back to article 'Alexa, find me a good patent lawyer' – Amazon sued for allegedly lifting tech of home assistant

Amazon is the target of a patent complaint from a US university that claims the Alexa assistant ripped off its technology for processing voice commands. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute wants a jury trial in the Northern District of New York to determine damages against Amazon for what the Big Apple tech school alleges is …

Anonymous Coward

This must be another US only patent. It's not a new method, it's patenting the obviously desirable.

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This isn't a patent of an idea, its a patent of a solution or system to solve the problem.

I don't think this files under the typical US obvious patents.

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Having slogged through the important bits of patent-legalese.. Nope this is not a rounded-corners patent. It's actually pretty specific, for its kind.

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Meh

this sort of thing has been "trivially solved" since RJR cave allowed you to say "throw the axe at the dwarf"

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>It's actually pretty specific

But also very generic in its claims - the natural language assistant I worked on in 2001 potentially falls foul of claim 1!

To me the acid test would be whether Nuance holds a licence for this patent or not and what the royalty's Nuance pays, if any...

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I call BS

I call BS - After spending all of 22 seconds on a google search - confirmation that natural language queries had already become old news in 1982. Makes me think that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Trump University share quite a bit in terms of integrity and fundamental understanding of fields in which they claim expertise.

December 1982, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 471–504

Notice that this paper has not claimed that all natural languages are CFL's. What it has shown is that every published argument purporting to demonstrate the non-context-freeness of some natural language is invalid, either formally or empirically or both.18 Whether non-context-free characteristics can be found in the stringset of some natural language remains an open question, just as it was a quarter century ago.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00360802

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I call BS

>I call BS - After spending all of 22 seconds on a google search - confirmation that natural language queries had already become old news in 1982.

Sure. Nobody will dispute that. And that was not even the question. Ever.

The one and only question that is relevant is if someone has done it the same way as described in the claims. Without doing a complete claim chart I nevertheless see several of the features in the claims are not found in the article you refer to.

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Lightsaber.

I must patent the model for a 'powered, portable item that emits a high-powered plasma stream, encapsulated within a variable magnetic field, in the shape of a long, narrow stadium'

Then wait until someone MUCH cleverer than me invents it, and reap the ill-gained profits.

Because thats how patent business works, apparently.

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Re: Lightsaber.

You just have to hope that after spending all of the money to get the patent that somebody invents and produces one in the next 17 years before your patent runs out. In the case of a Lightsabre, there is prior art even if the device was never produced and it can't be patented. Even if you changed the name of something from Vactrain to Hyperloop.

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Re: Lightsaber.

I wouldn't even bother with patenting that particular application. Might even do the world some good to keep it open source. Plenty of Darwin Award material when idjits build their own, pretend to be a scifi ninja-monk, and remove important bits of their body.

Now the *power source* for such a gadget... That I would patent to the hilt and back.

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Law

Re: Lightsaber.

"In the case of a Lightsabre, there is prior art even if the device was never produced"

So we can throw this one out too then right? Startrek TNG had natural language queries in the early 90s.. then there's Scotty in the 80s when looking for whales... Keyboards being "quaint". If I wasn't half asleep I'd come up with a dozen more examples from earlier sci-fi. :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lightsaber.

Call it what you like.

My biggest concern is the Mjolnir looks a lot like Timmy Malletts...er...Mallet.

Presumably this is why Marvel were forced to change it in the last movie.

The world we live in.

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"Amazon sued for lifting tech of home assistant"

^ Anything that makes a dent in the empire of that tax avoiding Bond villain who treats his workers poorly is fine by me.

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Anonymous Coward

Ohh, folks at RPI won't be happy

You said " what the Big Apple tech school" ---

RPI is located in Troy, NY about 100 miles north of NYC

And folks in upstate NY usually have a dim view of being considered part of "the Big Apple"

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Re: Ohh, folks at RPI won't be happy

To the point they would like to split the state in 2 and let the downstate scum sink in financial oblivion.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: folks in upstate NY usually have a dim view of being considered part of "the Big Apple"

Fascinating, but unfortunately I'm out of fucks.

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FAIL

I actually thought of that...

I actually thought of that back in the mid 90's when I was experimenting with Microshaft's "Speech API". I thought the idea of having 'natural language' dictionary-based word recognition and interpretation to be _SO_ trivially OBVIOUS, that I wouldn't bother patenting it. If the speech recognition tech (via SAPI) hadn't been so universally crappy, I would have done it back then. I wanted the 'Star Trek' interface, after all. What I ended up with instead was random room noise activating the thing and running programs, somewhat randomly.

2 words to describe the university: PATENT TROLL

[and _I_ preceded you "geniuses" by 10 FREAKING YEARS]

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Re: I actually thought of that...

"What I ended up with instead was random room noise activating the thing and running programs, somewhat randomly."

And nothing has changed since.

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Re: I actually thought of that...

Not enogh upvotes Graham. Not enough.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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toki pona!

ilo ni li poni ala. o toki!

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Re: toki pona!

google didn't do so well with that, but it did cope well enough to get the gist, and the exclamation point. Maybe Japan (allegedly) can sue?

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Re: toki pona!

Maybe Japan (allegedly) can sue?

I got a longer (but not full) translation, which made sense in this context, using Malayalam. Which is probably just coincidence.

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wsm

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Short on cash, not on patents, or patent attorneys.

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Alexa replies : There are only evil patent lawyers

Some of the most recent of Amazon's 7706 patents :

Food packaging with multi-layer structure

Updating code within an application

Generating an application programming interface

Visualization of network health information

and my favourite from my brief perusal :

Server system (USPTO Applicaton #: #20180084665)

A system includes a rack and one or more server systems mounted in the rack. A server system includes at least one sever node and each server node includes an array of devices including mass storage devices and at least one server device.

all from : http://stks.freshpatents.com/Amazon-Technologies-Inc-nm1.php

Frankly, from those that I've read I'm surprised they haven't managed to recently patent portable bound volumes of paper in which a story or factual information is encoded in printed text.

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WTF?

Re: Alexa replies : There are only evil patent lawyers

Updating code within an application was something I did back in the 1980s, not content with passing variables to a subroutine through the call to that routine and thus modifying the results it could produce, I went one further and modified the routine because about >90% of the code was what was wanted but a subtle change in the code internals would allow a whole different process to run. This was with the 640k PC so code recycling/repurposing was 'valuable'. Extra fun came from some IBM folk getting upset at the thought of code being changed on the fly.

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Re: Alexa replies : There are only evil patent lawyers

Maybe they patented a system whereby the obviously untenable waste of a patent clerk's time (and we all know how valuable their spare time is) can be 3d printed in concrete, and rectally inserted into the applicant's rectum (I noted a degree of redundancy there after de-ranting, but this being an IT forum, redundancy is recommended)

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Re: Alexa replies : There are only evil patent lawyers

"Extra fun came from some IBM folk getting upset at the thought of code being changed on the fly."

Must admit, I'm with IBM... Your description (while technically cool) had made my spidey senses tingling.

Reminds me of a recent graduates pull request at work, I had to block the code from being merged as it had a script with a sed call that altered itself, then recursively called itself again.

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Re: Alexa replies : There are only evil patent lawyers

"Reminds me of a recent graduates pull request at work, I had to block the code from being merged as it had a script with a sed call that altered itself, then recursively called itself again."

Or returning the address from a malloc to the count of memory addresses you want to allocate, which always being greater than 1, will recursively continue until you run out of memory you can allocate. Which, when run under your C Professor's superuser account, with no limits on memory allocation, is not good for everyone else using that system. Which was approximately 300 other students at the time.

Not that I know from personal experience or anything...

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Surely...

...Gene Roddenberry owns most stuff with all the ideas he and his team came up with on Star Trek. Especially the natural speaking to the computer. Sadly it appears if someone patients it after you, they get the credit.

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Re: Surely...

robots and computers with speech interfaces have been a staple of science fiction since forever. Wasn't the play that introduced the word robot written already in the 1920's? But that is not prior art because it does not tell how the trick is done.

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Headmaster

Re: Surely...

Gene Roddenberry owns most stuff with all the ideas he and his team came up with on Star Trek.

That's not how it works. A patent is about the process of doing something, not the idea of doing something. This is why there is/was not a patent for "Fixing atmospheric Nitrogen", but there is one for the Frank-Caro process, and a different one for the Haber-Bosch process, because although they both fix atmospheric nitrogen, they do so in different methods.

Gene Roddenberry came up with no methods.

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And what, they've only *just* realised that Amazon are supposedly breaking their patent now? Short on money by any chance?

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Coat

And what, they've only *just* realised that Amazon are supposedly breaking their patent now? Short on money by any chance?

It's possible they simply forgot they had the patent until somebody said "Alexa, what patents do we have."

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If Apple settled out of court with it's long list of expensive lawyers, then they must have enough of a case that will see Amazon do the same.

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Or it could have gone the other way - remember the 'settlement' was out of court, so no public statement on just what exactly was the settlement.

So the '798 patent could be totally worthless, just that Apple were happy for Rensselaer to simply back down and agrre that Apple didn't infringe a worthless patent...

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Interesting, whilst the agreement was out of court, it would seem the court had a part to play in the final agreement.

Rensselaer, in this complaint, notes:

"47. The Apple action was filed on June 3, 2013, and was resolved through a

settlement that was approved by this Court on May 2, 2016. "

Thus a quick search returns several articles along the lines of this one:

https://www.bizjournals.com/albany/news/2016/04/19/apple-settles-siri-lawsuit-with-rensselaer-dallas.html

The published terms and the amount involved (25m USD) would seem to indicate that Apple chose not to fight and settle - probably because the case had several other strands to it. Interestingly, this case would also seem to set the upper limit on payments from Amazon, particularly as Alexa currently has a smaller market than Siri...

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It was ALWAYS going to happen

Hands up anyone who really thought they weren't going to get sued by *someone* on this?

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Boffin

I still have complete confidence in the US Patent System, Dave.

As I recall, HAL couldn't just understand natural language queries, he could lip-read too!

How long until some patent troll comes along and challenges Arthur C Clarke's estate on that one?

(on a slightly related note, did Clarke ever get any royalties from those nice people sticking satellites in geosynchronous orbits?)

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