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Joystick Port Patented, Now the Lawsuit

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the no-no-the-system-is-fine dept.

Patents 222

Panaqqa writes "It appears that Fenner Investments, a Texas based patent troll, is at it again. This time, they are suing Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo for infringing a patent they hold on joystick ports. Perhaps they felt they needed a "Plan B" now that their lawsuit against Juniper Networks, Nokia, Cisco, Alcatel and Ericsson is not going so well."

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This is junk (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538202)

Fuck them

Prior art (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538370)

a female's vagina is a port to insert the male's joystick

Re:This is junk (5, Insightful)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538510)

From the patent:

Filing date: Jul 10, 1998

Does more really need to be said?

Hopefully we see more of this (5, Interesting)

baffled (1034554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538206)

It's probably the best bet for patent reform to be taken seriously.

Prior art? (4, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538454)

I don't know the exact circuit details but Commodore Amiga joysticks worked in a similar way, i.e. by timing the decay of a capacitor rather then using an a/d converter.

Re:Prior art? (5, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538626)

Right now, it only seems that these cases will show if the accused party actually infringes on the patent or not.

What we need, as part of patent reform, is the ability to call BS on a patent during these lawsuits, which puts the infringement claim on hold until the patent itself is reviewed and debated over. Start a seperate court case to review the patent, with both parties able to produce evidence and expert testimony about the technology in question. If the patent is ruled bogus, then it should be invalidated on the spot and the infringement suit dropped.

That would cull a lot of bogus patents and maybe discourage filing them in the first place.
=Smidge=

Re:Prior art? (4, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538870)

Good idea. Remember, it's harder to defend a court order preventing a technology from being distributed if the only damages are loss of revenue, which is easy to correct later if it turns out it really infringes a patent. In other words, a "patent"holder will never ABSOLUTELY need the infringement to stop RIGHT NOW.

Also, it would be nice if a patent could be voided on the grounds that it was deliberately worded to obscure similarity to prior art.

Its called "reexamination" (5, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538950)

What we need, as part of patent reform, is the ability to call BS on a patent during these lawsuits, which puts the infringement claim on hold until the patent itself is reviewed and debated over. Start a seperate court case to review the patent, with both parties able to produce evidence and expert testimony about the technology in question. If the patent is ruled bogus, then it should be invalidated on the spot and the infringement suit dropped.

The U.S. Patent Office has such a procedure -- its called "reexamination." "Inter parties" reexamination allows two parties (the patentee and an accused infringer) to "reexamine" a patent before the USPTO in view of new prior art. If the USPTO agrees with the accused infringer, it can invalidate the patent. Lawsuits regarding patents in reexamination are commonly stayed (i.e. put on hold) until the reexamination terminates.

Reexams often result in dubious patents being invalidated. The reason you do not read about them more often on /. is that the purported prior art is often grossly exaggerated by the accused infringer (as in the RIM/NTP patent case), so there may not actually be sufficient grounds to invalidate the patent.

Re:Prior art? (3, Insightful)

Zordak (123132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539048)

If you are sued for patent infringement, your attorney will file a motion for summary judgment, and one of the theories will be that the patent is invalid as a matter of law. If it fails as a summary judgment motion, it will go before the jury. The validity of the patent WILL get litigated if the case doesn't settle. Forcing the parties to put off litigating infringement until after they settle the validity of the patent would be ridiculously inefficient and more costly for BOTH parties. The problem is not the inability to challenge the validity of a patent in court. The problem is that obviousness under 35 U.S.C. s. 103 has become such a hyper-technical non-hurdle that it is nearly impossible to invalidate a patent once it has been judged novel. Until we revise section 103 to strengthen obviousness, this will continue to happen. Fortunately, the weak obviousness standard is hurting big, monied companies with powerful lobbies (like Microsoft and Sony). So you can bet things are going to change.

Re:Prior art? (5, Informative)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539352)

Actually, I would argue that it is not the laws faults. At least not the way it is written. As written, 35 USC 103 explains obviousness in relatively good terms. Obviousness did not become an issue until relatively recently. I will not fault SCOTUS in Graham v. Deere, because the requirements they set forth were not very restrictive. The issue came later when the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) including the requirement that the joining of the two items must be taught in the prior art.

This is an extremely rare thing and actually makes the requirement hard to fulfill. It actually limited the Graham Factor, "one of ordinary skill in the art," practically eliminating it. I do not think the CAFC truly thought this out before making a decision, because if you already the idea to combine the two technologies (and mention as much in your patent specification) then you would almost certainly have claimed it, which would make it a 35 USC 102 violation, something that is really easier to defend for a Patent Examiner.

I believe we are still waiting to see the end result of KSR v. Teleflex before SCOTUS. If SCOTUS rules with KSR and essentially says the CAFC over-stepped their bounds, then you could be looking at the mass invalidation of thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of patents. You mention the standard is hurting Microsoft and Sony, but it actually is helping another industry with as much if not more money. The pharamaceuticals and bio-tech companies love the standard as it is because it helps them get a lot of patents on new drugs passed. I believe if you review the documents from KSR v. Teleflex, you will find support for KSR's writ from a group that included Microsoft, while the big pharma's filed in opposition (supporting Teleflex).

Re:Prior art? (3, Insightful)

Emil Brink (69213) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538844)

Clarification: the Amiga analog joysticks worked like that, yes. The default joystick used on the Amiga was digital, though, and just used five (later more) switches to generate the up/down/left/right/fire signals. :)

Re:Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539478)

All Gameport [wikipedia.org] PC Joysticks worked like this. This was quite annoying since it required calibration for every game, and many games failed when the (cpu wasting) timing loops overflowed in the time the capacitor took to drain.

Re:Prior art? (2, Informative)

pipatron (966506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539864)

Clarification 2: Timing the decay of the stored charge in capacitor is an A/D-converter.

Capping the maximum damages awarded. (2, Interesting)

Oddscurity (1035974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538606)

Since 'Mutually Assured Destruction' doesn't work when defending against a patent troll (they don't produce anything that can infringe your patents), maybe it would be a start to limit the maximum amount of awarded damages to $5M (for example.) If a patent of a legitimate inventor is ever infringed by some big business, the settlement is more than enough for them to retire and continue inventing if they so choose. Wouldn't it however remove the incentive for trolls, spending easily as much as $5M in the hopes of getting awarded $200M?

Then as an encore someone might be able to convince USPTO there isn't such a thing as software patents. Good reading materials: An industry at risk [mit.edu] , So Small a Town, So Many Patent Suits [nytimes.com]

Re:Capping the maximum damages awarded. (4, Insightful)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538790)

Except that that would mean that companies that could afford $5M easily could intentionally infringe on as many patents as they liked, even drawing the legal battle out long enough to bankrupt the holder.

Re:Capping the maximum damages awarded. (2, Insightful)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538910)

That basically gives big business free reign to steal any technology that could be valued at more than $5 million - which is damn near any patent that is worth holding (and a lot that aren't). Now, I know some people on /. call for the total elimination of the patent system, but this probably wouldn't be the best way to kill it.

<pedant>when talking about money M usually means thousand, and MM million.</pendant>

Re:Capping the maximum damages awarded. (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539058)

when talking about money M usually means thousand, and MM million.

True for parts of the world, but not other parts.

Re:Capping the maximum damages awarded. (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539194)

Instead of limiting the awarded damages, get the patent holder to put up a bond of a few million per target when they lodge the case. It should limit them a bit if they loose a few million every time they lodge a troll case.

Re:Hopefully we see more of this (1)

devnull17 (592326) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538698)

I've been hearing that argument for years. In the meantime, company after company is paying out settlements in the hundreds of millions. I think it's time to try something a little more direct.

I'd like to see (4, Insightful)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538234)

someone sue the lawyers bringing up these lawsuits...since they are driving us nuts, and crippling businesses. If there ever was a need for "looser pays" it's because of crap like this.

Re:I'd like to see (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538300)

loser* ?

Re:I'd like to see (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538312)

It's LOSER, goddammit! It's motherfuckers that can't spell that are driving me nuts, maybe I should sue.

Re:I'd like to see (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539504)

I'm with you.

And if getting pissed at the misspelling of 'loser' makes me a troll then I'll proudly wear my label as troll.

Re:I'd like to see (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538360)

in sloppy dollars???

Re:I'd like to see (0, Offtopic)

GrueMoon (990213) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538676)

Looser than what?

Re:I'd like to see (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538924)

...someone sue the lawyers bringing up these lawsuits...

Hmmm, suing people who sue people to show that suing people is wrong

Re:I'd like to see (2, Insightful)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538964)

Quite often the lawyers are only the "weapons" in these cases. It's the clients that need to be sued. Of course there are plenty of cases where the lawyers are the instigators of the BS (looking at you, Jack Thompson)....

Re:I'd like to see (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538996)

First off, You are assuming this patent is bogus. The article that I READ didn't provide many details (prior art? other considerations, etc...) It could be a very legitimate patent.

Second, introducing a loser pays system isn't the answer necessarily. You have to understand that like the American system (each side pays its own costs) loser pays has some disadvantages. The risk of losing even a seemingly meritous case will prevent some meritorious victims from redress, and some lower income clients from being able to afford a suit (this would probably change the current "No fee unless you win" contingency that allows them to sue now). Also, many cases aren't clear as to whom is going to be the winner till after discovery and many more aren't clear until after trial (otherwise a smart attorney/party when faced with a losing case will settle).

Also, something you may not know is that 95% or so of cases NEVER GO TO TRIAL and are settled out of court, thus a loser-pays system may have little effect on your perceived abuses of the legal system.

Another factor is that this would introduce a legal strategy for the opposition of racking up HUGE legal bills so that the other side is threatened with a HUGE BILL if they lose - this could be applied as pressure to settle (unjustly).

Third, lawyers and clients who abuse the legal system can face sanctions including paying the attorney's fees for the opposing side. This is embodied in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 11. It provides that the lawyer or party must do a reasonable inquiry into the facts of the case and the law to make sure they are at least filing a half-way decent case.

Again, if this is a bogus lawsuit, expect the Nintendo, et.al. to get sanctions, or get the case thrown out in pretrial procedures.

Re:I'd like to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539596)

Perhaps if a few companies filed suit against the USPTO for the injury caused them by the granting of these ridiculous patents we might get patent reform a lot quicker. The USPTO doesn't need to do anything as long as it knows the courts, the troll and some hapless victim will sort out their mess at a later date.

Patent Troll list (4, Insightful)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538248)

Wikipedia page on Patent Trolls, with a list that doesn't appear to include the trolls in question guys:

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

Cue their entry in 5...4...3... (1)

Oddscurity (1035974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538418)

How long until a /.er adds them to the list?

Re:Cue their entry in 5...4...3... (1)

Crizp (216129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538508)

Why didn't you do it then?

Laziness (1)

Oddscurity (1035974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538636)

I couldn't find an article on the company in question to link it to, and couldn't be bothered to write one?

...2...1... (1)

michaelwigle (822387) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538738)

Done and done. (And my first attempt at a wikipedia edit)

And.. (2, Insightful)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538250)

people wonder why does Microsoft patent things... Here ladies and Gentllemen, you have the answer. If you have deep pockets, you better defend yourself.

Aren't the approaching it wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538570)

If they want to defend themselves from this, get patents abolished, don't *pay* to get a patent and make patent trolling more profitable (since the more patents there are, the less they will be looked at).

Especially with the EU, why are MS asking for patents to be avaialble THERE? Surely, even if they are too late in the US, they can ensure that the rest of the world is OK.

Taking this action together with the threats they have made in the past, I suspect that patents aren't a defensice proposition for Microsoft.

Re:Aren't the approaching it wrong? (2, Interesting)

Alchemar (720449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538766)

I agree that the current system needs a complete overhaul, but there is a very good mechanism in the current system for eliminating the need of defensive patents. You don't have to patent before they do, you don't have to abolish patents, you just have to publish the idea. If you make a discovery that you are not going enforce patents on, but want to protect yourself from someone else patening it, you just have to publish it, and it can't be patented. Defensive patents only work against other large companies that actually produce a product. If they threaten your product with a patent violation, you threaten thier's. With a patent troll that doesn't make anything, you don't have the leverage. Publishing puts the idea in the public domain, is much cheaper, and is much easier to defend in court. You aren't comparing the specific details of your patent with the details of thiers, you are comparing the specifics of their patent with the general idea that you published.

Re:And.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539128)

... I can't wait until they patent the Do Loop ...

Oh the injustice (2, Funny)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538302)


Haven't poor Microsoft and Sony been vicimized enough?

How's a poor ruthless-megacorporation supposed to make a buck these days?

Re:Oh the injustice (1)

ShadoHawk (741112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538818)

"Sharks" and "Laser Beams" come to mind... But maybe that's just me.

Re:Oh the injustice (1)

sulfur_lad (964486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539586)

As funny as your sarcasm is, I'd seriously side with the megacorp on this one. Greedy dorks can be much worse than the megacorp they're targeting. They just try to rely on good press for the 'little guy.'

this really screams "I attack the darkness!"

Prior Art anyone? (5, Informative)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538320)

The patent was applied for in 1998, I believe the first atari consoles had joysticks in the late 70s, and I'm sure there are earlier examples. The only thing that the patent application seems to have going for it is the specific use of CMOS fabrication for the circuit. This seems to me like making a keyboard out of metal/wood/some other material not usually used, then trying to patent it. Am I missing something, or will this lawsuit go just as well as their previous one?

Should be trivial to invalidate (2, Interesting)

Oddscurity (1035974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538378)

They're using an integrated circuit to read the voltage differentials, instead of the more common 'clock + voltage comparator'. So yes, I would say this falls under prior art, being that their chip does pretty much what the gameport logic has done since its introduction. And if it doesn't fail on prior art, it fails on the 'obvious' clause.

Re:Prior Art anyone? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538506)

The patent was applied for in 1998, I believe the first atari consoles had joysticks in the late 70s

This device seems to be for connecting an analog joystick to a digital input by converting the analog postion into a PWM digital signal. It's an analog joystick with the A/D and encoder built-in. Perhaps an incremental improvement, at best. I suppose it eliminates the need to have the A/D hardware on the console itself, so the connection can be all digital (and have fewer pins). You could even retrofit a console designed for digital controls only to use an analog joystick (assuming you write games to read the PWM signal). If they really are the first to come up with this particular scheme, then maybe they have a claim.

Re:Prior Art anyone? (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538874)

If they really are the first to come up with this particular scheme, then maybe they have a claim.
It's possible they come up with something unique that hadn't been done before. But if it was that unique, how did all three companies manage to have it standard by now? Especially since the big differences between this generation's controllers and last involve wireless (Wii's wired controllers are Gamecube controllers), so if the newest consoles infringe, the last have to infringe as well (since the ports are from last generation). So some people come up with some very unique joystick port idea, that people who've been making joysticks and consoles for 20 years haven't come up with, and somehow between the time they apply for the patent and the time it's granted it becomes standard on all major consoles? Either there's bucketloads of prior art and they just copied the design from their Playstation ports, or it's so obvious that someone who's never made a console can figure it out by staring at their Playstation, but, either way, it shouldn't have been patented.

Re:Prior Art anyone? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539212)

Well the Nintendo 64 came out in 1996 and it definetly had an analogue joystick (Nintendo 64 [wikipedia.org] ) and it only had three pins for the joystick connection. I would be highly surprised if that was using an analogue connection to the console. Given that and the fact that any research and development was being done prior to the release (duh!), this further invalidates the claim to this patent.

Re:Prior Art anyone? (1)

honkycat (249849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539846)

If they really are the first to come up with this particular scheme, then maybe they have a claim.
Except I'm pretty certain they didn't develop the concept of using a circuit like that to convert an analog signal into a digital PWM signal. If they invented that, then I wouldn't dispute the patent-worthiness. However, merely applying someone else's analog-to-PWM circuit to joysticks doesn't seem to me to meet the non-obviousness criterion.

Patented in 2001? (0, Redundant)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538326)

How the hell did they patent joystick ports when systems with joystick ports had been manufactured and sold for more than 25 years before they even filed?

Re:Patented in 2001? (2, Informative)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538420)

I guess they can ding the Xbox, PS2, Gamecube and maybe Wii. But don't newer consoles use USB ports? The 360 doesn't even have joystick ports, it has (properly licensed and legally clear) USB ports instead.

Re:Patented in 2001? (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538562)

I guess they can ding the Xbox, PS2, Gamecube and maybe Wii. But don't newer consoles use USB ports? The 360 doesn't even have joystick ports, it has (properly licensed and legally clear) USB ports instead.
The Wii has Gamecube ports, but that's not even the point. There have been consoles with joystick ports since at least the mid 70s, yet they didn't even apply for the patent until 1998. I'm gonna go patent platform shoes and then sue all the retro shoe stores. Makes as much sense.

Re:Patented in 2001? (2, Informative)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538758)

Heck, for that matter, the XBox (Classic) uses a USB interface for it's controllers, too. There's just an additional 3.3volt line for other purposes like light pens, etc.

Bill

Hey, remember when Universal Studios... (5, Funny)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538336)

Hey, remember when Universal Studios tried to sue Nintendo for infringing on their copyright on King Kong? And then Nintendo won the case, and proved that Universal didn't even hold the copyright on King Kong in the first place?

Good times, good times....

Re:Hey, remember when Universal Studios... (2, Informative)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538994)

I believe the primary reason they lost that case is that Universal had in fact argued in a previous case that they did not own the rights to king kong. Not sure of the particulars of the case though.

Re:Hey, remember when Universal Studios... (2, Informative)

coredog64 (1001648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539100)

They were suing a critic who had insinuated that they were associated in some way with the Jeff Bridges version [imdb.com]

Re:Hey, remember when Universal Studios... (4, Informative)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539062)

Hehe, hadn't heard of this before, so looked it up [wikipedia.org] . Pretty amusing case, thanks for bringing it up!

Re:Hey, remember when Universal Studios... (2, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539880)

lol, it gets pretty silly at points. From Wikipedia:

In its decision on October 4, 1984, the court upheld the previous verdict. They declared that "The two properties [King Kong and Donkey Kong] have nothing in common but a gorilla, a captive woman, a male rescuer, and a building scenario." Further, the court ruled that "The 'Kong' and 'King Kong' names are widely used by the general public and are associated with apes and other objects of enormous proportions."


Glad we got that cleared up ...

Business based on law suites (1)

Nitack (1046362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538340)

Is it just me or does this speak so clearly to the culture we have developed in the US? The idea that you can only get ahead by suing the pants off of some corporation. It just sounds like this corporation exists only to gather every patent it can get it's hands on and lies in wait for a large company to blunder so they can get rich.

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538410)

The ambulance chasing lawyers have created a 'get rich by suing' mentality. I blame both the lawyer and the idiot that thinks that's it acceptable. It's sad that lawsuits have become an acceptable factor in American business.

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

PhoenixFlare (319467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538412)

Is it just me or does this speak so clearly to the culture we have developed in the US?

Considering who's being sued....The only thing coming to mind is that old "Bambi meets Godzilla" cartoon, except with the foot slamming down 3 times, each time harder than the last.

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

Nitack (1046362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538484)

Considering who's being sued....The only thing coming to mind is that old "Bambi meets Godzilla" cartoon, except with the foot slamming down 3 times, each time harder than the last.
Hey, I will agree that some of these larger companies have actively pushed some diplorable business ethics in the past. Does that mean that we should bombard them with frivilous law suites?

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

PhoenixFlare (319467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538518)

Hey, I will agree that some of these larger companies have actively pushed some diplorable business ethics in the past. Does that mean that we should bombard them with frivilous law suites?

No, it doesn't.

My post was more to point out the immense humor I find in these patent trolls attacking 3 multi-billion dollar international companies, that no doubt all have armies of rabid lawyers waiting to be released.

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539412)

Oh, they should be happy Yamauchi is no longer in charge or there might be a series of mysterious traffic accidents near their workplace.

Re:Business based on law suites (3, Insightful)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538476)

Is it just me or does this speak so clearly to the culture we have developed in the US?

How does this relate to the culture of the US? Sure, there are some companies that are trying to make money as patent trolls, just as there are always people trying to get a quick buck. But the vast majority of Americans are never a party to a patent lawsuit.

The idea that you can only get ahead by suing the pants off of some corporation.

There are a lot of companies out there that innovate and compete in order to get ahead. Just because there are a few examples of cases like the above does not mean that it's the standard operating procedure for a business.

In typical slashdot style, somebody has taken a situation, and extrapolated it out to now cover the entire population of the United States. The above case sure does seem frivalous, and it in no way represents the culture in the US.

-dave

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

Nitack (1046362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538734)

You don't think this is a cultural norm? http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/12/19/ 1731210 [slashdot.org] Want me to dig up more articles? We have plenty...

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538900)

A few examples does not make it a cultural norm. Sure, you can pull up a few examples from slashdot about when the system is abused. But now compare that list to all of the companies in the U.S. that do not partake in this sort of behavior. Your list of examples will be extremely short comparitively speaking.

-dave

Re:Business based on law suites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538764)

The US patent process is easier to game than those in other countries. In particular, most other countries would have been far more likely to have rejected the patent. Without a patent, this lawsuit would get immediate dismissal. With the patent, they're going to litigate for a while.

Re:Business based on law suites (2, Funny)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538838)

I don't know man... the local technical college was advertising some interesting courses on the radio this morning. "Owning ideas you'll never implement", "Children say the darndest things (that you can sue their parents for)", and my personal favorite, "Injuring yourself with every-day home objects for fun and profit".

I went to a real university and have a graduate degree, and I still have to work like, at least 40 hours per week! American Dream my ass!

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539208)

You've got to be kidding, this is regarded as classic American culture these days by people in the UK. We all have a good laugh, and in fact probably shed an incredulous tear or 2, that people can sue McDonalds for not warning people that their coffee will be hot, or that they can't dry their pets in the microwave and so on. I'm hoping the pet one was an urban myth, but somehow.. I don't think so. It's sickening to always hear of the idiocy and apparent corruption in the legal and political systems over there.

Re:Business based on law suites (2, Interesting)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539336)

You've got to be kidding, this is regarded as classic American culture these days by people in the UK.

And obviously if you Brits have that opinion of us, it must be true.

people can sue McDonalds for not warning people that their coffee will be hot

Have you actually read about the facts in the case? It's not quite as frivalous as it might seem.

It's sickening to always hear of the idiocy and apparent corruption in the legal and political systems over there.

And it's what you hear about because it's sensationalist. Obviously you aren't going to hear about the thousands of small companies that are started and grow to become successful. Nobody wants to read about that, especially when it's thousands of miles away.

I'm hoping the pet one was an urban myth, but somehow.. I don't think so.

I think this statement says it perfectly. You have no clue what the reality is, but you are willing to assume that these stories are true.

Believe me, there are plenty of stories of idiocy and corruption about the UK and other countries that I hear about, yet I am able to realize that, one, these are generally not the norm of that society, and two, that what eventually makes it's way over the pond is generally the entertaining stuff.

-dave

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539630)

The coffee thing was frivolous. She put the cup of coffee between her legs while driving round and burned herself, it's just plain moronic.

If it weren't just an american thing, then I'd be hearing plenty of sensationalist stories about crazy law suits from around the rest of the world, and my own country too. Funnily enough, they are all coming from the US. I'm not trying to be racist or play on false stereotypes, it's just true, as can be seen easily from the many /. stories on this type of thing each week??

When you start having to put warnings like 'product may contain nuts' in a fruit and nut chocolate bar, you know that the world is taking the whole sue-ing mentality too far, either that or people are complete and utter morons. Both are probably true.

I did actually think that this type of thing was going on in the UK too, just because we seem to mirror you over here, but then after thinking about it, I realised that all these stupid law suits really were just in the US. It's a big place, so more weird stuff is likely to happen, but it is happening too often, and now is regarded as normal for the US legal system.

Re:Business based on law suites (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539720)

Of course the USA aren't as bad as their image, but the fact that the image has went from "the land of infinite possibilities" to "the land where you get sued if you don't cover your ass" should be an indicator that something is going wrong.

Re:Business based on law suites (3, Interesting)

scoove (71173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538706)

Is it just me or does this speak so clearly to the culture we have developed in the US?

Not really. Parasites exist in most systems and represent a legitimate (though culturally reprehensible) strategy in game theory, economics, etc. "Patent trolls" exemplify parasitic behavior by trying to obtain resources (cash, reputation) without being responsible for original productive work. They live off of others efforts through a less-than-equitable exchange.

Think about how long criminal organizations have coerced others through various rackets - Mafia "insurance" rackets (e.g. pay me for fire insurance so Tony here won't burn your business down tonight). To many, this behavior is wrong (it certainly introduces greater inefficiencies), but at a minimal level, it provides the benefit of killing off the weak. Economies really want to see the weak removed as it punishes bad strategy and allows those who made better decisions to attain their reward. Parasitism is also a moderate risk strategy for those that speculate on the patent troll organizations as their capital invested to pay the legal bills is very much at total risk.

It just sounds like this corporation exists only to gather every patent it can get it's hands on

The real disappointment is that the U.S. legal system does not provide an opportunity for greater risk than the invested capital paid into these speculative patent troll firms. For example, if this firm loses in the joystick litigation and goes bankrupt, all those who invested in it only lose their capital they intentionally placed at risk. If you put in $100K for your shares, you're out $100K. A "loser pays" judicial system would help reduce repeat behavior as a troll firm once successful would likely rather liquidate and take the gains after one win, rather than expose it all to a second, so this type of reform would not really address the core problem.

I'd advocate a personal liability provision similar to the attestation liability that public corporation executives now have due to Sarbanes Oxley (e.g. they are personally at risk to significant criminal penalties for the integrity of their company's financial statements). If you really believe in your claims and seek to litigate on the patent issue, you'll be required to place a $500K bond with the court which will be forfeit if your case is determined to be frivolous. Combine this exposure with dramatically increased sanctions against attorneys for polluting the system with this junk (e.g. one year suspension of their license for the first offense) and you'll reduce this parasitism to a more normal frequency.

Re:Business based on law suites (3, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539108)

Not really. Parasites exist in most systems and represent a legitimate (though culturally reprehensible) strategy in game theory, economics, etc.

That's true, but I think the parent was referring to the lawsuit lottery mentality whereby people dream of ways to snare wealthy corporations by suing them in unanticipated ways and thus get rich. In the US, no jury's findings are binding on another's, so if the first jury says, "placing a warning this way would have sufficed", and the corporation switches to that way, the next jury is free to rape it again for insufficient warning. Plus, juries are likely to rule out of sympathy ("Well, the doctor didn't really do anything wrong, but gee, it would really suck to be the patient now, and gosh, those insurance companies sure have unlimited money, so what the hell...") or desire for fame ("Hey, we can't get on Oprah unless we rule against the big evil corporation, and gosh, isn't that plaintiff's attorney so sweet the way he smiles...").

Does it happen in other countries? Sure, but not nearly as often. For example, Japan has a similarly developed economy but only a fraction of the lawyers per capita and "investment" in the legal system.

To many, this behavior is wrong (it certainly introduces greater inefficiencies), but at a minimal level, it provides the benefit of killing off the weak.

Well, it provides the "benefit" of killing off those who are weak *along a certain dimension*, but being weak along that dimension rarely means you're a drain on the economy somehow. Sure, Mr. Viklstein can't defend his bank against arsonists, but that doesn't mean he's a drain on the economy.

That said, I agree there should be a sort of "loser pays" system for frivolous suits like you've suggested.

Re:Business based on law suites (2, Interesting)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539230)

The real disappointment is that the U.S. legal system does not provide an opportunity for greater risk than the invested capital paid into these speculative patent troll firms. For example, if this firm loses in the joystick litigation and goes bankrupt, all those who invested in it only lose their capital they intentionally placed at risk. If you put in $100K for your shares, you're out $100K. A "loser pays" judicial system would help reduce repeat behavior as a troll firm once successful would likely rather liquidate and take the gains after one win, rather than expose it all to a second, so this type of reform would not really address the core problem.

I don't like loser pays for one reason, the underdog never has an advantage. If you are an inventor with a patent that a large multi-national corporation steals, what is your recourse in loser pays? Not only do you have to fight an uphill battle because the large company has more money, more lawyers and more time than you, but if you lose (and not necessarily because you are wrong, but because the system isn't 100% perfect), the downside is huge. You now have to pay for the huge, expensive legal team.

Now to be fair, I don't have a better idea, but I just think that as an overall strategy, loser-pays will be abused just like the current system is.

Also, I don't believe loser-pays will prevent patent-trolls. Once incorporated, the people behind the troll company are reasonabliy well protected. They win one lawsuit, pay out to the investors, and start up with round two. As the company has virtually no assets, there is nothing that can be taken to pay out should they lose. Now you could change the rules regarding corporations, but that would have widespread effects far beyond the issue of patents.

If you really believe in your claims and seek to litigate on the patent issue, you'll be required to place a $500K bond with the court which will be forfeit if your case is determined to be frivolous.

Again, this is an idea that hurts the small inventor. If I have a patent that somebody infringes, not only do I have to fund the suit, but I now have to come up with another $500k bond? Sure, I could try to find some investors, but in a David vs. Goliath fight with a large corporation, good luck. Especially if it were a loser-pays system.

Something needs to be done. Better checking of patents. Quicker expiration of patents. Maybe required use of patents or they expire much more quickly. But I think the ideas behind loser-pays or bonding hurts the small guy and does nothing to the well organized patent troll.

-dave

Anyone read Patent-ese? (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538344)

I can't work out what the patent is actually for. Even the abstract is a little vague apart from telling me it's some sort of analogue joystick interface.

Re:Anyone read Patent-ese? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538612)

I did read TFP, and it looks to be a retrofit type device to allow use of analog joystick on a digital joystick port by modulating the joystick position on a digital (button press?) signal. I think it's only for consoles that don't have analog ports already. Newer systems that implement all functions on a USB connection would not apply here.

Re:Anyone read Patent-ese? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538860)

I think you're right.

Which means it doesn't work in anything like the same way as a modern analogue joysick.

Stupid... (0, Redundant)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538354)

This method of digitising a position has been basic instrumentation technology for decades... It's obvious to one skilled in the art... fer hecks sake, my old XT had a joystick card that did this RC timebase measuring thing... and that was back in the 80's I think I might still have the joystick card in my bits box... mind you, I don't think there's been any old 8-bit card interface compatible motherboards made for ages either...

very creative (4, Informative)

Jon Luckey (7563) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538414)

prior art-ish Applie IIe circuit

http://web.pdx.edu/~heiss/technotes/aiie/tn.aiie.0 6.html [pdx.edu]

Whoopie.

Because Fenner's patent used a tristate buffer instead of an open collector NPN transitor they own this kind of joystick?

geesh.

Re:very creative (2, Interesting)

gmarsh (839707) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539820)

Precisely. I read the patent, and it describes *exactly* the operation of a 556 timer based PC game port. The only unique thing that I can spot in this patent is listed on the first page - "This implementation provides a joystick port which uses low-voltage CMOS VLSI structures..."

So to get definite prior art, you just need to find a soundcard with a standard 0x201 gameport address, with the game port hardware implemented in a CMOS ASIC. Which is really easy, considering the patent was filed for in 1998. Even in the early-mid 90's, cheap "AOpen to Zoltrix" soundcards consisted of a single ASIC which handled the ISA or PCI interface, A/D+D/A conversion, 0x201 game port, MIDI interface and the works. And there's a 100% chance that said ASIC is a CMOS process.

What I find silly is that they're suing Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo over this... I seriously doubt that any of their hardware uses a timer approach for digitizing analog inputs - I'm willing to bet they use true ADC's. The 556 timer hack was useful in the 80's PC days when silicon was expensive and discretes and PCB space were cheap, but today when a $2 PIC microcontroller can have almost a dozen 10+ bit ADC inputs, there's no point anymore.

It's been done before (4, Interesting)

rongage (237813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538482)

As near as I can tell from the text of the patent, this patent troll has patented the use of an Analog to Digital Convertor for converting the analog output of a joystick into a digital signal. I'm not 100% certain but it sounds like either an integrator type circuit or a PWM type circuit. The intriguing bit is the mentioned use of a VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) chip as a part of the design. This could mean utilizing any of the large fabric chips from the likes of Altera, TI, or Lord knows how many others are in the market nowadays. Heck, this could be interpreted to include the PIC chips in common use nowadays.

I'd have to look in my old college electronics book (Electronic Communications - vol 5 by Schrader) to see, but I think these types of ADC circuits were discussed even back then (circa 1985). If not, I know the Peavey DECA series of digital power amplifiers (circa 1988) utilized an integrator type ADC for doing converting the analog audio signal to a series of digital pulses (PWM) used for driving the MOSFET finals.

Re:It's been done before (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538582)

Analogue to Digitial circuits were around in the late 1970's - The Atari console system supported paddle controllers [atariage.com] .

Re:It's been done before (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538716)

As near as I can tell from the text of the patent, this patent troll has patented the use of an Analog to Digital Convertor for converting the analog output of a joystick into a digital signal. I'm not 100% certain but it sounds like either an integrator type circuit or a PWM type circuit.

I believe that's exactly what it does. That's not novel. What could be novel is that they seem to be putting the PWM signal on a button input to the console, giving a game with the ability to read the PWM as a joystick postion an analog joystick. This is some extrapolation on my part, but that's what I think they're claiming infringement on.

This is the patent office's fault (5, Interesting)

RobK (24783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538504)

The fact that these non-novel, obvious patents with prior art are being issued decades after first use.

I understand that business need to protect themselves, and I'm a lot more forgiving of hardware patents (because that make sense) but reading the patent all I see that MIGHT be new is the power saving circuitry rather than a novel joystick connection.

They do need more examiners and the second patent applied for each year should cost twice as much as the first to file. (This would curb blanketing the system hoping that one of them sticks).

This is my theory and it's mine.

Re:This is the patent office's fault (1)

SewersOfRivendell (646620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539904)

This is my theory and it's mine.


Patented?

Prior art... Nintendo 64 (4, Insightful)

gozar (39392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538546)

Their patent applies to analog joysticks. It's a method of sending the information of a joystick's position as a digital pulse, therefore requiring less wiring for multiple analog sticks and buttons. The controller could send the information about the various states of the buttons and joysticks encoded as a digital stream.

Unfortunately for them, they applied for the patent in '98, long after the N64 was released. I don't know for sure, but since the N64 controller only has (IIRC) 3 wires in the cable, they must be using something like what this patent describes.

It's interesting that they applied for the patent two months after the release of the dual-shock controller for the PS1. IMO, someone saw the dual shock and patented the idea on how it would work.

Re:Prior art... Nintendo 64 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539638)

Here's a description of the N64's serial controller interface [cornell.edu] , which includes " two 8 bit 2's-complement segments showing the position of the analog stick along the X and Y ax", and was available in 1996, according to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] .

Joy, Home-grown patent trolls (2, Funny)

andphi (899406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538586)

These people give Texans a bad name. Is there any way I can mail these creeps a bushel of rotten tomatoes? I probably live too far away to throw them myself.

Fixing the system (3, Interesting)

bcharr2 (1046322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538742)

You would think it was possible to put our nations academic institutions into the patent review loop.

Company applies for patent, patent judge receives comments from university departments focused on that type of technology, judge reviews comments to verify if this is a revolutionary new idea worth granting a patent to or not.

I also liked the suggestion that the cost of patenting scale up the more patents one files within a given timeframe. This should keep a company from essentially conducting a "denial of patent review" attack by filing so many similar patents that the academics will simply give up participating in the system.

I would also like to see some sort of financial pentalty applied to corporations who attempt to patent existing work. In this case, if the court finds the patent should never have been granted, I would accompany the dismissal of their lawsuit with a hefty fine. Force companies to conduct solid research instead of just filing some paperwork and seeing what they can slip through the system.

Re:Fixing the system (1)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539060)

Company applies for patent, patent judge receives comments from university departments focused on that type of technology, judge reviews comments to verify if this is a revolutionary new idea worth granting a patent to or not.

I agree that better examination is required, even perhaps by peer review. However, patents (in any nation at any time) have never been reserved for "revolutionary" inventions (novel and non-obvious is the U.S. standard). The reason for this is simple -- it is often impossible for even the most skilled artisan to tell if an invention is revolutionary until years after it is patented (Eli Whitney's cotton gin being a good example). The importance of an invention is subjective while the novelty and non-obviousness of the invention are not.

Tinker around on Google Patent Search for patents issued in the 19th century and you will see that few are them are for revolutionary inventions.

Re:Fixing the system (3, Insightful)

Infinityis (807294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539738)

Actually, it might work to just stipulate the award money in advance, and then whichever side loses the patent suit would be required to pay out that amount to the winner. If you *know* that your patent is being infringed and that it will hold up, then go for the big dollars because they are rightly yours. However, if there is even a shadow of a doubt that there might be prior art or something else that would invalidate your patent, then patent trolls will think twice before adding a few zeros to the damages they seek.

The fundamental problem is that the potential cost of losing is so low that it is becoming commoditized, which is why we're starting to see patents being bought and sold in bulk.

USB (2, Interesting)

RancidMilk (872628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538872)

I believe that my usb port works as a joystiq port on my computer. So I believe that usb is the next to go.

erm (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538928)

Given the Wii and the PS3 are standard wireless, how does that lawsuit work again? With base-model 360s?

Re:erm (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539894)

Given the Wii and the PS3 are standard wireless, how does that lawsuit work again? With base-model 360s?

With previous generations of consoles, perhaps? According to TFA, the patent was applied for in 1998, awarded in 2001. The Wii and PS3 aren't the only consoles created since then.

Patent violation (0, Offtopic)

compandsci (1045690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538990)

I just patented internet messagebords like this one. Mod me up or I will sue your asses.

Standard joystick port, except with CMOS voltages? (1)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539272)

I don't get it. This looks like the description of a standard Atari game controller port (from the late 70s), except, instead of TTL voltages, they're using CMOS voltages. I think a change like this would be obvious to a layman in the field. Heck, I have little to do with electronics, yet I could have come up with this.

Doesn't mean that they can't harrass and shake down a few companies. But it seems like an awfully weak claim.

Prior Art circa 1977 (2, Informative)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539376)

This exact circuit was used in the Apple II in 1977. Copied by IBM in the IBM PC in 1981. May have been used prior to this. This circuit is so common they had to know that this was used many years ago. If I were a defendant in this case I would counter sue claiming they knowingly patented something that was in common use without disclosing the prior art just so they could intimidate companies. This a fraud on the patent office!

Ah, that's it! (1)

butterberg (1046750) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539480)

Huh! I, once again, saw this infamous "Patent Pending" icon at the right top corner of the Slashdot article, and I was wondering, what it was about this time. Patent issues have always been so complicated for my simple mind. But then, after clicking on "Read more", and saw this 30 year old ATARI joystick below the Patent icon, and everything became clear!

Question (1)

Dasupalouie (1038538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539490)

Can I patent a machine that can stop companies such as these to stop infringing the right to patent? Oh wait, they already have such a thing, hope I don't get sued...

Patent Patenting prior art as a business model (1)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539634)

Here is an idea. Lets take out a patent on patenting prior art and suing for infringment. This is allowed as a business method patent. Then when companies do what this company is doing, we sue them for patent infringment.
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