Would 2010 Steve Jobs Sue 1996 (Or 1984) Steve Jobs Over Patents?

from the innovation-vs.-litigation dept

One of the things you discover in studying the history of patent use among many companies is that when they're young, they innovate. When they're old, they litigate. That is when they're growing and building cool stuff, they don't worry much about patents, but focus on building the coolest products they can to best serve the market. But when they get older, and entrenched, they don't innovate quite as much, but focus instead on trying to keep competitors out of the market. We highlighted this by showing Microsoft's changing views on patents, from Bill Gates' claim in 1991 that "the industry would be at a complete standstill" if companies had used patents in the PC software space early on, to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith saying in 1997 that "software patents and other intellectual property is essential to maintaining the incentives that encourage and underwrite technological breakthroughs."

Similarly, a year ago, we highlighted how Apple appeared to be going through a similar shift, quoting Steve Wozniak's claim about how the Apple II was "one of the most successful products of all time," in part because they didn't think about patents or copyright, and shared their ideas freely with everyone -- to Apple's Tim Cook's claims that "We will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we will use every weapon at our disposal."

With Apple now going on the offensive against HTC (and, by proxy, Google's Android), it seems others are noticing not just an overall corporate shift, but the change in viewpoints of Steve Jobs. william points us to a Gizmodo post highlighting how Steve Jobs noted how Apple was "shameless about stealing great ideas." But in the announcement about the HTC lawsuit, he has a different perspective: "competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Strong words coming from the guy who admits he blatantly copied the graphical user interface he saw at Xerox PARC many years ago. Now, no one's going to claim that Apple and Jobs haven't been incredibly innovative over the past decade (or more). In fact, they've been amazingly innovative. But during that time, the company has mostly focused on continually innovating, rather than going on the offensive over patents. It seems like this new offensive move might be an early warning sign that the company no longer believes it can keep up its innovative pace.


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    Spaceboy (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 3:07pm

    "competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."


    That's a pretty funny quote considering that Apple 'stole' the user interface it used on its ipods from Creative Labs.

    http://news.cnet.com/Apple-settles-with-Creative-for-100-million/2100-1047_3-6108901.html

     

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    Blamer .., Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 3:22pm

    Remember "copying" isn't the same as "stealing".

    If you copy you don't necessarily deprive the original owner of anything.

     

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    Time to sell

    Looks like it's time to sell off all the Apple stock I wish I had...

     

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    george of the jungle, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 4:03pm

    couldn't agree more with your article

    when you are afraid of something...you atack. isn't atack the best defense after all?

    what happened with iphone owned by cisco btw? cisco had the product way way before apple had an idea about their own iphone. funny, you can still find information about cisco-linksys webpage:
    http://www.linksysbycisco.com/US/en/support/WIP300

    it seems that cisco gave them a break... if apple wants htc out of US due to patents infringments, than they should take their iphone out as well

     

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    william (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 4:17pm

    one of the famous Taiwanese "geek"(he translated Lord of the Ring into Chinese) once said, "The Internet never forgets."

    Steve, har har?

     

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    Freedom, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 4:38pm

    Other companies taking advantage of Apple...

    One of the comments I typically hear from Pro-Apple Folks is that other people/companies are stealing their ideas and that is wrong wrong wrong.

    Ironically though, that is actually what is supposed to happen in a free market. XYZ company makes a ton of profit, which signals to others that this is where the market wants the resources allocated. Others in turn come up with their product mixes and in the end the market and consumer are best served.

    Going on the offense with patents, especially in Apple's case, is nothing more than a form protectionism which ultimately does more damage than good.

    IMHO, the reason that Apple is forced to go the patent route is that they continue to make the classic mistake if you want to be a market leader for any length of time in the tech world. Focus on selling/building an OPEN foundation and not selling a gadget. When you control the foundation you can make money off everyone else selling gadgets. Apple has always wanted control over both. In the end though, that means that someone else will come along and find a way to make a better gadget and when a company comes along with a better gadget tied into an open (relatively) platform you are doomed. For my money, that is why Google and even Microsoft are currently better positioned for the long haul than Apple.

    Freedom

     

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    Ign Andy, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 4:46pm

    Re: couldn't agree more with your article

    Probably Cisco still in the stage of litigating the case. Many time it takes years consider the cost and posibility to win, or simply see if it's worthed.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 5:06pm

    Yes

    He would.

    He's all grown up and old, now.

    Companies are not in business for *customer* benefit, except in as much as customer benefit has some sort of business value for them.



    Would you admire the person you were 20 years ago? And would *that* person admire the person you are now?

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 5:11pm

    enter lawyers need ot make money

    and you see where we as society are heading wrong they need to invent new crime new ways to keep working

    its all going to end very very badly for htem unfortunately.
    they are after all according the the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy the first to go when the revolution came.

     

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    durrant420, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 5:23pm

    Interesting Patents

    Most of these are in devices other than the ones being sued. If Apple win the precedent will be quite shocking. Sadly most of their patents are in devices other than the ones the patent was created for and older. So really all that has to be done is parade these devices though court.

     

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    mjb5406 (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 5:36pm

    The old saying...

    I remember meeting Jobs years ago back when the winter CES show was in Chicago; I worked for Computerland and was assigned to work the Apple booth (this eas back in the Apple ][ days). Meeting he and Wozniak, I remember thinking that Woz was very cool, Jobs was a narcissist who was fond of saying things like "Do as I say, not as I do". Guess he follows that same method to this day.

     

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    Jason, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 6:23pm

    Quoting out of context

    william over at Gizmodo, in an update also admits,
    "The Picasso quote speaks to the idea that innovators borrow ideas and an incorporate them into their own work: in this case, he meant that Apple's designers and engineers took all manor of life experiences and used them to make Apple products fresh and innovative. As opposed to the 'stealing' he referenced in the press release, which is literally taking a patented technology that somebody owns."

    If you watch the video, Jobs says we are "shameless about stealing great ideas" in the context of the variety of people who worked on the Mac, and incorporating the "best things that humans have done". He is talking more about hiring great talent than stealing patents from other companies.

    What a shrivelled life it must be to pore over 15 years of what Jobs has said in order to try and quote him out of context. And in saying that I'm not saying Jobs is without fault, but in this case the quote is taken out of context.

     

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    :), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 6:23pm

    "When that happened," the executive says, "iTunes said, 'Enough of that shit.' "

    http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/magazine/upfront/e3i5207f9d259b81f62d46a894f7a55 e1bd

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Quoting out of context

    He is talking more about hiring great talent than stealing patents from other companies.
    I don't see how you can claim with a straight face that Jobs meant that a company using its own ideas is "stealing". It's obvious he was talking about ideas created by others. Furthermore, he didn't say "great ideas" and "best things that humans have done", "except those that are patented", did he? No, because many of them are.

    What a shrivelled life it must be to pore over 15 years of what Jobs has said in order to try and quote him out of context.
    Just how shriveled do you have to be to fit up Job's ass like that?

     

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    1DandyTroll, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 6:45pm

    Yep

    C'mon, wouldn't you? :-()

     

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    jfgilbert (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 6:51pm

    Re: Read the quotes carefully

    "Stealing" ideas is not the same as stealing technology.
    When Steve Jobs saw the graphical interface at PARC, he got the idea. When Apple built the Mac, they built their own technology, from the display - which was black and white, with square pixels - to the graphical software.
    In that case, again, Xerox had the ideas but could not execute. I badly wanted one of their Star computers, but they started at over $15K (in 1983). Apple "stole" the ideas, but were able to deliver a product to market, and the Mac did not have a single part that even looked like something in the Star.
    HTC stole the idea of the iPhone, the design that makes it usable, the specs - down to the screen size and resolution, and I would bet, reused many of the components.
    There is a difference.

     

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    jfgilbert (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 6:58pm

    Re: couldn't agree more with your article

    Try to understand what you read.
    Cisco had a Trademark on the word iPhone. Not a patent. Apple's iPhone infringed on Cisco's trademark and Cisco decided - intelligently - not to challenge because there was little risk of confusion (all 5 people who had heard of Cisco's iPhone before Apple announced theirs were able to see the difference), and nothing to gain for them. Apple's iPhone does not infringe an any Cisco iPhone patent.
    If you can't understand the difference between a trademark and a patent, refrain from making stupid accusations.

     

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    Comboman, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 7:41pm

    Re: Re: Read the quotes carefully

    Yes iPhone and HTC Hero have the same resolution; because 480 X 320 is a STANDARD resolution (called HVGA). ATI and Nvidia graphics cards also offer the same resolutions, not because one "stole" from the other, but because they're standards. Similar specs don't even have anything to do with patents; you can't patent a specification (like screen resolution). If you're going to blindly defend Apple, at least figure out what you're supposed to be defending.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 9:27pm

    Re: Re: Read the quotes carefully

    "Stealing" ideas is not the same as stealing technology.

    "Technology" is the "application of technical knowledge", so they're the same thing.

    HTC stole the idea of the iPhone,

    So they just got the "idea" from Apple, huh? Kind of like how Jobs just got the "idea" from Xerox, but it wasn't stealing when *he* did it? I really don't see the difference there.

    But didn't you just get through saying that "stealing ideas is not the same as stealing technology" anyway? You're contradicting yourself, which in my book is a sure sign that you don't know what you're talking about.

    HTC stole the idea of the iPhone, the design that makes it usable, the specs - down to the screen size and resolution...

    Oh, so now you're proposing that their choice of screen size was some kind of invention? Seriously?

    and I would bet, reused many of the components.

    I've got news for you, those weren't Apple parts to begin with. Apple used many of the same components others were using. The iPhone is a conglomeration of parts from than 30 companies on 3 continents. In fact, Apple doesn't even have the ability to make those kinds of parts if it wanted to. About the only thing Apple actually makes in the iPhone is the software.

    Let me explain it to you like this: If Chevy and Ford both put buy tires from brand X to put on their new cars, Ford isn't "reusing Chevy parts" or vice versa. The same thing applies to electronic parts. Or do you think Apple invented the transistor too?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 9:29pm

    Re: Re: couldn't agree more with your article

    Try to understand what you read.
    Cisco had a Trademark on the word iPhone. Not a patent.


    I suggest you follow you own advice about understanding what you read. George didn't say they had a patent on the iPhone.

     

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    jfgilbert (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 9:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Read the quotes carefully

    Of course, half VGA is a standard. Now. How many HVGA phones were there before the iPhone? The execution of a idea has everything to do with the specs of the product. Engineering is making the right trade-offs, in this case between size, brightness, definition, battery life, and a dozen other factors. And there were hundreds other trade-offs that had to be decided when defining the iPhone. That's what made it successful or could have killed it.
    After someone has defined this balance, convinced a large market that it is the right compromise, and demonstrated how to implement the ideas into a successful product, it is no longer about the idea, it is stealing the technology. I am not blindly defending anybody, I just try to correct statements that are obviously wrong when people try to rewrite history and distort concepts because they don't like a company or a CEO.

     

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    jfgilbert (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 9:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: couldn't agree more with your article

    Sure looks like it to me:
    "if apple wants htc out of US due to patents infringments, than they should take their iphone out as well"

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 10:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: couldn't agree more with your article

    Sure looks like it to me:
    "if apple wants htc out of US due to patents infringments, than they should take their iphone out as well"


    Now matter how I look at that, I just can't see where he actually that Cisco had a patent on the iPhone. If it really looks like that to you, maybe you should take off the fan-boy glasses. I think George was speaking of IP violations in general, not patents specifically.

     

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    Idobek (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 5:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Read the quotes carefully

    "Of course, half VGA is a standard. Now. How many HVGA phones were there before the iPhone?"

    You're really going to use that argument? If we followed that logic back there wouldn't be any standards today. The "IBM compatible" PC would never have come into being. Do you really think that would be a good thing?

     

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    Bazooka Balls, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 5:38am

    Get rid of patents altogether

    There should be no more patents. That's right, I said it, no more patents at all. Everyone should have to compete with each other. No one can "steal" your idea, ideas are not able to be "stolen" anymore than air can be "stolen".

    If you come up with something, then someone else copies it but does a better job at implementing it, and consumers respond by voting for the other person's product by purchasing it, thus voting with their dollars, then you lose. You failed to win over consumers. Sure, sucks for you, but it's better for everyone else, and it spurs innovation.

    Patents are bad for consumers, simple as that. They're for lazy people that don't want to have to compete against others.

     

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  26.  
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    :), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Read the quotes carefully

    So what you are saying is that taking ideas before it is useful is not stealing but after they become useful to someone it is stealing?

    Dude what are you smoking I want some :)

    And Jobs was proud of the stealing part he even had a pirate flag on apple's headquarters that the Macintosh team made because they were the pirates.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mickatmidnight/2882480496/

    The original mackintosh team flag for ya.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/puckman/126309057/

    That was the mindset of those times.
    http://folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Pirate_Flag.txt&sortOrder=S ort%20by%20Date&detail=medium&search=pirate%20flag

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 6:18am

    Nothing like a misleading post...

    "Similarly, a year ago, we highlighted how Apple appeared to be going through a similar shift, quoting Steve Wozniak's claim about how the Apple II was "one of the most successful products of all time," in part because they didn't think about patents or copyright, and shared their ideas freely with everyone..."

    What is absolutely amazing is that the statement by Wozniak is at the very least misleading, but I personally consider the statement a lie. Why?

    Well, for starters, Apple Computer v. Franklin Computer, filed in 1982 (yes, 1982, back when Apple Computer was supposedly young and innovative) was the FIRST TIME, yes, the very FIRST TIME, that an appellate court in the United States held that an operating system could be protected by copyright.

    Yep. Mull that over in consideration of Wozniak's statement. Not only was Apple concerned about intellectual property, but they were the poster child for copyright infringement litigation with respect to software.

    So, Mr. Wozniak, Apple was not concerned about copyright in its "early days"? Maybe you were thinking of the "early days" as the 1970's? Of course, that meant that the innovative and young days lasted about four years. Some people might just agree with you that Apple was only innovative for four years, but hey, let us not pick nits.

    What else happened in the early 1980's? Well Apple approached Bill Gates and accused him of infringement, but they agreed to a licensing agreement with Gates. This was around 1983. So maybe one tiff, with Franklin Computer, was an aberration, but two tiffs over copyright? Please. Apple was setting a pattern. Five years into the history of the company and they were starting to sue people REGULARLY over copyright infringement.

    Oh, and if you think those two cases were unusual, let us not forget that also Apple sued Mackintosh Computers and Hewlett Packard in the 1980's for copyright infringement.

    Did Apple "think" about patents? Well, let us consider the history of the company. Apple was incorporated in January, 1977. About one year later the company filed for its first patent. Wait a second. I thought the company shared and did not "think" about patents. Was that wrong? Maybe another aberration?

    Okay, Apple filed four patent applications in the 1970's, in a time when patent litigation was not a very big deal, but they were also a small company. By the end of 1984, Apple had applied for nearly THREE DOZEN patents - maybe more if some did not get allowed.

    If Apple did not "think" about patents when it was young and innovative, why did they have around three dozen patent applications in the hopper when they were young and innovative? Why did they have about 10 dozen patents in the hopper by the end of 1989, when the company was just beyond its first decade of life?

    We do not want to examine the early 1990's, when Apple was filing dozens of patent applications per year.

    Now, in case you might point out that all of Apple's early patents were for hardware, you also need to realize that in the early 1980's software patents were not well accepted. Indeed, software patents gained acceptance slowly, but were accepted in the early 1990's. Guess who was filing software patent applications by the early 1990's? Yep.

    So, when Steve Wozniak says they did not "think" about patents or copyrights, I wonder just what that means? It apparently does not mean you are not suing people and filing dozens of patent applications.

     

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    crade (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 6:45am

    Whats so innovative about the iphone? It's just another blackberry.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 6:56am

    Re: Nothing like a misleading post...

    So, the answer to Mike Masnick's question is, yes, 2010 Steve Jobs would sue 1996 or 1984 Steve Jobs. But, perhaps more importantly, 1984 Steve Jobs would sue 1996 or 2010 Steve Jobs.

    Apple has not changed, it is just doing more of what it has done from the nearly the beginning.

    I do believe Steve Jobs is fine with people taking ideas and making them their own. However, Apple has, almost from the very beginning, objected to people taking their implementations - or, as some people phrase it - their technology.

    So, Mike, there is no corporate shift. There is no grand indication of a company becoming less innovative. There is just Apple people behaving as they have all the way back to 1982 or so.

     

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    jilocasin, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 7:15am

    Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    Actually I think the best part of patents, and the one part that seems to be least followed these days, was the disclosure.

    It used to be that in order to get a patent you had to describe your invention in sufficient detail to allow someone else skilled in the trade to build that invention from the patent. When the choice was secret processes that died with the inventor, giving them a 'limited' monopoly in exchange for that data was a good idea.

    Of course what was a good idea when we were talking about the design of a self advancing rotating barrel for a hand gun, is completely worthless when we are talking software or business processes.

    I don't think you most of the software/business patents awarded these days would allow anyone (except maybe an alien psychic ) to build _anything_.

    The patent on the method to associate gestures with selecting user interface elements (just to give a hopefully made up example). What exactly _IS_ that? What knowledge would have been lost if the 'inventor' never shared that knowledge with the rest of the world through her patent application? How would you _build_ anything from that patent?

    If patents hadn't devolved into a government sponsored method of forcing money from completely unrelated people and companies, most of these patents would have never been granted.

    Let's go back to the very simple patent rules and let patents be about promoting progress and keeping information from being lost.

    Where to start....

    No patent for anything existing in nature (genes, plants, mathematics, laws of physics or chemistry, etc.) God already invented those.

    No patent for ways of doing business, exercising your cat with a bright light, or looking up the results of a test in a database. Basically, no patents for 'methods' that don't involve an actual 'invention'. No, software doesn't count. Neither does sprinkling "with a computer" or "across a network" magically make something patentable.

    No patent for anything that someone in that field could/would/should have thought up if someone had asked them the question. If I take 10 bright people trained in that field and ask them what would you build to solve "X". If any of them would have said "Y" you don't get a patent on "Y".

    If I give your patent application to someone trained in the field, and they can't build whatever it is that you are trying to patent, then you don't get a patent.

    The purpose of patents is to document the special, one of a kind _device_, the inventor designed to solve an issue so that progress in that field is furthered. If it's really good, we give you a monopoly for a limited time as a reward for sharing that with the rest of us.

    Any patents that don't follow the above should never have been granted.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 8:02am

    Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    Jilocasin:

    You make some very excellent points. I will attempt to address a couple of them.

    With respect to the disclosure, you can forget about everything else. The disclosure was the entire purpose of a patent. Period. Yes, an inventor gets a limited monopoly, BUT, the limited monopoly was for the DISCLOSURE. Without an adequate disclosure, the patent is essentially void.

    One thing that many people forget is that with a disclosure that fails to meet the statute, a plaintiff will get nowhere. Indeed, many patent suits fail because the disclosure does not meet even a single requirement of the law. While it seems like the bar is not high from a layperson's perspective, in reality the bar is quite high. The vast majority of patent suits fall by the wayside and lack of proper enablement (i.e., the disclosure) is one of those reasons.

    You also made the statement that "If patents hadn't devolved into a government sponsored method of forcing money from completely unrelated people and companies, most of these patents would have never been granted."

    Fortunately, your statement is wrong. Consider that there are about 7.5 million patents in the U.S. Consider that there are about 2,700 patent litigations started each year.

    Though some litigations involve multiple patents, you will notice that the same patents are frequently involved in multiple litigations, so if you assume one unique patent per litigation, then about 46,000 patents are involved in some kind of litigation over a 17 year period, which is the average life of a patent that goes full term.

    Now, it is tougher to calculate how many patents are in force in that 17 year period because about 1/3 of all patents expire at the first maintenance fee, and about 60% or so are expired by the second maintenance fee. But if there was an average of about 2 million patents in force over that 17 year period (note that there have been 7.5 million US patents issued, and everything before about 5 million is currently expired), then the total percentage of patents that gets litigated is about 2.6%.

    So, if patents are truly, as you commented, "a government sponsored method of forcing money from completely unrelated people and companies," and that "most of these patents would have never been granted" had this not become the purpose of the system, then all I can say, based on the above calculations, that the system does not perform its task of being a "government sponsored method of forcing money from completely unrelated people and companies" very well.

    Indeed, there has been a marked downward trend in patent litigation awards, and evidence that the courts are planning further trends.

    Bottom line: If you are planning on getting rich by suing people for patent infringement, you better think again. The system is slowly moving back toward a position where the point was to encourage people to disclose knowledge so that after a limited property right all people could benefit from the knowledge. Excessive awards for patent infrginement was never a part of the system, and the "system" is adjusting itself to correct that abuse.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    There are other ways patents can extract money, for example license fees, and stifling competition (which can lead to higher prices). Not saying you're wrong, just that there's more to consider than just lawsuits.

     

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    jilocasin, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:10am

    RE: AC it's worse than you make it out to be.

    I believe that you are way too focused on patent lawsuits and have overlooked the myriad of ways that patents allow people to extort income from others backed with the full force of the U.S. Government.

    You state that many patent suits fail due to improper disclosure. That's closing the barn door not only after the horse has left, but after the horse's entire linage has died of old age and the barn itself has rotted to a foundation and a few barely standing timbers.

    Fighting a patent suit costs $2 million plus. Do you have a couple dozen _million_ dollars just burning a hole in your pocket to fight this? Even then there's no guarantee you'll succeed. Just look at East Texas. Even if you do succeed, you probably still have many _years_ of litigation and appeals ahead of you.

    The bigger question is _why_ were they granted _in_the_first_place_? I would wager that if you take any dozen or so 'business method' or software patents and have someone try to _build_ the described _invention_, they would fail. Heck, I would doubt that they could even get started. These aren't about documenting innovative designs they are about preventing others from doing basic things without paying the patent holder. If what you said was actually true, there would be no software patents, no method patents of any kind.

    You present many stats about the number of patents in the U.S. and compare them to the number of law suits to reach the conclusion that patents haven't devolved into "...a government sponsored method of forcing money from completely unrelated people and companies.." There are a couple of glaring flaws with that logic.

    First, you discount the number of other ways patents are used to extract money from people other than law suits, from forced 'licensing deals' to chilling effect that these bogus patents have forestalling any competition and allowing you to charge monopoly prices.

    Second you artificially reduce the percentage of patents to law suits by including 'traditional patents' in that calculation. A more illuminating comparison would be the type of patent law suit by patent type. How many patents are there by type? Traditional patents "an actual invention" vs what would have been traditionally not patented patents "one's that don't specify an actual invention" [use the criteria from my previous post]. Then compare the number of law suits involving traditional patents to those involving non-traditional patents. You're results will differ markedly from the 2.6% you've calculated above.

    Bottom line: Way too many 'patents' have been and are still being granted for things that _never_ should have gotten patent protection. People and companies are using (mainly) these non-traditional patents to extract monies and other advantages from completely unrelated parties. The process is causing untold collateral damage. Expecting people wronged to spend years and millions of dollars trying to correct this injustice is something only someone benefiting from the current dysfunctional state of affairs would even suggest.

    If the patent office can't stop granting patents that never should have been granted to begin with (and I don't mean one or two, I mean whole categories of subject matter) and doesn't invalidate them en mass, then they should just be abolished.

    The societal benefit from traditional patents no longer out way the harm caused by the proliferation of 'non-traditional' patents.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:24am

    Re: RE: AC it's worse than you make it out to be.

    Jilocasin:

    I would love to counter your "arguments," but the problem is that I am unable. The reason is not that counter-arguments are without facts, but you presented no facts to counter, only opinion.

    You talk about "forced licenses," but failed to include numbers. Is it one, ten, or one hundred.

    You talk about an "artificial reduction" but, again, you cite no numbers. How many are we talking about?

    You also say that "way too many" patents have been granted for things that should never have been granted. Again, how many? Is it one hundred? Is it one thousand?

    It is hard to rebut an argument when there is no argument, but hand waving, innuendo, and hyperbole. Give me a fact and we will talk.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    On the other hand, patents have also been the basis of great partnerships and joint ventures, leading to significant growth and innovation. Yes, there has been a relatively small amount of patent abuse, but there has been significant disclosure of knowledge, and we are all the better for that knowledge.

    The question I keep asking, that is always met by a philosophical argument, is how much benefit has there been from patents and how much cost? Even when I follow links up stream presented by Mike, what do I get? Either no numbers (but lots of hand waving and philosophy) or studies that show that patents have been beneficial.

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Re: RE: Jilocasin, it is much better than you think

    Regarding your comment on business method patents, I agree that business method patents should never have been granted. They are silliness. With any luck, the Supreme Court will smash them into the ground.

    As for "types" of patents, the USPTO only recognizes design patents, plant patents and utility patents. There is no such thing as a "business method" or "software" patent, those are distinctions by the scope of the claim. Since I am unaware of how frequently patents that someone might subjectively classify as "software" or "business method" is used in comparison to hardware patents, and since you have presented no evidence, any conversation we have regarding this subject is beyond speculative, it is complete fantasy.

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    Without an adequate disclosure, the patent is essentially void.

    If only this were actually followed. But it's not.

    Fortunately, your statement is wrong. Consider that there are about 7.5 million patents in the U.S. Consider that there are about 2,700 patent litigations started each year.

    Is this Lonnie? We had a commenter here a while back who used to make this argument all the time, and it's ridiculous. It ignores all of the ways that bogus patents are used to pressure people into paying up or licensing even without a lawsuit being filed. Given the expense of a lawsuit, it's much more likely that companies just pay up.

    Indeed, there has been a marked downward trend in patent litigation awards, and evidence that the courts are planning further trends.

    Yes. Because of the huge awards the courts have been granting, most companies extorted in this manner know that it's cheaper to just pay up, which perpetuates the cycle.

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    "Without an adequate disclosure, the patent is essentially void.

    If only this were actually followed. But it's not."

    Question: How often is it not followed?

    "Fortunately, your statement is wrong. Consider that there are about 7.5 million patents in the U.S. Consider that there are about 2,700 patent litigations started each year.

    Is this Lonnie? We had a commenter here a while back who used to make this argument all the time, and it's ridiculous. It ignores all of the ways that bogus patents are used to pressure people into paying up or licensing even without a lawsuit being filed. Given the expense of a lawsuit, it's much more likely that companies just pay up."

    Again, how much are we talking about? There are tons of companies that essentially say, "sue me." The number of law suits appears to have gone down. If they have been replaced with other things, how about some evidence of just how often this is happening?

    "Indeed, there has been a marked downward trend in patent litigation awards, and evidence that the courts are planning further trends.

    Yes. Because of the huge awards the courts have been granting, most companies extorted in this manner know that it's cheaper to just pay up, which perpetuates the cycle."

    Ummm...it appears that the "huge awards" are getting slashed, and significantly. I think I saw somewhere (no need to provide a link because no one else here is bothering to provide any actual numbers) that the average award, when a case gets to trial, is somewhere around $3.4 million.

    Now, that may be a "huge award" if your company makes a few million a year, but that kind of award would make a small company simply go belly up, so we have to be talking about larger companies.

    It seems unlikely that an award that small would be more than annoying. Also consider that the average award has been decreasing steadily. Is it any wonder that Ocean Tomo has had a hard time getting bidders at its patent auctions? The use of patents as a money grab, rather than incentivizing invention, may not be gone, yet, but it is most assuredly declining. As it declines, more companies will see the benefit in fighting in court - even though the number of lawsuits has been on the decline.

    http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2010/03/federal-courts-closely-scrutinizing-and-slashing -patent-damage-awards.html

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    john, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 3:21pm

    Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    you are spot on. The purpose of patents was to encourage copying AS education. Louise Purbrick, "Knowledge is Property: Looking at Exhibits and Patents in 1851", Oxford Art Journal Vol.20 No.2 1997, pp 53-60. Is a very interesting article about the copyright crisis surrounding the Great Exhibition of 1851 - at the time the greatest public display of knowledge ever created. The solution was to greatly speed up and cheapen access to gaining a patent. If you have access to university library e-journal subscriptions, you can access it on jstor.

     

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

  40.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    Question: How often is it not followed?

    In the software world? Almost 100% of the time. Ask any programmer and they will tell you that a patent is useless in writing new software. The disclosure is meaningless.

    Again, how much are we talking about? There are tons of companies that essentially say, "sue me." The number of law suits appears to have gone down. If they have been replaced with other things, how about some evidence of just how often this is happening?

    According to Eric von Hippel, MIT prof. who has studied these things, lawsuits represent *less than 5%* of patent disputes. The other 95% plus are settled before they go to court.

    Ummm...it appears that the "huge awards" are getting slashed, and significantly. I think I saw somewhere (no need to provide a link because no one else here is bothering to provide any actual numbers) that the average award, when a case gets to trial, is somewhere around $3.4 million.

    Bullshit. Research released just a month ago suggested exactly the opposite. Lying will get you nowhere:

    http://271patent.blogspot.com/2010/01/pwc-releases-2009-patent-litigation.html

    Awards are increasing, not decreasing. Especially from trolls.

    Also consider that the average award has been decreasing steadily.

    Bullshit. It's been increasing.

    Lies will get you nowhere.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 7:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    "Question: How often is it not followed?

    In the software world? Almost 100% of the time. Ask any programmer and they will tell you that a patent is useless in writing new software. The disclosure is meaningless."

    Good technique. Totally ignore the question and answer with an irrelevancy. I was talking about all patents, not patents on underwear, tires, or any other specialty. You have not answered the question. Don't bother. You do not have an answer.

    "Again, how much are we talking about? There are tons of companies that essentially say, "sue me." The number of law suits appears to have gone down. If they have been replaced with other things, how about some evidence of just how often this is happening?

    According to Eric von Hippel, MIT prof. who has studied these things, lawsuits represent *less than 5%* of patent disputes. The other 95% plus are settled before they go to court."

    I have no idea about Eric von Hippel's study, but other studies indicate that plaintiffs lose the vast majority of time until an actual trial. Lose may mean "settle," but it also means that the plaintiff does not get money.

    "Ummm...it appears that the "huge awards" are getting slashed, and significantly. I think I saw somewhere (no need to provide a link because no one else here is bothering to provide any actual numbers) that the average award, when a case gets to trial, is somewhere around $3.4 million.

    Bullshit. Research released just a month ago suggested exactly the opposite. Lying will get you nowhere:

    http://271patent.blogspot.com/2010/01/pwc-releases-2009-patent-litigation.html

    Awards are increasing, not decreasing. Especially from trolls.

    Also consider that the average award has been decreasing steadily.

    Bullshit. It's been increasing.

    Lies will get you nowhere."

    Ad hominem attacks do not become you, and your lies will get you no where. I counter with my study, which, interestingly enough, IS YOUR STUDY AND IT DOES NOT SUPPORT YOUR STATEMENT; I ask you to look at the chart on page 6 of the STUDY YOU CITED. You will note that the two peak years for average awards was 2001 and 2005. The average award has decreased, with ups and downs, but in 2008 was about $3 million average, significantly less than the cost of litigation and significantly less than the 2001 peak of more than $10 million per suit.

    http://www.pwc.com/us/en/forensic-services/publications/assets/2009-patent-litigation-study .pdf

    Come on back when you have some facts now, 'k?

     

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

  42.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    Good technique. Totally ignore the question and answer with an irrelevancy. I was talking about all patents, not patents on underwear, tires, or any other specialty. You have not answered the question. Don't bother. You do not have an answer.

    Wow. I did not totally ignore the question, and I did not answer with irrelevancy. I answered from the area that I do know quite a bit about. You seem to be falsely (and obnoxiously) implying that if you don't have a stat, it didn't happen.

    You're wrong. We keep showing examples of patents that don't clearly disclose, and we hear all the time from individuals and companies who are involved in lawsuits where that's an issue. It's quite rare where patents actually accurately disclose something.

    Let's turn this around, since you want to prove with numbers. Give me the exact number of patents that accurately disclose, or based on your own bullshit reasoning, none of them do.

    I have no idea about Eric von Hippel's study, but other studies indicate that plaintiffs lose the vast majority of time until an actual trial. Lose may mean "settle," but it also means that the plaintiff does not get money.

    "Lose"? How do you "lose" in a settlement?

    Ad hominem attacks do not become you, and your lies will get you no where. I counter with my study, which, interestingly enough, IS YOUR STUDY AND IT DOES NOT SUPPORT YOUR STATEMENT; I ask you to look at the chart on page 6 of the STUDY YOU CITED.

    That chart only shows the past few years. The long term trend is that it has increased -- and if you look at the specific part about NPEs (where much of the problems exist) it's growing quite a bit. It's no surprise that there are yearly fluctuations in the small sample size of the past few years -- but if you look at the long term trend it's been increasing.

    Come on back when you have some facts now, 'k?


    I've got the facts. And I put my name on my posts because I know I can back up what I say. Who the hell are you?

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    "Good technique. Totally ignore the question and answer with an irrelevancy. I was talking about all patents, not patents on underwear, tires, or any other specialty. You have not answered the question. Don't bother. You do not have an answer.

    Wow. I did not totally ignore the question, and I did not answer with irrelevancy. I answered from the area that I do know quite a bit about. You seem to be falsely (and obnoxiously) implying that if you don't have a stat, it didn't happen."

    Umm...no, something may still happen or exist even in the absence of statistics. However, it MAY mean that something happens infrequently enough that no one is able to collect meaningful statistics.

    Yes, you did respond regarding an area you were familiar with, but your answer did not answer my question. Since you responded that it was your viewpoint, then my response is that your response was irrelevant from my viewpoint; i.e., you provided an answer to a completely different question.

    And I did not think the response was obnoxious.

    "You're wrong. We keep showing examples of patents that don't clearly disclose, and we hear all the time from individuals and companies who are involved in lawsuits where that's an issue. It's quite rare where patents actually accurately disclose something."

    Oh, bullshit, and disingenous. I have read a few patents that poorly described their invention - or appeared to describe nothing at all, but the majority of patents I have read have indeed disclosed an invention. And yes, I would absolutely LOVE to see your statistics that show the percentage of patents that supposedly do not disclose anything.

    "I have no idea about Eric von Hippel's study, but other studies indicate that plaintiffs lose the vast majority of time until an actual trial. Lose may mean "settle," but it also means that the plaintiff does not get money.

    "Lose"? How do you "lose" in a settlement?"

    You were disingenous before, and you are being even more so now. Let us take a well documented case where one company sued another.

    Toyota sued Ford for patent infringement. Eventually the two settled. How did they settle? Ford got licenses for an undisclosed number of Toyota's patents, and apparently gave nothing to Toyota in return (we know that Ford did not pay Toyota any money for a fact). So you tell me. Toyota sued Ford. Ford fought. Ford got license to a number of Toyota patents and paid nothing in return. Sounds to me like Toyota lost. Of course, if you care to offer a different definition for "lose," I might find it entertaining.

    "Ad hominem attacks do not become you, and your lies will get you no where. I counter with my study, which, interestingly enough, IS YOUR STUDY AND IT DOES NOT SUPPORT YOUR STATEMENT; I ask you to look at the chart on page 6 of the STUDY YOU CITED.

    That chart only shows the past few years. The long term trend is that it has increased -- and if you look at the specific part about NPEs (where much of the problems exist) it's growing quite a bit. It's no surprise that there are yearly fluctuations in the small sample size of the past few years -- but if you look at the long term trend it's been increasing."

    No, you are wrong. The "long term trend" did show increases throughout the 1990's to about 2005, where the numbers became somewhat vague, but which now appear to be the top of a curve. The $3 million dollar award per suit is about the amount per suit that was awarded prior to the runup that now seems to be the peak.

    I should also point out that the Price Waterhouse study showed CLEARLY that NPE's are winning much less often than companies that practice, though they are typically awarded higher settlements, but even those settlements are dropping.

    Let us go back and point out these FACTS from the very study you cited...

    Fact 1: The peak year for awards patent suits was 2001, with the award per suit at more than $10 million.
    Fact 2: Only one other year since then, 2005, achieved an award level approaching the 2001 peak.
    Fact 3: The MAXIMUM average award in the four years since 2005 has been less than half the 2005 level, and closer to 1/3 the 2001 level.
    Fact 4: The level in 2008 is about the historical average prior to the spike that occurred in the period from the early 1990's to 2005.

    "Come on back when you have some facts now, 'k?

    I've got the facts. And I put my name on my posts because I know I can back up what I say. Who the hell are you?"

    Ummm...if there are facts, then a name is irrelevant, eh? Facts speak for themselves. You sit there and point to a Price Waterhouse study, you claim it shows one thing, then, when I point out that it says something different, you then try to discount the very study you cited. Please.

    Oh, and you called me a liar. Thanks for that - even though I provided a study and the logic for my statement. I guess you can be called a liar even when you have actual data - and logic - to back you up.

     

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


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