Company Gets Patent On Digital Downloads; Sues Everyone

from the great dept

There's been quite a trend lately of companies who had otherwise completely failed in the marketplace to suddenly reinvent themselves as "patent licensing firms" and then go and sue everyone who actually was able to successfully innovate in the market. The latest entrant is Intertainer, a company that was fairly well known for a few bubble years, but was unable to find a real market for their online video distribution system. They blamed the movie industry for colluding against them (a lawsuit on that issue never went very far, nor did the antitrust investigation it helped trigger), but are taking it out on the tech industry. The company, which has long since been out of business, is back from the dead suing Google, Apple and Napster, claiming they all violate a patent the company holds on digital downloads. Go ahead and read through the patent and help us all understand what is new or non-obvious in the patent. The patent was filed (provisionally) in March of 2001, by which point it's hard to believe that the idea of distributing content electronically wasn't well known. I worked for a company in 1998 and 1999 that did many of the things described in the patent, and we were far from cutting edge at the time. The best comment in the article, though, goes to Eric Goldman, an expert in high tech law, who notes: "I have the same problem with this patent as so many of the patents of the dot-com boom days: I don't know what it means." Intertainer missed the market. It happens. It's a part of business. It would be nice if they could now leave those who succeeded alone to continue innovating, rather than wasting everyone's time and money on a pointless lawsuit over a silly patent.

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  1. identicon
    Ed French, 3 Jan 2007 @ 5:30am

    Silly patents

    There have been a few of these stories floating around, and they are universal greeted by cries amounting to "patents are evil". However, on closer inspection there is often some genuine inventive nugget in the patent. I don't think you can say the same of this one though- allowing this kind of thing through does loads of harm to a system which does otherwise really help the start-up and lone inventor. However, as you point out, this was at the peak of the bubble era and hopefully standards are higher now (?)

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