Patent Reform At Amazon And IBM Apparently Means Suing The Crap Out Of Each Other

from the nuclear-war dept

We've discussed in the past how many patents are basically an attempt at nuclear stockpiling. Companies try to stock up on enough patents that if anyone sues them over patent infringement, they can turn around and sue the other company right back. It's a mutually assured destruction sort of thing that helps no one but the lawyers. Of course, the pain, as great as it is in terms of both money wasted and innovation slowed, doesn't prevent such nuclear battles from happening at times. The latest is between two big patent holders, who both have made statements about how problematic the patent system is and how it needs to be changed: IBM and Amazon. Amazon, of course, got lots of flack for their infamous "one-click" patent, and helped set up BountyQuest, a service that would pay people to bust bad patents. Of course, BountyQuest never got very far -- especially when it failed to bust the one-click patent. Soon afterwards, BountyQuest disappeared. IBM, the world's largest patent holder, has been complaining about the rise in bad patents and has tried to set up a better system with the Patent Office to improve the quality of software patents.

All of that is nice in theory, but it didn't stop IBM from suing Amazon over a bunch of very questionable patents a couple months ago. Most of the patents used were incredibly broad, and could be used against almost any company online. But, of course, once the nuclear missiles have been launched from one side, the other side has to join in as well. Amazon has countersued, alleging patent infringement on IBM's part, while simultaneously trashing the various patents IBM is suing over, saying that: "IBM's broad allegations of infringement amount to a claim that IBM invented the Internet." They also note that if the patents are valid, it basically means that every one who has a website or who visits a website, has probably infringed on IBM's patents.

What this means, of course, is that there will be some more posturing, and maybe some battling in court before the two sides settle, some cash exchanges hands... and no one benefits. It's a net loss for everyone, as two companies who have done plenty of innovating over the years waste their money arguing with each other over ownership, rather than investing it in continued innovation.

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  • icon
    Geoffrey Kidd (profile), 15 Dec 2006 @ 10:55am

    We were warned!

    The best warning line in history comes out of "Battle for the Planet of the Apes":

    "In all of this fighting, only the weapons have won."

    Lawyers are weapons, are they not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, 15 Dec 2006 @ 11:03am

    Patent crap, then sue the crap out of each other.

    Crap(r) registered trademark of Ajax4Hire.
    use it at your own peril.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    misanthropic humanist, 15 Dec 2006 @ 12:12pm

    law for its own sake

    The part I remember best from law classes was called "jurisprudence", a study of the role and history of Law, not *of* laws.

    As my professor put it...

    There are two branches of Law...

    Criminal law is a attempt by society to protect the weak from the strong and unscrupulous

    Civil law is a mechanism for the strong and unscrupulous to dominate the weak.

    He was joking of course, but I get the joke now.

    The danger is, that we are losing the boundary between criminal law, on behest of the state (and implicitly according to the will of the people), and civil law, which operates on the whim of the individual.

    Lawyers are exactly like weapons, only they are worse. You can decomission an AK47 by melting it down.

    The only reason that IBM and Amazon are not suing and ruining individuals is because they are too busy ripping chunks out of each other. So as long as the Titans are fighting each other it's a good thing, apart from the disgusting squandering of economic resources. But be certain, unless we acheive legal reforms, once the giants are through scrapping and a victor emerges then those grubby little lawyers with time on their hands will start looking for new targets.
    Those targets will be you and I.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2006 @ 12:28pm

    You know, this COULD just be their way of getting the system reformed. With their big names it draws more attention, and the patents as has been said are incredibly broad, and just ridiculous.

    What better way to show a system is flawed then exploit the hell out of it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shohat, 15 Dec 2006 @ 12:56pm

    Lawyers dont win here

    Both have company lawyers , nobody is going to pay millions in court expenses . Or they could just have the fight in any other country but the US , and pay normal fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bumbling old fool, 15 Dec 2006 @ 1:31pm

    Excellent!!!

    Let the Patent nuclear war begin!

    We have been needing this to happen for a long time, and the sooner it gets going, the sooner it will be over,a nd innovation may resume.

    And Shohat, corporate lawyers are there to do the mundane day to day things. Everyone outsources for things of this nature. (Yes, that includes IBM, they will bring on a firm to handle this)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Monarch, 15 Dec 2006 @ 3:46pm

    Maybe, just Maybe..,
    They are sueing each other to try and bring the ridiculous patent system to the forefront and to the courts. Maybe, just Maybe this might be a good thing?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    rstr5105, 15 Dec 2006 @ 9:28pm

    re: #3

    Why on earth would you melt an ak-47, when you could use it to decommision a lawyer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    spoon?!?!?!, 16 Dec 2006 @ 6:45am

    Damn, rstr@8, you beat me to it.

    Well, welcome to the jungle. Don't like it, take another look at socialism. I'm personally waiting for this to all boil over into the Microsoft/Novell stockpile. Starting up that MAD would be a fun show to attend. Battle of the Century.

    Could WWIII be a patent war?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Let's be reasonable, 16 Feb 2007 @ 6:34pm

    Common Sense Case for IBM

    I imagine since IBM has already received licensing fees from others, they believe their case has some substance. Amazon has ignored their fee requests for over 4 years. I don't think IBM would sue if they didn't expect a considerable outcome - maybe waiting 4 years gives them an expected percent return based upon Amazon's sales during the period to financially justify this suit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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