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Patent Troll Now Armed With Thousands of Nortel Patents 220

Posted by samzenpus
from the loaded-for-bear dept.
dgharmon writes in with a story about the final outcome of thousands of Nortel patents that were bought last July. "You may recall last summer that Apple, Microsoft, EMC, RIM, Ericsson and Sony all teamed up to buy Nortel's patents for $4.5 billion. They beat out a team of Google and Intel who bid a bit less. While there was some antitrust scrutiny over the deal, it was dropped and the purchase went through. Apparently, the new owners picked off a bunch of patents to transfer to themselves... and then all (minus EMC, who, one hopes, was horrified by the plans) decided to support a massive new patent troll armed with the remaining 4,000 patents. The company is called Rockstar Consortium, and it's run by the folks who used to run Nortel's patent licensing program anyway — but now employs people whose job it is to just find other companies to threaten." On a semi-related note, there is a new petition to the White House to make a law that patent lawsuits that find for the defendant automatically fine the plaintiff three times the damages they were seeking."
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Patent Troll Now Armed With Thousands of Nortel Patents

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  • by Theophany (2519296) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:01PM (#40130375)
    ...patent lawyers are rubbing their hands with glee. I should have gone to law school after all...
    • by toriver (11308) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:26PM (#40130551)

      Try prostitution, it's about just as honorable.

      • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:34PM (#40130587)

        But being a lawyer makes more money and you get to decide who you screw.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          But being a lawyer makes more money and you get to decide who you screw.

          A lot of highly paid escorts would disagree with you.

          There are lower tier escorts that might not have as much choice, but there are a lot of entry level lawyers with even less choice - and probably worse pay when you factor in takeaway after the student loan payment.

        • by wbr1 (2538558)

          But being a lawyer makes more money and you get to decide who you screw.

          Yeah but prostitutes have better access to drugs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Oh, prostitution is much more honorable unless it involves blackmail. Then it's just a little more honorable. Now why did I almost misspell honorable as horable, twice?

      • Honor has nothing to do with it. Prostitution has a leg up (so to speak) as it is honest.
      • by hherb (229558)

        Try prostitution, it's about just as honorable.

        I disagree. Prostitutes at least provide a service, at times at considerable personal risk, with considerable effort and skill. At least the legal ones do not blatantly rip off customers or generate artificial demand. I'd rather have a prostitute in my family than a patent lawyer or similar parasites of society - and I really mean it.

  • How about if you bring a frivolous patent suit and lose, you are put out of business and *all* your assets are transferred.

    Same for copyright suits.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Ah, the RIAA method of damage calculation. Well, I guess if it's good for them then why not?!

      Who cares about ludicrous overreactions?

    • by Splab (574204)

      3 times is a start - and remember, those trolls are often shell companies with their patents transferred (like original article was discussing); if you are defendant and win, they don't have the money to fork over, so you could probably do a land-grab from their assets. (not a lawyer nor american, so no idea how stuff actually works, but one can dream)

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      ok, so now legally define 'frivolous' to our satisfaction - patent trolls are obviously evil, but they do own the patents and seek to justify them in court when someone else infringes them. This is quite acceptable.

      Now, fixing the broad and vague software patents, that would be something useful.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:07PM (#40130411)

    So a group of companies band together to buy patents and they create a single organisation to handle it. What else would they do? It is hardly likely that any company would be happy with the whole lot being overseen by one of the other member companies, and they would be in negotiation for years if they tried to split them all up.

    So the question to the submitter is: what other outcome did you expect?

    • by 3seas (184403) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @06:04PM (#40130709) Journal

      This is in clear violation of the original intent of patents.

      • This is in clear violation of the original intent of patents.

        How so? The purpose of a patent is to give someone a monopoly over a specific invention, meaning to prevent other people from being able to use it or even import goods that duplicate the invention. In the event that the patent holder cannot make use of the patent themselves (eg. too costly to implement) then they can licence it or even transfer the ownership of the patent to someone else, usually for a fee.

        This is exactly what has happened here. Ownership has been transferred. This is business as usual in t

        • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday May 27, 2012 @08:31PM (#40131343)

          According to the constitution the purpose of patents is to "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." I think it's safe to say that buying up useless patents and using them to harass new entries to the market does the opposite.

          • Fair enough, but my original question still stands. Other than the original drafters of the constitution, who actually thought that the Nortel patent purchase would result in anything other than what we have today? The complaint that you and 3seas have is with the patent system in general, not with this particular action.

          • by Xtifr (1323)

            The patent has still been made public, and will enter the public domain after the patent expires. So there's no contradiction with the "original intent". It may not be promoting the Progress at the rate you would like, but it's still happening.

            Part of the problem is that the speed of industry has increased, so the length of a patent should really be decreasing to match. Fourteen years used to be a fairly short length of time as far as product development was concerned; now it's an eternity. But instead

            • But the real problem remains bad patents. If only real inventions were patented, we wouldn't see so many trolls grabbing patents on basic (and obvious) technology and preventing others from using it. Patents on math, in particular, have to go.

              Respectfully, although I agree for a different reason*, those sentences are at odds with each other:

              1) "bad" patents are those that are granted when they shouldn't be because the invention is obvious - i.e. not a "real" invention or a "basic (and obvious) technology".
              2) but, saying "patents on math... have to go" as a conclusion would imply that you're saying that all math is basic and obvious. Didn't we see a story earlier today where it took 250 years to solve a problem hypothesized by Newton?

              Yes, ther

              • by Xtifr (1323)

                My sentences were not at odds. You were leaping to an incorrect assumption about my position, which is that math isn't an invention! It's a discovery of a law of nature. Therefore math patents are bad patents. That's why I explicitly mentioned "real inventions".

                Obviousness is a separate issue, though of course, those patents are not real inventions either. But I wasn't limiting my argument to just one type of not-real-invention. I want to get rid of patents on everything that's not a real invention.

                Mat

          • I think it's safe to say that buying up useless patents and using them to harass new entries to the market does the opposite.

            That's begging the question... What evidence do you have that these patents are "useless"? Consider, if they successfully "harass new entries to the market" then they're clearly useful, even if you don't like it.

            • by mosb1000 (710161)

              But that doesn't "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" does it? It inhibits it.

            • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday May 28, 2012 @06:11AM (#40133747)

              That's begging the question... What evidence do you have that these patents are "useless"? Consider, if they successfully "harass new entries to the market" then they're clearly useful, even if you don't like it.

              On the contrary. If there are new entries to the market, that indicates that the patented invention isn't so difficult to develop, therefore the patent was incorrectly approved in the first place. The only effect of patenting an idea that anybody can easily come up with is to prevent innovation.

      • This is in clear violation of the original intent of patents.

        In what way? The original intent is to encourage innovation by allowing inventors to secure commercially-viable time-limited monopolies. If inventors can't sell those monopoly rights, then they're not as commercially viable.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      So the question to the submitter is: what other outcome did you expect?

      Them setting up an organisation that managed the patents for defensive purposes only?

      • Them setting up an organisation that managed the patents for defensive purposes only?

        How quaint. Given that the patents are now being run by the folks who used to run Nortel's patent licensing program, it means that not much has really changed under the new ownership. Nortel may have claimed to want to use them defensively, but they still had a licencing program for them.

    • Also the new petition to the White House is not thought out at all. The big Corporations are already insulating themselves from blow back from their patent lawsuits by using Corporate shells to act as proxies, so if the proxy loses, it just goes bankrupt, and that's all.

      It would be far better to do a petition for abolishing software patents once again. Re-abolishing software patents doesn't solve everything either, but that would be a far clearer goal in my opinion than trying to impose triple damages on a

  • by Wowsers (1151731) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:10PM (#40130429) Journal
    How long will it be before the politicians see the problem of software patents as harming their countries own industries? Guess it will never happen, as most politicians are educated as sleazy lawyers, and they are only interested in personal gain.
    • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:35PM (#40130589)

      Until Europe, India and China overtake the US.

    • by cboslin (1532787)

      How long will it be before the politicians see the problem of software patents as harming their countries own industries? Guess it will never happen, as most politicians are educated as sleazy lawyers, and they are only interested in personal gain.

      They are paid very well to look the other way, I believe most if not all not only see, but understand exactly what the issues are, they are just jockeying for position to be in the group of politicians to be paid off to vote the way the patent trolls (and the 1%) want them to vote.

      As important, if not more, to what they are paid to look the other way, is the amount of money that can be spent against them in any upcoming election via negative campaigning and ads, if they dare to go up against the 1%. And

  • Find cool tech developed by start up
    Rip it off
    Don't worry about lawsuit since risk is too great

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      Find cool tech developed by start up
      Rip it off
      Don't worry about lawsuit since risk is too great

      You missed out "Profit!"

  • "But Trolls live under bridges." Yes, but at least those trolls you can kill with a sword.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:16PM (#40130471) Homepage

    A civics lesson for you: the Whitehouse does not have the power to make laws. That is the exclusive domain of the Congress. You see, we have this little thing called "separation of powers"...

    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:24PM (#40130531)

      A civics lesson for you: the Whitehouse does not have the power to make laws. That is the exclusive domain of the Congress. You see, we have this little thing called "separation of powers"...

      Very true ... but the devil is in the details. The White House can draft legislation that is then sponsored by a member of congress just like 100's of lobbyists do.

    • Alas, the current administration is a tyranny, ignoring law. It does whatever it can get away with.
  • that the Rockstar Consortium sues a few high profile companies and causes a lot of damage and mayhem. Then, maybe (hopefully), the uproar will be so loud that the politicians will need to heed it above the whisperings of the lobbyists and will have to admit the stupidity of the current patent system so sanity will prevail and they will fix it. However: I fear that I am just dreaming and that we will just slowly die the death of 1,000 patent lawsuits :-(

  • Proposal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fuzzums (250400) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:17PM (#40130479) Homepage

    You can only get money from a patent if you actually produce something that uses that patent.
    Otherwise, you can hang it on your wall and look at it.

    • by gtall (79522)

      I agree with the notion, but we are trying to corral slime here. It won't be enough just to force a company to "produce something". First off, the troll will find a wiling Chinese or American "company" to "produce" "something". The company will be a token company or one with no scruples. The "something" will be a piece of shit but with enough crap in it so that it will be unclear to any judge or jury that it doesn't involve the patent. The "produce" will simply be they got some useful other idiot company to

  • GOOD! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spire3661 (1038968)
    They are ALL going Global Thermonuclear WAR! Bring it, society will only tolerate this for so long and the call to kill all patents will begin. Its gonna be bloddy, but the time has come.
  • On The Petition (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I am not sure how someone could come to the conclusion that forcing a plaintiff to pay treble damages in the event of a loss is a good idea. Patent laws are already anti-consumer/little guy enough and there's a huge number of small-time patent holders who have been screwed out of their inventions by bigger companies. Few sue as it is and even fewer win because of the ridiculous legal fees associated. Add the risk of three-times damages, and none will. This won't hurt the big guys because often enough much m

  • by belgianguy (1954708) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @06:17PM (#40130765)
    The rotten system just got a tad more rotten. Rockstar is the king of all patent trolls, funded by the big two software IP honchos, known for their shakedown schemes and patenting the trivially obvious. The other partners are opportunists and a few badly ailing companies seeking a hail-mary pass to avoid utter extinction. It got its approval under the guise of playing by "reasonable terms", only to disobey said promise as "not applicable to the new construct" as soon as the deal went through. With a start like that, I don't have much hope left for any ethics to be involved in their way of thinking.

    Rockstar has all the latest weaponry of an extremely litigious tech company, wealthy backers, plus the enormous advantage that it can't be countersued. It can start case after case without even batting an eye. The sheer amount of cases it can start can probably put a company out of business even before the first patent in play is reviewed.

    If you thought Oracle vs Google was perfidious, wait until Rockstar here takes aim at Android. It's only a matter of time, and to me it seems like Android was the reason this abomination was formed. They've sealed up the LTE patents, so they'll surely squeeze them on that front, while trying keep on adding layer after layer of patent licenses, with the penultimate target of drowning it and scaring the manufacturers away.

    Innovation is about to get its teeth kicked in.
  • Since that patent troll petition has so few signature, it's probably a good measure on how strong the slashdot population is when it comes to such things..
  • The White House will not TAX Intellectual Property, there is no way in hell they will tip the scales in the patent lawsuit nuttyness.

    Their backers are the IP holders. All politicians care more about the money than the little guy.

  • When all commercial and academic development of everything is crushed. I can't wait for the day when not only applied technology is dead but basic research is beaten to death as well. It will be glorious

  • This petition to fine patent owners treble damages if the defendant wins is awful, because it screws small inventors. Invent something in your garage? Big MegaCorp steals it, and pays for lawyers you can't even dream of. They win, and you pay triple.

    Awesome idea, got any others?

  • ... prohibit mergers or acquisitions when they will adversely affect competition in a marketplace. So why can't we stop a few big players from buying up large blocks of patents?

  • That link was posted multiple times to reddit but each link was downvoted so it never made the front page. For once slashdot's moderation system beat that of reddit, which seems to be susceptible to PR companies.

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