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Google Patents

Google, Dropbox, and Others Forge Patent "Arms Control Pact" 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
jfruh writes Patent trolling is a serious irritant and financial drain on many big tech companies — but those same companies can't guarantee that their own future management won't sell the patents they own to a 'non-practicing entity', especially in the case of sale or bankruptcy. That's why a number of tech giants, including Google and Dropbox, have formed the 'License or Transfer Network,' in which a patent will automatically be licensed to everyone else in the network in the event that it's sold to a third party.
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Google, Dropbox, and Others Forge Patent "Arms Control Pact"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @03:15AM (#47429633)

    A "patent defense pool" of tech giants will benefit, well, the tech giants, namely the incumbents.

    The idea of patents was to foster innovation. Anything that tilts the tables against newcomers and favors the established players is working against that. It's not the established players that are dependent on the law in order to benefit from their inventions: they have all the means to exploit them themselves and benefit via first-to-market and the marketing power of their reputation.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This protects against patent trolls, not newcomers

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This protects tech giants, not newcomers, against patent trolls. So it is tilting the tables against newcomers and favors the established players.

        The patent trolls are not players. They are table grenades, and tilting the table will roll them to the newcomers.

        • by Ardyvee (2447206)

          I wonder how hard it would be to get in that "pact" if your company manages to go beyond the start-up designation.

          • It looks like you could join, even as a startup. The form is available online. My concern is actually how it handles transfers within the network - they're unencumbered by the license granting provisions, which seems to indicate that if this becomes widespread, it could become a tool used against startups later on, or be useless against patent trolls if they're too accepting of new companies. It doesn't seem like it's bad for startups now, given the ease of joining.
          • I believe you'd have to bring some of your own valuable and relevant patents to the table, just as in any other patent pool.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Keep telling yourself that...

        They will only do good with their new ultimate power! Nobody in history has ever abused their power...

    • by Mr0bvious (968303) on Friday July 11, 2014 @03:36AM (#47429681)

      Agreed - as the situation is right now it seems that everyone except lawyers would gain from abolishing patents. The large patent holders just seem to be passing (and passing through lawyers) penalties to each other. There seem to be no net gain for the parties on either side. Abolish patents and it's almost business as usual except for the lawyers.

      I know this is an exaggerated assessment but from an outside observer, it's not that far from the reality I see.

      • by StripedCow (776465) on Friday July 11, 2014 @05:20AM (#47429871)

        But let's say you had a patent on something which earned you a couple of thousand dollars a month.
        Would you then still think the same?

        (Just playing devil's advocate here.)

        • by Mr0bvious (968303) on Friday July 11, 2014 @06:03AM (#47429955)

          This is a fair question, and perhaps I would think differently in this position. I'm not in this position so my view is not tainted by my greed.

          So my view is based on what I see as the better situation for the greater good of all, and I'm giving little to no consideration to any individual (be it a person or other entity).

          I could also counter with the converse argument - consider I had an idea that could yield me a couple of thousand dollars a month but I can't due to a patent issue then ....

          • The problem with your "for the greater good" thinking is simple there is a financial disincentive to develop an invention. It will take a year tops before your competitors can start selling your invention, you have about one to two years to recoup your costs. Many ideas will go uninvented because the inventor has no reward incentive to risk their capital in bringing their idea to market.
            • by Mr0bvious (968303) on Friday July 11, 2014 @08:44AM (#47430423)

              Is that really reality though? I'm not convinced that reality would play out this way. The inventor has the advantage of being first to market, this gives a significant advantage and allows them to establish a market for their brand. Brand etc all has value, and being first to marked and establishing a brand continues to give the inventor an advantage over the competition. This also encourages the inventor to continue to innovate to remain ahead of their competitors - which is a natural motivator for innovation.

              People will invent and will innovate regardless of if a patent system is in place or not - I think that the concept of "recoup your costs" is probably better described as "making an absolute disproportionate shit load", and this is half the problem with our world right now - organisations don't want to recoup costs, they want it all, every dollar, every person has and the patent system is just one more tool that is being wielded to achieve that goal.

              Sure there will be cases where this doesn't fit well, but there are also many cases where the current patent system doesn't fit well. It's not simple choosing which way is best.

              • Being first to market is rarely the determining factor of success of a product, if someone can offer the exact same product cheaper or can out market the inventor it will matter little who was first. Remember how late iPods were to the market yet they dominated.

                Some people will invent regardless if a system is in place but there will be fewer people bringing those inventions to market. I doubt you have ever been through the prototype and testing phase of a product, it can be very expensive as multiple it
          • I could also counter with the converse argument - consider I had an idea that could yield me a couple of thousand dollars a month but I can't due to a patent issue then ....

            You patent your improvement on the existing patent, and then cross-license with the other patent owner. Or you go ahead with your idea, and pay a couple hundred a month to the patent owner. Either way, net win for you.

          • by mysidia (191772)

            This is a fair question, and perhaps I would think differently in this position. I'm not in this position so my view is not tainted by my greed.

            The patent holders often view the public as greedy. These other companies want to capitalize on their invention and not compensate the patent holder their 'fair share' for creating their 'invention'!

        • by wasteoid (1897370)
          After lawyers' fees, there isn't much left, so it's a wash.
        • by DriveDog (822962)
          If patents were only assigned to citizens and could not be transferred to but other than another citizen. Only licensing to corporations for time periods of a year at a time would be allowed.
      • Double edge sword. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday July 11, 2014 @06:03AM (#47429957) Journal
        A patent cartel is a double edged sword that can smite trolls, competitors, or both. All depends of who's holding the blunt end.

        Software patents are absurd and a form of double dipping since software is already protected by copyright they should indeed be scrapped. However just because patents are currently too powerful and have spread into areas where they don't belong does not mean the concept is fundamentally flawed.

        The fundamental flaw is greed, the fact that 1000 individuals have obtained an income that is more than 3X that of 1,000,000,000 individuals combined is simply too much of a temptation to all but the strongest moral compass. OTOH, if everyone gets the same income who in their right mind would not just sit back and let "somebody else" worry about silly things such as a job?

        The sweet spot lays somewhere in between, most economists put the ideal income ratio between richest and poorest at 10:1 and point to Norway's position at the top of almost every economic and social metric known to man as prima-facie evidence. Norway was smart enough to realise the North Sea oil boom would come to an end one day so they taxed the hell out of oil companies during the boom and invested it in both industrial and social infrastructure. Many economists now argue it is the social infrastructure that has seen the highest ROI.

        Here in Australia we have done the opposite with our mining boom, there were some good reforms and we built lots of roads and railways that lead to giant holes in the middle of nowhere but mostly we squandered it on tax cuts and corporate welfare. In the meantime China has been buying our coal and iron ore and for quite some time has been building up their infrastructure at a phenomenal rate. Ironically they now have one of the highest inequity ratings of any nation. This is because of the discrepancy between the rural areas and the "economic zones". China is now in the process of building up the infrastructure in these rural areas but the pace has slowed because of the financial mess in the US and EU. They are now officially in deflation meaning production has overshot demand. Consequently our 25yr mining boom has come to a sudden halt and we have two fifths of fuck all to show for it. Sure our economy is still in much better shape than the EU and US, but I'm old enough to remember when life was good in both Norway and Argentina.

        Disclaimer: I plead guilty to OT ranting, but I put it to the reader that a spliff and an end of the working week rant is far more humane than kicking the cat.
        • Software patents are absurd and a form of double dipping since software is already protected by copyright they should indeed be scrapped.

          First, since when is double-dipping an issue? A design can be protected by both trade dress and design patents. A copyrighted character can also be a trademark (see, e.g., Mr. M. Mouse). The two protections are not coextensive, so what's wrong with having both?

          Second, why are you arguing for copyright - with a lifetime+90 year term - as opposed to patents - with a 20 year from filing term? Copyright tends to be much more abusive in that way.

          And third, software isn't well protected by copyright. Copyright

          • TinyTower and DreamHeights are very different than Theme Hotel and SimTower. Two of these "games" (aka psychological manipulators) are designed to get you to buy inapp purchases, the other two are actual games. I do see your point with them though, since in each pair, one is a copy of the other AFAIK (I've never seen DreamHeights). Just don't group them.
            • TinyTower and DreamHeights are very different than Theme Hotel and SimTower. Two of these "games" (aka psychological manipulators) are designed to get you to buy inapp purchases, the other two are actual games.

              Oh, come on, that's a distinction without any teeth. I'd say the bigger difference is that the first two are one unit per level, while the latter two allow horizontal expansion. The fact that two have microtransactions and the other two don't is mostly irrelevant.

              • That's a distinction with tons of teeth. It's not just microtransactions - everything about Zynga-style "games" is designed to make you play more while heavily incentivizing you to pay, while normal games provide a challenge. Zynga games don't contain nearly any challenges since that discourages players, they're button-pressing for the sake of button pressing. That's one reason why King is taking over Zynga's former spot as that upcoming new free game giant - they're providing games that are legitimately ch
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      All the same, it's hard for me to see Dropbox as a 'tech giant'
    • > The idea of patents was to foster innovation.
      the idea they used to sell you the idea of patents was to foster innovation. De facto, patents are working as intended. I agree with you nonetheless.

    • Patents do foster innovation, they allow the inventor time to recoup their investment before they have to compete in the market. Without patent protection the little guy would be fucked and has zero financial incentive to develop their idea.
    • ... benefit via first-to-market and the marketing power of their reputation.

      Tell that to Nimblebit and everyone else Zynga has run over while being second-to-market.

    • We need to re-define patents. It should remain for hardware, but not software. Basically, we need to drop that method patent.
    • While that's true, google seems to be fostering innovation by simply buying up any newcomer that does anything interesting and new. If patents were changed, google would obviously meddle quite a bit in how the laws were drafted, and we could see google start to copy innovative stuff people were doing in their garage rather than simply buying them.

      I'm not convinced it's a reasonable enough worry to say "lets not overhaul patents" though.
  • by sexconker (1179573) on Friday July 11, 2014 @03:30AM (#47429663)

    This is a clear cut instance of collusion.
    They should be forced to continue to defend their patents or to release the patents to everyone on the same terms.
    Patent groups, from this shit to MPEG to BluRay to whatever, destroy innovation more than any individual patents do.

    • by Etherwalk (681268)

      collusion, n., secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others.

      It is not secret.

      Can you point to an illegality? I suppose you can argue that they are restraining trade. But I think most courts would be okay with it. (All contracts restrain trade on some level; the motives behind this one aren't colluding to prevent competition so much as agreeing not to engage in an unproductive patent war.)

      The patent system has a lot of problems. But just because we disagree

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's a cartel. Put together to ensure the companies in that cartel are safe from patents from one another, while they will continue to use them against companies not in their cartel.

        At the very least, it's anti-competitive practices designed to keep competitors out of the game (despite your assertion to the contrary).

        If this isn't illegal, it bloody well should be.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It's a cartel. Put together to ensure the companies in that cartel are safe from patents from one another, while they will continue to use them against companies not in their cartel.
          [...]
          If this isn't illegal, it bloody well should be.

          OK. Tell that to MPEG-LA. By your definition it's a cartel plus extortion. Have fun with that.

      • They let their buddies into the group and exclude others.
        Their buddies get free access to patents, everyone else has to pay.
        Antitrust says anticompetitive shit like that is illegal.

    • This is a clear cut instance of collusion. They should be forced to continue to defend their patents or to release the patents to everyone on the same terms. Patent groups, from this shit to MPEG to BluRay to whatever, destroy innovation more than any individual patents do.

      Collusion isn't bad, in and of itself. Say you hire someone to paint your house - you're technically "colluding". The issue is when it becomes an anti-trust violation. And the DoJ has looked at patent pools and determined that they're not always automatically anti-trust violations. They certainly can be, but the mere fact that the participants are "colluding" doesn't make it any worse than any other contract. Instead, there has to be things like illegal patent extension or unfair licensing based on market s

  • Or just the "boys club"?

    This would create an oligarchy, not a democracy.

    • by Mr0bvious (968303)

      Not disagreeing with you except, we already live in an oligarchy, our governments have very little resemblance of a democracy.

      • well, we've already taken the coinage back from them (bitcoin). Perhaps it's time we decentralised the courts?
  • Will this pact also prevent patent trolling by Google, Dropbox, and Others? Whoever others are but one would hope they include: Oracle? Microsoft? Samsung? Apple?

  • Has the editor actually understood the idea behind this?

  • ... cue the antitrust suit.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not that I oppose this move, but it sounds like an antitrust violation to me. Perhaps its time to abolish antitrust law along with software patents?

  • "Google, Dropbox, and Others Forge Patent 'Arms Control Pact' " How dare they fake a patent in order to control who gets to make treaties concerning armaments!! I feel like any nation-state or people should have a right to make such agreements when ever they choose to, with whomever they wish. This is just another grab by greedy corporations. Or are they seriously announcing the presence in international warfarehttp://tech.slashdot.org/story/14/07/11/0138219/google-dropbox-and-others-forge-patent-arms
  • How is this not considered a trust, cartel or collusion? I mean, there was specifically a "United States v. Motion Picture Patents Co" [justia.com] Supreme Court case.

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