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Profiting From A Vague Patent HOWTO 309

tunabomber writes "IEEE Spectrum has an in-depth article about the rise of Acacia Research Corporation and its plan for enforcing its patent on 'Digital Media Technology' (which seems to lay claim to any technology that transmits audio or video digitally for entertainment purposes). You may recall that there was a story on Slashdot over a year ago about Acacia's threats and subsequent lawsuits against some small adult entertainment companies regarding their violation of the patent. There was also an Ask Slashdot posted a while back by the owner of one of these companies who had received a letter from Acacia Research demanding that they pay licensing fees. Both Slashdot stories asked how long it would be until Acacia went after the big media companies. Well, they finally did last week. It appears that Acacia just had to get enough companies (Disney and Virgin Radio, among others) to pay licensing fees before they could afford a legal adventure against the big guys. DirectTV, Comcast, Echostar, and Charter Communications are some of the defendents. Let the fireworks begin!"
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Profiting From A Vague Patent HOWTO

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  • Profit! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mz6 ( 741941 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:30AM (#9527044) Journal
    Profiting From A Vague Patent HOWTO -- from the step-2:-patents dept.

    Some HOWTO this was... I have the 2nd step, but I thought this would answer that elusive 3rd step, but it was no help at all.

    1. Obtain vague patent
    2. Enforce vague patent
    3. ???
    4. Profit!!!

    • Re:Profit! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thedillybar ( 677116 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:37AM (#9527123)
      >1. Obtain vague patent
      >2. Enforce vague patent
      >3. ???
      >4. Profit!!!

      After all the articles we've read, there is clearly 1 superior way to profit. Everytime I've seen someone make one of these, this one applies. Same method. Everytime.

      1. Become a lawyer
      2. Profit

      Talk about being in high demand? There will ALWAYS be some rich asshole who wants to sue another rich asshole.
    • You have to wonder if there is a politician in the world that has a functioning brain cell. Why in the world would the EC even consider following the broken disaster that is the US patent process?

      I'm also expecting a push from the US to "simplify" world patents a few years after that by "consolidating" the patent databases. Of course then they can claim that the whole world is subject to this insanity, and try to extort revenue from global industry.

      It's not surprising the EC politicians don't see tha

  • by XCorvis ( 517027 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:31AM (#9527065)
    Someone should patent the method for profiting from vague patents... then sue everyone profiting from vague patents.
    • That's brilliant! I'm sorry I just finished my mod points for the day...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Thats much too specific to work.. Needs to be more vague, otherwise the USPTO wont give out the patent.
    • "I tried to patent patent barratry, but there was prior art."

      Apologies to whomever's sig I have just trampled on...

    • I'm going to patent making jokes about patenting patenting; and while my patent on patenting patenting is pending, you'd best make the most of them, because patenting patenting jokes are getting patently unfunny and I (and my patent) shall soon be putting a stop to them.

      So there!
  • by mirko ( 198274 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:32AM (#9527077) Journal
    Are there really some companies dedicated to entertaining dwarves ???
  • *Grabs popcorn* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Walkiry ( 698192 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:33AM (#9527086) Homepage
    In the age of digital cluelessness in the patent office, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. It's hard to even tell if it's a win/win situation, because if they really go all-out on something as general as "patent of a device that broadcast digital entertainment" (paraphrased), the amount of heads that will roll in the process will make the french revolution look like a cakewalk in comparison.

    Meanwhile, the sharks are rubbing their collective fins at the prospect, and ironing their armani suits no doubt.
    • by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <[yoda] [at] []> on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:57AM (#9527323) Homepage Journal
      A lawyer, as sailor, and a priest are trapped on a lifeboat. The sailor looks over the side, and say "These be shark infested waters." The priest look to heaven and asked "Help save us lord!"

      They lawyer simple whistled. Several dorsal fins stopped circuling and headed right for the boat. They stopped in a ring as the lawyer talked to them in hushed tones. The sharks skattered underwater before the boat was suddenly lifted up, and surged forward.

      The sailor gazed over the side, shocked. The sharks were carrying the boat on their backs. After a few minutes travel, they spotted land ahead. The priest said "Saint's be praised."

      The boat slid onto the beach, and the three men stepped out. As they did another school of sharks appeared, and began depositing fish on the shoreline, before swimming away.

      The priest said, "God has answered our prayers."

      The lawyer turned and said, "Nah, this is just professional curtesy."

    • Classic story of evil turning on itself. For reference, read just about any fantasy book ever. The evil will be weak for a while and then come back again, just worry about the ricochets and stray bullets.
  • Prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by csoto ( 220540 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:33AM (#9527087)
    There are an umber of "ASCII art" utilities out there that "streamed" images to teletypes and terminals way back when. Some pretty racy images at times, too ;)

    • by Rick.C ( 626083 )
      Some pretty racy images at times, too ;)

      Yeah, that picture of Snoopy had all the women in the data center giggling.

    • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:43AM (#9527196) Journal
      Were they compressed, stored, transmitted and then decompressed? And were they audioand/or video files? Looks like this is what's needed.

      So you need to see if the first ever digtially transmitted compressed audio or video file predates this patent.

      I suspect it does. There must have been countless zipped audio samples on bulletin boards by 1992.
      • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

        by missing000 ( 602285 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:55AM (#9527296)
        Not only that, but modems in that age almost universally compressed content on both sides of the pipe.

        That would appear to make my online chess playing qualify as prior art.
      • Re:Prior art (Score:2, Informative)

        by rembem ( 621820 )

        Were they compressed, stored, transmitted and then decompressed? And were they audioand/or video files? Looks like this is what's needed.

        Compression: Glyps are compressed using ascii codes

        Decompressed: Ascii-byte-codes decompress to glyps.

        Video/Audio: Some ascii-art has animation and beeps.

      • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

        by ronaldb64 ( 633924 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:14AM (#9527487) Journal
        Were they compressed, stored, transmitted and then decompressed? And were they audioand/or video files? Looks like this is what's needed.

        So you need to see if the first ever digtially transmitted compressed audio or video file predates this patent.

        I suspect it does. There must have been countless zipped audio samples on bulletin boards by 1992.

        There sure was. Remember the Commodore 64? There were tons of "demo's" out for them, doing stuff with a C64 it was never intented for (try and get that picture out of your head). Most of them sported soundtracks, and definately had something aking to video.

        Unless my memory is failing me, that was in the mid-80's. And one of the main distribution media for those files were BBS's... Can Mr. Rogers say 'prior art'?

      • Yes, they were. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rufus88 ( 748752 )
        Were they compressed, stored, transmitted and then decompressed?

        Yes. The final human-readable form of the characters was a 6x9 array of dots (bits) that formed a glyph on the paper. Those 54 bits were compressed into an 8-bit byte for transmission by recognizing that most combinations of those 54 bits did not result in recognizable English letters, arabic numerals, or punctuation marks.
    • by nkh ( 750837 )
      During a (boring) college C++ course, a friend of mine tried the following combination: 'ssh -C' and 'mplayer -vo sdl:aalib' to watch an episode of Naruto...
    • From the patent text: "wherein the transceiver means receives the information via any one of telephone, ISDN, broadband ISDN, satellite, common carrier, computer channels, cable television systems, metropolitan area networks, and microwave."

      They gave a list of 9 instances of prior art, right in the patent! Any time you stream media, this patent covers it. So, for instance, the telephone (invented 1876), the television (patented 1948), and "computer channels" (Z3 built in 1941) all operate primarily (exc

  • Patent enforcement (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Roryking ( 646378 ) <> on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:34AM (#9527101) Journal
    Is it just me or do these issues only seem to happen when some no-name corporation "remembers" that they somehow invented a wide-sweeping technology? It seems that when legitmate corporations enforce patent/copyright for things they actually invented from the get-go, nobody questions it. Is it human spirit to "take what you can get when they're not looking" or are these bozos just out to make a cheap buck?
    • It is called a "submarine patent" I believe. Corporations patent something, keep quiet until they would recieve maximum fees back from infringing companies (i.e. when the technology has become popular), and then start enforcing it. Someone on /. a while back suggested a scheme that unless patent-holding companies enforced their patent from the outset, they could not enforce it later on, or some similar idea.
    • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @12:25PM (#9529059)
      Is it just me or do these issues only seem to happen when some no-name corporation "remembers" that they somehow invented a wide-sweeping technology?

      Yeah, that seems about right. Patents are simply broken. Their intention was to promote innovation, yet I cannot think of an example recently (past 50-75 years) where innovation happens as a result of patenting something. If anything, it actually hinders innovation.

      The infamous laser patent went on for almost 20 years. I don't know of the benefits Gould got by winning the patent, but lasers have become ubiquitous. Look at how many things we use every day that have lasers in them. Bar code scanners, CD players/burners, fiber optics, laser pointers, etc etc. How much innovation would have come from lasers if there were some large tax on the technology?

      Also, it seems as though the stupid patents are also the most profitable. Like the "one click" thingy, or Symbol's patent on a "bar code reader with a trigger". Yes, the next time you are at a store and you see a barcode reader with a trigger, odds are its a Symbol product. If not, the "technology" is licensed from Symbol. I used to work with hand held barcode scanners, and I've only used one that was not a Symbol. I don't see too much innovation in the "one click" or "triggered barcode scanners".

      Another problem with patents, is that they do nothing to the "little guy" who patents something. First, the little guy probably has no means to mass produce the patented item, so what the hell is he innovating? Thinking of something and doing something are two different things. Also, if the little guy has a patent on something, it is up to them to defend it. This costs big bucks and takes considerable amount of time, two things a little guy does not have to spare. I laugh at those comercials where the people say "If I had a patent I'd be rich!" I doubt it. Most "self made" rich people are those that start their own business, bust their ass, and make it work (independant of patents).
  • by StressGuy ( 472374 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:35AM (#9527112)
    The audio/video feeds of SCO's copyright infringement lawsuits to be highly entertaining. ;)

  • by PornMaster ( 749461 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:36AM (#9527113) Homepage
    I think that the reason they went after the online porn industry was to establish legal precedent.

    After all, in court, isn't it simple enough to find bias against people who "harm society" to make judgements not based on the rule of law?

  • Big guys? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JimDabell ( 42870 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:37AM (#9527132) Homepage

    It appears that Acacia just had to get enough companies (Disney and Virgin Radio, among others) to pay licensing fees before they could afford a legal adventure against the big guys.

    Since when are Disney and Virgin not considered big companies?

    • Re:Big guys? (Score:3, Interesting)

      What I want to know is, were Disney and Virgin settling or fund raising. You have to think, if you are an old school analog signal selling corp, someone suddenly putting the Kabosh on all this cheap digital media would be something worth leasing one's soul for.

      All the sudden your properties are more valuable. You can sell them without the license feels.

    • It doesn't say they aren't, it says they used licensing fees from them in order to sue the (other) big guys.
      • See what happens, big companies realize that it will cost them more with legal fee's then it will to settle. So they settle. Then the sueing companies make a ton of money and then go after more people. Total BS!!! That is why I think that in B2B court systems, they should run it UK style - if you sue someone and you lose you have to compensate those that you sued for legal fees.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:38AM (#9527139)
    Say this company files suit against Comcast, et al, and other big media behemouths. Comast et al will argue in court against the validity of the patent being awarded. Assume they're successful, and the patent gets tossed. What recourse does this company's previous licensors have? Are they capable of reclaiming their money?
  • by beef3k ( 551086 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:38AM (#9527146)
    1. Patent "digitally transferring text for any purpose at all".

    2. Have wet dreams about email royalties from Yahoo, Hotmail, *starts slobbering*

    3. ????

    4. Drive the spammers out of business

    5. Profit!

    Yeah, breaks with the "Slashdot-profit-haiku" rules, but who cares.
    • Yeah, breaks with the "Slashdot-profit-haiku" rules, but who cares.

      Maybe you should patent it?

    • Hey, it might actually work if you give it a creative name and description, such as "transferring, via a series of binary codes, hyroglyphically(sp?) represented character sets for the purpose of information propagation". Slip that one past the examiners and you have just patented everything having to do with computers, and the world is yours. Either that or the resulting outrage causes a complete overthrow of the patent system.
  • by foidulus ( 743482 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:41AM (#9527162)
    is an effective deterrent against bogus patents. IE you have to pay the patent office a lofty fine if your patent gets overturned in court. However, I can't think of a system that would:
    a) get through the special interest dominated congress and
    b: Be effective at making huge companies afraid of the fine while at the same time not intimidating legitimate companies from applying for legitmate patents.
    Scylla and Charybdis...
    And yes, I do think there are legitimate software patents, for example if this company had developed it's own compression algorithm, and unique, and very specific, distribution method, then they probably deserve a patent for it, but if they just say they invented distributing entertainment digitally, then there is no basis for the patent and they should be punished accordingly.
    • by Rick.C ( 626083 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:56AM (#9527306)
      you have to pay the patent office a lofty fine if your patent gets overturned in court.

      A more effective deterrent to bogus patents would be for the USPTO to have to pay any damages and legal costs awarded by the courts for overturned patents.

      As it stands, the USPTO has everything to gain and nothing to lose by rubber stamping everything it receives. If they had "some skin in the game" they would likely be more dilligent in their research.
    • by octal666 ( 668007 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:58AM (#9527331)
      And yes, I do think there are legitimate software patents, for example if this company had developed it's own compression algorithm, and unique, and very specific, distribution method, then they probably deserve a patent for it, but if they just say they invented distributing entertainment digitally, then there is no basis for the patent and they should be punished accordingly.

      I fear to say I agree with you, to a point, al least. I think a specific technology, software or not involved, should be patentable, the problem is not with patenting thechnologies, but when ideas are patented.

      For example, the mouse, if you patent the mouse, you are patenting one implementation of a device to interact with the computer in a graphical way. If you patent a way to push a button, it's not a technology, it's an idea. Same with an algorithm, the encryption idea should not be patentable, a given algorithm should.

      The patent for broadcasting digital entertainment is an idea, and seems to be like patenting the use of water for thirst relieving.

      With all that vague patents, why anyone has patented the operating system yet?
    • Simply send all patent applications to competing companies/scientists and allow them to draw up a list of prior art. Start from there. If the lists are all bogus, accept the application.
    • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:54AM (#9527952) Homepage
      I disagree. If anything needs to be changed in the cost structure of the patent system it is the fees required to question a patent.

      If we are going to have a patent system then we need a fee system that doesn't show preference to corporations with deep pockets, the little guy needs access as well.

      In reading the publications from the USPTO I discovered that while the fees required to submit a patent are rather low the fees required to question a patent are significantly higher, something like 4 to 10 times if I recall.

      It seems that the current system has incentive for people to file patents but not for people to question them.

      Now to tell you the truth I don't really believe that changing the fee structure is actually the solution. What I think needs to be changed is what can be patented and who can patent.

      An idea of how you COULD do something should not be patentable. It used to be that you had to bring a copy of what you intended to patent down to the patent office. Of course that is not a reasonable practice today, however, the idea behind this practice should still be enforced. The mouse trap itself should be patented, not the idea that you could build a device to catch a small mammal.

      And patents should only be given to individuals who are in business to produce the patented device, whether that be a real human individual or a company. If an individual wants to be in the business of generating patents or holding patents then they need to make their money off selling off their patents to someone who INTENDS to actually produce something. This idea of hording large numbers of patents with the hope that someday one of them will become a windfall should be outlawed for the same reason that extortion is considered a crime.

  • I own the patents for the following vague ideas:

    1) A method for translating program source code into a machine runnable format.

    2) A method for displaying a computer's file system (see earlier patent for details) based on the top of a typical desk.

    3) A number system based solely on the numbers 1 and 0.

    4) A method for having sex with a computer (you know it'll happen one day... and when it does... I'm rolling in the cash)

    Anyone have the number for a good (i.e. slimey) lawyer?

    • 1) A method for translating program source code into a machine runnable format.

      John Von Neumann owns that patent.

      2) A method for displaying a computer's file system (see earlier patent for details) based on the top of a typical desk.

      Apple owns that patent.

      3) A number system based solely on the numbers 1 and 0.

      Microsoft owns that patent. If the Onion didn't charge for archive access, I'd show you a link.

      4) A method for having sex with a computer (you know it'll happen one day... and when it

  • Can someone remind we - what makes a valid patent?

    I mean, is it enough just to have an idea? If that's the case, I have lots of ideas how, for instance, nanotechnology might be used, and I'm sure I could write up some fancy papers about it. And I'm sure one day, some of them might come to fruition. Could I patent those ideas?

    If I can then the patent system should be abolished, or at least completely revised. Guessing how people are going to use technology in the future and then patenting those ideas shoul
  • by ncurses ( 764489 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:42AM (#9527179)
    I did some googling, and they hold the same patent in Japan and Europe. It seems like Europe has a pretty good record of not approving silly patents.

    I can't find the actual text of the patent. I tried searching the patent search engine dealy linked to in the original article, but I couldn't find it. Could someone link to it?

    And the reason they call it a patent of a HOWTO is because I do not believe Acacia Research Corporation has actually implemented the streaming video stuff that they patented. I don't think it's as broad as it sounds, but it does sound a lot like patenting an idea.
    • Here are the patents in question (from an ExtremeTech article -- December 16, 2002 -- Porn Kings Aflame Over Multimedia Patents [])

      Acacia's licensing efforts are based on five patents, all of which cover basically the same thing: patents #5,253,275 [], #5,550,863 [] and #6,002,720 [] are "open continuations" of patent #5,132,992 [], an "Audio and Video Receiving and Transmission System," which was issued in July 1992. The fifth patent, #6,144, 702 [], is described as a "division" of the '992 patent and was approved in

    • It seems like Europe has a pretty good record of not approving silly patents.

      Where does it seem that way? That a common myth, but it's not true anymore since quite a while. In fact, the US, European and Japanse patent offices have made an agreement (the so-called trilateral) in which they try to use common criteria. They just use different wordings to fit it in their traditional practice (e.g., in Europe they denoted virtually everything under the Sun which you could want to patent as "technical", bec

  • ...will the companies that were sued and lost get their money back?
    • Well no. They couldn't have been sued and lost, because the validity of the patent would have been tested in court during their trial.

      No, the people who would lose are the ones who settle. Since they didn't fight it, they basically said "here is free money, stop annoying me." Most settlements don't include agreements about if this patent should "go away." Though frankly, I would want to make sure my lawyer worked like hell to get it in.

      Now I'm curious. Disney's lawyers are as infamous (or infamouse) as IBM's. What are they doing settling out of court for an iffy patent?

  • by giampy ( 592646 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:43AM (#9527195) Homepage
    The more mess is created the more people will realize how broken is the software patenting system ...

    I am almost hoping for a victory of Acacia in this, with the big players have to pay a lot o money and give Acacia even more strenght ...

    what side do you stand for and why ??
  • by starfire-1 ( 159960 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:44AM (#9527202)
    Personally, I feel that software patents should only be awarded if the source code is open. Not necessarily GPL'd, but open in that your competition may have a legitimate opportunity to view the design.

    Seventy five years ago, if you devised a new engine for a car, your competition could buy one, rip it apart and copy your ideas. So patents made sense. But in closed source software design, the products are black boxes that frequently can be describe only on more general terms. So we get these patent applications for abstract functions.

    IMHO, patents should only be awarded if a company is willing to open its source code to an extent. It can still be proprietary, but there must be the legitimate opportunity for someone else to be able to "look inside" to see how it works. If a company want to keep it's code closed, fine. But no patent.

    Just my two cents.
    • by Halo1 ( 136547 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:55AM (#9527301)
      That's also the European Parliament's opinion: if you mention the use of software in your patent claims, you have to provide a reference implementation of this software according to them. Of course, that's just another thing that the Council threw out again...
    • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:58AM (#9527333) Homepage Journal
      Patenting software is a bit like patenting unpublished novels. You get a patent for "well, the story goes sort of like this...", and get to sue anyone who has a story that is at all similar.

      As you say, the source code goes unreleased and unpublished, so all you've got to go on is the vague description of how the "story sort of goes" to compare an potentially infringing story to.

      Imagine if this was the standard for plaigarism (which is, admittedly, under copyright law, not patents, but that's mostly because you can't patent stories - if you could, believe me, plenty of people would). Madness.

      Surely patents are for the implementation - didn't you have to provide actual design blueprints etc. if you were patenting a new kind of engine? If you have to patent it on that levl - that is, patent a particular set of source files (where obvious derivatives etc. would still be liable), then software patents might almost work. Then again, you'd largely be duplicating existing copyright law, and what would be the point?

    • What makes it worse is that Acacia does not even have any code to show. They have basically replaced the "code" with technical drawings explaining a "process" or "idea".

      It would be different if they had a piece of software that was written and accomplishes the "idea", that pre-dates any other company's software that accomplishes the same "idea".

      I think a line needs to be drawn for software patents to be approved. Don't tell me how it should work, show me that it does work.

      I believe the patent office wa
    • Personally, I feel that software patents should only be awarded if the source code is open.

      I hear you, though in a fairly literal interpretation of the existing rules, this already is the case, sort of. Patents are (supposed to be) for a particular implementation of an invention. Part of the requirement of getting the patent (software or otherwise) is that it has to be described in sufficient detail that someone with "ordinary skill in the art" could recreate it.

      So if the patent office is following th
    • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:30AM (#9527691)
      When I was a kid in school, they explained patents to me this way:

      If you invent something really cool, you should have a shot at making money off of it.

      But--everybody else wants to use your really cool invention, too.

      In the interests of fairness to you and to everybody else, the patent was created.

      First, you have to tell everybody how to do what you did. You have to provide prints, drawings, an explanation of how it works, and demonstrate a working model of the invention.

      Then you get your chance to make money--for a while.

      After that, your invention becomes something that everyone else can build on and improve.--In fact, as soon as you submit the patent, everybody else can build on and improve your invention. They just can't actually use your invention until you get your chance to make your bucks.

      This provides some incentive for inventors to invent. And some incentive for inventors to share their inventions.

      This was only the explanation that was given to children. Maybe the real intent of patent law is to enable unscrupulous entities (corporate and individual) to keep the maximum amount of dollars and control for themselves.

      Don't we have an organization whose job it is to tell us what the writers of those laws intended?

      Are they on vacation? Or have they been bought?

  • Next thing you know, Al Gore's gonna be suing over his invention of the Internet
    • by The I Shing ( 700142 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:05AM (#9527400) Journal
      Al Gore's gonna be suing over his invention of the Internet

      This might be a bit off-topic, but my curiousity is piqued.

      Where exactly can I find a reliable source that quotes Al Gore as having said that he invented the internet?

      I mean, I read that, in 1999, he stated in an interview, "'During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the internet," by which he meant securing funding for it, but nowhere have I found, outside of message board posts, that Al Gore actually claimed to have invented the internet itself.

      I read that he told a House committee about the internet in 1989, remarking, "I genuinely believe that the creation of this nationwide network will create an environment where work stations are common in homes and even small businesses." Geez, what a crackpot!
  • What sucks, is that "Big Name" companies, like Playboy have already got suckered into licensing the "technology." The Defense Lawyers really need to start attacking these patent claims. It's really getting tiresome that everyone and their grandma is trying to patent THINGS THAT ALREADY EXIST and then sue other people. Sigh...
    • Re:Prove it. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Timesprout ( 579035 )
      What sucks, is that "Big Name" companies, like Playboy have already got suckered into licensing the "technology." The Defense Lawyers really need to start attacking these patent claims.

      And what you think the Playboy lawyers didn't already look at this and say fuck it, cheaper to license than take it to trial?
    • Nicely put, and I agree, but I prefer my way of saying it:


      Hustler must be able to afford it, can't they?
      Please??? ;-)

      All patents like this do is limit what everyone can do, and stop people making proper use, rather than help the maker.
    • Re:Prove it. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jkabbe ( 631234 )
      A lot of careful thought goes into deciding how much to request (or pay) in licensing fees. There is some magic number at which the potential licensee decides it is cheaper to pay the licensing fee than to risk going to trial. The patent holder is going to try very hard to accurately predict that number.
  • I'm not defending Acacia or the patent process by any stretch of the imagination. I worked for an online calendaring company, and somehow got my name on the patent for the ability to search metadata online. Which of course was silly. I and the developers pointed out that it was silly and revolted against the filing of the patent.

    The lawyers convinced us that filing the patent is the only way to prevent someone else from filing a patent, covering your technology, and then suing you, forcing you to PROVE to
    • And quite frankly every innovation we made to our online calendar showed up 3 months later in someone elses calendar. In fact we even found instances where people had literally cut and pasted our code, comments and all!

      Sorry to hear that, so sue them for copyright violation.
  • by dtio ( 134278 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:51AM (#9527269)
    Companies abuse the patent system by issuing patents on almost everythnig they can think of.

    Take for example IBM. They have patented everything related to object oriented operating systems [] under their Taligent/San Francisco project.

    They could sue Sun (J2EE) or Microsoft (.NET), and just anybody using things like Object-oriented window area display system, pat. no. 6,750,858, Object-oriented event notification system with listener registration of both interests and methods, pat. no. 6,424,354 or Distributed object networking service, pat. no. 6,223,217, just to name a few.

    Crazy. We have to figure out a better patent system which stills protect intelectual property but also protects us from this nonsense.

  • Typical strategy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:55AM (#9527302)
    If there are any lawyers out there, feel free to correct me, but I think the way you generally want to go in patent enforcement is to start by enforcing against small companies. Not so much to get money to sue the big boys, but because it's usually easier to win against the small ones. By winning, you establish a precedent for your patent's enforceability which makes a victory in a suit against the big boys more likely.

    I'm sure the money you make doesn't hurt, of course. I mean, the big boys are going to make you pay a lot more in legal fees (more paperwork for your lawyers, more back and forth motions prior to the case, etc).

    I agree with the other posters, though. We really need a better patent system because the current one is just getting abused.
    • Although IANAL, I don't see how these settlements against small companies would have any bearing on an actual case. An actual win in court would set legal precedence, but usually the early victories are out of court settlements, which seldom admit guilt. They typically say "I will pay you X amount of dollars to settle this claim". The company could use this to intimidate others into settling, but it is my understanding that such claims have no value in court since they do not pertain to actual case law or l
  • Are these big companies going to go after just this one small company?

    Or are they going to go after vague patents like this generally?

    Heres hoping that they go after the PTO as well and get these stupid vague patents gone for good (although there is about as much chance of that happening as there is of Osama Bin Laden walking into a US military base and turning himself in)
  • Suprised (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nrich239 ( 790194 )
    I'm suprised they were able to get a patent for something so vague. A friend of mine tried to patent an idea for a new product a couple of years ago and the paperwork and the whole process was a royal pain in the ass. To me this seems like another get rich quick, but let's make it look legal for the time being scheme. Why do I see this turning out so horribly for everyone who paid lecenses?
    • Re:Suprised (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stratjakt ( 596332 )
      The patent system is to provide a legal protection for inventions.

      The problem is, it's been allowed to evolve in such a way that the whole system is now really only accessible to lawyers, not inventors or engineers.

      If your friend was a lawyer - or had deep enough pockets to hire one - he'd have no problem getting a patent.
  • this is good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:09AM (#9527421) Homepage Journal
    Really, this is GOOD. Let the big companies keep getting hosed by the patent system. Let them see how patenting IP and having closed source propietary software will constantly hose the ability to "do your work" and just keep costing money and money and money and money and be a serious PITA to actually DO anything. Eventually, doing anything even remotely fun, interesting, or productive will be so expensive that the system will crash and burn under it's own bloat. Let it become unprofitable to use patents and restrictive copyrights. Let them keepdoing what they are doing. The lawyers and licensing fees alone will start to make companies just stop being involved with it, eventually it might even get through to some legislators noggins that the patent and copyright system is completely broken and has been broken for a long time. It won't end until joe user all the way to joe big company needs to have a lawyer on a tether with them all the time, and just have their paychecks direct deposited to the lawyers account, and the lawyers cut you a small chump change allowance.

    In other words, let it burn! I feel the same way about this as I do vulnerable windows machines. The quicker it gets to a ridiculous level of unusability level the quicker it can be fixed with a REAL fix which is a total replacement system, because sure as snot they won't fix it until then, just keep applying patches that just make it worse, because they refuse to address the core issue, which is intangible thoughts shouldn't be patented in the first place. It was an INSANE precedent to let the first intangible anything get patented.
    • Re:this is good! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kphrak ( 230261 )

      The problem with waiting for the situation to get absurd (IMHO, it already has) is that yes, maybe the big companies will come to their senses...but it might be after a world of hurt has fallen on small innovators such as open source developers. As you say:

      Eventually, doing anything even remotely fun, interesting, or productive will be so expensive that the system will crash and burn under it's own bloat.

      Just as Disney proved by appeasing these nitwits, it will be much easier (for a while) for large com

  • I can place a patent on a device that stabs people in the face over the internet!
  • In other news, SCO released training materials on "howTO sue, without having any true legal basis."
    You can license this seminar* for the low low cost of your soul.

    *Seminar's are patent pending by SCO.
  • Excuse my lack of understanding of the patent system, but I thought that in order to patent a process, you had to actually have a working system.

    In reviewing this patent, it doesn't appear they had much of a working system.
  • "Judge, we have never actually been able to stream ANYTHING to our clients. Just ask our customers!"
  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:15AM (#9527504)

    Turns out one of the key objectives of this patent:

    A still further object of the present invention is to provide a picture and sound transmission system wherein the selected audio/video material is sent over any one of several existing communication channels in a fraction of real time to any location chosen by the user that has a specified receiver.
    Seems to me that all current broadcasters I know of that are listed in the suit fail to meet this criteria of sending the signal in a fraction of real time, and hence, bye bye lawsuit. I wish they would, but I have to record only one show at a time, during the broadcast window, and cannot record anything else during that broadcast window, hence, I believe they fail to infringe upon this patent. of course, the obligatory: IANAL.

  • From the article, this sums up everything and this country's possible future business landscape:

    Certainly, a finding in Acacia's favor will herald the arrival of a new kind of player: a company that controls technology but doesn't create it; a firm that buys patents but that patents nothing. From its roots in venture capitalism, Acacia has morphed into something that has no real peer.

    We can only hope to elect officials and (indirectly) judges that frown on this practice.

    This reminds me of the excel
  • Making new friends (Score:2, Interesting)

    by samwhite_y ( 557562 ) *
    There is one interesting thing about these patent issues that I find ironic. I am now cheering for companies that I would normally scorn. First, it was Microsoft having the embedded object in browser page patent revoked, and now it is porn companies and the digital streaming(?) media patent. I have to admire the porn companies for their willingness to fight the patent. In this fight they are serving not just themselves, but the community at large.
  • Bad Patent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Valen0 ( 325388 ) <michael AT elvenstar DOT tv> on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:45AM (#9527848)
    One of the claims in their oldest patent, 5132992, is:

    "1. A transmission system for providing information to be transmitted to remote locations, the transmission system comprising:
    library means for storing items containing information; identification encoding means for retrieving the information in the items from the library means and for assigning a unique identification code to the retrieved information;
    conversion means, coupled to the identification encoding means, for placing the retrieved information into a predetermined format as formatted data;
    ordering means, coupled to the conversion means, for placing the formatted data into a sequence of addressable data blocks;
    compression means, coupled to the ordering means, for compressing the formatted and sequenced data blocks;
    compressed data storing means, coupled to the data compression means, for storing as files the compressed, sequenced data blocks received from the data compression means with the unique identification code assigned by the identification encoding means; and
    transmitter means, coupled to the compressed data storing means, for sending at least a portion of one of the files to one of the remote locations."

    From this description, it sounds like web, ftp and gopher servers fall under the patent. However, I would think that, since the method that is described was first published in 1971 in RFC 114 [], 21 years BEFORE the this patent was filed, this patent would be disqualified via the prior art argument.

    As for the other patents, you can find their IP list here [] and the USPTO patent search engine here []. Have fun.
  • by famazza ( 398147 ) <fabio,mazzarino&gmail,com> on Friday June 25, 2004 @10:58AM (#9528003) Homepage Journal

    Can you see how far did they come? The Country of Opportunities became The Country of Unopportunities. Nothing can be done without infringing a patent. It's not possible even to use a Double Click(tm) without using a patented idea.

    The patent law is becoming a drawback to the development of new technologies. Companies now have to worry about research and development, in order to avoid lawsuits in the near future, and to spend even more to make a new product avaiable.

    This is a major problem to US economy. It reduces the chances of small companies being sucessful, and big companies begins as small companies.

    The consequences are simple. New high-tech players will grow in other countries, like China, India and Brazil, while companies in US will remain the same. The market that could be developed inside US will be developed around the world.

    It's not such a bad thing for worldwide wealth distribuition, but also isn't a good thing for US economy.

  • by orbitor ( 166566 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @11:00AM (#9528033)
    how the American economy, fat off the progress and profit made over the previous 120 year span, became so selfish and greedy that it ate itself in the early periods of the 21st century. At which time, it labouriously rolled over, farted, then died.

    If you are reading this from any part of the world aside from the United States, you already know this history. Hell, you're living it. That's why you hate us. That's why you either shake your head in disbelief or merely point your finger and chuckle. You see the black muck that is the personification of the stereotypical American. From outside the bubble, man, that is one ugly sight.

    No one can argue that it is sickening how members of a rich society are able to chuck their conscience and morality out the window and shamelessly take advantage of a hampered and flawed system. All this without a hint of concern on how their actions may be affecting the lives of millions of unwitting countrymen. But, what is often overlooked is the long term detrement these actions have on the American economy.

    Based on this kind of crap, who in their right mind would ever consider basing a business, of any type or any size, in the United States anymore? Even the stallwarts of the ecomony are picking up and moving. Offshoring is a big a problem as most folks think it is, regardless of what the "industry insiders" have to say about it.

    If asshole "business executives" and their brigades of lawyers are further allowed to get away with this type of behaviour, who is going to be left? Folks in the service industries, that's it. And they'll be catering to people from other countries who stopped by for a visit to see all the carnage. And where do you think these idiots who are causing all the problems will be? Not here, that's for damn sure. They'll be at their beach house on some remote island far, far away from the garbage they left on the curb.

    This isn't about being conservative or liberal, black or white, rich or poor to us normal folks. This is about a few talentless nasty bottom feeders ruining the most powerful economy in modern history.

    Well, gee, thanks. Maybe I can have a slice of apple pie with the dung heap you're feeding us. That should make it all better.

  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @11:02AM (#9528058) Homepage
    So now I have to root for Comcast, DirecTV and Charter? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • How long? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @11:10AM (#9528164) Journal
    So, how long do you suppose it'll be before they go after RIAA and MPAA? Now, that's a fight I might enjoy seeing. :-) Maybe we'll see it on Pay Per View?!
  • by shaitand ( 626655 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @06:51PM (#9533204) Journal
    Acacia Research Corporation
    Rob Stewart, 949-480-8300
    Fax: 949-480-8301
  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark.a.craig@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Saturday June 26, 2004 @02:21AM (#9535443)
    Here's an idea whose time may have come: change patent law to prohibit original patent-holders from selling or even transferring their invention and patent; in other words, the value of the patent accrues ONLY to the original inventor. Isn't that what the creators of the patent system really intended in the first place? I haven't thought this through in too much depth yet, but at face value it seems to have the potential to prevent many of the worst abuses of the patent system. Wishful thinking or something more?

I've got a bad feeling about this.