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Bittorrent and uTorrent Sued For Patent Violations 182

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'm-patenting-patents dept.
dutchwhizzman writes "Bittorrent and uTorrent have been sued for using certain techniques in their clients and the bittorrent protocol. From the article it appears technologies are being used that were submitted in a 1999 patent that was subsequently approved in 2007. This itself is not uncommon, but given the technologies involved, HTTP could very well be prior art, or it could violate at least part of the same protocol."
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Bittorrent and uTorrent Sued For Patent Violations

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20, 2011 @08:44AM (#36498848)

    Software patents need to die. End of story.

    • by Haedrian (1676506)

      In certain countries software patents aren't accepted. In my country there is a particular clause which says that you can't patent software.

      However, in a country which is in the pocket of large corporations, do you think anyone is going to try to change that?

      • by jhoegl (638955)
        This patent is so "generalized" that sites like TuCows and Fileplanet could be sued.
        Both examples of sites that existed before 1999 using this "patent".
      • by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday June 20, 2011 @09:35AM (#36499438)

        "In two-three countries, software patents are accepted". Everywhere else, they're not.

        Specifically USA, South Korea and partially Japan. That's it.

        • by Haedrian (1676506)

          Thanks for the info. I was doing an assignment on this, and I found a lot of references to some EU patent discussion in 2005 or something like that, but I couldn't find out how it finished.

          • The software patents idea was defeated at the EU Parlament, to be voted again in a later data (that I don't remember) because bad terror movies always end with an "I'll be back" clause.

            The fact that the EU Parlament was able to disagree with all the houses of elected bodies generated some concerns for a while, but then people forgot, and the EU come into an economical crisis, now all houses of elected bodies are quotidianely circunvented by several EU bodies on several countries.

            • by Luckyo (1726890)

              Except that they're not. Some politicians certainly do want software patents, but getting it from back door actually got harder after Lisbon was adopted, giving parliament even more powers.

              Commission, which is not elected and is essentially a lobbyist organisation wants these patents in. Parliament does not. The reason they didn't put software patents to the vote was because it was painfully clear that they would get massively rejected. There is always a right to get the vote in on a later date, as is with

          • by Luckyo (1726890)

            It finished with commission being essentially put against the wall by parliament. Ultimatum was clear: either you strike software patents from patent reform package and we pass it, or you keep it and it gets voted down.

            Lobbyists who drafted the reform figured that nothing would be worse for their cause then a very public rejection by a generally elected legislative body and decided to not even put the package to a vote.

        • But which country in "everywhere else" has the wherewithal to accept 300 million refugees from the U.S. software patent regime?
          • Canada probably could. Certainly have the space, the similar climate, the same language, and the food capacity to feed that many refugees.... but you'd have to learn to be polite, and to make fun of Americans for their silly backward laws.

            • by alexo (9335)

              Canada probably could.

              Harper got a majority, you may want to reconsider.

        • Doesn't Australia [abc.net.au] also have this decease ?

    • Software patents need to die. End of story.

      I can't access the article but, if I'm understanding this correctly, the part about the protocol is worse than a software patent. Protocol patents are very bothersome to me because in my mind they totally destroy the chance a competitor has to interface with your product. And in doing so it really hinders innovation and integration. It's very easy to see how a simple ploy can result in people being "bought in" to a line of products even though a better competing line may come along. This vendor lock-in or competitor lockout (whatever you want to call it) is a very serious problem in my line of work (ever had your boss demand that you "decrypt" .doc files from years ago?).

      Now, the common counter argument is that people would simply just buy products without patent laden protocols ... but I think there have been many examples where this simply hasn't happened. Even now people don't realize/recognize this problem when they look for a solution to their needs. Massive companies seem fine with using proprietary protocols because they are of higher quality than the more open competition. I've seen cost/benefit studies where openness (protocol or software) doesn't even factor into the final scores of the products.

      I think a good concrete example would be if Samuel Morse had patented not only the telegraph machine (his particular device design) but also the Morse Code protocol and sued anybody using that alphabet to send messages. Do you think telegraphy would have progressed as quickly if that had been the case?

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        if Samuel Morse had patented not only the telegraph machine (his particular device design) but also the Morse Code protocol and sued anybody using that alphabet to send messages. Do you think telegraphy would have progressed as quickly if that had been the case?

        Or that his name would still be so well known? Just imagine if what's-his-name - you know, the web guy - had attached his name to HTTP. I'd remember who he is without having to look it up via the web.

        • by Whalou (721698)

          Just imagine if what's-his-name - you know, the web guy - had attached his name to HTTP. I'd remember who he is without having to look it up via the web.

          Timmay!

        • Or that his name would still be so well known? Just imagine if what's-his-name - you know, the web guy - had attached his name to HTTP. I'd remember who he is without having to look it up via the web.

          I think I comprehend your point but I must be missing your joke. I know who Sir Tim Berners-Lee is and every time he postulates about the future, it's a Slashdot headline. If you're referring to the licensing of the Gopher protocol (a topic I've often commented on [slashdot.org]) I can assure you nobody remembers nor cares who it was that attached their names to the Gopher protocol. All that's left of it is a torrent archive (that my recent findings picked out three hilariously old trojan/dialers from).

          Perfect exa

          • by AJH16 (940784)

            Gopher is still alive and somewhat well. There is a plugin for firefox that will let you access it. There are a couple hundred servers still.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        eldavojohn: "...because they are of higher quality than the more open competition."

        me: "Objection! Subjective opinion, move to strike."

        • by shentino (1139071)

          It's easy to keep the proprietary stuff at a higher quality when you shut open source out in the cold by not playing ball.

          It's also easier to stay rich when you don't share the wealth.

          • by ArsonSmith (13997)

            You have to "share the wealth"

            Large piles of money don't shelter you from rain, they taste horrible, and provide no luxary what so ever until they are exchanged for products and services to people looking to capitalize on their ability to provide them.

            • by w_dragon (1802458)
              Not to mention they lose value every year, inflation pretty much forces wealthy people to keep their money working for them rather than sitting in a giant vault, Scrooge McDuck-style.
      • by shentino (1139071)

        It's a vicious circle.

        Better proprietary stuff attracts more business, development dollars add polish, proprietary stuff keeps improvements locked in and won't play ball with open source, open source left out in the cold and rusts, etc etc etc...

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        Formats also should not be patented. Back in 2000, I worked for a company that tried to patent their particular XML schema to prevent a competitor from making a product that consumed the same schema. The patent filing was written so broadly that even the developers of the format could not recognize it. Fortunately, the patent filing was rejected and the company gave up. If I had my name on that monstrosity it would haunt me.

      • Software patents need to die. End of story.

        I can't access the article but

        /Head explodes.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      Better yet, make the PTO put some skin in the game. If a patent is denied in court due to prior art or not being novel or some other useless reason, every PTO person that signed off on it gets fired. Then allow anything and everything to be panted all people want.

      • That statement is made by someone who clearly doesn't know what patent examining is like. Next time the USPTO is hiring (probably in the fall), feel free to sign up.

        Examining a patent is essentially trying to prove the nonexistence of something. All you can really do is keep searching for it. But a patent examiner also has to meet production goals, which means you have to move on to the next case eventually.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          I don't see that as a problem. If you feel your work is done, stand by it. If it's not done then don't sign off on it. Trying to blame your incompetence on something else is a lazy way out.

    • by mmcuh (1088773)
      Patents need to die. End of story.
    • by alexo (9335)

      Software patents need to die. End of story.

      Also:
      Entitlements need to die. End of story.
      Corruption needs to die. End of story.
      Abuse of authority needs to die. End of story.
      Erosion of individual rights needs to die. End of story. ...

      Funny thing is, I don't see any of those dying anytime soon.
      The "story", as you put it, is still going strong.

  • Blizzard Updates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by what2123 (1116571) on Monday June 20, 2011 @08:48AM (#36498908)
    Would this not also include Blizzard and their new way of updating/downloading games? They would seem to have far more wealth to go after than either of the two torrent providers.
    • by jonwil (467024) on Monday June 20, 2011 @08:53AM (#36498958)

      They are also VERY large and might actually have the resources to fight back long enough to get the patent overturned.

      Suing people who are likely to settle because they cant afford to fight is a common tactic of patent trolls.

    • Blizzard has been using Bittorrent to distribute patches since forever (for World of Warcraft at least and it can be turned off). So yeah, I would guess they could be sued, but Blizzard also has lots of $$ so suing them might not be the best of ideas.
      • by Bengie (1121981)

        But if this goes through, Blizzard would be next as it would give the trolls a prior case.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Blizzard is rolling in cash. For all we know they just paid these guys a licensing fee instead of fighting it. Going to court is actually rare in patent disputes.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      There could also be a gentleman's agreement in place.

      Blizzard may well also be on the take with whatever proceeds come out of this lawsuit.

  • by chemicaldave (1776600) on Monday June 20, 2011 @08:53AM (#36498968)
    They must be pretty confident that they'd win.
  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday June 20, 2011 @08:55AM (#36498988) Homepage

    This is a real problem - much bigger than the usual story we hear about some big corporation maybe having to pay some amount of money.

    Software, to be useful, *has to* be compatible with other software - exactly compatible for data formats, and a degree of similarity is needed in terms of interface and behaviour.

    This is the real problem, and it can't be fixed by "reform" or higher standards (which are much talked about but never come).

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Harm_to_standards_and_compatibility [swpat.org]
    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Interoperability_exceptions [swpat.org]
    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Harm_with_neither_litigation_nor_threats [swpat.org]
    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Patenting_around_what_will_become_essential [swpat.org]

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      And, what if someone wants to keep their software from being compatible with someone else's software for security or profit reasons?

      Compatibility, while nice, is not necessarily the goal, nor should it be the goal, of every piece of software. If I want my servers to only talk to my software so I can guarantee the behaviors involved, I want to patent my protocols and, if possible, software. I don't want your half-assed knock-off client talking to my servers.

      Really, your statement is false. To be useful, sof

      • The software with the most usage and that becomes the most popular are the ones that can be interfaced with freely. Look at an HTTP server, the web exploded because the protocol was out there for anyone to interface with any server implementing it. Let's move down further, you have a program that generates a data set your program will be more highly desireable if more programs can read and use the data you generate. Or reverse the situation, say your program interprets and analyzes data, if you can only ana

      • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday June 20, 2011 @10:56AM (#36500452) Homepage

        Dave 1.0 says:

        > what if someone wants to keep their software from being compatible with someone else's software for security or profit reasons?

        If you want your servers to only talk to *your* software, then the hi-tech answer is: passwords.

        "Security by obscurity" is the term for your proposed abuse of incompatibility :-)

        (If you want to block compatibility for profit reasons, you either use passwords, or you're asking for a legalised monopoly and the answer is sorry, but just no.)

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday June 20, 2011 @08:55AM (#36498990) Homepage

    Every company and community sued needs to follow a simple manta: WWLD?

    That is What Would Larry (Ellison) Do (if sued over bullshit)?

    He'd probably grind the patent troll into the ground until the CEO's family personally suffered for three generations.

    The only solution to this behavior is to use the courts in such a way that patent trolls become personally afraid that someone is going to go so hard after their throat in court that even after they want to settle, they'll keep litigating until the troll is bankrupt and then go after the management's families and pick their bones clean in court.

    • by turing_m (1030530)

      Every company and community sued needs to follow a simple manta: WWLD??

      Most companies and communities don't have 20 billion dollars in Net Current Assets just sitting there waiting to be thrown away on frivolous lawsuits.

    • I settle for head shots of the patent trolls and their attorneys. But that would be illegal, so I guess we all just have to suck it down...

  • by Compulawyer (318018) on Monday June 20, 2011 @09:00AM (#36499042)

    ... to infringe ("violate") *part* of a patent claim. Each claim at the end of a patent is separate. You either do everything one of the claims describes or you are missing something. If you do everything, you infringe the claim. If you are missing even one piece, you do not infringe.

    HTTP may be prior art, but it is only *invalidating* prior art if it does everything that is described in the claims. New inventions necessarily build on old ones. There is nothing legally improper about claiming an invention that is based on something old. It is called an *improvement.*

    The only one who created something from nothing was God. Everyone else has to work with what is already here.

    • There is nothing legally improper about claiming an invention that is based on something old.

      As long as you aren't trying to claim that the something old is part of your patent, you're right.

    • This.

      I get tired of people crying "PRIOR ART!" without actually knowing what the hell are they talking about. It's weirder that the people that do so are smart (we deal with technology, after all).

    • The only one who created something from nothing was God.

      The the inventions are adequately protected by trade secret, not patents. If trade secret is good enough for God, then it's good enough for us.

  • If this case is successful, I would think that many "managed file transfer" vendors and "WAN optimization" vendors might find themselves served next. In these industries, it is quite common to "serve up media files" using a file system, an optimized protocol and a separate database full of file information.
  • Next time, please at least say who is suing them in the summary.

  • Bittorrent and uTorrent are sued for using techniques in their clients and the bittorrent protocol

    I'm constantly using this technique called "breathing". Please don't sue me.

  • Crazy Patent (Score:3, Informative)

    by wrook (134116) on Monday June 20, 2011 @09:07AM (#36499122) Homepage

    This is even worse than the usual bad patents I've seen. They have 20 pages of a very detailed description of their "preferred configuration". However, they say that it shouldn't be taken as a literal description of the system and that their patent is intended to be very broad. The claims are ridiculously broad and don't even reference the description of the system (apparently they were serious when they said that the description wasn't intended to be illustrative of their claims). The claims don't even make up half a page of text.

    Look, I don't know much about patents, but surely there's no way such a bad patent can stand up in court... Can it?

    • Re:Crazy Patent (Score:4, Informative)

      by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus,slashdot&gmail,com> on Monday June 20, 2011 @09:32AM (#36499394) Homepage Journal

      This is even worse than the usual bad patents I've seen. They have 20 pages of a very detailed description of their "preferred configuration". However, they say that it shouldn't be taken as a literal description of the system and that their patent is intended to be very broad. The claims are ridiculously broad and don't even reference the description of the system (apparently they were serious when they said that the description wasn't intended to be illustrative of their claims). The claims don't even make up half a page of text.

      Look, I don't know much about patents, but surely there's no way such a bad patent can stand up in court... Can it?

      Yes, with all due respect, you don't know much about patents. This patent is actually pretty decent. The detailed description is quite detailed, sufficient to enable one of skill in the art to make and use the claimed invention. The boilerplate line about "shouldn't be taken as a literal description" simply says that when they talk about, for example, removable media that could be an Iomega Jazz Disk, a memory disk, hard drive, etc., that it could also include thumb drives, flash memory, a CD, etc. Not a real concern.

      That the claims "don't even reference the description" is also not important. I'm not sure what you expect the claims to look like, but if you were thinking they'd say "a media server, such as the ones described above in cols. 5-7," then, no. This is what they look like - a numbered series of single-sentence claims reciting one or more limitations, defining the bounds of the patented material.

      Now, if you've only ever looked at patents from the 1800s, you might have expected to see an omnibus claim instead, such as "I claim the invention as described above." But those aren't legally valid anymore.

    • Yes, there is lots of waffle in the Patent - this is actually good as it is often unusual for patents to offer this level of detail.

      No, it has no reference to HTTP itself, which is a point to point data transmission system.

      The claim to break/ challenge is the first one; all the others are dependent claims and moreover the dependent claims would all be regarded as obvious to someone with ordinary skill in the art (of IT).

      1. A media distribution system, comprising: a media file database configured to store me

    • Look, I don't know much about patents, but surely there's no way such a bad patent can stand up in court... Can it?

      I know such patents get written and accepted. My name is on one... (employer filed, I don't believe in the means to prosecute them). There are some really elegantly-written patents out there (they read like a nice academic paper) but the quality appears to vary widely in the field.

  • file a patent for "patent filing" process. Then I could sue anyone filing patents...
    This thing of patenting is getting more and more annoying now.
  • Yeah, all file transfer protocols developed in the '70s that do exactly what this patent claims. This is the reason why patents and software need a divorce.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      Explain how XMODEM load balances between multiple distribution servers, and explain how it redirects the client's modem line to the appropriate distribution server. Or, did you not read the patent at all, and just assumed this was on the "split file into small pieces" part and not the whole "distributed" thing at all? Because if it's the latter, you're pretty stupid.
      • As long as the prior art comprises a significant number of the patent claims and then makes the patented process a rather obvious extension of the original work, I think they've got it sewn up. I'm not saying the patent is an exact match, but here's prior art that embodies much of the patent's claims and could be useful in rendering it moot.

  • by gregor-e (136142) on Monday June 20, 2011 @09:45AM (#36499568) Homepage
    This suit isn't about money, exactly. Bittorrent, Inc. are not your typical "deep pockets", so it's not as though the troll hopes to make a lot of money by suing them. In fact, the only way this makes business sense is as an obstructive competition tactic. Let's see... who would stand to benefit by tripping up Bittorrent, Inc.? Hmmm...

    If someone were to follow the money, it wouldn't surprise me much to find out that our good friends in the old-fashioned media offered to pick up the legal tab to prosecute this. That's about the only thing that makes sense.
    • by Khyber (864651)

      This suit is EXACTLY about money.

      "Tranzsend Broadcasting Network is developing the BlockBuster of the Internet, by electronic transfer to computers which are conected to the TV, for the same cost of rental plus a dime."

      Looks like Netflix is going to be their primary target and they're using Bittorrent as the scape goat to make it an easy win.

    • You don't go directly to the big ones, they have enough money to defend themselves. Go after a small company, win a case, and point to that case as you work your way up to the bigger fish.

  • a comment from the torrentfreak article is worth repeating here.

    "Nothing to see here, move along. This patent describes the YMODEM/XMODEM protocol nicely, which was developed back in the '70s, and could be very easily refuted by this example of prior art."

    • by canajin56 (660655) on Monday June 20, 2011 @11:02AM (#36500554)
      He's a moron. He didn't read the patent at all. He just said "Suing BitTorrent? The only thing I know about torrents is they split files into chunks and do an error check on each chunk! XMODEM does that too! So clearly a patent on any part of BitTorrent must be on the only part I know anything about, so the patent MUST apply to XMODEM too!". The patent is about load balancing. BitTorrent load balances because you'll request chunks from peers that aren't busy, as opposed to ones that are saturating their link already. XMODEM doesn't do that at all. (How could it redirect the modem line to a different computer, anyways?)
      • by AJH16 (940784)

        That wasn't my read of the patent. My read was that it picks the actual type of file to send based on client capabilities. While this is an interesting (though I would hardly say innovative) idea, I don't see how it has anything to do with BitTorrent.

  • Nobody ever bothers to actually link the thing, so here is patent 7,301,944 [freepatentsonline.com].

    The only independent claim is:

    A media distribution system, comprising: a media file database configured to store media files, wherein one or more of the media files have been compressed prior to storage in the media file database; a computing device configured to receive user requests for delivery of the one or more of the media files stored in the media file database, the computing device further configured to: identify average ne

  • by Max Hyre (1974) * <mh-slash@@@hyre...net> on Monday June 20, 2011 @11:58AM (#36501344)

    The patent's [uspto.gov] abstract (a bit long to quote here) sounds like Akamai's business plan.

    The patent was filed in October 1997. According to the company's history [akamai.com] Akamai's founders were finalists in a 1998 MIT competition. Given that these things don't take shape instantaneously, there's a fighting chance they've got some documentation of prior art that would shoot down this claim forthwith.

    • Better yet, the patent was filed in April 1999. It says it's a continuation-in-part from October 1997, but a ton of stuff was changed from the parent patent, and a claim doesn't get the benefit of the earlier filing date in a CIP if the claim covers stuff that wasn't disclosed in the parent.

  • It took that long to get patented, and we know that utorrent and bittorrent use those, but came out before said 2007 approval....so how does that work?
    I mean if someone applies for a patent, and does not get it, in the mean time someone else develops similar technology and uses that tech, is it really
    infringing, as the courts have been really slow to put the patent through, and it is possible that more then one person has a similar idea, so when scientist #2 looks at the patent list and sees nothing about h

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