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Google Acquires 222 More IBM Patents 73

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the litigation-makes-the-world-go-round dept.
itwbennett writes "The newly acquired patents include email management, server backup, tuning and recovery, e-commerce, advertising, mobile web page display, instant messaging, online calendaring, and database tuning. Google hasn't said why they wanted the patents, but it's a good bet they had fighting lawsuits in mind."
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Google Acquires 222 More IBM Patents

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  • 'tis sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@gmaiYEATSl.com minus poet> on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:03AM (#38584280) Homepage Journal
    ...to remember the unbridled software-building activity and creativity of 10 to 12 years ago. Now, patent-fighting dominates it all. 'tis sad....
    • Re:'tis sad... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wzzzzrd (886091) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:44AM (#38584628)

      ...to remember the unbridled software-building activity and creativity of 10 to 12 years ago. Now, patent-fighting dominates it all. 'tis sad....

      That's not true. I for one and a whole lot of other (open source) developers just ignore all this kerfuffle and go on with our unbridled software-building activities. Everything and it's grandmother is patented nowadays, I guess just by touching the mouse and clicking a button in my own software I violate at least 20 patents plus 20 more because it's "on the internet". Add 40 to this if it's also "on a mobile device". Pffh.

      • by tepples (727027)
        So what happens when your open source project gets kicked out of a popular distribution's main repository because of patent threats?
        • Then it moves to a mirror in France and users are told to get it from there. Things like libavcodec violate a load of patents and can't legally be distributed in the USA, but they're fine pretty much everywhere else in the world.
          • by tepples (727027)

            Then it moves to a mirror in France and users are told to get it from there.

            So how do the developers of the project move their families to France?

            And how do people who just want something they can plug in and use, not [expletive] around installing software that might end up being a trojan, use it? I have someone in another thread claiming that home theater PCs haven't taken off because no PC maker preinstalls XBMC.

            • Re:'tis sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:39AM (#38585250) Journal
              Those of us who don't already live in the USA keep working on it. And we encourage the few of you who do to fix the laws in your country. Although not too loudly, because we're actually okay with the USA losing its competitive edge internationally...
            • by WillerZ (814133)

              So how do the developers of the project move their families to France?

              They just walk across the bridge near Strasbourg.

              More seriously, it would be interesting to know the approximate geographic distribution of contributors to such projects. Most open source stuff I've downloaded has been in the origin-unknown category, or from european developers.

        • by tatman (1076111)
          and I lost interest in my project once I realized Cisco or AMD (sorry I cannot remember atm) had a patent covering my idea completely. I'm not interested in spending untold hours working on an idea only to have struggle with some strong arm legal crap. Its not about money. Its about people being able to enjoy my work. If I am not allowed to let people use what I have created, whats the point.
        • by wzzzzrd (886091)
          Upload your .deb or .rpm or .msi or whatever to your own web space? Anonymous if must be? Set up your own repository, with blackjack and hookers? Only on slashdot people believe the distributors pipe dream that non-default or not-in-the-official-repository software is a dead end. Tt still is the default in 90% of the consumer IT world, concerning PC software to browse the net and click on setup.exe or package.msi.

          Good software does not need app stores or approval of some provider or any "official" stamp.
        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          So what happens when your open source project gets kicked out of a popular distribution's main repository because of patent threats?

          Two options - you fight the patent threat, or you abandon the project. The latter is a popular option.

          One thing is that open-source projects rarely die - there's usually someone with the source code bundle. Just because it comes under patent threat - so what? You stop development and move on. If it's a good project, it'll live on - let the patent holders continue their whack-a-

          • Two options - you fight the patent threat, or you abandon the project. The latter is a popular option.

            Unless the patent holder sends a "pre-trial settlement letter" demanding that the developer not only abandon the project but also pay a monetary settlement and/or forfeit the domain on which the project was hosted.

            • by Issarlk (1429361)
              Some other guy can just create a fork with a new domain name. Or even no domain at all, hosting in the Tor Network.
              • by tepples (727027)

                Some other guy can just create a fork with a new domain name.

                True, but that doesn't help if you were using your domain for things other than that project. Likewise, it doesn't help with something like "Ceasing and desisting is not enough. Pay up or we'll sue."

    • "but it's a good bet they had fighting lawsuits in mind."

      Why does Slashdot assume this? Motorola actively went after Apple, and Google owns Motorola. In spite of Google's public words, they are quite happy to go after others over patents.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:25AM (#38584456)

    Why did IBM sell the patents instead of licensing them to Google? Wouldn't it be better for IBM to hold the patents to license them to other folks, or have them in their patent defense arsenal?

    Someone please enlighten me.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:32AM (#38584524)

      Google wants the patents to fight Apple. So they offer to buy the patents (and probably licence them cheap/free back to IBM).

      Net result: IBM keeps doing what they're doing but Google gives them a pile of money.

      If IBM says "no" Google will go buy someone else's patents, and IBM basically just left money on the table.

      • by jeti (105266)

        Patents like 7100154 [uspto.gov] and 5937406 [uspto.gov]seem to be more useful against Oracle than Apple. These patents are a mixed bag.

    • by darkmeridian (119044) <william@chuang.gmail@com> on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:33AM (#38584526) Homepage

      (1) Google probably paid more to have exclusive rights to the patents. There's no point in having a patent that a potential defendant can go to IBM to license, thereby circumventing your lawsuit.
      (2) IBM has so many patents that they are essentially lawsuit-proof. Selling these rights to Google instead of licensing them doesn't lower IBM's ability to defend itself against a patent lawsuit.

    • by SEE (7681)

      IBM has a big enough arsenal and enough cross-licensing agreements that they can afford to sell part of the arsenal for money. Google isn't interested in a license, because a license wouldn't let Google use the patents as part of Google's patent defense arsenal.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is IBM selling them?

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:50AM (#38584690)

    We need to double our efforts to eliminate software patents. These patents are preventing us from reaching our full potential. I remember the good old days when we developed software for fun and profit and took inspiration from other programs and added one more innovative feature to them.

    Now we have patents for the most obvious bullshit out there. We need to stop this madness. Every time I see these patents I think back to my calendar program. It had a month and day view and allowed you to enter appointments and let you know if there was a scheduling conflict (this was a big deal in 1982/83). I didn't really plan on publishing it in a magazine but I had a dick of a friend who mailed an early version of my program to an Atari magazine in exchange for a 1200 baud modem. The only thing that consoled my anger towards the little turd was the fact that perhaps someone else was improving on it and possibly showing off their improvements to like minded enthusiasts. My family was poor so I really had no recourse. I did learn a valuable lesson of securing my diskettes.

    Anyway despite the way the program entered the public domain, it was how things were done back then. Desktop computing was a very new concept and we gathered together at local computer users groups and showed off what we did and explained how we did it. We were basically learning from each other. I support the GPL since I think it preserves some of the philosophy we had back then. Don't get me wrong, I don't agree that all software should be free but I do think that if I share something with you and you add to it then you should share back. I also believe that software patents are counter productive and slowing our progress.

    Now I don't think anybody could make a neat program without the risk of being sued by a patent troll or a corporation that wants to keep a monopoly position in their market segment. This shit has to stop. How do we really expect healthy innovation and competition to continue in the next decade with this escalating patent threat.

    My rambling rant is over... sigh.

    • I also believe that software patents are counter productive and slowing our progress.

      A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling, and gut feelings won't convince Congress to amend the Patent Act. Do you have any evidence? Software has been patentable for about 30 years... How has our progress been slowed in that time, and where would we be now otherwise?

      • by russotto (537200)

        A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling, and gut feelings won't convince Congress to amend the Patent Act. Do you have any evidence? Software has been patentable for about 30 years... How has our progress been slowed in that time, and where would we be now otherwise?

        What evidence do you want? Do I need to point to software which hasn't been written, features which don't exist, either because patents prevented someone from implementing them, or ra

        • A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling, and gut feelings won't convince Congress to amend the Patent Act. Do you have any evidence? Software has been patentable for about 30 years... How has our progress been slowed in that time, and where would we be now otherwise?

          What evidence do you want? Do I need to point to software which hasn't been written, features which don't exist, either because patents prevented someone from implementing them, or rational fear of patents prevented someone from implementing them, or the time and resources which could have been spent building them was spent instead "inventing around" or fighting bogus patents? Because I can't do that. You know why I can't do that?

          BECAUSE THE PROGRESS WHICH WAS PREVENTED BY PATENTS DOESN'T EXIST TO BE POINTED AT! THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT!

          So instead we should just take it on blind faith that those features would have been invented, but for patents? At what point does this "software patents stifle innovation" become a religion, rather than a conclusion based off evidence?

          • by russotto (537200)

            So instead we should just take it on blind faith that those features would have been invented, but for patents? At what point does this "software patents stifle innovation" become a religion, rather than a conclusion based off evidence?

            You've already made "software patents don't stifle innovation" a religious tenet by refusing to accept any evidence for the opposite except that which by nature cannot exist. There's plenty of evidence (included ad nauseum in most slashdot patent stories) that software paten

            • So instead we should just take it on blind faith that those features would have been invented, but for patents? At what point does this "software patents stifle innovation" become a religion, rather than a conclusion based off evidence?

              You've already made "software patents don't stifle innovation" a religious tenet by refusing to accept any evidence for the opposite except that which by nature cannot exist. There's plenty of evidence (included ad nauseum in most slashdot patent stories) that software patents do stifle and are stifling innovation, but you're not willing to accept anything but examples of innovations that don't exist because of patents.

              Not so... I'd also be fine with some objective measures - say, number of white papers and research publications in software per year before it was patentable vs. number since. Or numbers of software patents granted per year in the first few years it was first deemed patentable vs. number now. Or number of software products on the market then vs. number now.

              You'll likely disagree with all those metrics, since they all support my argument, but that's fine - do you have any objective metrics that can be looke

      • A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling, and gut feelings won't convince Congress to amend the Patent Act.

        I believe it's a little more than a gut feeling, but you're right we should qualify all our opinions with concrete evidence. So I did a little digging. Back in 1987, I wrote a program that stored pre-printed forms in a searchable database and used that information to generate completed forms that matched the bills of lading provided by variou

        • A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling, and gut feelings won't convince Congress to amend the Patent Act.

          I believe it's a little more than a gut feeling, but you're right we should qualify all our opinions with concrete evidence. So I did a little digging. Back in 1987, I wrote a program that stored pre-printed forms in a searchable database and used that information to generate completed forms that matched the bills of lading provided by various shipping lines (Blank Paper in / Forms indistinguishable from preprinted ones provided by shipping line already filled with customer data out). Apparently if I tried to market such a turnkey solution today I could be sued for violating portions of US Patent 7,978,349 "Apparatus and Method for High Speed Printing of Form and Variable Data" which was filed on April 27, 2006 and granted on July 12, 2011.

          Certainly not. That patent requires a web form as part of the claims, and your program in 1987 was not on the web. Thus, it could not possibly infringe the claims. Additionally, that patent requires a plurality of fixed ink jet heads that span the width of the sheet. Your software program was not a printer with a plurality of ink jet heads, so again, you could not infringe the claims.

          I think the patent applies more toward the continuous feed printer than the form storage and variable data portion however I would have to budget for a possible legal battle or license agreement. In addition, I could be sued for violating US Patent 4,944,614 "Form Overlay Type Printing Apparatus" filed on Feb 7, 1989 and granted July 31, 1990.

          Again, unless you were building printers, you couldn't infringe that patent with your mere software program.

          This is a liability minefield with more mines being laid every day. WIth the potential customers for this small niche market being small, I'm certain that competitors would use any patent advantage possible to maintain some unfair market advantage (Or better yet what prevents me from doing the same to another person and keep the price of this software artificially high?).

          I can probably look at my whole software portfolio and do a "what if I published it today?" scenario and see potential for patent infringements lawsuits in the majority of them. I'm not even considering the patenting of software features within mobile computing operating systems on commodity wireless telephony equipment.

          The above example

          • Certainly not. That patent requires a web form as part of the claims, and your program in 1987 was not on the web. Thus, it could not possibly infringe the claims. Additionally, that patent requires a plurality of fixed ink jet heads that span the width of the sheet. Your software program was not a printer with a plurality of ink jet heads, so again, you could not infringe the claims.

            My program ran from a central computer in a multiuser environment. Why should the "web" differentiate between my application

            • Certainly not. That patent requires a web form as part of the claims, and your program in 1987 was not on the web. Thus, it could not possibly infringe the claims. Additionally, that patent requires a plurality of fixed ink jet heads that span the width of the sheet. Your software program was not a printer with a plurality of ink jet heads, so again, you could not infringe the claims.

              My program ran from a central computer in a multiuser environment. Why should the "web" differentiate between my application and the patent filer especially since the only difference is the protocol used between the web (HTML) today and the ascii terminals in use back then?

              Bearing in mind that we're talking about infringement, not validity, if the claim says "web interface" and you didn't have a web interface, you can't infringe. It's like if I got a patent with a claim that said "a computing device, comprising a red outer case," and you made a computer that was blue - you can't infringe, regardless of whether a "red" case is obvious or not. Here, the claims require a web interface, as well as a paper-wide fixed inkjet head. You didn't have those, so you don't infringe, by de

              • Bearing in mind that we're talking about infringement, not validity, if the claim says "web interface" and you didn't have a web interface, you can't infringe. It's like if I got a patent with a claim that said "a computing device, comprising a red outer case," and you made a computer that was blue - you can't infringe, regardless of whether a "red" case is obvious or not. Here, the claims require a web interface, as well as a paper-wide fixed inkjet head. You didn't have those, so you don't infringe, by de

                • Bearing in mind that we're talking about infringement, not validity, if the claim says "web interface" and you didn't have a web interface, you can't infringe. It's like if I got a patent with a claim that said "a computing device, comprising a red outer case," and you made a computer that was blue - you can't infringe, regardless of whether a "red" case is obvious or not. Here, the claims require a web interface, as well as a paper-wide fixed inkjet head. You didn't have those, so you don't infringe, by definition.

                  You can't use design patents as an example of how you can't be found infringing a utility patent. I can be found liable for infringing a patent on the basis that my invention is equivalent to the claim. Look up the doctrine of equivalents.

                  Sorry, I was trying to make an analogy that was clear and easy to understand (and yes, the doctrine of equivalents applies to design patents, too). But is this clearer for you:
                  I get a patent on "a seating device with four legs, an attached horizontal plane for supporting one's buttocks, and an upright plane fixed at one edge of the horizontal plane and extending vertically to support one's back" and you make a three-legged chair. You can't possibly infringe, because my seating device requires four legs, an

                  • Sorry, I was trying to make an analogy that was clear and easy to understand (and yes, the doctrine of equivalents applies to design patents, too). But is this clearer for you:

                    I get a patent on "a seating device with four legs, an attached horizontal plane for supporting one's buttocks, and an upright plane fixed at one edge of the horizontal plane and extending vertically to support one's back" and you make a three-legged chair. You can't possibly infringe, because my seating device requires four legs, an

                    • remain competitive?

                      That should be "remain patentable?"

                    • Would an attorney advise me to have my patent cover my specific implementation detail or would that attorney advise me to make my implementation details generic enough to stifle competition yet specific enough to remain patentable?

                      (including the substitution) The latter. But that's my point... If I have to narrow my claims to get a patent - such as specifying 4 legs - then you can work around them. And, if you don't meet that narrowed limitation, you haven't infringed.

                      Ideally, I'd like never to narrow my claims. I'd like to claim "A seating device, period." But I can't do that because prior art exists, so I have to keep adding more and more elements until I come up with something novel and nonobvious. But my scope of protection sh

          • This is a liability minefield with more mines being laid every day. WIth the potential customers for this small niche market being small, I'm certain that competitors would use any patent advantage possible to maintain some unfair market advantage (Or better yet what prevents me from doing the same to another person and keep the price of this software artificially high?).

            I can probably look at my whole software portfolio and do a "what if I published it today?" scenario and see potential for patent infrin

            • No my point is that I can create something to solve a particular problem and attempt to market it and get clobbered by someone who has a patent that is written very vaguely or by someone who claims that my software infringes portions of their "submarine patent". Who pays for my defense? Is it worth while for me to market my software? Don't believe me, just google for all the patent infringement cases that come up in Texas courts.

              As an aside, submarine patents are mostly gone... The law was changed 15 years ago to fix exactly that situation.
              For the others, it's the same as I said - you're "creating" something that is covered by an existing patent... While you can look at it from your surprised and understandably anguished perspective, it can also be looked at from the side of someone who applied for a patent, paid for its prosecution, got the issued patent, and then someone pops up and starts doing exactly their new invention. Why

      • A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling..

        Tonnes of academic papers have been put up repeatedly by many on Slashdot. It's astounding what you patent shills think you can get away with asserting a if that makes it true. For a basic list of actual economic evidence you could start here [endsoftpatents.org]

        I am nowhere near the first person to post this stuff to Slashdot and I am calling you out as a liar, either by pretending to make an authoritative statement about something you know nothing about or, by simply knowing that what you said was dead wrong. It's one th

        • A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling..

          Tonnes of academic papers have been put up repeatedly by many on Slashdot. It's astounding what you patent shills think you can get away with asserting a if that makes it true. For a basic list of actual economic evidence you could start here [endsoftpatents.org]

          Except that none of that evidence speaks to the proposition that software patents stifle innovation. Assuming for the sake of argument that all of those findings are true:
          - "pro-softpatent analysts have yet to find benefit from software patents" means that their value is in question. It doesn't mean they stifle innovation.
          - "software patents affect more than just software companies" has nothing to do with whether software patents stifle innovation, and in fact, points to the wide reach of software as an i

          • Except that none of that evidence speaks to the proposition that software patents stifle innovation.

            Depends on your definition of innovation. I couldn't help but notice that we're omitting competition from the argument and only talking about "innovation". I have yet to see an argument that software only innovations need more protection than what is provided by copyright. Competition means more jobs, more features being added to competing products, improved quality, and cheaper prices. Software patents only

            • I have yet to see an argument that software only innovations need more protection than what is provided by copyright.

              Sure. Copyright protects a specific tangible embodiment. If I cut and paste your source code without permission, I've infringed your copyright. If I play with your program for a while and then code an identical program on my own, I have not infringed your copyright. If I send your program to my team of reverse engineers and coders in Russia and crank out my own copy, I have not infringed your copyright. Thus, it's relatively trivial to get around copyright, particularly if I've got money.

              Furthermore, copyr

              • Sure. Copyright protects a specific tangible embodiment. If I cut and paste your source code without permission, I've infringed your copyright. If I play with your program for a while and then code an identical program on my own, I have not infringed your copyright. If I send your program to my team of reverse engineers and coders in Russia and crank out my own copy, I have not infringed your copyright. Thus, it's relatively trivial to get around copyright, particularly if I've got money.

                That is the point.

                • That is the point. My copyright doesn't prevent you from making a similar product and we have to compete with each other based on software quality and customer service. Sure you can make a knock off but if you don't understand your customer needs or satisfy them well enough, then in theory I could still make money because I would have the reputation and the market lead to remain competitive. You act like foreign companies don't already infringe patents with impunity and only wealthy companies can afford the legal expenses needed to defend the knockoffs from entering the US market.

                  Foreign companies can't import or sell their product in the US, or it can get intercepted by customs. As for copyright, if it took you a year of hard work to write the code and I can reverse engineer it in a month, I'm way ahead of you. If we can match each other in the market place, then you're still out a year's salary... and the associated debts.

                  Except that the entry into market with copyrights is substantially lower.

                  Stipulated.

                  Protection from either mechanism is expensive, however with copyright I can at least make some money.

                  Not really. If you're the RIAA with deep litigation pockets, you can... but even there, they're not making money, but rather getting precedent and pub

      • by Dwonis (52652)

        I also believe that software patents are counter productive and slowing our progress.

        A lot of Slashdotters believe this, but none are able to offer any evidence other than a gut feeling, and gut feelings won't convince Congress to amend the Patent Act. Do you have any evidence? Software has been patentable for about 30 years... How has our progress been slowed in that time, and where would we be now otherwise?

        RFW [wikipedia.org]

    • The only good news is that all these retarded patents will expire, and at least in less than life + 75 years.
    • The problem now, is you have companies like Google spending BILLIONS on acquiring Patents. What would happen if someone just said one day, "Oh by the way, no more Patents!"

      Billions of dollars in "assets" would evaporate. I suspect they might resist that or require compensation.

      It's a snowball that just continues to get bigger gathering momentum along the way. Stopping it may prove a challenge.

  • IBM's probably selling the patents because they forgot to put them to use them in the steaming load of horse crap that is Domino/Lotus.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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