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Microsoft, Apple and Others Launch Huge Patent Strike at Android 476

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
New submitter GODISNOWHERE writes "Nortel went bankrupt in 2009. In 2011, it held an auction for its massive patent portfolio. The winners of the auction were Apple, Microsoft, Sony, RIM, and others, who bought the patents for $4.5 billion as a consortium named Rockstar Bidco. At the time, many people speculated those patents would be used against Google, who bid separately but lost. It turns out they were right. Rockstar has filed eight lawsuits in federal court targeting Google and Android device manufacturers. 'The complaint (PDF) against Google involves six patents, all from the same patent "family." They're all titled "associative search engine," and list Richard Skillen and Prescott Livermore as inventors. The patents describe "an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network. The oldest patent in the case is US Patent No. 6,098,065, with a filing date of 1997, one year before Google was founded. The newest patent in the suit was filed in 2007 and granted in 2011. The complaint tries to use the fact that Google bid for the patents as an extra point against the search giant.'"
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Microsoft, Apple and Others Launch Huge Patent Strike at Android

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  • by new death barbie (240326) on Friday November 01, 2013 @08:52AM (#45299057)

    ... how is this a strike against Android?

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday November 01, 2013 @08:55AM (#45299077)
      I striked against Apple yesterday when I bought a Galaxy Note 10.1 from Samsung. Now it seems that I got a bonus good feeling for free with the box.
    • by Shag (3737) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:02AM (#45299137) Homepage

      “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” - Steve Jobs

      This isn't a surgical strike. This is an attack on Google's primary business model and revenue stream. Nobody makes much profit off Android - most players make no profit at all. Google's deep pockets are basically the only thing keeping Android a going concern. But this is, definitely, the "nuclear option," going after so much more than just Android.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:07AM (#45299171)

        Google's own patent bank, while not as large as it's competitors, is not insubstantial. We're about to see a legal mess of historic proportions. Law firms are going to make insane amounts of money.

        Oh and consumers will be paying the bottom line, can't forget that.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:22AM (#45299303)

          Google's own patent bank, while not as large as it's competitors, is not insubstantial. We're about to see a legal mess of historic proportions. Law firms are going to make insane amounts of money.

          Oh and consumers will be paying the bottom line, can't forget that.

          Government by the lawyers for the lawyers.

          That's what the US really has...

        • Actions are usually never all good or all bad. Sure, consumers will pay more for their phones, but they're already paying more than I'd consider sane, both for the data and the phones themselves. I mean, changing smartphones every year is absurd. And it's worth noting that we're not talking about a necessity.

          If this results in end of software patents at the price of smartphones being, say, $50 more expensive for a while, that could be a fair trade.

          I make no comment on how likely I think this is, si
        • by chefmonkey (140671) on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:01PM (#45301549)

          Google's own patent bank doesn't matter, because Rockstar Consortium doesn't do anything other than undermine the very fabric of the tech industry for their own gain. They exist only to collect rent on innovation itself. FTFA: "'Pretty much anybody out there is infringing,' says John Veschi, Rockstar’s CEO. 'It would be hard for me to envision that there are high-tech companies out there that don’t use some of the patents in our portfolio.'"

          To spell it out more clearly, Google can't sue Rockstar over patent infringement, because Rockstar doesn't actually do anything that Google would have a patent on (unless Google owns some "Method and Process for Utterly Crippling the Tech Industry Using Patent Lawsuits" business process patent we don't know about).

          The timing couldn't be better. We finally have the first credible effort in U.S. Congress to re-evaluate how patents are handled (http://eshoo.house.gov/press-releases/eshoo-introduces-patent-litigation-reform-bill/), and couldn't have crafted a better supervillian than Rockstar if we tried. They even have a comically bombastic name to put a cherry on top of their already odious persona.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Thats what I was thinking. This isn't about android, this is about Google en masse.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:16AM (#45299253)

        I would say that, if admissible, this "invention" (PDF [google.com]) completely prevents any company from displaying ads alongside search results, killing Adsense:

        This invention relates to an advertisment machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network. The machine receives, from the user, a search request including a search argument corresponding to the desired information and searches, based upon the received search argument, a first database having data network related information to generate search results. It also correlates the received search argument to a particular advertisement in a second database having advertisement related information. The search results together with the particular advertisement are provided by the machine to the user.

        We claim:
        1. A method of searching for desired information Within a data network, comprising the steps of:
          -> receiving, from a user, a search request including a search argument corresponding to the desired information;
          -> searching, based upon the received search argument and user profile data, a database of information to generate a search result; and
          -> providing the search results to the user
          -> Wherein searching the database includes correlating, as a function of a fuzzy logic algorithm, the received search argument and user profile data to particular information in the database, and providing the particular information as the search results.

        • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:17AM (#45299269)

          Which is so painfully obvious the phonebook is prior art.

          You go look under plumber and with the listing you see advertising.

          • by fatphil (181876) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:26AM (#45299349) Homepage
            No, but *on a computer* !!!!1!!yksi!!yksitoista!!
          • by goombah99 (560566) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:09AM (#45299833)

            Which is so painfully obvious the phonebook is prior art.

            You go look under plumber and with the listing you see advertising.

            Painfully obvious in hindsight. Why was it patented before google came into existence?

            While I tend to agree with you in this case, if you want google to win the lawsuit you have to answer the above question satisfactorily.

            Imagine the Hammer was invented after patent laws. obvious in hindsight. simple. But eminently patentable as a method for driving with more force than banging it with a rock.

            here one prior art would be the yellow pages. But it lacked the force of a data base search. the search terms in the yellowpages were pre-formed. so less forceful.

            the fact that was not an obvious improvement is that at the time Google was formed, Yahoo was not a search engine per se. It was a curated set of pre-formed categories like a yellow pages.

            another prior art would be Alta Vista and Overture. They were packing the top of the search results list with advertiser's listings. so here we do have advertising using a data base.

            But at that time they were not using a user profile to make the listing adaptive. SO less force.

            Early google was simmilar but the ads were shifted to the right column not intermixed. Later on Google became adaptive.

            So in 1997 it's not yet obvious since others with the means to do so before google did not do so.

          • by zieroh (307208) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:12AM (#45299859)

            I have long observed a trend among my fellow geeks -- being smart in one (or even several) areas -- to eventually come to the conclusion that they are experts in all areas, especially where they perceive logic to be involved.

            But please accept my polite suggestion that you don't know jack shit about prior art.

            • by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:11PM (#45301027) Homepage
              Ironically, there's prior art on that observation from over two thousand years ago:

              At last I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and in this I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom [...]

              --Socrates in Plato's Apology

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        I read a few of the patents. It's quite amazing that any of the ones I read were even considered non-obvious, or without prior art. These also don't seem related to just android. Any of Google's servers also infringe when supplying targeted ads as far as I can tell, even the one granted in 2011. The US patent office is obviously maintaining their quality level.

        I think this would be a fantastic time to negate these patents, as well as the ones Microsoft has been using under NDA for their previous racketeeri

        • by jbolden (176878)

          To prove prior art you are going to need to prove Lycos and WebCrawler had these technologies since the patents predate Google.

          As for negating I agree. Google is in a wonderful position to negate since they don't depend on patents.

      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:29AM (#45299375) Homepage Journal

        "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product."

        Jesus. Young Steve Jobs was pretty cool [youtube.com]. Old, dying Steve Jobs was just an asshole whom young Steve Jobs would have mocked.

  • by Revek (133289) on Friday November 01, 2013 @08:53AM (#45299067) Homepage

    Sue the best.

  • wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @08:56AM (#45299091)

    Apple, Microsoft, and Sony (nobody cares about RIM), three of the biggest names in technology. Three of the most influential and powerful companies in the world. Three companies that have historically been in fierce competition with one another.

    And they had to gang up on Google.

    What does that say about how much they fear Google?

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Perhaps Google will win as most of these patents are quite obvious. Of course, it will probably end up being handed to Lucy Koh, at which point, good luck with anything approaching fairness.

  • Anti-Trust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday November 01, 2013 @08:56AM (#45299093)

    Apple, Microsoft, Sony, RIM, and others, who bought the patents for $4.5 billion as a consortium named Rockstar Bidco

    I presume it's not, but that should be illegal collusion and an anti-trust violation.

    • Re:Anti-Trust (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bondsbw (888959) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:00AM (#45299121)

      Ironically, the result of buying patents is now they have a legal monopoly.

    • Re:Anti-Trust (Score:5, Informative)

      by egarland (120202) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:05AM (#45299161)

      I can't believe there wouldn't be a law somewhere on the books that would make it illegal for all your competitors to gang up together and buy patents to try and lock you out of the market. I'm assuming the laws exist, but they figure they've got enough legal mojo to fend off weak government anti-trust regulators.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        It is perfectly legal for companies to work together to cooperate providing that the group of companies working together don't represent effectively all of the market. In the case of search the only possible monopoly is Google.

        • OP here. I didn't say it was illegal (IANAL), I said it should be illegal. A consortium to develop new tech or something is reasonable. A consortium to play patent troll is not. As it is, patents are just government granted monopolies. Collusion (oops, I meant a consortium) to leverage those little monopolies into a big monopoly is grossly anti-competitive. Business laws should be about fostering competition, not hindering it.

      • Re:Anti-Trust (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:21AM (#45299297) Homepage Journal

        Prosecutors will charge old ladies playing bridge under RICO, but then again those old ladies don't pay protection^Wbribes^W^Wdonate to campaigns the way the big boys do.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      What business are Apple, Microsoft, RIM in for which they can form a trust? Especially one related to search. Apple bundles other people's search they lose money on it and are a customer of both Google and Microsoft for search. RIM doesn't do search at all.

      • They all make phone OSes. Google make an arguably better (or at the very least, more popular) phone OS. So they're trying to destroy Google's core market of search, to stop them making such a nice phone OS.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          1) The patents aren't about phone-OSes they are about search more broadly
          2) The combined marketshare of Apple + Microsoft+RIM falls well short of a complete market JavaVM is still larger then all 3 plus Android.
          3) Even if you were to restrict to particular price points and thus exclude JavaVM, Google is the one who approaches a monopoly. It is legal to act in concert to prevent the formation of a monopoly.

          So you would really have to argue that RIM+Microsoft+Apple are in collusion to drive Google out s

  • beat them in the courts.
  • Patent hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:02AM (#45299135) Homepage Journal

    Broken system. Too much politics, too much backstabbing, too much use of patents to tear down competitors instead of just arranging a reasonable fee.

    Abolish software and "business method" patents. They're not *things*, just ideas. They're not what patents were *created* to protect.

    • Re:Patent hell (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chemisor (97276) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:44AM (#45300221)

      Google has an excellent opportunity here to abolish software patents altogether. All they have to do is nothing. Let the courts rule against them. Pay the fine and close the business. Completely. Larry and Sergei walk away with a cool $50 billion. The main losers will be search users and those dependent on search to be found. In other words, everybody. You want to kill Google? Fine. Let's do it. Let's see how long the world can survive without it.

      • Re:Patent hell (Score:4, Informative)

        by akozakie (633875) on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:35PM (#45301963)

        Bing. Microsoft is part of this consortium, remember?

        You underestimate human ability to adapt. If we lose what we use, we'll use what's available. Sure, there'd be a period of outrage and a bit of chaos, but then everything would stabilise. Business as usual while someone else reaps the profit.

        There's a Polish proverb: "If you don't have what you like, you like what you have".

  • by mishehu (712452) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:04AM (#45299151)
    Those who can, innovate.

    Those who can't, litigate.

    Sorry, Apple, but the Woz was right when he explained concern over your company. And I've not really seen Microsoft innovate itself out of a paper bag in years... But that's ok, they'll make sure they're on the gravy train by attempting to collect royalties every Android device out there...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jbolden (176878)

      And I've not really seen Microsoft innovate itself out of a paper bag in years

      http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/ [microsoft.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        from that website:

        Headlines

        You Can Live Forever! Digitally
        How Researchers Map The Future Of Innovation
        Keeping Teens ‘Private’ on Facebook Won’t Protect Them
        Audio: Microsoft's Baym Discusses Social Media Fundraising

        WOW, that's some innovation right there. I can't wait for those innovations to become available to us.
        Looking at the rest of the website, it's all about other peopl

      • by Nemyst (1383049)
        Microsoft the corporation sadly seems to have forgotten about their research arm ages ago. All the cool stuff Microsoft Research makes tends to go die in a corner.
    • by ausekilis (1513635) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:26AM (#45299353)
      I was going to leave it at "Don't innovate, litigate!" but then realized there's more to this.

      We all know Steve Job's hated android with a passion. It is still the iPhones biggest competition. They noticed that an open source platform, with it's hundreds/thousands of contributers is going to move and adapt much more quickly than whatever team they can afford to pay. Apple has a great think tank (though not as good with the passing of St. Jobs), but even they can't come up with something so fresh and new that the legion of android wouldn't be able to build a competitor rapidly... much more rapidly than their annual "yes, but this iDevice is 5% shinier!".

      At first MS had the iPhone hate due it it whipping the pants off their Windows Mobile nonsense. They too see that a competitor has a massive market share, and their own offerings (with sub-par app choices) just can't compete. They still don't get that people use their phones in different ways than computers and their vendor lock-in with "yes, but we have office!" (on the surface/RT at least) just isn't going to get all those young adults/teens/preteens hot and bothered about Windows phone.

      Then we can take a step back and look at what the competition is really like. Apple with their $600 "but it's shiny" iPhone and walled garden with plenty of apps. MS, with their handful of Windows Phone devices and (by comparison) tiny app market for reasonable prices, or Android that has plenty of apps, is more customizable (for those that do), and is cheaper to produce due to no licensing fees.

      The market has spoken for itself, the "little guys" have run out of ideas to attract the populous, so now they are lashing out at their competitor. Little do they realize that the whole Apple/Samsung campaign tarnished that once golden sheen of Apple's doors. We can only hope that something like the Streisand effect kicks in and a negative public image for companies behaving like children starts becoming a deterrent for these kinds of tactics. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Google and their constant data mining on everything, but given the choices, I'd rather go with Android than the Reality Distortion Market or Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

  • Go nuclear (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:08AM (#45299173) Homepage Journal
    Google must have more than a few basic patents too, just all of block them in most of their products on internet/mobile and bring the whole industry to an halt until the legal system regarding patents stop being so badly screwed.
  • Justia link (Score:5, Informative)

    by jbolden (176878) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:09AM (#45299181) Homepage

    To save people the trouble of finding these:
    http://patents.justia.com/inventor/richard-prescott-skillen [justia.com]

    • by amoeba1911 (978485) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:43AM (#45299543) Homepage

      This invention relates to an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network. The machine receives from a user, a search request including a search argument corresponding to the desired information and searches, based upon the received search argument a first database having data network related information to generate search results. It also correlating the received search argument to a particular advertisement in a second database having advertisement related information. The search results together with the particular advertisement are provided by the machine to the user.

      Yep... that's the "patent". Let's narrow this down a bit:

      This invention relates to an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network.

      Let's refactor this:
      "within a data network" - where else is he going to search? What if he's in a car? and who cares where he's searching?
      "user searching for desired information" - what other kind of information would he ever search for, undesired information? That's the whole point of "searching" is to find desired for information, so let's shorten that to "user searching" to get rid of redundancy.
      "to a user searching" - Who cares what the user happens to be doing at the time? What if they're scratching their ass, and the machine serves ads to the user scratching his ass? What the user happens to be doing is irrelevant.
      "machine which provides advertisements to a user" - what if the user is a web-crawler? Your invention will still work if it's a web crawler randomly pretending to be a user, so the invention is providing advertisements to not just a user, but to any client that connects. So we don't need to specify the "to a user" part either.
      "This invention relates to" - this is the abstract for your invention, we know what you're talking about already, don't repeat.
      "an advertisement machine which provides advertisements" - What else would an advertisement machine do? make coffee? By definition an advertisement machine is a machine that provides advertisements. Let's simplify this to "an advertisement machine"

      After removing all the fluff, we're left with just:

      An advertisement machine.

      Good job! This patent would be awesome if you also invented a time machine, because ads have been around for a very long time.

  • In a surprise announcement, Google said they were relocating the entire company to Antigua....

  • I really have to wonder what the people who started the patent system would have thought of this kind of thing. Something tells me this is not what they had in mind. I thought the whole idea was to protect the inventors. If a company goes bankrupt, they really don't need protection, so the patent should go into the public domain. If an individual is granted a patent, they should either have to do something with it in the allotted time, or lose it. Patents were not meant to be used as a way to sue compan
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      but it's unfair to creditors if the assets are not sold.
      what do you think bankruptcy is for? for moving assets to your best buddy?

      the only thing is to make it stricter to get patents, in the way that it has to be something OMFG smart thing to invent one.

      I mean, fuck, say you're running a search engine. say you have a database of ads. how much of an invention is it to fetch data from the two databases instead of just one with the word?

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:17AM (#45299259) Homepage

    I think it is safe to assume Google saw this coming. Which means they believe it will cost less than 4.4 billion to win (I assume their ability to serve ads, and android, both are not something they will willingly give up on).

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:50AM (#45299643) Homepage

    I always believed that the purpose of intellectual property to was to better ensure that the creator(s) of the thing had exclusive rights to their creations, ensuring their investments of blood, sweat and tears has a better chance of a return. But that's not what happens is it? No. What we have is an industry. And with any industry, we experience dehumanizing effects.

    What's the solution? We can write an increasingly complex set of laws to address specific predatory behaviors such as patent trolling. That won't solve the problems of giant industry players from fighting each other like giant Japanese monsters on the streets of Tokyo. The real solution?

    Disallow all intellectual property transfers. If you didn't create it, you can't own it. Then it reverts to its original purpose and intent and virtually removes all industrial activity. But what happens when the creators, authors and companies die? Does all that valuable intellectual property just vanish in a puff of smoke? Well? Yes. I would hope so.

  • by intermodal (534361) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:15AM (#45299893) Homepage Journal

    Any decent defence attorney will find little trouble pointing out that all pre-1997 search engines are prior art, since a search engine has always been an advertising machine. If I typed into Alta Vista, in 1996, a search for "books" and came up with any site related to books, Alta Vista has acted in the role of an advertising machine in directing me to that site.

    • Any decent defence attorney will find little trouble pointing out that all pre-1997 search engines are prior art, since a search engine has always been an advertising machine. If I typed into Alta Vista, in 1996, a search for "books" and came up with any site related to books, Alta Vista has acted in the role of an advertising machine in directing me to that site.

      You have to actually read the patent claims, not just the title. In particular, the claims require correlation of user profile data and search terms for determining the delivered data. In Alta Vista, searches were just based on your search terms, not your user profile - Bob didn't get different results from Alice. Accordingly, while Alta Vista is certainly relevant prior art that could be used in combination with other art to potentially invalidate the claims, alone, it doesn't do the job.

      And this brings u

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:03AM (#45300421)

    I really miss Groklaw days like this

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:58AM (#45300897) Homepage Journal

    Everybody better let Rockstar Games know that you think they're assholes for this crap.

    Cause that trademark and brand damage, watch the real Rockstar file a huge suit in return regarding trademarks.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Friday November 01, 2013 @12:27PM (#45301153)
    Google just has to say 'ineligible subject matter'. Google will also lose it's own patents, but the competition can't outdo them so Google's own patents don't matter.

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