IBM Wants To Change The Patent System, But Before They Do, They Might As Well Sue Everyone
from the they've-patented-the-internet dept
There’s a famous old story about IBM accusing Sun of patent infringement back in the 1980s, when Sun was still a small company. IBM sent a bunch of lawyers with a list of patents that they claimed Sun infringed on. Sun’s team looked over the patents and pointed out how most weren’t valid and the ones that were, Sun didn’t infringe on at all. The response from the lawyers? “OK, maybe you don’t infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?” This is still one of the more popular examples of “patent extortion” our there, though it happens all the time with firms that don’t necessarily have 10,000 patents. Anyway, in more recent years it had seemed that IBM had softened a bit on patents, recognizing that they can do quite a bit of damage — though, that still hasn’t stopped them from applying for and getting a huge number of patents every year. However, for all their newfound “openness” on patents, it seems they still can send in the lawyers to companies and demand payment.
Damon writes in to point out that they’ve sued Amazon over a bunch of fairly obvious and excessively broad patents. If you look through the patents, they seem to basically describe nearly everything that you might see on the internet today, from presenting an application online to storing data on a network to presenting an ad online to presenting weighted hyperlinks to organizing items in an online catalog. Broad enough for you? They could basically sue just about any online company with this batch of patents, nearly all of which never should have gotten passed the “obviousness” test (oh, that’s right, the USPTO doesn’t do an obviousness test, despite it being required by the Constitution). IBM, however, brushes off complaints about these patents claiming they’re “high-quality patents” and “to not enforce our patent rights would be a discredit to those who fairly and lawfully use these licenses.” Let me get that straight. Because you’ve suckered some people into licensing your extremely broad and obvious patents, you need to sue everyone else just to be fair?