Secretive Patent Holder Sues Lots Of Companies For Remote Activation Software

from the gotta-get-it-done-before-bilski dept

Brian points us to the news of yet another questionable patent lawsuit filed by yet another shell company, yet again in Eastern Texas against a ton of software companies. The patent in question (5,222,134) is for a “secure system for activating personal computer software at remote locations,” and was originally filed back in 1991 and granted in 1993 — meaning that the patent is actually nearing end of life. Odd, then, that it was suddenly noticed that all these companies were infringing. The lawsuit is filed by a shell company called BetaNet, and no one seems willing to speak. The lawyers representing BetaNet won’t say who is behind the company, or how they even got the patent. This is typical. Many of these types of lawsuits are filed by shell companies to hide who is actually behind them. As for the defendants, here’s the list:

Adobe, Apple, Arial Software, Autodesk, Carbonite, Corel, Kodak, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, McAfee, Online Holdings, Oracle, Rockwell, Rosetta Stone, SAP, Siemens, and Sony.

Obviously, none of those companies could have come up with ways to remotely activate software without this patent (yes, that’s sarcasm). As the Register notes in the link above, even some of the software products listed as violating this patent don’t seem to involve activation at all, raising serious questions about how they could possibly violate this patent. This sounds like yet another case of someone having read the book Rembrandt’s in the Attic and deciding to go trolling for companies to sue with a meaningless patent.

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Companies: adobe, apple, arial software, autodesk, betanet, carbonite, corel, ibm, intuit, kodak, mcafee, microsoft, online holdings, oracle, rockwell, rosetta stone, sap, siemens, sony

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Comments on “Secretive Patent Holder Sues Lots Of Companies For Remote Activation Software”

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HOW they violate says:

what you dont know about in secret

like i dunno how they backdoor you and then if all is good they allow the product to work better
and if not start messing your stuff up.

add conspiracy theory why you would sue software makers that dont use activation software when thats what the suit is about

yes strange indeed
feels like an ACTA + BIDEN meeting all rolled into one.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: Hiding

what are you talkin? they are confronting their accuser, which is a shell company. What I want to know is who is the company not included in this mix. That can probably be figured it by either a: what field is all this competition in or b: if it might be one of the companies being sued themselves to use it as a method of payment to the shell. How to figure that part? Watch the first company who settles.

Lobo Santo's Ugly Sofa says:

This is one of those cases where there needs to be a limit, similar to those of trademarks. If you don’t zealously protect your patent, you either lose it or the rights to go after infringing companies.

Online secure software activation has been going on for quite a long time (before it was done on dialup, or done by calling an 800 number that got you a confirmation code to enter). It hasn’t been a hidden feature or something that is not discussed publicly.

Thus, while I am all for the patent system, this is certainly a case where the patent holder long since stop caring about the market place, that the market place widely uses this sort of technology, and as such, they should lose the right to come back many years later to try to collect for a wrong that they could have stopped probably 10 or 15 years ago.

I suspect this is a case where the patent trolls found someone with a very general patent about to expire, and offered them a little cash for something that they figured had little or no value and only a few months left to run. Then they turn around and launch a lawsuit like this. It is something that the lawmakers in Washington should consider.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Prior Art does exist prior to 1990 on this one

Even before 1990 I had software that connected to a server (remote to the PC) to validate that the software was authorized to work on that PC….

In apx 1987 I wrote an court reporting software package where one of the requirements was that not only the user but the computer they were running on was authorized to run the software. The fear at the time was that the document would be overseen by someone that was not authorized to view it.

Again I rarely agree with Mikee, but when it comes to software process patents I actually agree that they either need to be done away with or revised completely.

tracker1 (profile) says:

Nuke the software patents.

I’m pretty sure there’s prior art to this. Beyond even that, there shouldn’t even be software patents. I can’t think of anything in software for the past 20 years that’s been worthy. If this patent were in say 1980, I could maybe see it as innovative, but by now it would be expired. Beyond this, software patents shouldn’t last for more than 5 years, even if they are truly worthy, since that is a couple of lifetimes in software terms.

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