Apple Settles Burst Patent Suit for 'Only' $10 Million

from the legalized-extortion dept

Burst.com is a company that developed some streaming video technology in the 1990s but couldn't find enough people who were interested in buying it. After trying and failing to turn a profit as a legitimate software company, they discovered the joys of patent lawsuits. They wrested $60 million out of Microsoft and then turned their legal guns on Apple. Now Apple, too, has buckled, agreeing to pay Burst $10 million for a license to its patents. The thing that the media coverage of the patent seems not to convey is how spectacularly unoriginal Burst's patent claims are. As this great post explained way back in 2002, Burst's secret sauce is that there is no secret sauce. Burst's patent describes "faster than real time" streaming. There's simply nothing novel or innovative about this; it's perfectly obvious that if you've got a fat enough pipe, you can download video faster than you play it, buffering the difference. Buffering isn't a new "technology," it's a common-sense programming technique that has been used for decades. In a sensible patent system, Burst would have been laughed out of the patent office for claiming they invented such an obvious concept. But in the upside-down world of the USPTO, filing patents on incredibly obvious concepts can net you tens of millions of dollars.It's not hard to understand why Apple would settle this despite the obviousness of Burst's patents. Research in Motion learned the hard way last year that it doesn't pay to challenge bad patents in court. Even the patent office itself admitted the patents were invalid, but RIM was still forced to pay a $612 million settlement. Comparatively speaking, Apple's $10 million settlement looks like a bargain. But it's important to remember that $10 million is still a huge amount of money for a handful of patents. And every time a bogus patent nets a company a multi-million dollar payout, it's going to prompt other companies to file hundreds more dubious patents, in the hopes of either reaping a windfall themselves or warding off the attacks of a future patent troll. And that, in turn, pushes up the salaries of patent lawyers, diverting thousands of bright and competent people away from more productive profession into a life of filing for and litigating bogus patents.

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Companies: apple, burst, microsoft

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Comments on “Apple Settles Burst Patent Suit for 'Only' $10 Million”

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17 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: imbecile

“If somebody f***** your tiny stinking brain out it’s not my fault”

That sounds fun, but digresses from the topic.

“”…therefore the best kind of patent to own might be one that is obvious”

Just try to get one and succesfully litigate it against the likes of MShit and Apple…
Good luck with that…”

Considering the number of people that have managed to do so in the last year I’d say my chances are pretty damn good. Better than the lottery.

Paul says:

I’ve often wondered if notices such as; "Note: These files are intended to be downloaded, not streamed. To use them, do not click on the links to open them directly -- download them with your browser and save them." [SICP videos] – seen mostly at educational institutions – are put there because of these patents or others like them (e.g. the Acacia patents).

Le Blue Dude says:

Huh

The patent system should have a panel of experts reviewing patents to see if there is prior art. Not a panel of lawyers.

Patents are useful. But stupid patents are not.

Lawyers can not be expected to understand the subtleties of physics, or Software engineering, or biology…

You know there is prior art on DNA, but someone patented genes that are linked to breast cancer, for example. See? A biologist would laugh that out of the building.

So, I belive that patents are useful… buuut that they need to be reveiwed to see if there really is prior art, and if there is, they should not be paitentable.

Fatech says:

Patented Inventions

Let’s get the facts right. It was the very same software companies that bullied the USPTO into allowing software to be patented in the first place. They were happy with software patents when they were doing the sueing. Now, when some little guy comes up with a great idea before they do, they cry foul.

Take a look at some of the crap patents cranked out by Microsoft, Apple and others. They have thousands of engineers filing hundreds of patents every day at the very same patent office they want to re-write.

The facts are, companies the size of Microsoft and Apple don’t really need patents other than to trade between themselves in order to keep the little guy out. Burst, NTP,
etc, alll little guys driven out of business by the big boys who cared less about their patents. Then, as an example, Burst.com hires some patent attorney who takes half, they spend years in court, beat the 20:1 odds and get paid (half to the attorney, half again to taxes) 2-3 million from a 10 million settlement. Now, subtract their cost over the years and call them A troll.

Moreover, it cost very little for these software companies to copyright their software – Copy their software and you can go to jail for theft (note the FBI warning).
Patents, on the other hand, can cost well over 100 thousand dollars and may never issue as a patent – Copy someone’s patent and nothing happens. The patent holder must sue for his protection – Legal fees alone can run well over 10 million dollars.

Now you tell me who needs protection and who’s the thief.

Stan says:

Not Burst's Invention

According to another post, Burst settled cheap after Apple found one of their own patents that transmitted faster than real time. That patent was invented by Richard Helferich and filed in 1987 as patent number RE37618.

It’s likely Apple paid Burst nuisance value (I.e. Less than the cost fighting in court for the next 5 years.

For what it’s worth…

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