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US Supreme Court Limits Patent Claims

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the handing-down-common-sense dept.

Patents 118

Aire Libre and other readers noted a unanimous Supreme Court decision that denied LG Electronics's attempt to evade the first-sale doctrine by use of "business method" patents. LG licensed patents to Intel, then attempted to dictate what use Intel's customers could make of the Intel products incorporating LG patents. The decision (PDF) notes how easily patents can be written up as "business methods" to nullify the first-sale doctrine ("exhaustion") and to give the patent owner perpetual control downstream. Aire Libre adds, "That reasoning bodes well for copyright freedom as well, in light of the growing number of copyright holders who seek to nullify the Copyright Act's limitation on the distribution right by claiming the goods are 'licensed, not sold,' or subject to some restrictive EULA."

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118 comments

It doesn't bode anything for copyright (5, Insightful)

Quarters (18322) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717201)

That reasoning bodes well for copyright freedom as well...

Reason has no place in a legal proceeding. Sad, but true. This ruling doesn't have any direct implications on copyright issues. Any perceived reason the justices showed with this ruling can only be tested against copyright if and when a similar dispute regarding copyright makes it to the Supreme Court. Until a person or organization has deep enough pockets to push/appeal a court case to the SC we'll never know if the justices' reason extends to copyright or not.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (4, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717361)

Strengthening the first sale doctrine does have bearing on Copyright issues, although how much depends on the judge.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717505)

Exactly. If the Supreme Court feels this way about patents, then, "reasonably", they'll feel the same way about copyright. Now we wait for copyright to reach the supreme court.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (4, Interesting)

wamerocity (1106155) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717883)

Wow, two good rulings in the space of 30 days. I might just start regaining faith in the judicial process again. Between this and the suit between Autodesk (autocad) and that guy on eBay who was told he couldn't sell used copies online. I thought that the eventuality of that decision was going to be tougher DRM restrictions from the software makers that make sold software impossible to install without some kind of online verification. But this ruling looks like the ball may be rolling in the right direction. Maybe I'll just wait to see what pans out before I get too excited... I've been severely disappointed in our government many times...

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (4, Interesting)

Kopiok (898028) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719133)

The Supreme Court, from what I have seen, generally makes well reasoned, intelligent, and in general good decisions about the cases they hear. The problem is it's so expensive, and so hard to get your case heard that they don't decide on nearly as many cases as I think they should. Of course, there's only one Supreme Court of the United States, so it'd be tough to hear every case.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23719187)

There are exceptions such as the walmart can take your house ruling.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (3, Interesting)

jadavis (473492) | more than 5 years ago | (#23725649)

I assume you're referring to Kelo v. New London. The interesting thing about that case is that all the dissenters were the conservatives. O'Connor, Rhenquist, Scalia, and Thomas all dissented from that horrible opinion.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (1)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 5 years ago | (#23723241)

dont they already reject a lot of cases from appeals in the first place?

J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (4, Interesting)

thtrgremlin (1158085) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718137)

... will likely make its way to the supreme court. The complexity of the case, and the controversy over YOUR Intellectual Property versus MY culture. Lawrence Lessig is on staff for RDR Books defending, the same lawyer that fought (ok, and lost) in Eldred v. Ashcroft. I know this is too much to ask, but I see no reason not to revert back to the Statute of Anne. Give copyright holders a FIRM grip over their IP to allow them to reap its rewards and present it the way they desire, BUT, after a "Limited Period of Time", give it to the people to let it grow and thrive.

Unless we are going to argue reincarnation, this lifetime is the only one I have. 'Forever' is my entire lifetime, or anyone elses. Nothing that is part of my culture can be remixed or reused by myself or virtually any generation I will ever see when there is a term limit of life + 70 years / 120 years.

Anyway, Lessig and others learned some HARD lessons, such as the power of money among other things, not to mention the series of some good small wins for EFF over the past year, for GPL and such, showing the value free and freedom to the public.

In light of the entire history of supreme court they can seem small, they have ruled on the side of reason defying long standing law, and majority opinion: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946). United States v. Miller, 317 U. S. 369. While Miller had to do with government taking, why can not the same PROPERTY law apply as they keep arguing. "It is the owner's loss, not the taker's gain, which is the measure of the value of the property taken." was ruled. As for Rowling v. RDR Books, IMO, an idea only becomes culture AFTER it is given to the public. And you CAN'T copyright an IDEA. Making cultural references to an idea aren't piracy, and not even plagiarism, it is literature in its absolute meaning.

So I hope that this case shows that the supreme court is ready to rule on the side of reason that Congress CAN NOT hide away like it did after LaMacchia with the NET Act. Eldred v. Ashcroft 537 U.S. 186 (2003) ruled the way it did because the argument made could not beat the argument of big money, so YES, I think this case COULD have major implications in the near future over copyright.

The only circumstances under which I could be persuaded otherwise would be if they tax this PROPERTY progressively with respect to the amount of time on copyright, gross value earned from copyright, and number of copyrights held by a person. This would make it EQUAL with real property. At present, any vaguely original though or artistry I express in a tangible way has GREATER protection than the home for my family. And before I am accused of making a straw man, consider the ways you can loose and reclaim an IP versus the way you can loose and reclaim your house.

Hope that wasn't too off topic for anyone, just my thoughts on the supreme court and reason.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718343)

You really can't limit term of copyright to the author's lifetime. People work for companies that fund their work in exchange for a regular salary. This would bind the value of the work to the age and health of the employee, leading to all sorts of economic pressure to not fund the work of older people.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (2, Interesting)

thtrgremlin (1158085) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718505)

I am not sure I understand. I was arguing for a reasonable, fix period of time without respect to the life of the author. When an employee is making content for a company, that content gets a fixed 95 years from time of publication, or 120 years max. However, profit wise, I am sure the content industry is aware of "The Long Tail", even if it is an issue they like to avoid. In this respect the content industry is interested in control, not profit, when making purchases, as copyright value for an individual work is limited to 4 years for most works, and 7 in the rarest of circumstances.

The only other part about lifetime I was arguing was that the in Eldred the supreme court said that the constitutions "limited period" means congress can set any period of time such that it is not "forever". I was arguing existentially that a term greater than my lifetime IS forever.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (2, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718549)

What about life of author or 20 years, whichever is longer.

Heck, we could go up to life of author or 70 years and still result in more reasonable copyright terms than what we have now.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23718591)

So just make it a fixed 14 year term like it should be, regardless of death of the author. Author dies the next year, copyright exists for 13 years more.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (5, Interesting)

thtrgremlin (1158085) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718993)

The only empirical evidence where data was used to calculate maximum profitability for a creative work was in The Long Tail, and to the authors surprise, he concluded that the most reasonable copyright term would be 4 years, 3 years renewable for a max term of 7 years. Anything longer was pointless and hindered progress.

I have no desire to see copyright widdled away towards something reasonable. It was extended past 14 years through a corrupted process people are recognizing, and it is time for it to be fixed!

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (1)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 5 years ago | (#23726455)

I agree. But, given the longevity of current human beings, I would say 18 years is a reasonable alternative. If they haven't been able to write another best seller by then, tough; they obviously weren't cut out to make a living writing -- time to find other employment.

Additionally, corporations should have no special treatment in this regard -- *particularly* in this regard.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (2, Insightful)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23721037)

That doesn't make any sense. Even with infinite copyright, if an older worker is no longer producing new material you can lay them off and still keep getting royalties from the work they produced when young. The value of employing someone depends on the work they are doing now, not what they did in the past. A fourteen year copyright term doesn't change the economics.

Of course, this applies only if you assume companies are out to get the maximum profit. If you assume that record companies and publishers are charitable trusts set up to provide employment for talented authors and look after them in their old age, it might make sense to ensure that the companies keep getting the money they so desperately need to continue the good work.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 5 years ago | (#23722573)

'If you assume that record companies and publishers are charitable trusts set up to provide employment for talented authors and look after them in their old age,...'

Well, that seems to be be their self-view, what with their 'Think of the Artists!!' refrain ;^)

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (3, Interesting)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23723297)

Oh, I see what you meant: if the copyright term is the author's lifetime, then a work produced by a 20 year old has more value than one produced by a 70 year old. It's a fair point but somehow people feel that it is fair for authors to exercise control over their work while they live.

I think the original formulation struck a good balance: 14 years, extensible for another 14 while the author is alive. This still has a bias towards younger authors but it's less.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#23722599)

You really can't limit term of copyright to the author's lifetime. People work for companies that fund their work in exchange for a regular salary. This would bind the value of the work to the age and health of the employee, leading to all sorts of economic pressure to not fund the work of older people.
Also evil publishers will keep JK Rowling alive but incapacitated for centuries using stem cells like the Emperor in Warhammer 40K.

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 5 years ago | (#23720213)

As for Rowling v. RDR Books, IMO, an idea only becomes culture AFTER it is given to the public. And you CAN'T copyright an IDEA. Making cultural references to an idea aren't piracy, and not even plagiarism, it is literature in its absolute meaning.
Apparently, the author of the encyclopedia actually lifted 90% of his book directly from the HP series. Like, cut and pasted.

You can't call that "not piracy."

Re:J.K Rowling v. RDR Books... (2, Insightful)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 5 years ago | (#23723239)

Do you have a reference for that? All Ive heard is that it is an encyclopedia documenting the HP universe. I would be surprised if it didnt quote large part of the HP books as references, but I have heard nothing about cutting and pasting 90% of the book.

The HP case is kind of reminding me of the rather stupid cease and desist letters that Paramount was sending to Star Trek fan sites years ago. They quickly stop doing that when some suit in Paramount realised that the *only* reason that ST is a successful franchise is because of the fan base.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (5, Informative)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717449)

The "first sale doctrine" has already been used to kill attempts by copyright holders to limit downstream use. The rulings have been consistently correct. The general reasoning, as was used in Softman V. Adobe [wikipedia.org] is that if A) there is a one time fee, and not ongoing payments, and B) use is unlimited, not time limited, it is a "sale of goods" not a license. And if it is a sale of goods, then the first sale doctrine applies, and that's that.

It may vary somewhat from state to state, but for the most part, the Uniform Commercial Code [cornell.edu] is the standard for all state laws that will determine whether software is sold as a sale of goods or licensed. And being a copyright issue, this will generally be decided in federal court anyway.

This ia a good ruling, but for anyone who pays attention, not a big surprise.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (2, Informative)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718327)

This is, yet again, an overbroad reading of the state of the art. The sale of goods is a component and applies to the transaction, but it does not preclude a license to the software as well. In fact, the opinion in the very case you cite reflects that. The EULA does not apply to the distributor because the package was never opened--the distributor has every right to move the box as it likes consistent with DFS.

This has exactly zero bearing on whether the software is licensed to users (it is, and this too is established law). Of note: "Adobe frames the issue as a dispute about the ownership of intellectual property. In fact, it is a dispute about the ownership of individual pieces of Adobe software. Section 202 of the Copyright Act recognizes a distinction between tangible *1085 property rights in copies of the work and intangible property rights in the creation itself.FN11 In this case, no claim is made that transfer of the copy involves transfer of the ownership of the intellectual property within." 171 F. Supp. at 1084. This means that transfer of the medium is not governed by a copyright license. This fundamental error in Adobe's argument is the nexus of the case, not the false dichotomy of "sale or license" (where in fact, most transactions are both as respecting different element). This may seem a complicated legal construct, but it is actually one designed to preserve broad rights for non-rightsholders.

The distributor buys a box. They sell the box. It is a transaction in goods. Whether or not the goods contain a license in effect with a third party is immaterial. The ruling does not suggest anything with regard to software being "sold" to end users to the exclusion of license terms, nor does it speak in the least to the enforceability of EULAs (again, an issue specifically not addressed in Softman. In fact, the EULA itself is used to support the sale of goods determination with regard to the distributor: "However, the existence of this notice on the box cannot bind SoftMan. Reading a notice on a box is not equivalent to the degree of assent that occurs when the software is loaded onto the computer and the consumer is asked to agree to the terms of the license." Pages would not be dedicated to something viewed to have no weight.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23718017)

I think I'll patent the business process of....obtaining a patent. That will be the end of this nonsense once and for all. Bahaha!

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718295)

Probably for the best... the summary's description of Copyright usage sounds an awful lot like the GPL...

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (2, Interesting)

TekPolitik (147802) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718365)

That reasoning bodes well for copyright freedom as well...
Reason has no place in a legal proceeding.

I agree that the reasoning does not bode anything for copyright freedom, but not for the reasons you indicate. Reasoning is actually very important to legal proceedings. Evidential issues can often get in the way, but if the evidence produces a clear set of facts then with very few exceptions, reasoning will provide a clear answer. It's comparatively rare to see this in court because usually when a case makes it all the way to a court decision the reason is that either there is a dispute about the evidence or the case is one that is close to the boundaries. In the remaining cases you have a butthead litigant with a butthead lawyer who is happy to use the court procedure as a weapon to drain and defeat their opponent even though their opponent should clearly win on the facts and the evidence.

The reason this doesn't mean anything for copyright freedom (at least in the way the summary suggests) is that the "licensed vs sold" distinction isn't as great as it might seem. You own the physical copy you buy, but you have to have a license to make copies of that. When you run software in (or install software on) a computer the computer makes copies, and you need a licence to do that. This is really not legally controversial. There may be an implied license in the circumstances, but it is quite possible for the implied license to be excluded, depending on all the circumstances.

Does it mean anything for the first sale doctrine in the US as it applies to copyright? Maybe, maybe not. Ask an American lawyer. From my antipodeon viewpoint it seems that first sale doctrine is really just a rule of interpreting licences and determining the existence of and scope of implied licences. This case dealt with a situation where Intel was granted a license and a separate agreement between Intel and the plaintiffs purported to restrict any implied licenses associated with it. It seems, from reading the headnotes, that this is a case that really revolved around its circumstances and if the plaintiff had limited the scope of the original license the outcome might be different.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (2, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719311)

The reason this doesn't mean anything for copyright freedom (at least in the way the summary suggests) is that the "licensed vs sold" distinction isn't as great as it might seem. You own the physical copy you buy, but you have to have a license to make copies of that. When you run software in (or install software on) a computer the computer makes copies, and you need a licence to do that. This is really not legally controversial.

You're right, it's not, not in the US. 17 USC 117(a) states specifically that if you own a copy of a piece software, further copies you make in order to use that software do not require a license.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719825)

Well, if I buy a book, do I need a license to read it? No. It's copyrighted. If I buy a song, do I need a license to listen to it? Well, no, not technically, although I'm sure I paid some sort of license fee for the device needed to listen to the product due to terms imposed on the manufacturer (if I bought the device new), whether it's for LP vinyl, CD, cassette tape, 8-track, etc.

But if I had my own laboratory, equipment and inclination, there's nothing stopping me from using a small diode laser or two and doing the necessary miniature optics devices to use instead of running a little chip of diamond through the groove, and figuring out how to get some firm in Taiwan to make a couple of hundred a year (I'd want to sell them to audiophiles first, you know, the ones that can "hear" the difference between Monster Cables and everything else...). Granted, patents on LP technology have expired. But what if I used similar techniques to read the magnetic particles off of tape? Hmm... true audiophile market there, right?

Anyhow.

The point I was getting at, if it's copyrighted, it shouldn't be licensable (its distribution might be) in the sense that the copyrightee has downstream rights for how I use the product other than what has been already defined for copyrighted works, unlike how it is for computer software.

Software has cherry-picked the best from both licensing (escaping liability and warranty of fitness while maintaining "ownership" of the product) as well as copyright (keep others from copying it).

Most/all of the proprietary works I've seen that the owner wishes to maintain control over are NOT copyrighted, they are treated as proprietary works - you check them out, you check them in, you don't get a copy for yourself, and, no, they won't give you one to look at outside of their control.

Re:It doesn't bode anything for copyright (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 5 years ago | (#23722517)

But maybe for other patent restrictions; for example: I wonder how

'The doctrine says that the sale of an invention exhausts the patent-holder's right to control how the purchaser uses it.'

will affect Monsantos restrictions on reuse of seed?

Interesting... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23717253)

...that it is the very same conservative US Supreme Court that liberal slashdotters have been damning for years are the ones that strike this blow for freedom.

Even worse for liberal pride, it was Clarence Thomas who wrote the opinion.

Never fear, once Obama becomes president the courts will be filled with Hollywood's choices once again and this inconvenience event will be relegated to obscure history.

Re:Interesting... (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717383)

Well, let's put this in perspective. This is about one batch of capitalists battling against another batch of capitalists over an abusive patent method that, while ultimately screwing the consumer, does not in fact directly involve the consumer (it's not terribly likely that you or I were going to be directly sued by LG).

Still, it's good to see that there's some recognition at the top of the system that these patent shenanigans are beginning to seriously compromise manufacturing and development.

Re:Interesting... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23717409)

True to the trollage, i must say that obama SEEMS less threatening on the freedom of speech side than hillary (the think-of-the-children queen), but i must say that both parties seem to want to limit such freedoms. Its just a question of HOW they are wanting to limit such freedoms.

Course, not enough of the population seems to care and simply 'roots for their team'. Just an observation from outside your nation.

Re:Interesting... (5, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717483)

...that it is the very same conservative US Supreme Court that liberal slashdotters have been damning for years are the ones that strike this blow for freedom.

Haha, actually I've been cheering them because despite being stacked with conservatives, they have still handed Bush his most significant legal setbacks of his entire eight years. Something the majority Democrat Congress has been unable to do. It's the Republicans who have been gnashing their teeth at the Supreme Court for being 'activist judges' when they won't let Congress or the President do something for no more reason than the Constitution says they can't.

Personally, I just take this to mean that in the eyes of the least politically motivated branch of government, even when stacked with conservative opinions, Bush is way out on the right on a great many things. Yet another sign of how our country's "left-right" barometer is currently skewed heavily to the right. So don't worry. Even when some liberal justices get appointed, it won't cause the court to significantly skew to the left. While in some ways counter-intuitive, it's amazing how our least Democratic branch of government is in a unique position to protect our Democracy.

Re:Interesting... (3, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717813)

WTF?! SCOTUS shouldn't be "left" or "right" wing! I want a Supreme Court that will read the Constitution as-is and from the beginning of it's creation. That last thing we need is for SCOTUS to interperate it in a shape/form that fits with "modern times". Screw that! If a line isn't drawn in drawn in the sand from the get go, what's the point of having this core document?

Sorry for my ranting folks, but this just bugs the hell outta me. If you want the Constitution changed, then vote to ammend it. I do not want some judge changing the original meaning to fit with their own political ideology and/or dreams for a different future.

Re:Interesting... (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718009)

WTF?! SCOTUS shouldn't be "left" or "right" wing! I want a Supreme Court that will read the Constitution as-is and from the beginning of it's creation. That last thing we need is for SCOTUS to interperate it in a shape/form that fits with "modern times". Screw that! If a line isn't drawn in drawn in the sand from the get go, what's the point of having this core document?

Which, as I was trying to point out, is largely the case. You can't possibly prevent the justices from holding what you might call conservative or liberal viewpoints. Yet despite this, and despite efforts to deliberately get as many of a certain viewpoint on the bench as possible, the Supreme Court of the U.S. remains largely centrist. Overall, they have done a better job of respecting and sticking to the Constitution by far than either of the other two branches. They are the "line in the sand" you refer to, and they've done a very good job of stopping people from crossing it.

In so much as they can. I mean, they don't have the ability to rule on arbitrary issues, so as long as warrantless wiretapping doesn't come before them in a case, they have no ability to rule on it.

Sorry for my ranting folks, but this just bugs the hell outta me. If you want the Constitution changed, then vote to ammend it. I do not want some judge changing the original meaning to fit with their own political ideology and/or dreams for a different future.

Which has been happening far, far less often than you probably think. The fact is that everyone colors their interpretation of the Constitution and what it means "from the beginning of its creation" with the political ideology. I consider myself very much a constructionist (or I guess origionalist [wikipedia.org]), yet I don't delude myself that my reading of what "the Founding Father's intended" isn't affected by my own beliefs.

The demonstrated ability of SCOTUS to resist this influence in their rulings is rather impressive to me, especially compared to the other two examples. All this screaming about "activist judges" changing the Constitution to suit their whims (in either direction, "left" or "right") is vastly overplayed, if not played out.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719063)

The SCOTUS haven't respected the Constitution for a long time. c.f. Wickard v. Filburn [wikipedia.org]. The fact that anyone can argue that that is a reasonable interpretation of the interstate commerce clause simply defies belief. I mean, deep down, they have to know that's wrong, right?

Re:Interesting... (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | more than 5 years ago | (#23724363)

The SCOTUS haven't respected the Constitution for a long time. c.f. Wickard v. Filburn. The fact that anyone can argue that that is a reasonable interpretation of the interstate commerce clause simply defies belief. I mean, deep down, they have to know that's wrong, right?
Correct. If the members of the SCOTUS at that time had bothered to do any reading around the reason for the Interstate Commerce clause, they would have known that while the Articles of Confederation were in effect, the States were charging tarrifs on all sorts of goods coming into their States from other States and it was causing major problems. The intent of the Interstate Commerce clause was to encourage the free flow of goods between the States.

Changing the original meaning? (5, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718037)

> I do not want some judge changing the original meaning

I don't get it. You actually believe that the words of the Constitution encode enough information to enable everyone to unequivocally understand what the authors of that document believed should be done in all possible situations (even assuming they had one unanimous opinion)?

Face it. That's impossible, and that's why we have judges. And why they're constantly overturning old decisions and laws.

Of course, I do agree with you that judges shouldn't be making their decisions based on partisan loyalty. But one has to cope with the fact that they are human also.

Re:Changing the original meaning? (1)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718425)

Of course the Constitution isn't supposed to "encode enough information to enable everyone to unequivocally understand what the authors of that document believed should be done in all possible situations." That's why the Constitution and the bill of rights are about *enabling* the government to perform certain tasks, and the rest of it should be left up to Congress -- to pass laws -- and the states, to whom the default of power is given.

Re:Changing the original meaning? (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23720321)

Of course the Constitution isn't supposed to "encode enough information to enable everyone to unequivocally understand what the authors of that document believed should be done in all possible situations." That's why the Constitution and the bill of rights are about *enabling* the government to perform certain tasks, and the rest of it should be left up to Congress -- to pass laws -- and the states, to whom the default of power is given.
1) The Bill of Rights I'm familiar with mainly deals with enabling the public (and inhibiting the government) --- what is the connection between the First Amendment and enabling the government, for example?

2) Your argument appears to totally miss my point, which was not connected with whether the "meaning" has an enabling or inhibiting sense. In both cases you're still going to need judges to define the behavior of the legal system in borderline cases. (My apologies if your post was not meant as a rebuttal to mine --- in that case, just ignore #2)

Re:Changing the original meaning? (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | more than 5 years ago | (#23724631)

That's why the Constitution and the bill of rights are about *enabling* the government to perform certain tasks, and the rest of it should be left up to Congress -- to pass laws -- and the states, to whom the default of power is given.
Congress is part of the federal government. Its powers are defined in the Constitution.

Re:Changing the original meaning? (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718765)

Not only that, but the law governs human beings. Human beings change. Society changes, some less, some more, over long periods of time. The constitution, being not law itself but that which is the foundation for all of our laws, should be read according to the society in which it currently represents.

For example, the internet is blurring the line between interstate and intrastate commerce. It is (or not) constitutional for state and local taxes to be applied to sales between a store in California and a customer in Washington, when the server hosting the storefront and processing the sale is sitting in Texas? What if the server is in California? Or in Washington, for that matter? Basically, is this interstate commerce or not?

Or, perhaps the commerce clause should be amended. But if we keep tacking on such minor revisions to every new thing, we end up with such a ridiculously long and convoluted document that only the lawyers will be able to understand (like the federal tax code and accountants). In such a case, the system of government the founders imagined would be thwarted simply because the common People will no longer have easy access to the constitution, and will not be able to carry out their duties as the People. Granted, the common person doesn't anyway, but there are those of us who are not lawyers, politicians, or activists, but are still interested. This is partly why amendments are reserved for times when the constitution needs to actually be amended (outright contradicted in some form), and not where some existing section needs to be clarified. That, and it's incredibly difficult to get one to pass, and could end up being political suicide if it fails to pass.

Re:Changing the original meaning? (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | more than 5 years ago | (#23724847)

Not only that, but the law governs human beings. Human beings change. Society changes, some less, some more, over long periods of time. The constitution, being not law itself but that which is the foundation for all of our laws, should be read according to the society in which it currently represents.
ABSOLUTELY NOT! If you do this, there is no foundation at all!

For example, the internet is blurring the line between interstate and intrastate commerce. It is (or not) constitutional for state and local taxes to be applied to sales between a store in California and a customer in Washington, when the server hosting the storefront and processing the sale is sitting in Texas? What if the server is in California? Or in Washington, for that matter? Basically, is this interstate commerce or not?
It depends upon where the seller and buyer reside. If both reside in the same state, it is intrastate commerce. Otherwise, it is interstate commerce. Where the transaction is processed doesn't matter.

Re:Changing the original meaning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23719391)

I don't get it. You actually believe that the words of the Constitution encode enough information to enable everyone to unequivocally understand what the authors of that document believed should be done in all possible situations (even assuming they had one unanimous opinion)?

And even if we could, would we want to? Lets not forget than more than one of the founding Fathers was a slave owner. Since they obviously thought that was A-okay, does that mean we should uphold the same principles today?

I've heard people say, "What would Jefferson say to this abuse? What would Washinton say to such and such?"

In all honesty, what would Washington say to see Obama in the Presidency? I think he'd say: "What the hell is that nigger doing in the Oval Office and why is he wearing a tie?

Cheap shot (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23720201)

> what would Washington say to see Obama in the Presidency ...

I think that's kind of a strawman. It might be what he would say if he were shown that scenario with no context, but what is actually important is what he would say if he were also to be exposed (at a slow enough rate to absorb) to all of the societal changes which have taken place in the meantime, before being shown Obama.

<pedantic>
BTW, the Oval Office was built in 1909 [wikipedia.org] and I doubt that Washington would recognize a modern necktie [wikipedia.org], either. And "nigger" wasn't necessarily derogatory, in Washington's time [wikipedia.org].
</pedantic>

Re:Interesting... (4, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718045)

I agree, though you'll still get odd 'liberal' and 'conservative' readings of the constitution. Especially stuff that isn't cut and dried in the constitution, such as abortion.

For example, the earlier poster thinks that the court is conservative, while I think that it's dangerously liberal - just look at the gaping hole that is the commerce clause today.

Of course, I tend to think that the founders wrote in rather plain language, and generally speaking, KISS should apply. Especially from circuit courts, I've seen torturous readings of laws to essentially try to say that the law means the opposite of what it says.

And yes, this includes stuff like same sex marriage, abortion, discrimination, etc... It's not that I actually have a problem with same sex marriage*. I'm generally pro-choice**, and I don't care whether you're white, yellow, or black. Don't even care if you're green or purple other than curiosity as to how you got to be that way.

My objection is philosophical in nature - courts are not to be 'legislating from the bench', inventing rights, etc... If we decide that we need a new right, it should be acknowledged in the traditional way - amend the constitution. For that matter, I tend to think that legislators who propose, vote for, and enact blatantly unconstitutional laws should be fired.

*I'm of the opinion it should be civil unions for all, if you want to call yourself married find a priest, priestess, rabbi, mullah, witchdoctor, whatever willing to perform the ceremony.
**for first trimester, second should require some special circumstances, and third some serious medical issue(like it being discovered that said baby has no brain, and will die within a week of birth even with life support). If it should be done, the morning-after pill should be used. It should not be for sex selection, or just because you're too lazy of a dumbass to use birth control. On the other hand, if you're such a dumbass, you shouldn't be having kids anyways.

Re:Interesting... (1)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718159)

... I'm generally pro-choice ... like it being discovered that said baby has no brain ...
What, and deny the world the next generation of Reality TV stars?

Re:Interesting... (1)

elnico (1290430) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718333)

My objection is philosophical in nature - courts are not to be 'legislating from the bench', inventing rights, etc...
The problem with that sentiment is that many of the better decisions of the court (which you no doubt agree with) were cases where the court went out on a limb, setting precedents that they saw as a logic extension of the law, but which others might call "'legislating from the bench', inventing rights." Two off the top of my head: Miranda v. Arizona [wikipedia.org] (Miranda rights), and Mapp v. Ohio [wikipedia.org] (inadmissible evidence).

Re:Interesting... (2, Insightful)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718975)

"If we decide that we need a new right, it should be acknowledged in the traditional way - amend the constitution."

It has already been done. It is the 9th amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Just because a right isn't listed in the constitution, that doesn't mean it isn't constitutionally protected. (But clearly it helps.)

Re:Interesting... (1)

Tungbo (183321) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719029)

"For example, the earlier poster thinks that the court is conservative, while I think that it's dangerously liberal - just look at the gaping hole that is the commerce clause today."

I would like to refer you to a recent article in the NY Times which pointed out that in the first year of the Roberts court, a great majority of the decisions came down to 5-4 votes split along the typical ideological line. Even Judge Posner criticized this record. So far this year, there are signs that the Chief Justice is working harder to achive a stronger consensus, thus we're getting more 6-3 or 7-2 votes and presumably decision with nuance. So while GW Bush nominated Roberts on his conservative plus judicial credentials, Roberts appears to wish to avoid looking too partisan.

Interesingly enough, the words 'abortion' and 'marriage' does not appear in the US constitution. Nor does the word "internet". So in such cases, should SCOTUS leave them ALL to the states or should they make reasonable extrapolations based on other historical precedents?

Re:Interesting... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#23720023)

Interesingly enough, the words 'abortion' and 'marriage' does not appear in the US constitution. Nor does the word "internet". So in such cases, should SCOTUS leave them ALL to the states or should they make reasonable extrapolations based on other historical precedents?


Personally, I think such controversial issues should be left at the state level. We have fifty of them. There's nothing wrong with a little diversity in America IMHO. Besides, the general idea behind federalism was to allow more control at the state level so as to have each state compete against each other in the arena of ideas and economy.

Can I make a giant leap here? We are in this mess today because of slavery. While it was necessary to have it abolished, the defeat of the South solidified power/control being stripped at the state level.

Re:Interesting... (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | more than 5 years ago | (#23725531)

Can I make a giant leap here? We are in this mess today because of slavery. While it was necessary to have it abolished, the defeat of the South solidified power/control being stripped at the state level.
I blame it on Lincoln, and indirectly, slavery. The confederate states seceded from the union and Lincoln said they couldn't do that. Given that the Constitution defines the powers granted to the Federal government and there is nothing in the Constitution that says a State can't secede from the Union, Amendment 10, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.", applies and Lincoln exceeded his authority, as President, by preventing the confederate states from leaving the United States.

Now if one or more of the former states had later decided they wanted back in, Congress could have said no, and it would have all been constitutional.

Re:Interesting... (1)

BooRolla (824295) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719493)

My objection is philosophical in nature - courts are not to be 'legislating from the bench', inventing rights, etc... If we decide that we need a new right, it should be acknowledged in the traditional way - amend the constitution.

I think you might need to read your copy of the constitution closer. People have rights. The government has powers. If something isn't directly coded as a power of government, it IS a right of the people. See the 9th amendment for more details

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23722313)

My objection is philosophical in nature - courts are not to be 'legislating from the bench', inventing rights, etc... If we decide that we need a new right, it should be acknowledged in the traditional way - amend the constitution.

For starters, there is no need to amend the Constitution for every new right that may be asserted. It's covered in the existing Ninth Amendment -- "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." I have read that at least one of the founders objected to including the Bill of Rights because, as he said, "In two hundred years, some fool will try to say a right doesn't exist because it wasn't specifically included here."

The Ninth Amendment was the answer to that argument.

You complain that courts should not be 'legislating from the bench'. Somehow, I suspect that this cliche was invented by someone with an agenda. By nullifying a law as unconstitutional, the court must of necessity 'legislate from the bench'. At least that is an open process, unlike the actions of the bastard Bush. Not only does he 'legislate from the Oval Office' by his constant "signing statements", but worse, he also does so by issuing secret "executive orders", which is a direct usurpation of the power of Congress. Then the fucking coward includes in the order that the order is not subject to any form of court review or supervision. Thus we have the prostitution of the law in the case of warrantless wiretapping, among other (il)legal horrors.

Say all you want about theories of shits like John Yu about the concept of the "unitary executive". But it is clearly against the Constitution to collapse all three of the Constitutionally-established branches of government into the single person of the president. If you can't understand that simple concept, you should examine your conscience as to your worthiness to even engage in this conversation.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 5 years ago | (#23727159)

For example, the earlier poster thinks that the court is conservative, while I think that it's dangerously liberal - just look at the gaping hole that is the commerce clause today.

I think this is trickier than you imply, though. The gaping hole can't be fixed without overturning precedent. A SCOTUS decision about a constitutional matter, even a really stupid and bad one, becomes the law, don't you think? Thus a conservative SCOTUS has a problem: do they defy the written constitution, or defy the precedent? They lose their "conservative" label either way.

IMHO, the only good bugfix for the interstate commerce error, is to pass Yet Another amendment, which defines interstate commerce. That definition can be a very plain common-sense one that every layman would just assume is already the case (but isn't).

I don't think it's realistic to expect SCOTUS, no matter how conservative, to overturn a decades-old liberal SCOTUS decision. It's done and a constitutional patch is required.

Re:Interesting... (4, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718073)

While I understand (and mostly agree with) your point...

I do not want my neighbors to have thermonuclear weapons under the 2nd amendment.

And if they can't, then the document is subject to interpretation in light of current technology for reasonableness.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23718403)

While I understand (and mostly agree with) your point...

I do not want my neighbors to have thermonuclear weapons under the 2nd amendment.

And if they can't, then the document is subject to interpretation in light of current technology for reasonableness.
Or, as technology changes, we could amend the constitution to reflect the new situation, explicitly excluding the likes of fusion bombs from the second amendment. Like we're supposed to.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718565)

I don't recall anywhere in the constitution or federalist papers where they considered the long term implications of the 2nd amendment with regard to technology.
You saying we are "supposed" to is about the same as the judges interpreting something.

Legalities never work for constitutions. You can't make a fusion bomb really illegal because then they find something 99% a fusion bomb that isn't one. Laws can keep up but constitutions become very ugly very fast if they try that approach.

Re:Interesting... (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | more than 5 years ago | (#23725903)

I don't recall anywhere in the constitution or federalist papers where they considered the long term implications of the 2nd amendment with regard to technology.
You saying we are "supposed" to is about the same as the judges interpreting something.
No. The Founding Fathers knew that they couldn't cover every possible situation and made provisions for amending the Constitution. "Supposed to" has nothing to do with it.

Legalities never work for constitutions. You can't make a fusion bomb really illegal because then they find something 99% a fusion bomb that isn't one. Laws can keep up but constitutions become very ugly very fast if they try that approach.
Apples and oranges. Legality refers to laws. Constitutional refers to the Constitution. The Constitution wasn't supposed to be tinkered with and this is why changing it is so difficult. If you don't like this, there is a process for changing that too.

Re:Interesting... (2, Interesting)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718663)

If you read and interpret the document within the context of its writing, the meaning remains clear. The right to keep and bear arms does not automatically extend to thermonuclear weapons, because it could not have meant such to the framers. Examined in context, the framers were clearly referring to arms (contemporary to the day) that would have been in the hands of the average person. This would have included firearms, knives, and swords. [I don't know if it wouild have included items afforded by wealth, such as cannons.]

While one can reason that this right to keep and bear arms would expand to include modern weapons, I believe that the historical record is clear enough to rule out the expansion of such rights to weapons of mass destruction as are nuclear weapons. One could argue, however, that the States could retain a nuclear arsenal, as a deterrent against the misuse of the national army against the States (a frightening thought, but one that seems to be in line with the intent of the framers).

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23720119)

Examined in context, the framers were clearly referring to arms (contemporary to the day) that would have been in the hands of the average person
By that rationale, the 5th amendment doesn't apply to telecommunications.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23724329)

i would support the right of people to have ANY WEAPON WHATSOEVER as long as the mere possession of that weapon doesn't present an unreasonable danger to other people.

simply having a machine gun in your garage does not pose a threat to anyone. even having a bazooka in your garage does not pose an imminent threat to anyone.

BUT - having nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in your garage most likely DOES present an imminent threat to people around you, because your house is not equipped to contain these weapons and their residual effects. even a stockpile of conventional explosives presents a substantial risk to the people around you.

that's why the "you don't want people to have nuclear weapons, DO YOU???" strawman always bugs me.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23727023)

I'm not sure I'd allow nukes either but it just might be better than allowing no handguns.

Besides, no single person could afford to buy one anyway so the point it moot. By the time you come to a weapon that a single person could reasonably afford to buy or build (even so much as a tank--some guy built one) I find it in all cases better to allow it than to run the risk of banning such guns as are sane for self defense.

Re:Interesting... (2, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718313)

the only reason the SCOTUS seems "biased" is that they can only REACT to cases brought all the way to trial by the executive (meaning a law has to be passed). That means the Legislature can write bad laws all day.. if they're never tested in court cases the court can never see them. In the same way, the Executive can pull the same crap.. like with the enemy combatant fiasco, where the DOJ kept shuffling charges and situations to keep the Court from having a case to rule on.

hence when the court gets a crack at something it's usually all or nothing. They only get to use the big hammer of throwing out laws based on breaking the Constitution, they don't typically rule on the "facts" of cases. From the other two branches perspective they can spin the court as allowing "lawbreakers" to flourish because they are the only court that judges LAW not citizens.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23718865)

WTF?! SCOTUS shouldn't be "left" or "right" wing! I want a Supreme Court that will read the Constitution as-is and from the beginning of it's creation.
From the beginning of it's creation it was interpreted differently, by those who wrote it no less. The break between Federalists(Hamilton) & Democratic-Republicans(Madison, Jefferson) was the birth of the two party system in the US. The Constitution is by no means a perfect document, it was written by the same people whose first attempt at establishing a government failed. It was written with vague compromises such that broad interpretation was possible by the various ruling interests.
The founders had their own Patriot Act (Alien & Sedition Acts), political stacking of the judiciary (Midnight Judges), had contracts for private security forces to attack civilian targets (Privateers), and dealth with war against a Muslim country and the religious issues involved with such entanglement(Barbary wars).
 
The more things change the more thing stay the same

Re:Interesting... (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 5 years ago | (#23726881)

I want a Supreme Court that will read the Constitution as-is and from the beginning of it's creation.

In other words, you want a right-wing SCOTUS. :-)

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23718031)

> Something the majority Democrat Congress has been unable to do.

Unwilling. Not unable, unwilling.

Re:Interesting... (2, Insightful)

rgoldste (213339) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718041)

You know, the Bush administration supported Quanta in this case. TFA says so. This wasn't a conservative/liberal issue--this was a commercial dispute between two corporate giants--and the fact that the decision was unanimous attests to that. Contrary to popular belief, not every Supreme Court decision is an earth-shattering moment in the culture wars. Most of the Court's docket is really boring, like resolving the water rights conflict between NJ and Delaware over the Delaware river, or determining the proper scope of ERISA preemption.

I want to point out that the Court is not on the same left/right continuum as most of American politics. For example, check out U.S. v. Santos, where a plurality composed of Scalia, Thomas, Souter, and Ginsburg (Stevens concurred separately) interpreted a criminal statute in a solidly pro-defendant manner. I'm not saying that political orientation is irrelevant in predicting the Court, but the splits in the Court is much more based on legal philosophy than politics, like whether statutes should be read literally or purposively; the proper amount of deference to administrative agencies, the President, and Congress; the original meaning of the Constitution (and whether that's even relevant); etc. Remember that the most liberal Justice, Stevens, was appointed by Ford, and Souter (another "liberal" Justice) is a Bush I appointee.

And if it's not obvious by the extreme amount of law-geekness displayed, IAAL.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718177)

You know, the Bush administration supported Quanta in this case. TFA says so. This wasn't a conservative/liberal issue--this was a commercial dispute between two corporate giants--and the fact that the decision was unanimous attests to that.

No, it wasn't. Which makes it even less of a surprise that Slashdotters could support this decision and not be the hypocrites that the OP's troll tried to imply.

I want to point out that the Court is not on the same left/right continuum as most of American politics. For example, check out U.S. v. Santos, where a plurality composed of Scalia, Thomas, Souter, and Ginsburg (Stevens concurred separately) interpreted a criminal statute in a solidly pro-defendant manner. I'm not saying that political orientation is irrelevant in predicting the Court, but the splits in the Court is much more based on legal philosophy than politics, like whether statutes should be read literally or purposively; the proper amount of deference to administrative agencies, the President, and Congress; the original meaning of the Constitution (and whether that's even relevant); etc. Remember that the most liberal Justice, Stevens, was appointed by Ford, and Souter (another "liberal" Justice) is a Bush I appointee.

Exactly. Exactly. Thank you, that's what I was trying to get at, thanks for the info. The whole "left/right" issue affects SCOTUS at a completely different wavelength than it does Congress and the Pres. I think that's why they do a better job of upholding the Constitution. Also why the more politically minded think they are doing the opposite.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718587)

The main difference -- and several justices, past and present, have said this pretty clearly -- is that they understand that while they may personally agree or disagree with a particular issue brought before the Court, they understand that they must view it through the prism of the Constitution. Using a simplistic case, they may find the American Nazi Party deplorable in its viewpoints, rhetoric, and membership, but this does not preclude their right to speak, to gather peaceably, and to march under the same terms as anyone else.

It's one of the reasons that you find some fairly unexpected splits, like when Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas dissented in Gonzales v. Raich over medical marijuana. In a 6-3 split, Rehnquist joined in O'Connor's dissent and Thomas wrote his own dissent, and both opinions cited the federal structure of the United States as a reason why Congress should not be allowed to regulate the use of marijuana grown for personal purposes and never crossing state lines.

I'm eagerly awaiting the results of DC v. Heller. That is one of those that I will be reading as soon as I can get a hold of it.

Re:Interesting... (1)

darkfire5252 (760516) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718559)

Haha, actually I've been cheering them because despite being stacked with conservatives, they have still handed Bush his most significant legal setbacks of his entire eight years.
While I'm sure there are some examples of that, this is not one of them. From the article:

The Bush administration supported Intel's customers. It cited inconvenience, annoyance and inefficiency of multiple royalty payments being passed down the chain of distribution with no obvious stopping point.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Looshi (1038712) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719159)

While in some ways counter-intuitive, it's amazing how our least Democratic branch of government is in a unique position to protect our Democracy.

Which is exactly what the founders intended. The Supreme Court exists to protect us from the 'tyranny of the majority'. We are not a true democracy because a pure democracy can be just as dangerous to liberty as a dictatorship.

Good work, men! (1)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717283)

Wow, this is a breath of fresh air.

Yay SCOTUS! (don't get to say that very often)

Re:Good work, men! (4, Funny)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717313)

One of the Supremes is a girl, you insensitive clod!

Re:Good work, men! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23717453)

Actually they all were you uninformed clod!

That's strange (4, Interesting)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717297)

It clearly seems like LG was in the wrong here, but this was a case where both parties actually produce and sell goods using the patents they own. Has the US Supreme Court had anything to say about the numerous cases involving patent squatters/submarine patents? That seems like it ought to be a more serious issue.

Decision depends on license and on what was sold (5, Informative)

waterbear (190559) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717643)

It clearly seems like LG was in the wrong here, but this was a case where both parties actually produce and sell goods using the patents they own. Has the US Supreme Court had anything to say about the numerous cases involving patent squatters/submarine patents? That seems like it ought to be a more serious issue.

If you look at the Supreme Court's decision (http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/06-937.pdf [supremecourtus.gov]) it will be clear how it turns, first, on whether the patent license to Intel permits Intel to sell goods that practice the patents, and second, did the goods sold by Intel practice the patents. The answer to both questions was yes, triggering the application of the doctrine of exhaustion of patent rights with respect to the product that was sold. That was true even where the patent had method claims, and when those would not be completely practiced until the sold product was combined with other components. The rationale for that aspect was that the sold items practiced the patent by embodying all of the inventive matter and having in practice no other use except to practice the patent: the components left to be added were standard stuff, while all of the inventive content was in the items sold.

None of that depended in any way on the question whether the patent licensor engaged in manufacture on its own account. The court did not need to consider that. So the decision clearly applies to patent holders who grant licenses to others to sell patented products, irrespective of whether the licensors themselves do manufacturing or not.

-wb-

Re:That's strange (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#23720361)

The article was pretty light on the facts; on all the facts, LG Electronics came out better than the article would suggest. the contract of sale limited the products to be used only with Intel chipsets. Moreover, LG marked all of the products as for use only with Intel products. LG intended the products only to be used with Intel chipsets; otherwise, they would have charged a higher price. It isn't an open and shut issue. If LG meant for the products to be resold,they would have asked for a higher price from Intel.

Basically, Intel got a lower price and was able to get all the rights. Whatever the other effects of this holding may be, licensees will only be able to buy all the bundle of intellectual property rights (which slashdotters hate) or none at all. They can't only buy the portion of the bundle that they can afford.

Re:That's strange (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23720999)

LG intended the products only to be used with Intel chipsets; otherwise, they would have charged a higher price.
That hardly seems like an argument you can make in a court of law.

Whatever the other effects of this holding may be, licensees will only be able to buy all the bundle of intellectual property rights (which slashdotters hate) or none at all. They can't only buy the portion of the bundle that they can afford.
That may be so, but it has the same ring as 'You won't be able to buy the right to just play a song once, you'll have to buy it outright or not at all', or 'It will no longer be possible to buy just the right to run software on your own PC; you will have to also get the right to resell it second-hand, or not buy it at all'. Usually with artificial monopolies like copyright and patents there are some restrictions on how the monopoly can be exercised. That's usually considered a good thing because it stops legal obstacles getting in the way of the general public and businesses, while still allowing the copyright holder or patent holder to make money, even if not quite as much money as they could make with total control over licensing.

What does Intel say about this? (2, Interesting)

Enleth (947766) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717775)

As far as I know, selling processors and chipsets to other manufacturers making the actual computers is a major business for Intel, probably even much bigger than direct consumer sales. It's damn obvious then, that whatever Intel sells, most of it will be incorporated in a product of its own ans sold again by other companies and that's the whole purpose of Intel producing most of its inventory at all (chipsets etc.).

Taking that into consideration, isn't Intel likely to go medieval at anyone mobbing their most important customers with such a blatantly bogus claim? Sure, LG is big - but probably not big enough to stand chances with Intel if they were to release the hell hou^W^W^W^W^W^W lawyers...

Re:What does Intel say about this? (2, Interesting)

Enleth (947766) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718025)

Oh, and there's something else that caught my attention.

From the court decision (actually, the license agreement between LG and Intel):

"[the license] is granted by either party hereto . . . to any third party for the combination by a third party of Licensed Products of either party with items, components, or the like acquired . . . from sources other than a partyhereto, or for the use, import, offer for sale or sale of such combination." Brief for Petitioners 8 (quoting App. 164).

A literal (as requred for the licensish newspeak) interpretation quickly reveals that is's FRICKIN' IMPOSSIBLE to not infringe on the LG patents. Intel doesn't make capacitors, resistors, connectors, laminate sheets, transistors, voltage regulators, fasteners and LOADS of other crap that make up a single mainboard, no matter how "all-Intel" it is.

In short, the relevant part of the agreement is plain idiotic.

8 years later (3, Insightful)

Xelios (822510) | more than 5 years ago | (#23717841)

This suddenoutbreakofcommonsense only took 8 years, and one stubborn company that refused to settle when all the others did. It may have been an obvious outcome to some, but apparently not to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or the unnamed number of other companies who gave in to the royalty demands.

The real question in all this is why the appeal court sided with LG.

Re:8 years later (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718007)

Are you aware of any other companies that paid royalties to LGE in regard to this issue? Just asking, since that wasn't even hinted at in TFA.

As to why the appeals court sided with LG, -well,
that's why we have a Supreme Court, but bear in mind that this case has been in litigation since 2002 and the Supreme court only accepted the case in 2007. Prior to that time, the lower courts were following the law and the decisions of the SCOTUS from a prior era.

Re:8 years later (1)

Xelios (822510) | more than 5 years ago | (#23720105)

Other articles about this case mention other companies involved:

Quanta Computer makes laptops for major U.S. computer sellers and is the only company sued by LG that hasn't settled. It is among several large Korean companies that bought computer components from Intel.
Article [lloyds.com]

suddenoutbreakofpithytags (1)

qualidafial (967876) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719749)

Remember kids: Jack Thompson eats a kitten every time a story is tagged "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense."

Please tag responsibly.

This is not about "Business Methods" (4, Informative)

tkohler (806572) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718027)

This is about "method" patents, not only "business method" patents. The SCOTUS maintained that the first sale doctrine applies to method patents as well. This is a big deal for industries with complex supply chains where an end product (like a laptop) has components that have passed through many hands. In the same way that a patent holder of a surface mount resistor can't charge a royalty to the PC brand if they already charged the mother-boardmaker, a holder of a method patent for example, a "method of caching operations in a processor", cannot charge a royalty to everyone who buys and sells the product. The licensors are left with the decision to pick where in the value chain to insert their bite, at the low end where their value added is great but profits are lower, or higher up where the profits are higher but the contribution of the invention is diluted. IANAL

Re:This is not about "Business Methods" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23720537)

I think that this is particularly relevant in a software methods patent contexts: "It is true that a patented method may not be sold in the same way as an article or device, but methods nonetheless may be 'embodied' in a product, the sale of which exhausts patent rights." [Justice Thomas] The Supreme Court explicitly held that process and/or method claims are subject to first sale exhaustion. Consider the case where the patent holder writes a block of code, and burns it into an CDROM and then sells the CDROM to a manufacturer, and the manufacturer then incorporates that copy into a larger software system. It might be possible to sell nothing but but complete systems, but it would be very difficult as most all software systems are actually collections of modules, many of which are off the shelf.

This is good news indeed (2, Insightful)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 5 years ago | (#23718429)

While this isn't the big change that we are hoping for, it's a step in the right direction. Little by little is the way that our legal system works on social issues like this one and the tide is finally turning.

What was clarified in this decision is that vendors don't have the right to control the downstream licensees of their patents, and the first sale doctrine was reaffirmed.

This will change the way that EULAs are interpreted in the future. Specifically, any restrictions against resale or limiting the uses the product can be used for will no longer be valid.

Further limits Apple action against Psystar (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#23719353)

This further limits any legal action Apple might take against Psystar for shipping computers that run retail copies of the MacOS.

Apple is limited on the copyright front by antitrust law; the requirement in the EULA that purports to require that the software only be run on Apple hardware is probably an illegal tying arrangement. (Don't argue otherwise without doing some reading first. There's a history of relevant cases and the party trying to enforce the tying terms usually loses.)

With this decision, Apple is also limited on the patent front. Apple's patent rights were "exhausted" when the boxed copy of the MacOS was sold. They can't raise a patent claim based on some restriction on later use of the software, not even for "method" claims.

Re:Further limits Apple action against Psystar (1)

zblack_eagle (971870) | more than 5 years ago | (#23721007)

Sure it wouldn't reverse what has already happened, but since Apple ships computers with MacOS preinstalled wouldn't they be able to get around this just by making retail copies of MacOS "upgrade" licenses, requiring an existing MacOS license?

Aire Libre Synopsis is Misinformed and Misguided (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23726843)

Aire Libre has little idea of what he's talking about.

First the patents in question in this case were not "business method" patents. They were simple process claims. The decision doesn't even contain the word pair "business method" and nobody that knows anything about patent law would conclude the patents in question here were business method patents.

At issue was whether and how the doctrine of exhaustion applied to process claims, which can't be "sold", so to speak. The Court ruled, basically, that if the article substantially embodies the article, so as use of the article in in its usual course would infringe the process patent, then the process patent is also exhausted. This is a change in law, to be sure; fallout uncertain.

As for Aire Libre's comment that this decision somehow "bodes well" for copyright law, anybody that actually reads the decision would draw the opposition conclusion. This is because the Court, on page 17 of the opinion, basically says two parties can agree to limit the license however they want, but here they did not -- there were essentially no conditions on the grant of rights.
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