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Details You're Not Supposed To See From Boston U's Patent Settlements

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the those-lights-can-be-infuriating-at-night dept.

The Courts 130

curtwoodward (2147628) writes "In January, Boston University settled lawsuits against two dozen big technology companies for allegedly using its patented blue LED technology without permission. But apparently, the school's lawyers were a little too forthcoming for everyone's tastes — they recently asked a federal judge to delete a court filing that spelled out all of the companies who settled. Luckily, we still had the unredacted version, which shows that Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Motorola and many more are on the list, even if they don't want you to know it."

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another interesting fact (-1, Offtopic)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 9 months ago | (#46650671)

Another interesting fact can be determined by the document. Michael W. Shore doesn't know how to sign his own name or initials or anything vaguely resembling the English language.

Re:another interesting fact (4, Funny)

Arsist (1825522) | about 9 months ago | (#46651007)

You don't know what a signature is.

Re:another interesting fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46653185)

Please submit a copy of your signature so we have an example to study.

Re:another interesting fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46653807)

but seriously, in many places they no longer teach kids how to handwrite cursive, so the younger generation's signatures are all a series of joined up block letters, and they can't make any sense of the old style of "joined-up" writing. a "J", an "r" or a "Z"? Just a jumble of lines. Find a teenager and ask them! Strange but true.

Re:another interesting fact (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#46651305)

This alone is qualification for him to be a doctor.

Re:another interesting fact (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#46651937)

As another poster said, you don't understand what a signature is. It doesn't have to be legible, it just needs to be a unique handwritten mark. It can be a quickly-drawn picture of an elephant if you want, as long as it looks much like all your other such pictures, and is hard for someone else to duplicate.

Universities should have no patents (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46650739)

Universities should serve the public good. Anything created there should go into the public commons and be available to anybody and everybody to use. When you make the choice to be, or work at, a university you trade profit for service. If you can't accept that, then work somewhere else, or be some other type of an institution than a university.

Re:Universities should have no patents (4, Insightful)

brainboyz (114458) | about 9 months ago | (#46650795)

Agreed, double dipping on "private" profits and public funds seems a little...what do they always call the private sector?...Oh yeah, greedy.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 9 months ago | (#46650907)

Subsidy that's what they call it.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 9 months ago | (#46651051)

It's the KY of the private sector.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#46652151)

Is this a rule 34-type thing?

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46650799)

yeah, now who is going to pay for all that lab equipment, the scholarships for all the kids to work in the lab, salaries for people to work in the lab

Re:Universities should have no patents (3, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 9 months ago | (#46650827)

students and alumni?

or, has the model of 'students pay to atten' no longer enough to keep the uni's afloat?

given how much textbooks cost these days, you'd think they'd all be rolling in money and not need to sue companies.

then again, any time a company of large size is sued, god saves the life of a puppy. so there's that going for it; which is nice.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 9 months ago | (#46651031)

Tuition increases are being absorbed by growth of non-teaching positions, not by better professor salaries or lab equipment.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46651081)

because everyone wants their college to provide every service under the sun these days

Re:Universities should have no patents (4, Insightful)

RenderSeven (938535) | about 9 months ago | (#46651443)

As NPR pointed out a few months ago, "Do universities really need a Director of Diversity at $175,000 per year?"

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46652133)

As NPR pointed out a few months ago, "Do universities really need a Director of Diversity at $175,000 per year?"

If you want them to enroll minority students without being offensively racist about it they probably do.

A "Director of Diversity" sounds like the guy who's job it is to make sure the get X number of blacks, hispanics, etc. without actually setting race based quotas.

The salary sounds pretty high to me, but then again without context of location and the qualifications of the position it's hard to say for sure that it's overreaching.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

Livius (318358) | about 9 months ago | (#46653897)

If they prevent lawsuits, probably cheap at the price.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46651055)

yeah, and everyone is saying how expensive tuition is these days and how people are graduating with too much debt

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46651077)

has the model of 'students pay to attend' no longer enough to keep the uni's afloat?

It hasn't been enough in many years, at least here in the US for research funding. There is loads of federal funding for research, and sometimes from companies and foundations. That's fine by me, but universities using "intellectual property" is exactly the opposite of what they should do.

P.S. What country are you from? "Uni's" isn't American slang, so I'd guess it's not the US. I ask because I'm curious what the situation is in your country.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 9 months ago | (#46651197)

Research scientists are not usually the same people who teach college classes. Their research is funded by grants and licensing revenue NOT tuition. Tuition is used toward the education of the student.

Performing research and furthering science is a mission of a university.

Re:Universities should have no patents (4, Informative)

mjr167 (2477430) | about 9 months ago | (#46653709)

One of my coworkers is teaching a class at the local university. They are paying him $6000 for the semester. He has 30 students, each student pays the uni $2600 to take the class so the uni got $78,000 in tuition for this one class and had to pay the professor $6000. Where do you think the money goes?

It's an online class. There is no lab equipment, no building fee...

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46655311)

insurance, marketing, administration, insurance, legal costs (contracts for employment, course entry etc), record keeping, course auditing, IT/server hosting, insurance... and did I mention insurance?

My pay rate is 10% of what I am charged out at. I don't see the problem with the figures you quoted.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651381)

Textbooks aren't sold by universities. At least not by my university.
My university supplies a list of books required for each course.
The students have the choice of buying it from the student organizations (who sell for very little profit), or buying it from amazon or something.
Student tuition covers the lectures and exams and time for professors to teach.
All the other stuff is paid for by grants and collaborations with companies.
The other stuff is the stuff that universities are actually known for. You know, all that research.
Or maybe you want to increase tuition so each student can pay for the fab, FPGAs, high voltage lightning generators and whatever else they might want to work on.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

HybridST (894157) | about 9 months ago | (#46651633)

To counter your anecdote my University *does* sell textbooks. I've bought lab manuals the-day-of when I forgot them before my commute.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 9 months ago | (#46652123)

Perhaps, but at the University of Washington, textbooks are sold by the Alumni Association, and have been since they founded the UW Bookstore back about 100 years ago.

Most of what students think of as "the University selling me books" is actually something a student association or other non-profit organization does, at most Universities.

Most of what students think of as "the University (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46652255)

False, most Universities either run their own bookstore or contract it out to a for-profit organization such as Barnes and Noble. Just because University of Washington has a non-profit bookstore does not mean most do.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2)

Pigeon451 (958201) | about 9 months ago | (#46652849)

You obviously have no idea how research at a University works. The money from students, etc. goes to running the school. The vast majority of funds for "research" is acquired through grants and collaborations by faculty, many of which have value in the millions. The school provides the infrastructure, and graduate students. Undergrad students may work in the lab, but they do not really contribute to novel research.

Also blame the textbook costs on the publishers, not schools and requiring new books each year. What a racket.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46654909)

Keep in mind, the money does not just go into one simple pot and then departments pull back out. Student tuition goes to pay for things related to teaching students. Money for research comes out of grants and patents/licenses. There is going to be some overlap, but not as much as you might think. In fact often the research budget helps keep tuition costs down.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46651297)

The rich dead guy's estate who's name is on the building the equipment resides in.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#46650807)

When you start your own university, you will get to make the rules. Until then; they have given your thoughts all due consideration, even though they've never read them.

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46650861)

Patents are upheld by the Constitution and ultimately The People. If we decide that any institution that receives federal money cant have patents, thent that is what will happen.

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#46650937)

Are you 12? Any such rule can be worked around easily. The only purpose for such a rule is to send even more money to shysters.

This is not the first time some idiot has suggested a stupid rule without considering the unintended consequences. Please educate yourself about similar history.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46651159)

Please educate yourself about similar history.

Take your own advice - the appropriate history is before the Bayh–Dole Act [wikipedia.org] . It worked fine before 1980, though according to you, the people who thought it worked fine must have been 12 y.o or idiots. Funny how such people managed to do important academic research.

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

fnj (64210) | about 9 months ago | (#46651745)

Grow up. AC has the common sense you lack.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 9 months ago | (#46650809)

I disagree. A better method may be to use the profits for lowering educational fees for students or developing more research, instead of accepting tax payer money. However, I would like to see scientific papers released for free.

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46650865)

Don't hire graduates from universities that might sue you. 8^P

Re:Universities should have no patents (2)

sconeu (64226) | about 9 months ago | (#46650885)

BU is a private university. I see your point for public universities, but a private entity should be able to do what it wishes in this regard.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46650947)

Are you referring to the type of public entity that is tax exempt and gets lots of federal funds? Drop that and maybe you have a point.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#46651047)

A non-profit is not tax exempt. Federal money comes with restrictions, but there are limits to the control that buys the feds. There are already schools that won't let you use any federal aid for tuition because of the baggage that comes with the money. Granting they are, at this point, really nutty religious schools.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46651453)

Federal money comes with restrictions, but there are limits to the control that buys the feds.

Before the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, the restriction was that patents that came from federally funded research had to be assigned to the feds. Worked fine. Repeal Bayh-Dole and it will work again. If BU or any other school doesn't like it, they can refuse to accept federal funding. What option do you think they'll choose?

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

gnupun (752725) | about 9 months ago | (#46652529)

BU is a private university. I see your point for public universities, but a private entity should be able to do what it wishes in this regard.

But what about the grad/phd students who actually invented this stuff? Do they see even a penny of this settlement? I don't think all the lab equipment and tools in the world is worth 100% of the patent rights going to the university.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46652977)

It depends on University policy. My name is on a patent developed at a university while I was a student and part of my contract grants me a portion of any procedes that might come from it. Some universities are less generous.

Re:Universities should have no patents (4, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46651013)

Blame the Bayh–Dole Act [wikipedia.org] . When it was passed, it seemed to make sense. It had wide support - Bayh and Dole were on very opposite sides of the aisle. In practice it's meant that universities are more worried about protecting their "intellectual property" than about publishing and disseminating research results. For that reason a lot of academic researchers are unhappy about it too. It's time to take what turned out to be a bad ides and ditch it. Universities shouldn't be run the way for-profit companies are.

Re:Universities should have no patents (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46653383)

Universities shouldn't be run the way for-profit companies are.

According to some of our experts, EVERYTHING should be run the way for-profit companies are.

Except maybe when it comes to living in mom's basement.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2, Insightful)

Silas is back (765580) | about 9 months ago | (#46651023)

When Universities invent something, like blue LEDs, and put it out there "for free", it doesn't serve the public good. What it will serve is the large companies who need the technology and now get it for free, paid for by taxpayer money. The University gets nothing from the invention, the students don't get to profit from lower tuition fees (no, tuition fees are by far not enough to cover a University's expenses) and the public good gets nothing else than to pay taxes and the possibility to build a company assembling blue LEDs without having to worry about patents. Well, I guess that's something.

Re:Universities should have no patents (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#46652027)

Oh please, what a load of crap. Yes, large companies will get the tech for free (though they'll only get the very basics, they'll still have to develop manufacturing techniques, which the university research isn't going to help them with that much). But it's not just one company, it's ALL companies that have a desire to use this tech. And then the rest of society benefits from having the knowledge, and the technology cheaply available since all competitors now have it.

It's no different than open-source software. Having it out there enriches everyone, even when big companies use it for their own purposes, or build products based on it. It advances the state of the art faster, increases quality, and reduces costs (resulting in reduced prices to end-users). You really think we'd be better off if all our consumer routers and various other devices had to pay $$$ for VxWorks licenses rather than having Linux and BSD available for free?

The University gets recognition for their invention.

and the possibility to build a company assembling blue LEDs without having to worry about patents. Well, I guess that's something.

That's a very big something; it's the whole idea. Patented tech with high license fees doesn't benefit us as much as freely-available tech.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 9 months ago | (#46653505)

It's VERY different from open-source software.

You don't have to pay patent license fees to use open-source software. A company that wants to mass-produce blue LEDs using a discovery owned by XYZ University may have to develop mass-production technigues and equipment - which they can patent themselves - but they still have to pay XYZ for the basic idea, and if the fee they pay is based on the number of LEDs produced, then you pay for it twice.

Once when your taxes become the research grant that funded XYZ U.

Once when you pay the price of the royalties for each LED you buy.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#46653983)

No, it's not different. What you're describing is the current system of university-owned patents. If it were like open-source software, you might pay a little in taxes for the research grant, but after that the knowledge is in the public domain and anyone can make blue LEDs without paying royalties, so blue-LED stuff is cheaper (since all competitors can use it, not just patent-fee-payers).

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 9 months ago | (#46653671)

Actually, it is nothing like OSS. First, and most obviously, is that there is almost zero cost associated with developing OSS. On the other hand, there is a tremendous cost associated with doing semiconductor research. The money to fund the research (including all the things that did not work) has to come from somewhere.

The second thing that needs to be considered is what motivates people. For OSS, there are basically two groups contributing - people who are not paid (hobbyists) and business. Hobbyists, of course, don't need a motive - they do it because they enjoy it. A vanishingly small number of people are going to be able to develop blue LEDs as a hobby. However, must OSS contributions are from businesses. So why do they do it? Because it has a good ROI. The money from their increased business more than offsets the cost of donating to OSS. And that is because nobody is making money selling OSS. They are selling some other product (support, hardware, whatever). The OSS itself is not the value they are selling.

Now take the example of blue LEDs. Does it make even the slightest bit of sense to think that Apple, for instance, is going to go to the major expense of developing a blue LED to make their product look cool, then just give that away to everyone else? Why would they (or anyone else)? The only people who are going to have an interest in developing a blue LED are those who either want to sell blue LEDs, or they want to sell the technology to make blue LEDs. And in neither case does it make even the slightest bit of sense that they would give that away.

Re:Universities should have no patents (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#46654047)

There is a cost to developing OSS: either time or money. Paid programmers don't work for free.

A fair amount of OSS has been developed by the government or was funded by government efforts. TCP/IP was developed with government funding, as was Tim Berners-Lee's work. That stuff has had an enormous impact on society, all without royalty costs.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

liquid_schwartz (530085) | about 9 months ago | (#46652349)

It could serve the US taxpayer good if the requirement was "for free" as long as the company was based in the US and the end product was manufactured in the US. With a little thought most things can be made to serve the public good while still enabling an economy to function and entrepreneurs to flourish.

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46654301)

Well, it should be free for individuals and corporations who pay their fair share of taxes. Multinational corporations who have their world headquarters in the US, but pay most of their taxes in Ireland should get their free tech from Irish universities, not American ones. Give corporations a good financial reason to pay taxes where they make most of their money. This could be one way.

Fair enough (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651025)

Ok fine.

If universities must submit all research into the public commons, then corporations should stop getting subsidies/deductions/kickbacks. After all, thats public money. Corporations shouldn't be able to get public money AND private money.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | about 9 months ago | (#46651515)

Universities should serve the public good. Anything created there should go into the public commons and be available to anybody and everybody to use.

They do serve the public good; they are non-profit in the sense that the license proceeds are funding more academic research and the administrative costs / management overhead. Everything created there is available to the public; you can read all about it, if you just pay the proper academic journal for the article. If you want to use it commercially for profit, you just need to pay a small licensing fee for each user, each copy you make, each unit you sell, or each seat that you license --- in order to help pay for more research.

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46652093)

Does that apply to private Universities as well?

Universities also have facilities and eqipment that can and are made available to individual inventors, for which the Universities charge a fee. Should that work go to the public good? Or is the public good served by providing the services to individual inventors?

It is a gross oversimplification of the perceived issues to suggest that a University should have no patents.

Which leads me to ask the question - how are you actually addressing the point of the article? As in, why does BU want the info redacted?

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46652781)

Bullshit. many startups occur because of the tech developed at a University, which goes on to benefit the university, the researchers and people who use the product. Without the incentive of exclusivity, many techs wouldn't even occur.

Blame the broken patent system instead.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

hey! (33014) | about 9 months ago | (#46653229)

I don't see how holding patents in itself is intrinsically contrary to a university's purpose as a research and educational institution. The express purpose of the patent system (in the US anyway) is to advance knowledge, and the deal is this: you reveal publicly how your invention works in return for exclusive economic rights to the invention for a limited time.

While common law trade secrets are clearly in conflict with the a non-profit university's duty to advance human knowledge, patents are not because they require you to publicly disclose how the invention works.

Now there are *other* problems with the patent system, namely stupid patents that are granted (including business method patents as a whole). Term lengths for certain kinds of patents should be shortened (e.g., in fast-moving fields, patents that aren't commercially exploited by the holders, and design patents generally). But those are issues with the patent *system*.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 9 months ago | (#46653599)

I don't see how holding patents in itself is intrinsically contrary to a university's purpose as a research and educational institution. The express purpose of the patent system (in the US anyway) is to advance knowledge, and the deal is this: you reveal publicly how your invention works in return for exclusive economic rights to the invention for a limited time.

It's the "for a limited time" throttling that's the problem.

The ideal of a university is that it's for the promotion and advancement of knowledge. Making a profit off the process isn't part of the ideal, and that's why univeristies are often non-profit organizations.

If you retard that by limiting it to paying customers for a time, it's a bit hypocritical.

If you retard that by limiting it when the public provided much of the funding for the discovery, it's a LOT hypocritical.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 9 months ago | (#46653869)

Patents DO NOT 'retard' the advancement of knowledge. Patents are open. Patents can be freely discussed. What you can not do is create a thing with that knowledge (without the permission of the patent holder). And I don't know of any university that claims it exists so any manufacturer can make stuff without having to spend money developing it.

Your 'funding' argument makes no sense either. You yourself said that universities (and especially research universities) are non-profit. That means that all of the money they make goes back into the university. So, if some university patents some things, and makes money from that, clearly not ALL of the money provided for funding the discovery came from the public. A university that has both public funding AND recovers some of it's costs through patent licensing has more money to spend doing more research. Where, exactly, is the problem with that?

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

hey! (33014) | about 9 months ago | (#46656111)

FYI, non-profit organizations are usually supposed to turn a profit. Generating more revenue than you need to cover your expenses is a normal and necessary part of a sustainable organization. In practical terms that means you have to aim for a profit. So in practice a non-profit operates almost exactly like a for-profit, except there are no proprietors to distribute the profits to. In a non-profit you simply put the profit back into the mission, or into growing the organization.

A better name than "non-profit" would be "not-for-profit". In a for-profit, profit is the reason for the company's existence. In a not-for-profit, it is merely a financial constraint which determines whether the organization can survive and grow. It's like living to eat vs. eating to live. Eating might not be the purpose of your existence, but if you don't eat your existence will terminate.

In practice this means you do a lot more things in a non-profit that are un-profitable than you would in a for-profit. But this makes the remaining profit-generating activities all the more critical. I know, I've been there, working in non-profits. We took our public mission seriously, but we also generated all the profit we could manage so we could keep the doors open while doing good.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46654867)

Patents are how universities actually pay for their research. They do not get anywhere NEAR enough from grants and other funding sources to do what they do.

If people truly want them to serve the public good and open up all their research, then they will have to also figure out where to get the money from.

Re:Universities should have no patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46654925)

Boston University is a private university, not a public university.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46655741)

BU is a private school and technically is no different from any other private company.

Re:Universities should have no patents (1)

Patent Lover (779809) | about 9 months ago | (#46655811)

Tell that to the sports departments.

Streisand effect? (1)

biodata (1981610) | about 9 months ago | (#46650789)

Maybe Boston U have seen this coming, and in reality want to publicise the list. I for one had never heard of them owning a patent on blue LEDs before this, and now I see how even the big guys pay not to take them on.

Re:Streisand effect? (1)

ruir (2709173) | about 9 months ago | (#46651335)

There is a vested interest of the big guys to pay patent rights no matter how stupid they are. If they pay, they create precedents for others to pay, and thus create a barrier for small players to arrive to the market, due to have to pay the patents too. Microsoft is known for actively encouraging this, either directly or via proxying.

Re:Streisand effect? (1)

fnj (64210) | about 9 months ago | (#46651801)

Exactly. Patents are a bludgeon against peons to begin with.

Settements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46650895)

What are these settements of which you speak?
It's in the headline no less.... Oh well, at least the "editors" didn't dub over engine and transmission noise.

Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (0)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46650929)

Apple, Microsoft, Dell, BlackBerry, Nokia, etc. don't make LED's, they buy them . Hence they're customers. Does this mean that the absurd idea of suing customers in addition to manufacturers has been accepted? Patent trolling is bad, but this is just plain nuts.

That's it (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#46651017)

Time to disconnect from the modern world and go live in a wooden cabin in the middle of the forest.

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (3, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 9 months ago | (#46651167)

Apple, Microsoft, Dell, BlackBerry, Nokia, etc. don't make LED's, they buy them . Hence they're customers. Does this mean that the absurd idea of suing customers in addition to manufacturers has been accepted? Patent trolling is bad, but this is just plain nuts.

Patents give the owner an exclusive right to make, sell, import, or use an invention. While customers aren't making, selling, or (sometimes) importing the product, they are using it.

Now, that said, various exhaustion and indemnification rights may exist. In fact, frequently what happens is the patent owner sues a customer, the customer brings in the manufacturer as a third party defendant under rule 14, and then the customer walks away and the manufacturer and patent owner hash things out. Same thing occurs when there's a car accident - I sue you, you bring in your insurance company, and then I and your insurance company figure it out. I can't sue them directly, because I have no privity of contract with them or grounds for suit against them.

This isn't anything to do with trolling - this is just a standard thing for when A has a cause of action against B, and B has a defense by way of C.

Even use after a first sale transaction? (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 9 months ago | (#46651313)

Really? (and I say that as a genuine question, not some snarky reply)

I always thought you could "make your own" from patent filings, you just couldn't sell/trade/traffic/commercialize it. So if I wanted to construct a swing in my backyard and use it in a sideways motion (with or without the Tarzan yell), such as currently under patent http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi... [uspto.gov] , I could do so without fear of repercussion, but I could not sell such a swing setup to others without violating the rights of the patent owner. Your definition of "use" would prevent such a project in my back yard.

I don't buy the auto analogy, mainly because the insurance companies have nothing to do with the suit, except though my contract with them for payment of an award. The only reason their lawyers get involved is because it's their money. I have a buffalo wireless router I purchased many years ago, and if the courts interpret "use" as you say, then I am in direct violation of several patents (since Buffalo, afaik, never paid for the patents they used)

Re:Even use after a first sale transaction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651773)

That patent is ridiculous. Luckily it was also re-examined due to a request a month after it was published and the re-exam cancelled all claims.
So, swing away, or sideways, makes no difference!

you would be wrong (2)

Chirs (87576) | about 9 months ago | (#46651881)

I always thought you could "make your own" from patent filings, you just couldn't sell/trade/traffic/commercialize it.

Nope. Per Wikipedia, "...a patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention...".

Now usually it's not worth the time/effort to enforce patents against end-users since they generally don't have much money. But witness the patent trolls going after small businesses for "scanning to email" or the use of wi-fi (really, look up Innovatio IP Ventures).

Re:Even use after a first sale transaction? (3, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 9 months ago | (#46652087)

Really? (and I say that as a genuine question, not some snarky reply)

I always thought you could "make your own" from patent filings, you just couldn't sell/trade/traffic/commercialize it. So if I wanted to construct a swing in my backyard and use it in a sideways motion (with or without the Tarzan yell), such as currently under patent http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi... [uspto.gov] , I could do so without fear of repercussion, but I could not sell such a swing setup to others without violating the rights of the patent owner. Your definition of "use" would prevent such a project in my back yard.

Yes, you are incorrect there. The statute is 35 USC 271 [cornell.edu] and states:

Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

Note that there's no commercial requirement - this is unlike trademark law, where infringement has to include commercial use, because federal trademark law comes out of the commerce clause, while patents are under Article 1, section 8, clause 8. Merely using a patented invention is infringement, even if it's for completely non-commercial gain. In fact, this why there was the whole big controversy over the BRCA1 gene in Assoc. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics: one of the concerns was that if Myriad could patent an isolated gene, then scientists couldn't use that isolated gene even in their non-profit research on cancer cures.

Two things, though: first, that swinging on a swing patent has been invalidated. ;)
Second, for the most part, if you're making something for personal use in your home, the patent owner may never find out about it, so while you may be infringing, you're unlikely to get sued. Even if you do, the reasonable royalty for private, personal home use may be negligible. Let's pretend that the swinging patent was still valid and you did it... What's a reasonable royalty? A nickel? Maybe an entire quarter? It's going to cost someone at least $50k to file suit for infringement, and even if by some incredible odds you were found to willfully infringe and be held liable for their attorney fees, they'd still lose money, just due to inflation and lost investment opportunity. Plus, a judge would probably refuse the attorney's fees, because someone who sues over twenty-five cents is someone who is wasting the court's time, so why should they end up anywhere close to whole?

I don't buy the auto analogy, mainly because the insurance companies have nothing to do with the suit, except though my contract with them for payment of an award. The only reason their lawyers get involved is because it's their money.

But they have no right to interfere in the suit, even if it's their money, unless they can be made a party. That's what FRCP rule 14 is all about. As a result, they do have something to do with the suit, albeit indirectly to the main controversy. Civil procedure is weird that way.

I have a buffalo wireless router I purchased many years ago, and if the courts interpret "use" as you say, then I am in direct violation of several patents (since Buffalo, afaik, never paid for the patents they used)

Yes, quite possibly. It would depend on the claims at issue, of course.
Specifically, some claims are written from an active client perspective - "receiving, by a router, a wireless communication; processing, by the router, the communication to do something really awesome; etc." Buffalo may make routers, but do they infringe such a claim? No, because their routers aren't doing jack-shiat - they're sitting in boxes waiting to be shipped to customers. It's only when the customer plugs it in that it then starts performing the method. So, the patent owner sues the customer for direct patent infringement, knowing that the customer will implead Buffalo to indemnify them (there will also likely be claims against Buffalo for induced infringement, but that still requires a direct infringer: the customer).

In either case, no one would actually expect you, the customer, to pay royalties, or even pay for a lawyer. You're more like the guy in car accident, who calls his insurance company and then walks away from the case and lets them handle it. Hence my analogy. :)

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651371)

So why would these customers settle instead of just "walking away", as you say?

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 9 months ago | (#46651953)

They can't do what he said. The manufacturers of the LEDs have not infringed the patents, because they did not make, use, sell, or offer to sell the LEDs in the US, nor did they import them. Apple, et al, did that. What the customers can do however, if they are so inclined, is sue their suppliers (after they settle with BU.) But there is no way they can just pass the blame like he suggested.

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (4, Informative)

bws111 (1216812) | about 9 months ago | (#46651187)

Say what? Exactly who are Apple, etc, customers of? Certainly not BU. And what do Apple, et al do with those LEDs? They import them into the US, then they sell them. And here is what the US Patent law says: Whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention within the United States, or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term the patent therefor, infringes the patent. You know how long that statement has been in patent law? Since Thomas Jefferson wrote it.

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (3, Interesting)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 9 months ago | (#46652141)

Patent law says: Whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention within the United States, or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term the patent therefor, infringes the patent. You know how long that statement has been in patent law? Since Thomas Jefferson wrote it.

"Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices." - Thomas Jefferson

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#46654801)

"Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, ...

So England needs to serve us with a cease and desist order for copying their patent idea.

Please, England.

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | about 9 months ago | (#46655587)

"Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices." - Thomas Jefferson

"It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it." - Thomas Jefferson, very same letter.

Please give me a call the next time your family departs on vacation...

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 9 months ago | (#46651559)

Patent laws are truly ridiculous. We should banish them all because there is zero evidence that patents are beneficial for society. We can re-implement them if we have evidence they're useful, but we have none. The absurdity you note is due to the patent law which paints both use and inducement of infringement as forbidden by patent law. Therefore, not only are you in violation of patent law if you stumble upon an idea or wavelength that someone else already registered first and try to market it, but you're also not allowed to use the discovery yourself in your private business or even in the privacy of your own home for your own personal use.

I have written operating systems completely from scratch using only a hex editor boot sector, coding with machine op codes editing executing memory, saving and loading via writing the code to load and store data between sectors and RAM. Using this simplest of tool possible (since boot from serial is missing on today's mainboards) I bootstrapped an editor, assembler, disassembler (then disassembled the assembler to get its source), and proceeded to create file systems and compilers and basic audio, graphics, and device drivers -- just for fun! I am fairly certain that it's illegal for me to use the OS I wrote from completely from scratch for my electronics & hobby projects or even to just write my memoirs in isolation because it's practically impossible NOT to accidentally "invent" a solution someone else has already thought of first and patented. Furthermore, how many new patents would be invalidated would that I could compare them against the prior art I refuse to open source for fear of lawsuit? IMO, such accidental patent infringement should be immediate grounds for invalidation of the patent on grounds of obviousness; However, there is no test for obviousness despite non-obviousness being a requirement for awarding of a patent.

I must refuse to look in the PTO database to discover whether I'm correct (because that yields 3x damages if you have definite foreknowledge of infringement), and this is the same reasoning that engineers DO NOT USE the patent databases! The patents are useless because it's faster and safer to re-invent your wheel than LICENSE someone else's vaguely described solutions BEFORE you can discover if it will work -- don't want to accidentally infringe by making an implementation and testing it -- over and over and over until you find one that works.

So, patents are essentially USELESS. They are useful to stifle competition not foster innovation. Mathematics, fashion and automotive designs wouldn't advance if patents were required for innovation, as these are prohibited from having patent protections and yet there the innovation is. We have only evidence for the null hypothesis, i.e., in opposition to the assumption that patents are beneficial for society and advancement of the useful arts or sciences. It's irresponsible to continue operating the world wide marketplace of ideas on an untested and unproven hypothesis. What if patents are holding us back needlessly? Wouldn't we want to find out sooner rather than later?

Time to do the experiment and abolish patents. I say we go one market at a time, starting with software patents since they exist until the mid 80's anyway, and yet we made it to the personal computer without them.

I have no problem with patents as intended (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 9 months ago | (#46651917)

If I come up with a way of doing something, I don't have a problem with you needing to either re-invent it from scratch or else pay me to use my idea.

I do think that if you can show that you really did invent something from scratch *without ever seeing my invention or hearing about it* then you shouldn't have to pay me.

Similarly, a patent should be on a specific implementation, not a general concept. This latter part seems to be a huge problem with many software patents...they try to patent a concept rather than a specific implementation of the concept.

Re:Suing customers instead of manufacturers? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 9 months ago | (#46652491)

Do you honestly think that we would have near the things we have today if not for patents? Do you really think some hobbyists were going to invent the transistor, the microchip, the complicated and expensive processes and tooling for manufacturing ever smaller and more powerful chips, battery technology, touch screens, all the lightweight but strong materials we have, LEDs, whatever? If so, you are seriously deluding yourself.

Patents have existed for only a few hundred years. People have existed for thousands of times longer. Why were the ancient Babylonians not walking around with cell phones? Why did Da Vinci's inventions only exist as drawings, and not practical things? How were we able to go from communicating only by sending letters to being able to to see and talk to someone anywhere on Earth with a small handheld device that weighs a few ounces? Could any of those things have to do with having a financial incentive to work on them? Just maybe?

Nobody says that patents are REQUIRED for innovation to occur. The purpose of patents is to PROMOTE innovation. Yes, there will always be people who invent with no financial incentive (particularly for things that don't require any expense). However, there are millions of other people who are capable of inventing, but need to make a living. The purpose of patents is to urge THEM to invent. Whether that prodding comes in the form of making and selling your own products, or whether it comes in the form of a paycheck from someone else who is hoping to cash in on your work does not matter. The end result is things get invented.

And your example sucks. You did not invent anything, you just recreated something by using the knowledge gained from the people who did invent those things. Come back to us when you have actually invented a useful or desirable thing, and someone else is making and selling it cheaper than you because they didn't have to go to the expense of inventing it.

Blue LED's annoyance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651101)

Everyone who uses a blue or white LED just got boned by this patent. Quick check how many damn things you have that have a blue power LED.

Why? (1)

msauve (701917) | about 9 months ago | (#46651163)

No comments here as to why BU might want the parties kept private.

Let me hazard to guess that the settlements/licenses included confidentiality clauses, and the publication of the names may somehow work against BU.

OTOH, if BU brought suit against all these companies, wouldn't any post-settlement dismissal of those suits necessarily be a matter of public record?

Wait for it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651169)

Streissand Effect in 3... 2... 1...

Re:Wait for it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651401)

Not this time. Very few really give a shit about this.

And...? (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 9 months ago | (#46651173)

Okay, the settlement was done a couple months ago. The only thing new here is that the lawyers want to retroactively redact some company names from the original paperwork. So... Where's the story? It's only a mildly amusing anecdote and I expect this sort of thing happens fairly frequently. I get the distinct impression that the submitter wanted me to see something more here but for the life of me I can't figure out what.

Re:And...? (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 9 months ago | (#46652033)

It does also list the holdouts who haven't settled yet. Curiously, Cree and Lumileds are completely absent which makes one wonder what sort of deal they have.

typical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651299)

BU strikes again. Worst university. Suffered 5 years there. Never seen a more uninspired campus, faculity, and management. Tritely riding on the success of other big universities, while simultaneously failing in all efforts to become a respectable instituion of learning. Stay away, and far away. All of the siren songs of "best program" and "best school" are lies.

Did BU use taxpayer money to develop it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651315)

There's still something not right about taxpayer money being used to develop things the taxpayer is not allowed to use without paying again.

Federal money should come with strings attached that require donation of anything developed with it to the public good.

I love patent settements. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651431)

They are great to have.

mod D0wn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46651565)

you all is to 7et fly...don't fear

Hick headline (1)

fnj (64210) | about 9 months ago | (#46651697)

Headline just sounds like some hick saying "Boston U". Everybody in the area knows it's always called BU.

Prior Art (2)

Khyber (864651) | about 9 months ago | (#46653571)

Nichia had blue Gallium-Nitride LED tech in 1994, and is in fact credited with its invention.

Re:Prior Art (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 9 months ago | (#46653969)

Uh, right. Too bad this patent was filed in 1991.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 9 months ago | (#46654719)

Too bad prior art goes back even further than that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Prior Art (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 9 months ago | (#46655135)

Too bad the patent is not for blue leds, but for a method of making them.

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