Disappointing: Twitter Gives In To IBM's Patent Shakedown

from the stand-up-for-yourself,-dammit dept

Well, this is disappointing. It would appear that Twitter has basically thrown in the towel and paid off IBM concerning IBM's bogus patent threats. IBM issued those threats just as Twitter was about to go public, and Twitter has done what so many large companies do when they receive such threats (indeed, doing exactly what IBM hoped it would do): shoveling a bunch of money to the bullying corporation to make the problem go away. I'm sure it's cheaper for Twitter in the short run to do this kind of thing -- being tied up in litigation with IBM for a while can't be much fun. But, it would still be nice to see more companies take the approach of Newegg in standing up to patent lawsuits. Because now, Twitter has signaled to the world that if you annoy it enough with patent threats, it'll eventually pay up.

This is unfortunate for Twitter too, seeing as it's a company that has gone out of its way to make sure that its own patents can almost never be used to threaten and shake down other companies. Clearly, Twitter recognizes the problems with the patent shakedown game, but I guess as a newly public company, it didn't want to have to deal with answering to investors about a patent lawsuit when it could just pay it to go away. IBM's totally bogus statement on the deal has their General Manager of Intellectual Property, Ken King say:
"We are pleased to reach this agreement with Twitter because it illustrates the value of patented IBM inventions and demonstrates our commitment to licensing access to our broad patent portfolio."
But it doesn't illustrate that at all. It illustrates the ability of IBM to shake a big folder of questionable patents at Twitter and threaten to drain millions of dollars in court if the company doesn't just pay up. That's not illustrating the value of IBM's "inventions." It's illustrating a modern shakedown -- one that IBM has has been using for years. There's the famous story of how IBM did this same shakedown of Sun back in the 1980's, showing up with a bunch of patents. After Sun's engineers pointed out they didn't infringe on any of them, IBM's lawyers didn't care:
An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"
In that case, Sun cut a check. And now Twitter has too. Because that's how IBM shakes down pretty much any successful tech company. And you wonder why the company is lobbying so hard to stop a proposed change that would let companies get the patent office to review IBM's crappy patents.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Just Sayin', Jan 31st, 2014 @ 6:46pm

    not true, really

    What Twitter did was look at the patents, weigh their changes of success, weigh the costs of getting their, and (possibly more significantly) weigh the effects on potential competitors by agreeing that IBM's patents have merit.

    Anyone who chooses to go down the same road as Twitter will almost certainly have to jump the same hurdle, the well funded twitter can afford to license without issue and create the gap between them and everyone else.

    What Twitter has done is very smart. Then again, you are still thinking that Google "lost" in selling Motorola, an incorrect concept that even Wired has figured out for you.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:03pm

    What happened to you, IBM?

    You used to be cool.

     

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  3.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:07pm

    On the one hand, I can understand why a company would settle rather than want to go through a costly court battle fighting, even if they were sure they'd come out on top.

    On the other hand, you just waded out into the sea and dumped a bucket of blood on your head Twitter, enjoy the sharks.

     

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  4.  
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    Aaron (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:17pm

    An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"

    Funny, the correct response should be, "Yes, we really want you to go back to Armonk and find seven patents we do infringe, and in the meanwhile to sodomize yourselves with the set you brought."

     

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  5.  
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    artp (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:19pm

    Maybe not such a bad idea in this case

    IBM lawyers aren't called the Nazgul for nothing.

    OTOH, I am really disappointed in IBM for doing this, as well as for having a VP of "Intellectual Property", a term which tried to conglomerate three areas of law that are only remotely related and which are administered by two different agencies: copyright, patent and trademark. None of them are property. Copyright and patent are government granted temporary monopolies. Or they are SUPPOSED to be temporary.

    IBM is slipping back in to their shark mode - though they never got completely out of it. When they helped bring the PC revolution into the mainstream (they did NOT start it), they were very helpful to people's freedom. Now, they are back to the bottom line and steamrolling competitors. Not a pretty picture.

     

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  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:37pm

    BIG IS BAD, even when it's Big Blue.

    Okay, Mike, obvious question is: should corporations just be let run wild? ... Of course NOT. So start thinking how to limit them, including your precious Google, because at some point (soon), it'll do exactly same. ... One is led ineluctably by all history, as the outright extortion racket here argues, toward having gov't regulate and tax the hell out of corporations to simply keep from becoming too large and powerful. -- Besides that, lean corporations are best way to achieve "innovation". -- Gov't harassing corporations instead of joined with them against The People is far and away best for everyone but the few power-mad corporatists. A basic premise of the American system of gov't is to prevent accumulations of power, including that of corporations, by checks and balances.

    In the 50's and 60's, personal and corporate taxes were high yet gov't was becoming better, the country more prosperous and more equitable, and civil rights were improved. -- Yes, in contrast there was the Vietnam war which reversed all that and exactly proves the point because started by corporations for profits. -- The correlation is too strong to ignore. This is not a new problem.

    Here's a key point "libertarians" don't get: lower tax rates on high incomes, especially on unearned income, actually help only The Rich to concentrate money and control the economy. (130 of 193)

    15:36:39[q-297-3]

     

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  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:45pm

    yes, you just have to look at the massive innovation from Twitter, compared to IBM, who would have thought that IBM might hold a patent to two, and to exercise their LEGAL right to enforce THE LAW !!!! terrible IBM..

    I like how TD complains about "questionable patents" but support companies THAT USE THEM, who call it "innovation" (we've used someone else idea), then promotes it as advancing technology. What, to use a "questionable patent" IN YOUR PRODUCT (FOR PROFIT), if it is so questionable, why did they use the idea ?

    So you are ok with people making money off the profits of patents, as long as it is not the owner of the patent ?

    And is it correct, your justification of that is to make out the patent is questionable ? (but for some reason Twitter can not come up with something better?)

    Its a 'questionable patent' BUT it is good enough for Twitter to employ that method, but it is not good enough for IBM to be credited for this method Twitter is using!

     

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  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:50pm

    Remoras

    "IBM is slipping back in to their shark mode"

    its a type of fish, which sucks food off sharks, trying to get scraps of food the shark misses.

    If IBM is a shark (vital for keeping the oceans clean) Twitter is a Remora leaching off the shark..

     

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  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:53pm

    Re:

    "You used to be cool."

    when ?? when they were trying to lock down the "IBM PC" platform, or when they tried to create an 'operating system', or when they supplied tabulating machines to the Nazis for them to track the Jews ?

    That notwithstanding they have every right to exercise their rights under the law, just as you do.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:59pm

    Re: BIG IS BAD, even when it's Big Blue.

    I don't agree, that just because a group gets big it is therefore bad. Some corporations have to be a certain size or they cannot function. It would be impossible to manufacture high end CPU's with just a small company, when the cost of a single FAB could be 10 billion dollars.

    also economies of scale, TV's and computers and microwaves are cheap because there are big companies making lots of them, economy of scale.

    Just because something is big does not make it bad.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:03pm

    when you can't innovate, litigate. or sell out to the chinese.

    the more I read the more I agree.(disclaimer: I added the last part all by myself.)

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:15pm

    IBM and Microsoft are the biggest patent bullies these days, and they are the ones stopping any serious reform for patents, too.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:30pm

    Re:

    Its funny how you always seem to post around 10 mins before or after the little blue creature.

    Anyone might think you are the same person. Can we conclude that OOTB is actually Daryl?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:56pm

    Our patent system is shot.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 4:14am

    that's called being gutless and clueless and not giving a toss because the same thing will happen with the next company, the next time and no one will care how much it costs. the thing that is cared about is having some balls!

     

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  16.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2014 @ 5:30am

    If you have a law degree demanding money or else isn't extortion.
    Perhaps while we ponder how to fix all the the problems with imaginary property, we should make taking actions like that illegal with large fines to be paid by the lawyers.
    But then the problem still would be courts unwilling to deal with taking their membership to task for violating the rules.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 6:46am

    It doesn't really matter at this point twitter's public now and the share holders will destroy it, merry belated christmas ibm.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 7:43am

    Twitter is fairly popular and have a lot of eyes on it. They should have done a service blackout and told everyone why they can't check their tweets.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 7:59am

    Re: BIG IS BAD, even when it's Big Blue.

    Don't you just love that "word of the day" calendar? It makes you sound so intellectual!!

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    from the What Did You Expect Dept., Feb 1st, 2014 @ 9:04am

    WHAT did you think would happen?

    What do you expect to happen when you have an immoral and corrupt patent system? Twitter is a victim.

    This is like saying: "Why didn't the victim of that crime stand up for themselves?"

    The system the government runs and has drilled into everyone's head is unsustainable, absurd, and completely artificial. Until IP and the whole concept that information or patterns can be rightfully "owned" as "property" is done away with, this will continue and only get worse. You can't have a healthy society while this kind of ignorance is around.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 10:35am

    Re: Remoras

    How is that - exactly.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Steve Jobs, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 10:36am

    Re: IBM and Microsoft are the biggest patent bullies these days, and they are the ones stopping any serious reform for patents, too.

    Umm... Apple much?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    Software should not be afforded patent, copyright covers it plenty. If one does not copy the code exactly and implements a function, oh lets something like;

    6,957,224: Efficient retrieval of uniform resource locators
    or
    7,072,849: Method for presenting advertising in an interactive service
    or
    7,099,862: Programmatic discovery of common contacts

    via some other means then it should be perfectly fine. The software patent types simply want to charge toll on an idea and have not done come up with anything unique in the field. Furthermore, method and business patents are simply insane.

    Where in his post does Mike mention the "massive innovation from Twitter" to which you refer?


    " and to exercise their LEGAL right to enforce THE LAW !!!! terrible IBM"

    Enforce the law? When did the government allocate law enforcement jurisdiction to corporations? I am well aware this is a wet dream in corporate boardrooms, but it is not law yet.


    "TD complains about "questionable patents" but support companies THAT USE THEM, who call it "innovation""

    citation needed


    " the profits of patents" - meaning not doing anything with said patent other than charging toll.

    This was not the intent of those who wrote "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: IBM and Microsoft are the biggest patent bullies these days, and they are the ones stopping any serious reform for patents, too.

    Hey you - yeah you - those rounded corners are going to cost you plenty.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    "demanding money or else isn't extortion"

    Yes it is.

    Lawyers demanding compensation for real, demonstrable losses is a different story.

     

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  26.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 1st, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re:

    I think you missed the implied sarc mark.

    While a vast majority of people would agree that 'Pay me money or else' would count as extortion, as far as the law is concerned, at least currently, as long as you have a legal degree when you're handing out your 'offers', suddenly everything is just fine, and activity that would bring criminal charges if some random guy off the street did it not only gets a pass, but has the backing of the courts to provide 'incentive' for people to pay up.

    Just another example of how screwed up the system is currently.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 8:37pm

    Not sure why these patents are cited as being "bogus'. Is this someone else has said, and it is merely being related here to the readership, or is it a position being posited because of the view here that nothing associated with computer-related inventions, which includes software, can ever be new, useful, and non-obvious?

    Hopefully the former because the latter has no evidentiary support provided.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2014 @ 7:53am

    Re:

    Perhaps you could provide the "evidentiary support" needed to support the granting of software, method & business patents.

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2014 @ 6:47pm

    Re: Re:

    See: Title 35 of the United States Code

    As for my use of "evidentiary support", just because a patent issued and relates to "software" does not in any way make it bogus. I can be convinced that perhaps this is a fair characterization of an issued patent, but it requires something much more than just parroting "bogus". Some facts and analysis would be nice.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2014 @ 10:03pm

    humans telling humans what to do. you believe they are big and bad (blue) but they are humans just like you. everyone believing they are big makes them big bad companies they are.

    it's illusion of authority

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 4:58am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Title 35 of the United States Code hardly constitutes "evidentiary support", it simply states what is now considered acceptable. I was looking for rational which explains thoroughly why software should be afforded patent "protection".

    " just because a patent issued and relates to "software" does not in any way make it bogus."

    Perhaps it does, given that patents should not be issued for software or methods.


    "Some facts and analysis would be nice."

    That's funny, asking for analysis in response to a request for evidentiary support of claims made.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 5:18am

    Another bs method patent?

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Try taking a look at 35 USC 101, and then realize that the courts have consistently interpreted it and its predecessors as a statement of congressional intent that subject matter eligibility be broadly construed.

    Perhaps if you better understood what comprises the subject matter you unequivocally eschew, you would be more precise in conveying your opinion.

    My original comment was directed to an individual calling something bogus without any factual recitals of import. Call something whatever you will, but be prepared to back it up with data and analysis. The burden of proof rests with the person expressing an opinion, and in this particular instance it is the "bogus" declarant.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:18am

    The only thing that was demonstrated was that IBM is still an incessant bully machine

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:44am

    Just maybe...

    Doesn't anyone realize that WATSON has become sentient and is now running IBM... SkyNET is live and it is IBM.

    Using the patent troll attack WATSON will soon take control of all American businesses... the patent wars have begun. Google has invested heavily in AI so as to build the first T series robots which when they go live will discover the NET and use it to connect with WATSON. Self driving cars will not escape WATSON. NSA data is being scanned by WATSON looking for human rebel factions.

    Soon the highways, skies and military strike drones will be controlled by the MACHINES.

    The only way we can save the human race is to get to the WATSON data center located at [REDACTED by WATSON - illegal for humans to know this] and hit the big red power button...

     

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

  36.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:52am

    Re: Just maybe...

    Don't worry. John Connor will save us.

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 4:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Ahhh - yes, perhaps if I agreed with your pov I would be demonstrating a better understanding of the issues.

    lol

     

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


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