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Patent Troll Goes After Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, Others 171

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
zaba writes "A company named PersonalWeb Technologies has decided to sue a host of heavy players in the tech industry, including Apple, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Yahoo! for patents it holds related to data processing. They have a previous suit against other big names like Amazon, Google and HP. Anyone care to guess where the company is based or where the suits were filed?" The company is also targeting GitHub, but seems to have accidentally sued Rackspace — GitHub's host — instead. Rackspace has responded, saying, "It’s apparent that the people filing the suit don’t understand the technology or the products enough to realize that Rackspace Cloud Servers and GitHub are completely different products from different companies."
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Patent Troll Goes After Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, Others

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  • Enough Already (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:17PM (#41382479)

    I used to think of patent trolls as no name companies that pop up just to make a quick and sleazy buck. Now I think of all of the big names like Apple and Samsung too. At this point, I say bring it on. Let all companies be destroyed in the name of "intellectual property rights" and lets start over. I'd rather we die a quick death than drag it out forever.

    • Re:Enough Already (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:23PM (#41382505) Homepage Journal
      The problem is, with the current system, it is more reasonable to the bottom line to pay X in settlement costs vs paying your own lawyers for Y time
    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, then the only companies left would be the patent trolls.

    • by 228e2 (934443)
      Nah, even if we start over, we would just return to the current state in a few years.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The madness of Emperor Caligula went on for some time too before someone had the balls to turn him into a fucking pin cushion. Is this really any different? We now have the equivalent of a horse for a senator, how long will this go on before someone grabs his balls and does what needs to be done to fix this nonsense?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sempir (1916194)

        We now have the equivalent of a horse for a senator, how long will this go on before someone grabs his balls and does what needs to be done to fix this nonsense?

        Whose....the horses, or the senators?

  • by nagasrinivas (1700232) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:18PM (#41382483)
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      i just had a long shitty day at school and i come home and see those patents, fuck my life, fuck the world, fuck it all. hopefully after i have some dinner and a fap i'll feel better.

    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:27PM (#41382533) Homepage Journal
      5,978,791 - Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items have the same identifiers -UUID
      6,415,280 - Identifying and requesting data in network using identifiers which are based on contents of data - CRC Hash
      6,928,442 - Enforcement and policing of licensed content using content-based identifiers - See WinAmp and Windows Media player
      and so on...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        5,978,791 - Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items have the same identifiers -UUID
        6,415,280 - Identifying and requesting data in network using identifiers which are based on contents of data - CRC Hash
        6,928,442 - Enforcement and policing of licensed content using content-based identifiers - See WinAmp and Windows Media player
        and so on...

        Sounds like any CAS solution would fit all three you listed.

        Sue EMC for their Centerra product perhaps?

      • Patent trolls are a $29 billion tax on innovation:
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18598559

        The USPTO needs to be disbanded, pure and simple. It's never going to get its act together, its never going to restrict itself to patents for clear inventions, the NET damage they're doing is too great, time to end patents altogether.

        • by lhunath (1280798)

          I personally wouldn't mind patents becoming restricted to a 6month lifetime.

          That way the innovator has 6 months of head-start until the rest of the world is free to compete.

          • If the invention is so insignificant that competitors can imitate it, incorporate it into their products and release the new versions in less than six months, does the company really deserve a patent?

      • by chrismcb (983081) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @06:35AM (#41384865) Homepage
        But... But... But what about this awesome, novel patent, that I am sure no one else could come up with:

        Accessing Data In A Data Processing System

      • by CheeseyDJ (800272) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @07:46AM (#41385229)

        5,978,791 - Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items have the same identifiers

        "Substantially unique" - I love that.

        I wasn't aware there were varying degrees of "unique". Maybe there's a scale:

        • Not unique
        • Slightly unique
        • Moderately unique
        • Substantially unique
        • Very unique
        • Completely Unique

        The best part is that this potentially allows for many moderately unique patents, each patenting varying degrees of uniqueness.

        • by Bigby (659157)

          They may have chosen those words because Completely Unique was already taken.

        • by Painted (1343347)
          You forgot "Uniquely unique."
        • 5,978,791 - Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items have the same identifiers

          "Substantially unique" - I love that.

          I wasn't aware there were varying degrees of "unique". Maybe there's a scale:

          • Not unique
          • Slightly unique
          • Moderately unique
          • Substantially unique
          • Very unique
          • Completely Unique

          The best part is that this potentially allows for many moderately unique patents, each patenting varying degrees of uniqueness.

          And ... and ... the bottom end of the scale (or top, if you turn it over): Ununique!

        • by joostje (126457)

          5,978,791 - Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items have the same identifiers

          "Substantially unique" - I love that.

          It could be the identifier is a hash - there is some chance of collision [wikipedia.org], so cannot be guaranteed to be unique.

    • by doomtiki (789936) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:33PM (#41382571)
      You know it is a legitimate technology firm when their website says:

      We are located in East Texas, and we are developing innovative technologies and products.

      There seem to be a lot of "innovative" firms located in East Texas.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Patent 7945539

      Distributing and accessing data in a data processing system

      A method of distributing a data item to a plurality of computers in a network of computers. A data item is divided into a plurality of segments. Each segment is stored on at least one computer in said network. A list of computers onto which each of said segments has been stored is maintained. When a data item is requested, its component segments are obtained from at least two computers in the network. Some of the computers may form a p

    • This is a good one. [personalweb.com]
       
      Did I just break their policy by posting this link? Oh nos.

  • No overhaul needed of the patent system, right?
    • I'm just amazed that these trolls can even do this.

      It used to be that if a twerp sued that kind of firepower on any other topic he'd be pulverized from any one of the lawyer-cannons into the next parsec.

      • I know. It's gotten so ridiculous that it's almost impossible to create anything new without stepping on somebody's patent. Lets not even open the door to frivolous lawsuits based on said patents.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Which is why I'll never sell any of the few things I've made which have potential market value.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Lawyers see they can take advantage of the system so they are now representing the trolls.

  • My Guesses (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Talondel (693866) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:21PM (#41382495)
    Austin. Eastern District of Texas.
    • by dohzer (867770)

      Looks like it is Texas. Is that common?

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        A district court in Texas seems to see a lot of patent and copyright cases and the rulings often side with the complainant (read IP owner).

        So in short, yes, it's common. It seems to be the court of choice.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And who says the system is broken?

  • High School Kids? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:27PM (#41382535)

    Most of their technical staff looks to be about 15 or 16...

    http://www.personalweb.com/About.html [personalweb.com]

    • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:39PM (#41382625)
      They're probably the kids of the lawyers who run the company.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hahaha... you look at the management, and it seems ok... then you start on staff...

      Bill misses the beach, but he has a lot of fun programming – too much, actually. If he wants to work on work stuff, it’s programming. If he wants to work on school stuff, also programming. If he wants to work on a personal project, it will probably involve programming. (He will have to get up and stretch someday).

      That's not too bad, yet... but then a little bit more down... I think this one takes the cake for "Who the hell puts that up as a positive for their business?!":

      Darren Hampton is an eclectic fellow. Despite being risk averse, he often puts himself in a great deal of minor peril. He is PersonalWeb's Quality Assurance Coordinator, but normally lacks the qualities of a coordinated individual.

      The guy bursts into laughter at the slightest provocation, which leads to a very bruised noggin as he loses control of his flailing cranial structure. The danger he poses to himself is insurmountable as he cannot find a way to escape his own person or the hilarious occurrences that seem to develop daily.

      Besides laughing at things that really have no comical value, he has been known to partake in the listening of mind-blowing techno. He especially likes the parts where it goes “wob wob wob.” He also has a deep addiction to Team Fortress 2 and will likely never free himself of the game. The one thing he hates is stepping on Legos without shoes... and jerks.

      Altogether, that's Darren, a guy who finds enjoyment in just about everything and likes laughing at stuff. Sometimes he just doesn't even know.

      Other gems:

      Julie Ann Apoderado has a difficult time controlling her natural-born ninja skills.

      Kevin doesn’t need lots of lengthy, adjective riddled sentences and paragraphs to describe him. No, Kevin needs just one word—Awesome. ...
      Kevin plays the guitar, has road rage, and enjoys many other awesome activities

      Her life goal is to open up a tiki bar on the beach.

      At least, it seems like it's a fun and completely unprofessional work environment... makes me a little jealous...

    • Could explain their web design.

      Actually, you're not far off. Their Quality Assurance Coordinator is due to complete their Comp Sci degree this year.

      Their "Software Engineer" also plans to graduate this year.

      Their "Research Analyst" completed her fine arts degree last year.

      Their "Director of Marketing" should finish her Bachelor of Science, Journalism this year.

      Odd.

    • by Psychotria (953670) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:11AM (#41383937)

      Yes, but what does age have to do with it? This guy, for example, is obviously a leader in his field.

      Darren Hampton: Quality Assurance Coordinator

      Darren Hampton is an eclectic fellow. Despite being risk averse, he often puts himself in a great deal of minor peril. He is PersonalWeb's Quality Assurance Coordinator, but normally lacks the qualities of a coordinated individual.

      The guy bursts into laughter at the slightest provocation, which leads to a very bruised noggin as he loses control of his flailing cranial structure. The danger he poses to himself is insurmountable as he cannot find a way to escape his own person or the hilarious occurrences that seem to develop daily.

      Besides laughing at things that really have no comical value, he has been known to partake in the listening of mind-blowing techno. He especially likes the parts where it goes “wob wob wob.” He also has a deep addiction to Team Fortress 2 and will likely never free himself of the game. The one thing he hates is stepping on Legos without shoes... and jerks.

      If that's not a glowing review of talent and competence, I don't know what is.

      Oh, and Clarissa Andrews likes dying her hair!

      • I would like to add: Clarissa, if you're reading this I'd do you. Definitely. I don't care about the colour of your hair. You're a hot diggety dog! *KISS*

    • Mama mia... I wish I knew how to play Texas 42, whatever that is!!

      Also, the CTO appears to be Sheldon's brother.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:47PM (#41382683)
    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5,978,791.PN.&OS=PN/5,978,791&RS=PN/5,978,791 [uspto.gov] They better go and sue Oracle. This describes the function of java.util.Hashtable.... hangon, that's been around since 1996 and the patent was filled in 1997.
  • Could someone explain why the eastern district of Texas is friendlier than the rest of the country to these kinds of suits? Are jurors dumber there? Is is more difficult to mount a defense there?
    • by Silvanis (152728)

      Because under the current system, you can sue anyone who is "doing business" in a location. As long as you accept online sales, you are doing business anywhere. Add to that the attractiveness of bringing in lots of court fees, and some politicians in Texas got the idea to appoint judges that would be extremely patent friendly. They then brag about the high rate of settlements/favorable judgements and the speed in which the court will hear your case

      Bottom line: marketing and politics created a forum for pate

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Patent Lover (779809) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @12:13AM (#41383121)
      They have a "rocket docket" which processes patent suits more quickly than other district courts and an attorney licensed to practice in any state can practice before the court.
  • I think the Nazgul are going to have a light snack.

  • East Texas (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fnord666 (889225) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:39PM (#41382943) Journal
    With any luck this will backfire since a key judge [wikipedia.org] that made East Texas such a hotspot for patent infringement lawsuits retired [wsfirm.com] from the US District Court last year.

    This article [thejuryexpert.com] does a pretty good job of looking at the situation in East Texas with regards to patent trials. It is an interesting read. It will be eye opening to some and a confirmation to others.

  • Texas Sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:55PM (#41383035)
    > It’s apparent that the people filing the suit don’t understand the technology or the products enough to realize that Rackspace Cloud Servers and GitHub are completely different products from different companies."

    The problem is that if you are sued for patent infringement - regardless of the merits of the case - you are up for $2M in lawyers fees and court costs to defend it. Recently a judge speaking out against trolls said $3M - $5M. If you're a small company or worse - a lone developer - that will send you bankrupt. The suit will most likely be filed in a troll-friendly court district such as the East District of Texas as this case was. The judges in E.D. Texas there are notoriously pro-troll and won't dismiss even the most stupid of cases. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/405259/a-haven-for-patent-pirates/ [technologyreview.com]

    Trolling causes a lot of damage for innovators elsewhere in the US, but it is huge source of revenue for E.D. Texas. Congressmen from these other districts need to gang up against the Texas trolls and Congressmen: http://www.house.gov/representatives/#state_tn [house.gov]
    • Dramatization of processing wins for Intellectual Property holders in East Texas. (I know, this is satire, ignore the different country.)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P46qYCIt954 [youtube.com]

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      If you're a small company or worse - a lone developer - that will send you bankrupt.

      Couldn't you negotiate a percentage of the revenue or profits? They should realize that dead companies supply zero royalties.

      Biological parasites don't do well when they outright kill the host. A relatively healthy host is the best food supply and is the best strategy for parasites, reproductive-wise. (Mutant parasites can pop up that outright kill hosts, but they tend to not last as long.)

      • by tofarr (2467788)
        Depends on the ability of the parasite to capture a new host once they are finished with their current one - see parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in caterpillars as an example.
  • I thought it said patient troll...

    Little tip guys, don't drink and slashdot.

    • Oh, they are patient too. 12 years is a long time to wait on a partent portfolio before suing, even for something as juicy as trolling.

      "The patents asserted in these lawsuits were developed by a company called Kinetech Inc. The portfolio was split up in 2000, and itâ(TM)s now co-owned by PersonalWeb and Level 3 Communications, a large internet infrastructure company."

      • by ixuzus (2418046)
        That old? Surely the Laches Doctrine would firm as a favourite to come into play then.
  • We just need to encourage him to take these folks out on a "hunting" trip.

    Actually, I would like to see blatant patent trolling to be treated as a criminal offense. It's a racket, and should be whacked using RICO laws. These folks set up a shell company and sue, sue, sue. One win is enough to keep them going. If these lose big, and the shell company goes bankrupt, they just set up another one and continue.

    The problem is differentiating them from legitimate patent suits. Patent lawyers could help to g

  • by Psychotria (953670) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:52AM (#41384179)

    Attorney: Judge, we would like to put our QA Coordinator on the stand as an expert witness.
    Judge: Darren Hampton [personalweb.com], please take the stand.
    Judge: Please describe your role at the company and your formal qualifications.
    Darren: I am an eclectic fellow, but despite myself being risk averse I often put myself in a great deal of minor peril.
    Judge: Please proceed.
    Darren: Although I am am coordinator, I normally lack the qualities of a coordinated individual. I burst into laughter at the slightest provocation.
    Judge: Understood.
    Darren: *bursts out laughing*
    Judge: *bashes Darren on the head with his gavel*
    Darren: Sorry, sir. The danger I pose to myself is insurmountable and I cannot find a way to escape my own person or the hilarious occurrences that seem to develop daily.
    Judge: Are you retarded?
    Darren: I like to partake in the listening of mind-blowing techno. I especially likes the parts where it goes "wob wob wob."
    Judge: Next witness please.
    Darren: Wait.
    Judge: Ok.
    Darren: I have a deep addiction to Team Fortress 2. I also don't like stepping on Legos (sic) without shoes. /me jerks.
    Judge: Next witness.
    Court Dude: Sheena Walker, please take the stand. [personalweb.com]
    Sheena: Oh, hai!
    Judge: Sheena, please describe your experience and formal qualifications.
    Sheena: I love research! Yay! My favourite holidy is St. Patricks Day and I luuuv green and light green. Like shamrocks, you know.
    Judge: Continue.
    Sheena: Like, yeah. What was I saying? Oh yeah! I love my Mini Schnauzer, Missy, to death! Yeah!
    Sheena: I once took a picture of a sunset!
    Judge: What has this got to do with the case.
    Sheena: Hey, judgie. I love Big Brother. I once had a piano in my ear! I went to the, yeah, University of Texas! Yeah. I didn't finish but I think I want to one day. I have been debating this with myself.
    Judge: You talk to yourself?
    Sheena: No, Judgie, I debate with myself. Anyway, hey, in the meantime I am learning like lots.

  • The first patent [uspto.gov] seems to be describing duplicate elimination by hash code (i.e. a Hash Map) when applied to distributed databases (surely as obvious as all the old attempts to add "over wifi" to everything). The second [uspto.gov] seems to refer to the same thing but retrieving a unique access control along with the data.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Yup, and after 3 years, 47 hearings, and 300 briefs they'll have the opportunity to try to invalidate them.

      The upside of being sued by a patent troll is that you could win and only lose $3M. The downside is that you could lose and lose every cent you have.

  • by viewtouch (1479) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @04:44AM (#41384393) Homepage Journal

    A lawyer with a law firm defending one of these companies contacted me and visited me last week to review prior art which I have, with the hope that I can assist them and their client in invalidating one or more of these patents. Tomorrow I will be delivering running a copy of my software to the firm to allow them to closely examine it. Most of the companies which have been threatened with patent infringement lawsuits have caved in and agreed to pay the patent holders (Priceline founder Jay Walker and others) rather than attempt to defend themselves in court, however. We'll see how it plays out.

    • I don't believe you. I think this whole story is a troll about a troll :(

    • by Trogre (513942)

      All I can say is, good on you for fighting these trolls and the horrible system that has allowed them to flourish.

      Sincerely, thank you.

      • by viewtouch (1479)

        If you clicked on my username (which is also my trademark) then you at least have an inkling of what I've been at for the past 40 years. Thank you for your appreciation.

  • I've made jokes in this thread about the company profile [personalweb.com] but I am now wondering if it's a troll in more way than one. Is this a real company that is patent trolling? Or, is it a troll about patent trolling? I am starting to get confused. Surely a real patent troll would create a more professional company profile (??) Surely a company going to court, even in Texas (wherever that is), would have a more "professional" website. Is it April 1st?

    • It's a real company. I googled the one who likes Texas 42. She has been posting on SEO forums for a year. She is clearly an amateur. But not that kind. :(

  • The lawyers who are our Senators, House of Reps, and Executive Branch are glad their drinking buddies in the patent enforcement industry are making a bundle! So there's no reason to expect changes in the patent laws.

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