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USPTO Declares Invalid Third of Three Critical Rambus Patents 113

slew writes "This is a followup to this earlier story about 2 of 3 of Rambus's 'critical' patents being invalidated. Apparently now it's a hat-trick." There's something that seems unsavory and wasteful about a business environment in which a company's stock value "fluctuates sharply on its successes and failures in patent litigation and licensing." The linked article offers a brief but decent summary of the way Rambus has profited over the years from these now-invalidated patents.
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USPTO Declares Invalid Third of Three Critical Rambus Patents

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  • What's wrong... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @08:13PM (#38846759)

    It's not that a company's price fluctuates with the state of its patent portfolio. The problem is that 3 patents, which should have never been issued in the first place, terrorized inventors and suppressed innovation for multiple years. This is squarely an indictment of the USPTO and of the Congress.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Friday January 27, 2012 @08:33PM (#38846905)

    Must we continually remind you that Rambus technology was never Rambus technology, but rather stolen technology? [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:ARM holdings? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:12PM (#38847459)

    I don't think anyone has ever made a particularly strong argument for eliminating hardware patents. The reason why people so very loathe Rambus was not the quality of their patents (although they did, as it turns out, happen to be invalid) -- it was that they went to the JEDEC standards meetings and encouraged the standards body to adopt their technology, without saying a word about it potentially infringing their patents, and then proceeded to sue everyone in the memory industry after the standard was set in stone and shipped on millions of motherboards.

    It was the troll behavior that got everyone up in arms: Nobody whatsoever minds if you come to them and offer a license for your validly patented hardware technology before they ship it in their products. If the amount you're asking is less than the value of the technology to their company, you have yourself a mutually-agreeable deal. The problem is when someone (like Rambus, but unlike ARM) waits until you've unknowingly committed to ship several million infringing units before jumping out from under a bridge and flinging lawsuits in every direction.

  • Re:Fraud (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:07PM (#38847677)

    That's a stupid idea. If you do that they'll never bother overturning a patent again as it just invites another lawsuit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2012 @03:09AM (#38848449)

    This quote is too good not to bring up when it comes to mentioning Intel and Rambus.

    October 2000

    Craig Barrett, Intel's president and CEO, tells the Financial Times: "We made a big bet on Rambus, and it did not work out ... In retrospect, it was a mistake to be dependent on a third party for a technology that gates your performance."

  • by Epimer ( 1337967 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @08:01AM (#38849181)

    First off, patents don't protect "products" per se. They protect inventive concepts, of which a given product is but one embodiment (usually). In any case, a patent can comfortably take 5 years from filing to grant, and if you want to decrease that you're going to have to accept a lower standard of examination. Secondly, most jurisdictions have a mechanism wherein the renewal fees on patents (because you have to keep paying every year to keep it in place) rise quite sharply for the latter half of the term of protection. The effect of this is that the average length of patent terms for the majority of cases is actually quite a bit less than the 20 years maximum possible term, because it becomes uneconomical for the proprietor to keep up the renewal fees when the patent's subject matter has ceased to be profitable for them. Also, 5 years might be plenty for technology products, but consider other fields; pharmaceutical products - for whom the "incentive to invent" justification for patents is perhaps strongest - will still be undergoing the regulatory approval process by the end of 5 years.

    The "obvious" test isn't really there because of competitors, it's to stop trivial inventions being patentable. Your solution would remove that barrier, and also ignores the fact that there are many possible reasons why a good, solid patent idea may not yet have been filed. With your system, you could end up with trivial patents being granted due to no-one else wanting to work in that field, or extremely solid patents being refused simply because there were multiple people pouring huge amounts of effort and inventiveness into the same field.

    Finally, your final criterion already exists. It's called "sufficiency of disclosure", and in most jurisdictions (patents being national rights and hence requirements varying from place to place), if the ordinary skilled person cannot work the invention described to the full extent of protection sought by the claims, then that is grounds for refusal or revocation of the patent.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith