by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 28th 2012 2:37pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 31st 2011 2:31am
Lead Inventor On One Of The Patents Paul Allen Is Suing Over Worries About Litigation Over Innovation
from the not-supporting-innovation dept
He does note that he is contractually obligated to "defend intellectual property to which [he] contributed and to respect confidentiality," and he intends to live up to those obligations. However, he did not sign any kind of "no-speak" or "non-disparagement" agreement, and thus he's comfortable making a general statement expressing concern about how much money is focused on litigation instead of innovation these days:
I am also committed to fostering a vibrant creative culture. Long-term labs like Interval Research don't come along often, and I'm grateful for Paul Allen's support. But the stage is now set for enormous resources, from all sides, to support litigation over innovation. The creative community needs all the support it can muster, and it's a perplexing thought that the money at risk in this lawsuit will likely exceed the annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, possibly several times over. It could be hugely significant if all parties commit to something good for the creative community as an outcome.While the statement is carefully worded and balanced, it's good to see him at least suggest there's a serious problem in how much litigation has taken over for actual innovation.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 26th 2010 12:53am
from the tax-benefits dept
Apparently, another tactic is to move your "operation" from wherever it was to East Texas just before filing the lawsuit -- so you can claim that you're actually based there. That happened in a recent lawsuit, and the company being sued tried to have the venue moved, claiming that the "move" to East Texas was "a sham" designed solely to set the venue. However, as Joe Mullin notes, East Texas' most famous judge for patent cases, Judge Ward, is having none of it, suggesting there are plenty of other reasons a company might "move" to East Texas right before suing over patent infringement:
"[Defendant] argues that [plaintiff] moved its location from Ann Arbor to Longview as a sham concocted simply in anticipation of this litigation. . . . [A] business opens its doors in a particular location for a number of considerations, including the cost of rent, market profitability, cost of doing business, and tax benefits. The Court declines to scrutinize litigants' business decisions in order to determine whether opening an office in a particular location has a legitimate business purpose or is merely a 'tactic . . . to manipulate venue.'If you want to make some quick money, now might be a good time to set up a business that helps "small companies" quickly "set up offices in East Texas," because I get the feeling it's about to become a booming business.... for the tax benefits, of course.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 22nd 2009 3:22pm
from the if-you-can't-innovate,-litigate dept
This story nicely highlights a few other points as well. We keep hearing from patent system supporters how the patent system is necessary because, without it, the market leader would always just immediately copy the upstart and "steal" their idea. Of course, Nokia has had two plus years to "steal" Apple's idea, and where is it in the smartphone market? It's not so easy to just copy someone else's idea -- especially if you're a huge player like Nokia, who will often view the disruptive innovator as not being worthy of paying attention to (which basically was Nokia's reaction to the iPhone).
Separately, remember how confused we were when Steve Jobs proudly hyped up the fact that Apple had over 200 patents on the iPhone concept? We've pointed out that it's hardly done anything to stop lawsuits. Apple has been sued over and over and over and over and over and over again for patent infringement. Welcome to the tragedy of the anti-commons, where it becomes impossible to do pretty much anything innovative without facing massive legal costs. Basically, if you build anything even remotely innovative these days, you're going to get sued for patent infringement, probably multiple times. It's become a massive tax on innovation, rather than a lever for innovation.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 31st 2009 12:23pm
from the no-laughing-matter? dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 25th 2008 3:11am
from the until-it-needs-money...? dept
It involves getting a bunch of tech companies to pay up, so that this new company, RPX Corp., can buy up a bunch of patents "for defensive purposes only." The company insists it won't sue anyone with these patents. But, of course, the whole thing makes you wonder. For the companies that buy into RPX's deal (or IV's for that matter), they end up spending a bunch of money for a rather weak form of insurance that protects them in the very rare case where they might be able to use a patent in either firm's portfolio to maybe, possibly protect itself against an infringement lawsuit. It won't stop others from suing, of course. And, if RPX is serious about not suing for infringement, then why won't other firms just free ride? They get the benefit of those patents not being in litigious hands, but without having to pay. The whole situation just shows how ridiculous the patent litigation world is these days, that a bunch of companies feel the need to fund other companies to buy up patents just so they're not sued. That's not quite "promoting the progress."
by Timothy Lee
Fri, May 23rd 2008 10:35am
from the subject-matter-test-please dept
James Bessen and Michael Meurer, authors of an important new book on the patent system, have a great post on the problems created specifically by software patents. They argue that the most serious problem with software patents is that they tend to cover abstract concepts rather than specific physical devices or processes. As a result, the boundaries of software patents tend to be uncertain, leading to a lot of litigation. In many areas of patent law, the "enablement" rule (which says that patent applications have to describe an invention in enough detail to "enable" someone to replicate it) helps to ensure more precise definition of patent boundaries. But the patent office only requires a general description of an "invention's" functionality to get a software patent. As a result, there tends to be a lot of uncertainty about what a software patent covers, and uncertainty inevitably spawns litigation.
Bessen and Meurer don't offer a strong recommendation on the best way to solve the problems with software patents, but they tentatively endorse a "subject matter test" -- that is, reinstating the ban on software patents -- as one part of a solution to the problem. However, they worry that a subject matter restriction won't entirely solve the problem because applicants might resort to creative drafting to evade it. I'm not sure it's so hard to draw a line to exclude software patents. Ben Klemens has suggested a standard that strikes me as pretty serviceable: mathematical algorithms are not patentable, and coupling an algorithm with "insignificant postsolution activity" does not transform an unpatentable mathematical algorithm into a patentable machine. In particular, the mere act of loading software onto an ordinary general-purpose computer cannot transform an unpatentable algorithm into a patentable machine. Although this standard might not invalidate all problematic software patents, it would invalidate most of the really harmful ones. To take one example, NTP's infamous wireless email patents almost certainly wouldn't pass muster under Klemens's test because the "invention" in question consisted of running certain email-processing algorithms on generic computer hardware. If you took away the software component, you'd be left with an unpatentable collection of generic computers and generic wireless links. I'm sure there would be some hard cases that Klemens's test wouldn't deal with precisely, but it's certainly more precise than the tests the Federal Circuit is using now.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 7th 2008 2:40pm
from the it's-profitable dept
This sort of thing was inevitable, but it's still problematic. With Facebook generating so much publicity lately, and potentially gearing up for an IPO, it doesn't want these types of lawsuits hanging over it. So it's worth more to just settle and pay up, even if the claim itself is bogus. Yet, all this really does is encourage more similar lawsuits from companies that lost in the marketplace whining about competitors who did a better job executing. While some may say the ConnectU case is different because Zuckerberg worked with ConnectU for a few months, that hardly changes the basic facts of the case. This wasn't a new idea, and it's unlikely that ConnectU had done anything remarkably different than other competitors out there. In fact, it seems clear that it did not, since the site never went anywhere. Yet, because it's cheaper for Facebook to pay out and keep this quiet, ConnectU's founders get paid for failing in the marketplace. That's a bad precedent no matter how you look at it.