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World's Largest Patent Troll Fires First Salvo

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the sleeping-under-the-world's-largest-bridge dept.

Intel 189

ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "Yesterday the biggest software patent troll of all finally woke from its slumbers: Intellectual Ventures filed patent infringement complaints in the US District Court of Delaware against companies in the software security, DRAM and Flash memory, and field-programmable gate array industries. Intellectual Ventures was co-founded by Microsoft's former CTO Nathan Myhrvold, with others from Intel and a Seattle-based law firm." We discussed IV's potential for patent trollery last spring.

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My question about IV... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514220)

Will IV allow licensing of their patent portfolio, or will they do like a lot of companies, just get patents so nobody else can use them?

Re:My question about IV... (3, Insightful)

TheL0ser (1955440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514242)

They'll "let" other people use them.... and then sue them. Without even looking at it, I'm sure some of the patents are so broad I'm violating one by breathing.

Re:My question about IV... (2)

Dekker3D (989692) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514926)

And even if you aren't, you just gave someone a foul idea.

Re:My question about IV... (5, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514252)

Will IV allow licensing of their patent portfolio, or will they do like a lot of companies, just get patents so nobody else can use them?

Well, the original Slashdot article linked in TFS indicates that "it doesn't actually use these patents – except to threaten people with. In other words, Intellectual Ventures is a patent troll". They only license their patent portfolio. Expect this to basically be a shakedown.

Man, I hate that a company can exist just to own patents and sue people.

Re:My question about IV... (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514292)

this is the first time they've actually made *themselves* vulnerable.

going through subsidiaries is one thing but the end result here is that IV might get screwed (hopefully).

Re:My question about IV... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514430)

this is the first time they've actually made *themselves* vulnerable.

going through subsidiaries is one thing but the end result here is that IV might get screwed (hopefully).

Wait, I'm confused ... the one link the summary mentions nothing about subsidiaries, so I don't understand ... how might they be making themselves vulnerable?

Sorry if that's a thick sounding question, not done my first coffee yet. :-P

Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514474)

They only license their patent portfolio.

Oh, how I wish that was all that they did. As you can see from their site [intellectualventures.com] :

Intellectual Ventures has been actively inventing since August 2003. The company has filed thousands of patent applications in more than 50 technology areas and has thousands of ideas under consideration.

Since 2003 they have been gumming up the USPTO as well. Note that they've filed thousands of patent applications. No mention of how many were issued. It's entirely possible that they were issued to the actual people working at IV and not to IV but a search shows nine patents issued to IV [uspto.gov] on the USPTO.

So remember the TED Laser Mosquito/Malaria technology [slashdot.org] ? That's just a patent waiting to be issued then licensed [intellectualventures.com] but until then I wouldn't recommend building any.

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514692)

ddos the patent office, everyone file hundreds of patents.

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514896)

ddos the patent office, everyone file hundreds of patents.

*chuckles*

Oh Anonymous Coward, not all of life's problems can be solved with a DDOS. Like when my girlfriend left me last week and blocked my phone number -- calling her until her voice mail was full from work and friend's phones did no good.

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515128)

You aren't DDOSing enough - you need to branch out from just phones, and try and contact her in a variety of ways. It's like you're only trying to connect on one port. You need to be spamming her inbox, visitting her at work, at home, when she's out at dinner, you need to be leaving love letters EVERYWHERE she might go, you need to be outside her window blaring music from a boombox...

Trust me. It works*.

Hate to One Up Ya But ... (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515244)

She's already been reported to Anonymous as the lead prosecutor in the Assange case. She will feel my love yet.

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515376)

That's just a DOS attack from more than one node*, it's no wonder it didn't work.

You have to get five of your buddies together and all call at once - THEN it's a DDOS, and my god that would be hell!

It wouldn't get her to come back to you though, so if that's what you really want it will still do no good. If you want to simply make her life hell then it will work wonderfully.

*Multiple nodes must be attacking at the same time for it to be a DDOS.

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (0)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515386)

First post with the new sig, seems it's a touch long.

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514776)

just a patent waiting to be issued then licensed but until then I wouldn't recommend building any.

See? The system works!

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514878)

So they are a double troll. They don't actually make anything, that would leave them open to patent trolls. Instead, they come up with *new* ideas and wrap patents around them only to use them as sueballs.

Re:Oh No, They Do Much More Than That! (2)

Grond (15515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514914)

Since 2003 they have been gumming up the USPTO as well. Note that they've filed thousands of patent applications.

And it has paid application fees, search fees, and examination fees on every one of them. The Patent Office is entirely supported by fees. IV isn't "gumming up the Patent Office." In a sense that's not even possible. As long as a decent number of the applications issue as patents and IV pays maintenance fees on them, then they're fully paying their own way.

And it's still small potatoes compared to the top ten patent filers [ibm.com] , particularly IBM, which received 4,186 patents in 2008 alone, suggesting that it files about that many each year.

You Misunderstand Me (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515064)

I have no problem with what IBM does. They are a practicing entity which is directly opposite of what IV does [wikipedia.org] . The difference is that a high rate of IBM's patents are granted. This is proper use of the patent system because IBM then makes those products.

I suspect Intellectual Ventures spends a nice chunk of it's money on forcing patents through the system. Thousands of patents that evidently have little business being patents. But their legion of lawyers persists pushing these patents and revisioning them. Yes, they pay thousands of dollars on each patent to do this but this is an abuse of the patent system if they do this just because they have money.

Imagine if this first salvo results in hundreds of millions of dollars going to IV. Then what? Then that money goes into putting more strain on the USPTO and more lawyers are hired to push unwarranted patents through the system. Then those win more suits and more lawyers are hired in a classic breeder model of lawyer propagation. If my calculations are correct, by the year 2054 the Earth will be a mass of patent lawyers expanding outward at the speed of light only to eventually collapse back in on itself causing a "Big Crunch" and ending the universe until the next big bang. Intellectual Ventures must be stopped (with apologies to Stanislaw Lem).

But seriously, the two are totally different in that one produces and one sues.

Re:My question about IV... (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515030)

Man, I hate that a company can exist just to own patents and sue people.

You do realize that category includes a large number of universities and colleges, right? And publicly funded research labs?

What about companies that received a patent but decided not to pursue the technology themselves? Do they just have to eat the cost of the R&D? Or investors in a company that went bankrupt? They can't recoup any of their investment through the sale of the patent portfolio? Those scenarios are two major sources of IV's patent portfolio, including many of the patents involved in these lawsuits.

That policy would put an enormous chill on research & development investment.

Re:My question about IV... (2)

alaffin (585965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515224)

Again the difference is in the production. Universities, colleges and research labs still produce things. IV does not. They file patents based on "ideas' (as opposed to something they've developed - which makes me wonder if every patent they file shouldn't violate the whole "you can't patent obvious things" rule) and sit on patents they've purchased. No original research and development goes on there - they are lawyers, not creators.

As for your questions - yes, companies that develop something and choose not to pursue the technology have to eat the cost of R&D. Alternatively they can attempt to sell it to another company which will use it to defray the costs, but they key test, in my mind, should be active usage of the patent. If you patent something which is completely useless but which someone takes and makes obscenely useful and profitable ten years down the road I have no moral objection to saying nuts to you. Same goes for bankrupt companies. If someone purchases it with the intent of using it within the next - lets say five years - then that's fine. But to purchase and sit on it until someone else makes a killing off it? Nope - sorry, you had your chance. Now its someone else's turn.

Re:My question about IV... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515358)

As opposed to the chilling effect that being the second one there has on research... or the effect of wasted research on things nobody is going to do anything with... Here's a crazy idea, lets research stuff that we need to be able to do stuff with and make sure the research is useful or has the potential to be useful and ALSO make sure that if we start out researching something, someone else patenting the same thing won't render all the research we just spent money on useless despite the fact we did the work and paid for the research...

Re:My question about IV... (4, Interesting)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515268)

Man, I hate that a company can exist just to own patents and sue people.

Under the current patent system, this company type is likely to be the most profitable. By not actually utilising any patents, they are free from any claims of patent infringement. This means that all of those companies which have built up huge patent war chests with the aim of a "mutually assured destruction" if they are ever sued suddenly become vulnerable. There is no "patent war" defense against a company that doesn't make anything. If you don't make anything, you can't be countersued. From a business perspective it's an awesome idea. If Nokia were to set up an independent legal entity and assign ownership of their patents to that entity, that legal entity could then sue Apple without any fear of being countersued. Apple could do the same. I'm surprised we haven't seen any large companies doing this earlier, but if IV is successful, I bet we'll see a lot more of this company type in the future.

Yes, Per Patent (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514294)

Will IV allow licensing of their patent portfolio, or will they do like a lot of companies, just get patents so nobody else can use them?

Well, from their their website [intellectualventures.com] they list all their "products" and services:

  • Purchasing a nonexclusive license to relevant IV portfolio(s) on a term or life-of-patent basis
  • Purchasing an exclusive license (subject to pre-existing licenses) to selected IV invention(s) on a term or life-of-patent basis
  • AccessingIntellectual Property to use as defense against the threat of corporate assertions
  • Leveraging IV’s sophisticated acquisition capabilities to gain access to inventions of particular interest to you
  • Using IV as a financing source for mergers & acquisitions (M&A) whereby IV agrees to purchase a target company’sIntellectual Property to “bridge” the acquirer’s effective offer
  • Creating new inventions in conjunction with IV’s inventors and invention process

The first bullet appears to answer your question that yes, they do. But when you say "patent portfolio" I don't think you'll find anyone with enough cash to access to the whole portfolio, most likely it's one license to one patent at a time. I think their big "product" is providing a service to liquidate your patent very easily (like a pawn shop for patents) so far. This salvo may change that.

Re:Yes, Per Patent (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514736)

It looks like they've only been awarded about 10, based on google patent search engine.

Re:My question about IV... (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514724)

Suing in Delaware is a good thing.

The courts are fairly reasonable (in my personal experience watching things go on in person), and the rulings hold peer pressure weight in business matters in other areas, even when they are non-binding.

Re:My question about IV... (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515078)

yeah - I saw Delaware and was thinking the same - Patent Trolls file in eastern Texas where the judge just hands the trolls money without any real fight.

Re:My question about IV... (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515216)

Maybe they think they have a strong case, and a winning in DE will make going forward a lot easier.

It could be true too unfortunately (the strong case part). I'd feel better if it was in Delaware Chancellery Court, as the chancellors don't take BS, and rule smart.

Re:My question about IV... (1)

SwordsmanLuke (1083699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515356)

I'm not sure. I just read SuperFreakonomics and IV is featured (quite positively, I might add) in the book.

According to the authors, IV exists to provide a mass market for IP by acting as a clearinghouse. They purchase patents (from anyone, but that does include small-time engineers/inventors without the capital to develop their creation) and solicit other companies to license them. They also do a fair bit of inventing themselves (including some awesome environmental engineering devices intended to stop global warming and reduce the effects of hurricanes!) so it's not clear to me that they exist *only* to troll.

That being said, it *is* clear that their primary source of income is the licenses from their patents and it's *not* clear what percentage of their profitable patents are things invented in house or externally.

Good? (2)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514228)

Good, I think. Hopefully this will finally cause big companies to fight to get rid of software patents and patent troll companies as a whole.

Actually the Article Notes RPX Corp. (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514340)

Good, I think. Hopefully this will finally cause big companies to fight to get rid of software patents and patent troll companies as a whole.

Actually, the response has not been to rid the world of software patents as you so hoped and the threat of Intellectual Ventures has long been affecting companies. From the article:

The threat posed by Intellectual Ventures helped prompt the rise of firms like RPX Corp. It is paid by companies to buy up potentially threatening patents; the companies receive licenses to those patents, and RPX pledges never to sue over them.

Think about that for a second. The system for software patents is so screwed up and backwards that it's cheaper to pay someone to buy up a patent and promise to never sue over it than it is for you to build a patent war chest and wait for the big one to hit. It's like patent insurance. Easily the most interesting thing in the article to me. Unfortunately this shows tolerance and a way to move forward.

Re:Good? (2)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514530)

Who makes money from the current patent system? Lawyers, on both sides. We should change the laws.

What kind of people get elected to Congress?

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071025191741AAnHym8 [yahoo.com]

Oh crap.

Re:Good? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515286)

Completely agree. Either a massive overhaul or throw out the entire patent system or at least the software part. It does no one any good except for lawyers.

At the very least, implement something like if a patent has not been actively developed into a product within two years, and/or if that product is not available to the public from five years of patent issue, then the patent becomes invalid and is automatically released into the public domain. This would keep patents to their true purpose - idea sharing, not padding lawyers pockets.

Re:Good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514930)

You are a naive little boy. You don't understand how the game works do you? I could tell you, but that would ruin it for you.

Re:Good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515002)

Nathan Myhrvold legacy for all time is, he's a scum ball that slowed innovation. Hope he suffers from a disease they find the cure for the day after he dies.

Re:Good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515196)

Personally I doubt it. There is so much revenue spent/made at every step of a patents process, that it is more likely to have serious lobbyists.

Troll'd (3)

diskofish (1037768) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514230)

You've been troll'd!
You've been troll'd!
Have a nice day!


Troll'd [youtube.com]

+5 TROLL. MOD UNDERRATED! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514400)

I modded this guy troll. Can we get a bunch of underrated mods to make +5, Troll...
 

nice try guys... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514938)

dammit Taco, now it's just showing (Score:5)

Starting Score: 1 point
Moderation +4
80% Underrated
20% Troll

Total Score: 5

Re:Troll'd (2)

angiasaa (758006) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514756)

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
You've been troll'd, You've been troll'd! You've been troll'd!

It's a bit early, but I could'nt help myself. Merry Christmas! :D

Good. (4, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514290)

Well, it's not good directly, but if the big companies start getting hit by patent attacks, then we might soon see absurd patent laws and approvals get an overdue overhaul. Previously, they've seemed like an advantage to the big players because they form a barrier to entry that keeps out new competition. The big players have armouries of patents and, much like nuclear weapons are supposed to protect through a principle of MAD, they didn't use them on each other much. But it seems there is rampant proliferation and we're seeing patent fights between big players erupt despite this (e.g. Nokia and Apple). So maybe disillusionment with them will creep in. And unlike nuclear weapons, disarmament is simple - big companies can't advocate for a change in the laws of Physics, but changes in the laws of the land, they can do.

Maybe it's optimistic. Maybe it will all settle down into a cartel and the patent threat to small players will remain. But if the patent trolls are greedy enough to really take a bite out of the hand that feeds them, perhaps not.

Re:Good. (4, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514358)

To put in the perspective of world politics, the big companies are like Russia, China, or the US. Each has significant assets to protect, making MAD a viable way to protect themselves.

The patent trolls are like North Korea or Iran; they have no real assets to protect and nothing of significant value that can be destroyed (assuming you don't give a damn about people or jobs, which they don't).

So as long as the big companies have something to protect, the North Koreas and Irans of the business world will continue to harass them until the rules change.

Re:Good. (2)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514456)

You miss the point that I was making. Microsoft or Motorola can't recommend that the laws of Physics be changed to make Nuclear weapons ineffective (well, they could, but only for the lulz). However, they can quite plausibly bring about patent reform by pushing for changes in the laws of, well, law. ;)

A few super-powers having nuclear weapons gives them a game advantage over the non-nuclear powers. But when that strategy fails, it is better for them to have everyone disarmed and fall back on their mighty conventional forces. As I said in my post, this may not be an option with nuclear weapons (though I would like to see disarmament), but it certainly is with patents. Don't take analogies too far.

Re:Good. (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514864)

Follow-up to my previous reply: I think I slightly mis-read you when you expanded on and improved my analogy. I guess on Slashdot I'm just used to posts following the pattern or Statement - > Disagreement. ;)
Sorry.
H.

Re:Good. (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515396)

The patent trolls are like North Korea or Iran; they have no real assets to protect and nothing of significant value that can be destroyed

Not really. "The economy of Iran is the eighteenth largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity" [wikipedia.org] . Iran has lots of oil and gas. And the people in charge do have something to lose: power, control, influence, personal wealth. Same thing for the guys at the top of the North Korean system.

swine... (3, Insightful)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514310)

Corporate leeches like this are why American capitalism is in the toilet.

Re:swine... (5, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514434)

No, the corruption of capitalism with imaginary property is why these things are in the toilet. It's an artificial monopoly over everyone's (non-imaginary) property.

Re:swine... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514794)

Most capitalism is and always has been about imaginary property.

Here, I'll show you. You go build me a car factory, and in return, I'll give you a shiny number of your very own. Then you give some of your number back to me and in return I'll give you a car from my factory.

money != capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514876)

money != capitalism.

Epic, epic fail there.

It's a medium of exchange.

You could, for example, hand over a house instead of a shiny number and that person who built the factory can go live in that house or exchange it for a small farm acreage and the work of someone to grow the food.

That is still a captialist system.

Yet no shiny imaginary construct required.

Re:swine... (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514892)

But then you can give some of noidentity's number to another person who will give you food and clothing for your children, for example. So you didn't give your car in return for nothing, there's merely a time delay before you get something solid in return for it.

Re:swine... (1)

BlitzTech (1386589) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514920)

Your argument boils down to eliminating arbitrary currency on the basis of it having no intrinsic value. Would you propose we return to a barter system? The only reason currency works is because it has use as a universal exchange medium between arbitrary sets of goods; bartering requires both parties have something the other party wants.

Faith in the buying power of currency is what gives it value, because without it, the exchange of goods would be so unnecessarily difficult as to significantly hinder the exchange of goods and overall economic growth. You seem to have a massive failure in understanding of what people on /. mean when they say "imaginary property", which is "intellectual property". It has nothing to do with assigned value to intrinsically worthless materials (currency).

Re:swine... (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515274)

I think that's a good argument to get people to stop calling it "imaginary property". Things like currency and many forms of contract (retainers, rental agreements, etc.) fit under an intuitive definition of "imaginary property" and not under one of "intellectual property".

Twisting words like that to inject your opinions has always struck me as juvenile. I don't mean to pick on anybody here in particular -- slashdot has its jargon. But imagining this term at the outset makes me think of a grown man heckling a little girl giving a sales pitch for cookies: "Suzie? More like Snoozie! Am I right or am I right?"

Re:swine... (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514934)

Hardware stores, Sears, auto dealerships, pawn shops, grocery stores, shoe stores, firework stores, doctor practices, etc. That's real property.

Most of capitalism is not about imaginary property. And if you had a large company that scaled up by employing hundreds or thousands of people only to have (cough) Chinese companies come in an steal your special sauce, you'd suddenly find imaginary property is your hundreds or thousands of employees being laid off. Them are imaginary property.

Re:swine... (1)

ninja59 (1029474) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515372)

I think everyone here is being very short sighted with your concepts. Capitalism is an excellent way to distribute resources and organize groups of people when there is something new and needs new organization or distribution. It quickly becomes dominated by someone/business that must be broken down (ie trust busting or splitting the winner to maintain the useful competition that originally distributed the resource.) This is the role of gov't, or should be; regulate and protect the public because the natural end result of capitalism is to maximize profit which at some point will mean "take advange of little guy because we just can't reasonable be more efficient and we already killed the competition." What I am saying is that we should be looking for a cyclical phenomena. Capitalism sees this non-tangible thing/concept of IP and takes advantage. It created huge companies like MS. Google and Co. who in turn have thousands of employees who buy stuff and the system goes forward. This power has been concentrating since the IT bubble bust and now it is reaching the tipping point; something's gotta give. IV is an example of this. The exploitation must cycle again or a new thing will come up. It's like populism, a great concept but not complete. Populism wants the best for those who have the least. If it succeeds it destroys itself and there must be a plan for what we do when "now those who had the least have more." Capitalism is the same, it does one thing really well but there must a next step for when it finishes distributing.

Re:swine... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514646)

Corporate leeches like this are why American capitalism is in the toilet.

Well, this is American capitalism at its finest, and it's the logical conclusion of the way they do things. The whole ACTA treaty is so that patent-trolls and IP lawyers can sue every last motherfucker on the planet.

The American notion of capitalism is the most bloated, fucked up, and protectionist thing you can imagine. For a country that constantly says how much they want the free market and free trade, they do everything they possibly can to make sure that neither could possibly exist.

Sorry America, but you brought this on yourself. Fuck you for foisting this crap on the rest of us.

I for one welcome... (1)

McNihil (612243) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514336)

these Intellectual Vulture Overlords.

< / s a r c a s m >

Re:I for one welcome... (1)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514972)

<sarcasm>
those Intellectual Vultire Overlords
</sarcasm>
There, sorted that for you! :-)

Legal Blackmail (4, Interesting)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514354)

My biggest gripe about patents is that they're kind of like legal blackmail. "Pay me money or I'll ruin your company in a large number of frivolous lawsuits." Patents were originally intended to protect inventors, but companies like IV have provided an evil twist.

Re:Legal Blackmail (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514490)

Might be a plausible defense against IV under RICO statutes. How crap like this could not be considered extortion is beyond me.

Re:Legal Blackmail (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514766)

RICO only applies to *criminal* acts.

Unless you can prove extortion, RICO won't even be in town, let alone knocking at the door. And since patent infringement is a *civil* matter, good luck with that.

Thing is that patents are such a mess that it's hard to establish that the lawsuits are frivolous.

Re:Legal Blackmail (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514998)

Actually, no, it applies to civil proceedings as well.

Re:Legal Blackmail (1)

randoms (194768) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515108)

Indeed. The one with the money wins.

Just Like Copyright (5, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514726)

Imaginary property like patents and copyright always consolidates power over information into the hands of the few. They do not protect the creators, they make ideas a commodity to be traded.

Re:Legal Blackmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514782)

Not blackmail ... extortion.

Re:Legal Blackmail (1)

randoms (194768) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515050)

Yep!

But they got TAX BREAKS (2, Insightful)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514356)

I thought the justification for continuing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans was that it would help the economy, because investment would trickle down through innovation / job creation. Here is a wonderful counter point to that argument.

If we want to entice the wealthy to use money to create jobs, why don't tie their rewards directly to job creation? These people are actually killing the economy and making people poor by creating a money-sink in the economy where no value is added. They are not only hurting these big companies with their greed, they are helping to force a divide in wealth distribution and indirectly making real people go hungry.

Re:But they got TAX BREAKS (1)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514614)

who do you think MAKES the laws?

Re:But they got TAX BREAKS (3, Insightful)

microbox (704317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514710)

These people are actually killing the economy and making people poor by creating a money-sink in the economy where no value is added. They are not only hurting these big companies with their greed, they are helping to force a divide in wealth distribution and indirectly making real people go hungry.

Your logic is impecable; however, it will bounch straight off of market fundamentalists. The economy of imaginary things is precisely what the new world order stands for, and an expression of the correctness of laisezz-faire capitalism. Railing against it is totalitarian, and will just interfer with wealth creation and freedom. Interesting that wealth is created out of imaginary things that are meaningless, trivial, and detrimental to getting real work done. But, in the words of one venture capitalist: IP is the new gold. The economy has to grow somehow -- and that is the ultimate rationalisation for this madness.

Re:But they got TAX BREAKS (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515006)

His logic isn't impecable (sic) nor impeccable. His unfounded assumption is that the wealthy are not using money to create jobs. Very few of the wealthy are patent trolls as the gp seems to think. He's arguing that the few examples he thinks he sees allow him to damn a whole class.

Many of the wealthy got there by investing in companies that produce jobs. Some greedy have destroyed jobs, but one doesn't need to be wealthy to be greedy as legions of Business School Product will attest.

Re:But they got TAX BREAKS (2)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515254)

Your logic is impecable; however, it will bounch straight off of market fundamentalists.

"Market fundamentalists" aren't even self-consistent. Corporations exist solely due to interference in the free market by the Nanny State in the form of various Companies Acts.

A "truly free" market would have no corporations, as it would not permit limited liability for individuals. That liability limitation is a huge interference with the legal basis of a free market.

And because corporations would not exist in a free market, they cannot reasonably expect to operate in one: the state, which protects corporate owners from liability, clearly also has a warrant to make laws that protect non-corporate entities from the actions that those same owners take in the non-free market that allows corporations to exist.

Someone should (1)

maakri (1914602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514376)

Someone should patent being a patent troll and then troll all these fucks.

They Fired their First Salvo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514970)

I say we fired back, from orbit and nuke their head quarter while all their lawyers and officers are inside the building.

I own a patent. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514398)

Should I not have the right to sell my patent? If I sell my patent to a holding that chooses to license the patent to other manufacturers, but also sue infringers... Is that trolling?

I genuinely would like to know what /. thinks the correct answers are to these two questions.

*posting as AC to protect my karma*

Re:I own a patent. (3, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514582)

You make two mistakes in asking what /. thinks are the correct answers. One is assuming that Slashdot has a group mind, the second is that the most vocal are the most representative. But with those caveats:

Sure, you could sell your patent if that's the best way of capitalising on it. But whether that's good or bad depends on other factors - mainly the validity of your patent. If you just patented an idea that would likely occur to other people and sat on it until someone else did think of it and then sued over it... That would be bad. You've contributed nothing and caused a destructive effect. If you were an independent research chemist who came up with an innovative new process after much testing and it's far from obvious, then by all means approach another company and sell or licence your patent. But you see the difference between the two examples is not whether or not the patent has been sold. It's whether the patent has been originally awarded to someone or some group that actually added to society with their original contribution. What companies like this do, is file as many stupid obvious or natural ideas as they can and then look for someone else to independently stumble into the same area before pouncing.

The answer to the question of whether you have the right to sell the patent, is actually more, do you have the right to a patent. I.e. did you come up with something genuinely original, either through your unique genius or more likely careful testing and research, that has added to society's capability, or did you write down "a website could have a 'one-click' button that lets you buy things" and wait for someone to implement it.

Re:I own a patent. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514686)

The answer to the question of whether you have the right to sell the patent, is actually more, do you have the right to a patent. I.e. did you come up with something genuinely original, either through your unique genius or more likely careful testing and research, that has added to society's capability, or did you write down "a website could have a 'one-click' button that lets you buy things" and wait for someone to implement it.

For argument's sake, let us assume my method legitimately passes all the tests, and that I have the right to patent. If I sell my rightfully obtained patent to a holding that both licenses the patent, and sues infringers; are they necessarily a patent troll?

I want to know because IMHO I see patents as a double-edged sword for inventors. If I am unable to raise enough capital to launch my invention properly into a marketplace, is it socially acceptable to sell it to an entity such as IV? If it is not, what other recourse would I have to profit (assuming a large sum of money would be required to setup manufacturing)?

Does the term "patent troll" only apply to entities that only litigate and not license?

Re:I own a patent. (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514846)

If I am unable to raise enough capital to launch my invention properly into a marketplace, is it socially acceptable to sell it to an entity such as IV?

"Socially" depends on the society. If you hang out on Slashdot, it's socially acceptable to rip off people's work and investments because "copying isn't theft", doesn't mean there isn't real world harm. You have to follow your own conscience and reasoning. But yes, if you've legitimately contributed something original and non-obvious to the World but lack the capital, means or time to develop it yourself, sure, it's not wrong to sell that on and say: "this is worth a hundred-thousand dollars, but would take me months I can't afford to bring it to market, would you like it for twenty-thousand dollars and you do the work?" But not to a company like IV. They're not a patent troll because they purchase patents from other people, they're a patent troll because they bury the patents doing nothing useful with them, and wait for someone else to develop a similar idea and piggy back on other people's work. Whoever you sell your patent to, you're effectively forming a partnership with them for moral purposes. Sell it to IV to sit on waiting for an unwary researcher, and that's no different to you doing the same thing yourself, it's merely that you're splitting the profits with a fellow villain. But if say you developed a new chemical process and took it to an appropriate industry company that word build on it and make use of it, then similarly that's no different than you doing so yourself, except that you have found a fellow colleague who will help you in the work.

If you have a valid patent, a socially positive patent, then like most assets, you can direct that to good or ill. Split the profits (i.e. by selling or partnering) with a socially postive partner, you're doing a socially positive thing. Pick a patent troll (i.e. someone that merely uses it as a trap for others), then you have not.

If stuck on a moral question, reason through the consequences of your actions, with the more inclusive the good achieved being your rough guide to how moral the action is (i.e. benefits only you - meh, benefits your neighbourhood - better, benefits the whole world - yay!).

Does that sort of answer what you were asking?

Re:I own a patent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514886)

h4rm0ny, it sure helps! Thanks!

Re:I own a patent. (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515068)

You're welcome. But I wouldn't make a habit of seeking moral guidance on Slashdot. ;)

Good luck with the whole advancing mankind thing. :)

H.

Re:I own a patent. (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515114)

"Socially" depends on the society. If you hang out on Slashdot, it's socially acceptable to rip off people's work and investments because "copying isn't theft",

As well as if you hand out any place else in the world. Since everyone thinks that "copying isn't theft". The ones that claim they think copying is theft just don't count the copying they do.

Intel vs. McAfee via IV (5, Interesting)

bark (582535) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514418)

The article states that Intel is one of the investors of Intellectual Ventures. The article also says that one of the lawsuits was filed against McAfee, which Intel recently bought. So in this case, Intel is hiring someone else to sue itself - it would be much easier to hold an employee venting day if that's all they wanted to do.

Re:Intel vs. McAfee via IV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514492)

That's...awesome. I really, really hope they don't wise up and stop that part of the suit. I want this to go down in business/law history as a textbook case of when corporate entities are freaking stupid.

Re:Intel vs. McAfee via IV (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515034)

"We're helping you to hire us to help ourselves.".

Re:Intel vs. McAfee via IV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515060)

Big corporations are like families. You'd never know if your adopted child would kill you, or your own offsprings.

Neal Stephenson has a hand in this (5, Interesting)

jefurii (210787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514422)

From the Intellectual Ventures [mac.com] page on his personal site:

I work part-time at Intellectual Ventures Labs, which enables me to get out of the house and exercise the nerdy predilections that I used to exercise at Blue Origin. This is a sort of all-purpose science lab and thing-making facility where new inventions are developed.

Re:Neal Stephenson has a hand in this (5, Insightful)

theodicey (662941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514660)

I once knew someone who was naive enough to confuse a patent troll operation with a real Menlo Park skunkworks/invention lab.

She was 22 years old and looking for a job; what's Stephenson's excuse?

Good! (1)

SiaFhir (686401) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514424)

Good! The sooner these patent trolls starts swarming the courtrooms, the sooner the absurdity of software patents become obvious. Let's all hope this is the beginning of the end of software patents as well as patents that are so vague and broad as to be meaningless.

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514606)

Good! The sooner these patent trolls starts swarming the courtrooms, the sooner the absurdity of software patents become obvious. Let's all hope this is the beginning of the end of software patents as well as patents that are so vague and broad as to be meaningless.

...unless you want to consider it as job security for all involved?

Re:Good! (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514798)

You're kidding right?

The lawyer guild is going to be making a *fourtune* processing these cases.

This is good news. (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514428)

Abuses of the law lead to reform.

Re:This is good news. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514762)

Abuses of the law lead to reform.

While I'm sure your world is all shiny and pretty, and I don't want to spoil it for you ... I'm not convinced what you say is true.

"Intellectual Property" is what America is betting the whole farm on -- I fail to see how it would be possible to rein in the law with regards to copyright, patents, and what-not.

Do you see anything falling into the public domain that was ever published by an American company? Do you see anything to do with "fair use" being upheld? Do you see any moves to rein in patents? In fact, you see all of these things being strengthened and mad more ridiculous.

Sorry man, we're going backwards, not the way you hope we will.

Correction (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514590)

Intellectual Vultures more like.

Simple Solutions to paten trolls. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514598)

A. set a time limit for law suits, i.e. 1yr from the commercialization of competing product.

there will be no cash incentive to sue a unproven product, unless you belive that your current offering is better.

competition will try to find alternate solution to beat the product. everyone is happy.

you miss the 1yr time frame, too bad.

no more patten trolls.

Do away with patents entirely (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514658)

They don't do any good anymore. Little inventors cannot even hope to sue a company like Intellectual Ventures unless they can find a lawyer willing--and able--to last years of litigation against the kind of legal resources such a company can focus on them. God help the poor SoB if IV retaliates by claiming infringement on half a dozen of its patents in the process of creating your own patent.

The reason people still support them is "fairness." It's not "fair" that people have great ideas but someone else monetizes them in a better way. Then someone says "they worked so hard and then someone stole the idea." All the hard work (misdirected or that produces nothing of value) in the world and a $1.50 still won't buy you a latte at Starbucks. As it shouldn't!

And ironically, all this system creates is one that is often unjust. Some poor guy who thinks he may become the next Bill Gates will probably have IV nuke him from orbit with a patent lawsuit right as he gets big enough that he's worth having Guido and Vinny, J.D. show up at his office with an offer he can't refuse ("hey, great idea you got going, it would be a shame if anything happened to it...")

Re:Do away with patents entirely (1)

zQuo (1050152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515276)

While I think that patents can sometimes be a good thing, (e.g. pharmaceuticals where new drug development is extremely risky), the current patent system is so bogged down scrapping patents entirely may be better than what we have now: a gradual continual strangling of tech innovation. The cost and legal risks of tech innovation in America keeps on going up.

There will be no sanity from the Patent Office while they directly benefit from patent renewal fees, fees that are the bulk of the PTO revenues. The patent office is proud to be the only government agency that operates in the black. Er, isn't that raising a red flag? That is not necessarily a good measure of success. They are selling the country's future competitiveness for their operating budget and bragging rights amongst the other agencies.

Patents are inherently restrictive. It's as if the FCC sold "radio rights" to sue anyone else using a small part of the radio spectrum for a specific marketing purpose. Or the post office sold "mailing rights" to sue anyone delivering mail of certain topics to a small region.... um, this might not be a good direction to continue speculating.

Intellectual Ventures' ad campaign (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514800)

It's obvious what their company theme song should be: Never Gonna Give You Up

Almost worked for IV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514832)

Last year, an old colleague calls and wanted to recruit me for this. Initially the idea of working of Myhrvold piqued my interest. I met with their team and got the scoop. The business plan is solid and I think they have a great chance to make money. They certainly had the money to offer talent to work for them. But as I never worked for the porn houses, Haliburton or a myriad other sketchy places I politely declined. My rule of being able to look Grandma in the eye and tell here who/what my work is didn't match up.

Trolls aren't the biggest problem (4, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514834)

Below are links to background info, but keep in mind that trolls create a tax, but they're not the big problem. They're generally not the patent holders that break standards or exclude free software projects. They're just after money, so they are parasites to the rich. The MPEG-LA patents, for example, are much more harmful (they blocked HTML5 from including a standard video format) and are held by "real" software companies.

swpat.org is a publicly editable wiki, help welcome.

What would NM do? (1)

Peristaltic (650487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514884)

Go easy on the guy- Nathan doesn't have enough money or power... He NEEDs to troll patents to make the voices go away.

Windfall profits (1)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515350)

If any entities deserve some punitive taxation, these people and their lawyers should be it. They produce nothing and simply suck capital from the producers. How about a 90% tax rate on lawyer fees from lawsuits. Let's see how long the lawyers stick around. Oh wait - lawyers write the tax code, shit.

We can only hope... (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515364)

>File Patent Infringement Claims

>You were eaten by a Grue!
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