Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Media Sony United States

Sony Blu-ray Under Patent Infringement Probe 160

Posted by kdawson
from the not-your-usual-patent-troll dept.
Lucas123 writes "The US International Trade Commission said it will launch an investigation into possible patent infringements involving Sony's Blu-ray players and other technologies using laser and light-emitting diodes, such as Motorola's Razr phone and Hitachi camcorders. The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed in February by a Columbia University professor emerita who says she invented a method of using gallium nitride-based semiconductor material for producing wide band-gap semiconductors for LEDs and laser diodes in the blue/ultraviolet end of the light spectrum. Her complaint asks the ITC to block imports of LED and laser diode technology from Asia and Europe. The total market for all types of gallium nitride devices has been forecast at $7.2 billion for 2009 alone."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sony Blu-ray Under Patent Infringement Probe

Comments Filter:
  • by Hubbell (850646) <brianhubbellii.live@com> on Friday March 21, 2008 @10:52AM (#22819260)
    You should have a set timelimit on using it. Either you exercise your patent right and setup royalty shit with other companies, or you start using the patented technology, otherwise it's fair game.
    • by salimma (115327) on Friday March 21, 2008 @10:57AM (#22819328) Homepage Journal
      But that's why patents do have expiration dates. But perhaps there should be a time limit on how long the patent holder has to sue, after a product is openly known to use a patented technology.

      Still, this must be the first non-frivolous patent claim to make Slashdot headlines in quite some time (the only one I could remember from recently was the dispute over ZFS)
      • This case is egregious, unless she was living in cave then she had to know that something she believed she'd developed was being widely used.

        However, there are plenty of things that you'd struggle to even know were in use. What if it were some new modulation strategy to make the construction of multi-band cellphones easier; there could easily be millions of them in the market before it ever came to your attention.
        • by TimeTraveler1884 (832874) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:15AM (#22819570)

          However, there are plenty of things that you'd struggle to even know were in use. What if it were some new modulation strategy to make the construction of multi-band cellphones easier; there could easily be millions of them in the market before it ever came to your attention.
          The problem is the very nature of closed business IP. What carrier or manufacturer is going to give you detailed specifications on how their devices work? Anyone who has tried to contact a manufacturer of some electronic device because you want to hack/extend it knows all about this.

          It's next to impossible to get that information to know if someone is infringing on your patent. If they have a similar/duplicate patent themselves, then its a little easier to do a search and find how theirs work. But you still have to suspect that company is infringing in the first place which may not be obvious without reverse engineering. And thanks to DMCA, that can make things complicated if it touches software.
          • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:21PM (#22820518) Homepage
            Maybe this is why hardware companies like Nvidia and ATI aren't forthcoming with the source for their drivers. They're afraid they might be infringing on one or more patents, and that releasing source code would allow the patent holder to find out about the infringements.

            Security from patent lawsuits through obscurity? It probably works quite well, especially when you consider how vague and far-reaching software patents can be. You practically can't write a block of code these days without infringing on some patent troll.
            • by novakyu (636495)

              Maybe this is why hardware companies like Nvidia and ATI aren't forthcoming with the source for their drivers. They're afraid they might be infringing on one or more patents, and that releasing source code would allow the patent holder to find out about the infringements.

              I don't know about nVidia, but at least ATI claims that they can't release the source because of third party agreements. Otherwise, they (and I presume nVidia as well) have been fairly good with releasing specs.

              Really, the standard that's held up to hardware companies is how good they are in releasing specs and providing information necessary for free software developers (so that they don't have to reverse-engineer the protocol, etc.). I don't think anyone expects the hardware companies to develop their ow

        • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:16AM (#22819590)

          This case is egregious, unless she was living in cave then she had to know that something she believed she'd developed was being widely used.
          There's not much detail in the article. For all we know, she's been negotiating with these people for years and they've been jerking her around. We only know when she filed a complaint, not when she first contacted the individual companies (if at all). We don't even know if her patent is applicable.
        • by packeteer (566398)
          This case is egregious, unless she was living in cave then she had to know that something she believed she'd developed was being widely used.

          It's possible that if she would have warned everyone earlier that she had a patent they would have simply switch to different technology. I think this is why you are supposed to defend things like trademarks or lose them. You should not be able to sit around and make sure everyone relies on your technology before you go around suing everyone.
        • by afxgrin (208686)
          In her defense, I imagine it would take some time for her to:

          a) Determine if they are indeed using a similar technique to the one she invented.
          b) Determine if they deliberately ripped her work off or developed the same technique independently.
          c) Plan her case - she is taking on the ENTIRE data storage industry. This would probably take a long time, and she'd have to figure out if she had stood a fighting chance to even bother investing time and money into this.
          d) Double check the above, because you would h
          • by zilym (3470)
            AFAIK (and IANAL), patent law does not provide any exemptions for developing the same technique independently, so your step B has no purpose.

            Example:
            Company A works 5 years developing some new whizbang invention.
            Company B independently has been working on the same invention for the past 5 years and 1 day.
            Let's say both companies did all the same exact things, spent the same amount of time and money, but because Company B started a hair earlier, they got the patent on the invention.

            Company A would now be req
            • by wvmarle (1070040)

              Let's say both companies did all the same exact things, spent the same amount of time and money, but because Company B started a hair earlier, they got the patent on the invention.

              Company A would now be required to pay to use the invention they just spent 5 years developing themselves because Company B got a patent on the invention before they did.

              Things like that happen, really. One example of this is the Twaron vs. Kevlar issue: around 1980 both Akzo (now Akzo-Nobel) and DuPont developed a superstrong aramid fibre, and started marketing their fibres. But they both had patents on the technology.
              In that case the two companies made a gentlemen's agreement: Dutch company AKZO would market and sell their aramid in the European market, American company DuPont would get the monopoly in the Americas, and only in the Asian market they would both sell and

      • by DustyShadow (691635) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:04PM (#22820262) Homepage

        But perhaps there should be a time limit on how long the patent holder has to sue, after a product is openly known to use a patented technology.
        This does exist. It's called the doctrine of laches and estoppel. If you know someone is infringing your patent and you either refuse to sue or lead them on to believe that you won't sue, you can be barred from suing. You can rebut this though if you show that you had no money and couldn't sue or you were negotiating with them during the entire time.
      • by AlHunt (982887) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:21PM (#22820536) Homepage Journal
        >But perhaps there should be a time limit on how long the patent holder has to sue,

        I'm not an attorney, but I believe the doctrine of Laches might apply. Basically, you can't wait until the damages are massive just for the sake of increasing your claim.

      • by iamhassi (659463) on Friday March 21, 2008 @09:37PM (#22825980) Journal
        "But that's why patents do have expiration dates. "

        And hers was nearly up. According to the article: "Rothschild was originally issued a U.S. patent in 1993 based on her method of producing wide band-gap semiconductors for LEDs and laser diodes in the blue and ultraviolet end of the light spectrum."

        That's 15 years ago. And according to lectlaw.com [lectlaw.com]
        "If a U.S. Patent Application is filed by June 7, 1995, and if the patent issues after June 7, 1978, then the patent expires the later of 17 years from issuance"

        So she only had 2 years left. So where the hell has she been for 15 years??
    • You should have a set timelimit on using it. Either you exercise your patent right and setup royalty shit with other companies, or you start using the patented technology, otherwise it's fair game.

      I guess. But as an independent scientist/inventor, I don't have the time to check up on what everyone else is doing while I am trying to make ends meet in my small business. I will never become a patent troll or use patents in evil ways. However, if I patent something novel, but I am just too small of a fish to

      • I think the thing is, if it's their field of expertise, they'd keep their eyes open on what is going on by other people in that field and approach someone far earlier about their concerns.

        I would bet this is a case where multiple people were working on a similiar problem with similiar solutions.

        In this case, I do not believe the judge should allow for immediate cessation of import and it's definitely over the top ammounts of money. I'm pretty sure Sony hasn't made that much money off of Blue-Ray technolog
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Yeah, more advice on slashdot that isn't practical in any way what so ever.

      There is a time line, it's the length of the patent. We really shouldn't be telling people if/when/how much they should charge for their device.

      He is a clue: You going to role out a billion dollar item? do a fucking patent search.
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by ptbarnett (159784)

        He[r] is a clue: You going to role out a billion dollar item? do a fucking patent search.

        Under current US patent law, searching for existing patents is effectively discouraged. "Willful" infringement can result in treble damages, in comparison to "inadvertent" infringement.

        • by innerweb (721995)

          And finding out who owns the patent and negotiating a deal can avoid all damages. Of course, the owner of the patent could simply refuse to license use of the patent, but that would be an unusual situation that could have far greater expenses if the patent owner simply shuts down the product line after it is in full swing.

          On the other hand, maybe the companies are hoping to make their money before the law suit is settled or an injunction is imposed. Then, the company wins no matter what.

          Who knows, it is

        • I'd never heard of treble damages. [wikipedia.org]
          I misread that as Tribbles [wikipedia.org]
          • by reebmmm (939463)
            Except that everyone citing willfulness as a reason is obviously NOT an intellectual property attorney. The willfulness test everyone citing doesn't include the recent Seagate case that has essentially done away with the old rule for enhanced damages. Enhanced damages (e.g. treble damages) now requires a recklessness standard.

            And, contrary to the assertions here, under this standard new standard, lack of actual knowledge is arguably not a defense. If the infringer objectively should have known, then you can
            • Did you mean to reply to me or the GP? As I said, I'd never heard of treble damages; I'm certainly not qualified to debate them. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DustyShadow (691635)

      You should have a set timelimit on using it.
      There is a time limit, it's 20 years from filing date.
    • Hopefully Karma will bite sony in the ASS! I own a Toshiba HD player, I hacked it so I can record my home videos in HD DVD.. problem is that I use standard DL DVD disks so.. it's about 30 minutes each disk.. But is a simple MPEG2 stream! SONY got the industry to blackball blueray.. well sony.. I hope you lose! Who's laughing now? ME.. I AM.
  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Friday March 21, 2008 @10:53AM (#22819272) Homepage Journal
    That's a lot of Das Blinkenlights!

    Really. I could live with green.
    • by cerelib (903469)

      Really. I could live with green.

      More like, I could live without the blue. The only place LEDs that bright belong is in a flashlight. Blue LEDs seem to be the new "futuristic" look for all new gadgetry. I have a new 32 inch LCD TV that has nice subdued green and orange for status lights, but I have seen similar TVs that have bright blue LEDs for status that can be very distracting. Also, bright LEDs do not belong on a device like a laptop where the lights are in your face while using it.

      • There are blue status lamps on the new range in our kitchen.

        They reflect to where I do the washing-up, 4 meters away. When I glance at the glasses that I have placed on the draining-board to dry, I am continually catching myself.

        "Look, that one's not rinsed properly, and there's a soap bubble inside."

        Nope. It's a blue reflection, glinting off the Duralex. Gets me every time.
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan...jared@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:01AM (#22819360)
    Why is she requesting that all imports of the tech in question be stopped? Doesn't this sort of thing usually just end with a licensing agreement? The inventor gets paid, and everybody goes on. The article doesn't mention that she is involved with any sort of competitor, so it just seems sort of malevolent for her to try and put a halt to the entire market.

    I certainly hope there is a better explanation, though.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      If I were to guess, and I will, she is using it to get there attention and get the issue resolved quickly.
      It's one thing to string out a lawsuit forever, it's another to do it while costing billions of dollars in revenues.
      Good for her.
    • by oahazmatt (868057) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:07AM (#22819466) Journal

      Why is she requesting that all imports of the tech in question be stopped?
      Maybe she invested heavily in HD-DVD?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Which, AFAIK, also used blue lasers
    • It's likely that she's asking for a lot more than she expects (or even wants) to get. If you walk into a car dealership and want to haggle, you don't immediately offer the highest price you're willing to pay, you offer something lower and work your way up to a price you can agree on. Similarly, she may only want a reasonable amount of money so Sony can use the technology she patented and is asking for something that will hurt Sony a lot more than a reasonable settlement.

      Of course, that's also the tactic a

    • by The Empiricist (854346) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:23PM (#22820560)

      Why is she requesting that all imports of the tech in question be stopped? Doesn't this sort of thing usually just end with a licensing agreement? The inventor gets paid, and everybody goes on. The article doesn't mention that she is involved with any sort of competitor, so it just seems sort of malevolent for her to try and put a halt to the entire market.
      I certainly hope there is a better explanation, though.

      She is requesting blocking of imports because that's the basic remedy an intellectual property right holder gets with the International Trade Commission [usitc.gov]. I don't think it is even possible to get damages for infringement in the ITC (although a regular lawsuit to go after damages can still be filed). You also can't use ITC proceedings to prevent infringement within the country.

      Some advantages of going to the ITC include speedy proceedings (so you're not still engaged in the suit 10 years later) and enforcement of exclusion orders by customs. Because the ability to import a set of goods is often vital, the threat of such exclusion orders can provide a powerful motivation to license if it appears likely that the plaintiff will win.

      Another advantage is that the ITC is fairly specialized. It has people who really know the law and can pick up on technical nuances readily. ITC decisions may be higher-quality than the decisions that come from the district courts because either party can demand a jury in patent cases in the district courts and because district courts do not have the specialized legal knowledge and experience with technical cases.

  • by Gothmolly (148874)
    'nuff said.
  • Sweet (Score:1, Troll)

    by geekoid (135745)
    After all the bogus crap and lies spread about Blu-Ray, and the fact that there locking DRM into it I'm glad. I hope either:
    A) Sony looses their shirt
    and
    B) This allows any one to be able to manufacture the device.
    pipe dream:
    C) She makes 'No DRM' part of the licensing.
  • I'm thinking something along the lines of "cashingin" might work. Although this might be covered under the "greed" tag.
    • Re:need a new tag (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:19AM (#22819634)
      Why? If she has a valid patent for a legitimate invention that these companies are using in violation of applicable U.S. law, why shouldn't they pay royalties like everyone else? I don't know the facts of the case, and certainly wouldn't depend upon Slashdot for any, but if she did get there first with her invention then they should pay. That's why we have patents. If you look at this reasonably, most of the complaints you hear about patents (not counting software and business-method, which are defective-by-design) are about the issuing of nonsensical, obvious, or overbroad patents. IF this is a legitimate U.S. patent specifically covering a device critical to their product manufacture, they should have two choices: pay up, or work around it.
      • by oliphaunt (124016)

        IF this is a legitimate U.S. patent specifically covering a device critical to their product manufacture, they should have two choices: pay up, or work around it.

        But Sony is not a US company, which means they have a viable third option: ignore US law and violate the patent. This is fairly common in developing economies, especially for pharmaceuticals- For example, I'm pretty sure that Brasil regularly declines to enforce patents over drugs that combat STDs. For another example, I'm pretty sure that Teva P

        • Issues concerning the legitimacy of patents aside, Sony is not a US company, and as such might be able to ignore US law, but not if it wants to trade in the US. It is whether Sony can continue to import blue lasers into the US that's at issue here: if they continue to violate the patent without coming to an agreement with the patent holder, then they may be barred from importing blue lasers.

          Nobody is proposing to prevent Sony from selling blue lasers in, say, Japan. This is exclusively about what Sony do

          • by oliphaunt (124016)
            Righto. I guess the point I left unsaid is that the patent-holder can't pick up a gun on her own and patrol the Port of Los Angeles to keep those darn Japanese lasers off U.S. soil. She would need to get a court order to do it, which I guess is what this particluar lawsuit is about.

            But my tinfoil hat is telling me that Wal-Mart would never allow US Customs to enforce an injunction against all products containing Sony lasers, no matter how valid the patent may be or how well the patent-holder does in court
            • by reebmmm (939463)
              Um, if she really has a patent over this, I'd assume that she'd have taken the extra step of patenting it in Japan as well. While it's a bit more expensive, it seems that a technology applicable like this is well worth the little bit of extra money.

              I have not actually looked to see if a PCT application or a JP national phase application has been made. But, it would seem VERY likely.
        • Actually, Sony's U.S. operation is incorporated here ... Sony USA. But, sure, a U.S. patent is only valid in the United States. Nobody says that you can't sell device that's only patented in the United States somewhere else: you just can't make or sell it here. What it means is that if she gets an injunction, the U.S. is not a market for said device until they either license the technology or work around it to the satisfaction of the courts. That will happen, one way or the other, because the United States
          • by oliphaunt (124016)

            What it means is that if she gets an injunction, the U.S. is not a market for said device until they either license the technology or work around it to the satisfaction of the courts. That will happen, one way or the other, because the United States is a substantial market for consumer products based upon the blue LED.

            And that's the crux of the problem. When the SCOTUS decided the betamax case in 1984, there were between four and six million VCRs already in American homes, and some other unknown number of

            • Actually, if it's about the blue LED it goes further than just DVD players. The things are used in all kinds of products, from printers to medical equipment to PDAs. It would be huge, which I'm sure is why the manufacturers have been blowing her off (unless, of course, the patent isn't valid, but if that were they case they should have gone to court before this and invalidated it.) If a large number of foreign corporations simply chose to market their products with clear knowledge they were in violation of
        • by BlueStrat (756137)
          But Sony is not a US company, which means they have a viable third option: ignore US law and violate the patent.

          There is a fourth option. Granted, it's quite extreme, but seeing as TFA quoted $7.9 *billion* dollars, well..that's a heck of a lot of motivation.

          "NEWS FLASH!! A Columbia professor emerita was killed earlier today in a random (pick one: drive-by, mugging, burglary, hit-and-run). No details are available at this time and authorities declined to comment."

          Cheers!

          Strat
    • by Muad'Dave (255648)
      I'm thinking something along the lines of "cashingin"...


      Cash-In-Gin only works if you're a Beefeater [wikipedia.org], your last name is Gordon [wikipedia.org], or are from Bombay [wikipedia.org].


      Oh, you meant "Cashing-In!". Nevermind...

  • Ongoing for 12 years (Score:5, Informative)

    by mother_reincarnated (1099781) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:21AM (#22819654)

    For everyone yelling 'patent troll,' realize that she has been trying to enforce her rights since at least 1995. She also seems perfectly willing to license the technology http://www.compoundsemi.com/documents/articles/cldoc/7121.html [compoundsemi.com]...

    I think that is how you're supposed to do things...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Doctor_Jest (688315)
      October 2007 was 14 years. :) I'll give her one thing... she's persistent. :P

      (According to the patent it was issued in 1993, If I remember reading it right..) Since the patent protection starts (and lasts 14 years from) the day you are issued the patent.

      Of course after Jun 1995, they're 20 years? If I'm readnig the USPTO stuff right.

    • by russotto (537200)
      From your linkedpress release:

      "Despite the recognized potential of LEDs, their commercial use was initially limited because it was not commercially feasible to produce LEDs in green and other high spectral ranges. Through the process claimed in Professor Neumark's patents, it has become commercially feasible to produce such LEDs"

      Really? Green LEDs weren't feasible until Neumark invented the process in 1988? What were all those green LEDs doing at Radio Shack before then?
      • by grrrl (110084)
        Older green LEDs are closer to yellow, and are far less 'bright' (to put it in everyday terms). They are made of InGaP and related compounds, and were never able to acheive the standards required for high power and brighter applications such as green traffic lights.

        The inability to produce brighter green LEDs previously was due to fundamental materials issues with the semiconductors used.

        Once gallium nitride was successfully grown and doped it opened up a whole new area of the spectrum. Current green LEDs a
  • This is going to be interesting. Section 337 actions are brought in rem, so success in this action could result in an exclusion order against any product incorporating or including the infringing device. That's lots of stuff! Section 337 actions are also fast, furious, and expensive!

    You can get a copy of the patent from http://www.pat2pdf.org/ [pat2pdf.org]

  • I see more and more stories of this sort lately. Everybody and their brother is piling on now. It's like a string of serial murders, and every whack-job in the world is going to the police with a signed confession in hand, but no proof they had anything to do with any of it, they just want attention -- and in this case, money. Or how when someone with money dies, every 3rd cousin that no-one has ever heard of comes out of the woodwork looking for a hand-out.

    Either that, or these people are trying to break

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:12PM (#22820378)
      Except this isn't a story of this sort. It is not a bullshit patent. The patent owner has a legitimate and important technological innovation that she patented in the mod-90's that opens up a whole new type of semiconductor technology. Many companies have licensed the technology without any problems. A few bad actors (some are very large companies like Sony) have ignored the patent and attempts to negotiate a reasonable license. In frustration the inventor is asking that legal remedies in place to deal with this situation be triggered.

      Without this sort of patent protection this is clearly a case where an individual and obviously very creative inventor would just get run over by large companies.

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)
        ...in the mod-90's...


        The 60's were mod, just so you know.

        • by geekoid (135745)
          huh, I don't remembering in boxen with neon in the 60's... OTOH in the 90's I did a lot of modding.
          • by Muad'Dave (255648)
            Mod [princesswiki.com] was a very popular expression in the 60's for everything that was hip, cool, groovy, in, far out, etc. Kinda like the "Austin Powers: The spy who shagged me" movie, but in real life. I think the original poster meant 'mid-90s', but wrote 'mod-90s'.
  • Last I checked around 2001 Rothschild obtained the patent on Gallium Nitride LEDs. Seven years to file a patent infringement claim? Columbia University is a patent troll.
  • I've noticed that BR players and TV's have actually gone UP in price recently. That to me is real stupid.
    • Re:OT a little (Score:4, Insightful)

      by argent (18001) <<moc.agnorat.6002.todhsals> <ta> <retep>> on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:51PM (#22821002) Homepage Journal
      That's because they don't have to compete against HD any more.
      • by Enahs (1606)
        That, and (assuming you're from the U.S.) the dollar is worth quite a bit less right now--remember, since they're largely from Japan, it's an international good, subject to the whims of the markets (which seem to be in full-on Armageddon mode right now. :-( )

        And now to go even further off topic:

        I find it hard to panic, and I hope not to have us all proven wrong for our optimism, but I suppose my problem is grasping how the world economy is going to fail because a bunch of asshats in urban markets bought a h
    • No conspiracy required -- its called supply and demand. Demand has gone up now that the format war is over and supply hasn't caught up yet. By the time Christmas rolls around again there will probably be plenty of supply to drop prices very low now that manufacturers can almost guarantee themselves sales.
  • You can patent human DNA sequences [nsf.gov].

    Chances are, I have a bit of one of a patented DNA string within my own DNA.

    I wonder how long it'll be until Monsanto or someone else sues me because of my very existence...

    "Je pense, donc, je suis poursuivi en justice"? (Google translation: I speak Spanish, not French. :) ).

  • I hope she wins so long as she's an open source advocate. Having the full Blu-Ray spec being forced open would be very sexy indeed especially to reverse engineers and PS3 hackers. Plus I'd be much happier seeing the scientist who developed the technology get the cash, and not Sony just because I, like many /.'ers, despise multinational conglomerates.
    • by no haters (714135)

      I, like many /.'ers, despise multinational conglomerates.
      What does this even mean? From what I can gather, "/.'ers" despise certain business practices, but not MNCs outright (see: apple fanboyism).
  • Please change to "Motorola Razr under patent infringement probe". There are millions of Razrs in America and not that many BD players....
  • A simple patent search will find a plethora of patents that overlap or cover her idea...

    The interesting thing is so many patents were issued on this - including numerous ones that seem to be the same (technology wise) as the one she claims she received in 1993. Oddly, I cant find her patent...

    Either way, this should be interesting - especially since she is taking a non-normal route to pursue the situation. (ITC, etc).

The world will end in 5 minutes. Please log out.

Working...