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Patents The Almighty Buck

One Man's Battle With Patent Trolls 159

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-up dept.
farrellj writes "Dovden Investments, labelled as a Patent Troll by many, got more than they bargained for when they went after Ottawa developer Larry Dunkelman. Mr. Dunkelman wrote BusBuddy, an app that takes GPS and scheduling data from OC Transpo, the local city bus service, and predicts when the bus you are waiting for will actually arrive. But when Dovden came along and asked for $10,000, as a 'licensing' fee, Dunkelman got angry, and decided to fight. 'They claim to have patented the method of using GPS location on vehicles to determine when they will arrive at a certain place,' Dunkelman said. 'This applies to buses, package delivery, airplanes, trains - any business that employs a fleet of vehicles in which they track their location to arrive at a certain place, is open to this patent troll.' Dunkelman hired an intellectual property lawyer and started chipping away at the company's claims. Dovden has since discontinued the suit and are now being chased by Dunkelman and his lawyer for legal costs."
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One Man's Battle With Patent Trolls

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  • by haruchai (17472) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @12:36AM (#44890821)

    Well done, Larry. I hope more developers have a spine as stiff as yours.

    • by spamchang (302052) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @02:10AM (#44891077) Journal

      Make it a class action suit. Demand a list of everyone to whom Dovden has ever sent a threatening letter.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        If you're lucky when you win you'll get a voucher for a $10 discount to use for your next patent licencing deal.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:30AM (#44891515)

          the point of a class action suit wouldn't be to get everyone rich, it would be to make dovden hurt

          • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @11:10AM (#44893823) Journal

            Fixing Class Action lawsuits, and other similar torts would be easy.

            1) All Punitive damages are given to the state, to set up a compensation fund for victims, or to the General Fund.
            2) Lawyers fees are not generated by Punitive Damages, 100% of all Punitive damages goes to the Compensation or General Fund
            3) Actual Damages goes to the victims. 100% of them.
            4) Legal Damages/Fees goes to the lawyers. These can be based on either/both Actual Damages, or Punitive Damages, but shall not exceed a certain percentage (10% suggested) but could be less.

            This would take the "profit" motive of huge awards away from victims, and their lawyers. It would allow for juries to award punitive damages, to actually punish those that cause damages, while not rewarding victims with ridiculous windfall sums of money. These simple changes would help prevent lawsuit abuses. Especially in torts such as IP lawsuits. In the case of IP lawsuits, the one suing would actually have to show actual monetary "harm". This means they would have to have a working product/service or licensing scheme for their product. Sitting on a Patent and not making anything violates the whole idea of patents;

            To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

            When the system no longer "Promtes progress of science and useful arts" ... it is broken.

            • Since class action status must be approved by a judge, why not create a 'Class Action District Attorney' as a government position?

              The CADA would be paid in a manner similar to a regular DA, and just logs hours. He doesn't get to select the cases he prosecutes, they are referred to the CADA office by the judge once class action status is approved. Resources could be managed in a manner similar to the prosecutor's office. If enough CA cases aren't moving through fast enough people can pressure the legisla

            • by alexo (9335)

              Fixing Class Action lawsuits, and other similar torts would be easy.

              Not when the people who have the power to effect such a change have a vested interest in perpetuating the status quo.

              When the system no longer "Promtes progress of science and useful arts" ... it is broken.

              The system is working as designed.

    • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @02:57AM (#44891195)

      I hope more developers have a spine as stiff as yours.

      It's the only thing that can carry the load of his enormous balls.

    • by quacking duck (607555) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:41AM (#44893045)

      The developer of the X-Plane flight simulator is also fighting the patent troll suing him for using a Google-approved and provided API for verifying Android purchases. He's fighting using his own money too, which lawyers have advised could cost him $1.5 million even if he wins.

      They aren't the only dev who this troll is suing, though I believe they're one of the few who's actually big enough (barely) to mount a defence. Google has refused to offer legal or even token moral support for their developers, and the API is probably still in place in the latest version, a Trojan horse waiting to happen to other unsuspecting devs.

  • by Luthair (847766) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @12:41AM (#44890843)

    Distance / Speed = Time

    Heck, we've probably been estimating our arrival times since we grew big enough brains to recognize a particular rock or tree.

    • This is actually a pretty shit way of doing it; vehicles rarely hold a constant speed. If you build a database of locations and times for a vehicle doing the same route repeatedly then a more appropriate calculation is the median travel time from the given location.

  • by EuclideanSilence (1968630) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @12:47AM (#44890873)

    Dovden asked for $10,000. There was probably only a 1 in 1000 chance someone would fight and win. Dovden knew for certain that their patent wasn't innovative; this was no honest misunderstanding. Any damages less than $10000 * 1000 = $10,000,000 makes this a profitable business model.

    Any ruling fining Dovden less than $10,000,000 is not enough.

    • by EuclideanSilence (1968630) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @12:58AM (#44890903)

      And I'm going to reply to myself. And every lawyer involved in sending these notices should lose their license.

      • Hear hear! And any damn judge dum enough to let the case even go through without alerting the patttent office and slamming these guys with fines for misuse of the legal system. Fraud. And abuse of government entities in order to harass and whatever else they can muster up.

        These people can go to jail. And they can let out a few prostitutes.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          sigh.
          No. Go through the procedure the bar already has in place. They keep it up they loose their license. Possible civil issues.

          We need to put less people in jail, not more.

          • by tibit (1762298)

            As flayzernax said: swap them for some prostitutes. Keeps the number incarcerated locally constant :)

      • And be personally liable for some of the damages.

    • by jamesh (87723) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @01:47AM (#44891021)

      A customer of ours was recently sent an "about to call debt collectors" letter for an invoice for toner cartridges they hadn't bought. The scammer had done their homework - they had called previously claiming to be from the "federal government" doing a survey on printers so they knew exactly what type of toner the customer would have bought. We called the ACCC and were basically told that if money had actually been paid then we could try the feds and see if they would do anything, but otherwise they weren't going to do anything.

      The fact that the scammers were getting away with this sort of shit with basically no risk at all made me quite angry. Stories like TFA make me feel a little better about the world.

      • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @01:56AM (#44891047)
        Yeah, same happened to me. Someone was doing a "dead relative" scam attempt on me, and I got info about them. Passed it to the FBI cybercrimes fraud division (or the group that indicated they were responsible, if there is no specific division for that), and they got back to me with the message "if you haven't actually lost money on it, go away. If you have lost money on it, you are an idiot, go away". So long as crimes aren't investigated because they are "inconvenient", we'll have escalation in crimes, in both severity and quantity.
        • by Kaenneth (82978) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @02:24AM (#44891103) Homepage Journal

          They got teenagers with quarter ounces of weed to imprision, stop wasting their valuable property seizure time.

          • by BenfromMO (3109565) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:50AM (#44892653)

            Police departments of all stripes can make more money for their departments through property seizure, so why would they waste time with actual criminals which actually costs them money?

            The second we allowed as a society police departments to confiscate individuals' wealth was the second we lost our way as a society. It does not help that tickets and other roadside violations are also money that goes to the local police department directly. And so we have police in this country whose jobs are directly depended on outside revenue streams and so their employers are no longer every citizen, but rather those who they imprison and fine. They are constantly looking for additional people to finance their jobs like that. And what does all of this money that they confiscate give them? Military level arms, body armor, and all sorts of little toys that make breaking into someone's house a quite large ordeal. So next time someone "swats you" you can thank the illegal confiscations and mountains of traffic violations that made it possible for semi-trained idiots to go around with military level machine guns and body armor.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            where? where is some in a federal prison for this? any citations at all? no?

      • by lxs (131946)

        One more reason not to participate in surveys.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @05:20AM (#44891697)

        Did they send this invoice via the United States Postal Service? A Demonstrably untrue invoice?
        You sir were clearly not paying attention during the movie "The Firm".

        I believe that you or anyone else in receipt of such a communication should contact their USPS Mail Fraud team.
         

  • donation box (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @12:48AM (#44890881) Journal
    Does he have a donation box? I've donated to causes much less worthy.
    • by rsborg (111459)

      Does he have a donation box? I've donated to causes much less worthy.

      Count me in. I want to see Dovden hunted down and made an example of. Perhaps, if Dunkelman doesn't want to solicit external funds, the next worthy Troll Slayer should seek funds on Kickstarter or similar website for the express purpose of making an example of the troll in particular.

  • by Ichijo (607641) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @01:06AM (#44890921) Homepage Journal

    Any lawyer who aids a patent troll ought to be disbarred.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Before or after being disemboweled?

    • by EuclideanSilence (1968630) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:59AM (#44891623)

      A lawyer should be allowed to defend any person, against any charge, against any evidence, without any fear of legal repercussion.

      I would prefer the more objective approach, "any lawyer who aids in sending out frivolous (read: obviously going to be overturned) patent notices should be disbarred."

      I imagine it wouldn't be impossible for something like that to find its way into some legislation.

      • by wbr1 (2538558) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:18AM (#44892425)
        WE DO NOT NEED MORE LAWS!

        Felony conviction is cause for disbarment in most jurisdictions.

        If an attorney aids and abets fraud, extortion, or is criminally negligent in defending/prosecuting a case, then fucking charge and convict them of -that- crime. They will still be disbarred, and we will actually be prosecuting crimes that matter, instead of letting those with money and power flout the system so egregiously.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          You have no idea why attorney are important, nor do you have any idea why that would pretty much turn over everything to corporation overnight.

          You are a clueless irrational idiot who screams 'solutions' to problems you don't understand.

          Things change, new laws will always be needed.
          The lawyer isn't doing anything illegal. This isn't fraud or extortion.

          • by wbr1 (2538558) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @10:56AM (#44893657)
            If a lawyer knowingly sends out C&D or settle or we'll sue letters for knowingly invalid or absent patents, it IS fraud and extortion. They willfully misrepresented facts to their clients (and their own) betterment. If the patent is valid, then no they attorneys did not break the law, and it is a symptom af a flawed patent system that needs repair.

            In neither case do we need more laws on the books.

          • by wbr1 (2538558)
            Oh, BTW. Name calling does not help your point at all. Next time, actually make an argument, instead of a statement and insults. You'll sound smarter (whether you actually are remains to be seen).
      • That is all good and well for criminal cases. For civil cases (like patent suits) a lawyer cannot ethically proceed with a case if they know their client is lying or distorting the truth. When a case such as this boils down to an unpatentable mathematical equation the lawyers involved should know that they are exposing themselves to disciplinary action when they fail to withdraw from the suit.

  • Costs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @01:11AM (#44890933)

    Are patent suit costs in Canada paid for by the losing party? This is one of the big problems in the US - each side usually pays its own costs, even when the patentee loses.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ah, the great American justice system.

      Both sides pay, then the winner has to file a counter suit against the loser for compensation and losses.

      So the lawyers get to cash in all over again...

      • by jittles (1613415)

        Ah, the great American justice system.

        Both sides pay, then the winner has to file a counter suit against the loser for compensation and losses.

        So the lawyers get to cash in all over again...

        Depends on the state and the laws being violated. I just recently settled a lawsuit with my landlord. I was the defendant, the landlord obviously the plaintiff. They sued me to take possession of the property (AKA for eviction). I counter-sued them for failure to maintain the property in compliance with state and county health and safety codes, as well as other damages. In that case, the loser pays all costs no matter what (unless a settlement stipulates otherwise). It's automatic. And I was looking

        • by geekoid (135745)

          A loser pay system in patents would destroy it for the very people it should be helping.

    • Re:Costs (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @02:52AM (#44891179)

      Serious answer here, IAAL in Canada. Yes, in Ontario the losing side pays costs to the winning side. However, "costs" is awarded according to procedures in the court rules, and it doesn't actually represent the literal legal costs of the winning party. Court awarded "costs" usually end up being around a third of actual legal costs, but it's still a penalty for the loser. Going by the summary (haven't read the original article yet), I imagine that Dovden will oppose costs because they unilaterally discontinued the action before the court could dismiss the action with costs awarded against them. A plaintiff discontinuing its action is usually seen by defendants as a good thing, so normally costs aren't awarded in these cases.

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        Dropping the suit, but continuing to pursue others for the same patent, is evidence that they are committing fraud. I believe that in the US, there have been cases where MPAA did this "drop the lawsuit" thing and was later forced to pay legal costs anyway.

  • by multiben (1916126) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @01:11AM (#44890935)
    IANAL as will be pretty evident from this confused series of questions, but from the article: 'They claim to have patented the method of using GPS location on vehicles to determine when they will arrive at a certain place,'

    So, did they patent it or not? And if they did, then who the hell approved it as a valid innovation???!
    If they didn't patent it then it's just a case of straight up fraud isn't it? Conversely, if they do actually hold this patent, then isn't just as clear cut that this poor guy is infringing it - no matter how ridiculous that seems? The article seems to suggest that they are now reviewing whether the patent is valid or not - but once a patent is granted doesn't that automatically mean it's valid too?
    • by a.koepke (688359)
      Just because a patent is granted doesn't mean it is valid, it just means you have paid some fees to register your "innovation". Unfortunately, the patent offices get a lot of applications and have been working in "rubber stamp" mode for quite a while. You put your application in, pay your fees and get a rubber stamp on it. Done. There is no real review of the validity of the patent anymore, that stuff just took to long.

      The patent office's approach is to approve almost everything and let the lawyers, judg
      • by meerling (1487879)
        Stupid and incompetent, but true :(
      • by multiben (1916126)
        I see. Thankyou. What a depressing situation.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @02:50AM (#44891171)

        Yes. The system is horribly broken.

        I suggest a fix: Every patent you are granted is free. Every patent that you are denied costs you. The cost is a sliding scale, the faster the patent office finds a triviality, or previous art, the more it costs the customer. The pantent office has to give the reasons why the patent was rejected, along with the bill. This should a) give the patent office some money, b) reduce the patentload, which means more time per patent for patent office. This creates a balance; patent office has to reject shittty patents to get money, but they have to keep granting good patents, orherwise people will stop filing (which might be a win for society in itself), and they are out of a job.

        • by Maritz (1829006)

          I suggest a fix: Every patent you are granted is free. Every patent that you are denied costs you.

          They're granting everything that lands on their desk.

        • by Anomalyst (742352)
          you need to add a penalty multiplier based on the previous number of rejections in X timeframe by the submitter, something logarithmic is recommended. captcha=backstop
  • ... for hardship. Sue for a billion $ to make sure it doesn't happen again.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Mod parent up!

      The patent office was derelict in it's duty AND fraudulently represented to both the plaintiff and defendant that the patent was valid even though it had (obviously) given it no more than a cursory glance. As a result, both sides ended up in a needless court battle.

      Multiply by every stupid patent lawsuit anywhere.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        If you are a lawyer, and I come to you and say a person has violated my patent how is the lawyer going to know it's valid or not?
        In fact from the lawyers point of view it is perfect valid becasue the person has a legal patent.

  • You know, it's all well and good that these trolls can be forced to pay legal costs and other damages, but it really ought to be illegal to knowingly enforce a bad patent. The lawyers prosecuting these suits can be referred to the bar for disciplinary action. If lawyers started to be disbarred or even fined by the courts, the latter is within the power of the court, these things would stop very fast.

    • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Thursday September 19, 2013 @01:43AM (#44891013) Homepage Journal

      What you are looking for here is something related to barratry [wikipedia.org]. I wish such a concept actually applied in U.S. federal courts, although there are several states that have become enlightened enough that it does apply to those state court systems.

      Even more important, I wish judges would actually enforce such a concept and disbar those who abuse the system. Unfortunately, in the "real world" you don't tend to find things so clear cut and lawyers being complete jerks. Usually they know at what point they are going to cross over the line and try to stay on the proper side of that line, even if they may tend to push those limits from time to time. It takes a real idiot of a lawyer who doesn't know the laws of their own profession.

      • The next step down from barratry is to pursue disciplinary action from the relevant bar association. Being good-ol-boys clubs the end result will less satisfying than disbarment but you could still inflict some pain on a deserving shark.

  • Waterboard the clowns. If you don't know how, send them over to us and we'll take care of them at Gitmo.
  • Hardly surprising. Even a patent troll should know better than going after a guy whose name translates to The Dark Man.

    Okay, I admit, I added the definite article for effect, but the rest is true. Source: I'm German
  • In the USA, the plaintiff is extremely unlikely to get court and attorney fees awarded, even when the other side has been a complete douchebag. My best friend is an attorney and he explained to me that judges almost never award court and attorney costs, even when the lawsuit should never have happened, because they are afraid that doing so will make people afraid of bringing legitimate cases to court because they might have to pay the other side's fees if they lose. Yes, fees are awarded sometimes in very
  • We should draw up versions of all the popular software licenses, (MIT, BSD, GPL, etc.) that specifically exclude the patent troll town of Marshall, TX or even Harrison county, where many of the patent trolls file because of their "plaintiff friendly" juries. The town has benefited from all of the trolling, and they've set themselves up a little local industry for it. Let them do it without software. Maybe name it the Yee-Haw(R) license.
  • Sadly, this case never reached the merits of the troll's ludicrous patent on the obvious.

  • Larry might want to proceed with caution because some patent trolls would have us believe that calling them patent trolls is a "hate crime" and therefore punishable by a huge fine payable to said patent trolls.

    http://boingboing.net/2013/09/17/patent-trolls-lumen-view-ca.html [boingboing.net]

  • It's a feel-good story, but that's all. Just like the stories of Linux devs fighting patents before they're approved, it doesn't represent a formula to solve the problem.

    The only solution is to do as NZ has done and ban software patents.

    The problem is that the ideas in software patents are exactly like the ideas in novels plots. They're abstract, although made concrete within the context of a novel. They represent ideas which, if not merely derivative certainly do nothing more than draw on a literal ocean o

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