Best Buy Caught In The Patent Crossfire

from the wonderful dept

While the obviousness question is one of the bigger problems with the patent system, another is the collateral damage provision that lets a company that believes its patents are being infringed upon sue everyone up and down the supply chain (all the way to the end customer) if they want to. The latest example of this is that a company that holds the patents on the "V-Chip" system designed to let parents block out certain TV programs is suing Best Buy for selling some TVs from a company that didn't license the patent. Why didn't the patent holder go after the TV company directly? They claim they can't find any contact info. Of course, the reporter writing the story claims that he had no trouble at all finding a phone number (it was listed) or getting someone on the phone -- which certainly makes the patent holder's claim suspect. Even the patent holder says they'd prefer not to sue Best Buy, but it's unclear why they should have the right to go after Best Buy just because they couldn't take the time to look in the phone book for the proper phone number of the company actually responsible for avoiding the patent. Of course, none of this even touches on the question of whether or not it seems right that a government mandated system should be patented and controlled by one private company.
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