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Patent troll Lodsys now after apps with 'More Apps' links (toucharcade.com)
141 points by modmax 2324 days ago | hide | past | web | 68 comments | favorite

The only difference between Lodsys and large software/hardware companies like Microsoft and Oracle is the size of their litigation targets.

I'm beyond convinced that the entire software patent systems needs to be abolished.

>The only difference between Lodsys and large software/hardware companies like Microsoft and Oracle is the size of their litigation targets.

And the fact that MS and Oracle actually make products.

And the fact that so far Lodsys's patents seem to be things which are very obvious and therefore very questionable which isn't true of all patents.

I wonder what would happen if government became a result oriented organization. If the point of patents is to increase innovation, shouldn't you be able to measure innovation? And if you can't measure the impact of patents on innovation, what evidence is their to justify monopolizing ideas? If you can't measure and observe, then what's the evidence? I would say there is none, it's entirely subjective. Unconditional support for actions regardless of consequence is a bit religious to me, and there used to be separation of church and state.. but I guess that can't really be measured, can it?

It's not religion. You are using a different (and objectively better) standard of proof. But it's literally a billion times easier to measure things like that than it was 240 years ago, when all math was done by hand and the fastest communication was by horse.

You, as a citizen, can demand results and proof. That's how any human institution evolves. Grumping on the internet about how stupid everyone is because things aren't done the way you want will not produce measurable results.

Grumping on the internet about how stupid everyone is because things aren't done the way you want will not produce measurable results.

I know this is a common thing to say, but speaking one's mind is an effective way of producing results. The more people are aware of and share an opinion, the more likely one of those people will have the necessary motivation and influence to "do something" about it.

More patents means more innovation, right? Because more innovative ideas have been protected, right?

So, I bet they actually do measure. Just not the way any sane person would expect. But this is what always happens if a happens if you try to run something, that is hard or impossible to measure, "economically". You revert to one of the things you can trivially count and claim that more (or less) is better. If you are one of the smart ones you dabble with relative and not absolute numbers. This is especially true for political or public institutions without any goal above "accounting of men and things" because it just doesn't matter any more to them.

More patents means more innovation, right? Because more innovative ideas have been protected, right?

This is not just a problem for the federal government. If I remember correctly, at a banquet hosted by my state's government in honor of local innovators, the emcee announced with pride the number of patents that had been granted to local businesses and inventors.

It seems companies (large or small) are all afraid that someone may take their once 'decent' idea, perfect it and make a better product. Can you imagine the anarchy that would ensue if companies were forced to be innovative? They'd run the risk of losing customers who are frustrated with their stale solutions/products. We just can't have that. Ludicrous, this idea you suggest!

My understanding is that Microsoft hates software patents (at least when BillG was CEO), has only registered them out of necessity, has historically only sued relatively few other companies, and only done so with either real patents (non-obvious, read beyond the patent title) or as a retaliation of being sued itself. I’m sure there are a few exceptions here as there are always.

They aren't suing every Android OEM out of necessity. Microsoft has converted to patent troll in lieu of innovating in the mobile space.

That's not exactly true- they are innovating, but they're also a patent troll. There's no reason why they can't be both.

You can't be a patent troll if you're actually making a product. The entire "business model" of a patent troll is to make money off of lawsuits, not from actually selling things.

A friend of mine was working in the Hustler store in Cincinnati in the late 90's/early 2000. You know how Larry Flynt opened a store in Cincinnati, despite the legislation passed specifically to exclude his businesses? They had boxes of butterfly, rainbow, and unicorn stickers in the basement. Every single sticker was inventoried separately, so legally, the Hustler store didn't have a majority inventory of adult items.

There's nothing preventing a sufficiently large company from being some fraction X and another fraction Y.

All systems have bugs, which is why simpler systems are easier to manage in the long run.

Yes. Though of course, if a big company that was actually making things, bought a patent troll and just let the get on with their business, I'd still be inclined to call the new subsidiary a patent troll.

This is true. I probably should have said "companies that make products related to their patents cannot be patent trolls".

They're using their patents to crush their competitors. It's not patent trolling, it's anti-competitive behavior.

I don't think they're trying to "crush" Samsung by extorting $15 per handset, I'd say they're trying to maximize their revenues by charging as much as they possibly can without triggering a lawsuit.

If they wanted to crush Samsung, they'd insist that Samsung sell WP7 phones or nothing. If their patents hold up, that is their right.

By the very definition of "patent troll", Microsoft is not a patent troll.

According to Wikipedia:

  The term "patent troll" was used as early as 1993 to
  describe companies that file aggressive patent lawsuits.

Their outlook on using their patent portfolio has changed in these past few years. As their reputation for innovation goes down, their reputation for trolling is going up.I guess trolling is inversely proportional to innovation after all.

I find this hard to believe. It may have been their MO in the very early days but they later started building one of the largest patent portfolios in the world and their CTO went on to become one of the largest patent trolls in the world.

Amazon is a famous example of this. Search for "Amazon patent" on Slashdot for some history.

This annoys me because it is scaring off people from developing for smart phones. This patent is so vague that even if I did know every patent ever made then I would not even associate it with what patent he is claiming he has violated.

Bring back Lulzsec for a day, get them to hack their systems and delete all their patents.

I wouldn't be surprised if they had a patent for people communicating over the internet and we are all about to be sued.

Not just SmartPhones. This kind of insanity makes me question whether I should write another line of code for anything.

Indeed. Opening a bar instead is looking better all the time.

Heck, run for Congress.

Then you are one the receiving end of all the bribes.

> Bring back Lulzsec for a day, get them to hack their systems and delete all their patents.

They'd have to actually attack the patent office, wouldn't they? Not to mention, I imagine that both the PO and Lodsys probably keep multiple redundant backups, digital and dead-tree.

I would imagine you are right, I think the point I was making more was to annoy them as much as they annoy us. Causing inconvenience to them would be the ultimate goal

> Bring back Lulzsec for a day, get them to hack their systems and delete all their patents.

Well, we just need to abolish patents in general. They just create reason for these patent trolls to do what they do (scam us developers) and they are extremely flawed in nature.

I think some patents really do serve a purpose though and in some respects they are completely right to be granted. I think if someone is truely inovative in what they invent then they should be granted the patent. It's when people come along and patent really stupid stuff.

I remember a company filing a law suit against twitter once because they had patented the method of posting short status updates in the case of emergency (or something like that) and they tried to sue Twitter??!!?! I understand the patent and how it is applied to Twitter in general but seriously, who allowed that patent to pass??

I find Amazons "One Click" purchase patent stupid.

Indeed.. this is a case where hackers can do some real good and make the world a better place

How is something this vague "directed to systems and methods for providers of products and/or services to interact with users of those products and services to gather information from those users and transmit that information to the provider" patentable?!

So if a service provider (a restaurant) uses their service (waiters) to gather information from users of that service (waiters get food orders from customers) and transmit that information to the provider (waiter brings orders back to the kitchen) then wow ... they patented waiting on a customer!!! What a novel concept!!

It involves a computer -- and the examiners employed by the PTO just don't have the time or training to properly understand computer patents. That's the only explanation.

If examiners can't figure out whether something is patentable, they err on the side of good faith on the part of the applicant, and leave the question to the courts.

It involves a computer -- and the examiners employed by the PTO just don't have the time or training to properly understand computer patents. That's the only explanation.

That's the only explanation? Doubtful.

I know someone at the patent office, an examiner who handles tech patents. When I asked about certain patents she explained that you need to look at the complete patent application and the specific behavior or items in the claim. Titles are often very broad for convenience. Also, patent applications tend to start broad and go narrow, with the overly broad requests (usually) denied.

If examiners can't figure out whether something is patentable, they err on the side of good faith on the part of the applicant, and leave the question to the courts.

Where did you get this information from?

As it was explained to me if a patent is not clear or what is being claimed not readily understood by the examiner then it gets sent back for revision. There does not appear to be any "good faith" involved.

Some patent holders like to claim that one of their narrowly defined patents applies to much broader behavior, and then threaten people with legal action. In this case it is quite possible for a non-tech judge to decide that a patent applies to things it really shouldn't.

I don't doubt there are bullshit patents or that some patent examiners aren't as educated as they should be, but I also don't see any reason to think the examiners are just so harried and untrained that they just shrug their shoulders and assume everything is legit.

There are two problems with the current patent system. One is that patents are granted where they shouldn't be. The other is that legitimate patents on specific, narrow, precise items or behavior are later used to extort money from people because untrained lawyers and judges will decide that a very narrow patent should, incorrectly, apply to more broader cases.

I don't see how any variation on these claims is patentable. Everything there would have been obvious 25 years ago.

That's just the title. The claims are what get examined for patentability.

I was in DC yesterday, walking by the patent office and saw this quote from Lincoln over the door: "The Patent Office adds the flame of interest to the light of creativity"

I wonder what Lincoln would think of Lodsys.

The things what Lodsys is doing right now is actually very good. There are more copy-cat trolls coming to the market based on the same idea "buy some patents and let sue many private proprietors and ask them $1000 to drop suite".

Eventually, it will be obvious even to our representatives in Washington that something is broken and they will be forced to fix it.

As they say, our representatives will try doing the right thing but only after they try all the wrong things first.

So then, there is an important free market niche for "douchebags who are smart enough to exploit X, but too stupid and greedy to avoid outraging the wrong people."

It seems Lodsys was able to successfully patent the hyperlink, U.S. patent system has some serious problems. Patent trolling is not the only problem, the patent office granting patents, where the is no merit, is another big problem.

Remember Vuestar? They seemed to have managed to patent a hyperlinked image



I'm not a lawyer, but I did read through all four of their patents. There's no way Lodsys can claim patenting the hyperlink. It's ridiculous.

yeah, but that's what they are claiming, the app has a link to another app and they want to sue over that. There is not in app purchase.

What did Lodsys get that patent in the first place!? Who were the idiots that approved the patent?

Where are all of the internet's vigilante hackers when it comes to things like this?

Lodsys might actually be an easier target than a large company.

My question is, if you just provide an external "Buy Me" or "More Apps" link to the App Store you would have no idea who or how many people actually use that link, and of those who use the link you would have no idea what they did once they got to the store. They could buy someone else's app, they could browse some more, they could leave a comment.

So how does that qualify as a "survey" in Lodsys's eyes?

I have a feeling that Lodsys will continue to iterate on this theme until they get shut down. Given they have signed a licensing agreement, I'm not sure what Apple can do, but they should take as active as a role as they can from here on out. It certainly raises doubts in my mind as to what kind of "buy this app" link I can put, if anything, in any apps for myself or my clients.

What someone needs to do is get a business process patent on "Patent Trolling".

Nice. They beat Haliburton by a full year. http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Se...

Unfortunately i think the Blisky ruling kinda killed this one.

I thought you could not patent a business process?

why m i not surprised IBM came up with that

The act of writing software can be summarized as generating ideas and writing down these ideas in a language computers can understand and execute. Software programmers are in the business of writing ideas all day. This combined with the fact that the bar for ideas being patentable is very low means that programmers probably generate and write down multiple patentable ideas per day. From the get go they are inevitably setting up a huge patent minefield.

I don’t know if anyone has ever calculated the average density of patentable ideas in code, but if you consider, for example, that performing an online transaction with the last entered customer data (the infamous 1-Click patent) is patentable, I would very roughly estimate that there is a patentable idea every 20 to 50 lines of code. As an example, the Linux kernel (just the very core of Linux) contains more that 10 millions lines of code. If you consider a complete Linux distribution (by adding the graphical user interface and a bunch of utilities) you get at least ten times that amount, that is more than 100 millions lines of code. Using the rough estimate above, we can calculate that there are more than 2 millions patentable ideas in a consumer operating system. That is an incredible amount of complexity. In fact, it is a testament to human ingenuity that we can (sometimes) get all this code to work together.

Now code is not used side by side like an infantry of little computer processes working in parallel to make computers or phones go. It is rather organised and packaged in a huge network of building blocks, a pyramid of hundreds of thousands of libraries, APIs or functions heavily inter-dependent on each other. What’s more, the building blocks are usually not all written by the same people or organisations and their consistent and stable behavior is critical for enabling compatibility (remember, often between millions of parts made by thousands of developers).

This hierarchical and networked architecture is inevitable and the best way to organise complex information, however the stability it requires at the bottom of the pyramid means that some building blocks cannot be changed once the pyramid is built. Someone claiming ownership of the shape of a bottom block after the pyramid is built, someone having the power to force a bottom block to be removed and replaced with a different shaped one, no matter how simple and obvious this bloc is, does not have power over just this block but over the whole structure above it and all the components that depend on it. This means patent holders have a disproportionately large amount of power when they target such a bloc. They know that changing it would require tearing down, redesigning and replacing often thousands of dependent projects and probably break compatibility for millions of users of these projects. It is usually simply not an option.

I was planning on developing a few paid apps to test the market over the next few months, but this combined with the other mobile patent lawsuits has made me seriously reconsider it.

It's a pity the app store servers reside in the US. Otherwise i wouldn't have to worry about these things!

You're not really any safer building any other kind of software, although you may be subject to less patent troll scrutiny with a web app or something.


Won't work. One of the fundamental principles is that A patent is a sword, not a shield. Owning a patent doesn't shield you from litigation, it simply allows you to litigate against others.

The "patent arsenal" idea is that if you have a trove of patents, you can respond to competitors by cross-licensing. The competitor won't sue you if they don't want to be sued in turn, a kind of mutual non-agression pact.

This doesn't work against a patent troll, who is not in business and cannot be sued on the basis of any patent. I apologize in advance if this simile is offensive, but I think patents are a little like nuclear weapons. They are very effective as a deterrent against other fully functioning countries attacking you, because they know that even if they "win" the war, they will lose.

But what is their value against terrorists? Nothing, because the terrorists do not have anything you can attack with a nuclear weapon. Worse, if you put a nuclear weapon in the hands of a criminal mastermind, you face extortion on a massive scale (see the movie "Thunderball").

A collection of your own patents is no defense against a non-practicing entity like Lodsys. They don't make any products, so there's nothing in any portfolio that can threaten their business and force them to deal.

A bunch of smaller businesses could definitely create a spin-off entity that bought patent rights and 'exploited' them. But it could never use those patents to target a troll. It could target other tech companies, but then you wouldn't be beating anyone, you'd be joining them.

Short of that, small developers could create some sort of shared legal fund to make fighting these entities less individually-burdensome. But for any individual developer, it's probably going to be cheaper to just hope you don't fall into a net and pay when you do, than to pay every year toward a very expensive patent litigation fund.

These cases can easily cost millions to tens of millions of dollars. A consortium of a thousand companies could each contribute a thousand dollars a year for a decade and wind up broke after a single lawsuit. Where's the up-side for the developer, compared to just keeping their head down and hoping for the best, paying out a few thousand dollars when they get ensnared?

Not to mention that having a large consortium out there would draw the Trolls like a beacon, ensuring that any net they cast hooked the funds of every developer in the consortium.

And, ultimately, any good patent lawyer working for such a consortium would still just advise paying the troll most times. So the practical effect would likely just be to streamline the settlement process.

Small developers would, quite frankly, get far better bang for their buck directing any such consortium moneys into a patent-reform lobby.

Another option for developers: Start your companies in a country not covered by these laws.

I always remind myself that if I want to get around the US laws, I can just move to Nigeria (or something).

Unless you want to limit yourself to the market in such a country, that tactic isn't really going to work. If you are providing goods/services to the US market, you will be subject to their laws.

Patent law reform is a must.

Is there any business model which can limit the damages from a patent troll?

This isn't new news if you've been following this business since the start: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2552563

if i was you,i'd honorably ask mr.snodgrass to eat shit and die!

Silly patents. TIL it's possible to patent cross-selling methods.

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