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back to article Innovatio targets Wi-Fi users with patent suits

Having found Cisco and Motorola (prior to its Google borgification) in the mood for a vigorous fightback, Innovatio IP Ventures is changing tack and filing lawsuits against Wi-Fi users for patent infringement. The company kindly promises not to target individuals; rather, its filings look for payoffs from corporate Wi-Fi …

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WTF?

Surely a joke?

Surely this has got to be some kind of an April Fools joke. As I understand it the problem is that they have set up a WiFi network using kit they have bought. Isn't that like using a car or bus to get to work.

I'm flabbergasted that anyone would think this is serious, it should be laughed out at the first instance (unless there is much more to it that I don't see and can't comprehend).

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I think the point is that it's all about economics. If I go after Marriott for £3,000 with a lawsuit, I hope they will think "Oh crud. Just ringing the lawyers will cost more than that. This company is worthless, so even if we win, we can't reclaim our costs, so just pay and be dammed."

That's the gamble the IP shark is taking. It may or may not pay off. For the sake of general sanity, I hope it does not.

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I don't think patent infringement counts if it is from the user. Surely you have to manufacture or sell an infringing item to be liable. Still, the patent laws are so screwed up you may even get sued for pronouncing the word wifi incorrectly these days.

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Unhappy

Sounds ridiculous, but there could be a loophole.

If someone buys a vacuum cleaner that, for example, is infringing a Dyson patent. There is nothing Dyson can do to the user/owner as they haven't manufactured it.

However, the act of setting up a network *is* manufacturing something (the network), so it may be possible to sue the network owner on that basis.

I do agree with others here that some anti Patent troll legislation is badly needed. Make it illegal to buy a patent that you have no intention on implementing. If you do not implement the patent within, say, 18 months, it expires.

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Pint

IANAL but I suspect that it comes under using a patented <thing> in their business of making money (people paying them to stay in their hotel).

Imagine that you had a patent on a new process to make better beer. You wouldn't be happy for all the breweries to *USE* that process in order to make better beer without paying you, even though they weren't selling the process or things containing it.

That aside, this sounds a bit shitty to me. Presumably the patents in question cover what the APs do, and the coffee shop/hotel has no control over that at all, so this should really be on the manufacturer (although they'll fight). Oh and as for "not going after individual end users"; what do they think a hotel is, if it is not the individual end user?

Mmmm beer....

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YahBut

If I buy this cleaner and It comes in parts, like every other vacuum cleaner that you buy. Am I liable for patent infringement if I put it together and us it in my cleaning business?

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Stop

Don't tell the French!

WIFI is pronounced whiffy here en francais!

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Meh

No Loophole

"However, the act of setting up a network *is* manufacturing something (the network), so it may be possible to sue the network owner on that basis."

I have to disagree with this. If you buy a wireless router or AP almost all the time it already is setup with Wireless networking enabled. You don't have to setup anything.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sounds ridiculous, but there could be a loophole.

"If someone buys a vacuum cleaner that, for example, is infringing a Dyson patent. There is nothing Dyson can do to the user/owner as they haven't manufactured it. However, the act of setting up a network *is* manufacturing something (the network)..."

Sheesh! The vacuum cleaner owner is "manufacturing cleanliness", so why wouldn't Dyson sue? I mean if such bizarre interpretations held sway, not if Dyson were confronted with such a scenario, although Dyson does like his patents, so you never know.

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Alert

@Super Tim

<quote>I don't think patent infringement counts if it is from the user</quote>. 7 upvotes at the time of writing, indicating that lots of people think as you do, but I'm afraid it is wishful thinking. If I or you use a WiFi device which "practices" the patent (in the jargon) and for which a license has not been paid, then we're infringing the patent. We don't have to be reselling the WiFi service (as the hotel chains and coffee shops are), or making any money at all. You, or the manufacturer of the device, must license the patent, to buy out the monopoly which the state (USA in this case) has granted. There is only the economic imbalance of court and lawyer costs which makes it impractical for Innovatio to sue individual WiFi users in the US.

As I understand it, the recent America Invents Act of Congress forbids companies from sueing a group of infringers in a single suit (if the infringing action is the only common factor), so I think individuals can breathe easily. The US Patent system is still broken, though.

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WTF?

Dear Patent Troll,

Our WIFI equipment is manufactured by XCorp. Their headquarters are at {XCorp Address}. If their equipment violates any of your intellectual property, might I respectfully recommend that you take it up with them?

Cheerio,

{Me}

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@ BristolBachelor

"Imagine that you had a patent on a new process to make better beer. You wouldn't be happy for all the breweries to *USE* that process in order to make better beer without paying you, even though they weren't selling the process or things containing it."

Except that, in this case, the manufacturer is suing the pub that SELLS the beer made with the infringing process, because the brewers have more money with which to pay lawyers to defend themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

"but I'm afraid it is wishful thinking"

Not here (UK) it's not.

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Anonymous Coward

Stupid american patents shocker

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WTF?

The Patent war gets even more ridiculous, they should prevent people from being able to obtain patents just so they can take me people to court.

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Scum, Scum, Scum, Scum, Scum.

Not only are the rich stealing from the poor but they are stealing from the rich too. I hope they drown in their own money

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Coat

to the tune of Monty Python's "Spam" song

Scum, scum, scum, scum,

scum, scum, scum, scum,

Filthy scuu-uuuuuum, horrible scuuuu-uuuuummmmm,

Wretched scuuu-uuuummmm, detestable scum, scum, scum, scum,

scum, scum, scum, scum,

scum, scum, scum, scum....

etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Shakespeare was right

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." (Henry VI part 2, IV, Sc 2)

- but perhaps he should have added "followed by the grasping scum who employer them, and the idiots who pass the laws that encourage this stupidity."

(Although a lot of people now would probably put bankers first - but did they have bankers in the 16th century?)

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Bunch of Fuggers

The Fuggers were the 16th century's big bankers. That's enough historical bank puns for now.

http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=idu#2453

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I haven't read the play, but

I believe the line about lawyers is spoken by a comic-relief villain character, who is fantasising absurdly about seizing power with a small rabble of shabby sidekicks and ruling illegitimately as tyrant. Lawyers and the good rule of law are one of the things he wants to get rid of - like name-most-dictators. I believe Pervaiz Musharraf had a lot of trouble with judges and lawyers, and judges and lawyers had a lot of trouble with Pervaiz Musharraf.

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Anonymous Coward

Time to dig out the old chestnut, "What do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A damn good start!".

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Happy

@Robert C

That's as maybe, but it's a jolly good line anyway.

(Context indeed. Pah.)

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I think the term "Banker" was originally a typo but they figured it sounded close enough.

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Not suing users eh?

If they do, it's a simple case of Arkell vs Pressdram I reckon.

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Congestion

Are we fast approaching patent gridlock?

The majors have a policy of securing enough patents on a range of technologies to get back at anybody who attacks them. Indeed the changing ratio of real R&D via Patent lawyer budgets would probably make depressing reading.

Trouble is it effectively locks out true new innovators 'breaking the mould' but lacking an old patent portfolio. If only we could make them non-transferable - so the only party to benefit was the innovator then patents would return to their original and good purpose - giving the innovator a return on their contribution to the community and, hopefully, finance more innovation.

Frankly if the innovator dies (as Kodak is now doing) it is better that its contribution is returned to the public domain than it is kept going so Google can screw Apple.

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Trollface

In UK commercial use of a patent can be infringement

but personal use cannot be. Although the law in the US may be different on this point.

IANAL.

Patents are an exclusive right to manufacture, import, distribute and commercially use the technology within the territory in which they are granted.

It would still be a scummy move to go after these small scale users for less than the cost of legal advice, same move as Lodsys really. However if this sort of thing becomes more common maybe it will bring the whole system into more public disrepute and cause serious reform but I'm not holding my breath.

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Devil

Do not think so

If I build something patented and use it myself I am still infringing on it despite it being personal use.

Example - I get the patents for a Dyson cleaner off freepatents.org and build one myself following the descriptions (rather difficult feat as they are deliberately vague) will put me on the wrong side of the law.

The only case where courts do not go after you is when you have bought something in good faith and the person who built it infringed and even that is being diluted nowdays.

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Anonymous Coward

Re Building a Dyson

Private, non-commercial use is a defence against infringement under s60(5)(a) of the UK Patents Act. Build one your self for your own use and you will not be convicted of infringement.

With regards to this patent troll, they are clearly using the patents in a venous way. In reality there would be a likely defense, at least with respect to damages, under s62(1), namely that Marriott would be unaware of the patent and the infringing act, given that they are a Hotel chain and not an IT specialist. However, this would not stop the Troll being able to prevent their continued use of the product, so it is still likely to be cheaper just to take the 'fine' in return for being able to continue using their existing equipment.

Yet again the Merkins show that unregulated greed tarnishes any system...

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FAIL

Then you think wrongly

Take it from me: when you rebuild anything patented and don't make any business use of it, like vacuum your own carpet, you are fine.

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Holmes

Baroom lawyers assemble!

Patent invalid due to prior failure of due diligence: i.e. Broadcom didn't sue anyone when they had plenty of time to do so, so the patent lapsed at that time.

What say the masses?

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Understandable.

After all, all WiFi routers look alike. Rectangular with one or more aerials. If it's good enough for Apple...

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Tongue. Cheek

Note their relative positions.

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Joke

CheTongueek

Better relative positions????

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Anonymous Coward

"Innovatio" - nice company name

But "Irrumatio" would be even more appropriate, it seems.

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@AC 08:41

"But "Irrumatio" would be even more appropriate, it seems."

I do wish I hadn't Googled that term at work.

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Anonymous Coward

+1 for the Catullus reference

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Joke

And there I was thinking

they might be suffering from dyslexia.

Or they were in such a hurry to make money they forget the last letter of their nam.

having said that, their behaviour causes dyspepsia.

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Paris Hilton

Irrumatio

Can I be the first person to use the Paris icon with that word....

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Shades of Bromcom?

This reminds me of Bromcom who, because they had a patented product using hand-held devices for electronic pupil registration, started threatening any school that was doing any form of wireless registration, even if they were just using an Excel spreadsheet on a laptop.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/11/24/schools_patent/

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Anonymous Coward

I work for a WEEE disposal/refurbishment company

and we have quite a number of those Bromcom devices. A while ago I started disassembling the ROM (on my own time, in case any lawyers are reading) in the hope of being able to make them do something else.

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Stop

Fight fire with FUD.

I feel the need to submit a patent for a "System and method for procuring fiscal compensation by a process of patent accrual for the specific purpose of initiating litigation against all parties who may be deemed at our discretion to have breached said patents for any purposes past, present and future." (or something like that)

Don't worry, I'll share all the profits with you lot. Perhaps we can invest in some new Playmobil(tm) or something?

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Trollface

Too late....

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/10/halliburton_patent/

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Silver badge

Could we perhaps patent "behaving like a cunt" and sue ALL the patent trolls?

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So you now need to have a patent lawyer involved whenever you make IT Infrastructure purchases?

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If the lawyers had their way, you'd need a lawyer to blow your nose, and pay for the privilege.

Want to make a purchase? Get a lawyer to check that what you're buying doesn't infringe some patent somewhere, but you'll have to wait the ten years to make the purchase and you can add £££ (or $$$) to the price making the purchase unfordable.

Alternatively give all your money to the lawyers and accept gracefully anything they happen to give you in return. Well, other than a larger bill as now they have to employ accountants to handle all the money for them...

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Joke

Optional

"Want to make a purchase? Get a lawyer to check that what you're buying doesn't infringe some patent somewhere"

Sorry, no, you can't do that. I've patented it.

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I've got this idea I'm going to patent where you can roam around and get power simply by connecting into a handy wall outlet. I'm not going to bother suing MK, I'm going to sue users. Let the money roll in.

Then, I've got this wonderful idea for using sodium chloride as a food flavour enhancer.

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Anonymous Coward

Add it as a preservative too along with sugar, and you've pretty much got anything man or beast eats!

I wonder if I could sue the zoo's too? Watch out Whipsnade!

Cue ominous organ music and manic laughter!

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g e
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Stop

Hang on though

If they're charging, say, 3k per site and Marriott have 100 sites.. I'd think 300k would be worth making a call to the legal dept before stumping up a cheque...

It only take Marriott & Holiday Inn, et al to have a word with each other and split costs for further savings, too...

These trolls are fkd... if not they should be. With something rusty.

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Trollface

The more of them that pop up the more I despise patent trolls. This is just simply ridiculous.

Is anyone else reminded of SCO trying to change people for using Linux?

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