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Acacia Climbing the Food Chain 162

superflex writes "CNet and others have articles today related to a story that appeared here a couple months ago regarding Acacia Media Technologies, who hold several U.S. and international patents that they claim give them exclusive rights to compressed digital media transmission technologies. The previous article, for the lazy among you, was an AskSlashdot about whether the askers' pr0n site should pay license fees to these guys. Seems that since then, they've moved on to some internet radio sites, and are actually getting fees out of them. Their claims haven't been challenged in court yet, but they appear very broad, possibly covering PPV on cable/satellite as well as internet-based streaming. One wonders if they might try going after one of the big boys soon."
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Acacia Climbing the Food Chain

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    They've built up a history of legal victories. Then, one of the big boys will stand up for themselves, and fight them off in court.
  • by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum@gm a i l . com> on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:29PM (#5243533) Homepage Journal
    ... what, about 100 years ago?

    Morse? Nah, really. Probably not a strong argument for 'compression'.

    Regardless, this is just one more of those 'communication should be free' fish in the barrel which someone ought to just tip over...
    • anyone who wanted to save a few cents on a per letter charge transmission?
    • Wasn't morse-code basicly a huffman compression?

      here [] it give 1952 as date of first mention.
      • by kfg ( 145172 )
        Huffman compression is an algorithm for converting fixed length charecter code to variable length charecter code.

        Since ASCII natively uses all bits of a fixed length for every charecter one can compress it by writing "1" instead of a bunch of zeros followed by a 1.

        Morse is natively variable length. Not the same thing at all.


        • Not to split hairs, but can't Huffman compression convers fixed length character code into a variable length code consisting of symbols from pretty much any set? Granted, I'm not overly knowledgable here, but most Huffman compression examples I see convert ASCII characters into variable length bit strings, so the symbols wouldn't be "character code" but a code made from bits. I'm asking because I don't want to have this matter confused, so there's no need to jump on me if I'm wrong. A polite correction is all it takes. ;)
          • Of course (Score:3, Interesting)

            by kfg ( 145172 )
            I just used ASCII as an obvious and intuitive example. It doesn't even have to be digital code, just any code of fixed length where some of the "bits" are effectively redundant place holders.

            I'd only point out that all bit strings that stand for some sort of character are character code. All digital computer code is just code "made from bits." 255 zeros followed by a 1, 1 and SOH are all the same character using a different "font" as it were, just as the Morse character ".-" is actually the same as "a". Printed Morse is actually human readable with a little practice. So is ASCII in decimal ( with a LOT of practice) if it comes to that, but why bother? Even the English alphabet itself is just a graphical code, and just one of many possible ones.

            Don't get hung up on the particular *form* a character code takes. It's still a character.

          • Ignore him, he'll just confuse you. You don't appear to have any incorrect misapprehensions at the moment.

            Come to the Usenet newsgroup comp.compression ( ) and ask your questions there, you'll get a lot more sense from most of the responders.

        • by Jondor ( 55589 )
          Hmm.. off course you're right since huffman was from 1952 and morse is older. My bad. But then again, morse was coded to get short codes for often used characters and Huffman is working on the same principle, assigning shorter codes for often repeated characters so there is definitly something they have in common..
          • You're confusing a character set *optimized* for small "file size" with a compressed one. Again, they're two completely different beasties.

            One can compress even an optimized character set though. For instance, if you have the string "eeeeeeeee" you could write it "e8." This is essentially what many image compressions do, since they often deal with large areas of the same data.

            These people are essentially saying they have a patent on transmitting the digital phrase " paint the screen red."

    • OK, re-posting this chunk from Acacia's video compression patent for context's sake:
      A system of distributing video and/or audio information employs digital signal processing to achieve high rates of data compression. The compressed and encoded audio and/or video information is sent over standard telephone, cable or satellite broadcast channels to a receiver specified by a subscriber of the service, preferably in less than real time, for later playback and optional recording on standard audio and/or video tape.
      What about cable TV? Isn't that *exactly* what they do -- convert video to some signal they pass to subscribers over a cable? I don't know for sure how long cable TV has been around, but I do remember my parents subscribing to something called "On TV" way back in, like, 1981 or something. Anyone know when cable TV first hit the world? I'm pretty sure that's your prior art right there.
      • HBO dates back to 1973. I am not sure if there wasn't anything before HBO but I am hardly an expert. It doesn't really matter, though, since digital cable doesn't date back nearly that far.
      • I think the most important thing in this presentation is that statement about "less than real-time". Ye Gawd, I'd like to see that work! The secret of time travel at last...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "sent over standard telephone, cable or satellite broadcast channels"

        I think he usage of the word "channels" is significant. The internet is not a channel based medium, but a switched packet network. A channel is a hardwired or negotiated data path that has persistence and is traversed over a dedicated point-to-point circuit or line.
  • for the lazy among you

    I not only feel informed, I feel insulted as well!

  • In my opinion this can't be done. I believe copyright or patents on this belong to someone else, or are open.

    Companies folding in to this scheme are working with Acacia I suspect. In so much as once a group of legal victories are obtained, this sets precedent

    Once the precedent is set they can go after more valid targets. Except they are NOT VALID TARGETS as the patent is bunk.
  • Don't be mad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nochops ( 522181 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:33PM (#5243587)
    Don't be mad at these guys.
    I breifly looked over their claims at the USTPO, and it looks pretty valid to me.

    So don't be mad at them for having the foresight to come up with this in 1991, and wanting to make some money.

    If you're going to get mad, get mad at the USTPO for granting such broad stretching patents in the first place.

    The system is in place for things like this to happen, and I really don't understand why people are continually surprised when this type of thing happens. It will continue to happen until the US government changes the way the patent process works.

    That being said, it is pretty slimy to hold a patent for 12 years and just now start to enforce it, but again, our current patent system model encourages this behavior, so din't be surprised when it happens again.

    On the other hand, if this never happened, Slashdot wouldn't be so busy.
    • bullshit, be mad (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ender Ryan ( 79406 )
      A zillion other people/companies came up with the infringing stuff on their own, without even being aware of Acacia's existence, so why the fuck should they have to pay a company that didn't do a damn thing to help them?

      That being said, it is pretty slimy to hold a patent for 12 years and just now start to enforce it

      Exactly, be mad! :)

      • How the hell much longer is it going to be until we get patent reform?

        It's pretty obvious to everyone that changes are necessary, but there's no movement to change things.
        • It's pretty obvious to everyone that changes are necessary, but there's no movement to change things.
          It's pretty obvious to everyone that giving corporations voting rights is wrong, but that's what we've effectively done and since there are only two evils to choose from, citizen voting is largely inconsequential.

          The patent system will not change; it has too much momentum and corporations gain a lot with the system the way it is. Since corporations are effectively the "voters" in our society, this situation won't change until the voting public takes back the vote.

          Which is impossible. A former co-worker had a one-page article on third-parties and contribution limits, comparing it to the 3 networks we had prior to cable (ABC, NBC, CBS). The networks wanted to "tax" cable networks a great deal, effectively creating a barrier to entry for new networks. The plan fell through, and now we have a wide variety (albeit crap) of channels.

          Similarly, since there is a limit to how much an individual can contribute to any party, and there are a lot more supporters of democrats and republicans, multiply "a lot more" by the limit and it's obvious that the two major parties receive the majority of the funds, and thus will always outspend the third parties.

          Libertarians will never win votes in this system, as it's designed to keep out fresh blood. And since the corporations don't want to lose the power they currently have over the government (creating new laws to prop up failed business models, making criminals out of your customers for wanting to make backups, playing the "defensive patents" game, etc.), the system will never change without violence.

          Note that I'm not advocating violent overthrow; it would probably fail. But historically, that has been the only way to remove one's self from a tyrannical regime.

          • *bzzz* Wrong. It is not about outspending or keeping down the third parties. It is that a majority of the people who bother to vote do have fairly moderate views on things. NONE of the parties appeal enough to the 50% who do not vote to get them to the polling booth, including alternate parties. I suspect this is more apathy than outrage. Just to let you know, most of the libertarian philosophy I have read would do absolutly nothing to fix the patent mess. Intellectual Property is just that. Property. To be enforced through force like any other property. Unless you are a commu-anarchist...
            • Intellectual Property is just that. Property. To be enforced through force like any other property.

              If the U.S. government treats copyrights and patents as property (constitutionally, it shouldn't), then why does the government not charge property tax?

      • A zillion other people/companies came up with the infringing stuff on their own, without even being aware of Acacia's existence, so why the fuck should they have to pay a company that didn't do a damn thing to help them?

        The root of the problem is government, not the private organizations who attempt to use the powers of government to their advantage. Really, what else would you expect? In a market where a legalized initiation of force exists (a "non-free" market), the winning business will always be the one that acquires that force. Remove the force from the market, and the problem is solved.

    • Sorry, I'm pissed at both of them. Using a legal loophole to do something immoral doesn't absolve them of responsibility. It's that simple.
    • Re:Don't be mad (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 )
      Sounds like modems with compression or even Zmodem conflicts with a large part of their patent.
    • If you're going to get mad, get mad at the USTPO for granting such broad stretching patents in the first place.

      Exactly. Finally somebody who understands. Private corporations (and individuals) are only playing the game which is designed, implemented, and enforced by government. Eliminate the powers of government which make it happen, and the problem is solved.

      On a related note, I often see people complaining about lobbyists and (in general) those who intend to use the force of government to their personal advantage. Again, the root of the problem here is government, not the private sector. Eliminate the powers of government that can be taken advantage of, and we eliminate the incentive for bribery.

      • Eliminate the powers of government that can be taken advantage of, and we eliminate the incentive for bribery.

        Well sure. Eliminate food and I don't need to sh1t.

        But until all resources are infinite, there will be people in positions of power, and others who will try to bribe them.

    • This is great news. If they own a patent to compressed content delivery we can shut down the net and go back to the way things used to be. All this technology is way to difficult to learn how to use anyway. Perhaps being a luddite is the most logical perspective in this world to maintain some form of sanity.
    • foresight? I think Morse had the foresight when he came up with his code to send over telegraphs. "Morse code", as it were:

      A system of distributing video and/or audio information employs digital signal processing to achieve high rates of data compression.

      (i.e. the guy who operates the telegraph and translates your speech into a blip or two. Can't get much better compression than turning the sound for "A" into blip bliiiip.)

      The compressed and encoded audio and/or video information is sent over standard telephone, cable or satellite broadcast channels

      (telegraph was standard way back when)

      to a receiver

      (the guy at the other end of the telegraph)

      specified by a subscriber of the service, preferably in less than real time, for later playback and optional recording on standard audio and/or video tape.

      (or, if those things haven't been invented yet, paper).

    • it is pretty slimy to hold a patent for 12 years and just now start to enforce it

      If a patent holder delays legal action against an infringer for several years, the doctrine of laches takes away the right of the patent holder to receive damages for infringements that occurred before the patent holder filed the lawsuit.

  • cell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:36PM (#5243626) Homepage
    Digital cellular and PCS are covered by this patent as well. Wonder when Acacia will get to suing them -- and whether they'll be able to dig up examples of prior art.

    Speaking of which, the telcos have been using digital compression for a very long time on their trunk lines; while it wasn't an algorithmic compression method, it did result in less total throughput needed. Would this be considered prior art?
    • GSM/PCS is patented (both use similar tecnology and identical codecs) and owned by a consortium. Deployed systems have been around since the early nineties, which would put the prior art in the backend of the eighties.
  • by LordYUK ( 552359 ) <> on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:38PM (#5243646)
    Like a link to the "the askers' pr0n site"?!? huh? huh??

    sheesh... =)
  • by serano ( 544693 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:38PM (#5243649)
    If someone successfully sues them in court, do they have to pay back what they already collected from other companies?
    • I dont think so.

      The other companies bought licenses to something they may never have needed to license. They had the option to refuse and deal with whatever consequences there could have been.

    • after I realized that it was crap? Regretfully not.

      I don't think that the court is deciding damages, but rather forcing the defendent to buy a license to manufacture the technology from the plaintiff or stop manufacturing it.
    • No, they keep it. The payees agreed to a contract that binds them to pay. Sucks to be you, if you were in that situation, right?
    • When you settle out of court, you create a contract. The contract will usually specify what happens if Acacia's patent is found to be invalid. Likewise, one of the ways Microsoft managed to get a bunch of states to settle out of court with them was by giving them something (I can't remember if it was just software licenses, or cash as well), and also agreeing to give them the same deal that the states which didn't settle got, if the courts imposed more severe reparations. So, the states were certain to get at least something, and if the other states managed to get something better, they'd get a piece of that, too.

      My guess is that in this case, Acacia doesn't expect to be able to take on the big boys, so all their out of court settlements probably force the companies to pay, whether or not the patent is later found invalid.

      P.S. IANAL

  • by MetalShard ( 633009 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:40PM (#5243673) Homepage
    It seem like a simple fix for patents would be:

    1. if you don't enforce the patent in the first year you lose it
    2. whatever the terms you make for anyone using a patent are the terms everyone gets
    3. you can never change the terms of use for a patent after they are established
    4. you get a fixed amount of time to submit a patent with no extensions
    5. have the patent office actually do a check for prior art before accepting the patent

    Those few changes would stop companies from broadsiding us with patents, but allow things that really deserve patent to continue to get them.
    • I don't necessarily disagree with you about reform but:

      1. define enforce? someone else has to violate your patent claim in order for you to maintain it?
      2. if patents exist, which I claim they shouldn't though they could be pragmatic if use correctly, the point is for the patent holder to have time to make money from it, a limited monopoly, if they choose to ally with certain companies so be it
      3. see above
      4. not sure what you're getting at here, I'm assuming duration extensions, which I agree with, but what is a fixed amount of time to submit?
      5. they are supposed to be doing this, which is why it cost so much to get something patented

      The whole thing pretty much stinks as is though.

      • On #1 I think he wants it to be like trademark law.

        If you don't enforce it, you lose it. Meaning with patents you can't just sit on a patent until your tech becomes really popular, then start strong arming like the Mafia for money.
        • Exactly, and the filing is the same way which is why you should only have a fixed amount of time to file it. Some companies file for a patent and then keep filing for extentions for a very long time. Then wham finish the patent and start suing.
  • by hbean ( 144582 )
    Someone should build a time machine, go back, get a patient on making crappy broken operating systems, come back and sue mircosoft!
    • What happens when someone takes your time machine back in time to invent a time machine before you did, patents it, comes back and sues you for infringement?? Huh? What then?

      Moral of the story: If you don't want to be sued, don't invent a time machine.
    • Actually, it'd be cool to go back in time and patent a method for screwing
      people & companies by abusing the patent system. Then you could sue these guys for patent infringement :)
  • ... companies will suffer. I don't think that they have the resources (reads $money$) to challenge an AOL or Microsoft. Wasn't there a similar claim about a patent for hyperlinks?? Does anyone know if the Patent Office is even looking into this??? Sounds like a lot of patents went through that are commonplace technologies on the web. Kinda like having a patent for an 'common building entry way' and suing everyone who has a door. Where were they three years ago during the dot-com age? Wouldn't they have made more money then collecting patent fees?
  • If they succeed this can be a real eye-opener for the politicians. Patents on software is not an overall good idea for business.
  • If every company lost say, a million $ worth of patents, but in doing so gained access to billions of $ worth of patents - then that would be a net gain for everyone, wouldn't it?

    Contrary to popular belief, I don't think patents are good for society. Necissity is the mother of all invention, not a patnet. It simply amazes me how stubbornly people refuse to consider that these crazy things are simply the philosophy of patnets being brought to their logical conclusion.

    • "If every company lost say, a million $ worth of patents, but in doing so gained access to billions of $ worth of patents - then that would be a net gain for everyone, wouldn't it?"

      In the short term, yes. In the long term, you've removed a lot of incentive for companies to spend money on research and development. They'd primarily be interested in improvements in manufacturing techniques (which can be kept as internal secrets) rather than improvements in product functionality (which can be copied from a competitor).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Acacia Research Corporation
    500 Newport Center Drive, 7th Floor
    Newport Beach, California 92660
    Phone: (949) 480-8300
    Fax: (949) 480-8301

    I would argue in favour of mass sending of to every communication channel we have with them.

    After all, that is a compressed digital transmission! (JPEG - no I didn't check, i just guessed!)
    • In this case, our protest will do no good. They have three areas for business: taxing data transmission based on these ridiculously broad patents, selling V-chips (what are you going to do, boycott televisions? Thanks to the federal government, they have a mandatory market for these products), and biochip technology. Good luck, kid, send them an email that says you won't be buying into that whole biochip thing.

      I hate to be the one to say it but we're just little gnats in this scale of business. Write to your representatives about reforming patent law, if you want to waste your time. Or if you vote, spend a minute asking yourself why you keep voting for candidates who are funded by corporations. Oh yeah, because if you didn't vote for a lizard the wrong lizard might come to power.

  • Patent ? (Score:4, Funny)

    by KoolDude ( 614134 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:48PM (#5243771)

    Thank god nobody patented what is shown in the pr0n videos. ;)

    Oh wait, where's the Patent Office btw ?
    • Sorry, but I don't think it would be too hard for someone to establish prior art on pretty much anything you might think of to patent in that area.
  • How did they deal with their Acacia demand?
  • Ranting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dragon213 ( 604374 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @03:54PM (#5243843)
    Here's a brilliant idea for the government to chew on: Rescend all patents on electronics-based technology!
    That way, we wouldn't have companies coming up with a Good Thing, patenting(sp?) it, then waiting until someone else starts making money off of it, then sueing them for all that they've gained!
    I don't think I'm alone in saying that the way the US Patent Code works is extremely frelled up, and needs some MAJOR revisions NOW. I'm tired off all the sue-happy people and companies in US, but I guess that's the way a capitalistic democratic republic is supposed to work. I figure if we get rid of most of the big, monopolistic companies, and give more of the marketshare to the smaller, more diverse companies, maybe then we could start truly competing with Japan, Korea, et al. in the electronics marketplace.
    And, as an added bonus, maybe then the politicians in the government will start to work for the betterment of the people, rather than whichever mega-corp hands them the most money that month.
    Not trying to say that America is a bad country, because I'd rather live here than anywhere else, and the ideals of America are great. It's the people running the country that are corrupt and amoral. Get someone in the Presidentcy that truly doesn't care about money, and I'm pretty sure that we'd all see MAJOR changes in the way the government handles big corporations, and possibly giving fair taxation to everyone (you know....if you make more money, you pay more taxes, if you make ALOT more money, you pay less taxes?!?!? What the frell is up with that?????)
  • by Chocolate Teapot ( 639869 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @04:00PM (#5243908) Journal
    Technically, a digital camera uses compressed digital media transmission technologies to upload photos to your PC. Does this patent also cover this? How about FireWire interfaces on digital camcorders?
    • Exactly, they've apparently patented a concept that is blatantly obvious. This patent would NEVER have been granted if somebody with even a cursory knowledge of computers or even telephony had reviewed it. According to this patent, your digital cell phone even encroaches.
  • by MarkRH ( 629597 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @04:00PM (#5243910) Homepage
    We wrote one of the earliest stories on Acacia Research here [], complete with detailed royalty information, interviews with Acacia representatives, and exactly how the online porn industry planned to fight back. We also covered the Virgin Radio license agreement in this story [].

    Personally, I feel that there are a wealth of smaller companies that Acacia will be able to sue or otherwise persuade to license their technology. Virgin was also a significant win.

  • Precedent (Score:2, Insightful)

    by IanBevan ( 213109 )
    One wonders if they might try going after one of the big boys soon.

    I would doubt they'll do that until one of the 'small boys' has taken them to court and a precedent has been set.

    1. Get patent

    2. do { threaten small_sites; } until (court_case_won and legal_precedent_set);

    3. Profit from big boys!

  • by molarmass192 ( 608071 ) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @04:10PM (#5243998) Homepage Journal
    Compressed audio and video transmission patented? In 1991 at that? Come on, that's like me patenting that you can wear shoes and socks at the same time. Digitally compressed video and audio existed LONG before these jokers. I mean CDs used PCM back in the mid-80s, and as for video, look here [] and here [] and about 20,000 more references on Google. This patenting of ideas that are just naive bundles of existing concepts just blows me away ... STOP THE INSANITY!
    • This patenting of ideas that are just naive bundles of existing concepts just blows me away ... STOP THE INSANITY!

      Excuse me, but I patented Insanity Stopping several years ago. If you'd like, I can provide you with some licensing agreement documents for your review...

    • Only problem with using CD's as prior art is it isn't. The PCM (Pulse-Code Modulated) audio used on CD's is NOT compressed. It is uncompressed, stereo, 16bit, 44,100 samples per second audio. When's this patent date to again? I think there was some compressed digital audio and video transmission long before that on satellite (think C and Ku band) in fact, I KNOW there was ANALOG (yes, there is such a thing as analog compression) compression of audio and video as early as the 80's. For the ultra simple compression, there was a Hotel PPV service that transmitted their signal over satellite on one transponder. Except they had 4 channels. How did they do it? They divided the screen into 4 quarters. Each quarter held one video signal. They then used a different subcarrier for each program's audio.
      • Yep, my bad, it's not compressed, DPCM is it's compressed variant and it's not on CDs. Regardless, I found yet another reference predating the patent that basically proves it's subject to prior art here []:

        "With compression being top of mind for many operators in 1989, General Instrument broke through the digital barrier and compressed digital video into 6 MHz of spectrum. This breakthrough raised the industry's hopes of one day seeing digital pictures, while increasing channel capacity to hundreds of channels."
      • Someone else already mentioned GSM/PCS. The technology was actually *deployed* in the early nineties so it should have been patented a long time before. The telcos have compressed the inter-branch digital traffic for even longer. Nothing fancy, but it was compression and I think that came out of Bell Labs.
    • Looks to me that they patented sending compressed files. I am fairly sure that BBS's existed then. Some even did it with 'unique file encoding' you have to type number 5 to get file 5. Oh and its a zip file. Hmm looks compressed. Guess all those BBS's back then and Compuserv was violating some patents.
  • Why didn't *I* think of filing for stupidly broad patents when I was in high-school? I could have then sat on my ASS and sued people to become rich. I could live off the hard work of others and contribute NOTHING back.

    The sorrow of missed opportunities....

    Maybe I can still file a patent on a method of organizing pending work so that it can be done in the most time-efficient manner possible (procrastination)!

    Thank you USPTO! Thank you for validating the laziness of American Citizens. Proving once again that it's better to let others do the work, as long as you can take the credit.
  • One wonders if they might try going after one of the big boys soon

    Nope, I'm willing to bet their business strategy is to harass little people as long as they can, fattening up their checkbooks, and then selling out for a nice huge pile 'o cash to the the 'big boys'

    Think about it, they make a lot of money setting precedents....then sell out to the 'big boy' who will pay them the most for the patent and process.
  • I was just wondering what bespoke technology the FBI, CIA and other government organisations use to pass information around. How about the police? The armed forces? NASA?

    It only seems fair to me that Acacia should try to enforce their patent on those guys.

  • Where is the prior art on this ... When was the first digital transmission of video. I know my company has not been in the digital boardcast before July 1992 (their first patent)
  • I keep seeing this "feed on the little guys to build a warchest and tackle the big boys later" discussion whenever IP topics come up -- about once every ten minutes, it seems). This, combined with the customary huge delay between patent issue and onset of enforcement makes me wonder about the legality of such selective enforcement in general.

    I'm not one to propose an overhaul to our legal code, but this seems to be symptomatic of a system where "might makes right" (or wrong, as the case may be).

    I can't fault the IP owner for seeing the little guy as easy pickin's or the big deep pockets player as someone to fear. One can't fight back, and the other can hold you off until your legal council resigns due to lack of funds.
  • First of all, patents usually cover implementations, not ideas. You cannot patent a lightbulb, you have to patent an implementation of a lightbulb. Just because you have a patent on an implementation of a widget doesn't mean that someone else can't come up with a NEW implementation of that widget and get a patent on their NEW implementation.

    "DMT" is an implementation. No one uses "DMT" for their digital media compression. They use any one of a handful of other technologies that probably all have patents, too.

    Second of all, you can't sue the people using the content delivery systems. You have to sue the people who made the content delivery systems (ie. Real, Microsoft, etc.). This would be like suing all the people who bought Vanilla Ice CD's because Vanilla Ice violated copyright laws by sampling someone else's music without getting permission or giving credit.

    This is a non-issue. The only reason people are coughing up money is because it's probably such a laughably small licensing fee that it is cheaper than paying lawyers to go to trial over this.

  • The way patents work is:
    1. the USTPO looks at the patent application
    2. does a cursory search for prior patents (not prior art)
    3. if no prior patents show up, it issues the patent
    Nowhere in this process is that "value" of the patent weighed. Nowhere is the "validity" of the patent weighes. It's just too much for the patent office to handle. The onus is on the public at large to overthrow crappy patents, not the USTPO. Just because you have a patent on something doesn't mean that patent is worth a damn.
  • 1) Images are media.
    2) GIF patent expires when? 2003? 4?
    3) GIF probably predates it and is more specific, and so no broad patent could be valid.

    And yes, Morse was designed to compress because of the inefficiency of the telegraph.

  • the company i worked for at the time got these letters back in june or july... we laughed at them then and will laugh at them now. there is so much prior technology that it's laughable that they think they can enforce this. don't give in - just perpetuates patent fraud as a business model
  • "AMSAT/TAPR are funding a digital signal processing project which I co-chair with Tom Clark W3IWI whose purpose is to bring the tools of DSP to bear on amateur signalling problems. We are working on all the tools necessary to bring a mini ISDN into being. Software that currently works on the devices we are working on (TMS320 family) provides ADPCM and LPC encoding of voice at 9600 bps rates and W5SXD is working on some TMS340 video compression schemes."

    What more do you want, it uses DSP, networking, and video compression.

    It took me all of _10 seconds_ to dig this up from a 1987 usenet post [].
  • It seems to me that someone shouldn't be able to patent something as broad as "compress data before transmitting to save bandwidth". That's just common sense. It's not like they actually invented the concept of compression on the fly. The whole thing is somewhat subjective. Why can't I just patent "a thing that improves something", and sue everyone. Someone has to set up better guidelines about what is actually patentable.
  • This is a patent on a system. It should be considered as a whole. Is this a patent on audio/video compression? No. Is this a patent on transmitting audio/video over a phone line? No. Is this a patent on receiving audio/video over a phone line? No. This is a patent that puts those components, and others, together forming a system. Web radio utilizes some of those same components, but not all. I am a webcaster and run a successful web radio business. I provide a system that transmits compressed audio over the internet. I do not provide a receiver, other businesses sell the components for reception. The user can not choose what content they receive, that level of interactivity is prohibited under the terms of my license with the copyright holders. Selecting content is a component of this patent. The audio can not be stored for later playback at a time of the recipients choosing, at least not without somehow circumventing the technologies I use. Storage for later playback, time shifting, is a component of this patent. As a webcaster, I'm interested in this issue. I'm also reasonably well informed. I haven't received a letter from Acacia... yet. We're ready for it though. Cheers.
  • I will admit to knowing little about patent law, but it seems like besides disallowing overly broad patents and blocking people from patenting things that are obvious there are two rules that could help things:

    • Require patent holders to demonstrate they have proceeded in good faith to develop and market the idea. If they haven't it should be void.
    • Make a time limit after which, if they have not defended their patent, it becomes void. Meaning they can't wait until a technology is in standard use to suddenly start enforcing their claims.

    Both these ideas have their problems. For one, it might be difficult for small entities to do the required litigation to defend patents this way. But it seems like this would be the direction to go. I would guess provisions similar to these already exist (especially the second), are they just not enforced?

  • I thought this was a story about some bizarre genetic engineering experiment.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley