Burst.com Follows The Expected Path: Sues Apple For Patent Infringement

from the who-didn't-see-that-coming? dept

If you didn't see this coming, then you obviously haven't been paying much attention lately. Just last week there was an article saying that Burst.com would sue Apple and now it's happened. Burst.com is known for having patented a method for moving large pieces of content online at faster speeds. Years back, the company was talking to Microsoft about doing a deal, but eventually Microsoft backed out and upgraded their Windows Media player in a way that blocked out Burst and seemed to copy much of what Burst's technology did. It seemed like a clear case where the bigger company had unfairly picked the brains of the small company, only to turn around and try to put them out of business -- though, there were some who simply accused Burst of having sour grapes about losing in the market place, combined with a questionable business strategy that included being all too trusting of Microsoft -- an obvious competitor. There are also those who suggest Burst's patents aren't anything special, and never should have been granted in the first place -- but that's an entirely different discussion. Burst eventually won a $60 million settlement with Microsoft, helped along by a suspiciously timed missing chunk of Microsoft emails that discussed their meetings with Burst. Of course, rather than get back into the business of providing actual products, Burst.com figured out that the patent licensing world was a lucrative one -- and set its sights on Apple. Last year, they approached Apple, suggesting that the company pay it 2% of iTunes' revenue. Apple then went on the offensive in January, proactively asking a judge to either invalidate Burst's patents or declare that Apple wasn't infringing. Just to make the litigation circle complete, after a few months of trying to reach a middle settlement ground, Burst has now gone ahead and sued Apple on its own -- meaning yet another high profile patent battle for everyone to follow.
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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2006 @ 1:24am

    Perhaps one day someone will tally the costs of all this pointless litigation and we'll get fair review of the value of patents in the US. I'm not a proponent of software patents, but if I were I'd have granted a patent to Lempel and Ziv who's dictionary compression techniques are still used today. Their invention was non-obvious and I can test this by asking all of my peers whether they could have thought of it given a pencil, some paper, a cup of coffee and five minutes of quiet time. The answer is obvious to anyone technical. The LZ78 algorithm clearly required a good deal of thought.

    The problem is that the 5 minute test fails with most patents. I'd say that 99% of all patents filed over the 10 years pertaining to the IT industry protect problem solutions that are mind-numbingly obvious. Put any engineer in a room first thing in the morning after a heavy night's drinking and ask him to solve the problem proposed by said patent and most of the time he or she can.

    In this sense patents become more an intellectual land grab than "a means of increasing innovation".

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