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Patent holding company NTP settles with Apple, others over e-mail patent

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
Apple, Google and a number of other huge technology companies have settled a suit with so-called "patent troll" NTP relating to a wireless e-mail patent that was previously used to harvest $612.5 million from RIM in 2006.

NTP, a patent holding operation that produces no products, dismissed its suit against a number of companies in the technology and communications sectors as the group settled out of court for undisclosed financial terms, reports Bloomberg.

The settlement brings an end to the suit first filed against AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile in 2007 and laterexpanded to include Apple, Google, Microsoft, HTC, LG and Motorola in 2010. At issue were eight patents credited to NTP co-founder Tom Campana, who the company claims is the "inventor of wireless e-mail," and related to e-mail delivery over wireless networks. Campana, who died of cancer in 2004, was a prolific inventor of communications patents of which NTP holds 50.

?Each of the parties in this arrangement are in some way making use of NTP?s, of Tom Campana?s, original wireless e-mail invention, although they?re at different levels of the industry,? said NTP lawyer Ron Epstein. ?Some are providing wireless services, others e-mail, others the handset, but they all are getting the same license.?

Epstein is referring to the variety of companies involved in the suit, which came after NTP successfully leveraged the patent against BlackBerry maker RIM in 2006. Emboldened by the win, NTP sued the U.S. telecoms and handset makers but ex parte requests to review the patents in question delayed a ruling.

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Apple's iOS Mail app. | Source: Apple


At the time of the suit's expansion in 2010, NTP co-founder and patent lawyer Donald E. Stout claimed the use of "intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair." He went on to say, "unfortunately, litigation is our only means of ensuring the inventor of the fundamental technology on which wireless e-mail is based, Tom Campana, and NTP shareholders are recognized, and are fairly and reasonably compensated for their innovative work and investment. We took the necessary action to protect our intellectual property."

Out of the 13 companies that settled, HTC alone issued a response saying it was ?pleased to see this issue resolved reasonably and without further litigation."
post #2 of 31

How much more evidence do we need that the US patent system is fundamentally broken? People have been using wireless mail since the days of carrier pigeons. In the past years it was discovered that there were descriptions of wireless email "prior art" documented in Norway that predate NTP's "invention" of it. The US patent office failed to find the documented prior art when it granted the patent troll company its wireless email patents. Hopefully that discovery helped defang NTP enough to render NTP's latest monetary settlements significantly smaller than the HALF BILLION dollars they extorted won from RIM.

post #3 of 31

Prediction: The guy pointing out the brokenness of the US patent system will not get piled on and excoriated in this thread.

post #4 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Durandal1707 View Post

Prediction: The guy pointing out the brokenness of the US patent system will not get piled on and excoriated in this thread.

 

Well, he's right that it's "fundamentally" broken, even though it isn't completely broken. The fix is to go back to requiring an implementation with a patent submission, which will cut down on the ability of leeches like NTP to morph the thousands of useless patents they buy into whatever they need them to mean. Further reforms, to completely eliminate patent troll like NTP and Intellectual Vultures, while a desirable goal, would be tricky to accomplish, but, if they can be hobbled to the point where trolling becomes unprofitable, that would take care of most of the problems.

 

And, no, just in case anyone is confused, requiring an implementation for a software patent is not the same as protecting it with copyright. The implementation isn't about the exact code, it's about a concrete instantiation that shows exactly what your "machine" does, and how it does it, precisely defining your patent. If you can't build this, you haven't invented anything, all you have is an idea.

post #5 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Durandal1707 View Post

Prediction: The guy pointing out the brokenness of the US patent system will not get piled on and excoriated in this thread.

 

 

Broken or not, it is good to see that those who steal other people's tech are finally brought to justice.

 

When Apple steals other people's patented technologies, they usually drag things through the courts before they finally settle.  It is good to see Apple manning up early in the game for a change.

post #6 of 31

It seems to me that there are two types of patent violations (or IP violations in general): one where the offending party sees something the protected party does and copies it and one where the "offending" party creates something that turns out to be covered by someone else's patent.  I believe it's the latter that that Carmack was complaining about in his famous quote.  I'm sure that happens all the time, and it speaks to the fact that oftentimes the bar for what should be able to be protected is too low.  That is, obvious "next steps" are patented by the one guy or one company moments ahead of dozens of others.

 

In other words, there is "stealing" and "patent infringement."  Without knowing the details of any particular case, it's not always obvious which it is. 
 

post #7 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerrySwitched26 View Post

 

 

Broken or not, it is good to see that those who steal other people's tech are finally brought to justice.

 

When Apple steals other people's patented technologies, they usually drag things through the courts before they finally settle.  It is good to see Apple manning up early in the game for a change.

 

If you want to assert that Apple stole technology from this patent troll company, you should state that outright and justify that assertion by explaining what this patent for wireless email is about. There is no way, no how that a patent for "wireless email" makes sense. It is ludicrous at face value. There is wireless data communication, and there are countless many applications that use wireless data communication in a way whereby the implementation of the application makes no consideration to the fact that the communication takes place over a wireless network. The very notion of "wireless email", as something that it patentable, is as preposterous as it could possibly be. The question that begs to be answered is why any court ever lent any support to this ridiculous patent. The article here does not reveal the amount of money that Apple paid, but hopefully it was no more than the amount that they estimated they would spend without settling out of court.

post #8 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

Well, he's right that it's "fundamentally" broken, even though it isn't completely broken. The fix is to go back to requiring an implementation with a patent submission, which will cut down on the ability of leeches like NTP to morph the thousands of useless patents they buy into whatever they need them to mean. Further reforms, to completely eliminate patent troll like NTP and Intellectual Vultures, while a desirable goal, would be tricky to accomplish, but, if they can be hobbled to the point where trolling becomes unprofitable, that would take care of most of the problems.

 

And, no, just in case anyone is confused, requiring an implementation for a software patent is not the same as protecting it with copyright. The implementation isn't about the exact code, it's about a concrete instantiation that shows exactly what your "machine" does, and how it does it, precisely defining your patent. If you can't build this, you haven't invented anything, all you have is an idea.

 

It confuses me that you implied that anyone would confuse the requirement for an implementation with protection via copyright.

 

I do not agree that requirement for an implementation is the answer, for several reasons. Most obviously, it is damned easy to implement wireless email. All you need is a device that has the capability for wireless communication, and that also runs an email application. Requiring an implementation would not solve anything. This frivolous patent trolling business will not stop until the courts get smarter. This patent should never have been awarded in the first place, and if it has ever been upheld by a court of law, it should not have been. The very idea of a patent for wireless email is preposterous, at face value. The only quasi-original idea that the person behind this patent had, was that if they filed this patent, it would probably be awarded and they could probably extort a lot of money from a lot of other companies. Beyond that, they had no original ideas.

post #9 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

Well, he's right that it's "fundamentally" broken, even though it isn't completely broken. The fix is to go back to requiring an implementation with a patent submission, which will cut down on the ability of leeches like NTP to morph the thousands of useless patents they buy into whatever they need them to mean. Further reforms, to completely eliminate patent troll like NTP and Intellectual Vultures, while a desirable goal, would be tricky to accomplish, but, if they can be hobbled to the point where trolling becomes unprofitable, that would take care of most of the problems.

 

And, no, just in case anyone is confused, requiring an implementation for a software patent is not the same as protecting it with copyright. The implementation isn't about the exact code, it's about a concrete instantiation that shows exactly what your "machine" does, and how it does it, precisely defining your patent. If you can't build this, you haven't invented anything, all you have is an idea.

What??? What makes you think the patent system is broken?  The patent system isn't broken.  What is broken is the mentality of the computer industry.  Where do you all get off telling a patent owner that he or she is "a troll" for enforcing a patent.  A troll is someone that charges to cross a bridge that the troll doesn't own.  NTP bought and paid for the patents.  They aren't trolls.

 

Large U.S. corporations are to blame for the high cost of patent litigation.  Instead of paying inventors a reasonable price to license technology they are using, they hired an army of lawyers and tried to spend the patent owners into the ground.  Large corporations were quite successful at doing this until companies like NTP put up the money to take the case all the way through an appeals court.  The NTP patents have been delcared valid and infringed by a district court, a court of appeals, then again by a district court, and yet again by an appeals court.  Then the patents were reexamined and found valid at the patent office, and now they are back in court yet again.  CATCH A CLUE EVERYONE......the NTP patents are valid and infringed.  How many more tens of millions of dollars does NTP have to spend to prove it.

 

The inventor of the NTP patents offered the patents to RIM for 5 million and RIM scoffed at them and went out and paid lawyers at Jones Day 10 million dollars run the inventor into the ground.  RIM was above paying some small petty inventor for patented technology.  Shows how smart RIM is.  If RIM had paid 5 million for the patents, it would own the smartphone market right now.


Edited by ash471 - 7/24/12 at 9:43am
post #10 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

Well, he's right that it's "fundamentally" broken, even though it isn't completely broken. The fix is to go back to requiring an implementation with a patent submission, which will cut down on the ability of leeches like NTP to morph the thousands of useless patents they buy into whatever they need them to mean. Further reforms, to completely eliminate patent troll like NTP and Intellectual Vultures, while a desirable goal, would be tricky to accomplish, but, if they can be hobbled to the point where trolling becomes unprofitable, that would take care of most of the problems.

 

And, no, just in case anyone is confused, requiring an implementation for a software patent is not the same as protecting it with copyright. The implementation isn't about the exact code, it's about a concrete instantiation that shows exactly what your "machine" does, and how it does it, precisely defining your patent. If you can't build this, you haven't invented anything, all you have is an idea.

What do you mean when you say, "the patent system is broken".  In what way is it broken?  Is it broken because it issued a patent on push email.  I think we can all agree that would be a stupid argument.  The patent system should definitely be encouraging innovation for things like push email.  Or do you think the patent system is broken because the NTP patents are invalid?  If you think that, please explain to me why you think they are invalid.  Have you read the claims of the patent?  Do you even know what the filing date of the patents are?  

 

Or do you just think that the only people that should be granted patents are big large corporations that own market share and are making and selling products.  If you think market leaders should be the ones to receive protection from the government, you should move to China.  That is exactly how it works in China.  Here in the United States, our patent system and patent laws are designed to protect the inventor.  We don't give a shit how big your company is or how powerful you are in the market.  If you want to sell the next invention, you need to be the first one to the patent office or pay the inventor that got there first.  Its a race, and if you don't like to compete, then don't sell innovative products.  

post #11 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post

 

If you want to assert that Apple stole technology from this patent troll company, you should state that outright and justify that assertion by explaining what this patent for wireless email is about. There is no way, no how that a patent for "wireless email" makes sense. It is ludicrous at face value. There is wireless data communication, and there are countless many applications that use wireless data communication in a way whereby the implementation of the application makes no consideration to the fact that the communication takes place over a wireless network. The very notion of "wireless email", as something that it patentable, is as preposterous as it could possibly be. The question that begs to be answered is why any court ever lent any support to this ridiculous patent. The article here does not reveal the amount of money that Apple paid, but hopefully it was no more than the amount that they estimated they would spend without settling out of court.

The patents relate to "push email" vs "pull".  Hopefully the settlement was for the value that customers place on "push" vs. "pull" email.  If the handset manufacturers don't want to pay for that value, they should just take out the "push" feature and go back to the old school email where you had to log into your email account and request your emails.  Everyone in this industry is so hipocritical. They act as though the patents cover a worthless feature, but when it comes down to it, they won't take the feature out of the products.  RIM lost a 600M dollar lawsuit in 2006.  Apple didn't release its iPhone until 2007.  Why did Apple put "push email" into its phones when it knew the patents were valid and enforceable. I'll tell you why......."push email" is a DAMN GOOD invention and no one would have any market share without it and the license to use this technology is worth BILLIONS.

post #12 of 31

One last thing.  Do you realize that a company cannot apply for a patent in the US.  Only the inventor can apply for the patent.  The only way Apple or any other company a gets a US patent is by having an employee sign an agreement saying that they will assign the patent to the company.  How is NTP any different.  NTP paid the inventor for an assignment.  Do any of you really think that the patent laws should say, "you are only entitled to enforce a patent if you are an employer of the inventor."  How stupid is that.  

 

Ya'll just need to admit to yourself that RIM, despite its billions of dollars wasn't the FIRST to invent push email.  Is that really so hard to believe.  The patent laws require everyone to get a license from the first person that invents and discloses the invention to the patent office.  That's what creates the vibrant innovative economy that we have in the US.  Letting big companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft infringe those patents with impunity is shooting the goose that lays the golden egg.  And for what?  Seriously, you don't think Apple and Google can afford to pay a license to use technology that makes their products better?  Why is the inventor not entitled to compensation but the shareholders of Apple are?  Sorry, I just don't see the logic.

post #13 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post

 

It confuses me that you implied that anyone would confuse the requirement for an implementation with protection via copyright.

 

I do not agree that requirement for an implementation is the answer, for several reasons. Most obviously, it is damned easy to implement wireless email. All you need is a device that has the capability for wireless communication, and that also runs an email application. Requiring an implementation would not solve anything. This frivolous patent trolling business will not stop until the courts get smarter. This patent should never have been awarded in the first place, and if it has ever been upheld by a court of law, it should not have been. The very idea of a patent for wireless email is preposterous, at face value. The only quasi-original idea that the person behind this patent had, was that if they filed this patent, it would probably be awarded and they could probably extort a lot of money from a lot of other companies. Beyond that, they had no original ideas.

 

Because, by implementation, I don't necessarily mean a specific set of code in a specific language where copyright might apply. People on these forums get confused about different types of IP all the time, so I was just heading off the argument that, "software doesn't need patents, it can be protected by copyright, and that's all you need if there is an implementation." I think that software machines do deserve language independent protection.

 

But, if you have to implement "wireless email" to even apply for a patent for it, you'll probably have to make use of an awful lot of prior art for that implementation. You'll have to distinctly show what parts of your implementation are unique and novel (which will probably stop the madness right there). And, if someone else wants to invent their own "wireless email", it'll be totally clear what parts they need to design around to avoid infringement.

 

Without an implementation, a patent like this morphs into anything anyone else might do that involves email and wireless communications, because it all becomes an argument about language, not about how a specific software machine actually works.

post #14 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

The patent laws require everyone to get a license from the first person that invents and discloses the invention to the patent office.  That's what creates the vibrant innovative economy that we have in the US.  Letting big companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft infringe those patents with impunity is shooting the goose that lays the golden egg.  And for what?  Seriously, you don't think Apple and Google can afford to pay a license to use technology that makes their products better?  Why is the inventor not entitled to compensation but the shareholders of Apple are?  Sorry, I just don't see the logic.

 

The logic is: simply coming up with a bunch of ideas, writing them out on paper and registering them, then sitting back and waiting until others actually implement those ideas doesn't make anything vibrant.  And it costs virtually nothing to do.

 

To me, the whole point of patents is to ensure that people who invest a lot of time and money in developing a unique idea into a product (or multiple products) are allowed exclusive rights to use that idea for a certain period of time to recoup their investment (and profit from it).  If other companies are allowed to simply copy the product(s) created from that unique idea before the initial investment has been recouped, then there's no incentive to invest in turning original ideas into products.

 

However, just pontificating ideas all day and patenting them without any intent of working with someone to put those ideas into products does nothing but make creating such products prohibitively expensive.  Obviously not for established companies like Apple, but for small startups (which is where you tend to get "vibrancy" from).

 

As the owner of a small startup myself, it's quite disconcerting to think that I could be bankrupted by sleeper patents like these just because an idea I came up with on my own and turned into a product was the same idea someone was sitting on and just waiting for others to create a product from.

 
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post #15 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

What??? What makes you think the patent system is broken?  The patent system isn't broken.  What is broken is the mentality of the computer industry.  Where do you all get off telling a patent owner that he or she is "a troll" for enforcing a patent.  A troll is someone that charges to cross a bridge that the troll doesn't own.  NTP bought and paid for the patents.  They aren't trolls.

 

Large U.S. corporations are to blame for the high cost of patent litigation.  Instead of paying inventors a reasonable price to license technology they are using, they hired an army of lawyers and tried to spend the patent owners into the ground.  Large corporations were quite successful at doing this until companies like NTP put up the money to take the case all the way through an appeals court.  The NTP patents have been delcared valid and infringed by a district court, a court of appeals, then again by a district court, and yet again by an appeals court.  Then the patents were reexamined and found valid at the patent office, and now they are back in court yet again.  CATCH A CLUE EVERYONE......the NTP patents are valid and infringed.  How many more tens of millions of dollars does NTP have to spend to prove it.

 

The inventor of the NTP patents offered the patents to RIM for 5 million and RIM scoffed at them and went out and paid lawyers at Jones Day 10 million dollars run the inventor into the ground.  RIM was above paying some small petty inventor for patented technology.  Shows how smart RIM is.  If RIM had paid 5 million for the patents, it would own the smartphone market right now.

 

Without an implementation, regardless of whether the courts have upheld these patents or not, they amount to nothing more than an idea. This is how the patent system is broken: the line between ideas and inventions has become hopelessly blurred to the point where the courts are unable to distinguish one from another.

 

Just because no one was interested in buying these but a patent troll company, doesn't mean they were "infringing" them because they didn't want to compensate an "inventor". It more likely thought they were a) garbage, or b) had nothing to do with what they were doing.

post #16 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

The patents relate to "push email" vs "pull".  Hopefully the settlement was for the value that customers place on "push" vs. "pull" email.  If the handset manufacturers don't want to pay for that value, they should just take out the "push" feature and go back to the old school email where you had to log into your email account and request your emails.  Everyone in this industry is so hipocritical. They act as though the patents cover a worthless feature, but when it comes down to it, they won't take the feature out of the products.  RIM lost a 600M dollar lawsuit in 2006.  Apple didn't release its iPhone until 2007.  Why did Apple put "push email" into its phones when it knew the patents were valid and enforceable. I'll tell you why......."push email" is a DAMN GOOD invention and no one would have any market share without it and the license to use this technology is worth BILLIONS.

 

A patent that covers all possible implementations of "push email" seems to be the poster boy for overly broad patents. (That would be like (thanks to Wikipedia for the wording) a patent for, "a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds," as opposed to, "a machine consisting of a wooden cylinder surrounded by rows of slender spikes, which pull the [cotton] lint through the bars of a comb-like grid. The grids [are] closely spaced, preventing the seeds from passing through. Loose cotton [is] brushed off, preventing the mechanism from jamming.") That the courts found in favor of the trolls on this one just means that patent law is broken and that people are patenting ideas, not inventions. The courts hands are tied, it's the law that's broken.

 

On the other hand, if the "inventor" of this idea had been forced to create an implementation of "push email" to get this patent, a) he probably wouldn't even have been able to, and b) assuming he was able, it would have turned his idea into an actual invention, one which companies would have then either decided to license, or design around. In either case, we wouldn't be reading stories about the patent trolls NTP extorting millions from various companies because someone had the foresight to write down a few ideas on a patent application without any confirmation that they could actually produce a working machine from those ideas.


Edited by anonymouse - 7/24/12 at 12:53pm
post #17 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

  Sorry, I just don't see the logic.

 

That is quite obvious when it takes you FOUR posts in a row (the first two of them quoting the same post) to get the same idea out… I think you like to see your name in print.

post #18 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

 

The logic is: simply coming up with a bunch of ideas, writing them out on paper and registering them, then sitting back and waiting until others actually implement those ideas doesn't make anything vibrant.  And it costs virtually nothing to do.

 

To me, the whole point of patents is to ensure that people who invest a lot of time and money in developing a unique idea into a product (or multiple products) are allowed exclusive rights to use that idea for a certain period of time to recoup their investment (and profit from it).  If other companies are allowed to simply copy the product(s) created from that unique idea before the initial investment has been recouped, then there's no incentive to invest in turning original ideas into products.

 

However, just pontificating ideas all day and patenting them without any intent of working with someone to put those ideas into products does nothing but make creating such products prohibitively expensive.  Obviously not for established companies like Apple, but for small startups (which is where you tend to get "vibrancy" from).

 

As the owner of a small startup myself, it's quite disconcerting to think that I could be bankrupted by sleeper patents like these just because an idea I came up with on my own and turned into a product was the same idea someone was sitting on and just waiting for others to create a product from.

If it costs "virtually nothing to do" why don't companies with billions of dollars just do it first.  The fact is, it doesn't cost "virtually nothing".  Patents cost about $20,0000 to obtain and maintain.  It usually takes a couple of patents to build a portfolio that can be defended.  This is the problem with the computer industry.....the facts don't support their position.  The computer industry rants about how patents are a problem but can't produce a cogent argument as to why the system is a problem.  This very patent portfolio is a case in point.  When Apple released the iPhone, it new that NTP had valid patents and that RIM paid 600M in a settlement. Why did Apple include it.

 

Secondly, you misunderstand the patent system.  The patent system is not a reward for selling products.  It rewards inventing.  Inventing doesn't require manufacturing.   In fact, within Apple, many different people do many different jobs to get a product out the door.  Only the person that "conceived" of the invention is suppose to be named on the patent.  

 

Thirdly, the intent of the patent system is to cause inventors to publicly disclose their inventions.  The sooner the invention is disclosed, the sooner the patent will expire and the technology will be dedicated to the public.  The fear of getting beat causes everyone to create as fast as they can.  That is what creates the "vibrant" economy.  Companies that don't have the fear of losing their position become stagnant.  If you take away the patent system, that is what you would have. 

post #19 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

 

The logic is: simply coming up with a bunch of ideas, writing them out on paper and registering them, then sitting back and waiting until others actually implement those ideas doesn't make anything vibrant.  And it costs virtually nothing to do.

 

To me, the whole point of patents is to ensure that people who invest a lot of time and money in developing a unique idea into a product (or multiple products) are allowed exclusive rights to use that idea for a certain period of time to recoup their investment (and profit from it).  If other companies are allowed to simply copy the product(s) created from that unique idea before the initial investment has been recouped, then there's no incentive to invest in turning original ideas into products.

 

However, just pontificating ideas all day and patenting them without any intent of working with someone to put those ideas into products does nothing but make creating such products prohibitively expensive.  Obviously not for established companies like Apple, but for small startups (which is where you tend to get "vibrancy" from).

 

As the owner of a small startup myself, it's quite disconcerting to think that I could be bankrupted by sleeper patents like these just because an idea I came up with on my own and turned into a product was the same idea someone was sitting on and just waiting for others to create a product from.

One other thing....you say patents make products "prohibitively expensive".  That is easy to say and difficult to prove.  I could argue that the products wouldn't exist without the patent system because slavish copying would prevent anyone from breaking into any new market.  Take Apple for instance.  If Microsoft could make iPads, Apple would have had no incentive to make an iPad.  What would be the point of making it if Microsoft could sell it.  The only reason you can't see this aspect of patents is because they are doing their job.  It doesn't matter whether it is Apple or a small inventor, a small business, or a non-practicing entity, the risk of someone else getting a patent on the product that everyone wants to buy is the very thing that creates the race to develop.  It is a shame that the computer industry doesn't see it that way.

post #20 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

Without an implementation, regardless of whether the courts have upheld these patents or not, they amount to nothing more than an idea. This is how the patent system is broken: the line between ideas and inventions has become hopelessly blurred to the point where the courts are unable to distinguish one from another.

 

Just because no one was interested in buying these but a patent troll company, doesn't mean they were "infringing" them because they didn't want to compensate an "inventor". It more likely thought they were a) garbage, or b) had nothing to do with what they were doing.

Again, the facts don't support your position.  When Google and Apple made smart phones in 2007-2008, they couldn't possibly have thought that these patents were garbage or had nothing to do with their phones.  How old were you in 2006?  Doesn't everyone remember the courts on the eve of shutting down RIM's Blackberry servers.  Why did Google and Apple implement this "garbage" into their phones knowing that RIM paid out more than half a billion dollars for having the feature.  Again, the computer industry is quick to make these off the cuff statements about the patent system being broken, patents being overly broad, the patents being worthless.  The fact is, the computer industry could easily take the infringing features out of their devices and they won't do it because they want the benefit of the invention but don't want to pay for it.  My position may be difficult to prove with many other cases, but not with this RIM case.  It is absolutely clear that Apple and Google knew they would be paying out a license someday and that day has come.  If big companies like RIM didn't use an army of lawyers to avoid paying inventors a reasonable royalty, the stakes wouldn't be so high.  Big software companies have made their bed and now they get to lye in it.

post #21 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Damn_Its_Hot View Post

 

That is quite obvious when it takes you FOUR posts in a row (the first two of them quoting the same post) to get the same idea out… I think you like to see your name in print.

Ha Ha, I see I set myself up for that one.  Do you have anything intelligent to say? Do you really think I wrote those posts because I like to see my name?  First, of all my name isn't associated with any of those posts.  Second of all, isn't it apparent to you that I am passionate about defending the patent system?  Let me help you out here.  My my purpose is to make people aware that this negative attitude towards the patent system risks killing the most valuable asset this country has.  I know it sounds nice to rid ourselves of the patent system.  However, just because it sounds nice doesn't mean we should do it.  Communism had the same ring of fairness, but that doesn't mean it was the right thing to do.  The fact is, the patent system weakens the entrenched players.  Weakening the entrenched players keeps the competition alive.  Patents are a very effective tool to do that.   

post #22 of 31

Can someone on this forum give me an intelligent answer to the following question:

Why should a patent holder be obligated to design a product or implement the invention?  Isn't it sufficient to create the "intellectual property".  Please consider the following example: if a miner finds a gold deposit and digs the raw ore out of the ground and sell it to a refiner, wouldn't you agree that the miner is entitled to compensation.  Note that the ore can't be used for anything until is refined, but that doesn't mean the only person that should be compensated is the refiner.  Some gold miners only produce ore, some only refine ore, and some do both.  Why shouldn't we treat the patent system similarly?  

post #23 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

My my purpose is to make people aware that this negative attitude towards the patent system risks killing the most valuable asset this country has.  

I don't think it's a negative attitude towards the patents system as such. It's more a negative attitude towards software patents. I've seen no evidence from anyone that without software patents tech players couldn't see success from inventiveness. Despite what seems like daily claims from Apple or their supporters that their IP is being unfairly used, "stolen" by others, Apple has certainly been successful. They sell every bit of product they can get their hands on, no matter how much they've supposedly been "copied".

 

If billions of dollars in revenue isn't enough incentive to be creative, I don't think possession of a software patent is going to give them any more drive to be successful. Their historical competitor Microsoft received their very first software patent in 1987 and even by 1990 only had 3. Yet they were seeing great success with both Windows and Office without software patent protection in place.

 

If there's evidence that without software patents players like Apple, Oracle, IBM, Samsung, Google etc would stop innovating because they wouldn't be able to profit from their developments I'd love to see it. Despite claims of wholesale theft of IP, I see a whole lot of dollars flowing into mobile players coffers. Lack of a software patent isn't going to change that.


Edited by Gatorguy - 7/24/12 at 4:12pm
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post #24 of 31

This is the software equivalent of an overly-broad patent on "a machine for moving people from one place to another" a long time ago. And then, after the widespread invention/adoption of trains, stagecoaches, cars, airplanes, etc, suddenly coming out of the woodwork and claiming that all these implementations infringe on your patented idea and taking Amtrack, Ford, GM, Boeing, etc. to court. 

 

And then suing and winning more than a half billion dollars because of it.

 

It's ludicrous, but it seems to hold up in court, so it seems like something's broken.

 

NTP won the patent troll lottery, if you ask me.


Edited by ShinySteelRobot - 7/24/12 at 4:15pm
post #25 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

I don't think it's a negative attitude towards the patents system as such. It's more a negative attitude towards software patents. I've seen no evidence from anyone that without software patents tech players couldn't see success from inventiveness. Despite what seems like daily claims from Apple or their supporters that their IP is being unfairly used, "stolen" by others, Apple has certainly been successful. They sell every bit of product they can get their hands on, no matter how much they've supposedly been "copied".

 

If billions of dollars in revenue isn't enough incentive to be creative, I don't think possession of a software patent is going to give them any more drive to be successful. Their historical competitor Microsoft received their very first software patent in 1987 and even by 1990 only had 3. Yet they were seeing great success with both Windows and Office without software patent protection in place.

 

If there's evidence that without software patents players like Apple, Oracle, IBM, Samsung, Google etc would stop innovating because they wouldn't be able to profit from their developments I'd love to see it. Despite claims of wholesale theft of IP, I see a whole lot of dollars flowing into mobile players coffers. Lack of a software patent isn't going to change that.

It is true that software patents weren't being sought after in the early 80s.  However, that is because the electrical engineering field failed to see the value in software.  Today we think it is crazy that IBM allowed Microsoft and its team of nobodies to own the IBM operating system.  We now know that was a HUGE mistake and windfall for Bill Gates.  The software companies of the 80s didn't need patents because the industry didn't recognize the value in software, period.  However, what happened with software in the early 80s was very unusual and is hardly a justification for wholesale dismissal of software patents.  I believe that the unusual circumstances of the 80s has convinced the software industry that they are different and patents are not necessary.  I don't believe it is true.  The rational used to justify abolishing software patents (they impede companies and aren't necessary) can be made for almost any other industry (except maybe pharmaceuticals).  The movement in the software industry is changing the patent laws and undermining the system.  The power is shifting to the large entrenched companies.  If it doesn't stop, it will kill the goose that lays the golden egg.  Yes patents come at a cost, but they create something special which is they guarantee that the entrenched player is always at risk of missing out on the next big thing.  That posturing, even if illusory, is priceless. 

 

The amount of money that exchanges hands over patents has never stopped a product from going to market. RIM paid 600 million, but that didn't stop a single device from being sold.  Because patents are valued based on products sold, it is in everyone's best interest to see the technology make it to market.  

 

Also, I don't see why everyone is complaining about the 600 million.   Microsoft paid 1.6 billion for a worthless advertising company a few years ago.  Why can't a company like Microsoft or RIM be expected to pony up money to support the inventors of the technology they are using.  If they really don't want to pay, they can always just take the feature out.  Or, if they think it is so easy to get a patent, it shouldn't be too hard to patent something like push email themselves.  The patent office grants equal opportunity to everyone, which is why I think it is the single most just distribution of wealth on the face of the planet.  That alone is reason to keep software patents.

 

There is no way to prove one way or the other what would happen if software patents didn't exist.  I think many in the software industry take it for granted that the U.S. has the mentality to invent.  I would argue that the whole system exists in part from the stimulus created by the patent system.  It is impossible to separate the two.  


Edited by ash471 - 7/24/12 at 7:59pm
post #26 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShinySteelRobot View Post

This is the software equivalent of an overly-broad patent on "a machine for moving people from one place to another" a long time ago. And then, after the widespread invention/adoption of trains, stagecoaches, cars, airplanes, etc, suddenly coming out of the woodwork and claiming that all these implementations infringe on your patented idea and taking Amtrack, Ford, GM, Boeing, etc. to court. 

 

And then suing and winning more than a half billion dollars because of it.

 

It's ludicrous, but it seems to hold up in court, so it seems like something's broken.

 

NTP won the patent troll lottery, if you ask me.

First of all, the NTP patents are not as broad as you suggest.  You are accusing NTP of claiming only the function.  That isn't true.  see wikipedia entry on NTP.  

 

My personal belief is that the real reason everyone thinks the system is broken is because the dollar value in the RIM case is so high and it is hard to believe that in 1999 nobody had thought of originating the email on the mobile device.  As unbelievable as it may seem, it is true.  Nobody had done push email in 1999 and by the early 2000s, the value of doing push email was in the billions.  

 

The fallacy in everyone's arguments is that the patent system makes companies pay for technology.  That isn't true.  Any company is free to take the infringing technology out of their products.  This is particularly true of the Apple and Google settlement.  Before they even sold their devices they knew they would have to deal with these patents and they chose to include the feature anyway.  That just goes to show how valuable the technology really was. 


Edited by ash471 - 7/24/12 at 8:05pm
post #27 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShinySteelRobot View Post

This is the software equivalent of an overly-broad patent on "a machine for moving people from one place to another" a long time ago. And then, after the widespread invention/adoption of trains, stagecoaches, cars, airplanes, etc, suddenly coming out of the woodwork and claiming that all these implementations infringe on your patented idea and taking Amtrack, Ford, GM, Boeing, etc. to court. 

 

And then suing and winning more than a half billion dollars because of it.

 

It's ludicrous, but it seems to hold up in court, so it seems like something's broken.

 

NTP won the patent troll lottery, if you ask me.

 

The first machine for transporting people that I can think of is a pole (which can be used as a pole vault).  Since poles have existed in nature before mankind existed, the best you could have hoped for is a method of using the pole.  If you lived 2,000 years ago and invented the chariot, you would not be able to write a claim to "a machine for transporting a person from one place to another,"  because the "pole" would anticipate your claim.  The first person to invent a chariot could have claimed a support structure having two wheels and attachment means to an animal where the wheels are aft of the center of gravity of the support structure. That would have been allowable.  This is a great example of how the patent system works.  The prior art limits the claims.

 

The patent law can't get into a debate about what would be a "fair" breadth for a patent.  The inventor is entitled to claim it as broadly as the prior art will allow them.  As it turns out, in 1999 the prior art left a gapping hole for the inventor of the NTP patent.  That isn't the fault of the patent system.  That's the fault of other people working in this field, who failed to think of the invention and recognize how important it would be in a few short years.

 

Also, there are lots of lottery's in life.  How is it fair the the children of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet grew up with privilege and business opportunities that we don't have. The patent system may be a lottery, but it is open to everyone on the face of the planet on equal terms so long as you can think of something inventive before someone else.  That's not broken at all. That's fair and just.

 

Patents are just like the land grants of the 1800s.  The government has the right to distribute the property as it sees fit.  Instead of granting the rights to cronies, the government says, "First Come First Served".  The patent office doesn't speculate how much the land is worth or try and distribute it justly.  It just sets out the criteria for claiming it and says, "may the fastest person win."  Some land is barren, some land is worth 600 million.  Why can't the software industry see how wonderful this system is and embrace it like the Americans of the 1800's.  The government doesn't have real property to give away.  It has intellectual property.  Yall should start thinking of technology that can change the world and you could be the next patent owner with a parcel of land that Google and Apple want. 


Edited by ash471 - 7/24/12 at 8:23pm
post #28 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

I don't think it's a negative attitude towards the patents system as such. It's more a negative attitude towards software patents. I've seen no evidence from anyone that without software patents tech players couldn't see success from inventiveness. Despite what seems like daily claims from Apple or their supporters that their IP is being unfairly used, "stolen" by others, Apple has certainly been successful. They sell every bit of product they can get their hands on, no matter how much they've supposedly been "copied".

 

If billions of dollars in revenue isn't enough incentive to be creative, I don't think possession of a software patent is going to give them any more drive to be successful. Their historical competitor Microsoft received their very first software patent in 1987 and even by 1990 only had 3. Yet they were seeing great success with both Windows and Office without software patent protection in place.

 

If there's evidence that without software patents players like Apple, Oracle, IBM, Samsung, Google etc would stop innovating because they wouldn't be able to profit from their developments I'd love to see it. Despite claims of wholesale theft of IP, I see a whole lot of dollars flowing into mobile players coffers. Lack of a software patent isn't going to change that.

Also, I should have mentioned that the "billions of dollars" that Apple makes isn't necessarily an incentive to innovate.  Apple behaves very differently than most large companies when it comes to innovation.  Everyone knows this and this characteristic is in large part due to Steve Jobs and isn't likely to be replicated in other companies.  What usually happens is that the successful companies stop innovating and focus on protecting market share and revenue.  Innovation becomes secondary to internal political struggles to control the money and power or tactics to crush the competition (e.g., through mergers and acquisitions, advertising, or anti-competitive tactics).  In many cases the new technology actually hurts a company's revenue.  Kodak was a casualty of this problem.  Other examples include touch screens, which crushed RIM and in a few years we'll see how the tablet market running on ARM processors and light OSs is going to kill growth in PCs.  The patent system provides the protection to the companies and technology that will come along and replace those stagnant companies.  If you don't have patents, the entrenched players will sit back and wait for someone to succeed and then copy them.  

 

In reality the copying happens anyway, even with patents.  The difference is that the patent forces the entrenched player to compensate the inventor.  This is more efficient than causing the entrenched player to go out of business.  In the end, the flow of capital is to the innovator, which creates the stimulus.  If you don't have patents, the entrenched players can copy with impunity.  They can even copy each other, which causes everyone to revert to other tactics to maintain market share (e.g., M&A activities, advertising, politics, or anti-competitive tactics).  The bean counters in the finance department will always put pressure to reduce R&D costs, which means there will always be downward pressure on innovation.  Without patents, eventually everyone would "disarm" themselves and just protect the markets in other ways.  

 

You want proof that this is how it would work?  Go to any country that has a poor patent system and you will see it.  The most common way of protecting market share is politics and anti-competitive behavior.  The patent system is a game changer.  There is a strong correlation around the world with patent protection and innovation.  Have you ever participated in or invested in a start-up company?  Often times, patents are a critical component of obtaining investment dollars.  Usually the people that say it doesn't matter are companies that are providing freeware and make no money or are companies like facebook that just happen to be at the right time and place in history to succeed without patents. Good for them.  However, that isn't how it usually works.  And, the environment that made Facebook successful wouldn't have existed without patents.


Edited by ash471 - 7/24/12 at 9:12pm
post #29 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

First of all, the NTP patents are not as broad as you suggest.  You are accusing NTP of claiming only the function.  That isn't true.  see wikipedia entry on NTP.  

 

 

The Wikipedia page is very interesting, and I see your point, but I disagree. The patents seem pretty broad. The concept NTP patented is "wireless push email". The fundamental concept of mail, as used every day in the physical world is "push". For example, LL Bean mails me ("pushes" me) a yearly catalog in the mail--I don't drive over to LL Bean to get it. So the concept of pushing mail in a virtualized environment (i.e., mail inside a computer) could/should be exactly the same, i.e., it's very obvious.

 

Second, the concept of "wireless" communication was well established by the time the patent was filed. For example, RadioMail provided wireless email services in 1991.

 

Many years later, NTP's patent "inventor" simply put the two broad concepts together ("push" and "wireless email") into a slightly less broad idea, then patented it.

 

Actually, as it turns out, email had been pushed wirelessly from ArpaNet to a pager more then ten years before the NTP patents were filed. As revealed by the New York Times, a guy named Goodfellow actually achieved it. During the NTP/RIM trial Goodfellow was paid hush money by NTP's attorneys to keep quiet. According to Stanford patent law professor Mark A. Lemley, as quoted in the NY Times, "I think there is a potential ethics issue. The basic key is [NTP] attorneys have the obligation to disclose everything they know about his prior artwork and make [Goodfellow] available as a fact witness."

 

Why didn't Goodfellow--the true inventor of wireless push email--simply patent his wireless push email invention himself? As quoted by the NY Times, "You don't patent the obvious."

 

Naturally, NTP's "inventor" had no such qualms and patented the same thing a decade later.

 

But what you can do? The broken patent system gets abused all the time. Patent anything you can think of--even broad, obvious stuff that's been done before--and then sue the pants off anyone who independently designs and implements a real-world example of the patented materials. Patent trolls gonna troll.

 

So, I stand by my original assertions, which are: (1) The patent system is fubar'd, and (2) NTP won the patent troll lottery to the tune more than a half billion dollars reamed out of RIM, and then NTP managed to extort even more out of Apple, etc.

 

Thank goodness the NTP patents expire this year.


Edited by ShinySteelRobot - 7/25/12 at 2:22pm
post #30 of 31
So your saying the strategy of buying up patents with the sole intent of hauling people to court is an ethical core business model?


Please explain again how this has a net positive effect on society (i.e. "works").
post #31 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

One other thing....you say patents make products "prohibitively expensive".  That is easy to say and difficult to prove.  I could argue that the products wouldn't exist without the patent system because slavish copying would prevent anyone from breaking into any new market.  Take Apple for instance.  If Microsoft could make iPads, Apple would have had no incentive to make an iPad.  What would be the point of making it if Microsoft could sell it.  The only reason you can't see this aspect of patents is because they are doing their job.  It doesn't matter whether it is Apple or a small inventor, a small business, or a non-practicing entity, the risk of someone else getting a patent on the product that everyone wants to buy is the very thing that creates the race to develop.  It is a shame that the computer industry doesn't see it that way.

 

But your example (the ideas which went into the iPad) is just fine by me because there is a real, tangible product which came to market with those ideas.  Thus, there is something to "protect" (i.e. the revenue stream generated by that product).

 

The problem I have is with protecting an idea for which there is no intent of it being used in a product (licensed or directly).  An idea for which the sole purpose is generating money through waiting for others to create successful products which use that idea, and then launching lawsuits against them.

 
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