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Profiting From A Vague Patent HOWTO

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the step-2:-patents dept.

Patents 309

tunabomber writes "IEEE Spectrum has an in-depth article about the rise of Acacia Research Corporation and its plan for enforcing its patent on 'Digital Media Technology' (which seems to lay claim to any technology that transmits audio or video digitally for entertainment purposes). You may recall that there was a story on Slashdot over a year ago about Acacia's threats and subsequent lawsuits against some small adult entertainment companies regarding their violation of the patent. There was also an Ask Slashdot posted a while back by the owner of one of these companies who had received a letter from Acacia Research demanding that they pay licensing fees. Both Slashdot stories asked how long it would be until Acacia went after the big media companies. Well, they finally did last week. It appears that Acacia just had to get enough companies (Disney and Virgin Radio, among others) to pay licensing fees before they could afford a legal adventure against the big guys. DirectTV, Comcast, Echostar, and Charter Communications are some of the defendents. Let the fireworks begin!"

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Profit! (3, Funny)

Mz6 (741941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527044)

Profiting From A Vague Patent HOWTO -- from the step-2:-patents dept.

Some HOWTO this was... I have the 2nd step, but I thought this would answer that elusive 3rd step, but it was no help at all.

1. Obtain vague patent
2. Enforce vague patent
3. ???
4. Profit!!!

Re:Profit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527081)

Their graphic on the main page has to be the worst computer-generated artwork I have seen in a long time, and I browse Deviantart.....

Re:Profit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527114)

Their Management Page [acaciatechnologies.com]

Now proceeding to find their contact info and sign up their personal emails to every spam mailing list I can find. Lets see if they like penis-enlargement on demand.

Re:Profit! (5, Insightful)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527123)

>1. Obtain vague patent
>2. Enforce vague patent
>3. ???
>4. Profit!!!

After all the articles we've read, there is clearly 1 superior way to profit. Everytime I've seen someone make one of these, this one applies. Same method. Everytime.

1. Become a lawyer
2. Profit

Talk about being in high demand? There will ALWAYS be some rich asshole who wants to sue another rich asshole.

Re:Profit! (0)

ncurses (764489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527235)

1. Be smarter than everyone else. (a nerd) 2. Profit 3. Failing that, take over the world. 4. Profit.

Re:Profit! (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527319)

WTF sort of profit scheme is not in a vertical list?

Re:Profit! (1)

ncurses (764489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527380)

Sorry. I had it on HTML formatted instead of plain text. Didn't insert br.

Re:Become one??? just hire the scum. (0, Flamebait)

AWHITEMAN (784936) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527440)

No reason to sell your soul if someone else will do it for hire.

As they say on Battle.net, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527060)

"Fag! Kekekekekeke!"

Wait a second... (4, Funny)

XCorvis (517027) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527065)

Someone should patent the method for profiting from vague patents... then sue everyone profiting from vague patents.

Re:Wait a second... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527133)

Wow, like this has never before been posted on Slashdot.

Re:Wait a second... (1)

gavri (663286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527154)

Someone should patent that line and then sue slashdotters like you.

Re:Wait a second... (1)

hawkeyeMI (412577) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527157)

That's brilliant! I'm sorry I just finished my mod points for the day...

Re:Wait a second... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527192)

Thats much too specific to work.. Needs to be more vague, otherwise the USPTO wont give out the patent.

Re:Wait a second... (2, Funny)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527253)

"I tried to patent patent barratry, but there was prior art."

Apologies to whomever's sig I have just trampled on...

Re:Wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527359)

Why doesn't the FOSS community jump on the bandwagon too? We should start patenting anything and everything, which should at least provide some hindrance to the expected massive anti-linux patent litigation.

The problem with the above of course, is the cost of fees for patent application. Here are some things we should be pressing for to reduce the expense.

1. Development of online patent application utilities. Just plug your idea (lame or otherwise) into a browser window where a backend script will generate a typically-difficult-to-understand patent application, and automatically file it with your country's patent office.

2. This is very important - we need legislative help to change the patent application process so that all fees will be waived *if the patent is applied for to be licensed to the world for no charge.*

Please don't mod this post down simply because I don't have a /. account.

The Supreme AC.

I know your in there! (2, Funny)

caston (711568) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527070)

Darl is that you?!?!

Re:I know your in there! (0)

canfirman (697952) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527247)

Crap! You stole my line before I could hit "Submit". Damn that first post! (Are we sure Darl isn't on the board of directors?)

In Soviet Russia... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527075)

...vague patent profits from YOU!

"some small adult entertainment companies" (4, Funny)

mirko (198274) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527077)

Are there really some companies dedicated to entertaining dwarves ???

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527099)

you really don't want to do an unfiltered search on midget porn (or amputee porn, which would also qualify for "small adult" status).

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527122)

I think you're mistaken. Actually, the article was referring to companies that are "adult" themed; meaning, they specialize in goods/media that is pornographic and otherwise too mature for youngsters.
And by "small", they meant that the company had not grown to accumulate much profit/capital.

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527173)

Jesus Christ, you're a pathetic humorless loser.

Get a friggin'life or FOAD as Broken Bones would have sung.

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (5, Funny)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527134)

Of course there are companies dedicated to Dwarf related entertainment, but they are a bunch of tossers.

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527148)

Are there really some companies dedicated to entertaining dwarves ???

I believe the politically correct term is small adults ;)

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527208)

the phrase "vertically challenged" comes to mind for me.

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (1)

NineteenSixtyNine (775581) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527357)

Gotta love a woman who has to stand on a stool to give you a bj.

Re:"some small adult entertainment companies" (1)

aixou (756713) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527169)

They prefer to be referred to as Underwear Gnomes (patent pending).

penisbird (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527082)

i love you, penisbird!!

*Grabs popcorn* (5, Insightful)

Walkiry (698192) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527086)

In the age of digital cluelessness in the patent office, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. It's hard to even tell if it's a win/win situation, because if they really go all-out on something as general as "patent of a device that broadcast digital entertainment" (paraphrased), the amount of heads that will roll in the process will make the french revolution look like a cakewalk in comparison.

Meanwhile, the sharks are rubbing their collective fins at the prospect, and ironing their armani suits no doubt.

Re:*Grabs popcorn* (1)

LondonLawyer (609870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527271)

Ironing my Armani? I'd never stoop so low...

1. Why iron your own clothes when there are people to do it for you?

2. Why dress off the peg when you could buy bespoke?

Re:*Grabs popcorn* (5, Funny)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527323)

A lawyer, as sailor, and a priest are trapped on a lifeboat. The sailor looks over the side, and say "These be shark infested waters." The priest look to heaven and asked "Help save us lord!"

They lawyer simple whistled. Several dorsal fins stopped circuling and headed right for the boat. They stopped in a ring as the lawyer talked to them in hushed tones. The sharks skattered underwater before the boat was suddenly lifted up, and surged forward.

The sailor gazed over the side, shocked. The sharks were carrying the boat on their backs. After a few minutes travel, they spotted land ahead. The priest said "Saint's be praised."

The boat slid onto the beach, and the three men stepped out. As they did another school of sharks appeared, and began depositing fish on the shoreline, before swimming away.

The priest said, "God has answered our prayers."

The lawyer turned and said, "Nah, this is just professional curtesy."

It's a rerun... (1)

ArmenTanzarian (210418) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527353)

Classic story of evil turning on itself. For reference, read just about any fantasy book ever. The evil will be weak for a while and then come back again, just worry about the ricochets and stray bullets.

Prior art (4, Interesting)

csoto (220540) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527087)

There are an umber of "ASCII art" utilities out there that "streamed" images to teletypes and terminals way back when. Some pretty racy images at times, too ;)

Re:Prior art (2, Funny)

Rick.C (626083) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527187)

Some pretty racy images at times, too ;)

Yeah, that picture of Snoopy had all the women in the data center giggling.

Re:Prior art (0, Offtopic)

justanyone (308934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527258)

Wait a minute!

You had women in your data center??? COOOOOOLLL!

We had curmudgeonly old farts in plaid flannel shirts and ugly ties; long-haired wierdos in heavy metal t-shirts, jeans, and hiking boots; engineering guys in white shirts and ties that were too smart to stay long; otherwise normal-looking seikhs dudes (with various colors of turbans) trying to finish some project and not talking to people; and otherwise GENERALLY NO WOMEN WHATSOEVER which really sucked. Especially because at the time I was single and had no attractiveness of which I was aware.

Re:Prior art (5, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527196)

Were they compressed, stored, transmitted and then decompressed? And were they audioand/or video files? Looks like this is what's needed.

So you need to see if the first ever digtially transmitted compressed audio or video file predates this patent.

I suspect it does. There must have been countless zipped audio samples on bulletin boards by 1992.

Re:Prior art (4, Interesting)

missing000 (602285) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527296)

Not only that, but modems in that age almost universally compressed content on both sides of the pipe.

That would appear to make my online chess playing qualify as prior art.

Re:Prior art (2, Informative)

rembem (621820) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527350)

Were they compressed, stored, transmitted and then decompressed? And were they audioand/or video files? Looks like this is what's needed.


Compression: Glyps are compressed using ascii codes

Decompressed: Ascii-byte-codes decompress to glyps.

Video/Audio: Some ascii-art has animation and beeps.

Re:Prior art (2, Funny)

nkh (750837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527439)

During a (boring) college C++ course, a friend of mine tried the following combination: 'ssh -C' and 'mplayer -vo sdl:aalib' to watch an episode of Naruto...

Patent enforcement (5, Interesting)

Roryking (646378) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527101)

Is it just me or do these issues only seem to happen when some no-name corporation "remembers" that they somehow invented a wide-sweeping technology? It seems that when legitmate corporations enforce patent/copyright for things they actually invented from the get-go, nobody questions it. Is it human spirit to "take what you can get when they're not looking" or are these bozos just out to make a cheap buck?

Re:Patent enforcement (1)

TwistedSquare (650445) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527386)

It is called a "submarine patent" I believe. Corporations patent something, keep quiet until they would recieve maximum fees back from infringing companies (i.e. when the technology has become popular), and then start enforcing it. Someone on /. a while back suggested a scheme that unless patent-holding companies enforced their patent from the outset, they could not enforce it later on, or some similar idea.

Well I for one have found.... (3, Funny)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527112)

The audio/video feeds of SCO's copyright infringement lawsuits to be highly entertaining. ;)

Going after little guys first... (5, Insightful)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527113)

I think that the reason they went after the online porn industry was to establish legal precedent.

After all, in court, isn't it simple enough to find bias against people who "harm society" to make judgements not based on the rule of law?

-PM

Re:Going after little guys first... (0, Troll)

Heem (448667) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527159)

"Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children!"

Re:Going after little guys first... (2, Insightful)

justanyone (308934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527448)

"Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children!" (Reference: protecting children from online porn).

Think of the children? What about the adolescents?! As an adolescent myself, I had a great interest in the porn industry, from a purely... "research-driven" point of view (grin).

I get fed up with the pr0n == evil crowd, especially in the conservative-religious parts of the U.S. (and its representatives in the U.S. court system). Yah, there's some evil exploitation there, agreed, it's a legal form of prostitution to have sex for money in front of a camera (which probably pisses them off to no end). But, for the most part that I've seen, there's also a lot of good clean artistic (jerkoff) photography.

Masterbation is not evil, it's safe sex, and I would think the religious crowd would be supporting it to some degree. After all, what practical solution would YOU offer an ultra-horney 16 year old boy or girl? (yes, normal girls get horney too, get over it). That's right, tell them to solve their problem, but do it alone, and leave the stuff that has adult consequences for when they're an adult.

Somehow I really doubt that this company (which i've never heard of) really invented the concept of online pr0n. When did playboy.com start? When did the first porn site go up? When was http invented? Talk to some of the guys back at U of Illinois who wrote the percursor to Apache (NCSI?). They were college students - they probably tried sending compressed (zipped) video or .bmp still photos at some point.

Compressing video is vital to sending it over the net, and video is almost by definition, entertainment- so whoever sent the first video file and the first streaming video feed (I doubt they're the same organization/person) wins that prior art bid.

-- Kevin J. Rice

Big guys? (4, Interesting)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527132)

It appears that Acacia just had to get enough companies (Disney and Virgin Radio, among others) to pay licensing fees before they could afford a legal adventure against the big guys.

Since when are Disney and Virgin not considered big companies?

Re:Big guys? (2, Interesting)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527213)

What I want to know is, were Disney and Virgin settling or fund raising. You have to think, if you are an old school analog signal selling corp, someone suddenly putting the Kabosh on all this cheap digital media would be something worth leasing one's soul for.

All the sudden your properties are more valuable. You can sell them without the license feels.

Re:Big guys? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527276)

Its virgin radio, not Virgin.

Virgin Radio used to be owned by Virgin but then they sold it to everyones favorite Ginger-haired bloke, who then sold it to SMG.

Blame them

Re:Big guys? (1)

entrager (567758) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527384)

It doesn't say they aren't, it says they used licensing fees from them in order to sue the (other) big guys.

dumb and obvious Q for the IANAL among us... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527139)

Say this company files suit against Comcast, et al, and other big media behemouths. Comast et al will argue in court against the validity of the patent being awarded. Assume they're successful, and the patent gets tossed. What recourse does this company's previous licensors have? Are they capable of reclaiming their money?

Re:dumb and obvious Q for the IANAL among us... (4, Informative)

jkabbe (631234) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527447)

A smart attorney would probably require a clause in any licensing agreement that would void the agreement if any claims of the patent are voided by the USPTO or a court. Otherwise, no, you're out of luck.

My vague patent (3, Funny)

beef3k (551086) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527146)

1. Patent "digitally transferring text for any purpose at all".

2. Have wet dreams about email royalties from Yahoo, Hotmail, *starts slobbering*

3. ????

4. Drive the spammers out of business

5. Profit!

Yeah, breaks with the "Slashdot-profit-haiku" rules, but who cares.

Re:My vague patent (1)

blirp (147278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527274)

Yeah, breaks with the "Slashdot-profit-haiku" rules, but who cares.

Maybe you should patent it?

Happy to live in Europe (1)

Jimpqfly (790794) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527156)

.... for now, because things might change with the software patent project ! (erk)

What the patent system needs (4, Insightful)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527162)

is an effective deterrent against bogus patents. IE you have to pay the patent office a lofty fine if your patent gets overturned in court. However, I can't think of a system that would:
a) get through the special interest dominated congress and
b: Be effective at making huge companies afraid of the fine while at the same time not intimidating legitimate companies from applying for legitmate patents.
Scylla and Charybdis...
And yes, I do think there are legitimate software patents, for example if this company had developed it's own compression algorithm, and unique, and very specific, distribution method, then they probably deserve a patent for it, but if they just say they invented distributing entertainment digitally, then there is no basis for the patent and they should be punished accordingly.

Re:What the patent system needs (1)

Jimpqfly (790794) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527198)

... and your own input methods ? For example a "Double-clic" ? ...

Re:What the patent system needs (4, Insightful)

Rick.C (626083) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527306)

you have to pay the patent office a lofty fine if your patent gets overturned in court.

A more effective deterrent to bogus patents would be for the USPTO to have to pay any damages and legal costs awarded by the courts for overturned patents.

As it stands, the USPTO has everything to gain and nothing to lose by rubber stamping everything it receives. If they had "some skin in the game" they would likely be more dilligent in their research.

Re:What the patent system needs (5, Insightful)

octal666 (668007) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527331)

And yes, I do think there are legitimate software patents, for example if this company had developed it's own compression algorithm, and unique, and very specific, distribution method, then they probably deserve a patent for it, but if they just say they invented distributing entertainment digitally, then there is no basis for the patent and they should be punished accordingly.

I fear to say I agree with you, to a point, al least. I think a specific technology, software or not involved, should be patentable, the problem is not with patenting thechnologies, but when ideas are patented.

For example, the mouse, if you patent the mouse, you are patenting one implementation of a device to interact with the computer in a graphical way. If you patent a way to push a button, it's not a technology, it's an idea. Same with an algorithm, the encryption idea should not be patentable, a given algorithm should.

The patent for broadcasting digital entertainment is an idea, and seems to be like patenting the use of water for thirst relieving.

With all that vague patents, why anyone has patented the operating system yet?

Finally, a HOWTO that I can profit from... (5, Funny)

lacrymology.com (583077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527165)

I own the patents for the following vague ideas:

1) A method for translating program source code into a machine runnable format.

2) A method for displaying a computer's file system (see earlier patent for details) based on the top of a typical desk.

3) A number system based solely on the numbers 1 and 0.

4) A method for having sex with a computer (you know it'll happen one day... and when it does... I'm rolling in the cash)

Anyone have the number for a good (i.e. slimey) lawyer?

-m

Nuts (1)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527177)

Can someone remind we - what makes a valid patent?

I mean, is it enough just to have an idea? If that's the case, I have lots of ideas how, for instance, nanotechnology might be used, and I'm sure I could write up some fancy papers about it. And I'm sure one day, some of them might come to fruition. Could I patent those ideas?

If I can then the patent system should be abolished, or at least completely revised. Guessing how people are going to use technology in the future and then patenting those ideas should not be the basis of the patent system.

Re:Nuts (1)

softwave (145750) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527254)

If I'm not mistaken, you could not patent an IDEA...

Re:Nuts (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527262)

keep in mind that patents expire, so if you patent something too far away in the future, then you may never profit from it. and that patent would then become public domain after it expires and so no one would ever be able to patent it again.

though i think you sometimes need a working prototype to patent something

Re:Nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527403)

keep in mind that patents expire, so if you patent something too far away in the future, then you may never profit from it.

I'm sure the PACs and lawyers are working on this....

I doubt it's as bad as it sounds... (3, Informative)

ncurses (764489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527179)

I did some googling, and they hold the same patent in Japan and Europe. It seems like Europe has a pretty good record of not approving silly patents.

I can't find the actual text of the patent. I tried searching the patent search engine dealy linked to in the original article, but I couldn't find it. Could someone link to it?

And the reason they call it a patent of a HOWTO is because I do not believe Acacia Research Corporation has actually implemented the streaming video stuff that they patented. I don't think it's as broad as it sounds, but it does sound a lot like patenting an idea.

Re:I doubt it's as bad as it sounds... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527250)

I think this is the link [uspto.gov]

You may be right. I'm not quite sure where the inventive step is though. I'm not good at reading patents, but it looks like they have simply patented the idea of transmitting stored compressed data.

Re:I doubt it's as bad as it sounds... (1)

ncurses (764489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527365)

"...A system of distributing video and/or audio information employs digital signal processing to achieve high rates of data compression..." It never gives the algorithm used. Sounds a lot like patenting an idea to me. So they were just issued part of a patent on gzip, bz2, zip, Z, etc?

Slashdot's news (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527186)

There was also an Ask Slashdot posted a while back by the owner of one of these companies who had received a letter from Acacia Research demanding that they pay licensing fees. Both Slashdot stories asked how long it would be until Acacia went after the big media companies. Well, they finally did last week.

Slashdot: Yesterday's news today and again tomorrow.

When the patent is ruled invalid... (1)

scotpurl (28825) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527189)

...will the companies that were sued and lost get their money back?

Re:When the patent is ruled invalid... (4, Informative)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527241)

Well no. They couldn't have been sued and lost, because the validity of the patent would have been tested in court during their trial.

No, the people who would lose are the ones who settle. Since they didn't fight it, they basically said "here is free money, stop annoying me." Most settlements don't include agreements about if this patent should "go away." Though frankly, I would want to make sure my lawyer worked like hell to get it in.

Now I'm curious. Disney's lawyers are as infamous (or infamouse) as IBM's. What are they doing settling out of court for an iffy patent?

Re:When the patent is ruled invalid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527265)

They might be worried that successfully challenging an "iffy" patent would affect their strategy for "eternal copyrights".

what is the desired outome of this ? (3, Interesting)

giampy (592646) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527195)

The more mess is created the more people will realize how broken is the software patenting system ...

I am almost hoping for a victory of Acacia in this, with the big players have to pay a lot o money and give Acacia even more strenght ...

what side do you stand for and why ??

Software patents for Open Source Only (5, Interesting)

starfire-1 (159960) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527202)

Personally, I feel that software patents should only be awarded if the source code is open. Not necessarily GPL'd, but open in that your competition may have a legitimate opportunity to view the design.

Seventy five years ago, if you devised a new engine for a car, your competition could buy one, rip it apart and copy your ideas. So patents made sense. But in closed source software design, the products are black boxes that frequently can be describe only on more general terms. So we get these patent applications for abstract functions.

IMHO, patents should only be awarded if a company is willing to open its source code to an extent. It can still be proprietary, but there must be the legitimate opportunity for someone else to be able to "look inside" to see how it works. If a company want to keep it's code closed, fine. But no patent.

Just my two cents.

Re:Software patents for Open Source Only (3, Interesting)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527301)

That's also the European Parliament's opinion: if you mention the use of software in your patent claims, you have to provide a reference implementation of this software according to them. Of course, that's just another thing that the Council threw out again...

Re:Software patents for Open Source Only (5, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527333)

Patenting software is a bit like patenting unpublished novels. You get a patent for "well, the story goes sort of like this...", and get to sue anyone who has a story that is at all similar.

As you say, the source code goes unreleased and unpublished, so all you've got to go on is the vague description of how the "story sort of goes" to compare an potentially infringing story to.

Imagine if this was the standard for plaigarism (which is, admittedly, under copyright law, not patents, but that's mostly because you can't patent stories - if you could, believe me, plenty of people would). Madness.

Surely patents are for the implementation - didn't you have to provide actual design blueprints etc. if you were patenting a new kind of engine? If you have to patent it on that levl - that is, patent a particular set of source files (where obvious derivatives etc. would still be liable), then software patents might almost work. Then again, you'd largely be duplicating existing copyright law, and what would be the point?

Jedidiah.

Re:Software patents for Open Source Only (1)

Rick.C (626083) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527391)

IMHO, patents should only be awarded if a company is willing to open its source code to an extent. It can still be proprietary, but there must be the legitimate opportunity for someone else to be able to "look inside" to see how it works. If a company want to keep it's code closed, fine. But no patent.

In days of yore, that's how it worked: if you had a great idea, you could choose to patent it (and disclose it in the patent application) or you could keep it closely guarded as a trade secret. You could not have it both ways.

The danger of holding it as a trade secret was that someone else might independently stumble upon it and then you're out of luck (or as we say now: screwed).

Now it seems that you can have it both ways. Very sad.

With lawsuits being the "In-Thing" (2, Funny)

pyr0r0ck3r (702602) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527217)

Next thing you know, Al Gore's gonna be suing over his invention of the Internet

Re:With lawsuits being the "In-Thing" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527316)

Claim: Vice-President Al Gore claimed that he "invented" the Internet.

Status: False.

Origins: No,
Al Gore did not claim he "invented" the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The derisive "Al Gore said he 'invented' the Internet" put-downs are misleading distortions of something he said (taken out of context) during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" program on 9 March 1999. When asked to describe what distinguished him from his challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Gore replied (in part):

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

Clearly, although Gore's phrasing was clumsy (and self-serving), he was not claiming that he "invented" the Internet (in the sense of having designed or implemented it), but that he was responsible for helping to create I also invented the microphone the environment (in an economic and legislative sense) that fostered the development of the Internet. Al Gore might not know nearly as much about the Internet and other technologies as his image would have us believe, and he certainly has been guilty of stretching (if not outright breaking) the truth before, but to believe that Gore seriously thought he could take credit for the "invention" of the Internet -- in the sense offered by the media -- is just silly. (To those who say the words "create" and "invent" mean the same thing: If they mean the same thing, then why have the media overwhelmingly and consistently cited Gore as having claimed he "invented" the Internet when he never used that word? The answer is that the words don't mean the same thing, but by substituting one word for the other, commentators can make Gore's claim sound [more] ridiculous.)

However, validating even the lesser claim Gore intended to make is problematic. Any statement about the "creation" or "beginning" of the Internet is difficult to evaluate, because the Internet is not a homogenous entity (it's a collection of computers, networks, protocols, standards, and application programs), nor did it all spring into being at once (the components that comprise the Internet were developed in various places at different times and are continuously being modified, improved, and expanded). Despite a spirited defense of Gore's claim by Vint Cerf (often referred to as the "father of the Internet") in which he stated "that as a Senator and now as Vice President, Gore has made it a point to be as well-informed as possible on technology and issues that surround it," many of the components of today's Internet came into being well before Gore's first term in Congress began in 1977, and it's hard to find any specific action of Gore's (such as his sponsoring a Congressional bill or championing a particular piece of legislation) that one could claim helped bring the Internet into being, much less validate Gore's statement of having taken the "initiative in creating the Internet."

It's true that Gore was popularizing the term "information superhighway" in the early 1990s (when few people outside academia or the computer/defense industries had heard of the Internet) and has introduced a few bills dealing with education and the Internet, but even though Congressman, Senator, and Vice-President Gore may always have been interested in and well-informed about information technology issues, that's a far cry from having taken an active, vital leadership role in bringing about those technologies. Even if Al Gore had never entered the political arena, we'd probably still be reading web pages via the Internet today.

Last updated: 27 September 2000

The URL for this page is http://www.snopes.com/quotes/internet.htm

Re:With lawsuits being the "In-Thing" (3, Informative)

The I Shing (700142) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527400)

Al Gore's gonna be suing over his invention of the Internet

This might be a bit off-topic, but my curiousity is piqued.

Where exactly can I find a reliable source that quotes Al Gore as having said that he invented the internet?

I mean, I read that, in 1999, he stated in an interview, "'During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the internet," by which he meant securing funding for it, but nowhere have I found, outside of message board posts, that Al Gore actually claimed to have invented the internet itself.

I read that he told a House committee about the internet in 1989, remarking, "I genuinely believe that the creation of this nationwide network will create an environment where work stations are common in homes and even small businesses." Geez, what a crackpot!

Prove it. (1)

mrshowtime (562809) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527224)

What sucks, is that "Big Name" companies, like Playboy have already got suckered into licensing the "technology." The Defense Lawyers really need to start attacking these patent claims. It's really getting tiresome that everyone and their grandma is trying to patent THINGS THAT ALREADY EXIST and then sue other people. Sigh...

Re:Prove it. (2, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527267)

What sucks, is that "Big Name" companies, like Playboy have already got suckered into licensing the "technology." The Defense Lawyers really need to start attacking these patent claims.

And what you think the Playboy lawyers didn't already look at this and say fuck it, cheaper to license than take it to trial?

Oh man... (1)

kingstalemuffins (786246) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527233)

So, does this mean if I want to watch a movie on my computer I have to use the VGA output on my video card? Damn, I shouldn't have wasted all that money on my monitor with a DVI in.

Legitimate reason for vague patents (4, Informative)

Sarojin (446404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527259)

I'm not defending Acacia or the patent process by any stretch of the imagination. I worked for an online calendaring company, and somehow got my name on the patent for the ability to search metadata online. Which of course was silly. I and the developers pointed out that it was silly and revolted against the filing of the patent.

The lawyers convinced us that filing the patent is the only way to prevent someone else from filing a patent, covering your technology, and then suing you, forcing you to PROVE to a court (always a chancy thing) that you had created prior art. And quite frankly every innovation we made to our online calendar showed up 3 months later in someone elses calendar. In fact we even found instances where people had literally cut and pasted our code, comments and all!

So we knew that there were unscrupulous bastards out there, willing to completely rip us off. So bearing that in mind, we agreed to file for patents, not so much to enforce them, but to protect ourselves from future suits. I agree, if the system was healthy and working, we wouldn't need to have done that, but the system is already full of sharks -- I don't blame people for getting shark repellant. Applying for the patent HAS to be done nowadays. Enforcing the patents is when I start to get mad. I know it's a fine line, but scruples and business operate in different realities.

Re:Legitimate reason for vague patents (1)

Anonytroll (751214) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527388)

And quite frankly every innovation we made to our online calendar showed up 3 months later in someone elses calendar. In fact we even found instances where people had literally cut and pasted our code, comments and all!

Sorry to hear that, so sue them for copyright violation.

What if everybody would do the same? (4, Insightful)

dtio (134278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527269)

Companies abuse the patent system by issuing patents on almost everythnig they can think of.

Take for example IBM. They have patented everything related to object oriented operating systems [164.195.100.11] under their Taligent/San Francisco project.

They could sue Sun (J2EE) or Microsoft (.NET), and just anybody using things like Object-oriented window area display system, pat. no. 6,750,858, Object-oriented event notification system with listener registration of both interests and methods, pat. no. 6,424,354 or Distributed object networking service, pat. no. 6,223,217, just to name a few.

Crazy. We have to figure out a better patent system which stills protect intelectual property but also protects us from this nonsense.

Re:What if everybody would do the same? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527404)

We have to figure out a better patent system which stills protect intelectual property but also protects us from this nonsense.

I couldn't agree more, but HOW? Unless money is to be made, lawyers and politicians aren't interested, which is basically how we got to where we are. Ethics, morals, legality, "rightness" -- none have anything to do with it.

Re:What if everybody would do the same? (1)

DFJA (680282) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527414)

You miss the point. Big companies don't generally have patents in order to sue other companies (although there are exceptions, Microsoft being an obvious example). This costs lots of money, so if best avoided. They have them as armour to prevent other companies from suing them, in order to arrange cross-licensing. This is vastly cheaper than paying lawyers.

A good example of this is IBM's counter-suit against SCO. SCO like probably most companies, are infringing IBM's patents, but IBM doesn't care until some company sues them. That's the point at which they turn round and fight back, using their patents as ammunition.

I am getting seriously pissed off of (0, Redundant)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527280)

mickey mouse patents. Here, someone had to say it. Who does feel the same?

M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E - MICKEYMOUSE! MICKEYMOUSE!

Typical strategy (2, Informative)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527302)

If there are any lawyers out there, feel free to correct me, but I think the way you generally want to go in patent enforcement is to start by enforcing against small companies. Not so much to get money to sue the big boys, but because it's usually easier to win against the small ones. By winning, you establish a precedent for your patent's enforceability which makes a victory in a suit against the big boys more likely.

I'm sure the money you make doesn't hurt, of course. I mean, the big boys are going to make you pay a lot more in legal fees (more paperwork for your lawyers, more back and forth motions prior to the case, etc).

I agree with the other posters, though. We really need a better patent system because the current one is just getting abused.

Re:Typical strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527369)

Yes, but in this case they got a boon because some of the big players (Disney, Virgin, etc...) settled out of court. Now IANAL, but even if this doesn't have the force of a precedent they can point this out to a judge and say, "Look these companies agree with us, we aren't the nutjobs we appear to be!" They are also going one better, going after organizations that are not only small but also marginally accepted by society (at best). I mean most non-profits don't have the money for drawn-out legal battles, but there is a major PR difference between going after an adult film distrubitor and a charity!

the question is... (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527305)

Are these big companies going to go after just this one small company?

Or are they going to go after vague patents like this generally?

Heres hoping that they go after the PTO as well and get these stupid vague patents gone for good (although there is about as much chance of that happening as there is of Osama Bin Laden walking into a US military base and turning himself in)

Ethics (1)

Seft (659449) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527310)

I never understand this about Slashdot. Patents: Patent law is stupid and should be broken e.g. SCO, MS Copyright: Evil pirates stealing music/games/software are bad. One man's revolutionary is another's subversive

That's it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527311)

I'm patenting the act of patenting: "The act of registering privileges for an invention", then I'm going to sue the patent office itself. The ensuing logical paradoxes will crush the universe like a wet paper cup.

Sounds like Freeny (1)

GabeK (701376) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527343)

This is oddly similar to the Freeny patent for on-demand digital media reproduction. This is such a broad topic that couldn't have been imagined when the patent was conceived, yet E-Data [e-data.com] is trying to push around pretty much anyone that has ever streamed a file or downloaded a song or video.

Suprised (2, Interesting)

nrich239 (790194) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527368)

I'm suprised they were able to get a patent for something so vague. A friend of mine tried to patent an idea for a new product a couple of years ago and the paperwork and the whole process was a royal pain in the ass. To me this seems like another get rich quick, but let's make it look legal for the time being scheme. Why do I see this turning out so horribly for everyone who paid lecenses?

CDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527396)

Hmmmmm, Wouldnt a CD be prior art? I mean its compressed, audio, can be transmitted (wireless speakers? those cd->fm thingys?)

Just my woreless 0.02 CAD

damn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9527405)

I knew I should have patented shitty ass how to's

defiance

this is good! (5, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527421)

Really, this is GOOD. Let the big companies keep getting hosed by the patent system. Let them see how patenting IP and having closed source propietary software will constantly hose the ability to "do your work" and just keep costing money and money and money and money and be a serious PITA to actually DO anything. Eventually, doing anything even remotely fun, interesting, or productive will be so expensive that the system will crash and burn under it's own bloat. Let it become unprofitable to use patents and restrictive copyrights. Let them keepdoing what they are doing. The lawyers and licensing fees alone will start to make companies just stop being involved with it, eventually it might even get through to some legislators noggins that the patent and copyright system is completely broken and has been broken for a long time. It won't end until joe user all the way to joe big company needs to have a lawyer on a tether with them all the time, and just have their paychecks direct deposited to the lawyers account, and the lawyers cut you a small chump change allowance.

In other words, let it burn! I feel the same way about this as I do vulnerable windows machines. The quicker it gets to a ridiculous level of unusability level the quicker it can be fixed with a REAL fix which is a total replacement system, because sure as snot they won't fix it until then, just keep applying patches that just make it worse, because they refuse to address the core issue, which is intangible thoughts shouldn't be patented in the first place. It was an INSANE precedent to let the first intangible anything get patented.

Finally... (2, Funny)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527441)

I can place a patent on a device that stabs people in the face over the internet!

SCO Leads The Way... (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 10 years ago | (#9527442)

In other news, SCO released training materials on "howTO sue, without having any true legal basis."
You can license this seminar* for the low low cost of your soul.

*Seminar's are patent pending by SCO.
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