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Webvention Demanding $80k For Rollover Images 314

Posted by timothy
from the define-gobsmackery dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Webvention is demanding that websites with rollover images pay $80,000 or face a patent lawsuit based on US patent 5,251,294, which it bought from Intellectual Ventures. Webvention claims to already have licensing deals with Apple, Google, Nokia, Sears, Sony and Orbitz. Right now, they're suing Abercrombie and Fitch, Bed Bath & Beyond, Dell, Gamestop, E*Trade, Neiman Marcus, Visa and ten others in a court in east Texas."
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Webvention Demanding $80k For Rollover Images

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  • Re:Seems Obvious? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:26PM (#33900800) Homepage

    Doesn't change much. If you ban software patents then no-one gives a shit whatever it was obvious or not :D

    Imho the world would had sucked if all ideas from the beginning of time was protected by some mechanism.

    Want to use numbers? Write things? Associate images with real objects? Use a tooth brush? Drink juice? ...

  • keep it up, trolls (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pak9rabid (1011935) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:28PM (#33900830)
    This is a perfect example why software patents need to be invalidated across the board. They do nothing to help consumers or innovation...they're just a tool used by companies to extort money from legitimate businesses.
  • by cob666 (656740) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:31PM (#33900868) Homepage
    Isn't image rollover part of the HTML standard? I recall seeing this type of functionality in early web sites when browsers were first being used. I really hope that somebody with deep pockets decides to fight this and get the patent invalidated.
  • Re:Abstract... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h00manist (800926) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:33PM (#33900888) Journal

    Help me out...WTF does this mean, and WTF does it have to do with rollovers?

    "Give me money. "
    It's in legalese. You wouldn't understand, it's a lawyer thing.

  • Re:Abstract... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:39PM (#33900966) Journal
    Honestly, I think almost all patents should be invalid because they're completely incomprehensible to someone skilled in the art. Sadly it seems that patent law doesn't work like that.
  • Re:Expired (Score:3, Insightful)

    by larien (5608) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:41PM (#33900996) Homepage Journal
    The penalty isn't for losing, it's for fighting. Most big companies can't be bothered with the hassle of paying lawyers for protracted lawsuits, where the judges often don't understand the technical detail being discussed and so there's a risk of losing even if the lawsuit is patently bollocks.

    Patent trolls exploit the fact it's cheaper to roll over & pay the fee than it is to fight, where if you win, you lose.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:44PM (#33901038)
    Sure glad we didn't have software patents back when addition, subtraction, division, geometry, and calculus was invented.

    We might have been set back centuries in advancement.
  • Re:Abstract... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stregano (1285764) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:47PM (#33901072)
    I actually fully agree. If a web developer themself has no clue at all what this patent is talking about, then who is it referring to? Shouldn't experts in the field understand the patent itself? If experts in the field have no clue what they are saying, then are they really saying anything?

    Questions which make me fully agree that if a person in the field has no clue what it is saying, that it should be counted as not really saying anything. If it doesn't say anything, it is not really a patent, and we can get rid of it
  • Re:Abstract... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Locutus (9039) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:47PM (#33901078)
    it really doesn't matter because with enough lawyers to keep it in court for years, the large companies crush all the others and squeeze them out of existence. Didn't I just read how the inventor a graphene was told this kind of thing directly and it is why he did not patent it and why he was not able to collect any royalties for his invention?

    This kind of thing is destroying innovation because it becomes futile to try and create something new when you'll just end up in court and eventually the lawyers get all your money and the other side gets all your IP.

    LoB
  • by retchdog (1319261) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:47PM (#33901082) Journal

    Another problem that could have been circumvented if we limited patent terms to approximately "one generation of technology"/3. In this case it'd be about 12/3=4 years.

    17 years is a holdover from the days of covered wagons and rail; where there were no parcel systems, no telecommunications, and no rapid prototyping plants. If we scaled 17 years by the growth in effective rate of fabrication and marketing, it'd probably be on the order a few months. Four years is shockingly conservative.

  • by TavisJohn (961472) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:49PM (#33901102) Homepage

    I would rather invest $80,000 in a work around than to pay that extortion fee. Heck I would invest $160,000 in a work around! Then sell it for a one time fee of $2,000 to everyone who was being harassed.
    There is no way Rollover images are worth that much.

    Hell I would remove all rollover images before paying anything!

  • Re:Seems Obvious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:53PM (#33901138)

    Good thing patents have a limited term, huh?

  • by KPexEA (1030982) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:59PM (#33901238)
    Even if this was a valid patent the websites are all just sending html/text to whatever agent the user is running. It's the browser that is actually doing the rendering. So does that not mean that the browser is the one that needs to get the license?
  • by sexconker (1179573) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @06:00PM (#33901260)

    Who cares about the politicians? Webvention is suing a pharmaceutical company, which certainly has their own lobbyists. All they need to do now is go after Exxon-Mobil, Monsanto, Smith & Wesson, and Philip-Morris, and software patents are gone for good.

    I like how you lumped in the companies that are not evil but are hated by liberals (Exxon-Mobil, Smith & Wesson) with the companies that are actually evil (Monsanto, Philip-Morris) in your little fantasy. And then left out Google.

  • Expired last week? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nickersonm (1646933) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @06:06PM (#33901332)

    Shouldn't this patent have expired last week? It was filed in Feb. 1990, and issued October 5th 1993. 17 years from issuance or 20 from filing, whichever is greater, would be October 5th 2010.

  • by Grond (15515) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @06:14PM (#33901420) Homepage

    I'd say prior art is going to be impossible to come up with in the context of HTTP and the World Wide Web.

    Prior art doesn't have to be in the same context as the infringement. Prior art only has to describe the elements of the claimed invention.

    In this case, the application doesn't mention the Internet or the Web, though it does mention HyperText and HyperCard. The claims are written in broad terms, which actually makes it easier to find an example of something that fits the bill. If the inventor had been some visionary that described HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (i.e., the way most rollovers are implemented today), then sure, it would be impossible to find prior art, but that's not how the claims were written, and indeed the reexamination request claims that HyperCard, HyperText, and a couple of other systems (WE and SuperBook) are prior art.

  • citation required (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mevets (322601) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @06:31PM (#33901682)

    Smith&Wesson probably would be evil if they weren't doing such a great job killing off all the gun nuts, but Exxon-Mobil? By what comparison are Exxon-Mobil not evil? Start the list in Alaska, and work your way south.

  • Fixing the US (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HannethCom (585323) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:00PM (#33901982)
    It is time for us (Canada) to enact our world domination plan starting by politely asking the US to surrender as they have proven incapable of governing themselves.

    For full information on our plan go here:
    http://www.standingonguard.com/index2.html [standingonguard.com]
  • by BillX (307153) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:51PM (#33903182) Homepage

    The part being quoted (description), while pretty clearly talking vague nonsense, actually has zero bearing on the patent itself. When determining whether or not a patent is infringed, the Claims section is the only part worth even looking at. Pretty much the only time the description can have any effect on a patent is if an undefined or loosely-defined term is used in the claims; the examiners/court/whomever is then generally allowed to use the definition, if any, present in the description.

    The 2nd independent claim is:

    2. A computer-based method for aiding a user in assembling a customized body of information from a larger body of available information segments, the method comprising
    displaying a set of labels, each label providing an abbreviated indication of information content of a corresponding one of said available information segments in said larger body, enabling a user to point to individual labels in said set using an electronic pointing technique, for each label to which said user points, displaying to the user, for previewing, information content of the corresponding segment, simultaneously while displaying said information content of a segment corresponding to a label to which the user is pointing, displaying information content for a segment corresponding to a label to which the user had previously pointed.

    I can't even parse that, but it seems to come closer to describing a rollover for a suitably creative interpretation, IFF the rollover shows an abbreviated label/category normally and switches to a more detailed subset of what that category contains (auto-popping-out submenu, pictures of multiple products in a category). Still, it's a pretty big stretch. (OTOH, there are 76 more claims I didn't bother to read...)

  • Re:Seems Obvious? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @10:33PM (#33903978)

    Actually good inventions make you think "wow, I never would have thought of that!"

    Shitty inventions make you think "wow, they got a patent for this?"

  • Re:Seems Obvious? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @11:22PM (#33904306)

    only that's not what happens.

    Companies without the cash to get reams of patents still innovate.
    they still make profits because big companies are slow and clumsy.
    Copyright protects them from having their product simply taken and resold openly(a small amount of piracy excepted) and their competitors have to actually spend the time to create their own product and catch up.

    20 years is 5-10 generations?
    5 years is 5-10 generations for some software.

    The software industry is large enough, distributed enough, competitive enough and innovative enough that it needs patents like it needs a car battery attached to the testicles.

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