IBM Shows How Non-Innovative It Has Become: Threatens To Sue Twitter On Eve Of IPO Over Bogus Patents

from the but-of-course dept

You may remember that right before Facebook was set to go public, Yahoo decided to threaten and then sue Facebook over some patents -- in a move that was widely mocked, especially among engineers and technologists in Silicon Valley about just how far Yahoo had sunk. Yahoo's been struggling to regain any sense of being a place where actual innovators want to work ever since. It would appear that the folks at IBM didn't get the message. They apparently waited until the eve of Twitter's IPO to try the same strategy: threatening to sue Twitter for patent infringement over three very broad patents that never should have been granted in the first place.
  • 6,957,224: Efficient retrieval of uniform resource locators
  • 7,072,849: Method for presenting advertising in an interactive service
  • 7,099,862: Programmatic discovery of common contacts
In recent years, IBM has, at times, pretended to support real patent reform, but its actions speak louder than words. It's been acting very much like a patent troll, making efforts to block real patent reform, while using its patents as weapons against companies much more innovative than IBM. It truly is living up to the old adage about how young companies innovate, while old companies litigate. Sad legacy it's leaving.

Meanwhile, the company they're targeting, Twitter, not only has built a service that so many people find useful (when has IBM done that?), but also has made it clear that it won't be able to do what IBM is now doing, by giving anyone who gets a patent while employed by Twitter the ability to block the patent from being used as a weapon against others -- something that actually has helped attract numerous engineers to Twitter, since they want to work for innovative companies which actually innovate in technology, rather than abuse the legal system to shake down others.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Violynne (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 3:30am

    "Twitter, not only has built a service that so many people find useful (when has IBM done that?)..."
    When they were contracted by the NSA to provide computing power to spy on everyone.

    It may not be useful to you, but it was useful to someone.

    >:P

    Joking aside, this news isn't surprising anymore. In fact, no patent news is.

    These companies just want to waste millions of dollars in hopes they'll stay relevant.

    There is good news here, though: eventually, they'll sue themselves out of business, finally allowing the little guys to get ahead (rather than be used themselves).

    For those remaining, anyway.

     

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

  2.  
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    Paul Gregory (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 4:13am

    Dear Mike,

    While I don't work for IBM and never have, I can tell you of two things that IBM has done, that has and has and will literally change the world. First, the IBM PC. While you may say that it was "just another microcomputer" in its day, it brought the microcomputer to the corporate desktop, and things have not been the same since. Second, recently, Watson. This is software/hardware that will change the world. Do you remember the Jeopardy shows a couple of years ago? The potential for this product is limitless, and perhaps a little scary (think "SkyNet", "Colossus", etc.) I do believe that your eye-glass prescription need adjustment to remove the shortsightedness that you have seemed to adopt.

    Paul

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 4:49am

    Re:

    I don't know what article you think you're arguing with, because it certainly isn't this one.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:12am

    WTF?! retrieving data from a database is patented?

     

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  5.  
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    jackn, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:13am

    Response to: Paul Gregory on Nov 5th, 2013 @ 4:13am

    No, Mike is right. IBM is bogus.

     

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

  6.  
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    Stephen J. Anderson, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:15am

    Possibly a bit over the top.

    IBM has an enormous patent portfolio because they do lots of original R&D. To claim that they are not innovative (in a blanket generalisation) seems over the top.

    Now, I'm no fan of software patents in general, and I'm no patent lawyer either, but these ones only seem to be invalid if you think all software patents are invalid. The biggest problem they'll surely face is laches, and explaining why they shouldn't be treated as a common-or-garden patent troll.

    The first one is, essentially, for URL shortening. The grant date seems to predate the URL shorteners I know about. However, they're surely going to have to have licensing agreements with all the other URL shorteners, or they'll have to explain why they're only going after Twitter, and why they waited so long.

    The second one perplexes me utterly. It's for an out-of-band advertising systems for low-bandwidth networks, with caching. I can't see how they think Twitter is infringing.

    The third one is for discovering contacts that you have in common with another person. Again, might be valid, but they're going to have to explain why they're not chasing Facebook, LinkedIn and Google on this one (and those are only the ones I know of that have this functionality).

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:32am

    I won't dispute that IBM is being sorta scummy, but this title:

    IBM Shows How Non-Innovative It Has Become

    Is just retarded.

    Have you forgotten Watson? Or is that not innovative enough for you?

    But even while being scum, IBM is playing fair: they extended an offer to Twitter, instead of just suing outright.

    Bad article...

     

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  8.  
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    Pragmatic, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:46am

    Astroturfing, much?

    Seriously, I see three already. How about we all agree that taking Twitter to court for alleged violation of overbroad patents makes IBM look like Prenda, and leave it at that?

     

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  9.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:50am

    Re: Possibly a bit over the top.

    IBM has an enormous patent portfolio because they do lots of original R&D. To claim that they are not innovative (in a blanket generalisation) seems over the top.

    Considering its current state it seems quite reasonable to say they are not innovative.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:50am

    I wonder if US companies are ever given a heads up on innovations by their competitors abroad.

    If you're going to spy on leaders to make sure you keep them on US message, and you bug European telephones, I bet they also must collect a lot of industrial espionage stuff.

    I can see their charter doesn't stop them using it, so do they?

    Apart from the military industrial complex, do they buy off US industry with surveillance of their competitors?
    Does GCHQ help with this?

     

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  11.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:54am

    Re: Re: Possibly a bit over the top.

    * which doesn't mean there's zero nice stuff happening inside

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:54am

    Re:

    Watson?

    You mean the computer that had to be fed the Jeopardy 'answers' because it couldn't understand speech (like most smartphones can)?
    And then it was only mining a far smaller dataset that Wikipedia or Google data mine.

    Gimmick.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    IBM PC? Not the first, was successfully marketed though, 30 years ago.

    Watson's just a Siri that can't understand speech, doesn't datamine anywhere near as large a dataset, and only answers one query at a time and then only about trivia.

    It's a marketing gimmick for people who don't own a smartphone and are out of touch with how far technology has left IBM behind.

     

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  14.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 6:19am

    Re: Re:

    I don't know what article you think you're arguing with, because it certainly isn't this one.

    He was responding to this: " Twitter, not only has built a service that so many people find useful (when has IBM done that?)".

     

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  15.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 6:37am

    Re: Possibly a bit over the top.

    It's for an out-of-band advertising systems for low-bandwidth networks, with caching. I can't see how they think Twitter is infringing.

    It doesn't matter if they're infringing, only if they have the money to defend themselves.

     

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

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re:

    Two things:

    1- This "gimmick" beat the best humans at their own game.

    and

    2- You realise that Twitter isn't exactly ground-breaking, correct?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 6:53am

    Re:

    "Astroturfing, much?"

    Mike is the one making blanket statements, claiming that IBM doesn't innovate.

    I speak for myself, but I (along with others, by pure chance) merely pointed out that that is a gross misrepresentation of reality. With examples. And with the caveat that the actions of IBM are somewhat trollish.

    And somehow we're astroturfers?

     

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

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 7:08am

    Re: Re:

    And another thing:

    Your phone can only barely understand speech. It picks up a few keywords and patterns and "tries" to guess what you want. Most of the times, that is enough to fool the dumb human into believing that the smartphone is so smart.

    But if you speak "funny", or have some background noise, it won't understand you, even though most humans who understand your language would.

    I think the reason they didn't give Watson speech recognition is precisely because it is so unreliable. The goal of Watson was to display it's data mining and question answering capabilities. The bad quality of modern speech recognition would make Watson look terrible, when, in reality, it is actually quite fascinating.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, but IBM PC is not a service, and that was back in those days. What have they actually contribute since then.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 7:46am

    "(when has IBM done that?)"

    Is this a serious question, or is this merely satire directed at Twitter? Must be the latter because the former would be baseless.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "What have they actually contribute since then."

    Spell checkers and grammar checkers that you appear inclined not to use.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    I like Twitter.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 8:45am

    Re:

    well let's see the PC that was 'invented' was basically taking already invented technology, repackaging and selling to business (a la Apple's beginnings). Even the OS was invented by someone else (remember CP/M which was bought on the cheap from the inventors by Microsoft which then patented the hell out of it)! Imagine if IBM had to fight patent trolls in it's so-call period of 'innovation'. No the reality from the truly progressive periods of human history is... everyone innovates on the work of past innovators. Unfortunately today's innovators are being stifled by legacy bullies with the resources to suck the lifeblood out of the new innovators. This is bad for future generations who are being taxed today and will continue to pay for the monopolistic practices that are sanctioned by short sighted governments. Shame on IBM and all other patent trolls and all the legislators that facilitate their trolling!!!

     

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  24.  
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    Rex Rollman, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    I personally do not consider IBM to be a patent troll but I go question the wisdom of this action.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 8:55am

     

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

  26.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    IBM has actually developed several significant advances in hard disk technology that is now probably in your computer, and is doing wonderful and very promising work in solid state storage.

     

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

  27.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 9:10am

    Re:

    First, the IBM PC. While you may say that it was "just another microcomputer" in its day, it brought the microcomputer to the corporate desktop, and things have not been the same since.


    I don't actually think this counts. The IBM PC was not groundbreaking in any way -- even IBM in the day thought it was a dog. That it was widely adopted in the business world isn't a real accomplishment -- it was the natural outgrowth of IBM's effective monopoly in that space. Remember, IBM was the Microsoft of its day. "Nobody gets fired for buying IBM".

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 9:20am

    Unfortunately this is kind of what old tech companies to in their old age. Sit back on their patents and hoover off of start ups. Its a disturbing trend.

    Overly obvious broad patents should have never been granted in the first place. We have to fix that system. We also need to carefully watch every damn patent that is handed out from now and slap the patent office if they hand out another patent on "rounded corners". The whole thing is absurd.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 9:51am

    Re: Re:

    I should correct this before someone else notices... Microsoft bought 86-DOS which resembled CP/M.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 10:29am

    Re:

    Citation to "rounded corners" patent?

     

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

  31.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    First, the IBM PC.

    Indeed. But that was 30 years ago. And it was a product, not a service.

    Second, recently, Watson. This is software/hardware that will change the world.

    Maybe. But it hasn't. And that's the point. There's a massive difference between coming up with something cool and actually innovating: which is bringing an actual product to market that has a market. We haven't seen that with Watson. It's vaporware.

    And that's the problem. There's a big difference between ideas and execution. IBM may have done innovative stuff in the past but they seem to have left those days behind.

     

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

  32.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    Have you forgotten Watson? Or is that not innovative enough for you?


    Watson is a gimmick. Innovation is about bringing a product to market.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 11:35am

    I find it hard to believe that people can live in Silicon Valley and not realize the type of work that is being performed there by IBM on a daily basis. Seriously, a trip down to San Jose would be a real eye opener (and this is just one of many IBM facilities domestically and internationally).

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    Re:

    I don't think I'm making it to San Jose any time soon. So could you maybe give me an actual description?

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re:

    Take a look here: http://www.research.ibm.com/labs/almaden/

    There are several links on that page, and you will likely find the one for "Science and Technology" of interest.

     

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

  36.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re:

    Here you go: http://www.google.com/patents/USD670286?dq=D670,286&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zgWdUNGqIIHo0QGsz4HQDQ &sqi=2&pjf=1&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA

    It's a design patent, not a utility patent, so it's not really an example of an overly broad patent (unless, like me, you aren't comfortable with design patents).

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, I believe that is one of the several that were asserted against Samsung.

    Being a design patent, there are two critical elements when illustrating the design. The first is solid lines, which delineate those design elements for which protection is being claimed. The second is broken lines, which delineate what is not being claimed. Note that the "curves" are associated with broken lines. Thus, to say the patent is directed to protecting "curves" is plainly wrong.

     

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

  38.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 4:23pm

    Re:

    I find it hard to believe that people can live in Silicon Valley and not realize the type of work that is being performed there by IBM on a daily basis. Seriously, a trip down to San Jose would be a real eye opener (and this is just one of many IBM facilities domestically and internationally).

    Well aware of Almaden labs. Have a friend who works there and have been there a few times.

    None of that changes what I've said.

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 5:01pm

    Re: Re:

    If you act like a tard it doesn't matter if you're an idiot or a genius; you're still a tard. The real world works that way.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 7:32pm

    Re: Re:

    IBM *is* bringing Watson to the market:

    http://www.wellpoint.com/PW_D014812.html

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Tyler, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 4:04am

    Re: Re:

    They are bringing it to market as an advisor for doctors to suggest treatments based on mining the insane number of studies that come out every year. Just because something doesn't roll out and explode immediately doesn't mean it isn't coming to market.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    staff, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 7:12am

    more dissembling by Masnick

    Just because they call it patent "reform" doesn't mean it is.

    These are mere dissemblings by China, huge multinational thieves and their paid puppets -some masquerading as reporters, some in Congress, the White House and elsewhere in the federal government. They have already damaged the American patent system so that property rights are teetering on lawlessness. Simply put, their intent is to legalize theft -to twist and weaken the patent system so it can only be used by them and no one else. Then they can steal at will and destroy their small competitors AND WITH THEM THE JOBS THEY WOULD HAVE CREATED. Meanwhile, the huge multinationals ship more and more American jobs to China and elsewhere overseas.

    Do you know how to make a Stradivarius violin? Neither does anyone else. Why? There was no protection for creations in his day so he like everyone else protected their creations by keeping them secret. Civilization has lost countless creations and discoveries over the ages for the same reason. Think we should get rid of or weaken patent rights? Think again.

    Most important for America is what the patent system does for America’s economy. Our founders: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and others felt so strongly about the rights of inventors that they included inventors rights to their creations and discoveries in the Constitution. They understood the trade off. Inventors are given a limited monopoly and in turn society gets the benefits of their inventions (telephone, computer, airplane, automobile, lighting, etc) into perpetuity and the jobs the commercialization of those inventions bring. For 200 years the patent system has not only fueled the American economy, but the world’s. If we weaken the patent system we force inventors underground like Stradivarius and in turn weaken our economy and job creation. For a robust economy America depends on a strong patent system accessible to all -large and small, not the watered down weak system the large multinationals and China are foisting on America.

    For the truth, please see http://www.truereform.piausa.org/
    https://www.facebook.com/pi.ausa.5
    http://piausa.wordpress.com/
    http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/142741
    http://cpip.gmu.edu/2013/03/15/the-s hield-act-when-bad-economic-studies-make-bad-laws/

     

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

  43.  
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    AC Unknown (profile), Nov 6th, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    Re: more dissembling by Masnick

    Your so-called "truth" is a bunch of propagandic lies given to you by the liers at the MPAA, RIAA, and various other organizations. The real thieves are within those organizations.

     

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

  44.  
    identicon
    clair, Nov 7th, 2013 @ 9:47am

    Response to: Violynne on Nov 5th, 2013 @ 3:30am

    IBM is not relevant in this day and age. Its a dinosaur whose time is up. Unfortunately clients employees and investors are not reading the writing on the wall. It will bury itself 6 ft under...soon.

     

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

  45.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 8:59pm

    Re: Possibly a bit over the top.

    The first [patent] is, essentially, for URL shortening.
    Which is why software patents should be scrapped. Under that system, as I understand it, having the same end result will get you into trouble. For example: my use of HTML coding to create this link back to Techdirt's homepage is technically an infringement of the URL shortening patent, simply because combining the link into the text has the effect of shortening it; i.e., it's the same end result.

     

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

  46.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 9:16pm

    Re: more dissembling by Masnick

    Do you know how to make a Stradivarius violin? Neither does anyone else. Why? There was no protection for creations in his day so he like everyone else protected their creations by keeping them secret.
    Yes, I'm absolutely sure that the lack of access to the exact materials Stradivarius used has absolutely bugger all to do with it, given the fact that violins have been made pretty much the same way for centuries. *rolls eyes*
    Did you know that in order to stop his works from being copied, Shakespeare went so far as to give his actors only their lines for the play in which they were appearing? Of course, I wouldn't blame you if you don't believe me, given the wide availability of copies of 'Hamlet', 'Romeo and Juliet', et al.

     

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


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