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Sony Blu-ray Under Patent Infringement Probe

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-your-usual-patent-troll dept.

Patents 160

Lucas123 writes "The US International Trade Commission said it will launch an investigation into possible patent infringements involving Sony's Blu-ray players and other technologies using laser and light-emitting diodes, such as Motorola's Razr phone and Hitachi camcorders. The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed in February by a Columbia University professor emerita who says she invented a method of using gallium nitride-based semiconductor material for producing wide band-gap semiconductors for LEDs and laser diodes in the blue/ultraviolet end of the light spectrum. Her complaint asks the ITC to block imports of LED and laser diode technology from Asia and Europe. The total market for all types of gallium nitride devices has been forecast at $7.2 billion for 2009 alone."

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160 comments

Eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819252)


Eat my shorts slashdot !!

Re:Eat my shorts slashdot !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819564)

Eat my shorts slashdot !!


Real good one there, took you a while to come up with that one.

If you patent something (4, Insightful)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819260)

You should have a set timelimit on using it. Either you exercise your patent right and setup royalty shit with other companies, or you start using the patented technology, otherwise it's fair game.

Re:If you patent something (3, Interesting)

salimma (115327) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819328)

But that's why patents do have expiration dates. But perhaps there should be a time limit on how long the patent holder has to sue, after a product is openly known to use a patented technology.

Still, this must be the first non-frivolous patent claim to make Slashdot headlines in quite some time (the only one I could remember from recently was the dispute over ZFS)

How long should that be? (2, Insightful)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819402)

This case is egregious, unless she was living in cave then she had to know that something she believed she'd developed was being widely used.

However, there are plenty of things that you'd struggle to even know were in use. What if it were some new modulation strategy to make the construction of multi-band cellphones easier; there could easily be millions of them in the market before it ever came to your attention.

Re:How long should that be? (4, Insightful)

TimeTraveler1884 (832874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819570)

However, there are plenty of things that you'd struggle to even know were in use. What if it were some new modulation strategy to make the construction of multi-band cellphones easier; there could easily be millions of them in the market before it ever came to your attention.
The problem is the very nature of closed business IP. What carrier or manufacturer is going to give you detailed specifications on how their devices work? Anyone who has tried to contact a manufacturer of some electronic device because you want to hack/extend it knows all about this.

It's next to impossible to get that information to know if someone is infringing on your patent. If they have a similar/duplicate patent themselves, then its a little easier to do a search and find how theirs work. But you still have to suspect that company is infringing in the first place which may not be obvious without reverse engineering. And thanks to DMCA, that can make things complicated if it touches software.

Re:How long should that be? (4, Interesting)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820518)

Maybe this is why hardware companies like Nvidia and ATI aren't forthcoming with the source for their drivers. They're afraid they might be infringing on one or more patents, and that releasing source code would allow the patent holder to find out about the infringements.

Security from patent lawsuits through obscurity? It probably works quite well, especially when you consider how vague and far-reaching software patents can be. You practically can't write a block of code these days without infringing on some patent troll.

Re:How long should that be? (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819590)

This case is egregious, unless she was living in cave then she had to know that something she believed she'd developed was being widely used.
There's not much detail in the article. For all we know, she's been negotiating with these people for years and they've been jerking her around. We only know when she filed a complaint, not when she first contacted the individual companies (if at all). We don't even know if her patent is applicable.

Re:How long should that be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820574)

This case is egregious, unless she was living in cave then she had to know that something she believed she'd developed was being widely used.

That's a strong opinion from a guy who knows almost nothing about it. I don't know what her home is like, but cave or not, she's been trying to enforce the patent for more than a decade, and had made repeated offers of reasonable licensing terms before she ever filed a suit. And after doing so, at least one other company has already settled with her.

Re:If you patent something (4, Informative)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820262)

But perhaps there should be a time limit on how long the patent holder has to sue, after a product is openly known to use a patented technology.
This does exist. It's called the doctrine of laches and estoppel. If you know someone is infringing your patent and you either refuse to sue or lead them on to believe that you won't sue, you can be barred from suing. You can rebut this though if you show that you had no money and couldn't sue or you were negotiating with them during the entire time.

Re:If you patent something (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820322)

I mean to prevent these companies/people who hold patents in shit but refuse to act on them at all. If you get a patent, you should have 6months to prove you mean to act on it either by royalty system or by your own production of said product.

Re:If you patent something (4, Insightful)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820536)

>But perhaps there should be a time limit on how long the patent holder has to sue,

I'm not an attorney, but I believe the doctrine of Laches might apply. Basically, you can't wait until the damages are massive just for the sake of increasing your claim.

Re:If you patent something (1)

TimeTraveler1884 (832874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819390)

You should have a set timelimit on using it. Either you exercise your patent right and setup royalty shit with other companies, or you start using the patented technology, otherwise it's fair game.
I guess. But as an independent scientist/inventor, I don't have the time to check up on what everyone else is doing while I am trying to make ends meet in my small business. I will never become a patent troll or use patents in evil ways. However, if I patent something novel, but I am just too small of a fish to do anything with it for the time being, my IP should be protected equally as the big corporations' patents.

Granted, it's wrong to know people are infringing and do nothing about it until there is a multi-billion dollar industry revolving around your patent. But you nor I know that is the case with this professor.

Re:If you patent something (1)

Freeside1 (1140901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819870)

But you nor I know that is the case with this professor.
I know what happens to you and me when I assume,
but since this professor is obviously tech-savvy, and since there's been decent media coverage surrounding Blu-Ray vs HD DVD, I'm very tempted to assume she was aware, and waited on purpose.

Re:If you patent something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820198)

You can assume she waited to try and benefit herself if you want. As was said above, she may have been in contact with Sony many times until they told her to piss of and then she filed a complaint about the patent. We don't know she was squatting....

Re:If you patent something (1)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820874)

While we are in the land of what if....

What if she is squatting to make a point about the brokenness of the patent system?

InnerWeb

Re:If you patent something (1)

arthurh3535 (447288) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820016)

I think the thing is, if it's their field of expertise, they'd keep their eyes open on what is going on by other people in that field and approach someone far earlier about their concerns.

I would bet this is a case where multiple people were working on a similiar problem with similiar solutions.

In this case, I do not believe the judge should allow for immediate cessation of import and it's definitely over the top ammounts of money. I'm pretty sure Sony hasn't made that much money off of Blue-Ray technology.

Re:If you patent something (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819580)

Yeah, more advice on slashdot that isn't practical in any way what so ever.

There is a time line, it's the length of the patent. We really shouldn't be telling people if/when/how much they should charge for their device.

He is a clue: You going to role out a billion dollar item? do a fucking patent search.

Re:If you patent something (1, Redundant)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819738)

He[r] is a clue: You going to role out a billion dollar item? do a fucking patent search.

Under current US patent law, searching for existing patents is effectively discouraged. "Willful" infringement can result in treble damages, in comparison to "inadvertent" infringement.

Re:If you patent something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820328)

I think the point is that you do a search and if there is a patent you license it from the patent holder. At least that is what an honest business should do. Not searching to avoid willful infringement is like negligent homicide. You still kill someone even though you didn't mean it.

Re:If you patent something (1)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820938)

And finding out who owns the patent and negotiating a deal can avoid all damages. Of course, the owner of the patent could simply refuse to license use of the patent, but that would be an unusual situation that could have far greater expenses if the patent owner simply shuts down the product line after it is in full swing.

On the other hand, maybe the companies are hoping to make their money before the law suit is settled or an injunction is imposed. Then, the company wins no matter what.

Who knows, it is corporate and political America.

InnerWeb

Re:If you patent something (2, Informative)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820226)

You should have a set timelimit on using it.
There is a time limit, it's 20 years from filing date.

Seven Point Two Billion Dollars? (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819272)

That's a lot of Das Blinkenlights!

Really. I could live with green.

Re:Seven Point Two Billion Dollars? (1)

cerelib (903469) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819936)

Really. I could live with green.

More like, I could live without the blue. The only place LEDs that bright belong is in a flashlight. Blue LEDs seem to be the new "futuristic" look for all new gadgetry. I have a new 32 inch LCD TV that has nice subdued green and orange for status lights, but I have seen similar TVs that have bright blue LEDs for status that can be very distracting. Also, bright LEDs do not belong on a device like a laptop where the lights are in your face while using it.

Re:Seven Point Two Billion Dollars? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821070)

There are blue status lamps on the new range in our kitchen.

They reflect to where I do the washing-up, 4 meters away. When I glance at the glasses that I have placed on the draining-board to dry, I am continually catching myself.

"Look, that one's not rinsed properly, and there's a soap bubble inside."

Nope. It's a blue reflection, glinting off the Duralex. Gets me every time.

I'm missing something (2, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819360)

Why is she requesting that all imports of the tech in question be stopped? Doesn't this sort of thing usually just end with a licensing agreement? The inventor gets paid, and everybody goes on. The article doesn't mention that she is involved with any sort of competitor, so it just seems sort of malevolent for her to try and put a halt to the entire market.

I certainly hope there is a better explanation, though.

Re:I'm missing something (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819426)

If I were to guess, and I will, she is using it to get there attention and get the issue resolved quickly.
It's one thing to string out a lawsuit forever, it's another to do it while costing billions of dollars in revenues.
Good for her.

Re:I'm missing something (5, Funny)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819466)

Why is she requesting that all imports of the tech in question be stopped?
Maybe she invested heavily in HD-DVD?

Re:I'm missing something (1)

ronocdh (906309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820474)

Honestly I think it's more likely she would have tried her best to pick the winning side, and invest heavily in them. As many commenters have already said, the timeframe of this filing seems a bit bizarre. It happened pretty much immediately after the concession of HD-DVD, no?

Re:I'm missing something (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821120)

I don't know about the timings of the lawsuit, but this issue was raised long before January, I remember reading about it last December and wondering if it would tip the balance in the format war.

A more realistic scenario than "She's pissed because HD DVD lost" is that Toshiba probably licensed the technology.

Re:I'm missing something (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819816)

She's a chick, what do you expect? She's probably on her "special day" and just looking for a convenient outlet for her irrational mood swings.

Re:I'm missing something (1)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820006)

Ok so on top of being a dick, you're also stupid. She's retired so I bet she's old enough not to get those anymore.

Re:I'm missing something (1)

KnightNavro (585943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819844)

It's likely that she's asking for a lot more than she expects (or even wants) to get. If you walk into a car dealership and want to haggle, you don't immediately offer the highest price you're willing to pay, you offer something lower and work your way up to a price you can agree on. Similarly, she may only want a reasonable amount of money so Sony can use the technology she patented and is asking for something that will hurt Sony a lot more than a reasonable settlement.

Of course, that's also the tactic a patent troll would take: ask for a huge penalty then be happy when they get a few million for squatting on a patent that never should have been granted. It's a shame that the tactics look the same and it's almost impossible to tell how legit her case is based on TFA.

Re:I'm missing something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820334)

Why is she requesting that all imports of the tech in question be stopped? Doesn't this sort of thing usually just end with a licensing agreement?
Don't you think that potentially blocking this much money from being made will get a licensing agreement signed really quick?

Re:I'm missing something (4, Informative)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820560)

Why is she requesting that all imports of the tech in question be stopped? Doesn't this sort of thing usually just end with a licensing agreement? The inventor gets paid, and everybody goes on. The article doesn't mention that she is involved with any sort of competitor, so it just seems sort of malevolent for her to try and put a halt to the entire market.
I certainly hope there is a better explanation, though.

She is requesting blocking of imports because that's the basic remedy an intellectual property right holder gets with the International Trade Commission [usitc.gov] . I don't think it is even possible to get damages for infringement in the ITC (although a regular lawsuit to go after damages can still be filed). You also can't use ITC proceedings to prevent infringement within the country.

Some advantages of going to the ITC include speedy proceedings (so you're not still engaged in the suit 10 years later) and enforcement of exclusion orders by customs. Because the ability to import a set of goods is often vital, the threat of such exclusion orders can provide a powerful motivation to license if it appears likely that the plaintiff will win.

Another advantage is that the ITC is fairly specialized. It has people who really know the law and can pick up on technical nuances readily. ITC decisions may be higher-quality than the decisions that come from the district courts because either party can demand a jury in patent cases in the district courts and because district courts do not have the specialized legal knowledge and experience with technical cases.

Columbia University (1, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819396)

'nuff said.

Re:Columbia University (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819924)

Enlighten me. What does that have to do with anything?

Re:Columbia University (1)

Farmer Crack-Ass (1140103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820178)

I'm sorry, but as someone who had to look up Columbia University on Wikipedia just to find out it was an Ivy League school, I don't find that remark "insightful" in the slightest. Could someone explain the "insight" provided by this post?

Re:Columbia University (1)

mc moss (1163007) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820244)

??? I don't get it. Columbia University is one of the best universities in the country. What's with the 'nuff said? If it has to do with Ahmadinejad giving a speech there, then you need to grow up and get your head examined.

Re:Columbia University (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820936)

My question is who pays her salary (public university? taxes?) and why in the world she's the patent holder and not the public (public university?)?

"she"? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819412)

Right. Whatever. Did she take a cue from Heather Mills' playbook? Let the men work for years then come in at the last minute and ask other men (again) in court to give her money she "earned"?

The plan is actually filled in this time... (0, Redundant)

Digi-John (692918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819440)

1. Create technology
2. Wait for one design to win the market
3. Sue manufacturer
4. Profit!

Re:The plan is actually filled in this time... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819734)

I read about this going on well before January. I suspect Toshiba actually licensed the technology or something similar.

Re:The plan is actually filled in this time...RED (0)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819814)

I suspect Toshiba actually licensed the technology or something similar.

Toshiba uses a red laser diode that's rather different from the Sony blue diode. That's partly why Toshiba got to market first, and PS3 was delayed for months - the problem in building the blue laser diodes in quantity. The circumstances might be different.

Re:The plan is actually filled in this time...RED (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819908)

Here I thought this bit of mis-information died along with HD-DVD.

HD-DVD used the same blue laser as BluRay. From there you should be able to extrapolate why everything else in your post is incorrect.

Re:The plan is actually filled in this time...RED (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819938)

Toshiba uses a red laser diode that's rather different from the Sony blue diode.

Huh? HD-DVD [wikipedia.org] uses a blue laser. Am I missing something, or are you?

Re:The plan is actually filled in this time...RED (2, Interesting)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820216)

Others have pointed out that you're incorrect. I'm curious why you'd have believed this crap though: if HD DVD had been red-laser based, then HD DVD drives wouldn't have been any more expensive than DVD drives. It's doubtful it would have taken two years for a sub-$200 HD DVD player to appear (and the A3 was heavily subsidized), and virtually every manufacturer currently making DVD drives would have been able to - and therefore would have - jumped into the market almost right away.

There are ways red-laser media might have been practical - indeed, a format called HD-VMD is out that uses red laser technology, choosing to use massive numbers of layers and slightly more efficient bit encoding, to overcome the 4.7/9Gb limitations of DVD. And it'd be interesting to know if red laser media could have been more dense if they'd used the tricks with aperture that BD uses (that gave it the 60% advantage over HD DVD per layer.) But HD DVD didn't use any of these techniques. Had it done so, the media would have been more expensive, but the players would have been much, much, cheaper. We'd probably never have even seen a "war", it would have been game over in 2005, when Toshiba would have released a player much earlier than they eventually did, at a price that everyone could afford, followed quickly by Apex and numerous other entrants from the low cost consumer electronics industry.

Instead we got a blue laser war. Yealch.

Sweet (1, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819470)

After all the bogus crap and lies spread about Blu-Ray, and the fact that there locking DRM into it I'm glad. I hope either:
A) Sony looses their shirt
and
B) This allows any one to be able to manufacture the device.
pipe dream:
C) She makes 'No DRM' part of the licensing.

need a new tag (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819510)

I'm thinking something along the lines of "cashingin" might work. Although this might be covered under the "greed" tag.

Re:need a new tag (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819634)

Why? If she has a valid patent for a legitimate invention that these companies are using in violation of applicable U.S. law, why shouldn't they pay royalties like everyone else? I don't know the facts of the case, and certainly wouldn't depend upon Slashdot for any, but if she did get there first with her invention then they should pay. That's why we have patents. If you look at this reasonably, most of the complaints you hear about patents (not counting software and business-method, which are defective-by-design) are about the issuing of nonsensical, obvious, or overbroad patents. IF this is a legitimate U.S. patent specifically covering a device critical to their product manufacture, they should have two choices: pay up, or work around it.

Re:need a new tag (1)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820688)

IF this is a legitimate U.S. patent specifically covering a device critical to their product manufacture, they should have two choices: pay up, or work around it.


But Sony is not a US company, which means they have a viable third option: ignore US law and violate the patent. This is fairly common in developing economies, especially for pharmaceuticals- For example, I'm pretty sure that Brasil regularly declines to enforce patents over drugs that combat STDs. For another example, I'm pretty sure that Teva Pharmaceuticals in Israel simply disregards most international patents when making generic knockoff drugs for resale on the international market.

In these situations, the proper recourse is diplomatic- the US and other countries have trade deals that restrict the import and sale of products which would violate native copyrights and patents. You can't get around copyright law simply by making xeroxes of your Harry Potter book in Mexico (where US copyright law doesn't apply) and then importing them back across the border for resale here.

But if the Federal government refuses to enforce those laws, the patent owner is pretty much out of luck.

Re:need a new tag (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821076)

Issues concerning the legitimacy of patents aside, Sony is not a US company, and as such might be able to ignore US law, but not if it wants to trade in the US. It is whether Sony can continue to import blue lasers into the US that's at issue here: if they continue to violate the patent without coming to an agreement with the patent holder, then they may be barred from importing blue lasers.

Nobody is proposing to prevent Sony from selling blue lasers in, say, Japan. This is exclusively about what Sony does in the US.

Re:need a new tag (1)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821444)

Righto. I guess the point I left unsaid is that the patent-holder can't pick up a gun on her own and patrol the Port of Los Angeles to keep those darn Japanese lasers off U.S. soil. She would need to get a court order to do it, which I guess is what this particluar lawsuit is about.

But my tinfoil hat is telling me that Wal-Mart would never allow US Customs to enforce an injunction against all products containing Sony lasers, no matter how valid the patent may be or how well the patent-holder does in court. In the realpolitik of global economics, it just ain't gonna happen.

Re:need a new tag (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821166)

Actually, Sony's U.S. operation is incorporated here ... Sony USA. But, sure, a U.S. patent is only valid in the United States. Nobody says that you can't sell device that's only patented in the United States somewhere else: you just can't make or sell it here. What it means is that if she gets an injunction, the U.S. is not a market for said device until they either license the technology or work around it to the satisfaction of the courts. That will happen, one way or the other, because the United States is a substantial market for consumer products based upon the blue LED. Frankly, I don't know enough about the development history of that technology to know if this professor's patent is legitimate or not. If there's prior art I'm sure it will come out in court.

Sometimes the system does work though. For example, a data acquisition system I developed for the steel mill industry some fifteen years ago was patented. We found out that a British company was violating the patent, and had their product stopped on the docks until such time as they could work around it or license. They didn't even argue about it: just shipped their stuff back and eventually delivered a non-infringing version, which was fine by us. This really wasn't a case of willful infringement either, they just happened to have done something similar enough to our patented design that the judge agreed with us. The British outfit was totally reasonable about it and didn't try to fight it.

Re:need a new tag (1)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821612)

What it means is that if she gets an injunction, the U.S. is not a market for said device until they either license the technology or work around it to the satisfaction of the courts. That will happen, one way or the other, because the United States is a substantial market for consumer products based upon the blue LED.


And that's the crux of the problem. When the SCOTUS decided the betamax case in 1984, there were between four and six million VCRs already in American homes, and some other unknown number of VCRs already in the stream of commerce. In some sense, the decision had to come out the way it did because it was impossible to put that particular genie back in the bottle. Courts generally don't like to make decisions that can't practically be enforced, becuase such decisions provide easy opportunities for the public and the other branches of government to undermine the court's authority.

This isn't just about blu-ray. Can you imagine the practical limitations of trying to enforce an injunction against the sale of all DVD players in the US? An order where the FBI / Customs & Treasury / Federal Marshalls would need to go into every single electronics retailer in the United States and seize every single DVD player on the shelves? Let alone a decision that brands all CD burners and DVD players in private homes as contraband?

Yeah, good luck with that.

Re:need a new tag (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821468)

But Sony is not a US company, which means they have a viable third option: ignore US law and violate the patent.

There is a fourth option. Granted, it's quite extreme, but seeing as TFA quoted $7.9 *billion* dollars, well..that's a heck of a lot of motivation.

"NEWS FLASH!! A Columbia professor emerita was killed earlier today in a random (pick one: drive-by, mugging, burglary, hit-and-run). No details are available at this time and authorities declined to comment."

Cheers!

Strat

Re:need a new tag (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820544)

I'm thinking something along the lines of "cashingin"...


Cash-In-Gin only works if you're a Beefeater [wikipedia.org] , your last name is Gordon [wikipedia.org] , or are from Bombay [wikipedia.org] .


Oh, you meant "Cashing-In!". Nevermind...

Ongoing for 12 years (5, Informative)

mother_reincarnated (1099781) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819654)

For everyone yelling 'patent troll,' realize that she has been trying to enforce her rights since at least 1995. She also seems perfectly willing to license the technology http://www.compoundsemi.com/documents/articles/cldoc/7121.html [compoundsemi.com] ...

I think that is how you're supposed to do things...

Re:Ongoing for 12 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819696)

I say sony gives her 1.2 billion dollars and the whole thing goes Public Domain.

It's a fair solution and sony blows that each month on carp.

Re:Ongoing for 12 years (5, Funny)

mordenkhai (1167617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819788)

While we can all agree the Japanese do enjoy fish, I think you may have their monthly lunch budget a little high.

Re:Ongoing for 12 years (1)

limabone (174795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819930)

If I had mod points I would have definitely modded you as funny! I had to read the parent post again :)

Re:Ongoing for 12 years (1)

b00tang (696709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821802)

perhaps the funniest comment I have ever seen on slashdot. A rating of +5 funny is not nearly enough to do this justice.

Re:Ongoing for 12 years (2, Informative)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820086)

October 2007 was 14 years. :) I'll give her one thing... she's persistent. :P

(According to the patent it was issued in 1993, If I remember reading it right..) Since the patent protection starts (and lasts 14 years from) the day you are issued the patent.

Of course after Jun 1995, they're 20 years? If I'm readnig the USPTO stuff right.

Just Go Away! (0, Troll)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819760)

Won't these people just GO AWAY!

PS3 and BluRay have been on the market for years now, and in quite public development for years prior to that. If this professor had come out publicly at the beginning and said, hey, that's my LED they're using, and I want boodles of ca$h, I would probably consider that acceptable behavior. Same for the RAZR (can't Motorola even spell?). But to wait this long and suddenly wake up from that Rip Van Winkle stupor to suddenly realize - that has to be my patent in there somewhere and now that you have built the market and are invested so deeply that you can't change anything to work around my idea I intend to blackmail you out of even bigger boodles of ca$h isn't acceptable. At a certain point patent trolls just harm too many other people to be allowed to continue, and this is a good case of exactly that!

Clearly Sony developed this on their own, so you can't even say they stole it.

Re:Just Go Away! (5, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819840)

"Clearly Sony developed this on their own, so you can't even say they stole it."

Really? Given that her patent claim is 12 YEARS OLD, I don't think the word "clearly" means what you think it means.

"U.S. Patent No. 4,904,618, "Process for Doping Crystals of Wide Band Gap Semiconductors," and U.S. Patent No. 5,252,499, "Wide Band-Gap Semiconductors Having Low Bipolar Resistivity and Method of Formation"

Re:Just Go Away! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821014)

However she isn't the only scientist who worked on blue leds, how can she be so sure that they infringed her patents?

Wikipedia doesn't even mention her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_LED#Ultraviolet_and_blue_LEDs [wikipedia.org]

There are a lot of patents by other scientists on gallium-nitride blue leds, this is from 1993:
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN%2F5578839 [uspto.gov]

Re:Just Go Away! (4, Informative)

Esperi (782483) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820064)

I think she'll go away once infringement has been settled. Having settled with Philips [pr-inside.com] and Toyoda [ledsmagazine.com] this doesn't look much like a troll to me.

Re:Just Go Away! (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820730)

Patents have nothing to do with whether you develop something on your own. If I invent something and patent it, I can demand a license fee from you even if you make the exact same invention, on your own, with no knowledge of my earlier invention.

Stealing? (2, Insightful)

dmeranda (120061) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821004)

Clearly Sony developed this on their own, so you can't even say they stole it.

You must be thinking copyrights, or trade secrets. Because patent law don't care one tiny bit whether anything was stolen, pirated, plundered, copied, leaked, miasspropriated, derived from, inspired by, just coincidental, or "discovered" completely independently in an entirely different galaxy by a lone martian who's never even heard of the patentee or patent office. There's no shred of moral justification for patents like there could be with copyright. That's why patents are so offensive; they're a claim over not just the appropriation of "thought", but over the entire ownership of a particular thought and the absolute dominion and authority to exclude the entire human race ever having it, even if they do so entirely on their own or even just accidentally.

And as for the people asking why she didn't do something with the patent herself, to manufacture anything. Well, odds are really really good that even if she did have all the intent and means to do so (which may be arguable), that she couldn't do so because then she herself would be violating somebody else's patent. Having a patent to "A" doesn't give you any rights to make "A" at all. All having a patent does is the give you the authority to make sure that nobody else can do "A" either. Patents only take away, they never give.

U.S. Patent 5,252,499 (1)

sillivalley (411349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819778)

This is going to be interesting. Section 337 actions are brought in rem, so success in this action could result in an exclusion order against any product incorporating or including the infringing device. That's lots of stuff! Section 337 actions are also fast, furious, and expensive!

You can get a copy of the patent from http://www.pat2pdf.org/ [pat2pdf.org]

What a bunch of garbage (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819922)

I see more and more stories of this sort lately. Everybody and their brother is piling on now. It's like a string of serial murders, and every whack-job in the world is going to the police with a signed confession in hand, but no proof they had anything to do with any of it, they just want attention -- and in this case, money. Or how when someone with money dies, every 3rd cousin that no-one has ever heard of comes out of the woodwork looking for a hand-out.

Either that, or these people are trying to break the current patent system by exploiting it and overloading the courts with these allegedly bullshit patent suits.

Re:What a bunch of garbage (5, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820378)

Except this isn't a story of this sort. It is not a bullshit patent. The patent owner has a legitimate and important technological innovation that she patented in the mod-90's that opens up a whole new type of semiconductor technology. Many companies have licensed the technology without any problems. A few bad actors (some are very large companies like Sony) have ignored the patent and attempts to negotiate a reasonable license. In frustration the inventor is asking that legal remedies in place to deal with this situation be triggered.

Without this sort of patent protection this is clearly a case where an individual and obviously very creative inventor would just get run over by large companies.

True inventor of the blue LED (1, Informative)

Frangible (881728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820236)

"Shuji Nakamura of Nichia Corporation of Japan demonstrated the first high-brightness blue LED based on InGaN, borrowing on critical developments in GaN nucleation on sapphire substrates and the demonstration of p-type doping of GaN which were developed by I. Akasaki and H. Amano in Nagoya. The existence of the blue LED led quickly to the first white LED, which employed a Y3Al5O12:Ce, or "YAG", phosphor coating to mix yellow (down-converted) light with blue to produce light that appears white. Nakamura was awarded the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize for his invention."

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

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6900465.PN.&OS=PN/6900465&RS=PN/6900465 [uspto.gov]

"In 1991, I made n-type gallium nitride. The following year I succeeded making p-type using a thermal annealing technique. Now all gallium nitride researchers use my technique for p-type gallium nitride. Another big breakthrough was making the first single crystal of indium gallium nitride, which we needed for an emitting layer. Finally at the end of 1993, I succeeded in making the first commercial-based blue LEDs."

http://archive.sciencewatch.com/jan-feb2000/sw_jan-feb2000_page4.htm [sciencewatch.com]

The invention this woman claims to have done was already done years previous by the true inventor of the blue LED and laser diode, Shuji Nakamura. She is a patent troll, and the fact the FTC is wasting taxpayer money with an investigation into something that could've been resolved by 5 minutes of looking at dates on Wikipedia is sad.

Re:True inventor of the blue LED (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820330)

> the fact the FTC is wasting taxpayer money with an investigation into something that could've been resolved by 5 minutes of looking at dates on Wikipedia is sad.

You'll pardon me if I assert that more rigorous investigation than reading and automatically believing Wikipedia might actually be called for here?

Re:True inventor of the blue LED (5, Insightful)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820900)

When you made your indepth investigation of dates on wikipedia, why did you only look at one side? It's nice that that Nakamura claims invention of the blue LED (not what Neuman is suing over btw) in 1991. But the patent that she is suing over is for a particular type of doping that is useful to create these LEDs - which she filed in 1988 [freepatentsonline.com] .

Try and get your basic facts rights before you post your pathetic righteous indignation that the FTC doesn't just conduct its business on wikipedia.

Re:True inventor of the blue LED (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821220)

According to your wiki article his discovery was in 1993 and hers was also. The discoveries were made simultaneously. However, the article does not indicate whether he or his employer patented the discovery, ever. She, in fact did. Nakumura made no discovery years prior to hers. He made it at almost the exact same time. If his employer failed to patent his discovery that is their error. If her method of making the LEDs is in use over his method the patent is still valid regardless of who actually "discovered" it first.

It was while working for Nichia that Nakamura invented the first high brightness GaN LED whose brilliant blue light is (when partially converted to yellow by a phosphor coating) the key to white LED lighting, and which went into production in 1993.


Where exactly is this discovery years prior to hers in 1993? And note that his discovery is used in White LEDs initially not blue as hers does in the same year.

Re:True inventor of the blue LED (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821840)

You can't even read you own post. How sad. It is right there BRILLIANT BLUE LIGHT. The white LED is a modification to the original and it went commercial in 1993 which ment is we developed before that and since it was based on the BLUE LED that inherently implies that the BLUE LED was developed first.

Nakamura invented the first high brightness GaN LED whose brilliant blue light

Re:True inventor of the blue LED (3, Interesting)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821912)

Just for the record, her patent is here [uspto.gov] . What she seems to have invented is a way to make pn junctions in wide bandgap semiconductor with the diffusion of atomic hydrogen diffusion to compensate for impurities.

There's no claim that she invented the blue LED. The question is whether the process used today involves this technique.

In truth, there is never one inventor of something. It's all based on previous work. Nakamura can certainly be called the inventor of the blue LED, but he based, as does every inventor, on previous work.

Little guy bites big guys? (1)

DJRikki (646184) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820284)

If I read that correct then ha-ha Sony. Makes a change for the little guy to bite the big guys.

Columbia University? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820402)

Last I checked around 2001 Rothschild obtained the patent on Gallium Nitride LEDs. Seven years to file a patent infringement claim? Columbia University is a patent troll.

OT a little (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820552)

I've noticed that BR players and TV's have actually gone UP in price recently. That to me is real stupid.

She probably published a paper in a journal (0)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820628)

Scientists do this sort of thing, make a discovery public and then are annoyed when they find other people using it.

If you want to patent something you tell nobody else.

I don't see how people can patent someone using a material that exists on the planet anyway, it surely is the process of manufacture that is patented? this woman hasn't made anything, it's restricted to a discovery made in a lab.

Re:She probably published a paper in a journal (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821998)

If you want to patent something you tell nobody else.

One of the benefits of a patent system is that one can 'publish' one's invention so that others may build upon it and you can still protect your IP rights.

If you don't want anyone knowing about something, keep it as a trade secret. But then you have no recourse when another researcher arrives at the same discovery independently.

Hmmmn, (1)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820804)

You can patent human DNA sequences [nsf.gov] .

Chances are, I have a bit of one of a patented DNA string within my own DNA.

I wonder how long it'll be until Monsanto or someone else sues me because of my very existence...

"Je pense, donc, je suis poursuivi en justice"? (Google translation: I speak Spanish, not French. :) ).

What I hope (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820992)

I hope she wins so long as she's an open source advocate. Having the full Blu-Ray spec being forced open would be very sexy indeed especially to reverse engineers and PS3 hackers. Plus I'd be much happier seeing the scientist who developed the technology get the cash, and not Sony just because I, like many /.'ers, despise multinational conglomerates.

Re:What I hope (1)

no haters (714135) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821800)

I, like many /.'ers, despise multinational conglomerates.
What does this even mean? From what I can gather, "/.'ers" despise certain business practices, but not MNCs outright (see: apple fanboyism).

Funny (1)

Private.Tucker (843252) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821698)

I love it how this story comes to light AFTER the format war is ended (Thanks Toshiba! :) ) It's as if she sat at her computer every day, reading SlashDot, and waited for the end. Blu-Ray loses -> "Aww, I'm out millions and billions" Blu-Ray wins -> "Yay, mucho dinero por favor." Anyone want a CowPie?
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