Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
gary odom, patents, software, toolbar


28 More Companies Sued Over Grouped Toolbars Patent

from the patent-hawk-greed dept

You may recall last summer that we wrote about Gary Odom (as known as Patent Hawk) who has been known to stop by our site here to throw around an insult or two (nice guy!). It seems that Odom, who had previously worked with Microsoft, doing prior art research for its patents, had decided to turn around and sue Microsoft for having software toolbars that take different toolbar items and group the items together (stunning innovation, there). It later turned out that he may have violated his contracts in suing Microsoft.

That case is still ongoing, but why stop with just suing one company? Especially when that company is big and has lots of lawyers. Why not sue 28 other companies over the same patent. Amusingly, when Joe Mullin from IP Law & Business called Odom to comment, Odom refused, saying: "You're a hack job, man." Always a pleasant guy, that Odom. However, Odom had no problem discussing at length the lawsuit on his own blog -- amusingly referring to himself in the third person, and (this is great) offering his own "expert" opinion on the validity of his own patents and lawsuit. Very credible.

While it seems quite likely that the patent in question (Tool group manipulations) is invalid following the Bilski decision, Odom brushes aside those concerns saying anyone suggesting that "[doesn't] know what they are talking about" and then offers his own interpretation of the Bilski ruling, which doesn't seem to mesh with what the ruling actually said, or how the courts and the USPTO have been interpreting the ruling. Still, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's right, and that the patent is still valid. So what does he want?

Well, from his post, it appears he wants these companies to shut up and hand over 25% of their profits, based on a rule of thumb from half a century ago. Think about this back here in reality for a second. He's asking for 25% of all profits on nearly 30 different software products, because those software products happen to have toolbar menus where the buttons are in editable groups. This is an obvious minor feature on a minor feature of a minor feature. And he thinks it's fair and equitable to get 25% of all profits. Update: In the comments, Odom clarifies, saying that he does't want 25% of the profits (though, his original post is woefully unclear on this subject), ut 25% of the value of the feature. Considering the additional value to these products of having groupable toolbars seems minimal, I'm guessing about $5 towards Odom should about cover it. Odom, in the way only he can, also leaves another insult for us. Nice guy!

People like to point out these days that pretty much any high tech product in some way or another violates tens to hundreds of patents, thanks to the happy rapidity with which the USPTO approves any old obvious idea. Imagine if each one got to demand 25% of all profits as a license? It doesn't take a math major to recognize how the assertion makes no sense.

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  1. identicon
    Vic Kley, 25 Apr 2009 @ 6:18pm

    Odom, Masnick and Obviousness

    Inventors are no different then writers in that some are prolific and deep others confine themselves to less demanding prose. The big difference is in how they are rewarded and protected popular works like Jonathon Seagull are copyright protected and registered (if not plagarism) for generations while legal systems make their efforts to collect from infringers simple and clear.

    Inventors are on the other hand maligned, and whole segments of society side with the foulest criminal companies whose proven guilt in smashing small inventors and companies (they did me both ways) was the subject of major action by the Justice Department.

    If an inventor or the owner of an invention has a solid case against infringers it is not just fair but VITAL to our system of building the future on technologies that they prevail. In that new proposed law like S 515 (in which not ONE individual inventors opinion was ever sought or given instead corporations dressed up as inventors lied their asses off) build a further wall against individual inventors and small (less then 10 person) groups and make their ability to build on their unique ideas have less value our society and economy is the big loser.

    I have many patents (100 issued and pending) and even more inventions (defined as those contained in the latter patents about 2000) including a method for high speed inverse FFT a very powerful basic idea which when one understands that its just the simple arithmetic of the inverse devolved into linear components is OBVIOUS. All really good inventions are obvious after you are told the idea, and each of these is subject to search attacks IF YOU KNOW THE ANSWER which of course the examiner always does as does all the people who after the fact describe something as obvious. What is obvious to me is someone who has had his work taken by the powerful because its simplicity made it easy to steal is that I am trapped without an obvious way out- perhaps someone can invent one for me.

    A software invention is no different then a hardware invention it takes insight and work to make a new idea successful, whether its gesture control (our invention in 1987 in the pointer control software for my invention Felix running on Windows 1.0 no software patents in those days) or a new way to nanomachine at 10 atom level nmSeries software for our nanotech spinout RAVE LLC.

    You can never know the special inventions societies poor choices have crushed or killed. You just know that societies go from creative (Islam in the middle ages) to repressive (Islam in the 18th and 19th centuries).

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