Just How Many MP3 Patents Are There?

from the too-many dept

You know the phrase “success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan?” Apparently, that’s absolutely true when it comes to the patent system as well. We’ve been noting plenty of stories about how companies and patents seem to come out of the woodwork well after a technology has been called a success, claiming that their patents somehow cover the specific technology. With the recent story of Microsoft potentially owing $1.5 billion to Lucent over certain patents that Lucent claims covers MP3 technologies, the NY Times has decided to look at the long list of companies claiming to hold a patent on some element of MP3 systems. It does a wonderful job highlighting some of the problems with the patent system. Beyond so many different patent holders showing up so late in the game to demand payment, it also shows how little each of these patents actually mattered. It’s not the single inventions that mattered, but the ability to package up everything that is an MP3 and bring it to a market that had demand for it. Yet, once you get all the patent holders asking for their cut, you end up with something that just isn’t financially worthwhile any more. It may drive people to use other technologies instead, but it’s hard to see how the patents did much to encourage innovation here. It seems like it’s only created a vehicle for a bunch of companies to demand payment well after the fact.


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Comments on “Just How Many MP3 Patents Are There?”

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8 Comments
Casper says:

People are the problem..

Taking existing ideas and combining them in a new way has been a huge part of invention for as long as people have neen tinkering. If you make something new from something existing, it is a new invention. I hate how these people can sue for something they did not make. I’m just glad these idiots can’t get a patent for air… I bet they tried?

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: Published IP belongs to the public

I agree Crosbie, but I think you use confusing terms. All freely published information is in the public domain, therefore it can not become “intellectual property” (of anybody). That is to say, there is no such thing as public IP.

Not to be confused with copyrighted material, patents and trademarks which are published (necessarily) and yet are IP whose owners retain their rights granted by these laws. So, being published does not equate to being public domain information. But being widely published as free public domain knowledge does ensure it can never become intellectual property. Subtle but vitally important.

Anonymous Coward says:

Patent reform

Unbelievable. Our legal system allows companies to Lucent to leech off the successful because they are sitting on a patent they never intended to use for a constructive purpose. Patents were created to allow inventors time to market their inventions and recoup their investments. Now, patents are used waylay unsuspecting companies who actually created something.

Patents won’t go away, but the laws need to be modified to require that the holder be actively developing something based on the patent, or the term of the patent will be severely shortened.

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