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Patents The Almighty Buck The Courts Wireless Networking

Patent Troll Says Anyone Using Wi-Fi Infringes 436

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
akahige sends this excerpt from an article at TechDirt: "The Patent Examiner blog has the incredible story of Innovatio IP, a patent troll that recently acquired a portfolio of patents that its lawyers (what, you think there are any employees?) appear to believe cover pretty much any Wi-Fi implementation. They've been suing coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants and hotels first — including Caribou Coffee, Cosi, Panera Bread Co, certain Marriotts, Best Westerns, Comfort Inns and more. ... The lawyer representing the company, Matthew McAndrews, seems to imply that the company believes the patents cover everyone who has a home Wi-Fi setup, but they don't plan to go after such folks right now, for 'strategic' reasons."
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Patent Troll Says Anyone Using Wi-Fi Infringes

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  • Nothing from Hams? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nhstar (452291) on Monday October 03, 2011 @07:51PM (#37594704)

    So, I guess amateur radio operators have been infringing since, what... the early 1900's? Voice is just data, right..?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 03, 2011 @07:52PM (#37594714)
      Hey! You! Stop that right now! You leave your logic out of this! This is the patent system we're talking about!
      • Hey! You! Stop that right now! You leave your logic out of this! This is the patent system we're talking about!

        Moreover, it's on the Internet. Double patent bonus points!

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      They were talking about packet radio in the 80s, and that was data.
    • One can only hope. It is greedy twits such as these that will finally get the patent system reformed.

      Of course I hold out no faith of it being "fixed" since the US drives such policy worldwide and has been bought and sold by everyone who is anyone in the corporate sector. One hopes for at least incremental improvements over time though!

  • Take out a hit? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Monday October 03, 2011 @07:51PM (#37594708) Homepage

    At some point its just cheaper to pay someone to take a hit out on a troll like this. Maybe invite him out on your new yacht and have a little accident...

    • I really hope the Mob get some of these lawsuits - but any organised crime group will do. Or a biker gang. Maybe take away WiFi from a prison and put the word out to the detainees (esp. those about to be let out) that it's this law firm's fault. Let them sort it out with the lawyers - I bet it wouldn't take long.
    • Short term thinking (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Weedhopper (168515) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:15PM (#37594886)
      This solves one problem only once. Then the portfolios passes to the next person and the problem repeats itself.

      To solve the general problem, we need to encourage more ridiculous patent trolls. This needs to get to a critical threshold where the entire system is brought on trial and exposed for the absolute absurdity that it is.
      • by LordLucless (582312) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:44PM (#37595054)

        This solves one problem only once. Then the portfolios passes to the next person and the problem repeats itself.

        So does the solution. Repeat as necessary

      • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @12:25AM (#37596024)

        If the first guy is found choked to death on his severed genitals (the old Mafia punishment for snitches) it might give others pause.

        While I'm not advocating such things, let's not forget that in the early 1900s gangs were NECESSARY because there was no justice to be had from a flawlessly corrupt government. For anyone to get leverage they had to mob up. Union membership could get you murdered, so the unions had to make friends with the Mob to get a "system" on their side. As the elites squeeze out the people, organized "crime" will be the only way for some of them to get a modicum of power.

    • by nhstar (452291)

      Actually, I'm sorry... but there is a pre-existing patent, I believe filed in either Italy or Japan on this method...

      Someone will be by to discuss it with your shortly.

    • Isn't there *something* that can be done about this?

      We've got a fair number of layers on this site. Can't someone come up with an innovative chess-move style action that would hurt these guys?

      Maybe getting all the sued companies to file a class-action suit against the router manufacturers, in order to bring big guns into the fight?

      Maybe sue the troll for barratry or something? Some procedural complaint about the practice?

      This is the sort of thing that encourages Lulzsec behaviour. What can we suggest that w

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      Here is the cheapest and most effective solution.

      The companies being sued get together and split the bill for just one of them to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of their devices. The IP being used in the device should be completely covered by the costs of the device. Period. It is ludicrous to say and end user that paid money, using the original firmware, is the correct party to sue in a court.

      Make a huge lawsuit against Linksys, Cisco, Netgear, Buffalo, D-Link, etc.

      Take out a 1 page ad in the N

    • by cgenman (325138) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:23PM (#37595494) Homepage

      “We want you to continue to use this technology, we just want our client to get his due share,” McAndrews said. “This is not a seat-of-the-pants, fly-by-night shakedown.”

      Well, they admitted that it's a professional shakedown. A professional hit seems only fair.

  • by recrudescence (1383489) on Monday October 03, 2011 @07:52PM (#37594716)
    what, avoiding a lynch mob?
    • There is no money in going after home users. They would have to basically drive around looking for WiFi hotspots, and the money they would spend doing so would never be recouped. Much more profitable to just go after businesses.
      • There is no money in going after home users. They would have to basically drive around looking for WiFi hotspots, and the money they would spend doing so would never be recouped. Much more profitable to just go after businesses.

        While that is true; the last thing they want is bunch of pissed off people calling their representatives and demanding action; especially if some of the angry mob are donors. Congress could end their game in one swell foop, and if they made the mistake of targeting people in multiple distrust it'd be tantamount to suicide.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        Or they could just buy Google's countrywide map of wifi nodes.
    • what, avoiding a lynch mob?

      Guess the mob of people will pay them a visit, after they take care of Wall Street.

  • Only one solution. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ariastis (797888) on Monday October 03, 2011 @07:52PM (#37594718)

    Kill them with fire.

    • by DarkFencer (260473) on Monday October 03, 2011 @07:54PM (#37594732)

      Kill them with fire.

      Not enough. These aren't your run of the mill D&D trolls that can be killed by fire.

      Nuke from orbit to be sure.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday October 03, 2011 @07:54PM (#37594734) Homepage
    Ok. This is classic patent trolling. They aren't going after the Wi-Fi manufacturers who have the resources to possibly fight this in court but rather going against the little people. There's an obvious fix for this. Force people to sue the companies that make potentially infringing technologies rather than the people who buy them until there's a precedent with the company that the tech is infringing. Unfortunately, with the grab-bag of junk that is America Invents now done, everyone is going to avoid serious patent reform for another decade. So this isn't getting fixed for a while. Then we'll probably get some other terrible mix of good and bad stuff in some new law and the whole process will repeat itself. Good for the lawyers. Not very good for everyone else.
    • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:02PM (#37594790)

      How the christ can it possibly be legal to sue people who use technology that infringes a patent which was sold to them by someone else?

      Isn't the whole enterprise of patents supposed to cover the manufacture and commercial sale of inventions, not their use?

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:14PM (#37594872) Journal

        Because the U.S. patent system is fundamentally and completely broken. Patents cover the manufacture, distribution, or use of a patented technology. What, you didn't really think you owned that Wi-Fi access point, did you?

        The only reason this complete joke of a scheme hasn't led to public outcry is that the patent trolls haven't managed to screw over a broad enough segment of the population to make any real impact. If strict application of patent law were to allow some dirtbag company like this to take away the country's Internet connections, however, I predict all of Washington D.C. would be burning within the hour, sure as if Congress canceled Monday Night Football.

        As for this company, I vote we just go ahead and declare them to be enemy combatants and get it over with. It'll save everyone the trouble of dealing with the rioting and looting later. Just saying.

        • by swalve (1980968)

          In an action for infringement of a process patent, no remedy may be granted for infringement on account of the noncommercial use or retail sale of a product unless there is no adequate remedy under this title for infringement on account of the importation or other use, offer to sell, or sale of that product.

          They have quite an uphill row to hoe. Or something like that.

      • What you would do is get access points for your business from large companies then counter sue them. They made the purportedly infringing devices and you bought it from them. It's their problem.

        If Cisco and Motorola as were mentioned in the story as going to court on this got thousands of lawsuits each, there would be some urgency on their part.
      • by Culture20 (968837)
        "method of using an access point to provide access to the Internet" or some such. Anyone using an access point is suddenly infringing, no device creation (or innovation) needed.
      • by whoever57 (658626)

        How the christ can it possibly be legal to sue people who use technology that infringes a patent which was sold to them by someone else?

        It's not even clear that they are suing over technology that was sold to them by someone else. This could be Broadcom suing their own customers (indirectly, they could be using equipment with Broadcom chips in it) and the company doing the suing could have close ties to Broadcom. Why else would Broadcom sell the patents to a patent troll?

    • by Genda (560240) <mariet@nOSpAM.got.net> on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:04PM (#37594804) Journal

      Ask to meet all their top executives of this cesspool, take them out on a rented yacht. Insure it to high hell. Take it off the coast of Mexico, and inform the local drug cartel that a bunch of wealthy gringos are meeting to figure out a way bomb them off the face of the earth, then over take their drug business. After the smoke, screaming and mutilation stop... go collect your insurance, pay off the boat owner, and pocket the remainder. Inform the U.S. justice system that Mexican Drug Lords have murdered American national. Let Karma play out and consider justice has been dispensed on all fronts. Building a better world one elimination at a time!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anubi (640541)
      This is what we get with an out-of-control poorly-administered patenting system.

      Can we patent football plays? That would get their attention.

      Its time for our government to try like the dickens to encourage people doing things, not beat the hell out of anyone caught trying to do something.

      When it comes to productive economic activity, our government seems to look at us like moonshiners.

      I wait with baited breath for our government to realize one day that we can't print prosperity, or get it by taking
      • by Genda (560240)

        There you go, let's patent the process of removing urine or fecal matter from the bottom of an infant, then sue every parent in the country to cough up a little loose change. Call it the the potty toll. Tell America, they can pay the potty toll or squeeze their representatives into cleaning up the toilet that the patent system is. Use the money collected to lobby the ass off of the Representatives responsible for the current wreck that is the Patent System.

      • by dougmc (70836)

        Can we patent football plays? That would get their attention.

        I don't see why we couldn't. Interesting idea ...

    • Good for the lawyers. Not very good for everyone else.

      That's what we get for making so many lawyers in this country. People bitch about how med schools and dental schools "don't make enough doctors/dentists". Law schools make absurd surpluses of lawyers and now we see what happens when we have too many of them. The lawyers aren't getting enough business from people, so they have to find new ways to keep themselves busy by suing each other.

      Not to say that we couldn't use more medical and dental professionals, but we sure as hell don't need any more lawyer

      • by tibit (1762298)

        I don't think I'd want some of the lawyers to become doctors...

      • by nomadic (141991)
        Law schools actually follow a more free market philosophy than medical and dental schools. The AMA and ADA respectively keep a tight leash on those schools respectively in order to artificially create a shortage and keep their practitioners' salaries up. Law schools manage to keep enrollment high by just straight out lying about job prospects.
        • by NevarMore (248971)

          How can we on one hand complain about an excess of laws, poorly written laws, challenge the trolls exploiting the laws, and generally complain about the inaccessibility of the law to the common man, while on the other hand claim a shortage of jobs for lawyers?

          • by Cwix (1671282)

            Drive-thru colleges create drive-thru public defenders.

            Quantity != Quality

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ocyris (1742966)
      Actually a google search indicates that Innovatio IP Ventures, LLC is being used by Cisco Systems, Inc. and Motorola Solutions, Inc. Papers were filed back in May.
      • by msauve (701917)
        "Actually a google search indicates that Innovatio IP Ventures, LLC is being used by"

        I'm guessing you're dyslexic, and that should be "sued."
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      This is one thing that doesn't make sense. If these patents truly are valid then the end users who purchased the equipment are not the ones who are violating the patents, instead the creators of the devices are the violators. Going after the end users is stupid and is clearly an extortion ("pay up a little now or face the dreaded legal fees").

  • They could not recoup their losses going after home users the way they can with business users.
  • The page linked to by this summary did not explain why the patent trolls are going after the users of WiFi devices, rather than vendors. This seems like a notable change from the usual strategy of patent holders; after all the places mentioned are making little - if any - money off of their use of WiFi devices.
    • by mbkennel (97636) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:17PM (#37594896)

      "The page linked to by this summary did not explain why the patent trolls are going after the users of WiFi devices, rather than vendors."

      actually it did:

      "The company is demanding a one-time lump sum licensing payment between $2,300 and $5,000 from each of the several hundred defendants targeted in its lawsuits, McAndrews said. Some of the defendants have already settled, he added."

      "In casting such a wide net, Innovatio (it means “innovation” in Latin, McAndrews said) displays a new approach in patent enforcement. In a field where patent-holding companies often demand six- or seven-figure dollar amounts for damages, five-figure settlements are considered basement-low. By demanding a few thousand dollars, Innovatio ensures that, for many small business owners, taking up a legal defense won’t make financial sense."

      They are suing when they can pursue action cheaper than the defendant can defend. If the patent were strong they'd go after big money, but the big money will fight and since the patent is weak, they will instead play spam.

      Also, by suing a large number of people in diverse locations and jurisdictions they will make it difficult for defendants to defend collectively and economically.

      Think of all the Jobs Being Created by the Job Creator Class, isn't it lovely?

      • It's the RIAA extortion racket all over again.

        Write the AG and tell him to get RICO on their asses for racketeering.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It's the usual reasons. Easy shakedown target. The defendants are ill equipped to invalidate the patents since they aren't technology companies and the extortion amount is kept carefully below the cost of going to court.

      It's pretty much the same as any shakedown racket with the courts playing the part of the leg breaker.

      • by nomadic (141991)
        Yep, if I were sued I'd probably raise enough procedural headaches to make sure my eventual settlement was a wash for them or net loss. But I would settle in the end. I mean, I'm a lawyer and it still wouldn't be worth my time to learn convoluted patent litigation.
  • I'm sure part of their strategy is to target small companies and attempt to bully them in paying a few grand to "license" the technology. I would imagine that these guys know this case will be thrown out once a defendant with resources goes to court. I'm not going to claim to be a patent expert, but I do know a couple of things: 1) The patent has to be actively protected. So if it was filed in the 90s and not enforced until today, from my understanding they essentially forfeit the right to later lay claims
    • Some brave(r) HW manufacturer or service provider needs to act as an indemnifier and take up the fight on behalf of their customers...

      Of course this would only fight off the current troll and would then make them a stalking horse for whatever crocodiles hold more potent submarine patents...possibly large competitors of theirs..

      -I'm just sayin'
      • by dougmc (70836)

        Some brave(r) HW manufacturer or service provider needs to act as an indemnifier and take up the fight on behalf of their customers...

        But where's the money in that for them?

        Also, they run the risk of *losing*. Courts don't always get it right -- and for all we know, the patent might actually be valid. (I haven't read it, and even if I had, I'm probably not qualified to determine if it's valid and it applies to WiFi anyways.)

        It shouldn't be one brave HW manufacturer or service provider. It really should be all of them working together, as the end result benefits (or hurts) all of them.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      The patent has to be actively protected. So if it was filed in the 90s and not enforced until today, from my understanding they essentially forfeit the right to later lay claims to the patent

      In the U.S.? No. Trademarks have to be actively protected. Patents -- not so.

      • The principle is called "laches", and it does apply. The reasoning is somewhat similar to entrapment. The failure to protect a patent while its claims are being used for a long time, creates the presumption that the use is not infringing and can be relied upon for financially important purposes. When, after a long period of claimed infringement the patent holder sues, the damage is much greater than if the patent was protected earlier. If the patent had been protected earlier, the alleged infringer would h
    • by bky1701 (979071)
      "I'm not going to claim to be a patent expert, but I do know a couple of things: 1) The patent has to be actively protected."

      Patents do NOT need to be protected, or necessarily even filed before the patent was violated, to be enforced. Patents, copyright, and trademarks - they're all different things.
  • This is why... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bky1701 (979071) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:21PM (#37594920) Homepage
    ...the western world's economy is collapsing. When you make ideas property, everyone gets hurt, even the big guys (but more so, the little guys). We already have patents and copyright strangling the market and preventing innovation, and now we're seeing more and more their use to undermine technology that is already a basis part of out society.

    This is just another example in an infinitely long chain of abuses, and still there is essentially no proof that either patents or copyright actually encourage much of anything. So, are we going to abolish imaginary property, or fade into legally enforced obscurity? Because I know China won't give a crap about our patents once they no longer need to sell us cheap junk. If all we export is old ideas and lawsuits, there will reach a point when other powerful countries just shut down that trade all together.

    Wake up, people, now is the time to elect people who are going to do something about this untenable situation. You aren't going to get another chance.
  • by airfoobar (1853132) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:21PM (#37594928)

    But but.. how are they going to find a judge who doesn't use wireless technology? The entire system is against them! Oh, the poor trolls!

    Seriously though, maybe this one [techdirt.com].

    • by dougmc (70836)

      But but.. how are they going to find a judge who doesn't use wireless technology?

      They don't have to. If anybody actually does defend against their suit, they just drop the suit. Or offer a license for $1 instead of thousands (that way, they can still claim a victory, even if it really isn't.)

      They certainly don't expect to be taken to court over this -- if they did, they'd be asking for more money. As it stands, they're keeping the cost of settling less than the cost of any sort of defense, which makes any rational person want to settle. Only somebody with an axe to burn would actual

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Monday October 03, 2011 @08:46PM (#37595076) Homepage Journal
    I hold a patent on the process of buying patents from other companies and then suing people who it might be argued are using something vaguely related to my patents and who are wealthy enough to pay me off but not wealthy enough to defend themselves legally.
    These bastards owe me money!
  • Let's pretend for a moment, that these people aren't just trolls looking for quick settlements. Difficult, I know.

    But in what universe does it make sense for a patent holder to sue the end user? That would be like Apple suing a consumer for buying a Samsung tablet.

    I would like to see one of the troll victims post an open letter that says something along the lines of, "Go away or prepare to be counter-sued into oblivion." Alas, TFA makes it sound like someone could try that and still lose. :(

  • I didn't find any information about the patents themselves, just that they'd been acquired from Broadcom.

    How can we properly rant about "obvious" and "prior art" if we don't know what the patents entail?

    • by Spikeles (972972)
      At the bottom of TFA [patentexaminer.org] it lists the lawsuits. Each a PDF, and inside it lists corresponding patents they allege are infringing, here is an example:

      Each of the Defendants has infringed and continues to infringe one or more claims of the ‘559 Patent in violation of 35 U.S.C. 271(a) by using, in this judicial district, wireless local area network products (“WLAN Products”) to provide wireless network access to their customers, guests, employees, and/or the public, and/or in their business oper

  • They're not going after home users yet but they never will. They may try to make it sound like there is a persuasive reason for end users to buy a license or something but taking a non-commercial entity to court over using an unlicensed or infringing device is asking for it to be thrown out with prejudice. End users are not selling equipment or services. Anyone could build, from scratch, a device that infringes on every patent every filed and, unless they tried to sell it, no one can say a damned thing abou

    • by kabdib (81955)

      > unless they tried to sell it, no one can say a damned thing about it

      Not true. Commercial activity is not required for infringement. (So said the patent lawyer I talked to at Apple, years and years ago).

  • ....Just by being themselves.

    I've never been a fan of government regulation because they also tend to over-reach and worse, they strip people of liberty. However, every single business regulation can be traced back to someone, or group of someones, who obnoxiously pushed enough people to the edge. We had robber-baron railroad operators. That brought the common-carrier regulations. We had dangerous work conditions and awful long (non-voluntary) work hours. Along came labor regulations and OSHA. A lake burned

  • by jonwil (467024) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @02:15AM (#37596376)

    I would have thought that Starbucks (the largest coffee chain in the USA and possibly the entire world) would have been a target since WiFi has been a huge part of their business lately.

    Or McDonalds (the largest fast food joint on the planet with over 11,500 WiFi locations in the US alone)

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @02:40AM (#37596460) Homepage

    The company is demanding a one-time lump sum licensing payment between $2,300 and $5,000 from each of the several hundred defendants targeted in its lawsuits, McAndrews said. Some of the defendants have already settled, he added. [...] “This is not a seat-of-the-pants, fly-by-night shakedown.

    Law school probably offers an entire range of courses teaching their students how to keep a straight face.

  • by boddhisatva (774894) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @02:50AM (#37596490)
    On August 11, 1942, US Patent 2,292,387 was granted to George Antheil and "Hedy Kiesler Markey", Heddy Lamarr's married name at the time. This early version of frequency hopping used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam. It was never implemented at the time. Perhaps owing to this lag in development, the patent was little-known until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for this contribution. Lamarr and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea serves as the basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as Wi-Fi. Antheil was pianist who wrote some Hollywood film music and performed. He was one brick short of a load and was known to come out to perform and lay a pistol on the piano implying that he would shoot anyone who disturbed the performance. In 1933 Heddy Lamarr became famous (or infamous) for making the film "Ecstasy" in which she appeared nude and was depicted having an orgasm. It was banned pretty much everywhere. When promoting war bonds she offered to kiss any man who bought at least $250K. She raised $7 million in one night. President Obama has ordered an overhaul of the patent system. Currently 500,000 patent applications haven't even been opened. I'm personally considering a patent on "selling things for money". If you have an algorithm you want to patent, consider programming that piece of code into an FPGA using VHDL and patent the circuit. Patents on circuits hold up very well in court.

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