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US Supreme Court Limits Patent Claims 118

Posted by kdawson
from the handing-down-common-sense dept.
Aire Libre and other readers noted a unanimous Supreme Court decision that denied LG Electronics's attempt to evade the first-sale doctrine by use of "business method" patents. LG licensed patents to Intel, then attempted to dictate what use Intel's customers could make of the Intel products incorporating LG patents. The decision (PDF) notes how easily patents can be written up as "business methods" to nullify the first-sale doctrine ("exhaustion") and to give the patent owner perpetual control downstream. Aire Libre adds, "That reasoning bodes well for copyright freedom as well, in light of the growing number of copyright holders who seek to nullify the Copyright Act's limitation on the distribution right by claiming the goods are 'licensed, not sold,' or subject to some restrictive EULA."
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US Supreme Court Limits Patent Claims

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  • by Quarters (18322) on Monday June 09, 2008 @07:11PM (#23717201)

    That reasoning bodes well for copyright freedom as well...

    Reason has no place in a legal proceeding. Sad, but true. This ruling doesn't have any direct implications on copyright issues. Any perceived reason the justices showed with this ruling can only be tested against copyright if and when a similar dispute regarding copyright makes it to the Supreme Court. Until a person or organization has deep enough pockets to push/appeal a court case to the SC we'll never know if the justices' reason extends to copyright or not.

  • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Monday June 09, 2008 @07:24PM (#23717361)
    Strengthening the first sale doctrine does have bearing on Copyright issues, although how much depends on the judge.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday June 09, 2008 @07:27PM (#23717383) Journal
    Well, let's put this in perspective. This is about one batch of capitalists battling against another batch of capitalists over an abusive patent method that, while ultimately screwing the consumer, does not in fact directly involve the consumer (it's not terribly likely that you or I were going to be directly sued by LG).

    Still, it's good to see that there's some recognition at the top of the system that these patent shenanigans are beginning to seriously compromise manufacturing and development.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:06PM (#23717813) Homepage
    WTF?! SCOTUS shouldn't be "left" or "right" wing! I want a Supreme Court that will read the Constitution as-is and from the beginning of it's creation. That last thing we need is for SCOTUS to interperate it in a shape/form that fits with "modern times". Screw that! If a line isn't drawn in drawn in the sand from the get go, what's the point of having this core document?

    Sorry for my ranting folks, but this just bugs the hell outta me. If you want the Constitution changed, then vote to ammend it. I do not want some judge changing the original meaning to fit with their own political ideology and/or dreams for a different future.
  • 8 years later (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xelios (822510) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:10PM (#23717841)
    This suddenoutbreakofcommonsense only took 8 years, and one stubborn company that refused to settle when all the others did. It may have been an obvious outcome to some, but apparently not to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or the unnamed number of other companies who gave in to the royalty demands.

    The real question in all this is why the appeal court sided with LG.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:32PM (#23718009) Homepage
    WTF?! SCOTUS shouldn't be "left" or "right" wing! I want a Supreme Court that will read the Constitution as-is and from the beginning of it's creation. That last thing we need is for SCOTUS to interperate it in a shape/form that fits with "modern times". Screw that! If a line isn't drawn in drawn in the sand from the get go, what's the point of having this core document?

    Which, as I was trying to point out, is largely the case. You can't possibly prevent the justices from holding what you might call conservative or liberal viewpoints. Yet despite this, and despite efforts to deliberately get as many of a certain viewpoint on the bench as possible, the Supreme Court of the U.S. remains largely centrist. Overall, they have done a better job of respecting and sticking to the Constitution by far than either of the other two branches. They are the "line in the sand" you refer to, and they've done a very good job of stopping people from crossing it.

    In so much as they can. I mean, they don't have the ability to rule on arbitrary issues, so as long as warrantless wiretapping doesn't come before them in a case, they have no ability to rule on it.

    Sorry for my ranting folks, but this just bugs the hell outta me. If you want the Constitution changed, then vote to ammend it. I do not want some judge changing the original meaning to fit with their own political ideology and/or dreams for a different future.

    Which has been happening far, far less often than you probably think. The fact is that everyone colors their interpretation of the Constitution and what it means "from the beginning of its creation" with the political ideology. I consider myself very much a constructionist (or I guess origionalist [wikipedia.org]), yet I don't delude myself that my reading of what "the Founding Father's intended" isn't affected by my own beliefs.

    The demonstrated ability of SCOTUS to resist this influence in their rulings is rather impressive to me, especially compared to the other two examples. All this screaming about "activist judges" changing the Constitution to suit their whims (in either direction, "left" or "right") is vastly overplayed, if not played out.
  • by Mathinker (909784) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:35PM (#23718037) Journal
    > I do not want some judge changing the original meaning

    I don't get it. You actually believe that the words of the Constitution encode enough information to enable everyone to unequivocally understand what the authors of that document believed should be done in all possible situations (even assuming they had one unanimous opinion)?

    Face it. That's impossible, and that's why we have judges. And why they're constantly overturning old decisions and laws.

    Of course, I do agree with you that judges shouldn't be making their decisions based on partisan loyalty. But one has to cope with the fact that they are human also.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rgoldste (213339) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:35PM (#23718041)
    You know, the Bush administration supported Quanta in this case. TFA says so. This wasn't a conservative/liberal issue--this was a commercial dispute between two corporate giants--and the fact that the decision was unanimous attests to that. Contrary to popular belief, not every Supreme Court decision is an earth-shattering moment in the culture wars. Most of the Court's docket is really boring, like resolving the water rights conflict between NJ and Delaware over the Delaware river, or determining the proper scope of ERISA preemption.

    I want to point out that the Court is not on the same left/right continuum as most of American politics. For example, check out U.S. v. Santos, where a plurality composed of Scalia, Thomas, Souter, and Ginsburg (Stevens concurred separately) interpreted a criminal statute in a solidly pro-defendant manner. I'm not saying that political orientation is irrelevant in predicting the Court, but the splits in the Court is much more based on legal philosophy than politics, like whether statutes should be read literally or purposively; the proper amount of deference to administrative agencies, the President, and Congress; the original meaning of the Constitution (and whether that's even relevant); etc. Remember that the most liberal Justice, Stevens, was appointed by Ford, and Souter (another "liberal" Justice) is a Bush I appointee.

    And if it's not obvious by the extreme amount of law-geekness displayed, IAAL.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:36PM (#23718045) Homepage Journal
    I agree, though you'll still get odd 'liberal' and 'conservative' readings of the constitution. Especially stuff that isn't cut and dried in the constitution, such as abortion.

    For example, the earlier poster thinks that the court is conservative, while I think that it's dangerously liberal - just look at the gaping hole that is the commerce clause today.

    Of course, I tend to think that the founders wrote in rather plain language, and generally speaking, KISS should apply. Especially from circuit courts, I've seen torturous readings of laws to essentially try to say that the law means the opposite of what it says.

    And yes, this includes stuff like same sex marriage, abortion, discrimination, etc... It's not that I actually have a problem with same sex marriage*. I'm generally pro-choice**, and I don't care whether you're white, yellow, or black. Don't even care if you're green or purple other than curiosity as to how you got to be that way.

    My objection is philosophical in nature - courts are not to be 'legislating from the bench', inventing rights, etc... If we decide that we need a new right, it should be acknowledged in the traditional way - amend the constitution. For that matter, I tend to think that legislators who propose, vote for, and enact blatantly unconstitutional laws should be fired.

    *I'm of the opinion it should be civil unions for all, if you want to call yourself married find a priest, priestess, rabbi, mullah, witchdoctor, whatever willing to perform the ceremony.
    **for first trimester, second should require some special circumstances, and third some serious medical issue(like it being discovered that said baby has no brain, and will die within a week of birth even with life support). If it should be done, the morning-after pill should be used. It should not be for sex selection, or just because you're too lazy of a dumbass to use birth control. On the other hand, if you're such a dumbass, you shouldn't be having kids anyways.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:40PM (#23718073)
    While I understand (and mostly agree with) your point...

    I do not want my neighbors to have thermonuclear weapons under the 2nd amendment.

    And if they can't, then the document is subject to interpretation in light of current technology for reasonableness.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Monday June 09, 2008 @09:15PM (#23718313)
    the only reason the SCOTUS seems "biased" is that they can only REACT to cases brought all the way to trial by the executive (meaning a law has to be passed). That means the Legislature can write bad laws all day.. if they're never tested in court cases the court can never see them. In the same way, the Executive can pull the same crap.. like with the enemy combatant fiasco, where the DOJ kept shuffling charges and situations to keep the Court from having a case to rule on.

    hence when the court gets a crack at something it's usually all or nothing. They only get to use the big hammer of throwing out laws based on breaking the Constitution, they don't typically rule on the "facts" of cases. From the other two branches perspective they can spin the court as allowing "lawbreakers" to flourish because they are the only court that judges LAW not citizens.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) * on Monday June 09, 2008 @09:21PM (#23718343)
    You really can't limit term of copyright to the author's lifetime. People work for companies that fund their work in exchange for a regular salary. This would bind the value of the work to the age and health of the employee, leading to all sorts of economic pressure to not fund the work of older people.

  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Monday June 09, 2008 @09:34PM (#23718429) Homepage Journal
    While this isn't the big change that we are hoping for, it's a step in the right direction. Little by little is the way that our legal system works on social issues like this one and the tide is finally turning.

    What was clarified in this decision is that vendors don't have the right to control the downstream licensees of their patents, and the first sale doctrine was reaffirmed.

    This will change the way that EULAs are interpreted in the future. Specifically, any restrictions against resale or limiting the uses the product can be used for will no longer be valid.

  • by steelfood (895457) on Monday June 09, 2008 @09:49PM (#23718549)
    What about life of author or 20 years, whichever is longer.

    Heck, we could go up to life of author or 70 years and still result in more reasonable copyright terms than what we have now.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Monday June 09, 2008 @10:35PM (#23718975) Journal
    "If we decide that we need a new right, it should be acknowledged in the traditional way - amend the constitution."

    It has already been done. It is the 9th amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

    Just because a right isn't listed in the constitution, that doesn't mean it isn't constitutionally protected. (But clearly it helps.)
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:49AM (#23721037) Homepage
    That doesn't make any sense. Even with infinite copyright, if an older worker is no longer producing new material you can lay them off and still keep getting royalties from the work they produced when young. The value of employing someone depends on the work they are doing now, not what they did in the past. A fourteen year copyright term doesn't change the economics.

    Of course, this applies only if you assume companies are out to get the maximum profit. If you assume that record companies and publishers are charitable trusts set up to provide employment for talented authors and look after them in their old age, it might make sense to ensure that the companies keep getting the money they so desperately need to continue the good work.
  • by Xiaran (836924) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:55AM (#23723239)
    Do you have a reference for that? All Ive heard is that it is an encyclopedia documenting the HP universe. I would be surprised if it didnt quote large part of the HP books as references, but I have heard nothing about cutting and pasting 90% of the book.

    The HP case is kind of reminding me of the rather stupid cease and desist letters that Paramount was sending to Star Trek fan sites years ago. They quickly stop doing that when some suit in Paramount realised that the *only* reason that ST is a successful franchise is because of the fan base.

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