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Nortel Patents Go To Apple, Microsoft, Sony and Others

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  • Only company from the list that I worry about is Apple. They're really been left and right everyone about patent issues. Microsoft, not so much, unless some patent troll has attacked them first. Same goes for RIM. Sony is bad in other fronts, they're not really suing for patent issues. But Apple has been handling their patent related issues really dirty, dumping thousand+ page sues, trying to enforce ban on competitor products and in their developer agreement for iPhone/iPad they require all software develo
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by agentgonzo (1026204)

      Like when Apple ripped off an wireless sync app [slashdot.org] made by a one guy.

      Oh for crying out loud. Can we not rehash this. Syncing over wireless. Not a hard concept to come up with. They didn't rip the name off as it's the most obvious name for such an app. Neither did the rip off the logo as it's a combination of a 'sync' logo and a 'wifi' logo. It's not rocket science. Yes, they rejected his app (due to him accessing parts of the OS outside the SDK) but that doesn't mean that they just ripped it off. Everyone's been after wifi syncing since the very first iPhone and I find it ri

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        oh yes, because apple has never sued because somebody else used the obvious name they came up with. Like say, maybe, app store.

      • Like when Apple ripped off an wireless sync app [slashdot.org] made by a one guy.

        Oh for crying out loud. Can we not rehash this. Syncing over wireless. Not a hard concept to come up with. They didn't rip the name off as it's the most obvious name for such an app. Neither did the rip off the logo as it's a combination of a 'sync' logo and a 'wifi' logo. It's not rocket science. Yes, they rejected his app (due to him accessing parts of the OS outside the SDK) but that doesn't mean that they just ripped it off. Everyone's been after wifi syncing since the very first iPhone and I find it ridiculous that people out there believe that apple couldn't implement it themselves and had to 'rip off' this guy.

        Did you hear about Apple suing Amazon over the word "App"? Fuck Apple.

    • by regimechange (2287586) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:25AM (#36633306)

      Only company from the list that I worry about is Apple. They're really been left and right everyone about patent issues.

      Such as? I guess you mean Samsung....for blatantly copying the iPhone and iPad? Nokia sued Apple first. Kodak sued Apple first. Several Microsoft proxies sued Apple. Who is Apple going after?

      Microsoft, not so much, unless some patent troll has attacked them first.

      What planet are you living on? Microsoft and its proxies are the biggest patent trolls on the planet. how many Android makers have they shaken down for protection money? How about Microsoft funding SCO to go after Linux? How about all the mainframe software lawsuits against IBM by their proxies in Europe? Microsoft shill much?

      • by t2t10 (1909766)

        Such as? I guess you mean Samsung....for blatantly copying the iPhone and iPad?

        Yeah, because we all know that having a touch screen phone with a square screen and a grid for launcher icons is such a unique concept! Only a few dozen companies that had that sort of thing before!

        Really, Apple has a history going back 30 years of ripping off other people's technologies and then suing over it as if they had invented it. The sleazy tricks they have been playing with iPhone and iPad are completely in character.

        • Yeah, because we all know that having a touch screen phone with a square screen and a grid for launcher icons is such a unique concept! Only a few dozen companies that had that sort of thing before!

          Care to share some examples?

          Really, Apple has a history going back 30 years of ripping off other people's technologies and then suing over it as if they had invented it. The sleazy tricks they have been playing with iPhone and iPad are completely in character. Again, care to offer some examples?

          • Palm OS used a touchscreen with rectangular icons in a grid since the mid '90s. When I first saw the iPhone, that was the first thing that came to mind. I assumed that Apple chose that UI model because it was one that consumers were already familiar with. I didn't realise it was supposed to be innovative.
          • Care to share some examples?

            I dunno, any touchscreen UIQ device [allaboutsymbian.com]?

          • by t2t10 (1909766)

            Well, PalmOS, many of the devices running WinCE, the Sharp Zaurus and other devices running mobile Qt, UIQ, the PARC Tab, the IBM Simon, to name just a few. (Some of those were PDAs, a few were phones, but that doesn't affect the question of the originality of the UI.)

      • Well (Score:4, Funny)

        by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Friday July 01, 2011 @01:28PM (#36635564)

        Who is Apple going after?

        Everyone who dares use the letter 'i'. Oops; someone's at the door, brb.


        /faint scream, carrier lost

    • Microsoft, not so much, unless some patent troll has attacked them first.

      Really?

      Then maybe you can explain this 'defensive' set of actions [theregister.co.uk] , will you? They may not be lawsuits, but the threat of one is pretty much the same thing these days when it's a big player extorting the little ones.

      Long story short, there are no angels in that realm.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      The comedy here is: Google wins all around. They would have either a: gotten everything on the cheap at the stalking horse price, and also knows which patents exist and could now push for them all to be re-examined.

      The truth is, every company who took this is an unethical, anticompetitive company that has given up on innovation. Aside from google who among them says "this is for defensive use and not to go after competitors?" That's your answer: None of them.

      • They would have either a: gotten everything on the cheap ...

        Customarily we get an 'or' option when you provide us with an 'either'.

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          well my typing sucks, but (corrected) it was either a: cheap patents or b: they know which can be invalidated. my sentence didn't make much sense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gabebear (251933)

      Only company from the list that I worry about is Apple. They're really been left and right everyone about patent issues. Microsoft, not so much, unless some patent troll has attacked them first. Same goes for RIM. Sony is bad in other fronts, they're not really suing for patent issues. But Apple has been handling their patent related issues really dirty, dumping thousand+ page sues, trying to enforce ban on competitor products and in their developer agreement for iPhone/iPad they require all software developers to give away their ideas to Apple when submitting their application - after which they can decide if to accept or reject the app and maybe implement it themselves. Like when Apple ripped off an wireless sync app [slashdot.org] made by a one guy.

      based on what?

      Probably the worst thing Microsoft is currently doing is threatening and then shaking down Android device manufacturers( http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/27/microsoft-inks-android-patent-deal-with-itronix-causes-more-hea/ [engadget.com]), it's also hard to ignore:

    • by SiChemist (575005)

      Microsoft HAS been going after android phone manufacturers. As reported here before, Microsoft has made more off HTC paying them royalties than they have selling Windows Phone 7.

    • Ask HTC, Velocity, General Dynamics and Onkyo about Microsoft.

      They are paying royalties on Android to Microsoft to avoid being sued.

      Apple is mainly suing Samsung for a blatant iPhone clone that would make a Chinese back alley knockoff maker blush.

      You know this:
      http://widgetlabs.info/uploadfiles/digestfolderinfo-1302100849/apple-sues-samsung-over-its-galaxy-phones-and-tablets_1.jpg [widgetlabs.info]

    • by node 3 (115640)

      Only company from the list that I worry about is Apple. They're really been left and right everyone about patent issues. Microsoft, not so much, unless some patent troll has attacked them first.

      How is it that slashdot nerds are so ass-backwards about Apple? This all started when Android started gaining steam. You guys need to take a page from Jobs' playbook and stop acting like for Android to succeed, Apple has to lose. It's been leading you guys to believe completely stupid shit, like that Android has outsold iOS, that they want to control their users, or that Apple goes around suing people.

      On your specific claim, Microsoft has been the one going around suing Android handset maker for infringing

  • While their liquidation has been a protracted affair, Nortel supposedly wound down most of its operations in 2009 in order to focus on legal and financial shenanigans. Presumably, then, their newest patents were probably applied for then, granted now-ish, and the bulk of them (one naively assumes) would have been filed back when the company was healthier and doing more R&D spending.

    How close to expiration are the patents being purchased here?
    • Patents are good for 20 years (assuming proper upkeep)
      • Yeah, what I was wondering, given that patents actually have a finite term in some meaningful sense, what is the distribution of the pool of patents being sold? Are most of them quite new, with 15-20 years on the clock? Were the bulk of them done a decade ago, when Nortel was not bleeding out, and are now half gone? Are these companies paying for some that are nice and foundational; but will only give them an edge for another year to 3 years?
  • Wait ... that's quite a bit ... does that mean I might be getting some severence pay after all?
    • No, but your boss's boss's boss' boss has just got a new yacht
    • by Chocky2 (99588)

      Pffft, don't be greedy -- next you'll be expecting something back from your Nortel pension. At least we can keep ourselves warm burning all those lovely options & share certificates they gave us :)

      • I declined share options and stock purchases and asked that if they were going to give me a bonus, that it be in cash even if it was only a fraction of the paper value. I thought through all the risks and decided that investing in what was already my sole source of income didn't make sense at any price.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:37AM (#36633430)

    Patents are just ways for large companies to choke off competitors by getting a state granted monopoly on an idea.

    There are billions of dollars out there being wasted on patent litigation. That's money that could go into hiring more people and developing new products.

    I'm against monopoly. Why isn't everybody else?

    • There are billions of dollars out there being wasted on patent litigation.

      I feel the lawyers out there would disagree with you on this one. They just love it!

    • Patents and Monopoly are not just for the Big guys..... Witness the case of Rambus who own the rights to the Ram in your computer !

    • I'm against monopoly. Why isn't everybody else?

      "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      I'm against monopoly. Why isn't everybody else?

      Because the give us gadgets.

    • No, the patent, as a concept, is not a bad thing, and is designed to prevent exactly what you complain about - large companies choking off competitors, especially when such competitors are those who developed the innovation.

      If you just let everybody use everybody else's ideas, it will be major corporations with large factories and streamlined production processes that will benefit the most from those ideas, rather than the inventors and innovators.

      That doesn't mean patent law, especially as implemented in

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        So far the only really troublesome patents that I know of are software patents, and (closely related) business process patents. The problem is: they patent an idea, not an invention. Think of the paper clip: that was a great invention, and as such rightfully patented by the inventor. But the general idea of "holding sheets of paper together" that's not patentable - yet software patents do just that, patent broad ideas. That's bad.

        Issues also exist with medical patents, but that's for other reasons: patents

    • Yes we should do this and then watch all the companies stop doing all R&D, because why would a company spend money on R&D when they can just reverse engineer who ever does it first and get it almost free.
    • Well Google could spend 4 billion dollars developing 5G...
    • by the_olo (160789)

      Patents are just ways for large companies to choke off competitors by getting a state granted monopoly on an idea.

      "Monopoly on an idea"? I always thought that patents are about state granting temporary monopoly on an invention (that is, a concrete working implementation of an idea), not a plain idea.

  • Maybe they'll go back to calling Windows Server - Windows NT. Microsoft got sued by Nortel (Northern Telecom) for using their trademarked "NT", which is why they changed the name.

  • I am sure Google is concerned about this development. There is nothing this gang will do that will be in Google's interest.

    Question is: What can Google do?

    • by yumyum (168683) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:48AM (#36633538)

      License the patents?

      • by nschubach (922175)

        I thought patents were issued to people that work at said company, not the company themselves. How can you auction off something that belongs to a former employee?

        Also, why is this happening? If the company owns said patent, shouldn't that patent be null and/or become common when said company closes doors?

        • If the company owns said patent, shouldn't that patent be null and/or become common when said company closes doors?

          Welcome to the world of Imaginary Property, where a idea^Wpatent is an asset that is both tradable and the most valuable thing left when the company is still extant but under administration.

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          Easy to prevent: transfer ownership of patent to a shell company. Company ownership is tradable, and with that all company assets (including patents etc).

          Besides that, especially for many tech companies patents are a major part of the company's overall value. Having the patent lose value when a company shuts, makes it effectively worthless as asset that can be used as collateral, or in case of bankruptcy a way to get money back to investors - which means investors have a much greater risk when investing in

      • by Locutus (9039)
        Jane you ignorant slut. What makes you think these companies want Google to license any of those patents and are not doing this just to kick them out of the phone OS market? Oh they can offer a licensing fee but the fee can also be so high it would eliminate Android from the market. And yes Jane, at least one of these companies has done this in the past.

        LoB
    • by sunfly (1248694)
      Although most of us think software patents are outright wrong, or in my case think they need serious curbing and shortening, they are our system in 2011. Google needs to own up an buy the rights to the patents. But they wont, forcing all their "partners" to do it individually.
    • by Xest (935314)

      "There is nothing this gang will do that will be in Google's interest."

      You mean except Sony whose major smartphone interest right now is Android?

      Really, this consortium covers iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and yes, Android interests. I'm not sure there will be much that will come of it frankly. I think everyone was bidding in this case for defensive patents. Obviously Google could've outbid them but it probably feels at $4bn the risk of being succesfully sued to that tune is pretty much non-existent, a

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:50AM (#36633550) Journal

    A little under a decade ago (when our little-fish startup had been eaten by a middle-sized fish started-up-and-running but that hadn't yet been eaten by the giant conglomerate) Nortel sued our company on something I'd been co-architect on.

    Though we'd done things differently (I ended up with seven patents for my inventions) I think the settlement still involved us paying them a few megabux to even out the patent licensing swap.

    We all agreed that this proved Nortel was on the rocks. Switching from innovation to patent trolling, we figured, showed they were in deep trouble and trying to squeeze money out of every asset. As it turned out we were right.

    Does anybody know if such cross-licensing agreements survive a bankruptcy and a patent portfolio sale? (I suspect not, since they're contracts with a bankrupt corp.)

    Either way this should put the purchasers in a very good position to fend off attacks by telecoms and their equipment vendors against internet-based communication services. And if the agreements die with the previous owner it could let the buyers go on the offensive as well.

    So I see this mainly as part of the generational struggle between the "Bell Head" telecoms and the "Packet Head" internet network companies, more than setting up a fight between Android and iPhone / Windows Phone / whatever.

    • Does anybody know if such cross-licensing agreements survive a bankruptcy and a patent portfolio sale? (I suspect not, since they're contracts with a bankrupt corp.)

      Interesting question. Consider this strategy:

      1) sue littlefish
      2) establish cross-licensing deal with littlefish, for megabucks
      3) sell patent and deal to shell company
      4) run shell company into ground, have shell company owing parent company $$$
      5) in bankruptcy court sell patent right to troll
      6) get $$$ from patent right back to parent company as

      • Works better to put the patent and deal in the shell company and THEN sue the fishies - and repeat with a new shell company buying the assets of the old one. If you sued 'em once (step 1) you'll have a hard time claiming the contract you wrote and sold doesn't still bind you.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      When a company gets taken over by another company, I suppose existing contracts signed by the swallowed-up company remain in force. Otherwise that'd be a very easy way to get out of a contract: set up shell company, have shell company buy up your original company and become the company again, existing contracts void? Don't think so. A patent licensing deal is a kind of contract as well.

    • by Arguendo (931986)

      Does anybody know if such cross-licensing agreements survive a bankruptcy and a patent portfolio sale? (I suspect not, since they're contracts with a bankrupt corp.)

      Existing contracts made before bankruptcy (and that are not fraudulent attempts to avoid creditors in anticipation of bankruptcy) survive bankruptcy. Now you might not get any money you are owed under the contract, but a company can't simply void contract deals in bankruptcy. If you're licensed to a patent, you will be licensed even after the patent ownership changes hands.

  • Why not mention EMC and Ericsson in the summary, who are the only other two companies in the consortium? They're not small companies - they have market caps of $57bn and $47bn respectively. RIM are about a third to a quarter of the size at $15bn.

  • by Garabito (720521) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:58AM (#36633634)
    Sony makes Android-based Xperia Smartphones. They would not attack Android, nor let the other members of the consortium doing it, it's against its interest.
    • by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday July 01, 2011 @11:11AM (#36633786)
      Sony is one of the most schizophrenic companies that I'm aware of, where each part seems completely unaware of the best interests of the other parts.
      • by Shompol (1690084)
        Completely unaware of their customer's interests as well. They refuse to update the video card driver on my VAIO laptop, as well as forbid Nvidia to provide me with a driver. They do not want to know about BSODs their driver generates. More than that, when I seek support they tell me to go to whatever country it is I bought it from. When I tell them that I bought it in US they act as a big broken record player.
    • by drolli (522659)

      But they could attack other android phone manufacturers. The market is getting crowded, i think.

    • Besides, if Sony wants to sue Google over its patents, Google can turn around and sue Sony for use of its software(Android). No phone manufacturer uses the OS in the way exactly specified in the license, a-la modding and adding/removing features, so Google would have a good shot at it.

      • by toriver (11308)

        How? Android is open source, what you need a license for is the (non-open) Google app suite and they can easily replace those with their own. Remember: When you release something as open source, the horse is out of the barn.

        • Android is open source, what you need a license for is the (non-open) Google app suite and they can easily replace those with their own.

          As of right now, a lot of applications for Android devices are available only through Android Market, not through AppsLib, SlideME, Amazon Appstore, or direct APK download. One example of such an application is Chase Bank's quick deposit application. With so much demand for applications exclusive to Android Market, how could Sony get away with replacing Android Market with a different application?

  • Non-transferable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yarnosh (2055818) on Friday July 01, 2011 @11:07AM (#36633740)

    I just want to express my opinion that patents should not be transferable. It is bad enough that corporations wield patents to hinder progress, maintain monopolies, and destroy smaller competitors. Patents are meant to protect the people who innovate. You should not be able to buy and sell this protection. If you didn't invent it, you shouldn't be able to enforce a patent on it even if you paid $4.5 billion for that "right." Also, If someone patents something, they have to do something with it themselves or they forfeit their patent. You can't just sit on an idea and wait for someone else to infringe on it so you can sue them. That's just wrong.

    Off topic, but I just had to say it.

    • I just want to express my opinion that patents should not be transferable. It is bad enough that corporations wield patents to hinder progress, maintain monopolies, and destroy smaller competitors. Patents are meant to protect the people who innovate. You should not be able to buy and sell this protection. If you didn't invent it, you shouldn't be able to enforce a patent on it even if you paid $4.5 billion for that "right."

      All that changes is that the $4.5billion will be a contract between the company and the inventor, such that the inventor agrees to go after any infringers. Your suggestion doesn't really change anything.

      Also, If someone patents something, they have to do something with it themselves or they forfeit their patent. You can't just sit on an idea and wait for someone else to infringe on it so you can sue them. That's just wrong.

      That's typically called a working requirement, and a few other countries have them, including India. While it's a good idea for getting rid of trolls, it also, unfortunately, affects research universities. Cornell does a lot of research and patenting, and they then license those patents to companies to imple

      • by yarnosh (2055818)

        All that changes is that the $4.5billion will be a contract between the company and the inventor, such that the inventor agrees to go after any infringers. Your suggestion doesn't really change anything.

        If the inventor dies, goes out of business, or doesn't have the resources to go after infringers, what then? I would personally question the validity of such a contract, but IANAL. It doesn't seem right to obligate someone else to file a lawsuit. I think you can prevent another from filing a lawsuit, but you shouldn't be able to compel them to on your behalf.

        Again, I am not a lawyer and I openly admit ignorance of contract and patent law. I'm speaking of ethics only.

        That's typically called a working requirement, and a few other countries have them, including India. While it's a good idea for getting rid of trolls, it also, unfortunately, affects research universities. Cornell does a lot of research and patenting, and they then license those patents to companies to implement the inventions... but they don't make anything themselves. Should Cornell, MIT, etc. be denied protection?

        Yes, I think they should be denied pro

        • All that changes is that the $4.5billion will be a contract between the company and the inventor, such that the inventor agrees to go after any infringers. Your suggestion doesn't really change anything.

          If the inventor dies, goes out of business, or doesn't have the resources to go after infringers, what then? I would personally question the validity of such a contract, but IANAL. It doesn't seem right to obligate someone else to file a lawsuit. I think you can prevent another from filing a lawsuit, but you shouldn't be able to compel them to on your behalf.

          Again, I am not a lawyer and I openly admit ignorance of contract and patent law. I'm speaking of ethics only.

          You can't compel them, but you can hit them with a breach of contract suit... and you can have liquidated damages provisions that are so huge that they'd rather not breach. Essentially, compelling them through economic interests, rather than a legal order.

          Plus, why would they not? If the inventor was well paid to simply sign a civil complaint for infringement at some point in the future, why wouldn't they?

          That's typically called a working requirement, and a few other countries have them, including India. While it's a good idea for getting rid of trolls, it also, unfortunately, affects research universities. Cornell does a lot of research and patenting, and they then license those patents to companies to implement the inventions... but they don't make anything themselves. Should Cornell, MIT, etc. be denied protection?

          Yes, I think they should be denied protection. A potential licensee should contract with the university to do the research and the resulting patent should go to the company who intends to use it. Otherwise, research should go into the public domain. I think science is all too often hindered by proprietary and redundant research. Universities are supposed to foster the open exchange of knowledge.

          I have to disagree. Since university educations are not free, and universities are not all fully publi

          • by yarnosh (2055818)

            You can't compel them, but you can hit them with a breach of contract suit... and you can have liquidated damages provisions that are so huge that they'd rather not breach. Essentially, compelling them through economic interests, rather than a legal order.

            Breach of what contract? If it isn't valid to contractually obligate someone to file a lawsuit on your behalf, what is being breached by not filing a lawsuit on your behalf?

            Plus, why would they not? If the inventor was well paid to simply sign a civil complaint for infringement at some point in the future, why wouldn't they?

            Good point. Though wouldn't the patent be invalid because the owner wasn't doing anything with it?

            I have to disagree. Since university educations are not free, and universities are not all fully publicly funded, I think it's a bit naive to say that a private university, like MIT, Harvard, Cornell, or others, should be doing research out of the goodness of their hearts.

            I dont' really care what would motivate them to put their research into the public domain. I just think it is important to promote the free exchange of ideas wherever and whenever possible. To be perfectly honest, I don't even like idea of i

        • by Arguendo (931986)

          Better way to do it would be to make damages for infringement determined off of either lost profits (if you make a product) or a reasonable market-price based licensing fee. So, a troll who has never gotten anyone to pay for a license might only get a few dollars, while a university can point to their licensing contracts and get similar terms.

          Do this too. What are damages based on now?

          The crazy thing about this suggestion is that it is exactly how patent damages law is written right now. I quote thus:

          Upon finding for the claimant the court shall award the claimant damages adequate to compensate for the infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention by the infringer, together with interest and costs as fixed by the court. 35 U.S.C. section 284

          Lost profits or a reasonable, market-based licensing fee is exactly what the standard is now. The problem is that no one can "prove" what a reasonable, market-based license fee should be and it just gets thrown to a jury that has no idea [srr.com] what the reasonable award should be (jury awards $98 for every copy of MS Word due to infringement of patent on custom XML).

      • by yarnosh (2055818)

        All that changes is that the $4.5billion will be a contract between the company and the inventor, such that the inventor agrees to go after any infringers. Your suggestion doesn't really change anything.

        Another thing: If the inventor isn't doing anything with the patent, they'll lose it under my proposal. Who is going to give them $4.5bil contract for exclusive license to a patent if the the owner is just going to lose it for lack of implementation?

    • by josepha48 (13953)
      Thank you! I totally agree. The initial idea of the patent system was so inventors could get money for inventing, NOT so companies could buy them and sue other companies.
    • by DRJlaw (946416)

      You should not be able to buy and sell this protection. If you didn't invent it, you shouldn't be able to enforce a patent on it even if you paid $4.5 billion for that "right." Also, If someone patents something, they have to do something with it themselves or they forfeit their patent.

      No. You're so far off you're not even wrong.

      Your opinion has no chance of becoming the law.

      Property that cannot be bought and sold is effectively not property at all. "People who innovate" will not be able to sell their ide

    • My thoughts EXACTLY! But I would also include that it has to something you ARE producing not just an idea of something you might produce. You also have to send the working item to the patent office to prove it works. That way if you can't make a go of making it and your company fails. The next guy can figure out how to do it better and win. Just because you can dream up a widget but cant keep a budget, that is not a winning business. That my friends, is what doing business is all about. Getting all aspects

  • "We can't beat them with quality product and service, so let's just buy the technology out from under them in a super-shady deal, and then sue/charge for the use of their own tech!"

  • If you're a fan of monopolism, fud, and business plans based on suing everyone else. Progress, this ain't.

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