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No PodBuddy for iPod lovers

timothy posted about 9 years ago | from the when-patents-suck dept.

Patents 389

dniq writes "It appears that DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) are using their patent #6,591,085 to keep a PodBuddy, designed by DVForge, a product, competing with DLO's TransPod, off the market. Another example where patents are interfering with innovation and in the end - the end users are suffering the consequences, because far more superior product can't see the light due to dirty tricks of the patent owners :("

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389 comments

"One-click"? (4, Informative)

darthpenguin (206566) | about 9 years ago | (#12915091)

Wondering what the patent was all about, I did a search. Here is the Abstract:

An FM transmitter and power supply/charging assembly electrically coupleable with an MP3 player. The assembly includes a modular docking unit having a main body portion with a docking cavity therein, wherein the main body portion contains the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry, with coupling means in the docking cavity for connecting the MP3 player with the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry, to accommodate FM transmission by the FM transmitter of audio content when played by the MP3 player in the docking cavity of the modular docking unit, and adapted for transmitting electrical power through the modular docking unit and the power/charging circuitry therein, for charging of a battery of the MP3 player and/or powering of the MP3 player.

How about some patent reform? I thought these things need to be non-obvious...

The full patent text is here: Patent #6,591,085 [uspto.gov]

.

Re:"One-click"? (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#12915125)

How about some patent reform? I thought these things need to be non-obvious...

The patent system works. Yes, even for software patent. What the world needs however is patent reviewers that aren't orang-utang, actually verify the claims and the prior arts, and are given enough time to get familiarized with whatever the patent application is dealing with, and accept or reject said application fairly.

With good reviewers, the one-click patent and the XOR patent would never have happened. With monkeys, they do, as well as silly obvious banalities like an FM transmitter.

Perhaps adding a "patent meta-moderation" system like that of Slashdot, where professionals of the industry can deem a granted patent fair or unfair, and post additional comments, and allow a special USPTO committee to retroactively reject patents, would do the trick. An applicant would then apply for a patent, and know that for maybe 6 months or a year, the patent can be revoked.

Re:"One-click"? (5, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | about 9 years ago | (#12915150)


A further requirement for the patent system to work is that it should be open to challenge without enormous financial resources.

According to the designer's site, they believe that their product is not infringing on the patent, but can't afford the court case that would follow. Clearly this is a problem with the justice system.

That said, the designer states that he offered to sell the design to the patent holders so that his work would at least see the light of day. If his product is not infringing, then he would be better off selling it to someone who could afford the court case. Just for the principle.

Re:"One-click"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915194)

How would he be "better off" having sold his idea on principle?

Re:"One-click"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915270)

According to the designer's site, they believe that their product is not infringing on the patent, but can't afford the court case that would follow. Clearly this is a problem with the justice system


So they believe they can and should have a shot. I don't have a problem with that. Suppose PodBuddy got a free shot as a challenger because they don't have deep pockets. What should happen should DLO win? You're telling them they have to play King of the Mountain and fend off all challengers. Haven't you learned anything about those who hold patents and have to fend off the big boys? (TV?)

And do you think the only thing which distinguishes one patent from a prospective product is the posted text? I think you'll find that if you've ever spent time in court with patent cases, there's a little more to it.

Re:"One-click"? (1, Interesting)

syukton (256348) | about 9 years ago | (#12915223)

I like the idea of patent meta-moderation.

Patent "meta-moderation" system: a horrible idea. (1)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#12915235)

Notice how poorly the metamoderation system works here. It is every so often abused by collusion on behalf of groups like the GNAA and others. They gang together to corrupt the system. That is surely what will happen to such a system involving patents rather than Slashdot postings. Not only that, but such peer review will lead to patent infringery. The reviewers, especially if professionals of the trade, will proceed to incorporate the innovations described by their patents into their products, and then will reject the patent so as to avoid being liable for patent infringery!

Re:Patent "meta-moderation" system: a horrible ide (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#12915304)

Well, but remember, such a system applied at the USPTO wouldn't have to be the same. Here, any old cretin can metamoderate (any old cretin can moderate too, in fact) since the system is entirely automatic.

At the USPTO, they could implement a system where one or two persons max. per company, or per consumer lobbying group, can be registered as spokesperson for their own interest group. These people can then act as the counterweight the office needs. The USPTO would also have to review the criticism these guys form, and balance them against the opinion of the initial patent reviewer, to determine whether it is judicious to revoke a patent. Finally, there could be a rule that people who file too many appeals, just to serve their own interest, will be dismissed for unfairness.

I mean, whatever the system can be, but surely not exactly like Slashdot :-) What I really meant is, the USPTO should tap into the resources of real professionals who know their trades to counteract the sole opinion of reviewers who, as we all know, don't always know everything and often grant patents at random.

Re:Patent "meta-moderation" system: a horrible ide (1)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#12915327)

It's a noble idea, I will give you that. However, it sounds far too complicated to work well. Many of the problems with the patent system are due to the fact that it's a complicated beast. Complicating such a system even more will only result in further exploitation of the inherent flaws.

Re:Patent "meta-moderation" system: a horrible ide (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#12915403)

It's a noble idea, I will give you that. However, it sounds far too complicated to work well.

Well, I'm just some Slashdotter and it's just some vague idea I have :-)

Many of the problems with the patent system are due to the fact that it's a complicated beast. Complicating such a system even more will only result in further exploitation of the inherent flaws.

The patent system is perhaps too complex, yes. But I don't think that's what prevents it from performing its function. I think the main problem is that the number of applications, and their growing complexities (due to the advances in the modern world) put way too much pressure on the reviewers: they're too few, and their fields are too general, to process each application adequately.

Ideally, the USPTO should have specialists on the payroll, one per field of expertise, with enough time and money to review a patent well. This never happens, for lack of funds. They were adequate to review Edison's electric bulb, and they're still adequate to reject the many free energey machines, but they can't possibly review fairly some complex ADN analysis method that relies on other bleeding edge genetics for example.

That's why I think asking professionals in the field to easily and freely criticise a granted patent would help them get real expertise for free.

Re:Patent "meta-moderation" system: a horrible ide (1)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#12915418)

Indeed, the lack of funds necessary to run the system properly is disturbing. For every missle used to blow apart an innocent child or woman in Iraq, the US could probably fund three or four full-time researchers to properly assess patent applications.

The voluntary nature of involving professionals would be very beneficial. But more beneficial would be allocating funds away from the War Machine and instead towards the Innovation Machine.

Re:"One-click"? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 years ago | (#12915303)

Yes, even for software patent.
No, NOT even for software patents, because software is already protected by copyright! You don't think authors get to patent their stories, do you?!

Re:"One-click"? (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#12915354)

No, NOT even for software patents, because software is already protected by copyright!

Why not? first off, copyright regulates the right to copy (hence the name), so it's another issue altogether. But imagine this: suppose I spend a lot of time and money developing some computing method that drastically reduce, say, the number of transistors in a CPU and its power consumption: why wouldn't I be able to patent my software method and make money out of it, if only to recoup my initial investment?

I think you're making a judgement on the experience of current software patents (one-click, XOR, http...) which are beyond ridiculous. But complex, innovative, revolutionary methods can arguably be patentable to foster research and allow inventors to live off their inventions, just like mechanical or electronic discoveries.

The whole issue here is being able to reject (or contest) stupid patents, and grant patents only to fundamental and important discoveries, which the USPTO isn't doing.

You don't think authors get to patent their stories, do you?!

A piece of software isn't a story. It's a computational method. More like a recipe.

Re:"One-click"? (1)

zappepcs (820751) | about 9 years ago | (#12915363)

I like Rosco's application of /. like meta-moderation to an area where technology and litigation make the USPTO's job extremely huge.
I do think that it should go a step further. As well as using meta-moderation to scope a larger base of information as to prior art and 'non-abviousness' it would also improve patent research (IMO).

Going a step further would be to use meta-moderation to support research and apply community standards on the patent system. Perhaps use of the meta-moderation system would require agreement to mediation rather than litigation in the event of confusion or patent infringement.

I suppose you could call them "meta patents" or "community patents" but whatever they are called, this would be the first step toward obtaining a standard patent which grants you the rights that patents do now. This preliminary stage would weed out all the little crap that ends up in courts.

Small businesses and individuals would then be allowed to work with their meta patents and any would be litigation is then relegated to mediation until there is a proper patent issued for the device/method/application etc.

Both meta moderation and meta mediation put much of the litigation issues in the hands of the community concerned with such patents rather than escalating them to high courts. This would decrease the risk of litigation and thus the risk of costs for small businesses and individuals.

Sure, I know there are many problems that this method would bring up like how does the system ensure that participants are citizens of the country issuing the meta patent, who pays for the system, what laws must be enacted to allow the USPTO to moderate such a system etc... Still, I think the idea of using community standards to issue patents before there is litigation or chance of it is a sound idea, and well worth being looked into.

Just my tuppence worth....

Unfortunately for them... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915140)

Their patent application infringes on my patented way of inducing sleep in children with a text containing over 100 consecutive words without a period.

Re:Unfortunately for them... (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#12915186)

Their patent application infringes on my patented way of inducing sleep in children with a text containing over 100 consecutive words without a period.

Your patent is invalid due to prior art [olemiss.edu] .

Best ever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915163)

This is clearly the best invention since The Neuron Drive!

Re:"One-click"? (1)

standards (461431) | about 9 years ago | (#12915173)

From the patent:

the main body portion contains the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry

Here's a great way to avoid that patent: relocate the "FM transmitter" and/or the "power/charging circuitry" away from the "main body" of the device.

This "innovative" patent is therefore easily avoided. Fire up the machinery and start shipping!

Re:"One-click"? (1)

ksaville00 (833015) | about 9 years ago | (#12915187)

I agree totally, this is stopping innovation. There needs to be some patent changes....Hopefully someone can get the wheel turning...

MP3 player? (1)

tigertiger (580064) | about 9 years ago | (#12915259)

Reading the independent claims in the patent, they are not only blatantly obvious, but only refer to MP3 players. DVForge should simply get a patent covering application of this method to other audio players, then they can prevent DLO from making such a device...

Or they can simply split the FM receiver from the docking unit.

This is ridiculous. To me it looks more and more that these patents are only filed by people completely ignorant. If this had been intentional, they would not have used the word "MP3 player" - they probably did not know what MP3 was. So the nice thing about the patent system now is that it encourages ignorance.

Re:MP3 player? (2, Interesting)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 9 years ago | (#12915340)

Well, since the MP3 playing is a secondary function of the iPod (it's an AAC player that happens to play MP3s), they could fight it... However, it's the traditional big-business-wants-the-little-guy-out-so-they-sue- them-so-that-they-shrivel-up-because-of-legal-fees game. Microsoft's played it with Digital Research in a way - they did something that they knew would get them sued (have Windows 3.1 refuse to run on DR-DOS, and not for technical reasons). DR won the case, but the legal fees drove them under.

PodBuddy vs TransPod (3, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 years ago | (#12915095)

I'm conflicted about such things.

I see the point in protecting someone who has an idea so that they can have time to research, develop, test, produce, market and distribute their products without a competitor moving in on their idea. That is, if I come up with a great idea and Microsoft finds out I'm working on it and puts all their clout behind their own version of the product and, thus, beat me to the punch simply because of their sheer size, it isn't fair and I would tend to say it isn't right.

On the other hand, if people come up with an idea independently - meaning one did not steal the idea from the other - then whoever gets to market first gets to market first. Whoever dominates.. dominates. That's all there is to it.

Of course, the problem is in proving that you came up with the idea on your own, too. So we have this silly patent system that only allows "one true originator" of an idea. And that seems to be stifling the ass off of innovation and progress.

This PodBuddy thing seems like a reasonable idea. And it does seem unique enough to be excused from the patent (just a total layperson's opinion). It seems like the competition just doesn't want competition and it's sad that a country that prides itself on promoting innovation and small-business would so readily let one company just roll over the other to eliminate the competitive market. And not on any justifiable premise, either. Just "we have more money than you - you can't afford to contest us in court". And you're fucked.

Then again, if the DVForge guys thought they had a chance, I would think they'd push it in court (they could always recover the costs, right?). So they must feel they are actually on shaky ground, too.

Re:PodBuddy vs TransPod (4, Insightful)

DarthWiggle (537589) | about 9 years ago | (#12915159)

Concerning "recovering costs", no, the US does not have a loser pays system, so DVForge would bear all attorney's fees in a patent dispute. They might be reimbursed for "costs", which are things like filing fees, but which are a trivial amount compared to what the lawyers would charge.

The problem with this is that the patent system now seems to be used to protect general categories of goods rather than *very* specific inventions. If DVForge was copying the other folks, then, yes, their patent should protect the other company. But patents were never meant to preclude improvements to an invention or independent inventions that accomplish the same purpose but with different mechanisms.

As for stifling innovation, the sad irony is that patents were intended to *promote* innovation, by allowing inventors to invent and then profit from their invention. Nothing wrong with that. But now inventors are using patents to protect their profits from that item *and* to force other inventors not to try to improve the item.

Stupid situation.

In other news, I was wanting to buy one of those PodBuddy things, since the competitor's item is, frankly, ugly as sin, and I don't need the FM transmitter part (DVForge has one without the transmitter).

Re:PodBuddy vs TransPod (1)

jkabbe (631234) | about 9 years ago | (#12915371)

But now inventors are using patents to protect their profits from that item *and* to force other inventors not to try to improve the item.

Actually the opposite is often true. If DVForge has something additional to add to the DLO invention, they can get a patent on that. This is the case even though DVForge would not be able to practice their invention without violating DLO's patent. If the additonal invention is truly worthwhile, it is possible that a cross-licensing deal can be reached. This happens all the time.

Another option is for DVForge to take an entirely different tack altogether - one that doesn't violate the DLO patent. That encourages innovation of a sort, just in a different direction.

But, the bottom line is that - yes - the patent is used to protect the profits from an item. That's precisely how the patent system is supposed to encourage investment in invention and technology. Businesses and venture capitalists aren't going to chase after something if there is no money to be made at the end.

Duking it out in court (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | about 9 years ago | (#12915164)

Then again, if the DVForge guys thought they had a chance, I would think they'd push it in court (they could always recover the costs, right?). So they must feel they are actually on shaky ground, too.

Umm, if you don't the money up front to fund the court fight, you're screwed already.

Re:Duking it out in court (1)

SeventyBang (858415) | about 9 years ago | (#12915324)

There are attorneys who are willing to fight the good fight when they know they have the right case and don't demand everyone's first-born sons. They may not be plentiful, but they do exist.

Create a portable which plays everything except MP3 would clearly not violate the patent. Unfortunately, the "everything except MP3" market isn't very big and I don't think you're going to suddenly see a shift in everyone's tastes unless something dramatic changes.

Re:PodBuddy vs TransPod (2, Interesting)

Markmarkmark (512275) | about 9 years ago | (#12915209)

No, you cannot usually recover your costs in defending a patent claim.

Also, the expense of defending this type of claim is on average $750,000 to trial and $1.5 through appeals. Just not worth it for the potential return.

At least in this case the guys blocking them are actually shipping a similar product. Many times the patent holder hasn't made a product and does't intend to, they just want to make anyone who does pay. Sadly, these patent holders are often not interested in licensing a small company to make a product. They are basically waiting hoping that a big player stumbles into their patent trap.

--- Mark

Re:PodBuddy vs TransPod (3, Insightful)

BackInIraq (862952) | about 9 years ago | (#12915284)

Then again, if the DVForge guys thought they had a chance, I would think they'd push it in court (they could always recover the costs, right?). So they must feel they are actually on shaky ground, too.

They wouldn't even recover court costs if they lose, and would need to pay for representation either way. And no, they probably wouldn't push it just because they thought they had a chance, because such legal battles are very high-stakes games.

Imagine for a moment I walk up to you with one (six-sided) die. I tell you that 1-4 you win, 5 and 6 are mine. I'll give you even odds, so the edge is definitely yours. But the stakes are *everything you own*, and you only get to roll *once*. Would you take that? Really?

Granted, in the legal system you might get to roll more than once...but appeals cost money. Money on top of what you've already spent for the original battle, which if you lost you probably don't have. Unless your lawyers are working pro-bono (which is unlikely in a patent dispute between businesses), this is an incredibly risky proposition, even if you think your case is solid. The smarter move for a small (an Apple or Microsoft would fight this in an instant, whether they thought they'd win or not) business is to just walk away.

Unbiased reporting (1, Insightful)

Umbral Blot (737704) | about 9 years ago | (#12915101)

Me thinks that someone may have a slightly anti-patent outlook on life. You are probably right, but generally I expect to see strong opinions down here in the comments section, not in the article itsself.

Re:Unbiased reporting (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 years ago | (#12915111)

generally I expect to see strong opinions down here in the comments section, not in the article itsself.

Welcome to Slashdot. You must be new here?

Re:Unbiased reporting (2, Insightful)

110010001000 (697113) | about 9 years ago | (#12915178)

This is slashdot. The editors will tell you what to think. This will save you from having to think for yourself.

Re:Unbiased reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915195)

God damn, you are dumb. Read the fucking patent. Being anti-this isn't bias. It is basic common sense. Fucktard.

There is Itrip already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915102)

and besides, it's illegal to use outside the US anyway.

Re:There is Itrip already (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#12915143)

It's illegal if you're caught. I doubt anybody will catch you using a low-power FM transmitter in your car. For many illegal things, when you don't have the right, take the left...

Timothy (0)

CrackedButter (646746) | about 9 years ago | (#12915103)

Type the headline and a short blurb and leave out the opinion. If you want yours heard, post it like the rest of us.

Re:Timothy (3, Insightful)

MustardMan (52102) | about 9 years ago | (#12915149)

Only the opinion was part of the quoted text, and therefore that of the article submittor, not timothy. Nice attempt to blame the /. editors though. Even got modded insightful for that troll. Bravo.

Re:Timothy (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | about 9 years ago | (#12915181)

I wasn't trolling. I thought it was his opinion again, something that Timothy does quite often. I missed the quotes, as did the moderator.

Re:Timothy (1)

justforaday (560408) | about 9 years ago | (#12915196)

Okay, I could understand missing the quotes, but did you miss the italics, too?

Re:Timothy (1)

threv (839879) | about 9 years ago | (#12915257)

clearly you are blind.

Re:Timothy (1)

SmittyTheBold (14066) | about 9 years ago | (#12915170)

That's not Timothy's editorializing, that's from the submitter - hence the italics.

Agreed, though, the submitter basically re-posted DVForge's position on the topic.

How about... (ba dump, bump) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915213)

... starting your own site if you don't like the way this one works?

Slashdot: "It's not even patented!"

Isn't this what patents are for ? (4, Interesting)

Space cowboy (13680) | about 9 years ago | (#12915104)


If I have an idea for a device that hasn't been made before, I can patent the idea then openly market it without fear that someone else will come along and out-muscle me in the marketplace.

It seems to me that the PodBuddy is a blatant copy (presumably it's the second-to-market given the other guys have the patent), with a sexier-looking arm for attaching it to the car. The functionality looks to be identical.

You could argue whether the patent itself ought to have been issued (is it *really* a non-obvious invention?) but I don't think you can argue the patent-holder is doing anything wrong. I don't particularly like the idea of patents (especially software patents), but given we have them, it seems to me this is what they're supposed to be there for....

Simon

Re:Isn't this what patents are for ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915161)

"If I have an idea for a device that hasn't been made before, I can patent the idea then openly market it without fear that someone else will come along and out-muscle me in the marketplace."

Well there is your problem. You can't patent ideas you patent inventions. At least that's the way it supposed to work. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that the patent office knows the difference between an idea and an invention.

Re:Isn't this what patents are for ? (5, Informative)

DarthWiggle (537589) | about 9 years ago | (#12915215)

Patents don't protect general functionality. Patents protect specific inventions. If patents produced a black box of functionality where the uniqueness was defined by outcomes rather than what happens inside the black box, the patent system wouldn't have lasted as long as it has. The current transmutation of the patent system into a system that protects outcomes (e.g., an arm-based digital media player mount with FM radio) rather than the specific elements that make it a unique and useful invention is threatening the real value that the patent system offers: providing inventors with an incentive to invent by protecting their profits from that specific invention over a short term.

Re:Isn't this what patents are for ? (1)

mad.frog (525085) | about 9 years ago | (#12915232)

Hear hear. There's plenty of patent abuse around (especially in software patents), but this doesn't appear to be one of 'em... one company patents the idea, the other company cries foul, because, well, they want to use the patented idea.

Re:Isn't this what patents are for ? (2, Informative)

scotty1024 (584849) | about 9 years ago | (#12915297)

Patents are intended to help the public by creating an environment in which those who develop ideas can recover money from their inventions thus there is an economic incentive to those inventors to develop new inventions. In this case DLO clearly spent $5K (if that much) on molds for their design and they clearly feel the PodBuddy would out class their product. If I was their attorney I'd advise them to license the patent and use the money from the PodBuddy license fees to develop new products, and be able to spend maybe $20K on their next design off the backs of the PodBuddy sales.

But how long? (1)

John Seminal (698722) | about 9 years ago | (#12915233)

If I have an idea for a device that hasn't been made before, I can patent the idea then openly market it without fear that someone else will come along and out-muscle me in the marketplace.

If you trully have an idea nobody else has thought of, how long will you have market share? Say you make a device that makes cars run off water. People put water in your device, and gasoline comes out of the other side. Forget about the fact that it is not possible, but you make a machine that pulls gasoline out of water and the air. You will make billions of dollars.

Now, it will take other companies months and months just to figure out how your machine works. It will take them months to manufacture the first prototype. You should have at least six months in the marketplace without competition.

What good are patents for? With gas prices at over 2 bucks a gallon, your device could sell for a high price, all profit. What reason do you have to offer your product at walmart prices, and with a low per unit profit?

But if 10 companies come out in 6 months to 1 year, all making the same product, the market benifits. You, the original inventor, you must get lean. You must either convince people your product is better in some way, or you have to price it in accordance with competition.

Since you were first, you will have built a name. You will have an advantage like that of an incumbant in office. You have an advantage, you don't need any more.

There is another benifit to society. If you make your money in a year, then the competition gets too great and you are forced out, you can go back to the drawing board. You had one very good year where you made lots of money. Now you can sit on that money and drink wine and travel, or you can go back to the drawing board and develop something else. But why should the law let you whord your idea, and exists for no other reason that to defend it?

On the worst case scenereo, you don't even have any products, you just purchase a ton of patents and sue people. Say you are microsoft, you buy patents you can later use to stop companies from offering products.

We need to get rid of patents.

Re:But how long? (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | about 9 years ago | (#12915280)

Except for the one year term (which you have decreed to be optimal without providing a shred of evidence as to why), what you said is precisely how patents work.

Re:But how long? (1)

chochos (700687) | about 9 years ago | (#12915345)

You are describing the way patents work (or are supposed to work). The idea is to be able to protect the little guy when he has a great idea like the one you describe. In this case maybe the guy will have the idea and the way to build a prototype, but not the means to build it in massive quantities. So another company comes in, one of the big guys, who can build it in massive quantities. If patents didn't exist, they would just copy the design and build the device and sell it and the little guy would get nothing. With patents, the big company has to license the patent from the little guy, so for every device the big company sells, the little guy gets some money.
The problem that patents are causing lately hasn't been because of the idea of patents itself, but rather the enforcement of patents: you shouldn't be able to patent something if you don't even show a prototype or try to build one or prove that it works or can works, should you? because then a lot of people can just patent ideas and wait for someone to try and come up with something similar.
Another problem is that the PTO is granting patents left and right without checking them. The guy who patented the wheel is a clear example. And lots of bullshit patents are granted that way. The PTO is just granting any patents that anyone requests and they're letting the people fight it out in court, if you have prior art, or a previous patent or can prove that the idea is too simple or obvious to patent or whatever.
Software patents, however, are a different matter altogether. I DO think those are bad from the get go. But for tangible stuff, like the product that is the subject of this slashdot story, or any inventions like the one you suggest, I think patents are a good way to protect the inventor (when they really invent the thing they're patenting, obviously).

Re:But how long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915357)

But if 10 companies come out in 6 months to 1 year, all making the same product, the market benifits. You, the original inventor, you must get lean.

Yes, the individual's profit must be sacrificed for the good of the market.

Re:Isn't this what patents are for ? (4, Insightful)

chochos (700687) | about 9 years ago | (#12915265)

I agree. The PodBuddy manufacturers should just license the patent from these guys. Isn't that what you're supposed to do if you have a product similar to something that's already been patented? Software patents are bad for a lot of reasons, especially because it hinders open source software development because if the author of a program is giving it away with source code and is using something patented, there's no way he can give the patent holder any money. But in this case, the podbuddy won't be free in any way, so the manufacturers can pay the license to the patent holders and add that to the price of their product. I know the patent holders are suing (or threatening to sue) the podbuddy manufacturers, but isn't that the usual way of saying "we want something" in the US lately? An actor wants a raise on a series, he sues. The series producers want someone out, they sue. The patent holders want the manufacturer of a similar product to pay for the license, they sue... it's kind of stupid IMHO but it seems to me that this guys took it too seriously. I don't see anywhere in the text a mention of trying to license the patent (and I was kind of expecting to read about that but the patent holder putting a price too high or something).

Re:Isn't this what patents are for ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915281)

I believe I've seen other devices that do the exact same thing. And I'm pretty sure they didn't pony up for the patent license from DLO.

Re:Isn't this what patents are for ? (1)

jkabbe (631234) | about 9 years ago | (#12915334)

I agree. All of the major complaints about patents are missing from this story. This isn't about software. This isn't about a company patenting something and then sitting on the patent - they actually have a product that they sell (which uses the patented technology).

Where's the problem?

BFD! (0, Redundant)

twinstead (80396) | about 9 years ago | (#12915107)

So what. In my mind, the general public is being spared another crappy, overpriced accessory from DVForge. Who cares!

Re:BFD! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 years ago | (#12915335)

The issue of the patent, in principle, should be considered separately from the merits of the product, because the broken patent examiners affect all patents, not just this one.

Re:BFD! (3, Insightful)

Reaperducer (871695) | about 9 years ago | (#12915360)

I almost agree.

What I don't understand is where's the "innovation" in the DV Forge product? It's essentially the same as the one from DLO. How is DLO squashing DV Forge's "innovation?" Maybe they're restricting DV Forge's "knock-off" but I don't see what DV Forge did that counts as unique or special to deserve not to be held accountable. Further, the submitter has not demonstrated that end users are being denied a "far more superior" product, because his product is essentially the same.

Sounds like a cry baby to me.

Maybe if the DV Forge product was demonstrably different or better they might have a case. But then, if they did they wouldn't be moaning on Slashdot.

Mistrust but Verify (5, Informative)

TPIRman (142895) | about 9 years ago | (#12915108)

This smells fishy to me. DVForge CEO Jack Campbell has a long, sordid history of dealing in bad faith with the Mac community and being... casual with the truth. He's also a publicity whore and seems awfully prone to legal woes if you buy his endless "I'm such a victim" sob stories. I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth without independent verification, and since the only source offered by the OP is Jack's own site, well...

His spotty history is well-document in a MacInTouch special report [macintouch.com] . I'm not saying the story is false, but I'd seek verification.

Re:Mistrust but Verify (2, Funny)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 years ago | (#12915118)

He's also a publicity whore and seems awfully prone to legal woes if you buy his endless "I'm such a victim" sob stories.

So he's basically Steve Jobs' long lost twin.

(Recent Apple convert).

Re:Mistrust but Verify (1)

Altima(BoB) (602987) | about 9 years ago | (#12915184)

I was thinking it sounded a bit suspect when he said he offered DLO the rights to sell his product for the measly sum of the $20,000 he invested, then painting DLO as mean spirited when they refuse. I seems very reasonable to refuse to sell someone else's product through no means but a patent suit (it's not as if DLO bought them out or something.) And given the rather small fee Cambell was asking, it sounds like there may have been some other string attached... What if he wanted it to be sold as "Jack Cambell's PodBuddy?"

In any case, don't buy the martyr act on the "It gets worse" segment of that article.

Jack Campbell (5, Informative)

ravenspear (756059) | about 9 years ago | (#12915275)

His spotty history is well-document in a MacInTouch special report.

Actually there was an entire website [jackwhispers.com] started just to inform people of his machinations.

Re:Mistrust but Verify (0)

The_Wilschon (782534) | about 9 years ago | (#12915383)

In Soviet Russia, Nintendo DS kills YOU!

In Soviet Russia, Joke funnier than YOU!

Holy Grammar, batman! (4, Funny)

Xshare (762241) | about 9 years ago | (#12915114)

DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) are using their patent #6,591,085 to keep a PodBuddy, designed by DVForge, a product, competing with DLO's TransPod, off the market.
Wow.... I don't even think Yoda could pull that off. Great job, Slashdot!

Re:Holy Grammar, batman! (1)

patternjuggler (738978) | about 9 years ago | (#12915344)


DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) are using their patent #6,591,085 to keep a PodBuddy, designed by DVForge, a product, competing with DLO's TransPod, off the market.


I, a person, of natural birth, think, this use of commas, a form of punctuation, is ridiculous.

Maybe this is the asthmatic kid from Malcom in the Middle submitting the story...

Re:Holy Grammar, batman! (2, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 years ago | (#12915351)

That's not Yoda grammar, that's James T. Kirk grammar.

"...Podbuddy... designed by DVForge... a product... competing with DLO's Transpod... off the market"

Re:Holy Grammar, batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915373)

You mean; That Yoda could pull this off, I didn't think. Slashdot, Great job!

Nothing stopping them in Europe (2, Informative)

FidelCatsro (861135) | about 9 years ago | (#12915117)

Well for now and hopefully the future but that's a side point.
This is a US patent and the device could be sold in Europe and other regions , allowing the US fans of the Device to import it , perhaps it will cost a little more but its better than nothing.

Re:Nothing stopping them in Europe (1)

Halo1 (136547) | about 9 years ago | (#12915268)

This is not about a software patent, and therefore has nothing to do with the current debate in Europe. It's just a known scammer [macintouch.com] whining about the fact that he's infringing on someone else's patent, and that the other party is exercising the rights it has as patent owner.

So they have a patent. Big deal. (1)

kc32 (879357) | about 9 years ago | (#12915128)

Somebody should just invoke that Sherman Anti-Trust Act. They should be using that thing more now than ever.

Re:So they have a patent. Big deal. (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | about 9 years ago | (#12915432)

Hey, there's an idea! Perhaps patents should simply be denied to monopolies/near monopolies. Of course, to really make it fair, you'd still have to have some sort of protection for the monopolies from people patenting the stuff that the monopoly does actually create and then suing them for it. Perhaps, monopolies should not be allowed to enforce their patents. Yeah, that's it.

Jeff Grady (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915133)

According to the WHOIS database, Jeff Grady's email address is jgrady@netalog.com.

What assholes. (2, Informative)

EvilStein (414640) | about 9 years ago | (#12915138)

"I want to let the many thousands of you who have contacted us since January about wanting a PodBuddy that I have asked Jeff Grady, the owner at DLO to produce the product for you. And, I have offered him all of our development work, prototypes, production tooling, intellectual property releases, several purchase orders we have here from national buyers, and, our entire list of email inquiries from folks like you. Our price to Jeff?... the $23,000 we have invested in just the hard injection mold tooling. His answer?... No way. He is not interested."

So, he said "Ok, then you make the product, since you've got the patent for it.." and they said "No, not interested."

The patent system allows patents for products that you have *no interest* in producing.

Our patent system sucks, that's for sure.

But, maybe DLO isn't interested because they already make a similar product. I didn't see that mentioned in the dvforge article..

"DLO TransPod FM
All-In-One Car Solution - Silver Edition
Item #: w009-2002s

Price: $99.99

The DLO TransPod is the only car accessory an iPod owner will ever need. Now in Silver"

Re:What assholes. (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 years ago | (#12915157)

Because they already own the patent and are already producing the item they have a patent on. Why should they pay $23,000 to DVForge to buy the plans and designs for the product they themselves already design and produce? It doesn't take a genius to stick an LCD display and an articulated arm with a charger at the end on it.

Re:What assholes. (1)

BackInIraq (862952) | about 9 years ago | (#12915339)

It doesn't take a genius to stick an LCD display and an articulated arm with a charger at the end on it.

Which is exactly why I hate patents like these.

So let's email him (0, Redundant)

TheWGP (747857) | about 9 years ago | (#12915151)

So let's email this Jeff Grady - public courtesy is nice (and lawsuit-avoiding) on commercial webpages such as PodBuddy's, but this is slashdot ;) Forget the company box :P

DLO already makes this product. (1)

EvilStein (414640) | about 9 years ago | (#12915153)

Damn it, I didn't hit "Preview" first on my other post. Anyway, it appears that DLO/everythingipod already makes a *very* similiar product.

It appears that DVforge is making (or not making) a nearly identical product.

"DLO TransPod FM
All-In-One Car Solution - Silver Edition
Item #: w009-2002s

Price: $99.99

The DLO TransPod is the only car accessory an iPod owner will ever need. Now in Silver"

How is it *very* similar? (1)

attemptedgoalie (634133) | about 9 years ago | (#12915348)

They have similar functions.

One looks like a piece of shit sticking out of your dash, at inconvient lengths and angles.

The other one is sheer beauty, articulate, allows for a skin or small protective case to still be on your ipod.

The DLO is a hunk o' shit.

Patents in perspective (5, Insightful)

ravenspear (756059) | about 9 years ago | (#12915165)

Another example where patents are interfering with innovation and in the end - the end users are suffering the consequences, because far more superior product can't see the light due to dirty tricks of the patent owners

I must take issue with this.

This description is exactly what patents were designed to do, protect the original product from imitators that intrude on its market position. Regardless of how you feel about software patents, in this case the patent concerns an actual product. So I would disagree with your logic of this being "another example" assuming you are referring to the previous patents covered on Slashdot almost all of which were software related. This is a different scenario, and one where I think patents are useful and necessary. Which brings me to my next point.

Whether this harms consumers is another issue. I would say it does and it doesn't. It does in the sense that if PodBuddy is indeed a superior product they will of course not be able to buy it and will have to settle for the inferior original. However, it benefits consumers in another way. That is, if we had no patent system and anyone could produce anything they wanted without restriction you may not have been able to buy either product. If the makers of TransPod had not had the incentive of a patent in developing their product, it may never have been developed and PodBuddy would not have been made to one up it.

Patents are a useful tool in protecting legitamite inventions and they do serve to create innovation there. Of course, whether TransPod qualifies as a legitimate invention is another matter entirely which I haven't touched on. But the point is don't just respond with a knee jerk reaction to any story about someone utilizing a patent with the assumption that they are a greedy monopolist, or patents in general are necessarily bad, etc.

Re:Patents in perspective (1)

mad.frog (525085) | about 9 years ago | (#12915248)

Absolutely. I'd mod you up if I hadn't already commented on this thread. Patents are getting a bad rap on /. and the like lately... and while it's certainly true that there are patent abuses (especially in the software area), this doesn't look like one to me.

And I'll agree with the earlier posters: let's at least *try* to keep the editorializing out of the original posting, m'kay?

Re:Patents in perspective (3, Informative)

nelziq (575490) | about 9 years ago | (#12915407)

That is, if we had no patent system and anyone could produce anything they wanted without restriction you may not have been able to buy either product.
So far as I know, this is a broadly held but entirely baseless assumption. There is no empirical research showing that patent protection causes more innovation being available to the consumer. See http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/again st.htm [dklevine.com] for a more complete treatment.

Re:Patents in perspective (1)

wfberg (24378) | about 9 years ago | (#12915431)

This description is exactly what patents were designed to do, protect the original product from imitators that intrude on its market position.


No they're not designed to protect original products. They're designed to provide incentives in the form of a temporary monopoly to researchers who disclose their inventions 'To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts'.


You'd know that if you had even had the slightest cursory look at patent law; it's basis in the US Constitution.

Get rid of patents (2, Insightful)

John Seminal (698722) | about 9 years ago | (#12915169)

We have been informed by DLO that they consider our PodBuddy to be an infringement of their company's U.S. patent #6,591,085, and, that they will file suit against us, if we launch the PodBuddy.

We disagree with DLO's claim, and, we believe that our PodBuddy is so utterly different from their company's TransPod product that there can be no question of infringement. But, we are not able to fund the sort of protracted legal battle that would be required to prove our point in court. So, we are forced to kill the PodBuddy.

So a small company has a product, gets a letter threatening a lawsuit, and they fold because they can not afford a lawyer?

I sure hope Walmart never takes this approach.

Come to think of it, I wish they did. They should have patented the mail in rebate.

I want to let the many thousands of you who have contacted us since January about wanting a PodBuddy that I have asked Jeff Grady, the owner at DLO to produce the product for you. And, I have offered him all of our development work, prototypes, production tooling, intellectual property releases, several purchase orders we have here from national buyers, and, our entire list of email inquiries from folks like you. Our price to Jeff?... the $23,000 we have invested in just the hard injection mold tooling. His answer?... No way. He is not interested.

What? He can't sell his product, so he wants to sell his email addresses.

My statement to Jeff was that the PodBuddy would likely sell about five times as many units as his TransPod. And, that, if we can't build it, then he should build it. After all, he's the one using a patent to keep a better, more desirable competitive product off the market.

Now this is where I would like to hear from a lawyer. What if I have an idea. I have no plans to make this idea come to market, but I have an idea. Can I patent it and sit on it, like some people who buy websites and force a third party to pay a huge fee to buy it?

And what about ideas that would naturally come to everyones mind? What if someone patented air conditioning in cars as blowing cold air? Or if someone patented cordless phones? There seems to be so many things which could be patented, then we would have only one choice in the market. Didn't the Sherman Act pass to stop these kinds of things from happening?

It seems to me the more wording lawyers add to make patentes less prohibitive, the more prohibitive they get because only a lawyer will be able to support or defend a claim. We should just do away with patents all together. Let anyone who can build a product. Let the best product, the best priced product, and the one with most quality win. I bet the original will still gain market share for being first. After that they will have to compete. What is wrong with that??

Re:Get rid of patents (2, Insightful)

mathkicks (895227) | about 9 years ago | (#12915214)

You can just sit on a patent if you have no plans to introduce a product, but that normally won't benefit you. One thing that patents are good for is being licensed to other parties. It would be a very bad business decision to not license a patent if you didn't plan to produce a product based on the patent.

Re:Get rid of patents (2, Interesting)

slashkitty (21637) | about 9 years ago | (#12915413)

Our JamPlug products are patent-pending implementations of a clever, but very simple idea: one musician, one instrument, one connection. The JamPlug mission is to create tiny, convenient products that interconnect one instrument, one microphone, one channel of sound. And, the growing family of JamPlug products presented here is a good look at the direction that we are headed with this brand.

So it looks like DVForge is patenting their other ideas. It means they know about patents and can afford the lawyers. I'm guessing they were dumb and didn't patent this device and are now must trying to get some publicity.

Last Ditch Effort (3, Funny)

Adrilla (830520) | about 9 years ago | (#12915179)

DLO seems to be acting like true dicks in this matter, the people are basically giving the design away to let DLO produce and they still gave DVForge the cold shoulder. A last ditch effort might include proposing a sub-contracting deal with DLO; Basically DVForge can build and sell and probably even market the product themselves, but put it under the DLO brand name and the two parties could split revenue. I know the idea sounds like DVF is getting the shaft, but they seem like they're much much more interested in getting the product out to the market than making money. This way DLO doesn't have to do much, if any work and spend little to no money on the product but bring in basically, free revenue. If the product is as good as the DVF guys say it is, then DVF can recoup their R&D funds, plus some (depending on the percentage of returns they get). I'm not even sure if DLO will accept the proposal, but the DV guys seem like they're at the point of desperate measures, and this is something they should at least ask about if they have that much faith in their product and really want it on the market that bad.

Extreme last ditch tactic. Rename it "The Star Trek Ipod holder", then complain how "DLO is cancelling our product" and tell them you don't have the funds for a lawsuit and let the Trekkers shell out money for your legal defense.

Re:Last Ditch Effort (1)

gabebear (251933) | about 9 years ago | (#12915367)

What is so much better about the PodBuddy that DLO would want to invest $23,000 + the cost of starting a new production line for it. I think Jack Campbell(DVForge) is being unrealistic here. He didn't bother to do any research in his only competition before investing in creating a nearly identical product.

From the article: "have offered him[DOL's CEO] all of our development work, prototypes, production tooling, intellectual property releases, several purchase orders we have here from national buyers, and, our entire list of email inquiries from folks like you. Our price to Jeff?... the $23,000 we have invested in just the hard injection mold tooling."

Jack Campbell admitted he was trying to sell our email addresses!! If anyone is asking for more lawsuits it's DVForge.

DLO Transpod FM exists. (4, Insightful)

asdfasdfasdfasdf (211581) | about 9 years ago | (#12915199)

The DLO Transpod FM [compusa.com] is available today, and it looks a whole lot like the iPod buddy. Sure, theres also has the fancy mounting device, but the rest of it looks like a direct rip of the Transpod-- right down to the LCD display with the FM frequency.

I think this is a situation where the patent system works. The guy has prior art and a patent, what more could you want? The podbuddy people are free to patent a device that attaches an ipod to a cigarette lighter which is used as the anchor-- and they would probably be granted the patent. Then, it's up to them to license the technology if the patent owner allows it, or STFU.

This guy is a whiner, and leave it to Timothy to come up with yet another unresearched, POS article.

I hope that guy doesn't get paid.

Re:DLO Transpod FM exists. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915395)

The transpod is a bulky piece of shit that has creaky plastic and a horrible FM transmitter. It surrounds your ipod on three sides with up to an inch of plastic, and scratches the hell out of it when you can successfully use the sticky "eject" mechanism.

I'd welcome a competing product.

Selective enforcement (2, Informative)

CODiNE (27417) | about 9 years ago | (#12915201)

I recently bought one of these babies :
http://www.tristatecamera.com/LookAtAll-4g7uwbnl-C TAIPCAK-4-0054-0-store.php.html [tristatecamera.com]
For my wife's iPod Mini... works great, was really cheap, and seems to be pretty similar to what's being blocked right now. I haven't seen the TransPods patent info yet, but is this one allowed since it doesn't sit on a movable tube or is that patent simply for all FM cigarette adaptor chargers? There's GOTTA be prior art on this, if they explicitly patented the idea of an iPod car charger with an FM tuner I can image Apple getting pretty pissed since they want as many iPod compatible products as possible. Yeah, I'd complain to Apple and they'd probably have a nice little chat with DLO about this.

Ever heard of a patent search? (2, Interesting)

grqb (410789) | about 9 years ago | (#12915208)

This is what patents are for! Everybody in their right mind knows that they should be doing a patent search before coming up with a technology like this. The patent was filed on July 17 2002, it's DVForge's own fault.

Re:Ever heard of a patent search? (1)

jkabbe (631234) | about 9 years ago | (#12915402)

Although I should add that a patent application usually does not become public until 18 months after it was filed. Still, that gave them the first half of 2005 to find out about this.

I own a TransPod... (1)

Dr. Zowie (109983) | about 9 years ago | (#12915241)

... and, for what it's worth, it works great. I find the patent pretty dodgy (how is this fundamentally different than a CD holder with built-in FM transmitter?) but it is a good product. Works a darn sight better than the iTrip I used to own, which worked only slightly better than a small, white turd.

Patents might be good, but... (1)

dniq (759741) | about 9 years ago | (#12915246)

...not in the USA. The patent mentioned is not a brainer, in my opinion. Besides DVForge guys offered DLO to manufacture and sell PodBuddy, but they refused. Personally I fail to understand this. And my opinion about the products themselves: I think that PodBuddy is FAR much better than "TransPod", which looks like a soap box to me.

An RCA cord connection gives FAR better sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12915251)

I realize that the point of this article was problems with the patent system,
but it should not be overlooked that virtually
all FM transmitters for iPod cannot provide sound quality which
compares to using an RCA cord to connect the iPod to the car stereo.

Aiwa sells a head unit which has a "line-in" on the front panel.
Alpine sells an optional accessory cord which will allow RCA
inputs to be added to their units. By this time, other car stereo
makers probably do as well. Radio Shack sells several cords which will work. What's required is a mini-stereo make plug for connecting to the iPod, and the appropriate plugs on the other end of the cord ( in the case of the Aiwa unit, the cord should have mini-stereo plugs on both ends, but the Alpine requires
RCA male terminals on the other end of the cord ).

If sound quality matters, connecting the iPod to the car stereo with a cable is the far better choice.

You suckers (1)

LandownEyes (838725) | about 9 years ago | (#12915256)

I was born with two, yes two appendages that can both hold AND control my mp3 player!!! That's prior art right? Now if only my fingers could broadcast fm...

I want (1)

Seiruu (808321) | about 9 years ago | (#12915287)

a patent on patenting. And if that exists then I want a patent on patenting patents. And if that exists then I want a patent on that.

Patent system doing its job (1, Insightful)

TravisW (594642) | about 9 years ago | (#12915313)

Issues of the requirement of nonobviousness aside... If the PodBuddy is very similar to the original product, then the original is not "inferior" (design considerations aside), and the patent system is doing its job. It the PodBuddy is self-evidently superior, then the difference in functionality should prevent it from being covered by the patent. Again, the patent system is doing its job.

Re:Patent system doing its job (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 9 years ago | (#12915372)

So quality is intrinsically bound to implementation?

It's possible for the patent holder's execution to be at poor tolerances with limited quality control, while the infringer's product could be far better.

This could even become a safety and health concern, given the right kind of product. Say a medical device is made to poor standards by a patent holder. A competitor infringes on the patent, but makes a safer product. What's more important? Life&death&safety, or patent rights?

Am I missing something... (1)

MAdMaxOr (834679) | about 9 years ago | (#12915375)

or does the patent seem to emphasize that the mount takes place in a "cavity." All potential puns aside, the PodBuddy does not has said cavity, from which all other claims derive. It should be open and shut.

Notable quote (1)

Mr_Icon (124425) | about 9 years ago | (#12915392)

"Anyone who would *not* lie to protect their business from an attacking competitor is suspect in my mind" ~ Jack Campbell (of DVForge)

(taken from http://www.jackwhispers.com/catchIV.html [jackwhispers.com] )

Ppodbuddy probably doesnt exist. (1)

Chmarr (18662) | about 9 years ago | (#12915401)

Knowing John Carpenter, the podbuddy probably doesnt exist, or perhaps work properly, or is of really low quality (like those horrible, horrible MacMice) and John's probably trying to find a way to pass the blame onto something other than his company's incompetance.
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