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Smartphones Patented — Just About Everyone Sued 1 Minute Later 407

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the definition-of-a-patent-troll dept.
This week the US Patent and Trademark Office issued a surprisingly (although I guess it shouldn't be) broad patent for a "mobile entertainment and communication device". Upon closer inspection you may notice that it pretty much outlines the ubiquitous smartphone concept. "It's a patent for a mobile phone with removable storage, an internet connection, a camera and the ability to download audio or video files. The patent holding firm who has the rights to this patent wasted no time at all. At 12:01am Tuesday morning, it filed three separate lawsuits against just about everyone you can think of, including Apple, Nokia, RIM, Sprint, ATT, HP, Motorola, Helio, HTC, Sony Ericsson, UTStarcomm, Samsung and a bunch of others. Amusingly, the company actually first filed the lawsuits on Monday, but realized it was jumping the gun and pulled them, only to refile just past the stroke of midnight. "
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Smartphones Patented — Just About Everyone Sued 1 Minute Later

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  • not very smrt (Score:5, Informative)

    by brian1078 (230523) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:07PM (#22188218) Homepage
    no "smartphone" required. my 2 year old Verizon LG VX8300 is a "... mobile phone with removable storage, an internet connection, a camera and the ability to download audio or video files ..."
  • Re:not very smrt (Score:4, Informative)

    by gravesb (967413) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:13PM (#22188300) Homepage
    A quick glance at the patent shows a priority date of 1997. I'm not sure what all's covered by the initial application they filed in '97, but prior art references will have to be from 1996 to be iron tight.
  • What I don't Get... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:15PM (#22188318)
    I just roll my eyes and think is the USPO as dumb as the Fed?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone [wikipedia.org]

    The first smart phone was developed way back when. But let's consider a more recent example:

    The Nokia Communicator line was the first of Nokia's smartphones starting with the Nokia 9000, released in 1996.

    The earlier chained patents was 1997. So I really wonder what pot, and I do mean pot, the people in the patent office are smoking.
  • by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4.yahoo@com> on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:15PM (#22188320) Homepage
    This is one of the best cases for a production phone/pda that is prior to this filing:

    HP OmniGo 700LX [daniel-hertrich.de]
  • by Marcion (876801) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:16PM (#22188328) Homepage Journal
    If you get such a patent, put it in a shell company, sell the stock, many billions, move on, goto 10.
  • Re:Good luck (Score:2, Informative)

    by jumpinp (1144189) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:20PM (#22188386)
    There are probably lawyers behind all these crazy patent apps. Just trying to rake in the fees.
  • Re:not very smrt (Score:5, Informative)

    by stinerman (812158) <`nathan.stine' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:22PM (#22188404) Homepage
    The main problem here is "continuation filings". Using these, you can take longer and longer to amend your patent. Of course, that means that you can amend your patent to cover things that are already in the market. So file in '97 and file enough continuations until 2000 or so and you've just retroactively patented 3 years worth of progress.

    What needs to happen is that if you file a continuation, the clock gets reset to that continuation. So file in '97 and file a continuation in 2000 means that anything in '98 and '99 now counts as prior art.
  • by BigGar' (411008) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:26PM (#22188442) Homepage
    It details 125 combinations of things in a hand-held device.

    Here's the first the rest are an extensive list of variations on the theme:

    1. A mobile entertainment and communication device for communicating with the Internet and remotely located telephones, comprising: a housing of a palm-held size; a cellphone provided in said housing, said cellphone adapted for selectively and wirelessly connecting to the Internet and remotely located telephones and adapted for controlling selection of at least one of (1) downloading data or uploading data from or to the Internet, or (2) downloading data to a computer or other electronic device and said cellphone having at least one of (1) voice controlled dialing, (2) a wireless earphone or (3) a wire connection jack earphone with a microphone for operation of the mobile entertainment and communication device; a memory operatively connected to said cellphone; a microprocessor operatively connected to said memory; said microprocessor adapted for storing data to said memory that is received from the Internet or a remotely located telephone; and a display panel operatively connected to said microprocessor, said display panel adapted for reproducing images or other data from at least one of said memory or the Internet, said other data including at least one of moving images, combined sounds and moving images, or music with or without images.

    The whole thing looks like the product of a brainstorming session with everything under the sun included in the list.

    The patent was filed on Nov 20, 2003. It lists an inventor but they haven't invented anything as far as I can tell only tried to be the first ones to list these items together in a patent application. In going over the list I doubt there's anything to terribly non-obvious in there. I'd be surprised if this isn't challenged rather than just paid out, but that's just an opinion and IANAL.
  • Re:not very smrt (Score:5, Informative)

    by gravesb (967413) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:32PM (#22188526) Homepage
    If you add new matter, its prior art date is of the continuation in part that you filed to add the new matter. Otherwise, all of the adjustments must have support in the original filing. Essentially, what you propose is the way the system works now.
  • Re:They sued WHO? (Score:2, Informative)

    by calebt3 (1098475) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:34PM (#22188538)
    I don't see IBM in that list...
  • Re:Prior art? (Score:3, Informative)

    by snooo53 (663796) * on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:37PM (#22188560) Journal
    I'm going to guess one of the parties being sued is going to try to kill this patent in short order, but who really knows? Of note, the patent (US7321783) is likely claiming priority to US6278884 which was filed in April '97 so any useful prior art would likely have to be around that time frame or before
  • Re:patent lawyers (Score:2, Informative)

    by intthis (525681) on Friday January 25, 2008 @07:52PM (#22188716)
    to be fair, it is in no way the lawyers fault. during their research, they turned up these broad patents, and in an effort to have me not waste tons of money on their services (an oddly unlawyer-like move) they suggested some ways to (potentially) rework what i had, so that it could fit within the bounds of the prior patents...

    of course, after reading this, i'm starting to bet that i would be fine... it's just such an expensive process -- for an average guy like me -- and it takes so much time... i'm still a bit wary to risk it...
  • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonbryce (703250) on Friday January 25, 2008 @08:06PM (#22188840) Homepage
    I think the Nokia Communicator 9000 was the first Smartphone, certainly in Europe. It was first introduced in 1996, and presumably in development for some time before that.
  • Re:not very smrt (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2008 @08:12PM (#22188892)
    A Nokia Communicator (9xxx-series) could do this back in '96 or so.
  • Re:not very smrt (Score:5, Informative)

    by stinerman (812158) <`nathan.stine' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday January 25, 2008 @08:15PM (#22188920) Homepage
    At the very least, you can be extremely vague in the original filing, and then go "oh, yeah that's what I meant" a few years later.
  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Friday January 25, 2008 @08:26PM (#22188988)
    I goggled the company that is the holder of the patent, apparently they also hold patents on Seat Belts and Air bags...... wtf!! http://www.gigatec.com/index.asp [gigatec.com] is the site that lists the other patents.
  • requirements (Score:4, Informative)

    by ProfBooty (172603) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:05PM (#22189250)
    IAPE (I am a patent examiner). I can not discuss the merits of this case, but I can lay out some of the requirements to receive a patent.

    The specification is to be in enough detail that one of ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made would possess sufficient knowledge to know how to make and use the invention based upon applicants disclosure. This does not mean that gate/circuit level designs are required, nor that enough detail must be present to enable a layman to make and use the invention or that the program code to implement the invention is required.

    Examiners can do a 35 USC 101 rejection for enablement/best mode/in possession of the invention etc, if not enough detail is present to detail how to make/use the invention.

  • Re:Good luck (Score:4, Informative)

    by ibbey (27873) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:15PM (#22189314) Homepage
    Anybody else notice that they sued Apple? The patent specifically specifically says that the patented device contains "one or more replaceable memory card sockets", something that the iPhone annoyingly lacks. The iPhone also lacks a GPS, which is also specifically mentioned in the patent ("...with the location of the device as determined by a GPS section of the device").

    Some companies might have problems with this patent, but Apple's lawyers should have this laughed out of court in about three minutes.
  • by Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:31PM (#22189744)
    One filed in 1997 was pretty much just for a cameraphone, and the combined editors of wikipedia suggest a good few examples in 1997 and previously:

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=31&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=6278884&OS=6278884&RS=6278884 [uspto.gov]
    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_phone [wikipedia.org]

    The GPS one from 1999 is a bit more interesting - they're actually patenting the mechanism whereby a GPS device gets data over the air (in road navigation, Telmap Navigator is an example of that right now) rather than from local storage such as a CD (e.g. TomTom).

    Anyone think of a GPS with radio communication capability back in 1999? Military systems with GPS capabilities are the first that come to mind to me. If you change the word "GPS" to "location" there's certainly plenty of prior art - I was working on radio data networks that provided positional information in the early to mid 90s.
  • by pbhj (607776) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:20PM (#22189972) Homepage Journal
    The huge number of disjunctives in the claim (not allowed in UK patent applications, they'd need separate "main" claims to ensure clarity) make it hard to determine the true scope - as a UK application I'd say it lacks clarity.

    For example that end clause

    Patent US7321783 claim 1 >>> "said display panel adapted for reproducing images or other data from at least one of said memory or the Internet, said other data including at least one of moving images, combined sounds and moving images, or music with or without images."

    [see eg http://v3.espacenet.com/origdoc?DB=EPODOC&IDX=US2004110545&F=0&QPN=US2004110545%5D [espacenet.com]

    Can be reduced as a display panel for playing music from a memory. How does a display panel play music? Perhaps this is a feature of recordation (Korean derivation?) devices!

    You might also interpret the need for "connecting to [...] remotely located telephones" as being some sort of direct connection; this doesn't appear to be in the spec and so the claim would need clarifying to show this isn't the case.

    However, looking at the HP OmniGo 700LX as a suggested citation - not withstanding the clarity issues - this is a palmtop for external attachment of a cellphone. The case in point is distinct in claiming "a cellphone provided in said housing" and in context and in light of teh description this appears to mean that it's a single integrated device and not an attachable unit.

    Again wrt the OmniGo citation the claim 1 requires "at least one of (1) voice controlled dialing, (2) a wireless earphone or (3) a wire connection jack earphone with a microphone for operation of the mobile entertainment and communication device;" I don't think any of those 3 features is mentioned in that disclosure. Indeed the drafting "for operation of the mobile entertainment and communication device" suggests [I'd need to study the description in detail for this part] that the wireless-earphone or jack-wired-earphone-mic would have to be used to control ("for operation") the device.

    Other devices like the Nokia 9210 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_9210) didn't have wireless earphones nor jack-wired mics it appears. Indeed were there any phones with wireless earphones before bluetooth?

    My brief look at the spec suggests they really thought the invention was the use of a memory card that you could download music from the 'net on to. But that's an instant opinion, similarly I only really looked at claim 1, other claims may be broader. Glancing at claim 10 (for example) I see it's drafted badly for the patent owner too ... that's an awful narrow claim. My gut suggests that file wrapper estoppel will be involved somewhere, that the application slipped through based on some statement made about the invention that isn't explicit in the evidence we have here.

    I'm just a failed UK patent examiner though so what would I know! - yeah I know I must be an idiots idiot, hey.

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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