Luma Labs Discontinues Popular Product Line After Competitor Gets A Patent... Despite Prior Art Going Back Over A Century

from the this-is-not-innovation dept

Jon Wilson alerts us to yet another unfortunate casualty of our screwed up patent system, led by our clueless US Patent Office. Luma Labs, who made very popular camera straps, has announced that it's discontinuing the product immediately, because a competitor just got a patent on one aspect of their camera straps. They think the patent is bogus, and are pretty sure they could win if they fought, but the cost and resources are just way too high:
Our disappointment doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things, however. Our competitor now has a legal tool and we’re pretty sure that they desire to use it. This is, as they say, a problem. We and our counsel are more than confident that we can defend ourselves, and will do so vigorously if necessary. On the other hand, we’re a very small company that sells our products in limited volumes and mounting such a defense would consume the majority of our resources. After all, it took three years to rescind a patent about a method of using a swing. In other words, we have a Hobson’s choice on our hands. We could very well lose everything even if we won.

Therefore, we’re acting unilaterally and conceding the market by immediately discontinuing the Loop and LoopIt. Full stop. We apologize for the sudden nature of this decision and our implementation of it, but we feel like our options on this matter are limited.
The whole thing really is pretty crazy. They note that they knew the competitor had applied for a patent, but never thought it would be granted because there's tons of prior art going back over a century:
We’ve been aware for quite some time that one of our competitors applied for a patent relating to camera slings in 2007. Their patent application contained dozens of claims that centered around two primary concepts. One of these concepts—that of using a sliding connection to connect a camera to a sling—applied to our product line. We did our research, consulted our lawyers, and found more than enough prior art related to this concept.

That prior art starts with the US 1885 Carbine Sling, which clearly features an attachment that slides along a leather strap and connects to the rifle with a hook. It goes onto Leica’s 1938 TROOV wrist strap which connects to a tripod-based connection with a hook assembly that would slide freely if not for the way that the strap was constructed. Many other makers—especially in the specialty Leica marketplace—developed these variants further, culminating in exact implementations of the concept. For example, thanks to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, we know that leicagoodies.com was selling their version of this concept in 2005. One look at the photo on that page of a product made of a keyring, hook, and webbing tells the story.

In short, the idea of a sliding camera sling isn’t an amazing new invention. It’s just a really good idea that’s been around for a while and which has been iteratively developed.
Once again, as I have in the past, I'll ask defenders of the patent system to explain how this encourages innovation? It seems to bust all the usual myths that we hear. Patent system defenders claim that if there's prior art it's easy to invalidate a patent. Not if you want to stay in business as a small company. They'll claim that patent examiners are competent. If so, how did this get approved despite prior art going back to 1885? They'll claim that the patent system "protects" innovators. Well here was a company with a successful product on the market, being forced to shut it down completely over a bogus patent. This is indefensible.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:39am

    "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

    Defending against a lawsuit isn't expensive, it's /lawyers/ who run up charges with unnecessary preparation, simply padding the account.

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:44am

      Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

      You are correct, so we should get rid of all the lawyers.
      *boggle*
      You left of the lawyers for what will be the loosing side drawing the lawsuit out to try and bankrupt the other company.

      Maybe if the patent office had the duty to actually look for prior art before granting things...

       

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      Marcel de Jong (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:46am

      Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

      Oh indeed. It's not expensive, unless you count the legal costs.
      You're just as clueless as ever out_of_the_blue.

      This is a small company without a lot of resources to go full scale against the patent.

      Should they have sent the USPTO a notice saying that there was prior art? Perhaps, but the USPTO should've done THEIR due-diligence and notice that there was prior art going back for over a century, and deny the patent claim.

      But since it's being rubber stamped anyway, what's the point of registering for patents again?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:49am

      Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

      maybe its the process that allows for years of appeals while you make 0 dollars because you can no longer make what you were making yesterday, because the patent office cannot be bothered with prior art. I'd say defending the lawsuit is quite expensive minus the lawyers fees.

       

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      Trails (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:44am

      Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

      Lawsuits would be cheap, but for the lawyers.

      That's like saying scaling Everest would be easy but for the steep incline.

      Are you an actual troll or someone trying to ape a troll for lulz?

       

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      Travis, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:15am

      Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

      This is perhaps the dumbest thing you have ever said on this site, which is saying a lot because that list of fucking huge.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 3:48pm

        Re: Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

        I'm sure I can find something dumber that he said.

         

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      MBraedley (profile), Nov 15th, 2011 @ 6:28am

      Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

      Wow, is twisting words a pastime for you? Mike's not saying the patent is indefensible, it's the patent system that's indefensible. If you had any reading comprehension skills you would know that.

       

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 15th, 2011 @ 8:53am

      Re: "This is indefensible." -- No, Luma Labs just isn't defending.

      Oh hey, lawsuits aren't expensive, unless you mean MONEY!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:43am

    Seriously, is there anyone, besides the stock holders of the other company, that thinks this is just wrong on many levels?
    If we are going to use the Patent Office as the standard of what officially is "The Product", doesn't everyone want them to that job correctly?
    I think in the long run, everyone loses here. No matter how big or small the company is. Simply put, the American economy is drastically affected by how seriously these clowns do their job.
    You guys that speak for the big companies, can you put some pressure here to have this job done correctly?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:51am

    If there was a way to invalidate a patent without going to court would be a good step first step for fixing the issue. Have an option at the patent office where you submit the patent in question and documentation on prior art. The patent office reviews the claim then either invalidates the patent or the claim.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      You can do that already, but again, it involves large amounts of paperwork that have to be filed by a patent attorney or someone with a patent background. Even then it can take months or years to have the patent invalidated and in the meantime the patent holder can sue you.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 11:29am

        Re: Re:

        A new system is needed.

        One where a company already making such a product simply files a claim against the new patent holder, which could then be used to prevent payment processors serving that patent holding company, and advertisers from advertising with or for them and of course shut down any websites and/or stores that they operate.

        If they then feel that the claim is in error they are welcome to take it to court.

        Isn't that how things are supposed to be done now?

         

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      fiestachickens (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      Sounds like we need a DMCA / SOPA style take down system - make the patent holder defend themselves and prove the prior art isn't valid. Otherwise, it gets taken down.

       

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      Willton, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

      Re:

      If there was a way to invalidate a patent without going to court would be a good step first step for fixing the issue. Have an option at the patent office where you submit the patent in question and documentation on prior art. The patent office reviews the claim then either invalidates the patent or the claim.

      We have that: it's called ex parte and inter partes reexamination.

       

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    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:52am

    I'll ask defenders of the patent system to explain how this encourages innovation?

    They dont care. They dont want competition. The first to reach the patent office wins.

    The way Copyright was intended. /sarc

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    "The way Copyright was intended. /sarc"

    First, this isn't a copy'right' case, and secondly, I don't think your statement is sarcastic. The original intent behind IP was nefarious in nature.

     

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    Mike42 (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:07am

    No Standards for Innovation

    The problem is, as things stand, anyone can get a patent for anything. The standards are far too relaxed. Apple just got a patent for putting a speaker in a belt clip, rather than on the body of their MP3 player! How the hell does that rate a patent? So here's one just as bad, no innovation, no novelty, totally arbitrary. Pay the fees, get a patent.
    I wonder how long it will be before someone patents the wheel? It won't matter, though. According to Blue, they can invalidate it for $2.
    Blue needs a clue.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:28am

      Re: No Standards for Innovation

      By Mike's definition of innovation, the Apple product is incredibly innovative and fresh. It's the sort of innovation we should all be lining up for!

       

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        Killercool (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re: No Standards for Innovation

        If it's what people want, and it's supplied in a costly manner, then it IS innovative.

        It just doesn't deserve a patent.

         

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        Hulser (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:47am

        Re: Re: No Standards for Innovation

        By Mike's definition of innovation, the Apple product is incredibly innovative and fresh. It's the sort of innovation we should all be lining up for!

        And what definition is that? Getting a patent for putting a speaker on a belt clip is exactly the kind of thing that Mike points out as ludicrous. Are you thinking of some other Mike?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: No Standards for Innovation

          Nope, it's innovation - it's "NEW!", it's "UNIQUE!", it's "a marginal improvement over something".

          It's all the sort of thing that Mike pushes as innovation. If they painted it a different color, even better!

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:07am

      Re: No Standards for Innovation

      NOOOO must resist....

      Blue's Clue's jingle coming back....ARGGGGGGGGG Oh the humanity..... It's just too painful.

      If there are clues, I'm sure Blue isn't capable of finding them without an ambiguous gender challenged sidekick...

       

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    fake angry dude, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:07am

    Where's your patent?

    You wouldn't understand it mikey-boy because you're too stupid and you don't have a patent. Until you get a clue please stop posting about it.

    JUst another clueless anti-patent PR rant from mikey

     

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      weneedhelp (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:24am

      Re: Where's your patent?

      "You wouldn't understand it mikey-boy because you're too stupid and you don't have a patent."

      Go away little boy/girl, the adults are talking now.

       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re: Where's your patent?

        You guys might want to take a peek at the name of that commenter....

         

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          fake angry dude, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:49am

          Re: Re: Re: Where's your patent?

          Shut up you little punk. I was patenting ideas while you were still pissing the bed. If they're too stupid to read a name then you let them act as retarded as they want.

           

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            real happy lady, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 3:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's your patent?

            Yeah, everyones name here is real. Except yours, you are just a F.A.D. anyway.

             

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          A Guy (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 2:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: Where's your patent?

          It really says something about the quality of this sites' trolls when it's hard to tell the difference between someone obviously making a joke and those being serious.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 3:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's your patent?

            So great, our site has the worst quality trolls around. Perhaps we should alert Guinness World Records and we can go on the record as having the worst trolls ever.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 3:53pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's your patent?

              Maybe I should write a book "How to improve the quality of your trolls" and sell it to Mike.

               

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                A Guy (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 7:42pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's your patent?

                Nah, I'm just trolling the trolls.

                Really, they're not that bad. They don't eat too many children and they keep the bridge clean.

                ;-)

                 

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      PaulT (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:28am

      Re: Where's your patent?

      Which patents do you own?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:53am

      Re: Where's your patent?

      Hey, I have a patent on clueless rants!

       

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      A Guy (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

      Re: Where's your patent?

      Of course Mike doesn't have a clue. I have a patent on clues.

      If he had clue I'd sue him. You better not have a clue either or you're looking at years of litigation. I have no intention of licensing my clue patent to you.

      /sarc

       

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    ready to get to work, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:15am

    I'll give it a shot

    Luma Labs, transfer the work to me, I will make the straps, and be your supplier. I'm not afraid to take on the other company!

    opportunity is everywhere....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:15am

    Simple solution, change the laws to match Europe, where the loser pays all the court costs everyone incurs.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      Even that doesn't help as much as you would think.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:28pm

      Re:

      It doesn't solve the problem, in a world that can change in a few years another one would crop up or this one would be useless and the same thing would happen again, and again and again is like that fellow whit the stone wheel going up hill that would never reach the top.

      IP laws are the real problem and the real solution is to ignore them, flaunt them or better yet make them less strong or end them.

       

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    Maximus Aurelius, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:18am

    Clarification

    Poor buggers are screwed. 

    As a complete aside, thanks for linking to the wiki on Hobson's Choice. Ironically, in an effort to educate the readership on this rhetorical device, your link illustrates that the speaker quoted has used it incorrectly in the most typical manner. As the wiki helpfully points out:

    Hobson's choice is often misused to mean a false illusion of choice, but it is not a choice between two undesirable options, which is a Morton's fork. Such a choice between two options of nearly equal value is more properly called a dilemma. Hobson's choice is one between something or nothing."

    In this instance, the choice seems to be between a) fighting the patent, thereby consuming a majority of the firm's resources (possibly resulting in a Pyrrhic victory), or b) exiting the business altogether. 

    Therefore the situation seems more of a dilemma than a Hobson's choice. 

     

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      Trails (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:53am

      Re: Clarification

      Actually I think the speaker was correct. His point was that he could choose to pull the product or die from legal costs. The second isn't a real option.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:20am

    What I don't understand is this: If they were aware of the patent being filed, and equally aware of prior art (including their own product, it would seem) wouldn't they have been smart to contact the patent office and make it clear?

    Seems that would be an economical thing to do. No lawyers required for that move!

     

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      Jay (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      Would the Patent Office even bother to listen while it's granting the patent?

       

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      JMT (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

      Re:

      I may've been slightly naive of Luma, but it sounds like they figured if they could find this prior art, the PTO would to. It's their job after all...

       

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        Willton, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:47pm

        Re: Re:

        I may've been slightly naive of Luma, but it sounds like they figured if they could find this prior art, the PTO would to. It's their job after all...

        Assuming the patent in question is indeed U.S. Patent No. 7,866,899, it turns out the USPTO did cite at least one of the references Luma found: the publication of the US 1885 Carbine Sling. Of course, the USPTO also found that the claimed invention was patentable over this reference, so perhaps it's not as relevant as Luma claims.

        As for the others, its entirely possible that the USPTO found the references it did cite to be more relevant than what Luma unearthed. Of course, we don't know because no one has made a comparison between the art which was cited and the art which Luma found. So perhaps Luma is posturing a bit (or, you know, a lot).

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 3:59pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "because no one has made a comparison between the art which was cited and the art which Luma found."

          Why don't you be the first. Especially since patents are so easy to read and understand and what they present is so useful and offers so much transparency, start making that comparison here and quoting it. It shouldn't be too difficult, right?

           

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            Willton, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 7:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Why don't you be the first. Especially since patents are so easy to read and understand and what they present is so useful and offers so much transparency, start making that comparison here and quoting it. It shouldn't be too difficult, right?

            I don't believe anyone has said that patents, in general, are easy to understand. In fact, many are not because they describe complex technology that cannot be easily understood by a layperson. Whether this one is easy or difficult to understand largely depends on the complexity of the underlying technology. I haven't read it, so I can't judge whether it's easy or difficult.

            And in any event, I am not a person having ordinary skill in the art of making camera straps, and I doubt you are either. So whether either of us thinks that the patent is difficult to understand means nothing to whether it sufficiently describes the claimed invention to enable a person having ordinary skill in the art to make or use it.

            As for making the comparison between the cited art and Luma's references, I have no idea whether that would be difficult. I do know that it would be labor-intensive, and thus, I do not feel like devoting 4-6 hours to scouring the patent's cited references and seeing how they compare to what Luma found. Of course, neither has Mike, which is understandable. But then, I'm not the one rendering an opinion that the asserted patent is "bogus". Mike is, and he has yet to back up his claim.

             

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 4:03pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Here is a link to the patent

          http://www.google.com/patents?id=6b3wAAAAEBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=7,866,899& ;hl=en&ei=Y6vBTsnBHYSgiQK4mqD-Ag&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved= 0CDAQ6AEwAA

          In reading through it, I don't see anything in there that looks particularly patent worthy. The patent seems very broad, for instance

          "For a camera having at least one engagement portion ..."

          So if it has one or more, again, the patent is trying to be as broad as possible. and it tries to cover as many possibilities as possible as well (claims two through twelve merely broaden claim one even more, adding more possibilities to what the patent covers).

          and look at the picture. It's merely a camera strap. Hardly a patent worthy idea.

          This patent is overly broad and another example of a bad patent that wasn't needed for this idea to occur.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 4:04pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            (at the pictures *)

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 4:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            In fact, I encourage everyone here to read that patent and click on those pictures and go through the images. It's merely telling you how to assemble a basic camera strap. Nothing patent worthy here.

             

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              btrussell (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 4:30pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Looks like the sling for my rifle.

              Not a very useful idea. My camera has a strap that I can leave on while also attaching it to a tripod. This "invention" requires constant removal in order to use a tripod.

               

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              Willton, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 7:19am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              In fact, I encourage everyone here to read that patent and click on those pictures and go through the images. It's merely telling you how to assemble a basic camera strap. Nothing patent worthy here.

              So, in your apparently infinite wisdom, you can determine whether something is patentable merely by looking at the pretty pictures? Wow, that's really brilliant of you. Nevermind what the text says about the devices depicted in the drawings; if it looks unpatentable, it must be unpatentable.

              Glad we have you around. You should work at the Patent Office.

              /sarc

               

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    anonymous, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    no disrespect meant to Luma Labs at all, but what is needed here (apart from a serious overhaul of the stupid system used atm) is for some seriously popular, everyday usage product to be in the same boat and the company does the same thing, ie, just stop making that product. apart from overhauling the system, what else is there to do? those in the patent office seem to be following the same path as the politicians over copyright. not using sense to make decisions, not considering the consequences of their actions, just giving out the patents willy-nilly. unless, of course, their are serious lobbyists at these offices as well, handing out 'encouragement'!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

    This company was aware of the patent application, but it doesn't sound like they did anything to prevent the patent from being issued. They could have submitted evidence of prior art (they obviously researched this and came up with a specific example that dated back to 1885). I used Google and found relevant information within seconds. In the MPEP (Manual of Patent Examination Procedure), section 1900 outlines the procedures and process of protesting a pending patent application. The fee structure seems to indicate that this filing could cost as little at $65.

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:44am

      Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

      "The fee structure seems to indicate that this filing could cost as little at $65."

      I don't care if it cost as little as $.01, they shouldn't have had to do it. There is prior art, the onus on patent approval/rejection is on the USPTO, not on anyone else that might be effected anywhere. The cost to fight a battle you shouldn't have to fight is meaningless....

       

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        Hulser (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:04am

        Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

        The cost to fight a battle you shouldn't have to fight is meaningless....

        I have to disagree here. Sure, in principle Luma Labs shouldn't have had to do anything. But I don't think that they were standing on principle. I think they either had misplaced trust that the patent office was competent at their job or didn't know about the procedures to contest a pending patent. In either case, if I had any investment in the company, I'd be highly pissed off at their management and legal counsel. There's no mistaking that the patent system is broken. But if all that's standing between you and losing one of your products is 65 bucks and submitting the research you've already done, the only sensible thing is to contest the patent.

         

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          btrussell (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:16am

          Re: Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

          $65 and a patent lawyer.

          Hindsight is 20/20

           

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            Hulser (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

            Hindsight is 20/20

            You don't need 20/20 vision to know there's a good chance the patent office is going to fuck something up. You pretty much just need to not live in a cave to know that.

            It's simple, really. Luma Labs bet that the patent office would do their job. From what we know, they bet that the money it would take to put together a protest wasn't worth the risk. They either overestimated the cost or the patent office's competency.

             

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              btrussell (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

              "You pretty much just need to not live in a cave to know that."


              Hey now! We live in Igloos up here!

               

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              btrussell (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 2:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

              "From what we know, they bet that the money it would take to put together a protest wasn't worth the risk. They either overestimated the cost or the patent office's competency."



              "The practice of “patent trolling” seriously burdens those companies without the financial and legal resources of large, well-established organizations. The financial burden on small businesses can be significant – the least fortunate risk closing their doors – as the result of fighting these expensive and lengthy suits, which often end up with nuisance value settlements for profit-seeking NPEs.

              Although Pro Softnet’s day-to-day operations are continuing as normal, this “tax” on progress and innovation is unavoidable."
              http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/14/bootstrapped-company-behind-idrive-ibackup-is-fed-up -with-patent-trolls/

               

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        Dan (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:45am

        Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

        @Helmet While your solution to have the USPTO find prior art as part of their job is, in principle, correct it is also impractical. Do you honestly believe they could do a good job in finding any prior art given their workload and their performance so far? Luma obviously did a better job at it then they did. Luma had too much faith in the patient review, and didn't think it was worth spending the money invalidating a patient application they thought was too ridiculous to ever be approved.

        Standing on your principles here wouldn't help fix a broken system. I think it would be better to have an open peer review approach. Anything considered 'obvious to those skilled in the art' would be quickly discredited and the patient denied.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 11:29am

          Re: Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

          "@Helmet While your solution to have the USPTO find prior art as part of their job is, in principle, correct it is also impractical. Do you honestly believe they could do a good job in finding any prior art given their workload and their performance so far?"

          Congratulations. You've just identified why entrusting the handout of govt. monolopies under our current system doesn't work....

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 11:27am

        Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

        Quick, I'm a little short on money this month. I know I have a job that I'm supposed to be doing and all, but could someone please pay me $65.00 to do my job correctly?

        It would really help me out and would only prevent a small company from going out of business....

        Anyone???? What???? Nobody is willing to pay me $65 so that I can do the job I'm being paid by the government to do??? I guess I'll just have to 'phone another one in' and collect my government paycheck, it's not like the company I'm putting out of business is watching out for me, so why should I watch out for their interests. Sure it's part of my job description, but I'm not being paid EXTRA to do it, everyone else gets paid to do their job, plus they get bonuses (lobbying) from their buddies companies to do their job the way the company wants them to, why shouldn't I get bonuses as well? I'm only getting paid by the government, so obviously I'm not going to bother doing anything....

         

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        Derek Kerton (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 3:39pm

        Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

        ""The fee structure seems to indicate that this filing could cost as little at $65.""

        Well, it would cost $65, plus whatever resources it takes to constantly watch patent applications to be sure that any of your products aren't under threat.

        i.e. lots of money and resources.

        This is why we can argue that the patent system is a tax on innovation, and a diversion of resources from market incentives for making products, towards incentives to push paper, invest in legal services, and to lock down IP.

         

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      Trails (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:02am

      Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

      That's misleading to say the least.

      I might cost $65 to file, but how much does it cost to have a patent attorney draw up the protest?

      Even then, as DH points out above, the onus should be on business to police the patent applications of competitors, that task in and of itself is unrealistically huge.

       

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        Hulser (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:25am

        Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

        I might cost $65 to file, but how much does it cost to have a patent attorney draw up the protest?"

        I'm sure the total cost would be more than $65, but it seems like they did the bulk of the work in researching the prior art which would be required to contest the patent. Given how broken the patent system is, this might not have helped, but at least they would have done their due dilligence.

         

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        Dan (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

        True, but if you are aware of one, it's cheaper to contest it then drop a whole product line. Unless of course, it was unprofitable anyway. The company wouldn't bother defending something they ready to drop anyway. That may have been the case here.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re: If they were aware it was pending, why didn't they fight it?

        From Mike's post is sounds like they already have a legal team. I have worked for many companies who actually have in-house counsel who are paid salaries. You cannot assume that there were any costs for an attorney. Even if there were the attorney expenses (which I question given the statesments quoted by in the post), it would be cheaper to fight before the patent was issued that it would be to fight after.

         

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 11:39am

      Re: I used Google and found relevant information within seconds.

      Yet the USPTO could/did not.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    1. And the patent it is concerned about is...?

    2. This is not exactly an esoteric art, so it seems quite unlikely that a patent examiner would not understand what was being claimed and what was relevant prior art.

    3. I read in its "letter" to its customers that it was coming out with a new product. I have no way of knowing if this was motivated in part by what its competitor was doing before the USPTO, but it would be interesting to find out.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      Your point 3 is very important, because it would answer this:

      "Once again, as I have in the past, I'll ask defenders of the patent system to explain how this encourages innovation? "

      Clearly, if they are moving to a new product because they feel the old product is somehow "blocked", they have in the end innovated to get around a patent or to come up with another way to skin the proverbial cat. That would suggest that the patent being granted has clearly lead to innovation.

      A great example of the "self-repairing" nature of human endeavour. Mike, you could learn a lot from this real world example of cause and effect.

       

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        Rikuo (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:18am

        Re: Re:

        I love how this guy had to twist and bend his way through this series of events until there was clearly some innovation.
        So...this company is now blocked from selling their product. They are now going to consume resources into developing a new product that may or may not work. But that's alright that's innovation!
        For god's sake man! This company is being blocked! By a clear misuse of the legal system! If their product is shit, the marketplace will take care of them. But from what they tell us, they had a stable market. They were selling and their customers were happy. Now, through no fault of their own, they can no longer sell their product because some guy has a piece of paper with his name on it?
        Good innovation occurs when the marketplace demands something and no-one is supplying.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          " This company is being blocked! By a clear misuse of the legal system!"

          I think you need! one more ! in there! to really top it off!

          Sorry, couldn't resist.

          Seriously though... the patent system allows them to file an objection, and clearly they were aware of the patent application, and appear to have done nothing, even though they have all sorts of prior art. Further, it isn't clear that the patent 100% blocks their product, or that they would be subject of legal action, they are making that assumption and working with it.

          The end result? Innovation. The sort of stuff Mike says doesn't happen in the patent system. He tries to paint it as a winner take all deal, where there is only one solution and everyone else goes home. Yet these guys feel blocked, and avoid the legal issues by... hark! INNOVATION!

          Innovation isn't only limited to filling an unfilled need, it can also happen when you come up with a better way to accomplish something that is already done. Bias ply tires were great, but radial tires are better. By your logic, because the need was already filled with bias ply tires, the makes of the radial tire shouldn't have bothered.

          Innovation happens when you look at a problem, look at the current solution, and realize you have a better way to do it. The demand is already there... they just found a better way to accomplish the desired result, and maybe do even more. Otherwise, they might have just gone on selling their existing product without any new development or innovations.

          Innovation, brought to you by the patent system.

           

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            ArkieGuy (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:17pm

            Innovation in SPITE of the patent system.

            You say "these guys feel blocked, and avoid the legal issues by... hark! INNOVATION!" but if you actually READ the letter they published, you will see that they have been working on the "new" design for 6 months. That's hardly a reaction to a patent being issued THIS month.
            We’ve been working on an interesting new camera strap concept for the last six months. It’s nearing completion and we were planning on introducing it soon as a companion to our existing product line. Now, it will be our primary product.

            Correlation does not prove causation!

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 2:30pm

              Re: Innovation in SPITE of the patent system.

              Since it takes more than 6 months to get a patent, it is pretty easy to suggest that they started working on this one when they realizes they had fucked themselves by not contesting the original patent. Thus, innovation.

               

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        Machin Shin, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        So let me get this straight. You are actually arguing that the system is working because here you see a company having to innovate after they lost their main product to underhanded use of laws.

        That is about like saying it is ok to go cut off a guys arm, it encourages him to learn to use his other one. So that is good right? Guy used to be terrible at using his left arm but now that I took his right one just look he is great using his left!

         

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        Paul, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 12:29pm

        Re: Re:

        wow "cause and effect", "in the end innovated to get around a patent or to come up with another way". Lets think of the search bar, yes the one that defines Google's web page and is in rare cases absent from any website. Now lets say that Google or Microsoft or X patents this search bar and everything related to it.
        Now that beeing said say wikipedia.org has to take its search down, please tell me how would you "get around" the patent or "come up with another way" to make a website like wikipedia.org relevant without the posibility to search through it

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 2:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Umm, Paul - with due respect, they can't get a patent on it. Why bother discussing it?

          When you get your patent on air, I will start holding my breath looking for a solution. Until then, I won't waste my time.

           

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        JMT (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

        Re: Re:

        "A great example of the "self-repairing" nature of human endeavour. Mike, you could learn a lot from this real world example of cause and effect."

        Actually what you've described is similar to the Broken Window Fallacy, which Mike has discussed here several times before. Suffice to say Mike already knows how damaging your kind of thinking is.

         

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        rooben (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 7:20am

        Re: Re:

        That argument doesnt work in the real world...basically if someone prevents you from producing your product, the best thing to do is try to create a replacement product?

        The problem here is not the innovation, is the bypass that our patent system makes on the market, by artifically clearing out competition.

        Instead of competing for the best solutions, all one has to do now is to use the patent system to prevent any competitor from getting to the game in the first place, no matterif they have been around longer than you have - as long as you havethe lawyers on staff.

        Because the way our legal system works, if you have the resources, you can delay and marginalize all defense until they run out of money.

        I dont see how this can be defended, even by modern day conservatives- i thought the small business person was our lifeblood - then how do we have a system that allows multinational corps review and just take whatever innovation they find, knowing that they will always win.

         

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    6, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:43am

    "Once again, as I have in the past, I'll ask defenders of the patent system to explain how this encourages innovation?"

    Well Mike, if you'll be so kind as to show us the patent in question then I will take a wack at it.

    There are three possibilities.

    1. They invented and patented a ligitimate and nonobvious new strap and the other company's new line would in fact infringe. Note that even if it does, they may be able to pay a royalty and proceed with their line.

    2. The PO did not make appropriate rejections (I doubt this given the prior art you cited above) for the SPECIFIC CLAIMS.

    3. The company who is qqing may in fact not even infringe, and the competitor may in fact not even try to sue or any suit might be tossed on summary judgement. In other words, the defendant is just incompetent and has incompetent attorneys (this happens).

     

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      Killercool (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:03am

      Re:

      Well, according to their twitter, they aren't even willing to say which company got the patent. So good luck finding out what patent it is.

      I dunno. Call me cynical, but this seems like a good way to cancel a product line without being "the bad guy."

       

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        Trails (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re:

        No it doesn't, it sounds stupid. If a company is killing a product line because it's not generating enough revenue, the best way to present that to customers is as follows:
        "We are killing X because it is not generating enough revenue"

        Customers will either chime in in support of the product, meaning you can increase the price, or say "yeah, X kinda sucked, kill it".

        If this were a concoction, it would serve no purpose I can discern, and set a vicious trap if it ever came out that the story was a lie.

         

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        HavaCuppaJoe (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:38am

        It's probably Black Rapid

        The letter doesn't say it, but it's probably Black Rapid. They make a strap called the R-Strap. They're nice; I have one.

        http://www.blackrapid.com/product/camera-strap/rs-7/

        Notice the "patent pending" lingo in the lower left corner.

        But I don't think that the lawyers should do all the competing. They should duke it out in the marketplace and let the consumers decide.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      Oi! without a market for incompetent lawyers where do you think you be right now?

       

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    abc gum, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 9:49am

    I'm interested in what company filed for this patent.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 10:51am

    Don't know the specific patent, but I do know that one of Luma's competitors is Black Rapid, who was always very particular in their camera-sling-strap product descriptions to emphasize "Patent-Pending". They're likely the one's with the patent.

     

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    ArkieGuy (profile), Nov 14th, 2011 @ 11:51am

    Patent # 7866899

    It looks like the patent in question is #7866899.

     

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      6, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

      Re: Patent # 7866899

      Claim 1:

      1. For a camera having at least one engagement portion each configured to receive an engagement portion of a stand, a system for coupling with the engagement portion of the camera, the system comprising:

      a first strap;

      a coupler having a first portion and a second portion, the first portion of the coupler sized and shaped to engage with the engagement portion of the camera, the second portion of the coupler sized and shaped to engage with the first strap;

      an enclosure having an interior area with an aperture and an exterior; and

      a shoulder strap with a first end portion and a second end portion attached to the exterior of the enclosure, the first end portion of the shoulder strap attached closer to the aperture and the second end of the shoulder strap attached farther from the aperture, the first strap having a first end portion attached to the enclosure inside the interior area.



      I notice that a lot of the "prior art" which mike thinks is at least nearly relevant to this patent likely has nothing to do with what is claimed.

      Overall, it looks to me like a case of them having patented a decent technology which is presumed to be a valid patent under the law and was examined by an expert patent examiner. I do not see any references cited in this thread that make me instantly question the novelty or non-obviousness of the patent.

      That said, I cannot say whether or not the company at issue would actually infringe on this patent. Nor can I say whether or not legal action was planned by the patent owner.

      Overall, it seems like the instant situation in the original post was just a company squimish about patent issues deciding to cancel their product line rather than put their big boy pants on, or they just decided f it, not worth the trouble.

       

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        Willton, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:32pm

        Re: Re: Patent # 7866899

        6, what's funny is that the people on this site accept out of hand what Mike is saying. Mike assumes that Luma indeed has found prior art that dates back to the 19th century. Unfortunately, Mike never identifies the patent in question or the prior art cited by Luma. So apparently the readers of this site are just supposed to take it on faith that Mike knows what he's talking about.

        Fortunately, some industrious reader decided to probe further and find the patent above. Great, next question: is the cited prior art invalidating prior art? Does the prior art cited by Luma actually disclose the claimed invention? No one here seems to know; they just assume it does because Mike says so.

        I've said it once, and I'll say it again: the only way Mike can prove that he knows a damn thing about patent law is for him to demonstrate it. He has yet to do so.

         

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      Matthew Russell, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 5:44am

      Re: Patent # 7866899

      Looks like the patent is more likely to be this one. It covers a basic sling, attaching to the camera using its tripod socket.

      http://ip.com/patent/US8047729

       

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    Jeff, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    This must be what they mean when they bring up job killing regulations? A tax paying company that employs hard working Americans is being shoved out of the market, just when we need all the job creators we can get our hands on

    And all you hippies thought the republicans were only talking about the EPA with those pesky water quality standards.

     

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    Willton, Nov 14th, 2011 @ 2:04pm

    When you assume....

    Mike, your whole post is begging the question. Your claim that "this is indefensible" is based on a whole host of assumptions that are pretty suspect. For instance:

    Patent system defenders claim that if there's prior art it's easy to invalidate a patent. Not if you want to stay in business as a small company.

    Assumption #1: this small company actually has legit prior art. Sure, it may claim that it does, but the company has an interest in painting the patentee as the bad guy. I see nothing from the company showing how the patent in question (which was never disclosed) is anticipated by its cited prior art.

    They'll claim that patent examiners are competent. If so, how did this get approved despite prior art going back to 1885?

    Assumption #2: the purported prior art would actually invalidate the patent in question. How do you know that the 1885 "prior art" discloses the claimed invention? Where's your offer of proof? Perhaps there was a reason why the patent examiner did not find the prior art invalidating.

    They'll claim that the patent system "protects" innovators. Well here was a company with a successful product on the market, being forced to shut it down completely over a bogus patent.

    Assumption #3: the patent is indeed bogus. How do you know? Can you prove it? Show us how the patent claims are bogus. You can even give us a claim chart if you like. We'll wait.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 8:04am

      Re: When you assume....

      If someone uses 'new' or 'different' words to describe the basic concept of, "A shoulder strap with sliding attachment point for a camera, allowing the camera to sit on the hip while at rest, and slide into position when needed." Does it really 'rise' to the level of a 'new invention' just because they used lots of convoluted words to describe the basic concept?

      Sure it may confuse and baffle many of the sheeple, but it's easy to see that the underlying concept is a basic shoulder sling that allows the object to hang at the side when not in use, and be quickly pulled up to the appropriate position when needed. I seem to recall a gun collector friend who had an old German gun that had a very similar shoulder sling and 'O' ring design that allowed the gun to hang down the side when at rest, and quickly be raised to firing position when necessary.

      I'm sure they didn't describe it with the same terms, but it's the same basic concept....

       

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        Willton, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 9:04am

        Re: Re: When you assume....

        If someone uses 'new' or 'different' words to describe the basic concept of, "A shoulder strap with sliding attachment point for a camera, allowing the camera to sit on the hip while at rest, and slide into position when needed." Does it really 'rise' to the level of a 'new invention' just because they used lots of convoluted words to describe the basic concept?

        It depends on what those "convoluted words" in the claim mean. If they mean something that is more limited in scope than the basic concept, then the claimed invention very well may rise to the level of a "new invention" (i.e., novelty). It also depends on whether the prior art discloses those limitations.

        By the way, "new invention" is redundant. In order to be an invention, it must be new.

        Sure it may confuse and baffle many of the sheeple, but it's easy to see that the underlying concept is a basic shoulder sling that allows the object to hang at the side when not in use, and be quickly pulled up to the appropriate position when needed. I seem to recall a gun collector friend who had an old German gun that had a very similar shoulder sling and 'O' ring design that allowed the gun to hang down the side when at rest, and quickly be raised to firing position when necessary.

        That's great, but I don't think the patent claims merely recite the underlying concept. Read Claim 1. Does it merely recite the underlying concept of a shoulder sling that allows something (e.g., a camera, a gun, a telescope, binoculars, etc.) to be quickly raised when needed, or does it recite something more specific than that? I think the latter. Whether that's patentable, I don't know, but I do know that painting the patent with the broad brush of "a camera shoulder sling" is incorrect.

         

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    Conscientiouspirate (profile), Nov 15th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    You really shouldn't question the competency of the patent examiners when you don't have all the facts. What they know, and you don't know, is that this really was invented just now and not in 1885. All the prior art is just a byproduct of Doc Brown travelling back to 1885 in his DeLorean with a 2015 camera sling.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Nov 15th, 2011 @ 9:26pm

    Patent reform

    I am convinced that in the larger sense, large entity patenting (obtruse patents requiring huge sums for litigation) are so bad we would be better off having them all invalidated (in fact, at one time, they would have been). I am still convinced that small entity patents can be a force for good (and very hard to abuse).
    In this case, though, I am surprised that there was no appeal to the Patent Board of Appeals, a relatively low cost way of having the USPTO overrule itself????

     

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    staff, Nov 16th, 2011 @ 7:19am

    another biased article

    "Despite Prior Art Going Back Over A Century"

    If that is true, the patent will not stand up in court.

    Masnick and his monkeys have an unreported conflict of interest-
    https://www.insightcommunity.com/cases.php?n=10&pg=1

    They sell blog filler and "insights" to major corporations including MS, HP, IBM etc. who just happen to be some of the world’s most frequent patent suit defendants. Obviously, he has failed to report his conflicts as any reputable reporter would. But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters. They are patent system saboteurs receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they don’t have any.

     

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

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Nov 16th, 2011 @ 7:33am

      Re: another biased article

      Ah, the old conspiracy bullshit again, combined with a complete misunderstanding/misrepresentation of the problem being criticised. Did it really take you 2 days to come up with that?

      "But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters."

      Nor have they ever claimed to be.

      "They cannot be trusted and have no credibility"

      Where are your credentials? Provide a real name and a link to your patents, then we'll talk. Otherwise, you have significantly less credibility, sir.

       

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


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