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Microsoft, Google Sue Troll Who Sued 397 Companies 176

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the only-we-can-do-that dept.
FlorianMueller writes "Microsoft and Google have teamed up against a company that holds a geotagging patent and sued 397 companies last year in Texas, most of them in mid December. ... Now the two tech giants have entered the fray together and want the patent declared invalid and seek an injunction to prevent further lawsuits over it. Since the patent holder has already filed for an initial public offering, this intervention may come at just the right time to prevent the worst. Google and Microsoft say that there was prior art when the patent on an 'Internet organizer for accessing geographically and topically based information' was applied for in 1996."
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Microsoft, Google Sue Troll Who Sued 397 Companies

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  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:12PM (#35371686)

    Microsoft and Google working together for good?

    • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:17PM (#35371742) Homepage
      Yea, certainly unusual to see these the Big "G" and M working together ...

      Makes me wonder if something about the patent might actually worry 'em?!?

    • Ballmer: "I'll fucking kill mother fucking Google! Oh, wait, we've got a common enemy??? Get my good friends Sergey and Larry on the phone!"
      • by zill (1690130)

        Get my good friends Sergey and Larry on the phone!"

        A hotline has been established between Mountain View and Redmond ever since the Cuba browser crisis.

        • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:19PM (#35372516) Homepage

          A transcript of Ballmer's side of the conversation (with apologies to Peter Sellers):

          "Hello?... Uh... Hello S- uh hello Sergey? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Sergey... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine... a-ha-ha-ha-ha... Now then, Sergey, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Patents... The *Patents*, Sergey... The *software* patents!... Well now, what happened is... ahm... one of those patent trolls, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah... he went and did a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his lawyers... to sue your company... Ah... Well, let me finish, Sergey... Let me finish, Sergey... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Sergey?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... *Of course* I like to speak to you!... *Of course* I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Sergey. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a *friendly* call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it..."

          • by Thing 1 (178996)
            Kubrick, sure; I also got a little Marvin, "He called me up to wash his head at me."
    • by Ancantus (1926920) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:24PM (#35371840) Homepage Journal

      Pigs, frightened by the near freezing temperatures, take to the skys.

    • The good news for GeoTag is that the Nazgûl are still behind the Black Gate of Armonk.

    • by eln (21727) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:27PM (#35371898) Homepage
      Don't get too excited. Microsoft and Google both have hundreds of dubious patents to their names, so it's not like they're doing it to strike a blow in favor of sane patent reform. They're probably just doing it because once this patent trolling firm goes public, they'll have access to enough capital to start suing the big dogs (like Microsoft and Google) under these same patents instead of just going after the little fish who can't afford to defend themselves properly.

      I'm sure they'd rather spend less now to smother the company than spend a lot more later defending themselves against it.
    • by _0xd0ad (1974778) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:34PM (#35371970) Journal

      Microsoft and Google working together for their own self-interest, which incidentally is beneficial to us too.

      FTFY.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by izomiac (815208)
        Ya know, an interest shared by Microsoft, Google, and the vast majority of people is generally known as the common good...
    • All I can say is "Hold on tight everyone! THE UNIVERSE IS EATING ITSELF!"

    • This is it people! Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

      I'm ready...ready for the big ride baby! Yeeeeeehaw!
    • I don't know that they are working for good as much as they are working for self preservation that in this instance gives them a common enemy.
    • There are many things on which MS and Google work together - I mean, why not, provided it works towards the interest of both parties?

      To give one example, how'd you think IE9 ended up supporting WebM (and no other 3rd party codec)?

  • by Mikkeles (698461) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:16PM (#35371738)

    It's called an atlas + gazetteer

  • Two things ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:19PM (#35371770) Homepage

    Two things ...

    We need the USPTO to stop giving out obvious patents that aren't really anything more than "with a computer".

    We need to stop letting everybody start legal proceedings in Texas just because it's a favorable venue. Way too many of these stories by patent trolls seem to be out of that jurisdiction.

    • by turbclnt (1776692) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:23PM (#35371824)

      We need to stop letting everybody start legal proceedings in Texas just because it's a favorable venue. Way too many of these stories by patent trolls seem to be out of that jurisdiction.

      are you advocating...messing with Texas?!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SquirrelDeth (1972694)
        I say let Mexico have Texas. Half the Mexicans are there anyway.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        are you advocating...messing with Texas?!

        No, I'm advocating they stop letting people mess with everybody else using their court system.

      • by Whalou (721698)

        are you advocating *puts on sunglasses* messing with Texas?!

        YYEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHH.

      • Litter has nothing to do with it.

        That phrase was created for a litter control advertisement in the 70s/80s. It doesn't mean what people think it does.

        • My uncle was one of the founders of the ad agency that came up with the slogan, so I'm getting a kick out of this.

      • by v1 (525388)

        That district in texas is to patents what china used to be for spam... and sadly it's probably about money for more than the patent trolls. I wonder just how much money court fees etc bring into that district from the gobs of patent suits filed there every year? They must have an army of judges and a campus of courtrooms, and I get the impression they're about on par with those "wedding chapels" in las vegas, practically with a drive-thru window.

    • by Jenming (37265)

      We need the USPTO to stop giving out obvious patents that aren't really anything more than "with a computer".

      Neutral experts, or a neutral judge and competing experts, don't come cheap.

      The current system is to have a low standard at an outset and then a high standard if it turns out there is actually disagreement.

      You could put the high or a higher standard first, but you would have to fund it and its not clear that it would reduce the overall expense or justness of the patent system.

      • You could put the high or a higher standard first, but you would have to fund it

        OK: have the applicants pay for the needed experts. After all, the idea of a patent is to let the inventor profit. The inventor cannot afford it? That's what banks are for. If the idea is good, he can get a loan based on his future profit. Or get a venture capitalist to fund him.

        • You could put the high or a higher standard first, but you would have to fund it

          OK: have the applicants pay for the needed experts. After all, the idea of a patent is to let the inventor profit. The inventor cannot afford it? That's what banks are for. If the idea is good, he can get a loan based on his future profit. Or get a venture capitalist to fund him.

          You realize the most VC's are just loan sharks of the startup world, don't you?

          Another possibility would be to have those who have successfully obtained a patent and are not actively licensing it under reasonable terms pay an annual penalty. This penalty would be used to fund the expert assistance required to maintain a manageable patent system. This has three advantages: it ensures fewer garbage patents are allowed into this system; it discourages people and companies from sitting on patents; and it enc

          • by Thing 1 (178996)

            Another possibility would be to have those who have successfully obtained a patent and are not actively licensing it under reasonable terms pay an annual penalty.

            Rather, have a blanket annual penalty ("fee") to keep the patent going for another year. Don't pay the fee? Patent expires. Thus no need for a penalty. And it serves the rest of your purposes just as well.

    • We need to stop letting everybody start legal proceedings in Texas just because it's a favorable venue. Way too many of these stories by patent trolls seem to be out of that jurisdiction.

      I never understood why it is that this particular jurisdiction is so favorable to patent holders. Could someone with some perspective on this please comment?

    • Re:Two things ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:04PM (#35372322) Journal

      We need the USPTO to stop giving out obvious patents that aren't really anything more than "with a computer".

      That depends.

      If you have a methodological process for, say, reading your location off a GPS, checking it against a map, and tagging it manually to a piece of data... then with a computer, this is nothing but "a computer program to do what I was doing anyway."

      If however you are sighting up things by hand and manually tagging them, the integration of a GPS with the system may be quite novel.

      Patents are about novelty. Unfortunately, all novelty is incremental. Small incremental steps are obvious, though, if they come in the common sphere or they package up what's common. Say you take a picture, check your GPS, put the location into the picture... putting a GPS in the camera to tag the picture doesn't suddenly make geotagging photographs a new invention, because you're automating what people did anyway. But if nobody thought to geotag pictures before, or they never thought to use a GPS, or they always tagged with the LOCATION ON A MAP and you integrate a system that tags the GPS coordinates and looks it up on a map as needed, you've done something nobody's thought of yet.

      Novelty is subtle. There is a lot of "This is just X done with Y" and "I could have done that..." coming from people who really, really like this idea that nobody seems to have done before. There are also cases of "everyone does this with the exact same fucking tools; you just told a computer to make it user-transparent" going on, which need to be shot down.

      Bread machines didn't pioneer the making of bread, or any individual step; but they did provide the novelty of a machine that mixes, rises, and bakes the bread in one sweep, with tools that all existed before. Note that nobody put a paddle in the base of a baking pan, stuck it in the oven, cranked it several times, let it rise, cranked it again, and then heated it up; the actual process was completely different, but using the same tools (a pan, bread ingredients, an agitator, and a heating element similar to those found in an electric oven). This was not "a traditional bread machine, but with a motor instead of a hand crank."

      The same goes for a computer: is this a traditional manual process (take picture, enter GPS information into picture) done with two computers, but we put the components together and did it manually? Or is this a traditional manual process done via other means which we recognized was possible to automate by plugging a bunch of other tools together and using a new methodology that correlates to but doesn't strictly automate the original steps?

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)

      Or perhaps get the Texas court in question called into question for questionable proceedings?

  • Tolkien (Score:5, Funny)

    by SimonTS (1984074) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:19PM (#35371784)

    You can't use the word 'Troll' or the Tolkien estate will be after you all.

    • by LordEd (840443)

      You can't use the world 'Tolkien' or the Tolkien estate will be after you.

      http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/02/27/1940241/Tolkien-Estate-Censors-the-Word-Tolkien [slashdot.org]

      • by SimonTS (1984074)

        That's OK - they'll be after you twice as badly as after me - you used the 'T' word twice.

        • You used "troll"(tm) once and then "Tolkien"(tm) once, so that's two slaps for you, same as GP.

          Whereas I'm gonna be fine 'cause I've used (tm). Watch and learn! ~

      • by mangu (126918)

        You can't use the world 'Tolkien' or the Troll estate will be after you.

        FTFY

      • by Tolkien (664315)
        I can't claim prior art, but I can say this name has been my established identity for quite some time!
    • You can't use the word 'Troll' or the Tolkien estate will be after you all.

      Nope, prior art....lol...

      troll (n.) [etymonline.com]

      "ugly dwarf or giant," 1610s, from O.N. troll "giant, fiend, demon." Some speculate that it originally meant "creature that walks clumsily," and derives from P.Gmc. *truzlan, from *truzlanan (see troll (v.)). But it seems to have been a general supernatural word, cf. Swed. trolla "to charm, bewitch;" O.N. trolldomr "witchcraft." The old sagas tell of the troll-bull, a supernatural being in the form of a bull, as well as boar-trolls. There were troll-maidens, troll-wives, and troll-women; the trollman, a magician or wizard, and the troll-drum, used in Lappish magic rites. The word was popularized in English by 19c. antiquarians, but it has been current in the Shetlands and Orkneys since Viking times. The first record of it is from a court document from the Shetlands, regarding a certain Catherine, who, among other things, was accused of "airt and pairt of witchcraft and sorcerie, in hanting and seeing the Trollis ryse out of the kyrk yeard of Hildiswick." Originally conceived as a race of giants, they have suffered the same fate as the Celtic Danann and are now regarded in Denmark and Sweden as dwarfs and imps supposed to live in caves or under the ground.

      I am pretty sure, without looking...I know very very brave of me - not to look..., that Tolkien (oops violated that one...Good one LordEd) was born sometime after 1610. Either that or he lived to over 300 years old...or there abouts.

      On a more serious note, yes hard to believe that any of us would get serious about this topic..., if you enjoyed Tolkien's Trilogy, "Lord of the Rings" [wikipedia.org]. I know I did back in the day, you need to visit your nearest book source and read:

      • by KiloByte (825081)

        There wasn't a SINGLE race/species that Tolkien invented himself.

        Orcs? Beowulf.

        Hobbits? The name is listed on an early 19th century list of folk tale creatures without description, the creature itself comes from early 20th century children books, including "Babbit".

        Elves, dwarves, trolls? Norse mythology.

        Tolkien did a great job digging those creatures out of obscurity. It is so much better to not have to learn what "qwerts" or "asdfaks" are in every single book, which is what copyright (*spit*) requires

  • 1996 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:20PM (#35371786) Homepage

    The patent was applied for in 1996? 15 years in internet time is like 5 decades in other fields.

    Back then, you were likely running Windows 95 and had to launch Real Player 1.0 to listen to audio online. IE and Netscape were both products you had to pay for (IE came with MS Plus!)

    Should a patent from that era really still be valid?

    • Should a patent from that era really still be valid? Irrelevant. A patent is as good for as long as a patent is legally good. 20 years. It's not an arbitrary number.
      • Re:1996 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by _0xd0ad (1974778) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:37PM (#35372002) Journal

        A patent is as good for as long as a patent is legally good. 20 years. It's not an arbitrary number.

        I'm pretty sure 20 years was an entirely arbitrary number.

        • by meerling (1487879)
          Not when they set it, it was a reasonable period of time to allow a creator to benefit from his invention with a mandated monopoly while still being short enough to benefit the public with it's eventual ending and spur the inventor to continue inventing because he won't be raking in the bucks for the rest, or even most of his life.

          (Unlike copyright, which was initially shorter than patents, and now are up to something stupid like life + 90 years someone keeps up on the paperwork. That's a monopoly for the c
    • by thomst (1640045)

      The patent was applied for in 1996?

      Back then ... IE and Netscape were both products you had to pay for

      Er ... no.

      Netscape Navigator was free for personal use. Plus, even for business use, the $39.95 price tag was never enforced - and rarely paid.

    • Are you seriously questioning the ethics of allowing patents describing *new*, ahead-of-their-time (non obvious) kind of stuff ?
      That's precisely the kinds of patents I would like to see if we're to have a patent system at all, since ground breaking ideas pull civilization forward.
      Not that I'm saying *this* particular pattern is ground breaking, I haven't read it, but your sentiment seems to be that since it was filed looong before most of us had a clue, then its somehow unethical !?.

      What we do not want are

      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        But here's the thing -- had that patent holder done something with the patent in 1996, maybe they'd have a case for it.

        Instead, they waited 15 years and now they're just suing people who not only came up with the same idea, but actually implemented it as well.

        So in effect, what the patent holder is doing is to "monopolize the obvious and the stuff of yesterday."

  • How many of those defendants were joined to GeoTag's lawsuits solely for the purpose of getting jurisdiction in the Eastern District of Texas? The irony, of course, being that they would end up having to defend their other suit in Delaware anyway because they neglected to sue Google and Microsoft straight away.

  • by return 42 (459012) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:28PM (#35371908)

    Gee, it's nice to be a multi-billion dollar corporation. You can defend yourself against this crap. A small start-up? A free software project? Not so easy.

    • Just like the criminal justice system. It helps the rich, screws the poor.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        That is not a bug it is a feature. This is purely intentional in both cases.

      • You people don't seem to understand that lawyers are hackers exploiting the rules of the legal system. The legal system is not and cannot be airtight; it's not possible. When your girlfriend is loose, she will get fucked by everyone; when your legal system is tight, it will fuck everyone. Unfortunately, a loose legal system also gets fucked by everyone.
  • by NoSig (1919688) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:47PM (#35372112)
    The problem is not that a patent was given when there was prior art. Are we supposed to think this would all be fine and dandy if only this abusive patent troll company had filed for this patent a little earlier so that there wouldn't be prior art? The patent system was supposed to be this deal: you tell the world how you did this amazing thing, and the world allows you to control your idea for a limited time. The patent system has instead become a competition to come up with an idea before anyone else does, so that those other people can't use their own idea to compete with you.

    The premise that gives the patent system value is that the world just wouldn't have the idea available if the patent holder hadn't come along. In such a case perhaps a patent is called for. If we give patents for 20 years, the standard for giving a patent should be that no one else is likely to come up with that idea for the next 20 years assuming no patent system to motivate them. Then a patent makes sense. I doubt even one patent in a thousand could live up to that standard. The 999 other patents in a thousand are a drain on humanity.
    • Modify parent insightful, please.

    • ...The patent system has instead become...

      No, it has not degenerated. It has always been like that. Read about the patent fights between Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers attempts to run Henry For out of town way back in 1900s. Think about the patent fights over ailerons vs wing warping between the Wright Brothers and the Curtiss aircraft company (Wrigts were wrong). The bitter personal feud between Edison and Westinghouse, Westinghouse poaching Tesla from Edison. Tesla getting to huge fights with Marconi. I have read about some p

    • by jimrthy (893116)
      Yes, this is good.
    • by drphil (320469)

      I'm late to the party, here, but the parent comment is *not* +5 Insightful, it's 0 Has no clue about the patent system. You cannot patent ideas. An idea must be reduced to practice in some novel way in order to considered for a patent. The problem is that the US Patent office started to hand out patents for computer software and business models. Computer software is rightly copyrighted, not patented. And patenting business models (which is patenting ideas -not inventions) is simply an atrocity that is erod

      • by NoSig (1919688)
        I'll ignore your little semantic game with "idea" - define it in whatever way you need to to understand what you are reading.

        The problem is not business model or software patents in particular. The problem is that patents are used to prevent other people from using their own ideas when someone else already took out a patent on them. That is a drain on humanity and it should not happen except when the patent system can provide value that surpasses the destruction it causes. That value only exists when the
  • I mean really, what the heck is this patent for? They're suing McDonald's, Levi's, Hospitals, Lowe's, Auto parts stores, grocery stores, heavy machinery companies, and even Build A Bear...Oh! The humanity!!!....What the heck?
  • I RTFA and Google and Microsoft claim the patent is invalid because there is prior art. Although they also apparently claim their users aren't infringing on the patent. BUT what is the prior art? I also RTFP and I'm not exactly sure what it is for. I THINK it is supposed to do something similar to what Google does when you do a search and it returns places nearby. That is you want to know all of the restaurants in your neighborhood. It appears the patent is saying you can give every item a geotag, and th
  • Google and Microsoft say that there was prior art when the patent on...

    And I'm SURE there was no prior art regarding any technology relating to the numerous patents that Google and Microsoft hold. Maybe they're right in the case (I don't know), but they must also be held to a fair standard.

    • And I should add that a cease and desist letter from Google or Microsoft is probably worse than actually being sued by a small company, since you know defending against someone with their resources (cash) can bankrupt before a judgment is ever rendered. Those types of companies (Google, MS, IBM, Apple, Etc.) amass huge libraries of patents they have no intention of ever using in the hopes that they can license them out, which is no different than small-timers trolling.
  • Having read lately about the attempts to change the US patent system to a "first-to-file", would mean that the result would go a different way here. So does this not highlight the flaw in the "first-to-file" system ?

  • ... MS and google (who would use the patent system to protect their own ideas) are trying to crush another patent for someone else's technology they don't want to pay for. Greater good? really?

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