Guy Who Makes Simple Caller ID App For Android Forced To Shut Down Due To Patent Threat

from the promoting-the-progress dept

You may recall that, a couple years ago, Apple was sued over its implementation of caller ID technology on the iPhone. Some company claimed to hold a patent on the basic caller ID display technology from 1990. So, when Alimas wrote in to let us know about a guy who created a really simple caller ID app for Android called (simply enough) City Caller ID, who had to shut the project down after getting sued for patent infringement, I thought maybe it was the same patent (though, you would think the 1990 patent should have expired or be close to expiring by now). But, it turns out these are totally different patents on Caller ID technology. The patents are held by a company called Cequint (6,353,664 and 7,200,212) and were granted in 2002 and 2007. Yes, for caller ID functionality. It’s a database lookup. How the hell do you patent that? In this case, all the app did was take the phone number of the caller, and do a database lookup to figure out what city the call was coming from:


Seriously, can any patent supporter explain with a straight face how patents like this promote progress? What kind of incentive does a patent create in this case? Can you honestly claim that this kind of monopoly was necessary to “invent” a way to match a phone number to a city?

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Companies: cequint

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Comments on “Guy Who Makes Simple Caller ID App For Android Forced To Shut Down Due To Patent Threat”

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68 Comments
:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

I have that app

It’s a good app. Works well.
The fellow put a note on the last update about this.

Seriously, it’s an effing shakedown, like “you’re gonna cut us (Cequint) in for 50% of your take, and we’ll let you keep doing business; also, we’ll let you live.”

Corporate thugs demanding payment, a goddamn shakedown.

HawaiiMuskrat says:

Re: Re: (patents)

Quoting The Mighty Bard 2-25-10: “would get laughed out of court. It costs 20-100m to have that happen though. go figure…”

OK, so I know I’m 6 months late but can’t resist a comment. So, the real problem is LAWYERS. As Shakespeare’s Henry VI said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.

diabolic says:

patent supporter

Seriously, can any patent supporter explain with a straight face how patents like this promote progress?

Being a patent supporter does not mean that one supports ALL patents. Being a patent supporter does not mean that there are not problems with the system. It is possible to be a patent supporter and at the same time be an advocate of patent reform. I don’t think you will find anyone that will support the patent you are asking about here. Some things are just obvious and not deserving of a patent at all. 20 years is a mighty long time given the pace of progress that we enjoy today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: patent supporter

Apparently you missed my point. Ronald aside, no, patent supporters cannot support this patent.

Seems to me that Mike lumps all ‘patent supporters’ together. Honestly, I find it kind of offensive. This is the same crap that the *IAA pulls when they call just about everyone ‘pirates’, ‘thieves’ and ‘criminals’.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: patent supporter

I think he might have meant those who support patent law in its current form and oppose patent reform. Like Ronald Riley, for example. Unfortunately, even those people will always say “sure there is bound to be a bad patent here and there, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” And they will say that no matter how many examples of bad patents are presented.

Richard Corsale (profile) says:

Re: patent supporter

See, the problem is.. Monopolies are like death sentences. You have to weigh the cost:benefit against the implementation. What I’m trying to say is that if you hand out death sentences all willy nilly, then you have become a vehicle for grave injustice. With patents, the point is the same, though the result may not be a single corpse at the end of a rope. Ethical questions aside, how would you remedy the injustice of patents like this?

I mean.. really.. I’m sincerely asking for ideas, I’ve come to the conclusion that there must be 1 in 100 patents that deserve to exist at this point in time. Everything is a derivative and we have gone entirely the wrong direction on IP as a whole… In all of my studies (hundreds of patents top to bottom, some taken to trial others not) I find with few exceptions, little more than obvious, uninspired, re-worded standards and legal dribble.

I’m all for rewarding truly innovative inventions, I’m just not convinced that a 20+ year monopoly is the remedy.

diabolic says:

Re: Re: patent supporter

Did not say that I have all of the answers. It should be harder to get a patent. Also, patent applications should be handled in a more expeidient manner. It should not take 3 or 4 years before someone even looks at an application. I agree that 20 years is way too long for monopoly protections – I said as much in my post. I’m for removing time from the entire process. I’m for rejecting a lot more applications. Perhaps we need a new process to deal with existing bad patents but that needs to come along with bigger hurdles for obtaining a patent in the first place. Again, I don’t have all of the answers but that does not mean we should simply flush everything and move to no system at all.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: patent supporter

I think you will find that Mike himself, and many commenters here, are reasonably agnostic about having a patent system – we don’t necessarily want to abolish it completely.

However I think there is a consensus here that any new system must be:

1) Clear about what its purpose is (is it to “promote the progress” as in the US constitution or is it there to level the playing field between individuals/small companies and the big boys ).

2) Be evidence based rather than faith based.

3) Be subject to review if the evidence shows it to be failing relative to its declared purpose.

I think this community will not react badly to anyone who argues from these premises.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: patent supporter

“if you hand out death sentences all willy nilly, then you have become a vehicle for grave injustice. With patents, the point is the same, though the result may not be a single corpse at the end of a rope. Ethical questions aside, how would you remedy the injustice of patents like this?”

I think you’ve answered your own question already. A death sentence for the examiner who approved this patent would be highly appropriate.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: patent supporter

I understand your point, and agree. People like you shouldn’t be lumped together with the patent extremists. However, people like you also need to be as vocal as the extremists, lest people forget you exist. In our defense, rarely do we get a pro-patent-system point-of-view here that isn’t absurd beyond measure. It would be nice to hear a sane supporter’s ideas on the matter.

I don’t think you will find anyone that will support the patent you are asking about here.

I bet I can find at least one. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: patent supporter

Trouble is that just about any opinion that is not in line with Mike’s post gets a bunch of crap. I got 3 responses, quickly, telling me that basically I did not read between the lines, that Mike did not mean me but he meant folks like Ronald. It does not encourage me to post here when I know I’m just going to get lambasted.

diabolic says:

Re: Re: Re:4 patent supporter

Whatever. Perhaps ‘lambasted’ was too strong of a word. When 3 or 4 people all jump to correct me then it does feel like I’m being scolded/lambasted. As Infamous Joe said, maybe I need thicker skin. And maybe Mike does not need a bunch of his readers jumping to his defense. Mike can speak for himself. There is nothing wrong with me taking Mike’s words at face value, nothing wrong about taking the literal meaning.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: patent supporter

Well, any regular reader knew what he meant, and maybe Mike will take more care to single out just the crazies in the future. (I can’t speak for Mike). Mike has even said before that patents as an idea aren’t bad, but they are no longer used as they were intended. That, I’d say, put him more in your camp than in those wishing to scrap the entire system.

Also, and I mean no disrespect, but this is the internet; grow thicker skin and things will work out smoother. 🙂

diabolic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 patent supporter

I am a regular reader. I also fall into the ‘any patent supporter’ group. Perhaps you are all correct, that Mike meant can Ronald, Angry Dude and/or other folks like them. I did not get that, I got ‘any patent supporter’.

Thick skin is one thing. Its easy to ignore a couple of comments. I find it harder to ignore 3 or 4 comments that say the same thing, especially when they are from ‘regular readers’ like yourself. If I cannot get a couple of you to understand where I am coming from then I have not accomplished anything and I am just wasting my time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: patent supporter

Amen, brother.

It does seem like the second patent (I did not read the first) is simply a way to automate what someone already does manually when they look up what city an area code, or even a prefix, matches. With any luck, the Supreme Court will squelch these sorts of patents when the Bilski ruling comes out.

HymieS (profile) says:

The big Mistake was:

He should have filed a design copyright on his own program. Design copyrights do not infringe on patents, and last 75 to 150 years.
The patents on ‘caller id’ only cover displaying the callers name and/or number. Neither patent describes the methodology of getting that information.
If he had ‘designed’ a new method of just obtaining the city that the call originated in, he would have a valid copyright.
Now if my phone is based in NYC and I am traveling to LA, and his program can show where the call is coming from and not the base city of the phone, I believe he has a valid case.
Most existing caller id’s, that I have seen and used, only display the name and number of the caller, not the city of origin, unless the callers name is hidden.

simon says:

patents vs land of opportunity

next to patent is stepping in dog poo on street, pressing a button to enable an electrical appliance, crossing the street on unmarked place, pushing a buggy , using a wheel, the bottom of any drinking cup/glass, whistling for a cab, drinking beer on a couch and yeah, wiping your feet on a mat before entering the house… cause someone took already the caller ID …

nah, this are not yet too obvious … so, race to patent office ?

drkkgt (profile) says:

I love these kinds of lines in these patent:
While the invention has been described in accordance 5 with what is presently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiment, but on the contrary, is intended to cover various modifications and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope 😮 of the appended claims.

So basically this is saying: “If we didn’t write the specifics broad enough to cover all possibilities of us getting paid, then we want to make sure we cover any loopholes that mights in any way have anything to do with the possibility of what we are discussing, so that we get paid.”

6 (profile) says:

“Is a cell phone classified as an ‘analog telephone line interface’ ?”

I doubt it, and many other problems would arise in successfully accusing someone who merely wrote an App for ANDROID of infringment.

However, like I said, the guy that was writing the App probably doesn’t know his arse from his elbow in patent matters, or in patent litigation. And he probably can’t afford to pay someone who does.

Chucklebutte (profile) says:

Balls

People need to grow them. People need to realize only one person in this world can tell them what to do, and that is themselves. The longer we get bullied by what is considered right and wrong by people out of touch with reality the longer we will have to endure this kind of shit. People remember that there is more citizens than government or corporations, people really need to tell corporations and the government to go fuck themselves!

I say write whatever software you want!
Pirate what you want!
Take any picture, story, movie, anything you can think of and manipulate it in any way you wish!

No one can do anything to you, let them sue you what can they really do? Take your money? Only if you let them!

This kind of BS should fall under “cyber-bullying” ITS TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN!!! Well protect their future from a closed off society where only the richest of the rich is allowed access to knowledge while the rest of us pile up in the streets! Yay!…

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Balls

I hate the patent system (and IP rules in general) as much as the next guy, but you’re giving out horrible advice.

No one can do anything to you, let them sue you what can they really do? Take your money? Only if you let them!

No, not only if you let them.

Friendly reminder: Just because ‘they’ have lost all sense of reason does not mean you should.

whatever says:

I would like to patent the obvious

Is there a patent on how to wipe your butt?

Patents are worthless. Please support any legislation which limits, abolishes or changes the transferability of patents.

Since the US Patent Office can’t seem to make reasonable decisions on anything, its probably time to just get rid of patents altogether.

Patrick Young-YES Telecom (user link) says:

Patent Prior Art, Proof

I am the owner of YES Telecom. I have been manufacturing multi-line caller id units for computers since 1993. What they have patented, aside from being technically incorrect, I was doing back in 1993. I developed so many database applications using caller id technology before Cequint ever existed. If any knows Christopher Chenoweth, let him know I will put his product back on the market, take all the legal risk, and get 100% of the proceds to him!

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