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Texas Jury Strikes Down Man's Claim to Own the Interactive Web 151

ackthpt writes "Sir Tim Berners-Lee traveled to a courtroom in East Texas to give his testimony on how, if upheld, the Eolas Technologies & University of California patent on Web Interactivity could prove to be a major threat to the Internet as it's known today. The Jury deliberated only a few hours before invalidating the patent in question. In a victory Tweet Berners-Lee said, 'Texas jury agreed Eolas 906 patent invalid. Good thing too!' Google, Amazon, Apple, Adobe and a host of other companies, with representatives present, must have given a Texas-size sigh of relief."
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Texas Jury Strikes Down Man's Claim to Own the Interactive Web

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  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:54AM (#38994923) Homepage Journal

    maybe he thought that just showing it to world was enough to make it unpatentable.

    like it should.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:08AM (#38995061)

    The crooked judge (Ward) who ran the Eastern District of Texas recently retired:


    Ward steered cases towards the plaintiff since his son was the major plaintiff's lawyer in town. The new judges are less crooked and do not have their children practicing before the court.

  • by Necroman ( 61604 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:10AM (#38995099)

    From what I've heard (I recommend listening to NPR's investigation into IV [npr.org]), the district has become one of the best places for patent litigation as the judges are extremely familiar with the topic.

    East Texas started being used as it was one of the few federal districts not backed up with drug related cases. Since then, that courtroom has become one of the defacto places to handle patent lawsuits.

  • by flanders123 ( 871781 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:57AM (#38995605)
    Now Ward has resurfaced as a partner in his son's law firm. http://www.judicialhellholes.org/2012/01/25/retired-texas-judge-to-argue-patent-cases-in-his-old-court/ [judicialhellholes.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @12:38PM (#38996159)

    Only when those patents would meet the criteria for a reasonable patent of those countries. An excellent example of this would be the RIM vs NTP patent dispute. In Canada NTPs patent was determined to be non-valid by Canada's patent criteria, and thus never went to trial, however in the US they were found valid enough to proceed to trial.

    If the US goes out to there way to allow more breadth in patents, then more of them will be determined to be invalid by countries that have more restrictive patent processes. Now so long as the US represents somewhere in the realm of 25+% of the electronics buying power of the world this is a non-issue, you make sure your patent works in the US because the US represents 1/4 of your sales, but if this were to be tipped for some reason (more buying power in other countries, less buying power in the united states, getting a device through a US patent costs more then the revenue from its sale in the US, etc)- then the US having a far more restrictive patent standard then the rest of the world could simply cause it to not see new devices released there.

    Which is why the US is pushing so hard for the rest of the world to adopt its more restrictive patents: All the manufacturing is already taking place in other countries, if there is no US market due to patent encumbrance, why use US engineers/programmers to build the products, and why do any final construction/sale there.

  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @12:54PM (#38996347) Homepage Journal
    The reason East Texas is popular for patent litigation is because its the one place in the country where any lawyer from any state bar can practice, and it alone has a set of rules that govern how patent cases are to be run that favour the plaintiffs.
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @01:17PM (#38996691)

    I know that /. loves to paint Texans, especially those in East Texas, as backwards folks with backwards ways, but the trope has gotten old, and I'd even suggest that it's harmful. We're using East Texas as a scapegoat to vent our frustration, but that only serves to draw attention away from the real threats that should be the targets of our ire. It's time /. moved on from blaming East Texas for patent cases gone awry.

    In case you want some more though, the facts simply don't line up with your snark. The percentage of patent cases where the plaintiff succeeded at trial was, over the period from 1995-2009, in line with the national average [pwc.com] (66.7% trial success in East Texas vs. 66% nationwide), and by all indications it hasn't changed from that in the last few years (as a point of comparison, Florida Middle District Court had an 80% trial success rate for plaintiffs over that same period). Admittedly, East Texas did have a blip for about a year in the mid-2000s where the plaintiffs won more frequently, and that's when it deservedly earned its reputation, but its rates have since then returned to levels that are in line with other district courts.

    Despite that, there is still a mistaken perception that the East Texas courts are plaintiff friendly, but that's all it is now: a perception. In fact, for NPEs (i.e. non-practicing entities, a.k.a. patent trolls), the Florida Middle District and the Delaware District courts had overall success rates (i.e. including summary judgments) that were about 11% and 7% higher, respectively, than East Texas over the period from 1995-2009.

    That said, the East Texas courts do make for an ideal venue for trying patent cases, even if they're not as one-sided as people here seem to think. The district has faster turnaround times than many other federal districts, the judges are well-versed in patent cases and have indicated an interest in handling them expeditiously, and there are local laws permitting lawyers from any bar association, not just the Texas bar, from trying their cases there, making it easier to use than some of the other districts. The fact that the judges are knowledgeable is especially important, because many of the corporations being sued prefer to have their cases tried there, rather than getting them transferred to their home district where an ignorant judge can add a major level of uncertainty to the equation (in fact, in one case involving 112 defendents a few months ago, the East Texas judge was able to dismiss 99 of the defendents immediately because they weren't infringing and didn't request transfers to other districts). As a result, more cases that start in the district tend to stay in the district than you might otherwise see, creating a larger volume of cases that reach a conclusion.

    Any court will make rulings we disagree with, but the rulings we disagree with make big headlines every time, get brought up frequently, and linger for quite awhile in our collective minds, while the ones we agree with tend to disappear and not be brought up over and over again. Since East Texas has so many patent cases, they naturally have more cases that we hear about, but we latch onto the ones that we disagree with and use them to confirm our past belief - now mistaken - that East Texas is a plaintiff's playground.

    They have a term for that: confirmation bias.

  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @04:31PM (#38998881)

    Short history lesson:
    The ARPANET (1970-1990) and the start of the NSFNET (1985-1995) and the attachment of CERN to NSFNET (1989) and the writing of the first WorldWideWeb browser (1990) predated Gore's involvement (HPC&Com act of 1991). The stuff that Gore's bill funded essentially funded optical links (the information superhighway) to update/expand the NSFNET and provided funds for the NCSA @UI which made the Mosaic web browser (1992)

    However, the commercial internet (the network) that we know of really came out of CIX [wikipedia.org] which was an attempt by various US commercial network providers to avoid the acceptable use policy of the NSFnet backbone. Originally, the government allowed some such "non-acceptable" traffic through a third party company (called ANS), but they charged too much so CIX was formed by UUNET, PCINET, and CERFNET to bypass the NSFnet backbone all together. The concept of "peering" traffic was also rolled out at that time.

    One might argue that the bill written by Gore providing the "taste" of an internet was done to spur corporations to develop the CIX backbone themselves, but having lived through those intitial times pre-CIX, I can say that it was more like how the existance of the Post Office spurred the creation of FedEx than any direct monetary benefit from the funding that the NSFnet backbone folks got... You might argue that the research that made FedEx (commercial internet) was possible was "funded" by the PostOffice (ANS/NSFnet), but that's a tenuous argument at best.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:03PM (#38999383)

    Please site your sources.

    In case you want some more though, the facts simply don't line up with your snark. The percentage of patent cases where the plaintiff succeeded at trial was, over the period from 1995-2009, in line with the national average [pwc.com] (66.7% trial success in East Texas vs. 66% nationwide), and by all indications it hasn't changed from that in the last few years (as a point of comparison, Florida Middle District Court had an 80% trial success rate for plaintiffs over that same period).

    According to:


    Since Ward initially joined the Eastern District of Texas, the district has seen a tenfold increase in cases since 1999.[8] There were 14 patent cases in 1999,[8] 32 in 2002,[1] 155 in 2005,[8] and 234 in 2006.[1] The district is one of eight with more than 100 new patent filings each year.[8] Ward heard more than 160 patent cases in his first seven years on the bench.[3] He had been handling 90% of the patent cases in Marshall, but later was reduced to 60%.[6]

    Patent cases presented before Ward were more frequently won by the patent holder plaintiff than the defense.[9] One source claims that patent holders win 88% of the time in Ward's court, compared to an average of 68% nationwide.[3] Another source claims that patent cases in Marshall are won by patent holders 78% of the time versus 59% nationwide.[1] And a third source claims that in 90% of cases patent holders win jury verdicts.[8]

"Truth never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth." -- Milton