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back to article Google grabs yet more patents from IBM war chest

Google continues to fill up its sack of patents, once again with the help of IBM, bagging scores of patents from the tech titan. The Chocolate Factory already loaded its litigation guns with 2,053 patents from IBM in two transactions in July and August last year, and now records at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) show …

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This sort of action

shows why the patent system is broken.

Mental exercises, algorithms, programmes should be COPYRIGHT, not patented.

If software patents had been used in 1981/2 there would not have been a PC clone. BIOS would have remained firmly in the hands of IBM.

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Partly..

While this is indeed a good display of bad patent usage, there are also plenty of examples where patents actually protected consumer rights.

Take Phillips' CD. In the beginning the whole production process was patented (to put it simple) forcing companies who wanted to make a "real CD" to comply to the laid out manufacturing process. The results should be obvious; high quality CD's (which could easily last 10 years) but automatically at higher prices for the public. If I recall correctly, but I'm not sure, some CD's would even give out a guarantee on the lifespan.

When the patent finally expired companies were simply allowed to produce a CD as they saw fit. This obviously resulted in the prices dropping significantly, which was good, but on the other hand the overall quality of the CD also went down pretty bad. CD's could easily last 3 -5 years but after that people were strongly advised to store their data on other media in order to prevent data loss.

SO IMO its not all bad news when it comes to patents. However, I do think there's a huge difference between the way the US patent system operates and the ones we have in Europe.

Remember the SCO Linux "witch hunt" based on their so called patent? When they tried to take on (iirc) Mercedes for violating their precious little "Linux patent" because they (Mercedes) used Linux it got basically laughed out of court with the strict notion that should SCO ever pull such a stunt again they'd be prosecuted for slander. All within a matter of weeks.

And we all know how long the dozens of "patent lawsuits" took in the US....

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Headmaster

I'm afraid it was Daimler Chrysler and it was a contract case. SCO said that Daimler Chrysler had failed to reply when asked to certify that their use of Unix was according to their contract.

See:: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20040303182714835

It never got into the territory that SCO vs Autozone got into, where programs compiled on a Unix system were found running under Linux. (Autozone promptly deleted or recompiled the offending programs, but being found with its pants down, settled.) That of course was also a contract/copyright case.

SCO never asserted a single patent against Linux. They may have owned exactly one patent, but it was not applicable.

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@stuff and nonsense

IBM PC clones had nothing to do with absence of software patents BTW. IBM could use hardware patents to the same effect but it chose not to do so (IBM changed its mind later with PS/2 and MCA bus).

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The IBM PC, in its original form was built from off the shelf parts. The only proprietary "component" was the BIOS. It would not have been possible to protect the PC hardware with patents. Anyone could have imitated the hardware but without the BIOS it would have been a box of wired bits.

The clean room reverse engineering* of the BIOS allowed compatibles that followed the IBM design and software function to be built.

*One engineer analyses the hardware functions of the BIOS chip

*Said engineer writes a specification

*Same engineer leaves the project - No further contact with him/her is allowed.

New engineer reads the specification and writes a program against the specification. The engienner has no sight of the BIOS chip or its operation. His/her code is original.

This code was to all intents and purposes functionally identical to the IBM BIOS. (These days a patent breach) The copy BIOS contained no IBM code, copyright remains in tact.

In turn, this meant that Microsoft only needed to make one version of DOS instead of the vatiations that were being planned / produced for the "nearly compatible" computers that were in the pipeline.

A standard PC clone was born and the rest is history...

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In the EU it is not currently possible to patent a process.

"examples where patents actually protected consumer rights." - Patents protect the inventor's rights and investments.

The CD itself is a patentable object. Any "CDs" manufactured by a third party company during the patent lifespan would have been manufactured under license- Phillips would still get their cut. Any discs that were not manufactured under a license during the duration of the patent would have been illegal and the manufacturers would have been in an actionable position.

After the expiration of a patent anyone can make copies. Some will be of good quality, some marginal and some plain bad.

Patents for novel, original hardware inventions are necessary to protect investment.

Software is a mental process written in an ordered manner, as is music, as is literature. It (in the EU, Halliburton not withstanding) falls under the rules of copyright.

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Holmes

@stuff and nonsense

OK, IBM PC's architecture was open and maybe free of both h/w and s/w patents (I cannot say it for sure but IBM didn't take anybody in court for IBM PC patent issues AFAIK). The story was different for IBM PS/2 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Channel_architecture):

"IBM had patents on MCA system features and required MCA system manufacturers to pay a license fee - and actively pursued patents to block third parties from selling unlicensed implementations of it. The PC clone market did not want to pay royalties to IBM in order to use this new technology, and for desktop machines vendors of PC-compatibles stayed largely with the 16-bit AT bus"

IMHO it's clear that IBM could pull the same stunt earlier with ISA bus to prevent "unlicensed" cloning of original IBM PC. So it's not really about s/w vs h/w patents, but about corporate strategy. If IBM wanted to screw us, they could do it without ever resorting to s/w patents. Why they didn't put any locks on PC architecture, remains a question. I think they just wanted to create a market for add-on cards ASAP but didn't think about possibility of cloning PC itself at all.

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"The story was different for IBM PS/2 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Channel_architecture)"

Completely agree, MCA was entirely proprietary to IBM. For IBM, sadly by then the clone market was strong enough to implement the VESA extensions. Board makers didn't pay IBM the license for MCA. VESA flourished for a while. MCA became a historical footnote. In the end though Intel won with PCI...

IBM did withold various timing details regarding the ISA bus. This caused some incompatibilities with add in boards and clone computers.

Going back to my original point, the original PC hardware was not patentable.

Its BIOS was Copyright protected.

That third parties created a "clean room implementation" of the BIOS circumvented the copyright.

Had a patent been used to protect the BIOS code then the "clean room implementation" would not have been allowed.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm free calls in return for listening to an advert before placing the call. And with targeted advertising it could be along the lines of:

"We hear you were looking for a new credit card, press 1 to have our representative contact you after you have ended your call"

Oh yes, patents. Them again.. Seems this is a costly war for all.

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Anonymous Coward

<i>a method of playing audible advertisements to mobile users before they make a call</i>

Google is an advertising company after all.

This sounds right up the chocolate factory's quality street ... and some people would happily have "free" phone calls in exchange for unstoppable adverts for products/services mined from their Google user data.

Reminds me of that Charlie Brooker Black Mirror episode "15 Million Merits" ... it's where "free" will take us.

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Coat

Upside

"a method of playing audible advertisements to mobile users before they make a call"

There's an upside: it may make the kiddies NOT actually want to make that call to their friend, especially if it is a 30sec advert.

I'd get one simply to give the kids for simple "call me when the movie is over" comms. Beats having to do an extra cell phone on a family plan (price-wise).

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FAIL

"and promptly getting indirectly sued by Apple"

Wait, what? Didn't Microsoft also *successfully* sue Android licensees? Aren't other patent holders _also_ demanding their pounds of flesh too?

Or does that not fit in with your chosen narrative?

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Anonymous Coward

The difference is that Apple is suing to stop Android, whereas Microsoft is not actually suing, as far as I know - the Microsoft lawyers are striking deals with various android manufacturers to get a cut of the revenue. I've no doubt that the threat of a lawsuit plays a role in those negotiations, but I don't think Microsoft has asked the courts for injunctions in any of these cases yet.

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Coat

I wonder

I wonder at what point the scales will tip and Microsoft will start making more money from their licensing on android handsets than from WinPhone sales....

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The first time my mobile plays an advert to me when I go to make a call will be the first time it gets flying lessons FFS

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I can just hear it

person - help, my house is burning down and three people are trapped in it

Smart phone - Before this call can be made, you must listen to a 5 minute commercial on weenie enhancement. To improve your love life...........

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FAIL

Optional

And the recent arrival of the new-look gmail is proof that Goggle is stupid enough to actually implement this feature. I swear, someone thought it was a good idea to have zones with scroll bars that only appear when you point the mouse at the zone in question, and someone else thought it was OK to let this be released. And having the "compose" button in red, the "stop, danger" colour (OK, beer makes composing emails dangerous, but not all gmail users are drunk enough to need this) is just moronic, mitigated only by the fact that there are sane themes that don't have it in red.

And now I can't turn it off. Grr.

Sorry, needed to vent again. At least they left the ads all the way over there on the right, where I can't see them because I'm looking at the left-hand-side of the window, where the mail is.

FAIL icon for Goggle.

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Linux

Future

I can just see the following article in the reg this year:

In 2012, the smartphone is now extinct. A judge ordered a stop to all smart phones world wide because every one was stepping on every one elses patients.

This is sad

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Joke

Mental patients no doubt ;-)

(sorry, couldn't resist. I'm aware its most obviously a typo)

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Anonymous Coward

Oracle anyone?

These patents are a pretty mixed bag. They might well come in handy with Googles battle with Oracle.

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