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Kodak's Patent Spat Threatens Photo Web Sites 171

Posted by samzenpus
from the seeing-is-owning dept.
Alain Williams writes "According to the BBC: 'Kodak claimed it owns patents regarding the display of online images that is being infringed by Shutterfly. The photo-sharing site disputes these claims and has launched a counter suit. But the landmark case could have ramifications for other popular online photo sites such as Yahoo's Flickr and Google's Picasa.'"
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Kodak's Patent Spat Threatens Photo Web Sites

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  • It infringes on no less than 235 Kodak patents!!
  • Going nowhere (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:06PM (#34643998)

    Sorry, this goes nowhere.

    On line photos which could be downloaded for a fee (or free) were incorporated on the net before there even was a net.

    Which is long before Kodak even wised up to the fact that their world was coming to an end.

    From the earliest on line p0rn BBS sites right up to the current sync your phone to online photo sites, the prior art is there in huge steaming, jiggling piles.

    Too late Kodak.

    • Oh, but maybe they patented _charging for it_. And that's a huge leap!

      It's like the difference between a slut and a whore, and we all know that's about $250.

      • Oh, but maybe they patented _charging for it_. And that's a huge leap!

        It's like the difference between a slut and a whore, and we all know that's about $250.

        The difference has nothing to do with any set price. The difference is much more simple.

        A whore will sleep with anyone.
        A slut will sleep with anyone except you. ;)

    • If you RTFM you'll know that the summary is misleading. A quote from TFA best explains the claims:
      "The patents Kodak holds are incredibly broad, effectively covering images that are stored centrally and can be ordered online,"

      • by icebike (68054)

        If you RTFM you'll know that the summary is misleading. A quote from TFA best explains the claims:
        "The patents Kodak holds are incredibly broad, effectively covering images that are stored centrally and can be ordered online,"

        I did RTFA.

        But online centrally located storage of p0rn on a bbs that you had to subscribe to (with real money) existed well before Kodak patented their "incredibly broad" crapware.

        The broader the patent, the quicker they fall.

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          You PAID for BBS porn? Gosh. I got all my 8-bit and 16-bit nudity for free:
          http://girls.c64.org/a__girls64.php [c64.org]

          http://bitworld.bitfellas.org/demo.php?id=309 [bitfellas.org] (Porn Demo) "The 1985 Amiga was considered one of the first CPU's capable of handling high resolution, hard-core porn. This was achieved by putting a big juicy HAM inside the case, allowing the Amiga to display it's entire 12-bit palette of 4096 colors at once." - http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Amiga [wikia.com]

          • by gorzek (647352)

            Dear God, then how did the Amiga fail??

          • by oiron (697563)

            Wait, you're using Uncyclopedia as a citation?

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              Wait, you're using Uncyclopedia as a citation?

              I love the idea that GP thinks it is just the same as wikipedia, and quotes from it in his school homework.

        • by click2005 (921437) *

          Anyone know the date the patent was filed? Rusty n Edie's BBS was around and being sued in 1997 for having online images which they were selling.

          • by icebike (68054)

            A BBS still operating in 1997?

            I think you must be off by 10 years. You must mean 1987, right?

            In 1997 the web was up and running strong, and dial up BBSs were shutting down left and right.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              A BBS still operating in 1997?

              Yep, why not? In fact there are more then a few hundred BBS running as we speak right now. Sure, 99.9% of them are telnet only but there are a handful that still allow dial-up with a modem (as well as telnet on other nodes).

              The range of systems - currently telnetable, go from BBS running on C64s, Atari 8-bits, Atari STs, Commodore Amigas, PCs running Windows, to PCs running Linux.

              Updates are constantly happening to some major BBS packages like Renegade and definitely Synchronet. New doors are being written;

              • The way things are going with net UNneutrality and NONprivacy, maybe we'll have to go back to telnet via dial-up.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        Essentially, they patented "X.....on the Internet!"
         
        We need just a general rule that invalidates that whole train of thought in patents.

    • Sorry, this goes nowhere.

      On line photos which could be downloaded for a fee (or free) were incorporated on the net before there even was a net.

      Which is long before Kodak even wised up to the fact that their world was coming to an end.

      From the earliest on line p0rn BBS sites right up to the current sync your phone to online photo sites, the prior art is there in huge steaming, jiggling piles.

      Too late Kodak.

      If the claims of the patents are "1. A method for receiving photos, comprising (a) downloading, either for a fee or for free, photos via a network," you'd have a point. But they aren't. You have to find prior art for each and every element in the claims, not just each and every word in a patent's title.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Wrong.

        I just have to show prior art for the portion of the claim they alleged as being infringed.

        That they chose to include a claim for which there is ample prior art speaks to the sloppiness of their patent preparation, and in many cases proof of prior art on a single claim is enough to topple the entire patent.

        • Re:Claims (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus.slash ... .com minus distr> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:02PM (#34644616) Homepage Journal

          Wrong.

          I just have to show prior art for the portion of the claim they alleged as being infringed.

          No, you're wrong. To invalidate a claim of a patent, you must show that each and every limitation in the claim is either anticipated by the prior art under 35 USC 102 or obvious under a combination of prior art references under 35 USC 103(a).

          Similarly, to infinge a claim of a patent, you must infringe each and every limitation of the claim. If the claim says "A+B+C+D" and you only do "A+B+C", you have not infringed.

          Your statements about "the portion of the claim are simply incorrect.

          And yes, I am a registered patent agent.

          • I believe you, but I have to point out that this state of affairs is why so many people hate the patent system. If I can file a patent with an absurd number of absurdly broad claims, and then sue you for infringing on some specific part of one claim for which prior art exists, and to use the prior art defense you have to show that every claim in my patent is covered by prior art -- then the laws and regulations which allow this situation to exist are badly, badly broken. I defy anyone to explain how such

            • by lahvak (69490)

              Emh, please read again what the GP wrote: if you are only "infringing" on a specific part of a patent claim, you are in fact not infringing at all. So the situation you are describing cannot happen. A patent with an absurd number of parts will be harder to invalidate, but also less useful, since less people will infringe upon it.

            • Re:Claims (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus.slash ... .com minus distr> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:41PM (#34645006) Homepage Journal

              I believe you, but I have to point out that this state of affairs is why so many people hate the patent system. If I can file a patent with an absurd number of absurdly broad claims, and then sue you for infringing on some specific part of one claim for which prior art exists,

              Once more, from my prior post:

              Similarly, to infinge a claim of a patent, you must infringe each and every limitation of the claim. If the claim says "A+B+C+D" and you only do "A+B+C", you have not infringed. Your statements about "the portion of the claim are simply incorrect.

              It is impossible to sue for infringement of a "part" of a claim. Thinking logically about this should make it obvious... Say I invent a working teleportation machine and claim "1. A teleportation machine comprising: (a) a seat for the operator to sit in; and (b) [a whole bunch of stuff required for a teleportation machine to operate]." It should be immediately obvious that I can't sue chair makers everywhere.

              In summary, the situation you think exists does not actually exist. There may be other legitimate arguments regarding the patent system - this is simply not one of them.

              • Oops, sorry, I misread.

              • It is impossible to sue for infringement of a "part" of a claim.

                Strictly speaking, this isn't true. It's theoretically impossible to win when suing for infringement of only part of a claim, but you can certainly file the lawsuit. And depending on whom you sue, that could be just as good as actually winning.

              • by makomk (752139)

                It is impossible to sue for infringement of a "part" of a claim.

                Except that you sort-of can using the doctrine of equivalents. What's more, under current US patent law, the definition of what's broad enough to infringe the patent due to the doctrine of equivalents seems to be massively wider than the definition of what's similar enough to count as prior art.

            • by Myopic (18616)

              "Broken"? Hardly. As a senator to "fix" that bug in the law the way you and I "fix" bugs in software, and the bug report will simply get marked "Works as intended".

          • by lahvak (69490)

            The way I understand it is that if the claim says "A & B & C & D", it is not even enough to find a prior art for each of A, B, C and D, you would have to find a prior art for the combination of A, B, C and D, unless that combination is "obvious".

            • The way I understand it is that if the claim says "A & B & C & D", it is not even enough to find a prior art for each of A, B, C and D, you would have to find a prior art for the combination of A, B, C and D, unless that combination is "obvious".

              Yes, although if you can find separate art for A, B, C, and D, the motivation to combine them may be obvious to try, particularly in the predictable arts such as mechanics or software. It's a lot tougher in chemistry, where all of the individual elements are known, but that doesn't meant that it's obvious to make some new cancer-curing drug. But in software, where you can find compression algorithms and sorting algorithms, it's relatively trivial to say "sort and compress!"

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Sorry, this goes nowhere.

      On line photos which could be downloaded for a fee (or free) were incorporated on the net before there even was a net.

      And, indeed, ever since HTML has had the IMG tag. Sites like Flickr and Picasa are essentially hosting services.

      I seriously hope Kodak gets smacked down hard over this. Judging by the quality of the last two Kodak printers my wife bought, I say good riddance to them.

      This is essentially one of those "with a computer" patents.

    • Okay, not only did you not read the claims of any of these patents, but you also didn't even read any part of any of the patents at all, considering that no patents were linked and no numbers were given in the article. Yet you still profess to have countless examples of clear anticipatory prior art that could easily demolish every one of these patents. How's that work, exactly?

    • Re:Going nowhere (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @06:44PM (#34646892)

      On line photos which could be downloaded for a fee (or free) were incorporated on the net before there even was a net.

      Which is long before Kodak even wised up to the fact that their world was coming to an end.

      Kodak owns so many patents on digital photography and digital imaging precisely because they wised up to the fact that the film world was coming to an end. They wised up to it probably before most of you were even born. They made the first digital camera in 1975. They had professional digital camera gear for the press at market in 1991, the 1.3 MP DCS-100 [wikipedia.org]. Consumer digital cameras as we know them today (with a rear LCD) didn't show up until 1995, with the 0.25 MP Casio CV-10. The reason Kodak is still around despite the death of film and their lack of success with digital products is because just about everyone making digital cameras and camcorders pays them hefty royalties to license their patents.

      While what they're doing may seem patent-trollish due to them being unable to successfully market a product based on their patents, they were in fact pioneers in the field of digital imaging. Their patent portfolio was legitimately earned through R&D, and they have marketed products using those technologies. They're not trolls buying up patents from defunct companies, sitting on them until someone else develops a product based on the idea, waiting for it to become successful, then suing. They are using patents the way they were intended to be used.

    • Which is long before Kodak even wised up to the fact that their world was coming to an end.

      Kodak did a lot of pioneering work with digital imaging going back to the 70's (much of it funded by ARPA). They still have active patents on CCDs that are widely licensed. They have also acquired a number of imaging patents from companies like Wang. While they can be accused of sitting on their laurels while film was king, Kodak did lay some key groundwork for present day technologies.

      • by icebike (68054)

        What does this have to do with them shutting down image sharing sites which existed in BBS form even before there was an internet?

        So quick to defend. Do you work for Kodak?

    • by cheekyboy (598084)

      NASA is everyones prio art, they invented sending online photos from mars to earth ;)

  • Xerox is gonna be pissed! That Alto station is gonna have to be licensed up soon.

    • Haha!
      Good one, ya old fart! :D (me too) Of course, these yunguns around here mostly haven't a clue what you're talking about...

  • Market cap.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:09PM (#34644028)
    Isn't Kodak's market cap well less than $2BN? Google should just buy them, fire everyone, sell of the interesting parts, and then salt the land where their headquarters is.
    • Unfortunately, that is a specific violation of antitrust law. But there is a loophole for using bleach instead of salt.
  • !news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:09PM (#34644030)

    This isn't news. Filing a lawsuit doesn't say anything; It's a numbers game. Think of it like this: Let's say you have a 10% chance of prevailing, it will cost you 1 million dollars in legal fees to get a shot at rolling those dice, and the payoff if you make it is 150 million in licensing fees. Is it worth it? Now, stop and consider that because of the way the patent system is setup, you can have many additional challenges, each with about a 10% chance of success. If a lawsuit is filed, it is because the risk/benefit analysis is favorable. It has nothing to do with justice, fairness, or any intangible value you might care to place on it.

    This is one business throwing the dice and seeing if the bet pays off. It isn't news until pay day.

    • This isn't news. Filing a lawsuit doesn't say anything; It's a numbers game. Think of it like this: Let's say you have a 10% chance of prevailing, it will cost you 1 million dollars in legal fees to get a shot at rolling those dice, and the payoff if you make it is 150 million in licensing fees. Is it worth it? Now, stop and consider that because of the way the patent system is setup, you can have many additional challenges, each with about a 10% chance of success. If a lawsuit is filed, it is because the r

    • by BluBrick (1924)

      It has nothing to do with justice, fairness, or any intangible value you might care to place on it.

      If that were truly the case, any judge in his right mind should summarily dismiss it before it gets anywhere near a courtroom. Alas, it shall never be. For it seems that in the United States of America, the law itself has nothing to do with justice, fairness or any intangible value you might care to place on it.

      • by Myopic (18616)

        It indeed has nothing to do with justice or fairness; it has only to do with applying the law. If it's an unjust or unfair law, then, well shit that's what.

  • by clone52431 (1805862) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:11PM (#34644056)

    Kodak used to be the single leader in innovative technology with their film, cameras, and the invention of the (nearly) instant-print Polaroid. Now, they’re essentially a gigantic patent troll. They haven’t been really innovative for a very long time, and their last resort is to sue.

    Those who can, do. Those who cannot, sue.

    • by a_kibitzer (1173865) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:16PM (#34644110)
      I think Dr. Land and Polaroid Corp will be interested to learn that Kodak invented Polaroid instant photography.
      • Ah, my bad. Yes, turns out that Polaroid was in fact a competitor of Kodak, and they actually filed a successful patent suit against Kodak for their Kodamatic instant camera line. How ironic.

        • by dangitman (862676)

          Yes, turns out that Polaroid was in fact a competitor of Kodak

          It turns out? That's one of the most fundamental facts of modern photographic history, not something that one should have to look up. You should really read about Dr. Land's life and work.

    • Kodak used to be the single leader in innovative technology with their film, cameras, and the invention of the (nearly) instant-print Polaroid. Now, they're essentially a gigantic patent troll.

      Well, no. Not only did they not invent or market Polaroid, they're still a big player in cameras, sensors, printers and printing (both home and commercial scale, photo and text/page), etc... etc...

      They haven't been really innovative for a very long time, and their last resort is to sue.

      As above - not even rem

      • No. They’re a wanna-be, and they market a bunch of crap point-and-shoot digital cameras with lousy cheap components that appeal to people who don’t do their homework before buying something.

        • The Kodak you see in Best Buy is only a tiny fraction of the 'real' Kodak. They do quite a bit of medical and industrial imaging. This has nothing to do with their potential to be a patent troll, but it isn't correct to say that Kodak is just a bunch of crappy 100 dollar cameras. Yes, they have a lot of crappy 100 dollar cameras, but it's only a small part of their business.
        • ROTFLMAO. You're not only utterly clueless, it seems you're willingly so as you're too stupid or lazy to visit Wikipedia or Kodak's own website.

          • Since you’re so knowledgeable, see if you can answer this question without referring to Google: What is Kodak’s current status with the Better Business Bureau, and why and how?

    • Kodak also invented the digital camera (1975), introduced the Bayer mask for color imaging (1976), and was a leader in digital imaging technology in many other ways (first megapixel detector, etc.). Their handicap was that they had a huge existing business which would be horribly cannibalized by digital technology. As a result, they were unable to take the business decisions which would have commercially exploited these digital imaging innovations.
      They are still a leader in CCD sensors.
      • by gfreeman (456642)

        Kodak also invented the digital camera (1975)

        No, they built the first CCD* camera in 1975 - but they didn't invent 'the digital camera'. The idea had been around since the early 60's.

        *Not invented by Kodak

    • by robogun (466062)

      They've always been dickish with their business practices. I remember in 1980 the price of silver shot up and they quadrupled film prices for the micrograms of silver per roll required for the emulsions. When the price of silver collapsed a few months later, the film prices stayed exactly where they were.

      I shot Fuji ever after, until going digital.

  • I think these patent lawsuits will just keep coming, and coming, and coming.

    Are any companies going to have any resources to commit to technological innovation? Not if they are constantly forced to conduct rear guard operations against lawsuit assaults.

    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:14PM (#34644092)

      Innovation will simply move to less patent-encumbered locations (i.e. China/India).

      • by vlueboy (1799360)

        Innovation will simply move to less patent-encumbered locations (i.e. China/India).

        China actually became an exporting power after WWII because "more patent-encumbered locations" have 0 power over them: no chasing China's reverse engineering*, and now gray markets.

        It follows that if the tables do turn, you can bet your imported iPhone knockoff that every country will go "it's payback time!" and the next World War will be China chasing its IP in a over-righteous way. But the tables will probably never turn.

        * REAL patent theft consists of reading and then just implementing what the patents d

  • by Camel Pilot (78781) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:26PM (#34644236) Homepage Journal

    Clarification: The dispute it that not just with hosting images but allowing these image to ordered on-line.

    From the fine article Kodak says "We are committed to protecting these assets from unauthorized use,"

    Translation: We want to make money off a really obvious idea because we missed the digital almost entirely and haven't found a way to be truly innovative.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:39PM (#34644368)

      Kodak didn't miss digital - they were even one of the pioneers of digital photography back in the 70s - nothing commercial though.

      Kodak is quite successful with their Leaf brand of sensors - they're in high end medium format cameras - Hassalblad, Phase One, and a few other $10,000+ cameras to as high as $50,000 for a camera body - no lens.

      Kodak just couldn't get the market penetration into the consumer digital camera market like the Japanese and their Professional camera body just didn't sell. For the low end consumer cameras, Kodak outsources everything. The only thing Kodak about their point and shoot cameras is that name - everything else is just cheap crap.

      Film photography is declining and Kodak just can't seam to get their act together in the digital area. They have been there since the beginning but they just can't compete with the Asian companies: Nikon, Canon, Pentax, SONY, Panasonic, etc...

      Speaking of SONY and Panasonic, they were a bit late to the still camera game and they still are kicking Kodak's ass.

      • by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:29PM (#34644920) Homepage

        Apparently a study by OKCupid confirms that Kodak's EasyShare cameras are complete shite [okcupid.com].

        Anecdotally, my sister randomly bought one right before a trip (from Costco) a few years ago, and not only did her vacation pix suck, the damn thing broke in less than 2 months. The charger/connector looked like ass (a whole damn docking station) , and the whole thing just smacked of bad ideas mashed together without any market analysis or taste.

        Perhaps it's because Kodak didn't want to jeapordize their film business or because the lenses were all made by the japanese companies anyway? If I had a choice of a decent dSLR from Kodak (back in 2003ish), I might have purchased one... I still have my original Canon Digital Rebel and it still takes awesome pictures with a fixed 50mm f1/8.

        • Easyshare camera's are a range of camera's with a wide range of specifications. I don't think you can write off all models of easyshare camera's.

          The easyshare is just a feature that allows you to upload pictures straight from the camera probably related to the patent in question. Since the camera is just a mass storage device to a pc easyshare is just a piece of software and unrelated to the camera hardware as such.

          My camera has been pretty good so far it's not excellent, but for a point and shoot i'm happy

        • Perhaps it's because [...] the lenses were all made by the japanese companies anyway?
          [...]
          I still have my original Canon Digital Rebel and it still takes awesome pictures with a fixed 50mm f1/8.

          Ah, you mean the Japanese company Canon [wikipedia.org], right? The ones that apparently makes crappy lenses? Just like Nikon [wikipedia.org], Sigma [wikipedia.org], Minolta [wikipedia.org], Olympus [wikipedia.org], Panasonic [wikipedia.org], Pentax [wikipedia.org]/Hoya [wikipedia.org], Ricoh [wikipedia.org], Sony [wikipedia.org], Tamron [wikipedia.org] and Tokina [wikipedia.org] right?

          They're ALL Japanese companies, and they all make really really crappy lenses, right? Unlike Kodak [wikipedia.org] - that All American co

          • by rsborg (111459)

            No, what I was trying to say was that if japense companies make most all the lenses, it would be hard to enter the dSLR market for Kodak since it's *the* premier component, and the Japanese have a lock on it.

            I love my Canon lens collection. You need to try decaf.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Kodak didn't miss digital - they were even one of the pioneers of digital photography back in the 70s - nothing commercial though.

        Kodak is quite successful with their Leaf brand of sensors

        Actually, they kind of did. The work back in the 70s was basically ignored by the company. Much like Xerox ignored the company's own work on computing because they are all about selling photocopiers, Kodak ignored digital imaging because they are all about selling film.

        Even your example of Leaf is quite salient. For Kodak, digital was a niche product for exotic purposes. What they missed is that it would soon take over all photography and become a cheap, mass-market product, rather than a rarefied high-marg

    • Further clarification:

      Kodak is going after services like Shutterfly which allow users to upload pictures to servers on the Internet and then allows the user (and his/her friends) to order PRINTS of the stored pictures. This isn't about IMG tags, or delivery of digital files - it's about an online store for printed images.

      Not that this isn't an obvious application in this day and age, but given Kodak's long history of (obscure, but industry-leading) innovation in digital photography, it wouldn't surprise me

      • How is this any different than mailing negatives away and requesting prints? I mean, it's a fucking website that likely funnels images to a high-end IP photo printer.

        • To me most Internet business method patents are patently ridiculous. They're all either obvious answers to common problems, or extensions of good old fashioned non-Internet practices.

          I have more (though still very little) sympathy for patents on mathematical algorithms like those used to bottle up the GIF format for so long than I do for business method patents.

          I was merely pointing out that this was more than a patent on image delivery to a computer; that, at the time, they were likely the first service t

  • Think what the business world would be like if someone had been allowed to patent: "Process for storing products in boxes in a warehouse and later moving them to shelves in a retail store."

    USPTO patent approvers should do that. Especially the thinking part.

    • by ath1901 (1570281)

      Imagine what the patent system had been like if someone had been allowed to patent:
      "Process for making vague statements and forcing others to pay for using, doing or making anything roughly matching any such statement".
      I just invented the meta-patent: A patent on the patent system.

      Too bad there is plenty of prior art in the American legal system.

  • So, one invents a screen whoms sole purpose is to present picture. And then someone finds a way to get a patent to present a picture on a screen... hahahahaha
  • Did it strike anyone else that this feels like a SCO type of argument? Technology company turns litigious in a last gasp to remain relevant. Just a thought...
    • That's my thinking as well. The last gasp of a company that technology has left behind, using the courts in an attempt to become a parasite on newer businesses via licensing fees.

      How exactly anyone could meaningfully patent retrieval of image files from a server is quite beyond me.

  • I knew that there were several Kodaks that share patents among them?

  • Does anyone know what the actual fucking patent is? Anyone? Bueller?

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