by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 27th 2012 6:20am
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 26th 2012 5:31am
from the only-more-destructive dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 22nd 2012 7:22pm
from the play-the-game,-waste-money dept
What this really shows is just how broken the patent system is. Facebook basically just had to waste a large chunk of money on a bunch of patents that have nothing to do with innovation, which won't help Facebook provide a better product for its users and which will only serve to create more money for lawyers somewhere down the road. That's not a healthy system. That's not an efficient system, and it's not one that's good for innovation or economic growth.
by Michael Ho
Thu, Mar 15th 2012 5:23pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs, and he had a lot to say about how the company changed on his way out. "People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm..." [url]
- Stephen Elop's "burning platform" memo was published a little over a year ago in 2011. Has Nokia hit the water yet? [url]
- Brad Garlinghouse wrote Yahoo's "Peanut Butter Manifesto" back in 2006. It looks like that peanut butter is being spread thick on patent trolling now. We should all hate peanut butter, indeed. [url]
- James Whittaker says there's a big difference between the Google culture and the newer Google+ culture. Guess which one he thinks is double plus ungood. [url]
- To discover more interesting business-related content, check out what the deal is on StumbleUpon. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 15th 2012 7:36am
from the this-is-how-it-happens dept
Former Yahoo employee Andy Baio reacted to the news of Yahoo's stupid patent lawsuit against Facebook the way much of the internet world did: with pure disdain. But, in his case, it's personal. Even though (thankfully) none of the patents with his name on them are in this particular suit, he knows that Yahoo has four patents with his name on them... and he very much regrets going along with the effort to patent things. He talks about how after Yahoo acquired his startup Upcoming.org, they asked him to get patenting.
He insists that he'll never let that happen again, but it's a good lesson for others. Those who claim that they're only getting patents for defensive purposes have to recognize that those patents may not always be under benevolent control. You are creating a weapon -- a potentially broadly powerful and destructive weapon. And while you can hope it won't be used, that's rarely your choice in the long run.
After we moved in, we were asked to file patents for anything and everything we’d invented while working on Upcoming.org. Every Yahoo employee was encouraged to participate in their “Patent Incentive Program,” with sizable bonuses issued to everyone who took the time to apply.
Now, I’ve always hated the idea of software patents. But Yahoo assured us that their patent portfolio was a precautionary measure, to defend against patent trolls and others who might try to attack Yahoo with their own holdings. It was a cold war, stockpiling patents instead of nuclear arms, and every company in the valley had a bunker full of them.
Against my better judgement, I sat in a conference room with my co-founders and a couple of patent attorneys and told them what we’d created. They took notes and created nonsensical documents that I still can’t make sense of. In all, I helped Yahoo file eight patent applications.
Years after I left I discovered to my dismay that four of them were granted by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.
I thought I was giving them a shield, but turns out I gave them a missile with my name permanently engraved on it.
The scary part is that even the most innocuous patent can be used to crush another’s creativity. One of the patents I co-invented is so abstract, it could not only cover Facebook’s News Feed, but virtually any activity feed. It puts into very sharp focus the trouble with software patents: Purposefully vague wording invites broad interpretation.This is the world we live in... and it's a big, big problem for innovation.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Mar 13th 2012 3:12pm
from the press-'DEL'-to-shrink-your-user-base dept
Obviously, his photo was not property of Wasteland. While Degban's CEO continues to claim this is a result of having its software hacked (despite the fact that the alleged hacking occured 12 days after the takedown notice was issued), Flickr has basically responded with... nothing.
Flickr's system for handling DMCA requests is even more screwed up than the DMCA process itself, if that can be believed. Gorman, artist that he is, has crafted a handy flowchart illustrating just how screwed Flickr users are if they should find themselves on the receiving end of a DMCA takedown.
On the upside, if you are a US resident and the takedown is issued by a US-based company, all that will happen is the image itself will be removed and replaced with a message stating "THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN REMOVED DUE TO A CLAIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT." Once everything is sorted out, it's simply a matter of restoring the photo if the DMCA notice is challenged successfully. (Taken from Flickr's Help Forum.)
What does this mean?Unfortunately, should you be a resident of any other country in the world, Flickr will continue to simply delete your photo and everything attached to it. Even if, as in Gorman's case, the DMCA takedown notice is successfully challenged, it is left up to the user to repost the image on their own. All attached comments are permanently gone, along with the view count, and anyone linking to that particular photo is left with a useless dead link.
-- US members will still receive a warning that contains the name of the complainant and now will include a link to the image where the content has been removed.
-- The original image will be stored by Flickr. Should we receive notice from the US Copyright Team to replace the original, we will be able to do so. *** Please note will be able to do so as long as the original photo.gne page is left in place. If a member chooses to delete the photo.gne page we'll assume that they're not interested further activity like restitution of the image. ***
-- The existing title, description, comments, tags, notes, etc. will be available. The image can still be added to sets and groups.
-- Blog This, Edit in Picnic, "replace this image" and the EXIF info will be disabled.
-- The image will be flagged NIPSA and as such will not return in search results nor be available in the API.
For the rest of the world
-- The existing process of photo removal will continue. We're going to begin reaching out to the other regional copyright teams to see if they would like us to enact this feature where they are. Given that the counter-claim process is unique to the DMCA, we'll need to work out how image restoration will work elsewhere.
Now, according to the terms of the DMCA, the service provider is supposed to replace the content it removed. Flickr is obviously not interested in doing that. It's not as if Flickr doesn't have the technology. Gorman pointed out on Twitter that Flickr has restored deleted accounts in the past, which means that a permanent backup of Gorman's entire page probably still resides on its servers. It even repaired external links for the user. But for some reason, Flickr is simply unwilling to fix this for Gorman or change how it handles foreign accounts.
Flickr did not respond to Gorman's emails. Yahoo!, which owns Flickr, did, but its "answers" were completely useless.
I have to communicate with flickr and Yahoo! separately. Flickr have yet to reply to a single email about it. Yahoo do reply. Eventually. It takes them 5 days. And then it's the kind of reply that doesn't actually reply to anything. Imagine typing a reply to someone who's asked 4 questions, knowing that you've not attempted to address 3 of them, and still ending it with the words, "we trust this answers your concerns"? It doesn't. And they know it doesn't. That's Yahoo.Gorman did receive a phone call from Flickr's senior community manager, but found that conversation to be nearly as useless as Yahoo!'s incomplete answers:
When I asked Zack if he could tell me why the rules were different for non-US based customers he said that he couldn't tell me. I asked if he knew and couldn't tell me because he wasn't allowed to or if he couldn't tell me because he simply didn't know. He replied that he couldn't tell me that either. When I asked if he thought they could replace the photo he said he didn't know. I told him that I knew they had managed to replace a whole account that had been deleted recently, and he told me that replacing an account was not the same as replacing a page. I asked him why he thought they didn't have to comply with the terms of the DMCA and replace the photo and he told me he wasn't able to answer questions like that.Following this disheartening phone call came Flickr's official response to Gorman's situation, and it appears that the photo service is not going to deal with this at all.
I don't believe Zack's employers are giving him the tools required to do his job.
"If it's possible to replace the photo, will you do so?"
"Ack... I ... um... that's tricky... I can't say yes to that."
"But the only reason you wouldn't say yes to that, is if you can imagine a situation in which you discover it is possible but still don't do it?"
"And can you imagine that happening? Can you imagine one of your engineers saying that he can replace the photo... and you deciding not to do it?"
"So promise me that if it's possible to replace it, you will replace it."
"I don't think I can do that."
"After reviewing your recent correspondence, we have no further comments to make regarding this case, and consider it closed."That's no way to run a social service on the internet. Your users are from all over the world, and while it is extremely difficult to play by the hydra-esque rules of a multitude of rightsholders, there are a million better ways to service the needs of your customers—and Gorman is indeed a paying customer with a Pro account. If the comment thread on Gorman's picture is any indication, Flickr is going to start leaking users simply because it refuses to budge an inch on its so-called DMCA response policy.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 13th 2012 7:45am
Delusions Of Grandeur: Yahoo Officially Sues Facebook, Laughably Argues That Facebook's Entire Model Is Based On Yahoo
from the if-that-were-true,-why-is-everyone-using-facebook dept
If that's the goal, it seems to have failed. The immediate reaction on Wall Street to the news was a collective "meh," with the stock dropping a bit after close.
Even more ridiculous are the insane hubris and delusions of grandeur found in the lawsuit and the statements about the lawsuit, starting with this whopper:
Facebook's entire social network model, which allows users to create profiles for and connect with, among other things, persons and businesses, is based on Yahoo!'s patented social networking technology.Yeah, you see, if that were actually even close to true, then people would be spending all their days on Yahoo!. But they're not. They're spending them on Facebook, because Facebook innovated and built a better system while Yahoo languished and did nothing of consequence.
For much of the technology upon which Facebook is based, Yahoo! got there first and was therefore granted patents by the United States Patent Office to protect those innovations. Yahoo!'s patents relate to cutting edge innovations in online products, including in messaging, news feed generation, social commenting, advertising display, preventing click fraud, and privacy controls. These innovations dramatically improve user experience, privacy, and security and enhance the ability to connect with users.Again, if that's the case, why does Yahoo have a dreadful user experience that has been causing users to leave in droves for years, and why has it so totally failed to connect with users?
Yahoo! is harmed by Facebook's use of Yahoo!'s patented technologies in a way that cannot be compensated for by payment of a royalty alone.Right, because no one cares about Yahoo any more and just tossing a bunch of money Yahoo's way won't bring back all the users they've lost to Facebook. Why? It's got absolutely nothing to do with Yahoo's patents, and has a hell of a lot to do with developing a product users actually want -- which is entirely unrelated to patents.
If this plan is actually based on some clueless exec's idea of how to boost Yahoo's share price, not only is that sadly mistaken, but it also kills off the only chance Yahoo might have had to boost its sale price going forward. Stupid, anti-innovation patent lawsuits against better, faster, more innovative competitors might seem like a short-term strategy that makes sense, but in Silicon Valley, it's the death knell of any company. It's when the last of the smart engineers -- the people you actually need if you really want to innovate -- know that it's time to brush up the resume and take jobs at more innovative companies. It's the last throes of any good Silicon Valley company.
And pretty much everyone realizes it.
As for the patents in question, here's the list:
- US Patents 6,907,566, 7,100,111 and 7,373,599: Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage
- US Patent 7,668,861: System and method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network
- US Patent 7,269,590: Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user
- US Patent 7,599,935: Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user’s authorization level
- US Patent 7,454,509: Online playback system with community bias
- US Patent 5,983,227: Dynamic Page Generator
- US Patent 7,747,648: World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities
- US Patent 7,406,501: System and method for instant messaging using an e-mail protocol
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 29th 2012 3:06pm
from the now-where's-my-membership-card? dept
It should be noted that Jackson has a bit of a reputational stake here: four months ago, he specifically called on Yahoo to do exactly what it's doing now. So, now he seems to want to defend this turf, but his argument is bizarre and nonsensical. It starts off with a crazy conspiracy theory about how Silicon Valley bloggers have a special "clubby" relationship with VCs:
If you’re a blogger, you play nice to keep future sources happy (unless you’re someone like Kara Swisher and reached another level of appreciation/admiration). If you’re a VC, what makes your $10 million check more valuable than the next guy’s? Of course, you’re going to be nice. It’s all about access for these non-engineers. If you’ve been black-balled in Palo Alto – whether you’re a VC, blogger, or PR person — what advantage do you have?Considering that I am a "Silicon Valley blogger" and have been around and doing this longer than anyone he mentions, I find this curious. I know it's become a popular talking point lately -- this supposed close relationship between VCs and bloggers -- but I seem to get by just fine without such relationships (yeah, I know some VCs, but I don't recall ever using one as a source, other than on information they stated publicly -- so not as a "scoop"). As for "what advantage" you have, if you don't have VCs feeding you information, that's a ridiculous question. Plenty of blogs have advantages in the community of readers they have and the analysis and insight they provide. Jackson seems to believe that the way a blogger can provide value is by being first. He's wrong.
He follows this up with an argument that doesn't make any sense at all -- something about the fact that new nominees to Yahoo's board are all from New York... and that means something crazy about the "negative reputational effects" it would have on anyone in Silicon Valley to serve on Yahoo's board. I have no idea what this means. I can't think of any negative reputational effect it could possibly have. He also mentions the "open secret among Silicon Valley elites that Yahoo! is in great need of reform." Wait. That's an "open secret"? How about it's not a secret at all. It's common sense to anyone who has watched Yahoo fade from glory and fail to actually keep up in the marketplace. Suggesting all this stuff about "open secrets," "Silicon Valley elites," and "reputational effects" just makes it sound like there's a conspiracy going on where there's none. Someone has hit the paranoia sauce hard.
What does all of this have to do with patents? I have no freaking idea. And neither does Jackson, who transitions with the grace of a rhinoceros ballerina, by simply switching to the patent question and insisting that this somehow "proves" the nonsense he just spouted.
But the vocal, nonsensical, and hypocritical response this morning to Yahoo! serving Facebook notice that it’s in violation of 10 - 20 key patents by several Silicon Valley watchers takes this clubbiness to new heights.A bunch of veteran Silicon Valley observers, who know damn well what Yahoo's move is a sign of, isn't evidence of any "clubbiness." It's evidence that a bunch of people who know this space have seen this train wreck before. He then attempts to explain the "two big problems" with people pointing out that Yahoo's actions are a bad sign.
The merits of their assertion that anyone claiming intellectual property rights is somehow a “troll” and “not innovating.” When did we decide that IP is reprehensible? I missed that lesson at blogging school.Er. It's not "blogging school." It's just Silicon Valley (and history) in general. We believe in innovating in the marketplace, not fighting in the courtrooms for the most part. A study last year suggested that somewhere between 70% and 80% of folks in Silicon Valley are generally distrustful of patents. I learned that by paying attention to reality. Not blogging school.
Should no company be able to “innovate” something without it immediately being copied by dozens of other firms? Is mass copycatting preferable to having rule of law saying someone should be able to come up with a new idea — as recognized by an impartial third party — and then have that idea protected for some period of time (not forever)?Actually, there have been studies and research that suggest that despite Jackson's mocking rhetoric, indeed, yes, the ability to copycat is preferable to monopolies on ideas. Why? Because merely being a copycat isn't particularly effective. First movers have an advantage, and you win in the marketplace not by copying, but by out-innovating and providing something better. Even better, as others copy you and try to out innovate you, you get to learn from them too. And thus, innovation accelerates. That's a good thing.
If Sarah Lacy et al. find IP so reprehensible, I would ask them: are you arguing for Silicon Valley to be a place much closer to China where Internet firms can engage in mass copycatting immediately as a normal course of business? Is that what you want? Is that what your sources at Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, and all the other great Web 2.0 companies of the future want?It's already the normal course of business for the most part. We see copying happen all the time, and history has shown that's where much of Silicon Valley's innovative nature comes from. And I have no idea what the sources at these companies want -- but in general, yes, most of the folks I know in Silicon Valley seem to prefer to compete in the marketplace. I was at a roundtable of entrepreneurs not too long ago, meeting with some federal officials, discussing patents, and the officials seemed to expect that everyone would talk about the importance of more patents. Instead, every single entrepreneur talked about how patents were a distraction and a hindrance to their business. Multiple entrepreneurs talked about how they didn't care if people copied them, because they understood their own customers better and were already ahead in the market. Jackson seems to ignore all of this.
The obvious hypocrisy between these Valley-types criticizing Yahoo! and yet whistling past the Cupertino graveyard with Apple is what’s really galling to me. If all of you are so incensed by a company protecting its IP rights, why are you not picketing in front of Tim Cook‘s house? Hasn’t Apple pursued this line of defense/offense for its business most aggressively of anyone in the Valley?Er... we've criticized Apple's patent strategy plenty and have done done so for years.
It goes back to clubbiness. One of the rules of the Valley is that no one criticizes Apple (or Google for that matter).Geez. I guess all those blog posts above don't exist. And, honestly, that's just crazy talk. I know tons of "Silicon Valley bloggers" who criticize Apple (and "Google for that matter") all the time. Just for the hell of it, since all the links above are about Apple, here are some criticizing Google too, for "that matter."
Does Jackson even read the blogs he's slamming?
And for those saying that Yahoo! caved to Wall Street pressure to launch a patent fight now against Facebook prior to its IPO, this avoids looking at some key facts. Starting in 2005, Yahoo! began to make a concerted effort to develop its patent portfolio. According to PatentVest, Yahoo! was granted 20 patents in 2002 by the US PTO, 50 in 2006, 80 in 2008, 300 in 2010, and 325 in 2011. One of the key IP lawyers at Yahoo! in 2006 left the company shortly thereafter to take a more senior job at Google doing the same thing.This is a convenient rewriting of history. While he's right that many companies in Silicon Valley started investing heavily in obtaining patents around that time, it wasn't to use them as an offensive weapon -- but as a defensive weapon against silly lawsuits from dying companies... like what we're seeing with Yahoo today.
All companies in Silicon Valley recognized this trend and began investing in protecting their IP starting in 2006. Yahoo! was one of many doing this. When Yahoo! began growing its portfolio, it was before anyone realized Facebook was going to be the size it is today. Of course, Yahoo! famously tried to buy Facebook for $1 billion in 2006 — which was seen as an outlandish number to pay at the time by the blogosphere.
Which brings us to today. Yahoo! has a case against Facebook. It might have cases against others in the future. Yahoo!’s owned by its shareholders – not the clubby bloggers of Silicon Valley.But that's the thing: this strategy never works. That's what the bloggers were saying. Because we've seen it. The companies that start suing more nimble, more successful competitors over patents, always end up failing in the long run. That's why it's a clear indicator of a company that's done innovating. Breaking out the "sue over patents" folder is a key sign of a company that knows it can't compete. Because when you can beat the competition by innovating, suing over patents is always seen as a waste of time.
Let the bloggers do what they need to do to protect their self-interests. Yahoo! will do the same.
Shareholders in Yahoo -- and Jackson admits that he is one -- may get some short term benefits, if it happens to get a chunk of cash from some company, but when a company that fits Yahoo's profile starts suing over patents, it's a clear, clear sign that it's time to short that stock. The company has given up.
And I'm still wondering when I get invited into this supposed "club."
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 28th 2012 2:37pm
from the when-you're-young dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 10th 2012 1:34pm
One Reason Why The USPTO Granted Ridiculously Stupid Internet Patents: Patent Examiners Were Banned From Using The Internet
from the wtf dept
One interesting detail that emerged in the case was that the U.S. Patent Office didn't have access to the Internet in 1994 and was apparently forbidden from going on the Internet in 1997, which would make research into prior art in cyberspace somewhat of a challenge.I'm not sure I'd use "interesting" as the adjective there. More like insane. I mean, it's pretty well-known that many patent examiners focused solely on other patents or journal articles as the key sources of prior art, rather than what was actually happening in the field, but being forbidden from going online is just crazy. Luckily for the internet, this was still a time period when most tech companies believed that software wasn't patentable -- something that changed the following year when the ridiculous State Street ruling opened the floodgates. While certainly some really bad patents (like Eolas') made it through, just think how much worse things would have been if there were as many internet/software patent filings from 1990 to 1998 as there were after 98.