Burst.com Follows The Expected Path: Sues Apple For Patent Infringement

from the who-didn't-see-that-coming? dept

If you didn’t see this coming, then you obviously haven’t been paying much attention lately. Just last week there was an article saying that Burst.com would sue Apple and now it’s happened. Burst.com is known for having patented a method for moving large pieces of content online at faster speeds. Years back, the company was talking to Microsoft about doing a deal, but eventually Microsoft backed out and upgraded their Windows Media player in a way that blocked out Burst and seemed to copy much of what Burst’s technology did. It seemed like a clear case where the bigger company had unfairly picked the brains of the small company, only to turn around and try to put them out of business — though, there were some who simply accused Burst of having sour grapes about losing in the market place, combined with a questionable business strategy that included being all too trusting of Microsoft — an obvious competitor. There are also those who suggest Burst’s patents aren’t anything special, and never should have been granted in the first place — but that’s an entirely different discussion. Burst eventually won a $60 million settlement with Microsoft, helped along by a suspiciously timed missing chunk of Microsoft emails that discussed their meetings with Burst. Of course, rather than get back into the business of providing actual products, Burst.com figured out that the patent licensing world was a lucrative one — and set its sights on Apple. Last year, they approached Apple, suggesting that the company pay it 2% of iTunes’ revenue. Apple then went on the offensive in January, proactively asking a judge to either invalidate Burst’s patents or declare that Apple wasn’t infringing. Just to make the litigation circle complete, after a few months of trying to reach a middle settlement ground, Burst has now gone ahead and sued Apple on its own — meaning yet another high profile patent battle for everyone to follow.


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Comments on “Burst.com Follows The Expected Path: Sues Apple For Patent Infringement”

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28 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Well the short answer is – always enough -To solve those problems you must use your real name, file signature, size of the data fork, size of the resource fork). Then, it allows the user to decode the file (of course!). Several working modes are offered: decoding of the data fork alone, of the resource fork alone or of both forks, and conversion to MacBinary. This mode can be useful if you want to reinstall a Macintosh file on a Macintosh medium, which would be necessary to execute a program, for an example.

This utility can be downloaded from this site.

nex says:

Just because a company decides to enforce the hard work and money they have put behind their creations, doesn’t mean they are in the business of lawsuits. I clearly remember Apple threatening people who mentioned Ipod in any of their websites or products with a lawsuit… If it is one to pay here, it’s Apple. Jobs is one of the first advocates of screwing the next guy for small violations… If you ask me Apple is getting what they deserve.

Anonymous Cowherd (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just because a company decides to enforce the hard work and money they have put behind their creations

Go read the patents Burst and Apple are fighting over. They’re so dead stupid your average community school dropout could infringe them given the same problem to solve. A patent office rubber stamp doesn’t mean the idea is good, workable, or even non-obvious these days. It just means they paid their filing fee and filled out the forms without getting too much drool on them.

I clearly remember Apple threatening people who mentioned Ipod in any of their websites or products with a lawsuit

No, you remember Apple threatening people who published pre-release details of upcoming products. Y’know, disclosure of trade secrets.

nonuser says:

these guys are full of it

Google “US Patent #5,164,839” for the patent text (one of them anyway).

The claims seem to be the result of a brainstorming session of likely business trends in the young digital recording industry, incorporating then-new storage devices such as CD-ROM. The invention section discusses, at a very high level, the use of analog-to-digital conversion with the use of off-the-shelf components and suggests that compression can be employed to advantage. However, that was obvious to those in the videoconferencing business, who had been experimenting with and marketing various digital compression techniques for audio and video since the early 1980’s.

I’ll grant that I’m not a practiced reader of patents, so maybe one of the inventors who frequents these boards can have a look.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have to agree with Mikes last point. $60 million in the bank and do they try and make a product?

The whole point of patents was to give the inventor a reasonable amount of time to make a profit from their idea. The spirit behind that was that you create a product or service based on this new concept, not sue everybody you think you can get away with. This patent-sitting does nobody any favours – except the lawyers of course who love it.

mojoPAGODA says:

Re: Patents and tactics

Mike’s comments regarding the unintended negative effects of property rights were very good, I think. Patents have always set a critical line between allowing creative development and discussion in the world of ideas and providing the very same people a financial incentive to develop those ideas (which can often be difficult to develop) through giving them exclusive and monopolistic protection over that idea for a short period of time. Where that critical line is set, of course, is the big issue. Different countries have diffierent approaches to where this line gets set, and it seems to me and alot of other lawyers (ok, I admit it, I’m a lawyer) that the US sets this line too far onto the side of “protection” and not enough on the line of “creativity”. Thus, protection of the ideas becomes a greater incentive than the ideas themselves and someone like Burst will therefore tend not to produce new products or ideas but seek to protect the few they had to begin with.

TT says:

Re: Patent Sitters

They are looking for justice regarding the plundering of their IP. They won 60 mil–most of which was paid out to the lawyers and the stock holders in a special dividend. A classy move by a rare CEO who is actually looking out for the interests of the stock holders.

A. They don’t have 60 million to “make a product” and B. Microsoft ruined them as a company years ago. They have no staff, no facilities, and no capital to “make a product.” What they do deserve is to be compensated to the degree that others have made a fortune using the technology they pioneered, and hold patents for.

Jeff says:

Re: Re: Patent Sitters

What CEO doesn’t look out for the interests of its shareholders? Thats why companies hire CEO’s. Its all about the shareholders. Thats why so many CEO’s get stock options. Their job is to increase the value of the stock. The y don’t care about the company, just the stock. This is the problem is American corporations today.

TT says:

Re: Patent Sitters

They are looking for justice regarding the plundering of their IP. They won 60 mil–most of which was paid out to the lawyers and the stock holders in a special dividend. A classy move by a rare CEO who is actually looking out for the interests of the stock holders.

A. They don’t have 60 million to “make a product” and B. Microsoft ruined them as a company years ago. They have no staff, no facilities, and no capital to “make a product.” What they do deserve is to be compensated to the degree that others have made a fortune using the technology they pioneered, and hold patents for.

foxdeman says:

Re: Re: Patent Sitters

>They are looking for justice regarding the plundering of their IP.

That is one of the biggest points of contention here. Did Apple and Microsoft say “humm, look at this little companies technology! Lets steal it!” or did they develop it independently? If I was writing similar software I would have come up with something that infringed on that patent as well. The problem is it may have been novel to a patent inspector 5 years ago, but it is quite common knowledge now.

Gerard Jeronowitz says:

irony?

It’s somewhat interesting that Burst is suing over inappropriate use of their intellectual property, yet on their web site they use the terms “Windows Media Player” and “QuickTime” without attributing the trademarks.

It’s not that their web designer didn’t know how to do that, there are “R” and “TM” marks all over their site for their own properties.

Anonymous Coward says:

Perhaps one day someone will tally the costs of all this pointless litigation and we’ll get fair review of the value of patents in the US. I’m not a proponent of software patents, but if I were I’d have granted a patent to Lempel and Ziv who’s dictionary compression techniques are still used today. Their invention was non-obvious and I can test this by asking all of my peers whether they could have thought of it given a pencil, some paper, a cup of coffee and five minutes of quiet time. The answer is obvious to anyone technical. The LZ78 algorithm clearly required a good deal of thought.

The problem is that the 5 minute test fails with most patents. I’d say that 99% of all patents filed over the 10 years pertaining to the IT industry protect problem solutions that are mind-numbingly obvious. Put any engineer in a room first thing in the morning after a heavy night’s drinking and ask him to solve the problem proposed by said patent and most of the time he or she can.

In this sense patents become more an intellectual land grab than “a means of increasing innovation”.

jscrew says:

e.g. patent 4,963,995

Okay, I read the first 20 or so claims of this patent on the uspto website. I didn’t bother reading the rest, because I had already done something similar back when I was in COLLEGE (circa 1999) with PHP and MySQL, having no prior knowlege or this patent. I thought it up in less than 5 minutes, and had it implemented in a day

So if, I programmed up a little app that stored a/v files and information thereof using a text file and/or database, then took a feed from an analog/digital video camera and stored the information from that feed digitally, I would be violating the first 20 or so claims.

This things violates the 5 minute rule, in that anyone reading it will be asleep in 5 minutes.

The summary for this patent sounds like what any mom-and-pom video store that allows you to convert your old VHS home-moves and store them on a DVD has been doing for years! Burst certainly didn’t shut them down, or the companies who created the equipment so they could provide this service.

This is a digital extension of the old side-by-side tape deck dubbing/copying (or beta-max conversion to VHS), and putting the finished tape up on a shelf (“library”).

This is no more an original piece of work than “Steam-boat Willie”(tm/r — Disney) when they ripped off Buster Keaton’s “Steam-boat Bill Jr.”

Sly says:

Patents and property rights

I see comments like that by foxdeman and ask this question. If you owned a piece of land that you later found that someone had built a house/store/structure on without your permission, is that forgiven if they did’t know you owned it or did not even bother to search to see if it was owned? I think not. There are other parts of the law to cover intent but a patent right is a patent right and that gives the patent owner the right to exclude others during the period of limited monopoly that is granted by the US Constitution. It seems you all want to crucify patent owners for exercising their rights.

And before you all jump to the patent troll argument that says that only those who invent or make products should be able to enforce their patent rights, I ask the following question. If you bought a house from someone and hired a contractor to fix it up and then sold it for a profit are you a real estate troll?

Bob says:

trolls

“If you bought a house from someone and hired a contractor to fix it up and then sold it for a profit are you a real estate troll?”

If you buy a piece of land you have no intention of building on, then try to sell it for twice as much to someone who DOES want to build there, you are a real estate troll. That is the more apt analogy to this case. The key point is that the patent holder is not generating anything of value for society, but merely trying to collect a “toll” from those who are.

angry dude says:

Re: trolls

Hey, Sponge Bob,

How many patents do you hold ?

None would be my guess…

Maybe you should try to invent something useful, spend years of your life working late nights without any compensation, spend your hard-earned money to buy materials and to pay patent attorneys and PTO, just to see some idiot here calling you bad names and accusing you of extortion…

Jim says:

Re: Re: trolls

Right on Dude. I can’t believe how smug posters buy into the spin of the “woe is me” billionaires.

Burst tried like hell to get their product out there in the streaming world. They did all the things you’d expect of guys who had a good idea and wanted other people to buy it. What happened is the less creative, but more arrogant and powerful vultures decided to borrow it. At least they paid back their stockholders who got hosed. They’ll probably do it again if they get into Steve’s jeans.

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