Will Cloud Computing Lead To Patent Liability For End Users?

from the promoting-progress-left-and-right dept

With so much focus on "cloud computing" these days, companies looking to leap into the cloud and to embrace the agility and flexibility it provides are being warned that there may be a looming problem on the horizon: patent litigation. Seriously. As with pretty much any hot area of technology these days, there's a pretty big patent thicket around cloud computing -- even if the basic technology really isn't all that different than what's been around for ages. But, of course, that won't stop opportunistic companies from claiming their patents cover new cloud services (or of having some players in the field attack competitors with patents). But where this becomes a bigger issue is that such patent lawsuits could bleed down to customers as well, meaning that they may take on more liability than they realize just in adopting a rather useful service:
"One model of enforcing patents says I can go after the manufacturer, but once I do I'm done because then all his sales are licensed," Goldberg said. "But if I keep going after all his customers, I can keep going forever and the customer is really not in the best position to fight back. So it creates increased risk."
Yes, this sounds ridiculous, but welcome to modern patent law. This is, clearly, a problem with patent law today. There are lots of really useful and valuable cloud services that provide much greater functionality than local offerings, but beyond questions concerning "outsourcing" certain important aspects of IT, the fact that it could also make companies liable for patent infringement is a big open question. Considering the threat, we'll actually be discussing this topic a bit in our upcoming Security in the Cloud Webinar, which is taking place Tuesday May 11th at 9am PT/noon ET.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Cynyr (profile), May 6th, 2010 @ 12:50pm

    wouldn't the customer be able to...

    wouldn't the customer be able to say "we bought it from XYZ, talk to them"? or be able to then turn around and sue the manufacturer for the costs+legal fees?

    Would having a publicly available parts list help the case at all? "why are you sueing us, you knew we got it from XYZ, and we were assured that it was fine to use by XYZ, we'd like our legal fees now"?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2010 @ 12:52pm

    "and the customer is really not in the best position to fight back."

    but going after everyone is expensive and restricting everyone's behavior to the point that a huge percentage of people become mindful of how their behavior is being restricted and how this harms them directly will get people to force the government to reform the patent system. The problem with our current system is that most people aren't mindful of how much it harms the consumers, much of that gets hidden behind closed doors and consumers merely pay higher prices for products without knowing why, but when consumers become directly mindful of the problems then they will force the government to change things.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2010 @ 1:22pm

    seeming trend of desperation to get seo for cloud computing.

     

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  4.  
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    RobShaver, May 6th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Then can they sue car manufactures?

    If Ford is selling a car with a patent infringement they your saying the patent holder can sue the people who bought the car? Worse, if the car is used as a taxi then the patent holder can sue everyone who hired that taxi.

    This kind of sounds unlikely to me.

     

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  5.  
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    Dis Guys, May 6th, 2010 @ 2:03pm

    Interesting

    These Articles have little actual content, but continually link to an event of dubious importance. How is this connecting with fans, again?

    The theme seems to be pushing for Cloud Computing, with glaring holes in the entire architecture throughout. Google Calendar has been down this morning, and yesterday. Their reaction was a shrug. Like them or not, Cloud vendors have to get over the idea that these outages are acceptable. I manage a few small-company networks, and for calendars to have an outage mid-day would be unacceptable to me, and I would be apologizing profusely.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 6th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Interesting

    These Articles have little actual content, but continually link to an event of dubious importance. How is this connecting with fans, again?

    Uh, given the large number of folks who have signed up for the webinar, it seems pretty important to them.

    The theme seems to be pushing for Cloud Computing, with glaring holes in the entire architecture throughout.

    Hmm. Pretty much all of these articles have been pointing to potential serious problems with cloud computing. Not sure how you call that "pushing for cloud computing."

    Their reaction was a shrug. Like them or not, Cloud vendors have to get over the idea that these outages are acceptable.

    Indeed. That's part of the point, and it's part of what we'll be discussing.

    I manage a few small-company networks, and for calendars to have an outage mid-day would be unacceptable to me, and I would be apologizing profusely.

    Indeed. But I'm not sure what that has to do with this post.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2010 @ 2:27pm

    I hope so

    then you twits can stop being in clouds and get back to reality

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    Re: I hope so

    Hey ... You... Get off of my Cloud. Hey, You ... Get off of my cloud. Don't hang around cause two's a crowd.

     

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  9.  
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    abc gum, May 6th, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    Sounds like someone is looking for a silver lining.

     

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

  10.  
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    Jason Jersey, May 7th, 2010 @ 12:18pm

    I disagree with the Writer!

    I disagree that end-users would be effected legally. Just like Cynyr explained. XYZ is the vendor, so the vendor would be liable for all damages to the patent. Never in a million years would the cloud computing patent holder be able to file suet against every end user and can't file suet against 1 without filing against all.

     

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  11.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 7th, 2010 @ 3:31pm

    Re: wouldn't the customer be able to...

    wouldn't the customer be able to say "we bought it from XYZ, talk to them"? or be able to then turn around and sue the manufacturer for the costs+legal fees?

    Not necessarily. Patents allow exclusion both from selling the invention and from using the invention... so they can sue both.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 7th, 2010 @ 3:33pm

    Re: I disagree with the Writer!

    I disagree that end-users would be effected legally. Just like Cynyr explained. XYZ is the vendor, so the vendor would be liable for all damages to the paten

    That's not what the law says, actually.

    Never in a million years would the cloud computing patent holder be able to file suet against every end user and can't file suet against 1 without filing against all.

    From a common sense standpoint, that sounds good. From a legal standpoint... not so much. Welcome to yet another problem with the patent system.

     

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  13.  
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    Was Seo, May 17th, 2010 @ 10:20am

    Terms and Conditions

    Wouldn't a vendor's disclaimer be able to prevent lawsuits? Excuse me if this is a naive question.

     

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  14.  
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    Meh, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 10:36pm

    Dumb terminals of the future that's all I can say on the subject.

     

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


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