It is obvious that no one associated with TechDIRT understands anything about patent law. I wonder what is is like for them to have their heads stuck so far into the dark void that they are totally oblivious about their ignorance.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

    •  
      icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 1:17pm

      Re: TechDIRT Ignorance

      I wonder what is is like for them to have their heads stuck so far into the dark void that they are totally oblivious about their ignorance.

      Please tell us what it is that we are ignorant of? We'd honestly like to understand why patent law is so screwed up, especially when it comes to a company that sits on a patent for more than ten years and doesn't make a peep and then threatens lawsuits against a who's who in the computer industry for a vague patent, and maybe you as an insider could enlighten us.

      Of course, if it is that obvious that no one associated with TechDIRT understands anything about patent law, that says a lot about you, since you are associated with TechDIRT.

       

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

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 5:46pm

        Re: Re: TechDIRT Ignorance

        "Please tell us what it is that we are ignorant of?"

        Ronald J. Willy does not discuss details.

         

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

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          icon
          ltlw0lf (profile), Jun 24th, 2010 @ 10:48am

          Re: Re: Re: TechDIRT Ignorance

          Ronald J. Willy does not discuss details.

          Apparently it is a fight club sort of arrangement among patent lawyers. Never talk about the details because if you talk about the details, someone might realize that there aren't any details and that the whole thing is some sort of fabrication in someone's head because they burned their own apartment down. I get it.

          Hopefully sooner or later the governments of the world will get it and sanity will be restored, and these guys will have to go back to being used car salesmen and funeral directors.

           

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 3:35pm

      Re: TechDIRT Ignorance

      Oh, close one this time RJR. Your post *almost* had more content than your laughable signature.

      Maybe you should add your trolling credentials next time, to make sure the signature is always the most substantial portion of any comment you make.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 1:35pm

    I sometimes wonder if "Ronald Riley" is some kind of astroturfing campaign on TechDirt's part. His views are so utterly nonsensical, and his "I am speaking only on my own behalf. " is so ludicrous, that I have to ask if Mike & co. have created this persona as some kind of strawman.

    If that's the case, bravo!

     

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

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    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 3:31pm

    Software patents

    VERY good article, and very good comment!

    While I continue to feel that the only solution is campaign
    finance reform (and public funding of the USPTO) to solve
    the IP mess we are in, I do agree that we need to screen out
    predatory patents - perhaps a review board to prevent such
    garbage from being issued?

    I continue to believe that IP as intended by the founding fathers is a good thing - though I am told it is a dying branch of the system, except for me and a few other highly ethical people - but IP as we now have it, generally, is horrible!

     

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


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