03.12.08

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Software Patents and Patent Trolls on the Offensive

Posted in Courtroom, Patents at 8:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Here are some unfortunate stories that we have accumulated for the past couple of days.

Patent TrollTracker Gagged, Sued

The most saddening news today is about the assault of the patent trolls. The victim? A protester against them.

Just this morning we were lamenting the fact that the formerly anonymous Patent Troll Tracker had shut down his blog, but now we know why. It appears that two patent attorneys in East Texas have sued him and Cisco for defamation. One of the attorneys happens to also be the son of the judge who helped make Marshall, Texas famous as a favorite for patent holders. The details on the case suggest that this lawsuit may have been the reason that Rick Frenkel outed himself, as it was actually filed back in November and used as a way to unmask the Troll Tracker.

Web Site Patents

Remember the “JPEG on a Web site” patent (or something along those lines)? Well, be aware that you needn’t be a software developer to consider risk associated with software patents. If you have a Web site, the trolls could come after you.

GraphOn Corp. said Monday it filed a lawsuit alleging patent infringement against Yahoo Inc., Classified Ventures LLC, IAC/InterActiveCorp., Match.com, eHarmony.com and CareerBuilder LLC.

Santa Cruz-based GraphOn (OTCBB:GOJO) said the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern Distict of Texas, claims the companies infringed its patents covering a method of maintaining an automated and network-accessible database.

The suit alleges the companies infringe the GraphOn patents on each of their Web sites, and seeks permanent injunctive relief along with unspecified damages.

Next time people ask if Amazon’s one-click shopping patent (or other similarly poor ones) might get used, consider examples such as the above. Forget about defensive patents. It’s more like an ambush.

Telecom Patents

The telecom Armageddon resumes (well, it never truly ceased). But here comes the owner of the ‘genius’ idea that is transmitting images.

Intellect Wireless Inc. has sued T-Mobile USA Inc., U.S. Cellular Corp., Virgin Mobile USA Inc. and Helio Inc. in federal court in Chicago, accusing the companies of infringing wireless image messaging patents.

Gaming Patents

Gamers hate software patents, not to mention game developers.

The vast majority of the respondents to this Question Of The Week were against the concept of software patents , and those that answered “no” answered with a great deal more fervor then those that said “yes”.

Case of point, fresh from the news: Activision’s “Guitar Hero” violates patent: Gibson

Gibson said the games, in which players press buttons on a guitar-shaped controller in time with notes on a TV screen, violates a 1999 patent for technology to simulate a musical performance.

Classic. How many past and present games are actually said to be violating (“infringing on”) some software patents (renamed “game patents” in this context)?

Software Patents Protest and Poll

In addition to the poll above and this recent other poll which can be found here, consider this testimony. [via Digital Majority]

“What’s all the more infuriating about the current patent situation is that many of today’s patents go against the original social contract surrounding patents. The original goal of the patent system was to get inventors to share their innovations for the common good. In return for a limited monopoly, you, Mr. Inventor, share your invention so that We, the public, can understand how you did it and can then innovate on top of it. Rather than stifling innovation, patents were supposed to drive it forward.

Unfortunately, many patents, even the ones that are legit, would have been created independently anyway. It’s obviously a balance, but at least in the world I live in, I see patents getting in the way rather than helping me. I have never gone and looked at old patents to get new ideas for products. The only time an independent patent, one that I’m not working on filing myself, comes to my attention, it’s because somebody is getting sued for infringing it. This tells me that we have lost the original goal that patents were supposed to foster.

Embargo on Patent Trolls

Lawyers are waking up to realise that the poor reputation of software patents is damaging and they respond accordingly. [via Groklaw]

The debate over patent trolls is dividing the IP bar.

In one of the most overt examples of choosing sides, litigation firm Howrey provocatively proclaims in a new brochure for clients that it absolutely won’t represent trolls — and criticizes firms that do.

“As a firm policy, Howrey does not litigate for ‘patent trolls,’” the page blares underneath a picture of a crossed-out cartoon troll. “Why support firms that are helping perpetuate this scourge on legitimate businesses everywhere?”

Sadly, there will always be some scummy lawyers around (howdy, Ray Niro [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]), and ones that are willing to ruin the industry for a mere buck.

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