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Chocolatier Fights PanIP Uber-Commerce Patent 277

Posted by timothy
from the they-should-patent-fighting-patents dept.
synerr writes "In October, Slashdot reported how PanIP sued 10 companies. Since they were so successful, they have launched 50 more lawsuits. The Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel has an article about how one local small town chocolate company, DeBrand's, is planning to fight back against San Diego based PanIP LLC's claim that they hold the patent over any automated commerce done by text and graphics on a video monitor. The owner of DeBrand's has even set up a web site to organize the different e-merchants, www.youmaybenext.com."
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Chocolatier Fights PanIP Uber-Commerce Patent

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  • When will this stop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Uttles (324447) <uttles AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:25PM (#4602147) Homepage Journal
    Why is it still happening? How are these judges rewarding these people? Correct me if I'm wrong, but they're bascially saying "we invented this and let everyone use it for 10-15 years, and now we're going to sue you all for not paying us, when we didn't even charge anything in the first place." How is this not being laughed out of court?
    • by PinkStainlessTail (469560) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:29PM (#4602188) Homepage
      Because mainly people are settling before it ever gets to court. Those of us with souls know this by the name "extortion." It's fun!
      • Patents claims are vulnerable when there is either prior art or they are being applied where they shouldn't be. My guess would be that at least one of these two cases (and maybe both) applies to the PanIP claim. So does anyone out there in /. land want to go try to find examples of "prior art" (web commerce sites established prior to the PanIP patent) or read the actual patent and provide a technical "white paper" to the folks at www.youmaybenext.com that shows why the PanIP patent doesn't apply to a web based e-commerce site? I vaguely remember reading some of the patent when this issue was previously posted and thought that the pataent granted sounded more like something fo a point of sale system not web based e-commerce. Anyone have links to the actual patents?
        • Take one look at the discussion boards on youmaybenext.com [youmaybenext.com]. There's tons of examples of prior art floating around there. All that is needed is 1) the will and 2) the financial means to bring those up in court to take this patent down. So far, there is a ton of will and not much in the way of financial needs... not as much as is needed, anyway (roughly $1mil). That's one thing that the web site is intended to organize.
    • That's the great thing about this business model; you never have to go in front of a judge. It's free money, low risk, no need for engineers or technical support, just a small team of lawyers sending extortion demands.
    • by nuffle (540687) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:37PM (#4602268)
      panIP doesn't need success in courts. It's cheaper for most of the small businesses that are being targeted to simply pay the $5000 (in the chocolate company's case) to panIP than to wage a court battle. Maybe a few companies defend themselves in the lawsuit, but panIP can afford a couple battles as long as most give in and pay the money.

      That these sort of strategies work nicely is clear demonstration that the US legal system doesn't protect everyone equally, but that the great deal of beauracracy involved works to the advantage of the wealthy.
    • by Tremblay99 (534187) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:42PM (#4602315)
      You can sue anyone for anything, no matter how specious. Being sued, however, does not mean that your case instantly goes to court ... or, indeed, ever will. It can take months to get a preliminary court date. Tack on more time for both sides to examine evidence. After that, both sides file motions ... yada yada yada. PanIP probably doesn't even want to go to court. They want to make a quick buck getting mom'n'pop shops to settle. They don't want to take on someone (say, WalMart) with more money, lawyers, and know-how. PanIP might win, but they victory would be pyrrhic; they'd have burned through all their cash.

      However, the cost of settling a case like this for $15 or $20 000 is less than the cost of a coupla' good IP lawyers.

      Sucks, but you can put your money where your mouth is and help out [youmaybenext.com].

      • There is a new law that was signed on November 3rd regarding the review of patents with the a Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences that will make defense against a patent such as this much cheaper.

        More information can be found here:

        http://www.kilstock.com/site/print/detail?Articl e_ Id=1136

        Sorry I don't have a link to the offical gov notice, but my company is already using this new law for a patent search service.
      • However, the cost of settling a case like this for $15 or $20 000 is less than the cost of a coupla' good IP lawyers.

        Unfortunately, it'd probably be even a lot more than that, especially in Chocolatier's case. My question is: if all of these legal types and law professors are in a tizzy about it, why are none of them willing to offer their support for pro bono work, or even nominal compensation. This effects *everyone*, and this is a precedent that should not be allowed to continue. If a couple of prominent IP lawyers were willing to donate some time for what would appear to be an open-and-shut case, they would pave the way for others. PanIP would probably stop hounding all of these small businesses for cash. IANAL, but if they didn't, they could just bring them to court with a local lawyer, and pretty much only have prove that they're under the same umbrella as SoandSo vs. PanIP, not? I hear so much speculation by prominent lawyers about how awful these new laws are, but no one is willing to give up their time to do anything. Hell, we're decently paid professionals too, and a lot of us give away our professional works for the greater good [fsf.org].
    • by Cruciform (42896) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:43PM (#4602329) Homepage
      The mere fact that these people are able to take existing ideas, add the phrase "on a computer", "on a video terminal", etc. and patent it as their own idea is absurd.

      Is there where the phrase "patently ridiculous" comes from?
    • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:45PM (#4602365) Journal
      I believe that, unlike with trademarks, there is no use-it-or-lose-it requirement on patents. You can selectively enforce, not enforce, or completely enforce your rights on patents as you wish.

      OTOH, with 8 zillion patents out there designed to be as obfuscated as possible to get past the PTO, this makes engineering a minefield.

      I'd prefer a specific exemption making the complaint that a "patent is unclear" becoming a complete defense against patent infringement. It'd also make it *much* easier for the PTO to administer the patents (instead of insanely complicated patents, they'd give the companies an enormous incentive to write their patents clearly and include useful keywords). It's more effective than just rejecting patents, because it means that companies can't just "retry" patents until they get a valid one.

      The PTO already puts up a full-text-search search engine, so this makes patent searches much more feasible.

      Obviously, this couldn't be retroactive, but it would be useful for curbing patent abuses in the future.
      • by SirSlud (67381) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:17PM (#4602732) Homepage
        here [converium.com]

        Its been awhile since I've read it, but I believe the thing is .. you can selectively enforce patents, but you also cannot purposely _delay_ litigation protecting your patents such that the delay harms the accused infringer.

        Basically means "You are not responsible for policing the marketplace and cannot lose enforcability of your patent by not actively protecting it; however, you are also not allowed to purposely delay protecting your patent. If you become aware of an infringer, you can't sit around for a rainy day when you really need the money to commence an infringement suit."
    • What they are saying is "Given that NOW we are telling you we have the patent, from this day forward you have to pay us licensing fees"

      You can't collect damages for past use of a patent if the parties didn't know about it.

  • HSN? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Cowtard (573891) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:26PM (#4602154)
    "PanIP LLC's claim that they hold the patent over any automated commerce done by text and graphics on a video monitor."

    Couldn't the Home Shopping Network be prior art for this?

    • Yeah, and theY can bring Don West to testify at the hearing...
    • Re:HSN? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PD (9577)
      Did the French Minitel actually sell anything? That would be some prior art. And did the original CompuServe actually sell anything? Also prior art. I also seem to remember being able to buy flowers on AOL 1.0 with it's funky interface (what was that called again? GEOS?) on top of MS-DOS in 1988. Definitely prior art.

  • by Dunark (621237) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:27PM (#4602168)
    I wonder how long it will be until it's impossible to complete the intellectual property patent checks on *any* innovation before it's obsolete?
  • by Wes Janson (606363) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:29PM (#4602186) Journal
    As soon as this goes into the media spotlight, PanIP's little game is going to be history. This should set interesting precedents in the realm of patent lawsuits, however..
  • by Anonymous Coward
    erm. that's only an hour's drive or so from here. ...

    i wonder how my wife would react if i asked her if she would be ok with driving to fort wayne to buy some chocolate.
    • Wow.. this article really came out of nowhere considering I was heading out there tomorrow to pick up a nice box for my girlfriend. Anyways, to be on topic, I'll try to come up with a question for them tomorrow about it since I'll be visiting. Perhaps I can get some better insight into their plans of developing the group defense.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:30PM (#4602194)
    If all of the frivolously sued parties got together, they might be able to sue under the RICO statute for treble damages plus legal fees.
  • by The Analog Kid (565327) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:30PM (#4602195)
    I just thought of something. Why don't they sue Microsoft, they sell things online, I bet Microsoft can easily win because they would swamp them with paperwork and the laywers would quit, and they would go bankrupt. They will probably never sue any big corporation. Though I don't know why these e-merchants don't challenge the patients, or who the judge or jury thats letting them win.
    • by glh (14273)
      Good idea.. that probably would work!!

      Isn't it sad how he who has the most money wins the lawsuits? So much for a fair judicial system. The "youmaybenext.com" web site realizes this, and thats why they are gathering people together- get the combined pockets deep enough and they will win.

      Money talks!! It is high time for some patent reform laws...
    • It looks to me like they are only suing small to medium sized companies that perhaps don't have enough money to fight them. I didn't click on many of the sites on that list, but I don't think you'll ever see a site like Amazon or Microsoft on it because, as you stated, they would kick the crap out of PanIP.

      They are just a corporate bully trying to get their lunch money.
    • Why don't they sue Microsoft, they sell things online

      If you mean "why doesn't PanIP sue MS?", you answered your own question with the statement "I bet Microsoft can easily win".

      I don't know why these e-merchants don't challenge the patients

      Not sure which patients you are referring too. Perhaps you mean "Patents", in which case you really should have read the article, which clearly states that the chocolate company is challenging the patents.

      or who the judge or jury thats letting them win.

      See also the meaning of "out of court" in the phrase "out of court settlement".
  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:31PM (#4602209)
    I wrote [slashdot.org]:

    ...to ask about contributing to a defense fund (after reading about this on /. a few days ago). Here's what they had to say:

    Thanks for your support. We are currently in the process of setting up the Group Defense and the PANIP Group Defense Fund. We hope to have it set up by the end of this week giving people a chance to contribute online through a PayPal account. The response has been very encouraging.

    Stay tuned in and help us spread the word. PANIP thought they could extort money from small businesses without them making much noise. They were wrong.

    Timothy Beere
    DeBrand Fine Chocolates
    http://www.debrand.com [debrand.com]
    http://www.youmaybenext.com [youmaybenext.com]


    I'll also pick up some chocolates for my wife at their site...that way I can help their business and score some points with the bride at the same time. Double bonus!
  • Sigh (Score:5, Funny)

    by MacAndrew (463832) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:32PM (#4602212) Homepage
    They're giving us lawyers a bad name!

    Oh, wait...
  • by RoboOp (460207) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:32PM (#4602216)
    The company: Debrand Chocolates [debrand.com]

    And of course, what would slashdot be without the... Obligatory Python Link [geocities.com]

  • Good domain (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gabec (538140) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:33PM (#4602230)
    I can see that domain becoming very useful to a whole heck of a lot of subjects once this PanIP thing runs down. Heck, the EFF could turn over a ton of "hey look what X company is doing" ... like when those guys remixed Beck's music into crazy new stuff and the label for Beck tried to sue them for copyright infringement... (which was of course not true and completely ironic, since Beck himself has been questioned about his sources for musical accompanyment..;])
    • since Beck himself has been questioned about his sources for musical accompanyment

      And Marilyn Manson apparently stole from the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy. Listen to "I Don't Like the Drugs" (1998) and "It's All About the Benjamins (rock remix)" (1997). Then look me in the eye and say Manson didn't copy Puffy for the chorus.

      Now listen to "Jump" by The Movement, "Tribal Dance" by 2 Unlimited, and the theme from the first "Mission: Impossible" movie. I don't know what exactly was first, but I smell copying.

      Well, at least you can't own a chord progression ("The Day The World Went Away" by Nine Inch Nails vs. "Stranger in Moscow" by Michael Jackson).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:35PM (#4602244)
    You May Be Next... to get Slashdotted.
  • If you go to the USPTO page describing the patent [uspto.gov], then scroll to the bottom you'll find a nice set of links, one of which is an Add to Cart button [uspto.gov]. Does that count as using graphical and textual information on a video screen for the purpose of making a sale?
  • Dates (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hackysack (21649) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:36PM (#4602250)
    The Patent was granted in december 1996.

    From About Amazon.com [amazon.com]:

    Amazon.com opened its virtual doors in
    July 1995 with a mission to use the Internet to transform book buying into the fastest, easiest, and most enjoyable shopping experience possible. While our customer base and product offerings have grown considerably since our early days, we still maintain our founding commitment to customer satisfaction and the delivery of an educational and inspiring shopping experience.
    Dell.com started online sales in 1995. Shouldn't spurious use of invalid patents be a criminal offense, up there with Fraud, and Extortion?

    And in a more ethereal manner, Redhat.com was doing online transactions (for $0, but a transaction is a transaction) as early as 1994.

    ~~

    • Re:Dates (Score:4, Informative)

      by McFly777 (23881) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:03PM (#4602545) Homepage
      Unfortunatly the filing date is March 16, 1994, so you would have to find prior art to that date.

      This patent app was also a continuation to several older applications, some as early as 1984. I am not sure if you have to show prior art to those application dates or not.

  • by Lendrick (314723) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:36PM (#4602252) Homepage Journal
    Check out this list [youmaybenext.com].

    Seriously, how can you sue "The Little Pie Company [littlepiecompany.com]" and still claim to have a soul?
  • Eureka! (Score:5, Funny)

    by cyberbrian (15778) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:37PM (#4602258) Homepage
    I just need to patent the following process:

    1) Identify an obvious "technology" that is in the public commons
    2) Patent it
    3) Extort small businesses via threats of expensive litigation
    4) ...
    5) Profits

    Then I can sue PanIP ! ! !

    B.

  • Good thing (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quixadhal (45024) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:37PM (#4602259) Homepage Journal
    ... I still use my old hardcopy terminal then, eh?
  • by Greebz (139906)

    " ... but TEK Interactive of Fort Wayne offered to develop a more sophisticated site, which is the one up today.

    Now it includes a background on the cases, a discussion board, PDF copies of the original lawsuit and online donation acceptance ... "

    Online donation acceptance? Hope that doesn't breech the patent too. Ahem.

    On a more serious note, a patent on "the same sort of thing that we already do, only over http" surely wasn't new, innovative or non-obvious at the time of the original application?

    Hopefully the patent will be overturned...
  • by denisonbigred (611860) <nbn2@@@cornell...edu> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:37PM (#4602274)
    PanIP first sued about 10 small online merchants in March. That, by the way, was the month PanIP was incorporated.

    Its wonderful to see how the American way rewards hard work and Lawsuits.
  • by RealSurreal (620564) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:39PM (#4602291)
    Nice domain name. Is it worth $10 for youmaybeslashdottednext.com?
  • ... how a start-up campany like PanIP can patent something ridculously common and then start sueing everything that isn't bolted down or on fire. Isn't there some sort of judge that looks beyond the length of his nose, into the background of the company? Would a company that merely existed to sue other companies even be legal to start with? This reminds me of the radio advertisements you used to get in GTA3. "You want to quit working early? That's easy! Sue your boss! Sue anyone! For anything! And you'll probably win! (Or at least get a settlement.) Dail 1-555-I-SUE-YOU for more info."

    • Isn't there some sort of judge that looks beyond the length of his nose, into the background of the company?

      That's not the judge's job. That's the defence's job. They then present the facts to the judge, maybe a jury if one is requested, to take into consideration.

      All the court has to go on when agreeing to hear the case is 1) PanIP has a patent on a process. 2) Someone has implemented the patented process without the permission of the patent holder. 3) The law says PanIP can petition the court for a redress of this specific greivance.

      The claim that 1) never should've happened will be decided in court. The opinion that the last thing PanIP wants is to go to court is suggested by the pattern they have chosen in filing their lawsuits.

  • An attorney I work with has informed me that they probably have nothing to worry about. Check with your own attorneys for clarification.
  • Accordingly (Score:5, Informative)

    by da_Den_man (466270) <dcruise.hotcoffee@org> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:47PM (#4602384) Homepage
    The original Patent was filed in 1993. However, it would appear that it was directed towards travel and credit applications (i.e. Travel agent bookings and Credit applications) rather than geared towards an online "sale" of actual merchandise. [uspto.gov]The Patent can be found here, and several interesting items of note:

    RIOR APPLICATIONS This is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 08/116,654 filed Sep. 3, 1993, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,309,355 which is a continuation of abandoned application Ser. No. 07/396,283 filed Aug. 21, 1989, which is a continuation-in-part of abandoned application Ser. No. 07/152,973 filed Feb. 8, 1988, which is a continuation-in-part of abandoned application Ser. No. 822,115 filed Jan. 24, 1986, which is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 613,525 filed May 24, 1984, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,567,359. This is also a continuation-in-part of abandoned application Ser. No. 08/096,610 filed Jul. 23, 1993, which is a continuation of abandoned application Ser. No. 07/752,026 filed Aug. 29, 1991 which is a continuation of abandoned application Ser. No. 168,856 filed Mar. 16, 1988, which is a continuation of abandoned application Ser. No. 822,115 filed Jan. 24, 1986 which is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 613,525, filed May 24, 1984, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,567,359. This is also a continuation of the combination of the above-cited applications Ser. No. 08/116,654 filed Sep. 3, 1993 and Ser. No. 08/096,610 filed Jul. 23, 1993.

    As it appears this has been trying to be processed for quite sometime before it was accepted, and also relies on several prior works.

  • Well, normally I'd go whoring and post the Google cache [216.239.51.100] of www.panip.com ... but it seems Google did it's trolling a little too soon. Just a directory listing there.

    The Way Back Machine [archive.org] has some stuff ... including links to pages at the USPTO that describe basically vending machines.

    Didn't we talk about this a while ago?

  • it IS kinda odd... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by allism (457899)
    that, as the youmaybenext website pointed out, they are not suing anyone in California [youmaybenext.com], especially considering that large parts of California are considered by the American Tort Reform Association to be judicial hellholes [atra.org] because of their tendency to dole out huge plaintiffs' awards. Anyone have any speculation as to why they are not filing suits in CA?
    • by nolife (233813)
      Isnt PanIP in california also? I believe the last time this was posted to /., the general thought was because a small company would be less likely to travel to CA to fight this and settle out of court. Actually if you look at PanIP's recent actions everything is based on not actually defending the patent in court but getting money from smaller companies with little resources to fight back.
  • by Baconator (240452) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:52PM (#4602439)

    Having skimmed the text of the patent claim, it appears to me that using an LCD monitor would be completely outside the scope of the patent:

    The satellite facilities are sales and information terminals, each equipped with a CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) for receiving and displaying requested customer information from the computer's data sources at the data processing center.

    So I guess all the web retailers have to do is add a disclaimer that only customers using LCDs or OLEDs are allowed to access the system!

  • by Niten (201835) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:58PM (#4602490)

    I am sure I won't be the first to say it, but there is one thing that all of us can do here: Remember to stop by www.debrands.com sometime in the next couple of weeks after this Slashdotting has died off, pick out a nice $20 chocolate set for your {girl|boy}friend / your mother / yourself, etc., and support DeBrands. The "why" needs no explanation.

  • by mypalmike (454265) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:07PM (#4602605) Homepage
    From a story [computerworld.com] back in May:

    'Though the patents may seem broad, "when you seek a patent, you try to get it as broad as possible," said Walker [PanIP's lawyer]. "You don't want to limit it to just what you think it's going to be used for."'

    In other words, the point of filing for patents is to undermine innovation by making them broad enough to cover things you never thought of. To see it put so plainly into words by someone who actually supports this approach makes me sick.

    _-_-_

  • by joshamania (32599) <jggramlich AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:26PM (#4602830) Homepage
    I wrote a letter to the San Diego DA (posted it on my web site). You should too. The email address is "publicinformation@sdcda.com". I told a bit of the story, included some hyperlinks and suggested that the DA lay down the law on PanIP. If not for extortion, then for jaywalking, or speeding, or littering, or anything to make these assholes stop extorting money from the public.

    • Don't write an email. Don't fax.

      Send a letter, on paper.
      • Indeed, I wrote a letter (ready to be sent out tomorrow) to the USA Today [usatoday.com] giving them some basic facts and why it should interest them. You may be thinking, why them? Publicity causes public opinion. Public opinion is bound to be formed pretty quickly when they see a heartless corporation (that survives by suing) suing a great (from what my friend told me) local chocolate shop in the mall. In this case, I think publicity will help their case a lot.
  • a thought (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alta (1263)
    I haven't read their patent through, but from what I read in the story and your posts, the patent covers "text and graphics on a CRT" now the companies do have "text and graphics" but the CRTs belong to the consumers. It's not the small companies' fault that all those damn people are using CRTs to display the text and graphics. They need to be using something else to display it. So let PanIP go after the consumers. I doubt they'll get very far that way.
  • It seems to me that because PanIP is targeting small businesses who cannot afford to properly defend themselves in court, it could, in fact, be seen as legal extortion. Perhaps there is an effective legal defense tool in that alone - that PanIP targets small comapanies because large companies would be more willing to take it to trial and poke a hole in the patent claim, possibly getting it revoked altogether. Is there anyone who knows enough legalese to say whether or not the plaintiff's targeting of small "defenseless" companies is grounds for an effective defense in and of itself?

    For example, a lawyer could try to argue parallelism between BarnesAndNoble.com and DeBrand's, pointing out in minute detail the exact similarities between the two companies and their online sales technology, arguing that if one is in violation of the patent, then the other is definitively as well? By drawing common ground of the defendants' being "small cap" companies, why then target them? Is this possible grounds for dismissal or defense of any kind?

    -AAAWalrus

    PS - DeBrand's chocolates are nothing short of amazingly tasty. You see them around quite a bit in Indiana, and they're hard to pass up. If this pans out in favor of the good guys, it would be tasty justice indeed!
  • If you did get served with a notice from this company, what would happen if you just ignored them? It seems pretty obvious they would probably just ignore you, not really wanting the cost it would take to really go to court. Or even if they did, this is stupid enough you could represent yourself and have the whole thing cost very little.

    But if you did ignore them, what could they do to you?
    • I'm fairly certain that ignoring a lawsuit is not a good idea. If you do not defend yourself against a suit (or settle beforehand), the civil court that it was filed in will likely find in the plaintiff's favour. Then PanIP would be able to use all kinds of methods to remove the money they sued for (and won) from you, including forcing the sale of the company if necessary (or going after the company's owner(s) if it is not incorporated).

      The proper response is to offer to settle out of court or respond to the lawsuit. Since responding in this case means having to deal with a distant court, it would quickly (like, a day or two) be more expensive to respond than to just pay the ransom settlement. This is what they're counting on.

      However, it looks like PanIP found someone they didn't count on, a business that's decided to call them on their scheme. Though they don't say on their site, I'm betting that in addition to refuting the merits of the lawsuit (something that will be expensive but reasonably easy to do), they will also (all companies sued but didn't pay) collectively countersue for the frivolous lawsuit, with heavy punitive damages for PanIP and its owners.

      PanIP will very soon drop this lawsuit, claiming anything it can that the suit was an innocent mistake, and well, shucks, they're real sorry. They will hope that dropping the suit will nullify the countersuit that is coming (since they will claim that they corrected the situation). DeBrand and the others hopefully will persue the countersuit anyways to make an example of PanIP (and to get paid back in damages for legal bills already incurred).

      They had better succeed, too, because there needs to be some kind of serious retribution for this detestible practice of patent extortion.
  • by zentigger (203922) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:48PM (#4603064) Homepage
    It looks like a pretty good case could be made for extortion under the Hobbes Act. More details are available here. [usdoj.gov]

    The gist of it is something like this:
    1. Did the defendant induce or attempt to induce the victim to give up property or property rights?
    2. Did the defendant use or attempt to use the victim's reasonable fear of physical injury or economic harm in order to induce the victim's consent to give up property?
    3. Did the defendant's conduct actually or potentially obstruct, delay, or affect interstate or foreign commerce in any (realistic) way or degree?
    4. Was the defendant's actual or threatened use of force, violence or fear wrongful?

    Naturally item #4 is the tricky one, however: Generally, the extortionate obtaining of property by the wrongful use of actual or threatened force or violence in a commercial dispute requires proof of a defendant's intent to induce the victim to give up property. No additional proof is required that the defendant was not entitled to such property or that he knew he had no claim to the property which he sought to obtain. See United States v. Agnes, 581 F.Supp. 462 (E.D. Pa. 1984), aff'd, 753 F.2d 293, 297-300 (3d Cir. 1985) (rejecting claim of right defense to defendant's use of violence to withdraw property from a business partnership).

    So it would seem that PanIP has already behaved criminally by collecting money from other businesses through through the treat of financial damage! Arrest the bastards and throw them all in jail!!!
  • The American Constitution, or the Government, whatever, should be sued for giving citizens the right to sue anyone and to waste money in that. Because such lawsuits are making more harm in terms of time, money and human resources spent on them than anything else.

    Oh, the sweet taste of paradoxes! :)
  • by farrellj (563) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:11PM (#4603280) Homepage Journal
    They did "e-commerce" with NAPLPS terminals, and Ohio Scientific CP/M systems. Surely this is "prior-art"!

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • by gorbachev (512743) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:15PM (#4603323) Homepage
    There is a large Chicago based company owning a patent for shopping carts. All of them. This company is sending demand letters to extort money from small online businesses to supplement their revenue, which is down significantly due to the dot.com bubble bust. Allegedly the small businesses are rather paying the five figure sum than fight it out in courts. The company is purposedly avoiding going after bigger businesses that would have the money and the means to fight back.

    Amazon owns a patent for "one-click-shopping" and a bunch of other simple processes having to do with online commerce and is using its power to extort money from its competitors.

    What you can do about something like this is to boycott the services and products of such companies. Amazon has plenty of competition, so does the Chicago based company.

    Proletariat of the world, unite to kill unethical businesses
  • what irony... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozzy_cow (453986) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:24PM (#4603407)
    correct me if im wrong, but is USPTO's website http://patft.uspto.gov/ violating the patent it issued?

    if you go to to http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT O1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm &r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%275,576,951%27.WKU.&OS=PN/5,576, 951&RS=PN/5,576,951 [uspto.gov]

    now click add to cart and check out. isnt that violation of the patent right there? wtf?
  • Web Site Insecure (Score:3, Informative)

    by BrianWCarver (569070) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:53PM (#4603652) Homepage

    I was half-way through the checkout process at debrand.com, buying some nice chocolates to help support these guys in their fight. Then I noticed on the page where I'd put my credit card number...It's not encrypted. I sent them an e-mail about this and hopefully it'll be fixed soon. Just a warning to those who have also had the good idea that we can support them and score points with the wife/girlfriend/mom/grandmom/etc. at the same time!
  • Minitel has been around in France since 1980 (or was it before?), and had online booking/ordering facilities.... If anything is prior art, then this surely is....
  • by pompetti (549554) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @09:01PM (#4604244)
    The San Diego Union Tribune has an article in today's edition about PanIP. The writer asks questions why PanIP is only suing small companies outside of CA.
    Here's a link to the article http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/bauder /20021105-9999_1b5bauder.html
  • If anyone is in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area, stop in to either of DeBrand stores. If you have any sort of a sweet tooth, just entering their store will make your mouth water. They have some of the finest candies around and their hot chocolate ain't too bad either. On the other hand, if chocolate isn't your thing, don't bother. You'll be sick just opening the door from the chocolate aroma.

    While you are there buying something for your S.O., drop off a check for their defense fund. This is one of those times where the little guy is getting knocked down and hopefully in the end, he gets back up and beats the crap out of the bully.
  • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @09:39PM (#4604460)
    PanIP's nothing but a bully, and they won't stop until someone stands up to them.

    I know of a roughly analogous situation from a few years ago involving Starbuck's. This isn't precisely analogous because unlike PanIP, Starbuck's is an actual company doing actual business selling actual products that acutally has to worry about its reputation. But the point is that they continued what they were doing until one of the little guys they were beating up on stood up to them.

    I am acquainted with the monks of the All-merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery [vashonmonks.com] on Vashon Island, Washington. Like many monasteries, they have to have some source of income to support themselves. Generally this is a handcraft of some kind, but in this case it's coffee [vashonmonks.com]. Really good coffee, too. Among other roasts, they offer a seasonal blend called "Christmas Blend." So do many other small roasters. Trouble is, Starbuck's had trademarked "Christmas Blend" even though it sounds like a perfectly generic conbination of words, and a few years ago they decided to go after all the small roasters in the country who were using the phrase. Typically they would not only demand they cease and desist, but would demand all income (not just net profit) from the sale of anything called a Christmas blend. One of their victims on the East Coast overheard one of the Starbuck's lawyers remark, "We're going after the monks next," and gave the abbot a call.

    The financial effects of this on the monastery would have been disastrous. Fortunately for the monastery (but unfortunately for Starbuck's) the abbot is a reformed Berkeley hippie who knows perfectly well how to put together a grass-roots campaign, and so forewarned he prepared to do just that. His PR skill, their status as a nonprofit, public disgust with a huge corporation going after a bunch small businesses, the draconian nature of their demands, and the absurdity of a group of Christian monks being forbidden to use the name of one of their own holy days for one of their products, all combined to good effect. Editorials were written, cartoons were drawn, letters of support for the monks poured in, threats of boycott were made and carried out. In the end, Starbuck's wound up abandonning their campaign entirely and threw "Christmas Blend" into the public domain, which is where many thought it should have been in the first place.

    This, incidentally, is the sole reason I occasionally walk into a Starbuck's. Having once threatened to boycott them even though I had never been a regular customer of theirs, I feel I owe them some of my business since they capitulated.

    The point of all this (besides trying to put in a plug for the monk's coffee [vashonmonks.com]) is that it took only a single "little guy" standing up to Starbuck's to stop them in their tracks. It worked in this case, and it may very well work for DeBrand's against PanIP too.

  • by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @11:10PM (#4604933)
    I donated $5, and got this in reply:
    Wow! I was feeling pretty discouraged today after evaluating how much time this fight is taking me away from our business. I go from day to day wondering if the media is going to stay interested in this.

    After getting the slashdot post late in the day there was an outpouring of support including many financial contributions totaling over a thousand dollars. And more are coming in as I'm typing this. I can' begin to thank you enough for your support.

    I have a lot of fight in me because I believe in what I'm doing and I believe what PanIP is doing is wrong...if not criminal. The defendants that are joining me in this fight have no guarantee of the financial risk we're taking. We simply believe that if we don't stop PanIP now, it will only get harder after they've stung several hundred companies. I'm committed to fighting this so others won't have to deal with the disruption and hassles that I'm dealing with in our business.

    I was notified today that PanIP has sued me with a second law suit claiming basically that my web site is defaming their reputation. Can you believe that! Apparently they think they have a patent on free speech as well as e-commerce.

    Please stay tuned and help me spread the word. I need your help. We will win!

    Timothy Beere
    DeBrand Fine Chocolates
    www.debrand.com


    These guys really are pig-f*ckers, huh? Maybe someone can clue PanIP into the notion that you can't sue someone for telling the truth.

"Someone's been mean to you! Tell me who it is, so I can punch him tastefully." -- Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

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