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World's Largest Patent Troll Fires First Salvo 189

Posted by kdawson
from the sleeping-under-the-world's-largest-bridge dept.
ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "Yesterday the biggest software patent troll of all finally woke from its slumbers: Intellectual Ventures filed patent infringement complaints in the US District Court of Delaware against companies in the software security, DRAM and Flash memory, and field-programmable gate array industries. Intellectual Ventures was co-founded by Microsoft's former CTO Nathan Myhrvold, with others from Intel and a Seattle-based law firm." We discussed IV's potential for patent trollery last spring.
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World's Largest Patent Troll Fires First Salvo

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  • by TheL0ser (1955440) on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:28AM (#34514242)
    They'll "let" other people use them.... and then sue them. Without even looking at it, I'm sure some of the patents are so broad I'm violating one by breathing.
  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:31AM (#34514290) Journal
    Well, it's not good directly, but if the big companies start getting hit by patent attacks, then we might soon see absurd patent laws and approvals get an overdue overhaul. Previously, they've seemed like an advantage to the big players because they form a barrier to entry that keeps out new competition. The big players have armouries of patents and, much like nuclear weapons are supposed to protect through a principle of MAD, they didn't use them on each other much. But it seems there is rampant proliferation and we're seeing patent fights between big players erupt despite this (e.g. Nokia and Apple). So maybe disillusionment with them will creep in. And unlike nuclear weapons, disarmament is simple - big companies can't advocate for a change in the laws of Physics, but changes in the laws of the land, they can do.

    Maybe it's optimistic. Maybe it will all settle down into a cartel and the patent threat to small players will remain. But if the patent trolls are greedy enough to really take a bite out of the hand that feeds them, perhaps not.
  • swine... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spidercoz (947220) on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:33AM (#34514310) Journal
    Corporate leeches like this are why American capitalism is in the toilet.
  • by dmomo (256005) on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:38AM (#34514356) Homepage

    I thought the justification for continuing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans was that it would help the economy, because investment would trickle down through innovation / job creation. Here is a wonderful counter point to that argument.

    If we want to entice the wealthy to use money to create jobs, why don't tie their rewards directly to job creation? These people are actually killing the economy and making people poor by creating a money-sink in the economy where no value is added. They are not only hurting these big companies with their greed, they are helping to force a divide in wealth distribution and indirectly making real people go hungry.

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:38AM (#34514358) Journal

    To put in the perspective of world politics, the big companies are like Russia, China, or the US. Each has significant assets to protect, making MAD a viable way to protect themselves.

    The patent trolls are like North Korea or Iran; they have no real assets to protect and nothing of significant value that can be destroyed (assuming you don't give a damn about people or jobs, which they don't).

    So as long as the big companies have something to protect, the North Koreas and Irans of the business world will continue to harass them until the rules change.

  • Re:swine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noidentity (188756) on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:45AM (#34514434)
    No, the corruption of capitalism with imaginary property is why these things are in the toilet. It's an artificial monopoly over everyone's (non-imaginary) property.
  • Re:I own a patent. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Friday December 10, 2010 @12:04PM (#34514582) Journal
    You make two mistakes in asking what /. thinks are the correct answers. One is assuming that Slashdot has a group mind, the second is that the most vocal are the most representative. But with those caveats:

    Sure, you could sell your patent if that's the best way of capitalising on it. But whether that's good or bad depends on other factors - mainly the validity of your patent. If you just patented an idea that would likely occur to other people and sat on it until someone else did think of it and then sued over it... That would be bad. You've contributed nothing and caused a destructive effect. If you were an independent research chemist who came up with an innovative new process after much testing and it's far from obvious, then by all means approach another company and sell or licence your patent. But you see the difference between the two examples is not whether or not the patent has been sold. It's whether the patent has been originally awarded to someone or some group that actually added to society with their original contribution. What companies like this do, is file as many stupid obvious or natural ideas as they can and then look for someone else to independently stumble into the same area before pouncing.

    The answer to the question of whether you have the right to sell the patent, is actually more, do you have the right to a patent. I.e. did you come up with something genuinely original, either through your unique genius or more likely careful testing and research, that has added to society's capability, or did you write down "a website could have a 'one-click' button that lets you buy things" and wait for someone to implement it.
  • Re:swine... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2010 @12:09PM (#34514646)

    Corporate leeches like this are why American capitalism is in the toilet.

    Well, this is American capitalism at its finest, and it's the logical conclusion of the way they do things. The whole ACTA treaty is so that patent-trolls and IP lawyers can sue every last motherfucker on the planet.

    The American notion of capitalism is the most bloated, fucked up, and protectionist thing you can imagine. For a country that constantly says how much they want the free market and free trade, they do everything they possibly can to make sure that neither could possibly exist.

    Sorry America, but you brought this on yourself. Fuck you for foisting this crap on the rest of us.

  • by theodicey (662941) on Friday December 10, 2010 @12:11PM (#34514660)

    I once knew someone who was naive enough to confuse a patent troll operation with a real Menlo Park skunkworks/invention lab.

    She was 22 years old and looking for a job; what's Stephenson's excuse?

  • by microbox (704317) on Friday December 10, 2010 @12:16PM (#34514710)
    These people are actually killing the economy and making people poor by creating a money-sink in the economy where no value is added. They are not only hurting these big companies with their greed, they are helping to force a divide in wealth distribution and indirectly making real people go hungry.

    Your logic is impecable; however, it will bounch straight off of market fundamentalists. The economy of imaginary things is precisely what the new world order stands for, and an expression of the correctness of laisezz-faire capitalism. Railing against it is totalitarian, and will just interfer with wealth creation and freedom. Interesting that wealth is created out of imaginary things that are meaningless, trivial, and detrimental to getting real work done. But, in the words of one venture capitalist: IP is the new gold. The economy has to grow somehow -- and that is the ultimate rationalisation for this madness.
  • by bky1701 (979071) on Friday December 10, 2010 @12:18PM (#34514726) Homepage
    Imaginary property like patents and copyright always consolidates power over information into the hands of the few. They do not protect the creators, they make ideas a commodity to be traded.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday December 10, 2010 @12:51PM (#34515064) Journal
    I have no problem with what IBM does. They are a practicing entity which is directly opposite of what IV does [wikipedia.org]. The difference is that a high rate of IBM's patents are granted. This is proper use of the patent system because IBM then makes those products.

    I suspect Intellectual Ventures spends a nice chunk of it's money on forcing patents through the system. Thousands of patents that evidently have little business being patents. But their legion of lawyers persists pushing these patents and revisioning them. Yes, they pay thousands of dollars on each patent to do this but this is an abuse of the patent system if they do this just because they have money.

    Imagine if this first salvo results in hundreds of millions of dollars going to IV. Then what? Then that money goes into putting more strain on the USPTO and more lawyers are hired to push unwarranted patents through the system. Then those win more suits and more lawyers are hired in a classic breeder model of lawyer propagation. If my calculations are correct, by the year 2054 the Earth will be a mass of patent lawyers expanding outward at the speed of light only to eventually collapse back in on itself causing a "Big Crunch" and ending the universe until the next big bang. Intellectual Ventures must be stopped (with apologies to Stanislaw Lem).

    But seriously, the two are totally different in that one produces and one sues.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Friday December 10, 2010 @01:47PM (#34515616)

    I work part-time at Intellectual Ventures Labs, which enables me to get out of the house and exercise the nerdy predilections that I used to exercise at Blue Origin. This is a sort of all-purpose science lab and thing-making facility where new inventions are developed and then locked away for 20 years.

    There, fixed that for you Mr. Stephenson.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:38PM (#34517008) Homepage Journal

    I thought the justification for continuing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans was that it would help the economy, because investment would trickle down through innovation / job creation.

    "Trickle down economics" is rank bullshit. Wealth doesn't trickle down, it flows up. Wealth is created on the factory floor, the programmer's cube, the fry cook's stove. The wealthy do not create wealth, they control wealth.

    Giving a rich man money doesn't give him any incentive to put it into the economy at all, let alone create jobs. If business is bad and he can't sell many of his wares, no tax break will induce him to hire. The only way he's going to hire is if demand for his product outstrips his capacity to supply it.

    If you want to stimulate job creation, you give tax breaks to the middle clas and poor. Especially the poor, who have to spend that money out of necessity. They spend that extra money on goods that the rich man's employees creates, and if they buy enough, the rich man will have to hire to meet the demand.

    Don't give a tax break to the rich for hiring the poor, give it to the poor themselves.

    Note that most poor in the US are, in fact, workers.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday December 10, 2010 @07:22PM (#34519414)

    Even if there is, do you go to the patent office every time you do something obvious just to check whether the idiots granted a patent on it without having a clue just that they just patented the equivalent of the wheel?

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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