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Apple Ordered To Pay $8M For Playlist Patents

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-the-east-texas-heat-that-addles dept.

Patents 104

An anonymous reader writes "A federal jury in Texas has decided against Apple in a patent infringement lawsuit and ordered it to pay $8 million to Personal Audio LLC, a patent licensing company (aka troll). The lawsuit started in 2009. Last year Apple's three fellow defendants (Sirius XM Radio, Coby Electronics and Archos) settled. Apple said the patents were invalid and not infringed. The patent holder demanded $84M and will now get about 10% of that amount. Juries in East Texas frequently rule in favor of patent holders. In the same district court Lodsys has already filed four lawsuits. In one of them it targets seven app developers and Apple has moved to intervene. The first two developers were already given a deadline: they must answer Lodsys's complaint by July 21, unless they request an extension."

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104 comments

Didn't Apple ever read the netiquette FAQ? (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36718968)

Even kids these days know not to feed the trolls.

Re:Didn't Apple ever read the netiquette FAQ? (4, Informative)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719084)

The problem with patent trolls is, that they're similar but quite different from internet trolls:

* Internet Trolls: They want your attention, to harass you and that you get angry. They achieve this by posting/writing nonsense, half-truths and lies anywhere into the internet. Solution: Ignore them, they might shout louder, but you can still ignore them.

* Patent Tolls: They want your money. They utilize a broken patent system and the courts. Solution: Burn them with fire. Hint: Ignoring them might result in you getting sued and you might lose everything.

Re:Didn't Apple ever read the netiquette FAQ? (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719810)

Solution: Burn them with fire.

But then you run the risk of getting charged with arson and/or some sort of murder charge. I'm not sure if it's worth it.

Re:Didn't Apple ever read the netiquette FAQ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720372)

Protip:

USE "SOCIAL ENGINEERING"!

(To get someone else to do it.)

IT'S VERY EFFECTIVE!

Or what do you think mass media, PR/marketing, and churches were invented for? ;)

Re:Didn't Apple ever read the netiquette FAQ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720998)

Trolls aren't human, it's not murder, it's open season on wild rabid trolls.

Re:Didn't Apple ever read the netiquette FAQ? (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#36722492)

Solution: Burn them with fire.

But then you run the risk of getting charged with arson and/or some sort of murder charge. I'm not sure if it's worth it.

Compared to the cost of litigation it just as well may be.

Mod this FP karma whore down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720924)

How are internet trolls and patent trolls the same? And you're suggesting lawsuits should be dealt with by ignoring them?

Moron.

My mind reels... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719018)

At the notion that you could get a patent on the idea of transferring a playlist from a computer to an MP3 player(ie. a second computer, but smaller...)

M3Us have been around for ages, and playlists generally are really just a special case of programs accepting lists of files as arguments, which is downright ancient. And transferring a set of commands from one computer to a second, more embedded, computer? I'm pretty sure I was FTPing postscript to some HP from back when they knew how to build them properly(only print commands that went through the windows spooler system were caught by the billing system, you see...) back in highschool...

More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

Ice Tiger (10883) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719022)

Instead of wasting silly amounts of money on licences, legal fees and patent portfolios wouldn't it be more cost effective to lobby the law makers to change patent law to mean software couldn't be patented?

Wouldn't that be the fiscal duty of CEOs to do so?

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

lpp (115405) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719074)

It would only be fiscally responsible of the CEO to do so if they lost more money due to fighting software related patents than they earn by licensing their own software patents. That means the motivation to eliminate software patents is borne entirely by the smaller companies with little to nothing in the way of a software portfolio, everything to lose if they remain intact, and much less money to fight that system with.

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

Ice Tiger (10883) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719134)

FTA "Apple recently paid $2 billion for a collection of 4G wireless networking patents from Canadian telecommunications company Nortel in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage in the smartphone race."

It's not just fighting the patent trolls it's about the other costs as well.

Lobbying tends to have much greater return on investment.

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719184)

Gigantic cross-licensed patent arsenals certainly do help keep the little people in their place; but there is one additional factor: The patent troll.

Large patent-holders are mostly locked in a cold war with one another, lots of needless expenditure; but relatively little blood most of the time, and they get to be superpowers and crush smaller competitors like insects(or buy them out when the smaller competitor discovers that they have something quite innovative; but would need to license 3,000 patents to make it to market...)

Patent trolls, though, by possessing patents; but never doing anything that could infringe on patents(because their only business is patent trolling) disrupt this cushy equilibrium. They are sort of the non-state suitcase bombers with nothing to lose in the patent wars.

Perversely, if we want meaningful patent reform, it might actually be best to applaud and encourage patent trolling as much as possible. As long as 'defensive' patents build up in the arsenals of incumbents, the incumbents have very limited incentive to change things. The lawyers cost money, sure; but the strategic advantage is worth it. Add enough patent trolls to the mix, though, and they'll have to deal with an enemy who has no interest in cross-licensing and friendship, and who has nothing they can threaten...

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#36721114)

Patent trolls, though, by possessing patents; but never doing anything that could infringe on patents(because their only business is patent trolling) disrupt this cushy equilibrium. They are sort of the non-state suitcase bombers with nothing to lose in the patent wars.

Perversely, if we want meaningful patent reform, it might actually be best to applaud and encourage patent trolling as much as possible.

So... One man's troll is another man's freedom fighter!

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36721784)

I don't know of any trolls who profess such idealistic motives; but the existence of patent trolls arguably does more to discourage the People Who Matter from supporting patents than just about anything else. Little people who try to actually make things are exactly the sort of suckers you can crush with your patent arsenal, and other titans tend to settle down into a relatively polite cross-license stalemate. Trolls are the freelance suitcase bomber extortionists of the patent world.

The closest analogy would probably be to Nikolay Chernyshevsky, reputed to have said "The worse, the better." with regard to the conditions of the poor. He was a leftist revolutionary; but was of the position that any incremental amelioration in misery would simply make the status quo stronger, while radical increases in oppression would make revolt and destruction of the old regime more likely.

In the case of patents, incremental attempts to reform the system are likely to get some of the worst patents off the table, and maybe raise the cost of rocket-docketing; but that will arguably make things worse: Incumbents will still be able to crush little guys(possibly even more easily, since the procedural expense would have increased, allowing the 'bury the little guy you just stiffed in legal fees' strategy to work better), and major patent trolls(which tend to have pretty deep pockets) would be undeterred. If, on the other hand, practically any attempt at productive activity attracts a dozen sleazy lawyers to Nowhere, Texas, baying for blood, the incumbents will finally find that the costs outweigh the benefits, and opinion will probably change in Washington with almost magical speed...

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719114)

Unless said company holds lots of patents or after taking a patent blow is in a field that can begin developing/buying patents itself.

I find it easiest to think of patents as the nuclear weapons of the business world. Sure, we would likely be better off if we lived in a world where the thought of needing them never came up. A lot of companies and people may wish them all gone. But the patent system is too useful to completely reform for the big players, but just broken enough to encourage non-aggression pacts.

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

poltsy (1897872) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719118)

You mean to just let anyone compete against you without being able to intimidate and/or sue them in to submission? Hell no! These trolls are but a minor irritation considering the huge barrier to entry patents provide.

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719488)

They are already doing so, and that includes Apple. Even so, they can't simply roll over for any patent troll in the hopes that patent reform actually happens.

http://www.patentfairness.org/media/press/ [patentfairness.org]

Instead of wasting silly amounts of money on licences, legal fees and patent portfolios wouldn't it be more cost effective to lobby the law makers to change patent law to mean software couldn't be patented?

Wouldn't that be the fiscal duty of CEOs to do so?

Coalition for Patent Fairness members include Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Google, Intel, Intuit, Micron, Oracle, RIM, SAP, and Symantec.

Re:More cost effective to buy law makers (1)

petteyg359 (1847514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36739598)

Instead of wasting silly amounts of money on licences, legal fees and patent portfolios wouldn't it be more cost effective to lobby the law makers to change patent law to mean software couldn't be patented?

Wouldn't that be the fiscal duty of CEOs to do so?

Coalition for Patent Fairness members include Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Google, Intel, Intuit, Micron, Oracle, RIM, SAP, and Symantec.

That coalition has no such goal, according to their website. They just want the system to favor them.

MoDevDC Meetup on Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719030)

Some of our MoDevDC members have been hit by LodSys for including 'buy now' buttons in their apps, others by Macrosolve for building "forms". Simply ridiculous. We're hosting a panel discussion on the subject of patent trolls:

http://www.meetup.com/modevdc/events/24893801/

Sickening (1)

MM-tng (585125) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719036)

This kind of stuff keeps a lot of people from getting into business.

Don't ship to Texas (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719106)

To avoid the jurisdiction of unfriendly district courts in Texas, would it be enough not to allow products to be shipped to Texas?

Re:Don't ship to Texas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719182)

If lack of presence were enough, the patent holders could simply buy a few infringing devices and send them to Texas.

interstate commerce (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719334)

What about the interstate commerce clause? Can you sell the "used" stuff in Texas?

Re:interstate commerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719380)

"What about the interstate commerce clause?"

Signup would be required for operation, and in signup it asks "Do you live in texas?". In the "Texas-mode", the device only has a calculator application.

Re:interstate commerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720088)

This will work out well for my calculator patents.

Re:interstate commerce (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719606)

Interstate commerce clause applies to EVERYTHING according to the SCOTUS. Even things that are only sold locally.

Re:interstate commerce (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719630)

Note: hit submit instead of continue editing...

It even applies to things that are not even sold at all, for instance a farmer growing grain to feed to his own animals because he could have bought that grain from someone in another state instead.

Re:interstate commerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719654)

Just setup the EULA that the products aren't allowed to be sold, used or even thought about in the state of texas - then if it happens it's a direct breach of contract right? major sewage (pun intended) of the users who did so commences.

Re:interstate commerce (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720798)

Even things that aren't being sold at all. If you grow your own wheat to avoid participating in interstate commerce, you are participating in interstate commerce.

Re:interstate commerce (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720496)

What about the interstate commerce clause?

How would a federal district court in Texas have jurisdiction over a transaction between someone in California and someone in Indiana?

Can you sell the "used" stuff in Texas?

Infringement would not be willful.

Re:Don't ship to Texas (1)

wkcole (644783) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719588)

To avoid the jurisdiction of unfriendly district courts in Texas, would it be enough not to allow products to be shipped to Texas?

No. Patent cases are Federal cases and it does not matter much in picking a specific Federal court venue whether a defendant that does business globally and is based in the US has any operations in a particular district. A plaintiff can justify the venue based on their convenience and the expertise of the court, since a company like Apple isn't really hampered by having to get lawyers to someplace like Lufkin TX to argue a case. For matters of clear Federal jurisdiction (i.e. not issues like state and local sales taxes) the Commerce Clause effectively overrides any gameds about where a company does business.

Then why do companies sue in Texas? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719788)

Patent cases are Federal cases

I agree with this, except that the decisions of the Court of Appeals of one circuit aren't necessarily binding on another circuit.

and it does not matter much in picking a specific Federal court venue whether a defendant that does business globally and is based in the US has any operations in a particular district.

If what you say is the case, then why do so many companies choose to sue in Texas rather than elsewhere?

Re:Then why do companies sue in Texas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720188)

Because for some reason I cannot fathom east Texas juries tend to automatically side with plaintiffs in patent suits.

Re:Then why do companies sue in Texas? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720476)

My idea was not to do business in any jurisdiction whose "juries tend to automatically side with plaintiffs in patent suits." How does a federal district court in one part of the country have jurisdiction over someone who intentionally does no business in that part of the country?

Re:Then why do companies sue in Texas? (1)

wkcole (644783) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742274)

My idea was not to do business in any jurisdiction whose "juries tend to automatically side with plaintiffs in patent suits." How does a federal district court in one part of the country have jurisdiction over someone who intentionally does no business in that part of the country?

So, your question answers itself. Like it or not, Indiana and Michigan and Alaska and Texas are not different countries, they are parts of one country.

Making commercial law more uniform was a core aspect of the 3 radical overhauls of US national legal identity: the Revolution, the Constitution, and the Civil War. The period leading up to the Civil War with its dysfunctional legal treatment of slaves can be seen as a demonstration of the intrinsic problems with letting different jurisdictions define the scope of property differently, and that is essentially what a district-by-district application of patent law would look like, only with a more complex patchwork and less brutal stakes.

Venue (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742536)

Like it or not, Indiana and Michigan and Alaska and Texas are not different countries

I am aware that Indiana and Michigan and Alaska and Texas are not different countries. But as I understand it, if I do no willful business in Texas, the district courts of Texas lack personal jurisdiction [wikipedia.org], and I can have the suit moved to a different venue whose juries don't always find in favor of a patent holder.

Re:Venue (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742574)

Like it or not, Indiana and Michigan and Alaska and Texas are not different countries

I am aware that Indiana and Michigan and Alaska and Texas are not different countries. But as I understand it, if I do no willful business in Texas, the district courts of Texas lack personal jurisdiction [wikipedia.org], and I can have the suit moved to a different venue whose juries don't always find in favor of a patent holder.

Well, I am not a lawyer, but as I understand it, you're wrong. Well, mostly. It's a lot more complicated than you're making it out to be... so, I guess you're technically right - but in practice, absolutely wrong.

Re:Venue (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742666)

So how do I work around it without going into cryogenic stasis for 20 years while the patents expire?

Re:Venue (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742742)

So how do I work around it without going into cryogenic stasis for 20 years while the patents expire?

What a stupid question. Why not ask "How do I get around this annoying law-of-physics" or "How do I become badass like keanu reeves?". You're not capable of doing either, because you don't realistically have the power to do any of that. It's out of your reach, and complaining and whining isn't going to help. Neither is voting in right-wing, crazy-ass, uninformed politicians. Which you americans seem to do every 8-12 years...

Re:Venue (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742824)

If software patents cannot be worked around within the United States, the only remaining option is to leave the United States. Have you any tips for United States citizens on qualifying for a job (and hence a work visa) in what you appear to call "the civilized world"?

Re:Venue (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742878)

If software patents cannot be worked around within the United States, the only remaining option is to leave the United States. Have you any tips for United States citizens on qualifying for a job (and hence a work visa) in what you appear to call "the civilized world"?

Heh, couldn't string two thoughts together into a single post? Or did this brilliant response come to you after you'd hit the submit button?

But no, I have no advice for you getting out of the states. I'm happy with you living down there, making car parts and working at mcdonalds and paying a disproportionate amount of tax so that big corporations can get huge tax breaks and exploit everyone not intelligent enough to get an education, some decent skills and leave.

... but if you were able to figure out I was mocking the USA when I spoke of the civilized world, it leads me to believe that you're only acting stupid. That's not an exploitable skill, unless you're carrot-top or dane cook.

Re:Then why do companies sue in Texas? (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742622)

Making commercial law more uniform was a core aspect of the 3 radical overhauls of US national legal identity: the Revolution, the Constitution, and the Civil War.

You do realize that the driving push for the settlement of america was a radical overhaul in commercial law as related to personal legal identity?

You know that the main reason for the introduction of the printing press was a radical overhaul of commercial law?

You know that the war in iraq (both of them) were fundamentally based on commercial law?

gawd ... oversimplifying much?

Re:Then why do companies sue in Texas? (1)

wkcole (644783) | more than 2 years ago | (#36739286)

CAVEAT: I AM NOT A LAWYER AND TREATING MY WORDS AS LEGAL ADVICE WOULD BE INSANE

Patent cases are Federal cases

I agree with this, except that the decisions of the Court of Appeals of one circuit aren't necessarily binding on another circuit.

True, and in some circumstances a decision only applies to a specific judicial district. However, the sorts of cases where decisions only apply to a particular district or circuit are usually involving questions of law, rather than questions of fact. Questions of fact in civil cases such as patent cases are almost never subject to serious appeals. It would be unworkable to require plaintiffs to prove that a defendant violated a patent in each and every jurisdiction specifically.

and it does not matter much in picking a specific Federal court venue whether a defendant that does business globally and is based in the US has any operations in a particular district.

If what you say is the case, then why do so many companies choose to sue in Texas rather than elsewhere?

Because the Eastern District of Texas has a history of being friendly to patent plaintiffs. I didn't mean "it does not matter" in the outcome, but rather that "it does not matter" as a legal jurisdictional issue. Venue challenges in cases like this are not quite "frivolous" by definition, but they are essentially hopeless. As long as the plaintiff is willing to buy a mailbox in a district, they can meet the FRCP basis for filing suit there and the defendant would need to show that the venue choice presents an actual hardship to challenge it.

TEXAS (3, Insightful)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719144)

Oh boy, here we are again. All I had to read was

A federal jury in Texas has decided against Apple in a patent infringement lawsuit

It's too early on a Monday to go any further; I think I just might be sick to my stomach if I do.

emphasis mine

Re:TEXAS (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720156)

Well, let's face it everyone files where ever they get the most out of it.

Filing copyright under US rules. Filing patent infringement in Texas. Have you ever wondered why many companies have offices in Delaware, where they all curiously file for Chapter 11?

Everyone look for the local rules that will be better to them. How is that news? The actual news is that Apple didn't have a patent for playlists.

Re:TEXAS (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720458)

The actual news is that Apple didn't have a patent for playlists.

I don't disagree; from a strictly doing business today standpoint.

But if you sit back and read that slowly it describes to me, in an abstract way, exactly what is wrong with the patent system. A patent on listing something? Really? I just don't see how it furthers the arts and science in our society.

Re:TEXAS (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720632)

And I agree with you. But someone needs to take the hit, does it need to be a big corporation? If it is, will they take steps to improve the patent system or to make it better "for them"?

Note that Apple is already in a crusade for suing people for their "App Store" trademark, for GUI patents and some more, which, as you said, is also ridiculous.

It's a catch 22, should the legal system rule in favor of the small "troll" company or the large "bully" corporation?

Re:TEXAS (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726128)

So now we know the computers in Star Trek will never be a reality. Because these guys have a patent on a machine responding to "Computer, here is the list of songs I would like to hear..."

And these patents will be extended well past the 24th century.

EU hopefully shields us (3, Informative)

whiteboy86 (1930018) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719156)

EU doens't recognize software patents, US patent trolls can try to sue me.

Re:EU hopefully shields us (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719196)

So how do you expect millions of customers who happen to have been born in the US to move to the EU to escape the US software patent regime?

internet (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719342)

There is this wonderful invention, called the internet. Should try it one day.

customs (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719846)

There is this wonderful invention, called the internet.

If an EU manufacturer sells a physical device containing a copy of patented software to a customer in the US, the patent holder can (and often does successfully) request that the shipment get stopped at the US border.

Re:customs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720078)

You could take a page from Apple's first days. Instead of shipping Apple IIs with the necessary electronics to disolay on a tv, they sidestepped the FCC on one problem of theirs. So, you ship physical devices that don't have any software installed on them, and customers are free to download the software from anywhere via the Internet.

You will lose some customers because not all would know how, but this is where other Americans step up to help their neighbors and families enjoy what they could miss out on.

By the way, most of what we use, we can make ourselves.

inducement and implied warranties (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720376)

So, you ship physical devices that don't have any software installed on them, and customers are free to download the software from anywhere via the Internet.

If a company recommends a source of infringing software, it induces infringement. If a company fails to recommend a source of necessary software, it has failed to fulfill an implied warranty of merchantability.

Re:inducement and implied warranties (1)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720612)

Could you not just sell a EU and US version of your product, that conveniently can run the same software, but sold with a different feature set? If the user chooses to download the EU version of the software with it's naughty patented playlists and rudimentary data structures then that's their problem.

What US feature set? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720964)

Could you not just sell a EU and US version of your product, that conveniently can run the same software, but sold with a different feature set?

Playback for three major codecs (MP3, WMA, AAC) is patented, and I know of no store that sells Vorbis downloads of major label recordings. So if even the most basic features are patented, what would the US version be capable of? If nothing, then the manufacturer has failed to fulfill an implied warranty of merchantability.

Ubuntu (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742198)

But we aren't speaking about physical goods, but software. Just look at Ubuntu, they're located in South-Africa, so they don't give a shit about the mpeg* software patents. All they asl is that if you don't have licenses for the patents then click cancel. You can bet most US users don't have licenses and still click "ok".
On the other hand Red Hat doesn't host codecs in their repository, so the media players they ship won't work out of the box; I spent quite a bit of time getting them work, but I just gave up and installed MPlayer with the codec bundle from the MPlayer website. (Which is hosted in Hungary, which also don't recognize software patents.)

Software Center doesn't geolocate (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36742342)

You can bet most US users don't have licenses and still click "ok".

If worse came to worst, the patent holders could sue any U.S.-based mirror that includes the patented parts of Ubuntu. Or they could sue Canonical for not adding a geolocation feature to the default install of software-center that discovers whether a license is required at the place of installation.

Re:EU hopefully shields us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719358)

I don't expect redneck retards to move anywhere. I expect them to stay in their caves and continue to sue each other forever.

Re:EU hopefully shields us (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719454)

Americans will have to realize that if they don't take a stand and vote for sensible politicians, then their own qualities of life will suffer. I have no sympathy for them. In a democracy, there's no one to blame for a bad government than the people that voted for them. Of course, whether America really is a democracy or a 'free country' is an open question.

Re:EU hopefully shields us (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719892)

Of course, whether America really is a democracy or a 'free country' is an open question.

On paper it is, but in practice it isn't. Any candidate for U.S. federal office not approved by the movie studios gets no positive coverage on TV news or other news outlets with the same corporate parent as a movie studio.

Re:EU hopefully shields us (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#36722042)

By boat?

How do you say Green Card in en-GB/fr/it/de/es? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36722280)

Allow me to rephrase: How do you expect millions of refugees from the US patent regime to obtain lawful permission to permanently reside in an EU state?

Re:EU hopefully shields us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36721080)

The EU issues exactly the same patents. They use the same dodge. "It's not the software, it's the combination of software and hardware". What hardware? Well any computer at all. See? Software patents aren't recognised ... so long as the software isn't for a computer.

But feel free to put your money where your mouth is.

Re:EU hopefully shields us (2)

james_pb (156313) | more than 2 years ago | (#36721204)

Replace your law firm _immediately_. They're not competent.

Yes, the EU has software patents, they just don't call them that. You get them in through mechanisms that looked to me (a non-lawyer) kind of like US business method patents, but that's too much of a simplification. When you're interviewing new legal firms, have them talk you through their process for European software patents. It's not that complicated, and only a little more expensive than the US. It's been a couple years, but I think the numbers for a simple software patent from a top-tier US law firm were roughly $20k for US, $30k for Germany, and then some increments for other EU countries. But get a more recent and less vague quote :-).

Re:EU hopefully shields us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36722216)

EU doens't recognize software patents, US patent trolls can try to sue me.

I wish people would stop spreading this nonsense. Take a look at a European computer related patent and you will, most likely, see both apparatus and method claims. The latter covers software implementations of an invention.

Having said this, IIRC the EPO doesn't allow "business" patents and has a higher standard of examination.

Glass House, throwning stones... (4, Insightful)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719290)

I have zero sympathy for these tech companies. Apple, MS, Sony, all of them troll those waters, and sue each other as often as they can. The actually seem to want to protect this and continue this practice. So when one of the big guys that file 1000's of these things each and every YEAR, actually get boned by some little troll somewhere, I can't exactly get too worked up about it. They built the house, they get to live in it.

Re:Glass House, throwning stones... (3, Interesting)

Bozdune (68800) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719636)

Exactly. Large companies have been assembling software and process patent portfolios for years, either to threaten their competitors or to defend (via countersuit) against patent claims from competitors. But the landscape changes completely when trolls with nothing to lose can sue based on some patent they picked up for a few bucks. Hey, big companies, wake up and smell the coffee: your strategy just doesn't make sense any more.

So ratchet up the pain, trolls. Go for it! I call for more pain. "Pain, Captain." Intense pain. The faster big tech companies wake up to a dismal future of slow death, the faster they'll wake up their trained congresscritters to invalidate the whole ugly, stinking mess. Guys, I'm sorry that your billion-dollar patent portfolio suddenly becomes a zero-value patent portfolio; but it's either that, or you can have your lifeblood sucked out by trolls.

And, let's not forget that the rest of the world (ahem China ahem) will blithely ignore all of this nonsense. Because their engineers are unencumbered by legions of lawyers, they will innovate us into the Stone Age. I hate to be melodramatic, but this is a national security issue for the USA. Software patents will sink us. They really will.

Errr, no. (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720708)

Look at what happened to the small aircraft industry in the USA. It has completely vanished. No smaller-than-huge company can survive a law suit anymore. Just one stupid "cat in the oven" suit can completely ruin a company and deter all the others in the field. In the end, it is only the big companies that survive.

Re:Glass House, throwning stones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720126)

The problem is, you and I, or anyone else in the US, must also live in said house.

Now let's be fair .. (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719300)

.. Apple has been also doing its share of patent trolling, eh? Granted, they do produce some pretty functional and shiny hardware, fully plug and play, but they are not saints and they do employ armies of lawyers for the sole purpose of "Sued you! Now your shit is mine!"

Zoom out a little bit, and both of them (Apple and Personal Audio LLC) seem like trolls fighting over something that is not theirs. Playlists? Seriously?

Re:Now let's be fair .. (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719434)

The generally accepted definition of "patent troll" is a company that doesn't produce any products and whose revenue is entirely from licensing and litigation. You may not like what companies like Sony and Apple do with their patents, but they are not patent trolls.

Re:Now let's be fair .. (1)

zarthrag (650912) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719732)

...once you make a product, it's more like a "legalized racketeering". e.g. MS is busy hitting-up android phone makers with licensing deals/royalties for every device made. But if the license windows phone, they will give you a break... That's *so* much better ^_^ The new patent war will let big companies trade blows, and keep new competitors from emerging by making sure that you can't cross the street without "infringing" upon something (or at least being accused of it). If you can't afford to fight the accusation in court, you're already out of business.

Re:Now let's be fair .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720658)

It's just semantics. They are as assholes as the patent trolls, and I am loving the feeling of schadenfreude at the moment.

Re:Now let's be fair .. (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719470)

Nullsoft should sue them both. I was making playlists in WinAmp before OSX even existed, much less the iPod.

I'm sure that really hurt (1)

smash (1351) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719458)

8 million down... countless billions left.

Re:I'm sure that really hurt (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 2 years ago | (#36724496)

Aren't most of /. solidly against "just the cost of doing business" payments as punishment?

Or (since this is a stupid patent, like most software patents are) paying off extortionists and trolls?

Intentional delayed patent enforcement as defence? (1)

AC-x (735297) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719558)

I can't remember the term for it, but isn't there a patent defence if the patent holder intentionally delays attempting to enforce a patent to maximise damages that invalidates the patent?

Given the patent was filed in 1996, and this sort of functionality started to appear in audio apps in early 2000, it would seem like a prime candidate for this defence...

Re:Intentional delayed patent enforcement as defen (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719776)

I can't remember the term for it, but isn't there a patent defence if the patent holder intentionally delays attempting to enforce a patent to maximise damages that invalidates the patent?

No, you're only prevented from receiving damages for the time after you became aware of the infringement. If your patent is granted in 2000, someone starts infringing that patent in 2002, you become aware of the infringement in 2004, and you file a lawsuit in 2011, you're only entitled to damages for 2002-2004.

Re:Intentional delayed patent enforcement as defen (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#36723482)

Seems like a lot of people would try to play games with the date of first awareness. Perhaps by terming it "suspicion" in 2004 but requiring a lengthy (and expensive, of course) legal review before the infringement could be confirmed. Thus they don't become "aware" of the infringement until, say, 2009 in your example, for an extra five years of damages.

How could they justify that? "Your honor, we were simply doing all necessary due diligence to ensure that we were not bringing a frivolous lawsuit before you. In the court's best interests, we took on the expense and risk of fully validating our complaint prior to taking any legal action."

Re:Intentional delayed patent enforcement as defen (1)

Builder (103701) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720018)

You're probably thinking of the doctrine of laches. I've never heard of it being successfully used though.

Re:Intentional delayed patent enforcement as defen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36725432)

To me, a playlist is just a form of mixtape, so the "invention" should be invalid anyway.

ridiculous claim (1)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719676)

patent law is killing infotech innovation. i recommend folks check out Connections, a wonderful television series from PBS where the lineage of one invention to the next is traced, sometimes in surprising ways. lawyers suck, but patent lawyers are especially damn-worthy.

Re:ridiculous claim (1)

RMingin (985478) | more than 2 years ago | (#36722750)

I just searched to add it to my PVR software, and it found no PBS series by that name, but it did find a TLC miniseries that aired in 1974, 1994, and 1997, and apparently gets rerun regularly.

http://thetvdb.com/?tab=series&id=78875&lid=7 [thetvdb.com]

Re:ridiculous claim (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36723002)

Actually, it's originally from the BBC [wikipedia.org], which is a television channel that shockingly exists outside the USA and is thus unknown to the civilized world.

Taking it to the jury, (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720390)

Juries in East Texas frequently rule in favor of patent holders.

Juries frequently rule in favor of the plaintiff.

You could say the same for any case that goes to a jury verdict.

If you can't persuade a judge that you have a factual argument worth presenting to a jury you have no business being in a trial court.

Kill patent trolling (1)

brim4brim (2343300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720554)

Why don't they just make it so if you have a patent but no product on the market using the patent, then you can't prosecute someone that gets to market first with it? Give them a period of 1 year buffer to get to market over their competitors to secure the patent.

EULA Prohibition of East Texas? (1)

javakah (932230) | more than 2 years ago | (#36721146)

I was just wondering something. If you specifically were to put terms in your EULA that prohibits the use of the software if you are in East Texas, would you then be able to (most likely) successfully argue that East Texas is not the appropriate venue if you are sued for patent infringement?

Filed in 1995 (1)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36721618)

The patent was filed in 1995, long before iTunes et al. existed, before most people even knew what an MP3 was.

The patent is truly innovative (for 1995).

The fact that it's only being enforced now doesn't necessarily mean they're patent trolls. It probably means that the patent sat forgotten in some large portfolio, unused for a long time, until these guys bought up a bundle for cheap and re-discovered this one.

Re:Filed in 1995 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36722796)

Aggregating files and listing them out... does this really need a patent?

Re:Filed in 1995 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36722880)

No it wasn't. I learned programming in 4th grade in 1993 and visual basic, and even i wrote a program that accepts a special file telling it what to execute. You can't get more obvious than an 11 years old inventing your patent!

Re:Filed in 1995 (1)

KeithIrwin (243301) | more than 2 years ago | (#36722992)

The patent isn't really very innovative. Most of what's covered in the first patent is simply the exact same control scheme available on CD players at that time (skip forward, back, change the order of tracks) except with digital audio files on a computer. I don't know if it should fail for prior art, but it should definitely fail for obviousness. Even worse is the fact that they're not really patenting a particular invention, they're patenting the very idea of skipping forwards and backwards in a list of audio tracks on a computer. Ideas don't deserve patent protection and aren't really particularly clever. If they had some specific mechanism, then there might be something clever there, but they don't.

This is the real problem with software patents as embodied in the US patent system: they're patents on ideas rather than particular inventions or processes. If you invented a new more efficient process for turning carbon and iron into steel, you couldn't simply claim "a process for turning carbon and iron into steel" and then be able to sue anyone else who made steel. You would instead have to patent the details of how you turned carbon and iron into steel and then sue other people who used the same process. But they've patented the very idea of skipping forward and backwards in a downloadable playlist. They don't patent storing the playlist in a doubly linked list and then using that to navigate or storing it in an array and using a second indirect array to reorder things or anything specific like that. If they did, that would be an invention or process. The total lack of implementation detail in the patent means that it should be rejected on its face because it's not an invention or process and hence, not patentable.

Re:Filed in 1995 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726446)

To be valid a patent only has to be detailed enough for one of "ordinary skill in the art" to be able to "reduce it to practice" (i.e. implement it) simply by reading the patent. Now assuming you are a person having ordinary skill in the art, you did just manage to implement it by reading the patent when you talked about doubly-linked lists and arrays. From that perspective, the patent is valid. Often patents distill the claims to cover the idea in as abstract terms as possible so as to cover as much "intellectual property" as possible, and hence they sound like they're covering basic ideas.

However, I agree that obviousness should have been a problem given the prior art from CD players.

Re:Filed in 1995 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36725132)

Poppycock. This is so obvious it in no way should have been allowed. In fact I have prior art when I made mix tapes in the 80s.

Re:Filed in 1995 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36734276)

Well, obviously, the problem is that what was innovative in 1995 isn't innovative AT ALL today. IMHO, in dynamic industries patents should expire after 5 to 10 years.

Follow the jurors (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#36722818)

Do any of them suddenly have new cars, bass boats, or houses that seem rather beyond their incomes? HAS ANYONE LOOKED? Hell, I'd be curious if the area around this cash register in the form of a federal courthouse is seeing an inexplicable boom in new residents.

New proposal for dealing with patent trolls (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727992)

Rule in favor of the troll, and award $1 in damages. Since they won, they can't appeal the verdict, and the loser will gladly pay $1 to be done with it. Do that a few times, and the patent trolls will find it's not a viable business model anymore.
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