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SanDisk Sues 25 Companies for Patent Infringement

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the who-isn't-sue-happy-nowadays dept.

Patents 202

dnormant writes "Suits have been filed against 25 companies by the SanDisk corporation this week, as the company looks to stop businesses from shipping products it alleges are infringing on its work. SanDisk has filed suits against everyone from MP3 player manufacturers to USB hard drive creators. The list of defendants is staggering, and MacWorld notes if Sandisk succeeds it could have repercussions outside of the courtroom. 'The company filed two lawsuits in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, one alleging the infringement of five patents in the ITC complaint, and another one including two additional patents not involved in the ITC action. The court and ITC complaints could affect the prices and availability of products made by companies targeted in the suit if SanDisk wins and the companies are barred from importing products into the U.S.'"

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Great (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117719)

Another attempt to kill the golden goose.

Low flash prices couldnt be left alone, could they?

Re:Great (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21117805)

Another attempt to nigger the golden nigger, you mean.

Niggers.

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117883)

"We will continue to grow in this market, despite a 25-fold increase in competition. How? We will just demand that the competition pay us for the privilege to compete with us. What's that? Increase in our stock price?"

Almost content-less article (2, Informative)

tygt (792974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117727)

Unfortunately TFA has nearly zero content other than what the synopsis states. There is no mention of which patents are involved, any reaction by the companies being sued, and no statement given as to WTF it's all about.

Re:Almost content-less article (2, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118033)

Unfortunately TFA has nearly zero content other than what the synopsis states. There is no mention of which patents are involved, any reaction by the companies being sued, and no statement given as to WTF it's all about.

Indeed. I read both of TFAs, and I can't find a single mention of what aspect of drives is meant to have been infringed.

Surely they don't have a patent on the idea of an "external device which acts as storage" or removable media ... I should think the floppy drive or any number of items would be sufficient prior art for that.

Does anyone know the basis for these suits? They've sued everyone, but the details are very sketchy.

Cheers

Re:Almost content-less article (4, Insightful)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118119)

I'm guessing it's number 5,602,987 [uspto.gov] which was struck down in 2003 when they sued others and reversed on appeal more recently.

Re:Almost content-less article (3, Insightful)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118177)

If that's the one, it should be shot down again due to recent SCOTUS rulings: all the items in that patent simply do what anyone with knowledge of those components expects them to do when you put them together; you're just using memory as memory, and you're keeping track of how much you use so you don't use things too much.

Nothing non-obvious about that.

Now, if there's a particular wear-leveling algorithm, then that could be patentable, but the the general idea should not be.

Re:Almost content-less article (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118239)

I'm guessing it's number 5,602,987 [uspto.gov] which was struck down in 2003 when they sued others and reversed on appeal more recently.

Wow. A method of using a slightly different form of non-volatile storage to behave the same as other well established forms of non-volatile storage. Secondary clauses for implementing a filesystem type concept over top of it. Possibly enclosing the whole damned thing in a box and adding cables to be compatible with existing data protocols.

Unbelievable.

Cheers

Re:Almost content-less article (3, Informative)

pravuil (975319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118687)

The way it looks it probably is the problem. From their corporate section they claim the following:

SanDisk currently has approximately 780 issued U.S. patents, and more than 400 foreign patents, and is the only company, worldwide, that has the rights to both manufacture and sell every major flash card format , including CompactFlash®, SD(TM), miniSD(TM), microSD(TM), MultiMediaCard(TM), Reduced Size MultiMediaCard (RS-MMC(TM) ), Memory Stick PRO(TM) and related Memory Stick® products, xD-Picture Card(TM) and USB flash drives.

Their claim seems pretty broad. It's hard to tell what's going on until they present their argument.

Re:Almost content-less article (5, Funny)

spazoid12 (525450) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118231)

That's true, but it's necessary. Posting stories with actual detail has been patented and they don't want to be sued for infringing...

Funny thing is... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21117729)

...that around here (Sweden) SanDisk has always been considered as a cheapish manifacturer of questionable quality.

Re:Funny thing is... (3, Informative)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117759)

Not just around Sweden. Same holds true in the US.

Re:Funny thing is... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21117763)

Another funny thing is that around here (everywhere other than Sweden) the opinions of Swedes have always been considered as irrelevant.

Re:Funny thing is... (0)

sherpajohn (113531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118573)

Yeah but "around here" for the likes of you is under a bridge somewhere. You should get out more, see the sun...whoops you're stone!

Re:Funny thing is... (3, Informative)

KeepQuiet (992584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117857)

I agree and they have the crappiest customer service ever. I had a sandisk mp3 player which died for no apparent reason. I emailed customer service that saying that I cannot turn on the player. They replied "Can you please turn on the player and tell me what version number do you see?" Note to self: avoid Sandisk.

Re:Funny thing is... (2, Insightful)

FatMacDaddy (878246) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118247)

I know what you mean, but it's not funny. In fact, it makes perfect sense. If SCO were producing valuable software they probably never would have gone off on their anti-Linux litigation. Same with these guys: if they were burning up the market with quality products, they wouldn't have to be suing others. I guess successful companies keep patents as a defense and lesser companies use them to keep their outdated business models or revenue streams going.

Re:Funny thing is... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118279)

SanDisk has always been considered as a cheapish manifacturer of questionable quality.

Their hardware may be cheap, but they had some interesting product ideas. The U3 stuff was interesting, for instance.

Re:Funny thing is... (4, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118389)

Interesting? What a bunch of crap U3 is. I recently bought a 4gb USB device -- says on the back it works w/ Max/Linux/Windows. When I stuck it in my powerbook, I get the drive plus a "CD" with three installers on it. Ok I thought, I'll just reformat. Didn't fix it. So I decided I'd use a linux box to reformat -- can't do it. The partition looks like a read-only CD-ROM. After some googling, it turns out there is a program from U3 to eliminate this fake CD partition -- of course the crap only works with windows. I don't have a windows box -- I tried fixing it on a friends machine, he has parallels and XP, but the damn thing wouldn't even mount on the windows box. Somewhere between my friend's office and mine, I lost the USB device. I lost the USB device because I hadn't put it on my key ring. I didn't put in my keyring because the U3 crap made the device perform annoyingly.

The U3 developers are retards. The highest demand to remove their crap is probably from non-windows users. So they go and release a windows only removal solution. I had never heard of U3 before and I hope they die a slow painful death in bankruptcy.

I'll second that: U3 is crap (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118461)

My employer bought us all ScamDisk flash drives with that POS on it. Tried to put a flyer on it and take it to Kinkos for printing and the crapware wouldn't load, so the regular partition wouldn't mount, the flyer was inaccessible and my time was wasted.

U3 Developers are retards.

Just uninstall U3 (2, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118737)

http://www.mydigitallife.info/2006/09/11/disable-remove-and-uninstall-u3-launchpad/ [mydigitallife.info]

Directions are listed above and I can't stand U3. I agree with Sans disk that is retarded to have programs on Windows dependent on the registry which means you can't run the same apps anywhere but U3 is a bad way to fix this.

Infact U3 is a security bug as you can't just delete it and it installs itself automatically as a driver. U3 installs itself with autoplay automatically and even after delete the program off the drive. Its like the movie click where Adam Sandler throws out the remote yet it keeps reappearing on his body.

Ah yes, U3... (2, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118431)

Seriously now: a nonfunctional "password protect" bit that could be bypassed with near "hold the shift key" ease, a "program installer" that never worked for anything nontrivial, AND you had to find an arcane little page on their website just to get the uninstaller to make your "U3" device behave like a normal fucking memory stick.

Yeah, it was "interesting" in the same way that a colonoscopy is.

Oh well. It could be worse - their competitors (Sony) put rootkits into everything.

Re:Funny thing is... (0)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118883)

around here (Sweden) SanDisk has always been considered as a cheapish manifacturer of questionable quality.

Which is not really relevant to their patent claims and this suit.

*looks at san disk cards* (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21117761)

They've been fast, reliable, and not terribly expensive...

Shame I'm not buying another SanDisk after this.

Re:*looks at san disk cards* (2, Insightful)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118849)

Shame I'm not buying another SanDisk after this.

Really? Why?

Every time someone tries to enforce a patent claim people make these knee-jerk statements.

If their claims are legitimate and based on genuinely innovative technology, and they're also working in good faith to make reasonable licensing deals with infringers, then maybe you should be boycotting the parties being sued for infringing with no license instead.

The patent system is wildly abused, but some times it does protect innovators that drive the industry forward. It would seem to me that SanDisk does at least ship a boatload of products using the technology that they (claim to) have developed, and are not simply acting as a patent licensing business.

Re:*looks at san disk cards* (1)

cyberfunkr (591238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21119231)

And why won't you? They are still a perfectly good company. Why stop buying from them JUST because they are suing companies over a patent?

I mean.. I get it. "Information wants to be free! Or at least able to see other people." But if it's a real patent and SanDisk wants compensation for time and money invested developing the patent... Why do you people insist on boycotting them?

Does a business become evil the moment it tries to protect an investment?

Re:*looks at san disk cards* (1)

bchernicoff (788760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21119597)

So, by voting with your wallet in the way you have described, you are choosing to support companies that steal the inventions of others rather than the company that innovated? Wow, this gives me a lot of incentive to invest my own time and money to bring to market this device I have been working on.

Umm.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21117769)

From the summary:

MacWorld notes if Sandisk succeeds it could have repercussions outside of the courtroom
Not to nitpick or anything, but that's a really pointless statement. Court decisions always have repercussions outside of the courtroom. There wouldn't be much point to having court decisions if they didn't.

"The court has decided that the patents are valid and the defendant must refrain from distributing products that implement the patented technology. But only inside this courtroom, of course. Out in the real world you can do whatever you want... Have a nice day."

Re:Umm.... (0)

pthor1231 (885423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117793)

I wish I had mod points for you good sir.

Re:Umm.... (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118353)

Not only that, the supposed "quote" in the summary isn't in the MacWorld article at all. Unless it got removed for being stupid, it's a complete fabrication by whoever wrote the stupid summary.

So hard to read the summary without crying. (2, Informative)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117803)

MacWorld notes if Sandisk succeeds it could have repercussions outside of the courtroom.

Any case that does not have repercussions outside of the courtroom is worthless. What point is the submitter trying to make?

Re:So hard to read the summary without crying. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21118235)

Just to point out to the Redundant moderator: spot the time stamps of the two messages: 7:19pm & 7:21pm. That's a difference of between 61 secs (19:19:59-19:21:00) and 179 secs (19:19:00-19:21:59; obviously the second has hit reply before the first had been noted on his computer, possibly even before the first was posted if the second is a slow typist/thinker - this message has just taken me 120+ secs to write.

Re:So hard to read the summary without crying. (-1, Offtopic)

asretfroodle (811847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118381)

That still doesn't make the comment any less redundant though. Moderating it redundant allows people to avoid reading the same statements over and over again.

Sure the poster may be upset at the negative moderation, but the moderator has helped everyone else who uses the site by doing so.

Just as this one should be moderated off topic.

Re:So hard to read the summary without crying. (1)

danskal (878841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118863)

Any case that does not have repercussions outside of the courtroom is worthless. What point is the submitter trying to make?

I understood that the case will have repercussions for people/companies other than those that are directly involved in the court case : i.e. competitors, customers etc.
Perhaps some products will be taken off the market, expensive licensing deals that affect product pricing or whatever.

Re:So hard to read the summary without crying. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21119207)

most likely meaning there wont be any cheap flash devices for the US. which people will notice.
not just a cash settlement which the public wont notice.

The List (5, Informative)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117827)

SanDisk is suing: ACP-EP Memory, A-Data, Apacer, Behavior Computer (d/b/a Emprex), Buffalo, Chipsbank, Corsair Memory, Dane-Elec, Edge, Imation/Memorex, Interactive Media (d/b/aKanguru), Kaser, Kingston, LG Electronics, Phison Electronics, PNY, PQI, Silicon Motion, Skymedi, Transcend, TSR (d/b/a T.One), USBest, Verbatim, Welldone Company, and Zotek/Zodata (d/b/a Huke).

Re:The List (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21118041)

At a glance, they all make memory, storage media or associated reader hardware, which sort of narrows the scope of what kind of patents might be involved. ..Though, I suppose that makes sense since sandisk makes memory, storage media and associated reader hardware.

Re:The List (3, Informative)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118073)

Come on dude, make a list.
  • ACP-EP Memory
  • A-Data
  • Apacer
  • Behavior Computer (d/b/a Emprex)
  • Buffalo
  • Chipsbank
  • Corsair Memory
  • Dane-Elec
  • Edge
  • Imation/Memorex
  • Interactive Media (d/b/aKanguru)
  • Kaser
  • Kingston
  • LG Electronics
  • Phison Electronics
  • PNY
  • PQI
  • Silicon Motion
  • Skymedi
  • Transcend, TSR (d/b/a T.One), USBest
  • Verbatim
  • Welldone Company
  • Zotek/Zodata (d/b/a Huke)

Go SanDisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21117843)

Don't let the thieves get away with it!

It's times like these... (1, Funny)

spungo (729241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117867)

... that make me wonder why I didn't study Law. (Oh -- I remember now... it's 'cos I have a soul... )

Re:It's times like these... (4, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118157)

... that make me wonder why I didn't study Law. (Oh -- I remember now... it's 'cos I have a soul... )
That's not a problem, as a law student you would have been entitled to a free soulectomy.

I hope this isn't the first step... (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117871)

FTFA:

Our goal is to resolve these matters by offering the defendants the opportunity to participate in our patent licensing program for card and system technology," said E. Earle Thompson, chief intellectual property counsel at SanDisk
I certainly hope there's been some serious negotiation leading up to this. Otherwise, that's quite a dickish statement to make.

Re:I hope this isn't the first step... (1)

James Kilton (714163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117961)

Isn't there some sort of clause in patent litigation that states something along the lines of: "if percieved patent infringements aren't brought to light within [5,6 - 10] years of the product appearing on the market, then the owner of the patent is not allowed to sue"? I mean, flash technology has been around for a LONG time now, and this suit is being brought out only now?

I can't imagine anything is going to happen here, especially against powerhouses like Corsair, Kingston, and PNY.

Re:I hope this isn't the first step... (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118763)

Not as far as I know. Only trademarks need timely enforcement.

Re:I hope this isn't the first step... (2, Insightful)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118873)

I can't imagine anything is going to happen here, especially against powerhouses like Corsair, Kingston, and PNY.
What's especially surprising is that the company suing, SanDisk, actually manufactures things. Usually the plaintiff is not involved in manufacturing products that could be alleged to infringe upon the patents owned by the defendant. Expect to see several of these companies to countersue... they should be able to find some vague patents in their portfolios to throw back at SanDisk.

Re:I hope this isn't the first step... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21118561)

I hope they get nuked in court!

Lawsuits are almost *never* the first step (1)

mbessey (304651) | more than 6 years ago | (#21119481)

In my rather limited experience, the first step is almost always a strongly-worded letter, since those are:
1. Cheap
2. Surprisingly effective, if someone didn't know they were doing something wrong

The lawsuit usually comes about after you send the threatening letter, and the recipient replies with a politely-worded message like "go pound sand"...

Wow (2, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117875)

Are these guys getting legal advice from Darl McBride?

Note who is not being sued.... (5, Interesting)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117893)

A list of companies NOT named might be interesting, too. Among them are:
Apple
Samsung
Micron/Lexar
Sony

Each of these seems to be a major player in these markets....

What deals (if any) do these guys have with SanDisk so they aren't getting sued?

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117913)

They probably either buy chips from SanDisk, or they have a license deal with SanDisk.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (2, Insightful)

rattlesoft (1086131) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117947)

From SanDisk press release: "SanDisk is the original inventor of flash storage cards and is one of the world's largest suppliers of flash data storage card products, using its patented, high-density flash memory and controller technology." See this is the main reason why our patent system is completely messed up. If you patent flash memory technology, you shouldn't have the right to stop all other companies from making similar products. Wheres the fair market? In this case, it looks like the common saying "Any publicity is good publicity", won't work for San Disk. Their products have never been jaw-dropping or even cheap.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118223)

In this case, it looks like the common saying "Any publicity is good publicity", won't work for San Disk. Their products have never been jaw-dropping or even cheap.
The quality of their products don't have anything to do with this. Anyway, SanDisk does have some seriously interesting products. I was planning on upgrading my fan-less PC with a 40 MB/s Compact Flash card + firewire drive. These are products that any serious photographer will or should love, and which are unavailable from any other manufacturer.

I'm opting for dual USB sticks instead, but only because of cost (I'll just RAID-0 them). For the price of the reader I will be able to buy 16 GB of USB-stick memory with ease.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

AaronW (33736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118773)

I just ordered a Lexar 8GB compact flash [lexar.com] with UDMA which will do 45MB/sec (300x), so there are other players out there besides SanDisk. I saw one from a no-name that claimed 350x speeds, but Lexar has a good name and offers recovery software. They also offer some high-speed readers supporting firewire (which, IMO, is much faster and more reliable than USB [at least on Linux]).

Of course I also have a camera on order which also supports UDMA which can take advantage of this card.

I looked at Sandisk, and I did not see UDMA support in their high-speed compact flash cards.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (5, Insightful)

rnswebx (473058) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118395)

See this is the main reason why our patent system is completely messed up. If you patent flash memory technology, you shouldn't have the right to stop all other companies from making similar products. Wheres the fair market?
Hmm, what? Our patent system is certainly flawed, but your argument is exactly what patents are for. If I develop a way to do something that hasn't been done before, then you either need to figure a new way to do it or license my technology. Maybe we disagree on the underlying idea that I should be able to prevent people/companies from simply copying an idea, using their big bank accounts to market it into oblivion, and eventually making fortunes off of my invention. I like patents, as long as the idea is actually new and the technology is not obvious. PS: I don't know what SanDisk's lawsuit is based on as the articles seem to be light on details, so I can't really comment to this particular case.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

rattlesoft (1086131) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118441)

Yea. I think I messed up my point. In a sense, I was talking about basic technology that everyone is already using. If it's something no one else has done, then of course. But in this case, theres alot of companies already out there. Some patents are frivolous and basic.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

shimage (954282) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118563)

No. That may be how the patent system is used today, but that's not why we have the patent system. Patents exist to keep people from trying to hide how a new invention works. Basically, in return for explaining (in detail) how one's new thing works, we allow you to have a temporary monopoly. (Don't believe me? look at the etymology of the word.) It's to increase the sharing of ideas. If someone can produce a product that does the same thing, but without looking at someone else's patent, then the patent is a burden on society.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118935)

Our patent system is certainly flawed, but your argument is exactly what patents are for.

If the patent system is intended to exclude competitors, then even if it works as intended it still squelches any hope of a free market. We can either have free market capitalism or government granted monopolies, not both.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118409)

See this is the main reason why our patent system is completely messed up. If you patent flash memory technology, you shouldn't have the right to stop all other companies from making similar products.
That's exactly why the patent system exists. Take that away, and there's no need for patents at all. I think one thing that should be addressed is these submarine patents. If you don't complain about an infringing product, you should lose your right to patent protection. With millions of patents on the books, it's impossible for anyone to verify that they aren't infringing on a patent. You shouldn't be able to wait around for years while people use your invention, and then sue every company is existence, for billions of dollars because they were infringing.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21119105)

If you don't complain about an infringing product, you should lose your right to patent protection. With millions of patents on the books, it's impossible for anyone to verify that they aren't infringing on a patent.

By the same token, with millions of products in the world, it's impossible for anyone to verify (quickly) that someone is infringing on their patent. While I agree patent trolls are evil, the alternative seems impossible to be remotely fair about, which would mean more power for larger corporations.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (2, Insightful)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117955)

My guess would be that these companies only buy the infringing parts from 3rd party suppliers, they don't make the infringing products (whatever they are) themselves.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (5, Funny)

farker haiku (883529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118061)

it's called the "Our lawyers can kick your lawyers ass" deal.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118797)

I think they use their U3 technology that Sans disk promises will cure cancer and eliminate poverty. They want more flash apps so they can sell more drives.

Personally I dislike U3 almost as much as real player and yahoo messenger 8.

They have patents of their own? (4, Interesting)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118089)

I suspect that Apple, Samsung, Micron and Sony have quite a few patents of their own that could be used against SanDisk if SanDisk sued them, and supect the companies they are suing don't have much of a patent portfolio.


Another possibility is that the companies not being sued have cross-licensing agreements in place with SanDisk.

Re:They have patents of their own? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21119145)

Another possibility is that the companies not being sued have cross-licensing agreements in place with SanDisk.
Not to nitpick, but any licensing agreement would suffice as a means of avoiding being sued. Those companies may have worked out some arrangement with SanDisk (payment or otherwise) to use their technology without cross-licensing any of their own patents.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

etresoft (698962) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118585)

It seems clear that SanDisk has a valid patent on slow, flaky USB flash drives. I have purchased both SanDisk products and the products of the companies they are suing. I can tell that the same, crappy technology was used in all of them. My Lexar Flash Lightening is fast, U3-free, and still going strong after more than a month. Clearly Lexar isn't using SanDisk technology.

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118643)

As others have pointed out, they may have licensing deals. It is also worth noting that each and every one of the omitted ones in that list is well big enough to have their own patents to annihilate SanDisk or has enough resources to invalidate the patent(s) in question, which would be a bad thing for them at this point.

I do know one thing, I'm going to be disinclined to deal with SanDisk at this point unless it's shown that
they really DID try doing the negotiations work and didn't just delay this action until they had everyone
using their stuff without realizing it like Rambus did with DDR memory.
 

Re:Note who is not being sued.... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118895)

It is also worth noting that each and every one of the omitted ones in that list is well big enough to have their own patents to annihilate SanDisk or has enough resources to invalidate the patent(s) in question, which would be a bad thing for them at this point.
So does LG Electronics. Some of the others likely do as well.

Details? (2, Interesting)

Bent Mind (853241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117935)

The second link [yahoo.com] in the summery offers a bit more information than the first link [macworld.com] . However, both are missing details. It sounds like SanDisk is suing anyone who uses or interfaces with flash memory. The quote in the article seemed strange to me:

Our goal is to resolve these matters by offering the defendants the opportunity to participate in our patent licensing program for card and system technology. Otherwise, we will aggressively pursue these actions, seeking a prompt judicial resolution awarding damages, obtaining injunctive relief and banning importation of infringing product.
I thought they were suppose to attempt to collect license fees before they sued.

The Yahoo/PC Magazine article seems to be cut off at the end. It stops at "for infringement of five SanDisk patents, including:".

Re:Details? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21118439)

summery

1. Adjective: Of, or pertaining to summer. eg. It was a lovely summery evening in May.

2. Noun: A place in which numbers are added together. eg. The great adders of Accountancy rarely left their summery to interact with the rest of the world. It was a boring place, but only slightly less so that the subtractery which was obviated by the addition of negative numbers.

summary

1. Noun: A shorter version of a a text or description of events intended to express the ideas contained therein in less space. eg. The summary has almost as much details as the article -- none.

They waited ALL these years.... (3, Interesting)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117937)

Seems to me they FSCK'd up...

Doesn't patent-enforcement and claims for damages, etc, require ongoing, active enforcement?

Seems to me they waited all these years, found out they need a MAJOR cash infusion, and they see all these companies as an income stream. Kinda like lying in wait (yeh, the "victims" are aware there MAY be a trap around the bend, but are hoping no one is lurking...), hoping a court will rule in their favor.

Looks like the "staggering(ly)" long list is a clue they are gold-digging.

Re:They waited ALL these years.... (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118219)

They weren't going to sue, but their CEO was up late watching Nick at Night and saw an ad to call for a free no-risk consultation.

Really though, I think the patent law suits are just another piece of ammo that companies can use to squash competition. The risk of an ongoing legal battle, no matter how ridiculous, is enough to kill some companies.

Re:They waited ALL these years.... (4, Informative)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118319)

Doesn't patent-enforcement and claims for damages, etc, require ongoing, active enforcement?
No, the active enforcement requirement applies to trademarks, not to patents.

Re:They waited ALL these years.... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118525)

No, active enforcement applies to ALL things in the Intellectual Property space; it's just that Trademark requires it or you lose it completely. In the case of Patents, if you delay, the BEST you can hope for is someone to stop using your invention- you will definitely not get damages if you wait this long and you may also get told you don't get the parties in question to stop using it for the devices designed up to that point that are infringing.

I expect a lot of Laches defenses being erected as well as responses using the lates Supreme Court of the US ruling about obviousness on a patent (which I suspect that SanDisk is going to get tripped up on...).

Re:They waited ALL these years.... (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118683)

It's called mitigation. If you believe someone has infringed on your patent, you are required to inform within a reasonable amount of time of discovering this or you lose your right to enforce the patent. Sometimes there could be a misunderstanding between the two parties and they settle their differences without a court. This was done to make sure things are fair for both sides as the alleged patent infringer may not have known about the patent or the technology does not use the disputed patent at all. Also, it prevents the patent holder from waiting for years until another company has made vast quantities of money to ambush someone else.

Re:They waited ALL these years.... (1)

oddityfds (138457) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118351)

"Doesn't patent-enforcement and claims for damages, etc, require ongoing, active enforcement?"

No it does not. This is sadly a very common misconception. You're thinking about trademark law. Patents and copyrights are valid until they expire or are explicitly invalidated in court or similar.

And yes, this is one of the many problems with patent law.

Re:They waited ALL these years.... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118479)

I sit corrected.

Still, though, it should be a mitigating factor when the DO end up in the courtrooms. Despite case precedents.

Thanks for enlightening me, though.

Unfortunately not (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118885)

You are thinking of trademarks. They have a "use it or lose it" type of provision. More or less with a trademark, if someone infringes and you fail to take them to task over it, you can lose your trademark. That's not the case with patents, you get to keep them for the prescribed time and enforcement is not relevant.

Personally, I think we do need an enforcement clause. Something along the lines of "If a company takes no action against an infringing product for 12 months from a time when they should have been reasonably aware of its existence, they lose the right to future action." More or less, if you ignore a product for a year after it's widely available, you can't go after them for money, ever.

Alas it is not so, and thus we get stupid suits like this. Companies purposely sit on patents and wait until they are widely in use so that when they sue, the people they sue have to settle or lose tons of money. If they enforced right away they might get nothing as the company might just drop it and go another route.

Yeah, that'll help (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117963)

Remember yesterday's story about tech you can't buy in the USA?

Let me refresh your memory [slashdot.org]

 

mod Up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21117993)

Hardware patents (3, Interesting)

Isaac-Lew (623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117997)

Have any of the the patent-bashers on here stopped to think that maybe *some* patents are valid (especially hardware)? After all, this is a company making actual physical products, not a patent troll or someone patenting software or a business product.

Re:Hardware patents (1)

Isaac-Lew (623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118081)

s/product/process

Re:Hardware patents (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118103)

Well, what happens with algorithms implemented in hardware? Do I get a chance to patent the algorithm? If someone simulates the digital logic in software, are they in violation of the patent?

Suppose I patent a new type of op amp. If someone accidentally creates that arrangement of transistors as part of a larger circuit, are they in violation of my patent? The problem with patents is that you do not have to knowingly infringe them to be subject to a lawsuit. Patents should be reformed to be more akin to copyrights; that is, you should be forced to demonstrate that the infringement was knowingly committed, rather than just being accidental or developed by an equally intelligent competitor. If it is too difficult to show this, then the "invention" isn't novel or important enough to require any protection -- that is, it is simply too obvious.

Re:Hardware patents (1)

rollingcalf (605357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21119219)

"Well, what happens with algorithms implemented in hardware? Do I get a chance to patent the algorithm? If someone simulates the digital logic in software, are they in violation of the patent?"

Are you asking how it is or how it should be?

If you're talking about how things should be, I would say you should be able to patent the specific hardware that implements the algorithm, but not the algorithm itself. If somebody implements it with hardware substantially different from yours, or in software, they should not be considered as infringing.

Mod Parent Up! (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118109)

Yes, please explaing why Sandisk shouldn't be enforcing their patent?

Re:Hardware patents (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118159)

Well, being as how there's absolutely no statement as to what patents are allegedly infringed upon, but guessing that given the players that it involves flash memory and by the number, rather old flash memory technology, quite a few questions come up, including whether they haven't passed up their opportunity to sue: 7 years max I believe for tolerated known infringement. Given that there's at least 24 defendents, indicating wide-spread and long running infringement, they probably can't pull the rug at this late date, although the courts have been known to do dumber things.

Re:Hardware patents (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118321)

Explain to me how Sandisk winning this suit will in any way advance the state of the art, or make more options available for consumers? It won't. The only possible effects this could have are negative, and therefore this move is bad news for everyone but Sandisk. Whether the patent is valid or not is irrelevant.

Re:Hardware patents (1)

Ravensfire (209905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118555)

Without patents, companies have less incentive to spend money on research, when they can simply take the research that someone else did. It's a powerful incentive to know that if you develop a new technology that you'll be able to recoup those costs without getting undercut.

Companies, however, will try to take patented ideas/products and get around that protection, because it's cheaper to get to market, undercut the developer and then handle the lawsuits. They might be in discussions with the technology developer for years, stalling them and stalling them while they're outselling the original because their price is lower since they don't have to recoup the development costs.

In the abstract, that's why patents are useful, and why they do help to "advance the state of art" and "make more options available for consumers".

-- Ravensfire

SanDisk bought m-Systems, now sues (2, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118065)

Patent litigation is the last gasp of the shnook. Time to change the batter (CEO).

They couldn't make their MP3 players do very well, the flash drive market is in no-margin-land, and so how do you boost revenue. Hey, Ernie-- we got any patents from that Israeli company we bought a coupla years ago? There's gotta be some money in that stuff.......

no-margin land (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21118903)

Maybe it's in no-margin land because other companies in the same market segment are creating too much competition for sandisk by using their tech without paying license fees (or not paying enough for SanDisk's). Look at the companies that weren't sued, it's entirely possible that SanDisk licensed their inventions to some companies to maximize profit (due to distribution, brand, and scale issues). It's also possible that SanDisk wanted more favorable terms with other companies (same market segment, small size, etc) because those companies were limiting its sales. Those companies most likely refused and/or gambled on a lawsuit.
Patent litigation is simply part of the negotiation game, and just because some companies lose lawsuits and some companies get patents that are lame, doesn't mean patents are useless...especially hardware ones.

The new powerhouse strikes back (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118145)

Maybe Sansa has so much market momentum from its "iPod Killer [wired.com] " that it can now throw its weight around.

Oh, wait...

Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21118179)

I don't object to hardware patents with anything like the distaste I have for software patents. That said, if I were a defendant, I'd simply refuse to import into the US.

Surely the world market has grown to its current size partly because these guys didn't enforce their patents? That's the definition of a patent troll.

What Goes Around Comes Around (2, Interesting)

segedunum (883035) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118229)

I'm not defending SanDisk, but given that they were dubiously halted from showing a bunch of MP3 players in Germany not too long ago, it's probably not unreasonable for them (and their lawyers) to think "Well, maybe it could work for us as well!":

"Our goal is to resolve these matters by offering the defendants the opportunity to participate in our patent licensing program for card and system technology," said E. Earle Thompson, chief intellectual property counsel at SanDisk, in a statement.

I also find it humorously ironic that if this works, it could result in the US missing out and not being able to get certain products, or at least needlessly paying more for them.

Re:What Goes Around Comes Around (1)

Diddlbiker (1022703) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118911)

Dubiously? As far as I remember they just didn't pay licensing fees to Fraunhofer Institute, the inventors of MP3, unlike the rest of the MP3 player industry. Can't blame them for thinking "if we can't get away with that stuff, why would others"

SanDisk + Microsoft money (1)

JeremyGNJ (1102465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118359)

Microsoft and Sandisk are collaborating on a replacement for U3 technology...due out next year.

"Patent Protection" seems to be the cry of all companies working with Microsoft. I bet MS did some nudging on this one.

All I have to say... (0, Offtopic)

Cctoide (923843) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118613)

M-M-MULTI KILL!

So should I wait... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118741)

for the losers to drop their prices at the clearance sales that would follow a judgement against, or... buy some cheap flash drives now? Since Sandisk might be able to get a judgement to have inventory thrown in the fire.

Whatchathink?

freaky lawers in management positions! (1)

forestbrooke (1171427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118869)

Just when I thought sanDisk was a decent company with a nice lineup of products (have anyone seen their mp3 player line up recently? not bad..), some screwhead in the 'intellectual property' division had a brainwave! now, wrestle in mud! all of ya'! till everyone stinks!

Oh Great! (1)

BECoole (558920) | more than 6 years ago | (#21118967)

The last Sandisk USB drive I bought was craptastic.

Patents should be eliminated (2, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#21119505)

Patents were originally for the encouragement of scientific advancement and innovation for a fledgling nation. We are now in a position where the very mechanism we put in place to help us is harming us.

Patents no longer encourage innovation, they destroy it. Unless the U.S.A. wants to continue its disastrous economic slide, it had better do something pretty quickly. HUGE international companies with no economic loyalty or tax revenue to the U.S.A. are seeking to prevent american companies from doing business.

Maybe patents have some value for the truly "non-trivial" things, but everything I've seen and heard the last few years is that mainly trivial landmine and submarine patents are getting approved because they are flooding the patent office.

The patent examiners are no longer guarding against bogus patents, the work load is too high, the pressure to allow patents is too high, and they are relying on the courts to do their job.

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