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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 @01:32PM (#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]

    .
  • Mistrust but Verify (Score:5, Informative)

    by TPIRman (142895) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @01:34PM (#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.
  • 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.
  • What assholes. (Score:3, Informative)

    by EvilStein (414640) <spam@@@pbp...net> on Sunday June 26, 2005 @01:41PM (#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"

  • by CODiNE (27417) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @01:49PM (#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 DarthWiggle (537589) <sckiwi@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 26, 2005 @01:51PM (#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.
  • Jack Campbell (Score:5, Informative)

    by ravenspear (756059) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:00PM (#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 scotty1024 (584849) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:04PM (#12915297)
    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 to spend maybe $20K on their next design off the backs of the PodBuddy sales.
  • by nelziq (575490) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @02:26PM (#12915407)
    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.
  • by qengho (54305) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @03:38PM (#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) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @03:49PM (#12915900)
    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 each of these, and they both totally suck. The FM transmitters are basically useless. They do keep it charged, though.
  • Re:"One-click"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by NickFortune (613926) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:13PM (#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:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:45PM (#12916174)
    Considering the number of patent-related stories that appear on Slashdot, the community should not, yet again, need to be beaten with a clue-by-four. But of course it does...

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

    Guess what -- IT IS A REQUIREMENT THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN MET.

    Look at this link

    http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee2005 mar15.htm [uspto.gov]

    Read the section entitled "Post Issuance Fees"

    Ex parte reexamination $2520
    Inter partes reexamination $8800.

    Now look at this link

    http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title35/partiii_c hapter30_.html [gpo.gov]

    Read each and every subsection. The first five are the most important with respect to this problem.

    If your art is so killer, and you can read simple instructions, it will cost you a grand total of $2520, photocopying, and postage to have the government do the hard lifting for you.

    If you don't trust the government, and you can write a simple legal argument (in all likelihood you can't, because if you couldn't do the research to find this then you have little hope of doing research to find the standards for various kinds of patent invalidity), it will cost you a grand total of $8800, photocopying, postage, and the opportunity cost of the time that you're not spending on Slashdot whining about the evil patent system ($0) to be able to read and rebut any argument that the evil patent holder presents to overcome your not-killer-but-close prior art.

    If you run an actual business and have better things to do, then you hire an attorney at the rate of $150-200/hr to either warn you off because your prior art is not going to achieve what you think it will achieve, or to present a professional argument backed by research and worthwhile citations to precedent.

    If you cannot afford $3k-$10k, or more, then frankly you're not doing a business that is in any danger of being sued for patent infringement. Pre-emptive anti-lawyer, anti-patent whine response: Forming a business costs money, buying or renting a workplace costs money, buying equipment costs money, hiring staff costs money, paying workers comp and unemployment insurance costs money, and, in the rare case where a patent may be a problem, patent clearance or other efforts are going to actually cost money too. Grow up and deal with it.
  • by adzoox (615327) * on Sunday June 26, 2005 @08:19PM (#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.

  • Re:"One-click"? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2005 @08:32PM (#12917258)
    No, you can't see why I post as an anonymous coward.

    I post as an anonymous coward because I'm a patent attorney, and I don't wish to invite liability for my posts if some random idiot decides that my political argument constitutes particularized legal advice. You aren't liable for what you've written on this topic, so why should I be liable for what I've written?

    Response to your first thing: So what - it's routine to have a patent infringement suit stayed while a patent is in reexamination proceedings before the USPTO. You act as if the people who founded the entity d/b/a DVForge, hired employees to design their product, and manufactured and/or arranged manufacturing of the product have never had to work with an attorney. Don't be so naive. One answer (caption, paragraphs of "Denied", and a laundry list of affirmative defenses) and one motion to stay (two pages of text) are not the significant costs that you're making them out to be.

    Also, what does "even non-commercial development of similar items is an infringement" mean? I know what it means to me - you're trying to scare everyone with visions of gigantic dollar signs. However, this is not a RIAA/MPAA copyright suit, and the patent holder cannot demand $150,000 for each and every song/movie/doohickey. Instead, unless DVForge was aware of the patent claims, DVForge is liable for, at most, a "reasonable royalty". 35 U.S.C. sec. 284. There is going to have to have been one heck of a lot of non-commercial development for it even to be worthwhile to pursue an infringement suit as opposed to mailing a cease-and-desist letter. Plus you've presumed that the development has created actual products that are within the United States. *scoff* Royalties on a couple dozen development prototypes are sure to be scary when the product's manufactured in China.

    Response to your second thing: Duh. If the prior art is as good as the whining on Slashdot would have you believe, then hiring an attorney will not be necessary because it will be self-evident. This would be a patent under reexamination, not an initial filing. The rulings are given greater scrutiny by the group leaders in the USPTO and any determination can be appealed before a very experienced group of examiners within the USPTO.

    If the prior art isn't as good as that, then yes you/DVForge will have to hire a patent attorney. Imagine that. See the end of my post two levels up. The small-businessman-harassed-by-evil-attorneys image that you've constructed is a crock. Every significant business works within a scheme of local, state, and federal regulations which requires legal filings and legal advice, unless that business is so routine that you can get away with filing a handful of forms supplied by your State government (and many chose to use an attorney when establishing those businesses as well).

    Unless you are licensed to practice before the USPTO and you've gone through both reexamination and patent litigation, you are in no position to tell me to "grow up". I have never claimed that spending money on attorneys will not improve your chances of achieving your goals, but it is out and out fraud to suggest that these supposedly "clear" cases of bogus patenting cannot be rectified by someone willing to spend four figures.

    But do go on, as a practicing patent attorney I love to hear amateurs tell me how the system "REALLY work[s]".

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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