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Google Patents Microsoft The Courts Your Rights Online

Microsoft, Google Sue Troll Who Sued 397 Companies 176

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 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 eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:27PM (#35371898)
    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 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.

  • 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.


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

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @04:04PM (#35372322) Homepage 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 izomiac ( 815208 ) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:01PM (#35373092) Homepage
    Ya know, an interest shared by Microsoft, Google, and the vast majority of people is generally known as the common good...

Variables don't; constants aren't.