eBay Shutting Down Rubik's Cube Knockoff Sales Due To Patent Infringement Claim (Not From Rubik's Maker)

from the keeping-track dept

Bram Cohen, who's known for doing quite a bit of 3-dimensional puzzle design, alerts us to the news of eBay shutting down a bunch of auctions over some Dayan Guhong and Lingyun puzzles. The Dayan Guhong and Lingyun puzzles are, basically, quite similar to the traditional Rubik's Cube, but designed to work a bit easier. You can see a video explaining the Guhong, which shows how it's faster than a traditional Rubik's cube.

Now, there are two separate, but equally interesting points of discussion here. The first is that eBay is apparently getting into the patent enforcement business. This case involved the use of eBay's Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) Program, which is usually used by trademark owners to get counterfeits and such removed from eBay. I was unaware of it being used over patents until this case, and that's a lot more troubling. A trademark claim is a lot easier (though, still not perfectly easy in many cases) to judge. A patent claim is a lot more difficult. Is eBay really claiming to be able to determine if a product on eBay infringes on someone else's patent? And then is willing to kill auctions because of it? Furthermore, if the patent holder is really upset, shouldn't it be going after those who are actually selling the cubes in question, rather than having eBay get in the middle?

The other issue is that there's even a patent for this at all. The patent in question, 7,600,756, is somewhat well known in puzzle circles, in that it covers similar cube puzzles that go beyond the traditional Rubik's 3x3x3 all the way up to 11x11x11. Even if you believe that everything from 4x4x4 to 11x11x11 are unique and patentable, it does seem to be a bit of a stretch to claim that the 3x3x3 is patentable. There are some differences in how the patent holder, Panayotis Verdes, designed his 3x3x3 from the original Rubik's, but it was a design innovation (making certain parts spherical instead of cylindrical) that many toy puzzle designers came up with independently at about the same time (which would suggest "obviousness" and thus make it not patentable). Related to all of that, the company holding this patent, V-Cube, is not even making a 3x3x3, though it is making a variety of other cubes. So it's basically trying to kill off the sales of the standard 3x3x3 cubes, even though they don't compete with V-Cube.

Of course, the history of Rubik's Cube is full of patent battles as well. It all kind of makes you wonder, what's wrong with just letting puzzle makers come up with cool puzzles and then letting them compete in the market?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

    I'd rather see puzzle makers using their gifts to solve the I.P. Problem.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    monkyyy, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 4:54pm

    Re:

    its best to think they were the ones to design the maze of red type that is the law

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    STJ, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 5:02pm

    Having worked for PayPal, I can tell you they don't have any way to really know. They are just really guessing and once a seller is shut down, good luck getting it back. You will have to get a piece of paper signed by your state's governor and co-signed by God to get back in.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Steevo, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:44pm

    Ebay as patent examiner.....

    It's pretty incredible having eBay turn out to be the decider of whether a patent is infringed or not. I wonder how they got the idea they were qualified as patent examiners?

    I thought that was what Federal judges were for.

    This is by far the cheapest way to have your patent enforced- at essentially no cost.

    Much less than a patent attorney. That would cost $25,000, at least.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    npc, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 11:52pm

    the patent system: the ultimate puzzle!

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 3:34am

    Obviousness is questionable, but brokenness might be guaranteed

    >> (which would suggest "obviousness" and thus make it not patentable)

    Many can come up with something without it being "obvious" to a person having ordinary skill in the art. Surely, if you have 10 engineers, only one, the brainiest one, need come up with it and without having thought it was obvious.

    To me that several came up with something can suggest that patent law is broken in not respecting independent creation and in picking such a low bar to innovation (non-obviousness to PHOSITA) that even if we had a higher bar we'd still have multiple parties coming up with the invention independently.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 4:39am

    Re:

    What we need are the patent refiners to get to the patent system and fix it so it doesn't lock up or jam just like the cube in question.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    staff, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 9:35am

    Please stop writing about patents

    "what's wrong with just letting puzzle makers come up with cool puzzles and then letting them compete in the market"

    Unfair business practice. Many states have these types of laws. In general, it would be unfair for someone to copy what someone else created without the permission of the inventor. Please stop writing about patents. If you haven't figured it out by now, you never will.

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 10:43am

    Re: Please stop writing about patents

    Unfair business practice. Many states have these types of laws. In general, it would be unfair for someone to copy what someone else created without the permission of the inventor. Please stop writing about patents. If you haven't figured it out by now, you never will.

    Competition. Many working economies encourage competition. In general, it would be unfair to block competitors from competing in an open market when it improves the overall economic outlook for all participants. Please stop commenting on free markets. If you haven't figured it out by now, you never will.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 4:49pm

    "Is eBay really claiming to be able to determine if a product on eBay infringes on someone else's patent?"

    Where did you get that from? They make it rather clear that they don't judge infringement claims at all. Besides ebay's help pages, I suggest "VeRO for Dummies", it's a good read.

    "making certain parts spherical instead of cylindrical"

    Conical. Not spherical.

    "that many toy puzzle designers came up with independently at about the same time"

    Name one.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    "if the patent holder is really upset, shouldn't it be going after those who are actually selling the cubes in question, rather than having eBay get in the middle?"

    Cause prosecuting infringement-unaware sellers is so much nicer than just preventing the sales?

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Victor, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 12:44am

    Not a patent, trademark!!

    Why do you think this is about patent? Rubik's Cube name and it's 3D design (3x3x3 cube puzzle) is protected by trademark owned by Seven Towns Ltd., UK.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Re: Not a patent, trademark!!

    Dude... this is about Verdes, not Rubik.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anon, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 9:30am

    Re: Not a patent, trademark!!

    Holy crap, you have no idea what you're talking about.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Fanarly, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 12:40pm

    Their patent

    Claim 1 seems to be an overly complex claim. Wouldn't the Dayan Guhong and Lingyun puzzles need to infringe on all parts of claim 1?

     

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


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