Early Inventor Of Streaming Video Wants To Help Fight Off Video Streaming Patent Trolls

from the nice-offer dept

TasMot points us to a recent blog post by Jacques Mattheij, who developed one of the earliest, if not the earliest version of browser-based streaming video back in 1995, about his experience with patent trolls. There's an initial experience with an attempt by patent trolling giant Acacia to try to shake him down, which failed mainly because Mattheij's company was mostly based in the Netherlands, making it difficult for Acacia to go after them (and, Mattheij notes, that patent was eventually invalidated... but not until 2009, by which time plenty of damage could have been done). However, he notes that a more recent troll has popped up on the scene, named Joao Control, who has apparently been busy suing a bunch of companies, including some online video operations like, Sling Media and WebcamNow, as well as a bunch of auto companies (including Hyundai, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Honda). You can read through the cases if you'd like, but they all seem pretty ridiculous. Joao appears to argue that it has patented "systems for remotely controlling video systems."

There are a few patents that pop up in the various lawsuits, but Joao appears to hold a few hundred patents on a fairly wide variety of areas. "Joao" is really Raymond Joao, himself a patent lawyer, who apparently realized that rather than representing others, there was tons of money to be made by getting a bunch of patents himself (represented by himself) and then going after others. For what it's worth (and without making any statement on the merits of this claim), some employees/inventors of a company for whom Joao once represented have previously accused Joao of filing for some of his patents while working for them, taking their ideas and then filing his own patents on them.

Either way, Joao has been arguing that he's patented certain forms of streaming video, and Mattheij finds the whole thing ridiculous, and has made an offer to anyone sued by Joao (or any other patent troll) over online streaming:
I’m pretty anal when it comes to data retention, I can go back 25+ years when it comes to software that I have developed. And that came in pretty handy. I provided the counsel for the defense through the defendant (which I had had prior dealings with, they were an early licensee of the software) with all the relevant data and made myself available as an expert witness. It never came to that.

If anybody out there finds themselves sued because of violation of patents regarding streaming video and payment systems then here is a standing offer to give you a full packet of data with a detailed timeline documenting the first use of streaming video on the world-wide-web, sample images from public broadcasts using this technology from well published events (such as World Media Live using the software to broadcast the ‘96 Yves St. Laurent fashion show but there were plenty of others before that, it took a while to gain traction), the first use of pay-per-view and subscription based access to streaming video and audio and many more such milestones. This offer is free of charge, if it should come to any form of testimony then I’m more than happy to go where ever it is needed if you pay my way (airfare + basic accomodation is fine) or to give remote testimony via - rich irony here - video link, in which case it is free.

It is high time that this matter is laid to rest once and for all, Joao Controls is clearly abusing the legal system in the full knowledge that their patents are of 0 value.
Of course, patent system apologists will point out that he never patented his own work, and Mattheij answers that the same way many developers I know have answered various patent questions, by noting that what they did was nothing special, and the idea that it deserves patent protection is ridiculous.
I’ve never harped on public recognition for coming up with a way to stream live video to the browser (as far as I know it’s not mentioned in places like wikipedia) because as far as I’m concerned it was a rather trivial affair software wise. Some of the stuff I have built was several orders of magnitude more work and vastly more complex than this. To register a patent for something like that to me is abuse of the patent system. There is no substantial research to invest in, it is just basic plumbing, a re-use or composition if you want of existing elements in a new but obvious form. So, in order to frustrate any further attempts at shake-down of hardworking people by parasitic patent trolls I hereby stake a public claim on the creation of the first streaming webcam software, in March of 1995, to the claim of having the first combination of streaming video and credit card payments for pay-per-view and subscription based access in May of 1995 for a customer that became very well known with the product, and for plug-in free streaming video and audio combined in July of 1996. And I’m willing to stand by that claim and defend it with documentation if challenged.
Kudos to Mattheij for making this offer and standing up for what's right, though it's simply ridiculous that he even needs to do this in the first place.

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  1. icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), 6 Oct 2012 @ 2:09pm

    About How Inventors Enforce Patents

    While some lawsuits are driven by the defendant being collectable, that is not always the case. Big companies, government agencies, political parties and others often sue with the intent to drive someone into bankruptcy.

    This was a common tactic with patents, where a big company tried to bankrupt the inventor. Our counter tactic was to first seek investors and then it evolved to promote contingency litigation. One problem with investors was that attorneys might be willing to take money for a case which they did not think they could win. Contingency was a much better approach where the attorneys front costs and their labor time and only get paid if they win the case.

    Because contingency litigators are risking between two and as much as fifty million dollars on a case they are unlikely to pursue weak cases. That means that most of the claims about trolls are utter BS. There is a real inventor behind these cases who is generally being ripped off by big companies.

    The downside of contingency litigation is atht it is rare for any inventor whose recovery is less than ten million dollars to have their day in court, When the adversaries are really big companies where the costs may be as high as fifty million the threshold is more like a hundred million or more.

    This means that big companies can and do steal less then ten million with nearly total impunity and that below a hundred million they have at least a 50% probability of getting away with such theft.

    By the way, Masnick's ex employer Intel is well known for their belligerent attitude towards inventors and the same is true for all of his clients which have been exposed from time to time.

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