Apple, HP targeted in patent lawsuit over web stores

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 34
    sandrosandro Posts: 21member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 34
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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?
  • Reply 4 of 34
    sandrosandro Posts: 21member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 34
    samnuvasamnuva Posts: 225member
    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?
  • Reply 6 of 34
    sowardsoward Posts: 31member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 34
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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"?
  • Reply 8 of 34
    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
  • Reply 9 of 34
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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?
  • Reply 10 of 34
    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...
  • Reply 11 of 34
    buzdotsbuzdots Posts: 449member
    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!
  • Reply 12 of 34
    gnnonignnoni Posts: 24member
    I have the solution to fix the patent's system. But how can i be sure that no one has patented it yet?
  • Reply 13 of 34
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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?



  • Reply 14 of 34
    bowserbowser Posts: 89member
    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...
  • Reply 15 of 34
    johnqhjohnqh Posts: 242member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 34
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    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!
  • Reply 17 of 34
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,836member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 34
    Furthermore, what constitutes an "original idea"?[/QUOTE]



    "Hey dude, take a bite outa this Apple!"
  • Reply 19 of 34
    bsenkabsenka Posts: 799member
    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?
  • Reply 20 of 34
    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?"
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