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back to article Boffin seeks US Blu-ray, mobile phone import ban

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has named 30 companies it intends to investigate to see if products they import into the States are guilty of patent infringement. Among the names are such luminaries as Sony, Nokia, Toshiba, Hitachi, LG and Samsung. The technologies affected include Blu-ray Disc, HD DVD and mobile …

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Jim
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Hang on...

Assuming that this case hasn't been going on for the last decade and only just got made public, did this woman not notice that blue LEDs were appearing in virtually every piece of consumer electronics for that time? Or that there has been a rather public 'war' between manufacturers of rival blue laser optical storage systems?

Or maybe this is just yet another patent hijack/troll? An over-zealous new member of Columbia's legal team?

Surely this case has no merit, given that the complainent has had plenty of opportunity prior to the major adoption of this tech.

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Going on for a time..

Actually, this isn't a case of a submarine patent.

The patent itself was registered in 1993 (US patent 5,252,499 ‘Wide band-gap semiconductors having low bipolar resistivity and method of formation’). When adoption of the technology really started kicking off in the early 2000s, she asserted the patent, and various companies settled on the basis that she'd be instrumental in developing the technology, and rightfully held a valid patent.

As long ago as 2002, various semiconductor companies have complied with the request for payment on patent royalties, so she has definitely been asserting this.

I'd make an assumption that the 'Big Boys' (i.e. Sony, Toshiba, Sharp, LG etc.) have seen this as something they can avoid by merely using legal methods to avoid having to pay legitimate fees (or that they've perhaps falsely assumed it was covered by a cross licensing agreement with another of the Big Boy players).

So, my impression is that it's a perfectly valid case, and has most likely followed normal channels of requesting royalties (as some companies have paid up over 6 years ago on this), been stonewalled and rejected by the big players before finally hitting the courts in an attempt to avoid being rolled over and told to go away and stop bothering big business with petty things like an actual inventor holding their own patent that just happens to be key to what big business is doing.

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Dead Vulture

A True Professor???

Science is for the betterment of humankind.

Imagine if Pythagoras patented is triangle?

Alas... American Patents...

The US Patent Office issued patent 6,368,227 to Steven Olson of St Paul, Minnesota for a "method of swinging on a swing"

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J
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Re: Going on for a time...

"So, my impression is that it's a perfectly valid case"

Thanks for your thoughts on the matter, as I'm sure you're going to be heading up the inverstigation. I'll choose to take the other side of the debate by saying that this case holds no merit. Here's my facts to support it: I just said that this case holds no merit.

Obviously, the 'because I said so' arguement is what drives web debates; thus, I am right because I said so. Trust me, my opinion is worth more than yours in many ways and holds more validity since I used the actual word "because I said so".

You can try to argue that I'm not proving a point--even though I am, you just don't see my point...yet--, or that I'm not offering supporting evidence to my agruement, or that I'm acting just childish, but I'll argue that I was the first person to claim that "I said so" and therefore nullify any of you so-called "FACTS" or "EVIDENCE".

The only thing that matter is who says "Because I said so first" and a creative posting name; something strong, original, and maybe even eye catching like a single letter to represent your whole name. Something like J...Yes, that's it; J is a great posting name that says to readers "This guy must know what he's talking about, his name is J. It's so easy to read. More than I can say for Juillen character."

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Paris Hilton

triangles

I'll avoid pointing out that Pythagoras didn't so much invent the triangle, rather he figured out some neat stuff about it (oops, poor evasion by me) and get really picky instead.

Even if the concept of patents had existed in the days of Pytho (that's what his homies called him), and I'll hazard a confident guess that they didn't, it would have pretty much expired two and a half millennia ago.

Paris: cause, despite her studious pose, I bet she doesn't know what the frick the square of the hypothalamus- er hypodermic- er hippopotamus is equal to.

:)

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Why did she stop there?

Surely it would have been better to patent the use of electricity to power a device? Hopefully this gets chucked out. It's time someone actually proved they knew how to build what they were patenting, and that they intended to do so commercially.

All patents are a crock of shit anyway. No one seems to have to prove they've invented anything other than the ability to string some words together in a few sentences - and then draw a picture of something they saw on Star Trek.

We already have adequate protection of real intellectual property - it's called copyright. Copyright separates fact from fiction.

Anyone can say "I'm patenting an electrical thingy that makes musical noises and shows moving pictures" - then draws a picture of a box with a screen and an earphone socket.

Copyright on the other hand demands something a bit more concrete. You can copyright the circuit diagram of the insides of your iPod - which coincidentally shows your ability to produce the item you say you invented. Someone with a different design can copyright that, and we have two inventors with real products that compete fairly with each other. What we don't have is someone with no clue just making stuff up and expecting to get paid for it.

Patents serve no useful purpose whatsoever. And even if they did, personally I can live without the late-night infomercials trying to convince me to buy all kinds of useless tat. The world, I believe, would not stop turning if the inventor of crappy, plastic egg slicers or electro-magnetic dog brushes had to get a real job.

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Unhappy

to J

Well thanks so much for that useful contribution... What exactly turned you off about that 'it is my impression' comment? It must be so much fun to be so clever as you, and to put that wit to such good uses. What are your influences? ... Foucault..? no- Baudrillard..? Gosh.. so impressive.

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ObYawn

Nobody here knows anything.

Some people manage to sound plausible. Some manage to sound like ignorant idiots.

I'm not going to bother looking up patents at this time of night, but this does sound like a genuine invention. Good luck to the lady.

(I am not biased by the prospect of rootkit-Sony getting the lawyerly equivalent of a kick in the balls. Not in the slightest. Honest.)

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@ Andy Bright

"""All patents are a crock of shit anyway. No one seems to have to prove they've invented anything other than the ability to string some words together in a few sentences - and then draw a picture of something they saw on Star Trek.

We already have adequate protection of real intellectual property - it's called copyright. Copyright separates fact from fiction."""

You, sir, are a moron. Patents and copyrights cover completely different forms of IP, and for good reasons. See here (first google hit): http://www.lawmart.com/searches/difference.htm

And Copyright doesn't separate anything, because it covers things that people author, like books. And you can have a copyright on a book which is purely fiction. And you don't actually have to apply for copyright - as soon as you come up with something original, it's yours, and nobody can copy it without permission.

And your argument that all patents are useless simply because some patents are bad is completely wrong. If there were no patents, then there would be no way to profit from innovation, which means that nobody would be motivated to make technological progress.

I bet I could make a lot of money if I patented some legitimate way of keeping morons off the Internet.

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If you doubt that the patent's substantive, go read it!

Thanks, Juillen, for bringing light to this discussion. Wish others had worked harder on doing likewise.

This is no one-click-shopping patent, but a description of a specific family of solutions to a real tech problem. Remember: although red LEDs and lasers have been around a long time, viable blue ones are much newer, because it was hard to make them work.

The patent is quite well written -- not stuffed with obfuscatory language, it actually explains the problem (that among available wide-band-gap materials, always either the n-doped or p-doped version had high resistivity, so you couldn't drive current through them efficiently). It summarizes previous unsatisfactory approaches, and explains briefly but pretty clearly why her scheme works and the processing steps needed to duplicate it.

It also shows how her work fits into the context of related approaches, complete with literature references. It reads kinda like a nice short review paper.

*This* kind of thing is what patents *are* good for.

Oh yeah. If Juillen's post didn't make it easy enough, you can find the patent at:

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5252499.html

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Boffin

Trying to club others into line

Presuming the patent applies (I don't know the current process used for blue lasers, maybe some or all processes don't infringe or maybe they all do), apparently her lawyers feel that whoever is producing the blue lasers has not licensed her patent, and since she can't get to them directly (and, indeed, may not be able to since the patent may not be filed covering wherever they are manufactured, so the mfg is legal and non-infringing for that locale), the lawyers are reduced to stopping the final mfg products from being sold.

Of course, the box mfg are caught in the middle since they don't own the process in most cases they just buy pieces and assemble them. You could always wait a few years for the patent to expire... or maybe buy some tiny company that has a license that will cover everything... or stop selling direct in America and Europe and let shells sell using different names every time a lawyer shows up... or (perish the thought!) actually pay a valid royalty to someone who actually did invent something. [one would think that any large mfg buying a key component would have contractual language that forces such IP costs back to the original OEM for the lasers. Full employment for IP lawyers worldwide]

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Hmm

My bets is she hasn't been able to invent a thing since that design and is a failure of a professor now. Her position at Columbia is probably under threat and wants a sugar daddy now to help fund her life unemployed.

Patents like this are fundamentally wrong. It'd be like patenting the soldering of a chip to a motherboard, and charging every single electronics manufacturer out there for such superfluous idiotic tripe.

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Boffin

it is a good patent

Claim #5 limits to Zinc on whiuch previous licencisng was agreed. It is pretty fortunate that she include claim #6 which is of any type II-VI semiconductor. So this covers Gallium perfectly! and hence the new infringement claims.

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Alert

@ Nexox Enigma

"I bet I could make a lot of money if I patented some legitimate way of keeping morons off the Internet."

isn't that self defeating? in order to make the money you'd have to licence to those said same morons, thereby letting them on. I'd prefer if you remaind poor, please!

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Sounds good, more power...

Consumer electronic devices are useless twaddle, so who cares if Sony et al cannot import Blu-Ray players and other plastic crap without paying this woman for her hard work? Drug patents I regard as completely without a moral basis, but blue LEDs are not something that fundamentally improves the quality of human life, so hopefully the ITC won't be swayed by shareholder profits in this case...

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Patents are good for you ...

... the point of a patent is to reward someone who spends time, effort or has a leap of inventive genius and comes up with an idea, and to stop other people just going "oh that's clever, I'll steal it and make money off it".

Of course people would still invent things if there were no patents, and lots of people do and put things into the public domain every day. Other people have toiled away in a lab or a shed for years to get something working, have produced hundreds of prototypes that failed, and when finally they get one that works, it is fair for society to grant them some protection, if they request it, to stop somoene else coming in and skipping the research or genius part and just profiting from it.

But, and this is another key point, in a Patent you must publish your idea for everyone else to see, and they are then free to come up with a different method of achieving the same result. And at the end of the patent period, everyone now has the full description of how to achieve that result.

In many cases patents are granted unless challenged early on, but can then be dismissed later if someone can find that it was already known/on the market (prior art), so just because someone patents "a method of swinging on a swing", doesn't mean it's going to remain a valid patent, or that you can't come up with your own method of swinging.

And to all the idiots saying "why don't they just go patent the wheel/fire/electricity", because they all already exist and any patent would thus fail the prior art test, morons.

This LED development certainly appears to be a "new" invention (at the time of the patent), non-obvious, no prior art, and properly drawn up.

I am not a lawyer (but I have been on my company's Intellectual Property course and have read a chunk of the published lawbooks) and so this next bit is speculation ...

... I believe there isn't a requirement to jump in immediately and say "hey, you're infringing my patent" but that the law courts would look dimly on a case where it appeared that the patent holder had waited for millions of, say, Bluray players to be built and only then jumped up and said "hey!". I would hope in that case the judge would find that the players did infringe the patent but assert that the licensing fee and fine payable would be negligible, so as to both confirm the force of patent law but to stop frivilous and sand-bagging cases.

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re J

J, you are hereby notified of your willful infringement of my copyright on the phrase "Because I Said So". Your posting mentions this no less than 4 times in part or in its entirety. You therefore owe me royalties for the use of this phrase. Please make your cheque out to Because I Said So LLC. Shoudl you ignore this notification I will be forced to invoke my rights.

Oh, and by the way, I also own the letter J so you better pay me for that one as well.

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Anonymous Coward

IIRC blue LEDs

Was a big thing when they were invented. IIRC (and quite often I am afraid I recall anything but correctly) lots of people in the late 80s / early 90s were spending a lot of time and money in trying to build more useful LEDs.

It may well be that this professor actually did manage to do this before anyone else. If so then why should she not profit from her work?

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Ru

Patent trolls?

Given that the patent seems quite sensible and widely licensed useful technique, it doesn't seem like quite the same sort of frivolous business method or software algorithm problem that pops up so often. It seems a little unfair to cast aspersions at the person who filed it, and assume they're just the same as 'patent holding companies' and other parasites.

Whilst I doubt the professor is quite the sort of 'little guy inventor' whom the patent system is supposed to protect, this is a perfectly good example of the patent system doing the job it is supposed to do.

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Anonymous Coward

Price of blue LEDs

I'm sure I remember Maplin used to sell blue LEDs at about £60 each, with red costing £0.12 and green £0.15 - going back around 15 years'ish here.

If her invention has allowed that price point to come down to an economically viable level, why shouldn't she assert her patent rights, and get a bit of value for the time she spent inventing this process.

Good for her, I say.

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@Andy Bright

As for crocks of shit, something smells in your post.

First off, if you check the patent that Juillien kindly gave you a reference to (nice one dude), it says: "To form this semiconductor, atomic hydrogen is used to neutralize compensating contaminants. Alternatively, the semiconductor dopant and hydrogen are introduced into the undoped semiconductor together, and later, the hydrogen is removed leaving an acceptably compensation free wide band-gap semiconductor." In other words, this isn't covering some untried theoretical concept, it's covering a very real method, solving a real-world problem, which this woman has spent some time figuring out.

Second off, how much design of non-software items have you ever done? Hell, are you even old enough to work? Did you ever think about physical processes, where it takes man-years of work to figure out just the right system to make something happen? No you didn't. Now go away and don't post again until you've had a real job and know something about what you're talking about.

No, the world wouldn't stop turning without patents. But there would be much less innovation. The only people who'd try stuff out would be amateurs. For professionals (and most importantly for companies) there's no point putting years of your life into research when anyone can simply take a plaster mould of your new engine design and make rip-off copies. If you're doing this as a hobby, this might not worry you, but if you wanted to feed and clothe your children from the results of your work though, this would be a problem. You'd be better off working at Mickey D's instead of inventing a 100mpg engine, figuring out how to make better artificial limbs, or working out how to clean up oil slicks.

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Coat

@ Nexox

"If there were no patents, then there would be no way to profit from innovation, which means that nobody would be motivated to make technological progress."

This here just makes you look ignorant,

I dont have the info on when the patent system got into effect, but you are saying that without the motivation of getting obscenely rich no one would have ever invented anything...

Patent system is there to protect the inventor(the little guy) from big corporations who would use some one else's invention to push them out of the market.

You should not be able to patent stuff that you do not plan to start manufacturing and selling and patents should never be transferable.

This way you can make money of your invention even if u have some one else do the manufacturing for a slice of profit and once you kick the bucket your invention becomes public property.

And if you are worried about your offspring, they should get real jobs anyway

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@AC

""""If there were no patents, then there would be no way to profit from innovation, which means that nobody would be motivated to make technological progress."

This here just makes you look ignorant,

I don't have the info on when the patent system got into effect, but you are saying that without the motivation of getting obscenely rich no one would have ever invented anything..."""

Most patents actually don't make you obscenely rich. Most patents are made by huge corporations that spend millions of dollars per day in R&D, to make sure that their tech is more cutting edge than their competitors'. It would obviously be cheaper to wait until another company developed something, then rip it off, which is was most companies would do if there were no patents. Then how many companies out there do you think would spend lots of money to develop a new product that gets ripped off instantly by everyone else? That is what I meant by what I said about innovation.

"""Patent system is there to protect the inventor(the little guy) from big corporations who would use some one else's invention to push them out of the market."""

No, the patent system is there to encourage innovation, and in the grand scheme of the economy, the little guy is completely insignificant. In fact it costs so much to get a proper patent, what with all the fees and the near-necessity of a patent lawyer that most independent inventors wouldn't have a chance at all.

"""...and once you kick the bucket your invention becomes public property.

And if you are worried about your offspring, they should get real jobs anyway"""

Since patents expire after 20 years, most of them will be up /before/ the inventor dies.

I'm, obviously not advocating that people abuse patents, but its completely foolish to suggest that they are entirely useless. Any country that abolishes patents effectively flushes their economy straight down the toilet.

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Oh great

Another miserable patent troll. This is why the whole damn patent system needs an overhaul. It needs a development clause: after filing for a patent, you should have only 2 years to bring the product to market. Otherwise the patent expires and becomes public domain. If you cannot develop it or have no intention to develop it, you have NO legitimate reason to possess a patent for it.

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