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Patent Troll Attacks Cable, Digital TV Standards 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-gusto dept.
DavidGarganta writes "A patent troll firm in suburban Philadelphia, Rembrandt IP Management, is trying to force large cable operators and major broadcasters to pay substantial license fees on the transmission of digital TV signals and Internet services. The firm is apparently trying to get 0.5% of all revenues from services that supposedly infringe on the patents. The targeted companies include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter and Cablevision. According to MultiChannel News, Rembrandt's assault is especially aggressive, even for a patent troll: 'It is attacking two key technology standards used by the cable and broadcast industries, CableLabs' DOCSIS and the Advanced Television Systems Committee's digital-TV spec. "If they're successful, this could affect everything from the cost of cable service to the price of TVs," said the attorney close to the litigation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.'"
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Patent Troll Attacks Cable, Digital TV Standards

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  • by kaos07 (1113443) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:23AM (#22453014)

    What the hell is a patent troll?

    When I first read it I assumed it had something to do with internet trolling but the articles describes it as some sort of legitimate enterprise.

    • Re:What the hell... (Score:5, Informative)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:28AM (#22453044)
      Not sure if you are joking, but for anyone who is wondering what a patent troll is, it is a company that makes money simply by suing other companies for patent infringement. This is different from a company like Microsoft, that creates and sells other products, and is therefore stuck in a mutually-assured-destruction situation that prevents them from suing others for key patents. The problem with patent trolls is that they add absolutely nothing to society; most don't even invent the patented idea, they just buy it from someone else.
      • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross&yahoo,ca> on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:39AM (#22453136)
        In their careers section they have the following description.

        http://www.rembrandtip.com/careers.html [rembrandtip.com]
        "
        Analyze markets and companies to assess IP commercialization opportunities

        Develop and model business cases and royalty analysis for specific licensing opportunities or industries

        Perform competitive analysis breakdown and strategic direction of leading industry companies

        Supporting analysis for new business opportunities around targeted patent acquisitions
        "

        Give me a freaken break! This company goes out looks at what are up and coming industries. Then it "creates" ideas and patents the heck out of them so that they can license and throttle an up and coming industry.

        This is not even funny. Imagine coming up with some really cool idea, but to have it patented away from you. This is how industries are broken. Part of the problem with this is that lawyers can sue without restrictions. Lawyers can go fishing in the industry. They can patent, sue and see what sticks.

        To make that go away, you can do the following:

        1) Make lawyers work pro-bono (as they do in many countries). That is they can only charge so much.
        2) Make lawyers pay if the lawsuit fails. For example, if say somebody brought up a lawsuit where they wanted 50 billion say, "if you loose you need to come up with say 1%". That way you can still sue, but you better have a good case. Otherwise it is going to cost you quite a bit.
        • by DustyShadow (691635) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @01:36PM (#22454364) Homepage
          This company seems interesting to me. After viewing their biographies and the "Working With Rembrandt" page, it sound like a law firm that is willing to work on a contingency basis:

          If your patent or portfolio of patents is being infringed, Rembrandts stands ready to pursue the infringement and allow you to see the real value of your invention. Our process is comprehensive. There is no fee to patent holders. Simply:
          1. Click here to notify one of our market analysts of the nature of the infringement, info@RembrandtIP.com or call us at 888-736-4947.
          2. Once you notify us, we will immediately issue you a non-disclosure so that we can begin to collaborate with regard to the nature of the infringement.
          3. After review, we will notify you of our opinion regarding your patent and the implications of the infringement. All patents are reviewed by Rembrandt's executive staff, headed by the company's Chief Executive Officer Paul B. Schneck, Ph.D.
          4. If your patent is accepted, we will work with you to acquire the patent and structure the terms of the deal.
          5. Once acquired, Rembrandt's in-house staff and outside consultants go to work building, strengthening, articulating and focusing the claim.
          6. Throughout the procedure, Rembrandt collaborates closely with inventors to keep them apprised of the process.
          7. Rembrandt invests its own capital to retain non-contingency legal support in order to pursue patent pirates and deliver the value of an invention to an inventor.
          8. Rembrandt attorneys bring litigation against patent pirates and support the claim through litigation including possible appeals.
          9. Awards and settlements are shared with the inventor, Rembrandts investors and the Rembrandt charity.
          This is interesting to me as a law student because I once worked on a case where the other side's attorney took payment by obtaining partial rights in the patent. I was told by the lawyers in my firm that that is a very sketchy thing to do and it borders on being against ethics rules that lawyers have to follow. It almost looks to me like these guys are trying to hide their attorney status so they can slide by the ethics rules.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            IIRC according to ABA model rules you are allowed to take a stake in the property as part of a contingency fee (because that would not make your interest conflict with your client's interest), but you are not allowed to go out on your own and purchase an interest in the property (which would put your interests in conflict with those of the client). No I am not a lawyer (yet).
        • by RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @02:39PM (#22454872) Homepage Journal

          To make that go away, you can do the following:

          1) Make lawyers work pro-bono (as they do in many countries). That is they can only charge so much.
          2) Make lawyers pay if the lawsuit fails. For example, if say somebody brought up a lawsuit where they wanted 50 billion say, "if you loose you need to come up with say 1%". That way you can still sue, but you better have a good case. Otherwise it is going to cost you quite a bit.
          Problem is, laws are written by lawyers, and they generally don't like to skewer their own cash cows. Patent reform, you might see. Tort reform, and/or the kind of thing you're talking about... not likely, unfortunately.
        • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:39PM (#22456194)
          You can do what we do in the UK- "loser pays the bill". You had better be sure you know what you are doing, or it really costs you. It may not be perfect (it isnt) but its better than your way.

          Why cant people sue the USPTO when they screw up? What makes them exempt from having to exercise due care and responsibility to the public?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TubeSteak (669689)

          1) Make lawyers work pro-bono (as they do in many countries). That is they can only charge so much.

          Pro bono publico means "for the public good"
          Pro-bono = free != "they can only charge so much"
          If the pro-bono lawyer wins his case, the Judge can decide to order the loser to pay the pro-bono lawyer, but there is no guarantee.

          2) Make lawyers pay if the lawsuit fails. For example, if say somebody brought up a lawsuit where they wanted 50 billion say, "if you loose you need to come up with say 1%". That way you can still sue, but you better have a good case. Otherwise it is going to cost you quite a bit.

          That's antithetical to the way the US justice system works.
          Lawyers would stop taking on BS cases, but they'd also stop taking on important, but uncertain or marginal issues. The evolution of case law would slow greatly (this is not a good thing).

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          We have so much "law" and lawyering that no one can get justice . We are living in a world where it is increasingly for the lawyers and by the lawyers and anyone else is screwed. I always ask these simple question how many living wage jobs have lawyers created? How many technological and scientific breakthroughs have lawyers contributed to the world? A world with few lawyers and their self serving laws would be a much better world.
          • First thing we do. Let's kill all the lawyers!

            (Shakespeare in case anyone tries to think I'm taking credit.)
            (Facetious in case anyone wants to sue me!)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:53AM (#22453224)

        While I think all this patent troll stuff is bullshit, it is worth pointing out that if I accept your last statement, patent trolls ARE providing a service. By purchasing patents, these patent trolls provide a market for patents which puts money in the hands of small time inventors, who don't have the resources to commercialize their inventions. Without a patent market, it would be more difficult for small inventors to get paid. (Inventors inside companies already have R&D resources to convert patents to products.)

        The fact that these companies didn't invent the idea does not negate their claim. As long as we treat ideas as property, then people should be free to buy and sell that property. You can own your TV despite having not created it. You exchanged money for it in a mutually agreeable transaction.

        The real problem is the patent itself, not the troll. The troll just highlights the underlying problem. If every patent were as efficiently enforced as the few that fall into the hands of patent trolls, commerce would grind to a halt, and we would have to do something about it.

        • by baboo_jackal (1021741) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:44AM (#22453538)

          By purchasing patents, these patent trolls provide a market for patents which puts money in the hands of small time inventors, who don't have the resources to commercialize their inventions.

          That's an interesting take on patent trolls. But it's kind of like a guitar player selling his guitar to pay for a kick-ass amp... Whoops.

          Without a patent market, it would be more difficult for small inventors to get paid.

          How about this instead? Just make and sell your damn invention. If it's that good, I should think you'd have no problem. Want to sell out, but just a little? OK, how about selling exclusive licensing rights to a bigger company for royalties? I don't know. It seems to me that there are a *lot* of other ways small inventors can profit from a good idea that *don't* include selling the exclusive rights to create their widget to a company who intends to not make the widget and just sue others who do.

          Maybe this is an oversimplification, but if you don't intend to make the damn thing you want to buy the patent to, you shouldn't be allowed to buy it in the first place.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Fyre2012 (762907)
            I think you touch on an interesting point...
            The underlying theme it seems would be greed. If a small inventor was concerned only with servicing a particular need, than they shouldn't have much issue. Thier motivation to be a basement company one night, and something the size of Google the next seems to cloud their judgement.

            Many people these days just want to 'get rich and quick'. This mentality is in direct conflict with the mindset of small business. Small business is all about community and the
          • by sumdumass (711423)
            I don't think there would be as much of a problem is there was a working prototype at the time of the patent application and no application could be filed until one was made and demonstrated. Also, it would be less of a problem if these people would be forced to label their products as patent pending instead of waiting for something to become the industry norm and then claiming patent rights to it. You could then sell the patent to other people who could follow these rules too and most of the problems/issu
          • by tftp (111690)
            How about this instead? Just make and sell your damn invention.

            A sci-fi writer invents a viable ion syringe (where, say, the drug is delivered as a stream of ions that are accelerated by an electric field and penetrate the unbroken skin.) Should he abandon his writing career and become a pharmacologist, an MD, and a genius businessman to "make and sell his damn invention"?

            It does seem far more practical to just sell the patent to someone who is better equipped to deal with manufacturing and selling. It

        • WRONG (Score:3, Informative)

          by lpq (583377)
          patent trolls ARE providing a service. By purchasing patents, these patent trolls provide a market for patents which puts money in the hands of small time inventors, who don't have the resources to commercialize their inventions

          You are outright "WRONG".

          Patent TROLLS do not provide the service of "commercializing" patents. Patent trolls put no more money in the hands of inventors because they buy up patents that have, already proven technological worth because they are already included in technology. That'
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wolfbone (668810)

        This is different from a company like Microsoft, that creates and sells other products, and is therefore stuck in a mutually-assured-destruction situation that prevents them from suing others for key patents.

        The MAD stalemate may well be a fair description of the situation between large patent portfolio holders but it doesn't apply in the asymmetric case. Microsoft's VP of IP, Marshall "Father of the IBM Tax" Phelps, would probably consider it a failure if he had to drag some small company into Court* - and that is actually true of most patent trolls too - but Microsoft has just as aggressive a patent licensing strategy as IBM did when Phelps was there.

        * "I'm not running a litigation shop, I'm running a licensing shop." -- Marshall Phelps.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SL Baur (19540)

        This is different from a company like Microsoft, that creates and sells other products
        A curious example. Microsoft is currently trying to get a "standard" adopted with submarine patents and they've never invented anything past a BASIC interpreter, prefering to buy the technology and adapt it. If their Windows monopoly ever (seems to) fails, they are prime candidates for becoming patent trolls.

        A better example is Ford, though they have fallen on hard times of late.
      • The problem with patent trolls is that they add absolutely nothing to society; most don't even invent the patented idea, they just buy it from someone else

        So let's say you invent something really cool. (You, personally). You put 10 years of effort into it, and sunk your life savings into the research and development. You get a patent, and approach a big company to license it. You hope to get rich, but would be happy to at least get back your life savings.

        The big company laughs in your face, and rips

        • Re:What the hell... (Score:4, Informative)

          by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @03:29PM (#22455250) Homepage
          Here's a paper [ssrn.com] on this, which goes into great detail on the role of patent dealers in the market from an economic and policy point of view.
        • That sounds more like a critique of large corporations than a defense of patent trolls, combined with a description of someone who went into a business market with insufficient resources. Perhaps a better plan would be to seek venture capital to help cover legal fees before directly approaching a large corporation, or to find a business partner to help you in seeking venture capital.

          Patent trolls are a problem; being a consequence of a larger problem does not make patent trolls any less problematic, much

          • An economy based on deciding who came up with an idea first is completely ludicrous
            Can I steal that for my sig?
        • by HiThere (15173)
          A heart wringing tale of the wronged inventor. I'm sure it's happened. I'm also sure that much more often someone puts his heart and soul into building a small business, and then a patent troll steals it.

          Yes, steals. That's the only appropriate word. Perhaps it's because he doesn't have enough cash to defend himself. (Borland nearly went broke defending itself against invalid patent claims. And Borland was both relatively large and hugely popular.)

          Also, a "I made a vague description of the invention a
      • but for patent trolls, who have created NOTHING and who bring NOTHING to the table, I'd make an exception.

        Fuck 'em where they breathe...

        These carrion feeders, these disgusting example of oozing, sporing fecal matter need to be utterly and absolutely stamped the fuck out.

        I think that they deserve the same fate as Derle.

        I can't think of a term low enough for them.
    • Re:What the hell... (Score:4, Informative)

      by webmaster404 (1148909) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:29AM (#22453056)
      A patent troll is a company that just comes up with patents and whenever another company "infringes" on their many patents they sue them. Usually these patent trolls have no other business other then suing companies to make a profit. Think of SCO, only with patents.
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      What the hell is a patent troll?

      A patent troll is a company or person that holds on to patents but never uses them except to cause problems and attempt to extort money from thriving businesses after they have been in action for several years.

      The fabled Trolls were often just collecting gold and never really used it, modern patent trolls are collecting patents and use that collection to collect gold.

      Effectively they are parasites that abuses the system.

  • "I didn't go to Patent Troll medical school to be called 'Mister'."

    - RG>
  • Old news now? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by moezaly (1197755)
    Havent they learnt anything from SCO and other Patent Trolls. It never works... but the again they have nothing else to do.
    • Re:Old news now? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:33AM (#22453084)
      SCO isn't a patent troll. SCO does have a business that is not based on suing others for patent infringement, and that's why they are in so much trouble now: countersuits. A patent troll is immune to being sued because it does not distribute anything, it just makes money through royalties and lawsuits, and so can't really be sued for anything. It is actually a very dangerous entity, because it has nothing to lose.
      • Indeed, SCO may not be a patent troll... but they certainly are of the garden variety troll, using litigation to prop up a failing business model, extort money, and generally chill the air surrounding a competing (or not, depending upon your point of view) technology/product.

        The fact that they failed in every endeavor is not because the system works, but that when you get knowledgeable participants, sometimes it is difficult (impossible) to fool them as one would fool the great unwashed.

  • Ahhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cloakable (885764) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:29AM (#22453058)
    Aren't patents wonderful? Spreading innovation everywhere!
    • Re:Ahhh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:41AM (#22453142)
      I've said for a while that patents should be non-transferable and automatically revoked if the patent holder does not market the idea. Lawsuits are, of course, not a form of marketing. Patent trolls add nothing to society, and therefore defeat the point of the patent system. Why do we still tolerate them? Virtually every company that produces something is threatened by patent trolling, and patent royalties significantly increase the price of consumer goods. We can have a patent system, we just need to completely reform it.
      • I can see one useful purpose of so called "Patent trolls."

        Lets say you are a brilliant engineer/inventor, but a lousy businessman. You like to tinker away in your workshop, but have no ability or interest in marketing, managing employees, or filling out business tax forms. So you come up with ideas, and let somebody else handle the patent licensing so you can get back to doing what you love - inventing new stuff.

        The real problem is that there are a lot of bogus patents granted that shouldn't be, and there
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It is one thing if the invention is actually being marketed by the patent holder or his representative. That is not what patent trolls do. Patent trolls are parasites, in that they produce nothing at all but still turn a profit, by legally manipulating companies that actually produce and market their products into paying royalties. It does not encourage invention, because the "inventor" who gets royalties never actually shared his invention with the companies that are paying him, not even under a loose d
      • I've said for a while that patents should be non-transferable and automatically revoked if the patent holder does not market the idea. Lawsuits are, of course, not a form of marketing. Patent trolls add nothing to society, and therefore defeat the point of the patent system. Why do we still tolerate them? Virtually every company that produces something is threatened by patent trolling, and patent royalties significantly increase the price of consumer goods. We can have a patent system, we just need to compl

    • Immunity Corrupts (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KwKSilver (857599)
      The real problem, aside from patents themselves, is that patent trolls are immune to retaliation. Think about it. They have complete immunity. John W. Campbell, the editor of Analog magazine in the 1960s and 1970s had an interesting take on immunity and corruption. The old saw has it that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Campbell suggested that was wrong, that it is not power that corrupts, but immunity: "immunity corrupts and absolute immunity corrupts absolutely." If I can do
  • New system (Score:5, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:31AM (#22453076) Journal
    Congress needs to provide funding to give the USPO a new division that watches for things like this, and invalidates patents that are deemed harmful to competition or that go against the spirit of the patent system. This stuff is clogging up the courts too much, and another watchdog besides the judges would be helpful imho.
    • Re:New system (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xigxag (167441) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:52AM (#22453218)
      I agree. What makes this troll particularly disgusting (for the benefit of the non-RTFA'ers) is that it is based upon patents originally owned by AT&T which had agreed to license the patents to all for Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The patents got bought up by this troll company which is now refusing to honor those terms. If this is allowed to stand, then no company can ever rely on FRAND as a business assurance. Any patented process could get sold to an IP management company and be fair game for extortion.

      I propose two short-term fixes.

      First, FRAND terms should be able to be added to the patent itself, either originally or through some amendment process. That way, if it gets bought or sold, the IP holding compnay has to adhere to the original terms.

      Second, companies that are developing open standards should be allowed some kind of superpatent, where (presumably for higher fees) there is a public hearing at which the final standard is vetted, and challengers are given sufficient time to come forward with their own patents which may encumber upon the proposed open standard, and they can negotiate whatever terms are in their best interest, without restriction. Afterwards, though, if the superpatent is granted, no more challenges will be entertained. Anyone who finds a prior patent in their closet or falling out of their portfolio five or ten years hence will be out of luck.
      • by nguy (1207026)
        <sarcasm>Hey, what's not "Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND)" about 0.5% of all cable revenues?</sarcasm>
      • it is based upon patents originally owned by AT&T which had agreed to license the patents to all for Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms

        If so then it is likely the troll will be held to those terms in a court - provided they had notice of the license prior to purchasing from AT&T.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by deblau (68023)
        Parent misses the point. There are two ways to make money from patents:
        1. Manufacture a product, and use the patent to keep others out of the market. I call this the 'passive' method, since the patent is not directly used to make money, the manufacturing is.
        2. License a patent to someone else, earning royalties. I call this the 'active' method, since the patent 'property' itself is the source of the money (rental fees).

        The first proposed short-term fix ignores the passive method, which is the traditional w

        • by xigxag (167441)
          They would never go for mandatory licensing, so this 'fix' will never happen.

          True, but I wasn't talking about mandatory licensing. Simply the *ability* for companies to codify "FRAND" into the patent app if they wish, so that someone can't come along later on and attempt to weasel their way out of the contract, leaving an entire industry on the hook, as we see happening here. I'm not saying "FRAND" should be required in those cases where the patent developer has no intention of offering it. Except possi
      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        Long-term, though, I believe that "any patent that covers part of a formal industry standard cannot be used to sue people for adhering to that standard" is the best option for this particular problem.
      • What makes this troll particularly disgusting (for the benefit of the non-RTFA'ers) is that it is based upon patents originally owned by AT&T which had agreed to license the patents to all for Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The patents got bought up by this troll company which is now refusing to honor those terms. If this is allowed to stand, then no company can ever rely on FRAND as a business assurance. Any patented process could get sold to an IP management company and be fair

    • by Znork (31774)
      patents that are deemed harmful to competition

      I think you can strike the words 'that' and 'deemed' from that sentance. The entire mechanism of patents is to prevent competition.

      The only way to allow a competetive free market and still reward innovation beyond what the free market does is to have the patent office be the ones actually paying the patent holders (according to level of use, maximum payout, etc). Then we could have an actual useful debate about levels of financing, patent trolls would no longer
    • by BorgDrone (64343)

      Congress needs to provide funding to give the USPO a new division that watches for things like this, and invalidates patents that are deemed harmful to competition or that go against the spirit of the patent system.

      If patents are meant to make sure an inventor benefits from his original work, then why is it possible to change ownership of the patent to some other entity, say a corporation.

      I propose to limit the ownership of a patent to the neural network that originally came up with the idea with no possibi

  • Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vtcodger (957785) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:35AM (#22453102)
    Isn't it remarkable how patents stimulate innovative litigation? Think of the tragedy if we just junked the whole nutty system. Imagine the packs of feral, unemployed lawyers roaming the streets attacking innocents.

    Sooner or later, we'll save ourselves untold trouble if we vastly scale back the notion of Intellectual (imaginary) property to something relatively sensible.

    • by Firethorn (177587) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:50AM (#22453208) Homepage Journal
      Imagine the packs of feral, unemployed lawyers roaming the streets attacking innocents.
      Step 1: Open a limited hunting season
      Step 2: Open a general hunting season
      Step 3: General bounty
      Step 4: Hire professional hunters for extreme or dangerous areas.

      Personally, given the urban nature of feral lawyers I'd propose at least an initial hunting season be limited to experienced bow hunters.
      • by vtcodger (957785)
        ***Personally, given the urban nature of feral lawyers I'd propose at least an initial hunting season be limited to experienced bow hunters.***

        Well, yeah ... But if the arrows don't work, the hunters get nukes. OK?

      • by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:16AM (#22453354)
        Funny, I've had the same idea for the past 10 years or so. I guess I should've patented it ... oh well. Oh well, I could still have the joy of showing my future grandchildren the Mercedes and BMW emblems mounted over my fireplace and saying "Yep, that one was from an IP lawyer ... got him from almost 300 yards".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumling (94709)
      It would help if the Patent office was properly funded and maintained the spirit of the law (innovation should be rewarded), instead of what we have.
  • The targeted companies include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter and Cablevision.
  • opened a can (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phrostie (121428) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:37AM (#22453128)
    just look at the list of companies.
    they may not get along with each other, but the last thing you want to do is force them to unite against a common enemy.

    i think they just opened a can of woop-ass.
    • by ausoleil (322752)
      As we speak, their combined lobbyists are no doubt preparing a line of battle in the halls of Congress.

      This may actually work out to be the catalyst to getting Congress to solve the patent trolls problem once and for all.
  • by voss (52565) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:47AM (#22453194)
    The concept is called adverse possession. In real property someone can aquire possesion of abandoned property
    by open and continous use. Now you wouldnt want someone becoming the new patent/copyright holder but the negative part
    "extinguishing the rights of the prior holder" would make perfect sense and help deal with both the problems
    of patent trolls and abandoned copyrights as well as legalizing abandonware.

    If a reasonable person knows or should have known their patent or copyright was being infringed on and takes
    no action within say 3 years, their patent or copyright becomes null and void. Also a system could be set up
    to allow "notices of intended infringement" to be filed with the copyright office, if the copyright or patent
    holder does not respond within the required time then the copyright or patent would lapse and the work
    would go into the public domain.

    • I like both ideas, with the addition of some kind of compensation for the target of a baseless suit.

      Unfortunately, it seems all of the candidates in the upcoming presidential election want to "fix" the problem by hiring more patent examiners. I know the argument is that with more examiners they can do a better job of researching the applications, but that's not where the system is broken.
    • If a reasonable person knows or should have known their patent or copyright was being infringed on and takes no action within say 3 years, their patent or copyright becomes null and void.
      This already exists. The two doctrines are called laches and estoppel. Without going into the details, they both encompass the general idea that you are talking about. They can be negated by failing license negotiations or lack of knowledge of infringement.
    • Are you familiar with the fact that patent litigation takes YEARS, and millions of dollars? Sometimes a legitimate company may only be able to afford a single lawsuit at one time. The patent office can already reject your application on the ground of prosecution laches [uspto.gov], and the court can rule an issued patent unenforceable due to laches [wikipedia.org] for unreasonable delay. Actively suing someone else isn't unreasonable delay, so it can take many years before a patent holder gets around to suing you. I don't have a ci
  • How Rembrandt Works (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:50AM (#22453212)
    I knew this girl from my college that worked at Rembrandt.

    She explained that the way that these operations work is they hire students with slightly above rudimentary technical skills from the local universities in technical courses of study. Their "discovery" process simply entails these students trying to reverse engineer the mechanisms that they hold patents for. However, since they're not trying to actually build the device, they usually stop when they have a guess that suits their needs.

    To put it bluntly, they do not really know; it is a wild guess, and hope that they can litigate it successfully.
  • This sort of thing is good. Cable and media companies have a lot of muscle, and sooner or later, they are going to tire of this and demand that the patent system be changed so that there is some clarity.

    A simple "enforce it or lose it" requirement, just like for trademarks, would eliminate a lot of this patent trolling.
    • No they won't. They'll increase your bill with a "Communications Fee" so the consumer's are footing the bill.
      • by nguy (1207026)
        Trouble is: they are competing against services that aren't subject to these kinds of patent trolls and they can't just increase prices arbitrarily. If they could, they already would have.
  • Always so friendly towards unnovation , I am proud of the patent system!
  • by ehrichweiss (706417) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:40AM (#22453522)
    This is exactly what we need at this moment. This might be the straw that broke the camel's back because with so many potentially affected, and with HDTV the new "standard", we are going to see a backlash not from a single company but an entire industry that is now being forced to pay ransom to stay in business thanks to that standard. The way I see it is that the FCC(and any other FCC-like organizations in other countries) will take a decent portion of the heat for forcing the industry to use a non-open standard, that will then put pressure on the USPTO to make some real reform. Where it goes from there is a bit cloudy but I suspect this will be enough to force the Supreme Court to rule on this type of behavior; after all, patents are supposed to promote innovation, not stifle it.
  • I suspect that this is something they'd be likely to lose in court. Afterall, the court took Xerox's patent on
    photocopying away, even though there was more effort in development and no trolling nor as obvious wide-ranging
    impacts, just the monopolization intended by the system.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @12:22PM (#22453746) Homepage

    It's time to kill software patents once and for all. This is not what the patent system was intended to do. There's no investment by the litigant, other than monetary. It's not like the company involved is offering any value to the TV broadcast industry. It's nothing but a tax, worse than a tax because at least your tax money has some return. What Rembrandt is doing is a legal extortion racket. In any other setting this would be a crime.

    Gotcha capitalism at its finest. Sickening. Enough is enough already.

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @12:31PM (#22453808) Homepage Journal
    Why should someone who holds the patent get a percentage of revenue not generated by the patent? Even if they win the suit on the point of ownership, etc. There is no legal reason for broadcasters to pay a percentage of revenue they generate from the combination of all the technologies and content they use.

    At most they should get a percentage of sales of the devices that use the patent directly.... not Ad revenue or other licensing revenue for syndicated shows, DVDs, etc.

    What actual devices implement this patented technology?
    • by Bigglare (956998) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @01:00PM (#22454026)
      Everyone keeps talking about redesigning patent laws to stop this. The federal government has the right to take patents away for the public good. For example if there was a patent on say Flu vaccinations, and the company wasnt producing enough or charging too much. The government can take that away and have other people manufacture the vaccine. Just write your senator and representatives and have them void these patents on the grounds they infringe and hamper on a standard mandated by congress for broadcasting. Congress requires that broadcasters use this standard, it was one of several options they considered. They chose the ATSC format and therefore should convert the patents to Public Domain or take the patent away as emminent domain.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @01:07PM (#22454084) Journal
    Analog TV is set to be turned off, rendering many TVs useless next year, unless a convert is purchased.

    So instead of turning off Analog and going all digital, leave analog on until the patent expires.

    I'm sure a lot or Analog TV owners will be happy.
  • The article didn't give details regarding what patents are at issue. I went to PACER [uscourts.gov] and searched for patent cases involving Rembrandt filed since January 1, 2007. Most of the cases were filed by Rembrandt Technologies, although one of them was filed by Motorola seeking declaratory judgment that it was not infringing on any valid claims owned by Rembrandt Technologies.

    The complaints were not all the same, but here is the list of patents cited in the complaints:

  • not haha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sohp (22984) <(snewton) (at) (io.com)> on Sunday February 17, 2008 @02:27PM (#22454764) Homepage
    A number of people are saying that this patent troll company will get its ass whooped because of the companies they are trying extort. Perhaps. But here's a rather more cynical view that I consider at least as likely. It has to do with the other end of the incentives -- profit and loss.

    Most if not all the cable and media companies have a virtual monopoly on providing you service. Consider, how many of us have any choice in which cable provider to bring service to the home? So, what happens in this situation is that because the company can pretty much raise your rates or reduce your service by say, shifting channels currently on the cheap "Basic" bundle over to the pricier premium bundles. They can pretty much write their own profits. So now patent troll company comes and wants $X piece of the pie. As a cable provider, they'd look at the cost and risk of legal action vs. shelling out the money for a new agreement. Result: they just jack up rates for the consumer and pay off the extortionist, safely keeping the patent system alive for their own future interests.

    We the consumers would see another jump in cable rates or some such service change, but there's not going to be a straw to break the patent camel's back on this one.
  • I know I'm late here, but can someone check the ties of this company that is the patent troll? I'd be really curious to find out who is playing puppet behind them getting them to litigate in this case.
  • Because that .5% will be passed along to we subscribers as a 5% bump. An excuse is an excuse but I'm a little interested that they're now attacking DOCSIS since my cable modem has been using it for almost a decade now.
  • To be allowed to sue for patent infringement, you should be required to be using the patent yourself, or have valid licensees of it from the time it was granted, if not filed. If you're not using it, you have no rights to stop anyone else from using it.
  • by CherniyVolk (513591) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:48PM (#22456268)
    "If they're successful, this could affect everything from the cost of cable service to the price of TVs," said the attorney close to the litigation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity."

    I would like to point out, that in America when cable was first offered to the public, the ONLY purpose of buying it was so that you can watch TV WITHOUT commercial interruption. Else, it was the typical bunny ears with tinfoil wrapped around them, watching General Hospital on ABC or was it CBS, and have to watch a commercial every five minutes or so.

    I think it happened in or around this order....

    MTV proved to attract quite the audience, but most importantly, impressionable young soon-to-be Consumers. Marketing types, shall focus in on this, "untapped" market... or rather, the bucket for which they might shoot the fish; made of gold, with complimentary .50 BMG rounds for all fortune 500 companies.

    MTV used to play music videos, as might be suggested by the name. Then came the trends focusing on teen appeal; the first commercials on MTV were Noxima commercials and they even used one of the female VJs.

    As MTV was being raped by Capitalism, not to mention the Musicians and Artists--as by this time, it's been established that if a band can get a video to be played on MTV, they are as good as gold--other major networks soon followed suit.

    HBO trying so hard to maintain the original concept, of a Home Box Office (hence the HBO), first resorted to in-house production, heavily laden with product placement or other dung such as plots or lines conforming tightly with social trends; like anti-racist tears, or commie-bastard themes...

    Then with the marketers pouring so much money into Cable Television, a market they would have loved to defeat for many reasons, let alone the fact that it was a product that freed the Consumer from Advertisements to begin with, Cable television exploded.

    Advertisers were SO ADAMANT in penetrating cable television, they did everything from attempt to bankrupt the networks (by means of connections, such as getting buddy buddy with the utilities companies--gas, electricity, phone--and all sorts of other avenues) to outright attempting to sue them for not allowing them slots for their commercials. Forcing the cable television networks to start airing commercials in disregard of the fact that the Consumers were paying for the service, and had expectations of what their product received would be.

    Now, this might shed pity upon the cable television networks. And maybe it should. However, for those who still might wonder how this "hurts" the consumer...

    Cost of Cable Television, and considering inflation, has only gotten more expensive; it never got cheaper, and that's likely by demand of the Advertisers who insist that if a Consumer has to pay for something, they'll take it more seriously.

    So there is something amuck with the whole OP, as when I hear Attorneys blabber stuff like what I quoted... what garbage to fool the Consumer into a reason to jack up the price of Cable Television. When, the fact is, they make so much money from the Advertisers, they can afford to revamp their entire infrastructure twenty times and still come out heads over toes all the while giving it out for free to all those who might have a coaxial jack in their house, outhouse, doghouse or whateverhouse.

    And where would the extra money go to; if they do raise prices under this false pretense? Who the fuck knows; but what I do know, who it will go to you probably didn't vote for.
    • I would like to point out, that in America when cable was first offered to the public, the ONLY purpose of buying it was so that you can watch TV WITHOUT commercial interruption. Else, it was the typical bunny ears with tinfoil wrapped around them, watching General Hospital on ABC or was it CBS, and have to watch a commercial every five minutes or so.

      Cable was originally created so that television signals could be re-transmitted to people who could not receive the signals because of blocking mountains [about.com]. T

      • Cable was originally created so that television signals could be re-transmitted to people who could not receive the signals because of blocking mountains. The continued right of cable providers to retransmit television signals, with appropriate compulsory licenses, is protected under 17 U.S.C. Sec. 111.

        It's seems you are correct and I have been unintentionally misleading. "Paid Television" was for the purpose of commercial free broadcasts.
      • NE PA for the win
  • One other thought, Marshall Texas needs to be completely wiped off the map.
  • Just a thought that occurred to me. In *some* (probably not all) way, patent trolls might be helping open source software. The reasoning is this. Patents are currently used in two main ways: 1) by big corporations trying to shut out competition from smaller companies (or OSS projects) 2) by trolls trying to make money off the big corporations. Considering that the laws in most countries are mainly bought for by the big corporations, we'll be stuck with patents for as long as 1) is worth more to the big play

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