Want To Shake Down Cloud Music & Video Providers? Patent For Sale!
from the hop-to-it dept
When we talk about patent trolls, what many people don’t recognize is how often many of these patents get passed around to and from different entities, often until someone sees an opportunity to force lots of companies into licenses, or to sue them. Failing that, many companies often feel compelled to buy ridiculously broad patents, just to keep themselves from being sued. Whole businesses have been built up around the practice of basically selling these patents, in which they more or less are selling people a right to shake down others. Except that kind of stuff rarely is talked about in the public. Michael Robertson, however, passed along an example of one that we thought might be worth exploring. An operation called Capital Legal Group is going around “shopping” an excessively broad “cloud storage patent” for sale, highlighting that it’s already identified three infringers, with more expected soon.
I’m sure they reached out to Roberston, since he runs a cloud content service, though they certainly don’t indicate if they think he’s infringing directly. The full pitch is embedded below, but here are some highlights:
To date, we have identified three infringing systems. Claim charts are available upon execution of a confidentiality agreement. Because the market is growing, we anticipate more and more infringing systems to come on to the market regularly.
Translation: here’s a chance to shake down lots of players, because it’s a broad “cloud storage patent” that is going to cover all sorts of stuff that companies are going to be doing because it’s basically describing how cloud services work. Of course, in a rational world, this would be evidence that the patent in question should never have been granted, as it was clearly a next obvious step in the advancement of the technology, rather than any sort of breakthrough that needed protection.
The patented technology is applicable to storing video, audio (e.g., music) and other digital objects in cloud storage. Thus, the patented technology is applicable to remote digital video recording (DVR) services and other such services wherein the user selects content (e.g., television show, radio shows, etc.) to record (at some point in the future) and the system records the selected content on a server which is accessible by the user, for example, via the Internet or a wireless network.
As indicated in the Wall Street Journal, “the global market for ‘the cloud’ is expected to soar in the next several years, but cloud computing isn’t just for big businesses; consumers use it regularly too, for storage and productivity.” As the need for audio and video storage increases, new players, such as Comcast, are now entering the market. Consequently, the offered portfolio provides a fantastic opportunity for significant revenue and/or increased market share to any buyer.
In other words, this patent is hella broad, and is going to cover something quite obvious (DVRs, but “on the internet”). That courts have started (finally) becoming suspect of patents that take something already known (a DVR) and just basically add “on the internet” to it, isn’t mentioned in the sales pitch, of course. Later, the pitch document again highlights how ridiculously broad the patent is, by noting that it counts towards content accessed from any device, and this it’s “critical to the future of audio and video distribution.” This is, simply, nuts. What’s described in the patent is no breakthrough or revolutionary step forward. It’s just the basics for how a reasonable engineer would build such a service. Put 100 engineers in the room and ask them to build a remote DVR, and I bet most of them would “accidentally” infringe on this patent. That’s not about copying the idea or “stealing” the idea. It’s about a broad idea that is obvious, getting locked up in a patent so someone can cash in for not doing anything.
Oh yeah, did we mention the current patent holder isn’t doing anything with it? Right:
The patents are not licensed and have never been litigated. The patents are not encumbered and the seller does not need a license back.
No license back means for all the talk of how critical and important this is, the “inventors” (and I use that word loosely) did absolutely nothing with it. And if it’s never been licensed or litigated, that means there’s no evidence that whatever’s in the patent has ever even been seen by anyone doing work in this field, let alone used to further the market. Thus, the idea that these patents are “critical” to the market is flat out laughable.
The patent itself is 7,921,221, on a “Method and apparatus for obtaining digital objects in a communication network.” Yeah, seriously. Surely something like that must have been filed back in the dark ages, right? Nope. 2008. Because back then, no one knew how to obtain digital objects in a communications network. This isn’t innovation, this is a lottery ticket to shake down the companies who actually do innovate.