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Apple, HP targeted in patent lawsuit over web stores

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
A little-known company is suing Apple and Hewlett-Packard for creating head-to-toe custom computer ordering systems that allegedly resemble concepts patented in the early days of Internet sales.

Filed this week by Clear With Computers, a company that actually operates out of Marshall, Texas rather than simply using it as a staging point for patent disputes, the lawsuit claims that Apple's online store, its main website, and their relevant sales and supply systems infringe on some aspects of patents granted in March 1997 and November 1994 for computer-based techniques to propose and complete sales of multiple parts in a single order.

The 1997 patent in particular lets users sign in to an electronic system and build a list of products or parts from a form, including text or visual descriptions of each option and a system to handle the payment for the combined results. The database at the heart of the system would also let the host company update information for each product without having to rebuild the entire system.

CWC's description at least superficially resembles the custom configuration approaches used by Apple and HP to sell their respective computer lines. Both allow users to choose different performance and bundle options for systems before they place an order, and are built on software platforms that let either PC builder easily add or remove new items to the store on the fly as well as change prices or options.

The method described in the patent nonetheless shows signs of its age and doesn't suggest an actual online transaction: a company would instead print out the custom offer and try to sell the product in person. CWC's complaint also doesn't address examples of prior art from other companies, such as Dell's beginning direct online PC sales in 1996.

Even so, the plaintiff is confident that it can freeze out both of the computer sales giants with a permanent injunction on their services and a request that Apple and HP pay "enhanced" damages for what's claimed as deliberate infringement. CWC supports its argument by pointing to a successful defense of its two patents in a dispute with office supply retailer Staples.

Neither Apple nor HP has commented on the new lawsuit.
post #2 of 35
This looks like it will be thrown out of court.


PS: We've seen several lawsuits against Apple recently that have merit and then there is the recent out of court settlement for Visual Voicemail, so, as Apple stock holder, it's nice to see the BS lawsuits coming back around. I wonder if we're going to see someone claim to have had the idea to put a 3G chip in the iPhone before Apple announced their plans? We've seen hokier.
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post #3 of 35
This is another bullshit suit. The fact that any imbecile can patent and idea or an algorithm without actually designing a model or writing any software is utter nonsense. Its like the Amazon "One Click" patent, when did keeping a running tab or an account with a shop become an original concept deserving a patent? I would think that the idea has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. There might not have been a mouse or online stores a hundred years ago but stores, commerce and personal accounts are not new concepts.

We need to scrap this miserable excuse for a patent system and start anew. These patents are not helping protect intellectual property, they instead are being used to steal from the real innovators.
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post #4 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandro View Post

The Patent System Is Broken

It is, but do you have a solution or proposal to fix it. I have tried to brainstorm some ideas to make it better but I have nothing.

The only reasonable idea is to make the plaintiff pay for all court fees if they lose, like in the UK. But that only hinder these small companies or individuals fighting a big corporation who has taken their idea and may be not concern a large company whose lawyers will cost considerably more than the defendant's if it were the other way around.

Any ideas?
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post #5 of 35
The problem started when they started awarding patents for algorithms, business processes and genes. Patents should be awarded for actual products. You must have done more than just thought about something. The idea that you can patent a mathematical formula is inane. Imagine if that had been around hundreds of years ago. Should we have to pay every time we calculate a square root? Should calculators have to pay a license for all the calculations it may make?

I am not saying that we should not be allowed to sue. I am saying that there are too many patents and that too many things qualify for patents too easily. Patents should only be granted for really original ideas, not just combinations of old ones and the applicant must have done more than just brainstormed a little and made a diagram.
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post #6 of 35
This Patent is rediculously Broad. You cant just Patent Online Shopping. It's an Idea, not a product. Although I am glad that they actually live in Texas instead of Just suing there. Is there any chance that they may have moved to Texas a year or two ago in preperation to file the lawsuit?
post #7 of 35
Of course, the first dell build-to-order web store was written by NeXT=>Apple using WebObjects. That will probably make this a hard case to win. Though a 'settlement' wouldn't be surprising given the high cost of going to trial.
post #8 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandro View Post

Patents should only be granted for really original ideas, not just combinations of old ones and the applicant must have done more than just brainstormed a little and made a diagram.

Therein lies the problem. There are very few original ideas that are not combinations of other ideas. Furthermore, what constitutes an "original idea"?
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post #9 of 35
I couldn't agree more with you Sandro...... The useless, pile of shit lawyers have got to love this kind of thing.... I wish I knew a way to fix it myself.... build to order web site functions should not be considered patentable. In the meantime.... I think I'm going to file patents on the letters "E" and "S".... then sue every lawyer and media company on the planet for 12 Trillion Dollars.... for using these letters w/o my permission.....LOL

Z
post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by soward View Post

Of course, the first dell build-to-order web store was written by NeXT=>Apple using WebObjects. That will probably make this a hard case to win. Though a 'settlement' wouldn't be surprising given the high cost of going to trial.

I believe Dell's WebObjects-based store came online in 1996. Is there is an online store that pre-dates November 1994?
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post #11 of 35
Online shopping for computers is not new. Why get a patent in 1994 and 1997 and wait more than 10 years to do anything about it? If I were the judge, I'd say "You want to contest what?!?! Online computer shopping. I've bought my last six Dells on the internet."

You would think CWC would have tried to defend its patent during the tech bubble instead of waiting until now to start fighting. I guess I have just too much faith in humanity...
post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Therein lies the problem. There are very few original ideas that are not combinations of other ideas. Furthermore, what constitutes an "original idea"?

Very few original ideas is indeed THE problem. Seems to me when you "combine" other ideas, you have already infringed more than once. Maybe the patent office needs to start requiring "working models" in whatever form they make take.

IMHO, taking the model of the "company store" to an electronic version does not constitute a new idea - but developing the software to install said program should grant the developers a copyright - but only for the software itself!
OMG here we go again...
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OMG here we go again...
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post #13 of 35
I have the solution to fix the patent's system. But how can i be sure that no one has patented it yet?
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by gnnoni View Post

I have the solution to fix the patent's system. But how can i be sure that no one has patented it yet?

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post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandro View Post

...they instead are being used to steal from the real innovators.

But this is the American Way!!! To think things should be any different makes you unpatriotic! You're a closet Muslim terrorist!!!

The Republicans and Microsoft have been working hard for decades to get this system into place, God hates terrorists like you, and you'll burn in Hell because of it!!!

Now, getting back to reality, I couldn't agree more. Patents need to be for real products, not just some vague concept. I hope Apple does fight this one out and puts these people where they belong... And as with so many other actions like this, if the patent is 12 years old, why the hell have they waited so long to move on it?

What we need is to have a system that punishes those who engage in frivolous and greed based claims like this one, you file suit, you lose, you pay, not just the costs of ALL proceedings, but you/your company must also automatically pay punitive damages for filing a frivolous lawsuit to begin with...
post #16 of 35
The meat of the patent is in the claims, not the description. The description may match the store but it has no legal meaning. We don't know what the claims are.

It is hard to imagine that Apple's and HP's store infringe on their claims, but not Dell's. However, without seeing the claims, anything we say here is just speculation.
post #17 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bowser View Post

But this is the American Way!!! To think things should be any different makes you unpatriotic! You're a closet Muslim terrorist!!!

The Republicans and Microsoft have been working hard for decades to get this system into place, God hates terrorists like you, and you'll burn in Hell because of it!!!

You heard it hear first folks, yeah, that's change we can believe! No thanks, keep the change!

With regards to patents, just get rid of the whole damn system. Replace it with the following philosophy for inventors and innovators...

1) Those that dream up an idea and do nothing.

2) Those that dream up an idea and bring that idea to fruition to the benefit of mankind.

3) Those that see what has been dreamed up but see where improvements can be made and brings a "new and improved" idea to fruition that benefits mankind.

So those that fall under groups 2 and 3 have something to show for their ideas and if it is worth a damn, be justly rewarded.

Those in group one - you snooze, you loose!

Patent system problem solved!

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post #18 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by kjgienapp View Post

Online shopping for computers is not new. Why get a patent in 1994 and 1997 and wait more than 10 years to do anything about it? If I were the judge, I'd say "You want to contest what?!?! Online computer shopping. I've bought my last six Dells on the internet."

You would think CWC would have tried to defend its patent during the tech bubble instead of waiting until now to start fighting. I guess I have just too much faith in humanity...

There's nothing wrong with pursuing legal action this late in the game if the suit has merit. I can't really say if it has merit or not, but patents enable both companies and individuals to exploit their intellectual property in the way they best see fit.

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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post #19 of 35
Furthermore, what constitutes an "original idea"?[/QUOTE]

"Hey dude, take a bite outa this Apple!"
post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnqh View Post

The meat of the patent is in the claims, not the description. The description may match the store but it has no legal meaning. We don't know what the claims are.

It is hard to imagine that Apple's and HP's store infringe on their claims, but not Dell's. However, without seeing the claims, anything we say here is just speculation.

Maybe Dell already paid them off?
post #21 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by BuzDots View Post

...Seems to me when you "combine" other ideas, you have already infringed more than once.

Is there an inventor's version of the writer's old maxim: "If you steal from one or two other writers, it's plagiarism; if you steal from three or more, it's research?"
post #22 of 35
Sorry, no. You cannot patent order customising.

And that's all this is.

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post #23 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

It is, but do you have a solution or proposal to fix it. I have tried to brainstorm some ideas to make it better but I have nothing.

The only reasonable idea is to make the plaintiff pay for all court fees if they lose, like in the UK. But that only hinder these small companies or individuals fighting a big corporation who has taken their idea and may be not concern a large company whose lawyers will cost considerably more than the defendant's if it were the other way around.

Any ideas?

I think the foundation of the patent system should be based on protecting real products from being directly copied and having the market stolen away from them. Not protecting vague ideas until someone else comes up with a product that is related to them.

So basically, you can only patent the unique aspects of an existing product (or a product destined to be released to the market within a reasonable amount of time). If that reasonable amount of time expires without the said product being released, then you lose your patent.

Until patents are tied to real products (and real losses associated with copycat products), we'll continue to see companies whose entire business model is patent and sue.
 
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post #24 of 35
I think small companies just take a look at anything they've patented in the past and hope some other company treaded on it so they can finally make some money..
post #25 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenka View Post

Maybe Dell already paid them off?

Maybe it's because Dell is in Texas, too. So they would have an easier time getting the case moved to Round Rock since it would still be in-state? I imagine this company "operating out of" Marshall means they have a tiny office leased in some building.
post #26 of 35
Hahahaha... this is the funniest one yet!

Surly almost every website with a composite ordering system would be subject to this? What a load of BS!


Bunch of losers.
post #27 of 35
Needless to say, this is a stupid lawsuit. I mean, gimme an f'in' break.

W.r.t. fixing the patent system, the idea of marrying patents with products is misguided. Whether or not technology is for sale in the market place is irrelevant to ownership, and ownership is the crux of the biscuit. The central question is: what constitutes intellectual property?

This is the principle. Pragmatically, patent law must also protect "open source" technology--akin to copyleft concepts. I may innovate something of true import that I wish to give away and simultaneously prevent others from appropriating. How else can I protect my intellectual property but by patenting it and then disposing of it as I wish? Yet another pragmatic aspect is incentive. In order to encourage innovation, inventors must have ownership of their creative ideas; otherwise, we get nothing but state of the art candles and abacuses (hyperbole, but you get the idea).

An important thing to remember is that patent protection doesn't last forever. Patented ideas eventually enter into the public domain. Perhaps a good start to fixing the system would be to limit the period of time that patent protection is enjoyed for ideas of dubious merit. I don't know how the merit threshold is determined in today's world. If there is none, or if this is too difficult to discriminate, another idea is to limit patent protection periods relating to fast-paced industries accustomed to rapid growth.

I don't think that patenting novel mathematical formulas is beyond reason; I'd say the same of genes and hybridized plants. It takes knowledge and creativity to discover these things. Once discovered, they have value--value enough that it makes sense to confer property status to them, such that more people will be inclined to innovate new ideas themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandro View Post

The idea that you can patent a mathematical formula is inane. Imagine if that had been around hundreds of years ago. Should we have to pay every time we calculate a square root?

Imagine if that had been around: thousands of years ago when "square root technology" was first developed. How inane would that have been given that there was little practical application for it? It's silly to say that this technology should be protected today, in the age of electronics, in the age when we actually have calculators and computers. I don't think it would have been at all beyond reason to have patented this back then. And that's entirely the point: individuals discover properties of reality and are rewarded with property rights for their findings over some portion of their lives; after some reasonable period of time, the properties of reality are just that and nobody owns them; but the creator must be given his due. Who knows: if the concept of patents was around thousands of years ago we may have gotten calculators that much sooner.

Note that nothing forces individuals to patent their creations/discoveries. Some may choose to keep these secret and profit from proprietary ventures in perpetuity--or until somebody else figures out what the universe is capable of. This is significant inasmuch as it concretizes the ultimate reality that information wants to be free as much as it wants to be owned. In the end, nothing is new because it was already there--a property of existence. The point of patents is to advance civilization by rewarding creators under the concept of justice.
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post #28 of 35
Null.
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Þ & þ are called "Thorn" & þey represent þe sound you've associated "th" wiþ since þe 13þ or 14þ century. I'm bringing it back.
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post #29 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

...

Even so, the plaintiff is confident that it can freeze out both of the computer sales giants with a permanent injunction on their services and a request that Apple and HP pay "enhanced" damages for what's claimed as deliberate infringement. CWC supports its argument by pointing to a successful defense of its two patents in a dispute with office supply retailer Staples.

Neither Apple nor HP has commented on the new lawsuit.

Good luck with that one Find a judge that will shut down apple and HP on line sales
post #30 of 35
Problems with our patent system as well as many other problems are a result of the direction America has taken in recent decades. America was an experiment which involved and required that the morality of people be up to a certain level. The patent system has become an excuse for people to give in to greed and lust for money. Lawsuits are now commonplace. Yes, the system is broken. But no matter how well-designed the system were to become, people would still take advantage of it and find loopholes to feed their greed. More government control is NOT the answer. It is never the answer. Read your history.
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post #31 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by MuncyWeb View Post

Problems with our patent system as well as many other problems are a result of the direction America has taken in recent decades. America was an experiment which involved and required that the morality of people be up to a certain level. The patent system has become an excuse for people to give in to greed and lust for money. Lawsuits are now commonplace. Yes, the system is broken. But no matter how well-designed the system were to become, people would still take advantage of it and find loopholes to feed their greed. More government control is NOT the answer. It is never the answer. Read your history.

I agree, we've replaced business ethics with a legalistic (what can we get away with) business mentality. A society without etiquette & protocol, without a real sense of some moral value & preservation, just isn't a civilized society at all.

The most astonishing thing about patents like these is how obvious it is that someone sat down with an idea that wasn't very broad at all, & then had a lawyer write it up for them so that it could include as many possible scenarios as they could. Very obvious that this one was architected to sue future infringers & not to actually put the idea into practice.

Thanks for the patent post Slewis.
post #32 of 35
I guess they seen to think they can sue whom ever they want!

http://dockets.justia.com/docket/cou...ase_id-109924/
post #33 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandro View Post

The problem started when they started awarding patents for algorithms, business processes and genes.


patenting a business process should be allowed. the issue is that it needs to be very specific. just being able to patent "online shopping" or "custom built computers" is not specific enough. just like copyrighting "hot chick makes over smart geek to turn him into perfect boyfriend" isn't enough to go from idea to story.
post #34 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riverfront Media View Post

I guess they seen to think they can sue whom ever they want!

http://dockets.justia.com/docket/cou...ase_id-109924/

well in this case, they would have to sue every company that uses a similar game or it would be tossed out for just going after a huge moneymaking company. it would be seen as trying to make a buck off the big boys and not really defending a patent.

the key is what exactly the patents say. are they for the mere idea, in which case every company with online shopping could be in danger, no matter what they sell. or is it for the exact system they are using for their orders. and can Apple etc defend themselves by saying that they enhanced the system by making it all online. similar to copyright's fair use because you are parodying or analyzing a work.

what next, the book companies get hit for copying 'online book selling' or has someone already tried that one
post #35 of 35
I hear Al Gore is being named as a defendant because he invented the Internet.
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