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Patents

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
patents

Companies:
intellectual ventures, ocean tomo



More Patents That Have Touched Both Intellectual Ventures And Ocean Tomo Showing Up In Lawsuits

from the this-is-not-good dept

Last year, we noted that more and more patents previously held by Intellectual Ventures were showing up in lawsuits -- with rumors swirling that IV still got a cut of money collected on at least some of those patents. Then, in December, IV finally filed its first patent infringement lawsuits directly. However, more of its "former" patents are popping up in lawsuits as well. Joe Mullin has the details of yet another secretive shell patent holding company, called Pragmatus, that has some former IV patents and sued Facebook, YouTube and Linkedin last year, and now is suing basically all of the cable industry, claiming that its patents (5,581,479 and 5,636,139) cover the rather broad concept of video-on-demand.

What's equally interesting (and/or troubling, depending on your point of view) is that these patents also passed through Ocean Tomo, the favored tool of laundering patents by auctioning them off. For years, we've questioned the claims of Ocean Tomo that it's really just helping to establish a "market" to extract the value of patents. In reality, it seems that it's created a tool for putting a massive tollbooth on innovation, taking broad and useless patents (i.e., patents that really don't teach anything new or non-obvious at all) and putting them in the hands of lawyers who sue companies who actually innovate. It's worth noting that the patents that IV used in its own lawsuit last year also appeared to travel via Ocean Tomo (it appears that's what AUCTNYC8 really is).

Once again, the deeper you dig into these stories, you realize that it's really just a bunch of lawyers passing around patents to figure out who can sue companies who actually do stuff. This is why it's frustrating when the press falls for IV's ridiculous spin about how it's really inventing things. As far as we can tell, nothing "invented" at IV has hit the market in any meaningful way in its many years of existence. But a bunch of the patents that it has bought and sold over time are being asserted against a wide range of companies who actually do innovate. I'm really at a loss as to how anyone can look at this setup and claim the system is working. The system seems to simply be a way to extract money from companies that actually innovate and give it to a bunch of lawyers who think this is all a big game.

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  1. identicon
    Jeff, 27 Jan 2011 @ 6:44am

    strange file history

    These patents were originally filed back in 1993. Any discussion of prior art or obviousness must be made in light of this date. Also, '479 patent lists numerous patents and non-patent publications which suggests that the patent claims were compared to numerous sources of prior art. This of course assumes that the patent examiner was both competent and diligent.

    However, a look at the file history suggests that the examiner might not have been that competent. In normal circumstances, a patent examiner will issue a non-final rejection (for anticipation and/or obviousness) in the face of prior art. After a non-final rejection the applicant has the option to argue against the rejection without narrowing the claims or accept the rejection and narrow the claims to avoid the prior art. If the applicant elects not to narrow the claims and successfully argues against the rejection, the examiner must either allow the claims or issue a new non-final rejection. However, if the applicant elects to narrow the claims, the examiner must either allow the claims or issue a final rejection.

    In this case, the Examiner issued three non-final rejections and zero final rejections. The fact that there were three non-final rejections indicates that the applicant successfully argued against the rejections without ever having to narrow the claims. It has been my experience, that such an outcome only occurs when the examiner was incompetent and issued lousy/unsupportable non-final rejections. The actual rejections and responses thereto are not available in electronic form so a more thorough review cannot be conducted without more effort, but this peculiar sequence of non-final rejections makes me very suspicious (without even looking at possible prior art) that this case did not receive adequate examination.

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