Ex-Morpheus & Kazaa Execs Team Up To Become Patent Trolls

from the the-lessons-of-copyright-and-patents dept

Well, well. While their names may be fading into history, Morpheus and Kazaa were the two big file sharing apps after Napster was shut down. They were both built on the same basic platform (which came from Kazaa), and at some point the two actually got into a fight, leading Kazaa to shut off Morpheus, and years later there were still some lawsuits going on. However, it appears that two former execs associated with those two file sharing systems have teamed up... to become patent trolls who are now suing Google, Amazon and others for infringement.

Kevin Bermeister is being described in the article linked above as a "founder" of Kazaa, but I'm pretty sure that's not true at all. Bermeister, instead, founded Brilliant Digital Entertainment, which was an attempt to build a questionable business model into Kazaa, which originally looked a lot like adware. Brilliant Digital ended up buying Kazaa much later in the process. He's teamed up with Michael Weiss, who was the CEO of Streamcast, in this patent trolling adventure that they're calling PersonalWeb Technologies (based in -- you guessed it -- East Texas). While some are making it out like it's a big deal that these former "pirates" are now trying to enforce patent claims, it's really not new or surprising. Bermeister has been doing this for a while. In fact, all the way back in 2003, he claimed a patent on identifying files with a hash and threatened to sue every other file sharing company. In 2004, he even sued the RIAA for violating the patent. In 2006 he... sued Weiss' Streamcast for patent infringement. I'm not sure how that lawsuit turned out, but apparently the former adversaries are now on the same side of things.

The folks over at M-CAM have taken a look at the patents that PersonalWeb is now using to sue, and has found them lacking. Turns out that a bunch of them are continuations -- the sneaky trick of patent holders to change an earlier patent application later, such that the eventual patent still has the earlier priority date, even if the invention wasn't really described until much later. This has been used repeatedly in the past by companies to see what others are doing, patent it, and then be able to pretend they came up with it first. The M-CAM analysis is not kind, especially to the examiner who approved some of the patents, Khanh B. Pham. They declare:
After reviewing PersonalWeb's patents, we propose that the USPTO indeed mold a "Pham" award to best commemorate the ultimate, the outrageous, the most horrifically unacceptable patent examination performance of the current patent system.
So there's that.

If you're interested, here are the patents in question:
  • 8,001,096: Computer file system using content‐dependent file identifiers
  • 7,949,662: De‐duplication of data in a data processing system
  • 7,945,544: Similarity‐based access control of data in a data processing system
  • 7,945,539: Distributing and accessing data in a data processing system
  • 7,802,310: Controlling access to data in a data processing system
  • 6,928,442: Enforcement and policing of licensed content using content‐based identifiers
  • 6,415,280: Identifying and requesting data in network using identifiers which are based on contents of data
  • 5,978,791: Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items have the same identifiers
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Filed Under: kazaa, morpheus, patent trolls, patents
Companies: amazon, brilliant digital, google, personalweb, streamcast

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2011 @ 3:48pm

    You know, Computer science is only something I have several degrees in, but I'm reasonably sure half of those concepts have implementations that are at least 30 years old.

    What is the lifetime of patents again? 15 years + the rhetoric of the tech savvy against the technologically incompetent patent offices?

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