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Toshiba Sues Over DVD Patents 131

Posted by timothy
from the cornering-the-market dept.
angry tapir writes "Toshiba has filed suit in a US court against Imation and several manufacturers and distributors of recordable DVD media for the alleged infringement of its patents. Imation and the other defendant companies named in the complaint do not have license agreements covering recordable DVD media with Toshiba or the DVD6C Licensing Group (DVD6C), and have engaged in the import and sale of recordable DVD media in the US without permission, according to Toshiba."
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Toshiba Sues Over DVD Patents

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  • BluRay (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:37AM (#28012507)

    Well it's a good thing we have Bluray to protect us from those evil DVD manufacturers

    • Considering the HD-DVD vs Blu-ray thing was a patent war, and nothing more, this might be true. Instead of one company (in this case Toshiba) you have the BDA (a consortium of many companies) dictating the terms. DVD Forum or not, Toshiba owned it, and made a classic mistake with HD-DVD. They tried to protect their DVD patents and it cost them CE manufacturers that were being offered pieces of the Blu-ray spec. So, in the end, it was a pretty much Toshiba alone vs the combined might of nearly everyone else.

  • Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:41AM (#28012565) Journal
    Flash drives are ridiculously cheap, and substantially more convenient. DVD-Rs can either embrace dirt-cheapness and utter commodification, or they can die.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon (845873)
      Are flash drives an open standard or are they also encumbered by patents?
      • USB is patented (Score:3, Informative)

        by tepples (727027)

        Are flash drives an open standard or are they also encumbered by patents?

        Both USB and SD are patented, and inventions used in high-density NAND flash memory are probably patented too.

        • And let us not forget that the ubiquitous FAT32 filesystem, used (default) on nearly all flash memory devices, is patented.
      • Re:Oh well... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:53AM (#28012737) Journal
        One of these two things can be rewritten several hundred times, and supports substantially granular writing/deletion/rewriting.

        The other supports single use, on granular read/write/delete only through "sessions" or UDF packet writing, which is a rather limited hack.
        • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @12:01PM (#28012871)

          Which is irrelevant to many. I use DVD's primarily for data backups and archiving. In that case the use is going to be a "write once and then store it" situation anyways. The rewriteability is of no use. Don't get me wrong - I keep a 4gb flash drive handy too because they are useful, but the two of them get used and markedly different ways. I've never had a need for more than 1 flash drive because it just use it for moving files around and keeping them handy when I'm on the move. And truthfully, the "Memory stick" iPod application for my iPod touch is quite possibly going to replace that flash drive. I walk into any area with wi-fi, launch up memory stick, and I then can access (password protected naturally) my iPod's internal storage from any computer just by leaving it sitting on the desk. Close out memory stick when I'm done so that it doesn't remain an open share. It's great, and by it being on the iPod it becomes 1 less device to carry around. Now if only Verizon (the only carrier that services the area where my house is) would just get access to some incarnation of the iPhone I could finally stop carrying around a separate phone and ipod . . .

          • Move to Europe .... No Software Patents here (yet) and the DVD's are made by companies outside the USA(tm) so no import problems

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Antonovich (1354565)

              Move to Europe .... No Software Patents here (yet) and the DVD's are made by companies outside the USA(tm) so no import problems

              Wrong, software patents are being issued while "they" wait for the Poles to be caught napping and pass the legislation (they've been blocking it for a while). The rationale is that there is no harm in issuing patents because no one can sue unless they are eventually put into law. It is an absolute disgrace because if it IS brought into law, they will almost certainly try and make it retroactive.

            • This is not as clear as you might think. The advice I got was "while your not making money, we don't think its a problem" which covers things like ffmpeg etc. But if you make money-ie sell software for profit, the lawyers get very very twitchy and start making it pretty clear (ie in writing) that you are not following their legal advice on the matter.
          • by Hatta (162192)

            I use DVD's primarily for data backups and archiving.

            How does the longevity of a DVDR compare to that of flash media?

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Which is exactly why I use DVDs for that purpose. Sure they're not archival, but the fact that you can't rewrite them is why the data on them has survived better than any of the other choices I've used. With the exception of CDROMs, and for similar reasons.

          Personally, I use a ZFS mirror to store data which requires that sort of rewriting, but for backup backup I use optical discs with svf. I've yet to have any trouble with the lifespan of the media, and my only complaint is that they're a bit small. Hopeful

      • 8 GB is around $15, which seems to be the CURRENT sweetspot on pricing.

        Prices will drop and quickly as production increases, especially for the larger sized drives. There will be moment in time, when USB drives overtake DVD and I predict even BlueRay discs. Imagine being able to go to Blockbuster (web or storefront) sticking in a Flashdrive and "renting" a movie, plugging it into your TV and watching it.

        Of course the stupid MPAA will no doubt cry foul or worse come up with some lame DRM scheme that doesn't

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Deus777 (535407)
      Flash drives aren't more convenient when you want to play a movie off of it and you don't have anything hooked up to the TV that has USB.

      On the subject of price, you can currently get a DVD-R or even DVD-RW that will hold 4 GB for much less than you can buy a 4 GB flash drive. Even if patent licensing pushed costs to double for DVD-R and DVD-RW, they would still be cheaper than flash drives. The article only mentions Iomega and Memorex. We don't know if other major companies are licensing Toshiba's pat
  • hmph (Score:2, Troll)

    by shentino (1139071)

    There ought to be a law against patent trolling

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Swizec (978239)
      There ought to be a law against patents. They have never ever in the past been used for anything other than patent trolling and innovation stiffling.
      • Re:hmph (Score:5, Funny)

        by ivicente (1373953) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @12:00PM (#28012853)
        Humm, that's an interesting idea. Have you considered patenting it?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So let's take the current case, for example.

        I see no evidence the patent wasn't licensed in good faith, or that the patent-holder was deliberately sitting on the patent to increase potential damages. So not a troll. (Unless you define "troll" as 'used in a way you personally don't approve of', which is as good as meaningless.)

        The companies they're suing aren't trying to "innovate"; they're just manufacturing and distributing an already-designed item.

        Whatever you may think of this suit, it is a clear count

      • Brilliant!

        So now when I take my invention to the manufacturers to be mass produced, the only words I will hear now is: "Woot!, that will sell like mad, thank you for sharing your wonderful idea. You may leave now"

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        I agree,

        patents are only used by lazy assholes who want a quick way of making a buck.

    • Re:hmph (Score:5, Funny)

      by MouseR (3264) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:52AM (#28012715) Homepage

      There ought to be a law against patent trolling

      They can't use it. It's patented.

    • Re:hmph (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cdrudge (68377) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:57AM (#28012805) Homepage

      How exactly is this a patent troll [wikipedia.org]? It seems to me that Toshiba retains the rights to patents legitimately obtained for actual innovation and have long been known about and licensed to others. Toshiba isn't holding the patents for ransom with outrageous licensing terms, submarining them, or keeping them a secret until after a standard was ratified and then springing them. I'd say that for a system that has all sorts of flaws and issues, this is a legitimate case where the system is working as it was intended in a legitimate fashion.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by digitalunity (19107)

        An argument could be made that from a physical perspective only, recordable DVD media is not dramatically different from recordable CD media.

        The player technology, specifically with reference to encryption, interfaces and lasers, obviously would qualify for patent protection as they were novel inventions when they were invented.

        Recordable media however, not quite so easy.

        On another note, my personal belief is that when manufacturers create shell organizations to jointly patent their technology, it creates a

        • Re:hmph (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:21PM (#28014087)

          While licensing consortia look at first glance to be Evil(tm), they actually do serve an important function. Many technologies are covered by several, perhaps dozens, of patents. Trying to negotiate individually with each company for licensing terms would be a legal and logistical nightmare - especially considering that if you miss one, you're screwed. Negotiating with a licensing consortium means that you only have to go through the licensing steps once, and you're covered for the duration of your license against all of the various patents covering the technology.

          Yes, you still have to be careful inasmuch as some company may have decided not to get on board the consortium train, but the chances of this happening are reduced.

          The true evil arises when licensing consortia impose "terms of use" on their licenses, such as by leveraging patents to enforce DRM restrictions on equipment manufacturers (DVD-CSS, AACS, HDMI, CableCARD, etc.).

          • When Ben Franklin got started with patents, he was happy to share the idea. Nowadays, patents are used to create scarcity. I've been reading an alternative analysis of patents and copyrights in a book called "Intellectual Monopoly." [dklevine.com] Of course, the book is making a case against intellectual property, but it is one of the easiest to read.

            I find this book very interesting, especially the parts about James Watt and genetically modified organism patents. After reading just half the book, I've reached the
          • The other point you are forgetting about these consortia is that companies can work together, and not apart, to develop standards that work for all. And in the case of DVD there were multiple standards in existence that could have emerged as the winner - but companies working together and taking the advice of outsiders helped make DVD possible. And DVD's are/were a smashing success.

            There are two tremendous electronics successes in my lifetime; The Gameboy (original) is the highest selling single electronics

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

          An argument could be made that from a physical perspective only, recordable DVD media is not dramatically different from recordable CD media.

          Were that the case, DVDs would not exist. The media DVDs are recorded on was fully half the innovation, and it was a huge leap forward in optical recording technology. DVD-R can't get away with the "burn spot, not a burn spot, burn spot, not a burn spot" of CD-Rs. It is significantly more complicated, and combined with DVD writers and players, represents an innovative leap.

          I don't know if you know this, but innovative leaps are considered quite novel, and usually get a patent. The DVD patents have been

      • I'd say that for a system that has all sorts of flaws and issues, this is a legitimate case where the system is working as it was intended in a legitimate fashion.

        I tend to agree with you.

        I would like to add one thing, however. Whenever suits like this are brought up and the companies named as defendants are slapped with a fine, guess who ultimately coughs up the money?

        That's right, the consumer. So, while everything else is going up and with prospects of inflation ahead, we can thank Toshiba (if they're su

        • Whenever suits like this are brought up and the companies named as defendants are slapped with a fine, guess who ultimately coughs up the money? That's right, the consumer.

          It seems that these companies are selling products at a lower rate then they should be because they are not paying, or passing along the fees to consumers they should be. So you might possbile be getting the product for cheaper then you should be.

          IS best buy raising the price for you if they charge you for stealing DVD's from t

        • No, assuming the other DVD-R (and/or DVD+R, depending on the extent of the patent) manufacturers(Memorex, Verbatim, Fujifilm, etc.) do pay the licensing fees as they are required, competition is now fair. If they are paying the licenses and this company is not, they have to lower their prices to compete. Doing so may cause them to sell the parts at a loss while the other company profits. This kills competition and causes a monopoly, which generally causes prices to go up in the long run.

          On the other hand, i

      • by Hatta (162192)

        The fact that they waited around for years while DVD-R got popular, and only then tries to enforce their patents might have something to do with it.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          I apologize for the lack of subject verb agreement in the preceding post.

        • by shentino (1139071)

          This is exactly the point I was trying to make.

          I see toshiba pulling rambus style shenanigans here.

      • by bit01 (644603)

        I'd say that for a system that has all sorts of flaws and issues, this is a legitimate case where the system is working as it was intended in a legitimate fashion.

        You can't know that. The entire purpose of patents is: To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries [cornell.edu]

        You probably have zero evidence that the patent did in fact "promote the arts" and more particularly that the tech wou

    • There ought to be a law against patent trolling

      Irrelevant, since Toshiba is not patent trolling. You should probably learn what that term means before you use it.

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:47AM (#28012661) Homepage Journal

    Toshiba's still getting over HD-DVD. They're making upscaling DVD players to compete with Blu-Ray. They lost a lot of face, and they're losing even more money. All the huge "we do everything" Japanese conglomerates (Toshiba, Hitachi, Sanyo) are in pain due to the stagnant economy. Perhaps these lawsuits can help restore them to profitability. I hope so because Toshiba is a darn fine company that makes out with your mom.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:48AM (#28012669)

    In school, I used to get told that if I wanted to eat candy in class that I would have to provide enough for everyone. Toshiba brought enough for everyone, but some companies are trying to get more than their fair share by not paying for a license. Toshiba is completely in the right to demand payment for the licenses.

    On the other hand, this is why killing HD-DVD was such an important thing. Putting two major patent holders (Toshiba and Microsoft) in charge of the direction of the de facto media format would have been disastrous.

    • by ericrost (1049312)

      And Sony always plays so nice and openly?

    • by internerdj (1319281) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:56AM (#28012785)
      Instead we put it in the hands of "always caring for the customer and their rights" Sony?
      • by Xtifr (1323)

        Say all the bad things you want about Sony (and there's plenty to say), but let's not forget that they're the ones who brought us the terms [wikipedia.org] "time-shifting" and "significant noninfringing uses". They spent good, hard money defending our rights against the movie cartels, and ended up losing the market they were trying to defend (Betamax vs. VHS) anyway.

        As for the rootkit debacle, was that evil? Sure. But can you say that anyone who was affected didn't deserve it? They were all running MS Windows, after al

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xouumalperxe (815707)

      On the other other hand, Memorex and Imation-branded DVDs have been around for ages, are reasonably popular, and Toshiba chose to wait it out. IANAL, but I remember reading something about asking for retroactive damages when you know full well that infringement is happening, and how that's a bad idea.

      • I remember reading something about asking for retroactive damages when you know full well that infringement is happening, and how that's a bad idea.

        Before you knee-jerk post "that's only for trademarks", please familiarize yourself with the equitable defense of laches [wikipedia.org].

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sandbags (964742)

          Well, he was sort of right...

          Though there's no Statuate of Limitations on patent infringement, but most states limit the scope of infringement to 6 years, regardless of the length of infringement, and in certain circumstances, damages awarded have been adjusted by the judge when the first party was clearly fully aware of the infringement.

          Basically, We ALL know Memorex maxes blank DVDs... Toshiba should have easily kown this. No that memorex made a few billion selling disks, Toshiba want's it;s cut, and lik

          • I believe the poster who replied to me was pre-empting the "Laches only applies to trademarks" posts and suggesting they read up on the concept more thoroughly. Or, in simpler terms, we're all agreeing here.
        • The story is pretty vague on the details. I'm not convinced this isn't a trademark issue rather than a patent one (same office, remember). I author DVDs and I can tell you that "DVD" is a trademark which can't be used without permission from the controlling party. In the case of DVD-Video, this authority is handed to licensed replication houses who run your product through an official certification process. If it passes, you can use the trademark on your packaging. These infringing products apparently have

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        On the other other hand, Memorex and Imation-branded DVDs have been around for ages, are reasonably popular, and Toshiba chose to wait it out. IANAL, but I remember reading something about asking for retroactive damages when you know full well that infringement is happening, and how that's a bad idea.

        And how do we know that DVD6C and Memorex/Imation/etc weren't in discussions the whole time?

        Patent violation lawsuits can take years from first infringement to actual filing. Mostly because it can easily take y

      • On the other other hand, Memorex and Imation-branded DVDs have been around for ages, are reasonably popular, and Toshiba chose to wait it out. IANAL, but I remember reading something about asking for retroactive damages when you know full well that infringement is happening, and how that's a bad idea.

        The key question is, why do people even bother buying Memorex and Imation branded DVDs?

    • by jaiyen (821972) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @12:02PM (#28012883)
      On the other hand, this is why killing HD-DVD was such an important thing. Putting two major patent holders (Toshiba and Microsoft) in charge of the direction of the de facto media format would have been disastrous.

      Instead we've got nine major patent holders - Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Sharp, and Samsung - in charge of Blu-ray. Is that really an improvement ?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tlhIngan (30335)

        On the other hand, this is why killing HD-DVD was such an important thing. Putting two major patent holders (Toshiba and Microsoft) in charge of the direction of the de facto media format would have been disastrous.

        Instead we've got nine major patent holders - Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Sharp, and Samsung - in charge of Blu-ray. Is that really an improvement ?

        Actually, that's why there's patent corsortiums. There's the DVD6C, which handles all the patents related t

      • by shentino (1139071)

        I would rather have 9 competitors sharing a patent like dogs over a bone than have one monopoly using that patent as a stick to oppress the customer with.

  • Figures (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Altreus (1492723)

    Memorex make some of the better DVDRs I've used in the UK. I presume they sell the same ones in the USA.

    Toshiba, OTOH, sell expensive ones that don't seem to last quite so long.

    I presume therefore that it is cheaper to file a lawsuit in the US these days than it is to invest in R&D.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abreu (173023)

      Sorry, no... Toshiba already invested in the R&D and Memorex has been ripping them off

      Memorex needs to pay (hopefully reasonable) licensing costs like all the other DVD-R manufacturers

      • I could have bought that argument - if they sued them eight years ago.

        Why now? All of these companies are established as a core of the market. One could argue that Toshiba needed them to help establish the DVD-R marketplace as viable to begin with.

        There should be a shorter limit on how long you can knowingly allow someone to profit off of your supposed patents before you decide to sue them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Memorex make some of the better DVDRs I've used in the UK.

      Memorex makes fuck-all. They sell CMC Magnetics and Ritek media. The Office Depot brand is just as good.

      There is a relatively small number of manufacturers of DVDR media. Memorex, Imation, Maxell, etc. are just stamping their names on them.

      There a nice chart at the bottom of this page [digitalfaq.com]
      .

  • Ironic.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    The only reason to buy recordable media is for OS installation, as often it's either the easiest or only way to get the installer in. If USB flash drives aren't patent encumbered, can we please have our Linux installers readymade for them? Would be better for the environment too!
  • One of the eight companies named in the lawasuit, aside from Imation. Anyone know the others?

  • I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LordKaT (619540) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @12:05PM (#28012917) Homepage Journal

    When are we going to get "open" disc formats, like an "open" HD optical disc? It would seem to me that something of that nature would help drive down the cost of this type of media.

    Or am I being stupid again?

    • Re:I wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @12:19PM (#28013107) Journal
      Developing a new form of optical storage costs a lot of money in terms of R&D. The people who front this cash need to get it back somehow. If you can come up with a better way of doing this than patenting the new technologies and charging a license fee, then all you need to do is persuade someone to invest...
      • Re:I wonder (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PRMan (959735) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:49PM (#28014435)
        That's why Toshiba should Open HD-DVD and allow royalty-free use everywhere.
        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          It would make sense, seeing as HD-DVD is already dead in terms of straight competition with Blu-Ray.

          But aside from spite, Toshiba wouldn't stand to gain much from it. And considering Toshiba's past attitude to format patents (TFA included) it isn't likely high on their agenda.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Re-invent a new format just to drive down the price of a 0.25$ disc with nearly 8GB of storage capacity?

      I can't help but ask: Why?!

    • The simple solution is to wait for the Hologram based disk formats, that store Terabytes on a CD Sized disc. By the time it is actually released, the patents will have no doubt expired, since it is always 5 years in away...

  • Which patents? (Score:4, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @12:05PM (#28012925) Homepage Journal

    Which patents is it alleged that they are infringing? All of them? Some of them? Without knowing which patents they're talking about, we don't know what the fuck we're talking about. I see a lot of comments saying that Memorex &c should pay up... for what?

  • Imation have been offereing DVD media since at least 2002 [beststuff.com].

    Why the delay?

    Are Toshiba and the DVD6C group really suffering at the hands of solid state memory devices so badly that they need to reduce Imation's market share through a costly lawsuit? With Imation also owning TDK and Memorex, surely they could sell their products through their licences instead anyway? Or at least, 'rent' their facilities to them?

    I'd like to know what the 'real' catalyst was for this situation...
    • I'm wondering the same thing myself. What, did Toshiba only just now notice that these companies were making DVD-R media?
  • I hate CMC (memorex) even more. Their products are terrible wastes of plastic that would probably be slightly more useful as coasters (which they usually end up being anyways).

    Their dual layer DVDs are a joke and your lucky if you get one dvd-dl out of a pack of 20 that works and lasts for more than a month or two.

    Even their single layer DVDs are terrible. They only last a month or two.

    And the worst part is CMC has a near monopoly on DVDs. I went to compUSA and they didn't have a single non-CMC brand. If you don't know who makes it...its probably CMC. HP, Imation, Memorex, Generic Brands, and now even single layer once holy Verbatims.

    If CMC is sued out of existence for not paying Toshiba then they had whats coming to them. They certainly make terrible products that are a sheer joke. Who in their right mind would honestly trust their data on a CMC disc?

    Maybe with CMC out of the picture we can actually find Taiyo Yudens in stores. (because lets face whenever you need more DVDs you need them right away and don't feel like waiting for shipping)

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