Patently Absurd: Intellectual Ventures Claims It's Easy For Companies To Know If They're Infringing Any Patents

from the because-they're-not-being-intellectually-honest dept

We've obviously been highly critical of Intellectual Ventures over the years, as the company is doing tremendous harm to the innovation world by effectively setting up tollbooths and legal threats that take money away from actual innovation and funnel it into inefficient uses. Recently, we wrote about how another firm, IP Checkups, was planning to unveil Intellectual Ventures' infamous web of shell companies, which it uses to shuffle patents around, to hide who the real beneficial holders of the patents are. In response to this, the Spicy IP blog did interesting interviews with both IP Checkups and with Intellectual Ventures. Intellectual Ventures was represented by Nicholas Gibson, International Marketing Director at the firm. You can read the two interviews, but I just wanted to focus on one of the more ridiculous, and blatantly intellectually dishonest statements of Gibson's. IV management is somewhat infamous for these kinds of things, but they really ought to be called out on their bullshit more frequently. Spicy IP points out that IV claims to hold 40,000 patents and growing... and wonders how any technology company could figure out if they're infringing and how they should go about getting a license. Gibson responds by pretending this is easy.
Any company selling a technology and wanting to try and check if the product is infringing someone else's patents, need only go to the USPTO (or corresponding websites for the Japan Patent Office, Chinese Patent Office, etc.) and look up patents and publicly available patent applications that fall in the same technology category and class. When they are doing their search for prior art and pre-existing patents in particular fields, they should be looking for the technology represented in the patents, not for who owns the particular technology. If IV happens to own one of the patents they discover, by all means please come and talk to us about taking out a license.
Simple, right? Ignoring, first of all, just how many international patent offices one would really need to go to, the idea that it's somehow easy to look up what patents you might infringe is a complete joke. And anyone who's serious about the patent system admits that. First of all, it assumes (totally incorrectly) that by reading through a patent application you can just tell if what you do is infringing. That's a riot. Most patents are written for lawyers to understand, not actual developers or designers. Second, they're written so broadly and so opaquely, so that they can only be deemed infringing after a product has come to market successfully. It's nearly impossible to track down the patents you might infringe on.

A few months ago, we highlighted a careful study by Tim Lee and Christina Mulligan (at Yale) about why it's mathematically impossible to actually look through all relevant patents when it comes to software. While Gibson and Intellectual Ventures are pretending -- against all evidence -- that patent boundaries and classifications are clear, well-defined and easy to figure out, the reality is quite the opposite. As the Lee/Mulligan paper noted, if software companies actually wanted to do a real prior art search through the patent database, we'd need a lot more patent lawyers:
we estimate it would take at least 2,000,000 patent attorneys, working full time, to consider whether all these software-producing firms have infringed any of the software patents issued in a typical year. Even if firms wanted to hire that many attorneys, they couldn't; there are only 40,000 registered patent attorneys and agents in the United States.
The thing is, nearly everyone in the space, on any side, seems to recognize that the broad and fuzzy boundaries of patents is a real issue to be dealt with. That Intellectual Ventures feels it's okay to pretend that the system works just fine, when all of the evidence shows that's not even close to true, suggests just what kind of company it is.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:24pm

    Will you PLEASE...

    Just think of those poor lawyers?!

    I mean, how many student loans do they still have to pay off?

    And those business suits! Those aren't cheap.

    Think of the lawyers! They need to make a living too!

     

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

  2.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    It's easy to tell if you're infringing.

    If you're producing something of value, you must be infringing on someone's patent somewhere.

     

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

  3.  
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    Greg (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:46pm

    willful infringement

    Not to mention that if you're found to have viewed a patent and later judged to have infringed, you are now in willful infringement territory.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

    All this has shown me is that we have a 160,000 less patent lawyers than we need in this country. More lawyers!

     

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  5.  
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    Steve M, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    crowdsourcing

    Or establishing a community of people as Article One Partners seems to have been doing...

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Re: It's easy to tell if you're infringing.

    Sad but true

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:59pm

    Of course, still assuming the patents are all valid

    The one thing that is completely ignored here is that there's always a possibility that the patents are invalid to begin with.

    Searching the patent databases for existing patents doesn't magically mean you're infringing on them if they're invalid in the first place. That's the continually-ignored elephant in the room whenever these guys start talking.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    "Patently Absurd: Intellectual Ventures Claims It's Easy For Companies To Know If They're Infringing Any Patents"

    It is easy, anything and everything you do is infringement. Now pay me for breathing!!!

     

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

  9.  
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    Beech, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

    really, if technological innovators were really interested in not being idea-theiving bastards they could just pay people to breed more patent lawyers. But no, they are too interested in their own pocketbooks to pay 2 million lawyers per company per product. Cheapasses deserve every lawsuit against them.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Of course, still assuming the patents are all valid

    and so the USPTO is wasting resources passing invalid patents?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Of course, still assuming the patents are all valid

    Yes, as it encourages economic activity by trolls and lawyers.

     

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

  12.  
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    Bengie, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:24pm

    It isn't hard

    Mike is spreading FUD again.

    It is easy to tell if you're infringing. No matter what you do or how you do it, there is a patent that covers it already. Everything is patented.

    See, not that hard.

    Got a phone with rounded corners? Want to make a button for customers to click? Want to compress a video?

    I don't even need to look any of that up, I know everything everywhere is covered in some generally worded patent.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

    Re: It isn't hard

    You are right is just next to impossible to determine who is the owner of said patent or owners since there is an increase in the numbers of multiple patents for the same thing and nobody shows up until you try to produce something.

    Also IV is in a lucky place they never will have to deal with searching the patent office to produce anything since they produce or create anything.

    Isn't this system wonderful, you actually don't have to do work to extract rent from anyone, you don't even need to build the house you just need to have a floor plan and ask for rent from anybody who actually build the house LoL

     

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  14.  
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    glassneedles (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:44pm

    Have IV thought about patenting a method of determining if your product infringes on a patent. That should allow them to launch a Death Star to destroy Mosquitos as is their master plan

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Of course, still assuming the patents are all valid

    No, what it does, is removes money from potential job-creators, and gives it to already existing legal teams and patent trolls, who then use that money to buy more patent folios, and the cycle repeats.

    The end result of which is quite possibly fewer jobs.

     

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

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 3:36pm

    A good interview and opinion on the patent system and Intellectual Ventures might come from the executives at Overstock.com -- they called patent trolls terrorists on their last conference call.

     

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

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 4:01pm

    What he means is, its easy for companies to know whats patented if we can convince everyone to think that everything is patented

     

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

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 4:04pm

    Re:

    or Patentable, i should say

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 4:40pm

    It's really quite easy to know if you are infringing on one of IV's patents or not.

    If you aren't paying them money, then you are infringing.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 4:40pm

    It's really quite easy to know if you are infringing on one of IV's patents or not.

    If you aren't paying them money, then you are infringing.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 6:09pm

    Re:

    That'd be 1,960,000 less patent lawyers than you need probably. Not sure how else the factor 10 is gonna figure? ;)

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 6:16pm

    Re: Re: Of course, still assuming the patents are all valid

    Of course they do. They get an economic bonus for each patent they get through!
    Face it: Invalid patents are shifting a responsibility that originated at the patent office to the courts and in the process it is severely increasing the time it takes for producers of content to find out if their use is infringing or not since they have to consider invalidity too when looking through the stack. It is bureaucracy for bureaucracys sake.

     

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

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 6:54pm

    PSI list of valid patents omega?

     

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

  24.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Dec 15th, 2012 @ 2:38am

    The copyright cartels should have patented this idea...

    then they could be suing IV and others for making the statement.

    The copyright cartels have been screaming for a long time that Google and others can easily figure out if something violates copyright, but when push comes to shove this easy process is decried as impossible if it involved the cartels having to put any money into the process.

    It might be time to consider a simple idea -
    If you have a granted monopoly of any sort, its your job to police it.
    Rather than lie in wait until someone makes a finished product they somehow resembles your overbroad joke of a patent to strike, make them be more active.

    You were given a monopoly on an idea, not the right to require everyone else to protect it for you.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    balaknair, Dec 15th, 2012 @ 6:52am

    how to tell if something is infringing

    Rule 34c:
    If it exists, it is infringing. No exceptions.
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleThirtyFour

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Nonya, Dec 17th, 2012 @ 7:40am

    How about

    How about we give all patent holders 2 years to produce a product that involves the patent? If they don't/can't, it becomes invalid and public domain. Of course software and business method patents should be immediately killed.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Bob Snyder, Dec 17th, 2012 @ 8:05am

    Patent Search

    A typical patent search is around $350 for a patent agent to conduct including international and appplications. From the perspective of starting a business it's pretty cheap. I would

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Bob Snyder, Dec 17th, 2012 @ 8:19am

    While in Rome

    I'm sorry complaining about the patent system is a waste of time. That's the system we have to work in. It's like complaining that Apple charges too high of a percentage of revenue in their app store or google's advertsing is too expensive. It's probably true but what are you going to do about it?

     

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

  29.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 17th, 2012 @ 9:41am

    Re: Patent Search

    From the perspective of starting a business it's pretty cheap.


    It's also not terribly useful. The odds that a patent search will miss a relevant patent are pretty high. Particularly with software patents.

     

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

  30.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 17th, 2012 @ 9:42am

    Re: While in Rome

    So you're arguing that because injustice exists, we must simply accept it? I, for one, would prefer to work to fix the injustice.

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    CharlesB, Dec 17th, 2012 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Beech's comment

    You are either being really sarcastic, or really stupid. You do realize how expensive everything would cost if companies did what you are suggesting? Increase the amount of lawyers to 2 million PER COMPANY!!?? It's not the companies who are the broke cheapasses; it's you, me, and the rest of the consumers out there who would have to fork up the money to buy these company's products after paying the lawyer's fees.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    staff, Dec 25th, 2012 @ 8:46am

    more dissembling by Masnick

    'doing tremendous harm to the innovation world by effectively setting up tollbooths...'

    Nonsense. It is not innovation that patents hinder, but the theft of. That is just more dissembling by large invention thieves and their paid puppets.

    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 worldís 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 hacks representing themselves as legitimate journalists receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they donít have any.

    http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

     

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


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