About a year and a half ago, we wrote about "Rockstar Consortium," a shell company set up by Apple and Microsoft (and a few other companies), in which they placed many of the patents they received when they outbid Google to get Nortel's patents. We noted at the time that one of the reasons regulators let Apple, Microsoft, RIM and others team up to buy these patents without it being an antitrust concern was that they promised that all the patents would be able to be licensed on "reasonable terms." Except... once they handed them off to Rockstar, that company's CEO, John Veschi, noted that this promise "does not apply to us."
So, in a move that surprises basically no one, Rockstar Consortium has sued Google along with most of the major Android phone makers (Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE) claiming they violate a bunch of those old Nortel patents. This is yet another example of the obnoxious practice of privateering patents, where operating companies shuffle patents off to troll shell companies, to avoid having countersuits launched against their own products. It's pretty obvious that the lawsuits, two of which are listed below, are nothing more than Microsoft and Apple trying to put a dent in Android.
This has nothing to do with patents as innovation, and everything to do with patents trying to stifle competition. Again.
Copyright troll lawyers aren't exactly known for being the most thorough and careful in what they do. You may remember, for example, that when Uwe Boll jumped into the copyright trolling game, his lawyers sued over films that hadn't had their copyright registered at the time that many were accused of downloading them. That's a no-no. And, of course, there are plenty of examples, from Evan Stone to (of course) Prenda, of the lawyers apparently focusing on quantity rather than quality in their efforts.
Torrentfreak has the story of one copyright trolling operation that was apparently in such a rush to cash in that it sued over the wrong movie. Yes, you read that right. The screwup appears to have been originally noted by Die Troll Die, which pointed out that some documents in the case refer to Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection while others refer to Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation. These are different movies by different people. But the lawsuits claim to be about the first, even though they're representing the producers of the second. Oooops.
And that has made the guy who made the first one not at all happy. As he told TorrentFreak:
“I’d like to respond by saying that the real story here is that the court documents have named the WRONG movie involved in this case. Dimentional Dead Productions LLC are actually the makers of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3D: RE-ANIMATION, and not NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD RESURRECTION which was produced by my production company North Bank Entertainment,” Jones told TorrentFreak.
[....] “I have actually been personally contacted by one of the downloaders accused in this case to inform me that the court documents have mistakenly named my film as the subject of this case,” Jones explains.
“I was sympathetic to his plight and think this whole practice of suing individuals is nonsense and I would personally not be interested in pursuing any case of this nature. I support people’s rights and freedoms and do not want my film to be mistakenly associated with Dimentional Dead Productions LLC or their nonsense lawsuit,” he adds.
As Jones also points out, this most likely provides a very good defense to anyone sued or threatened. This also, certainly, raises some questions about the lawyering of Van R. Irion, who filed the case. Suing over the wrong title? Yikes.
That said, the real irony here may be that the whole reason so many "Night of the Living Dead" offshoots exist is that the original is in the public domain. To have someone go copyright trolling on a product that only exists because it was built off of the public domain -- and then to go after the wrong derivative work... well, once again, we're left looking at yet another example of copyright working exactly as not intended. There has been a ton of creativity around the original movie because of its public domain status. It seems rather insulting to then use some of those offshoots (correctly or incorrectly) for trolling.
Over the weekend, the NY Times profiled the fact that Sweden hands its official @Sweden twitter account over to a different citizen each week, and lets them control it. It was the brain child of the Swedish Institute and the national tourist agency -- with the idea of showcasing some of Sweden's quirkiness. And, from the sound of the NY Times article, it had been mostly working. Some of the tweets were a bit edgy or weird, but nothing too crazy. Until now. Right after the article came out, Sweden handed the account over to a woman named Sonja Abrahamsson -- who proceeded to surprise a lot of people (including many new @Sweden followers, due to the NY Times coverage) with a series of tweets that one could deem offensive to just about anyone -- including ignorant or offensive statements and questions about Jews, gays, Africans, those with downs syndrome, those with AIDS and a variety of other people/groups as well. An example:
Of course, the most obvious answer is that Sweden handed its Twitter account over to a troll. The topic choices are so troll-worthy that it's hard to believe that the person behind the account is genuinely saying these things. It seems quite clear that it's standard troll behavior: say stupid stuff to get people to react -- and tons of people are feeding the troll in response. The really stunning part, of course, is that the folks who manage the account didn't realize this ahead of time. As multiple people have pointed out, Sonja's own blog has plenty of evidence of similar trolling activities on a smaller scale.
“It’s very important for us to let everyone take a unique viewpoint,” said Tommy Sollen, Social Media Manager at VisitSweden, in a phone interview. “Every one of our curators is there with a different perspective.” ....
“Some of them have been talking about music, some of them have been talking about food,” he said. “Sonja is more focused on her own brand of humor and asking probing questions.”
So they seem to recognize that trolling is a "brand of humor." And I'm surprised that no one has yet mentioned the fact that the NY Times article was sent from the town of Trollhattan, Sweden. It's like they were born to troll...
Of course, if Sweden is going to let @Sweden be trolled, it was only a matter of time until Stephen Colbert asked for control of the account, and urged the Colbert Nation to convince the Swedish tourism bureau to allow non-Swedes to control the account -- something they've said they might consider "in the future."
Oh, and while having a troll be your official representation online for a week may, at first pass, seem like a bad thing, it is worth noting that it looks like the number of people following @Sweden has more than doubled since the NY Times article came out -- with much of the increase happening in just the last day or so after the whole trolling thing started to get more attention.
We've seen it all too often: some companies are perhaps ahead of their time, and they fail in the marketplace, so they turn into patent trolls, making sure everyone who succeeds has to pay up. It's difficult to see how that promotes innovation in any way, as it appears to be rewarding failure in the marketplace, while punishing success. Either way, the latest company to go down this sad route is the former Openwave, which has sold off its remaining businesses, with the intent of being a full time patent troll, under the name Unwired Planet (the company's original name back in 1996 before it became Openwave -- one of a series of names it had, including Software.com, Phone.com and Libris).
Some of you may remember Openwave as a company that helped get WAP browsers on lots of phones, and sold services and WAP gateways back in the early days of the mobile internet. Of course, Openwave then failed to innovate, failed to keep up with the changing market, and became pretty obsolete. But rather than just go out of business, it's gone full-on patent troll. Amusingly, the company is pitching this as "a major milestone." Yes, it's a "milestone" that instead of just failing and shutting down, you're now going to shake down other more innovative companies.
CEO Mike Mulica said in the company's announcement that the sale to Marlin marked a "major milestone" in its new corporate strategy. Mulica has been a major driver of the patent initiative since he took his post last October.
"As we complete the sale of our product businesses, we will continue to focus on a multi-pronged strategy to realize the value of our unique patent portfolio," Mulica said.
The company already started down this road last year by suing both Apple and RIM -- but it sounds like such activities are going to expand.
In something of a followup to the story of JK Rowling's testimony over a guide book to the Harry Potter universe, Petréa Mitchell writes in to point us to the news that moviemaker Helmer John Buechler is planning to make a remake of his 1986 movie Troll. What's that got to do with Harry Potter? Well, it just so happens that the lead character of the movie happens to be named Harry Potter. Rowling's first Harry Potter book came out over a decade after the movie. While I'd be willing to bet the whole thing is a coincidence (or, at the very least a totally unintentional/subconscious reuse of the name), that isn't preventing Warner Brothers (who owns the rights to Rowling's Harry Potter) from making some vaguely worded, but ominous sounding warnings to Buechler, telling him "If these producers intend to remake Troll they'd better tread carefully not to infringe on our rights." Funny how they say that about a character that was invented over a decade before WB's own Harry Potter, isn't it?