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Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Newegg Patent Case

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the onward-to-the-next-battle dept.

Patents 204

NormalVisual writes "'It's a really tough time to be a patent owner', said Soverain Software, LLC president Katharine Wolanyk, after the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated three of Soverain's shopping cart patents. Soverain had sued Newegg for allegedly infringing the patents in question, and had won in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Newegg later had the decision overturned on appeal, with the court ruling that the patents in question were obvious, and thus invalid."

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204 comments

aboloish software patents (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946283)

for the good of all humanity and the advancement of ideas in general

re: Abolish software patents (-1, Redundant)

pcwhalen (230935) | about 7 months ago | (#45946467)

But where's the incentive for the creative mind to write the software, bring it to market, support it, etc.? It looks like pretty hard work that isn't certain to pay off.

I understand free as in speech and free as in beer, but there is no free as in groceries. Even coders need to pay rent.

If you want to make the life of the patent shorter or non-renewable, with the goal to not stifle innovation on top of older patents, maybe. But everyone should have a shot at the brass ring.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Informative)

similar_name (1164087) | about 7 months ago | (#45946481)

Software would still be covered by copyright.

Re: Abolish software patents (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946777)

Patent - 20 years
Copyright - Forever

Not sure your point.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 7 months ago | (#45947279)

Show us some 20+ year old software that still works, is still used, is compatible with today's hardware, and meets stringent security standards today. Almost everything has been rewritten, forked, cloned, or whatever. Copyright doesn't cover concepts and ideas either. Copyright only covers a specific work. Tables and graphs for instance can be copyrighted, but that doesn't prevent someone creating a very similar table or graph to essentially convey the same and/or similar information.

Linux and Gnu are filled with re-ported software. Credit is given where credit is due, but ported software seldom runs afoul of copyright. Patents are an entirely different ballgame. Every dick weed in thirty countries claims to have a patent on a shopping cart concept, and they all want a piece of the pie from anyone who uses any concept that vaguely resembles a shopping cart.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947643)

"Show us some 20+ year old software that still works, is still used..."

The sad part of what your asking up until that point... is many of us COULD show you 20+ year old software used in production environments of industries they absolutely should not be.

Re: Abolish software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947915)

Why shouldn't it be used? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Re: Abolish software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947887)

I write some code that adds a new button to all windows on your computer that when clicked, makes the window do a virtual somersault. Extremely useful, right? With a patent, everybody has to pay me to put that button in their OS (or I can stop them from having that button at all so everybody has to buy my OS). With a copyright, nobody can copy my code and use it as is, but they can write their own code to implement the same button. See the difference?

Re: Abolish software patents (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946899)

Software would still be covered by copyright.

Huh? Newegg was not sued for stealing their software, they were accused of stealing the CONCEPT of a shopping cart. A concept that has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer (hence the prior art).

At long last a judge who is not impressed with the corporate idea that adding the phrase "on a computer", "on a cell phone", or "on the Internet" to a hundreds year old idea magically makes it a totally new, never thought of before idea.

Re: Abolish software patents (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 months ago | (#45947001)

Software would still be covered by copyright.

Huh? Newegg was not sued for stealing their software, they were accused of stealing the CONCEPT of a shopping cart. A concept that has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer (hence the prior art).

At long last a judge who is not impressed with the corporate idea that adding the phrase "on a computer", "on a cell phone", or "on the Internet" to a hundreds year old idea magically makes it a totally new, never thought of before idea.

It's more than that - think of it this way: Soverain Effectively patented the most obvious way to walk to a store, put things in a cart, take them to the register and pay for them. Imagine some arsehole doing that to every person. Everyone has to find an unpatented means of going to the store, getting things to the "register" (which for the patent avoidance will be something completely unregister like) and paying ("I choose to steal from you, but tip you handsomely for having a nice store") It's beyond absurd - like most software patents.

Re: Abolish software patents (5, Insightful)

pete6677 (681676) | about 7 months ago | (#45947401)

"It's a really tough time to be a patent owner"

And the world's smallest violin plays Katharine a little tune.

Re: Abolish software patents (5, Funny)

shentino (1139071) | about 7 months ago | (#45947893)

Unfortunately the RIAA has a patent on small violins.

See you in court.

Re: Abolish software patents (2)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 7 months ago | (#45946909)

copyright:
the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.

Patent:
a government authority or licence conferring a right or title for a set period, esp. the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.

If I find a way to grow orange corn, and add a buttery salt to it, and sell it as "BringsApples Corn (TM)", then no other person can sell corn and call it "BringsApples Corn (TM)", but they can grow orange corn, butter it with salty stuff and call it "Similar_Name Corn (TM)". Since I'd have my own recipe, your corn may not be as good as mine, or it may be better. Look at the similarities on the ingredients of Coke and Pepsi.

But if I patented "orange corn" then no one else can even try to compete. I know that this is a stupid example, and I'm sorry that I couldn't come up one closer to the programing world. But when people start getting patent-happy, they start patenting things like a virtual shopping cart, or a "like" button. It's crazy.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 months ago | (#45947239)

What's crazy about patents is that they're supposed to be for an implementation, like if I ask you to transport some goods one might invent a backpack, one a trolley, one a cart, one a bicycle, one a zip line and so on. Instead we have software patents that just describe a result and just says "However you implement this, it's patented". Often you don't even need to do the hard part, you just need to wait for someone else to figure out how then sue them. However for all the talk of patent trolls, most big enterprises like their own patents because big players use them to squeeze small players. The rest is just a cost of doing business.

Re: Abolish software patents (2)

Eggplant62 (120514) | about 7 months ago | (#45947453)

And not just an implementation; the work must be somehow transformative, as in transforming one set of assembled items or parts to create a whole new invention, machine, gadget that mankind hasn't seen before. This idea that we're somehow transforming a general PC into a new invention every time some overly litigitious asshole programmer thinks some new software he wrote somehow transforms the PC into a new device; it can't continue to work and not keep a healthy, competitive business environment going, where lots of companies write software that might function in similar manner, but also where the competition is based on the merits of the program itself, how well it performs the job the end user wants to perform, and not who owns the patents to some silly, obvious algorithm that's been included in a work, something so fucking obvious that you wonder how in the hell anyone got a patent on it, other than the idiots in the patent office don't know what the hell they're doing. Please, someone bury the idea of software patents, let's all go back to copyrights to handle that set of business ideas, and let's move forward to really competing and making money off software, not stifling competition.

Re: Abolish software patents (2)

icebike (68054) | about 7 months ago | (#45947497)

Well there are a lot of big players that have patents for purely defensive reasons. They can say, no, we didn't copy your crap, we have our own patent. The troll is automatically put on notice that they not only have to fight big-corp but also the US Patent office. It stops a lot of trolls dead in their tracks.

A lot of the time, big players who hold a boat load of patents don't go looking for trouble, because it will cost them more to look, and enforce patents they they will make in revenue. Worst case, is they might write you a letter asking for a small license fee, engineered to be something you can easily pay, if for no other reason to enforce their patent and also earn a small income from it.

But if you step on their core business with some of their IP, you got to know they will want to talk serious money.

This is not the same as a troll, since they are actively using their patents.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Informative)

pcwhalen (230935) | about 7 months ago | (#45946979)

Not in the same fashion:
U.S. Code Title 17 Chapter 1 102 "(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/102 [cornell.edu]

So, where Congress extended copyright in 1980 to computer programs, that is different than the underlying method or process.

The Supreme Court held in this case that a payment system was too basic to merit patent protection and declined to hear the appeal.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

Pinhedd (1661735) | about 7 months ago | (#45947049)

Not entirely.

Copyright protects software as a particular implementation whereas patents protect software as an innovative or inventive approach (that's the idea anyway). Anyone who copies a piece of software verbatim without authorization is going to fall afoul of copyright law. However, anyone who performs clean-room reverse engineering on that piece of software and reimplements it from an abstract level will not. In the latter case, the party performing the reverse engineering may still infringe on one or more patents in the process even if they successfully avoid any breach of copyright.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 7 months ago | (#45946509)

Try learning the difference between a patent and copyright before opening your mouth.

What's the last piece of software you wrote? Did you get it patented? No, you didn't. Yet you still wrote it.

Re: Abolish software patents (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946705)

Furniture, fashion, and a significant portion of industrial design (such as car bodies) don't even have copyright or design patent protection. Yet those industries thrive. Almost all the furniture and clothes you buy are knock-offs of high-end designs. Yet those high-end designers didn't skulk home with their pen and measuring tape the first time this happened.

People who think copyrights and patents are necessary have a fundamental misunderstanding of the way free markets and capitalism work. If you're worried that somebody will 'steal' your design, that gets factored into the market price of that product or service--including the market price of financing. And it's nearly impossible to devise a more efficient system by using government protections. There are theoretical scenarios you can concoct, but they never pan out empirically.

Only in odd normative economic models (i.e. where we are trying to achieve some policy goal other than maximizing overall wealth) do patents make sense, such as in the pharmaceutical industries.

Other similar examples: labor unions. There you're using contractual policies to protect a labor slot in attempt to combat "race to the bottom" wage competition. (And yet, oddly, in a free market wages would never hit $0.) If you're for copyrights and patents, then it only makes sense to be strongly in favor of labor unions, and a host of other protectionist policies.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 7 months ago | (#45946817)

Try learning the difference between a patent and copyright before opening your mouth.

Who said anything about copyrights? Oh, that would be you, not the parent.

When one develops a patentable software algorithm, one generally executes it in "code", hence the parent comment referencing "writing code".

Re: Abolish software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946865)

Dude, try being not such a douche bag.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

pcwhalen (230935) | about 7 months ago | (#45947045)

Thanks for the clarification, but I think for my point, the legal differences are immaterial.

The germane sections of the US code [ http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/102 [cornell.edu] ] in general state:

"(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. "

As I noted in an earlier post, specific code [called "an original work of authorship"] can be have protection under the statute, but not the processes executed.
"(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

Patents extend to things, processes, systems and the like.

So, as a lawyer, I think either could apply. And the last piece of software I wrote was a batch file no one would pay for.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Insightful)

grmoc (57943) | about 7 months ago | (#45946547)

The incentive to create is in the money you make from having written and either sold the service that you're selling, or selling the software itself, or sometimes just from the good feeling you get from having made something that works. The latter item is what inspires most really good folks, honestly.

Patents are horrendously ineffective at their intended purpose of incenting innovation in a world where non-practicing entities (read patent trolls) have a vast number of patents and exist with the *sole purpose* being to get money from those patents, and NOT to actually use them. Often the patent is granted (with the application having been secret) years after others have independently gone and done the thing themselves, thinking it was no big deal, probably because *it was no big deal*!
Even worse, many patent holders wait to sue until the idea (or company implementing such) is successful, maximizing the damage.

Worse, most of the patents these days (and there has been an explosion of patents... why orders of magnitude more patents when we're arguably no smarter than we were 10 or 30 years ago??) are fricking obvious.

And of course there is the fun bit that NO COMPANY CAN DO A PATENT SEARCH BECAUSE THEN IT WILLFULLY INFRINGES AND MUST PAY TRIPLE DAMAGES. So, noone looks at patents who actually might use them.

Patents, especially in the realm of software, do more harm than good today.
Strike that. They're almost purely harmful.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946731)

After the AIA, the willful infringement aspect is gone - by searching and subsequently infringing you do not run into the willful infringement aspect anymore - you should as a result now always search for patents which you might infringe upon in advance.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947423)

Patents are not intended to incite innovation. They are intended to protect already successful and wealthy businesses from start ups that can deliver essentially the same service for a lower cost. Only large and wealthy businesses can afford the litigation costs that come with defending a patent, which makes it valueless to start ups.

The notion that they incite innovation is just a way of winning hearts and minds, and it works amazingly well. Once in an extremely rare while a small start up will successfully defend a patent (with enough financial backing from somewhere), and those cases are always cited as examples of inciting innovation. But they are the exception. Usually the wealthy businesses use their extremely broad and vague patents to litigate the start ups into financial oblivion, and then either buy the start ups or win the case and leave the start ups to rot.

One cannot foster innovation by making it this legally dangerous to innovate, and this fact is obvious to congress. They don't support the current state of patent law out of a loyalty to the American public, but rather, out of loyalty to their rich corporate masters.

Yeah, I know, trite and hackneyed slashdot groupthink etc. But still true.

Re: Abolish software patents (5, Insightful)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 7 months ago | (#45946693)

I have to disagree.

Software patents, for the most part (I'd wager 99% of the time), are used to STOP someone from selling a product.

Do you know why Apple has that stupid "whole screen slides to the side" unlock now? Because someone put a patent on "slide to unlock"

Holy crap, what a dumb patent. Does the world benefit from someone hiring a lawyer and paying thousands of dollars, and spending months drafting a patent, just to make sure that nobody else could have a graphic of a "slide to unlock" widget?

What the fuck?

The world would have been better off if that lawyer was off... you know... affecting real law... and the coder was off... you know... writing code.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#45946855)

> Software patents, for the most part (I'd wager 99% of the time), are used to STOP someone from selling a product.

Speaking generally, that is all a patent does. ANY kind of patent.

Patent lawyers tell me that a Patent give the right to the holder to prevent others from practicing the covered invention for a limited period of time.

It doesn't give the patent holders the right to practice the invention because the patented material may just be an improvement to technology that somebody else has a patent on.

of course that's all a patent does (2)

Chirs (87576) | about 7 months ago | (#45947269)

The goal of the patent system was to get people to disclose how they did something in return for a limited monopoly (as opposed to keeping it a trade secret and possibly losing the ability to do that thing if all the people that knew how to do it died).

I'd suggest that given the above stated goal, as soon as someone provably duplicates a patented process without foreknowledge of the process, then the patent no longer serves any purpose and should be declared null and void due to the fact that it's obvious.

In this paradign the high-level description of the patent would be public, but the details held in escrow. Then if someone wanted to do something similar they could either directly pay the patent owner or else come up with their own method of doing it. If their method is different they could patent it, if it's the same then the patent is invalidated. Win-win all around....

Re:of course that's all a patent does (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 7 months ago | (#45947847)

The knowledge that something can be done is significant. It makes it easier for the second guy, even if he doesn't know how the first guy did it.

Furthermore, for most things it is not possible to have secret details of a product because the product's existence reveals all that's needed for a practitioner in the field to duplicate the product.

Re:of course that's all a patent does (1)

BoberFett (127537) | about 7 months ago | (#45948015)

Except that from a software perspective, the only thing a computer does is perform arithmetic very, very quickly.

So as long as all you're doing math, there's no way someone can claim that nobody else knew a computer could do math, until they proved that a computer could do math.

Re: Abolish software patents (2)

pcwhalen (230935) | about 7 months ago | (#45946895)

Then you'll be happy with the SCt. here. In this instance, they stated that you can't patent something so basic and obvious.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-13/internet-patent-owner-loses-high-court-bid-to-revive-suit.html [bloomberg.com]

"The U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed an electronic-commerce patent owner’s effort to revive a $2.5 million verdict against Internet retailer Newegg Inc., in a case with implications for dozens of other companies.
The justices refused to hear closely held Soverain Software LLC’s appeal of a lower court ruling that its technology was too obvious to qualify for patent protection."

The lawyers affecting real law. Sensible outcome. Yeah, America!

Re: Abolish software patents (2)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 7 months ago | (#45947119)

Do you know why Apple has that stupid "whole screen slides to the side" unlock now? Because someone put a patent on "slide to unlock"

That wouldn't by any chance be, well, Apple.. would it?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/25/apple_unlock_patent/ [theregister.co.uk]
http://www.theverge.com/2012/10/10/3479550/apple-expands-patent-coverage-on-slide-to-unlock-feature [theverge.com]

Though their effort to put it to legal use in Europe fizzled.
http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/04/04/apples-slide-to-unlock-patent-invalidated-in-german-litigation [appleinsider.com]

Sure, maybe somebody else popped up with some prior art (like, say, http://www.dailytech.com/Analysis+Neonode+Patented+SwipetoUnlock+3+Years+Before+Apple/article24046.htm [dailytech.com] ) - but forcing Apple to change theirs just as dozens of others were forced to abandon or pre-emptively stay away from the slide-to-unlock slider button type deal entirely for years seems like just deserts.

Of course it's a stupid patent no matter who 'owns' it, or any variant of it.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#45947257)

Do you know why Apple has that stupid "whole screen slides to the side" unlock now?

All I know is that more than half the time, the screen stops halfway during the slide and it wastes my time and makes the iPhone look and feel shoddy.

Re: Abolish software patents (3, Funny)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | about 7 months ago | (#45947685)

All I know is that more than half the time, the screen stops halfway during the slide and it wastes my time and makes the iPhone look and feel shoddy.

"Here at Apple, we care about security. We care so much about security, in fact, that we refuse access to not only thieves and hackers but to our Valued Customers too!"

Re: Abolish software patents (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 7 months ago | (#45947011)

But where's the incentive for the creative mind to write the software, bring it to market, support it, etc.?

The same place as the incentive for people to get up and go to work every day.

You do something - make something - you get paid. The government doesn't have to give you special protections so that if you work for one day for a company you will be paid in perpetuity, does it? So why should an inventor or content creator be paid in perpetuity?

There are efforts underway by IP maximalists to extend IP protection forever. We've already seen works be taken OUT of the public domain. Do you know how many works became public domain in 2013?

Firstly, no patent or copyright should outlive the inventor or creator. And no corporation should be allowed to own either. Corporations don't invent anything, people do. And it's people who should be the patent holders, which last, for inventions, for 4 years or until the death of the inventor, whichever comes first. Drug patents should be 2 years, max.

I believe this would have zero impact on innovation except to make innovations more available to everyone, and cheaper.

If you're a patent troll, have no fear because what I just described is completely antithetical to the direction the world is going, which is everything gets licensed, everybody pays, forever, for everything.

Re: Abolish software patents (0)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 7 months ago | (#45947445)

DNA, protein and nanotech type drugs are so hard to make that from discovery it often takes about 10 years to put them into production. We are at a point right now where we have figured out a way to make something in a lab but not how to make it at an industrial scale. If you lowered patents to 2 years for this stuff you would stop all work on it.

We have also just started using stuff like CRISPR-CAS to do DNA editing on humans. It is likely to take at least 10 years just to get something approved and that does not cover figure out how to actually make it at scale.

I used to think that drugs should have much shorter protections but since actually taking classes in how to make them, how to get them approved etc and how hard they are to make my views have changed. Sure the short molecule drugs that most traditional pharmaceuticals are may be almost trivially easy to make but the newer biotech types ones are HARD. I mean insanely mind mindbogglingly hard. Many of the protein based drugs start with a 10,000L vat and end up at the end with 4 kg of product. Overall to make that 4 kg takes many millions of dollars for each batch and it does not help many people. However if you ever want that technology to improve then the patents on it have to last long enough to justify what it takes to make it.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Insightful)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 7 months ago | (#45947015)

But where's the incentive for the creative mind to write the software, bring it to market, support it, etc.? It looks like pretty hard work that isn't certain to pay off.

I understand free as in speech and free as in beer, but there is no free as in groceries. Even coders need to pay rent.

If you want to make the life of the patent shorter or non-renewable, with the goal to not stifle innovation on top of older patents, maybe. But everyone should have a shot at the brass ring.

People with creative minds have been creating things and profiting from those creations for thousands of years. This was going on long before patents of any kind existed. Patents stifle creativity and innovation. Software patents are some of the worst.

Re: Abolish software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947211)

I understand free as in speech and free as in beer, but there is no free as in groceries.

Obviously you don't understand "free as in beer" since it's a descriptor for "free" as in gratis. "free as in groceries" would be gratis, thus the same as "free as in beer". And if you're trying to be literal, gratis groceries are far more common than gratis beer. Food stamps, government cheese, etc.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 7 months ago | (#45947529)

But where's the incentive

You've surely heard this before, but let's go over it again. Patents are only one means of maybe making money off an invention. They don't work very well. Indeed, many companies choose to keep crucial insights secret, rather than trust to the patent system. That's one reason why so many patents are for trivial and obvious things. They know there's no use keeping the trivial and obvious secret. Instead, they rush to file patents on the trivial and obvious, before someone else does. Most of all, there are many other ways to profit from invention. There is the first mover advantage. There is making the world a better place, which benefits all, including the inventors. The mercenary view of human nature, that no one does anything for free, and that it is of no possible benefit to give and get nothing in return and therefore irrational to be "nice", is not only harsh and shallow, but not at all realistic and quite wrong. Nice guys don't finish last, and can and often do reap benefits from being nice. Then there are many forms of patronage. There are awards, grants, and prizes. There is advertising and endorsements. If patents were abolished, people would keep right on inventing, and profiting from their inventions. If we feel more incentive is needed, we can easily expand public patronage. Doesn't have to be government run either, such organizations can be private. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are private.

Patents are suppose to encourage progress, but they have far too often had the opposite effect. They are deliberately used to lock technology away, out of fear and greed. They provoke our worst impulses, leading inventors to think they own ideas that are the work of many, and get to control everything related to it out of a nutty notion that they deserve a cut of every way in which an invention increases profit or savings, and this control is the best way to insure they get what they deserve no matter how much that impacts 3rd parties who have nothing to do with any agreements made or disputes that may arise.

Remember that the courts actually proposed shutting the Blackberry network down, to make up for the supposed harm a patent troll suffered, failing to appreciate the harm this would cause the innocent customers who used it. And remember that SCO actually demanded that Linux users pay them licensing fees, when any such fees, if owed at all, should have come from the actual-- actual, not "theoretical"-- profits of the creators and distributors of Linux, not the users. What the actions of the likes of SCO were saying is not only that patents were wanted, they weren't good enough and needed to be stronger! A remedy like that is like proposing to tow every car in the neighborhood because one of the residents was accused of speeding. Also remember how patents have been abused to cover up problems, as in the case of Dmitry Sklyarov and many others, and to squelch honest compeition as in many cases including one about garage door openers. It's incredible that DRM is still as lively as it is, since it plain does not work, and it's the fault of bad lawmaking including patent law that DRM hangs on to life. It's time patents were ended. They do a lot of bad things, and what little good they do is doubtful at best. They cost us a great deal of money to enforce and argue about in court. If not abolished, then they should at least not come with monopoly grants enforced at great taxpayer expense. Reform would help, but the better direction to take is abolishment. We'll never be free of legal harassment and interference in genuinely new research for so long as these tools exist.

Re: Abolish software patents (1)

YumoolaJohn (3478173) | about 7 months ago | (#45947617)

There is no proof that copyright/patents are beneficial.

And even if they were beneficial, infringing upon people's rights--such as freedom of speech and the right to control one's own real private property--is unacceptable, no matter the gains.

Re: Abolish software patents (4, Insightful)

edibobb (113989) | about 7 months ago | (#45947637)

Software is covered by copyright. The patents in question were obvious to anybody with half a brain and should never have been awarded. We can thank the blind ignorance of the USPTO for this.

There are serious doubts as to whether software patents in general should be allowed. Technically, software is algorithms which can be expressed as mathematics, and therefore not patentable. Practically, software patents are used almost exclusively by patent trolls and large companies in a way that inhibits creativity, new applications, and product development. This is precisely the opposite the intentions of the original patent law.

New Zealand has recently prohibited software patents. Maybe the U.S. and the rest of the world will come to their senses and follow suit.

Re:aboloish software patents (1)

pcwhalen (230935) | about 7 months ago | (#45947143)

Wow. Tough room.

Nothing is obvious ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946299)

... to the District Court in Eastern Texas.

Re:Nothing is obvious ... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#45946355)

... to the District Court in Eastern Texas.

Except the value of doing massive amounts of patent-related litigation... It's the white-collar equivalent of those little shithole towns where prisons are the engine of economic life.

Re:Nothing is obvious ... (1)

pcwhalen (230935) | about 7 months ago | (#45946517)

This is the equivalent of certain other counties in State courts where class actions were being filed, courts that were VERY friendly to the plaintiff's bar.

CAFA [the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. ss 1332(d), 1453, and 1711–1715] stopped hometown litigation. It brought any action under FRCP 23 [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (deals with class actions)] into federal court and brought a level playing field to the area of the law.

Since there is so much money involved in patents, having a separate court system [like the bankruptcy court] might make that area of the law more fair.

Re:Nothing is obvious ... (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#45946735)

Since there is so much money involved in patents, having a separate court system [like the bankruptcy court] might make that area of the law more fair.

It would most likely either be more fair, or less. I say lets try it. If it is worse, it will encourage further changes.

Re:Nothing is obvious ... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#45946891)

This is what the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was supposed to have done.

TRIPLE MEGA EPIC FAIL.

It's FAR FAR worse than the district courts. It's responsible for a LOT (if not most) of the patent problems we have now including and not restricted to business process patents.

Re:Nothing is obvious ... (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 7 months ago | (#45947129)

I'm going to repeat my suggestion, that federal civil cases be assigned by lottery to a random federal court, so there is no 'venue shopping'

Re:Nothing is obvious ... (1)

MetalOne (564360) | about 7 months ago | (#45946905)

I am being to think that this right here is the reason to abolish the patent system entirely. Clearly we don't want things that are obvious being patented. However, we have no formal test for what is obvious. Since we can't test for obviousness, both the patent office and the courts have decided to ignore obviousness, thus destroying any possible usefulness of a patent system. Now if there could somehow be a useful test for obviousness that could be applied, then we could possibly reconsider the merits of having a patent system. I don't see a formal test for obviousness ever coming to fruition though.

Dream on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947899)

That will never happen. Why? It makes too much sense, and it prevents those on top from staying on top.

Correction (5, Insightful)

Huntr (951770) | about 7 months ago | (#45946305)

"It's a really tough time to be a patent troll."

Re:Correction (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 7 months ago | (#45946397)

Mod: +1 Hopeful.

"Patents for selling online and taking payments" (4, Insightful)

Jody Bruchon (3404363) | about 7 months ago | (#45946319)

This kind of thing should never exist in the first place. Why should anyone be given a government-created monopoly on "present a list of what you want and hand over money to get it?" I understand if you invent a tangible contraption, but for a basic function of any website that sells products? No way!

Re:"Patents for selling online and taking payments (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#45946455)

I paid for a subscription to Patent Office Times, and just like on /., I can see articles in the future.

The next story out of the pipeline involves Google's patent for tangible contraption.

Re:"Patents for selling online and taking payments (5, Interesting)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 7 months ago | (#45946457)

I will keep suggesting:

1. If it's done in the real world, a simulation or work-alike is not patentable per se.

2. If it's done over a hardline network, doing it wirelessly is not patentable.

3. If it's done on a PC, doing it on a tablet or phone or (tbd) is not inherently patentable.

This is not to say clever implementations could not be patented, but merely changing venue (device, network type, or making a simulation of a real-world thing) is in no way innovative in an obvious sense.

Re:"Patents for selling online and taking payments (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946583)

That's not a problem for the trolls.

See, I have the patent on doing X using a phone line. Now that the world has moved on, I can enforce my patent on more and more things thanks to the Doctrine of Equivalents. The internet is just like a phone line. Wireless is just like a phone line. It's totally the same thing, so even though I lacked the foresight or imagination or inventiveness to write these options into my patent, I deserve to continue to receive patent protection against these products created by other people using newfangled modern technology that I was just too busy resting on my laurels and years of patent protection to bother to invent.

-- PanIP, the original ecommerce patent troll, which held the internet hostage thanks to a patent on selling real estate (or anything like that) over a phone line (or anything like that) using a data processing terminal associated with the selling institution (or not associated, as the case may be).

Eliminating the Doctrine of Equivalents will go a LOOOONG way towards restoring fairness to the patent process. If my product does not match word for word your patent, then you picked the wrong words.

Re:"Patents for selling online and taking payments (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | about 7 months ago | (#45947937)

Funny thing is that this so called Doctrine of Equivalents should also bring in a shitload of prior art if someone tries to tack on "on the internet" or "on a computer" to a previously patented invention.

Re:"Patents for selling online and taking payments (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 7 months ago | (#45947757)

Oh good, a very simple sounding solution that uses weasel words like "per se" and a followup weasel statement.

You have to realize, surely, that if you can't quantify the "per se" and "clever" parts in less than a thousand words, it would be impossible to write such limits into law in less than that number of words.

The simple act of defining patent trolls, while avoiding being unfair to entities such as universities and individual investors who have no time nor desire to go into production just to have protection, should demonstrate how simple it is to have a concept, but difficult to define it.

In fact, patents that run several hundred pages (my name is on at least one and it weighed measurably by kilos) that describe "shopping but on the internet" or a similarly "obvious" concept, should demonstrate that it is not so simple as re-defining the venue, since there are frequently new challenges - just the sort of thing you describe as obvious.

Simple, but it won't work without so much defining that it's no longer simple.

Re:"Patents for selling online and taking payments (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947131)

Ummm... maybe because no one has a patent let alone a monopoly that's for "present a list of what you want and hand over money to get it"?
 
Seriously, if you can't step up to the task of discussing real patents that are actually upheld by the courts then maybe you should shut the fuck up and do some more listening instead of talking out your ass?
 
You pretty much got modded up for saying the same shit that's been said around here for over a decade while not actually bringing anything new to the table. You certainly didn't bother to put it in an honest, informative format that would show some real insight.
 
So easy to get modded up around here. A little herp, a little fanboi ass sucking. You certainly don't have to say anything new that hasn't been modded up about 600 times in the past 3 months.

Since I'm in a generous mood... (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#45946341)

In solidarity with Katharine's plight, I've agreed to grant her a limited, nonexclusive, non-transferable right to the use of 'Apparatus and method for implementation of a dimensionally unique violin and play of the same' and ASCAP is offering a generous discount on the usual rate for public performance of the world's saddest song.

Re:Since I'm in a generous mood... (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#45946371)

Well done, sir, well done.

boohoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946425)

Finally it's a tough time for some bullshit patent holder trying to cash in.

Holy Crap! A sensible Supreme Court ruling (3, Funny)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 7 months ago | (#45946429)

I think monkeys just flew out of my ass.

Re:Holy Crap! A sensible Supreme Court ruling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946599)

This wasn't a ruling.

Re:Holy Crap! A sensible Supreme Court ruling (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 7 months ago | (#45947437)

This wasn't a ruling.

It has the same effect. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court has essentially agreed with the Appeals Court ruling.

That East Texas Federal District Courthouse (2)

WCMI92 (592436) | about 7 months ago | (#45946431)

...Needs to be burned to the ground, the judges impeached, and the earth it sits on SALTED!

Re:That East Texas Federal District Courthouse (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about 7 months ago | (#45946511)

Texas courts have been know to be patent troll friendly.

Re:That East Texas Federal District Courthouse (1)

WCMI92 (592436) | about 7 months ago | (#45946669)

It's not the Texas courts (ie: Texas). It's the FEDERAL judges that were nominated by Presidents for that district.

The state and locality has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

Re:That East Texas Federal District Courthouse (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#45946757)

In fairness, I doubt the local farmers know anything about the details. Lets just send all the lawyers in that county to a re-education camp.

Re:That East Texas Federal District Courthouse (1)

WCMI92 (592436) | about 7 months ago | (#45946871)

If anyone should go to forced labor re-education camps it should be lawyers IN GENERAL.

Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45948003)

...Needs to be burned to the ground, the judges impeached, and the earth it sits on SALTED!

Turns out that the Romans have a patent on that.

Of course no one will hear the case (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#45946437)

The patents are invalid. There can be no infringement.

They should be forced to give back all the money they've undoubtedly extorted from other companies in out of court settlements before Newegg stood up to them.

Re:Of course no one will hear the case (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about 7 months ago | (#45946505)

Sadly they don't have to give back a dime. Since those companies choose to pay the cost instead of fighting them they are S.O.L. on it.

Re:Of course no one will hear the case (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 7 months ago | (#45947531)

He said SHOULD, didn't say WILL.

It's a tough time to be a pile of shit... (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 7 months ago | (#45946449)

I'm sure piles of shit have kids to feed and bills to pay, but they make it so hard to feel empathy for them.

Re:It's a tough time to be a pile of shit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946495)

pieces of shit can live in the gutter and have there children starve for all i care

Links to Patents (5, Informative)

FalleStar (847778) | about 7 months ago | (#45946465)

#5715314 [uspto.gov] - The second most long-winded description of every online store ever.
#5909492 [uspto.gov] - The most long-winded description of every online store ever, much of it seems to be copied & pasted straight from the top link.
#7272639 [uspto.gov] - Describes what a session is.

Soverain Software is just another patent troll that never should have had them assigned in the first place.

Re:Links to Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947739)

My favorite part of those links is the "add to cart" option...wonder if the uspto got permission.

I patent useing the letter E on line only $0.002 a (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 7 months ago | (#45946491)

I patent useing the letter E on line only $0.002 a use

Re:I patent useing the letter E on line only $0.00 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946803)

Good thing that patent is yours, because otherwise you'd have just cost yourself two thousandths of a cent more than you needed to!

Re:I patent useing the letter E on line only $0.00 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946835)

of a dollar! d'oh! FOILED

no, it's a really tough time to... (4, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about 7 months ago | (#45946531)

Have some weak low-quality patents, and try to, through the power of wishful thinking, extend them to cover a much broader set of techniques, then go and sue a big company with deep pockets. (Remember, this used to work, reference the suit against RIM for instance.)

Patent Owner (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946551)

Notice how Katharine Wolanyk characterized her company as a "patent owner"?

Funny that she did not say "online retailor", "online wholesaler", manufacturer, logistics, refiner, service provider, software publisher, etc. Instead they are a "patent owner".

Patents should be viewed the way most businesspeople view lawyers. A necessary evil. Too expensive, wasteful, a time sink. They exist primarily because not having them is worse. However never, never should they be your primary business. Unless you are a legal firm of course.

"Patent owner". You might as well say "shoe wearer" or "food liker"! Where's the value added in that?

Re:Patent Owner (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946761)

Unless you're seriously dissatisfied with your choices in furniture and clothing (too much choice?), I would argue that instituting patents and copyrights is the worse scenario.

Can you imagine how much it would suck to eat out if a restaurant could patent recipes or themes? We'd have a single burger establishment. A single sushi establishment. Because, hey, why risk investing money in a new restaurant if you cannot guarantee that some copy-cat guy won't swoop in and steal all your customers by copying and your design concept.

Start applying the logic of copyrights and patents to everything else in the free market. It gets pretty stupid almost immediately. Does it matter how "non obvious" your recipe is, or any of the other choices which go into developing a business or service?

Does it matter that it can take millions to startup a business but a few twinkies and some Mt. Dew to code up or sketch out a patentable product idea?

Re:Patent Owner (2)

mpoulton (689851) | about 7 months ago | (#45946765)

Patents should be viewed the way most businesspeople view lawyers. A necessary evil. Too expensive, wasteful, a time sink.

Yeah, that's how we attorneys get most of our expensive business litigation cases. Business owners ignore legal counsel until they are in WAY too deep over their heads. Attorneys are like business consultants, but usually more important. Failing to seek and heed legal counsel is the number one cause of giant expensive messes for small and medium businesses. Large businesses and well-run medium ones don't have this problem, because they use their legal counsel to guide their decision-making appropriately.

problem with the system (2)

Chirs (87576) | about 7 months ago | (#45947337)

The point of the patent system (as I understand it at least) is to ensure that information doesn't get lost. Thus, rather than keeping things as trade secrets (where information could get lost if the wrong people died) they make the information public in return for a limited monopoly.

Given the above, if I independently (without seeing the patent) invent something, how is it at all rational or logical that I should pay someone else because they happened to have done it first? That doesn't serve the above goal at all.

If it can be shown that I duplicated a patented invention without ever knowing about the patent (admittedly, this could be tricky in some cases), then that should result in the patent being voided as too obvious to be protected.

The one clear-cut case is if someone files for a patent on something and before the patent is granted an unrelated person files for what is judged to be the same patent--in this case nobody should get the patent because it's too obvious.

Re:problem with the system (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 7 months ago | (#45947959)

Unfortunately some people are so greedy that copyright protection isn't enough incentive for them to make their ideas public.

In this case, I would also opine that the idea isn't worth its cost anymore.

you know what would be really cool (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 7 months ago | (#45946677)

if newegg stopped trying to be a ghetto amazon so I dont have to waste time filtering down to just newegg. But it doesnt matter, the last 3 orders I have bought from them were screwed up, and it took nearly 3 months to get some VGA cables, so fuck-em anyway I dont have the time or patience for their crap anymore

Re:you know what would be really cool (2)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#45946793)

I've never had a bad experience with their third party sellers, probably because I check a single checkbox on the sidebar to show only products sold by Newegg. There is no drilling at all, any time you click on search options, they get added to your options in the sidebar, and with one click you can narrow your search at any time.

If you're in a hurry, don't aim for the lowest price. If I want the lowest price on cables, I buy from ebay where it says "mailed directly from Hong Kong" and they show up in 3-30 days.

Re:you know what would be really cool (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 7 months ago | (#45947831)

I was in a hurry, that is why I checked from newegg, they left them out, I sent an email, no response, 3 months later a china box shows up with 2 vga cables in it

that order was a handfull of accessories totaling almost a grand (know how many USB hubs and wifi cards that is) and the vga cables were "eh while I am here grab them"

monoprice for cables (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 7 months ago | (#45947343)

Never had a problem...

all's obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45946809)

...once one sees the surrounding details.

"the patents in question were obvious, and thus invalid"

The real problem (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | about 7 months ago | (#45947077)

The real problem this patent should never have been granted.Thats the process that MUST be looked at with a microscope i have no proff but im betting someone getting paid off.

"'It's a really tough time to be a patent owner' (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 7 months ago | (#45947309)

Boo fucking hoo, you damned troll.

Why software patents exist at all (5, Informative)

jmichaelg (148257) | about 7 months ago | (#45947537)

Back in the day, software was not patentable as it was treated akin to a mathematical formula. The one patent I was aware of was a patent Atari snuck through by designing a circuit that XOR'ed a bit pattern to change the color a TV was displaying to avoid burn in. They patented the circuit and tucked a sentence into the patent that said they also claimed any implementation in software as well but the primary patent was for the circuit. We relied on copyright protection and pretty much ignored patents. Then the Supreme Court made a few rulings that opened the door to the possibility of patenting software.

Following up on the rulings, the Patent Office embarked on a series of "hearings" held around the country ostensibly to see whether it was a good idea to patent software or not. This was sometime in the early 90's. Towards the end of their tour, they finally brought their dog and pony show to San Jose.

Literally, almost *EVERY* developer testified that it was a really bad idea. The one exception that I recall was some idiot with a beauty salon app that would show you what you would look like with various hair styles. The rest of the developers said "No. We don't want this - it's a really, really, bad idea." Several developers made the point that we weren't constrained by a paucity of ideas as much as choosing which ideas to implement well.

The other group that was there in some numbers were attorneys - I recall Borland sent their corporate attorney. To a man, the attorneys all testified in favor of the idea.

Towards the end of the testimony, one of the developers pointed out the fact that the only people who seemed to like the idea were the attorneys. At which point, the Patent Office person (can't remember his name but iirc he headed the department at the time.) grinned and said something to the effect that the attorneys tended to get their way.

And they did. The people whom patents ostensibly protected were ignored in favor of the attorneys.

No such thing as "patent owner" (2)

ugen (93902) | about 7 months ago | (#45947559)

There is no such thing as "patent owner". You could be "patent holder" - in that you hold it at the pleasure of the public which allows you to do so for the public good. Nice term substitution there.

Money! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45947645)

Newegg bought off the SCOTUS justices!

Simple!

And gave them part ownerships of the next round of patents.

USA Justice = "how much in your wallet."

Hard to be a crook, erh, patent owner? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#45948019)

It's getting harder and harder to live off the work of others by abusing patents as blackmail devices?

Let's hope so.

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