Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Patent Troll Attacks Cable, Digital TV Standards

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the going-for-the-gusto dept.

Patents 164

DavidGarganta writes "A patent troll firm in suburban Philadelphia, Rembrandt IP Management, is trying to force large cable operators and major broadcasters to pay substantial license fees on the transmission of digital TV signals and Internet services. The firm is apparently trying to get 0.5% of all revenues from services that supposedly infringe on the patents. The targeted companies include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter and Cablevision. According to MultiChannel News, Rembrandt's assault is especially aggressive, even for a patent troll: 'It is attacking two key technology standards used by the cable and broadcast industries, CableLabs' DOCSIS and the Advanced Television Systems Committee's digital-TV spec. "If they're successful, this could affect everything from the cost of cable service to the price of TVs," said the attorney close to the litigation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.'"

cancel ×

164 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

What the hell... (4, Funny)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453014)

What the hell is a patent troll?

When I first read it I assumed it had something to do with internet trolling but the articles describes it as some sort of legitimate enterprise.

Re:What the hell... (5, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453044)

Not sure if you are joking, but for anyone who is wondering what a patent troll is, it is a company that makes money simply by suing other companies for patent infringement. This is different from a company like Microsoft, that creates and sells other products, and is therefore stuck in a mutually-assured-destruction situation that prevents them from suing others for key patents. The problem with patent trolls is that they add absolutely nothing to society; most don't even invent the patented idea, they just buy it from someone else.

Look at their "Careers" (5, Informative)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453136)

In their careers section they have the following description.

http://www.rembrandtip.com/careers.html [rembrandtip.com]
"
Analyze markets and companies to assess IP commercialization opportunities

Develop and model business cases and royalty analysis for specific licensing opportunities or industries

Perform competitive analysis breakdown and strategic direction of leading industry companies

Supporting analysis for new business opportunities around targeted patent acquisitions
"

Give me a freaken break! This company goes out looks at what are up and coming industries. Then it "creates" ideas and patents the heck out of them so that they can license and throttle an up and coming industry.

This is not even funny. Imagine coming up with some really cool idea, but to have it patented away from you. This is how industries are broken. Part of the problem with this is that lawyers can sue without restrictions. Lawyers can go fishing in the industry. They can patent, sue and see what sticks.

To make that go away, you can do the following:

1) Make lawyers work pro-bono (as they do in many countries). That is they can only charge so much.
2) Make lawyers pay if the lawsuit fails. For example, if say somebody brought up a lawsuit where they wanted 50 billion say, "if you loose you need to come up with say 1%". That way you can still sue, but you better have a good case. Otherwise it is going to cost you quite a bit.

Re:Look at their "Careers" (4, Interesting)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454364)

This company seems interesting to me. After viewing their biographies and the "Working With Rembrandt" page, it sound like a law firm that is willing to work on a contingency basis:

If your patent or portfolio of patents is being infringed, Rembrandts stands ready to pursue the infringement and allow you to see the real value of your invention. Our process is comprehensive. There is no fee to patent holders. Simply:
1. Click here to notify one of our market analysts of the nature of the infringement, info@RembrandtIP.com or call us at 888-736-4947.
2. Once you notify us, we will immediately issue you a non-disclosure so that we can begin to collaborate with regard to the nature of the infringement.
3. After review, we will notify you of our opinion regarding your patent and the implications of the infringement. All patents are reviewed by Rembrandt's executive staff, headed by the company's Chief Executive Officer Paul B. Schneck, Ph.D.
4. If your patent is accepted, we will work with you to acquire the patent and structure the terms of the deal.
5. Once acquired, Rembrandt's in-house staff and outside consultants go to work building, strengthening, articulating and focusing the claim.
6. Throughout the procedure, Rembrandt collaborates closely with inventors to keep them apprised of the process.
7. Rembrandt invests its own capital to retain non-contingency legal support in order to pursue patent pirates and deliver the value of an invention to an inventor.
8. Rembrandt attorneys bring litigation against patent pirates and support the claim through litigation including possible appeals.
9. Awards and settlements are shared with the inventor, Rembrandts investors and the Rembrandt charity.
This is interesting to me as a law student because I once worked on a case where the other side's attorney took payment by obtaining partial rights in the patent. I was told by the lawyers in my firm that that is a very sketchy thing to do and it borders on being against ethics rules that lawyers have to follow. It almost looks to me like these guys are trying to hide their attorney status so they can slide by the ethics rules.

Re:Look at their "Careers" (3, Insightful)

RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454872)

To make that go away, you can do the following:

1) Make lawyers work pro-bono (as they do in many countries). That is they can only charge so much.
2) Make lawyers pay if the lawsuit fails. For example, if say somebody brought up a lawsuit where they wanted 50 billion say, "if you loose you need to come up with say 1%". That way you can still sue, but you better have a good case. Otherwise it is going to cost you quite a bit.
Problem is, laws are written by lawyers, and they generally don't like to skewer their own cash cows. Patent reform, you might see. Tort reform, and/or the kind of thing you're talking about... not likely, unfortunately.

Re:What the hell... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453224)

While I think all this patent troll stuff is bullshit, it is worth pointing out that if I accept your last statement, patent trolls ARE providing a service. By purchasing patents, these patent trolls provide a market for patents which puts money in the hands of small time inventors, who don't have the resources to commercialize their inventions. Without a patent market, it would be more difficult for small inventors to get paid. (Inventors inside companies already have R&D resources to convert patents to products.)

The fact that these companies didn't invent the idea does not negate their claim. As long as we treat ideas as property, then people should be free to buy and sell that property. You can own your TV despite having not created it. You exchanged money for it in a mutually agreeable transaction.

The real problem is the patent itself, not the troll. The troll just highlights the underlying problem. If every patent were as efficiently enforced as the few that fall into the hands of patent trolls, commerce would grind to a halt, and we would have to do something about it.

Re:What the hell... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453528)

While they are legal they are complete parasites IMO and I wouldn't mind seeing them forcefully removed as they hinder progress for their own gains.

Re:What the hell... (4, Insightful)

baboo_jackal (1021741) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453538)

By purchasing patents, these patent trolls provide a market for patents which puts money in the hands of small time inventors, who don't have the resources to commercialize their inventions.

That's an interesting take on patent trolls. But it's kind of like a guitar player selling his guitar to pay for a kick-ass amp... Whoops.

Without a patent market, it would be more difficult for small inventors to get paid.

How about this instead? Just make and sell your damn invention. If it's that good, I should think you'd have no problem. Want to sell out, but just a little? OK, how about selling exclusive licensing rights to a bigger company for royalties? I don't know. It seems to me that there are a *lot* of other ways small inventors can profit from a good idea that *don't* include selling the exclusive rights to create their widget to a company who intends to not make the widget and just sue others who do.

Maybe this is an oversimplification, but if you don't intend to make the damn thing you want to buy the patent to, you shouldn't be allowed to buy it in the first place.

Re:What the hell... (3, Interesting)

Fyre2012 (762907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455808)

I think you touch on an interesting point...
The underlying theme it seems would be greed. If a small inventor was concerned only with servicing a particular need, than they shouldn't have much issue. Thier motivation to be a basement company one night, and something the size of Google the next seems to cloud their judgement.

Many people these days just want to 'get rich and quick'. This mentality is in direct conflict with the mindset of small business. Small business is all about community and the network of clientele and respect you build up by servicing your clients with respect and expectation. (do what you say, it goes farther than most people think!)

When you hold the 'rights' to your idea too high, they inflate in proportion with one's ego and the rise / fall of the almighty ruler (the dollar).

Didn't the dot com bust teach people about the devaluation of an idea?

Re:What the hell... (1)

aim2future (773846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455118)

The real problem is the patent itself, not the troll.

I agree that the patent is a problem, but patent trolling should be declared a criminal act.

The business idea of a patent troll is to purchase patents and sue others, which is an abusive and counter-productive way to deal with the privilege of a monopoly given to the inventor in exchange of disclosure.

I would want to go that far to claim that patents should not be considered assets, and should only be possible to sell/transfer under very strict conditions, assuring that the final owner will continue to develop and do business within the context of the patent. If this can not be fulfilled the patent should be abolished.

Re:What the hell... (2, Insightful)

Wolfbone (668810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454642)

This is different from a company like Microsoft, that creates and sells other products, and is therefore stuck in a mutually-assured-destruction situation that prevents them from suing others for key patents.
The MAD stalemate may well be a fair description of the situation between large patent portfolio holders but it doesn't apply in the asymmetric case. Microsoft's VP of IP, Marshall "Father of the IBM Tax" Phelps, would probably consider it a failure if he had to drag some small company into Court* - and that is actually true of most patent trolls too - but Microsoft has just as aggressive a patent licensing strategy as IBM did when Phelps was there.

* "I'm not running a litigation shop, I'm running a licensing shop." -- Marshall Phelps.

Re:What the hell... (2, Insightful)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454884)

This is different from a company like Microsoft, that creates and sells other products
A curious example. Microsoft is currently trying to get a "standard" adopted with submarine patents and they've never invented anything past a BASIC interpreter, prefering to buy the technology and adapt it. If their Windows monopoly ever (seems to) fails, they are prime candidates for becoming patent trolls.

A better example is Ford, though they have fallen on hard times of late.

Re:What the hell... (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455198)

The problem with patent trolls is that they add absolutely nothing to society; most don't even invent the patented idea, they just buy it from someone else

So let's say you invent something really cool. (You, personally). You put 10 years of effort into it, and sunk your life savings into the research and development. You get a patent, and approach a big company to license it. You hope to get rich, but would be happy to at least get back your life savings.

The big company laughs in your face, and rips off your invention. What do you do? You can't afford to sue (patent suits are expensive).

Answer: you sell an interest in your patent to someone who can afford to sue. They assume the risk that the patent may be found to be invalid, or the alleged infringers may not actually be practicing the patent, or that the courts will determine the damages are low. They put up the money to sue (if it gets to that--when they approach that big company and ask it to license the patent, the big company might not laugh, now that they know they are dealing with someone who has the resources to sue). Result: you might actually come out ahead after spending 10 years and all your money developing your invention.

What you call a "patent troll" is basically a patent dealer. The add value to society the same way dealers in any other item do--by allowing an efficient market in that item to exist. Every bad thing that has been attributed to "patent trolls" is in fact due to flaws in the patent system itself, such as the PTO's propensity for granting patents that should not have been granted due to prior art or obviousness, and has nothing to do with patent dealership.

Re:What the hell... (3, Informative)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455250)

Here's a paper [ssrn.com] on this, which goes into great detail on the role of patent dealers in the market from an economic and policy point of view.

Re:What the hell... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455832)

That sounds more like a critique of large corporations than a defense of patent trolls, combined with a description of someone who went into a business market with insufficient resources. Perhaps a better plan would be to seek venture capital to help cover legal fees before directly approaching a large corporation, or to find a business partner to help you in seeking venture capital.

Patent trolls are a problem; being a consequence of a larger problem does not make patent trolls any less problematic, much in the same way that a stomach infection causing one to vomit does not make the vomiting itself less problematic. An economy based on deciding who came up with an idea first is completely ludicrous, and companies that thrive in such an economy are emblematic of the problem.

Re:What the hell... (1)

OMNIpotusCOM (1230884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455478)

The problem... is that they add absolutely nothing to society
Sorry, thought you were talking about people who comment on biased blurbs. Make this quote your signature, it kind of puts things into perspective. It's really funny to me that there is an article not an inch away from this one that discusses CNN and their use of user-generated articles to use as news, wherein everyone was knocking the user-generated stuff as biased and unreliable. I think all the crazies get a day pass on Sunday and use their time making inconsistent comments/stories on Slashdot.

Re:What the hell... (3, Informative)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453056)

A patent troll is a company that just comes up with patents and whenever another company "infringes" on their many patents they sue them. Usually these patent trolls have no other business other then suing companies to make a profit. Think of SCO, only with patents.

Re:What the hell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453098)

"If they're successful, this could affect everything from the cost of cable service to the price of TVs," said the attorney close to the litigation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.'"

Anonymity? I'm not surprised. Going up against the cable industry, CNN, etc.
I'd want to stay anonymous too. There's enough money in that group to send every
guy named Vito or Tony in New Jersey after my ass.

Come to think of it, that's what it will probably take to end these patent trolls.

Re:What the hell... (3, Funny)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453554)

Why pay professionals? Just tell every redneck out there that this company wants to make their TV more expensive and the problem solves itself.

Re:What the hell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453726)

There's rednecks in New Jersey?

Re:What the hell... (1)

xero314 (722674) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454406)

There's rednecks in New Jersey?
North or South? (for those of us in the know, yes one of these two sections of Jersey is full of rednecks.)

Re:What the hell... (1)

LilBlackDemon (604917) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454170)

I almost choked with laughter because I'm eating a sandwich called the "Tony Soprano" from Vito's Deli (Hoboken, NJ).

Re:What the hell... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453116)

What the hell is a patent troll?
A patent troll is a company or person that holds on to patents but never uses them except to cause problems and attempt to extort money from thriving businesses after they have been in action for several years.

The fabled Trolls were often just collecting gold and never really used it, modern patent trolls are collecting patents and use that collection to collect gold.

Effectively they are parasites that abuses the system.

Re:What the hell...Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453260)

In Soviet Russia trolls patent you!

Re:What the hell... (1)

StrangerAtRandom (1123963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453854)

A I was reading the replys to your question and it does not appear that anyone really knows what a patent troll is. A patent troll is someone who patents something that they did not invent. Back when digital came out, the creater did not think to patent it so it went unpatented. untill a patent troll realized this, and patented it. So now legally they own the rights to the digital patents. I hope this story is big enough to change the patent system that has worked for so long. This person is trying to extort money from companies, legally. and thats wrong.

That's *Dr.* Patent Troll (2, Funny)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453018)

"I didn't go to Patent Troll medical school to be called 'Mister'."

- RG>

Old news now? (2, Interesting)

moezaly (1197755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453050)

Havent they learnt anything from SCO and other Patent Trolls. It never works... but the again they have nothing else to do.

Re:Old news now? (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453084)

SCO isn't a patent troll. SCO does have a business that is not based on suing others for patent infringement, and that's why they are in so much trouble now: countersuits. A patent troll is immune to being sued because it does not distribute anything, it just makes money through royalties and lawsuits, and so can't really be sued for anything. It is actually a very dangerous entity, because it has nothing to lose.

Re:Old news now? (1)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454914)

Indeed, SCO may not be a patent troll... but they certainly are of the garden variety troll, using litigation to prop up a failing business model, extort money, and generally chill the air surrounding a competing (or not, depending upon your point of view) technology/product.

The fact that they failed in every endeavor is not because the system works, but that when you get knowledgeable participants, sometimes it is difficult (impossible) to fool them as one would fool the great unwashed.

Re:Old news now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22455784)

stfu, SCO owns UNIX. ... now, this is trolling :)

Re:Old news now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22454194)

Havent they learnt anything from SCO and other Patent Trolls. It never works...

1) SCO is not a patent troll, their business is (was) selling Unix.

2) Eolas is a patent troll, the only business they've ever done was suing Microsoft for patent infringment. I'd say that it worked pretty well for them.

Just as a reminder: a patent troll is someone who sits on a patent until someone else has made a lot of money from the idea it covers -- or one that's close enough -- and then sues.

Getting or buying a patent is relatively cheap, compared to what it costs to build something and market it. Also, just sitting on it until someone else is successful shifts all risk to your future victims. You won't hear of a patent lawsuit about a failed idea. Eolas didn't even bother to sue anyone else, IIRC.

Re:Old news now? (3, Insightful)

hullabalucination (886901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455796)

Eolas is a patent troll, the only business they've ever done was suing Microsoft for patent infringment.

Not quite. http://www.eolas.com/research.html [eolas.com]

Dr. Michael Doyle of Eolas is actually a well-respected researcher in bioinformatics, is partnered with the University of California and demonstrated a working plug-in enabled browser at Xerox PARC in 1993. He is, incidentally, the son of a noted inventor, so the urge to create seems to run in the family. The company's other projects include SAGA, Fios, Zmap and ODIN.

In 1994, he offered to license the plug-in technology to Microsoft and was rebuffed. So, he went after them. Incidentally, Eolas' license page specifically states that Dr. Doyle is a supporter of open source and non-commercial uses covered by this so-called "906 patent" are allowed via the issuance of a royalty-free license. http://www.eolas.com/licensing.html [eolas.com]

As much as I hate patents, Eolas isn't the patent troll that some folks make then out to be; Doyle's idea was to build a browser-centric platform for the biomedical industry, and the company actively does software research and creates actual technologies. Microsoft's violation of the "906" patent made Eolas' platform project commercially nonviable, at least in Eolas' eyes and Doyle has stated his case that there were no legal alternatives after Microsoft refused to license the technology from them in '94.

And lest anyone weep for Microsoft, this is just an example of "what goes around, comes around," as VirtualDub developer Avery Lee http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VirtualDub#Advanced_Systems_Format_support [wikipedia.org] can tell you.

SCO, on the other hand, bought what they thought at the time was exclusive ownership of somebody else's (Bell Labs/AT&T, University of Ca.) technology, whole cloth, made little if any improvement to it, and attempted to use it as a patent/copyright hammer to flatten other software projects that demonstrably violated none of SCO's IP/licenses/patents. At least, none that SCO could ever prove in court. I would consider SCO much closer to a patent troll that Eolas, as they didn't invent the hammer they were attempting to wield. Eolas, at least, did design and build their own hammer.

Ahhh (5, Insightful)

cloakable (885764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453058)

Aren't patents wonderful? Spreading innovation everywhere!

Re:Ahhh (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453142)

I've said for a while that patents should be non-transferable and automatically revoked if the patent holder does not market the idea. Lawsuits are, of course, not a form of marketing. Patent trolls add nothing to society, and therefore defeat the point of the patent system. Why do we still tolerate them? Virtually every company that produces something is threatened by patent trolling, and patent royalties significantly increase the price of consumer goods. We can have a patent system, we just need to completely reform it.

Re:Ahhh (1)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454674)

I can see one useful purpose of so called "Patent trolls."

Lets say you are a brilliant engineer/inventor, but a lousy businessman. You like to tinker away in your workshop, but have no ability or interest in marketing, managing employees, or filling out business tax forms. So you come up with ideas, and let somebody else handle the patent licensing so you can get back to doing what you love - inventing new stuff.

The real problem is that there are a lot of bogus patents granted that shouldn't be, and there needs to be better control over "submarine" patents. You shouldn't be able to pop up years later and raise patent claims against well established industry standards - Once the draft specification has been published, the onus should be on patent holders to come forward with any claims within a reasonable amount of time, say six months. You snooze, you lose.

Re:Ahhh (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454778)

It is one thing if the invention is actually being marketed by the patent holder or his representative. That is not what patent trolls do. Patent trolls are parasites, in that they produce nothing at all but still turn a profit, by legally manipulating companies that actually produce and market their products into paying royalties. It does not encourage invention, because the "inventor" who gets royalties never actually shared his invention with the companies that are paying him, not even under a loose definition of "share" that involves selling the product and having the other companies copy it.

This is dangerous behavior. There is no incentive for a patent troll to enter into a cross-licensing scheme, because they have no need for a license from someone else. There is no incentive for a patent troll to ever collaborate with anyone, because the patent troll just bought its patents rather than develop the ideas. The threat to actual inventors and companies that produce actual products is enormous, especially for small companies in obscure markets.

Easy to stop. (1)

hlavac (914630) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455488)

It should be enough to stop patent trolls from being able to "buy" patents. Original inventor should be allowed to sell the patent just once, then the patent should become invalid if the new owner sold it again to someone else. Just fix the friggin patent system.

Immunity Corrupts (2, Insightful)

KwKSilver (857599) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455516)

The real problem, aside from patents themselves, is that patent trolls are immune to retaliation. Think about it. They have complete immunity. John W. Campbell, the editor of Analog magazine in the 1960s and 1970s had an interesting take on immunity and corruption. The old saw has it that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Campbell suggested that was wrong, that it is not power that corrupts, but immunity: "immunity corrupts and absolute immunity corrupts absolutely." If I can do anything whatsoever that comes into my head, without there being any any chance of retribution, what is there to stop me? ... Nothing. Nothing at all.

Unless some way is found to make patent trolls seriously liable to massive (and probably personal) financial retribution, they will continue to sink further into parasitism and corruption ... absolute corruption.

New system (4, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453076)

Congress needs to provide funding to give the USPO a new division that watches for things like this, and invalidates patents that are deemed harmful to competition or that go against the spirit of the patent system. This stuff is clogging up the courts too much, and another watchdog besides the judges would be helpful imho.

Re:New system (5, Interesting)

xigxag (167441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453218)

I agree. What makes this troll particularly disgusting (for the benefit of the non-RTFA'ers) is that it is based upon patents originally owned by AT&T which had agreed to license the patents to all for Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The patents got bought up by this troll company which is now refusing to honor those terms. If this is allowed to stand, then no company can ever rely on FRAND as a business assurance. Any patented process could get sold to an IP management company and be fair game for extortion.

I propose two short-term fixes.

First, FRAND terms should be able to be added to the patent itself, either originally or through some amendment process. That way, if it gets bought or sold, the IP holding compnay has to adhere to the original terms.

Second, companies that are developing open standards should be allowed some kind of superpatent, where (presumably for higher fees) there is a public hearing at which the final standard is vetted, and challengers are given sufficient time to come forward with their own patents which may encumber upon the proposed open standard, and they can negotiate whatever terms are in their best interest, without restriction. Afterwards, though, if the superpatent is granted, no more challenges will be entertained. Anyone who finds a prior patent in their closet or falling out of their portfolio five or ten years hence will be out of luck.

Re:New system (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453290)

<sarcasm>Hey, what's not "Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND)" about 0.5% of all cable revenues?</sarcasm>

Re:New system (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453658)

Third, the attorneys who pressed this action should be disbarred at the state and Federal
level immediately and permanently and be required to reimburse the victims from their
own personal funds.

Re:New system (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454520)

Third, the attorneys who pressed this action should be disbarred

What about attorneys that represent people who committed crimes? That is even worse, should we disbar them as well? Perhaps we just pass a new law that applies to all lawsuits and criminal cases that says"

"Winning attorney gets to stay an attorney. Losing attorney must be disbarred"

That will teach the sorry bastids. After all, almost every attorney should be assumed evil and that only the "good guys" deserve an attorney. If we just get rid of all the attorney's that represent the bad guys, the world will be a better place. Right? Doesn't that sound fair?

Re:New system (1)

TekPolitik (147802) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453856)

it is based upon patents originally owned by AT&T which had agreed to license the patents to all for Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms

If so then it is likely the troll will be held to those terms in a court - provided they had notice of the license prior to purchasing from AT&T.

Vague; and, you would do this through a contract. (1)

Shandalar (1152907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453902)

There is no reason to have to lard up patent agreements with contractual terms and worsen the problem at the USPTO with the already-overworked patent examiners (the reason that bad patents get through in the first place). You would just do this with a clause in the license or contract, where the licensee or the purchaser would agree to whatever the terms are that you say, and then also agree to include that exact clause in any downstream licensing or sale, the same as the GPL works. Anyway, the article is vague but seems to say that AT&T licensed the patent prior to its purchase by Rembrandt. That license is presumably still valid. If the license was revokable, then the licensee is stupid for relying on a revokable license for their whole business.

Re:Vague; and, you would do this through a contrac (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455890)

From your post, it appears you don't understand what a patent is. A patent simply allows you to prevent anyone else exploiting your idea. There is nothing analogous to the idea of a derived work in a patent. If you file a patent on a machine, I can file a patent on an accessory for your machine with no problems. Manufacturing the accessory may require licensing both patents, but you have no control over who I license my patent to. If you allow everyone to use your patent, they may still need to license mine for some things. You can not license your patent in such a way that prevents me from charging whatever I want from my patent unless I am manufacturing something that infringes your patent (in which case I need to license your patent, and you can make licensing my patent a requirement on that).

Re:New system (2, Interesting)

deblau (68023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454648)

Parent misses the point. There are two ways to make money from patents:
  1. Manufacture a product, and use the patent to keep others out of the market. I call this the 'passive' method, since the patent is not directly used to make money, the manufacturing is.
  2. License a patent to someone else, earning royalties. I call this the 'active' method, since the patent 'property' itself is the source of the money (rental fees).
The first proposed short-term fix ignores the passive method, which is the traditional way patentees use patents. It penalizes the 'good guys', who are just trying to recoup R&D costs, etc. And since R&D costs are involved, cue the pharmaceutical companies. They would never go for mandatory licensing, so this 'fix' will never happen.

Second, if someone is developing an open standard, it's for the benefit of the public, right? So just take open standards out of the allowable subject matter -- no patents at all on open standards, and everyone can use them right away. Otherwise they're not really 'open', are they? Or is that too radical a proposal?

Re:New system (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453604)

patents that are deemed harmful to competition

I think you can strike the words 'that' and 'deemed' from that sentance. The entire mechanism of patents is to prevent competition.

The only way to allow a competetive free market and still reward innovation beyond what the free market does is to have the patent office be the ones actually paying the patent holders (according to level of use, maximum payout, etc). Then we could have an actual useful debate about levels of financing, patent trolls would no longer be a problem for anyone and we'd have a whole lot of other issues automatically solved (such as having a system that actually promoted adoption of new and (theoretically) better products as they would no longer carry a patent-price penalty, increased dissemination rate, more rapid building on other technology, more readable patents, no more 'small inventor' troubles, etc, etc, etc).

And equip them with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453638)

...Bastard Sword of Troll Slaying +10

Re:New system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453736)

Wouldn't that effectively remove the patent system? I mean
Inventer invents product
Corporation steals patent, and creates product
Inventor sues to protect patent
Patent is invalidated due to it being harmfull to competition....

The whole idea of patents is to forcefully remove competition for a limited time, to protect the inventors invested resources.

Besides this case isn't a problem, as far as I can see there are two outcomes:
A. They win the case, in which case their patent was violated and they rightfully deserve to win.
B. They loss, in which case the system works and we are all happy.

Something going to court isn't a problem, since that's where thinks should rightfully be desided. At least I much more trust a competant judge who's dedicated his life to desiding such matter, then alot of random slashdot posters who've just read an article and now think they know everything there is to know about the case.

Re:New system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453834)

invalidates patents that are deemed harmful to competition

All patents are harmful to competition, some more than others.

Re:New system (1)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454810)

Congress needs to provide funding to give the USPO a new division that watches for things like this, and invalidates patents that are deemed harmful to competition or that go against the spirit of the patent system.

If patents are meant to make sure an inventor benefits from his original work, then why is it possible to change ownership of the patent to some other entity, say a corporation.

I propose to limit the ownership of a patent to the neural network that originally came up with the idea with no possibility to transfer to any other entity. Also the patent should immediately expire once the neural network that owns the patent has reached halting state.

Innovation (4, Insightful)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453102)

Isn't it remarkable how patents stimulate innovative litigation? Think of the tragedy if we just junked the whole nutty system. Imagine the packs of feral, unemployed lawyers roaming the streets attacking innocents.

Sooner or later, we'll save ourselves untold trouble if we vastly scale back the notion of Intellectual (imaginary) property to something relatively sensible.

Re:Innovation (4, Funny)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453208)

Imagine the packs of feral, unemployed lawyers roaming the streets attacking innocents.
Step 1: Open a limited hunting season
Step 2: Open a general hunting season
Step 3: General bounty
Step 4: Hire professional hunters for extreme or dangerous areas.

Personally, given the urban nature of feral lawyers I'd propose at least an initial hunting season be limited to experienced bow hunters.

Re:Innovation (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453310)

***Personally, given the urban nature of feral lawyers I'd propose at least an initial hunting season be limited to experienced bow hunters.***

Well, yeah ... But if the arrows don't work, the hunters get nukes. OK?

Re:Innovation (3, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453354)

Funny, I've had the same idea for the past 10 years or so. I guess I should've patented it ... oh well. Oh well, I could still have the joy of showing my future grandchildren the Mercedes and BMW emblems mounted over my fireplace and saying "Yep, that one was from an IP lawyer ... got him from almost 300 yards".

Re:Innovation (2, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454274)

It would help if the Patent office was properly funded and maintained the spirit of the law (innovation should be rewarded), instead of what we have.

This is a Bad Thing ? (2, Informative)

psycho sparky (896110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453124)

The targeted companies include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter and Cablevision.

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

ohtani (154270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453180)

"this could affect everything from the cost of cable service to the price of TVs". So yes, yes it IS a bad thing.

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453346)

Again, how is that bad? The patent system is deliberately designed to transfer more money from consumer to patent owner. I'd say the patent troll is just an extremely environmentally friendly way of doing so: by not producing anything at all in return.

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (2, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453684)

Can't get any more carbon neutral. But then again, they're wasting precious oxygen, by breathing.

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455102)

I'd say the patent troll is just an extremely environmentally friendly way of doing so: by not producing anything at all in return.

      It produces lawyers. And the more money changes hands, the more lawyers will appear. I would rather breathe 3% CO2, have to run my air conditioner at full crank in the middle of a Canadian winter and eat Soylent Green than live in a world where every other person is a lawyer!

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (5, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453448)

I do not know what their patent is, but the ideas from the DOCSIS MAC layer are also used in all 802.11 standards as well as satellite modem standards. The MAP metod to mix CSMA-CD and mandatory transmit opportunities is the de-facto method for managing Layer2 QoS in all subscriber oriented tech that has hit the market for the last 10 years. There are other places where other network standards have heavily borrowed from DOCSIS.

So if their patents are anywhere close this it will get extremely entertaining...

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454216)

Google Patent search:

http://www.google.com/patents?id=YI2ZAAAAEBAJ&dq=Rembrandt+IP+Management [google.com]

A very specific patent for adaptive equalizers. Important parts to digital receivers, but not essential. Basically, an adaptive EQ allows a transmitter or receiver to eliminate standing waves from transmission lines (like 75Ohm coax). If proper installation techniques are used, the adaptive EQ won't even be switched in. It is only if the SWR increases enough to cause problems. We're not talking about radio transmitters, so the reflections won't damage anything, but it will cause a lot of problems with distorted signals that can't be copied.

And 1% of all revenue for an obscure DSP? Good luck with that. I hope they have a few more that Google isn't finding.

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454590)

>There are other places where other network standards have heavily borrowed from DOCSIS.

Yes, 802.16 borrowed PKM (Privacy and Key Management) from DOCSIS. It was such a pile of poo that we had to throw it out and write PKMv2 to make it secure.

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453272)

So we're going back to the age of 'an eye for an eye' then? The objection here is that patent trolling is wrong, whoever is the aggressor and whoever is the victim.

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453274)

In the long run? possibly not...

In the short-term? most deffinetly if they manage to do it successfully, almost everyone deals with at least 3 of those companies on a day-to-day basis... even if they arent under that name (WinAmp = AOL = TimeWarner) depending on the final terms, this could mean signifigant increases in expenses to those companies, and thereby trickling down to subsidiaries, eventually eating out of your pocket...

Theoretically if the expenses were high enough it may run some of them into bankruptcy... eventually the people will bitch enough, or other technologies and services will cheapen to balance it out... so in that aspect it may be "good"... but is it really?

Re:This is a Bad Thing ? (1)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454160)

These mega-corporations could easily hare mafia hit men, and have the patent trolls killed. That would have quite a chilling effect on patent trolling. Make 'em sleep with the fishes, and the problem will go away, Capiche?

opened a can (4, Insightful)

phrostie (121428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453128)

just look at the list of companies.
they may not get along with each other, but the last thing you want to do is force them to unite against a common enemy.

i think they just opened a can of woop-ass.

Re:opened a can (1)

ausoleil (322752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453244)

As we speak, their combined lobbyists are no doubt preparing a line of battle in the halls of Congress.

This may actually work out to be the catalyst to getting Congress to solve the patent trolls problem once and for all.

perhaps property law could provide a solution... (5, Interesting)

voss (52565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453194)

The concept is called adverse possession. In real property someone can aquire possesion of abandoned property
by open and continous use. Now you wouldnt want someone becoming the new patent/copyright holder but the negative part
"extinguishing the rights of the prior holder" would make perfect sense and help deal with both the problems
of patent trolls and abandoned copyrights as well as legalizing abandonware.

If a reasonable person knows or should have known their patent or copyright was being infringed on and takes
no action within say 3 years, their patent or copyright becomes null and void. Also a system could be set up
to allow "notices of intended infringement" to be filed with the copyright office, if the copyright or patent
holder does not respond within the required time then the copyright or patent would lapse and the work
would go into the public domain.

Re:perhaps property law could provide a solution.. (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453298)

I like both ideas, with the addition of some kind of compensation for the target of a baseless suit.

Unfortunately, it seems all of the candidates in the upcoming presidential election want to "fix" the problem by hiring more patent examiners. I know the argument is that with more examiners they can do a better job of researching the applications, but that's not where the system is broken.

Re:perhaps property law could provide a solution.. (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454494)

If a reasonable person knows or should have known their patent or copyright was being infringed on and takes no action within say 3 years, their patent or copyright becomes null and void.
This already exists. The two doctrines are called laches and estoppel. Without going into the details, they both encompass the general idea that you are talking about. They can be negated by failing license negotiations or lack of knowledge of infringement.

Re:perhaps property law could provide a solution.. (1)

deblau (68023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454958)

Are you familiar with the fact that patent litigation takes YEARS, and millions of dollars? Sometimes a legitimate company may only be able to afford a single lawsuit at one time. The patent office can already reject your application on the ground of prosecution laches [uspto.gov] , and the court can rule an issued patent unenforceable due to laches [wikipedia.org] for unreasonable delay. Actively suing someone else isn't unreasonable delay, so it can take many years before a patent holder gets around to suing you. I don't have a cite for that exact proposition, but I recall reading it while doing legitimate legal research. Also, read Symbol II [findlaw.com] and Symbol IV [mit.edu] .

How Rembrandt Works (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453212)

I knew this girl from my college that worked at Rembrandt.

She explained that the way that these operations work is they hire students with slightly above rudimentary technical skills from the local universities in technical courses of study. Their "discovery" process simply entails these students trying to reverse engineer the mechanisms that they hold patents for. However, since they're not trying to actually build the device, they usually stop when they have a guess that suits their needs.

To put it bluntly, they do not really know; it is a wild guess, and hope that they can litigate it successfully.

Re:How Rembrandt Works (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454308)

Wow that sounds really fun!

bring it on (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453278)

This sort of thing is good. Cable and media companies have a lot of muscle, and sooner or later, they are going to tire of this and demand that the patent system be changed so that there is some clarity.

A simple "enforce it or lose it" requirement, just like for trademarks, would eliminate a lot of this patent trolling.

Re:bring it on (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453308)

No they won't. They'll increase your bill with a "Communications Fee" so the consumer's are footing the bill.

Re:bring it on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453560)

If they lose that is what will happen. But none of those companies are going to just roll over and just take it. I'd like to see them all work together to get the patents changed but then you have the question of how will it effect any patents that those companys hold.

Re:bring it on (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454282)

Trouble is: they are competing against services that aren't subject to these kinds of patent trolls and they can't just increase prices arbitrarily. If they could, they already would have.

Aw the patent system (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453328)

Always so friendly towards unnovation , I am proud of the patent system!

Interesting motto... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453332)

"Drawn to Invention"

There's got to be a joke somewhere in there...

Re:Interesting motto... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453350)

Let us know when you find it.

Good, hope the troll succeeds. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22453404)

And I hope the costs go up.

All the more reason for my to continue my non-TV watching, non-TV buying ways.

Let these monsters eat each other. I'm happy to be the rat watching the elephants dance from far away.

Why does slashdat hate patent trolls? (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453426)

Work smarter, not harder, right? I'm just putting the finishing touches on my patent for respiration....

This is perfect. No, really... (4, Interesting)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453522)

This is exactly what we need at this moment. This might be the straw that broke the camel's back because with so many potentially affected, and with HDTV the new "standard", we are going to see a backlash not from a single company but an entire industry that is now being forced to pay ransom to stay in business thanks to that standard. The way I see it is that the FCC(and any other FCC-like organizations in other countries) will take a decent portion of the heat for forcing the industry to use a non-open standard, that will then put pressure on the USPTO to make some real reform. Where it goes from there is a bit cloudy but I suspect this will be enough to force the Supreme Court to rule on this type of behavior; after all, patents are supposed to promote innovation, not stifle it.

Re:This is perfect. No, really... (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455436)

0.5% of revenue won't make these companies struggle to stay in business by any means. It's small enough (50c per $100, or $5000 per million) that it'll be distributed through the customer base or suppliers (where applicable) will be pushed to cut costs if price rises aren't palatable. The greater fear should be that they pay up to avoid the hassle of court and costs of lawyers and encourage more of these trolls.

Lossage (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453590)

I suspect that this is something they'd be likely to lose in court. Afterall, the court took Xerox's patent on
photocopying away, even though there was more effort in development and no trolling nor as obvious wide-ranging
impacts, just the monopolization intended by the system.

huh? (1)

Ugot2BkidNme (632036) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453678)

Why didn't one of these companies buy the patent to begin with? It is not like they can't afford it.

An IP tax with no value (3, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453746)

It's time to kill software patents once and for all. This is not what the patent system was intended to do. There's no investment by the litigant, other than monetary. It's not like the company involved is offering any value to the TV broadcast industry. It's nothing but a tax, worse than a tax because at least your tax money has some return. What Rembrandt is doing is a legal extortion racket. In any other setting this would be a crime.

Gotcha capitalism at its finest. Sickening. Enough is enough already.

The patent doesn't generate Ad revenue... (3, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22453808)

Why should someone who holds the patent get a percentage of revenue not generated by the patent? Even if they win the suit on the point of ownership, etc. There is no legal reason for broadcasters to pay a percentage of revenue they generate from the combination of all the technologies and content they use.

At most they should get a percentage of sales of the devices that use the patent directly.... not Ad revenue or other licensing revenue for syndicated shows, DVDs, etc.

What actual devices implement this patented technology?

Re:The patent doesn't generate Ad revenue... (4, Insightful)

Bigglare (956998) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454026)

Everyone keeps talking about redesigning patent laws to stop this. The federal government has the right to take patents away for the public good. For example if there was a patent on say Flu vaccinations, and the company wasnt producing enough or charging too much. The government can take that away and have other people manufacture the vaccine. Just write your senator and representatives and have them void these patents on the grounds they infringe and hamper on a standard mandated by congress for broadcasting. Congress requires that broadcasters use this standard, it was one of several options they considered. They chose the ATSC format and therefore should convert the patents to Public Domain or take the patent away as emminent domain.

Oh perhaps this is a good thing, considering.... (4, Interesting)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454084)

Analog TV is set to be turned off, rendering many TVs useless next year, unless a convert is purchased.

So instead of turning off Analog and going all digital, leave analog on until the patent expires.

I'm sure a lot or Analog TV owners will be happy.

The patents at issue (1)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454528)

The article didn't give details regarding what patents are at issue. I went to PACER [uscourts.gov] and searched for patent cases involving Rembrandt filed since January 1, 2007. Most of the cases were filed by Rembrandt Technologies, although one of them was filed by Motorola seeking declaratory judgment that it was not infringing on any valid claims owned by Rembrandt Technologies.

The complaints were not all the same, but here is the list of patents cited in the complaints:

An important question is whether it really matters whether Rembrandt Technologies hired the original inventors or not, or whether Rembrandt Technologies practices the inventions or not. Rembrandt Technologies purchased the patents and is trying to license, not practice the inventions, thus it is considered to be a patent troll. But, would it have been better had the original patent holder had been the one to file these suits?

The rights involved would not be any different, just the entity able to enforce those rights. If the original patent holder was a competitor of the defendants, then there would be more incentive to file these suits to stop competitors from practicing the invention altogether, rather than trying to obtain licensing fees. At least with a third-party patent holder, there is an incentive for the patent holder to license the patents broadly.

One way of looking at suits and transactions is that the original patent holder capitalized on the potential value of enforcing the patents by transferring those enforcement rights to a buyer willing to take on the enforcement risks. There are plenty of risks involved in enforcing patents (e.g., the cost of attorneys fees or the possibility that an adverse construction of the patent rights will destroy their enforcement value). Whether the original patent holder or a third-party takes on those risks changes who takes on those risks, but doesn't change the scope of the patents themselves.

The Horror (1)

tooyoung (853621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454696)

The firm is apparently trying to get 0.5% of all revenues from services that supposedly infringe on the patents. The targeted companies include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter and Cablevision. According to MultiChannel News, Rembrandt's assault is especially aggressive, even for a patent troll: 'It is attacking two key technology standards used by the cable and broadcast industries, CableLabs' DOCSIS and the Advanced Television Systems Committee's digital-TV spec. "If they're successful, this could affect everything from the cost of cable service to the price of TVs."
Yeah, by raising the cost by 0.5%...

Think again (1)

KwKSilver (857599) | more than 6 years ago | (#22455258)

The companies who collect it from the customer (YOU & me)will need to collect more for the overhead. think 100% to 200%, so the acyual increase will be more like 1% to 2%. Adds up fast over 10s or 100s of millions of customers. Troll's investment in the research, marketing, and development? 0%, %0.00. Why is being a parasite encouraged?

not haha (4, Interesting)

sohp (22984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454764)

A number of people are saying that this patent troll company will get its ass whooped because of the companies they are trying extort. Perhaps. But here's a rather more cynical view that I consider at least as likely. It has to do with the other end of the incentives -- profit and loss.

Most if not all the cable and media companies have a virtual monopoly on providing you service. Consider, how many of us have any choice in which cable provider to bring service to the home? So, what happens in this situation is that because the company can pretty much raise your rates or reduce your service by say, shifting channels currently on the cheap "Basic" bundle over to the pricier premium bundles. They can pretty much write their own profits. So now patent troll company comes and wants $X piece of the pie. As a cable provider, they'd look at the cost and risk of legal action vs. shelling out the money for a new agreement. Result: they just jack up rates for the consumer and pay off the extortionist, safely keeping the patent system alive for their own future interests.

We the consumers would see another jump in cable rates or some such service change, but there's not going to be a straw to break the patent camel's back on this one.

late to the party (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22454866)

I know I'm late here, but can someone check the ties of this company that is the patent troll? I'd be really curious to find out who is playing puppet behind them getting them to litigate in this case.

Re:late to the party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22455058)

Microsoft, of course. Duh. It always is.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>