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Eminent Domain Applied to IP Due To State Secrets 312

Posted by Zonk
from the we-could-use-this dept.
NormalVisual writes "Wired recently ran a story about a group of inventors that found themselves unable to sue Lucent Technologies for infringement of a patent they held on a novel design for a pipe/cable connector. They had been working with Lucent on an underwater application for this connector, but unfortunately for the inventors, Lucent's application was being developed for an as-yet-unnamed branch of the U.S. government. The government is now claiming a state-secret privilege, and is refusing to let the inventors sue Lucent for patent infringement, citing national security concerns. In the meantime, Lucent continues to directly profit from their invention without paying any royalties or other compensation. The patent in question can be found online. It's doubly a shame because, unlike so many other patents that we've seen here, this one is actually creative and non-obvious." We've touched on this topic before.
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Eminent Domain Applied to IP Due To State Secrets

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  • Sweeeeet! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by denissmith (31123) * on Friday September 23, 2005 @04:52PM (#13633056)
    So we want Chinese peasants to pay to watch "Steamboat Willie", but real, live inventors are SOL. God, what a country!
    • Patents and Copyrights...two different things, unfortunately while the PTO and US Gov't have worked to prevent grand abuse to the patent system over time to limit the life (originally companies would file continuation applications to get tons of extensions, system use to be 17 yrs from allowance, it is now 20 from original filing), Congress has managed to do almost the exact opposite to the copyrights, in large part because large companies have been pushing for extensions to keep making money off their belo
  • Our government. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xilet (741528)
    Ah yes our current government, ever the defender of the small business and common man.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 23, 2005 @04:56PM (#13633084)
    Sounds more like theft than eminent domain. With eminent domain, the government takes your stuff but has to give you market value for it. Here, they're just taking patents away from the inventor. OK, maybe not taking away, but denying the holders of that patent the right to use it in this specific case, which is just as good as taking it away.
    • by abb3w (696381) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:16PM (#13633321) Journal
      Goverment declares that the patent has state secrecy implications. Government exercises emminent domain over the patent, and pays them a "fair" (well, laughable) sum. Patent spends the rest of its natural(?) life on a shelf, military applications aside. Lucent and the Government are happy, and the inventor at least is resigned to a clear foundation for the decision in the letter of the constitution (5th amendment).

      Of course, doing this would make major patent holders a little more nervous, but it's still a more equitable resultion under the rule of law than "no, you can't sue him, even though you're getting screwed." In the meanwhile, all these guys can do under the current mess is fall back on "peacable petition for redress of grievances"... which is not likely to be effective in this political climate.

    • They're *supposed* to give you fair market value, but as the recent cases involving Wal-Mart, etc. have shown, that "fair market value" is often nothing of the sort, and equates to theft just as much as the situation in the article. "Eminent domain" in the headline was intended to be seen in that context, not necessarily in the strictest definition of the term.
    • by billstewart (78916) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:17PM (#13633335) Journal
      The Constitution forbids taking private property for public use without just compensation. If the Feds want to take the "intellectual property" for "National Security" or whatever reasons, they are required to compensate them - assuming the patent owner files a lawsuit in the right form asking the right questions. Doesn't sound like they've done that yet.
      • And what are they supposed to say?

        "I'd like compensation for DELETED, which consists of DELETED, and is worth DELETED on the market, because it's comparable to DELETED which costs DELETED yet is better because of DELETED improvements."
    • by jfengel (409917) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:18PM (#13633347) Homepage Journal
      They're not claiming eminent domain, and the original article doesn't mention it; that's from the summary written by the submitter.

      They're claiming instead something called the state secrets privilege [wikipedia.org], which has nothing to do with property (intellectual or otherwise) but rather with quashing the lawsuit. Eminent domain has to do with real, not intellectual, property, since it is a "taking", and as is incessantly pointed out on Slashdot you can't "take" intellectual property.

      What that big state secret is, of course, I can't say, since most of the filings in the case are (duh) secret.

      In other words, the government isn't claiming that it has any rights to the patent; it's just claiming that the guy isn't allowed to sue, because that would violate some big state secret.

      So they get to use the patent, with no legal right to it, but what kind of right is it that you can't enforce under the law? No right at all. Sound like a totalitarian regime to you? Gold star!
      • Eminent domain has to do with real, not intellectual, property, since it is a "taking", and as is incessantly pointed out on Slashdot you can't "take" intellectual property.

        Too bad, because then we could have some precendence for squatters rights wrt intellectual property. Like say, if you provide a bittorrent seed of a copyright work for 2 years without any legal intervention from the copyright owner, you could then claim copyright over the work yourself as an ip squatter.
      • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) on Friday September 23, 2005 @06:48PM (#13634112) Homepage
        The patent infringment part of the suit was dropped, not due to state secrets, but because there is a Federal law that states use by the government is not an actionable infringement.

        They have most of their evidence eexcluded for the remainder of their case (trade secret and breach of contract) because it is claimed it endangers national security. It may be false, in which case it is an injustice, or true, in which case disclosure would harm national security - many people can be dead - if we can't intercept when and where Al Qaeda plans to nuke us (look up "Americam Hiroshima"), it could be millions. Since this possibly deals indirectly with tapping undersea fiber cables, that isn't far fetched. I live in Las Vegas, one of the cities Al Qaeda has its eyes on - I believe in freedom - but we need to protect Americans. Again, the gov't can be lying, or telling the truth, I, and you all, don't know which.

        A public trial, even with the evidence already made public, could help the enemy piece things together in a coherent whole. Much of intelligence isn't just the pieces of the puzzle, but how they fit. A trial may provide that and make the puzzle "come together" and be much more useful to the enemy.

        I'm afraid that even this Slashdot story might help those we don't want helped.

        As for the inventors, they have not had the trade secret and breach of contract dismissed. Judges might allow them to recover if they have other evidence and they might be willing to give them leeway because they had evidence they can't use.

        As far as I can tell, they are free to license the patent to others and sue them if they infringe. The application must have other uses and it appears they still have full rights in that area. Eminent domain is wrong, they still have their patent - they just have a compulsory license (which most of us like when it comes to music, etc and the public) to the government and their trade secret and breach of contract suits are impeded. Not good, and Lucent should honor contracts (if they are or they aren't I don't know) in any event.

        If you wrote software, and one client got to use it without paying you and you had no recourse it would be bad, but if you have full rights in regards to other clients you'd likely be OK.

        Why did the inventors only deal with Lucent?

        The patented invention wasn't made secret, the patent is still available on the gov't own site!

        • Article I Section 8: "The Congress shall have Power ....To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"

          It does not say that Congress has the power to exempt the government from respecting the exclusive rights they have already secured for the inventor - otherwise it would mean the right was not in fact exclusive. Still less does it say that the government can exempt some corporation o
    • by john82 (68332) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:29PM (#13633448)
      The difference here is that Lucent is PROFITING from IP they stole from the inventors. There's nothing they can do while Lucent will continue to commit theft in (likely) an ongoing sole-source contract to provide connectors.

      Perhaps the inventors should talk to someone from the Global Intellectual Property Rights Academy [slashdot.org]?
  • Ridiculous. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reality-bytes (119275) on Friday September 23, 2005 @04:57PM (#13633101) Homepage
    If its a foregone conclusion that the 'Government Agency' are using this tech as provided by Lucent then I don't see how 'state secret' can be a problem (or excuse).

    If the 'Government Agency' is allowed this holier-than-thou stance then the plaintiff should just be able to ask: Are you using our tech as provided by Lucent? The agency can then just say yay or nay.

    I'm pretty sure the value of the defence contract for Lucent isn't any kind of secret so the courts should award a *fair* share of that ammount to the plaintiff if it is found that Lucent infringed their IP.
    • More importantly, since the patent is a matter of public record, there isn't much secret about it. And why would a lawsuit expose the secret government project? It's about Lucent not paying royalties. Unless the 'secret' project is the ONLY means Lucent is profiting from it, there should still be evidence to take the case to court.

      =Smidge=
      • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:3, Informative)

        by OldAndSlow (528779)
        RTFA. Lucent developed something on top of the patent. Lucent offered the inventors 100K$ royalty for 1000 of the things that Lucent developed. The inventors refused, sued, and started supoening documents. That is when the Feds intervened. If the documents were classified (and most things about water-tight couplers for fiber optic cables are likely classified, then the inventors are just bone-stupid.)

        Again from TFA, if the only customer for a device is the government, the device is immune from patent

    • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MindStalker (22827)
      Apparently its established law that government contractors can steal IP when working on secret projects. This law was created to protect contractors from having to reveal the fact that they are using this technology. Lucent made to attempt at hiding their uses, they just decided to abuse the law to avoid paying. The courts immediently sided with Lucent simply because the law was written without any exceptions so Lucent go away with this easily. The patent holders then sued under breach of contract and such,
    • Well, then, the agency could just say "nay", even if they were using it, and the case could go no further because nobody's allowed to divulge the details. So what would be the point?
      • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by danharan (714822)
        If the government allows contractors to consistently screw subcontractors of their IP, why would anyone want to keep subcontracting? If subcontractors decide to stop volunteering, what will that do to your military capacity?

        The right thing to do from a moral standpoint is to do as the grandparent says: have the government discuss that a tech is used without getting into details. Value of the contract and/or the contribution would help the judge establish a fair compensation.

        As it turns out the moral thing i
    • "I'm pretty sure the value of the defence contract for Lucent isn't any kind of secret..."

      That's funny.

      For one thing, they haven't specified the department. Second, there is tons of gray money in the US budget that just kinda "disappears" in the name of national security.

      "...so the courts should award a *fair* share of that ammount to the plaintiff if it is found that Lucent infringed their IP."

      Unfortunately, without the full details of the contract (and possibly even with), we have no way of kno
  • by MrLint (519792) on Friday September 23, 2005 @04:58PM (#13633111) Journal
    So can someone tell me which criteria of fascism we haven't had happen yet.
    • Somewhat on topic, The Daily Show last night had a hilarious suggestion for determining who wins the recent evenly-split German elections [wikipedia.org]: the first person to burn down the Reichstag [wikipedia.org] wins!

      It's left up to the reader to decide if that kind of fascism has happened here yet.

    • Festive hats.

      /still waiting
    • Care to tell me which criteria of fascism [wikipedia.org] has happened here yet?
      • Geez, didn't you even READ the Wikipedia article?

        Quote: Fascism was typified by attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life.

        That sounds EXACTLY like what is happening in the US (and other countries) even as we speak. And all in the name of "freedom", which is not EVEN an ironic joke.
        • Really? You can't tell the difference between a state-controlled life and what we have?

          Sad. I'm not claiming the US gov't is perfect. I'm just saying the "commie worship" on slashdot seems to be blatently out of control lately.

          "How dare the state control everything? I want my free healthcare!"
          • Really? You can't tell the difference between a state-controlled life and what we have?

            Man, you just don't get it (and you should; enough other people have pointed out points I chose to skip). I repeat, try READING the article. Notice how it does not say anything about HAVING a state-controlled life. It says typified by ATTEMPTS TO IMPOSE STATE CONTROL.

            And if you can't see where that is happening (can you say Patriot Act, for example?), then there is clearly no point in trying to further your education.
          • by Savantissimo (893682) * on Friday September 23, 2005 @09:00PM (#13635160) Journal
            The Roman fasces (root of the word fascist) consists of an axe within a bundle of rods, bound by a red strap. As a symbol of state power, the rods were for beating prisoners, the axe for decapitating them.

            This emblem on Mussolini's flag of office, the symbol of his Partito Nazionale Fascista, and the the present Guardia Civil (Franco's jackbooted thugs) can also be found on the the 1916-1945 US dimes, the Lincoln memorial chair; all over the US Capitol, including multiple copies on the Speaker's rostrum, the National Guard insignia, etc, etc,
      • by The Angry Mick (632931) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:25PM (#13633414) Homepage
        From the Wikipedia:
        The term fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that in various combinations:
        • exalts the nation and party above the individual, with the state apparatus being supreme.
        • stresses loyalty to a single leader, and submission to a single culture.
        • engages in economic totalitarianism through the creation of a Corporatist State, where the divergent economic and social interests of different races and classes are combined with the interests of the State.

        Um...pretty much all of them?

        • It's actually a bad definition.
          • You're right, of course.

            There's a lot more to the term "fascism" than any dictionary could ever hope to cover. As a govermental philosophy, Wikipedia comes pretty close to what Mussolini had in mind, but the reality of what Mussolini, did is whole 'nuther ballgame. We toss terms like "fascism" and "communism" about about like epiteths - almost playfully - and their definitive meanings end up being diluted and nearly lost.

            I blame the propaganda machines of the 1950's.

        • by Keybounce (226364) <slashdot@@@stb04...nccom...com> on Friday September 23, 2005 @06:18PM (#13633878)
          This really isn't trolling. It may be off topic, but it isn't trolling.

          1. exalts the nation and party above the individual, with the state apparatus being supreme.

          Nation above the individual: Patriot act, Bush's "You're either with us or with the enemy" speeches, etc.

          Party above the individual: Republican's "No abortion" policy.

          State supreme: Pushing judges that want to expand the interstate commerce clause to regulate EVERYTHING, including california only medical marijuana.

          2. stresses loyalty to a single leader, and submission to a single culture.

          More of "You're with us or against us". The whole "We have 55%, so we'll push our agenda into law for everyone".

          (Remember: Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting what to have for lunch. Freedom is a well armed sheep contesting that vote.)

          3. engages in economic totalitarianism through the creation of a Corporatist State, where the divergent economic and social interests of different races and classes are combined with the interests of the State.

          Hmm... well, this will probably get me modded down for something, but:

          a. Corporations get large tax breaks, incentives, etc., and
          b. More and more corporations get control over individuals, by a society that requires you to do business with them, and those corporations requiring that you sign contracts giving up rights. Said "You give up your rights in order to do business with us" upheld by courts.

          See: Any music/software "shrinkwrap" license. Any credit card company. Any software system/Windows OS/modern computer (excluding Linux). Probably more. See: General need for insurance, and the general impossibility of self insurance. See: More and more people being able to use your credit score to decide any/every thing of their business with you.

          "Combined with the interest of the state". Well, we're looking at high unemployment, lots of foreigners being imported to work, more and more people getting into financial binds, new bankrupcy laws that basically make your finances all government business for 3-5 years, etc.

          I won't go as far as to say "Everyone is a criminal, we can arrest anyone at any time", but some states are making criminals work for the state, right?
      • Judging from the view that Bush represents (=equals) big money:

        * exalts the nation and party above the individual, with the state apparatus being supreme.
        * exalts large corporationa above the individual, with the large corporations being supreme.

        * stresses loyalty to a single leader, and submission to a single culture.
        * stresses loyalty to big corporations, and submission to a single culture (=capitalism).

        * engages in economic totalitarianism through the creation of a Corporatist State, where t
      • by Anonymous Coward
        1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.
    • This is a degeneration? We've always had eminent domain in the US. The fact that it applies to IP is a direct, expected, and logical consequence of the concept of "intellectual property". Whether IP exists or is valid is debatable, and may be a degeneration, but eminent domain must necessarily apply to IP if IP is indeed property.
    • So can someone tell me which criteria of fascism we haven't had happen yet.

      the funny mustaches
  • by metoc (224422) on Friday September 23, 2005 @04:58PM (#13633119)
    Essentially this means that the Federal Government and the contractor working for them can't be sued. All they have to do is invoke the states secret privilege and the suit disappears. Anything can become a secret if the government decides that it is important for the safety and security of the country. Since terrorists and hurricanes can strike anywhere, and at anything or anyone, it is all up for grabs.
    • by jockm (233372)
      Yeah we saw much of this before in the InsLaw case [wired.com]
    • This rules!

      The government can arrest individuals and no one has to be notified and those individuals may have no rights including not disclosing to anyone else why they were arrested. They can then be held without bail for an indefinite amount of time.

      Not only that, but now the government can hold IP hostage for an indefinite amount of time too.

      Is the Internet going to get shut down now too because the government has "State Secrets" on there too and all the terrorists congregate there?
    • The U.S. court system posthumously awarded patents for the invention of radio to Nikola Tesla in the 40's. It's been posited that the reason this was done was because current patent holder Marconi was suing the US Army for infringement. The US Government sidestepped paying out massive royalties to Marconi by ruling that Tesla, dead and unable to collect, was the rightful holder of the patents.
  • Future effects....? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JediLow (831100)
    Sure, while this may actually be a valid use for patents - its gotten to the point where the entire system is beyond repair. Personally I'd love to see this case as being something that helps to revamp the entire patent law (which we all know is necessary). The whole idea of patent law (and copyright law) was to create a system that helped the 'little guy' - instead what we find now is that it only helps the huge corporations that are able to sue for millions in 'damages'. Sad as it may be that someone act
  • Misleading topic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davidwr (791652) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:00PM (#13633131) Homepage Journal
    1) the company didn't get any cash, like they would in an eminent domain case

    2) the company still has patent rights for other uses. Lucent can't license the patent to others for any non-secret projects.

    It's more like Lucent is engaging in software or music piracy and thanks to "Kings-X" getting away with it.

    Now, if the patent holders refused to license the patent at all, or put onerous restrictions on it, and the government siezed the patent in toto so industry could license it, and paid off the patent owner, that would be eminent domain.
    • Your analysis is correct, except where you say "misleading". It would be misleading if it said something the submitter didn't mean to say. But it appears to me that the submitter didn't read the article very carefully, jumped to the conclusion that the government had confiscated the patent, and thinks that "eminent domain" is the correct term for such confiscation.

      That's not misleading — that's completely, thoroughly, stupidly wrong.

  • by MindStalker (22827) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (reklatsdnim)> on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:00PM (#13633132) Journal
    Funny how they rejected this court case stating that going forward would provide more information on this patent to the public, thus causing a "national security" concern due to its secret use. Of course doing so causes it to be national news.. Yep good way to keep it secret.
    • Funny how they rejected this court case stating that going forward would provide more information on this patent to the public, thus causing a "national security" concern due to its secret use. Of course doing so causes it to be national news.. Yep good way to keep it secret.

      They're protecting the project which the patented item is being used on, not the patent itself.
    • Funny how they rejected this court case stating that going forward would provide more information on this patent to the public, thus causing a "national security" concern due to its secret use. Of course doing so causes it to be national news.. Yep good way to keep it secret.

      The patent, which is already public, isn't the thing they're trying to keep secret. It's the "underwater application" and/or whatever the government is planning to do with it they're worried about.

      I'm not actually sure if the patent is
  • Why not a secret trial? We have all heard about the military tribunals, why not do that for a corporation?
    • Apparently, Judge Pauline Newman argued for just such a trial in her dissent. The Wired article though has little to say about why the other judges chose to go this way instead.

      I did like this one comment from William Weaver on how the state secrets privilege is used:

      "I'm not saying it's always invoked for evil purposes -- it almost certainly is not. But we can't tell when it is, and that's the problem."
  • by joeflies (529536) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:00PM (#13633142)
    for the article summary to call this an application of eminent domain?
  • On Government (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cnerd2025 (903423) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:01PM (#13633145)

    "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    Hmmmm. IFF the Declaration held the power of law...

  • by argoff (142580) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:01PM (#13633155)
    Petents don't help innovation, and they especially do not help the little guy. They are also not pro-business (contrary to popular belief)

    I think it is in human nature, then when a system doesn't work, that we try to force it and tweek it to work even if it's premise isn't sound. If people would stop thinking about the "theory" of patents, and stop thinking about the "business" of patnets, and start thinking about the nature of patents - that is to coerce, threaten, and nickel and dime others who use shared ideas by imposing on them the full force of government. I think the debate about patnet problems would take on a whole new meaning.
    • Four guys created this invention. This makes them the little guy. If Lucent had not dropped this bomb on them, Lucent would have had to pay them whatever royalty fee the inventors wanted. If the job had been big enough these guys could have retired on the spot.

      The only thing preventing this was the government crying "National Security!" thereby permitting Lucent to trick them into giving away a year's worth of work adapting the invention for underwater use. It is obvious that in any normal trial this behavi

    • Huh? What would Lucent have done if they didn't have a patent? Think about it. The solution is to close the loophole, not destroy the only leverage the little guys had. The problem with the patent system is how it has been exploited by big companies, but don't through the baby out with the bathwater.
  • For some reason, the more I read about patents, the more I get the distinct impression that, when you clear away the varied legal wranglings of individual cases and look at the trends, the only people who profit from them are those who are already rich and powerful (corporations, mostly, and the rare wealthy individual).
    • Don't forget about the lawyers. Time to polish off my PTO registration.
    • Patents enhance the public good because without patents, inventors would have to resort to trade secrets. Before patents, many innovations and improvements died with their inventor, because they were kept as jealously guarded secrets. Patents were invented as a way of stopping the loss of new technology, while at the same time affording the inventor the same benefits as a trade secret, albeit for a limited time. Hence WE ALL benefit from patents; technological progress has expanded greatly since they were i
      • Before patents, many innovations and improvements died with their inventor, because they were kept as jealously guarded secrets.

        List them, please. And show why they couldn't be reverse-engineered.

        Patents were invented as a way of stopping the loss of new technology, while at the same time affording the inventor the same benefits as a trade secret, albeit for a limited time.

        Yes, and they're failing to do that.

        WE ALL benefit from patents

        No. In theory we all benefit from patents. But you know what they say
        • List them, please. And show why they couldn't be reverse-engineered. Too lazy to do your own Google search, I see? How about this one [archaeometry.gr], which was eventually reverse-engineered... over a thousand years later! Many others can be found by searching for "Lost technlogy".
  • Funny .. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by macaulay805 (823467) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:10PM (#13633249) Homepage Journal
    Funny the US wants a global IP plan [slashdot.org], but yet they screw the IP holders in their own domain. Makes one wonder the fun times of the future in a global sense.
  • by benjamindees (441808) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:10PM (#13633260) Homepage
    No power gives the government the ability to take property from you and give it to someone else without compensation. Yet, in this case, that is the result. Why? It's a loophole, and Lucent has exploited it marvelously.

    Consider: The executive priviledge in question (and the court case cited) gives the government the ability to restrict the release of information deemed important to national security. That's all.

    How did Lucent exploit this to their advantage? They promised to pay for the technology, signed contracts and everything. Then they simply didn't pay. Now, it's up to the screwed party in this case, the plaintiff, to sue for recompense. The plaintiff brings suit. And, in the course of the trial, the plaintiff requests discovery from Lucent to verify it's claims and help make it's case.

    Uh-oh. Here's where Big Brother steps in. The government says "you can't talk about that" to the courts, and to both parties. Now what is the plaintiff supposed to do? What evidence can he use? There's probably a contract that details specific technology that they now can't disclose. If they blot out the parts that are sensitive, Lucent can use that to claim reasonable doubt. They can't investigate Lucent to find out that they actually took and used said technology, because Lucent can't reveal that information to the court. The plaintiff is completely screwed, against all logic and reason.

    I especially love the quote from the Lucent representative: "You can't try this case in your publication". They understand the issues well enough to know how to screw people; and they did it intentionally.

    This is becoming more and more common. I have high voltage power lines, 100 ft tall, in my back yard. Yet, I never gave permission to the power company to put them there. I rejected their low offer when they called to try to purchase an easement, and they said "fine". They never filed condemnation proceedings to take the land. They simply built the power lines illegally, over my objections. They can do this because, in Oklahoma, the constitution provides that the maximum damages for them doing so are the same as the cost of the easement. The most it will cost them is what a judge decides the easement is worth. But, now, it's up to me to file suit to get those damages, which means I'll probably just end up with their low offer minus attorney fees.

    And they do this as a matter of course, to everyone. It's fascism by definition.
    • No power gives the government the ability to take property from you and give it to someone else without compensation.

      Patents are not property.
    • Since the lines are still there after damages would be awarded, the encroachment would still be ongoing. Is this a loophole in the law? My first thought would be filing an civil lawsuit to get them actually off the property, as opposed to further damages. It would seem to me that this is analogous to someone squatting on a plot of land, paying damages, but then never actually leaving.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I have to agree with you 100%. Companies have found it much easier to simply do what they want and wait to get sued for the damages. Why? Because 99% of people won't have the resourses or time to have a court case tied up for ages. Most of the time the amounts dealt with are small, making it even more likely that they won't get sued for their actions. It is fucking criminal, and unbelieveable that it could be that way. In the end the only people who really win are the lawyers. But the companies don't
  • Closed courtroom (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:14PM (#13633292) Journal
    This is ridiculous. What information is relevant to the patent, and possible patent litigation, that the inventors do not already have access to?

    How much the government is paying Lucent? What the end use of the technology is?

    The US Government should either allow the lawsuit to proceed, in a closed setting, with NDAs all around (provided security checks pan out), or pay the inventors.

    Is the not the purpose of the patent to allow dissemination of knowledge while protecting revenue sources for the inventor?

    If the knowledge is not being disseminated, Lucent should not be protected by a patent.
  • Of course this is rotten and shouldn't be allowed. However, since the patent is clearly unenforcable, why not go into competition and undersell the current infringer? Make it unprofitable for them.

    Then stand back and see what the courts want to do about it.

  • This is international, not just USA. Patents don't apply to military devices. Someone needs to be clobbered with a clue stick...
  • It's doubly a shame because, unlike so many other patents that we've seen here, this one is actually creative and non-obvious.

    It was totally obvious. The inventor says he thought of it from looking at the lines on a tennis ball, but I call shens on that! Anyone who's ever made out with someone in their younger years understands the locking mechanism. He just didn't want to say it.
  • I first read that as "I"nternet "P"rotocol. I thought to myself, "Those fucks will never take 127.0.0.1 from me!"
  • Crap submission (Score:5, Informative)

    by hey! (33014) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:31PM (#13633459) Homepage Journal
    Ye gads, aren't people confused enough about intellectual property? Put down your ideological axe long enough to get it right.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with eminent domain. It would be better for the inventor if it was eminent domain, becuase under that doctrine he'd have to be paid a fair market value for his property. Under this, a more favored vendor is allowed to steal is property, and the government is taking away his right to defend his property in the name of national security. It has nothign to do with the government taking the property itself.

    This is the state secrecy doctrine. It says to right in the friggen linked article, with a highly informative blurb in the third paraqraph:


    In a little-noticed opinion this month, a federal appeals court ruled against the Crater Coupler patent holders and upheld a sweeping interpretation of the controversial "state secrets privilege" -- an executive power handed down from the English throne under common law that lets the government effectively kill civil lawsuits deemed a threat to national security, even if the state is not a party to the suit.


    I refer you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminent_Domain [wikipedia.org] for more information on Emininent Domain and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Secrets_Privile ge [wikipedia.org] for the states secret privilege.

    The linked article would have been more informative if they had mentioned "US vs. Reynolds", the 1953 case in which the US Supreme Court which actually established the privilege in the US . In that case, the widows of three crew members of a B-29 sued the US government for information relating to a crash that killed their husbands. The US government claimed that since they were working on a classified project, divulging the accident report would undermine national security.

    As it turned out, they lied. There was nothing sensitive at all in the accident report. There was embarassing information about incompetence and negligence in the maintenance of the aircraft. Which goes to show what Ben Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." There is nothing more dangerous to liberty than allowing the government to act without accountability, purely on its say so.

  • From the TFA it seems that the inventor (and partners) had "expectations" of how Lucent would compensate him but no signed agreement. The moral of the story is get a very clear signed agreement before doing the work.

    They could also nail Lucent if Lucent tries to sell this connector on the commerical market.
  • Land of the Free?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kwandar (733439) on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:46PM (#13633614)

    To all my US friends (and enemies if I have any) - RTFA!!!

    This isn't about patents, so much as it is about how the executive branch of the US government (nope - not just Bush) can and does abuse its powers. Its used to allow kidnappings, extortion, and yes, the rip off of legitimate patent holders.

    There is no oversight that conforms to the principles of natural justice - and to think that the US dares to want to train foreign judges on patent/copyright. The US executive branch is unfortunately comprised of a bunch of unaccountable hypocrites, speaking about freedom and democracy publicly, but doing exactly the opposite behind closed doors.

    Each of you, if you truly believe in freedom and justice, should be writing to your members of the Senate and Congress. If you want a fair and just government - the type of government you thought the founding fathers had set out in the consitution, you should be reading the article, sitting down and making your thoughts known to those who can change this.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) * on Friday September 23, 2005 @05:49PM (#13633636) Journal
    1. State secret.

    2. Publicly posted patent.

    I suspect this is not a legal/governmental snafu at all, but rather a behavioral experiment to see how stupid an excuse the government can manage to get away with foisting off on people while essentially conducting crimes that they'd never let the people get away with.

    Maybe that's a little far fetched. OK, so it's really just people in government offices fucking with people and laughing about it. There, that makes more sense.
  • according to other posters, it's some other deal where the gov'ment gets to quash the patent case because it would reveal state secrets or something. So this is the ultimate slap in the face for patent holders and IP in general, maybe?

    1. Patents count, regardless of their actual merit, *except* if the government doesn't *want* them to count
    2. "intellectual property" counts as property *except* when the government doesn't *want* it to count

    <engage soap-box mode till EOF>
    huh. Seems like I see a patt
  • Really this statement in the news post is nothing more than inflammatory. How do you know for a fact that this isn't a wrongly issued patent? Are you an expert in this field, or even one of ordinary skill in the art? I have to play devil's advocate here because it seems to be the HIP thing to do on /. is bash the PTO. However, the patent's novelty, which is not in question, is not 100% known to the news poster. This sort of ignorant posting and rambling in news posts is the sort of thing that keeps /.
  • From TFA:
    "You can't try this case in your publication, it's only to be tried in a court of law," John Skalko [Lucent Spokesman] adds -- a prospect that seems increasingly unlikely.

    That about sums it up. Gov prevents it from going to trial, and Lucient doesn't care about a loose cannon trade rag.

    -Rick
  • What it is for (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cameldrv (53081) on Friday September 23, 2005 @06:48PM (#13634108)
    This looks to me like it would be useful for attaching two cables using an ROV. The inventor in the article mentions that the other solution was like a thermos bottle and was inferior. If you look at the way the pieces mate, regardless of the initial orientation, they will slide into each other properly. The "thermos bottle" solution might be two cylinders, one of which slides into the other making a tight fit. Suppose you have an ROV which has to mate two cables. The grapple may have an error in mating in rotation, translation, and angle. If you push these connectors together with reasonable errors in any of these parameters, the connectors will properly mate and make a seal. Robots have a hard time doing things like putting keys in locks, but this doesn't have that problem. Also, a human doing the mating might have trouble with other connectors because of the suit he would have to wear in very high pressure has limited maneuverability.

    This could be useful for tapping cables if they used the widely known technique the NSA used of storing data in a recorder and coming back periodically to retrieve it. You have to connect a cable to the recorder when you come back to read out the data. It would make sense to have an ROV do this. Also, ROV capability has been emphasized in the public information about the Jimmy Carter. Another possibility is that the submarine would hold a shortish length of cable from the tap site due to limited capacity (although the Carter has quite a bit), pay that out, and have a cable laying ship drop an ROV to connect to a longer cable which would go to shore. If you had a connector that you could connect with an ROV, you could do the long cable lay with the surface ship after the sub was done to make it harder to figure out what cable was being tapped.
  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Friday September 23, 2005 @08:40PM (#13635045) Homepage Journal
    In a situation like this where the courts are REFUSING to provide justice, people should be able to go out and get it themselves.

    LK

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