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Troll Patents Lists In Databases, Sues Everyone 305

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "A Florida patent troll called Channel Intelligence is suing everyone from Lemonade to Remember the Milk for infringing on patent 6,917,941, which covers storing a wishlist in a database. Amazon and eBay are absent from the list of targets, even though they very likely store users' wishlists in a database. With any luck, perhaps one of the defendants will get to use that precedent PJ found the other day from In re Lintner, which said, '[c]laims which are broad enough to read on obvious subject matter are unpatentable even though they also read on non-obvious subject matter.'"
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Troll Patents Lists In Databases, Sues Everyone

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  • Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the4thdimension ( 1151939 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:03PM (#24294197) Homepage
    Wishlists are an obvious toy... used by everyone from little kids doing their Christmas list, to parents on their way to the grocery store. It only serves to follow that web based users wishing to track a list have it be stored on a database... considering there is no where else to reliably store it.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malefic ( 736824 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:06PM (#24294257)
    You'll notice they're not suing companies with lots of money who might fight back. I imagine the idea is that smaller companies will just pay up because it's cheaper than fighting it.
  • Patent Office (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clampolo ( 1159617 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:08PM (#24294283)

    I'm less worried about the patent troll than the fact that the Patent Office allowed this crap to get through. I think it is time for some people to get fired.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the4thdimension ( 1151939 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:09PM (#24294323) Homepage
    It's likely that one of them will have the money and legal prowess to fight the good fight. Not to mention, it seems like this would be a sure-fire win for anyone willing to fight it. Counter-sue for legal fees anyone?

    I almost forgot to mention. My company keeps lists of highly desired features on our future releases in a database... does that count? The vaguery of the whole thing lends itself to ridiculousness.
  • Re:Patent Office (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Falstius ( 963333 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:20PM (#24294489)

    The patent office gets paid for granting patents. Its cheaper for them to just grant the patent and let companies fight it out in the courts. Let it come out of someone else's budget.

  • What does "[c]laims which are broad enough to read on obvious subject matter are unpatentable even though they also read on nonobvious subject matter." mean? It almost makes sense, but the term "read on" appears to be legal jargon, because it breaks /brain/lib/ for me.

  • by mweather ( 1089505 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:26PM (#24294617)
    Didn't someone patent the business model of being a patent troll?
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:27PM (#24294627)
    First beat up a little guy just to test your case. Costs should be low.

    If you win then you go after the big guys.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TigerNut ( 718742 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:29PM (#24294655) Homepage Journal
    That's standard procedure straight from the Patent Troll Handbook. You build up your patent's credibility by getting a few helpless companies to roll over, and then you use that as ammunition when you go after the bigger fish.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Angry Mick ( 632931 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:29PM (#24294663) Homepage

    I imagine the idea is that smaller companies will just pay up because it's cheaper than fighting it.

    Either that, or they're shooting for a number of small victories to help buttress the arguments against a future giant with a load of small precedences.

    Unfortunately, they are apparently operating on the assumption that these smaller companies exist in a communication free environment, and that they wouldn't dare discuss the case with anyone else in the world. This shows a SCO level of ignorance that alone should be enough to get the entire board of Channel Intelligence fired.

    As the article notes, there's a ton of large companies like Amazon that use such wish lists, and it might be in their best interest to sign on to any litigation with an amicus brief in favor of stomping the shit out of Channel Intelligence on principle alone. At the very least, it would send a very strong signal to any other dumbasses contemplating similar moves.

  • by Nymz ( 905908 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:33PM (#24294723) Journal
    If storing data in a database is considered 'nonobvious' and patent worthy, then someone please tell me the 'obvious' method of storing data.
  • by locokamil ( 850008 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:35PM (#24294761) Homepage

    patent is quite complementary to their one click "invention."

    Fix'd your quoting

  • Re:Patent Office (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (gnauhc.mailliw)> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:36PM (#24294791) Homepage

    Haha! The average patent examiner would have voluntarily quit by the time you finished the paperwork necessary to fire him. The problem is that we underpay and overwork our examiners. Their supervisors yell at them for taking so long to grant patents. Examiners have a set number of hours to consider each patent application, and when that time is up, they get more applications dumped onto their plates regardless of how the original applications are doing. All the applicants know this, so their attorneys flood the examiner repeatedly until the examiner runs out of time. The incentive is to issue patents and get the applicant and his attorneys out of your hair.

    You get what you pay for, and we don't pay a lot to our Patent Office and their examiners. We don't treat them well, either. We ought to pay our examiners more so we get professional career patent examiners, and also hire more examiners so there isn't such a huge rush on them to finish.

    It's like my idea about paying more money to the IRS to increase enforcement of current tax laws: you get a lot of bang for the buck on investing on relatively unsexy things.

  • Re:Quoting PJ. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dlrowcidamon.> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:38PM (#24294819) Homepage
    The problem is that the patent troll gets to pick the court.

    No they don't.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by griffjon ( 14945 ) <GriffJon&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:41PM (#24294881) Homepage Journal

    I keep a list of things I want to buy from ThinkGeek in a personal wiki, which itself is stored in a database. am I infringing?

    Seriously; I see this as akin to a patent covering "The process of driving a nail into wood using a hammer"

  • Re:I got it! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:42PM (#24294895) Journal
    Yes, but I can understand that. I don't think it will be valid. It doesn't even contain the word "plurality". Nobody will take you seriously.

    Try "A method for the securement of profit and/or profits utilising a plurality of conceptualizations. The first component being said conceptualization, the second part being an idea and/or concept that may or may not be overly general. This is used in conjunction with a third part comprising of a first part of a legal claim and the second part of a plurality of third parties having utilised the as a third part.

    I believe someone may still be able to understand that but IANAPL.
  • Shoot them. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:48PM (#24295005) Homepage Journal

    There has evolved in our society a class of villains who would destroy the republic for love of profit. They are amoral and sociopathic, delighting in the money they steal from its citizens, allowed to thrive by our fatally broken legal system, and in the end relying on the armed strength of the government to confiscate their misgotten gains.

    I no longer see a reason why these subpeople should be allowed to walk freely among the citizens of our country. They are guilty of treason by criminal negligence, and have forfeited their right to be considered equals under the law by their utter contempt of the same.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eyrieowl ( 881195 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:06PM (#24295295)

    what's sad is that the system is so fscked up that i had to go check that patent number...because it's entirely plausible to me that our glorious patent office would actually pass through a patent like that....

  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WK2 ( 1072560 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:16PM (#24295451) Homepage

    If I were bezos' legal counsel, I might suggest funding the defense of one of these guys.

    There is plenty of room for multiple patent trolls. Bezos probably won't go after these guys do to professional courtesy. That's probably why Amazon is absent from the list too.

  • Re:Patent Office (Score:4, Insightful)

    by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (gnauhc.mailliw)> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:25PM (#24295573) Homepage

    The patent office paradigm has shifted in the manner you described. The PTO is now run on fees and actually provides money for the rest of the government. Everything you do at the patent office incurs a fee, and they think of the applicant as a customer and not an adverse party. So it used to be "if in doubt, deny" but now it's "if in doubt, grant." That's been horrible for our patent system.

    The problem is that applicants will always overreach. Even the inventor of a legitimate breakthrough will try to get more than he should be granted. So the focus has to be on changing the mindset back to issuing good patents, and also giving examiners the incentive and means to do so.

    It's not a simple problem. There are many factors that have to be solved, and the nation needs to have this discussion (when more pressing issues such as abortions, gun rings, evolution, stem cell research, and gay marriage are settled).

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:58PM (#24295983) Journal

    My computer doesn't store "1" or "0" - it's based on two voltages being stored in sequences of electrical components. Nope. No 1's or 0's here, no sirree.

  • by smack.addict ( 116174 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:08PM (#24296093)

    I am not sure how old the patent is, but any mud from the late 80's/early 90's would have had a feature that let users indicate things they would like to see and store it in a database.

    It's called a feature request database.

    I am sure there are other examples.

  • Patently Obvious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brainman Khan ( 1330847 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:39PM (#24296435)
    I believe what most people fail to consider is the people that work in the PTO are most likely wage slaves. I do not know the inner working of the patent office but if it works like any other government agency then this is a higly likely scenario. Low totem pole guy recomends it not be approved send up to middle manager, middle manager not wanting to make waves changes to approved (Last guy got reprimanded for disallowing to many patents and retired without promotion)upper management barely skims it and bang approved. The company's getting sued need to sue the patent office itself and name the signatures that signed this patent in the law suit (individuals bueracrats in agency become responsible vs large govt agency). Could also be fun class projects for law schools across the nation, Find stupid patent, Sue on potential clients behalf, injuction etc against the PTO. Most likely only way any changes will be made. Govt Agency's can take huge hits until individuals (Higher the better) start getting named and paychecks/promotion get hit.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oyningen ( 1189553 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:15PM (#24296825)
    It's always cheaper to be rich. This assumes that they can afford the half million and month in court now, which they might not, but are able to afford 100k a year.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WK2 ( 1072560 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:16PM (#24296845) Homepage

    The "one-click patent" is not value.

  • Re:Patent Office (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:29PM (#24296957)

    You should be able to sue (US) PTO for granting such patent. In the end, they are stealing the public domain knowledge from everybody (including YOU), making it proprietary and selling it to the private entity for the patent fee and granting a monopoly for it. Indirectly, they are stealing from every consumer by artificially limiting competition. PTO should pay HUGE damages if a patent is struck down by the court.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:07PM (#24297305)

    Not to mention that this assumes you'll only get hit with one patent troll.

    If I were a patent troll, I'd single out companies that have a track record of settling and paying up. Less costly and more effective.

    BTW, that is why no matter what you should fight a patent troll. If everyone did, they'd dry up and go away.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mag7 ( 69118 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:10PM (#24297323)

    It's likely that one of them will have the money and legal prowess to fight the good fight. Not to mention, it seems like this would be a sure-fire win for anyone willing to fight it. Counter-sue for legal fees anyone?

    People pull out that chestnut about counter-suing for legal fees, but you never really get the entire cost back.

    A relative had to defend against a spurious lawsuit and even after victory came out behind- financially, in lost time, stress, and lost opportunities to pursue other business because they were wasting time on this.

    Ultimately, only the very wealthy have the resources/financial stamina for a lawsuit. And ultimately the only people to really win in a lawsuit are the lawyers.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jvkjvk ( 102057 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:28PM (#24297981)

    I think that the strategy of large corps is to let the patent trolls sue their smaller competitors to oblivion or at least keep them at a competitive disadvantage through having to make royalty payments. Meanwhile, make it known very clearly that your company's legal team will put the troll out of business if they should try to sue.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Free_Meson ( 706323 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:10PM (#24298735)

    On the upside for the infringement defendants in this case, there is a joint infringement problem with the claims in the client/server architecture. Infringing this patent would effectively require two entities to take action - one on the client, and one on the server. This "joint" requirement precludes the possibility of any actual infringement, and is indicative of a poorly drafted claim. Combined with the likelihood that the patent will be invalidated as anticipated or obvious in view of all the prior art out there, it's highly unlikely an infringement judgment will ever go through. However, the defendants are likely to settle to avoid the cost of litigation - classic patent troll strategy.

    Claims 2-42 depend on claim 1 containing the phrases:

    establishing a management tool on a client computer system, remote from said server computer system, said management tool including said list identifier;

    establishing a communications link between said client computer system and said server computer system;

    Which may pose such a joint-infringement issue. I'm not sure that's necessarily the case, though at first glance there's a strong argument.

    The more troubling claims are a bit further in. Independent claim 46 (and claims 47-49 and 57 which depend on it) makes no reference to a client or to communicating over a network -- they describe only the database. Likewise independent claim 58 with its dependent claims (59 & 60) and independent claim 61 with its dependent claims (62 & 63) describe only the database. These claims without the client or communication link limitation present in claim 1 would not be vulnerable to a joint-infringement argument. They're preposterously broad at first glance. Claim 46 may read on any database ever implemented. You'd have to read through the specification to see how the inventor redefined the claim terms to know how broad some of these ridiculous-seeming claims really are.

  • Fraud..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IHC Navistar ( 967161 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:21PM (#24298803)

    The so-called "inventors" of this should be locked up for fraud, since they presented themselves as inventors of something that has existed for years, en masse. This is like trying to patent speadsheets 10 years after they began to be used widespread and claim, on a *legal* document, that you created them, and using you claim of having invented it years after they came into existence as a your basis for filing suit.

    This action clearly constitutes:

    1) Malicious prosecution,
    2) Reckless Litigation,
    3) Perjury,
    4) Fraud,
    5) Conspiracy to commit fraud.

    The shitwit patent clerks that approved this should be fired without pay, forced to pay attorney's fees for every defendent listed, and prohibited from ever holding a government job again.

    They should at least be liable for attorney's fees, since this was an exceptionally gross, very likely deliberate, misuse of authority and judgement.


    Primary Examiner: Greta Robinson
    Secondary Examiner: Cheryl Lewis .....sigh..... women.

    I wonder how many pairs of shoes they got in return for approval.....

  • by dsmall ( 933970 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:52PM (#24298983)

    Looks to me like Google's patent-lookup does exactly what this patent covers. The patent covers the basics of a database system.

    So, enter a patent number, the database pops it up, displays it. It's all there.

    Is this irony?

  • Re:Shoot them. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @04:56AM (#24300669) Homepage
    You know, it's funny, I've been reading a lot about 1930s Germany lately, and what you said describes the German view of Jews to a T. Including the 'seperate them from us' and 'they are no longer human' part. And here it is, modded to +5 Insightful on Slashdot.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Angry Mick ( 632931 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @11:04AM (#24304673) Homepage

    I do wonder, however, if Channel Intelligence is just a dummy corporation for one of the large corporations they aren't suing.

    You know we have reached the dark days when you realize that this could very well be the case.

The best defense against logic is ignorance.