The Web Is Saved: East Texas Jury Says Eolas Patents Are Invalid

from the that-was-fast! dept

Okay, that happened much faster than I expected. Just a few hours ago, we wrote about Tim Berners-Lee telling an East Texas jury just how insane patent troll Eolas' patents were, along with their claims that all sorts of core web technologies were covered by their patents. We thought it might take some time before anything really happened in that case, but the jury took just a short while before completely invalidating Eolas' patents. Damn! Apparently the jury recognized that when the inventor of the web talks about how obvious a technology was at the time, he probably knows what he's talking about.

I wonder just how silly the long list of companies who "settled" with Eolas before the trial started feel right now.

Of course, all of that settlement money means that Eolas still has a big bank account. That means it'll appeal this ruling, and the case may still go on for a few years. But it's going to have to clear a big hurdle, and in the meantime it won't be able to sue anyone else using these patents. Score one for obviousness and a jury that recognized a patent troll trying to put up an innovation toll booth to try to demand loads of cash it didn't deserve.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    GMacGuffin (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 4:08pm

    The formerly plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas?

    Maybe after a decade of patent litigation there, the jury pool has become collectively versed enough in patent law that they ain't takin' so kindly to bogus claims anymore.

     

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  2.  
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    Morbius, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

    And now we do the dance of joy!

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    "I wonder just how silly the long list of companies who "settled" with Eolas before the trial started feel right now"

    Depends on how much they paid and how it was structured. It's possible they may have gotten the benefit of this invalidation without having to pay for it. Even if not, the millions of $ spent getting this result might be less than what they paid in settlement.

     

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  4.  
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    ChimpBarak McOsamaBurton, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 4:47pm

    Sue Them To Death!

    Of course, all of that settlement money means that Eolas still has a big bank account. That means it'll appeal this ruling, and the case may still go on for a few years. But it's going to have to clear a big hurdle, and in the meantime it won't be able to sue anyone else using these patents.

    Well, what all those companies who settled need to do now is start suing Ebola back! (yeah, name misspelled on purpose).

    If they have been temporarily hamstrung, the time is ripe to keep them busy with counter suits now that we know their winnings were bogus.

    Come on out of the woodwork you silly dolts! Get your money back!

    CBMOB

     

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  5.  
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    Kevin H (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 4:57pm

    If they had upheld them I would be getting a pitchfork.

     

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  6.  
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    Bill Silverstein (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 5:07pm

    Re: Sue Them To Death!

    If there is a settlement, they can't sue back!

    A settlement agreement is a settlement agreement. Unless, there is fraud in the inducement of the agreement, then it is over.

    Typically in a settlement agreement, there are recitations that both side believe they are correct, but they are settling to avoid additional costs, AND that they waive all claims, known and unknown against each other.

     

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  7.  
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    6, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 5:29pm

    "I wonder just how silly the long list of companies who "settled" with Eolas before the trial started feel right now.

    "

    Probably not that silly. There is a huge risk associated with going to trial. Indeed, there is still an appeal they could do. It's a big ol' time wasting bunch o crp. Buying out of that time waste is many times not a bad decision.

     

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  8.  
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    Susan Connor, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 5:30pm

    A troll asking for a toll.

    even if asking for 1 c every 100,000,000,000 c's could be a lot of added expense. Retrospective thinking but who invented the wheel . Before or after the tree grew another year, Then who gets the proceeds for cutting the tree in such a way that a wheel lead to the soon to be outdated micro chip? Far fetch I hope but show the point of ideas ownership. Takes one to think on a project. Many others to activate the process. then to get that idea to where it is today. ... it take many parallel miricles.

     

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  9.  
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    The Moondoggie, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 5:35pm

    LOLZ

    Hahahaha. That's funny. Nice to see a troll hauled up by it's ass and thrown over the bridge.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 5:53pm

    In east Texas no less -- I guess miracles can occur. Next thing you'll tell us is that the 'peoples' will rise up and oppose SOPA and PIPA. Oh wait...

     

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  11.  
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    Avatar28 (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 6:18pm

    I'm sort of shocked

    Honestly, I was starting to think that east Texas didn't know HOW to invalidate patent claims. Like Eolas, I figured a win there was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

     

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  12.  
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    Thomas (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 6:25pm

    Unlike other...

    patent trolls, Eolas forgot to slip large envelopes to the jury; everyone knows that the East Texas juries can't turn down a fat envelope. Typical rookie mistake. Next time they will know better.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 6:34pm

    What about the "core technologies" of tomorrow

    I'm still ticked off and scared that it's even come to this. Would the internet have been able to come into existance under the patent-crazed laws that exist today?

    I think we'd be still trying to invent the light bulb.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 6:37pm

    Re:

    settlements are called "overhead". The companies that settled were able to move on without excessive lawyer fees or wasting more time.

     

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  15.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 6:59pm

    Re: Unlike other...

    Eolas aren't rookies in East Texas. They've been in those courts many times before.

    THIS time a jury there came to the right conclusion. THIS time they tossed the patent troll out on its ear and watched them bounce.

    THIS time justice was served. Now for a massive Bronx cheer aimed at the University of California for being part of this. And a big smack up side their head too. ;-)

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 7:01pm

    Re: What about the "core technologies" of tomorrow

    There would have been a patent for "Device which creates incandescence without combustion" and some vague description of how it creates light from the aether.

    They'd then sue anyone who actually invented a device which worked.

     

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  17.  
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    vancedecker (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 7:33pm

    Much like pissing in the wind...

    ...this decision will have just as much of an effect.

    Today's most successful businesses are all, in one form or another, patent trolls.

    I knew it was 'all over' when back in the 90's Amazon won a patent for 'one click checkout'

    How can a system of justice possibly render competent decisions when they are being presided over by rotting corpses?

     

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  18.  
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    vancedecker (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 7:35pm

    Re: @techdirt

    Is she a hooker?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2012 @ 8:10pm

    Re: Re: @techdirt

    I don't see even camgirls making that much. She's probably a patent troll lawyer for a porn company that extorts money from torrenters.

     

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

  20.  
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    Josh (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 8:26pm

    The inventor of the web? Al Gore was there?

     

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  21.  
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    wvhillbilly (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 8:59pm

    Eolas patents

    Do all those who settled get any of their money back?

    If trolls who litigate using bogus patents were required to repay all the money collected when said patents are invalidated, it might provide some disincentive for this kind of extortion.

     

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  22.  
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    Chargone (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 9:41pm

    Re: The formerly plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas?

    one can only hope.

     

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  23.  
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    Ccomp5950 (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 11:38pm

    Re: The formerly plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas?

    No, this was in Tyler, not Marshall Texas.

    It's up the road just a bit.

     

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  24.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 10th, 2012 @ 12:40am

    Re: Re: The formerly plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas?

    No, this was in Tyler, not Marshall Texas.

    Tyler is also Eastern District... and, while less famous, is considered pretty much equivalent to Marshall in terms of bad patent rulings. So this is a nice surprise.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 7:17am

    Why the "nice surprise"? This is pretty much how the system should work. Claims from one side, rebutted by the other side's expert witness, and boom, ruling.

    I guess this puts an end to the concept that bad patents cannot be overturned. More Techdirt nonsense shot down in flames.

     

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  26.  
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    DB, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 7:35am

    Rock Stars

    Rock star witnesses. Microsoft lost when they litigated against Eolas, not having rock star witnesses, and also having memoranda saying that they needed the functionality also described in the Eolas patent. Of course, Internet Explorer, at the time, had just killed Netscape, so the evil empire was hardly a sympathetic defendant.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 7:50am

    Finally, East Texas!

    I was raised in Tyler, Texas. It is know for Roses and Corruption.

    I am really proud of my people today. For once.

    This is the kind of place where, on the courthouse wall there is a Lady Justice Statue. A close look will confirm there is no Blindfold across her eyes.
    They want you to know where you are.

     

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  28.  
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    Brian Miller, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 8:18am

    Eolas has to make a refund

    Eolas has to refund the money. The companies licensed a patent, and now the patent is invalid, so there's nothing to license. Eolas can't just keep the money. However, I doubt Eolas has anything to refund, so it'll just go bankrupt.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 8:26am

    Finally, East Texas!

    I was raised in Tyler, Texas. It is know for Roses and Corruption.

    I am really proud of my people today. For once.

    This is the kind of place where, on the courthouse wall there is a Lady Justice Statue. A close look will confirm there is no Blindfold across her eyes.
    They want you to know where you are.

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Kenny, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    What a joke. If every patent invalidation case required the spate of defendants this one did, then it should be obvious there is problem with the underlying issue of these patents being issued in the first place.

    Your trolling is no worse. Move on.

     

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  31.  
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    isaac Kotlicky (profile), Feb 10th, 2012 @ 10:09am

    THANK THE MAKER!

    This money bath is going to feel so good! - C-3POlas

    I don't think they really care whether they win or lose. All they have to do is file a patent extension, and they'll be back at it in a year or so with ANOTHER set of patents to sue everyone with AGAIN.

     

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  32.  
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    nonanymous, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 10:11am

    Re:

    Why the "nice surprise"? This is pretty much how the system should work. Claims from one side, rebutted by the other side's expert witness, and boom, ruling.

    I guess this puts an end to the concept that bad patents cannot be overturned. More Techdirt nonsense shot down in flames.


    This is a surprise because it is NOT how the system works, especially in this area. Nothing was shot down, everything is the same as it was, thanks for trolling.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re:

    "Nothing was shot down, everything is the same as it was,"

    ???

    Except for the judgment of invalidity, you mean?

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 10:39am

    Re: Eolas has to make a refund

    cite?

     

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  35.  
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    DB, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Verdict Form

    VERDICT FORM FOR INVALIDITY TRIAL
    1. Did Defendants prove by clear and convincing evidence that any of the following asserted claims of the '985 Patent and '906 Patent are invalid?
    Answer "Yes" or "No" for each listed claim.
    Patent '985
    Claim 1 Yes
    Claim 3 Yes
    Claim 10 Yes
    Claim 16 Yes
    Claim 18 Yes
    Claim 20 Yes
    Claim 22 Yes
    Claim 36 Yes
    Claim 38 Yes
    Claim 40 Yes
    Claim 42 Yes
    Patent '906
    Claim 1 Yes
    Claim 6 Yes
    Signed

     

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  36.  
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    DB, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 10:52am

    FOIA

    Has anyone sought, under Freedom of Information Act, since a state University is involved, the terms of the settlements? A good project for you, Mike?

     

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  37.  
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    nonanymous, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ???

    Except for the judgment of invalidity, you mean?


    Try to keep up, old man. The system is still broken, this one case getting done this fast AND against the plaintiff is an anomaly.

    AC (you?) somehow decided that this one case proves everything is a-okay and Mike is being unreasonable in his surprise.

     

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  38.  
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    staff, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 3:24pm

    another biased article

    Masnick and his monkeys have an unreported conflict of interest-
    https://www.insightcommunity.com/cases.php?n=10&pg=1

    They sell blog filler and "insights" to major corporations including MS, HP, IBM etc. who just happen to be some of the world’s most frequent patent suit defendants. Obviously, he has failed to report his conflicts as any reputable reporter would. But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters. They are patent system saboteurs receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they don’t have any.

    “Patent troll”

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”. This is just dissembling by large infringers to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    When a patent gets shot down, it doesn't make sense to say nothing was shot down. Try to keep up, young whippersnapper.

     

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  40.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Feb 10th, 2012 @ 7:00pm

    A few years ago I used to work for an LED lighting company.

    There's a communications protocol called DMX that's commonly used for controlling theater lighting, though of course anything commonly used for one thing is often used for related things as well.

    Now, LEDs aren't like incandescent bulbs. Incandescents light by heating a wire until it glows, just short of melting. I don't know the physics of LEDs but they turn on and off pretty much instantaneously. However, unlike incandescents, they do not respond linearly to voltage changes (or current changes). IOW they don't dim very well.

    But they turn on and off really, really quickly. So you "dim" an LED by turning it on and off very quickly, and the longer you leave it on compared to how long you leave it off, the brighter it gets. That's called "duty cycle". It's very linear. The most common method used to dim LEDs is called Pulse Width Modulation, or PWM. Because it's simple: you vary the duty cycle of a repeating, fixed-period pulse. All you need is a counter and a comparator.

    There's apparently a lighting company -- I forget who -- who does, or at least at the time did, have a patent on using DMX with PWM to control LED lighting.

    Now I don't know about you, but as a developer who was part of the industry, it's pretty freaking obvious to me that if you want to use theater lighting equipment to control LED lighting, you'd combine DMX with PWM. HOW THE F**K ELSE WOULD YOU DO IT?!?! But they have this patent and use it to beat up other lighting companies.

    Fortunately for us, we had prior art. At least until I left, said competitor never brought us to court, and we never pursued having the patent invalidated. I guess our boss figured it was better to let them do all the work, and we were protected by the fact that suing us would be shooting themselves in the foot (and they knew it).

    Meantime, several other companies have found ways around the patent. Cypress (who makes microcontrollers) has some sort of random-based method of controlling the duty cycle, and I happen to know that the 100th anniversary Times Square Ball uses a method called Bit Angle Modulation. (I don't know exactly what method the current one uses.)

    So all these companies are trying to dance around this stupid invalid patent instead of innovating because... ponies? And please don't try to say that getting around the patent is innovation in and of itself. Broken Window fallacy.

     

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  41.  
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    hopponit (profile), Feb 12th, 2012 @ 12:55am

    patent trolls

    I'm reminded of the Seldon patents in this case. If you don't remember it it involved the automobile and Henry Ford. Seldon shook-down the auto manufacturers. Ford fought him and won. Seems till ford said no Seldon had never built even one car. When he did to prove in court that his car worked, it didn't. Oops. Maybe some of the same arguments should be brought up.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    patent litigation, Feb 26th, 2012 @ 4:23pm

    limits

    Good news that the court made such a sensible ruling. It's patent enforcement actions like this one that bring software patents into disrepute. While I'm not against the idea of patenting software, this particular patent litigation makes me think that maybe the ability to do so should be limited.

     

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


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