Priceline Founder Jay Walker Becoming Full On Patent Troll: Sues Facebook For Friending And The Powerball Lottery For Lotteries

from the this-is-not-innovation dept

All the way back in 1999, we were already pointing out how Priceline’s Jay Walker was a lot more focused on locking up various ideas via patents than actually building sustainable businesses. Even at the time, “Priceline” was an aggressive patent defender and was really an offshoot of Walker Digital, the firm he set up to hoard patents and to extract money out of actual innovators. Over the years, we’ve noted the various ridiculous patents he’s received. It’s also worth noting that Priceline pretty near tanked under his leadership — once again highlighting the vast difference between idea and execution.

Joe Mullin has an article highlighting how Walker is now suing Facebook for violating a patent he got back in 1999 (5,884,27) for “establishing and maintaining user-controlled anonymous communications.” According to Walker, the very basic “friending” feature on Facebook violates this patent. That claim, alone, pretty much highlights what’s wrong with the patent system. The process of setting up such a system is not at all complicated, and thousands of programmers could come up with a similar system in a very short period of time. Note that Walker never actually did anything here (or, if he did, it’s pretty much lost to history). Yet Facebook actually implements such a feature well, and suddenly it needs to pay up? How does that make any sense at all?

Mullin’s report also highlights that Walker has been getting more aggressive in his patent lawsuits lately — even going so far as to sue the organization behind the Powerball lottery, claiming that they violated his newly issued patent (7,740,537) on “applying lottery multipliers. Seriously. How is that possibly patentable?

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Companies: priceline, walker digital

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Comments on “Priceline Founder Jay Walker Becoming Full On Patent Troll: Sues Facebook For Friending And The Powerball Lottery For Lotteries”

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26 Comments
TheOldFart (profile) says:

The lottery patent may stick

Ask IGT. They hold the patent for “virtual reels” in a slot machine. It’s exactly what it sounds like, basically “unwrapping” a mechanical slot machine’s reels into arrays of numbers in memory with many more numbers (i.e. reel symbols) than the 22 or so on a standard mechanical slot. It’s one of the very first things *any* programmer would think of for implementing a slot machine in software and IGT not only holds the patent but has successfully defended it. Every gaming device manufacturer has to license it from them or else come up with a more complicated variant.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slot_machine#Reels

So it wouldn’t surprise me if something as obvious as lottery multipliers would stand up.

Rinald J Roley says:

It?s The Invention, Stupid

You pillocks just don?t get it, do you? It doesn?t matter that this guy can?t seem to execute on his patents, the important thing is the idea. That?s what?s patentable, and that?s what?s valuable. What you do with a patent isn?t important, when the Intellectual Property is so valuable in its own right. The innovation is the invention. Nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous Coward says:

The end is nigh! Like the arrogant of Netheril, we shall fall to dust!

First, lottery multiplication. Then, mathematical multiplication. From there, all of basic arithmetic, algebra, calculus, trigonometry!
No more calculators! Worse, no more computers!
As was foretold, in 2012 civilization will crumble! We’ll all be reduced to unthinking hairless apes, rooting around in the dirt, counting things on our fingers and toes, ruled over by those few foresighted or lucky enough to own an abacus!
The new Dark Ages are nearly upon us!

Anonymous Coward says:

Copyrights and Patents were created to allow rich people ‘Licenses to Litigate’. Otherwise they are useless. If you can’t afford to sue and protect your rights, what good is it?
You pay the Government but they give you NO PROTECTION unless you can afford it. Have you ever known an Artist to have money or resources to sue for infringement? Good luck on that one. It’s not like getting into a car accident where the attorney will work for a cut. You have to have the down payment and to get good representation is $500.00 bucks an hour.
I find the entire system to be offensive to Artists and Creative people and a great great block to creativity. If you are worrying about being sued for your idea or work? Why bother to do it?

staff says:

sustainable businesses

‘locking up various ideas via patents than actually building sustainable businesses’

Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. If you don?t like it, tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

Call it what you will…patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, etc. It all means one thing: ?we?re using your invention and we?re not going to pay?.

For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org.

Anonymous Bolliewho says:

I can't wait

I just received notification on a patent I applied for five years ago – Method of Air Intake into the Human Body for Life-Sustaing Purposes. With this new patent in hand, I plan to sue everyone who has the ability to breath.

Patents, like most American law today, have become an absolute joke in this country. While my earlier paragraph was a joke, it did make me consider filing a patent application on it just to see if the US patent office is stupid enough to actually issue one.

Bruce (profile) says:

I can't wait

“I just received notification on a patent I applied for five years ago – Method of Air Intake into the Human Body for Life-Sustaing Purposes. With this new patent in hand, I plan to sue everyone who has the ability to breath.”

Never heard of 35 USC 102 or 35 USC 103, I see.

The USPTO is not stupid, you are. American law is not a joke, you are.

Bruce (profile) says:

I can't wait

“I just received notification on a patent I applied for five years ago – Method of Air Intake into the Human Body for Life-Sustaing Purposes. With this new patent in hand, I plan to sue everyone who has the ability to breath.”

Never heard of 35 USC 102 or 35 USC 103, I see.

The USPTO is not stupid, you are. American law is not a joke, you are.

Bruce (profile) says:

sustainable business (MM)

Funny, I see small entities commercializing all the time. Staff caught making stuff up again.

You miss the point. Small entity invents, spends to commercialize unless too expensive to do so, big entity steals it, small entity steamrolled, unless small entity can create something else so it can be stolen. Small entity stays small and big entity gets the big bucks and donates to help fund TechDirt.

-STV-If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it.

-MM Which actually hurt a ton of small businesses that came up with similar ideas independently or built better products that would benefit the market.

Both correct, a patent registration system (like copyrights) where copying severely punished but independent invention would merely pay a reasonable royalty so the first inventor gets his Constitutional “reward” incentive, would solve this dilemna.

-STV”Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision

-MM “This is not true. Injunctions are absolutely still available, it’s just that they’re not default. Staff shouldn’t lie. It looks bad.”

Talking past each other, I see. MM wrong, as injunctions are seldom available for an NPE inventor now, which is not necessarily a bad thing so long as an researcher/inventor still gets a fair reward as an incentive to continue to research and invent.

Call it what you will…patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, etc. It all means one thing: ?we?re using your invention and we?re not going to pay?.

Or, “we came up with a vague idea that tons of others also had, and now we’re not going to let anyone develop it unless they pay us a toll.”

Both wrong. patent hoarder, patent troll, NPE, etc. mean no injunction, but reasonable royalty remains. Problem is, the Constitution calls for “securing for limited Times. . . the exclusive Right” and eBay v Merc takes that away for many NPEs. However, since copyrights come from the same clause, I think it would be reasonable to have a similar registration system which would take a billion dollars of PTO cost out of the patent system. We could replace it with a patent royalty tribunal similar in function to the copyright royalty tribunal so inventors got a fair reward. The advantage would be super quick publication (perhaps even instant), PTO examination as to novelty only, and we would take a billion dollars out of the patent litigation costs since we would have court determination only as to copying (in similar fashion to copying determinations in copyright cases)

-MM Thing is, studies have shown repeatedly that my version is what’s happening. Your version almost never happens.

MM version, that injunctions are still readily granted for NPE’s, is BS and is NOT what’s happening in the real world. Which is TechDirt — DumbasDirt or DishonestDirt. I’m thinking Dishonest

Thanks for playing, and we’ll see you next time on “this is how patent lovers lie.”

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