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Nokia Feeds a Patent Troll 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the om-nom-nom dept.
New submitter glebovitz writes "In case anyone missed the other Nokia news: on the same day they announced the sale of Qt to Digia, they also sold 500 patents to Vringo. Vringo, a video ring tone company, recently merged with patent portfolio company Innovate/Protect which includes Donald Stout, the founder of patent holding company NTP, on its board. Forbes refers to NTP as 'a patent troll which milked Research In Motion for $612.5 million in a patent infringement settlement reached in 2006.' As Eric Savitz writes in the article, 'Vringo decided to basically turn itself into a patent troll.'"
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Nokia Feeds a Patent Troll

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  • by halfEvilTech (1171369) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:19PM (#40947305)

    I would be shocked if none have been filed by the end of the month.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:25PM (#40947377)

    Well products can be sold abroad, but badly issued USPTO patents, they can't be exported. So it's time to analyze how much of the US economy the USPTO had destroyed.

  • I may be missing something, but I don't know why should people (and I) care? Is there any threat rising for anyone already?
    • Well, I used to use (and love) Qt as a language... I still dabble in it once in awhile.

      Not sure how many patents would be attached to Qt, so I guess it'll require me to at least half-assed check before I do anything commercial with code written in it.

      • It's best not to check. If you check, even if you think you're in the clear, you can be sued for triple damages for knowing infringement.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:26PM (#40947385)

    In its quest to become another no-name mobile phone OEM it is imperative to shut down all research and development, because the future really isn't important.

    Why haven't the shareholders held a vote of no confidence in the current Nokia board?

    • Because they're waiting for a massive payday from Microsoft when it comes time to buy up what's left.

      (I didn't say they were smart...)

      • Because they're waiting for a massive payday from Microsoft when it comes time to buy up what's left.

        Yeah. Four chairs, a couple of tablets and a bunch of mice.

        Some payday.

        • Look any way you slice it Nokia is dead and they were dead before Elop ever walked in the door, why? Because their big business is about to go the way of the 8-track, that's why. Nokia made their money on dumbphones and we can all see the writing on the wall, as the chips drop dumbphones will disappear. Hell Walmart has begun offering smartphones on their cheapo prepaid plans at $125, when that gets down to $50 that's it, its over.

          Put yourself in the shoes of Elop, you walk through the door and the business is totally fractured, you got no less than THREE different phone OSes, none of which is compatible with the others, Symbian, MeeGo/Maemo, and the Java based one I can't remember the name of. Now the company couldn't buy WebOS because they couldn't throw a billion like HP, Apple sure as fuck ain't selling them iOS, Android is right out because Samsung and HTC do it better than anybody and the market is flooded with Android phones already, and no product you have will be able to compete for at least a year and a half and that is if everything goes perfectly. So he took the money from MSFT and hoped like hell they knew WTF they were doing with WinPhone.

          Was it a good call? Nope but frankly i don't see what other call the guy could make, Android would make them an also ran, a third or fourth string player at best compared to Samsung and HTC, and MeeGo/Maemo simply wasn't done and was already behind. When you are in the same market as Apple you can't go half assed which is what MeeGo would have been if he shoved it out the door so the guy literally was out of options. He had no OS, a market that was dying, and was rapidly running out of time. I don't see where the guy had a choice really, its not like he could wave a magic wand and suddenly make MeeGo/Maemo into an iPhone killer, it just wasn't anywhere near done.

          • Look any way you slice it Nokia is dead and they were dead before Elop ever walked in the door, why? Because their big business is about to go the way of the 8-track, that's why. Nokia made their money on dumbphones and we can all see the writing on the wall, as the chips drop dumbphones will disappear. Hell Walmart has begun offering smartphones on their cheapo prepaid plans at $125, when that gets down to $50 that's it, its over.

            Not necessarily, though for a growing-smaller percentage there will always be a need for a dumb phone option. My mother-in-law just got such a phone to replace her old phone through Verizon (may they rot in some abyss). My wife and I tried to gauge her ability to use anything with a higher degree of tech (such as a tablet) and she absolutely cannot do it (even with a couple weeks of work). We broke down and got her a very basic pre-paid phone plan, with a very basic telephone, and she's thrilled.

            Now, f

          • by gl4ss (559668)

            nokia still does very well on the 100 bucks phones segment, their offerings at under 100 bucks are the best on the market too.

            what you're actually missing is that 400 bucks smartphones industry is _not_ going to last for another decade. the devices mean price will go to around hundred bucks.

            but it's the 400 bucks market that is sexy and covered in trade press.. and ceo's love trade press.

            • what you're actually missing is that 400 bucks smartphones industry is _not_ going to last for another decade.

              ...and neither will Nokia, at least not without coming into some astronomical amount of luck.

              It's one thing to look ahead, but another entirely to look so far ahead of you that you cannot see the great big hole you're about to walk into.

          • by HiThere (15173)

            They were in trouble before Elop walked in the door. Now I think their position is hopeless.

            They could have come out with a phone running Meego, or switched to Android. This would not have been a good move, but they could have survived, and they may not have had any good moves. Now they don't have any options but to pray for help from Microsoft...and Microsoft very rarely answers prayers. (I can't think of even one of their partners that could honestly say MS saved them. The closest I can come is Apple

          • by dbIII (701233)

            Look any way you slice it Nokia is dead and they were dead before Elop ever walked in the door

            They were the largest seller of mobile phone handsets on the planet at that point so even the "do nothing" option could not have possibly harmed Nokia as badly as Elop.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      the patents sale includes that they get ongoing fees from some of the licensing.

      it's actually possible that they're doing this as a switcharoo.. since they got cross licensing deals with others already. now these patents are no longer nokia's. sounds pretty ridiculous loopholing but that's big IP business for you..

  • I agree with the prevailing opinion that the patent system needs fixing. However, until that is done, why is buying an asset (patent) and then trying to get a return on the investment considered so evil? Rail against the patent system if you wish, but demonizing the patent holders seems misguided.

    • by schitso (2541028) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:33PM (#40947499)
      Something being legal doesn't make it right.
    • by MoonFog (586818) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:36PM (#40947533)
      Because the entire business method of patent trolls typically include only suing others. They don't generate anything of value and will only fatten the bank accounts for themselves and their lawyer.

      These aren't guys who invented something, got a patent on it and sued those trying to copy, they buy patents from others (who may not even have bothered going after the alleged infringers) and use those patents as grounds to sue. They are leeches.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tgd (2822)

        Because the entire business method of patent trolls typically include only suing others. They don't generate anything of value and will only fatten the bank accounts for themselves and their lawyer.

        These aren't guys who invented something, got a patent on it and sued those trying to copy, they buy patents from others (who may not even have bothered going after the alleged infringers) and use those patents as grounds to sue. They are leeches.

        And that has been a business model for at least 150 years in the US. The patent system was quite literally designed for that. Patent thickets, licensing companies and the ilk were extremely common during the rise of the industrial age from things like loom technology, to sewing machines, to industrial controllers.

        You may feel they're leeches (and, by the way, I agree), but the system was explicitly set up to allow for (and, frankly, encourage) things like that. It gave inventors incentive to do their invent

        • by kimvette (919543)

          The patent system was quite literally designed for that. Patent thickets, licensing companies and the ilk were extremely common during the rise of the industrial age from things like loom technology, to sewing machines, to industrial controllers.

          No, it was not set up for that. It was designed for protecting the little guy who is inventing and producing tangible goods from big companies copying him and driving him out of business. The patent thicket you speak of hinders innovation; it does not promote develo

          • by Halo1 (136547) <jonas...maebe@@@elis...ugent...be> on Friday August 10, 2012 @01:15PM (#40948029) Homepage

            It was designed for protecting the little guy who is inventing and producing tangible goods from big companies copying him and driving him out of business.

            The patent system was used by the King of England to reward his friends with monopolies. The whole "encourage innovation" and especially the whole "protect the little guy" arguments is mainly a pretty story to sell it to the masses.

            I mean, just look at the arguments of patent system fans. Half the time they'll say

            Patents are required, because otherwise everyone will keep everything secret and all knowledge will be lost.

            The other half of the time they say

            Patents are required, because otherwise everyone will immediately duplicate every innovation without the original inventor being able to get any money out of it.

            While both statements can't be right at the same time, they sure can be wrong at the same time.

            • by Artraze (600366)

              > The patent system was used by the King of England to reward his friends with monopolies

              And so the founders included it in the constitution, because they were total fans of the King of England and his was of doing things.

              > I mean, just look at the arguments of patent system fans. Half the time they'll say
              > > Patents are required, because otherwise everyone will keep everything secret and all knowledge will be lost.
              > The other half of the time they say
              > > Patents are required, because o

              • by Halo1 (136547)

                The patent system was used by the King of England to reward his friends with monopolies

                And so the founders included it in the constitution, because they were total fans of the King of England and his was of doing things.

                Powerful people helping powerful friends is of all times. And e.g. Thomas Jefferson wasn't exactly a big fan of the concept of patents [movingtofreedom.org] initially. That changed somewhat later on [monticello.org], but even then he never saw it as "little vs big guy" but rather as "help the interest of society".

                > I mean, just look at the arguments of patent system fans. Half the time they'll say
                > > Patents are required, because otherwise everyone will keep everything secret and all knowledge will be lost.
                > The other half of the time they say
                > > Patents are required, because otherwise everyone will immediately duplicate every innovation without the original
                > > inventor being able to get any money out of it.
                > While both statements can't be right at the same time, they sure can be wrong at the same time.

                Sure, because everything written in absolutes is always intended as such.

                And every statement can be qualified in a way that makes it potentially true. What people try or not is not the issue, it's what the actual situation is. It's simply not true in the digital economy that in general innovators cannot make

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              The patent system was used by the King of England to reward his friends with monopolies. The whole "encourage innovation" and especially the whole "protect the little guy" arguments is mainly a pretty story to sell it to the masses.

              Wrong, at least in the US. It was written into the Constituion like that. Remember, we'd just been at war to be free of the king and his laws. Whether or not that power was to be given to government was hotly debated and grudgingly granted.

              I mean, just look at the arguments of pa

          • by Artraze (600366)

            The patent system was quite literally designed for that. Patent thickets, licensing companies and the ilk were extremely common during the rise of the industrial age from things like loom technology, to sewing machines, to industrial controllers.

            No, it was not set up for that. It was designed for protecting the little guy who is inventing and producing tangible goods from big companies copying him and driving him out of business. The patent thicket you speak of hinders innovation; it does not promote development of useful arts and sciences.

            Okay, so you're a tinkerer and invent, taking from the GP's example, a fancy new loom in your basement and get a patent. It's not really much faster to run, but it doesn't break down nearly as often and thus reduces downtime and required maintenance staff. So to be rewarded for your ingenuity, you uh... start a large factory using your invention and are successful in the marketplace because you can cut production costs by 10% which is totally enough to compete against existing companies because you clearl

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Just make transferring patents illegal. The inventors are issued the patent and hold it. If a third party wants to develop the technology they sign a license agreement that may or may not be exclusive. If someone infringes, the original inventors need to go after them.

          • Posting to delete wrong mod - should be modded interesting. note to self - touchpad needs to be replaced with mouse.
      • by NEDHead (1651195)

        So, if you buy an apartment building that someone else built, you shouldn't feel right about charging rent? Or if you buy a run down building, you should be embarrassed to evict the drug dealers and gangs, and try to find legitimate tenants? Your argument is nonsense. Bad patents should be rejected by the patent office. Bad patents that are issued should be dismissed. A means of challenging bad patents that doesn't require a huge bankroll should be available. The public should perhaps be involved in a

        • by weakref (2554172)
          It's wrong to charge a rent if you don't let tenants in. Same way, it's wrong to buy a patent and use it for charging fees but not for production of goods and services. This part should be fixed IMHO.
        • by Halo1 (136547)

          So, if you buy an apartment building that someone else built, you shouldn't feel right about charging rent?

          Analogy fail. Apartment buildings are scarce goods by their very nature. Nobody owning them or taking responsibility for them almost by definition leads to a tragedy of the commons. On the other hand, making ideas/innovations/inventions scarce goods is an artificial construct. The problems with patent thickets are known. To some extent they have been worked around in the past by the big corporations by means of cross-licensing, and by smaller players by staying under the radar of larger players. Everyone ju

      • by alen (225700)

        most products produced in the last 100 some years need dozens to thousands of smaller inventions. someone making a cool new wireless algorithm may never build a business around it, but licensing it to existing companies is a way to get compensated.

      • by SQLGuru (980662)

        Or.....one could say they help foster smaller teams of developing patents (I wouldn't, but some might). The little guy who can't afford to defend his patent could sell it to a patent troll and make some money from their patent. The patent troll then turns around and uses their legal knowledge to reap the reward of that investment.

        I don't really believe this, but I can see it as an argument. I think that these companies are the reason that there are so many nit-picky little patents all over the place. I

    • by fritsd (924429)
      I agree with the prevailing mediæval opinion that the Champerty and Maintenance [wikipedia.org] legal system needs fixing.
      However, until that is done, why is buying a share of someone elses lawsuit and then trying to collect a share of the loot considered so evil? Rail against the Champerty system if you wish, but demonizing the buying and selling of lawsuit shares seems misguided.
  • A simple rule (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmomo (256005) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:33PM (#40947505) Homepage

    What would be the effect of restricting a patent holder from initiating litigation to infringements made prior to the acquisition of the patent? This would leave many issues inherent in patents unsolved. But, because it's so simple, would be an easy barrier to put in place, and hopefully lower the benefit/cost of patent trolling.

    This would have required Nokia to initiate litigation vs. Research in Motion prior to selling the the patent to Vringo. This would certainly affect their image. If they were not concerned about this, they might have pursued a case v. RIM themselves, or at least outsourced it.

    Vringo could immediately demand that Research in Motion cease any ongoing infringement. But R.I.M could then simply cease infringement, and Vringo would get no return on their patent acquisition. Vringo could also demand liscensing fees for ongoing RIM use of the patented tech... R.I.M could decline, or contest the patent, making the prospect of buying patents for the purpose of Trolling less alluring.

    • What would be the effect of restricting a patent holder from initiating litigation to infringements made prior to the acquisition of the patent?

      "Oh, hai, small inventor and patent holder. I'm a Big Corporation. I'm just going to use your idea, and if you ask me for license fees, I'll tell you to fark yourself. What are you going to do... sue me? Bwaahahaha! I'll bury you in documents and motions until you're bankrupt and beg me to let you drop the suit... I mean, where are you going to get the quarter-million dollars it'll take to litigate this?
      "Back in the day, of course, you could have sold your patent to a holding company who has millions in th

      • Ah, but here am I, the new patent insurance provider. You pay me a certain fraction of the revenue for your patents (plus a constant base rate, of course), and I pay for any lawsuits you might need to defend them (please don't read the small print of our contracts, though).

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:34PM (#40947507)

    We all know that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is a sockpuppet of Steve Ballmer (why the Nokia shareholders put up with this is beyond me, but it probably reflects the lack of actual control over corporate governance by the nominal owners). Now Elop is taking yet more actions that don't really help Nokia, but are calculated to hurt Google (and probably Apple as well) as much as possible. The reason is obvious: Microsoft wants these Nokia patents in the hands of patent trolls to cause trouble.

    • We all know this is because of this F&^cked up patent system in the USA. So when are you guys trying to make some changes?

      • by ktappe (747125)

        We all know this is because of this F&^cked up patent system in the USA. So when are you guys trying to make some changes?

        And I'm quite sure there are no stupid laws on the books in your country that, because there's no public knowledge of or interest in them, will not get changed.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Typical. We know it is f&^cked up, but lets talk about some f&^cked up laws in other countries.

    • by alen (225700)

      so WTF is Elop getting out of this from ballmer to be his minion?

      why would he run the company this way unless MS is feeding him some secret slush fund $$$

    • Interesting, how accusations are always made without any proof just by claiming that everybody knows anyway :-) Seriously: I do not know and not even seriously suspect. Nokia went downhill already before Elop became CEO. Regarding this deal: Not only do they get a never-expiring license for all their products, but apparently also 35% of all license fees exceeding the purchase price, and without the need to start risky litigations as well. Oracle, Google, Samsung and Apple are currently all suffering becaus
      • http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/07/the-sun-tzu-of-nokisoftian-microkia-mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-whose-the-baddest-of-them-all-waterloo.html

        Nokia was in a position to dominate the market, but threw away their assets to become an OEM for the third-rate Windows Phone system when Elop became CEO.
    • by bbbaldie (935205)

      The reason is obvious: Microsoft wants these Nokia patents in the hands of patent trolls to cause trouble.

      Steve BLAMMER: All of the evil deviousness of Bill gates, but without the brains. ;-)

  • Sell drugs or become patent troll? I can't decide... Sell $1 apps for smartphone? Sell $1 books on amazon?
  • If patents could not be transfered or sold would it mitigate the trolls or would they simply change tactics and invest in "protecting" inventors with legal services for a stake in the outcome of legal procedings. I also wonder if that would be a bad thing if properly regulated to limit their take in gains (less actual costs) to, say 5%. In the end the actual inventor would be compensated instead of being swindled out of a patent for pennies on the dollar because (s)he cannot afford to protect (her)himself.

  • by fxbar (2627205) on Friday August 10, 2012 @02:41PM (#40949475)

    Was there any bidding process? I assume not. Just some very shady deal in the interest of Microsoft only (FEDs should check if there are contracts saying Vringo cannot sue Microsoft, that would kind of prove that Elop still only works for Microsoft).

      I think the Nokia shareholders are getting ripped off by CEO Elop and the board, I hope someone sues them soon, before it is too late. Nokia is ripped off like nobody before got ripped off. The following text shows how major decisions by Elop (ex Microsoft) are only in the interest of Microsoft and not at all in the interest of Nokia.

    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/07/the-sun-tzu-of-nokisoftian-microkia-mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-whose-the-baddest-of-them-all-waterloo.html [blogs.com]

    And all those saying Nokia was already dead when Elop came, you are shills or blind, read it too. E.g. start reading the first âoeREASONsâ in the link. They were still twice their competitors when Elop came, alone in China they could have as many customers as Apple has worldwide by a exclusive deal (bound to MeeGo). Distance to Apple was growing at that time. All systematically destroyed in the following months. I don't say they were super fine, but they were still a monster, the elephant in the room. No outside force could move it nearly as fast as Elop has. Now they are an empty shell.

    If you have time, read this. It's very long but good (19 reasons why Elop should be fired, you can skip the intro to REASON 1 if you are lazy).

    No way the CEO AND the board do not see the logic behind most of these 19 reasons. This is a scam, there must be a huge reward for most of them on some secret channel. Money? Girls? Power?

    Anonymous please give us their Email and transform Elops and Balmer's phones into bugs that we can hear what they are talking in private. Jail them all.

    • Well, I guess the patent deal includes backlicensing the patents to Nokia, so they can't be sued for violating the patents they previously used. So now Vringo can sue the competition without Nokia being formally involved. Or in short, I think Vringa now is Nokias SCO.

  • they sure do not look or act like they used to. More and more they seem to be acting so very much like a large corporation we all have known to dislike for their business practices.

    LoB

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete successfully in business. Cheat. -- Ambrose Bierce

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