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Patents The Courts

Patent Troll With Good Record in Past Sues Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Others Over Offline Downloads (arstechnica.com) 94

Netflix added the ability to download movies and TV episodes for offline viewing in November last year. Music streaming service SoundCloud, and video hosting service Vimeo have had this feature for quite some time, too. But they are all being sued now by a patent troll. From an ArsTechnica report: The plaintiff is a company few have heard of: Blackbird Technologies, a company with no products or assets other than patents. Blackbird's business is to buy up patent rights and file lawsuits over them, a business known colloquially as "patent trolling." Last week, Blackbird (who tells potential clients about being "able to litigate at reduced costs and achieve results") filed lawsuits against Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners, which owns the Epix TV channel. [...] The patent-holding company, which filed the lawsuits in Delaware federal court, has good reason to hope for success. The '362 patent already has a track record of squeezing settlement cash out of big companies.
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Patent Troll With Good Record in Past Sues Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Others Over Offline Downloads

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  • And their websites have square corners. Surely someone has patented that.
  • IMO (Score:4, Funny)

    by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @01:44PM (#53812825)
    Blackbird Technologies = Rancid bird shit IMO
  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @01:45PM (#53812843)
    This is why you see big companies constantly patenting little things that are seemingly obvious or otherwise inane. If you have a patent of your own, it becomes much easier to refute the claim of some other company that you're infringing on their patent. Then they would have to spend time trying to invalidate your patent, which might make it easier to invalidate their own. It probably doesn't even make it to court though as the legal team would just send them a nice "fuck off" letter in reply and the legal hyenas for the patent troll will just look for somewhere else to do their bottom feeding.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Yes, I think the existing patent laws are woefully out of date. They need a major overhaul and revising. Big changes need to be made , big changes that won't make some rich powerful people happy, but that are necessary.

    • > This is why you see big companies constantly patenting little things that are seemingly obvious or otherwise inane.

      It's not the only reason. Having a broad suite of patents, even if they are unenforceable or easily blocked in court, can drain the resource of other plaintiffs who do _not_ have such a patent suite, whether or not their patents are legitimate.

  • by Whatanut ( 203397 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @01:45PM (#53812845)

    Seems odd skimming the patent to apply this to offline video caching. It seems fairly specific to a method of automating the process of ordering, duplicating and shipping CD media. There is some ambiguous text in there about "digital media". But it also has claims such as:

    4. The method of claim 1, wherein said first module is configured to send at least one signal to at least one printing device to create mailing address labels for each of said requests.

    Which, I'm sure netflix is not doing. Seems like an attempt to broadly use a patent that's not really related to the actual process being used.

    Shocking...

    • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @01:58PM (#53812945)
      The patent sounds like it would cover how the internet generally works for transferring files from servers.
      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        // algorithm to generate a Web Patent
        h = openFile("ordinary_task.txt");
        while (w = readNextWord(h)) {
            if (random(0.0, 1.0) > 0.96) {
              w = w + " using the Internet ";
            }
            print(w);
        }

      • The patent sounds like it would cover how the internet generally works for transferring files from servers.

        You have to meet all the major claims of the patent to be infringing, though, right? There can be lists of lesser things or optional things, but if it doesn't say that it's optional then it has to be involved to be infringement? Or at least, that's my IANAL understanding.

        • You have to meet all the major claims of the patent to be infringing, though, right?

          You have to meet all the elements of at least one claim. Taking one of the broadest claims (claim 1) as an example, you would have to perform all the recited steps, and the computer would have to have all the recited modules/connection:

          A computer-implemented method of digital data duplication comprising:
          taking requests at one or more user interfaces;
          transmitting said requests through a network to a computer;
          assigning each of said requests to

          • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

            Also keep in mind that "said computer" is the computer RECEIVING the request for data, not the one requesting the data. IE something on Netflix's end has to receive requests from one or more user interfaces and transmitted to a computer (which creates a task log of incoming requests, stores all data necessary for executing duplication, and take the required data from the storage and transmit it to an output device, which is then commanded to output the data to blank media) that sends the request to an outp

            • That said, I certainly don't want to spend a million dollars to convince a court of that, and even in the off chance that the judge finds this claim so bullshit that they award attorney's fees, this "Blackbird" company is probably nothing but a paper corporation with one patent, the PO box, and a google voice number, and spends 100% of the income on lawyer fees.

              That's not necessarily as bulletproof of a position as it sounds anymore. Last month [google.com] Judge Gilstrap in the Eastern District of Texas held the person behind the shell company behind the shell company that filed a frivolous case personally responsible for almost $500k the other side's attorney's fees, and even sanctioned the local attorney running the case $25k.

    • A dependent claim like claim 4 is by definition narrower than its parent claim -- a dependent claim must add at least one additional limitation. And someone can infringe one claim of a patent even if it doesn't infringe others. So whether Netflix does what claim 4 says is immaterial to whether it does what claim 1 says.

      It may well be that some of the broader claims are more generic than the specific process described in the patent -- it's not unusual for a patent to have higher-level claims. (That said,

    • Seems odd skimming the patent to apply this to offline video caching. It seems fairly specific to a method of automating the process of ordering, duplicating and shipping CD media. There is some ambiguous text in there about "digital media". But it also has claims such as:

      4. The method of claim 1, wherein said first module is configured to send at least one signal to at least one printing device to create mailing address labels for each of said requests.

      Which, I'm sure netflix is not doing. Seems like an attempt to broadly use a patent that's not really related to the actual process being used.

      Shocking...

      That's a dependent claim (you can tell because it refers to another claim). It's like an include statement, so the invention recited in claim 4 is everything that's in claim 1, plus the added limitation about the first module. Even if Netflix isn't doing that added step, they could be doing everything that's in claim 1 and infringe the patent.

    • by nadass ( 3963991 )
      The patent was issued 10 years ago (February 2007) and they allege infringement based on theOffline Downloads feature.

      Hello Blackbird? This is Netflix. We will happily invalidate your '362patent by virtue of presenting prior art in the realm of offline distribution of digital media via our original DVD-by-mail business which lead to Blockbuster going bankrupt. Also theconcept ofdownloading media for offline consumption already existed before the patent was either issued (e.g. Apple iTunes) or was even
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The '362 patent was designed with optical disc content in mind. Filed in 2000, Lee envisioned a system in which a computer server "downloads necessary data onto the CD-R writing machine," then sends the CD-R into a bin for shipment. However, the patent claims that Lee's attorney wrote, and the US Patent Office ultimately granted, use the vague terminology of describing various "modules" that together comprise a "computer-implemented method of data duplication."

    I think Netflix should ask for a jury trial on

    • The '362 patent was designed with optical disc content in mind. Filed in 2000, Lee envisioned a system in which a computer server "downloads necessary data onto the CD-R writing machine," then sends the CD-R into a bin for shipment. However, the patent claims that Lee's attorney wrote, and the US Patent Office ultimately granted, use the vague terminology of describing various "modules" that together comprise a "computer-implemented method of data duplication."

      I think Netflix should ask for a jury trial on this one. Is Watch Offline anything even remotely like burning and shipping a custom CD-R to someone?

      Ironically, you ask this question of the very company who also offers a DVD service that is essentially exactly the definition of watching a movie "offline"...

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        yes, but they don't burn the discs, they just ship existing discs. (I kind of wish they could burn the discs, because the older and less-used parts of their catalog are becoming unusable.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I want to vote against them, with my wallet.

  • Then keep the fuckers in court until their pocketbooks start bleeding real blood.

  • > Filed in 2000

    Web browsers did it before then and Usenet newsreaders did it before browsers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2017 @02:35PM (#53813247)

    gtfo of here with that

  • Hopefully the photographer of that pano of the Zakim Bridge can sue them for copyright infringement. (assuming they didn't pay him royalties)
  • "further configured to download said subset to one of said output devices, and further configured to command said output device to transfer said subset onto blank media" - Phones / Tablets /Devices aren't really media but then again it seems like they count it as such for this patent (nice stretch there). However are they blank to start? Nope.

    They gave the inventor one stretch by calling a device that stores something media but what about the word blank? Kind of hard to get around the term blank. Meani

    • I'm sure netflix will describe the entire process differently since I didn't notice a bunch of drm mentioned in that description.

    • Wouldn't surprise me to see it go that way... if there's an encrypted container of some kind that the movie goes into then it may not be blank at all.
  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @03:21PM (#53813599)

    Since they made the wording so broad, it sounds like a download manager.

    They should sue Headlight Software for making GetRight, in 1997....

    • I for one appreciated the subtle humor. Most people probably won't dig enough to understand that the patent's priority date is late 2000....

  • Grab them by the patent!

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