back to article Who's that at Ring's door? Why, it's Skybell with a begging cup, er, patent rip-off lawsuit

Smart home doorbell maker Ring has had a bad start to the year with the delivery of a patent infringement lawsuit courtesy of competitor Skybell. Skybell filed its case [PDF] on Friday in a southern California district court, just days before Ring launched a range of new indoor and outdoor security cameras and a line of …

  1. sjsmoto

    This is the first time I've EVER heard of Skybell, and regardless of their case, their introduction is "Hello, we're asses."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      there's no bad advertising. You think "asses", asses think "investment opportunity".

    2. joed Silver badge

      I've never heard of Skybell, but judging by MS' "success" of Skydrive branding, we may be looking for some Onebell tomorrow. Either way, I have no skin in this game as I've even disconnected the wired bell (DND mode all the way;)

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        " judging by MS' "success" of Skydrive branding, we may be looking for some Onebell tomorrow"

        I think Bellend is more appropriate...

  2. ecofeco Silver badge
    Holmes

    They have a case?

    I'm not sure I see how they have a case. Motion detection, streaming video and an alarm or notification of some kind on your phone are ALL prior art. By years and decades,

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: They have a case?

      That was my reaction to the patents. It seems all they did was use prior art for a electronic door lock. But it still begs the question, why buy one of these when a quality, keyed deadbolt is cheap and fairly easy to install?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: They have a case?

        They might, because the patent system is broken. This is sort of like the dotcom era patents that were basically "X, but on the web" and more recently "X, but on a phone".

        This is also why when you read patents they generally make specific claims for what they're doing, then try to list as many other use cases as they can think of which is one of the reasons the list of claims is often so wordy.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: They have a case?

          'This is sort of like the dotcom era patents that were basically "X, but on the web" and more recently "X, but on a phone".'

          Next might be "X but IN! SPACE!!!"

          getting coat, now...

      2. goodjudge
        Joke

        Re: They have a case?

        "why buy one of these when a quality, keyed deadbolt is cheap and fairly easy to install?"

        Get with the programme grandad! It's 2018, no one cares about boring old bits of metal that can't be controlled from your phone. Don't ask why, just revere the new shiny thing.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: They have a case?

        a quality, keyed deadbolt is cheap and fairly easy to install

        Get with the century daddio. Physical locks are *so* last millenium. And don't have flashy lights!

        So there.

        PS: Of course, they also lack the ability to make lots of money for 'disruptive' companies..

      4. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: They have a case?

        "why buy one of these when a quality, keyed deadbolt is cheap and fairly easy to install?"

        Because a "deadbolt" can't alert your whole household wherever they are on the estate (or even on holiday, etc.) that someone is at the door? Because it doesn't let you speak directly to the guests / courier / postman / pikies casing the joint ? Because it doesn't alert you to movement before someone is even at the door? Because it doesn't play inane chimes when someone presses the button? Because it doesn't stream video / audio and allow you to record it? Because it doesn't have a go faster blue LED?

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          @the vogon Re: They have a case?

          A deadbolt is a far cheaper solution when it comes to baring entry thru the door.

          A single door bell or sensor isn't going to cover a large area and you. Just walk over to the window a few meters away and break in. ;-) In either case you defeated a cheap deadbolt or a relatively expensive doorbell w sensors on a door that lacked the nicer dead bolt.

          As to defeating the system... take out the wifi and you're in.

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: They have a case?

          Because a "deadbolt" can't alert your whole household wherever they are on the estate (or even on holiday, etc.) that someone is at the door? Because it doesn't let you speak directly to the guests / courier / postman / pikies casing the joint ? Because it doesn't alert you to movement before someone is even at the door? Because it doesn't play inane chimes when someone presses the button? Because it doesn't stream video / audio and allow you to record it? Because it doesn't have a go faster blue LED?

          This is the same ring that gave people relatively easy access to your WiFi network?

          https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/01/12/ring_doorbell_reveals_wifi_credentials/

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They have a case?

      Prior art? Possibly, but just as Apple patented loads of prior art by adding the key words of "on a mobile device" then looks like Ring have learnt the lesson and filed extension patents which additional add "and involving a door" ... now we need to wait and see if Apple sue them for contravening their patent on "a novel mechanism for creating new patents by taking an exisitng patent and additon 'on a <insert class of object here>' where the <class of object> can comprise a plurality of objects that could be enumerated by someone skilled in the art"

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: They have a case?

        > now we need to wait and see if Apple sue them for contravening their patent on "a novel mechanism for creating new patents by taking an exisitng patent and additon 'on a <insert class of object here>' where the <class of object> can comprise a plurality of objects that could be enumerated by someone skilled in the art"

        May I complement you on your brilliant meta-invention and expect to see this in a patent filing in the near future?

    3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      @ecofeco Re: They have a case?

      You asked " They have a case? "

      I may get down voted by those who don't read the full comment...

      Yes, they have a case. <u>(Unfortunately)</u>

      They have a case because some moron in the USPTO granted them a patent when none should have been granted. Because they have the patent, they can sue and will win unless you can get the USPTO to reverse themselves.

      Without Patent Reform, these types of patents will continue to allow what you and I see as frivolous lawsuits. Its the while business process. Think the electronic shopping cart patent.

      The company didn't invent the motion detector. They didn't invent the electric door bell. In fact they didn't invent any of the technology involved in the lawsuit. What they did was to combine them to create a specific product for which they applied and were granted a patent.

      What you have to do is to show that their combination of parts to build a product was not really new or novel, that it was common sense and a probable evolutionary step forward. (e.g. a door pad buzzer with a camera tied to a close circuit TV leading to a door pad buzzer with a camera tied to video being streamed over the internet is an obvious step in evolution.... )

      The burden is now on Ring to show that the patents should be invalidated which is a very expensive task. The community could also get involved too if anyone wants...

      But that's the sad state of affairs.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: @ecofeco They have a case?

        Well you get an upvote from me, Ian Michael Gumby because, unfortunately, you are all too right.

    4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: They have a case?

      But, but, they are doing it 'on a computer'!!! Even though all of these things have been done on computers before, they haven't been done on a computer by this company before,... or something.

  3. AOD
    Devil

    A home Google product? I'll pass thanks.

    Google have a pretty abysmal record of offloading products/services when they feel like it as they're not core to their business.

    Absolutely no way in Hades I'd consider any of the physical Google products (Nest, their mesh Wi-Fi etc) for just that reason.

    If you absolutely must have a connected home product, go with a vendor who has that as their core business and also look at whether they support any relevant open standards (ONVIF etc) that facilitate usage with other relevant bits of equipment (like a NAS to record the video locally for example).

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: A home Google product? I'll pass thanks.

      Seems the only use case for doorbell cameras is to get video of people stealing packages off your front porch. Personally the only time I answer my door is if I'm expecting someone, and I can have a peek around the corner if I want to be sure it is them and not Mormons, or worse.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A home Google product? I'll pass thanks.

      "Google have a pretty abysmal record of offloading products/services when they feel like it as they're not core to their business."

      Not to mention that the Borg's products are spyware by design.

    3. A. Coatsworth
      FAIL

      Re: A home Google product? I'll pass thanks.

      Look for the review of that NEST product posted by El Reg last December, it is glorious:

      It waxes lyrically about how easy to install, good value for money, good looking the thing is. At the very bottom it mentions casually that it is trivially easy to disconnect and the siren is not loud enough to be heard from another room... so it is worthless as a security system. But that isn't really important in this case, is it?

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Obligatory

        https://xkcd.com/937/

        1. A. Coatsworth
          Pint

          Re: Obligatory

          Damn right, Lord Elpuss! That's what I thought while reading the review

  4. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    We all know the way the USPTO operates

    But the proper reaction to these patent applications should have been: "Innovative? Pull the other one, it's got bells on."

    1. theblackhand

      Re: We all know the way the USPTO operates

      How can you be sure Skybell hasn't already patented "pulling the other one, it's got bells on"?

      You're opening yourself up to a sueball...

      Prior art? Never heard of him. Was he a painter?

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    There is nothing new or innovative in those patents, the 'smart' doorbells technology has been around for years in apartment blocks where you can see who is at the door with a small CCTV camera attached to the doorbell ringer. They have just took that tech and added a smart phone as the receiver.

    1. Snowy
      Joke

      Just add...

      A smartphone element to an old existing patent and shazam as if by magic you have a new patent for the modern era!

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Just add...

        You say this as a joke but yes...

        The problem is that when you have a set of criteria and definitions on how to consider a patent request and you're a drone... it fits. Patent granted.

        This is why Patent Reform is critical and it almost passed until Harry Reid killed it a few years back.

  6. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Facepalm

    That patent office

    I read the patent abstracts. They were filed in 2015 and cover features that publicly available network cameras already offered. The receipt for mine is dated 2014.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: That patent office

      note, patent abstracts are basically irrelevant; the part of the patent that actually matters when push comes to shove is the claim section. which is usually too long to make it more than 20% of the way through without bursting into laughter, tears or both.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That patent office

        however if the patent was granted in 2015 and things were available on the market in 2014, there's prior art & patent should not have been granted. Time to sue USPTO, not the other company that got it's solution "out of the door" (so to speak)? If patent genuinely novel & non-obvious, and filed before any one else had same idea, then Patent Office too slow to grant it. In this case though, an extension of existing remote door lock controls, as used in various buildings worldwide for years, it wasn't genuinely novel and the examiner who granted it should be on the stand explaining why it was?

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Trollface

    There might be a way...

    Wait! Does that bell push have rounded corners?

  8. AdamWill

    good lord

    First patent should be dismissed out of hand for the claim starting with this blurp of verbal diarrhea:

    "A doorbell system comprising a doorbell, wherein the doorbell system comprises:"

    ...good grief.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior Art

    From 2013

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2398851/iDoorCam-App-Doorbell-camera-motion-sensors-shows-whos-door.html

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Prior Art

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sci.... blah, blah, blah

      You know you're on a sticky wicket when[1] even the Daily Fail gets there before you..

      [1] Also when English cricketers go to Ozland. And vice-versa.

  10. SVV Silver badge

    $200 million funding

    For a sodding doorbell that lets you answer the door with a phone. Why? If I'm in, I'll answer the doorbell. If I'm not I won't hear it, and also do not want to on my phone. Has anyone checked if the patent for the smart toilet that you can flushwith an app has gone yet? Should be worth a coupkle of mill at least with the current funding insanity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $200 million funding

      Perhaps when I'm out I don't want an uninvited visitor to my front door to think my house is empty? And even if I'm out and the uninvited visitor becomes aware that the house is indeed empty then they're at least aware that there is already a recording of their mug.

      Robbery 101 "Check the house is empty - ring the doorbell".

      For what their product costs it's way cheaper than buying an alarm and CCTV.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: $200 million funding

        > Robbery 101 "Check the house is empty - ring the doorbell".

        Knock on the door instead?

        Interestingly, on the one occasion I've had a visit from the police they ignored my (old-school, non-"smart") doorbell and knocked very hard instead: a really loud double tap, audible throughout the house. Perhaps it's part of their training?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: $200 million funding

          Known as a "coppers knock".

          Trouble is with door bells, you cant tell if they have "rung".

          NO doorbell can compete with a damn good knuckle rapping.

  11. Walter Bishop Silver badge

    Patents critical to a smart doorbell?

    "The lawsuit claimed Ring has infringed three of Skybell's patents, all of which are critical to a smart doorbell"

    Connecting WiFI, streaming video, motion detection or a chime to a doorbell, is in no way shape or form original, innovative or an invention. Skybell did no original work on the previously mentioned technologies. What guarantees do SkyBell offer against your smart doorbell getting hacked while you're away. What security tests did the Skybell research and development department perform on the smart doorbell? How immune is the smart doorbell from jamming.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Patents critical to a smart doorbell?

      What security tests did the Skybell research and development department perform on the smart doorbell?

      Don't be silly - that's what customers are for!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patents critical to a smart doorbell?

      "How immune is the smart doorbell from jamming."

      It isn't. It's wifi on 2.4ghz. Standard 802.11 b/g/n. Jamming it is trivial.

      The ac 5ghz standard is MUCH more resilient to jamming.

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