BitTorrent Sued For Patent Infringement

from the trolling-torrents dept

Well, well. It appears that BitTorrent Inc. is now being sued for patent infringement over a patent (7,301,944) for “Media file distribution with adaptive transmission protocols.” Except, it’s hard to see how BitTorrent’s offering has “adaptive transmission protocols.” In fact, looking at the patent, it’s difficult to see what it has to do with BitTorrent at all. The patent requires a database for storing files, but BitTorrent is the transmission system, not a database. Either way, this seems like (yet another) patent trolling attempt by a company, Tranz-Send Broadcasting Network, that doesn’t appear to actually do anything. To paraphrase the movie The Social Network, if it had invented BitTorrent, it would have invented BitTorrent. Pretty sad that it’s now trying to sue instead.

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Companies: bittorent, tranz-send broadcasting network

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Comments on “BitTorrent Sued For Patent Infringement”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Over-broad generalization.

Keep in mind that a database does not need to be SQL to be a database. Anything which stores data with even limited forms of query ability is a “database”. The files on your hard drive are in a “database”, albeit a very limited database but it is by definition a database.

So, I see the arguments going this way:

1. I only browsed the patent and don’t remember seeing any specific note about the type of database, SQL or not. But either way:
a) If they do state SQL, they just say Bittorrent used an inefficient solution but it is still a database.
b) If they don’t, they then just argue that database is a generic method of storing, looking up and retrieving data.
2. The “first” protocol in use is HTTP to get the tracker data.
3. The second is a custom peer to peer binary socket stream.
4. New variations of BitTorrent have both tcp and udp transfers, distributed hash systems etc. So there is a lot of different protocol involved which is “adaptive” based on other available peers.

So, all said and done, if you have a generalized patent like this, it pretty much covers the entire damned web but it is definitely applicable to BitTorrent in a really broad and obnoxious way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Over-broad generalization.

Exactly, SQL is a query language on top of a data storage medium, the point was that supporting SQL is not the definition of a database, it is the fact that you can store data and retrieve it, which in general terms means if you can save/load data, it is a database.

Money Mike (profile) says:

Re: Over-broad generalization.

According to, a database is “a comprehensive collection of related data organized for convenient access, generally in a computer.”

I think the best definition is near the bottom, under the Computing Dictionary:

1. One or more large structured sets of persistent data, usually associated with software to update and query the data. A simple database might be a single file containing many records, each of which contains the same set of fields where each field is a certain fixed width.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Over-broad generalization.

A valid definition but missing the point, what is a file system on any computer? A comprehensive list of files accessible to the OS. Performing an “ls” is a query and as such, by definition a file system is a set of records stored on a hard drive. The hard drive being the “single file” since at the system level it is a Database which stores where the records are located on the hard drive and the “records” are the files.

There is nothing in computer programming which can not be equated to a specialized database, EVERYTHING, is a database and any patent which relies on databases being the crucial addition (even if SQL) is absolutely 100% invalid without any possible doubt.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Over-broad generalization.

The simplest form of database is what is called a linked list.

A database does NOT have to be persistent it just needs to have records that are able to be queried by an identifier. The identifier doesn’t even have to be unique.

Any list of things, or objects that can be queried from a stored format (be that dynamic memory or persistent storage) and grouped is a database.

Anonymous Coward says:

This can't possibly be about the BitTorrent protocol

As everyone should know (but probably doesn’t), all that matters are the claims. The single root claim of the patent in question is as follows:

1. A media distribution system, comprising:

a media file database configured to store media files, wherein one or more of the media files have been compressed prior to storage in the media file database;

a computing device configured to receive user requests for delivery of the one or more of the media files stored in the media file database, the computing device further configured to:

identify average network throughput between computing device and the requesting users; and

route the user requests for delivery of the requested one or more media files to a distribution server capable of servicing the user requests based upon at least the average network throughput; and

a distribution server coupled to the media file database, the distribution server configured to simultaneously deliver a single copy of the requested one or more of the media files identified in the routed user requests to the requesting users in less-than-real-time, wherein the distribution server automatically adjusts delivery of the requested one or more media files to the requesting users based on current average network throughput between the distribution server and the requesting users.

The BitTorrent protocol doesn’t do that. BitTorrent is filetype-agnostic. BitTorrent doesn’t choose peers based on throughput (IIRC).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This can't possibly be about the BitTorrent protocol

“Everything” except the last point is done by BitTorrent. The problem is that almost all of the first 4-5 points are generally considered part of the internet as a whole. Ignore the concept of “media” and just think “data”. That abstraction should make no difference here because media or data makes no damned difference except in the distorted law domain.

So: point one: database, store data files. I.e a file system which can be accessed.

point two: An HTTP server, a peer in peer to peer, etc. It is so broad in definition as to be basically meaningless.

identify network throughput: Basically TCP windowing when a client connects to multiple peers. BitTorrent doesn’t implement this, the underlying protocol does it by nature. (Routing is part of this.)

The distribution server is the tracker data.. maybe not as interactive as the patent says but valid none the less.

The patent is incredibly invalid on many levels. It describes the internet in general and should never have been allowed, just an example of stupidity in the patent office.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: This can't possibly be about the BitTorrent protocol

Based on that description seems that MS’s SQL-Server, Oracles whole system, CISCO will be next in line for a nice “you are not Paying us for our patent that covers all forms of distributed networking.. ie: Phone lines!”

Prior art of this patent is HUGE, an older version of Novell 2.5 (even Lantastic in a limited way) did ALL of this way back in the 90’s.

The only thing interesting here is the use of a “media File Database”, which to anyone who understands database instantly makes them think of OO (Object Oriented) Metasets

Anonymous Coward says:

OT for BitTorrent but not Trademark

The Feds want to take a trademark away from a biker gang. So does that mean I can or cannot use the logo for my own purposes? Who will come after me first, the Feds or the Mongols? Who would you be more scared of?


fogbugzd (profile) says:

Patents are supposed to cover inventions, not very general concepts. Bell did not patent the idea that “Hey, it would be really cool if we could transmit a voice from one location to another over copper wires.” He had to patent a specific implementation of how to do that.

This patent, like so many software and business patents, seems to be more about the idea instead of an implementation. It isn’t even very original. It certainly isn’t very specific about the implementation. There are lots of mostly amateur flowcharts, but in most cases when you get to the point of actual implementation they just have a general description about what needs to happen then.

This patent was from 2007. It’s hard for me to see anything in the patent that wasn’t prior art in 1990. The original patent was filed in 1999; I wonder how many extensions and corrections this had to go through to wear down the examiner.

If I ever try to get a software patent on a really shakey idea I want to hire the attorney that got this one past the examiner. It is hard to see how an examiner could be incompetent enough to approve this without a lot of lawyer breath on the back of his neck.

aldestrawk says:

Re: Re:

This patent seems like a kitchen sink patent, as in everything including the kitchen sink. It covers, at an overview level, everything dealing with a media distribution system. I think that is why it has so many references to other patents. Given that, it is unclear what parts in the description are supposed to be unique and novel. In other words, what is the core of this patent? I think there is an attempt to be patenting an entire system for media distribution. However, that whole system is not described in detail well enough to see how it works. For example, he describes using multiple network traffic directors as a way of using redundancy to a single point of failure and achieve robustness. However, there is no description whatsoever of how a client request gets routed to a particular network traffic director. This is a major hole if you’re attempting to describe a working system.

It appears to me that the core of the patent is the protocol that rests upon either multicast delivery or UDP and provides “reliability”. For those who aren’t network engineers, reliability in a communication protocol is a way for sender and receiver to know that a packet is missing from a message and allows the sender to re-send the packet until it successfully arrives. This is a client/server protocol and is most definitely not P2P. When the server receives a request it will first attempt to send packets via multicast. If that is not working for whatever reason, packets are sent via unicast UDP. If needed, the clients use a separate “channel” to send NAK (negative acknowledgment) packets back to the server for missing packets. A client can jump in at any time and start receiving packets wherever the stream happens to be, at the moment, within the file. While the server still has active clients at the last packet for the file, it will loop back to the beginning and start over. The data rate is established during the creation of each “channel”. However, it is hardly adaptive in comparison to what TCP offers in response to network congestion. Another hole in this protocol which is not addressed at all is how the client knows the size of the entire file. It needs to know this otherwise packets missing at the end of the file will never be detected. He says the packets are serialized but there is no description of any separate protocol header. So, I assume he uses the identification field from the IP header.

I am also struggling to see where this scheme applies to BitTorrent. BitTorrent is most definitely a P2P protocol and does not use multicast. I can only imagine that they are looking at the implementation of a higher level (higher than the transport protocol) protocol which provides reliability. Since TCP provides reliability, you have to look where BitTorrent uses UDP. As far as I know, (I don’t use BitTorrent and so haven’t looked at the generated traffic) BitTorrent only uses UDP for it’s DNA (Delivery Network Accelerator) variant. Although BitTorrent DNA is still P2P, it is in, a sense, a client/server protocol. Everyone who downloads BitTorrent gets a BitTorrent DNA client, but you have to pay to get the server software. I haven’t checked the source code (is it available publicly?) but I can’t imagine that there is a violation of the 944 patent.

In looking through this patent, I have to agree the flow charts are atrocious. They were done by someone (yes Scott Redmond, I am talking about you) who doesn’t know how to do flow charts.

aldestrawk says:

Re: Hmm....interesting...

Apparently the CEO is the same guy as the one who filed the patent. His site below for Clever Industries makes him look amazing, incredibly amazing, incredibly unbelievably amazing.

“Companies like yours are the foundation upon which this
nation’s economic growth and competitiveness rests.”
– Vice President Al Gore

The following article is fairly entertaining.

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