NTP Co-founder Finds New Patents To Threaten Companies With

from the fun-fun-fun dept

Soon after RIM decided to settle their lawsuit with NTP for over $600 million, just as most of the NTP patents were being rejected by the patent office, we noted that other patent owners would be emboldened to go on similar fishing expeditions. Apparently, at least one of them decided to hire the NTP lawyer himself to do so. Mousky writes in to point out that a Canadian company, Belzberg Technologies, has hired Donald Stout, the lawyer who teamed up with Thomas Campana to form NTP as a patent holding firm. Belzberg looks like a similar situation. They hold a broad patent that they believe covers all electronic stock trading — and they now want everyone to pay up. This again highlights a problem with the patent system. If, as Mr. Belzberg claims, “without that technology there wouldn’t be any electronic trading,” then that suggests that, without such a patent, no one else would have figured out how to trade online — which seems highly questionable. Yet, with the way the patent system works, he now gets to tell other companies that they need to pay up — most likely for something they came up with entirely without Belzberg’s patents. As the internet took off trading online became an “obvious” next step of the technology — but because one guy filed such patents, he now gets to waste lots of people’s time and money on such patent threats. Again, we wonder how this promotes innovation.


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Comments on “NTP Co-founder Finds New Patents To Threaten Companies With”

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17 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Can you even patent a concept? Doesn’t it have to be a specific method of doing something? Seems patently obvious (sorry) that just saying ‘I’ve got an idea’ is rather useless without ‘…and here’s how you do it.’ And unless you can prove someone stole your specific method of accomplishing something the courts official response should be a summary “Dear sirs, STFU and go away.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: idea versus method

Can you even patent a concept? Doesn’t it have to be a specific method of doing something?

If a patent was issued, the claimant would have had to phrase it as a method. Whether that method is patently obvious is yet another question, but they did at least have to claim a method they had invented. (Patent lawyers are very good at such ‘claims drafting.’)

Don says:

Patent Submission Requirement

One way to fix new patent submissions would be to require a working prototype that can be tested by an independent third party. The ‘working prototype’ requirement alone ought to severely curtail the number of patent submissions. Once the patent has been granted, it could still be sold as patents are now.

As for the online trading patent, there will probably be enough ‘prior art’ examples to take care of this.

Tin Ear (user link) says:

The Judge will probably throw it out...

Chances are quite good that the courts will simply invalidate the patent. As in the case of ‘The Infamous E-Commerce Patent’, there is no way to enforce the patent and no way to collect from ‘violators’ of the patent. If NTP wants to spend their $6M on court cases, I believe they are wasting their time and money…

anonymous coward says:

Two Canadian patent jokes:

a.) it’s a Canadian company, so when you factor in the exchange rate, they only have half a patent…

b.) too bad somebody didn’t patent the method of creating crappy music and then exporting it to another country. then we could have sued bryan adams, alanis morissette, gordon lightfoot, rush, et al from releasing their music here in the U.S.

I’m here all week. Please tip your waitresses!

Neal says:

The best thing about this is...

The best thing about this is that more big money is getting a bite taken out of its ass. When it was a company here and a company there only a handful (relatively speaking) of people cared even when big dollars were involved. It even seemed like a new business. Now the shit’s about to hit the fan on Wall Street and all the big boy’s are getting threatened with a reaming. Bet there’s a little more talk about patent reform coming down the pike…

Pope Ratzo says:

stop the madness

It’s time to make a patent exist only for the life of the innovater(s), and have NO corporate ownership of patents. If you think this is going to chill innovation, then you aren’t paying attention. It would actually encourage the use of new technologies because they’re only a goldmine to the inventor and only for his natural lifetime. Do you think corporations are going to stop coming up with new technologies just because they won’t be able to blackmail consumers and competitors with their patents any more?

Rocket Scientist says:

post hoc ergo proctor hoc

All of which is to say that, now that online trading is mature is really easy for armchair patent pundits like Mike to talk about how obvious everything is (including his remedies for the so-called broken patent system).

Without a look at the dates of the patent in question and other factors, it is impossible to tell whether the claims are meritorious. If they are however, I say more power to them.

I guess Philo Farnsworth would be rolling in his grave if he heard idiots like Mike saying that ‘its hard to believe that without the Farnsworth patent, there would be no TV…’ Fact is, in many cases, there wouldn’t be the underlying technology but for the inventive activity of the inventor.

Mike would rather have Marxism or anarchy and their attendant economic inefficiencies… But he won’t openly admit that because he probably doesn’t even realize that that’s what he’s advocating…

Mr. Wizard says:

Speaking of fun-fun-fun

Here’s a neat experiment, try the following: replace phrases like “patent office” with “TechDirt” and replace phrases like “bad patents” or “questionable patents” with “breathless and baseless articles.”

“no one else would have figured out how to trade online — which seems highly questionable” – this is breathless paranioa. A patent does not have anything to do with whether someone WOULD HAVE figured it out. Someone apparently DID figure it out and PATENTED IT. Besides, if someone figures out a differnt way to trade on line they may not have anything to worry about. The patent will cover the patentee’s way of trading on-line.

And the problem with Mike’s statement that the patentee will require a royalty “most likely for something they came up with entirely without Belzberg’s patents” is another failure of proof. Because of how development often works, its impossible to tell who really had it first.

Mike also argues against the fundamental notion that the first to develop should win the rights to the monopoly based on some vague notion that this prevents “innovation” (pirating). However, Mike never considers the economic loss of two companies trying to make two versions of the same thing and then one of them going belly up at the end of the day (think VHS vs. Betamax if you can) or at least neither reaching a good economic critical mass. Its called a Nash equilibrium or market coordination problem for wannabe economists (and wannabe lawyers) like Mike.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Speaking of fun-fun-fun

A patent does not have anything to do with whether someone WOULD HAVE figured it out. Someone apparently DID figure it out and PATENTED IT.

Which of course goes against the very purpose of the patent system. The purpose is to put in place incentives to innovate where the market does not provide sufficient incentives. So, yes, the fact that someone else would have figured it out is absolutely key to the argument, because it makes it clear that there’s NO GOOD REASON for the government to hand one player an inefficient monopoly.

Mike also argues against the fundamental notion that the first to develop should win the rights to the monopoly based on some vague notion that this prevents “innovation” (pirating).

First, it’s not a vague notion, but one well supported by research. Innovation is an ongoing process. Adding monopoly control at the first step hinders the later steps. That’s not “vague” is shown in the research, which I’ve pointed out here, and which you like to ignore because you’re a patent attorney.

However, Mike never considers the economic loss of two companies trying to make two versions of the same thing and then one of them going belly up at the end of the day (think VHS vs. Betamax if you can) or at least neither reaching a good economic critical mass. Its called a Nash equilibrium or market coordination problem for wannabe economists (and wannabe lawyers) like Mike.

This is both false and misleading. We’ve discussed repeatedly the inefficiencies of standards competition, which Rob (the guy writing the message above) would know if he actually had read us for some time, rather than showing up and pretending he knows everything we think (and then, when we point out where he’s wrong in his assumptions, he resorts to personal insults).

A lack of a standard has little to do with patents, and much to do with the standardization process. So, Rob’s point here is pretty much meaningless. However, in the specific case he made (VHS vs. Betamax), there was very little economic waste, as he implies. Instead, the competition was fierce and quick, leading to a defacto standard in very short order. To suggest that VHS never reached a good economic critical mass is laughable to anyone who has ever been to a Blockbuster or bought a VCR.

What’s most amusing to us is that Rob keeps claiming our position is Marxist, yet here he is saying that we’re better off economically with a centrally planned economy where the gov’t chooses before hand who gets the monopoly. Funny, that seems a lot less capitalistic to us than letting the market sort it out.

In fact, in the VHS vs. Betamax case, too many people say that the Betamax was somehow “better,” but that was wrong. It wasn’t better in the main selling point that matter: how much it could hold. The VHS could hold much more video, and that’s why it won out. However, no central planning politburo could have predicted that ahead of time, yet that’s what Rob would prefer, apparently, rather than letting the market sort it out.

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