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Patents Media Media (Apple)

No PodBuddy for iPod lovers 389

Posted by timothy
from the when-patents-suck dept.
dniq writes "It appears that DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) are using their patent #6,591,085 to keep a PodBuddy, designed by DVForge, a product, competing with DLO's TransPod, off the market. Another example where patents are interfering with innovation and in the end - the end users are suffering the consequences, because far more superior product can't see the light due to dirty tricks of the patent owners :("
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No PodBuddy for iPod lovers

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  • "One-click"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by darthpenguin (206566) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:32PM (#12915091) Homepage

    Wondering what the patent was all about, I did a search. Here is the Abstract:

    An FM transmitter and power supply/charging assembly electrically coupleable with an MP3 player. The assembly includes a modular docking unit having a main body portion with a docking cavity therein, wherein the main body portion contains the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry, with coupling means in the docking cavity for connecting the MP3 player with the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry, to accommodate FM transmission by the FM transmitter of audio content when played by the MP3 player in the docking cavity of the modular docking unit, and adapted for transmitting electrical power through the modular docking unit and the power/charging circuitry therein, for charging of a battery of the MP3 player and/or powering of the MP3 player.

    How about some patent reform? I thought these things need to be non-obvious...

    The full patent text is here: Patent #6,591,085 [uspto.gov]

    .
    • Re:"One-click"? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:38PM (#12915125)
      How about some patent reform? I thought these things need to be non-obvious...

      The patent system works. Yes, even for software patent. What the world needs however is patent reviewers that aren't orang-utang, actually verify the claims and the prior arts, and are given enough time to get familiarized with whatever the patent application is dealing with, and accept or reject said application fairly.

      With good reviewers, the one-click patent and the XOR patent would never have happened. With monkeys, they do, as well as silly obvious banalities like an FM transmitter.

      Perhaps adding a "patent meta-moderation" system like that of Slashdot, where professionals of the industry can deem a granted patent fair or unfair, and post additional comments, and allow a special USPTO committee to retroactively reject patents, would do the trick. An applicant would then apply for a patent, and know that for maybe 6 months or a year, the patent can be revoked.
      • Re:"One-click"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:43PM (#12915150) Journal

        A further requirement for the patent system to work is that it should be open to challenge without enormous financial resources.

        According to the designer's site, they believe that their product is not infringing on the patent, but can't afford the court case that would follow. Clearly this is a problem with the justice system.

        That said, the designer states that he offered to sell the design to the patent holders so that his work would at least see the light of day. If his product is not infringing, then he would be better off selling it to someone who could afford the court case. Just for the principle.

        • Problem? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mblase (200735)
          According to the designer's site, they believe that their product is not infringing on the patent, but can't afford the court case that would follow. Clearly this is a problem with the justice system.

          Actually, it's a problem with the high cost of legal expertise. And that's something that's simply unavoidable, because patent law isn't something you can brush up on in a summer mail-away course.

          The legal system works just fine. The world simply favors those who can buy things over those who can't, and to
        • Re:"One-click"? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zhe Mappel (607548)
          Good argument. However, little to nothing in the US justice system can be accomplished without spending a lot of money. Such is justice by and for the rich.

          What is needed immediately is for a white hat to endow a fund that would pay the legal bills for patent challenges.

          Elsewhere in this thread, a poster proposes using a meta-moderation system to weed out ridiculous patents. It's a sensible idea that, under our anti-meritocratic government, will never see the light of day. But such peer-based moder

      • Notice how poorly the metamoderation system works here. It is every so often abused by collusion on behalf of groups like the GNAA and others. They gang together to corrupt the system. That is surely what will happen to such a system involving patents rather than Slashdot postings. Not only that, but such peer review will lead to patent infringery. The reviewers, especially if professionals of the trade, will proceed to incorporate the innovations described by their patents into their products, and then wi
        • Well, but remember, such a system applied at the USPTO wouldn't have to be the same. Here, any old cretin can metamoderate (any old cretin can moderate too, in fact) since the system is entirely automatic.

          At the USPTO, they could implement a system where one or two persons max. per company, or per consumer lobbying group, can be registered as spokesperson for their own interest group. These people can then act as the counterweight the office needs. The USPTO would also have to review the criticism these gu
          • It's a noble idea, I will give you that. However, it sounds far too complicated to work well. Many of the problems with the patent system are due to the fact that it's a complicated beast. Complicating such a system even more will only result in further exploitation of the inherent flaws.
            • It's a noble idea, I will give you that. However, it sounds far too complicated to work well.

              Well, I'm just some Slashdotter and it's just some vague idea I have :-)

              Many of the problems with the patent system are due to the fact that it's a complicated beast. Complicating such a system even more will only result in further exploitation of the inherent flaws.

              The patent system is perhaps too complex, yes. But I don't think that's what prevents it from performing its function. I think the main problem is
              • Indeed, the lack of funds necessary to run the system properly is disturbing. For every missle used to blow apart an innocent child or woman in Iraq, the US could probably fund three or four full-time researchers to properly assess patent applications.

                The voluntary nature of involving professionals would be very beneficial. But more beneficial would be allocating funds away from the War Machine and instead towards the Innovation Machine.
      • Yes, even for software patent.
        No, NOT even for software patents, because software is already protected by copyright! You don't think authors get to patent their stories, do you?!
        • No, NOT even for software patents, because software is already protected by copyright!

          Why not? first off, copyright regulates the right to copy (hence the name), so it's another issue altogether. But imagine this: suppose I spend a lot of time and money developing some computing method that drastically reduce, say, the number of transistors in a CPU and its power consumption: why wouldn't I be able to patent my software method and make money out of it, if only to recoup my initial investment?

          I think you'
          • Re:"One-click"? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mrchaotica (681592) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:06PM (#12915635)
            Fine, then software shouldn't be copyrightable! The bottom line is that it's ridiculous to give software TWICE the protections, when no other industry gets the same privilage. So either software gets copyrights OR pathents, NOT both, or the woman who writes the Harry Potter books ought to be able to patent stories about magical school kids. That's the only fair thing to do, you know.
            • the woman who writes the Harry Potter books ought to be able to patent stories about magical school kids

              I believe that the Island of Japan already holds this patent.
          • Re:"One-click"? (Score:2, Interesting)

            suppose I spend a lot of time and money developing some computing method that drastically reduce, say, the number of transistors in a CPU and its power consumption: why wouldn't I be able to patent my software method and make money out of it, if only to recoup my initial investment?

            Because if I develop the said method independently without knowning of your patent, I would still be violating it. Which clearly shows how the patent system is obviously broken by design. If you were the first to come up wit

          • Re:"One-click"? (Score:5, Informative)

            by NickFortune (613926) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @05:13PM (#12916021) Homepage Journal
            first off, copyright regulates the right to copy (hence the name), so it's another issue altogether.

            Question: what do you suppose to be the purpose of software patents? You say in an earlier post that software patents work well. May I ask to what purpose?

            The conventional answer would be that patents serve to reward an inventor for his hard work. By granting a limited monopoly on the application of the inventors' work, he or she is guaranteed a chance to profit from his work. Oddly enough, copyright also affords a limited monopoly as a reward for hard work, this time over the the expression of an idea or concept.

            Both of these mechanism exist to reward creators by granting them a degree of control over their creation.

            So in what manner do you see these as being separate issues? Both mechanism serve the same purpose, copyright already applies to software and has worked well enough to make a certain Mr. Gates rich beyond description. So since copyright does the job, and since it seems to work, it would say that the issue of copyright might just have some relevance after all.

            Feel free to correct my logic if you find it lacking.

            suppose I spend a lot of time and money developing some computing method that drastically reduce, say, the number of transistors in a CPU and its power consumption: why wouldn't I be able to patent my software method

            Well, for a start, you just described a hardware innovation. Fewer transistors in a CPU == hardware, QED. No one is claiming that hardware should not be patentable.

            But complex, innovative, revolutionary methods can arguably be patentable to foster research and allow inventors to live off their inventions

            Except that all software innovation is an incremental approach. Programs build on onther programs - this is well known and has been understood for decades. Granting patents on software will slow innovation, not speed it. It will slow it because no one will work to inprove your idea. Add enough software patents and no one will do any work, since anyone can get sued for any one of a number of patents, possibly undeclared. Don't take my word for it, the afore mentioned Mr. Gates said so in writing, years ago.

            Of course, these days Mr. Gate's company has enough patents that they can cross licence them with IBM and the half dozen or so companies with a big enough portfolio to play. Everyone else better get a job with the big software companies though. And forget about open source coding. You may won the copyright, but they'll never let you use the code.

            A piece of software isn't a story. It's a computational method. More like a recipe.

            Which is significant, why, precisely?

            Can a recipe be patented? "Method and aparatus for making a really tasty lamb stew," perhaps? What is the fundamental property of a recipe, or a computational method for that matter, that means it should be entitled to a twofold grant of monopoly? Especially since the mechanism that requires the least work, the patent, is the one with the strongest protection.

            So:

            1. What do you suppose patents are for?
            2. What do think patents are for, if you think they work so well? What is their purpose?
            3. What perculiar property do you feel pertains to computational methods that distinguish them from any other creative work?
            4. What is it about software that justifes protection both under copyright and under patent?
            I'd really like to know how you answer these questions. You express your opinions with impressive force, but until you back them up with something of substance, opinions are all you have.
            • Re:"One-click"? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by gessel (310103) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @09:34PM (#12917266) Homepage
              This is the fundamental question: what are patents and copyrights for? The answer is right there, clearly in our constitution: "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts."

              Most people, most patent lawyers, most congress people, most patent holders, certainly all representatives of the copyright industry would love to erase those simple words.

              Because patents and copyrights are not, have never been about rewarding creators for the act of creation.

              It is this fundamental error, promoted by the copyright industry, that poisons copyright and patent law to consider inventions "property." We do not, as a people, offer inventors "embarrassing monopolies" on that which intrinsically cannot be subject to ownership, the "fugitive fermentations of the individual mind," as a reward and certainly not ever as a right.

              It is a mechanism by which we reward creators for sharing their work with us, for enriching the public domain, not for creating it in the first place. We as a society do not automatically gift inventors with ownership of their ideas, the very idea is preposterous, we grant them a temporary monopoly for the act of sharing. It is not the moment of invention, which is itself worthless to society, but about sharing an invention with society.

              This leads to the most obvious test: no copyright law, no patent law is constitutional if it does not optimize the value of the public domain. If so doing means revoking all patents and all copyrights than we the people have that right "without claim or complaint by anyone."

              If we applied that test the economically irrelevant entertainment industry would not be allowed to retard the progress of society with idiotic laws like the DMCA, laws which not only fail to meet the constitutional test but which obviously directly contradict it.

              As for patenting software vs. simply copyrighting it, the whole issue has become muddied. The reason for not issuing patents is that you cannot patent a discovery, that is something you did not actually invent but merely found. Mathematical algorithms are found, they always existed, they are not invented. Software loosely fits the category of an extended mathematical algorithm, but perhaps not usefully. The constitution provides a clear guide out of this seeming quagmire: if the public domain is most enriched by copyright protection, than copyright should be used; if the public domain is most enriched by patents, then patents should be used. If the public domain is most enriched by stripping all monopoly protection, then all monopoly protection must be stripped.

              Patents still reference their constitutional reason for being, unlike copyright anymore: patents speak of teaching the art in exchange for a temporary monopoly. Failing to properly teach the art (how to accurately and precisely implement the idea being protected, and to do so by the inventors best known method) is cause for revoking the patent. Copyrights are granted on inventions believed self-evident, so there's no parallel test. A book or song is the book or song, not the method of it's production (design patents are a bit of a fly in the ointment of this argument, but I'm choosing to ignore them). Copyrights were originally issued for 17 years, same as patents; it's an amazing testament to the power of graft that Disney and Grewshwin got their monopoly rights extended without showing any benefit for society.

              As for obvious and poor patents, there are complex issues as to the cost of litigation. It's not immediately clear who should pay the cost of careful review, though the cost of such review relative to the value of the system as a whole is small, and would seem a prudent investment for society, at least if the system would actually work for society instead of for the "special interests" that own the legislative process.

              If it were up to me:
              • Copyrights owned by the inventor (creator) would be for the life of the individual.
              • Copyrights transferred t
      • I like Rosco's application of /. like meta-moderation to an area where technology and litigation make the USPTO's job extremely huge.
        I do think that it should go a step further. As well as using meta-moderation to scope a larger base of information as to prior art and 'non-abviousness' it would also improve patent research (IMO).

        Going a step further would be to use meta-moderation to support research and apply community standards on the patent system. Perhaps use of the meta-moderation system would require
      • The incompetent examiners are part of the system. They routinely punt bad patents into effect, expecting that challenges will be worked out by the courts later. So they have no real accountability. The fact that they continue to do this, when the courts are clogged with bad patent complaints means their managers are also incompetent, as are the people at the top who are in a position to reform the system. Your metamoderation system for patent examination is a fix to the system, so of course even you admit t
      • Perhaps adding a "patent meta-moderation" system like that of Slashdot, where professionals of the industry can deem a granted patent fair or unfair, and post additional comments, and allow a special USPTO committee to retroactively reject patents, would do the trick. An applicant would then apply for a patent, and know that for maybe 6 months or a year, the patent can be revoked.

        You wouldn't call it a patent then. Maybe a probation period that is a step behind a valid patent until it is validated (i.e.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:41PM (#12915140)
      Their patent application infringes on my patented way of inducing sleep in children with a text containing over 100 consecutive words without a period.
    • From the patent:

      the main body portion contains the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry

      Here's a great way to avoid that patent: relocate the "FM transmitter" and/or the "power/charging circuitry" away from the "main body" of the device.

      This "innovative" patent is therefore easily avoided. Fire up the machinery and start shipping!
    • Reading the independent claims in the patent, they are not only blatantly obvious, but only refer to MP3 players. DVForge should simply get a patent covering application of this method to other audio players, then they can prevent DLO from making such a device...

      Or they can simply split the FM receiver from the docking unit.

      This is ridiculous. To me it looks more and more that these patents are only filed by people completely ignorant. If this had been intentional, they would not have used the word "M

      • Re:MP3 player? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bhtooefr (649901)
        Well, since the MP3 playing is a secondary function of the iPod (it's an AAC player that happens to play MP3s), they could fight it... However, it's the traditional big-business-wants-the-little-guy-out-so-they-sue - them-so-that-they-shrivel-up-because-of-legal-fees game. Microsoft's played it with Digital Research in a way - they did something that they knew would get them sued (have Windows 3.1 refuse to run on DR-DOS, and not for technical reasons). DR won the case, but the legal fees drove them under
    • An FM transmitter and power supply/charging assembly electrically coupleable with an MP3 player. The assembly includes a modular docking unit having a main body portion with a docking cavity therein, wherein the main body portion contains the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry, with coupling means in the docking cavity for connecting the MP3 player with the FM transmitter and power/charging circuitry, to accommodate FM transmission by the FM transmitter of audio content when played by the MP3 playe
  • PodBuddy vs TransPod (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Seumas (6865) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:32PM (#12915095)
    I'm conflicted about such things.

    I see the point in protecting someone who has an idea so that they can have time to research, develop, test, produce, market and distribute their products without a competitor moving in on their idea. That is, if I come up with a great idea and Microsoft finds out I'm working on it and puts all their clout behind their own version of the product and, thus, beat me to the punch simply because of their sheer size, it isn't fair and I would tend to say it isn't right.

    On the other hand, if people come up with an idea independently - meaning one did not steal the idea from the other - then whoever gets to market first gets to market first. Whoever dominates.. dominates. That's all there is to it.

    Of course, the problem is in proving that you came up with the idea on your own, too. So we have this silly patent system that only allows "one true originator" of an idea. And that seems to be stifling the ass off of innovation and progress.

    This PodBuddy thing seems like a reasonable idea. And it does seem unique enough to be excused from the patent (just a total layperson's opinion). It seems like the competition just doesn't want competition and it's sad that a country that prides itself on promoting innovation and small-business would so readily let one company just roll over the other to eliminate the competitive market. And not on any justifiable premise, either. Just "we have more money than you - you can't afford to contest us in court". And you're fucked.

    Then again, if the DVForge guys thought they had a chance, I would think they'd push it in court (they could always recover the costs, right?). So they must feel they are actually on shaky ground, too.
    • by DarthWiggle (537589) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <iwikcs>> on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:44PM (#12915159) Journal
      Concerning "recovering costs", no, the US does not have a loser pays system, so DVForge would bear all attorney's fees in a patent dispute. They might be reimbursed for "costs", which are things like filing fees, but which are a trivial amount compared to what the lawyers would charge.

      The problem with this is that the patent system now seems to be used to protect general categories of goods rather than *very* specific inventions. If DVForge was copying the other folks, then, yes, their patent should protect the other company. But patents were never meant to preclude improvements to an invention or independent inventions that accomplish the same purpose but with different mechanisms.

      As for stifling innovation, the sad irony is that patents were intended to *promote* innovation, by allowing inventors to invent and then profit from their invention. Nothing wrong with that. But now inventors are using patents to protect their profits from that item *and* to force other inventors not to try to improve the item.

      Stupid situation.

      In other news, I was wanting to buy one of those PodBuddy things, since the competitor's item is, frankly, ugly as sin, and I don't need the FM transmitter part (DVForge has one without the transmitter).
      • But now inventors are using patents to protect their profits from that item *and* to force other inventors not to try to improve the item.

        Actually the opposite is often true. If DVForge has something additional to add to the DLO invention, they can get a patent on that. This is the case even though DVForge would not be able to practice their invention without violating DLO's patent. If the additonal invention is truly worthwhile, it is possible that a cross-licensing deal can be reached. This happens all
        • I agree completely with what you're saying about the routes that DVForge can take to avoid DLO's patent.

          My point is that DVForge notes on their website that they cannot *afford* to challenge the patent, and that, despite the merit of their claim, they are surrendering to the threat.

          That's the BS thing here: the patent system should be protecting DVForge (or at least giving them the chance to make a good faith argument), but DLO is counting on DVForge's unwillingness to spend tens of thousands of dollars i
    • Then again, if the DVForge guys thought they had a chance, I would think they'd push it in court (they could always recover the costs, right?). So they must feel they are actually on shaky ground, too.

      Umm, if you don't the money up front to fund the court fight, you're screwed already.
      • There are attorneys who are willing to fight the good fight when they know they have the right case and don't demand everyone's first-born sons. They may not be plentiful, but they do exist.

        Create a portable which plays everything except MP3 would clearly not violate the patent. Unfortunately, the "everything except MP3" market isn't very big and I don't think you're going to suddenly see a shift in everyone's tastes unless something dramatic changes.
    • No, you cannot usually recover your costs in defending a patent claim.

      Also, the expense of defending this type of claim is on average $750,000 to trial and $1.5 through appeals. Just not worth it for the potential return.

      At least in this case the guys blocking them are actually shipping a similar product. Many times the patent holder hasn't made a product and does't intend to, they just want to make anyone who does pay. Sadly, these patent holders are often not interested in licensing a small company to m
    • by BackInIraq (862952) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @03:02PM (#12915284)
      Then again, if the DVForge guys thought they had a chance, I would think they'd push it in court (they could always recover the costs, right?). So they must feel they are actually on shaky ground, too.

      They wouldn't even recover court costs if they lose, and would need to pay for representation either way. And no, they probably wouldn't push it just because they thought they had a chance, because such legal battles are very high-stakes games.

      Imagine for a moment I walk up to you with one (six-sided) die. I tell you that 1-4 you win, 5 and 6 are mine. I'll give you even odds, so the edge is definitely yours. But the stakes are *everything you own*, and you only get to roll *once*. Would you take that? Really?

      Granted, in the legal system you might get to roll more than once...but appeals cost money. Money on top of what you've already spent for the original battle, which if you lost you probably don't have. Unless your lawyers are working pro-bono (which is unlikely in a patent dispute between businesses), this is an incredibly risky proposition, even if you think your case is solid. The smarter move for a small (an Apple or Microsoft would fight this in an instant, whether they thought they'd win or not) business is to just walk away.
  • Unbiased reporting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot (737704)
    Me thinks that someone may have a slightly anti-patent outlook on life. You are probably right, but generally I expect to see strong opinions down here in the comments section, not in the article itsself.
  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:33PM (#12915104) Journal

    If I have an idea for a device that hasn't been made before, I can patent the idea then openly market it without fear that someone else will come along and out-muscle me in the marketplace.

    It seems to me that the PodBuddy is a blatant copy (presumably it's the second-to-market given the other guys have the patent), with a sexier-looking arm for attaching it to the car. The functionality looks to be identical.

    You could argue whether the patent itself ought to have been issued (is it *really* a non-obvious invention?) but I don't think you can argue the patent-holder is doing anything wrong. I don't particularly like the idea of patents (especially software patents), but given we have them, it seems to me this is what they're supposed to be there for....

    Simon

    • by DarthWiggle (537589) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <iwikcs>> on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:51PM (#12915215) Journal
      Patents don't protect general functionality. Patents protect specific inventions. If patents produced a black box of functionality where the uniqueness was defined by outcomes rather than what happens inside the black box, the patent system wouldn't have lasted as long as it has. The current transmutation of the patent system into a system that protects outcomes (e.g., an arm-based digital media player mount with FM radio) rather than the specific elements that make it a unique and useful invention is threatening the real value that the patent system offers: providing inventors with an incentive to invent by protecting their profits from that specific invention over a short term.
      • It appears they do now.

        I agree its not how the system was intended to operate, but its how the system has 'morphed'.

        I'm afraid its going to get far worse before it gets better ( unless the big players come along and just take control, which in that case it WONT get better )

    • Hear hear. There's plenty of patent abuse around (especially in software patents), but this doesn't appear to be one of 'em... one company patents the idea, the other company cries foul, because, well, they want to use the patented idea.
      • Patents are intended to help the public by creating an environment in which those who develop ideas can recover money from their inventions thus there is an economic incentive to those inventors to develop new inventions. In this case DLO clearly spent $5K (if that much) on molds for their design and they clearly feel the PodBuddy would out class their product. If I was their attorney I'd advise them to license the patent and use the money from the PodBuddy license fees to develop new products, and be able
    • If I have an idea for a device that hasn't been made before, I can patent the idea then openly market it without fear that someone else will come along and out-muscle me in the marketplace.

      If you trully have an idea nobody else has thought of, how long will you have market share? Say you make a device that makes cars run off water. People put water in your device, and gasoline comes out of the other side. Forget about the fact that it is not possible, but you make a machine that pulls gasoline out of wa

      • Re:But how long? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Otter (3800)
        Except for the one year term (which you have decreed to be optimal without providing a shred of evidence as to why), what you said is precisely how patents work.
      • You are describing the way patents work (or are supposed to work). The idea is to be able to protect the little guy when he has a great idea like the one you describe. In this case maybe the guy will have the idea and the way to build a prototype, but not the means to build it in massive quantities. So another company comes in, one of the big guys, who can build it in massive quantities. If patents didn't exist, they would just copy the design and build the device and sell it and the little guy would get no
    • by chochos (700687) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:58PM (#12915265) Homepage Journal
      I agree. The PodBuddy manufacturers should just license the patent from these guys. Isn't that what you're supposed to do if you have a product similar to something that's already been patented? Software patents are bad for a lot of reasons, especially because it hinders open source software development because if the author of a program is giving it away with source code and is using something patented, there's no way he can give the patent holder any money. But in this case, the podbuddy won't be free in any way, so the manufacturers can pay the license to the patent holders and add that to the price of their product. I know the patent holders are suing (or threatening to sue) the podbuddy manufacturers, but isn't that the usual way of saying "we want something" in the US lately? An actor wants a raise on a series, he sues. The series producers want someone out, they sue. The patent holders want the manufacturer of a similar product to pay for the license, they sue... it's kind of stupid IMHO but it seems to me that this guys took it too seriously. I don't see anywhere in the text a mention of trying to license the patent (and I was kind of expecting to read about that but the patent holder putting a price too high or something).
    • I agree. All of the major complaints about patents are missing from this story. This isn't about software. This isn't about a company patenting something and then sitting on the patent - they actually have a product that they sell (which uses the patented technology).

      Where's the problem?
    • Blatant copy or not, the "invention" is so obvious, it's almost impossible NOT to run afoul of the alleged patent claims. In fact, I did it yesterday. The whole reason I'm at the office on a sunday reading slashdot is (because it's bloody hot today in Boston, my office is air conditioned and my house isn't...but the other reason is...) because I just yesterday built a power/signal cradle for my Nomad Zen, and needed to scrounge the lab for some connectory bits I can use to fake a Pioneer IP-BUS connector. [gutterslide.com]
  • Mistrust but Verify (Score:5, Informative)

    by TPIRman (142895) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:34PM (#12915108)
    This smells fishy to me. DVForge CEO Jack Campbell has a long, sordid history of dealing in bad faith with the Mac community and being... casual with the truth. He's also a publicity whore and seems awfully prone to legal woes if you buy his endless "I'm such a victim" sob stories. I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth without independent verification, and since the only source offered by the OP is Jack's own site, well...

    His spotty history is well-document in a MacInTouch special report [macintouch.com]. I'm not saying the story is false, but I'd seek verification.
    • He's also a publicity whore and seems awfully prone to legal woes if you buy his endless "I'm such a victim" sob stories.

      So he's basically Steve Jobs' long lost twin.

      (Recent Apple convert).
    • I was thinking it sounded a bit suspect when he said he offered DLO the rights to sell his product for the measly sum of the $20,000 he invested, then painting DLO as mean spirited when they refuse. I seems very reasonable to refuse to sell someone else's product through no means but a patent suit (it's not as if DLO bought them out or something.) And given the rather small fee Cambell was asking, it sounds like there may have been some other string attached... What if he wanted it to be sold as "Jack Cambe
    • Jack Campbell (Score:5, Informative)

      by ravenspear (756059) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @03:00PM (#12915275)
      His spotty history is well-document in a MacInTouch special report.

      Actually there was an entire website [jackwhispers.com] started just to inform people of his machinations.
    • by qengho (54305) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:38PM (#12915831)


      DVForge CEO Jack Campbell has a long, sordid history of dealing in bad faith with the Mac community and being... casual with the truth.

      He's also the jerk that offered a prize for writing a Mac virus. [slashdot.org] My heart bleeds for him...

    • by ZeissIcon (67281)
      There's something else very fishy here. There are already a number of products on the market that do the same thing as both of these products: for example [belkin.com], as well as this [xtrememac.com].

      IIRC, the condition of "prior art" will negate a patent, as will simply not defending a patent in court. Since the patent specifies "an MP3 player" and not "a 60 gig iPod Photo," products which do exactly the same thing for a shuffle or a mini should negate the patent strictly on the enforcemeent clause. By the way, I've bought one of
  • by Xshare (762241) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:35PM (#12915114) Homepage
    DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) are using their patent #6,591,085 to keep a PodBuddy, designed by DVForge, a product, competing with DLO's TransPod, off the market.
    Wow.... I don't even think Yoda could pull that off. Great job, Slashdot!

    • DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) are using their patent #6,591,085 to keep a PodBuddy, designed by DVForge, a product, competing with DLO's TransPod, off the market.


      I, a person, of natural birth, think, this use of commas, a form of punctuation, is ridiculous.

      Maybe this is the asthmatic kid from Malcom in the Middle submitting the story...

    • That's not Yoda grammar, that's James T. Kirk grammar.

      "...Podbuddy... designed by DVForge... a product... competing with DLO's Transpod... off the market"
  • by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsro&gmail,com> on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:37PM (#12915117) Journal
    Well for now and hopefully the future but that's a side point.
    This is a US patent and the device could be sold in Europe and other regions , allowing the US fans of the Device to import it , perhaps it will cost a little more but its better than nothing.
    • This is not about a software patent, and therefore has nothing to do with the current debate in Europe. It's just a known scammer [macintouch.com] whining about the fact that he's infringing on someone else's patent, and that the other party is exercising the rights it has as patent owner.
  • What assholes. (Score:3, Informative)

    by EvilStein (414640) <{ten.pbp} {ta} {maps}> on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:41PM (#12915138) Homepage
    "I want to let the many thousands of you who have contacted us since January about wanting a PodBuddy that I have asked Jeff Grady, the owner at DLO to produce the product for you. And, I have offered him all of our development work, prototypes, production tooling, intellectual property releases, several purchase orders we have here from national buyers, and, our entire list of email inquiries from folks like you. Our price to Jeff?... the $23,000 we have invested in just the hard injection mold tooling. His answer?... No way. He is not interested."

    So, he said "Ok, then you make the product, since you've got the patent for it.." and they said "No, not interested."

    The patent system allows patents for products that you have *no interest* in producing.

    Our patent system sucks, that's for sure.

    But, maybe DLO isn't interested because they already make a similar product. I didn't see that mentioned in the dvforge article..

    "DLO TransPod FM
    All-In-One Car Solution - Silver Edition
    Item #: w009-2002s

    Price: $99.99

    The DLO TransPod is the only car accessory an iPod owner will ever need. Now in Silver"

  • Damn it, I didn't hit "Preview" first on my other post. Anyway, it appears that DLO/everythingipod already makes a *very* similiar product.

    It appears that DVforge is making (or not making) a nearly identical product.

    "DLO TransPod FM
    All-In-One Car Solution - Silver Edition
    Item #: w009-2002s

    Price: $99.99

    The DLO TransPod is the only car accessory an iPod owner will ever need. Now in Silver"
    • They have similar functions.

      One looks like a piece of shit sticking out of your dash, at inconvient lengths and angles.

      The other one is sheer beauty, articulate, allows for a skin or small protective case to still be on your ipod.

      The DLO is a hunk o' shit.
  • by ravenspear (756059) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:45PM (#12915165)
    Another example where patents are interfering with innovation and in the end - the end users are suffering the consequences, because far more superior product can't see the light due to dirty tricks of the patent owners

    I must take issue with this.

    This description is exactly what patents were designed to do, protect the original product from imitators that intrude on its market position. Regardless of how you feel about software patents, in this case the patent concerns an actual product. So I would disagree with your logic of this being "another example" assuming you are referring to the previous patents covered on Slashdot almost all of which were software related. This is a different scenario, and one where I think patents are useful and necessary. Which brings me to my next point.

    Whether this harms consumers is another issue. I would say it does and it doesn't. It does in the sense that if PodBuddy is indeed a superior product they will of course not be able to buy it and will have to settle for the inferior original. However, it benefits consumers in another way. That is, if we had no patent system and anyone could produce anything they wanted without restriction you may not have been able to buy either product. If the makers of TransPod had not had the incentive of a patent in developing their product, it may never have been developed and PodBuddy would not have been made to one up it.

    Patents are a useful tool in protecting legitamite inventions and they do serve to create innovation there. Of course, whether TransPod qualifies as a legitimate invention is another matter entirely which I haven't touched on. But the point is don't just respond with a knee jerk reaction to any story about someone utilizing a patent with the assumption that they are a greedy monopolist, or patents in general are necessarily bad, etc.
    • Absolutely. I'd mod you up if I hadn't already commented on this thread. Patents are getting a bad rap on /. and the like lately... and while it's certainly true that there are patent abuses (especially in the software area), this doesn't look like one to me.

      And I'll agree with the earlier posters: let's at least *try* to keep the editorializing out of the original posting, m'kay?
    • by nelziq (575490)

      That is, if we had no patent system and anyone could produce anything they wanted without restriction you may not have been able to buy either product.

      So far as I know, this is a broadly held but entirely baseless assumption. There is no empirical research showing that patent protection causes more innovation being available to the consumer. See http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/again st.htm [dklevine.com] for a more complete treatment.

      • That's why I said "may not have been able to." I don't know if it has been scientifically proven but it is generally agreed upon by a majority of economists that it does promote innovation in some sense (not referring to software patents).
    • This description is exactly what patents were designed to do, protect the original product from imitators that intrude on its market position.

      No they're not designed to protect original products. They're designed to provide incentives in the form of a temporary monopoly to researchers who disclose their inventions 'To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts'.

      You'd know that if you had even had the slightest cursory look at patent law; it's basis in the US Constitution.

    • by Arker (91948) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:22PM (#12915726) Homepage

      I think you're wrong. The purported purpose of patents would be to promote the arts and sciences by granting a limited time monopoly in exchange for important disclosures.

      The patent application makes no disclosures that advance the state of the art that I can see. And anytime you have a completely independent invention (which this seems to be) forced off the market by a patent holder, the purpose patents are supposed to serve is clearly not being served.

  • Get rid of patents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Seminal (698722) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:46PM (#12915169) Journal
    We have been informed by DLO that they consider our PodBuddy to be an infringement of their company's U.S. patent #6,591,085, and, that they will file suit against us, if we launch the PodBuddy.

    We disagree with DLO's claim, and, we believe that our PodBuddy is so utterly different from their company's TransPod product that there can be no question of infringement. But, we are not able to fund the sort of protracted legal battle that would be required to prove our point in court. So, we are forced to kill the PodBuddy.

    So a small company has a product, gets a letter threatening a lawsuit, and they fold because they can not afford a lawyer?

    I sure hope Walmart never takes this approach.

    Come to think of it, I wish they did. They should have patented the mail in rebate.

    I want to let the many thousands of you who have contacted us since January about wanting a PodBuddy that I have asked Jeff Grady, the owner at DLO to produce the product for you. And, I have offered him all of our development work, prototypes, production tooling, intellectual property releases, several purchase orders we have here from national buyers, and, our entire list of email inquiries from folks like you. Our price to Jeff?... the $23,000 we have invested in just the hard injection mold tooling. His answer?... No way. He is not interested.

    What? He can't sell his product, so he wants to sell his email addresses.

    My statement to Jeff was that the PodBuddy would likely sell about five times as many units as his TransPod. And, that, if we can't build it, then he should build it. After all, he's the one using a patent to keep a better, more desirable competitive product off the market.

    Now this is where I would like to hear from a lawyer. What if I have an idea. I have no plans to make this idea come to market, but I have an idea. Can I patent it and sit on it, like some people who buy websites and force a third party to pay a huge fee to buy it?

    And what about ideas that would naturally come to everyones mind? What if someone patented air conditioning in cars as blowing cold air? Or if someone patented cordless phones? There seems to be so many things which could be patented, then we would have only one choice in the market. Didn't the Sherman Act pass to stop these kinds of things from happening?

    It seems to me the more wording lawyers add to make patentes less prohibitive, the more prohibitive they get because only a lawyer will be able to support or defend a claim. We should just do away with patents all together. Let anyone who can build a product. Let the best product, the best priced product, and the one with most quality win. I bet the original will still gain market share for being first. After that they will have to compete. What is wrong with that??

    • by mathkicks (895227)
      You can just sit on a patent if you have no plans to introduce a product, but that normally won't benefit you. One thing that patents are good for is being licensed to other parties. It would be a very bad business decision to not license a patent if you didn't plan to produce a product based on the patent.
    • by slashkitty (21637)
      Our JamPlug products are patent-pending implementations of a clever, but very simple idea: one musician, one instrument, one connection. The JamPlug mission is to create tiny, convenient products that interconnect one instrument, one microphone, one channel of sound. And, the growing family of JamPlug products presented here is a good look at the direction that we are headed with this brand.

      So it looks like DVForge is patenting their other ideas. It means they know about patents and can afford the lawyer

  • by Adrilla (830520) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:47PM (#12915179) Homepage
    DLO seems to be acting like true dicks in this matter, the people are basically giving the design away to let DLO produce and they still gave DVForge the cold shoulder. A last ditch effort might include proposing a sub-contracting deal with DLO; Basically DVForge can build and sell and probably even market the product themselves, but put it under the DLO brand name and the two parties could split revenue. I know the idea sounds like DVF is getting the shaft, but they seem like they're much much more interested in getting the product out to the market than making money. This way DLO doesn't have to do much, if any work and spend little to no money on the product but bring in basically, free revenue. If the product is as good as the DVF guys say it is, then DVF can recoup their R&D funds, plus some (depending on the percentage of returns they get). I'm not even sure if DLO will accept the proposal, but the DV guys seem like they're at the point of desperate measures, and this is something they should at least ask about if they have that much faith in their product and really want it on the market that bad.

    Extreme last ditch tactic. Rename it "The Star Trek Ipod holder", then complain how "DLO is cancelling our product" and tell them you don't have the funds for a lawsuit and let the Trekkers shell out money for your legal defense.
    • What is so much better about the PodBuddy that DLO would want to invest $23,000 + the cost of starting a new production line for it. I think Jack Campbell(DVForge) is being unrealistic here. He didn't bother to do any research in his only competition before investing in creating a nearly identical product.

      From the article: "have offered him[DOL's CEO] all of our development work, prototypes, production tooling, intellectual property releases, several purchase orders we have here from national buyers, and
  • by asdfasdfasdfasdf (211581) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:48PM (#12915199)
    The DLO Transpod FM [compusa.com] is available today, and it looks a whole lot like the iPod buddy. Sure, theres also has the fancy mounting device, but the rest of it looks like a direct rip of the Transpod-- right down to the LCD display with the FM frequency.

    I think this is a situation where the patent system works. The guy has prior art and a patent, what more could you want? The podbuddy people are free to patent a device that attaches an ipod to a cigarette lighter which is used as the anchor-- and they would probably be granted the patent. Then, it's up to them to license the technology if the patent owner allows it, or STFU.

    This guy is a whiner, and leave it to Timothy to come up with yet another unresearched, POS article.

    I hope that guy doesn't get paid.
  • by CODiNE (27417) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:49PM (#12915201) Homepage
    I recently bought one of these babies :
    http://www.tristatecamera.com/LookAtAll-4g7uwbnl-C TAIPCAK-4-0054-0-store.php.html [tristatecamera.com]
    For my wife's iPod Mini... works great, was really cheap, and seems to be pretty similar to what's being blocked right now. I haven't seen the TransPods patent info yet, but is this one allowed since it doesn't sit on a movable tube or is that patent simply for all FM cigarette adaptor chargers? There's GOTTA be prior art on this, if they explicitly patented the idea of an iPod car charger with an FM tuner I can image Apple getting pretty pissed since they want as many iPod compatible products as possible. Yeah, I'd complain to Apple and they'd probably have a nice little chat with DLO about this.
  • by grqb (410789) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:50PM (#12915208) Homepage Journal
    This is what patents are for! Everybody in their right mind knows that they should be doing a patent search before coming up with a technology like this. The patent was filed on July 17 2002, it's DVForge's own fault.
  • ... and, for what it's worth, it works great. I find the patent pretty dodgy (how is this fundamentally different than a CD holder with built-in FM transmitter?) but it is a good product. Works a darn sight better than the iTrip I used to own, which worked only slightly better than a small, white turd.
  • or does the patent seem to emphasize that the mount takes place in a "cavity." All potential puns aside, the PodBuddy does not has said cavity, from which all other claims derive. It should be open and shut.
  • "Anyone who would *not* lie to protect their business from an attacking competitor is suspect in my mind" ~ Jack Campbell (of DVForge)

    (taken from http://www.jackwhispers.com/catchIV.html [jackwhispers.com])
  • Knowing John Carpenter, the podbuddy probably doesnt exist, or perhaps work properly, or is of really low quality (like those horrible, horrible MacMice) and John's probably trying to find a way to pass the blame onto something other than his company's incompetance.
  • It is making lots of money for lots of lawyers. What kind of people do you think structured the whole thing anyway? This protection of inventions etc stuff is secondary for sure, almost irrelevant. It's just a convenient framework for their machinations. Patents only have their (original) intended effect over people who *want* to do what's right - QED.
  • the second product is clearly a knock-off of the first. Patent system is working as it should in this case, move along.

    Besides which, it's hardly rocket-science to put together something like this without infringing the patent -- perhaps even with a compelling feature like non-iPod-specificity. That way those of us with better players can use it now, and the iPod owners can use it next year when the little interface at the bottom changes pin-outs.
  • Vintage Jack... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jpellino (202698) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @07:18PM (#12916698)
    "My statement to Jeff was that the PodBuddy would likely sell about five times as many units as his TransPod."


    Hype and bluff. Sliver-tongued as ever.


    "And, that, if we can't build it, then he should build it. After all, he's the one using a patent to keep a better, more desirable competitive product off the market."


    Erm, he's exercising his rights under the patent granted. Just like you would. And a patent search could have saved you all of this nonsense.

    "It seems to make sense to just let the guy have it, if he's so scared of the PodBuddy being sold. I would rather do that than have thousands of our customers disappointed, and, see such a terrific product just die."


    It's not your call, Jack. He's the one with the rights, you didn't do your homework. This inching your toe right up to the name-calling line is typical.

  • by adzoox (615327) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @09:19PM (#12917207) Journal
    One should read here:

    The True History Of Jack Campbell and MacMice/DVForge: A Lie Each Week [blogspot.com]

    I have been unbiasly advocating against this guy for 3 years now. His scams, lies, and illegal activity is corroding the entire 3rd party Apple peripheral industry. He is costing companies such as Griffin and DLO nightmarish litigation and security concerns.

    He breaks dozens of Apple trademark naming rules.

    I applaud DLO's actions - they are the first of MANY that are about to really sock it to him from the buzz I have been collecting on my BLOG.

    The ONLY reason no one (including Apple) has taken action so far - he has been relatively insignificant and is so deep in debt that if sued - would be a waste of effort.

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