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EFF on the Lodsys patent claims (eff.org)
30 points by grellas on June 11, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

It's fascinating how our legal system, and patent law, have apparently created what is little more than an (apparently) legal extortion scheme.

IV Purchases all these (typically low-quality, frequently obvious, very seldom "Advancing the Arts" class) patents, and then approaches companies to license their various patent portfolios.

The brilliant part of all this, is that if you don't license directly from IV, instead of IV suing you for patent infringement, they _sell_ the patent to a third party, who then attempts to license them to you, or, if they are unsuccessful, sues you.

It feels an awful lot like "Buy some of my insurance, or something bad might happen to your warehouse." And it's all totally legal!

What's strange here, is that Apple (A "Mall") purchased the License (some "Insurance") - and now the people who sold that insurance are going around burning down stores inside that mall, after the little storekeepers didn't buy "insurance."

Apple is going to make the claim that because they bought the "Insurance" that all of the store inside should be protected as well.

And, at no part in this conversation, is Apple even really challenging whether it should be having to purchase "Insurance" - because they do the same thing to other companies, so they have some interest in protecting the status quo.

Now, yes, I realize that there are useful patents, particularly in the drug industry, where it may take 100s of millions of dollars and many years to invent something, and it's almost certain that most of those drugs would never, could never have been invented without patent protection (or massive government subsidies).

In my view of the world, I thought that Patents were supposed to be about "Advancing the arts" - not lining the pockets of the already very rich, to make them even richer.

I have to wonder when the this system will (finally) be overthrown and replaced with something half sane.

I'm not a fan of software patents, but one of those linked in the article is the first software patent that gave me pause (patent 7620565). Most software patents I read consist of "apply <canned algorithm x> to <situation y>". This one doesn't read like that. I think it's very important that this patent is pure fluff - it does not actually keep you from producing a good product in any given field.

The patent was filed in 2006. From my recollection, I can't think of any websites or devices that used this sort of feature before 2006. Today it seems fairly common, but in tech people are so used to blindly copying features (because its so easy to do after someone else has already done all the research) that I can't rightly say this innovation didn't originate with the inventor. All the devices used by potential infringers involving this patent existed for years prior to the filing of this patent, which to me says its not as easy to dismiss as obvious.

The patent was also created by someone who seems to be focused on inventing things. People rail against software trolls because they don't produce an actual product, but if the inventor could not license or sell this patent, this fairly common feature might not exist today.

Because of all the above, this isn't a patent I would point to as an example of why we need to abolish software patents. That said, I'm still not a fan of software patents, and think abolishing them would be a net good.

if the inventor could not license or sell this patent, this fairly common feature might not exist today.

Bzzzzt, I strongly disagree with this supposition. If the inventor approached Apple, was rebuffed, and then Apple copied the invention in the creation of its iOS ecosystem, I might agree with you. However, it appears that what has happened here is that the invention was independently created subsequent to the patent filing.

Which suggests to me that it would have been invented any ways and thus the ability to patent the idea has no bearing on whether the invention would or would not have been discovered.

p.s. By :"bzzzzt," I mean that I am "buzzing in," not making a rude noise intended as an insult!!!

True, assuming the first iPhone had this feature, when comparing the dates of the patent filing to the date of the first iPhone release it's likely that it was independently invented.

It's never discussed in these cases where the original inventor has gotten to. Apple licenses from Lodsys who bought from Intellectual Ventures who owns 30,000 patents, apparently none of which they have invented themselves.

Where are the original inventors?

What I have seen in industry is companies write contracts so that people who invent things automatically transfer ownership to the company, often even if the invention was made off hours and has nothing to do with the company, and in some cases when the invention was completed before or started after their term of employment.

Now the whole argument is that these patents protect the rights of inventors and give them an incentive to invent.

Yeah? Well let's see how much the inventor is getting paid out of these millions. I bet the amount the inventor, the dude that actually did the work, gets is absolutely nothing, or maybe he got a $1 bonus for the invention, which is a typical clause I've seen. $1 awarded for patents.

I'm not sure what you're looking for here. Actually when this story broke, there was an assumption that Lodsys was owned by Daniel Abelow the original inventor of the patents. This was proven to be incorrect. Abelow had sold the patents to IV (I think) which were later purchased by Lodsys. Once he sold the patent rights he doesn't have much to do with anything. I can't find the article now but some news or blog outlet tracked him down and I believe the statement they got was along the lines of "I sold the rights to those patents a while back, and I've got nothing to do with this anymore"

His website is here http://www.abelow.com/

Thanks, I also found Dan's other site here: http://computing2.com/

So in this case the inventor did make some money off it at some point.

Abelow has a bunch of other patents that he seems to have never used himself but just sells to these various interlinked companies that then sue people. Another patent, 5251294 covers anyone using rollover menus in javascript. If you've got those and aren't paying WebVention a license fee (which is a shell company of IntellectualVentures, the company that sold to Lodsys) you might be in trouble, well except it seems to have expired in 2010, but they had a good ride up to then.

discussion: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2609936/javascript-css-ro...

analysis: http://www.law.com/jsp/lawtechnologynews/PubArticleLTN.jsp?i...

litigation: http://news.priorsmart.com/webvention-v-abercrombie-fitch-lX...

Agreed I have to say its not to say that Abelow is not part of the problem, from looking at his site I have to say he's part of the systemic patent troll system. From what I can tell he just ideates and then patents without ever building anything.

Typo, if any EFF people are here:

> (...) in many instances, will come out to than the cost of defending a lawsuit.

I assume it should read "will come out to be more than the cost".

Less than. The troll would prefer to not litigate, but that you just hand over the money.

Er, right, I had a bit of a mental lapse there.

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