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Under Attack by PanIP's Patent Lawyers? 550

Posted by Cliff
from the sponsored-by-the-major-blunders-of-the-USPTO dept.
Matthew Catalano, of the Dickson Supply Company, asks: "I work for a small plumbing, heating, irrigation, and BBQ supply house. Over the past four we have built up quite a website that houses tons of information and offers many products for sale via an online store. Recently a company known as PanIP has decided to sue us on 2 counts of patent infringement. To the best of my understanding, as you can see from their website, they claim that they invented the use of text and images as a method of business on the Internet. They also claim that they invented the use of a form to enter customer information. Obviously this is ridiculous and most likely won't hold up in court! However, this is not the problem. PanIP has also sued 10 other small companies. PanIP chose small companies because they hope that none of them can afford the legal fees that would ultimately remove their patents. Most defendants, including us, want to opt to bail out for a smaller licensing fee of $30,000. PanIP will continue this vicious cycle on small companies of which many of you may become victim of. Eventually they will have so many cases under their belt that they will be able to attack larger companies." Yet again, the USPTO is used as a weapon in the free market. When will someone get a clue and put a stop to this type of digital extortion?

"I am hoping to release this story to the press so that the US Patent office finally wakes up, but the media is unpredictable and unreliable in terms of which stories they encapsulate. If there is anyone out there who has any ideas about stopping PanIP or can help us out in any way it would be appreciated. Otherwise, just pass this along to everyone you know and hopefully something will come of it.

There is also a page we have constructed that reveals some more details."

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Under Attack by PanIP's Patent Lawyers?

Comments Filter:
  • Sue em back! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kiick (102190)
    Get together with the other companies that they have sued and sue them back for restraint of trade or something like that. With the legal fees split 10-12 ways, it should be easier to defend yourselves.
    • Re:Sue em back! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Flower (31351)
      (IANAL) Or get together and pay the fee to have the patent re-reviewed. iirc, this is between $15-50K but from what I've read if a patent survives re-review it is much stronger in court. A group of major players, including IBM, did that for the Y2K windowing patent.

      btw, anybody know what happened with that issue? I haven't anything about the windowing patent for quite some time.

      • Hey, I got a kick out of that patent, having used the same technique in 1982 with a one digit window . . .


        hawk

  • No point... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by InnovativeCX (538638)
    From the looks of their web site, it appears as if the sole purpose of the company is to patent 'inventions' without actually accopmlishing anything. I would feel sorry for anyone losing a court battle to a company such as this.
  • Wouldn't you be able to counter sue for what it costs to defend such an accusation in court? Or something to that effect anyway?
    • The article make's one important point, if PANip succeeds in making these 10 settle, the lawers will have 300k or so.

      Since M$ is %90 of the content deliver market, they're breaking panIP's patent %90 of the time.. Who knows maybe they'll go after them next.
  • counter sue (Score:2, Informative)

    by mcmcaughan (577655)

    Represent yourself, go through with the lawsuit and then slap them with a counter law suit for your time, money and efforts. This case has got to be dismissed based on what you have told us about it.

    Perhaps you and all the other victims could pool your resources and counter as a collective group to reclaim damages.

  • Prior Art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by powerlinekid (442532) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:08PM (#3512428)
    While don't your company and the other smaller pool together to fight back? That way since you're all being attacked on the same basis it'll save each of you money and maybe get a better lawyer. Obviously in the courts you guys will win just due to prior art, like the case recently where that company claimed that hyperlinking was their invention and it took an 80+ year old to say "umm, no we've been doing this for 30+ years". Also, licensing is not a good way to go because you will certainly be tied to them. Hell, maybe you guys can contact IBM's ebusiness department to see if they could lend any help in this case due to the fact that it would be in their best interest to not let this get out of hand. Just my 2 cents...
    • "While don't your company and the other smaller pool together to fight back?" - does he actually have details of the other companies? If you read his post you'll find he wants to resolve it without the cost of a court case - reduced or otherwise. PanIP's underhand tactics rely on that fact. However we don't know if he's used any of PanIP's code in his website. For all we know the form he uses could be under their copyright.
  • by hettb (569863) <htb@subdimension.com> on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:09PM (#3512434)
    Here is a plan for patent reform [zgp.org]. I sent it (slightly modified) to my local congresscritter; if more peope did this, maybe we'd finally see a change.
  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:09PM (#3512436) Homepage
    If it were me, I'd contact the other defendants, and see if everyone were willing to pitch in to front one company challenging the validity of the patents. I'd look for some blatant prior art, which should be trivially easy to find. IANAL, but I'd be looking to get a summary judgement based on a mountain of prior art, and I'd want to ask a lawyer if it would be possible to countersue for malicious prosecution or fraud. You might also want to contact your senators or representatives -- you might be able to get the USPTO to "independantly" re-review their patents (and obviously, subsequently revoke them)
  • ACLU, EFF, SLAPP (Score:5, Informative)

    by interiot (50685) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:09PM (#3512438) Homepage
    There are a few things that are specifically designed to remedy such predatory practices, aren't there?

    If the case is somewhat novel, then the ACLU or EFF have pooled together funds from many people in order to be able to set good precendents.

    If the suit will obviously fall in favor of the defendant, can't you get a good lawyer to file a SLAPP suit, and you won't have to pay the lawyer unless you win?

    • Re:ACLU, EFF, SLAPP (Score:3, Informative)

      by axlrosen (88070)
      A SLAPP suit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation [casp.net], which doesn't really apply here. I doubt there's anything illegal about what they're doing. Even the patent would probably be overturned if it ever went to court, they were still granted a valid patent, which they can try to get people to license and threaten to sue them. That's exactly how it's supposed to work, but we see that it's not a perfect system.
    • by werdna (39029) on Monday May 13, 2002 @08:55PM (#3513798) Journal
      And the Judin and Antonious cases. It is no longer safe for patent bullies to randomly attack defendants who might hire competent counsel to advise them. We recently used this to excellent effect to "encourage" a patent bully to file Notices of Voluntary Dismissal in seven separate cases. It works.
  • Some questions: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Computer! (412422) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:09PM (#3512441) Homepage Journal
    Can you contact the companies currently under attack? If you all banded to gether to create some sort of defense fund, you could head them off at the pass. The Courts don't take well to a plaintiff that brings the same frivilous lawsuit back to trial after they've had it thrown out of court once already. It might be expensive, but not $300,000 expensive (10 companies X $30,000 settlement).

    What state are you in? is it the same as PanIP? They have to sue you in your home state, remember. At the very least, make the proceedings as expensive for them as possible.

    Most importantly, do not settle. You will end up validating a thouroughly disgusting business plan.

    • Re:Some questions: (Score:5, Informative)

      by apc (193970) on Monday May 13, 2002 @06:07PM (#3512841)
      What state are you in? is it the same as PanIP? They have to sue you in your home state, remember. At the very least, make the proceedings as expensive for them as possible.

      This is completely incorrect. They can sue him in any state in which he his company does business, has shareholders, or is incorporated. A suit was once permitted against an insurance company in a state in which they had one customer (See McGee v. International Life Insurance Co., 355 US 220 [1957]).

      To the person who posted the story-- please contact a lawyer in your jurisdiction. (Or the EFF or another public service organization) Given the possibility here for a countersuit for abuse of process, and potentially fraud, you might be able to get someone willing to take the case on contingency, if you can't afford legal fees and can't find someone willing to do it for free.

      To the moderators: IAAL, though not a member of the patent bar.

      While the above is legally correct to the best of my knowledge and experience, don't rely on it-- see a lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal information.

  • zerg (Score:3, Funny)

    by Lord Omlette (124579) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:09PM (#3512446) Homepage
    When will someone get a clue and put a stop to this type of digital extortion?

    Easy:

    Most defendants, including us, want to opt to bail out for a smaller licensing fee of $30,000.

    When people stop making money by patenting fake things and suing people and making money.

    but the media is unpredictable and unreliable in terms of which stories they encapsulate.

    If you have a problem, if no one else can help you, and if you can get them to accept your submission, maybe you can hire ASK SLASHDOT!

    Otherwise, just pass this along to everyone you know and hopefully something will come of it.

    Chainmail! The solution to all of life's problems...
    • If you have a problem, if no one else can help you, and if you can get them to accept your submission, maybe you can hire ASK SLASHDOT!

      Screw that, just hire BA to throw the bad guys helluva far. Besides, between all the phone commercials and other promos, it seems like the guy might be a little desperate for money.
  • by mblase (200735) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:10PM (#3512448)
    Their Web site [panip.com] is cleverly designed to use a minimum of text and graphics, as well as containing almost no actual information, making it very difficult to bring down by Slashdotting. They really are sneaky, aren't they?

    Guess I'll just have to go do an old-fashioned DDoS instead....
    • Surely this site that preaches Intellectual Property (tm) have some content on their site. Perhaps I haven't been looking in the right directories or ports, such as ftp, etc...

      Time to start looking...
    • I have to agree -- this page [panip.com] is the largest on their web site, and it's only 54830 bytes. Still it is the largest [panip.com], and would therefore be the best way to slashdot the site, wouldn't it [panip.com]?

  • by kcornia (152859) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:10PM (#3512452) Journal
    I patented the process of using the internet to search for unsuspecting small companies likely to fold under patent infringement lawsuits.

    Might as well make that check out to me..
  • Three words... (Score:5, Informative)

    by brogdon (65526) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:10PM (#3512453) Homepage
    Call the EFF [eff.org]. The Electronic Frontier Foundation might be able to help you, and if not, they can certainly point you towards a good lawyer.

    Fight 'em all the way.

    • by billstewart (78916) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:22PM (#3512547) Journal
      You can often get legal costs covered if you win, which is one reason the EFF and similar groups can often afford to be helpful. A first-glance look by a non-lawyer says that either their patents are totally bogus for this application or they're covered by prior art. The first one I looked at mentioned being about "terminals" and a central processor, and that certainly shouldn't apply here. There are also some similarities to the BT Hyperlink patent nonsense. It's especially worth talking to the other targets of this abuse.
    • by swb (14022) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:25PM (#3512569)
      How about these three words? La Cosa Nostra.

      Get somebody to have an informal conversation with PanIP's leader about the health benefits of leaving your company alone.

      They should know that the benefits are many: continued orthapedic mobility, original dentition, full use of digits. It's a family plan, too -- his or her daughter or son retain the dignity and innocence they've always enjoyed. And it's an umbrella that can even extend to one's car, home and other prized personal possessions which are so often the victim of unplanned catastrophes like fires and explosions.

      You would think that someone that would make a business out of patent enforcement would eventually run into someone who can play that game a lot better. Extortion and strong-arm tactics with lawyers is generally the gateway to extortion and strong-arm tactics with guys with funny accents and a bad sense of humor.
  • Fight the patent (Score:2, Informative)

    by Watcher (15643)
    File a contest of the patent with the PTO. That will probably cost about $8000, less than the cost of the fight against PanIP. Then countersue PanIP.

    Either way, your lawyers should be quite capable at finding the prior art to stop this. I would strongly recommend that all of the companies being sued band together to kill the patents.
  • This looks exactly like what RAMBUS have been doing with memory, although RAMBUS attacked big buisnesses right from the start. What sunk RAMBUS is that several companies (Infineon, Micron I think, ...) teamed together to defeat their patents. Eventually not only did they lose their patent claim on SDRAM and DDR, but I think they lost their money from the companies that caved in (Toshiba?, Hitashi?).

    Maybe your company could join the others that were extorted money and try to prove that the patent claims have no ground. If everybody sues for punitive damage and fraud, there could even be money to gain... Of course, IANAL...
  • Safety in Numbers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twfry (266215) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:11PM (#3512469)
    It was stated that there are at least 10 other small companies being sued by this "company" and in the same situation. Do you know who they are? If so I'd suggest contacting them and seeing if they are interested in a group class action lawsuit for extortion.

    It seems that your case is very strong and at least some of the other organizations will recognize this as well. Banding together with the other companies will 1) Reduce your legal fees 2) Strengthen your case 3) Give all of you more negotiating power with PanID.

    IANAL

  • What Patents? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Wanker (17907) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:12PM (#3512472)
    It would be useful if in the discussion in the PanIP Case "threat" description [homeip.net] they mentioned just which patents PanIP claims they have infringed.

    You just might be able to get some useful pointers to prior art which could be used in your counter-suit.

    • Re:What Patents? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Monday May 13, 2002 @06:05PM (#3512832) Homepage Journal
      The patents appear to be United States Patent 6,289,319 [uspto.gov]; US Patent 5,576,951 [uspto.gov]; and US Patent 5,309,355 [uspto.gov]; all registered in the name of Lawrence B. Lockwood, of 5935 Folsom Dr., La Jolla, CA 92037.
      • Re:What Patents? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ninewands (105734) on Monday May 13, 2002 @08:41PM (#3513730)
        Well, I am not a member of the patent bar, but, having read through the claims in those three patents, it appears to me that two of them are subject to attack on the basis of prior art and one does not apply.

        Specifically, 5,309,355 (filed in 1993) is a claim of originality that is quashed by evidence that American Airlines SABRE system went online in the early 80's (I forget exactly when it was but it was WELL before 1986), 5,576,951 appears to be a claim against all of computer networking in general (the first computer network communication occurred in 1967).

        6,289,319 doesn't appear to relate to Dickson Supply's business because the claims there relate strictly to automatic screening of loan applications. Now if PanIP, LLC wants to take on Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and ditek.com, that's their business, but I think those companies can raise a war chest exceeding what even Microsoft could raise.

        When I first read this article, I didn't think this matter would be appropriate for class action treatment, but having read the patent claims, if PanIP thinks they can construe the claims broadly enough to cover Dickson Supply's business, then every single e-commerce site on the 'net is threatened. That class of Plaintiffs is DEFINITELY large enough to justify certification as a class.

        I would STRONGLY recommend that you bring these lawsuits to the attention of some of the larger companies doing business on the web and see if they have an interest in attacking these ridiculous patents. Somebody has to do SOMETHING or the pain will never end!
  • two word answer: (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Xzzy (111297) <sether@tr u 7 h . o rg> on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:12PM (#3512477) Homepage
    The EFF [eff.org]

    Isn't this the sort of thing the EFF exists for?

    To everyone else, join the EFF and make a donation, because the lesson learned in this case is that small guys need big friends, and if all the small guys in the world banded together, bullying tactics like this wouldn't work. Someday you just might be the small guy.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:14PM (#3512485)
    It is high time to make filing of patents that do not cover any real invention illegal. And it is high time that the USPTO is made legally responsible for damages caused by patents that are succesfully revoked.

    Futhermore I think that patents on IT need to be granted or refused within a very short time or alternatively be automatically voided if the "invention" is in broad use when the patent is finally granted.

    Interesstingly German patent law had the requirement that only inventions that are significantly more inventive than what an average expert can come up with could be patented at all. Sadly it seems that with the EU this is not valid for software patents anymore.

    • And it is high time that the USPTO is made legally responsible for damages caused by patents that are succesfully revoked.

      What do you suggest doing to the USPTO? If you throw the people who inspect patents in jail, or fine them, you'll end up with fewer people reviewing patents, making the problem worse, not better. Fining the office as a whole wouldn't help either - the USPTO would either end up with a reduced budget, hence leading once again to forementioned problem, or their budget would expand appropraitely, increasing the federal budget in turn and raising taxes and/or the public debt.
      • What I suggest... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bani (467531) on Monday May 13, 2002 @06:00PM (#3512806)
        1) Patent examiners get paid some (low) base rate for examining a patent.

        2) Patent examiners get paid a bonus for each case of prior art they find which invalidates the patent

        3) Patent examiners get paid a bonus if they reject a clearly frivolous/and or obvious patent.

        4) Patent applicants are fined for filing clearly fraudulent patents.

        5) Repeat offenders of 4) are sentenced to prison terms.
      • If the folks of the USPTO were in the least responsible for patents they do grant they would be more careful about it, and, when in doubt not grant the patent. This is not about throwing them all in jail, but about motivating them to do their job. At the moment the USPTO profits by granting as many patents as possible and let the courts deal with it (shifting the job of examining the validity of patents to the courts, and the costs to the folks being sued). Since it should be the job of the parent office to examine the validity of patents they should have some motivation to do so. Also they should have some power to make their job possible. This could easily be done if it were possible that they refuse to grant patents on the grounds that the language is too complicated.

        It should be obvious, that the current practice of US patent law hurts small businesses and startups most and generally slows down innovation. The only people who win by this are lawyers and scum like PanIP.
  • Loser pays (Score:3, Interesting)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:14PM (#3512487) Journal
    Definately, this illustrates the need for patent law and patent office reform. However, I think it also identifies another fundamental weakness of the US civil courts: anybody can sue anybody else without real penalties, and make it so expensive to fight back that the victim better off settling. The court system is being used as an extortion racket.

    Seems to me it would be worthwhile to adopt a "loser pays" system. PanIP would be free to sue this guy's company all they want, but when PanIP loses in court, they has to pay the other side's legal bills. Think of all the worthless lawsuits people file with lawyers who know they don't have a case, but are just throwing them out there to see who'll settle (*cough*JesseJackson*cough*). They're probably think twice about it, and make sure they actually have legal leg to stand on if they knew they'd have to foot the bill if they lose.
    • Re:Loser pays (Score:3, Insightful)

      In Federal court there is "Rule 11" which provides damages to a defendant in a frivilous action. But to reach this determination is difficulat.


      There is similar rules in many states.

  • It might be a big upfront cost, but if you can scrape the money together I'd say it's time for a countersuit. Although IANAL, it appears to me that this is a case you cannot lose. So think of the legal fees as a sound investment.

    Even if you can't afford it, a public defender should suffice to clear you of these absurd charges.

    Wow, even the name "PanIP" repulses me. Literally, it's "all intellectual property" or something. I don't even want to imagine what the people who own this company are like. Not the type you'd invite over to watch the game, that's for sure.

  • by The Locehiliosan (578283) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:15PM (#3512497) Homepage
    "they claim that they invented the use of text and images as a method of business on the Internet"

    Everyone knows it was Al Gore who invented that!!!

  • by aitala (111068) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:15PM (#3512502) Homepage
    There is a simple solution - call the folks at Amazon and tell them about the patents. This affects they way they do business. Let them fight it out with PanIP.
  • Contact the EFF (Score:2, Informative)

    by RailGunner (554645)
    Contact the EFF and fight this. This is simply extortion.

    Of course, there is also a chance that they don't really want to go to court either (since this has scam all over it), so tell them to go fuck themselves and see what they do.

  • Your are either for the government( patent office) or for the terrorists. There is no in between. He is agaisnt the government so he is a terrorist. Just ask Jack Valentinni or Bill Gates about patents and they will tell you the truth. We need to protect intellectual property for the sake of our basic liberties. Please report such memebers to the FBi and think about our children.

  • It's about time for some Tort Reform in the USA. Unfortunately, all the politicians are lawyers...

  • This looks like a patent that would let them SUE any website that has a search function and sells anything online? What the hell is wrong with the patent office?

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT O2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/search-bool.html&r =1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=ft00&s1=''5,576,951''.WKU.&O S=PN/"5,576,951"&RS=PN/"5,576,951" [uspto.gov]

    • by Artagel (114272)
      Depends how much of the material comes from the 1984 patent application. The applicants kept adding material, combining applications, etc, but appears to have gotten most of their raw material by 1993. The USPTO fought these people off for a long time -- 12 years.

      The patent is probably not as broad as you were thinking. The term "means" is a very dangerous one for a patentee. See Chiuminatta Concrete Concepts, Inc. v. Cardinal Indus., Inc. [georgetown.edu]
  • Following the link at the end of the story, I get the strong impression that the patehts do not apply. Reasons:
    1. "Web" does not imply "Video-screen". And it is certainly not the vendor that determines the method of display.
    2. Nowhere does "web" imply "telephone line", as many (A)DSL, Cable and Cellphone-access users can testify.
  • Sue the USPTO? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:25PM (#3512568) Homepage Journal
    I'm so not a lawyer, so I ask: Can these guys sue the USPTO for issuing the bogus patent? It only seems fair to be able to recover court costs, at least.
  • Doesn't IE consist of %90 of the browser market now? M$ obviously owns %90 of the delivery of panip's patent infringment, wake up man go where the money is! Hey PanIP I may not have a law degree but I can certainly tell you there's no sense in trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.
  • by AyeRoxor! (471669) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:25PM (#3512573) Journal
    Professionally and concisely contact them through one of the following venues, and let them know that their actions are being observed with disdain by thousands.

    Please mod this up so Slashdot can continue to be the efficient political machine it often has been in the past. Just a simple call saying you dont like what they're doing, and mention the details of this situation, should be enough to make them think twice if everybody calls.

    Here are the contacts, from http://www.panip.com/corpinfo.htm [panip.com]:

    Mailing Address:
    PanIP
    329 Laurel Street
    San Diego, California 92101-1630 USA

    Telephone: 858-454-7095
    Email: rmercado37@yahoo.com (really professional...)
    Fax: 858-454-4358

    The following lawyers help them in their tirade. CC and call them all. I'll begin with a copyable email list. The rest need to be contacted by phone:

    webmaster@lyonlyon.com, kwalkerlaw@cox.net, info@chiresearch.com

    And for those that would rather call, including some attorneys with no email address (What's up with that? Hello, 2002? Hello?)

    BUCHACA, JOHN D. & HENRI CHARMASSON
    1545 HOTEL CIRCLE SOUTH
    SUITE 150
    SAN DIEGO, CA USA 92108
    619-294-2922

    Kathleen M. Walker
    3421 Thorn Street
    San Diego, California 92104
    Phone Number: 619-255-0987
    Fax Number: 619-255-0986
    kwalkerlaw@cox.net

    Luce Forward Hamilton Scripps
    Phone: (619) 236-1414
    Fax: (619) 232-8311
    600 West Broadway, Suite 2600
    San Diego, CA 92101

    And finally, their technical advisor:
    CHI Research Inc.
    10 White Horse Pike
    Haddon Heights, NJ 08035 USA
    Phone (856) 546-0600
    Fax (856) 546-9633
    email: info@chiresearch.com
  • by blamanj (253811) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:27PM (#3512586)
    requires two new moderation categories. IANAL -1 and LegalOpinion +1.
  • "We're giving in to the evil PanIP company like several other companies have, oh Slashdot, won't you feel sorry for us?"

    If you don't defend yourself against this abuse, _you are part of the problem_. Slashdot cannot help you, especially since you've already decided to settle. <constructive>If it isn't too late, call the EFF, perhaps they can help.</constructive>

    (-3, Flamebait)
  • IANAL, but... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cowculator (513725) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:28PM (#3512597) Homepage

    there's a term to describe this: barratry.

    Here's a definition from the Bernard Shifman is a Moron Spammer [petemoss.com] (I know, but it was the first reference that came to mind):

    n. creating legal business by stirring up disputes and quarrels, generally for the benefit of the lawyer who sees fees in the matter. Barratry is illegal in all states and subject to criminal punishment and/or discipline by the state bar, but there must be a showing that the resulting lawsuit was totally groundless. There is a lot of border-line barratry in which attorneys, in the name of being tough or protecting the client, fail to seek avenues for settlement of disputes or will not tell the client he/she has no legitimate claim.

    If this PanIP company is seriously pursuing this sort of patent, this seems like good grounds for a countersuit...

  • (Oh my Got its Canadian) Patent for the self service terminal indeed! I suppose that this would cover ATMs..
    http://patents1.ic.gc.ca/details?patent_nu mber=118 9973&language=EN_CA

    I'm glad they're going public. Good luck to him!

    -b
  • So their patent applies to using a form to gather customer information.

    Having a look at PanIP's website, they list "PricewaterhouseCoopers" as their accountants.

    Interesting that at This Link [pwcglobal.com], PricewaterhouseCoopers has... well lookit that, a form where you enter your information so they can contact you.

    Wonder if they made their own accountants pay them for their (non)intellectual property.
  • Wierd... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AcidDan (150672) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:29PM (#3512609) Homepage
    Google search for 'PanIP' and 'Patents'

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=PanIP+paten ts

    results in zero returned results...

    Their website looks very crummy too - are you *sure* they are a legitimate business? I mean it's *very* hard to escape google's search with *zero results*.

    You might just scare them off if you go "see you in court".

    -- Dan "who is off to look up USPTO on PanIPs patents now..." =)
    • by AcidDan (150672) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:45PM (#3512705) Homepage
      Lawrence B Lockwood is a name that appears on the patents... note this summary from http://www.law.emory.edu/fedcircuit/mar97/96-1168. html

      Lawrence B. Lockwood appeals from the final judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Lockwood v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 91-1640E (CM) (S.D. Cal. Dec. 19, 1995), granting summary judgment in favor of American Airlines, Inc. In that summary judgment, the court held that (1) U.S. Patent Re. 32,115, U.S. Patent 4,567,359, and U.S. Patent 5,309,355 were not infringed by American's SABREvision reservation system, and that (2) the '355 patent and the asserted claims of the '359 patent were invalid under 35 U.S.C. 102 and 35 U.S.C. 103, respectively. Lockwood v. American Airlines, Inc., 834 F. Supp. 1246, 28 USPQ2d 1114 (S.D. Cal. 1993), req. for reconsideration denied, 847 F. Supp. 777 (S.D. Cal. 1994) (holding the '115 and '359 patents not infringed); Lockwood v. American Airlines, Inc., 877 F. Supp. 500, 34 USPQ2d 1290 (S.D. Cal. 1994) (holding the asserted claims of the '355 patent invalid and not infringed); Lockwood v. American Airlines, Inc., 37 USPQ2d 1534 (S.D. Cal. 1995) (holding the '359 patent invalid). Because the district court correctly determined that there were no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that American was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, we affirm.

      so there you go: already after a few searches I've found out that 3 patents are already not wirth anything: http://www.panip.com/patents.htm ('115, '359, '355)

      -- Dan "who has limited knowledge of law, but can surf the web" =)
      • > so there you go: already after a few searches
        > I've found out that 3 patents are already not
        > wirth anything:
        > http://www.panip.com/patents.htm
        > ('115, '359, '355)

        I think you are too quick:

        The entire patent '359 is invalid, and some claims of patent '355 are invalid.
        Patent '115 was not infringed by American Airlines, but that doesn't means that the patent is invalid.

        But your main point is correct, it seems that they list patent '355 on their website, but the court held "the '355 patent invalid under 35 U.S.C. 102(b)". And the appeals court agreed, and it seems that the case was not sent to the supreme court.
      • IANAL, but I can read better than that. Actually, the court only threw out one patent completely ('355), decided certain claims of other patents are invalid but didn't throw them out (this could mean either that there was some small innovation cloaked in excessively broad claims, or else that the court simply didn't find it necessary to review the entire patent to decide this particular case), and decided other patents simply didn't apply to AA's Sabrevision reservation system.

        1) The court decision cited above invalidated the '355 patent completely, yet PanIP lists it on their website, along with a section entitled "Choosing a Stock Portfolio Based on Patent Indicators". They are trying to sell stock based, in part, on an invalid patent. Isn't this fraud?

        2) PanIP evidently makes no products and apparently does nothing but file vaguely worded patents, then attempt to collect royalties on them. Judging by the two patents I looked at ('319 and '355), they ignore obvious prior art in their filings -- isn't that fraudulent too?

        3) Since their business plan seems to be based on obtaining income through actions verging on fraud, barratry, etc., would RICO apply?
    • Re:Wierd... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Chris Parrinello (1505) <(chrisp) (at) (chrispy.net)> on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:47PM (#3512721) Homepage
      This kinda bugged me too so I decided to go to the State of California website and do a lookup to see if the company was actually registered. It was. [ca.gov]

      PANIP, LLC Number: 200207410071
      Date Filed: 3/12/2002
      Status: active
      Jurisdiction: CALIFORNIA
      Principal Address
      1168 VIRGINIA WAY LA JOLLA, CA 92037
      Agent for Service of Process
      WILLIAM G WILHELM
      1168 VIRGINIA WAY LA JOLLA, CA 92037

      The date filed part is interesting... the principal address and the agent for service of process entries might just be the address for their lawyer however.

      If anybody is feeling really interested, you can pay to get copies their records which I'm sure list the names who is actually running the company from the same website.
    • Somewhat suspect company, for the following reasons:

      Contact email address is: rmercado37@yahoo.com

      Contact phone numbers (voice/fax) are both unlisted (www.infospace.com)

      The website was only registered in 2000 - rather surprising for a supposed world player in IT.

      The HTTPs server has some weird, weird unrelated stuff on it: https://www.panip.com/index.htm

      The hosting company's website is not exactly professional - at least, I don't think an empty directory listing is very good: http://www.edgeinc.org

      Chuck in a cut-and-paste job legal disclaimer (Google for its key-phrases) and we start to smell a scam.
  • When they do a decent job they can get access you can't. I'd at least take a swipe at it, since this got my hackles up and seems like the kind of story they could run.

    Contact info [cbsnews.com]

  • Get all the little companies who are at risk from these filthy blood-sucking parasites to pool their resources and sue them back under the rock from whence they came.

    How many businesses use web form entry? 1,000,000? If you just get 10,000 to kick in a $1000 each you'll have these dogs back to licking their balls clean in no time.
  • Something's wrong... I clicked on the PanIP link 5 times and the site is still up and running. I usually can't click on a front page ink once before the site goes down. What gives?
  • by aaarrrgggh (9205)
    Any company using a yahoo account as contact information [panip.com] for a corporation is going to have a tough time proving that they invented e-commerce!
  • Just check the info on these guys. They exist solely to sue other people, it appears to be a very small (maybe even one person) company. They have very few internet resources (using a yahoo email address? web hosting company), fax number isn't concurrent with phone meaning they can't even afford a block of numbers, poor office location, etc...
  • And refuse to do business with countries that grant patents.
  • If this patent really is ridiculous, then why not take them to court? It may cost you some money at first, but if you win you can counter sue them. Then you can use that money you get from the counter lawsuit to cover all your previous legal fees. Unless someone stands up to these people they will keep suing companies and getting more and more powerful from doing so.
  • Your company should pool resources with the other 30 or so victims and sue to invalidate the patents and for damages.

    As for ANYone claiming to have invented anything having to do with the use of text, images and forms on the internet for ANY purpose, I think Tim Berners-Lee [web.cern.ch] and the people at CERN might have a little tiny bit to say about *cough* prior art *cough*.
  • by Compulawyer (318018) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:40PM (#3512676)
    This tactic is not confined to the patent/IP area. It unfortunately is inherent in our adversary system. Someone with a questionable claim asserts that claim in the court against an adversary they know cannot devote the time or the resources to fight on the merits. So a rational business opts for the economically sound decision - get out of it as cheaply as possible, i.e., settle.

    With patents, however, asserting a patent known to be invalid is an ANTITRUST VIOLATION. The opposing party can get treble damages plus attorneys fees. Also, if the case is not well founded, the patent statute (specifically 35 U.S.C. sec. 285) allows a judge to declare the case "exceptional" and award attorneys fees to the prevailing party. Infringement defendants use this provision to recoup defense costs of patent cases that are not well founded.

    Also, because patent cases are EXCLUSIVELY federal, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, spoecifically Rule 11, requre attorneys to certify that cases filed are well founded. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals of patent cases, has held in View Eng'g v. Robotic Vision Sys., 208 F.3d 981 (Fed. Cir. 2000) that Rule 11 requires an attorney to "read the claims onto an accused device." The process of reading claims means that you identify each element of the claim in the patent and then find a corresponding feature in the device you accuse of infringement. Rule 11 allows judges to sanction parties who fail to do that step.

    Unfortunately, competent patent counsel are few and far between. I have seen cases brought by sole practitioners who spend their days doing personal injury work and have no concept of patents or the technology of the invention. This is how many frivolous suits get filed - by practitioners who do not take the time to learn the law and advise their clients properly. Also unfortunately, the only way to end it is to stomach it out and fight to the end to invalidate the patent. The words "legal defense fund" come to mind here.....

  • by neema (170845) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:42PM (#3512685) Homepage
    For everyone suggesting that they band together, I believe they have taken the first few steps. The link from the question (labeled "more details") leads you to a site with a bunch of defendants. Namely, listed here [homeip.net].

    Furthermore, I took a look at the patents (admittedly, only the abstracts), and while not as depicted as explained [homeip.net], still very vague and very obviously a stragety, not an actual protection of IP. First [uspto.gov] and second [164.195.100.11].

    Looking at the abstract for the former of the above listed, I have a few qualms (besides with the whole thing entirely). The claim that they can have an infinite number of variations in the abstract (actually, on a quick search, they go into further details in the summary of the invention), it doesn't seem to me that what you're implementing can possibly be infinite. Note, I certainly ANAL (yet), but it just seems out of place.

    Moving on to the second patent and it's respective abstract... it seems to me that such a patent had to be filed before September 11, 2001 (when the patent was made, hell throw that in your closing speech) as it seems the way it's described in both the abstract and summary of invention is very much alike to many implementations set forth by other companies, not just internet, but stores as well.

    Good luck with that all. Open up a donation bin. I, for one, will throw in.
  • Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, that is. IANAL but if the act does not apply here, it certainly needs to be amended to cover this situation. PanIP is the latest in an endless chain of corporations that demonstrate exactly why we need to forever forget the silly laissez-faire pipe dream and start playing hardball with corporations. Once white collar types start seeing the inside of prisons or their buddies (other CEOs) get the chair, then they might be concerned about ethical practices.

    In the meantime, someone needs to DDOS the fuck out of PanIP. Forget "Ask Slashdot", try opening the yellow pages or searching google [google.com] to find someone to kill the CEO's wife and kids, or just opening the blue pages of your phone book and looking up your friendly local U.S. Attorney. Good luck!

  • by Anarchofascist (4820) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:47PM (#3512722) Homepage Journal
    https://www.panip.com/index.htm

    Check it out! Quick, before they take it down.
    Very weird, very confusing... [panip.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:48PM (#3512731)
    Ah, I am *so* sympathetic to your case!

    A few years ago, a small company I worked for was targeted by some leeches like this, who had filed what our lawyers called a "submarine" patent, which is that they had an old patent, on a vague technology, and updated the filing to try to fit it to Internet terms.

    They then started going after small companies such as ours, with the hope, just like PanLeeches that the smaller companies would lack the resources to properly fight them, and would just suck it up and pay the licensing fee.

    Well, we didn't have the money, but we sure as hell weren't going to be bullied by these jerks. So we got a *really* good patent attorney, and it took about three letters from him, and the leeches disappeared.

    In the end, it cost us a couple thousand dollars to fight it, but it was worth every cent. We never went to court because we established very early on that 1) we were *not* going to be push-overs, and 2) we hired *good* counsel, and that perception of losing to us in court was worth them leaving us alone to go pick on someone else.

    Good luck to you in your cause. These freaks should be thrown to the wolves.
  • Give me a break! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OYAHHH (322809) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:49PM (#3512739) Homepage
    Dude,

    Get yourself a decent lawyer. Per the complaint (and the specific patent information) you have posted on your website those guys don't stand a chance!

    For example, in their Patent material they talk about customers dialing into the described system. Do all of your customers dial up to get to your website? Well, I looked at your website and I don't use a dialup system.

    Also, all of the patent information is related to the travel industry. You are in the plumbing business. A good lawyer will find holes in their "argument(s)" big enough to drive an 18 wheeler through.

    Per what I saw their patent is very specific in nature. They goofed up by not making it as general as possible. All you gotta do is review the patent for the business steps (logic) they propose and find where your business differs.

    IANAL, but my understanding of patents are that they relatively easily gotton around. I believe you merely need to show how you have created the same thing but in a different manner.

    Otherwise, for example, how could say Ford and GM compete with essentially the same "gadgets" in their automobiles. They do it by merely doing the same thing in a different manner.

    Do a little research on the web on patents (www.findlaw.com is a good place to start) to prime yourself. And then go out and spend a couple of thousand on a lawyer. Stop wasting time, you're probably gonna have to do it regardless. It will be well worth your time.

    BTW, I'm no fan of lawyers, but when you need one then it's best to just buckle up and get one rather than wasting time. It can save you a lot of pain and agony in the end.

  • by Thalia (42305) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:50PM (#3512746)
    You can try to initiate a Reexamination of the patent by the PTO. You can initiate a reexamination by paying a fee (currently $2,520 for ex parte and $8,800 for inter partes) and sending a brief including references to the PTO. Ex parte means that you are not involved in the process beyond the initiation. Inter partes means that you are involved in the process, and can file responses. You should send some really good references that have not been cited by the Examiner (not listed on the face of the patent.)

    You can usually find someone who is willing to help you with the first few steps of the process at least for less than $30K. And I do agree with the above posters, you should band together with the other companies that have been sued. You can at least work together on the first few steps (finding references & writing the initial brief.)

    Thalia
  • by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4 AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:51PM (#3512749) Homepage
    Here is a patent suit by the owner of the patents that PanIP claims. It is a good read because American Airlines was found to not be infringing because they were not using ALL the features the patent was for.

    http://www.kentlaw.edu/student_orgs/jip/patent/loc kwood.htm [kentlaw.edu]

    All joking and attempting to dispute the patent aside it might be worth a look to see if your company is violating everything in the patent, if not you can get off (though I am no lawyer).
  • by MadCow42 (243108) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:55PM (#3512774) Homepage
    Isn't the USPTO liable for the damages it causes by recklessly granting frivolous patents such as those you mention?

    Sure, they're a government agency, but they ARE doing harm by granting these patents. They ARE costing businesses money, and probably end up making some go bankrupt trying to fight these crap patents (or through paying silly license fees).

    Can't they be sued for gross negligence or something similar... A good suit like that would go a LONG way towards stopping the endless stream of crap that they've granted.

    Just my non-lawyerly $0.02.

    MadCow.
  • by Chris Parrinello (1505) <(chrisp) (at) (chrispy.net)> on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:58PM (#3512792) Homepage
    I did some searchs on the filer of the patents included on PanIP's website and found this interesting federal court decision [emory.edu] .

    Basically Mr. Lockwood tried to sue American Airlines over their SABRE system using the '359 patent and the district court found that SABRE did not violate the patents due to prior art (like the fact that SABRE has been around since 1962). The linked decision is an appeal that Mr. Lockwood made to the federal appeals court that was rejected. Worth a good read to see how it would apply here.
  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Monday May 13, 2002 @06:20PM (#3512928) Homepage
    This is why the US desperately needs a "loser pays" system similar to that used in English courts. If you choose to sue someone and lose, you end up having to pay *their* legal fees as well as your own. Thus if you are a small business getting sued by an asinine large business with a suit that doesn't stand a chance in court, you don't have to cave in just because the court costs are large. If the evil know-nothings suing you lose, they have the responsibility of paying for wasting your time and the court's time. That would kill the evil business strategy of "patent something everyone already knows how to do and then scare people into paying you license fees to do what they already knew how to do on their own."

    Of course, the system has to have some careful safeguards in place, such as a small maximum reasonable amount of court fees to be responsible for (so that, for example, Joe Schmo doesn't have to take on the risk of paying for Microsoft's expensive lawyers if they sue him - he only takes on the risk of possibly paying for more reasonably priced run-of-the-mill lawyers no more expensive than his own.)

    Personally, the safeguard I would like to see is that you end up only being financially responsible for the opponents' lawywers up to the amount you paid for your OWN lawyers. So if your laywer cost $3,000, and your opponent's lawyer cost $500,000, you at most could end up paying $6,000 if you lose ($3,000 for your own, and $3,000 worth of the opponent's lawyer's fee) If you think the case is so incredibly frivolous that you can defend yourself, you don't incur any risk of paying for the opponent's lawyers at all.
    • by TheAwfulTruth (325623) on Monday May 13, 2002 @07:51PM (#3513483) Homepage
      This would have a MASSIVE chilling effect on small time consumers from suing large companies. That's why there isn't a law for automatic payment of fees by the loser. A judge has to decide if the lawsuit was harrassing or frivolous before imposing such fees. If it were not so, the fear of being 5 million in debt for paying Ford's lawyer fees because you sued over their poor SUV design that killed your mother and lost would allow them to completly frighten off all possible litigation for wrong doing!
    • by hyphz (179185) on Monday May 13, 2002 @08:52PM (#3513787)
      Don't think that the "loser pays" system helps too much.

      All that happens in the UK is that the big firms pump up the cost of the lawsuit as far as they can (hiring the most expensive lawyers, transporting them around, etc). If they are suing a small firm, or especially a private individual, they know that if they have to pay his costs it's barely a blip on a balance sheet, but if he has to pay theirs it could gut his business or bankrupt his family in a single fell swoop. The result is the same: they settle to avoid the risk.

      The proposed system is interested, but I'd make a change: you have to pay, to BOTH lawyers, whatever you paid yours. So if yours cost $3000 and the other guy's cost $500000 and you lose, you pay only $6000... but if you WIN, the other guy has to pay $1000000, and your lawyer gets an extra $497000! (Hey, he deserves it for beating a higher-paid lawyer, right?) This ensures that the big firms still have to worry about paying costs if they lose, as opposed to being able to say '$3000? Pah.' It also, of course, means that small guys won't have much of a problem finding a lawyer in these cases...
  • Speak to your state's attorney general's office, I bet they'd be willing to go after the company for fraud and extortion, along with a whole slew of other things. If it's criminal, the AG foots the bill as they're the ones pressing charges. Once the criminal case is won, you're almost garanteed the ability to sue the f'ing sh*t out of them.
  • by Cato (8296) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @01:59AM (#3515200)
    See http://panipcase.homeip.net - already posted by someone else but buried within a thread - this is a site for several companies already being sued by PanIP. They are all small companies of course, but if they club together and get help from the EFF etc, they could probably beat PanIP and countersue. It would be well worth signing up there and commenting on their discussion forum.

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