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Patents The Courts

Cisco Can't Shield Customers From Patent Suits, Court Rules 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-law-decide dept.
netbuzz writes "A federal appeals court in California has upheld a lower court ruling that Cisco lacks the necessary standing to seek dismissal of patent infringement lawsuits against some of its biggest customers – wireless network providers and enterprises – being brought by TR Labs, a Canadian research consortium. The appeals court agreed with TR Labs' that its patent infringement claims are rightfully against the users of telecommunications equipment – be it made by Cisco, Juniper, Ciena or others – and not the manufacturers. 'In fact, all of the claims and all of the patents are directed at a communications network, not the particular switching nodes that are manufactured by Cisco and the other companies that are subject of our claims,' an attorney for TR Labs told the court. The court made no judgment relative to the patents themselves or the infringement claims."
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Cisco Can't Shield Customers From Patent Suits, Court Rules

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  • I don't understand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:17AM (#44838353)

    What prevents Cisco sell product with additional service: "in case of court case related to patents used within this device, our legal team will help free of charge"?
    And simply provide lawyers anyway?

    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:25AM (#44838391)

      The problem here is that the IP owners get to sue people with no knowledge or patents to fight back with. If Cisco gets sued, they have their own patents that they can use to fight back with. But, when a customer gets sued, they have to either settle, invalidate the patents or face losing the case.

      This seems like bullshit to me as Cisco would be the ones actually infringing on the patents, assuming they are infringing, rather than the companies that bought Cisco equipment.

      • by LMariachi (86077) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:48AM (#44838469) Journal

        Cisco may not have standing in court, but that shouldn’t prevent them from contributing to their customers’ defense. Lend them some high-priced in-house counsel.

        • Do you really think Cisco will help? Take a look at how the company has behaved over the last decade. They screw over customers as much as they can get away with and repeat business be damned.
          • by MrDoh! (71235) on Friday September 13, 2013 @07:31AM (#44839497) Homepage Journal
            In cases like this, they kinda have to, or else no-one will buy Cisco again, or the customer who just had to settle will then sue Cisco for all their losses.
            • Tactical Change (Score:5, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @07:51AM (#44839623)

              This decision is a 180 degree turn in logic from other court decisions on IP infringement. One example: file sharing sites being found guilty of providing platforms for illegal file sharing. But that's because RIAA and MPAA were in those cases specifically suing the creators of the platform, while at the same time pursuing other tactics against the users (file sharing individuals like Jammie Thomas).

              TR Labs doesn't want to take on Cisco because Cisco is their cash cow. As long as Cisco keeps on selling products that infringe, TR Labs can sue customers that build networks offering services on those products. TR has no obvious business need to shut down Cisco. And TR probably considers their patents at risk if they sue Cisco directly, or they would have sued Cisco for very large amounts of money already. If Cisco thought their products infringed, they would certainly have spent some time negotiating and perhaps worked out a license. This route is lower risk for TR's alleged IP.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by mlts (1038732) *

              For a lot of things, Cisco is the only game in town these days. Well, unless you want to pony 10 times as much for carrier-grade Alcatel-Lucent stuff that has a lifetime warranty. The A-L stuff is great, but to use a car analogy, it would be similar to asking Ferrari to custom-design and build a minivan that is used for taking kids to school and back.

              I might be wrong, but generally, with the Cisco-only protocols in use, it is hard to get away from them.

            • Wouldn't the timescale on that be something longer than a quarter IE wouldn't that take WAY longer than most investors seem to be thinking? Couldn't they say "No, we don't want the stocks to dip this quarter. We'll sell all the profitable parts and make bank twice without any downsides. Except to anyone working at Cisco."

              I don't know anything about Cisco, that's not a prediction, just saying this seems like a much longer view than anyone takes in business.
            • In cases like this, they kinda have to, or else no-one will buy Cisco again, or the customer who just had to settle will then sue Cisco for all their losses.

              I think we just figured out why the court ruled this way. As if there wasn't enough overpriced work for IP lawyers, their bros on the bench are determined to generate even more revenue for the IP legal "industry".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Welcome to patent law "bullshit" is all it consists of.

      • by raymorris (2726007) on Friday September 13, 2013 @03:08AM (#44838553)

        The multiple levels of judges have agreed Cisco's gear does not infringe. It can be used to infringe, or used in ways that don't infringe.

        According to the rulings, suing Cisco would be like suing Xerox for copyright infringement. Just because a copy machine CAN be used by an infringer doesn'tmake Xerox liable.

        I do wonder if Cisco products are DESIGNED to be used in the way that plaintiff claims is infringement. Cisco seems to be suggesting that.

        • by Jiro (131519) on Friday September 13, 2013 @04:21AM (#44838791)

          Xerox copiers would probably be used to infringe on copyrights, not patents, but ignoring that diffrerence, you can have two situations. In the first situation, the rights owner says that you are infringing by copying a particular book. In the second, the rights owner insists that the act of using a Xerox copier is infringing all by itself regardless of what you want to copy with it.

          It would make sense that Xerox lacks standing in the first case, but it would make much less sense that Xerox lacks standing in the second.

          According to the article, the company suing claims that Cisco's gear has substantial non-infringing uses and that it will not claim Cisco is a contributory infringer, which brings it a lot closer to the first case than to the second. It really would not make sense for Xerox to be able to intervene if some company is claiming that copying only one particular book is prohibited and other people could use Xerox copiers for other books without getting into trouble at all.

          Furthermore, as other posts have pointed out, the custoimers that are being sued are organizations such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, organizations that can easily afford lawyers to fight back, so this is not the situation where a big company sues some guy who uses a Cisco router in his home because he is poorer and makes an easier target than suing Cisco. Of course the Slashdot headline is misleading in this regard.

          So there's really nothing to get upset about here.

          • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Friday September 13, 2013 @07:06AM (#44839363) Homepage

            > So there's really nothing to get upset about here.

            Of course there is. A dumb ruling sets a precedent that may not affect *you* in the instant case, but it could certainly set a precedent that another company could use to come after *you* later.

            Judge any and all cases on the *merits* and the underlying principles, not on whether you like or identify with the defendant.

        • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Friday September 13, 2013 @04:58AM (#44838917) Journal

          According to the rulings, suing Cisco would be like suing Xerox for copyright infringement.

          Or Napster for copyright infringment. Or the Pirate Bay. Or.... Somehow judges have no difficulty at all with such a reasoning.

          • That's why the Napster emails showing that they intentionally designed features for the purpose of infringement and promoted it for infringement were so important. Cross referencing the Billboard Top 40 shows that it's made specifically for infringing. You don't see Dropbox using banners promoting "find hit music" for that reason.

            The law distinguishes between a generic tool that _could_ be used unlawfully versus a business model based on facilitating and promoting unlawful conduct. Whether or not you L

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @07:30AM (#44839493)

          The patents in question aren't about networking equipment design, they are about network topology design (how the equipment is connected). They are more math patents than anything else. Cisco/Juniper/Ciena/etc make boxes that pass packets, which isn't at all in the patents. If customers connect the boxes in a certain configuration, *that* can infringe the patent. After reading the patents, they are utter BS. Basic mathematical network diagrams and some sweat-of-the-brow calculations which aren't patentable.

          So, Cisco and friends aren't at all liable, but the network operators are. Not that all of those operators are "helpless".... AT&T? Verizon? Level3? Many of the players in this field have just dandy legal departments. Wanna bet it's the mom-n-pops that TR is going after?

          • Just adding, yes it's the Mom and Pops but the big guys also have the ability to generate a large amount of revenue from say a Comcast or a L3 so sometimes they will go after them. Look at the IVR patent cases that went around they started big and worked their way down. Now, where Cisco does become liable is that the "topology" aspects is often one of generally vague or generic design. Such that in many if not all cases the "examples" .ppt's and SE's of Cisco land often will help customers to deploy "inf

          • by JWW (79176)

            Bullshit.

            By definition any topology that can be executed with the Cisco hardware must be a topology that the hardware has been designed to handle.

            Shit, whats next suing users of a programming language for making a program that violates a patent?

            Oh, wait. And THAT is why software patents are absolute fucking bullshit. Code is speech, and code is copyrightable. This idea that programs and algorithms are patentable is an abomination.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Very simple answer: Software is proof that hardware can do a task and provides a set of instructions telling how it does that task. Thus, the patents on the hardware, which are always issued prior to any software patents that depend on said hardware, are prior art for any software patents. It seems that this also applies to many "business method" patents, which covers the use of the hardware without specific software customizations (which is the case in TFA).

              • The same can be said for any device. Gears and levers were invented before spaceships. Spaceships are a configuration of gears and levers. Therefore no-one can invent a new type of space vehicle?

                If you do something NEW with gears and levers, that's a new invention. If you do something new with wheels and suction cups, that's a new invention. If you do something new with silicon and copper, that's a new invention.
                ,
                Many patents have been issued for software and other things that do not do anything new.

            • A hammer can be used for murder. Therefore, according to your reasoning manufacturers of hammers are liable for murder?

              That's precisely analogous to your assertion that: routers can be used to build an infringing network, therefore router manufacturers are liable for infringement.

              Perhaps you will say hammers are designed to build things, and that is somehow different. Okay then:
              Hammers can be used to build bombs. Therefore, hammer makers are responsible for bombings.

              Sorry, your reasoning just doesn't work.

              • by JWW (79176)

                They're not suing people for murder with Cisco devices, they suing them for using Cisco devices.

                That is EXACTLY like suing people for using hammers to build things.

                • They are emphatically NOT "suing people for using Cisco devices", as evidenced by the fact that some defendants use other brands to do the same thing.

                  Whether or not their patent is any good I don't know, but it's not Cisco specific and they aren't claiming all Cisco users are infringing.

                  Their claim is more along the lines of "I'm suing you for building a bomb that blew up my car." They do not claim that using a tool is bad. They claim that doing X (with any tool) is bad.

                  Let's understand what their claim

                • PS the appeals court ruled that plaintiff is not allowed to change their mind later and say either that the Cisco devices infringe or that using the devices infringes. Plaintiff has claimed that it's only infringing if they are connected in a certain infringing topology and the ruling is that they have to stick to that.

                  • by JWW (79176)

                    Oh, ok. So they're suing for a network topology that can be created by using wireless routers.

                    NETWORK TOPOLOGIES SHOULD NOT BE FUCKING PATENTABLE!!!!

                    I mean what the hell. Are you telling me that the companies that set up these networks are not allowed to have their networks structured this way because this fucking companyÂhas a paper that says that they can't??!!!

                    TR Labs isn't going around helping companies configure and set up these networks for a fee as a service. They're suing people who just hap

              • by Golddess (1361003)
                So I guess the question then, is does there exist a network topology that does not violate this troll's patent?
                • Yes, nobody is claiming that all networks infringe. The plaintiff doesn't claim it covers all networks and in fact stipulates that it does not.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Can't Cisco submit a test plan for a product showing that the feature is used by Cisco, thus infringing, and that Cisco can then join as a co-defendant?

          This is like someone patenting the wheel and going after every private car owner on the planet, but deliberately not going after anyone with money to fight back. Just like there are class actions for the small guys joining together, there should be the same for defendants to let many smaller defendants join to fight these harassing lawsuits.
      • Did you miss the part about "Cisco's biggest customers", which in TFA have names like AT&T, Sprint, and the like?

        I imagine, as in most of these cases, that this is more about going where the real big money is.

      • by donaldm (919619) on Friday September 13, 2013 @04:11AM (#44838761)
        From TFA the attorney for TR Labs, George Summerfield stated:

        "In fact, all of the claims and all of the patents are directed at a communications network, not the particular switching nodes that are manufactured by Cisco and the other companies that are subject of our claims,"

        If you read that as is without any a deeper explanation I get the idea that TR Labs can sue anyone who has a communications network.

        Again from TFA:

        The patents TR Labs is asserting are U.S. Patent Numbers 4,956,835; 5,850,505; 6,377,543; 6,404,734; 6,421,349; 6,654,379; 6,914,880; and 7,260,059.

        Am I going to look at those patent numbers? No ! I don't want to get get a migraine headache since many modern IT patents are written in "legalese" such that someone with a Professional Engineering (yes a real one) background who is actually conversant with the field has a hard time understanding the words. Of course the opposite applies since most legal people can understand the words but not the context.

        Ok I did look at patent 4,956,835 and it was just like I thought it would be which is basically an implementation and still requires hardware which manufacturers like Cisco provide. The following is an intro:

        The present invention relates, in general, to a method and apparatus for rapidly effecting, in a communications network, the restoration of communications between nodes whose interconnecting spans have failed for one reason or another.

        I particularly like fig 1c which basically a stylised drawing of the USA (well worth the LOL look) - see here [google.com] and click on fig "1c" of Images which is the second image from the left.

        • by drakaan (688386)

          Trying not to have an aneurysm...*why* in the world do courts continue to view software as patentable subject matter. The communications nodes are general-purpose computers with networking hardware attached. They have an operating system that allows for the switching of communications lines. Now there's a rash of lawsuits because the courts are too dimwitted to understand that software plus computer != invention/new machine.

          • Trying not to have an aneurysm...*why* in the world do courts continue to view software as patentable subject matter. The communications nodes are general-purpose computers with networking hardware attached. They have an operating system that allows for the switching of communications lines. Now there's a rash of lawsuits because the courts are too dimwitted to understand that software plus computer != invention/new machine.

            No, the courts are following the law. A new and nonobvious use of a known machine is a patentable invention. Specifically, 35 USC 101 [uspto.gov] says "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." and 35 USC 100 defines a process as "The term “process” means process, art, or method, and includes a new use of a known pr

            • by drakaan (688386)

              ...The law is quite clear - if you come up with a new and nonobvious use for a known machine, such as a computer, then you have invented a patent eligible process.

              Right. Except that computers have a single purpose...they do math.

              This is not a new use of a known process. This is saying "you're not allowed to write a computer program that does something in a certain instance". The courts are (again) failing to grasp the way that computers function. Vulcanization (of rubber) is a process. A computer progr

              • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Friday September 13, 2013 @12:13PM (#44842001) Homepage Journal

                ...The law is quite clear - if you come up with a new and nonobvious use for a known machine, such as a computer, then you have invented a patent eligible process.

                Right. Except that computers have a single purpose...they do math.

                This is not a new use of a known process.

                You mention vulcanizing rubber. Furnaces have a single purpose - they heat things. Therefore, vulcanizing rubber isn't a new use of a known process?
                Also, "doing math" isn't what's claimed, but rather specific operations that haven't been done before. They are, by definition, new uses of the older technologies.

                This is saying "you're not allowed to write a computer program that does something in a certain instance". The courts are (again) failing to grasp the way that computers function. Vulcanization (of rubber) is a process. A computer program is an algorithm...math.

                You're apparently not a physicist. Vulcanization of rubber is an algorithm... math. Gear ratios are algorithms... math. Every process or machine in the physical universe can be described mathematically. But that doesn't mean that a patent on an engine is attempting to claim all math, any more than a patent on a software method is attempting to claim all math.

                The fact that you can control computer hardware (like a network connection) with software is about as far from non-obvious and new as you can get.

                Good thing no one writes a patent claim that says "A method, comprising controlling computer hardware, period, the end" then, eh?

                But really, this shows that your understanding of the issues is confused. Patent eligibility under 35 USC 101 is different from novelty under 35 USC 102 or obviousness under 35 USC 103. They're three different, independent requirements. You're trying to claim that all software should be exempt from patent eligibility under 35 USC 101... because it's all obvious under 35 USC 103? That simply mixes up two different statutes, two different bodies of case law, two different logical tests, etc.
                Here's a simple question - imagine the most novel, non-obvious bit of software ever. Like, some brand new algorithm that can losslessly compress even random data by 99%. Go nuts with imagining the details - point is, it's a revolutionary bit of code that no one has ever thought of, and it wins billions of awards and the keys to the city. Should it still be unpatentable, merely because it's software? That's the issue about patent eligibility under 35 USC 101: should software, as an industry, be ineligible for patentability, regardless of how innovative or inventive something is.

                • by drakaan (688386)

                  The process of vulcanization of rubber is approximately "raw rubber plus sulfur plus heat equals material with new properties". You have created something new by this process. The new physical material has different properties.

                  Gear ratios are properties of physical objects that have a mathematical relationship. You don't patent a ratio, you patent a mechanism that may use those ratios to some effect. If the mechanism you have invented is a universal gearing system, then should someone who picks a partic

                  • The process of vulcanization of rubber is approximately "raw rubber plus sulfur plus heat equals material with new properties". You have created something new by this process. The new physical material has different properties.

                    Sure, but just so that you're not moving the goalposts, realize that we're talking about a patent on the process of vulcanization, not the physical rubber. And that process is simply a mathematical algorithm, right?

                    Gear ratios are properties of physical objects that have a mathematical relationship. You don't patent a ratio, you patent a mechanism that may use those ratios to some effect.

                    You can also patent the method of transferring power via those gears (if it's a new and nonobvious process, of course). It's not just the machine that's patentable, but also the process... even though the process is merely a mathematical algorithm.

                    If the mechanism you have invented is a universal gearing system, then should someone who picks a particular gearing ratio because it is useful for some purpose that nobody noticed before deserve a patent on that ratio? I don't think that they should.

                    Why not? If they invented a brand new use for the

                    • by drakaan (688386)

                      ...Sure, but just so that you're not moving the goalposts, realize that we're talking about a patent on the process of vulcanization, not the physical rubber. And that process is simply a mathematical algorithm, right?...

                      Well, no, no it's not. y=mx+b is an algorithm. Algorithms help you find out the answer to a question, like "should the output of this transistor be changed from off to on based on some input values". That's what software does on a general-purpose computer.

                      Vulcanization is not a calculatio

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dhrabarchuk (1745930)
          "In fact, I would expect that if we got into a (patent) dispute with Cisco and we conducted discovery, what they would tell us is that you'd have to go talk to our customers if you want to find out how their networks are configured because we can't tell you." - See more at: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/cisco-can%E2%80%99t-shield-customers-patent-suits-court-affirms#sthash.BD5PFArh.dpuf [networkworld.com] So, if the customers are "configuring" the equipment in an infringing way . . . In essence, the appeals cou
        • by frinkster (149158)

          Am I going to look at those patent numbers? No ! I don't want to get get a migraine headache since many modern IT patents are written in "legalese" such that someone with a Professional Engineering (yes a real one) background who is actually conversant with the field has a hard time understanding the words. Of course the opposite applies since most legal people can understand the words but not the context.

          That's ridiculous. To be allowed to even take the patent bar exam, a person must have an engineering or hard science degree from an accredited university or can demonstrate that their combination of college courses and work experience are the equivalent. Having or not having a law degree is completely irrelevant.

          I have read a large number of software, hardware and automotive patents and am convinced that any moderately smart high school student can understand perfectly as long as they pay attention to det

        • Am I going to look at those patent numbers? No ! I don't want to get get a migraine headache since many modern IT patents are written in "legalese" such that someone with a Professional Engineering (yes a real one) background who is actually conversant with the field has a hard time understanding the words. Of course the opposite applies since most legal people can understand the words but not the context.

          Considering that most PEs are civil engineers and that while EE is a valid discipline for the PE, they tend to be electrical system designers, I'm not sure why you think that that's a helpful background here. For example, very few IT people are PEs, simply because (a) it doesn't apply; and (b) they can't hack the necessary math and physics. Additionally, while most legal people are not conversant in technology, all patent attorneys are - the proper scientific or engineering background is a requirement to si

          • by jedidiah (1196)

            > while most legal people are not conversant in technology, all patent attorneys are - the proper scientific or engineering background is a requirement to sit for the patent bar exam.

            You're effectively trying to claim that ANY engineer is qualified to be an expert witness on ANY engineering discipline.

            There are many types of engineer. Pretty much any of them are going to be completely unqualified to deal with anything outside of the very narrow discipline they were trained in.

            The fact that some guy has

            • > while most legal people are not conversant in technology, all patent attorneys are - the proper scientific or engineering background is a requirement to sit for the patent bar exam.

              You're effectively trying to claim that ANY engineer is qualified to be an expert witness on ANY engineering discipline.

              Except for the fact that I never said that and it's impossible to read my words to say that, and the fact that my post was specifically arguing that most PEs would not be qualified to discuss networking, yes. You sure caught me.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gr8Apes (679165)
          I took a look at 4,956,835, the first thing I noticed is that it was published in 1988 and should no longer be valid, and quite possibly out of their sue capable window. The second thing I noticed is that it seemingly describes the already in use at the time ATM and TCP / DARPANET configurations. So, with those as prior art, wouldn't this particular patent already be invalid? I'm short of time, or I'd dig more deeply.
      • If we follow your line of thought, that would make Western Digital culpable for people downloading / storing / using media and software they aren't licensed to use.

        Just because a piece of equipment allows you to infringe, doesn't make the manufacturer the infringer.

        (Note: this is what the court is saying. Not necessarily me.)

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Just because a piece of equipment allows you to infringe, doesn't make the manufacturer the infringer.

          So, if I take a manufacturer supported set of configurations, and I end up configuring my environment so that I'm infringing a patent this has nothing to do with the vendor?

          That makes no sense to me. If the Cisco manuals tell me how to configure the gear like that, then why am I magically infringing on a patent?

          To me this sounds like saying if I twiddle the nobs on my car's heating system, if I end up with

          • If you buy a gun, and read the manual on how to fire a bullet into someone's face, the firearm manufacturer is not responsible for the murder.

            Just saying.

            • by gstoddart (321705)

              If you buy a gun, and read the manual on how to fire a bullet into someone's face, the firearm manufacturer is not responsible for the murder.

              And unless I plan on beating someone to death with a Cisco router, the two are unrelated.

              It is illegal to shoot someone in the face, it shouldn't illegal to configure a device according to built-in functionality implemented by the vendor.

              If by changing a few settings on a device (settings implemented and documented by the manufacturer) it magically becomes an infringi

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                If I buy a radio, I expect it to be a device which is legal to operate in any permutation I can do without altering the device.

                It's quite possible to buy a radio that has modes of operation that are illegal for you to use. It's more difficult with a receive-only radio like what you later clarified it more as, but it's possible to violate wire-tapping statutes if you buy the right one and use it 'wrong'.

                Transmitters, well, due to various federal laws it's extremely easy to set up a non-compliant station - Just on the 5Ghz spectrum you have frequencies where the maximum legal power is 1 watt EIRP, the one next to it is 4 watts, etc.

                • by gstoddart (321705)

                  it's only when combined with other infrastructure bits like interconnects and cable that infringement becomes possible.

                  Yeah, because nobody anticipated hooking those up to networking gear.

                  • by Firethorn (177587)

                    See my comment about amplifiers and antennas. It's not like the makers of radio transmitters don't expect you to hook their product up to them. Which amplifier, at what setting, and which antenna, depending upon location, matters as to whether the end product is FCC legal.

                    Cisco expects you to hook their components together, which is why they tried to get into the suit. It's HOW you hook their networking gear up that makes for a valid or invalid product, somewhat independent of the configuration of the ge

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well perhaps cisco has licenses to the tech?

      but this brings another aspect - how long till users of android phones, iphones and whatever will be getting sued instead of the guy who sold the phone to them.. for many patents are not being utilized unless the phone is connected to some other network equipment.

      • by donaldm (919619)

        but this brings another aspect - how long till users of android phones, iphones and whatever will be getting sued instead of the guy who sold the phone to them.. for many patents are not being utilized unless the phone is connected to some other network equipment.

        Basically a normal smart phone user would not get sued for implementing a method that is out of the ordinary although how the so called patent holder would find out beggars the question. If just one single user of a smart phone got sued for a so called implementation method that was covered by a patent that would immediately get 10's if not 100's of millions of users against the patent holder for a start and the bad PR is not something that these people want. Of course if a company did infringe then they ar

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If it's something that's done by hundreds of people who haven't seen the patent, isn't that prima facia evidence that it was obvious?

    • by sjames (1099)

      In a sane world, surely. But this is U.S. law so sanity need not have any part in it.

  • it shouldn't be valid.

    • by jonbryce (703250) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:49AM (#44838473) Homepage

      If the patent was for using some piece of hardware in a new and inventive way that the original manufacturer hadn't thought of, then maybe it would be valid. But using Cisco networking gear to set up a network in exactly the way described in the manual or training materials doesn't come into that category.

      • by mysidia (191772) on Friday September 13, 2013 @05:56AM (#44839077)

        If the patent was for using some piece of hardware in a new and inventive way that the original manufacturer hadn't thought of, then maybe it would be valid. But using Cisco networking gear to set up a network in exactly the way described in the manual or training materials doesn't come into that category.

        Brilliant... new patent

        Theory and Method for setting up a router

        Claim 1. A method of configuring a router in which a serial port, default IP address, DHCP provided IP address, multicast DNS, dynamically registered DNS, or IPv6 stateless autoconfigured address is used to facilitate gaining initial access to the router.
        Claim 2. A method in which the response to a DHCP or BOOTP request is used to discover a file server, such as a FTP or TFTP server, containing initial configuration data or instructions.
        Claim 3. A method of configuring a router, in which a broadcast-based discovery protocol is used to discover a IP or MAC address to access an unconfigured router.
        Claim 4. A method of configuring an IP-based router in which a non-IP protocol such as Ethernet is used with special purpose software to facilitate configuration of a device.
        Claim 5. A method of configuring a router, in which special software is provided to install on a server, to establish communication with unconfigured devices.
        Claim 6. A method where a wireless, USB, Serial port, or other dedicated interface is used to configure a router.
        Claim 7. A method of configuring a router, in which media containing software or a download link for software is used to install software on a PC, for performing initial configuration of a router.
        Claim 8. The method of configuring a router in which a book, manual, poster, card, piece of paper, or other written material accompanying the router is read, disseminated, and then steps from the document are followed.
        Claim 9. The above, where steps are taken from digital media distributed with the router instead.
        Claim 10. The above, where configuration steps are taken from an internet website whose URL was provided with the router instead.
        Claim 11. The above, where configuration steps are taken from an internet website whose URL is the manufacturer of the device.
        Claim 12. The above, where configuration steps are taken from an internet website whose location can be discovered using a search engine such as Bing, Yahoo, or Google search for the make, model number, or type of router.
        Claim 13. The above, where some steps are skipped in the configuration process.
        Claim 14. The above, where some pertinent details are collected from the documentation or website; such as default IP address, default username, default password, administration URL.
        Claim 15. The above, where software is downloaded to automatically configure the device, instead of documentation.
        Claim 16. The above, where a phone call is placed to a contact or support line provided the manufacturer.
        Claim 17. The above, where a phone call is placed to a contact or support line provided by a reseller, retailer, consultant, or other third party contact instead.
        Claim 18. The above claims, where an e-mail, IRC Chat, Instant messenger, Skype, VoIP service, Pastebin, or "Blog" is used instead of a telephone.
        Claim 19. The above claims, where a written, visual or audio communication on a private or public social networking website such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or Google plus is used instead.
        Claim 20. The above claims, where any letters containing configuration instructions or details are sent or received using postal mail.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Friday September 13, 2013 @03:08AM (#44838555)

    The headline is misleading about the actual ruling; here it is:

    "TR Labs’ concession that it is willing to grant Cisco an unqualified covenant not to sue, TR Labs’ concession that it has no basis for asserting direct or indirect infringement claims against Cisco, including the parties’ agreement that Cisco’s products have substantial non-infringing uses, and Cisco’s failure to identify any obligation to indemnify or defend its customers distinguish this action from others in which this Court has found declaratory judgment jurisdiction and support the district court’s finding that it lacked the same. We therefore affirm the district court ruling."
    http://www.finnegan.com/files/Publication/810cf458-9bde-4f9b-a98f-d5293cafbaad/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/11d7000f-5c7b-47ae-ad7a-db503720b379/12-1687%208-29-13.pdf [finnegan.com]

    So because Cisco has no contractual obligation to indemnify their customers, and TR Labs is willing to give an unqualified covenant not to sue Cisco for direct or indirect infringement by Cisco's customers, and it's in the outside realm of possibility that all customers are using Cisco products in a non-failover configuration (the subject of the patents is failover) because they're stupid and fail to follow best common industry practice, Cisco is not a party to the suits against the customers.

    Cisco could have taken this bullet if it had been willing to indemnify their customers via an amended terms and conditions on the Cisco OS software on the devices; it chose not to do so.

    • Cisco could have taken this bullet if it had been willing to indemnify their customers via an amended terms and conditions on the Cisco OS software on the devices; it chose not to do so.

      That sounds like a great way to become exposed to massive unknown liability.

    • by JWW (79176)

      No, that sounds to me like TR Labs knows they could sue Cisco, they're just deciding not to. So from there TR Labs is extrapolating that because they're not going to sue Cisco, Cisco has no right to defend their customers.

      Of course Cisco doesn't want to, and shouldn't, accept all liability for their customers, that's just legally really dangerous. But this wrangling by TR Labs is just being done to make sure Cisco is unable to find any way to help their customers.

      Suing businesses that just use equipment i

  • by unitron (5733) on Friday September 13, 2013 @03:15AM (#44838583) Homepage Journal

    ...have an idea just what this TR Labs outfit has a patent or patents on that are the ones supposedly being infringed?

    It's got to be something a little less generic than "networking computers together with Cisco gear", doesn't it?

    Because so far it's sounding like suing people who own automobiles because somehow you got a patent on the idea of using them to drive somewhere.

    • by grahamwest (30174) on Friday September 13, 2013 @03:58AM (#44838711) Homepage

      The patents are about automatic failover when network nodes or spans break. The earlier patents are about having spare nodes and spans and deciding which to use when some part of the network fails (eg. having a node which broadcasts "who can help?" and available nodes broadcast back "i can help!" and a single node decides which available node to use). The later patents are about turning on and off routes between nodes to reconfigure the network, usually into some sort of mesh network.

      I'm not a network engineer so it's hard for me to judge, but the earlier patents seem trivial to me especially since they're from the late 1990s. The latter patents might have some merit - the idea of changing the network to a mesh is interesting, but my gut feeling is they're mostly solutions that any decent engineer would come up with after a bit of head scratching.

      • by zbaron (649094) on Friday September 13, 2013 @04:22AM (#44838797)
        Compare Spanning Tree Protocol [wikipedia.org].
        • by Gr8Apes (679165)
          And that says "The first spanning tree protocol was invented in 1985" which predates the earliest patent, therefore is prior art and invalidates the entire lawsuit. Why is this still in court?
          • And that says "The first spanning tree protocol was invented in 1985" which predates the earliest patent, therefore is prior art and invalidates the entire lawsuit. Why is this still in court?

            Does the spanning tree protocol include each and every element in the patent claims? If you can literally make a table with each line of the claim on one side and a corresponding quote from the spanning tree protocol documentation on the other side, then it does invalidate the patent. However, if there's anything missing, then while it's relevant prior art, it's not anticipatory prior art.

  • by PPH (736903)

    It sounds like TR has patented something that is a basic property of the Internet (routing protocols) and its predecessor, the ARPAnet. So doesn't Al Gore hold the patent rights to all this stuff?

    Seriously, one of the design principles of IP routing is that it 'routes around damage' (or censorship). So what novel innovation has TR contributed to this?

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      You have to wonder if it goes back even further than that. Do these techniques predate computer networks entirely? Were they being used for similar reasons in the phone networks that predated all of the computer networks?

      Is this another example of adding "use a computer" to some old well established (even patented) method?

  • So who are they suing?

    AT&T, CenturyLink Inc., Qwest Communications Company LLC, Qwest Corp., Windstream Corp., Sprint, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., TW Telecom Inc. and Level 3 Communications Inc.

    Something tells me they have plenty of their own high priced attorneys for this. I'm guessing TR Labs figures they will find it cheaper to settle.

    This is one of those who do I hate least I'll root for them scenarios...
    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      It's probably that the defendants, not being Cisco, will lack the detailed knowledge of how Cisco's products work internally to show that the products don't infringe the patents, and won't have the in-depth knowledge of the fields involved to uncover prior art or successfully demonstrate obviousness. If I were the defendants, I'd be moving to have the suits dismissed on the grounds that Cisco made the equipment and had a license for the patents and the defendants are merely using Cisco's equipment without a

  • Run any business. If we dont fix these laws and soon we may well find ourselves with 90 percent unemployment. Everyone paying ransom. This letter is to cease and desist mowing your lawn as you mower infringes our patent You have a court date to figure out actual damages for the last 20 years of mowing on the 5/21/14. It is advised you seek legal representation.

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