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How patent trolls are affecting software and technology
When Patents Attack! - "This American Life"
Robert Charlton

 3:34 am on Aug 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

A completely absorbing (and frightening) podcast from Ira Glass of Public Radio International's This American Life on how "patent trolls" operate, how they are affecting software and technology, and how ubiquitous they have become....

When Patents Attack! [thisamericanlife.org]
This American Life
Originally aired 07.22.2011

Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.

We take you inside this war, and tell the fascinating story of how an idea enshrined in the US constitution to promote progress and innovation, is now being used to do the opposite.



 7:33 pm on Aug 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

OMG innovating in technology is akin to swimming among sharks. thanks for the link, Robert!

Robert Charlton

 3:39 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm kicking this thread up, because last week a friend received a letter from Getty Images for use of 3 "buttons", as he described them to me, that he'd found somewhere... he's not even sure where... back in 2003, and used them on his website. Getty's demanding $3,000 for copyright infringement.

The Getty letter has been discussed at various spots on the forum, including a long discussion in this thread, in Supporters....

Getty images random legal letter
June 2010
http://www.webmasterworld.com/supporters/4149907.htm [webmasterworld.com]

What's frightening is that the Getty letter business model is more or less the same business model as the patent troll model.

Essentially, companies funded with venture capital (and therefore expecting a return on investment) are buying up rights to patents or images (as the case may be), then exploring who's infringing... ultimately to file larger suits against worthwhile targets. And it's hard to say who will be affected, because any image you personally can't vouch for might be a target.


 6:19 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

The best response for your friend is to invite the lawsuit. Most States $5,000 and less are Justice of the Peace courts and require the PRESENCE of both parties at a date certain. IANAL, of course, but have seen these kind of scare tactics used over and over. Most of the time the Plaintiff can't afford to send their lawyer, thus judgement for the Defendant. Meanwhile, if your friend is in Texas, he's judgement proof even if a default judgement is granted in some other venue.

As for Texas being a venue for lawsuits, that's because the State Constitution is generous toward business and copyright. As a Native of the State I don't have a problem with this. That said, the pie is only so big and those who already had a slice and see it getting trimmed by others who fail to honor the existing patent/copyright, they are justified in going after the infringers.

Tell your friend to create 3 new buttons and ignore the rest. Sorted. (One also has an absolute defense in that the "button" bore no copyright or patent at the time acquired)

Getty, on the other hand, is a ...


 8:19 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

The trolls are doing it for other things besides images.

Kelora Systems has been going after people based on a "process patent" for "guided parametric search" which in my opinion should never have been granted.

Someone I know personally was hit with a demand for [a six-figure sum] related to that patent and ended up settling for [a large five-figure sum] on the advice of his lawyer ... even though the search function on his website had been developed completely from scratch by his programmers based on their own common sense.

That would be akin to having some image company sue you because you drew your own picture of something that they had also taken a picture of.

It's a mess, it really is. I call it .... well, I'd better not say ...


 8:32 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Most States $5,000 and less are Justice of the Peace courts and require the PRESENCE of both parties at a date certain.

Are you sure you're not thinking of small claims? Dollar ceiling varies from state to state, and afaik you are never required to use small claims rather than the superior court (what New York calls "supreme court" just to confuse us). If you're big enough to keep attorneys on salary, the extra expense is nothing. What matters is to scare everyone into settling, so you build up a precedent of "this type of case cannot be won".

How can you bring a copyright-related suit in a state court? Copyright is federal.


 8:35 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

buckworks... you have encapsulated it. There is a point and dollar where the defendant cannot continue. BUT, for ordinary folks and sites, unless the plantiff can sniff real dollars, any judgement is moot. That blood from a turnip kind of thing...


 9:04 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

any judgement is moot

Tangor, you're treading on dangerous ground as this forum cannot be giving legal advice.

One can't get blood from a turnip but the turnip can be badly shredded in the attempt.

Robert Charlton

 5:13 pm on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

The best response for your friend is to invite the lawsuit.

tangor - FYI, my friend is a lawyer, and he wasn't offhand dismissing the letter as trivial. I had to remind him that I was unable to give him legal advice. ;)

I could only advise him on the history of what was going on in this area, and I took pains to point out that my view was incomplete.


 5:27 am on Dec 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Shakespeare's Henry VI (Act IV, Scene II), Dick the Butcher.

I think that this will get a WHOLE lot worse if that disaster of a 'stop piracy' bill gets passed.

A lot of people fail to realize that the court system as a whole benefits from these ambulance chasing suits. .. The court personnel get their salaries, the judges make their money and, most likely, lot's of ben franklins get nice little trips in unmarked brown envelopes.

Robert Charlton

 8:15 am on May 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Software copyrights are another troubling aspect of this issue. The current lawsuit between Oracle and Google is worth noting as an example of the potential for far reaching effects this kind of litigation can have. See this thread, which is just getting past Google-bashing and into exploring those effects....

http://www.webmasterworld.com/goog/4450634.htm [webmasterworld.com]

From the Wired article [wired.com...] I cite in the thread...

One thing that makes the issue particularly troubling for open source projects is the extremely long shelf life of copyrights, Samuels says. Patents expire after less than 20 years, but copyright would protect the Amazon APIs for 95 years from the date they were first published, she says. "Copyright lasts a hell of a lot longer than patent protection."

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