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Suing Over... Fans? 166

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-wish-I-could-make-this-stuff-up dept.
NiceGeek hooked us up with an amusing story about assorted legal wackiness surrounding CPU Fans. Apparently one company is suing another because they are (gasp) stealing advanced fan technology and violating patents! Horror! The sad part is that its probably true. Someone needs to write a perl script to take this story, and s/x/y/g the names and technologies, and then feed every company and technology into it. Then create an archive of every possible violation lawsuit. Then patent the idea, and sue anyone who violates it. Just cut me in for thinking of it ;)
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Suing Over... Fans?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    While I have made an exception this once in your case, I don't generally respond to weenies.
  • Good idea, unfortunantly theres already a lot of prior art for that under a lot of previous slashdot articles...
  • I bet you I can find a piece of electronic equipment which uses the same technique they've patented and was made 15 years ago. For crying out loud! We're just talking about a little go-to-hell fan here. What sort of future litigation will result over design similarities that really DO matter?

  • I assume the lawsuits were brought to being because of some stolen designs which were patented. They've got all the right in the world to bring it to court. So what if it's "just" a computer fan, it's patented design, and Sunonwealth is within their rights. The infringement of such patents could cause actual finacial loss, among other things.
    At least it's not something we've all come to despise like Amazon's bullshit one click patent, and the countless other patents we've seen reported on /. that have no legitimacy as patents.
  • All corporations are more concerned with their own success than with their customers happiness. The one and only purpose they have is to make money.

    Keeping customers happy is simply a tool that they use to accomplish this goal, not a goal in and of itself.
  • From the article, it sounds like there is a legitimate grievance against a possible infringer. Taco, what is so special about fans that you consider them to be trivial and unpatentable?

    A lot of expensive development goes into making good fans, and the company involved has every right to defend their IP. As an engineer, I'm disgusted that you would be so quick to trivialize it.
  • > Take for instance the toilet. I couldn't live without it, yet its design has been around since ancient Rome.

    Ever looked inside a modern flush mechanism? These babies are an example of some serious engineering! Not rocket science, but still some pretty sophisticated design, not to mention tricks of manufacturing. (BTW, working with precision ceramics can be a bitch!) Look at the parts in there and I'll bet you will find a half dozen or so US Patent numbers stamped in them. Yes, those simple looking ceramic fixtures now do the same work as their 20 year old cousins, but with less than 1/5 the waste water, and probably 1/100 the water that was used by the Romans. Sure, the concept of internal plumbing has been around since the Romans, but they had a lot to learn about water conservation and the mechanics of quiet, reliable, inexpensive, self regulating, automatic shut off valves.

    Just because something looks simple doesn't mean it was obvious to create in the first place!!

    --

  • my patent reading skills are significantly impaired. But I think this MIGHT be patents about dynamic position of the fan rotor so that it spins in balance around its axis rather than wobbling, even without using very solid bearings.
    If so, it is indeed quite "non-obvious technology".
    Some patents have a point.
  • Uh, why not go after the company that makes the infringing fans instead of the companies that use them?

    Because the infringing fans are likely made in Singapore, or some other country that doesn't give a rat's arse for patents. Going after Creative and nVidia allows them to sue under US patent law.
  • Have you not seen the new G4 Cubes? A well-designed case and a well-designed microprocessor == fans suck.

    Yeah, I've got a 486 SX2/25 Overdrive chip insde of a shoebox that doesn't overheat either, but it's got exactly nothing to do with good design. :) Neither that nor the G4 is even 1/2 the clock speed of the newest chips from AMD or Intel, nor is it as popular.

    That said, I want a dual G4 system. With fans. Big ol' quiet patented Sunon fans, 'cause sunon fans are really quite good fans.
  • Someone needs to write a perl script to take this story, and s/x/y/g the names and technologies, and then feed every company and technology into it. Then create an archive of every possible violation lawsuit. Then patent the idea, and sue anyone who violates it.
    The sad part about it is, with the current state of the USPTO, Taco could probably get away with this. Although it sure would make a good case of fighting fire with fire....

    --
    See, you not only have to be a good coder to create a system like Linux,
    you have to be a sneaky bastard too ;-)
    [Linus Torvalds in < 4rikft$7g5@linux.cs.Helsinki.FI > ]

  • You can't patent the Venturi effect (I hope), but I garantee you that all the applicable carburetor parts designed by Suzuki, Yamaha et al are patented. They put R&D money into designing them and they were subsequently patented. That's how the system is supposed to work.

    I can infer how to make a fusion reactor from a high-school textbook. That doesn't mean I can patent one.

    -B
  • by BeanThere (28381)
    I realize you weren't saying anything about the patents in your post .. my response was mentally more targetted towards somebody elses post that sounded similar to yours, but they were arguing that since building a *good* fan can be very difficult that the company may deserve to patent it.


  • OK, finally the eternally redundant "I'm gonna patent air" post has made its way into a story. Can we kill that crap forever?

    Hey, I'm gonna patent "I'm gonna patent" posts and refuse to license it just to save valuable moderator points squashing those posts! It's repetetively redundant!

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • Someone needs to write a perl script to take this story, and s/x/y/g the names and technologies, and then feed every company and technology into it.

    I found this last night on BBSpot. [bbspot.com] It's a Random Slashdot story generator. Good for about 10 good laughs, about 3 deja-vu experiences, and for fooling that gullible newbie about 4 times...

  • Actually, the article says that Sunonwealth is already involved in a patent suit with ADDA. It mentions that they just got a federal injunction against ADDA for discussing the case, and a federal judge ordered ADDa to explain why they shouldn't be held in contempt of court.

    John
  • THey *are* going after the company who made the infringing fans.

    --John
  • Also, what is the most unreliable component in your system? The hard drive... The monitor... The processor or memory... No. The numerous fans throughout your system.

    Indeed. I maintain about three or four dozen machines at this company [thejewelers.com], and the most frequent problem we have is with processor and power-supply fans crapping out. A fair number of our machines are PII-350s or thereabouts, and you can't even get replacement heatsink/fan combos for those anymore. (I usually get some other type of heatsink/fan, throw out the heatsink, and attach the new fan to the old heatsink...a few minutes' work which will be good for another year or two, at which time the fan will probably need to be replaced again.) Power supplies are cheap enough that it's usually cheaper (parts cost vs. downtime) to replace the whole thing than to replace just the fan within, though I've done that with some of my home systems. A few hard drives and a motherboard or two have gone bad over the past couple of years, but it's rare that a month goes by without a fan conking out.

  • What ever happened to that old and lovable transliterate (of the sed veriety) y/x/y/? Have we all become too lazy to use anything other than a reg-ex?

    -Michael
  • What about the fanin my car? That gets pretty hot. I had another car where the fan did run constantly while the car was running. Just like a cpu fan. You really think that this is a new idea?
  • I think that there may be some difference in scale here -- and of engineering technique. The jet engine on a Harrier may run for perhaps 4-6 hours (on a ferry flight) at most, spinning at several thousand rpm, and will then be serviced by a very skilled engineering crew.

    On the other hand, the PC fan will spin at perhaps
    50-100 rpm, for weeks or months at a time (on a server), and won't get any maintenance at all.

    --

    EEyore
  • > some sort miraculous processor that creates 'little' or 'no' heat,

    Umm... Crusoe?

    --

  • Somehow I get the feeling that the company that makes these fans is misusing their own products. Imagine this: company executives are in a boardroom with a huge fan on the wall. One of the blades is painted a color. They turn off the air conditioning and wait for the fan to stop.

    Corporate lawyer: Yes! Sue for asinine reasons! Let's see here. Who can we sue?

    VP of marketing: Hmmm. We have competitors. Let's sue them for patent infringement to increase our marketshare.
  • The very small fan on my LeadTek WinFast card (GeForce 256 DDR) kept it perfectly cool...

    ...right up until the fan seized up, and the card overheated to the point that the whole screen went purple.

    I think Sunonwealth is justified here -- ADDA made an inferior product using stolen technology, which could ruin the reputation of microfans in general if they aren't forced to stop.

    -c.
    --

  • Not a bad idea. Not the infringement issue. Just
    the idea of suing over a fan. You go and spend
    several thousand dollars on switching equipment
    and the vendor goes and puts a $0.10 fan in it to
    "Keep it kewl". THe fan creators over the weekend
    and you come back to a pile of goo.

    Of course, you could have insane grad students that believe the fan is "too loud" and go into your switch and clip it out.

    To borrow a line from Glueleg: Crazy Life Brother
  • That all these corporations are more interested in patenting anything that has anything remotely similar to their business. You would think that they would be better off on actually creating something worth patenting, rather than trying to patent the "all new" and "better than before" e-toaster (Patent Pending) Plug it in to any 120VAC (USA Only) outlet and a new 'Toasterable' PC (available soon) and you can watch "color video" of your toast toasting!
  • Well we can't sue anybody, but we can sure complain [uiuc.edu] about it.
    --------
  • Read The Fucking Claims. The article names the patents in question. Remember that the claims are the "code" of the patent, and everything else is something more like comments.

    Here are the claims for the patents in question:

    These are for particular ways of building fans -- not miniature fans in general. How long have we been cooling 486s with miniature fans?
    --
    Ooh, moderator points! Five more idjits go to Minus One Hell!
    Delenda est Windoze

  • It's worth a fair bit if it is a genuine advance over your competitors, so people are using your fan instead of theirs as a result. /.'ers are probably one of the groups most likely to 'get this' I'd feel, assembling your own systems can mean you're a lot more likely to build brand-loyalty to a fan manufacturer than a 'normal' user.

    Lawyers cost, but losing the technology that seperates you from your competitors can cost you your perceived 'Edge', and thus your customers, and thus your business


    Molt


  • an electronic controlled pro grade r/c servo is prior art to all 3 of these claims. They have been around for a few years. Older servos just use a potentiometer the newer ones use something simular is not identicle to what they claim to patent

  • never post when your out
    of it on nyquil sheesh.

    an electronic controlled pro grade r/c servo is prior art to all 3 of these claims. They have been around for a few years. Older servos just use a potentiometer the newer ones use something simular if not identicle to what they claim to patent

  • I'm going to patent Bringing Large Oxygen Waves Into Normal Greenhouse Heat Aspirated Realtime Datasystems. It's high time that all these engineering pirates pay for the amazing innovation of BLOWINGHARD. I'm tired of my meelions being squandered by the malicious people who refuse to pay an honest dollar.

  • Obviously nVidia and Creative must not agree with you, then. After all, they seem to think that it's worth a premium to buy the Cadillac of fans instead of the run of the mill ones. Certainly there are a lot of overclockers who think that the absolute best CPU fan is worth spending money on. It may be that GPU makers are now pushing the limits to the point that they have to push their chips to the very limit in order to get the performance they want, in which case the very best fan may be more necessary than luxury.

    In any case, the fact that the patent is being infringed is indirect evidence that it's actually a good idea. After all, people are much more likely to try to steal good ideas than stupid ones. The fact that a company is willing to risk litigation by infringing on a patent rather than just working around it suggests that the idea is worth copying.

  • The fan on my nVidia card just died yesterday. If they are infringing on any patants, they certainly are crappie ones.
  • Did it occur to anybody that Sunonwealth might have actually developed a fan, using its own resources, that is technically superior to its competitors? It's not like they're suing for the idea of putting a fan on a graphics card [like the originial writeup packages it as]. Also, they're suing the 2 companies for importing the violating fans into the juristiction of US Patent law, as the offending fan manufacturers are outside of said sphere of influence. I think this is getting bad spin because nVidia and Creative are popular companies for geeks.
  • Haven't we beaten the Napster issue to death already?

    oh.... those other FANS....

    nevermind.
  • Ok, fine... that was one of those 'open mouth, insert foot' comments...

  • The patent itself may not be frivilous... but isn't the concept of attaching sensors to a fan a little frivilous in itself. It make make the cadillac of CPU fans... but mine does just fine thank you.

    I guess if the sensors were to see if the fan was movign at all would make sense, but if you really need to know exactly how many RPM's your CPU fans are pushing, you need a life.

  • Riigghhtt. Everyone has a stepper motor in their cases. Suuurrree. Do you know how much a stepper and driver normally cost? About $100.
  • No serious engineering in there. It is just a valve, a cantilevered float, a chain, a handle, and a flapper (no, not the slut kind). As for ceramics, they can be a pain to work by hand, but are quite easy to manipulate in mass quantities. I would hardly call it "precision ceramics." :)
  • I mean this link here [bbspot.com]

    Apollogies if this was on slashdot already, I must have missed it.

  • Are you kidding? To lawyers and corporations, lawsuits like this are a breeze. As long as they get paid, they'll be "fans" of this.


    -----------------------------
    1,2,3,4 Moderation has to Go!
  • The qualifications for working in the Patent Office? A desire to be overworked and underpaid probably tops the list.
  • What are ya a communist? You think we designed this legal system for fun or something?

    [God, I hope someone else has a sense of humor like mine]
  • Well, trying to collect royalties on that basis is NOT going to work.

    If you saw my posting on the message thread about Rambus, I said that the famous U.S. v. United Shoe Machinery Company case from 1945 put an end to this way to keep down competitors. What Rambus is trying to do is exactly what United Shoe tried to do to its competition back in the first half of the 20th Century--use its critical patents on shoe-making machinery to destroy the competition. It would be akin to Eli Lilly enforcing its patent on Prozac to the point that no competitive product (Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Remeron, etc.) could come to market.
  • ``Designing a silent and highly efficient fan requires some serious aerodinamics, sound propagation and thermal conduction research.

    ...

    Just look at the blade shapes...''

    Or, perhaps, some technologies that would probably be covered by munitions export control laws in the US (I'm thinking of the technology that got Toshiba in trouble some years ago involving ultra-quiet submarine props).


    --

  • Wait a minute...reading what is supposed to be "patented", these are things that have been in common use for quite a while now...they patented something that could be learned in any basic course on physics.

    Besides, isn't this fighting over something that's pretty stupid anyways? I mean, who really pays that much attention to their CPU fans anyways? No matter what kind I buy, they seem to last about a year and then the bearings go out in them in. And most of these off-the-shelf pieces of crap you buy at CompUSA or Best Buy or places like that don't even have CPU fans. They're able to get to that sub-$1000 price point by cutting corners, and one place they cut corners is the CPU fan...they just put a nice big heat sink on it and hope that'll be good enough. They figure if your system has random crashes and you're buying one of those (meaning you usually a consumer), you won't give a rats ass...most of those pieces of junk have random crashes, hangs, reboots, BSODs, etc. because of inadequate CPU cooling.

  • but if the patenter gave CT a cut, they would be acknowledging the existance of this story -- which would be prior art.
  • Ahhh. Doh! That is, indeed, very stupid.

    Presumably ADDA simply don't have enough money to make suing them worthwhile. Next time I'll save some bandwidth for vital Napster traffic.

    Dave
  • Yes. Why fry a $500 CPU because a $5 fan fails? The BIOS in my work computers are configured to check factors such as CPU temperature, fan RPM etc, and to shut down on serious problems.


  • "there are at least a few things about metallurgy, magnetics, lubrication and airflow which are neither obvious nor easy to understand, but are certainly required for engineering an efficient, well-designed, and long-lasting fan"

    So what? Designing a good fan might be difficult, but you can't patent something just because it was difficult to make - you can only patent something that is a new and original technique. It may have been difficult to build, but if the basic principles are exactly the same as in Joe Cheap Fan, you can't patent it. You may be able to patent a new type of design for a fan, if the design had something new, original and creative in it to distinguish it technologically from Joe Cheap Fan. Simply making all the parts from better materials, and changing the shape of the blades, does NOT constitute an original technique. A "design" maybe, but that is a different IP concept to the patent. You also may be able to patent a new, original process that you'd come up with for building fans. I haven't read the article, so I'm not sure what their patent is about. Disclaimer, IANAL.


  • The USPO issues patents for business ideas.
    Taco, just rewrite your idea starting with "The method of . . ." and submit the patent.

    If you think I'm kidding, you are sadly mistaken.


    ---
  • As patents go.

    If you build a mousetrap you can patent it. Nobody else can DUPLICATE your mousetrap and sell it while the patent is active. However, it does not prevent anyone else from creating their own mousetraps or even improving on your model. You can't patent the concept of a mousetrap, only the exact mousetrap.

    You can't patent an icon, although I could imagine granting a patent for a specific icon design. Mac icons are typically different than windows icons. If its THAT damned important, then fine. Patent the damn thing. But I can still create my own icons. They can still serve the same function. You can't deny me that.

    A specific algorithm? I suppose. All algorithms that produce a specific effect? Nope.

    Of course, this probably isn't the way it is, and its not even the way I'd like it to be. But it does to some degree make sense.

    Then again, I'm in the process of installing windows, so my mental condition at the moment is questionable, so please disregard this comment.

    -Restil
  • These patents are based on things that can be inferred from a high-school textbook. It's true that some of these lawsuits/patent wars are simply silly.

    Let's say that I heard about the Venturi effect in a physics course. Can I go patent the Venturi (sucking/swirling) effect in motorcycle carburetors, and force Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, Harley-Davidson, and other motorcycle makers to pay me for royalties?

    Tell me this isn't similar to using heat sinks with waves and cutouts so as to increase surface area and heat dissipation efficiency?

  • Of *COURSE* lawyers want you to sue! Recording Artists want you to buy CDs new from the music store. The Motion Picture Ass. Wants you to view movied in 1st run venues, then purchase the video/DVD new from the approperiate vendor. Microprocessor manufacturers want you to purchase a new computer. (or 2) Krispy Kreme wants you to buy some doughnuts. McDonalds want you to buy a Big Mack. Jumpin Jack Gas (In and out in a flash, flash, flash!) wants you to fill up your SUV.

    Do you see a pattern here? If you provide a good or a service, you want demand. Marketing creates demand.

    Joe

  • by lizrd (69275)
    What, the legal system or the WWWF?

    Ok, you know that you're a geek when you can't type only 2 W's in a row. :)
    _____________

  • Perhaps we should collectively patent the "business model" of patenting something trivial and obvious then making money by suing anyone trying to do honest business using our "patented" technieque. Then each time one of these cases comes up, we sue the plaintif for violation of our patented business model.

    Admittedly, Rambus has clear prior art, but that hasn't mattered a tinker's dam since the PO reforms...
  • Simply untrue. Once you file a patent application in one country, you have a one-year grace period to file in any other country--after that your first patent application counts as prior art in the other countries you would seek to get a patent in!

    All right, you have up to a year to keep things secret, which isn't too bad when it takes between a year to two years for the US patent office to grant a patent. I'm using the typical time period that the company I am working for gets its patents granted - probably could be a bit faster if you've got people who know how to work the system really well. Chances are, it isn't exposed at all before you can get the patent.

    Not that it really matters, since you can word things so that it doesn't show up on a prior art search looking for particular keywords, or is buried in the middle of so many other similar crap patents with such obtuse language that somebody could see the claims 3 times without twigging to the fact that they've got a match.

    Oh please. Here is one it took me about 15 seconds to find.

    Please show me a US pending patent - oh that's right, you can't. Silly me. Kind of hard to do any prior art searches on those, isn't it? Wasn't I just talking about that?

    Excuse me, but I thought that's what patents were for? I'm afraid I'm not clear on your position--are you saying all patents by definition are a bad thing, or are you arguing against the way some companies enforce their patents?

    Patents are _supposed_ to encourage real, society-benefiting innovation by giving people the chance to make some money off them w/o worrying about people horning in on their action. And when the monopoly period runs out, the entire society can benefit from the innovation.

    The current system seems to define innovation as minor semantic differences from existing patent descriptions, and encourages large entities to use large portfolios of these barely-differentiated "innovations" to stifle small competitors or to defend themselves from other similarly-minded large entities. They can also tie up good ideas far longer than the already-too-long 17 years (or was it 20 now?) by extending the patent with a small variation. This situation does NOT seem to be in the general society's best interests.

    The granting of a patent should only be TRULY innovative, not just based on some minor semantical differences, and it should be fairly RARE. Trying to reserve every possible combination of ideas for implementing some basic concept for private individuals is not good for the public.

    I wish people would remember that the end goal of patents (and intellectual property in general) is to provide long-term benefits for the society. The _short-term_ benefit is for an individual, but only because it's supposed to encourage people to think up ideas which can be used for the society. If you've got a system which _prevents_ the society as a whole (not just some of the society) from ever effectively using those ideas - well, that system needs fixing.

    As an aside, I also have some issues about corporate entities, which are merely legal definitions, owning something like "intellectual" property (and being able to deny it to the individuals whose brains actually generated those ideas). But that's a whole other can of worms.

  • If you have a suggestion how that issue can be improved, I'd love to hear it.

    If the goal of the patent office were to make patents accessible to the public (not just the paying public), then part of their function should be to analyze, categorize & provide a means of pattern-matching everything they're processing. (It would have probably made their lives easier if they didn't have such an assembly line method for granting new patents.)

    Since there's a snowball's chance in hell of getting Congress to cough up the cash for that kind of service, private industry has come up with a solution with the for-pay databases & search services you're referring to, making "patent services" pretty much available to those who have the resources to access them.

    You: "No, because the non-US patents aren't even filed for until after the US patent is granted."
    Me: "Bulls***. Non-US patents pending are often published before the US patent grants. Here's an example."
    You: "Yeah, but you can't see US patents pending, can you? So there!"

    Perhaps I should have made it clear that I was referring to the particular strategy of keeping the details of the patent obscure as long as possible, by filing in the US first, then using the surprise factor as an aid in patent litigation. Obviously, entities who are filing patents in countries which have non-secret patent pending processes are not following this strategy (although I suspect foreign patents would still be effective "surprises" for those organizations who don't think it is worth looking outside the US borders - until they try to become international).

    I suppose this might be more of an issue with regards to software patents; since those are allowed only in the US, people don't apply for software patents anywhere else.

    True, software patents are a big issue. Should you be able to patent the description of a information process just by adding "Make a machine which does this"?

    Software patents also raise the issue of the "lifetime" of an idea. The amount of time that it takes somebody to have a good chance to exploit a good idea is probably quite different depending on the complexity of the idea & what field it's related to). But all patents get the 17(20?) year treatment. Perhaps this is one aspect of patents which is too simplified for societal good.

    From your earlier post I thought you were complaining about the way patents are enforced. Would it be more accurate to say that you are displeased with the way patents are applied for and granted (in which case I agree with you to some extent) and not with the way that patents (if they're good patents in the first place) are enforced?

    Given a "good" patent (which can cause a world of argument in itself :), that's a good statement. I don't have any fundamental objection to the basic concept of patents - I think that kind of thing WOULD provide a healthy, steady source of ideas which society can exploit for the general good. I don't think the current implementation is doing this, however, and feel that there are strong forces from those who have a great deal invested in the current implementation to keep it from changing.

  • Patents are public information. It's not as if the patenting company can keep it secret, only to announce the existence of a patent when they decide to file the lawsuit.

    1. Patents pending are secret. You could build an entire company based on a few ideas, only to find out when someone else's patent is granted that you have to pay them royalties which you didn't take into account before.

    2. There are WAY too many patents, and not terribly well categorized & indexed, for all but the largest patent-searching organizations to be absolutely sure they've covered all the possibilities (which costs money). In other words, even if there IS a patent which you're violating, there's a good chance you'll never find it in the noise - but if you're successful, you can bet that the patent holder is going to be giving you a call.

    Also falling into this category, are patents which have been made so broad, that any search based on the SPECIFIC details of an implementation are going to completely miss those claims in that patent - but the patentholder probably isn't going to miss you.

    3. Prior art doesn't need to be patented - and thus will not show up until somebody needs to put the kibosh on your patent.

    As a patent searcher, you should be aware of all this - it's your job to make sure there are no OBVIOUS competing patents, but I doubt you'd guarantee your boss your paycheck for the next year that you haven't missed something.

  • Only in the US, and anything big is not going to be patented only in the US. You don't think I search only for US patents, do you?

    At least some companies get their US patents FIRST, then use those patents (and the "art" associated with the patents) as leverage to get patents in other countries (assisted by the international treaties which have been signed to allow the "prior art" in one country's patent system to invalidate a patent filed in another country's). Therefore, the pending patent is secret until granted.

    And what do you propose to do about this? How is this the fault of the company with the original patent?

    No, it's a fault with the patent system. It's become pretty much inaccessible except to those people who specialize in searching it, and even then you have people who specialize in searching for particular kinds of patents.

    While you can argue that this kind of complexity creates new jobs (like yours, for instance), my feeling is that those kinds of jobs represent the inefficiency of the system.

    Further, a prior art search costs a few thousand dollars, in the patent searcher's time and in the cost of searching for-pay, proprietary databases (which alleviate a lot of the indexing problems you cite with the free databases).

    That's a few thousand PER search (and I assume you usually don't batch search for hundreds of potential patents at a time). While this is peanuts for medium to large size corporations, it adds up pretty fast for individuals & small businesses, representing a bigger chunk of their "survival" funds than for the larger organizations. Kind of like a "regressive tax" on innovation.

    Last I heard, small businesses were still more important to the economic engine than even most of the largest companies. From a societal viewpoint, it seems to make more sense to make things more efficient for the small businesses rather than the larger organizations. (I am aware that most of the corporate lobbyists are not being paid to share my views.)

    I thought we were discussing the alleged "predatory practices" of corporations with patents, not the difficulty of enforcing your own patents, so this is not germane to the issue. In any case, non-patent prior art will show up, as a competent prior art search (such as I would do) covers both patent and non-patent art.

    I extended my thoughts slightly to the general difficulties of ensuring a good result for prior art searching. And while I congratulate you on your thoroughness for searching both patent & non-patent art, it has been made abundantly clear that many organizations applying for patents only do enough searching (usually in the patent database itself) to ensure that the Patent Office will give them the patent (i.e., implementation stated the exact same way has not already been patented), then use whatever legal resources are necessary to make the patent worth something (by intimidating others into paying license fees, or using the patent as a defense against predatory patent-abusers).

  • Ok guys, other than bad business practices, like rambus being on a standards committee and not revealing their patents, hardware patents aren't the problem.

    Hardware patents indeed provide a meaningful purpose still - and they promote innovation. They provide investors with a return on their money for developing new hardware and financing the setup of a manufacturing plant.
    Software patents are our enemy. If we want people to listen to us, we have to at least be consistent. --
    Twivel

  • Not on one count, but on two. First, who cares? They're just fans. Second:

    > Sunonwealth Electric Machine Industry's suit stems from alleged patent violations of one of the company's competitors, which sells miniature fans that Creative and nVidia incorporate into graphics cards as GPU coolers.

    Uh, why not go after the company that makes the infringing fans instead of the companies that use them? It makes no more sense for them to go after Creative and nVidia than it would for them to go after the consumers that use the cards with the offending fans.
  • How much money can you *actually* spend researching fans like this? It's not like they're even really small, like those ones we read about not too long ago on /.. These are still normal sized, black plastic FANS. I'm not trying to say they don't have a legitamate case, but lets not let them hype it up like they spent $20 million on research or something.
  • The best way to settle all of these law suits is for all of the lawyers to fight it out with clubs and other blunt objects.

    This is just stupid. Lawsuits like this are not generally the fault of the lawyers; they're the fault of the business guys. The lawyers don't just say, "Hey, let's sue somebody today." Their bosses decide to sue somebody as a business decision, and they send the lawyers to do the dirty work. If you make lawsuits into deathmatches between the lawyers, all you'll get are big, hulking, dumb lawyers who look like they belong in the WWF and are good at pulverizing people. If you really want to cut down on suits like this, make the CEOs duke it out when the companies get involved in a lawsuit. They're the ones who are making the decision to sue, after all, so you want them to suffer the consequences of frivolous lawsuits.

    Remember, lawyers most often get paid for their time in court, getting ready for court, etc. Therefore, it is in their best interest, not the interest of their clients, to have long and protracted legal disputes. They get paid either way.

    Not really. Most corporations have their legal people on staff, so they're going to collect their salary whether they're in a lawsuit or not. We're not talking about personal injury lawyers, here. When that isn't the case, the plaintif's attorney's often get a percentage of the settlement rather than an hourly fee, so they get the best return on their time if they get a fast settlement, rather than a drawn out case where they might wind up with nothing.

  • nVidia isn't being sued because they're making infringing fans, but because they're buying fans from a company (ADDA) that is allegedly infringing another company's patent (Sunonwealth).

    Not quite. nVidia and Creative aren't being sued for buying the fans, they're being sued for importing them. Reading between the lines a bit here, it sounds as though ADDA is probably making and selling the fans in a country that has very weak, if any, patent protection. If they don't directly do business somewhere that does have strong patent protection, Sunonwealth can't get results by suing them directly, because they won't be able to collect on any judgment that they win. The article makes it sound as though that's already happened, in fact. Instead they have to go after the companies that buy the fans and import them into countries that do have strong patent laws. This is like suing a company that imports illegal copies of DVDs; you can't sue the people doing the copying because the country where they're based will laugh at you, so you have to go after the importer.

  • It ain't rocket science, it's a fan.

    However, it does have some similarities to rocket science. First of all, balance is all important. Second, inertia counts. Third, if it breaks while you're using it, the result could be catastrophic, causing other systems to fail.


    --
    ALL YOUR KARMA ARE BELONG TO US

  • fans cool your processor. Try making do without them.

    Fans cool the latest 50 W processors from AMD and Intel. Fans cool overclocked beasts like the NVIDIA (TNT|GeForce) [12] Ultra.

    The G4 Cube makes do without a fan. My K6-3+ can probably do without one, although the power supply is not immune.

  • They're just fans...well those fans cool your processor. Try making do without them. And a lot of people make a living designing and building the fans. Fans are just another of those millions of tiny mechanisms that make modern life just about about bearable.
  • That would be great, but if all the gigantic muscle-bound highly paid killers became lawyers, who would play professional sports and entertain us?

    Unless of course we just televised the deathmatches...yeah, that's entertaining enough. And we'd always have the XFL to fall back on (heh)

  • Personally, I think clubs aren't quite the way to go. The arguments would just be heavy and blunt. Now with swords, you have the cut and thrust of debate, the deadly riposte, the parry, the defensive stance etc.

    The point being, of course, is to thin their numbers.

    or maybe we could have truth in advertising by deciding all court cases in the WWWF.

    It can't be any worse than it is now.

    This might even have potential

  • Not that it really matters, since you can word things so that it doesn't show up on a prior art search looking for particular keywords, or is buried in the middle of so many other similar crap patents with such obtuse language that somebody could see the claims 3 times without twigging to the fact that they've got a match.

    Don't I know it. As I've alluded previously, there are for-pay databases which address exactly this issue. But I'd be much happier if they weren't necessary.

    If you have a suggestion how that issue can be improved, I'd love to hear it.

    Please show me a US pending patent - oh that's right, you can't. Silly me. Kind of hard to do any prior art searches on those, isn't it? Wasn't I just talking about that?

    Yes, you were, and now we've come full circle in the discussion. In case you've forgotten, here's a summary:

    You: "You can't search US pending patents."

    Me: "No, you can't. But you can search non-US pending patents, and are likely to be able to get a good idea of what's pending in the US that way."

    You: "No, because the non-US patents aren't even filed for until after the US patent is granted."

    Me: "Bulls***. Non-US patents pending are often published before the US patent grants. Here's an example."

    You: "Yeah, but you can't see US patents pending, can you? So there!"

    I suppose this might be more of an issue with regards to software patents; since those are allowed only in the US, people don't apply for software patents anywhere else. In my field it's not a huge issue.

    [Long rant about intended benefits of patents to society and what should be considered novel deleted.]

    I must have misunderstood. From your earlier post [slashdot.org] I thought you were complaining about the way patents are enforced. Would it be more accurate to say that you are displeased with the way patents are applied for and granted (in which case I agree with you to some extent) and not with the way that patents (if they're good patents in the first place) are enforced?

  • Either way, the real issue is the predatory practice. I patent something, wait until everybody else uses or develops the same technology and then I slap them with an infringement lawsuit.

    Patents are public information. It's not as if the patenting company can keep it secret, only to announce the existence of a patent when they decide to file the lawsuit.

    If the other companies are in fact infringing the patents in question, they should have known about it beforehand.

    I know, because I do patent searching for a Fortune 500 company precisely to make sure there aren't competing patents on a technology before we begin development.

  • You've made the common mistake of thinking the abstract is the meat of the patent. The abstract has little to no legal significance.

    When looking at a patent, you should always go immediately to the claims:

    5,967,763

    What is claimed is:
    1. A positioning device for a miniature fan, comprising:

    • a coil seat including a plurality of annularly spaced poles, each pole having a radially extending stem and terminating with a circumferential arcuate section, each stem having a winding wound therearound, each arcuate section having a first end edge and a second end edge;
    • a circuit board securely connected to the coil seat; and,
    • a sensor element mounted on the circuit board, the sensor element being located on a vertical line extending from one of the first end edge and the second end edge of one of the poles so that the sensor element is aligned with the one of the first end edge and the second end edge.
    2. The positioning device according to claim 1, wherein the pole having the first end edge thereof aligned with the sensor element has a first mark means formed thereon, and the sensor element has a second mark means formed thereon which is aligned with the first mark means when mounting the sensor element onto the circuit board to assure that the sensor element is located on the vertical line.
    3. The positioning device according to claim 2, wherein the circuit board includes a notch defined therein for securely receiving the sensor element.
    4. The positioning device according to claim 3, wherein the circuit board includes a third mark means aligned with the second mark means to provide a reference for mounting the sensor element in the notch by aligning with the second mark means of the sensor element with the third mark means.
    5. The positioning device according to claim 1, wherein the pole having second end edge thereof aligned with the sensor element has a first mark means formed thereon, and the sensor element has a second mark means formed thereon which is aligned with the first mark means when mounting the sensor element onto the circuit board to assure that the sensor element is located on the vertical line.
    6. The positioning device according to claim 5, wherein the circuit board includes a notch defined therein for securely receiving the sensor element.
    7. The positioning device according to claim 6, wherein the circuit board includes a third mark means aligned with the second mark means to provide a reference for mounting the sensor element in the notch by aligning with the second mark means of the sensor element with the third mark means.

    6,109,892

    What is claimed is:
    1. A positioning device for a miniature fan, comprising:

    • a coil seat including an axle tube, an upper polar plate assembly, a lower polar plate assembly, a winding mounted between the upper polar plate assembly and the lower polar plate assembly, the lower plate assembly including a front end edge and a rear end edge; and
    • a circuit board mounted to the axle tube and including a sensor element adapted to activate a rotor, the sensor element located on a vertical line extending from one of said end edges of the lower polar plate assembly along a direction parallel to a longitudinal axis of the axle tube.
    2. The positioning device according to claim 1, wherein the circuit board includes a notch defined therein for receiving the sensor element.
    3. The positioning device according to claim 1, wherein the coil seat has a first mark formed thereon, and the sensor element has a second mark formed thereon which is aligned with the first mark so as to assure that the sensor element is located on the vertical line.
    4. The positioning device according to claim 3, wherein the circuit board includes a third mark to be aligned with the first mark and the second mark to assure that the sensor element is located on the vertical line.

    6,114,785

    What is claimed is:
    1. A positioning device for a miniature fan, comprising;

    • a coil seat including an axle tube, an upper polar plate assembly, a lower polar plate assembly, and a winding mounted between the upper polar plate assembly and the lower polar plate assembly, the upper polar plate assembly including an end edge,
    • a circuit board mounted to the axle tube and including a sensor element adapted to activate a rotor, and
    • structural elements situated on a vertical line extending from the end edge of the upper polar plate in a direction parallel to a longitudinal axis of the axle tube,
    • wherein said structural elements include said end edge of the upper polar plate assembly and said sensor element, and
    • wherein said end edge of the upper polar plate and said sensor element are thereby aligned with each other by being located on said vertical line extending from the end edge of the upper polar plate assembly along a direction parallel to a longitudinal axis of the axle tube.
    2. The positioning device according to claim 1, further comprising a first mark formed on the coil seat and a second mark formed on the sensor element, said second mark being aligned with the first mark so as to assure that the sensor element is located on the line.
    3. The positioning device according to claim 1, wherein the lower polar plate assembly includes a notch defined therein in which the sensor element is received.
    4. The positioning device according to claim 1, wherein the circuit board includes a notch defined therein for receiving the sensor element.
    5. The positioning device according to claim 2, wherein the circuit board includes a third mark to be aligned with the first mark and the second mark to assure that the sensor element is located on the line.

    Also keep in mind that each individual numbered claim is like a mini-patent in its own right; however, within each numbered claim, all listed elements must be present for infringement to occur.

  • I really don't understand how it is that nVidia and Creative can be held liable

    Because they're also selling the fans. If you sell a patented technology without the patent holder's permission, whining "but I didn't make it" won't get you off the hook.

    Can the people who *use* cards with allegedly infringing fans also be sued?

    Yes, in the sense that anyone can be sued any time for anything.

    Is it likely? Probably not. Maybe if you're generating a profit from them in one way or another.

  • I wonder what the qualifications are for working in the Patent Office?

    Sheesh, can no one spend 5 seconds trying to actually find things out? There's a job opportunities [uspto.gov] page on the USPTO website. As an example, here are the requirements for a position listed as "Patent Examiner (Electrical Engineering/Computer Science Specialist/Computer Engineering)":

    MINIMUM ELIGIBILTY REQUIREMENTS: U.S. CITIZENSHIP REQUIRED. Engineering position in Technology Center 5 requires a four- year degree in a professional engineering curriculum from an accredited college or university. Computer Science positions require completion of a four-year course of study leading to a bachelor's degree in Computer Science or another related degree which is supplemented by 30 semester hours in a combination of mathematics, statistics and computer science. At least 15 of the 30 semester hours must have been in any combination of statistics and mathematics that included differential and integral calculus.

    Don't blame me for karma whoring--if alen had taken 5 seconds to find this out for himself this post wouldn't be necessary.

  • 1. Patents pending are secret.

    Only in the US, and anything big is not going to be patented only in the US. You don't think I search only for US patents, do you?

    2. There are WAY too many patents, and not terribly well categorized & indexed, for all but the largest patent-searching organizations to be absolutely sure they've covered all the possibilities (which costs money). In other words, even if there IS a patent which you're violating, there's a good chance you'll never find it in the noise - but if you're successful, you can bet that the patent holder is going to be giving you a call.

    And what do you propose to do about this? How is this the fault of the company with the original patent?

    Further, a prior art search costs a few thousand dollars, in the patent searcher's time and in the cost of searching for-pay, proprietary databases (which alleviate a lot of the indexing problems you cite with the free databases). Nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, but hardly something available only to "the largest patent-searching organizations," as you claim. Before you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on developing a new technology, doesn't it make sense to spend a few thousand to make sure no one else has patented it already?

    3. Prior art doesn't need to be patented - and thus will not show up until somebody needs to put the kibosh on your patent.

    I thought we were discussing the alleged "predatory practices" of corporations with patents, not the difficulty of enforcing your own patents, so this is not germane to the issue. In any case, non-patent prior art will show up, as a competent prior art search (such as I would do) covers both patent and non-patent art.

  • Did you happen to catch BT's patent on hyperlinks? I hope you kept your company from wasting any development time and money on that patented technology. Did you happen to discover AltaVista's patent on search engines and keep your company from wasting any time and effort on search engines?

    My company is not in the computer tech field. In the interest of privacy and partial anonymity, I do not care to say what field they are in.

    The point is, when patents are overly broad no amount of research is going to discover whether or not something infringes until it gets through the court system.

    I don't deny that many patents being issued in the computer/software field seem to be overly broad (but since that's not my area of expertise, I can't say for sure). The point of the original poster seemed to be that companies somehow keep their patents secret until they decide they want to enforce them, and it was that point, and only that point, to which I was responding.

  • At least some companies get their US patents FIRST, then use those patents (and the "art" associated with the patents) as leverage to get patents in other countries

    Simply untrue. Once you file a patent application in one country, you have a one-year grace period to file in any other country--after that your first patent application counts as prior art in the other countries you would seek to get a patent in!

    (assisted by the international treaties which have been signed to allow the "prior art" in one country's patent system to invalidate a patent filed in another country's).

    The international treaties may have standardized this practice among all developed countries, but in most countries this was the case even before the treaties: just as both patents and non-patent literature constitute prior art, documents published both in the country in which the patent is applied for and outside constitute prior art.

    Are you seriously arguing against this practice? Are you seriously suggesting that if someone in France has invented something but patented it only in France, that I should be allowed to patent it in the US?

    Therefore, the pending patent is secret until granted.

    Oh please. Here [delphion.com] is one it took me about 15 seconds to find. There's thousands of published pending patent applications.

    it has been made abundantly clear that many organizations applying for patents only do enough searching (usually in the patent database itself) to ensure that the Patent Office will give them the patent (i.e., implementation stated the exact same way has not already been patented),

    I certainly don't deny that the USPTO often does a sloppy job of examining patent applications

    then use whatever legal resources are necessary to make the patent worth something (by intimidating others into paying license fees, or using the patent as a defense against predatory patent-abusers).

    Excuse me, but I thought that's what patents were for? I'm afraid I'm not clear on your position--are you saying all patents by definition are a bad thing, or are you arguing against the way some companies enforce their patents? If the latter, how are they supposed to do it other than "'intimidating' others into paying license fees or using the patent as a defense against predatory patent abusers?" If you are not against patents in general, what would you suggest would be the appropriate way for companies to enforce valid patents?

  • Yes, those simple looking ceramic fixtures now do the same work as their 20 year old cousins,
    but with less than 1/5 the waste water, and probably 1/100 the water that was used by the Romans.


    Yeah, but I bet the Romans didn't get skid marks...
  • Usefulness, obviousness, and absense of prior art. Is there a clear application, is it trivial, and has someone else already discovered it?

    Unfortunately the process pits domain experts and highly paid lawyers against underpaid patent examiners with an impossible mandate.

    So would somebody please suggest a workable alternative, perhaps akin to peer review?

    Not everyone at once, now...
  • I don't know if there is anything particularly special about Sunon fans over other brands, but I do know that Panasonic's Panaflo line of fans, particularly the 80L1A, manage to consume less power and pump more air than any other fans, decibel for decibel. It has something to do with their *cough* patented bearing technology.

    Some specialty cooling shops carry most/all of their lightweight plastic line, and you can probably find a bunch of the heavy duty aluminum ones at surplus stores like Ax-Man [ax-man.com] in the Twin Cities area. Ooh, I love that place.

    --

  • by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday February 13, 2001 @12:34AM (#436540) Homepage

    I understand the luddite primal instincts of some slashdot users but they are not right in this case. Designing a silent and highly efficient fan requires some serious aerodinamics, sound propagation and thermal conduction research. It is IMHO harder than designing a memory bus (no fionger pointing at favourite targerts). And "one click" bogousities should not even be compared to the case.

    So IMHO a patent on a good fan design has merit.

    If you still do not believe me take a golden orb and compare it some cheepo piece of junk. Just look at the blade shapes...

  • by WasterDave (20047) <davep&zedkep,com> on Monday February 12, 2001 @04:46PM (#436541)
    We are not talking about a couple of people in their back rooms making water cooling kits, flogging them across the net and suing each other over - I dunno - a proprietary hose clip or something.

    This is nVidia who are having their arses kicked. What they've done is pulled a fan apart, copied it, and made their own to save, what, US$0.10 per unit on graphics cards that are US$200 - 300 - upwards? And don't forget these things are a shedload more expensive outside the US.

    Tightarses, honestly. Fuck'em. Sue their sorry backsides off.

    Dave
  • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Monday February 12, 2001 @07:47PM (#436542) Journal
    Obviously, you've never used a Sunon fan. I got one in the power supply of the XT I purchased in 1987. It has been spinning more-or-less continuously since that time, without episode.

    Not all fans are that good. My last (and I do mean -last-) purchase of a pre-made PC included PSU and CPU fans which each died within two months of use.

    I have no doubt that a 7-year-old is capable of designing and building a fan which does in fact work. I have a great deal of doubt that such an apparatus would continue to work 14 years later.

    There are at least a few things about metallurgy, magnetics, lubrication and airflow which are neither obvious nor easy to understand, but are certainly required for engineering an efficient, well-designed, and long-lasting fan.

    Those who believe anything different are those who are entirely responsible for the fact that most fans sold as computer parts today are complete shit.
  • by colmore (56499) on Monday February 12, 2001 @04:30PM (#436543) Journal
    that I'm a very big fan of this!!! oh, I kill me!
  • by moonsammy (65351) on Monday February 12, 2001 @04:53PM (#436544)
    Did you read the article? nVidia isn't being sued because they're making infringing fans, but because they're buying fans from a company (ADDA) that is allegedly infringing another company's patent (Sunonwealth).

    I really don't understand how it is that nVidia and Creative can be held liable - the court has not yet found in the plaintiff's favor, so the two companies buying the allegedly infringing fans aren't breaking any laws. Using bad judgement maybe, but that's all. Can the people who *use* cards with allegedly infringing fans also be sued? I don't see how nVidia is sue-able any more than I am for having a card that uses the fan.
  • by Argy (95352) on Monday February 12, 2001 @05:16PM (#436545)
    "Sunonwealth has made huge investments in developing..." blah blah blah.

    I'm don't really understand what their patent covers, but my best guess is the idea of making notches on a circuit board with which to align and mount a small fan and associated sensor (and I'm not sure what the sensor does, except that it can turn the fan on). It would be interesting to have a company representative translate their patent claims into language a layperson could understand.

    5,967,763 [164.195.100.11] Positioning devices for a sensor element of a miniature fan

    A positioning device for a miniature fan includes a coil seat including a number of annularly spaced poles each having a radially extending stem and a circumferential arcuate section. Each stem has a winding wound therearound, and each arcuate section has a first end edge and a second end edge. A circuit board is securely connected to the coil seat and includes a sensor element mounted thereon. The sensor element is located on a vertical line extending from one of the first end edge and the second end edge of one of the poles.

    6,109,892 [164.195.100.11] Positioning device for a sensor element of a miniature fan

    A positioning device for a miniature fan includes a coil seat having an axle tube, an upper polar plate assembly, a lower polar plate assembly, and a winding mounted between the upper polar plate assembly and the lower polar plate assembly. A circuit board is mounted to the axle tube and includes a sensor element for activating a rotor. The sensor element is located on a vertical line extending from an end edge of the lower polar plate assembly along a direction parallel to a longitudinal axis of the axle tube.

    6,114,785 [164.195.100.11] Positioning device for a sensor element of a miniature fan

    A positioning device for a miniature fan includes a coil seat having an axle tube, an upper polar plate assembly, a lower polar plate assembly, and a winding mounted between the upper polar plate assembly and the lower polar plate assembly. A circuit board is mounted to the axle tube and includes a sensor element for activating rotor. The sensor element is located on a line extending from an end edge of the upper polar plate assembly along a direction parallel to a longitudinal axis of the axle tube.
  • It makes no more sense for them to go after Creative and nVidia than it would for them to go after the consumers that use the cards with the offending fans.

    35 USC section 271 [cornell.edu](a):

    Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes,
    uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

    (emphasis added)

    Yes, if this patent holds up in court, Sunonwealth could theoretically sue you for using one of the cards with one of the fans in question! It's just not usually practical to sue the end users.


    --
    Ooh, moderator points! Five more idjits go to Minus One Hell!
    Delenda est Windoze

  • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) on Tuesday February 13, 2001 @07:47AM (#436547) Homepage
    CPU fans do not use normal motors. Your standard DC motor generates enough electromagentic interference due to the contacting and disconnecting and possible arcing at the brushes to interfere with close by sensitive electronics (a CPU in contact with the thing certainly qualifies).

    So instead they use a very high speed stepper motor and a circuit board to drive it.

    That's why they cose $9 and not 90 cents.

    Saying a CPU fan is a trivial device is not accurate.

  • by top-dog (158356) on Monday February 12, 2001 @06:54PM (#436548)
    I'm sorry, but you can hardly call the speeds at which these fans rotate as "high speed." (Now if they only would make a turbine fan for a processor, that would be cool. :) ) Any 7 year old with a miniature motor kit could build one of these fans. Also, what is the most unreliable component in your system? The hard drive... The monitor... The processor or memory... No. The numerous fans throughout your system. I don't know how many fans I have replaced, but I can assure you it is more than the combined totals of the hard drives and memory. Do you work for these guys? Sorry. Your comment makes a small fan sound like an engineering feat, when it isn't.
  • by yardgnome (190624) on Monday February 12, 2001 @04:39PM (#436549) Homepage
    We take them for granted, but just think about what a chipset fan does...Runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (at least mine does), makes almost no noise, and only wears out after several years. That's at least 17,250 hours of use, continually spinning at 7200rpm.

    Now consider that out of all the fan manufacturers, Sunon is well-known as a one of the best, supplying not only normal fans, but also ultra-high-output and/or super-quiet varieties.

    Scoff scoff, just a fan.
    And CmdrTaco is "just a programmer."

    ---
  • by RandomPeon (230002) on Monday February 12, 2001 @08:21PM (#436550) Journal
    I don't think anyone agrees that patents should be completely abolished

    Some people would disagree.

    Either way, the real issue is the predatory practice. I patent something, wait until everybody else uses or develops the same technology and then I slap them with an infringement lawsuit.

    This is pretty much blackmail, because it's not like the defendants can change the technology. They invested an awful lot of money in a technology they can't use anymore and they'll have to pay through the nose in 'royalties' to the so-called innovator.

    This may not be the case here, but there are way too many examples. Rambus allowed SDRAM to become a memory standard and then decided it had a patent on it. AltaVista has just discovered it owns the very concept of a search engine. BT has decided after decades that it invented hyperlinks and is entitled to compensation from everybody. Gaming the system has gotten out of hand. Anytime some company sues the entire industry there's something suspicious up.
  • by startled (144833) on Monday February 12, 2001 @05:48PM (#436551)
    Someone needs to write a perl script to take this story, and s/x/y/g the names and technologies, and then feed every company and technology into it.

    I know it's been mentioned before, but there's something better-- it covers far more than just patent lawsuits. That's right, folks, the slashdot story generator [bbspot.com].
  • by Fervent (178271) on Monday February 12, 2001 @08:58PM (#436552)
    From personal experience, don't bother trying to respond to him about this stuff directly. He never reads it and doesn't care. Chris
  • by smoondog (85133) on Monday February 12, 2001 @04:34PM (#436553)
    I know that there are some wierd patent lawsuits on /., but where do we draw the line between good business and unfair maliciousness? I don't think anyone agrees that patents should be completely abolished, so somethings are patentable. Although it seems a little late for pushing for patent violation on the fan issue, we should definately try to keep in mind that some patents are real and should be respected.

    -Moondog
  • by Carnage4Life (106069) on Monday February 12, 2001 @04:54PM (#436554) Homepage Journal
    I think it's rather insulting for Taco to assume that there are no innovations going on in the world of PC components and simply lump these patents with the other crap we've seen on Slashdot (i.e. Altavista search engine patent, Amazon 1-click, etc). That said, I suggest reading the patents and deciding if they are frivolous or obvious to you (after all you make hardware right?).
    1. US5967763: Positioning devices for a sensor element of a miniature fan [delphion.com]

    2. US6109892: Positioning device for a sensor element of a miniature fan [delphion.com]

    3. US6114785: Positioning device for a sensor element of a miniature fan [delphion.com]

    Now it looks like they patented various iterations of a sensor element attached to a fan. To me it seems frivolous on the surface, but since I'm not into PC components I'm not a 100% sure since evrything seems obvious in hind sight.
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Monday February 12, 2001 @08:02PM (#436555) Journal
    Has ANYONE (ok, I know at least one person has) considered the possiblity that Sunonwealth has actually patented new and significant technology, and that's what they're trying to protect? Is it just SLIGHTLY possible that ADDA, who has a really big black mark in the patent law courts already, might have infringed a valid and worthwhile patent again?

    Come on people, at least find out what the patent is about before damning a company to the lowest depths of hell for defending it.

  • by Dusabre (176445) on Monday February 12, 2001 @04:49PM (#436556) Homepage
    What about constant operation high rotation speed motor coupled to heat resistant framework and resilient blade? What about a mechanism that is constantly working to keep your processor working, hardly ever breaks and doesn't shatter into millions of pieces despite spinning round and round for years exposed to temperature extremes. This is your typical piece of high quality engineering that you may believe anybody can make because its concept is so simple, but its the implementation that requires a professional and patentable approach. Engineers and designers deserve some respect, patents are the legalised form of that respect. I don't see any patented software or idea or obvious prior art silliness in this story, it really shouldn't be on slashdot, unless normal patent law suits are slashdot worthy.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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