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Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Newegg Patent Case 204

NormalVisual writes "'It's a really tough time to be a patent owner', said Soverain Software, LLC president Katharine Wolanyk, after the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated three of Soverain's shopping cart patents. Soverain had sued Newegg for allegedly infringing the patents in question, and had won in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Newegg later had the decision overturned on appeal, with the court ruling that the patents in question were obvious, and thus invalid."
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Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Newegg Patent Case

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:04PM (#45946283)

    for the good of all humanity and the advancement of ideas in general

  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Huntr ( 951770 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:07PM (#45946305)
    "It's a really tough time to be a patent troll."
  • by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:09PM (#45946319)
    This kind of thing should never exist in the first place. Why should anyone be given a government-created monopoly on "present a list of what you want and hand over money to get it?" I understand if you invent a tangible contraption, but for a basic function of any website that sells products? No way!
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:14PM (#45946355) Journal

    ... to the District Court in Eastern Texas.

    Except the value of doing massive amounts of patent-related litigation... It's the white-collar equivalent of those little shithole towns where prisons are the engine of economic life.

  • by sribe ( 304414 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:38PM (#45946531)

    Have some weak low-quality patents, and try to, through the power of wishful thinking, extend them to cover a much broader set of techniques, then go and sue a big company with deep pockets. (Remember, this used to work, reference the suit against RIM for instance.)

  • by grmoc ( 57943 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:39PM (#45946547)

    The incentive to create is in the money you make from having written and either sold the service that you're selling, or selling the software itself, or sometimes just from the good feeling you get from having made something that works. The latter item is what inspires most really good folks, honestly.

    Patents are horrendously ineffective at their intended purpose of incenting innovation in a world where non-practicing entities (read patent trolls) have a vast number of patents and exist with the *sole purpose* being to get money from those patents, and NOT to actually use them. Often the patent is granted (with the application having been secret) years after others have independently gone and done the thing themselves, thinking it was no big deal, probably because *it was no big deal*!
    Even worse, many patent holders wait to sue until the idea (or company implementing such) is successful, maximizing the damage.

    Worse, most of the patents these days (and there has been an explosion of patents... why orders of magnitude more patents when we're arguably no smarter than we were 10 or 30 years ago??) are fricking obvious.

    And of course there is the fun bit that NO COMPANY CAN DO A PATENT SEARCH BECAUSE THEN IT WILLFULLY INFRINGES AND MUST PAY TRIPLE DAMAGES. So, noone looks at patents who actually might use them.

    Patents, especially in the realm of software, do more harm than good today.
    Strike that. They're almost purely harmful.

  • Patent Owner (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:40PM (#45946551)

    Notice how Katharine Wolanyk characterized her company as a "patent owner"?

    Funny that she did not say "online retailor", "online wholesaler", manufacturer, logistics, refiner, service provider, software publisher, etc. Instead they are a "patent owner".

    Patents should be viewed the way most businesspeople view lawyers. A necessary evil. Too expensive, wasteful, a time sink. They exist primarily because not having them is worse. However never, never should they be your primary business. Unless you are a legal firm of course.

    "Patent owner". You might as well say "shoe wearer" or "food liker"! Where's the value added in that?

  • by SecurityTheatre ( 2427858 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:56PM (#45946693)

    I have to disagree.

    Software patents, for the most part (I'd wager 99% of the time), are used to STOP someone from selling a product.

    Do you know why Apple has that stupid "whole screen slides to the side" unlock now? Because someone put a patent on "slide to unlock"

    Holy crap, what a dumb patent. Does the world benefit from someone hiring a lawyer and paying thousands of dollars, and spending months drafting a patent, just to make sure that nobody else could have a graphic of a "slide to unlock" widget?

    What the fuck?

    The world would have been better off if that lawyer was off... you know... affecting real law... and the coder was off... you know... writing code.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:59PM (#45946705)

    Furniture, fashion, and a significant portion of industrial design (such as car bodies) don't even have copyright or design patent protection. Yet those industries thrive. Almost all the furniture and clothes you buy are knock-offs of high-end designs. Yet those high-end designers didn't skulk home with their pen and measuring tape the first time this happened.

    People who think copyrights and patents are necessary have a fundamental misunderstanding of the way free markets and capitalism work. If you're worried that somebody will 'steal' your design, that gets factored into the market price of that product or service--including the market price of financing. And it's nearly impossible to devise a more efficient system by using government protections. There are theoretical scenarios you can concoct, but they never pan out empirically.

    Only in odd normative economic models (i.e. where we are trying to achieve some policy goal other than maximizing overall wealth) do patents make sense, such as in the pharmaceutical industries.

    Other similar examples: labor unions. There you're using contractual policies to protect a labor slot in attempt to combat "race to the bottom" wage competition. (And yet, oddly, in a free market wages would never hit $0.) If you're for copyrights and patents, then it only makes sense to be strongly in favor of labor unions, and a host of other protectionist policies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:25PM (#45946899)

    Software would still be covered by copyright.

    Huh? Newegg was not sued for stealing their software, they were accused of stealing the CONCEPT of a shopping cart. A concept that has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer (hence the prior art).

    At long last a judge who is not impressed with the corporate idea that adding the phrase "on a computer", "on a cell phone", or "on the Internet" to a hundreds year old idea magically makes it a totally new, never thought of before idea.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:39PM (#45947001) Homepage Journal

    Software would still be covered by copyright.

    Huh? Newegg was not sued for stealing their software, they were accused of stealing the CONCEPT of a shopping cart. A concept that has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer (hence the prior art).

    At long last a judge who is not impressed with the corporate idea that adding the phrase "on a computer", "on a cell phone", or "on the Internet" to a hundreds year old idea magically makes it a totally new, never thought of before idea.

    It's more than that - think of it this way: Soverain Effectively patented the most obvious way to walk to a store, put things in a cart, take them to the register and pay for them. Imagine some arsehole doing that to every person. Everyone has to find an unpatented means of going to the store, getting things to the "register" (which for the patent avoidance will be something completely unregister like) and paying ("I choose to steal from you, but tip you handsomely for having a nice store") It's beyond absurd - like most software patents.

  • by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:41PM (#45947015)

    But where's the incentive for the creative mind to write the software, bring it to market, support it, etc.? It looks like pretty hard work that isn't certain to pay off.

    I understand free as in speech and free as in beer, but there is no free as in groceries. Even coders need to pay rent.

    If you want to make the life of the patent shorter or non-renewable, with the goal to not stifle innovation on top of older patents, maybe. But everyone should have a shot at the brass ring.

    People with creative minds have been creating things and profiting from those creations for thousands of years. This was going on long before patents of any kind existed. Patents stifle creativity and innovation. Software patents are some of the worst.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:14PM (#45947239) Homepage

    What's crazy about patents is that they're supposed to be for an implementation, like if I ask you to transport some goods one might invent a backpack, one a trolley, one a cart, one a bicycle, one a zip line and so on. Instead we have software patents that just describe a result and just says "However you implement this, it's patented". Often you don't even need to do the hard part, you just need to wait for someone else to figure out how then sue them. However for all the talk of patent trolls, most big enterprises like their own patents because big players use them to squeeze small players. The rest is just a cost of doing business.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:18PM (#45947279) Homepage Journal

    Show us some 20+ year old software that still works, is still used, is compatible with today's hardware, and meets stringent security standards today. Almost everything has been rewritten, forked, cloned, or whatever. Copyright doesn't cover concepts and ideas either. Copyright only covers a specific work. Tables and graphs for instance can be copyrighted, but that doesn't prevent someone creating a very similar table or graph to essentially convey the same and/or similar information.

    Linux and Gnu are filled with re-ported software. Credit is given where credit is due, but ported software seldom runs afoul of copyright. Patents are an entirely different ballgame. Every dick weed in thirty countries claims to have a patent on a shopping cart concept, and they all want a piece of the pie from anyone who uses any concept that vaguely resembles a shopping cart.

  • by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:38PM (#45947401)

    "It's a really tough time to be a patent owner"

    And the world's smallest violin plays Katharine a little tune.

  • by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:52PM (#45947529) Journal

    But where's the incentive

    You've surely heard this before, but let's go over it again. Patents are only one means of maybe making money off an invention. They don't work very well. Indeed, many companies choose to keep crucial insights secret, rather than trust to the patent system. That's one reason why so many patents are for trivial and obvious things. They know there's no use keeping the trivial and obvious secret. Instead, they rush to file patents on the trivial and obvious, before someone else does. Most of all, there are many other ways to profit from invention. There is the first mover advantage. There is making the world a better place, which benefits all, including the inventors. The mercenary view of human nature, that no one does anything for free, and that it is of no possible benefit to give and get nothing in return and therefore irrational to be "nice", is not only harsh and shallow, but not at all realistic and quite wrong. Nice guys don't finish last, and can and often do reap benefits from being nice. Then there are many forms of patronage. There are awards, grants, and prizes. There is advertising and endorsements. If patents were abolished, people would keep right on inventing, and profiting from their inventions. If we feel more incentive is needed, we can easily expand public patronage. Doesn't have to be government run either, such organizations can be private. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are private.

    Patents are suppose to encourage progress, but they have far too often had the opposite effect. They are deliberately used to lock technology away, out of fear and greed. They provoke our worst impulses, leading inventors to think they own ideas that are the work of many, and get to control everything related to it out of a nutty notion that they deserve a cut of every way in which an invention increases profit or savings, and this control is the best way to insure they get what they deserve no matter how much that impacts 3rd parties who have nothing to do with any agreements made or disputes that may arise.

    Remember that the courts actually proposed shutting the Blackberry network down, to make up for the supposed harm a patent troll suffered, failing to appreciate the harm this would cause the innocent customers who used it. And remember that SCO actually demanded that Linux users pay them licensing fees, when any such fees, if owed at all, should have come from the actual-- actual, not "theoretical"-- profits of the creators and distributors of Linux, not the users. What the actions of the likes of SCO were saying is not only that patents were wanted, they weren't good enough and needed to be stronger! A remedy like that is like proposing to tow every car in the neighborhood because one of the residents was accused of speeding. Also remember how patents have been abused to cover up problems, as in the case of Dmitry Sklyarov and many others, and to squelch honest compeition as in many cases including one about garage door openers. It's incredible that DRM is still as lively as it is, since it plain does not work, and it's the fault of bad lawmaking including patent law that DRM hangs on to life. It's time patents were ended. They do a lot of bad things, and what little good they do is doubtful at best. They cost us a great deal of money to enforce and argue about in court. If not abolished, then they should at least not come with monopoly grants enforced at great taxpayer expense. Reform would help, but the better direction to take is abolishment. We'll never be free of legal harassment and interference in genuinely new research for so long as these tools exist.

  • by edibobb ( 113989 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @12:13AM (#45947637) Homepage
    Software is covered by copyright. The patents in question were obvious to anybody with half a brain and should never have been awarded. We can thank the blind ignorance of the USPTO for this.

    There are serious doubts as to whether software patents in general should be allowed. Technically, software is algorithms which can be expressed as mathematics, and therefore not patentable. Practically, software patents are used almost exclusively by patent trolls and large companies in a way that inhibits creativity, new applications, and product development. This is precisely the opposite the intentions of the original patent law.

    New Zealand has recently prohibited software patents. Maybe the U.S. and the rest of the world will come to their senses and follow suit.
  • by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:15AM (#45947937)

    Funny thing is that this so called Doctrine of Equivalents should also bring in a shitload of prior art if someone tries to tack on "on the internet" or "on a computer" to a previously patented invention.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990