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$400 Million IP Experiment Making Some Nervous

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the duck-and-cover dept.

262

BrianWCarver writes "IP Law & Business shines the spotlight on Intellectual Ventures, the IP start-up founded in 2000 by former Microsoft chief technologist Nathan Myhrvold. According to some estimates, Intellectual Ventures has amassed 3,000-5,000 patents, with the help of a $400 million investment from some of the biggest technology companies, including Nokia, Intel, Apple, Sony, and Microsoft. As the patent stockpile grows, so does the speculation--and the fear. IP lawyers and tech executives worry that Intellectual Ventures is less interested in changing the world with big ideas, and more focused on becoming an über patent troll, wreaking litigation havoc across industries with its patents."

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262 comments

LOL PATENTS RULE LOL (1)

LOL PATENTS RULE LOL (903720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207784)

LOL PATENTS RULE LOL

I knew I should have patented... (4, Funny)

jjsaul (125822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207796)

I knew I should have patented the idea of patent-trolling. Dang.

Re:I knew I should have patented... (1)

LOL PATENTS RULE LOL (903720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208030)

LO PRIOR ART LOL

Re:I knew I should have patented... (-1, Offtopic)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208069)

ugh mod parent down please.

the idea of patenting patenting or patenting pantent trolling has been brought up on /. far too many times every single time patents are mentioned.

Re:I knew I should have patented... (1)

PCeye (661091) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208193)

And I am sure you won't be the last to complain about posted /. comments relating to patenting patent trolling either.

For the better, no doubt (4, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207800)

IP lawyers and tech executives worry that Intellectual Ventures is less interested in changing the world with big ideas, and more focused on becoming an über patent troll, wreaking litigation havoc across industries with its patents.
Perhaps now it will finally compell change to the (broken) patent system.

Re:For the better, no doubt (4, Insightful)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207856)

Not that soon, I think... but eventually it might.

Right now, too many too powerful have too much to lose should the status quo change.

Re:For the better, no doubt (1, Redundant)

vandon (233276) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208043)

Perhaps now it will finally compell change to the (broken) patent system.

The patent system will be fixed about the time the copyright system is fixed. That time is never.

The RIAA, MPAA, and Disney buy votes for their latest bill at the same time the large patent holders are "donating" money to those congressional members. The only difference is that right now, the copyright/drm lobby is using Benjamins and the patent lobby is using Jacksons.

Re:For the better, no doubt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208052)

Perhaps now it will finally compell change to the (broken) patent system.

but... but... that would destroy this company! While the government lifting a finger to help the starving bums on the side of the road who should just get a job* would be evil unamerican socialism, the government should do everything in its power to keep even the most pointless company alive and rolling in dough, that's the just, moral, right, and capitalist thing to do! That's the American Way!

* like hell I'm giving some unshaven stinky guy without a phone number or home address a job, but they should get one from the job fairy, all they have to do is ask!

Re:For the better, no doubt (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208274)

That was my first thought, I really don't know if that's what will happen but you just hope the most obscene abuses will bring about reform.

On the other hand, if that's their business model, then they're probably better off keeping as much of it as possible off the radar, ensuring their royalty rates are not excessive, and limiting charges to the most established players.

net here! (4, Informative)

xlyz (695304) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207801)

not in the EU, as software patent are (still) not allowed :)

Re:net here! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207913)

That's really only relevant if the company in question is only doing business in the EU. Look at the recent case of RIM (Research In Motion), they were perfectly legit in their home country of Canada but ran afoul of an American patent troll and have suffered for it.

Re:net here! (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207985)

Well, actually they're not defined and (hardly) enforcable. Why do you think the corporations are pushing so hard to get it signed?

I mean, the attempt alone to push it through as a sidenote in the fishing committee... Fishy doesn't even come close to how that reeked.

Question of maybe 5 years (1)

Nahooda (906991) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208005)

It's just a question of maybe 5 years or less until there will be software patents in the EU. Software patent supporters like Microsoft or SAP have way too much influence on EU politicians.

Those EU suckers give a fuck about what EU citizens think or want.

Re:Question of maybe 5 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208082)

Well, there would be with that sort of fatalistic attitude... Seriously, people really can make a difference. Shoot the bastards if necessary, but NEVER lie back and take it up the ass because "it's gonna happen anyway". That's the one sure way it will.

Re:net here! (2, Informative)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208284)

Although the European Patent Convention forbids the patenting of software, individual EU member states have varying laws on the matter. In the UK, software has already been quite patentable for a while. :/

Some kids grow up to be trolls (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207810)

Some kids want to be doctors when they grow up
Some kids want to be air force pilots
Some kids want to be computer scientists (that's what I told my grade 1 teacher)
And finally,
Some kids want to be "uber patent trolls" I guess

Re:Some kids grow up to be trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207973)

Those are the kids that spend grade school beating up the future computer scientists.

Patent Bashing (4, Insightful)

visionsofmcskill (556169) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207811)

A company of this size and portfolia could litaerally drag the entire economy to a standstill if allowed to patent everything. It's one thing to have a whole bunch of different companies pushing competing patents, but when several large (and supposedly competing?) firms get together and pool their patents into one collossus, then you can be certain noone else will be allowed to enter any market remotly connected. This is not a good thing.

Re:Patent Bashing (3, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207873)

On the contrary; maybe having the economy dragged to a standstill is the only way to let the politicians realize the folly of the 'everything's patentable' world. If it would lead to change, the temporary stagnation might be worth it.

Re:Patent Bashing (1)

bogado (25959) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207950)

As long as the said firm pays their politics well why would they change anything?

Re:Patent Bashing (1)

jgc7 (910200) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208149)

A company of this size and portfolia could litaerally drag the entire economy to a standstill if allowed to patent everything.

That is exactly what we need -- a reason to reform the patent system. The status quo will not get changed until people start caring. I hoped the RIM case would be the spark that fixed the system, unfortunately it appears I was optimistic.

Re:Patent Bashing (1, Interesting)

user317 (656027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208159)

A company of this size and portfolia could litaerally drag the entire economy to a standstill if allowed to patent everything. It's one thing to have a whole bunch of different companies pushing competing patents, but when several large (and supposedly competing?) firms get together and pool their patents into one collossus, then you can be certain noone else will be allowed to enter any market remotly connected. This is not a good thing.


Or this company could spur the next tech boom. Patents allow companies to invest their resources into research, and allow those companies to release their findings to the public under the protection of the patent system. Without patents, there is no insentive to share technology, and there is full insentive to hide your technology and obfusticate your products against reverse engineering. just like without copyright there is no insentive to open source your software.


Also working around patents is a great source of innovation, since technology improves and becomes cheaper with every iteration.


if anything, patent laws should become so strict that reverse engineering is no longer nessessary and companies can openly release every detail of their innovations without fear of being ripped off.


That would mean that nvidia could release all the specs to their drivers and we could write open source drivers :), and I can have a pure open source workstation.


Think about what would happend if there were no copyright protections for writers, they are able to flourish today because copyright protection for writers is far more strict then patent protection for technology. Abstract things like style, plot and characters is protected by copyright law.

Re:Patent Bashing (1)

mOOzilla (962027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208281)

That is a small size of a patent portfolio. Microsoft aimt to get 3000 patents per YEAR. That is their stated goal.

Re:Patent Bashing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208319)

Yes, I used to be naive like you. It's time you grew up and learned the way things really work. You're comment assumes that we live in a capitalistic democracy, and risk and reward go hand in hand. Not true. We live in a corrupt oligarcy and reward is guaranteed for the corporate elite.

Have you had to buy gas recently? Looked at your cable bill? If you read Slashdot, yout know about the current attempt to distroy the egalitarian structure of the internet by the big Telcos to fatten their wallets.

Now repeat after me, "I am krill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krill [wikipedia.org] . I exist only to be consumed." You are at the bottom of the food chain, get used to it.

IV (1, Funny)

certel (849946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207812)

Wow. That's an interesting view on a company receiving that much in funding. I could be worried too. Who can justify that many patents? Is the IP protocol really worth that many patents?

Re:IV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207874)

"Is the IP protocol really worth that many patents?"

I hope thats a joke!

Re:IV (1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207930)

Is the IP protocol really worth that many patents?

Not to worry. Soon we will move to IPv6 and then their thousands of patents will be useless... much like moving up a version of AOL will simply make your internets slower and less reliable.

No wonder some are nervous! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207815)

They are proposing adding a 5th octet as an interim move until v6 is widely adopted. Sounds like nothing but trouble if you ask me.

Re:No wonder some are nervous! (2, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207863)


They are proposing adding a 5th octet as an interim move until v6 is widely adopted.

That doesn't sound far off from what they're trying to do: patent every neat idea they can. "Hey! A fifth octet. IPv5! V5... hey! Patent a 5 cylinder internal combustion engine! {repeat ad infinitum}"

Re:No wonder some are nervous! (0, Offtopic)

onion_joe (625886) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207921)

totally off topic, but Volvo and Audi have had 5 cylinder engines since the mid 80's. Mod me the heck down...

Re:No wonder some are nervous! (0, Offtopic)

jimbolaya (526861) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208360)

Mod me down, too, but GM currently sells the Colorado and Canyon midsized pickups with 5-bangers.

Their "ambition" will undo them (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207825)

Think it. They are going to flood the courts with litigation on every infringment on their patents. This could lead to massive reform in the patent arena. Things could get horrible, then correct itself. Maybe.

Re:Their "ambition" will undo them (1)

rajafarian (49150) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208015)

This could lead to massive reform in the patent arena.

Nuh, not as long as they pay their Republican party fees.

Re:Their "ambition" will undo them (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208194)

Just maybe, these software companies realize how broken the whole situation is, and intend to undo it this way.

Wishful thinking, but then again, I think at his heart, Bill Gates does care about the future.

Re:Their "ambition" will undo them (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208376)

Then again, Congress is thinking of passing a stronger version of the DMCA [com.com] and I have seen Unions (in Europe) eventually chase their employers away as demands got more and more ridiculous (

The idea of a self-correcting mechanism is nice, and would indicate their is some sanity left in our government, but somehow I doubt that. It's sad that we have to depend on Corporations will get sick of other corporations doing this and will bring a correction to things - that's not how our government ought to be. For the people, by the people, indeed.

No Way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207832)

I couldn't imagine a company that has been partially funded by Microsoft, Sony, Apple, Intel and Nokia would do anything like that! It would be like SCO claiming that Linux infringed on its' patents and IP, oooh wait, errr... nevermind.

I want to be a scientist know... (4, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207836)

Last January a dozen of the world's most respected scientists gathered in a nondescript conference room at an office building outside of Seattle. They sat around a table cluttered with laptops and papers, snacked on bowls of beef jerky and Chex Mix
Beef jerky and Chex Mix?
Sign me up!

Re:I want to be a scientist know... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208381)

Perhaps first we should brush up on our English.

What It Should Be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207840)

Sign an agreement saying you'll never use patents offensively, and you can license all of our patents for $1.

why would they do that? (1)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207841)

If someone can exploit a niché, they will. It is how it always has been and how it will always be.

It is remarkable though that the big players have invested serious money into this.

Re:why would they do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207911)

Nice attempt at the use of French...

It's not "niché", it's "niche." Even the French spell it as "niche"...

It's pronounced like "itch", not "itchay"...

Re:why would they do that? (1)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207929)

Í líké úsíng thé ÁltGr búttón, ók?

Re:why would they do that? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208085)

It's not "niché", it's "niche." Even the French spell it as "niche"...

It's pronounced like "itch", not "itchay"

Wrong. The "i" is pronounced like a long e ("ee"), the "ch" is soft (like "sh"), there is no hard 't'. Phonetically, it is closer to "neesh".

Re:why would they do that? (3, Funny)

guet (525509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207916)

niché : a clichéd niche?

It's just not one big player (5, Insightful)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208076)

Imagine that Intel, AMD and IBM not only patented everything imaginable in the uProcessor space, but that they got together and cross-licensed all that tech.

On the face of it, this sounds advantageous. It allows more cool features in processors and alleviates those three companies from having to worry about getting involved in frivolous lawsuits with their main competitors.

Now perhaps Intel patented the XOR operation. Sure the patent is blatantly unfair, but since IBM and AMD can already use it then they have no need to fight intel's patent. THe only person who would want to fight it would be some new player in that space, but who'd have the resources?

If large corporations start broadly cross-licensing technologies then it'll effectively kill the little guy and sew up the market.

Re:It's just not one big player (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208165)

Unless ... Now just hear me out ... unless a company like Intellectual Ventures licenses their portfolio to the little guy at an affordable rate and levels the playing field. Wouldn't that be totally cool? :O)

Patents (0, Redundant)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207844)

Well if only some other company had a patent on patent trolling! Then the problem would solve itself. Of course, chances are good that Intellectual Ventures has the patent on patent trolling - in which case we're all screwed.

International Impact (5, Insightful)

foundme (897346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207846)

How does patent work internationally?

Imagine in 10-20 years, China becomes the biggest economy in the world, it ignores all the US patents, and just use those patents to roll out their own products.

For example, a patented medicine sold by an US company to Africa at $10 per bill, and the same "Made-In-China" pill cost $0.01, what is to stop Africa from buying from China instead?

Right now US is still powerful enough so that other countries must agree to certain rules/laws made in USA, in exchange for free trade deals, but when that strength faded, so will the leverage.

I draw this opinion from the recent, possible change of international whaling law, where Japan is about to gather enough votes to start commercial whaling again. So what is deemed illegal in the last few decades will soon become acceptable when the power shifted.

Re:International Impact (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208070)

You need to respect US patents if you intend to sell in the US. I suspect that this is going to start really hurting the US in the next few years. What do you think will happen when, for example, an EU or Asian software company gets hit with a software patent suit? If the US is not their principle market, then they will just pull out - sell their products everywhere except the US. Other companies might decide that selling in the US is too risky, and also ignore the US market.

Since software is often not a real product (it's a tool that is used to make other products), this could have a serious effect on the US economy. In the worst case, this would start happening to Free Software - it would be free-beer for any non-US company to use, but cost money for the patent license in the USA.

Re:International Impact (1, Interesting)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208243)

Not very fsking likely, the US is the biggest market in the world for Asian products. Just look at the Trade Deficeit.
If everyone cross licenses patents, then this isn't an issue anyway. Depending on the $$ in the market they may be giving up too much, then they just pay the patent fee. Open source software is a possible solution to the issue but thats not immune from silly-ass lawsuits (see SCO vs IBM). Besides in the USA, software is only copyrighted not patented (yet).

Re:International Impact (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208273)

You need to respect US patents if you intend to sell in the US. I suspect that this is going to start really hurting the US in the next few years. What do you think will happen when, for example, an EU or Asian software company gets hit with a software patent suit? If the US is not their principle market, then they will just pull out - sell their products everywhere except the US. Other companies might decide that selling in the US is too risky, and also ignore the US market.

One would expect that the USA and the EU would regulate such cases would at an inter governmental level. That is to say if this kind of thing became common enough to do some damage the US ministry of commerce would have a word with their counterparts in Brussel and they would kick some butt and vice versa if the offender was from the US. The alternative would be a big fata trade war and nobody wants that. Dunno about the Chinese though, it might probe more difficult to get them to behave.

Re:International Impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208280)

If the US is not their principle market, then they will just pull out

Good idea.. this is exactly what Microsoft should do to the EU.

Re:International Impact (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208140)

Nice "Engrish", you Chink. Learn to fucking write, you dumb piece of shit.

Re:International Impact (2, Informative)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208171)

Imagine in 10-20 years, China becomes the biggest economy in the world, it ignores all the US patents, and just use those patents to roll out their own products.

You mean like the US did a couple of hundred years ago ?

Same thing that happened then - you end up with a new world power.

Re:International Impact (1)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208389)

I've read that the US didn't initially respect foreign patents or copyrights at all, but a quick google search turned up nothing. Oddly enough, none of the histories of IP, patent, or copyright I just read mentioned anything about the US's wholesale 'theft' of IP. Wonder why?

Re:International Impact (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208199)

AC is right. good thing i have mod points so i can mod ur fucking ass down. learn 2 write and grow a brain u fucking moron

"how does patent work internationally". LOL WHY DO U FUCKING CHINKHEADS HAVE SO MANY PROBLEMS WITH PLURALIZATION.

PATENTS.. SAY IT WITH ME. PATENTS. U FUCKING MORON.

i got mod points hahaha i can destroy morons like u LOLOLOL. im gonna burn all my mod points finding ur fucking stupid posts and modding them all down. hope u get blocked!

you fucktards in china are never going to make medicine cuz you cant even fucking speak properly. fools.

oh ya, someone plz respond to me. do it. my friends and i all got mod points. do it so i can fucking get you to -1 by default. like im gonna do to this guy right here. i ain't modding this post up tho, hahaha. fucking coward.

Don't forget future developments. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208232)

Don't forget that the US is experiencing another crisis, when it comes to producing new scientists and engineers.

A visit to any American university will show the truth about the future. In many institutions, the number of foreign students in undergraduate science and engineering programs far exceeds the number of American students. When you consider graduate studies in such fields, the proportion of American students drops even further.

What we have is a situation where the US has trained some of the best Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern minds. It many cases, they'll head back to their native lands, offering the benefit of the training they have received in America. That is why we are now seeing nations like China and India becoming such big players on the technology front.

I'm not just talking about manufacturing, either. They're having far bigger roles in R&D. When one considers that China and India each have over three times the population of the US, one soon realizes that China and India will become the hub of technological developments in the future.

Without a solid base of engineers, scientists and researchers, the US economy will stagnate. You are correct, patent laws will become irrelevant. That will mainly be because foreign firms will be able to produce even highly-technical goods far cheaper than in the US, and the US just won't have the technological know-how to make use of foreign developments.

obligatory... (2, Funny)

mayhemt (915489) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207857)

message from big companies:
All your base are belong to us...

In soviet russia, parents patent you.

Re:obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207928)

In soviet russia, parents patent you.

As opposed to elsewhere, where you patent members of your family?

So, is it an (extra)ordinaty patent troll ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207867)

... or maybe it is a proxy set up by Microsoft and others to attack competition (notably Open Source) without getting accused of unfair competition ?

Political Leverage (4, Interesting)

tgrigsby (164308) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207870)

With the sheer volume of patents they hold, the smart move would be to avoid garnering too much attention from Congress and instead sell advantage to competing companies. In other words, their primary source of income wouldn't come from pure patent protection litigation, it would come from companies paying them to tie up their competitors' product lines with injunctions and patent violation suits. The 800 lbs. gorilla would get richer as a hitman than as a tyrant.

It should be easy to figure out. (4, Insightful)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207878)

Nathan Myhrvold is not a nobody. He has a rich history all saved on google. A little bit of research should show you whether is a nice guy who is trying to make the world a better place or an evil son of a bitch or somewhere in between.

Anybody who has been throught the early years of Microsoft's war on the IT industry knows what kind of a person he is. Suffice it to say he is not a nice guy trying to make the world a better place.

And a lousy CTO to boot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208303)

"Suffice it to say he is not a nice guy trying to make the world a better place."

When you look at what he did to MS technology-wise, its a wonder he got the job. It's my contention that all the crappy stuff coming out of MS is result of the fine "work" he did there.

One assumes he was a paid operative of Oracle or Novell or something.

Here's how it works (5, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207889)

Right now, large companies amass huge throw weights of patents. In general, the outcome of a patent war is Mutually Assured Destruction, so they also enter into mutual cross-licensing agreements that in effect create a patent-free zone for the Fortune 500.

What Intellectual Ventures could do is create a patent pool for the present members of the club.

It works like this: Microsoft transfers its patent portfolio to IV in return for a license to IV's patent portfolio. This is no loss to MS because they've already cross-licensed everything with Philips, Cisco, etc. -- all of whom do the same. From the POV of club members, nothing changes, except perhaps that they spend much less money negotiating cross-licensing agreements and pay a bit to IV for the convenience.

On the other hand, now IV has practically all of that throw weight. Anyone not an "Executive Member" of the club will have to pay (dearly!) to use any of the IV portfolio. What's more, Mutually Assured Destruction doesn't work because IV doesn't actually do anything -- they can't be sued for infringing patents when they don't make anything.

The upside to the club (aside from convenience noted above) is that any of the "little people" who get uppity are now facing the combined throw weight of all of the patents in the world -- and the club members don't have to accept the public-relations liabilities.

It's a total win-win situation. For instance, if done right Microsoft could keep Linux tied up in court forever without ever themselves taking a PR hit. Sort of like the BSA except for suppressing potential competition instead of keeping customers in line.

Re:Here's how it works (5, Interesting)

moochfish (822730) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208098)

You make an interesting argument, but I don't know if I fully agree. Let's say Microsoft wants to keep Linux buried in litigation through this organization. Well, the problem is that it has other members with very likely competing interests. For example, Nokia might not like seeing its patent troll baby being used to quash one of its own business partners [slashdot.org] . So what happens when this sort of conflict of interest arises? And it will.

I find it hard to believe this troll group will be used for the evil people seem to be claiming. More likely, it will be used as a massive reserve for defensive patents. Much like a defensive alliance between nations, you won't see members picking fights and suing people actively, but instead the group exists to allow for a collective means to *defend* from REAL patent trolls.

Open Source comanies are doing basically the same (4, Informative)

Vitriolix (660279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208192)

http://lwn.net/Articles/179597/ [lwn.net]

Back in January, Red Hat reversed a longstanding policy and allowed the Mono .NET implementation into the Fedora distribution. A set of Mono applications (Tomboy, Banshee, F-spot) also went in at that time. The move was generally welcomed, but a number of observers wondered what had changed to make the addition of Mono possible. The sticking point had been a set of patents on .NET held by Microsoft; presumably those patents were no longer seen as a threat. But no information on why that might be was released at that time.

We missed it at the time, but Fedora hacker Greg DeKoenigsberg posted an explanation in late March. The answer, as it turns out, may offer some clues of how the software patent battle might play out.

Back in November, the Open Invention Network (OIN) announced its existence. OIN is a corporation which has been set up for one express purpose: to acquire patents and use them to promote and defend free software. The OIN patent policy is this:

Patents owned by Open Invention Network will be available on a royalty-free basis to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux operating system or certain Linux-related applications.

The list of "certain Linux-related applications" is said to exist, though it has not, yet, been posted publicly. But Mono is apparently on that list. So anybody who files patent infringement suits against Mono users, and who is, in turn, making use of technology covered by OIN's patents is setting himself up for a countersuit. Depending on the value of the patents held by OIN, that threat could raise the risk of attacking Mono considerably.

$400 million is not that much (1)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207896)

So far The SCO Group has spend $50 million losing a case against IBM.

Re:$400 million is not that much (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208096)

Or, to look at it another way, Eolas made more than that from a single patent. So did NTP, for that matter[1].

Looking at it that way, if even two out of their 5,000 patents turn out to be of similar 'quality' then their investors could be looking at a 100% return. If it weren't for the fact that I really don't want to encourage this kind of behaviour, I would be looking at buying shares...


[1] Technically, NTP had either more or fewer than one patent, and it's still not quite clear which.

They haven't lost the case yet!! (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208133)

There's still hope for SCO to spend $60 million .... after all, they haven't actually LOST the case yet.

Re:$400 million is not that much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208400)

And their board of directors has made a disgusting amount of money doing insider trading during that time.

Patent Companies & Patent Auctions (2, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207897)

With patent auctions [com.com] all over the place (even online [freepatentauction.com] ), I'm not surprised about Intellectual Ventures.

If you are in the mood to swallow some Grade A tripe, check out their business plan [intellectualventures.com] .

1. Invention Labs.
2. Invention Research & Development.
3. Invention Library (tm).
4. Market Enablement.
5. Profit!

By the way, the "tm" after the Invention Library means trademark. Yes, they've even patented terms in their business plan.

Re:Patent Companies & Patent Auctions (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208017)

No matter what the Intellectual Property industry would have you believe, trademarks, patents, and copyright aren't the same thing.

That "TM" on the end there means that they consider it to be their trademark. It doesn't hold any legal weight. If they had a registered trademark, that would be an ®, it would have legal weight, and it still wouldn't be a patent.

Perhaps you were trying to be funny, but mis-information isn't humorous.

Re:Patent Companies & Patent Auctions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208040)

Then wtf is trademark infringement [slashdot.org] ?

The point is that it's just another way to sue somebody.

Re:Patent Companies & Patent Auctions (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208388)

When you lose a trademark infringement suit, you have to stop using the mark. When you lose a patent suit you have to pay. Also, you can use the same mark as somebody else as long as you're using it for something different.

You don't need a reason to file a civil lawsuit, so that's a pretty dumb point.

Re:Patent Companies & Patent Auctions (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208116)

"TM" carries some legal weight, in that they are putting the world on notice that they claim that to be a trademark. To qualify for registration something has to be used in interstate commerce and meet other requirements as well, which they might not have yet done. Almost every registered mark is first used prior to registration. Once it's used, you can then register it.

yah think? (1)

phlegmofdiscontent (459470) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207905)

We've already seen patent holding companies suing the pants (and shirts and ties & everything else) out of other companies for patent infringement. What's to stop this one. I understand the idea of a company whose only revenue is from patent litigation or royalties, but still! Most companies make money by providing goods and services. This does neither and should be considered nothing more than a parasite.

Prior Art -- the Untouchable IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207922)

The most valuable IP [sourceforge.net] -- is prior art that can not be patented.

Question Technology [questiontechnology.org] -- where are we ultimately heading?

The end is nigh. [blogcharm.com] -- Technological Singularity Timeline

Hold that thought (5, Funny)

HotBBQ (714130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207936)

From TFA

'They can't be screwing around with a bunch of ideas for that long,'

Why not? I've been screwing around with the idea of screwing around with multiple hot chicks since I can remember. Wish I could get a patent on that.

Re:Hold that thought (4, Funny)

Eccles (932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208049)

Why not? I've been screwing around with the idea of screwing around with multiple hot chicks since I can remember. Wish I could get a patent on that.

Now that's one case where I really wish I had prior art...

Well DUH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207960)

"IP lawyers and tech executives worry that Intellectual Ventures is less interested in changing the world with big ideas, and more focused on becoming an über patent troll, wreaking litigation havoc across industries with its patents."

Well gee, did they hire scientists? Buy factories? Employ Software engineers?

Of course they want to be a patent troll, you can get $600 million a patent these days, even if they only get $50 million a patent thats $150 Billion taken from US companies.

been here before (4, Insightful)

theCat (36907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207975)

Gould & Fisk tried the same thing with the gold market. [wikipedia.org] At which point, fundamental flaws in the gold standard and the Greenback became rather obvious.

Maybe we'll have the same corrections this time but without the economic collapse. Did I just suggest we've learned anything from the past? Very sorry, I'll stop now.

Re:been here before (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208195)

At which point, fundamental flaws in the gold standard and the Greenback became rather obvious.
Reading the Wikipedia article you linked to; doesn't this prove the exact opposite?
During the American Civil War, the United States government issued a large amount of money that was backed by nothing but credit.
At that point the U.S. was off the gold standard which led to those two crooks cornering the gold market. I don't see the fundamental flaw - isn't it more like the fundamental benefit?

Hmmmmmmmm.... I wonder ...... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208002)

Let's see, the EU is currently having issues with MS because MS is monopolizing the OS market.

Wonder what the reaction would be to a company that tries to monopolize the legal use of implementations (i.e. patents) in the whole IT biz ...

DDOS on USPTO (4, Interesting)

calcutta001 (907416) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208003)

Here is an idea to protest against software patents.

Create an open source patent organization and start applying for software patents on behalf of open source coders for every little piece of innovation. The idea is to keep the threshold of what qualifies as innovation low to generate a huge list of patent applications.

Anything useless from "emphasizing email addresses containing a numbers in a word processing document" to "a real fancy way of optimizing inner loops in interpreted languages" to "a memory management code for NUMA architecture"

The important goal is not to get a software patent but to demonstrate the weakness of the system.

This will overwhelm the patent office. at best cause a change in thinking of policy makers. at least it will cause a headache for the patent mongers.

Patent commons - already underway (1)

cdn-programmer (468978) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208233)

ODSL announces Patent Commons Project

Wednesday August 10, @07:51PM

Rejected

The powers that be rejected this story. Funny thing is AFAIK ODSL operates slashdot. I guess they just didn't want you to know.

Just Protecting Themselves? (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208009)

It would seem to me that perhaps by buying up these patents, they are protecting themselves from a Blackberry type debacle.

My understanding of IV (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208028)

Alright patent bashing aside ...
As I understand IV from some people working with them (with the caveat that my understanding is not based on a direct relationship with them, but lunch conversations/rumor):

1) The $400M is NOT an investment. It is blackmail, like protection money. Company X pays IV for the costs of a patent portfolio with the understanding that IV will not sue Company X based on those patents (i.e. they get a license). So, Company X pays protection money to IV and IV gets new patents paid for to go sue others on.

2) There is no "speculation" that IV is a troll. As I understand it, that is their purpose.

3) IV doesn't invent anything. They buy blocks of patents on the cheap (especially if they get other firms to pay) from some other company's firesale. Usually these patents are an unusable mess and require massive clean-up. But, if you buy thousands of patents you'll hit gold eventually.

4) As a troll, if you don't have deep pockets, IV doesn't care about you (unless you have something to sell). This is cincontrast with real companies that often use their patents to prevent a second company from making a product. IV just wants money.

The legislators are starting to get nervous. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208035)

The stink of the NTP/RIM debacle is still fresh. Legislators are starting to pay attention.
http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?typ e=politicsNews&storyid=2006-04-05T234837Z_01_N0534 4856_RTRUKOC_0_US-CONGRESS-PATENTS.xml&rpc=22 [reuters.com]

Let's see this for what it is, shall we? (5, Insightful)

viewtouch (1479) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208093)

The US Constitution recognized only individuals with respect to copyrights, patents, etc.. At the point where corporations were given equal status with individuals then all of the rights that had been held by individuals then became rights that corporations could also hold. Corporations can, with this accession, do things that no individual could possibly do. Therein lies many a disaster, many of which lie immediately ahead in the future. Every time a corporation petitions a legislator for a law that gives it more power, the rights of the individuals are the currency paid in this transaction. The eventual outcome of this, it should be clear to all by now, is that a few corporations will hold all the power and no individuals will have any rights except those that the corporations see fit to allow them to have to the extent that it fulfils the plan of the corporations to manipulate the people. As Ralph Nader has often explained, unless and until we people put an end to this individuals will find themselves with fewer and fewer rights, and corporations will grab more and more power over individuals. This is a war, folks. If you don't think so you are condemning your progeny to virtual slavery.

Re:Let's see this for what it is, shall we? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208301)

oh noes! the cap1talists!!!1

hahahaha
ralph nader?
hahahaha

Re:Let's see this for what it is, shall we? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208340)

A good case in point might be the local power companies that are frantically fighting efforts by the "ESTATE" of Enron to collect on contracts they signed up for to pay for electricity that Enron couldn't deliver anyway.

IP lawyers (1)

labratuk (204918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208095)

IP lawyers... worry that Intellectual Ventures is less interested in changing the world with big ideas, and more focused on becoming an über patent troll

90% of IP lawyers are patent trolls. They just don't like being out-trolled.

Re:IP lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208262)

Actually only a small percentage of IP lawyers work for patent trolls. The remainder work defending companies from the trolls. Some of the big cases have one plaintiff and twenty or more defendants.

someone has to say it (1)

lindkg (609698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208229)

I for one welcome our new patent holding overlords

I wonder... (0)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208276)

"Intellectual Ventures has amassed 3,000-5,000 patents, with the help of a $400 million investment from some of the biggest technology companies, including Nokia, Intel, Apple, Sony, and Microsoft."

Gee, I wonder if Intellectual Ventures can be hired to wield their arsenal against helpless victims? Gee, I also wonder which corporations would be run by low life slimeballs who have no morals when it comes to violating the law when they feel they can get away with it and gaming the system at every chance, will be willing to pipe millions of dollars directly or through venture capital connection to fund harassment lawsuits against their competitors.

I'm not sure but I think one of corprorations has the initials of: MICROSOFT!

ventures/vultures (1)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208312)

"IP lawyers and tech executives worry that Intellectual Ventures is less interested in changing the world with big ideas, and more focused on becoming an über patent troll"

first pass i read that as vultures and thought slashdot was getting quite flamey in its article summaries. not to say its not a correct play on words, but a wee bit flamey nevertheless.

Typo in the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15208314)

Shouldn't it read "Intellectual Vultures?"

Whom would they sue? (1)

jimbolaya (526861) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208321)

Surely they're not going to sue their investors, mainly big businesses. It seems that the 'patent trolls' are using small companies who like to sue big businesses. I wouldn't be surprised if this company was formed as a defense against patent trolls, rather than as an übertroll.
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