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Technicolor Takes Aim At Apple, Samsung, Others for Patent Infringement 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-technicolor-is-still-around dept.
Master Moose sends this quote from a Bloomberg report: "When Apple's next iPhone hits store shelves, Technicolor's engineers will rush to get the handset — not to make calls or play games, but to rip it apart. Technicolor, an unprofitable French company that invented the process for color movies used in The Wizard of Oz and countless other classics, plans to cash in on its 40,000 video, audio and optics patents to turn its fortunes around. The company has a team of 220 people dissecting every new smartphone and tablet from industry goliaths such as Apple, Samsung Electronics and HTC for patent infringements. Although Technicolor signed its first licensing deal in the 1950s, de Russe [executive vice-president of intellectual property at Technicolor] said, 'it feels like the rest of the world has just woken up to why patents are interesting.' Patent licensing is the most profitable business of the company."
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Technicolor Takes Aim At Apple, Samsung, Others for Patent Infringement

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:53PM (#40160967)

    It's black and white, so ultra-retro. All the hipsters will love it.

  • Face Palm (Score:5, Funny)

    by firewrought (36952) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:00PM (#40161033)
    Not that Apple, et. al., are innocent by any means, but WTF has Technicolor contributed to humanity in the past twenty years??
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, if Apple sues Samsung for making a tablet with the same dimensions, but black, despite prior art (Space Odysessy 2001).. then why can't Technicolor sue Apple for something equally obvious?
    • by otaku244 (1804244) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:03PM (#40161063)
      They were too busy smoking cigarettes and taking naps to FIRE ZE' MISSILES...
    • ...but WTF has Technicolor contributed to humanity in the past twenty years??

      Nothing. That's why their most profitable area of business is patent trolling...err...patent licensing.

      • Patents only run 20 years. SO if they haven't contributed anything they wouldn't have any current patents to enforce.

      • by mug funky (910186)

        i'm not sure where the Editor got the idea that Technicolor are unprofitable. they're doing just fine making movies. they made the transition to digital beautifully, and you'll still see their name buried in the credits of almost any movie you happen to see.

        of course, that doesn't give the patent trolling rights.

        • by dzfoo (772245)

          of course, that doesn't give the patent trolling rights.

          What gives the patent trolling rights?

          Or more to the point, why would a patent be trolling?

                        -dZ.

        • Having just finished working there for 4 years, they are indeed very unprofitable. Yes, certain ventures like movie editing make some money, but the overall company (Thomson/Technicolor) has been unprofitable for the last 11 years. They have over 1 billion euro of debt. The transition to digital movie making is one of the only things they did right. Everything else has been a disaster, and they are being brought down by over-zealous French unions and bloated middle management. It's a company that needs to g

    • Re:Face Palm (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tapewolf (1639955) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:12PM (#40161159)

      Not that Apple, et. al., are innocent by any means, but WTF has Technicolor contributed to humanity in the past twenty years??

      From the article: Technicolor, which made the first colour movie 90 years ago, holds key patents in digital audio and video.

      ...I have to wonder if it's related to H264...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        the article is factually wrong - the first colour movies were Kinemacolor, a British colour process invented circa 1906.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Kinemacolor was only two-colors, as was the first Technicolor. Also, they were both "additive" - the film was black and white, but it passed through a spinning red and green wheel. Technicolor did this in 1916 and Kinemacolor did it several years before that.

          Since the article says 90 years, that means 1922 - which probably means they are referring to the first color film... that did not require any special projection equipment, and made a much bigger impact on the film industry. I think Technicolor can take

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        From the article: Technicolor, which made the first colour movie 90 years ago, holds key patents in digital audio and video. ...I have to wonder if it's related to H264...

        h.264 licensing is different than normal patents, like say, cellphones. The 3GPP decided they didn't want to form a patent pool licensing organization, so to produce a cellphone, you have to negotiate with everyone else for their patent. It's what the Samsung v. Apple, Motorola v. Apple lawsuits are about - licensing of essential patents.

        h

        • by Tapewolf (1639955)

          h.264 licensing is different than normal patents, like say, cellphones. ... They decided to create the MPEG Licensing Authority (MPEG-LA) to manage the patent portfolio.

          This is true, but the patent pool only protects you from other people within the patent pool. If an external entity won't join the pool (and an actual patent troll probably wouldn't) and starts suing people instead, the situation would look very much like what we're seeing here. I'm not saying that's definitely what we're seeing here, but it's possible.

    • Re:Face Palm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:14PM (#40161179)

      Prior to a name change, they were Thomson SA.

      Have you listened to an MP3 lately?

      Yes, its technically right at the edge of twenty years, but I bet the most benefit came in the past ten.

    • Re:Face Palm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:20PM (#40161237)

      Technicolor isn't the measly US company known long ago for that color thingy from the abstract. It is actually the renamed gathering of activities of what once was Thomson.

      So at least in the audio and video field, that H.264, mp3 (pro) and related hardware for you. That is probably also where they are doing the most benefit in their IP. Not for very long, considering the age of the patents involved.

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:27PM (#40161299)

      Not that Apple, et. al., are innocent by any means, but WTF has Technicolor contributed to humanity in the past twenty years??

      Do they still make those amazing coats?

    • Re:Face Palm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bo'Bob'O (95398) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:38PM (#40161413)

      A pretty decent bit at least. They used to own Grass Vally and Thompson Broadcast, two big players in broadcast and cable video, as well as still being apart of cinema both digital and analog. So it's not just some holding company using a once familiar brand-name, they've been a relevant company. Of course, they have sold off a lot of that stuff now so maybe this is another sign of their decline.

      • Re:Face Palm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:55PM (#40162183) Homepage Journal

        They invents a TON of technology, but everyone uses it without licensing. So they are dying.

        They actually invent things,
        People rip them off,
        and on /. THEY are the bad guys.

        • by ragefan (267937)

          They invents a TON of technology, but everyone uses it without licensing. So they are dying.

          They actually invent things,
          People rip them off,
          and on /. THEY are the bad guys.

          The reason is that on /., most of us think the missing step in the Profit meme should be "make a useful product and sell it", not "patent troll".

          • by kamapuaa (555446)

            You can invent and then sell whatever you want. It can be made cheaper in China. Some sort of patent protection is necessary to reward people who do the invention and innovation. Otherwise, why would any company even bother?

            • by mwvdlee (775178)

              Otherwise, why would any company even bother?

              For the profit of selling the goods and the longer period it will remain profitable by not publishing the patent.

              Patents are meant to compensate for losses caused by sharing inventions.
              Patents are NOT meant to reward or protect the act of inventing.

              • by dzfoo (772245)

                You are wrong.

                Patents are meant to reward the act of inventing by granting a government-enforced short-term monopoly on its implementation in exchange of it being registered (and thus added to the public pool).

                It is of note that the patent system does not require the inventor to license its patents for others to use. It only requires them to be registered. Registering a patent means that, even if the inventor does not license it to others, it is out in the open and will eventually enter the public domain

          • by dzfoo (772245)

            Actually, I think that most here on /. think that exerting the rights of a patent--any patent, by whomever--is patent-trolling.

                        -dZ.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GumphMaster (772693)

      If nothing else, Technicolor has contributed to that paragon of smoke-and-mirrors: endless growth in gross domestic product. GDP includes funds earned through the "service" of extracting licencing fees, whether sanely justified or obtained by threat of legal oblivion.

    • Re:Face Palm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:10PM (#40161747) Homepage

      Not that Apple, et. al., are innocent by any means, but WTF has Technicolor contributed to humanity in the past twenty years??

      The thing is, they could have. I remember reading an article about Kodak vs. Fuji and how, while Kodak was busy trying to figure out how to make disposable digital cameras, Fuji was inventing new kinds of films that enhanced the picture on LCD screens. So when the whole LCD TV thing exploded, there were Fuji products -- emphasis to show that it wasn't just patents -- inside every one.

      Technicolor is still a viable brand. I remember it. Why aren't they in on that game? Why aren't there Technicolor-branded TV screens? So what if whatever makes a Technicolor TV "Technicolor" has nothing to do with the original Technicolor film process? It's a worthwhile brand, and if Technicolor had been smart and come up with a little TV technology, it might have licensed its name to every TV manufacturer in Asia.

      • by Bruha (412869)

        Go look at the credits of most movies and you'll see technicolor in the credits.

        Most warner bro's cartoons IE Bugs Bunny had a huge technicolor logo at the beginning.

        However I fail to see what Apple owes them, were not talking about celluloid patents here anymore, this is digital.

    • by Pseudonym (62607)

      They still do film processing (most films are still shot on film), and provide a significant amount of expertise and lab work in film restoration and archiving.

      If you're asking what they've invented in the last 20 years, the answer is essentially nothing.

      • by Relayman (1068986)

        (most films are still shot on film)

        [citation needed]

        I think most "films" are shot digitally these days.

        • by Pseudonym (62607)

          If by "films" you mean mainstream Hollywood films, that's correct.

        • by Pope (17780)

          [citation needed]

          I think most "films" are shot digitally these days.

          [citation needed] yourself. The new Batman was shot on film. All-Digital releases are still under 50%.

    • by mug funky (910186)

      i was going to say Digital Intermediate, but that was kodak.

      they... have good post-production facilities. very good ones. they didn't invent them, but they're good.

      the also replicate discs.

  • by DickBreath (207180) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:02PM (#40161049) Homepage
    This will illustrate very clearly how the system it broken. It's not about abstract computer science concepts. It's not about things the jury cannot understand. (Although those optics patents might be highly technical.) It will show beyond doubt how a has been company is suing innovative new companies, in a different era, even different century, just because they can. And . . it's the most profitable business of the company!

    Sickening.

    But it is even more clear than Microsoft claiming patents that cover Linux or Android, and then claiming Linux or Android are building on Microsoft innovations.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      This shows exactly why the systems works.

      Technicolor invented a bunch of stuff. Other people used it without permission, Now they have recourse.

      It's not like Apple can't do a patent search.

    • by k6mfw (1182893)
      and you pyramid builders better be careful or you'll get sued by the Egyptians.
  • by Picass0 (147474) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:04PM (#40161065) Homepage Journal

    ...and don't even think of using curved screens!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:05PM (#40161083)

    Just to be clear for those that are easily confused, Technicolor was invented in America and is named after MIT. From Wikipedia:

    The Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation was founded in Boston in 1914 (incorporated in Maine in 1915) by Herbert Kalmus, Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott. The "Tech" in the company's name was inspired by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Kalmus received his undergraduate degree and was later an instructor. Technicolor, Inc. was chartered in Delaware in 1921.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:39PM (#40161427)

      Do all dead or dying American corporations end-up French?
      - Technicolor
      - Atari
      - Commodore
      - Amiga
      - ???

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You left out:
        - Alcatel-Lucent (as in Western Electric and Bell Laboratories)

      • by ae1294 (1547521)

        Do all dead or dying American corporations end-up French?
        - Technicolor
        - Atari
        - Commodore
        - Amiga
        - ???

        Did the html mangle your profit meme or has it been patented?

        • by mikael (484)

          Technicolor has a research center in France. You will see adverts for research scientists in color science.

          Given the way that texture compression is a big issue for mobile devices, and that there are demos that use movie videos as textures, that drifts into their territory.

    • by Relayman (1068986)
      Just to be clear for those that are easily confused, Technicolor is a brand name owned by a company that has little connection with the company founded in 1914.
  • by Nyder (754090) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:06PM (#40161097) Journal

    Although Technicolor signed its first licensing deal in the 1950s, de Russe [executive vice-president of intellectual property at Technicolor] said, 'it feels like the rest of the world has just woken up to why patents are interesting.' Patent licensing is the most profitable business of the company."

    Dude has it wrong. Being a Patent Lawyer is the most Profitable Business.

  • In the latest re-re-re-release of Wizard Of Oz 3DD, they digitally innovate a new character, Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Toto and the new superhero, Mister Potter's Patent Lawyer.

    The Wicked Witch Of the West is digitally morphed with Richard Stallman's equally ugly visage.

  • by phonewebcam (446772) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:10PM (#40161149) Homepage

    Motorola (first mobile call 1973) are being sued [zdnet.com] by Microsoft (formed 1976) because, whilst clearly they are the newbies in this area, each and every time the obvious sequence of events is brought up out come the naysaysers whining about all Motorolas relevant patents having expired. So, these jerks with their '50s technology is somehow relevant, how?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      They have been developing technology since the 50s. If it was a technology developed in 1950, there wouldn't be a story.

  • by gatfirls (1315141) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:17PM (#40161199)
    I would be cartoon knee-knocking scared if I ever "invented" and popular and revolutionary product. It's basically like a zombie movie with these patent suits. They wait for success and then pop out of the ground in hoards.
    • by PCM2 (4486)

      I would be cartoon knee-knocking scared if I ever "invented" and popular and revolutionary product. It's basically like a zombie movie with these patent suits. They wait for success and then pop out of the ground in hoards.

      Well, just having an idea will get you nowhere. To make any money off it, you have to either have the wherewithal to manufacture it yourself, or convince someone else to.

      If you really want to go it alone, unfortunately, I think what I'd look into is to sign on with a patent troll company, like Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures. Seriously. Instead of getting sued, maybe you sell a piece of your patent to them. Then you can try to make a business out of it, and if you run into problems, you've got their

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:22PM (#40161259)
    But there * IS * something wrong with 40-year-old patents.
    • Lots of patents are 40 years and older. In fact these are the best kind of patents because they constitute published technology that everyone is free to use.

      • "Lots of patents are 40 years and older. In fact these are the best kind of patents because they constitute published technology that everyone is free to use."

        Haha. Got me. But I meant patents that are active and can be enforced.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      Especially in tech where things are dated in months, not years or decades (although I feel things have slowed slightly in the past 4 years)
    • by geekoid (135745)

      what 40 year old patent? huh ?
      This is about newer stuff.
      Technicolor SA was formerly Thomson SA and Thomson Multimedia.

      Where you listening to MP3s 40 years ago?

      Twit.

      • by tkrotchko (124118)

        I think MP3's were invented by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. Not by Thompson in France.

      • "what 40 year old patent? huh ? ... Where you listening to MP3s 40 years ago?"

        No, but I was spelling and punctuating better than that when I was 6 years old.

        But on to the point: except for this line

        Technicolor, which made the first colour movie 90 years ago, holds key patents in digital audio and video.

        ... which I missed the first time around, the rest of the article pretty much gives the impression that they are trying to enforce very old patents.

        Jerk.

  • The idea that a company can remain solvent in perpetuity doing nothing but simply licensing out ancient IP and suing those who violate said IP rights is an incredible bastardization of Capitalism.

  • ... that I'm having trouble articulating.

    On one hand, you have these companies using patents, an abstract barrier, to make money. On the other hand, they are sniffing out violations by means of reverse engineering. This is an act that, if many big companies had their way, would also be forbidden. Another abstract barrier. Something doesn't add up, but I can't flesh it out. I figured I'd drop this incomplete thought in case someone wanted to pick it up and run with it.

    • The component you're missing is lawyers. Lawyers make those abstract barriers, and ultimately it is lawyers that profit from those abstract barriers. The whole system is a confidence game built of the lawyers, for the lawyers and by the lawyers.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:38PM (#40162013)

    Technicolor, an unprofitable French company...

    and then:

    Patent licensing is the most profitable business of the company.

    I'd hate to see how their other efforts are going.

  • I've taken apart ipads, iphones, pretty much every device.

    I don't think I could tell what was patent infringing from that view and what was not.

    I think they're just issuing press releases.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well. if the patents are of the grade "anti-glare on glass in front of flat computer screen"...

  • Are any of these patents software patents? If not, then this is not really a big concern. Software patents are an obscenity, regular patents can be a good thing. Perhaps the system needs a bit of reform, but only software patents should be abolished.
  • Can we at least limit the number of years they can stall a lawsuit? I'm sick to death of companies suddenly suing after a product has been out for years and sometimes a decade or more. They shouldn't be allowed to wait until the companies rack up a lot of profits before they hit them with a patent they never exploited. A judge should at least limit their recovery to the first three years. The point is if the company had known about the patent maybe they could have made changes to avoid racking up fees. It's
  • You know, if the engineers referenced the patents in designing these smartphones in order to not have to repeat the discovery and invention process then maybe I could see some payment to these patent companies. They had contributed to the speedy design and manufacture of the phone.

    But we all know that this isn't the case. Had the engineers known about the patents ahead of time they would have (likely) either licensed them -- or designed around them to avoid the often outrageous additional costs that it woul

  • In addition to patent licensing, which covers the registration and examination of the patent at the various international patent offices, I have an additional idea. I doubt I am the first one to think of this though.

    How about we tax the value of the patent portfolios of every company holding patents as corporate assets. No longer should the balance sheet reflect the valuation of a patent as merely the filing fees. Instead, require that companies use standard metrics for evaluating the value of each paten

  • there is no news here, just some info about techicolor and ... um, just about nothing else.

Nobody's gonna believe that computers are intelligent until they start coming in late and lying about it.

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