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Apple vs. Nokia vs. Google vs. HTC

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the ballroom-blitz dept.

Google 159

Lanxon writes "Wired has published a lengthy investigation into the litigation underway among some of the world's biggest cell phone manufacturers, and what it means for the industry of patent lawsuits and patent squatting. 'According to a 2009 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, from 1995 to 2008 non-practising entities [patent trolls] have been awarded damages that are, on average, more than double those for practising entities. Consider Research In Motion's 2006 payout of over $612 million to Virginia-based patent-holding company NTP, to avoid its BlackBerry network being shut down in the US. As part of the settlement, NTP granted RIM a licence to use its patented technology; it has subsequently filed lawsuits against AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon.'"

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Just need to patent breathing (-1, Offtopic)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191468)

and I'll own you all!

Think about your breathing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191530)

Yes that's right, THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING. Why you might ask? Well it's simple!

Your brain usually takes care of breathing FOR you, but whenever you remember this, YOU MUST MANUALLY BREATH! If you don't you will DIE.

There are also MANY variations of this. For example, think about:

* BLINKING!
* SWALLOWING SALIVA!
* HOW YOUR FEET FEEL IN YOUR SOCKS!

In conclusion, the THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING troll is simply unbeatable. These 4 words can be thrown randomly into article text, into sigs, into anything, and once seen, WILL FORCE THE VICTIM TO TAKE CARE OF HIS BREATHING MANUALLY! This goes far beyond the simple annoying or insulting trolls of yesteryear.

In fact, by EVEN RESPONDING to this, you are proving that IT HAS CLAIMED ANOTHER VICTIM -- YOU!

Re:Think about your breathing (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192224)

That may be the first Mindfulness based troll I've ever seen. Hmmm, makes me wonder if Bhante G [urbandharma.org] is posting as A.C.

My mind is officially blown.

Re:Think about your breathing (1)

i ate my neighbour (1756816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193302)

Where is "+1 Troll" option?

Business as usual (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191508)

The Americas first telegram, transmitted via a repeater: "What hath God wrought" sent by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1844.

Re:Business as usual (2, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192046)

The Americas first telegram, transmitted via a repeater: "What hath God wrought" sent by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1844.

And the first reply was:
I'm sorry, God is not available at the moment. To leave a message for God please transmit your message after the beep. When you are finished transmit '1' for more options.

Patent trolling should be outlawed (2, Insightful)

kaptink (699820) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191510)

Patent trolling/squatting should be outlawed internationally.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

HEbGb (6544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191574)

Agreed. They are nothing but parasites on productive companies.

Big patent holders are still the bigger problem (4, Interesting)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192338)

I don't mean to downplay the problem that patent trolls / non-producing entites represent, but they're a feature not a bug of the patent system, as Carlo Piana, a European lawyer specialized on Free and Open Source Software matters, recently said on Twitter. The proponents of this kind of patent system simply want trolls to exist, even though they will from time to time have problems with them themselves.

But a troll just wants to make the money. It's a hold-up situation if you face a troll, but if you cough up the money, he'll leave you alone and focus on the next victim. Even though $600 million is a huge amount, RIM (the BlackBerry maker) not only survived but actually generated huge levels of profits ever since.

By contrast, if Apple decides that no one else should use certain multitouch and other functionality, then only those with a really massive patent arsenal ("mutually assured destruction"), which is what Nokia may indeed have, will be able to solve the problem through cross-licensing. But it's economically practically impossible to solve the problem by offering Apple a check because the strategic value of maintaining a certain competitive advantage is so valuable to the market leader that smaller players can't solve the problem by paying. So if Apple insists on its rights, it can tell vendors such as HTC to stop providing certain functionality, period. Unconditionally. No negotiation. Cease and desist. The only chance then may be that if you can prove a dominant position, antitrust law could be used to achieve compulsory licensing. [blogspot.com] In Apple's case, that would be very difficult to say the least...

Again, I don't mean to downplay the problem with patent trolls, but in order to ensure that incremental innovation can take place for the benefit of consumers, it's key to watch what the large patent holders are doing, starting with the biggest patent bully on the block, IBM [blogspot.com] , but also looking at everything else that's going on.

Re:Big patent holders are still the bigger problem (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193040)

Rather than allow blackmail situations, why not simply put a time limit on the length of time that they can file lawsuits for patent violations in the past? If they fail to exercise that right within a reasonable amount of time, then they loose the right to sue for damages for past infringement? Is that too simple a solution?

It would stop these submarine issues from popping up years after products have been out and used in the market.

Re:Big patent holders are still the bigger problem (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193162)

Backroyalties (license fees for past infringement) -- or the equivalent in case of a lawsuit, damages for past infringement -- certainly add to the problem, but the biggest leverage a patent troll can have is the ability to force an "infringer" to discontinue shipping a key product (or several key products at the same time). That's when a company's ability to stay in business becomes seriously endangered and that's the perfect basis for a hold-up.

Re:Big patent holders are still the bigger problem (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193280)

So perhaps a stipulation that they cannot force a business to interrupt operations based on a patent that has passed it's 'grace period' for claims?

Re:Big patent holders are still the bigger problem (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193322)

So perhaps a stipulation that they cannot force a business to interrupt operations based on a patent that has passed it's 'grace period' for claims?

Sorry but it's not clear to me what you propose. In particular, what do you mean by "a patent that has passed"? Software patents can be vaild for up to 20 years (if periodic renewal fees are paid). For most software patents that's longer than the commercially relevant period anyway, and during those 20 years the patent holder (provided that renewal fees are always paid) can always use them to disrupt a business. There can be some exceptions where a patent holder may lose the entitlement to assert a patent because of tolerating a known infringement for very long, but that's a different thing.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (2, Insightful)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191600)

It seems to me that a requirement for maintaining a valid patent should be that you must be producing something that uses it or actively developing something that uses it. It's a simple notion, in following with the principles of patents, that would neatly eliminate patent trolling and patenting just to block competitors. It would likely lighten the work load of the patent office as well, since broad patents for that purpose would be useless. I'm a strong supporter of patents and intellectual property but I think that there needs to be a clear path from initial innovation to a specific product or set of products in order for a patent to be considered enforceable.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (3, Interesting)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191752)

I'm 100% with you. Of course, I'm wondering what the standard for demonstrating active development would be? Also, who would be checking to see that they're actually doing something with it?

Clearly, we couldn't take the company's word for it. If they did decide to waste money by pretending to do development, it would at least introduce some risk to the trolling company in terms of cost. Also, faking records would be quite interesting to the SEC.

If we can answer these questions, we could finally stop bitching about patent trolls and try to do something about it... Like getting in the ear of our lawmakers, and trying to get them to realize how bad this is for the economy. The finishing move would be: Bad economy -> The more likely you'll not see the other side of the next election.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191892)

Of course, I'm wondering what the standard for demonstrating active development would be?

That was my first thought. I'm wondering....constantly checking all patents would be impossible. Instead they (whoever they may be) only need to check if someone else wants to use the patent. Maybe charge a small fee for this.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192034)

What shouldn't happen is penalties for non-compliance. The most the courts should do is force the company to pay reasonable royalties consistent with the industry to the damaged party. Anything after that is simply abuse of the patent system. Making no benefit being a patent troll or developing company. One really obvious question, especially with software patents, that needs to be ask is how valid is the patent if multiple independent sources seem to develop it? Is it really that innovative?

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192146)

I'm 100% with you. Of course, I'm wondering what the standard for demonstrating active development would be? Also, who would be checking to see that they're actually doing something with it?

If they want to sue a company for using their patent then they'll have to show that they were actively selling or developing a product that included and properly utilized the patent at the time the accused infringer started their supposed violation of said patent.

A company that is using someone's unused patent needs to strike a licensing agreement with the patent owner or stop using the patent within a fixed period of time (6 - 12 months?) once they become aware of the existing patent. No "settlements" for using a patent troll's "intellectual property land mine". If they weren't acting in bad faith they should be allowed some time to change over to another method/process/product that they license from someone else or develop themselves.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192580)

Right. It would only come up if a patent troll decided to litigate, in which case the validity of the patent would be assessed.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (4, Interesting)

rpresser (610529) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191782)

That's insane. That would remove all protection from the traditional lone inventor who comes up with something useful and wants to sell it to the big companies. In effect you'd be saying that you can't invent anything unless you plan to sell it yourself.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

elewton (1743958) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191852)

Not necesarily - it "actively developing" or even "producing" could include sale as a package of the patent. But I don't understand why broad patents would be useless. Surely, the broader the better.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191884)

That's insane. That would remove all protection from the traditional lone inventor who comes up with something useful and wants to sell it to the big companies. In effect you'd be saying that you can't invent anything unless you plan to sell it yourself.

What if you're only allowed to not produce something for ONE patent. Protects the lone inventor, while still hurting patent trolls.

The lone inventor is not affected (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191994)

The lone inventor is not affected. If he's patented something that someone else is using, we have the following options:

1) They stole it. To do this, the lone inventor will have had to have shown their patent to someone. Stealing it is not possible because the number of lone inventors prohibits

2) They parallel invented it. In which case, either
a) it's obvious and not patentable
b) it's unfair of the lone inventor to lock someone out who also had the same idea

3) The patent was granted and they copied what the patent said. Unlikely. How many places read all the patents to see what's out there? Nobody, that's who.

The holes left for a lone inventor to be shafted unfairly after all those is pretty damn small. As it is, the chances of EVERYONE being shafted without trolling being banned is pretty damn high. Cost/benefit analysis: go with it.

Add to that the lone inventor is already shafted by a bigger entity using their "defensive" patent pool against the lone inventor (without a large warchest, pool of patents, and salaried law department), even where the lone inventor is shafted, there are bigger places to un-shaft him.

Re:The lone inventor is not affected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192102)

1) They stole it. To do this, the lone inventor will have had to have shown their patent to someone.

Isn't it obvious that

lone inventor who comes up with something useful and wants to sell it to the big companies.

has to show his or her patent at said big companies?

Re:The lone inventor is not affected (1)

rpresser (610529) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192156)

b) it's unfair of the lone inventor to lock someone out who also had the same idea

Hello?? That's the whole fucking point of patents, to get an exclusive right for using an invention, even if someone else has the same idea!!!

Fabless companies (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192098)

As elewton hinted, the designation "troll" or "nonpracticing entity" wouldn't apply to a fabless company [wikipedia.org] like ARM, which sells a patent license and a know-how license as a set. Nor would it apply to MPEG-LA, many of whose members sell their own codec implementations.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192228)

In that case, he'd patent it, then sell the patent. They want the situation to be the guy turning up, maybe even a year after the patent is granted and say "Hey, that's actually my thing that you're doing. How about sending me some money?" Hell, it could even end up as being "Hey, I've already done that. Employ me and I'll make it super-wicked for you, for less than you'll spend on your R&D guys hacking it together as they've been doing so far."

What they want to do is stop patents being sat on for years on end, only to be used to strip the people using the patented tech of the profit they made independently researching and developing it. It's all about the definition of "reasonable period of notification" which needs to be addressed.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192552)

Obviously licensing use of the patent would be considered using it. Patent sales would be fine, the purchaser of the patent would simply have to produce something with it or license it to a third party. As I said, there would have to be clear path from the patent to a product that employs it but the path doesn't have to be a single link.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Bysshe (1330263) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192630)

I disagree, The lone inventor has put significant time, energy and probably own funds into developing the patent. If he intends to license it that would also be considered future development. The important factor of the lone inventor is that he developed the technology he patented.

A patent troll buys a patent for the sole purpose of holding it for license or for litigation. The major difference being the troll didn't do any of the development work themselves.

I would suggest outlawing the patent trolls who's only contribution to a patent is a financial one (through buying a patent or only providing fiscal assets to an inventor)

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192658)

> That would remove all protection from the traditional lone inventor who
> comes up with something useful and wants to sell it to the big companies

Hmm, I assume you've never actually tried to sell a patent to the"big companies" as a lone inventor.

They usually say, en bloc, "that's clever but we have no immediate market opportunity for that".

Then they carefully design non-infringing products that perform a similar function.

Yes, I am bitter.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193042)

Ya in defense of the Trolls, it is likely hard to tell one activity from another.

I remember the story of the guy who invented "intermittent wipers". He showed the idea to Ford (I think) in an attempt to sell them the idea, and they just stole it and used it. I am pretty sure the guy was successful (eventually) in suing Ford.

But there is an example of a legitimate use of a patent.

I think the fault lies with the Patent Office. In many cases the Patents in question are so vague and open than they could apply to anything. These are what the Patent trolls use to make their money. They come up with thousands of vague ideas, and sit on them, waiting for someone else to make something similar, then they sue. This is counter to the whole idea of Patents which is to promote innovation.

The difficulty that the Patent Office has (and I see no solution) is they they are not experts in any of the stuff being submitted, which more and more is of a very technical nature. They would have no idea what is "vague" or what is reasonable. So this is what has to be fixed as I see it. Perhaps they need to collaborate with other bodies or institutions to acquire the needed knowlege. How that works I don't know. Obviously they don't either, as this system has been broken for a long time now.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (3, Interesting)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191954)

must be producing something that uses it or actively developing something that uses it

Two problems:

  • Does the item that uses the patent have to actually do anything? I can take a patent, and then implement some product that I have absolutely no intention of ever selling or releasing to the public. And if I did sell it, would there be a minimum sales threshold for the patent to be valid? If I make a single item, put it on ebay, does that then make the patent valid?
  • What about companies that produce intellectual property, such as patents, and then license those patents to third parties? The patents involved in this model are now no longer valid, because the inventor does not directly produce items for sale?

The patent system relies on the ability to discriminate between entities with valid patents, and entities without valid patents. This is the fundamental issue - whether this is even possible. Even assuming that it is possible, there are still problems.

  • Who decides whether or not a patent is valid. How is a jury qualified to decide on patent validity? Should there be some alternative? What?
  • The cost. Will the state continue to finance the patent system, through patent offices, examiners, courts? Fixing the patent system will require a greater investment than is currently being made by any nation - who is going to pay for this? The inventor? That would favour rich over the poor. Should it continue to be paid for through taxation? That will require increasing taxes.
  • The current system favours large corporations that can afford to keep patent lawyers on the payroll. Small inventors can not afford court cases that run for years.
  • Geographical scope of patents in a globalised economy. What if a company in China violates your U.S/E.U. patents, running software on servers that are accessible globally? This kind of scenario requires a global patent framework, with some kind of oversight body (WIPO? United Nations?). Do you really want that? If you say that corporations in other countries can willfully violate patents, then corporations will favour locating subsidiaries in countries that have no patent enforcement. We are already seeing this - hardware companies moving to China, which has one of the lowest rates of patent enforcement in the world, and biotech companies opening R&D subsidiaries in India.
  • Where is the evidence that the patent system actually does what it is supposed to - that is, enable real inventors to fairly profit from their inventions, whilst maintaining the right of others to compete fairly by manufacturing their own inventions. When was the last time you heard a positive patent story? Ever?

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

rpresser (610529) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192200)

The patent system relies on the ability to discriminate between entities with valid patents, and entities without valid patents. This is the fundamental issue - whether this is even possible.

If I come up with a solution, can I patent it?

It's probably an NP-complete problem anyway.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192498)

As for the first concern, I think it would be easy to discriminate between cases where a company was selling token products to try to validate the patent artificially and a company that incorporated selling those products into its business model. That would be a matter for litigation, but wouldn't be any more gray than prior art, originality or utility. The clause would apply to companies that tried to use litigation as the primary revenue source and not production.

As for the second concern, the patent would remain valid as long as either the holder or a licensee was producing a product using the patent.

As for your comment "When was the last time you heard a positive patent story?," my answer would be: every time I use a product that incorporates clever engineering into its design. The brilliant engineers of the world are paid because they have good, unique ideas that can produce useful things. The patent stories that come up on /. are the cases where the current patent laws are inappropriate to the spirit of upholding intellectual property. All the time I marvel at innovative things that I see around me and I think "damn that's clever, I never would have thought of doing that way." Every time I do that I gain a tremendous respect for the person that came up with it and I appreciate that the product that I'm using is the fruit of their ingenuity. The argument has been hashed out too many times on /. and I'm not interested in an argument, but I wanted to point out that I see positive patent stories all around me because I respect the thought that went into building the things that I use. ("One-Click Purchasing" is not one of those things.)

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

UCSCTek (806902) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191962)

Sounds nice, but how do you enforce it? What if you claim to be "working on the implementation" of the patent in preparation for production, does that count? How many units do you have to produce? Maybe they can make 1 widget per year that utilizes the patents.

I think one solution could be the following: damages for patent infringement calculated based on the value the patent-holder has already produced through the implementation of the patent. Example: company A has a patent for product X, company B infringes. If A has produced N units of X, then B must pay damages equivalent to some multiple of the market value of the N units of X. So, if N = 0, B pays nothing.

This has the benefit that a popular, valuable product would receive commensurate protection. Perhaps some future extrapolation could be involved as well, in order to better protect young products. Or maybe keep full patent protection for a short time, like 2 years, to give the patent holder time to get the product to market.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192254)

"It seems to me that a requirement for maintaining a valid patent should be that you must be producing something that uses it or actively developing something that uses it."

I wouldn't go that far: what if you're some genius doing research and stumble across a new invention or way of doing something but don't have the millions it would cost to put it into action? Of course you should be rewarded for your effort, but not hundreds of millions of dollars.

I think there should be limits. I don't think you should just write down an idea and never use it and extort $600 million from the people that actually put it into use. That's like writing down the cure to cancer but sitting on it until someone spends the millions to actually develop it and then suing them.

I think our horrible patent system is one of the greatest threats to our country. They grant these overly broad patents that cover every possible method of doing anything, and then punish the company that spends the millions to create the product and bring it to the masses. Seems the entire patent system's motto is "be evil".

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192722)

You could sell the patent or license it. Both cases produce a clear path from the patent to a product and reward the inventor. The only thing that would be ruled out is doing nothing for five years then popping up and demanding payment when a company produces something that tangentially relates to your patent.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

yeshuawatso (1774190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192294)

This would be similar to how trademark law works. If you don't actively use (and renew) your trademark, you lose it. The idea behind patents though is to temporarily give you a monopoly. Trademark is just to prevent consumer confusion.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193008)

Maybe, instead of trying to solve how to manage patents, we instead look at managing the enforcement. It seems to me a lot of the issues circulate around the fact that companies sit on patents for years and years, waiting for the widespread infringement to take hold, and only then seek to enforce them when they'd do the most damage. Maybe if there was a stipulation that patents had to be enforced within one year of the first competitor infringing them, and that this must be done for each subsequent competitor who infringes. If you let more than a year pass since a competitor went to market, you lose the right to enforce against them and all future infringers, since at this point the invention has obviously entered the "public consciousness".

This would end the situation of companies being essentially blackmailed for huge sums years after they implemented the technology. Companies could discover, at minimal cost, whether the owner intended to enforce the patent by doing a very small product run. I think this would help redress the balance - after all, patents are meant to be about protecting your invention, not punishing the competition as much as possible, and of course, if the idea was good enough, the competitor will pay the big upfront license fee to use it, it wouldn't harm lone inventors, it would stop patent troll companies sitting on patents for years while the popularity of the competitor's product reaches such a level that they have to accede to your demand or lose millions, it just removes the second guessing element.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191726)

I'm not convinced. Patent trolls seem to be the only thing that can repeatedly stand up to big business, get money out of it, and not get bribed to stop or legislated out of existence(yet). We need to learn to imitate their strategy in pro-consumer cases before we get rid of them.

Re:Patent trolling should be outlawed (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191754)

Amen

Intellect Venture (1)

pacificleo (850029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191584)

I guess MS holds some stake in that . one way or another Bill G will make money

kill the trolls (1)

X10 (186866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191590)

There should be a law against patent trolls. Or should we call Frodo?

Re:kill the trolls (1)

codeButcher (223668) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191656)

I'm thinking, if I where only a little bit brighter, I could have patented patent trolling. Just imagine....

So... (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191608)

How long before "Non-Practicing Entity" goes from harmless-sounding euphemism to sinister dysphemism, the way terms like "Ethnic Cleansing" have?

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191770)

How long before "Non-Practicing Entity" goes from harmless-sounding euphemism to sinister dysphemism, the way terms like "Ethnic Cleansing" have?

Dysphemism? I don't get it. When has "ethnic cleansing" been used to describe something that wasn't really killing/displacing people that don't align exactly with your ethnicity/religion/culture? That phrase became popular (at least for me) while I was in high school (Hutu & Tutsi conflict, Kosovo) and I haven't heard it used as a "sinister dysphemism" to describe something innocuous where serious stuff wasn't going down.

Non-Practicing Entity already has a sinister sound to it in my mind. I would compare it more with things like "ponzi scheme" or "tax evasion." Things meant to game the system at other's expenses but can themselves be very hard to define precisely. And once you make them illegal, the people gaming the system just move their foot back so far that their toe is back on the line. For example, say you need to have one working prototype to hold a patent. Well, there's going to be tons of companies just throwing something together and calling it a prototype. Now you say it needs to be working ... so companies like Acacia Research and IP Ventures will stand up some prototype fabrication company that just specializes in that and NDAs. So you say they need a factory. Well, they'll buy abandoned warehouses in Montana and put the working prototypes in the warehouses. It just goes on and on until you realize that you're also hurting the small time inventors that can't afford the factories and then the system is broken a different way.

I'd love to end patent trolling. I'd love to restrict non-practicing entities. The problem is that I can't really define either of them satisfactorily such that it's not broken another way. Can you?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192564)

Zionists consider "Ethnic Cleansing" to be a sinister dysphemism of their good old fashioned colonialism.

NPE defined (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192570)

A nonpracticing entity is an entity that controls a patent but can't name any products or services that it makes or sells based on this patent. By "make", I don't necessarily mean manufacturing; it could include contracting the manufacturing out to a third party. See my other comment [slashdot.org] .

Re:So... (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192842)

"I'd love to end patent trolling. I'd love to restrict non-practicing entities. The problem is that I can't really define either of them satisfactorily such that it's not broken another way. Can you?" I tried...I failed. If only the law could take common sense for granted you wouldn't need such tight definitions of what is what and what it is or isn't allowed to do

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192566)

Phrase "Ethnic Cleansing" never, ever existed as "harmless-sounding euphemism", from the very beginning of its existence. It was readily coined as sinister dysphemism by a member of the press who ironically responded with it on a Bosnian Serb military press briefing when B.S.mil. spokesman tried, in broken English, to convey reporters information that his side forces, after making a push against their opponents' forces are in phase of clearing the remaining pockets of armed resistance along the former front line, but used the similar-sounding and related word cleansing in place of "clearing". Adverb "Ethnic" was attached to it by the reporter, thus creating and launching a novel phrase. Perhaps the TV footage of that briefing could be found on YouTube.

Hardly a mexican standoff (5, Informative)

dgr73 (1055610) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191630)

The article describes the Nokia Apple patent suit/countersuit situation as a mexican standoff. This has been discussed ad nauseum already here on slashdot and I think it's hardly that. Unless you call one person pointing a water pistol and another aiming a cannon a mexican standoff.

Assuming both sides claims are deemed to have merit and both refuse to pay licensing fees, Nokia has to think of another implementation for some GUI elements, hardly a gargantuan task. However, if Nokia wins, Apple has to reinvent mobile technology, then get all the networks to support their new implementation.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (3, Interesting)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191748)

I agree that Nokia vs. Apple/Apple vs. Nokia isn't a Mexican standoff but that Nokia probably owns the far more fundamental mobile patents. However, the problem that Nokia has in this is that its most fundamental patents in the mobile space are part of GSM and other standards. That fact doesn't expropriate Nokia but at some point they could come under pressure that those are patents that should be made available on RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms. Then Nokia could argue that it is, in Nokia's view, not at all unreasonable to ask Apple for a cross-licensing deal because otherwise Apple could exclusively control some of the more recent technologies (multitouch etc.) while Nokia (and similar vendors) would be expected to grant licenses to their patents only because they're part of older standards definitions.

Apple faces the typical problem of a late entrant: even if you obtain some patents on new technologies, you still need the underlying old technologies and those patents are generaly still valid, given that patents expire only after 20 years (except for a failure to pay renewal fees, which won't happen if the patent holder is Nokia and the patents are valuable). That's why in an area of incremental innovations patents may not be even remotely as helpful to innovative late entrants as many people are led to believe.

In terms of waster pistol vs. aiming a cannon, I think this also applies to the Apple/HTC situation [itwire.com] and HTC's announcement of yesterday that it's now (counter-)"suing" Apple.

Apple can have the GSM patents on the RAND (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192022)

Apple can have the GSM patents on the RAND when they agree to be part of the patent pool other GSM operators are in: where they pay by sharing their patents.

Apple doesn't want to pay the fee.

Why should Apple get a bye on it?

Re:Apple can have the GSM patents on the RAND (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192208)

I for my part didn't mean to say that Nokia is being unreasonably by asking Apple to either share its patents or otherwise asserting them against them. However, I did stress that this shows how limited the value of patents can be in an area of incremental innovation: Apple undoubtedly did some very innovative things in recent years and one would hope that the patent system serves to help such innovators. But since Apple's innovations can only be put to use on top of existing technologies (incremental innovation), they may at the end of the dispute with Nokia indeed having to cede all of their patents to earlier market entrants, in which case the patent system fails to protect the more recent innovator.

Re:Apple can have the GSM patents on the RAND (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193096)

While I don't disagree with your reasoning, consider that companies are already innovating on the back of Apple's innovations (which in turn were only possible due to the earlier innovations of other companies), and Apple is seeking to prevent those companies from doing so (well, if the reports of them firing the first volley by suing HTC are correct, I have to admit I've not been following developments here closely). If this shows anything, it's that the patent system is actually a hindrance in a field where the technology naturally wants to advance at lightnight speed.

Re:Apple can have the GSM patents on the RAND (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192238)

>> Why should Apple get a bye on it?

Because it is slashdot's most favorite company?

I just hope Nokia and HTC win their cases against the biggest maafia company we know on the planet.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (4, Insightful)

Steve Max (1235710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192632)

That fact doesn't expropriate Nokia but at some point they could come under pressure that those are patents that should be made available on RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms.

That's the point: Nokia offered to license the patents under RAND terms to Apple (the same terms they offer other companies, including those that don't have so many GSM-related patents such as Samsung/LG/HTC), and Apple refused to pay. This is the reason Nokia sued: Apple wanted to use their patented technologies without licensing them.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192920)

Not quite true. Apple's beef with Nokia is that they were ignoring the "Non-Discriminatory" part of RAND.

Nokia wanted to have Apple not only pay the "Reasonable" fees that they were collecting from other mobile phone makers. But also wanted Apple to license patents it holds to them as part of the bargain.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (1)

buchanmilne (258619) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191764)

However, if Nokia wins, Apple has to reinvent mobile technology, then get all the networks to support their new implementation.

Which will never happen, because two mobile telephony standards (CDMA and GSM, loosely speaking) are more than enough. Even if it did, Apple would need to ensure Telco providers ship equipment, create chipsets for their (and other OEM) use, ensure it is possible to license spectrum, convince Telcos to roll out the massive infrastructure required etc. etc. etc. Of course, the question is, if Apple had not concluded licensing negotiations, why did they infringe on GSM licensing, when there were other alternatives (CDMA+EV-DO, instead of GSM+HSDPA) available to them?

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (2, Insightful)

d3xt3r (527989) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191898)

It could be a lot worse for Nokia if Apple is able to prove that the licensing fees Nokia requested from Apple for essential GSM patents turns out to be unreasonable. Nokia does hold GSM patents, which as part of a standard are required to be licensed under "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" terms. If Apple can prove that Nokia requested unreasonable terms from Apple for the GSM patents, Nokia may be in trouble with the ETSI.

If anything good comes out of this for future patent encumbered standards, it could be that the courts may be left to define what fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory actually means. As Engadget states in their coverage:

In reality FRAND is nebulous and undefined, with almost no specific rules for determining what a "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" license actually is. source [engadget.com]

It would be nice if these cases were looked at as clear reason why we really need patent reform, but I doubt that's going to happen any time soon.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (2, Insightful)

DMiax (915735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192036)

Were I to decide, I would ask Apple why they did not complain about the licensing cost earlier, instead of waiting to be sued. The best they could hope is convincing me that there was some failed attempt to abuse monopoly from Nokia, but they would still be infringing.

Obviously, I wish for a patent reform as much as you do, but I am pessimistic as well.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (2, Informative)

chowdahhead (1618447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192450)

We don't know the details of the terms, but we do know from the complaint filed in Delaware that Nokia offered to license the technology based on either a per patent fee or one fee for the pool, in addition to interest. Reportedly, it was Apple that offered cross-licensing using UI and multitouch patents as compensation, presumably in place of fees and fines. Nokia rejected this, likely because these patents probably don't have much intrinsic value and could be invalidated as they are based on software implementations. The handset business is a lucrative one, and Apple has made billions from the technology developed by companies like Nokia and Motorola, apparently without contributing anything back to it. It's a difficult situation because we need private companies to research and develop revolutionary technology, and we need unified standards that all competitors can implement, but that's capitalism and that necessitates that companies become compensated for millions or billions USD of private capital spent in the process.

RAND == terms and royalties spelled out up front (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192718)

In reality FRAND is nebulous and undefined, with almost no specific rules for determining what a "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" license actually is.

The FSF agrees that the term is confusing [gnu.org] and proposes the alternate term "uniform fee only" to describe a public offer of a patent license with all the terms and royalties spelled out up front.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (1, Insightful)

JiveDog (871841) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191902)

However, if Nokia wins, Apple has to reinvent mobile technology, then get all the networks to support their new implementation.

Considering that Apple has done this once already, I'd place money on them to do it again if they have to...with that said, Apple isn't the type of company to roll over and let this kind of thing happen to them. Remember, they're the pitbull bred for the ultimate fight. They are Microsoft's original enemy and no other company has done battle or suffered as much as Apple has when it comes to patent/innovation fights.

What everyone seems to forget is that Apple is in the spot they're in precisely for these reasons and they're determined never to let that happen again.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192006)

Fag. Apple hasn't reinvented mobile technology, they've slapped a new UI on the existing one.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192754)

Fag.

No thanks; I don't smoke. I'm a Libra, not a Cancer.

Apple hasn't reinvented mobile technology, they've slapped a new UI on the existing one.

That or Apple has reinvented the mobile GUI, which is still more of an accomplishment than "slapped" implies.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192840)

My point still stands: JiveDog is a huge flaming faggot for believing that Apple has "reinvented" mobile technology. They have demonstrated no competence in the area at all.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (2, Insightful)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192256)

>> Considering that Apple has done this once already, I'd place money on them to do it again if they have to

Wait, what? Apple has already reinvented mobile technology? I think you need to a bit easy on that apple kool-aid.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (1)

JiveDog (871841) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192950)

Maybe so, but looking at things empirically, they went to Verizon first with the iPhone and asked that they were to be given control of their network structure to accommodate the design of the iPhone, both from a hardware and a voicemail perspective. Verizon tells them to pound sand so Apple goes to AT&T and they give them the control they needed to deliver the data and visual voicemail requirements.

So there's the first reinvention...of the network. I think that qualifies as mobile technology.

Then there's the device design itself. To the best of my recollection, there weren't any mass consumer devices that were based on capacitive touch technology on the scale that the iPhone introduced. As a result, the handset makers all jumped on the bandwagon making their own capacitive touch hardware to "compete" with Apple (ref: all the "iPhone killers" articles)

This doesn't take into account the App Store model, the drive to remove Flash and the support of HTML5 on mobile devices or the third party ecosystem of plugs, cables, chargers, cradles, speakers and other accessories that most definitely are considered part of mobile technology.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32193118)

Of course it doesn't take into account the App Store model, blah blah blah -- none of those have got anything whatsoever to do with mobile technology. You're a delusional FAG.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193268)

None of above has anything to do with mobile technology. You are high on apple kool-aid.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191944)

It's also not a stand-off because everybody is shooting.

Best result: collective fatality, i.e. they're all blocked from shipping anything. Let's see how long software patents last if that comes to pass.

Re:Hardly a mexican standoff (2, Insightful)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192436)

However, if Nokia wins, Apple has to reinvent mobile technology

Not really. Apple could just partner with Sprint or Virgin Mobile [about.com] .

Article missed latest front: HTC 'suing' Apple (5, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191684)

The Wired article on mobile patent lawsuits was, quite apparently, written just before the latest front was opened: HTC yesterday announced that it is now "suing" Apple.

However, at a closer look it becomes clear [itwire.com] that HTC didn't file a lawsuit in the traditional meaning of the word, which would mean that they take Apple to a court of law. It is only a complaint with the US International Trade Commission. By contrast, Apple (in March) sued HTC in an actual court of law plus lodged a complaint with the International Trade Commission. Only lodging a complaint is rather weak. Fortune/CNN [cnn.com] lists the five patents in play and points out that it's only a complaint, not a suit filed with a court, and is not impressed.

On my FOSS Patents blog [blogspot.com] I comment on developments concerning patents and Free and Open Source Software, and I see the squabble over video codecs as a closely related issue. In both cases, Apple is on the side of the large patent holders and Google favors "open" alternatives. Android is a Google-backed project, and as I explained in a three-part sequence of blog posts on video codecs [blogspot.com] , Google so far backs Theora and it might now try to establish VP8, after open-sourcing it (which may happen very soon), as a codec standard. Apple, however, backs MPEG LA's H.264 (even though Apple is only a small contributor to the MPEG patent pool; for an example, Apple contributed only one patent out of 1,135 to the H.264 pool).

There's nothing more unpleasant for a proprietary/closed-source vendor to deal with than free/open-source competition. Patents then come into play and can tilt the scales in favor of entrenched proprietary/closed-source players. Sometimes it's sufficient for the major patent holders just to ensure that the "free" alternative won't be completely free, neither completely free as in free beer nor as in free speech. The use of patents against vendors of Android-based phones mobile phone operating software will probably result in increased prices and possibly also in reduced functionality of Android-based phones. The use of patents against open-source video codecs, which Steve Jobs said would happen but without providing any specifics, would have a similar effect for Theora and, possibly, VP8.

Re:Article missed latest front: HTC 'suing' Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191772)

You are drastically underestimating the seriousness of a complaint filed with the ITC. A favorable ruling at the ITC could keep *all* of the infringing products from being imported. How many iPhones are made in the United States? None. They are all imported. A favorable ruling from the ITC STOPS Apple from importing iPhones.

The ITC complaint is just as serious as a lawsuit. Any lawyer who treated it otherwise would be committing malpractice.

Complaint is weaker than complaint+lawsuit (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191850)

I'm not underestimating the theoretical authority of the ITC at all. Of course they could, if they decided to take action and if there were sufficient legal grounds, have a (theoretically) devastating effect on Apple.

But if HTC believes its patents are so powerful, why would HTC only lodge a complaint with the ITC, which is very cheap, while clearly shying away from filing a lawsuit? Apple sued in a court plus complained with the ITC; now HTC only responds to the cheaper and probably also slower one of the two alternatives. If they believed in the strength of their case, they would want to be in maximum control of their destiny and spend the several million dollars that a lawsuit in a regular court takes (in addition to the compaint).

Re:Complaint is weaker than complaint+lawsuit (1, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192284)

Maybe they believe that legal action should be a last resort, not a first?

Re:Complaint is weaker than complaint+lawsuit (2, Insightful)

intheshelter (906917) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192340)

Really? Do you really believe that they are holding back the dogs because they are trying to achieve sainthood? Come on. . ..

Re:Complaint is weaker than complaint+lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192578)

These things typically settle out-of-court. HTC may be doing this as a threat / warning.

Re:Complaint is weaker than complaint+lawsuit (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193262)

While it's true that settlement is the most common resolution of those disputes, the parties to such a dispute must do everything they can to build a strong position so they can get as much out of the settlement as possible. A settlement is an agreement that allows the parties to withdraw their respective lawsuits and complaints, and that also depends on which procedural avenues are taken (mere complaint vs. traditional lawsuit plus complaint).

Re:Complaint is weaker than complaint+lawsuit (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192680)

But if HTC believes its patents are so powerful, why would HTC only lodge a complaint with the ITC, which is very cheap, while clearly shying away from filing a lawsuit?

Because their obligation to their shareholders is to maximize profit, not to line the pockets of lawyers.

jrumney, it's the opposite of what you say (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192728)

jrumney wrote:

Because their obligation to their shareholders is to maximize profit, not to line the pockets of lawyers.

Contrary to what you suggest, that is the very reason for which HTC would, if it believed in its case, use all of the legal means at its disposal to win. The lawsuit would cost a few million dollars, which is neither a large amount compared to the market we're talking about nor compared to what's at stake in the patent war with Apple, which could force HTC out of the Android-based phone business entirely.

Re:jrumney, it's the opposite of what you say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32193318)

jrumney wrote:

Because their obligation to their shareholders is to maximize profit, not to line the pockets of lawyers.

Contrary to what you suggest, that is the very reason for which HTC would, if it believed in its case, use all of the legal means at its disposal to win. The lawsuit would cost a few million dollars, which is neither a large amount compared to the market we're talking about nor compared to what's at stake in the patent war with Apple, which could force HTC out of the Android-based phone business entirely.

Close, they'd not only have to believe they were right, they'd also have to believe the court system works and would reach the right decision.

Um, not quite. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Crobar (1143477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191784)

non-practising entities [patent trolls]

While all patent trolls may be non-practicing entities (NPEs), not all NPEs are patent trolls. Individual inventors, the kind that don't have the spare four or five billion dollars necessary to build a processor lab, are NPEs and often unfairly get labelled trolls. Also, don't forget universities and government laboratories. Under the parent's definition of troll, anyone who invents something but doesn't follow through with marketing a product must necessarily be a troll. The intellectual property world is more complicated than that. Real trolls can be NPEs or companies trying to squeeze their competitors - in fact, the latter is much more common than the former.

Re:Um, not quite. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32193088)

I wrote in another comment [slashdot.org] why I don't consider a fabless firm like ARM an NPE.

Google does not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32191880)

Apple, Nokia, and HTC manufacture cell phones, Google doesn't. I don't
see what the title of this post means.

Re:Google does not (1)

devjoe (88696) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192176)

It was taken from the inaccurately titled Wired article (which also includes "vs. RIM," which was omitted from the Slashdot version of the story, quite rightly since they are not mentioned in this story as suing or being sued by any of these others, though they were in lawsuits with NTP, Kodak, and Motorola in the past).

Even taking Google (who, the article notes, is "not a party to this lawsuit") and RIM out, the headline is still wrong in that it implies everybody is fighting everybody, when it fact it is just Apple suing and/or being sued by Nokia and HTC.

Re:Google does not (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192292)

It's very convenient to paint all of them with the same brush because that makes Apple look as bad as others, not more. While the fact is, this whole saga is started by apple and others had to get dragged into it.

Everybody was fine with each other until the jesus Jobs rolled in in his limo and started flinging shit on everybody.

but that's not the *big* problem (3, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32191908)

Patent trolls are a problem for big companies that have lots of money. Trolls have nothing to do with HTML5 not being able to recommend a video codec, and they've nothing to do with worries about how Microsoft will use their patents on .doc, XML, or Mono. Some trolls *do* practice their invention, like the mp3 guys that made a packet from trolling - and as a side-effect, completely insignificant to them, forced GNU/Linux distros to omit mp3 support.

To solve the social problems caused by software patents, we have to abolish them - tweaking the numbers to reduce the problems of mega corporations is not *our* job.

Yes, big patent holders are a big problem (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192158)

Ciaran, we fought together against the proposed EU software patent law years ago and I agree that most if not all of the problems you mention would go away if legislators abolish software patents entirely (I said "most if not all" because a very small part of those mobile patents may be hardware, not software, patents).

No doubt about the fundamental problem that trolls represent but there's a key difference between them and the big patent holders: a troll will at the end of the day just want to make money. It's a hold-up but if you cough up the money, the troll moves on to the next victim. By contrast, if a major patent holder such as Apple determines that no one else (except those who have key patents Apple absolutely needs) should be able to offer certain functionality, such as some multitouch features, then you can't buy out the market leader: the potential licensees will never have an economic basis on which they could offer enough that Apple would decide to give up some key competitive advantage.

Therefore, it's important to keep a close eye on what the major patent holders are doing, on how they are using their patents. IBM has the biggest patent portfolio of all [blogspot.com] and unfortunately bullies other companies with it. Apple may not be a contributor to the pool [blogspot.com] it says will go after Theora and other open-source codecs, but the fact that Steve Jobs knows about such plans and writes about them already says something. Then there are Microsoft's patents, such as the FAT patents [blogspot.com] . There's no litigation going on regarding those but HTC did agree to pay Microsoft patent royalties. All of those developments are important to watch, and it's key to make distinctions between different ways in which companies can use a patent. For an example, a license agreement (even though it's regrettable if unintentional infringers have to pay for something just because someone else previously took out a patent) is always a better outcome than a patent holder's refusal to negotiate at all.

Concerning abolition, I wish you best of luck with your effort but as long as only the Free and Open Source Software community is seriously committed to the cause [blogspot.com] while small and especially medium-sized businesses aren't (if they really wanted to get rid of software patents, they'd donate serious money to the FFII or to your campaign), I can't see how it's going to happen anytime soon. Therefore, I'm now increasingly focused on the way those patents get used, not because I like but because I have to recognize the fact that they exist now and will exist for much longer, unfortunately.

Re:but that's not the *big* problem (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192370)

Patent trolls are a problem for big companies that have lots of money.

Wouldn't patent trolls be a much bigger problem for small companies, without lots of money, or large patent portfolios?

A company like Microsoft can drop a $100 million on a bogus lawsuit without a second thought. But, for a small company, with assets under $1 million, that might not be so easy.

If a small company were to sue to Microsoft over a patent violation, Microsoft would find 20 patent violations with which to counter sue. No matter who is right or wrong, Microsoft would win, just due to staying power.

The #1 question: What Will Google Do? (2, Interesting)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192000)

The Wired article and most of the media reports and the comments here are focused on patent disputes between the hardware companies involved. But according to a recent announcement, Android is now a high-volume mobile phone operating system and everyone knows that it's a Google project.

Those vendors who, like HTC, decided to build smartphones running on Android had access to the program code on open-source terms. They may not have a formal contract in place with Google at all, or if there is one, it will be more focused on trademark rights because the software itself is under a free license. Still they probably all took a great deal of confidence from Google's backing of Android.

I don't mean to criticize Google for what it has (not) done yet: to step into the ring and bail out companies who took major business decisions based on their reliance upon a Google open-source project. But at some point in time, of which one can certainly argue that it hasn't come yet, there will be industry concern and also concern in the wider Free and Open Source Software community over the extent to which Google stands behind the open-source software it puts out. Google has a significant patent portfolio (small compared to the portfolios of IBM, Microsoft and even Apple, but still much bigger than that of HTC). Google could also pay royalties to patent holders given the important role that Android plays in its overall corporate strategy (Google could become a master licensee of the required patents and then grant sublicenses to vendors selling Android-based phones).

There are rumors that Google plans to open-source the VP8 video codec and it might happen very soon. Multimedia codecs are also a terrible patent minefield. [blogspot.com] Similarly as mobile phone operating software, they are an OEM component, meaning others incorporate them into their commercial products. Again, it's too early to blame Google for anything here, but the fact that Google doesn't try to bail out the vendors that propagate its Android software raises questions and if Google indeed does open-source VP8, industry will probably want to know about the patent situation. I believe that Google should then at the very least publish an analysis of the patent situation [blogspot.com] surrounding VP8, including the reasons why Google believes it doesn't infringe on any of the patents held by the MPEG LA pool. That's just one way to look at it. Commercial vendors may, based on the Android experience, actually ask Google for the possibility of an agreement under which Google would hold them harmless of patent infringement suits.

Again, the jury is still out on Google and patent problems with its open-source software, but I believe it's in Google's own best interest to counter an impression that Google puts out open-source projects it effectively controls and lets others take not only the risk that is connected with hardware manufacturing but also, even worse in my view, the risk related to possible patent infringement. It would come down to a game of "if Google wins, it wins; if Google loses (due to patents), its hardware partners lose."

I will be following those future developments closely on my FOSS Patents blog [blogspot.com] covering open-source patent issues. Now it's still too early to claim Google isn't committed to protecting its open-source initiatives.

Begun, the patent wars have. (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192152)

Begun, the patent wars have and it will not be good for any of us.

There can be only one (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192174)

And eventually we will have a single company that holds all the cards, for everything.

Multinationals (1)

NocturnHimtatagon (1116487) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192204)

Multinationals just build their own platforms. Why bother getting locking in a petty fight?

Patent system is obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32192274)

Patent laws need to get a COMPLETE re-write. They no longer work in todays world. They are hindering progress and technology. Either that or they need to become MUCH more expensive to file and be awarded.

Personally I think that each patent that is granted should come with a pre-set royalty fee. The patent is available for anyone to use, but anyone uses it knows a pre-set amount (a small percentage) they will need to pay based on how much they use it. Everyone wins, the person/company that filed/developed it and the person/company that put it to use and made our world better with it.

What are the features beign infringed? (2, Insightful)

s.whiplash (1810776) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192310)

What are the features that Apple, or the other companies, say are being infringed?

I have been using a Windows based smart phone for 7+ years and before that a Palm based smart phone for 4 years. There isn't anything new in the Apple phone that I haven't been doing for 6+ years, except for flinging your thumb to go to the next screen, but Palm was doing screen gestures 7 years ago. Plus other applications and systems have been doing similar things for a long time also.

Apple, and to an extent other companies, are great at marketing, by telling you they have all of this new technology, but non of it is really new of that different then what has been available for years.

Re:What are the features beign infringed? (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192592)

What are the features that Apple, or the other companies, say are being infringed?

In the case of Apple, they have patents on the multi-touch interface and the other companies did not license that interface before implementing it.

In the case of Nokia, they are part of a consortium that holds basic patents on cell phone technology including antenna configurations and cell tower switching algorithms necessary to build any cell phone that uses existing towers.

You can sum the case up as, both companies are infringing patents. Nokia says Apple's patents aren't as valuable but went ahead and infringed them anyway. Apple says Nokia is treating them unfairly by demanding more money and license to Apple's patents when they charges less to other phone makers, so they made their iPhone anyway infringing patents and will go to court to only have to pay the same as everyone else. And it is now obvious even to a child that our patent system and the practice of implementing patented non-licensed technologies in basic and necessary infrastructure is completely messed up and needs to be re-legislated by people who give a damn about what is best for the people and not big companies.

One more reason to stay away from smartphones (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192318)

It seems that the parties involved (Nokia, HTC, Apple, Blackberry, etc.) are more busy fighting for the money rather than taking care of developing OS and applications. No reasons for me to waste money for replacing my old cellphone and my trusted Filofax with a smartphone.

Re:One more reason to stay away from smartphones (3, Insightful)

hallucinogen (1263152) | more than 4 years ago | (#32192556)

If you spent over 40 billion EUR in R&D (like Nokia) I'm sure you'd sue as well if you thought that somebody was stealing your innovation (like Apple). Thankfully this isn't about "mind share" but actual merits. Nokia just might end up killing Apple's mobile ventures. As a Finn I'm totally rooting for Nokia because they make up a large chunk of our nation's GDP.
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