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Judge wipes out patent troll’s $625M verdict against Apple (arstechnica.com)
387 points by nkurz on Aug 2, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments



Back in 2013, Apple had to redesign FaceTime to use server relayed connections instead of peer-to-peer to circumvent VirnetX's patent(s) [1]. I wonder if, after this verdict, they will (and are allowed to) undo this change and start doing peer-to-peer again; Apple will probably have invested quite a lot in their (cloud) infrastructure to support these server relayed connections.

[1] http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/08/report-after-pate...


I wonder if they could take action against VirnetX for the costs of switching to a new system.


So, company A develops a different solution to avoid paying licensing fees for a patent owned by company B, and somehow company B is liable for A's costs to develop the new system? That makes no sense to me, frankly. It would be like demanding that your competitor subsidize your R&D.


You know, this is exactly why we should not have software patents. Company A invested nothing in the R&D, they simply did it first. The reason for patents is to promote the public good by giving inventors who discover a reason to release the details of their invention, rather than to keep it secret. But this isn't happening with software.

Instead, things progress and something is needed. But, rather than an open standard being developed which everyone can use, the first one who patents it wins. Everyone else is hurt and the patent is sold to a troll who then abuses it.


What you've described is not restricted to software patents. It happens with everything else, too. I have yet to hear a compelling case for patents in any industry, let alone software.

The truth of the matter is that ideas are cheap; the hard part is capitalization.


Your problem still seems to be with the sloppiness of the patent system, not patents themselves. Patents are meant to protect inventions, not ideas, and novel inventions are worth something.


The "sloppiness" as you call it is inherent to patents. There is no objective test for obviousness or novelty. Heck, the very idea that something could be "non-obvious" is absurd. Every idea is obvious once all of the other ideas pointing to it are known. This is how knowledge works. Patents attempt to codify this by cataloguing the entire structure of all human invention into an enormous database of "prior art", all for the purpose of determining whether or not somebody has the exclusive right to collect economic rents for a few years. This is ludicrous!


> Heck, the very idea that something could be "non-obvious" is absurd. Every idea is obvious once all of the other ideas pointing to it are known. This is how knowledge works.

This is not even slightly true. Try studying some math.


This is especially true in math. Have you not heard the phrase "the proof is left as an exercise to the reader"?


Here's a concrete flaw. The inventor must disclose the method. If you read the patent, and infringe, you're subject to triple damages. So there's a strong incentive to not read about how other people solve problems. Which pretty much defeats the purpose of promoting useful arts.

Furthermore, non-patent readers wind up infringing anyway. I would argue that someone completely unaware of the patent, coming up with the exact same system means that it is in fact obvious, and not really novel.


Although I disagree with most software patents, I don't think you're last assertion is correct. There is some hindsight bias going on here. What is obvious in 2031 may not be obvious in 2016. Just think how much the technology landscape has changed in the last 15 years.


Without patents, there are no incentives for publicly stating your methodology. Patents increase the sharing of information, they do not reduce it.

The second point is covered by prior art.


The intent maybe so, but the practice is exactly opposite. Not only patents are being used to effectively block progress in certain areas for years (because many researchers can't or won't pay license costs and us such unable to incrementally build on existing knowledge), but reading a patent if you work in similar area is the worst thing you can do - after you red it, all you work will be contaminated by suspicion that you have used patented IP without licensing. So if you suspect there's a patent in some area you work in, the best thing to either pay somebody to search for patents but never read them by yourself, or to ignore the patents and assume the risk. Otherwise you are exposing yourself to claims even if your work is 100% original - you'd have to prove it's original and familiarity with the patent would work against you. So it gives huge incentive to impede flow of information.

Additionally, if you read any of the software patents, they are written in intentionally obscure, outrageously dense and purposely obfuscated language, as to sound more generic and vague and capture more "space". They have tons of claims which repeat the same thing with tiny variations, they describe most mundane things as if it were huge novelty, and they are made as hard to read to a common person as possible without switching to Sanskrit. They never increase sharing of any information and never are written with this goal in mind.


"[P]atents are being used to effectively block progress in certain areas for years (because many researchers can't or won't pay license costs." This is mitigated to some extent by the research exception: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_exemption.


AFAIU this is specifically for drugs, so e.g. for algorithms it would not be useful.


> Without patents, there are no incentives for publicly stating your methodology.

That can't be true. There are about 50,000 new phds a year, all of their dissertations are public. Those are all required to be novel, right? so clearly, it's not the only incentive. There are many incentives, recognition, fame, and funding to name a few.

> Patents increase the sharing of information, they do not reduce it.

Ok, sure, but reading the patent creates a minefield for any future work. Was it your idea or did you read it in a book? Some people can answer this question remarkably well, remembering the source for every concept they employ. If on the other hand, you're not good at this, reading patents is very dangerous. Triple damages encourages not reading patents.

> The second point is covered by prior art.

No, an infringing idea after publication of a patent is by definition not prior art. It can be a completely independent discovery, but it's still infringing. Again, independent discovery seems to indicate, to me anyway, it's obvious.


> Patents increase the sharing of information

Do you know of anyone who has had a software development problem, searched a patent database, found a solution in the database, then implemented that solution? I know that I never have, if people actually do that I'd be interested to know what sort of problems they are working on.


Not for software, but I have looked at patents for physical machines to try to figure out how to do something well (card shuffling machines).


They don't search a patent database to build their own, but license a pre-existing (patented) solution.

You don't look at mp3s patents to build your own awkward version of a sound compression algorithm, you just use mp3


If you'd rather license than build your own, copyright covers that fine. Patents only come into play when you are building your own.

And compression is really close to pure math to start with.


Without patents, there are no incentives for publicly stating your methodology.

Not true at all. Huge amounts of mathematical research, scientific research, fashion design, and culinary innovation are shared with the public every day without absolutely no patent protection. When was the last time you read a story in a newspaper about a patent filing? How useful was the information in that patent to anybody?


From what I see that happens with patents in practice and from economics papers that try to model how patents affect the society the patents in general brings only harm.

It does not imply that narrow niches where patents can work do not exists, but it requires that any statement about benefits of patents must be backed up with credible data. And so far I am not aware of those.


The copyright is protected by the fact of publication. Consider your code a piece of poetry and sleep well. If someone else recites it, the world becomes better if the piece is good. Patents are from industrial era of greed.


What's the point of disclosing methods if nobody can read them?


> The truth of the matter is that ideas are cheap

They are cheap because we let them be cheap. There should be markets for ideas just as they are for goods! We're at at a very "socialist paleolitic" stage when it comes to the "economic system for ideas"...


No, they're cheap because they are extremely abundant. They'll still be cheap in any "idea market".


Water is abundant. Plenty of it on this planet. Should be extremely cheap... if you think of "water in general".

But start to divide it based on what composition it has, where it is, how much it costs to transform quality Q1 water to quality Q5 water and so on. Then you can get to placing bets on wheter there will be enough water at place P1 and time T1 etc. Then, at the consumer level, you have bottled water with different packaging, aesthetic values and trustworthiness associated with it etc.

And you can suddenly sell 0.5l of water for $10 even if the planet is full of it :)

I imagine one day we'll have the same for "ideas", but more complex. We'll have "idea casinos" betting on implementation successes of various ideas. Meta-casinos betting on the casinos net profit. Derivatives-of-derivatives-of-derivates... if you want to use stock-market terms ...you get the point.

Things can be cheap in a "country-side market" based purely on selling things "mixed up", unsorted and unrated. Attach ratings and bets and estimates to them and... it's a whole new an much cooler game to play :)


>The truth of the matter is that ideas are cheap; the hard part is capitalization.

First the law expressly forbids a patent on ideas.

As to the second half of your sentence, I am not sure if you meant execution is the hard part of having an invention or literally having capital to bring an invention market is the hard part. If you meant the later, I agree. Moreover, I think that is one of the strongest reasons for patents in most industries.

The Movie Flash of Genius provides a good example to highlight my point why patents are good and level the playing field for the little guy. Professor and part-time inventor invents the intermittent wipers for cars and brings his technology to Detroit only to have the existing car manufacturers simply steal his idea.

Kearns never intended to manufacturer the wiper much less manufacture cars to install his wiper, rather just license his awesome invention...that fits the definition of troll, but was he a patent troll? What if he did want to manufacture it, but simply didn't have the capital to begin mass production on the Detroit scale...would that make him any more or less a troll because of his subjective intent? Finally, if he did have the capital to actually take his wiper to market, in a world without patents why would he invest in bringing the invention to market when the big car manufacturers or existing wiper manufacturers are simply going to eat his lunch?

The whole concept of Apple, the most valuable company in the World, calling anyone a patent troll is crazy and basically the same corporate strategy the big car manufacturers used against Kearns, claiming his invention was obvious and just combinations of known prior art. Yet Apple and the big corps escape being consigned to being patent trolls themselves despite the fact that they hold more patents that are either complete bs or purposely withheld from the stream of commerce (like oil companies buying up alternative energy patents to keep them from coming to market). Like when Apple defensively extracted nearly $2 Billion from Samsung for violation of their rectangle with curved edges patent (which was subsequently over turned). Apple is sitting on over $200B in cash, they could have licensed or bought this patent, just as Ford and the others could have done with Kearn's wiper. But lets get serious, these are the same companies that determine if faulty parts should be replaced by comparing the cost of a recall compared to the projected cost of anticipated wrongful death claims. These big companies make the same calculated risk in stealing other people's intellectual property versus paying for it.

Perhaps the great irony of Apple's unwillingness to pay for someone else's invention, it forced Apple to innovate and ultimately produce a competing technology that didn't violate the patent. Moreover, this patent actually fostered innovation for a competing product, and while Apple and others may claim Apple's innovation isn't as good as the patented invention, it shows Apple's true colors where they aren't really claiming the patent is stifling innovation so much as stifling their ability to simply violate someone's better invention without paying for it.


The fact that Apple has tons of cash and could pay off patent trolls does not mean they have to or that it would be a good thing. In fact, exactly because they have tons of cash the moral thing to do for them is to fight the trolls tooth and nail - because they can afford to - so that trolls would be as weak and timid as possible when they approach those who doesn't have Apple's pile of cash, and so they would have ample anti-troll precedents.

Most of thing patent trolls claim to be their "intellectual property" is a banal rent extraction by managing to sneak a patent claim on either idea long accepted in industry or some tweak of an existing idea which when, when somebody else arrives to it completely independently, becomes their big payout. Like trolls claiming they invented clicking on links, online ads, peer-to-peer networking, shopping carts, and everything else in the world. They do not serve any useful function, they do not produce anything needed by anybody, they are just parasites and rent-seekers abusing the inefficiency of the law to their private benefit.

The sooner they would be completely destroyed and their craft becomes as respected as spammers and 419 scammers, the better.


I'm not denying that the patent system can work for some people. I just don't think empowering a handful of people such as Kearns warrants the enormous cost to our economy wrought by patents.

This cost goes way beyond trolls, by the way. The examples you gave about Apple are also part of my argument that patents have gotta go. Those big companies want to get rid of patent "trolls" but they want to keep patents for themselves to use. It's the moral equivalent of disarming the public and then setting up a military Junta now that there's no means to fight back.


> First the law expressly forbids a patent on ideas.

Only in the sense that you can't forbid anyone else /having/ an idea, just that you can forbid them doing anything with it.

In software, it is definitely the idea that is protected, not the specific implementation - otherwise, copyright would be enough.


>In software, it is definitely the idea that is protected, not the specific implementation

If that were the case, Apple couldn't circumvent the patent in question by changing the implementation from peer-to-peer to server relayed. In other words, its not the idea of a Facetime/video chat that is patented but the implementation of how the video chat is done.

In the non-software world, it might be like saying denim pants have a problem because the stitched pockets always rip under the weight of tools, so I patent the idea of pants with pockets that don't rip. The idea alone can't be patented, but definitely Levi Strauss' jeans with rivets was eligible for a patent. And if Levi didn't have the capital to begin manufacturing his own denim pants with rivets and instead tried to license his patent to an existing pants manufacture, and instead of paying they just stole Levi's idea, it wouldn't make sense to label Levi a troll, pretend his patent isn't valid and otherwise stifling innovation. Moreover, the idea should foster innovation, because if I can't do pants with rivets, fine I try pants with staples and we will let the market decide what they like better.

Here is another software example, I filed a patent for the automatic calculation of legal fees based on information contained in a charging document (e.g. speeding ticket or criminal complaint). Now anyone can have the idea that it would be great if law firm staff wasn't required and legal fees could be automated, but ask them how they could automatically calculate legal fees and all the sudden the idea is not so obvious.


I'm sure in your patent you've covered the five or ten possibilities you came up with - moving the goalposts from "sudden[ly] the idea is not so obvious" to "and suddenly coming up with an n+1th solution on the spot wasn't so easy." Well sure, after you've specifically ruled out all the obvious, direct, ways to do it, that came to you in minutes after the basic idea...

The proof of it is that you say " I filed a patent for the automatic calculation of legal fees based on information contained in a charging document". That's not a method, it's a result. You abused the system to own a result, as opposed to specific way to achieve that result.


>The proof of it is that you say " I filed a patent for the automatic calculation of legal fees based on information contained in a charging document". That's not a method, it's a result. You abused the system to own a result, as opposed to specific way to achieve that result.

You are correct it is not a method...it is a description for purposes of the thread. Do you think a patent application can be granted without specific claims or as you call it the specific way to achieve that result? That is not how the law works, I don't own the result and I didn't file a 1 sentence patent application seeking to protect a result to abuse the system so I can sue someone if they figure how to accomplish my result.

My application is ~10-20 pages and fully details the claims/methods to produce the result and if granted it is those claims/methods that will be protected, that is how the law works. Nevertheless, if the methods used to achieve my result are so obvious (or I justed added n+1 to some obvious ways) I welcome you to explain how I achieve the result or even some of those obvious/direct ways to do it. No offense, you won't, why do I know that? When I tell seasoned lawyers (people familiar with the industry/prior art) about my invention they don't believe it is possible to achieve my result, much less believe it is just some added step on a obvious way. Even when I showed my invention in action, the partner and associate who filed my application (obviously both attorneys but also EE and CS backgrounds) couldn't figure out my methods (how it is done) I had to explain it.

I find the people who typically rail against the current patent system have never: a) filed a patent, b) been sued by a patent troll, or c) had an original idea/invention stolen by a big company. I am not suggesting reform isn't needed and that bad outcomes don't happen, throughout the thread I highlight Apple's rectangle with rounded edges I was against (I even have old HN posts where I rail against that patent before USPTO over turned it), but what do you honestly believe has happened more often: patent troll lawsuits or big companies stealing inventions?


> You are correct it is not a method...it is a description for purposes of the thread. Do you think a patent application can be granted without specific claims or as you call it the specific way to achieve that result?

Right, but the way you refer to it shows that you think you have a good claim on the entire result, not just one or two methods.

> That is not how the law works, I don't own the result

No, you just own all the ways you came up with to achieve that result. If you named all the obvious ones, then you effectively do.

Otherwise you'd have said "I have a patent on using NLP techniques to do XYZ" or something.

> I welcome you to explain how I achieve the result or even some of those obvious/direct ways to do it. No offense, you won't, why do I know that?

That's what you would say. If it's true, your patent is one in a million.

If there is a non-obvious element in any given patent it's almost always the result. Once your boss tells you to automatically calculate pricing from charging docs you have the same tools as everyone else.

> I find the people who typically rail against the current patent system have never: a) filed a patent, [...]

Well, my company's lawyer filed my patents... But I still think it's an entirely counterproductive system.

I've always been ordered not to read any patents, except ours. Any theoretical gain to society from information sharing is obviously not happening in practice.

> Apple's rectangle with rounded edges

That's more akin to a trademark though. That is supposed to cover a result, not the technique of achieving it.

> what do you honestly believe has happened more often: patent troll lawsuits or big companies stealing inventions?

A better question than mere frequency would be, which do I think has been more harmful - All patent trolls, or all "stolen" inventions.

And an even better question would be, which one do I think we could fix, and with how much incidental damage.


> First the law expressly forbids a patent on ideas.

But in practice, is entirely about broad ownership of ideas. An intermittent wiper is a neat idea, but not at all hard to design.

Yes, in this story the inventor found a 3rd-party (Mercedes) part using almost his exact design but that simply proves how obvious the solutions are.

Similarly, slide-to-unlock (etc) are absolutely, worthlessly, trivial technical ideas. It's good UI perhaps, but it's harder to decide which direction users should have to swipe than it is to actually implement.

> Moreover, this patent actually fostered innovation for a competing product

No, it forced worthless UI changes. Like making one car company use a joystick instead of a wheel.

> simply violate someone's better invention without paying for it.

And this is the crux. You think that it's an invention, as opposed to a UI standard. What technical details most impress you about it? What, other than the UI element, do you think is novel?


Didn't Robert Kearns actually build the thing though? Working prototype demoed at Ford? A movie is a poor source for history, so maybe that's all made up. Also from the movie, Kearns talked about a factory but the automakers didn't think he could really supply the quantity and quality they needed.

I understand why the patent office doesn't require a model anymore, but it would be kind of cool if there was a demonstration aspect to the application process.


Is getting rid of patents really the best option? Wouldn't tougher requirements on non-producing patent holders be a better way to go?


> Wouldn't tougher requirements on non-producing patent holders be a better way to go?

That would be inadequate in my opinion. No doubt some NPE are particularly vile, but producers abuse patents, too.

Producers like to manipulate the narrative by focusing attention on NPEs and pretending that NPE are the cause of all patent abuse, even while the producers themselves are abusing patents.


what counts as non-producing?

Perhaps a better gate - where your patents has to be _actually_ innovative, as determined by peer review.


Guess it would depend on whether the entire justification for the R&D and thus the expenses incurred as a result was due to a fraudulent claim that your original tech violated a patent. Without that fraudulent claim, would Company A have invested in any of that R&D?


That'd be a separate tort that would need to be proven. Simply having a difference of legal opinion and losing in court is not fraud. The outcome wasn't even thrown out on its merits, but on concerns about procedural fairness.


> company B is liable for A's costs to develop the new system

No, just for the difference between the cost of developing system A' that could have been developed instead of A had it not been for the requirement for going around patent of company B that has since been invalidated. But good luck estimating that. Also since you're liable to pay for the consequences of future invalidation of you patent, the damages should be capped to the profit you've earned so far from the pattern to make things sensible.

> It would be like demanding that your competitor subsidize your R&D

This seems pretty fair if you've been on the market for much longer and did a lot of R&D. It would also move the balance a bit from competition to cooperation even if it would be labeled as anti-capitalist by some. It would also incentivize you to open-source and patent something, instead of keeping it closed but not patenting (both keeping all implementations of a patented algorithm closed and patenting it should not be allowed, at least one open-sourced fully working proof of concept should be required). You could still get a profit from the patents that came out of your R&D, even if your company failed, but a younger competitor that benefited from your exploration succeeds, which would probably incentivize more R&D spending! To go even further you could force attribution of pattents to individuals and never companies (even if they could end up owned in majority by your investors and not yourself), so that a company's bankruptcy and debt don't also suck the "profit from invention" into its black hole.

...but of course, I can't dream of such sensible systems of law until we have an above-human-level-AI actually writing the laws for humans to follow, hopefully for our own good :)


If Company B creates frivolous patents or is a NPE (Non Producing entity)? They deserve to be punished...

(not sure if this is the case here)


I think the insinuation was that Company B would be liable for A's costs only if Company B's patent claims are not held up in court


Potential gain of margin had it not been for the increased R&D. Whatever way you put it. If it was unfair, it ought to be paid.


The case will be retried so Apple is not out of the woods yet. The judge even says he believes that VirnetX could have successfully won its suit without the references to the previous trial.


However, as one of the comments to the Ars article points out, the patents in question were apparently all invalidated by the PTO:

http://www.investorvillage.com/uploads/82599/files/AppleRequ...


Can the case even be retried then? I would assume not.


The case can be retried, but it runs the risk of being tossed out because of the invalidated patents. If that were to happen, Apple might be able to recover some court costs.


Wow, I never bothered to look up why FaceTime worked so well for me at the beginning and suddenly became completely unusable for me later on.


Software patent at its worst :(


It would be nice if they just used SIP in the first place so that other systems could interoperate with FaceTime. Typical Apple.


While you're irrationally hating, you should know FaceTime was originally planned to be cross platform. The need to completely change how it worked obviously stopped that from happening.


Or provided a convenient excuse for what Apple had actually planned to do all along.


What proof?


Apple did initially claim Facetime would be an open standard.

> Upon the launch of the iPhone 4, Jobs stated that Apple would immediately start working with standards bodies to make the FaceTime protocol an "open industry standard".

claims Wikipedia. Other websites also highlight the "open standard" it was supposed to become:

[1]: http://www.fiercedeveloper.com/story/facetime-open-standard-... [2]: https://redd.it/1xuzif [3]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2605498 [4]: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4547345?start=0&tstart=... [5]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FaceTime


Whenever someone mentions FaceTime, I immediately think of this blog post “Steve Jobs sometimes lies to you”: https://zachholman.com/posts/steve-jobs-sometimes-lies/


Comment below says SIP was covered by this spurious patent, so that wouldn't have made much difference.


Has VirnetX gone after Google yet? Hangouts uses peer to peer connections for video calls https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/6334301?hl=en


It may be that they were waiting for the outcome of this trial. If they are successful against Apple that would likely improve their chances of succeeding against Google. It's a pretty common patent litigation approach.


Frankly that's a bullshit patent to begin with.


Yep, that's the idea.


This is good news in that I generally feel any setback for an apparent patent troll is a good thing.

But this isn't too broad. Looks like a very specific issue to this trial... not even this patent claim or case, let alone a broader implication for patent claims in general.

It sounds like VirnetX's lawyers simply referenced a previous case too often in the judge's estimation, and so he's throwing the verdict out, meaning a retrial would be necessary. Case doesn't seem to set any precedent (or, what precedent it does set on referencing previous trials might cut both ways for patent plaintiffs and defendants). Noting regarding merits of claims or anything as far as I can tell from the reporting.

If anyone more expert can weigh in or correct, that'd be appreciated too!


This is essentially exactly what happened. I work in this field. Because of the complexities of the trial and the overlap in subject matter/patents, the judge felt that the jurors could have been confused and vacated the verdict. It doesn't really have many applications for this area of law outside of this case.


Just to clarify "referenced a previous case," what VirnetX did was say, "Apple said the same things in a previous case where we prevailed," to the effect of "they used the same rationale when they lost before, so they should lose here, too." Which is just bad logic.


It increases their costs and thus risks. Remember if their costs get to high they can't afford to buy new patents and there is a ticking clock before their current portfolio is worthless.


Yes. :-) Not sure if you meant to reply to me or another commenter.


My fault for not being clear. I was responding to "But this isn't too broad." I agree this case is not directly important, but it will have a fair amount of indirect impact based on the award size if nothing else.


Not sure what you mean. This verdict implies a net zero loss to patent trolls.


What? Sure, there is no direct loss here. But it is a setback. Also, they (at least temporarily) lose the previously established verdict award ($625M, apparently) and also now have to decide whether to re-try (with the associated costs).


I agree that one side had a setback. But the net effect on patent trolls is still zero :)


Patent trolls are a symptom of the disease that is our horribly broken patent system, which also serves to stifle innovation and protect the interests of large, entrenched businesses at the expense of everyone else. Unfortunately, instead of working to fix our broken patent system, we are doubling down and trying to impose it on a global basis via the TPP (often categorized as a "free trade" deal when it is in fact quite the opposite) and other misbegotten treaties.


There is one US candidate who is against TPP, but unfortunately, I highly doubt anyone nearby understands the devastation that software patent trolls cause on the tech industry.


There are several, actually. I voted for Jill Stein in the last two elections and I plan on making this year the trifecta!


Actually, they're all against TPP except for Gary Johnson.


Clinton is most certainly not against TPP.


She's been ostensibly against the TPP for almost a year. Do your research.

https://ballotpedia.org/2016_presidential_candidates_on_the_...

(Edit: better link)


you definitely have this backwards.


Nope, do your research please.

A link about Trump and Clinton opposing: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/pushing-tpp-president-obama-a...


Forgive the noob comment, but how does the patent troll know that it can sue Apple? How do they know what infrastructure Apple is using? Do they just sue indiscriminately and find winner cases through discovery?


Every time I see a Patent Troll vs Big Tech Corp case, I root for Patent Troll.

Don't get me wrong, patent trolls are menace of tech world deserving to be tarred and feathered. But truth is, PTs are not main beneficiaries of broken system. Main beneficiaries are Big Tech Corps (APLN, MSFT, GOOG, ETC). Coincidentally, those companies have enough leverage to fix this system if they wanted to. Problem is - they don't.

That's why I root for Patent Troll every time.


I can see a line of reasoning that suggests that if abusive patent trolls had enough success against the giant tech companies, that the tech companies might consequently lobby for patent reform (for the purpose of protecting themselves from trolls), with the additional consequence that the reform would also limit their own ability to abuse patents.

Sadly, that is not likely to happen.

IIRC, Apple lobbied for patent 'reform' that targeted NPEs, while leaving producers completely off the hook for patent abuse.


Patent troll or not, I find it's pretty crazy that a single judge can throw out the jury verdict simply because he didn't like the arguments of one side.


Yeah, that seemed crazy to me too. It'd be extremely disheartening to spend a fortune on legal bills, finally win the case, then have it thrown out months later by a judge on a whim.


Not a whim, failure of the original court to follow procedure on admissible argument.


Patents are very much open to abuse. Giant tech could seriously lobby for a change... but for Apple and other giant tech-corporations there's a quandary: they can use patents to protect themselves, but at the same time those same patent methods can be used against them


That has to be quite the moment, when you realize that the more than half billion you were about to see a piece of evaporates.


...that moment when you realize you should have accepted the negotiated settlement.

Incidentally, this seems so... capricious. The judge presided over a trial during which a previous trial (that was OK to mention) was mentioned too many times? Maybe he should have just stopped that while he was presiding, rather than waiting until later? It almost looks like he was surprised by the giant size of the verdict, and worried it might focus too much attention on the travesty that is East Texas, so he's looking to get out on a technicality?


> capricious...

I don't see any justification for this.

> The judge presided over a trial during which a previous trial (that was OK to mention) was mentioned too many times? Maybe he should have just stopped that while he was presiding, rather than waiting until later?

'Maybe judges should never make mistakes' sounds like a great plan but you might want a backup plan and one better than accusing them of capriciousness when they do make mistakes.

> It almost looks like he was surprised by the giant size of the verdict, and worried it might focus too much attention on the travesty that is East Texas, so he's looking to get out on a technicality?

It almost looks like he fucked up and Apple's highly paid legal team had him dead to rights and rather than be reversed by a higher court he took the medicine himself.


Read the order: the whole motion is based on the mentions being fine for one suit and prejudicial for the other, and Apple consented to the consolidation. If one accepts the ridiculous record of patent jurisprudence in East Texas, there is nothing in this order to justify a new trial. If, like me, one doesn't accept that, it's obvious that the judge is just trying to keep the whole disgusting façade from collapsing.


I read the order before I made my comment, thanks. The order makes clear note of why these mentions were prejudicial in this case.

> Apple consented to the consolidation

IANAL but seems like you don't understand the difference between consent and objecting to but preferring consolidation to trying the cases out of order.

> there is nothing in this order to justify a new trial

The judge goes into detail on how mentions of the earlier trial were used in the consolidated one to "gratuitous" prejudicial impact, including the repeated mentions to infringement by FaceTime 1.0 when that finding had been reversed. He quotes several of these at length, goes on to cites multiple precedents, then goes into detail why VirnetX's cited precedent doesn't apply to this case.


I have little sympathy for someone who makes their money by leeching off of others instead of providing real value to society.


Why do you think that I was expressing sympathy?


We talking about Apple now or the Patent Troll ;-)


This is extremely good news for anyone doing... well... pretty much anything interesting with network protocols. This troll covers among other things: anything P2P, SIP, DNSSec, VoIP that does not flow through a central server, certain types of VPNs, certain types of SDN, ... it's crazy.


So what does it cover, in a user-friendly summary?


The lawyers all cheer! It will be a retrial.


Similar is going to be the story of Mr. Chan's patent which is also known as the first patent of Hoverboards. Mr. Chan has sued more than 30 companies for infringing his patent. But an analysis [1] says that his patent holds no water and is not novel. The day his patent will get challenged in a court and get invalidated, a similar article with a different headline will appear on Arstechnica.

[1]http://www.greyb.com/first-patent-on-hoverboard-can-get-inva...


At least in that case there's a physical product. I don't mind patents, but I prefer the original version where you needed a physical implementation.

I don't know about his design in particular, but I have the mechanical and electronic skills to design something that would likely infringe on his patent and I haven't read the patent or even looked at a breakdown of a hoverboard. The patent probably doesn't meet the novelty requirements.


Although Apple is probably ok without the money, I cheer every time I see someone win in one of the trolling cases. It takes big companies to fight this - ones with deep enough pockets and long enough time horizons to realize that feeding the trolls enables them to grow.

When I read that these are jury trials, it seems to me that East Texas must have an army of people who now know quite a bit about patent law having sat through so many of these cases. Strange specialization.


As Stallman pointed years ago, software patents are evil. And I agree with him on that point 100%. EU software patenting is less evil, but still is.


How much do judges charge for this sort of thing? Anybody know?


That's very mean spirited of you.

Judges are a vital part of three branches of government. Their power relies on respect, not guns or ability to write laws. The reason for contempt of court laws, whole circus with black robes, "your honor" is to create appearance of "wow, those people are important". Because they REALLY are a very important part of good governance. They just don't have muscle to prove it to you. And you don't really want them to have to rely on muscle of executive branch. Because in case of you vs executive, judges need to be impartial, independent, having their own weight in society.

Unless you know something we don't, you should not imply that this judge is corrupt.




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