EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

09.03.10

The Truth About Thomas Edison and New Species of Patent Trolls

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Thomas Edison

Summary: A look back at very abusive behaviour from a patent office icon; new critique of the patent process

WHEN most people hear the name Thomas Edison they think of a great scientist and inventor, not a ruthless businessman. Edison was somewhat of a raider, who became legendary for the number of patents he had amassed. Just how inventive was he really? Well, actually, he had the habit of taking other people’s ideas and claiming credit/monopoly for them after slight modifications. Edison essentially hacked the patent office, just like some of today’s patent trolls. This is a subject which we alluded to before [1, 2].

Edison probably deserves to be remembered as a shrewd businessman (like Bill Gates and his publicity/taxation tricks), not an icon of scientific ingenuity. Ars Technica has this new article about Edison and it’s far from flattering.

Thomas Edison’s plot to hijack the movie industry

[...]

But what ultimately did the Edison monopoly in was the assumption that its legal/technological dominance over the trade, and its moral stance, would trump the public’s demand for ever more creative motion pictures. Unlike the independents, the MPCC system did not invest in its network. Consumers would simply have to watch Edison Trust fare, the monopoly’s principals figured.

[...]

Thus the Edison Trust was sunk, even before a federal court agreed with prosecutors that the Patents Company and General Film had broken every antitrust principle in the book, “terrorizing exchanges and exhibitors” and driving away competitors by “arbitrary, oppressive, and high-handed methods.”

The sage took his defeat like a good sport. He was, after all, still America’s beloved inventor. At the end of the conflict, Edison dropped by to dedicate Universal’s new all-electric movie studio, now located in a pleasant southern California town called Hollywood.

Take heed, tech giants of today. Some of your companies or services aren’t much older than the Edison Trust was when it collapsed. How much of your current business strategy is based on offering new and original products, and how much of it is based on laws, courts, and the fact that you got there first?

“Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure,” Thomas Edison once warned. He ought to know.

Slashdot has this new entry right now — one that’s titled “A New Species of Patent Troll” even though it covers a differently titled piece on a disturbing drama around patents and marking.

Patents have a life span of 17 or 20 years. To keep them valid, companies must pay maintenance fees every four years. Once they expire, the holder is expected to remove the numbers from products.

Why go through all this trouble? Is there truly an economic benefit to society as a whole? Similar questions ought to be asked about CIIs/software patents, which increasingly bring Edison-like abusers to the field of programming. The problem is, the lobbyists from the United States try to expand these to Europe, triggering reactions of many who saw and learned from the errors of the USPTO. Just days ago the president of the FFII spotted some nice short propaganda containing the word “technical” 45 times at a high level of density, e.g.:

However, it is often difficult to separate a claim into technical and non-technical features, and an invention may have technical aspects which are hidden in a largely non-technical context

“Technical” is one of those words that are used excessively by lawyers (another one is “invention”) to justify their paperwork and outrageous fees that they extract from work of actual creators.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

2 Comments

  1. twitter said,

    September 3, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Gravatar

    The Ars piece was interesting but it was written like a Rorschach test. People who are keeping up with the non free software patent apocalypse will see lessons for Microsoft, Apple and Oracle. People listening to Microsoft’s weekly “screw Google” meeting will read, “We have here an object lesson that the Internet empires of our time ought to consider.” and think of Google. It’s pretty clear who the modern, clueless patent abusers are, so why does Ars obfuscate and fail to name them?

    Google has mostly been the target of bogus lawsuits. A quick search for “Google patent lawsuit” at Yahoo (Bing) turns up no lawsuit launched by Google. That’s based on the summaries because the articles Bing turns up are all from sites so Microsoft dominated that they don’t work with the 3.5 branch of Konqueror.

    There are other historical examples of USPTO abuse retarding industry but nothing compares to the software patent fraud. Glass bottle companies are probably the worst, where there were only two makers of glass bottle machines in the US which ruthlessly controlled bottling companies that were, in turn, equally ruthless monopolies like Coke. The two machine companies had a web of patents they used against everyone else and each other. Automobile patents have been mentioned here and elswhere recently. Few of the patents abused by those companies are as ridiculous as the flood of business method patents created by the State Street decision that made a loophole for business method patents implemented by computer. Because computers are essential to all business today, the tax on society and audacity of the non free software fraud is much greater than the burden imposed by any single abusive industry of a century ago.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Coke is now masquerading under more brand names, marketing these as “organic” for about 10 times the cost.

What Else is New


  1. Links 21/10/2014: Debian Fork Debate, New GNU IceCat

    Links for the day



  2. Criminal Microsoft is Censoring the Web and Breaks Laws to Do So; the Web Should Censor (Remove) Microsoft

    Microsoft is still breaking the Internet using completely bogus takedown requests (an abuse of DMCA) and why Microsoft Windows, which contains weaponised back doors (shared with the NSA), should be banned from the Internet, not just from the Web



  3. Microsoft 'Loving' GNU/Linux and Other Corporate Media Fiction

    Microsoft has bullied or cleverly bribed enough technology-centric media sites to have them characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) that also "loves Linux"



  4. India May be Taking Bill Gates to Court for Misusing His So-called 'Charity' to Conduct Clinical Trials Without Consent on Behalf of Companies He Invests in

    Bill Gates may finally be pulled into the courtroom again, having been identified for large-scale abuses that he commits in the name of profit (not "charity")



  5. The Problems With Legal Workarounds, Patent Scope, and Expansion of Patent Trolls to the East

    Patent trolls are in the news again and it's rather important, albeit for various different reasons, more relevant than the ones covered here in the past



  6. Links 20/10/2014: Cloudera and Red Hat, Debian 7.7, and Vivid Vervet

    Links for the day



  7. Links 20/10/2014: 10 Years Since First Ubuntu Release

    Links for the day



  8. How Patent Lawyers Analyze Alice v. CLS Bank

    Breaking down a patent lawyer's analysis of a Supreme Court's decision that seemingly invalidated hundreds of thousands of software patents



  9. Is It Google's Turn to Head the USPTO Corporation?

    The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests



  10. The EPO's Public Relations Disaster Amid Distrust From Within (and EPO Communications Chief Leaves): Part VII

    Amid unrest and suspicion of misconduct in the EPO's management (ongoing for months if not years), Transparency International steps in, but the EPO's management completely ignores Transparency International, refusing to collaborate; the PR chief of the EPO is apparently being pushed out in the mean time



  11. Links 18/10/2014: Debian Plans for Init Systems, Tails 1.2

    Links for the day



  12. Links 18/10/2014: New ELive, Android Expansion

    Links for the day



  13. Another Fresh Blow to Software Patents (and With Them Patent Trolls)

    Another new development shows that more burden of proof is to be put on the litigant, thus discouraging the most infamous serial patent aggressors and reducing the incentive to settle with a payment out of court



  14. Links 16/10/2014: New Android, SSL 3.0 Flaw

    Links for the day



  15. How the Corporate Press Deceives and Sells Microsoft Agenda

    Various new examples of media propaganda that distorts or makes up the facts (bias/lies by omission/selection) and where this is all coming from



  16. Vista 10 is Still Vapourware, But We Already Know It Will Increase Surveillance on Its Users and Contain Malicious Back Doors

    The villainous company which makes insecure-by-design operating systems will continue to do so, but in the mean time the corporate press covers only bugs in FOSS, not back doors in proprietary software



  17. Links 15/10/2014: KDE Plasma 5.1 is Out, GOG Reaches 100-Title Mark

    Links for the day



  18. With .NET Foundation Affiliation Xamarin is Another Step Closer to Being Absorbed by Microsoft

    Xamarin is not even trying to pretend that separation exists between Microsoft and its work; yet another collaboration is announced



  19. The EPO's Protection Triangle of Battistelli, Kongstad, and Topić: Part VI

    Jesper Kongstad, Benoît Battistelli, and Zeljko Topić are uncomfortably close personally and professionally, so suspicions arise that nepotism and protectionism play a negative role that negatively affects the European public



  20. Corporate Media Confirms the Demise of Software Patents in the United States; Will India and Europe Follow?

    It has become increasingly official that software patents are being weakened in the United States' USPTO as well as the courts; will software leaders such as India and Europe stop trying to imitate the old USPTO?



  21. Links 14/10/2014: CAINE 6, New RHEL, Dronecode

    Links for the day



  22. Microsoft's Disdain for Women Steals the Show at a Women's Event

    Steve Ballmer's successor, Satya Nadella, is still too tactless to lie to the audience, having been given --through subversive means -- a platform at a conference that should have shunned Microsoft, a famously misogynistic company



  23. SCOTUS May Soon Put an End to the 'Copyrights on APIs' Question While Proprietary Giants Continue to Harass Android/Linux in Every Way Conceivable

    Google takes its fight over API freedom to the Supreme Court in the Unites States and it also takes that longstanding patent harassment from the Microsoft- and Apple-backed troll (Rockstar) out of East Texas



  24. Patent Lawsuits Almost Halved After SCOTUS Ruling on 'Abstract' Software Patents

    The barrier for acceptance of software patent applications is raised in the United States and patent lawsuits, many of which involve software these days, are down very sharply, based on new figures from Lex Machina



  25. Links 13/10/2014: ChromeOS and EXT, Debian Resists Systemd Domination

    Links for the day



  26. Links 12/10/2014: Blackphone Tablet, Sony's Firefox OS Port

    Links for the day



  27. Links 9/10/2014: Free Software in Germany, Lenovo Tablets With Android

    Links for the day



  28. Links 8/10/2014: A Lot of Linux+AMD News, New ROSA Desktop Is Out

    Links for the day



  29. Lawyers' Propaganda About Software Patents and a New AstroTurf Entity Called Innovation Alliance

    Patent propaganda and deception from patent lawyers (among other parasites such as patent trolls) continues to flood the Web, intersecting with reports that prove them totally wrong



  30. How Microsoft Handles Disasters: Grace Hopper Conference Has Been Infiltrated by "Microsoft Disaster Response"

    Free/Open Source software (FOSS) must be a disaster to Microsoft's bottom line because Microsoft is sending "Microsoft Disaster Response" to infiltrate and disrupt a conference about women in FOSS


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts