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Can't Compete? Sue For Patent Infringement!

from the it's-easier! dept

It happens over and over again... if you can't innovate to compete, why not litigate to compete? Broadband Reports points out that Charter Communications is now suing Verizon for patent infringement relating to Verizon's FiOS fiber optic internet connections. The article makes it pretty clear this has nothing to do with any "stolen" technology, and everything to do with Charter not wanting to have to compete with Verizon's faster fiber optic offering. Progress, just the way Jefferson intended, right?

Filed Under: competition, fiber optics, innovation, patents
Companies: charter, verizon


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Poster, 9 Jan 2009 @ 9:14am

    Nice, Charter. I pay you 120 dollars a month for cable and Internet, and this is how you use my money?

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

  • identicon
    Phillip, 9 Jan 2009 @ 9:14am

    Right.


    Oh wait...no.

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

  • identicon
    Steven, 9 Jan 2009 @ 9:23am

    Not so Fast...

    Ohh wait, you didn't read the entire article.

    "Verizon sued Charter in February 2007 in federal court in Texarkana, Texas, claiming infringement on eight patents for providing telephone services on a data network. That case is pending."

    Verizon has there share of crappy suits....Remember how they sued Vonage? Sounds to me like they are getting a taste of their own medicine.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2009 @ 10:13am

      Re: Not so Fast...

      Perhaps we can state this point another way.

      Obviously Charter cannot compete so they are suing Verizon.

      Obviously Verizon cannot compete so they are suing Charter.

      I think this is more in line with techdirt's mantra that only those who are failing in the market resort to lawsuits, thus stifling innovation. Hence, neither Charter nor Verizon are innovative.

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

  • identicon
    Matt, 9 Jan 2009 @ 9:36am

    idiotic

    Wow. Did they really want to go after the 800 pound gorilla? Honestly, it's not like verizon vs vonage where vonage was pretty small here.

    I expect Verizon to fight back pretty strongly.

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

  • identicon
    David T, 9 Jan 2009 @ 10:02am

    Business as Usual

    Lawsuits like this are expected and budgeted for by mega-corps whenever they push out new technology. It’s a big circle jerk between the players in a given space… what goes around comes around.

    The primary problem blocking meaningful reform is that so many institutions are built on the current patent system. If patent law changes, it introduces uncertainty (i.e. competition) into the market. Companies, particularly dominant companies, don’t like uncertainty.

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

    • identicon
      Lonnie E. Holder, 9 Jan 2009 @ 10:50am

      Re: Business as Usual

      Your characterization is erroneous. Many companies support meaningful patent reform to increase certainty and reduce the number of poorly written or improperly allowed patents. Many of these companies are dominant companies. However, there are those who have characterized large company support for patent reform to read "we do not want you to get patents that might make you more competitive than us." Funny how you can read these things going in either direction.

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

      • identicon
        usmcdvldg, 9 Jan 2009 @ 11:30am

        Re: Re: Business as Usual

        I think what he was getting at is the fact that the current patent system supports large companies. Verizon in fact has a history of small abuses.

        http://techdirt.com/articles/20080119/17582312.shtml

        It is in these companies best interest to troll patients, because they can maintain a measure of control in there respective industries without ever doing anything more than filing paperwork with limited financial resources.

        And except for a few exceptions to this rule ie google, patient issues are well researched and planned for before any action is taken by larger corporations, and almost always serves to there advantage. including Verizon in this case!

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

        • identicon
          WarOtter, 9 Jan 2009 @ 12:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: Business as Usual

          No the people who really benefit are the Lawyers. Lets face it, if at the end of the day payments and settlements made to each other for patents are roughly equal, the only people who have profited are the lawyers.

          I have two full clips just for the lawyers when Armageddon knocks on my door.

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

          • identicon
            usmcdvldg, 9 Jan 2009 @ 12:39pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Business as Usual

            BS, you do realize that patent settlements can go for $100's of millions of dollars. And the ability to successfully banning a competitor from releasing a product/service is priceless. Or how about the ability to come up with an idea, patent it, and then wait for someone to invent it so they can claim the rights.

            Holding a patent allows you to enact a large measure of control on the market place. If you don't think companies are profiting from this your very very niave.

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

      • identicon
        David T, 9 Jan 2009 @ 12:15pm

        Re: Re: Business as Usual

        While you make a statement of fact, big companies do fight bad patents, I argue that the motivation is about improving the position of their own IP footing. Then the company in question uses their “stronger” patent to demand license fees or block entry into a given market.

        My point is that the system of patent litigation and licensing is so entrenched that significant changes would cause shareholder panic, especially in mega-corps with extensive and costly portfolios. While the ultimate outcome would be positive, I think, the initial creative destruction that needed patent reform would cause is currently prohibitive.

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

        • identicon
          usmcdvldg, 9 Jan 2009 @ 12:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: Business as Usual

          I believe that the VAST majority of large corporations(and ironically those responsible for most of our legislation) are very happy with the current state of affairs and have no interest in changing it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2009 @ 10:42pm

      Re: Business as Usual

      Companies, particularly dominant companies, don’t like uncertainty.
      Or competition. What they do like are monopolies, like patents.

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

    • identicon
      Lonnie E. Holder, 10 Jan 2009 @ 9:24pm

      Re: Business as Usual

      Actually, what is blocking meaningful reform is meaningful reform. Most of the "reforms" supported by the USPTO are focused on reducing their workload. The reforms supported by an array of others is focused on improved quality and reducing litigation.

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

  • identicon
    Tag, 9 Jan 2009 @ 10:23am

    Corp Wars + Litigation = No. NO!

    Seriously. No.

    Any judge worth the wig on his head (I know they don't wear wigs anymore, just humor me) will throw this case out.

    It's their own fault if they can't find a clever way to beat the competition.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2009 @ 10:35am

    Progress, just the way Jefferson intended, right?

    Actually, yes. Try reading the Patent Acts of 1790 and 1792 that TJ helped author.

    And, again, "progress" as used by TJ had a significantly different meaning from "progress" as used by techdirt.

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

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 9 Jan 2009 @ 11:44am

      Re:

      Actually, yes. Try reading the Patent Acts of 1790 and 1792 that TJ helped author.

      Quite familiar with them, and this is clearly NOT what Jefferson intended. You are ignoring pretty much everything he has said about patents and progress.

      And, again, "progress" as used by TJ had a significantly different meaning from "progress" as used by techdirt.

      Not so at all. Our definition of progress is extremely Jeffersonian, and very much informed by his writings.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2009 @ 12:12pm

        Re: Re:

        "Quite familiar with them, and this is clearly NOT what Jefferson intended. You are ignoring pretty much everything he has said about patents and progress."

        Very well then, if you are as familiar as you say perhaps you can explain why Section 2 of the 1792 Act expressly recognizes the "Mexican Standoff" that is typical when one holds a patent on an item and another holds a patent on an improvement to that item. You say "the improver(s) is/are being stifled, and thus progress and innovation are being held back." How you can square this with your recurring statements about TJ escapes me completely since he was one of its drafters and one of the original examiners of patent applications. I agree that TJ had a more narrow view of what the patent system should embrace than is the case today, but this is a far cry from affirmative statements suggesting he saw little if any utility in the patent system.

        "Not so at all. Our definition of progress is extremely Jeffersonian, and very much informed by his writings."

        Might I suggest you take another look at his correspondence with John Adams at the time of the Constitutional Convention, as well as the paragraph in his letter to Mr. McPherson that immediately follows the paragraph you and others keep quoting as representative of his having an anti-patent stance?

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

        • icon
          Mike (profile), 9 Jan 2009 @ 1:03pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I agree that TJ had a more narrow view of what the patent system should embrace than is the case today, but this is a far cry from affirmative statements suggesting he saw little if any utility in the patent system.


          I never said that TJ saw no utility in the patent system. To suggest I said that is, as per your usual standard, incorrect.

          I have said that he was quite aware of the harm that could be done by the patent system. As such, he tried to weigh the pros and cons, and given the information he had at the time, believed that the pros every so slightly outweighed the cons, but that the overall situation should be monitored carefully should evidence to the contrary appear.

          With so much overwhelming evidence to the contrary now present, it's quite reasonable to suggest he would take a much dimmer view on how the patent system is being used today.

          A scenario whereby a competitor is blatantly using patents not because of an "improvement on an item" but for something that was the natural progression of the market, would be exactly the type of scenario that he was so worried about.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2009 @ 10:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "...pros every so slightly outweighed the cons..."

            Maybe he did feel this way, but nowhere in any of his correspondence with others did he ever suggest "slightly". He did see a clear benefit, but did caution about the system lest it be abused.

            "With so much overwhelming evidence to the contrary now present, it's quite reasonable to suggest he would take a much dimmer view on how the patent system is being used today."

            TJ (who, by the way, was not the only person involved in the creation of the patent system...it was created by numerous people) was apparently a very learned man with a high degree of intellectual curiosity. I sincerely doubt he would have accepted this so-called" overwhelming evidence at face value. I do believe who would have examined it quite closely, in which case I also believe he would have very quickly discovered the difficulties presented by the initial assumptions and examples used in support of the the conclusions by the various authors.

            "...natural progression of the market..."

            At the time the principles underlying the establishment of our patent system were being discussed, this is one issue that was specifically noted (I provided a citation some time back, but did not retain a copy so I am unable to resupply the cite). Nevertheless, it was not adopted as a test, due in part to the basic priciple that a patent system was deemed appropriate for promoting progress by encouraging public disclosure as early as possible.

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

            • icon
              Mike (profile), 12 Jan 2009 @ 12:48am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Maybe he did feel this way, but nowhere in any of his correspondence with others did he ever suggest "slightly". He did see a clear benefit, but did caution about the system lest it be abused.

              Pretty clearly in nearly all of his discussions on patents. He does come down on the pro side, but he admits that it's something of a battle.

              TJ (who, by the way, was not the only person involved in the creation of the patent system...it was created by numerous people) was apparently a very learned man with a high degree of intellectual curiosity. I sincerely doubt he would have accepted this so-called" overwhelming evidence at face value.

              No one said he would have accepted it at face value. But when the evidence is as overwhelming as it is, then I can't see how he could come to another conclusion.

              I do believe who would have examined it quite closely, in which case I also believe he would have very quickly discovered the difficulties presented by the initial assumptions and examples used in support of the the conclusions by the various authors.

              Hmm. Interesting. I've certainly seen problems with some individual studies, but considering just how many studies without problems, attacking the problem from so many different angles have shown pretty much the same thing, I find it difficult to square with your assumption that those studies are meaningless.

              Are you really suggesting that over 100 studies basically all pointing at the same thing... that all of them are wrong? Yikes. That would be something.

              At the time the principles underlying the establishment of our patent system were being discussed, this is one issue that was specifically noted (I provided a citation some time back, but did not retain a copy so I am unable to resupply the cite). Nevertheless, it was not adopted as a test, due in part to the basic priciple that a patent system was deemed appropriate for promoting progress by encouraging public disclosure as early as possible.

              Yes, and given the (again) overwhelming evidence that this was a mistake, it's pretty damn likely that TJ and any reasonable reviewer of the evidence would wish to fix this situation.

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

              • identicon
                Lonnie E. Holder, 13 Jan 2009 @ 2:02pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                From:

                http://www.clevelandfed.org/research/trends/2008/0308/03regact.cfm

                14 Mar 2008

                Education and innovation contributed more to income growth at the state level than other potential factors, according to research conducted at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Educational attainment, for example, increased a state’s average per capita personal incomes relative to other states by 8 percent, but innovation—measured by patents per capita—boosts personal income nearly 20 percent. Given the importance of innovation to economic performance, we investigate patenting activity in the Fourth District and compare District trends with those across the nation.

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

  • identicon
    Overcast, 9 Jan 2009 @ 10:54am

    When your development department sucks bad, I guess it's just par for the course to put more cash into the legal department I guess.

    Stupid short term strategy though. It's nothing new - seriously; what corporation now even thinks long term at all - it's all short term gains.

    I suspect the few that do think long term, will survive for the long term, if they only think short term... well..

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

    • identicon
      usmcdvldg, 9 Jan 2009 @ 2:09pm

      Re:

      ARE YOU NUTS!!!

      Owning patents are the best long term strategy around, especially in the tech field. Why spend time and money developing technologies, and way to implement them when you can just file a patent and suck off of others success, or force them not to compete.

      Or put in terms of this article, why spend the money and effort developing the fastest fiber optic network when you can just make a cheap crappy one and then make it illegal to compete.

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

  • identicon
    Joe Mullin, 10 Jan 2009 @ 12:35am

    They're fightin' back

    Offense is the best (only) defense against patent infringement suits. After the Vonage beat-down, Verizon sued Charter and Cox early in 2008, losing to Cox, badly, in October. Now they may look weak in their lawsuit against Charter; a good time to counter-attack against their most valuable product.

    -jm

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

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