Just How Many MP3 Patents Are There?

from the too-many dept

You know the phrase "success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan?" Apparently, that's absolutely true when it comes to the patent system as well. We've been noting plenty of stories about how companies and patents seem to come out of the woodwork well after a technology has been called a success, claiming that their patents somehow cover the specific technology. With the recent story of Microsoft potentially owing $1.5 billion to Lucent over certain patents that Lucent claims covers MP3 technologies, the NY Times has decided to look at the long list of companies claiming to hold a patent on some element of MP3 systems. It does a wonderful job highlighting some of the problems with the patent system. Beyond so many different patent holders showing up so late in the game to demand payment, it also shows how little each of these patents actually mattered. It's not the single inventions that mattered, but the ability to package up everything that is an MP3 and bring it to a market that had demand for it. Yet, once you get all the patent holders asking for their cut, you end up with something that just isn't financially worthwhile any more. It may drive people to use other technologies instead, but it's hard to see how the patents did much to encourage innovation here. It seems like it's only created a vehicle for a bunch of companies to demand payment well after the fact.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Casper, Mar 5th, 2007 @ 1:39pm

    People are the problem..

    Taking existing ideas and combining them in a new way has been a huge part of invention for as long as people have neen tinkering. If you make something new from something existing, it is a new invention. I hate how these people can sue for something they did not make. I'm just glad these idiots can't get a patent for air... I bet they tried?

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2007 @ 2:01pm

    Just throw the entire trove of IP into the Public Domain.

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

  3. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Mar 5th, 2007 @ 2:52pm

    Published IP belongs to the public

    All published IP is already in the public domain.

    All that's missing is the public's will to assert ownership of its IP.

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

  4. identicon
    misanthropic humanist, Mar 5th, 2007 @ 3:57pm

    Re: Published IP belongs to the public

    I agree Crosbie, but I think you use confusing terms. All freely published information is in the public domain, therefore it can not become "intellectual property" (of anybody). That is to say, there is no such thing as public IP.

    Not to be confused with copyrighted material, patents and trademarks which are published (necessarily) and yet are IP whose owners retain their rights granted by these laws. So, being published does not equate to being public domain information. But being widely published as free public domain knowledge does ensure it can never become intellectual property. Subtle but vitally important.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2007 @ 4:18pm

    Patent reform

    Unbelievable. Our legal system allows companies to Lucent to leech off the successful because they are sitting on a patent they never intended to use for a constructive purpose. Patents were created to allow inventors time to market their inventions and recoup their investments. Now, patents are used waylay unsuspecting companies who actually created something.

    Patents won't go away, but the laws need to be modified to require that the holder be actively developing something based on the patent, or the term of the patent will be severely shortened.

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

  6. identicon
    matt, Mar 5th, 2007 @ 5:53pm


    This is really stretching my legal knowledge, but wouldn't the common-law concept of laches apply to lucent's claims over mp3? As I understand it, laches is a basic "use it or lose it" defense that prevents an entity from asserting a legal claim over something "late in the game," as it were. Can anyone with knowledge in civil law comment?

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

  7. icon
    Nick D (profile), Mar 6th, 2007 @ 4:10pm

    This is starting to remind me of Anna Nicole Smith's baby's daddy claims.

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

  8. identicon
    omda, Mar 9th, 2007 @ 7:59am



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

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