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Northeastern University Sues Google Over Patent

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the who-isn't-suing-google-these-days dept.

Patents 159

kihbord writes to mention that Boston's Northeastern University and Waltham, Mass. based company Jarg have brought suit against Google for apparently infringing on a distributed database system developed by Kenneth Baclawski. "The patent describes a distributed database system that breaks search queries into fragments and distributes them to multiple computers in a network to get faster results. The patent was assigned to Northeastern University, which licensed it exclusively to Jarg, according to the lawsuit, filed last Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas."

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Solution in the last Slashdot story? (3, Funny)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328715)

Too bad we can't apply the Stupid Filter [slashdot.org] to the patent system.

We need a solution to the madness (1, Redundant)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328719)

I've got it! Someone needs to patent 'Patent Trolling' so we can end this sort of madness once and for all! Seriously...this sort of thing has gotten so far out of hand, I'm not sure it *can* be fixed!

Re:We need a solution to the madness (2, Interesting)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328841)

It looks like Jarg is a company with actual products, so I don't know if you can really call them a patent troll (unless you are Google fanboy).

Re:We need a solution to the madness (4, Insightful)

Talez (468021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329161)

If a north eastern company has to sue a north western company in a Texas court because they're more friendly to patent litigation then you're dealing with a patent troll.

Re:We need a solution to the madness (2, Interesting)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329285)

That's a silly argument. If you sue anybody, you want to do it where its most favorable for you.

A patent troll is someone who never intends to develop a patent but just sits on patents with the only purpose to sue those who infringe. In this case, the professor did not sit on the patent; he licensed it to Jarg, which is a company with real products.

Re:We need a solution to the madness (5, Insightful)

Talez (468021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329739)

They have no competing product, they're hiring lawyers on a contingency basis, they're filing in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas based on the most stretched association with that venue and they've demanded a jury trial and an injunction up front. They're basically trying to force Google to make the suit go away and they're just rolling the dice to see if they get lucky.

Looks like a patent troll, sounds like a patent troll, smells like a patent troll. They're not going to be able to claim damages for lost profits. The only difference between these people and a typical dedicated patent troll IP firm is that they don't employ their own lawyers and they make some shitty, unrelated product that really has no relevance to this case.

Re:We need a solution to the madness (2, Insightful)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329413)

Sure you can... Breaking the work up over multiple machines
has got to be about as obvious as can be.

Soon they will be suing the people who came up with RPC,
because it breaks the same patent.

Re:We need a solution to the madness (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329633)

Soon they will be suing the people who came up with RPC, because it breaks the same patent

Nonsense. It is clear you have not actually read the patent, as you have no clue at all what it covers.

Re:We need a solution to the madness (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329765)

True, because each time in the past I have tried to read patents,
A: they try hard to make sure you don't get what the patent is about
B: it is just too tedious.

You have read the patent, I presume. Obvious?
Or what is it really about? What is patentable
in there, please?

Re:We need a solution to the madness (1)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329079)

evidently they should patent "pattent trolling" as well by the tagging.....

Now who's the dumbass?

Re:We need a solution to the madness (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329725)

I think SCO already has that. If not, they get the 'prior art' award at the least.

Re:We need a solution to the madness (1)

Smauler (915644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330547)

Someone needs to patent 'Patent Trolling'

It's already been done : IBM [siliconvalley.com] apparently filed this patent in April 2006. It was reported on /. but I can't seem to find the story right now. Truth is stranger than fiction, and all that...

Just another patent troll... (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328751)

Pretty soon paralegal work is going to have patent trolling as a prerequisite. I'm sure as heavy-handed as software patents are it's possible for anybody to become rich of playing the patent game. Of course Northeast plays the classic "Hey we just want to get paid," like they are some poor backwater college. They've been sitting on this for two and a half years until a legal team finally decided the chance at payoff would be big enough. There's no substance to their argument, they just "want to get paid."

Re:Just another patent troll... (1)

cybrthng (22291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328819)

So something even as basic as DNS or anything that is load balanced/round robin or indexed in some form or fashion would be susceptible to this?

I mean, back when i ran a heavy Nutch/Lucene system the basic idea of balancing a query volume is to distribute the load. This is akin to patenting putting in a 4 lane highway so you can handle traffic a 1 lane highway couldn't.

Re:Just another patent troll... (3, Informative)

EvilRyry (1025309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328895)

Not quite. The patent was for splitting a single query into multiple chunks. In the case of a DNS server, a single DNS server gives you a reply. For round robin; same thing, one request from one client, one reply from one server.

The patent was for taking a single request, breaking it up into subrequests, then distributing the subrequests amongst multiple servers and then gluing the results back together.

So to make the required car analogy, its like taking a shopping list, breaking it up by area of town that the store is in, then deploying a separate car to each area and meeting back at home.

Re:Just another patent troll... (1)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329395)

So to make the required car analogy, its like taking a shopping list, breaking it up by area of town that the store is in, then deploying a separate car to each area and meeting back at home.
If there is a trade of sending cars to places in a sensible and efficient way, that would be obvious to anyone with skills practiced in that art and craft. That means not patentable.

Prior Art? (4, Interesting)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329237)

We had a system in our office in 1985 that distributed records for each table to N processors via a hash function, where N could be a large as you liked. Queries were sent to all nodes and run in parallel, and the results combined (since SQL is set based, this works perfectly). Queries on any size database could be made arbitrarily fast by adding more nodes. The only bottle neck was the band width to the control processor and any order by clauses, which was proportional to the result set size, not the database size.

Re:Prior Art? (2, Funny)

jmnormand (941909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329893)

yes but your system had nothing to do with internet search. and there is obviously no way to possibly draw and obvious connection between a database search for internal business use and one for internet use. well at least not for any judge in texas... wait northeastern is in ma, google is in ca, why is this case in texas? does cheney have stock in jarg?

Lawyers Troll the Patent Office? (1)

huckda (398277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328761)

The lawyer's firm would not take up the case unless it was paid in advance, and it took Belanger two and a half years to find a company willing to pursue the case on a contingency basis, the Globe reported.
and then ask to be paid UP FRONT for their services to litigate something THEY found whilst trolling the patent office archives..

Guess what they say about lawyers being greedy bastages ain't far off the mark...

Re:Lawyers Troll the Patent Office? (3, Insightful)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329277)

It is very rare to find a law firm to take a patent case on a contingency basis. The cases take an enormous amount of time and resources and are too risky for contingencies.

Interesting Dates (2, Informative)

nursegirl (914509) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328789)

FTA, the patent was filed on Dec 2, 1997. From Google's Corporate History [google.com] page, they describe setting up their first data centre in 1998.

Still absolutely ridiculous that this idea was patentable, and that the patent infringement case could happen this late.

1994 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21328861)

"Filing date: Oct 5, 1994"

Also, it seems that they've known about it since some years now but didn't have the ressources (money) to go after Google. That's why this all came so late.

Re:1994 (1)

telso (924323) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329383)

Here's one way to fix the system (albeit only a small fix): make the statute of limitations similarly lengthed to libel claims. When you're libeled, you have to sue those libeling you within a statutory period, that's often at most a few years, and sometimes as little as three months, after you discover, or should reasonably have discovered, the libel.

So, if this were applied to patents, if a mom and pop shop in Nowhere, USA was using a patented production process to make bread for their community of 50, it's reasonable to assume that the company wouldn't find out about the process right away. Or if a company is using a patent internally and hiding it (like a trade secret) then no one could be expected to find out about it. But if the Internet developped a standard for, say, images, and publicized the encryption algorithm they used, then it would be reasonable to assume that the company holding the patent would discover the infringement soon. And, with a short statute of limitations, this would mean the company would have to sue for infringement within a reasonable period, or give up their patent claim.

And complaining about how you don't have the money to sue them is tough: if you don't have the money to sue someone for libel, or trademark infringement, for example, you'll lose your claim. Sure, there's an injustice in the justice system for those who don't have money, but that's not a problem that can be fixed with this. Nor, for that matter, can patent reform. And if you actually have a good chance of winning, and you're suing a big company (like, say, Google), I'm sure some enterprising lawyer will take you on contingency.

Re:Interesting Dates (4, Interesting)

bstone (145356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329565)

Aside from obviousness, the idea has been around forever. nCube built a business around it in the early 80's.

Re:Interesting Dates (2, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329735)

FTA, the patent was filed on Dec 2, 1997

It was filed on October 5, 1994. December 2, 1997 is the issue date.

Even more important is TerraData and other DBs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21330243)

From what I have read, this is prior art in TerraData and other systems. Just because you specifically relegate this do a search, does not change the nature of a prior art.

Re:Interesting Dates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21330591)

Jim Gray was giving presentations on this at Stanford in 1995. The material is available on research.microsoft.com under Jim Grays published presentation.

Don't forget, loyal minions! (0, Flamebait)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328793)

If Microsoft is the defendant, then the plaintiff is standing up to defend against "embrace and extend," but if it's Google, they're patent trolls!

Re:Don't forget, loyal minions! (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329447)

Nah, a patent troll is a patent troll is a patent troll. But it fills us with glee if M$ has to pay some cash :)

University with Patents? (0)

duerra (684053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328815)

Somebody please fill me in here. How on earth can a university have a patent portfolio and use it against other companies? Isn't it the students that are paying for the research, and often times DOING the research which allows for these discoveries to begin with? I am failing to see a case where a University-funded discovery shouldn't be in the public domain, or at least any patents that come of them should be freely available for all to use.

Re:University with Patents? (3, Informative)

drhamad (868567) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328865)

Most major universities control massive patent/IP portfolios... see the CalTech or BU for major examples. Universities are corporations, nothing more or less. The research done there is assigned to the corporation/school.

Re:University with Patents? (2, Informative)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329003)

WARF (Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) is a huge patent-holder in the biotechnical arts. You can't do anything interesting in the field nowadays without hitting a WARF patent. Not saying that they're a patent troll, just saying they try to patent everything they might have innvented.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

The-Pheon (65392) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329111)

Actually it is a WARF subsidiary now called WiCell. Nonprofit licenses for research are extremely cheap, a couple hundred dollars. Commercializing the research is another story.

Re:University with Patents? (2, Interesting)

rhombic (140326) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329189)

Universities are corporations, nothing more or less.

Except Uni's are completely free to ignore everyone else's patents in the course of their research, have access to all scientific software at much much cheaper "academic" rates, and can pay grad students slave wages ($15,000 per year for a 3000 hour work week is well below the Federal minimum wage). So while they behave in many ways like corporations, they have a number of government-issued advantages in the competition. Who'd have thunk it, the government giving itself an advantage.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329375)

Except Uni's are completely free to ignore everyone else's patents in the course of their research

No. The experimental use exception is very small in the U.S. Universities are not allowed to just use anyone's patented process/thing. You say "Uni" though so I am thinking you aren't in the U.S.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

rhombic (140326) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329851)

No, I'm definitly in the U.S., but Uni is much easier to type ;)

Universities are not allowed to just use anyone's patented process/thing.
Technically, yeah, using patented materials & processes in the course of basic research at US universities may not be officially sanctioned, but it is the standard way of doing business. Of course, resulting materials may not be patentable, in which case it's usually "clean-roomed" to make sure there's a patentable paper trail before official documents get sent to the tech transfer office.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

elBart0 (444317) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329709)

Don't forget that universities often will receive patents for research paid for with public funds [wikipedia.org] . They spend someone else's money to pay for the research, and then get to keep the licensing rights.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330341)

have access to all scientific software at much much cheaper "academic" rates
Your point being? The goverment doesn't force this, I mean are you advocating communism here or something?

and can pay grad students slave wages ($15,000 per year for a 3000 hour work week is well below the Federal minimum wage).
Does the grad student have to pay tuition or not? Also salaried workers can also be paid little due to lack of overtime.

Re:University with Patents? (2, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329987)

Universities are corporations, nothing more or less.

Right. As usual on Slashdot, everything must be black and white. It's not as if universities could seek to profit from their inventions, AND educate people and give back to society. Also, since making a profit makes you evil, they are obviously not trying to use the money to improve their programs and stretch their limited budgets.

Re:University with Patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21328897)

It's a private university so it basically is a corporation. And saying the students own the patents is like saying the people that buy IBM mainframes own IBM's patents.

Re:University with Patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21328921)

Come on. If you invent something and own it, it's your property!

Boo Hoo for all you dumb $#%^'s

Complainers = stock holders
Others = open thinkers!

Google = Microsoft, GET OVER IT! GOOGLE IS JUST AS SCUMMY AS ALL THE REST.
DO no evil = dont get caught!

Slashing out...

Re:University with Patents? (1)

kjj (32549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329041)

Even if it was true that all research at public schools must be made available to the public, this school is not a public school at all, it is a private school. Which means that most of the funding for the schools operation comes from tuition and donations by the alumni, not state or federal aid. Some private schools reject all state and federal funding because they do not which to be bound by rules concerning things like how they administer the school, choice of curriculum or what criteria they use for admitting students. In other words private schools are allowed to operate much more like private corporations than public schools. Some technical institutes are corporate run entities that are run not just with the mission to educate people but also to make money doing it.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329059)

Most students doing research are paid by the university. At least, almost all graduate students in sciences are. Plus they are using university's facilities.

Research Grants (2, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329061)

Isn't it the students that are paying for the research, and often times DOING the research which allows for these discoveries to begin with?


Generally speaking no, students do not pay for much/most research, at least not directly. There are of course lots of exceptions but research is typically paid for by grants (government and/or corporate) or various wealthy benefactors. A surprisingly large part of being a successful university researcher is being able to bring in the money to conduct your research. Certainly some tuition money ends up going towards research but it is a surprisingly small percentage, often nothing at all. My alma matter gets literally billions a year from the NIH and other sources other than students tuition. Some of the professors barely see the inside of a classroom. That said, without the students the universities would not exist and universities have a tendency to forget this fact when it comes time get out of the lab and to teach said students. It's not right but unlikely to change either.

As for whether research at public universities should be public domain, ethically you can make a strong case for putting it out there for everyone but legally it does not work that way right now. (see Bayh-Dole [wikipedia.org] act) Universities now have very large patent portfolios and regularly spin off companies, technologies and licensing. Often creates some significant conflict of interest issues.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

EdelFactor19 (732765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329693)

Because they are private corporations. They are a company, and they have employees. Students pay for the service they provide: education. You could argue that those involved with the research should get their name on the patent and have some of the patent rights... but saying it should be public domain is absolutely ABSURD. why should the public get it? FTR Northeastern is one of the nation's largest PRIVATE colleges.

to your second point; no and no. Most research is performed by grad students and faculty. A lot of the funding comes from independant contracts, corporate sponsorships, research grants, etc. I'm sure some student money may trickle down; but there are lots of builidings, and professors salaries, and sports to be paid for. not to mention the presidents salary.

Next you are going to tell me that because the students pay for x and x that they should have more control over administrative policy, etc... (note that I actually think this is a more reasonable request).

If you want to fight for this for public schools thats one thing; take it up with your state; but it wont ever happen. Why should Joe public benefit from my work or the schools work (without my / its consent)?

"I am failing to see a case where a University-funded discovery shouldn't be in the public domain, or at least any patents that come of them should be freely available for all to use."
How about every single case? what gives you any right to be entitled to anything that is developed at if you didnt go there? (I'm not even going to bother to get into the case where you did and still shouldnt have any rights to it) Why in the world should they be freely availible to the general public use, and what standing do you possibly have to make that request? Aside from "it would be nice" and that whole advancement for everyone junk.

Why do you think research universities spend the effort and money they do on research and not on the students education? Because they make money to fund everything else and gain notoriety and prominence. (much to the dismay of students such as myself a couple years ago)

What you are saying is almost as bad as saying that anyone who holds stock in a company should have free usage of any and all patents the company has developed.

Re:University with Patents? (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330065)

Because universities are perpetually stretched for cash (this seems to happens everywhere, USA, Canada, UK). They can do several things to solve this:

(1) Cut back on staff and close departments - Not a valid proposition when there is demand for such staff.

(2) Take on more students and create new courses - The reputation of the university may suffer if the quality of teaching/resources go down - students now compare departments in terms of staff/student ratios, student/computer ratios, Internet bandwidth, contact hours and number of papers published per group.

(3) The other solution is to file patents based upon all research carried out. These patents can then be used to protect startups from predators, and bring in money from licensing. It is referred to as "technology transfer" and has several annual conferences dedicated to this.

Here's a link to AUTM (The Association of University Technology Managers) [autm.net] .

Oh come on (2, Funny)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328827)

Come on, people. It's a fairly strange, unique idea that they came up with that I don't think anyone had done before and they were actually using the patent by leasing it out to someone or whatever you want to call it. That's not really patent trolling. Trolling is coming up with some ridiculous idea and sitting on it so you can sue someone when they try to do it

Patent In Question & University Patent Portfol (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328853)

A a link to the patent, according to the article [uspto.gov] with the description:

A distributed computer database system including a front end computer and a plurality of computer nodes interconnected by a network into a search engine. A query from a user is transmitted to the front end computer which forwards the query to one of the computer nodes, termed the home node, of the search engine. The home node fragments the query and hashes the fragments of query to create an index by which the hashed query fragments are transmitted to one or more nodes on the network. Each node on the network which receives a hashed fragment uses the fragment of the query to perform a search on its respective database. The results of the searches of the local databases are then gathered by the home node.
However, I submitted this story yesterday and found a list of patents by that professor with that company [uspto.gov] and suspected a more interesting patent [uspto.gov] . From that description:

A distributed computer database system connected to a network, e.g., the Internet or on an intranet, indexes interests of agents that have registered with the system, examines information objects, for example, that reside on the network, and, responsive to a match with the registered agents' interests, specifies to the agents the relevant information objects.
It's your decision whether or not he's a patent troll but that professor seems to have many patents. I fear that the future only holds more and more patents being acquired by professors. I do not think this was the norm 10 years ago but my professor at George Mason University gave me a very frank lecture one day that essentially spelled out that the university rewards them for these things and the university is building a portfolio. What the states pay a professor is not much compared to what they could be earning in the field so he really has no choice.

I congratulated him on the several patents he just acquired. Although I can't say I was very happy about his recent moves.

Re:Patent In Question & University Patent Port (1)

antibryce (124264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329257)

One of the interesting things I've noticed over the past 10+ years of working in IT is that more and more companies are asking questions like "How many patents do you have?" on job applications.

Combine with the graduate degree requirement that's slowly coming into practice and a BS/BA doesn't seem to be worth much nowadays.

Re:Patent In Question & University Patent Port (3, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329681)

One of the interesting things I've noticed over the past 10+ years of working in IT is that more and more companies are asking questions like "How many patents do you have?" on job applications.
But the answer will almost always be zero as the patents would be owned by whoever was paying you when you came up with the idea. Even if you come up with the idea while studying it will just be the uni that owns it.

The fact is that the patent system has long been designed so that you need money to enjoy its protection, people who are unemployed very rarely have enough money to file a patent and most contracts of employment sign any patent rights over to your employer.

Re:Patent In Question & University Patent Port (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330211)

That's what all the admissions tutors are saying now, "A BS/BA is the high-school diploma of the 21st Century" (podcast interview, about 17:24 into the interview). [financialaidpodcast.com]

Then you see three page mathematics papers being published which mention that the technique discussed is being patented, even if it just involves a couple of matrix-vector equations. And the paper will have around six or eight names as the listed authors.

Re:Patent In Question & University Patent Port (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329671)

I fear that the future only holds more and more patents being acquired by professors.

Cool. Spread that meme. If more people start thinking that then the patent system will finally get fixed. When you can blame something on an icon of the left wing world (elite, ivory tower professors, for instance) then something gets done about it. Nothing motivates right wingers more, and left wingers are always happy to doubt themselves or eat their own.

Re:Patent In Question & University Patent Port (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21330047)

i'm not sure why you're focused on the "professor" aspect. the problem is that software is patentable - not that a professor did what anybody else can do.

Prior art (?) (4, Informative)

geophile (16995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328859)

Breaking a query into pieces and evaluating them at nodes containing a subset of the database has been written about since the 1970s. I read about it in grad school back then. Whether that's actually the thing actually patented by jarg is an entirely separate question. If it is, the PTO has screwed up once again. If it isn't, then perhaps there is a deeper similarity that TFA isn't describing.

Re:Prior art (?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21329249)

I'm pretty sure Chemical Abstracts Service has been doing this since about 1970.

Dont be so quick to shout troll (3, Informative)

quo_vadis (889902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328875)

I know the initial urge of a small company suing a larger one (especially a darling of slashdot such as Google) will have a lot of people yelling patent troll, but this may not be the case. The fact that this is a company from a university professor means that the company very likely has a working product that has been derived from several years worth of research. To those who are not used to the American system of research at the university level (for Professors and PhDs), any researcher can apply for a patent on the research they have been doing in the lab. The patent is usually issued in the name of the university or jointly in the name of the researcher and the university. There is usually an exclusive licencee for the patent. This forces the university to allow the researcher to have first dibs on licensing the technology he worked on exclusively to some company he decides. This is done as university's usually take anywhere from 50-75% of all royalties generated by the patent as research was done on university property. Thus many profs usually spin off companies and sit on the board of directors for the company and earn a supplementary income this way.

So , heres how it works :
1. Do research on some area.
2. Get funding from $Federal Agency of choice
3. Make a few students get PhD's doing research on this topic
4. Go to the office of tech licensing on campus and draw up patent
4.a Make sure the exclusive license clause is in the patent
5. ??? -> Form company and sit on board of directors
6. Profit.

Re:Dont be so quick to shout troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21329073)

Well, if they fill a suit in Marshall, Texas, they are almost a troll by definition.
If they really believed in the uniqueness of their idea, they would have filed it locally, and not at a court which rules in favour of the plaintiffs in three quarters of the filed cases.

Why isn't there a law in the US which requires you to file a suit at the location where your offices are located, or the offices of the institution / person(s) you file the suit against? And no, some shady PO box should not be enough. Filing a suit just because of the court's statistics is a disrespect to the justice system. Namely that you prove that you're not seeking justice, but are purely seeking compensation, for your own greed.

Re:Dont be so quick to shout troll (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329331)

Because that is largely the definition of jurisdiction. The argument of proper venue in this case largely comes down to a question of whether or not this part of Texas has jurisdiction over the case.

It probably shouldn't as the University probably doesn't maintain a presence there, and Google doesn't directly market its services to that locality. The question of jurisdiction will likely come down to whether Google should be required to exclude business ties to that area.

Honestly, IANAL, but that really seems like a long shot. That particular court shouldn't see this case, as there doesn't appear to be any reason beyond the judiciary being favorable to patent trolls for the case to be filed there at all. The court will probably allow it even though it is kind of questionable as to whether they have the right to hear the case in the first place.

Re:Dont be so quick to shout troll (2, Insightful)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329435)

If Google has even 1 customer there, they can be held to jurisdiction there. I think I'll take the bet that someone there has given Google money in one way or another.

Re:Dont be so quick to shout troll (2, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329139)

Yeah, but on the other hand, sitting on a patent for years and years while you know its being violated by numerous other companies IS patent trolling.

Re:Dont be so quick to shout troll (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329343)

Maybe I would agree and not call troll if they didn't freaking file in Texas. What filing in Texas gets them is a jury that's sympathetic to patent plaintiffs.

Re:Dont be so quick to shout troll (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329485)

It's tough to find a judge that 1. is familiar with patent cases and 2. does not cringe with disgust when s/he sees your patent complaint. A lot of judges hate them and do them incorrectly. Yes, the Texas court is pro-patent-plaintiff but if you owned a patent and wanted to sue over it, you can be damn sure you'd want a judge who knows what he's doing.

Re:Dont be so quick to shout troll (1)

CmdrNachos (1156063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329869)

Is that the same or different as every company that sues Microsoft does so in northern California, even when the company is not based there?

Z39.50? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21328909)

Does his patent pre-date Z39.50 (1995) http://www.loc.gov/z3950/agency/markup/01.html/ [loc.gov] or even earlier?

Doesn't everyone build search engines this way? (1)

or-switch (1118153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328927)

Google obviously advertises and describes their approach to search and their data centers more than other search giants do, but I would imagine most to all search engines and very large databases have to do this as well. If they win are they going after Microsoft, Yahoo, and all the others while they're at it? The history of science is full of examples of people discovering or inventing the same thing right about the same time. . .it's kinda cool really. But ideas like this are in a way so obvious that patents should really go to people who got it working in the first place. But something like this is so fundamental one wonders if it should have even been granted a patent. Isn't this rather similar to distributed computing, paralleization, etc.? Maybe early parallel supercomputer inventors should sue him for infringing on their ideas.

That's what we do with it! (1)

Baavgai (598847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328941)

Ok, we have this, um, network, we'll call it a network. ARPANET? Sure. And we'll take a job an run it on multiple machines to get a faster answer? Yeah, that will be great. Now, what do we do with it? IBM says play chess...

Seriously, isn't this pretty much the definition of a distributed computing job? What the hell do they teach at this school? Punch cards? It's not just patent trolling, it's embarrassingly ignorant.

Stop offering services in Marshall Texas (2, Interesting)

addikt10 (461932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21328995)

If the courts of Marshall Texas are so popular for patent trolls, and the way you justify jurisdiction is to claim that "services are available there", blacklist every Marshall Texas ISP's IP range in that area.

If one of those IP addresses tries to access your service, put up a nice, static HTML page declaring that it due to the local court's ignorance of patent issues and the resulting popularity of those courts for patent litigation, it isn't a good business decision to provide services to that area.

Have a nice day.

Re:Stop offering services in Marshall Texas (1)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329135)

I have a patent on that so unless you pay me a royalty I'll see you in Marshall Texas. :-)

]{

East Texas??? (0, Troll)

christoofar (451967) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329101)

Let me get this straight.

Litigants... CA company defendant, Mass entities the plaintiffs.

Lawsuit filed in East Texas.

They are making sure they get a judge who has never heard of a computer before.

Re:East Texas??? (2, Informative)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329215)

Most patent suits are filed in East Texas. It's the in thing to do.

Re:East Texas??? (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329293)

They are making sure they get a judge who has never heard of a computer before.

Actually, as many software patent cases they've been hearing lately, I'm quite positive they've heard of computers before..

Combinations not valid patents. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329107)

The Supreme Court [bloomberg.com] in the states has ruled that patents that are combinations of existing inventions or would have come about anyway are not valid. Geez! Didn't Sun Tzu demonstrate the 'divide and conquer' method like millenia ago? Just because you combine it with a computer network does not make it new or novel.

oracle? (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329155)

so how is this different from an oracle database system that utilizes multiple database nodes?

Are you kidding? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21329175)

That they got a patent for something so obvious is absurd. One could call upon the millions of beowulf clusters out there that split up a computing job among (tens/hundreds/thousands) of computers to speed the work, or alternatively, any load balancing application (be it hardware or software) for quicker response to web queries. Even Slashdot could be prior art! The US patent office needs to be pulled over and given a sobriety test!

I Thought Google was Highly Secret (2, Interesting)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329185)

I thought Google was highly secret in what they did and how they did it. The way I've read this, it seems like a pishing expedition of Google needing to prove that they don't violate the patent, and not that there is yet any proof that they do violate it.

And then there's always the specter of Prior Art raising its unwanted head.

Have these guys ever built such a database system themselves for sale?

Re:I Thought Google was Highly Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21329269)

Look for the academic paper on Google's "MapReduce" concept. With the roots of Google in academia, many of their ideas have been published at conferences and in journals.

Former student (1)

justsomeguyagain (1188163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329233)

This is interesting for me because I got my degree from NU and had that professor for a couple of classes. He's a smart guy but can't teach his way out of a wet paper bag. At the start of a semester, students quickly realize he doesn't actually teach anything and they stop showing up so there's hardly anyone in his classes. As long as you got your project done (no exams), you'd get a good grade. Anyway, I can't speak for the validity of this suit or not. The professor always had integrity as far as I could tell, so it may very well be legit.

Re:Former student (3, Interesting)

Curze (1166985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329637)

I am a recent former student, and my experience is quite opposite of yours. Prof Baclawski, besides having the added benefit of speaking English natively, was an excellent teacher both for myself and the handful of others in my class that I spoke with regularly. He usually referenced "back in the day" stories, but in a humorous way that lead into the subject at hand, and I ended up learning more than most in that class. Also rediculously apparent was his apathy for monetary compensation, he just wanted to teach and research new things, hell the guy wore the same damn dirty coat for the 5 years I was there! The move on google is most likely a move by the NU corp, as they are bloodthirsty when it comes to money, just look at tution costs of NU.http://www.neu.edu/admissions/costs/tuition.html [neu.edu]

Prior BUTT, not prior art (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329239)

I cant even find any logic to explain why this can not be patented, and many people did similar things a prior. Not due to complexity, but due to simplicity of the issue.

This search method is Ancient (2, Interesting)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329337)

In my postgrad years in the early 80's I worked for a now defunct computer company that often supplied minicomputers for Government departments. The patent is an exact copy of how we did information searches across a network.Honestly there is no other way of doing this type of search efficiently back then and I dare say the same method pre dates my early years within th computer industry. Think about it, user enters search criteria into stand alone PC/Terminal then it is passed onto a primary node minicomputer, if the information is not available on hand (cached common searches) the search engine software then quires all the other minicomputers computers attached, it's a no brainier. What Google has done is refine the search algorithms and used more generic hardware but the concept hasnt changed.

Too quick to dismiss Northeastern as a troll (5, Interesting)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329371)

The /. posts labeling Northeastern University as a patent troll or claiming that the patent should not have issued have been posted too quickly to be credible assessments of the morality of this suit and the worthiness of the patent. The current Wikipedia definition [wikipedia.org] is that a patent troll is "a person or company that enforces its patents against one or more alleged infringers in a manner considered unduly aggressive or opportunistic." If the patent was obtained through lawful and ethical means, is valid, and is infringed on by Google, then how is it "unduly aggressive or opportunistic" for Northeastern University to enforce the patent?

Some argue that a patent troll is merely a person or company that seeks to enforce a patent but does not practice the patent. Maybe Northeastern University is not practicing the patent. Then again, the mission of most universities seems to be conducting research, not applying and commercializing research. Licensing research to companies that can and will apply and commercialize that research is one way that universities fund additional research. Maybe universities should have to give all of their research away for free. But currently they do not. And it seems unfair to fault Northeastern for exercising its rights while not pushing the scope of its mission.

Given how quickly Northeastern was accused of being a patent troll, and given that there was no discussion about the proper role of universities or any real analysis of the worthiness of the patent (which was filed in 1994...almost 4 years before Google was founded), it seems likely that some people consider a patent troll to be any person who tries to enforce any patent rights.

Maybe Northeastern is acting like a patent troll. And maybe their patent is worthless. But it takes more than a quick glance at the 20-page issued patent or the 6-page complaint against Google to come up with a reasonable assessment of these issues.

Some analysis of the complaint would at least show that it doesn't look like Northeastern really knows the details of Google's search infrastructure:

13. A part of its search engine services, Google uses one or more hashing algorithms.
14. As part of its search engine services, Google returns search results responsive to user queries.
...
16. Google maintains and operators clusters of networked computers to provide search engine services to users.
...
26. Google has directly and/or indirectly infringed on one or more claims of the '593 patent, and Google is continuing such infringement by practicing or causing others to practice one or more of the inventions claimed in the '593 patent. For example, Google makes, uses, imports, sells and/or offers for sale search engine services and systems that infringe or that are used in ways that infringe one or more claims of the '593 patent in this district and elsewhere in the United States.

Then again, Google's code is not open to the world. If it was, more detailed analysis would be possible. How can Northeastern try to get access to the code? By suing and demanding it as part of discovery. Does this make Northeastern a patent troll? Maybe. But the alternative (aside from discarding the patent system altogether, at least for software innovations) is a system that rewards patent infringers who keep their source code inaccessible to patent holders.

Re:Too quick to dismiss Northeastern as a troll (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329477)

Google's distributed search stuff is well documented for years, why would they wait up until now?

Re:Too quick to dismiss Northeastern as a troll (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329531)

This is /. dude. Anyone who even thinks of even applying for a patent is automatically a patent troll. You must be new here.

Re:Too quick to dismiss Northeastern as a troll (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330039)

The sarcasm would cut a lot deeper if the main point of most anti-patent postings on /. didn't complain about the brokenness of the patent system. Some days it really does seem like you could take a patent out on breathing. That's not a healthy situation.

Re:Too quick to dismiss Northeastern as a troll (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330123)

So tell us, what here is worthy of the patent? If it's simply parallel search, then I don't think it can be considered valid. Even RAID0 would fall under this description.

Re:Too quick to dismiss Northeastern as a troll (1)

Scamwise (174654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330059)

Anyone organisation or individual who waits 10 years before pointing out an obvious infringement is a patent troll, regardless of whether the patent is valid or not.
Patents are there to stop others profiting off your hard work, however most patent cases appear to be trying to do exactly that, profit off someone else's hard work.

Re:Too quick to dismiss Northeastern as a troll (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330583)

If the patent was obtained through lawful and ethical means, is valid, and is infringed on by Google, then how is it "unduly aggressive or opportunistic" for Northeastern University to enforce the patent?

This patent cannot possibly have been obtained through ethical means, since any ethical patent process would never have granted it in the first place.

wait (1)

kurtis25 (909650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329547)

Let me get this straight... Public university means my tax dollars go to pay the guy who got this patent which means I should get money when he wins. Sue on. I kid but seriously you know it's a problem when a university is getting into the trolling game whatever happened to for the public good.

Re:wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21329655)

Hmm, Isn't Northeastern a _private_ university ? And thus your tax dollars did not directly go to anything.

Re:wait (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329745)

NEU is a private university. But I agree with your main point, and I think that even private universities should contribute to the public good. Software patents seem antithetical to that idea.

Yuck. Glad I left that school. (2, Interesting)

raddan (519638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329587)

The fact that a university is behind this patent lawsuit is the most disturbing part to me. I probably have no real basis for this opinion, since I only spent three semesters at the school (I transferred to another school), but I had the overwhelming feeling that Northeastern U's primary concern was: bring in the money. That's why I transferred to UMass Amherst. In my experience, Northeastern was overpriced, and filled with students and teachers who just couldn't give a damn about academics. UM Amherst's admission standards were certainly lower than NEU's, but I found that the students who wanted to be there were really motivated, and that the teaching, in general, was outstanding.

That's not to say that NEU didn't/doesn't have some strong departments, nor do I mean to disparage anyone who is presently working their ass off there. I just didn't see it. This article strengthens my opinion of NEU as essentially "for profit" and not "for education".

Software patents (1)

Cracked Pottery (947450) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329625)

There are few groundbreaking solutions to database scaling that are worthy of a patent. Patents are granted for this kind of crap because the Patent Office is basically working on commission, and has employees who are more likely to be impressed by lawyerspeak mind numbing detail than an understanding of the originality of the underlying methods.


Perhaps whatever protection offered by the law for software should be more similar to a copyright. Many smart people can solve a particular difficult problem, and some will come up with roughly similar approaches. The granting of patents for pedestrian solutions inhibits innovation and makes creation fraught with economic risks. A successful suit for patent infringement should be required to prove by preponderance of evidence that the defendant knew about the plaintiff's patent and relied on the disclosures therein to develop the infringing product.

Prior art? (2, Informative)

kbahey (102895) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329759)

Well, there were products on the market in the 1980s that did break down the queries to several CPUs.

One such example is Teradata [wikipedia.org] , which had the database tables partitioned among many CPUs (done automatically on insert), each with its storage.

A query would be split automatically to all the CPUs, and each would fetch and return the rows matching the criteria in its part of the table.

The results are then combined from all CPUs and returned back to the application.

Later the CPUs were just emulated in software, as hardware became more powerful.

Prior art then ...

NCR Teradata might be prior art? (1)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329843)

NCR Teradata does data retrieval based off chopping indexes into discrete pieces then storing those indexes in separate nodes. WalMart and others have used this. NCR started selling these around that time 2000 so design had to occur much earlier. Seems to me to be what's covered by the patent. Network could be IP or simply the data bus.

So its likely this professor saw, heard, or smelled the process at some conference. Or from one of his grad students. Then painted proceeded to paint a Matisse abstract patent about it.

Research would be better served by professors like this chewing away on the truly difficult problems. Not rediscovering the wheel. Not tiny incremental baby steps. Go for research. Go for discovery. Go for the satisfaction of discovery. You might not reach your goal but will have had the satisfaction of the journey.

Thanks,
Jim

So if they aren't a patent troll... (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21329903)

  • Why did they file in Marshall, Texas, when neither Google, nor Northeastern is headquartered there?
  • Why did they wait 10 years to sue, when even the lawyer figured out that Google likely infringed? If infringement is that obvious, you would have thought that the inventor would have figured it out a long time ago.
  • Why aren't they suing the likes of Yahoo, Ask, etc... who likely use similar technology?

distributed computing patentable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21329917)

"The patent describes a distributed database system that breaks search queries into fragments and distributes them to multiple computers in a network to get faster results."

Doesn't this describe most every distributed computing system?

"The patent describes a distributed Computing system that breaks Computation into fragments and distributes them to multiple computers in a network to get faster results."

Can I replace Computing with some of these and patent it:

Database
Medical Imaging
Compiling
SETI
Folding
Weather simulation
Animation
Earthquake prediction
Web serving
Mathematics solving

If your/my country lets these things be patented, then the system is quite broken. We are going towards the new dark age where innovation halts (Currently innovation often is delayed for 20 years for free expansion of an idea. Of course Copyright used to be 28 years. Monopolies have interest in term expansion/elimination).

Imagine if the discoveries and formulas in you Physics and Calc books were all patented for 20 or more years. What effect would that have?

What will happen to Google? (1)

TApril (1188191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21330299)

Quick, someone Google patent infringement to see what will happen!
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