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Troll Patents Lists In Databases, Sues Everyone 305

Posted by kdawson
from the you-wish dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "A Florida patent troll called Channel Intelligence is suing everyone from Lemonade to Remember the Milk for infringing on patent 6,917,941, which covers storing a wishlist in a database. Amazon and eBay are absent from the list of targets, even though they very likely store users' wishlists in a database. With any luck, perhaps one of the defendants will get to use that precedent PJ found the other day from In re Lintner, which said, '[c]laims which are broad enough to read on obvious subject matter are unpatentable even though they also read on non-obvious subject matter.'"
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Troll Patents Lists In Databases, Sues Everyone

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  • Quoting PJ. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:08PM (#24294301)

    I know some of you cynics think that there is no hope and that the courts are corrupt or run by nincompoops, but you know I don't agree with you.

    The problem is that the patent troll gets to pick the court. Which means that they can slant it any way they want to. From judges that are pro-patents to judges that have no idea what the issue is and don't feel like educating themselves.

    There are good judges out there. There are bad judges out there.

    The trolls get to choose which ones they want to have their cases decided by.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:19PM (#24294475)

    posting anonymous for obvious reasons.. My Company uses Channel Intelligence to test the conversion rate on various checkout flows. We pay them $20,000 to test 6 flows on our major site, and if they increase conversion by a few percentage points on one of the flows, they get a $10,000 bonus. We have been working with them for a few months now, and I must say, I could have done this in my sleep.

    Now this company has climbed past utter ridiculousness with this patent on "lists in a database". Who are they going to sue next, the publisher of a book on basic database algorithms?

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:21PM (#24294497)

    More likely: Channel Intelligence isnâ(TM)t prepared to litigate against Amazon, who would likely lawyer CI into the ground over this âoepatent.â

    CI most likely wants to get bought by Amazon, and then Amazon can sue everybody over this patent; the patent is quite complementary to their "one click" invention.

  • Re:Patent Office (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spud603 (832173) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:22PM (#24294521)
    from the comments of TFA:
    http://www.peertopatent.org/ [peertopatent.org]
    A joint project with the USPTO and NYU Law School that tries to public input on pending patents. Interesting and potentially very good idea.
  • by TypoNAM (695420) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:29PM (#24294659)

    Newegg is one site I recall having such a feature way back then (they definitely still do now), but I could be wrong as how long they've had it.

  • Re:Patent Office (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sir_Kurt (92864) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:32PM (#24294705)

    The fact that so many folks and companies have come up with storing a wish list in a database should be proof enough that this "invention" is obvious. In fact, this should be allowed as a defence against any submarine patent. Prior art aside.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:37PM (#24294807)

    Does any online registry of gift items count as prior art? Babies-R-Us and most high-end department stores have been doing this for at least 10 years...

  • Re:Obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jesus_666 (702802) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:45PM (#24294961)
    I just wonder... Could the small companies pool their resources and contest the patent in one single case, putting the small cases on hold (because the patent is being challenged)?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:48PM (#24295017)

    If this troll's case wins, that means anyone who votes for (or wishes) for a candidate in any election (state, city, federal, etc.) and has that information stored in a database, is in direct violation of a patent.

    Therefore it would invalidate ALL votes that are casted and stored in any form of electronic database for tallying whatsoever.

    Does Florida REALLY want to count those votes again? Likely not.

  • by jeko (179919) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:48PM (#24295019)
    I read the summary and couldn't believe they could patent putting a list in a database.

    So I read the patent and that's exactly what they did. The abstract just describes a relational database in incredibly convoluted language. The mind reels.

    Well, if they can get away with that, then my new patent is going to make me richer than God. I propose storing and manipulating information by reducing it to a set of states, said states being either "something" or "nothing" I propose these states be represented by two differing digits, "1" or "0".

    Now, who's got my check?

  • by hattig (47930) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:59PM (#24295189) Journal

    If software patents had the same limitations as pharma patents, this patent could have to pretty much provide the database schema and pseudo-code for managing that database.

    Sadly software patents these days appear to be more about patenting concepts rather than concrete implementations. Until the rules are tightened up, these patent problems are just going to keep on popping up, as they have been already for many years.

    The main point of a database is to store information. Therefore patenting "Common everyday collection of data, IN A DATABASE" is bloody pointless. Other software patent favourites include: ON THE INTERNET. OVER A WIRELESS CONNECTION. ON A COMPUTER even. All patents that couple common obvious or everyday activities and concepts with one of the above should be deleted. What other ones can you come up with?

    PS: It's 2008, why the short comment title limit?

  • Fixing the system (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pseudorand (603231) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:59PM (#24295191)
    I just thought of the perfect way to fix the patent system. If you sue over a patent and there are more than, say, 3 defendants, if the defendants can all demonstrate they came up with the technology independently of you and of each other, then your patent is invalidated. Clearly, if an idea is so simple that three different people or companies are able to implement it before you're able to file suit, it must be an obvious idea not worthy of patent protection.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlakeReid (1033116) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:01PM (#24295223)

    IAALS (I am a law student), so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, the summary understates the breadth of this patent. It covers not merely wishlists, but any database storing lists. The description deals with wishlists and e-commerce, but the claims cover lists in a broad fashion.

    On the upside for the infringement defendants in this case, there is a joint infringement problem with the claims in the client/server architecture. Infringing this patent would effectively require two entities to take action - one on the client, and one on the server. This "joint" requirement precludes the possibility of any actual infringement, and is indicative of a poorly drafted claim. Combined with the likelihood that the patent will be invalidated as anticipated or obvious in view of all the prior art out there, it's highly unlikely an infringement judgment will ever go through. However, the defendants are likely to settle to avoid the cost of litigation - classic patent troll strategy.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:18PM (#24295485)

    I think there is space in the legal representation market for a law firm that defends obviously baseless cases like this in exchange for the opportunity to sue for legal fees.

    The defendant would never gain, but they would never have to pay legal fees either. Lawyers like it, patent trolls hate it, and it helps out the small online businessman.

    Any thoughts?

  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:23PM (#24295543) Homepage Journal

    I read through the patent and do not see anything which distinguishes it from a bridal registry - wishlist of presents posted by a couple to-be-wed so they do not get duplicate wedding presents.

    Hmm. Almost 2 million hits on that term, the first page is all ads. Just how many people are these clowns suing?

  • Re:Obviously (Score:1, Interesting)

    by old and new again (985238) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:35PM (#24295689) Homepage
    the real one is worse Abstract A fish stringer for use in tournament fishing is provided having a weight indicator attached thereto which can be manually adjusted to indicate the weight of the fish attached to the stringer. A clip attached through the fish's gill and thereby fastens the fish to a suitable cord which attaches to a floating weight indicating device. The weight indicating device contains a number of disks bearing numbers which may be manually rotated to create a display of the weight of the fish. This device floats on the surface of the water and thereby allows a fisherman to efficiently locate the lightest fish held in his live well. Fish stringer with floating weight indicator - US Patent 5987808
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scipiodog (1265802) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:55PM (#24295955)

    It's likely that one of them will have the money and legal prowess to fight the good fight. Not to mention, it seems like this would be a sure-fire win for anyone willing to fight it. Counter-sue for legal fees anyone?

    I happen to know the CEO and founder of one of the companies they're suing. If they're thinking he'll roll over they are in for a rude awakening. I look forward to the show!

  • Re:Obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuietObserver (1029226) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:58PM (#24295979)
    I'm posting because your argument deserves a reply. I completely agree with you. I do wonder, however, if Channel Intelligence is just a dummy corporation for one of the large corporations they aren't suing. Or worse, they, like SCO, might be a puppet organization.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:21PM (#24296233)
    Bezos isn't a patent troll - Amazon actually produces value.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:23PM (#24296249)
    Not to mention, it seems like this would be a sure-fire win for anyone willing to fight it

    You seem to have too much trust in the judicial system.

    We've been sent a notice by a large American credit card company. The patent is for something that other credit card companies have been doing for a long time. But, they are not going after them. They are going after smaller companies like us.

    To fight this patent would cost us about a half-million dollars plus the time spent in court. We can pay them about 100,000/year and keep our business alive. Guess which option a sane businessman would choose?

    The legal system in this country is a joke.
  • Patently Silly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by catdevnull (531283) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:33PM (#24296355)

    Patents are supposed to protect an inventor from others stealing his invention--not his ideas. If you're non-specific about the METHOD by which your "invention" pushes a wish-list to a database (some proprietary programming or a new custom protocol), then you don't have anything to patent.

    Unfortunately, the patent office knows only how to patent physical devices and they fail to understand the difference between the broad concept and the actual methodology.

    Ignorant backwoods judges and juries don't understand either. That's why trolls love Marshall, TX. [technologyreview.com]

  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DeadDecoy (877617) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:33PM (#24296369)
    Hmmm... I think I read on a previous article that a number of big companies were consolidating their patents together with the possible intent of avoiding legal battles and patent trolls. To that degree, I think it might also be in these companies' interests if they fight for the little guy on obvious patents against trolls such that it doesn't set a precedent in the court system and reach them. It might even been cheaper to fight it off at an early stage. Of course, another useful consequence of fighting these stupid legal battles for the little guy is that losing holds little consequence to the big company and they gain experience to learn where they went wrong if they do lose. If they win, they get all of the bonuses that go with that.
  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:44PM (#24297129)

    Granted that's not great.

    But the money gets reasonable at about 10 years experience; 100K+.

    A cynical look at the data says for the median to be so close to the no experience number (they start at 61K) they have to be reclassifying senior 'patent examiners' into some other category to hide how OVERPAID they actually are. We all know you can't get a bureaucrat off the teat once attached, especially the really incompetent ones.

    Fire all their worthless asses. Reopen the offices someplace cheap and depressed. Detroit sounds perfect. Unemployed auto workers would do a better job. They might be a little upset at the pay cut. The smart ones would be happy to find jobs, those are the ones you want anyhow.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:40PM (#24297593) Homepage
    You would think that examiners would simply allow allow allow, but that hasn't been the case in a while. The patent grant rate has actually dropped in the past few years.

    When I asked a patent lawyer friend about whether it was too easy to get a patent, she was surprised I would even suggest that. In her experience it's an extremely time-consuming process and the patent office is very skeptical of everything they get.
  • by daryl_and_daryl (1005065) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:01PM (#24297755)

    According to CI website their customer base includes many companies that use the wish list idea.

    NewEgg

    Vanns

    Circuit City

    Best Buy

    Target

    Do you get use of their patents by being a customer ?

  • Re:Obviously (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SQFreak (844876) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:14PM (#24298765)
    BlakeReid,
    I'm about to start law school, so I can't really talk either, but the patent seems a whole lot broader than the lawsuits lead on. They claim basically a database of lists of information about items. It seems like MySQL's JOIN operations in one of its incarnations (sorry, I don't know much SQL) is pretty damn good prior art.

    Your hypothesis makes sense. They're suing the little guys who don't have the money to take this to court, not the big ones who have the muscle to fight (and win).

    Also:
    Examiners Robinson and Lewis are EPIC FAIL.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cylcyl (144755) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @08:04AM (#24302133)

    Why doesn't anyone patent the patent troll methodology. This way, anyone trying the Patent Troll Procedure can be sued for whatever they are suing other people for?

  • Re:Shoot them. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:12AM (#24302897) Homepage Journal

    You know, it's funny, I've been reading a lot about 1930s Germany lately, and what you said describes the German view of Jews to a T. Including the 'seperate them from us' and 'they are no longer human' part. And here it is, modded to +5 Insightful on Slashdot.

    Technology is America's last standing dominant industry. Patent trolls are targeting American companies solely and directly, hamstringing our citizens while allowing the rest of the world's industries to flourish unhampered, and very literally gaining personal riches by undermining our economy. I truly meant it when I described their actions as criminal and treasonous.

    Your comparison of the prosecution of criminals to the execution of innocents is factually invalid, historically inaccurate, and remarkably callous.

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