back to article Fed up of playing Whac-A-Mole with network of SoftBank-owned patent holders, Intel hits court

Intel is taking legal action against a spider's web of patent holders from SoftBank-owned Fortress Investment Group and its network of subsidiaries. The Japanese megacorp bought the group for $3.3bn in late 2017, and Chipzilla claims Fortress has become more aggressive in an effort to justify its sales price to its new owners …

  1. GreggS

    pot

    kettle

    1. richard?

      Re: pot

      Intel produce products - I'm sure there are some cases where they've gone after competitors for patent infringement, probably some of them unfair or anti-competitive, but at least they're using the patents they have in things people buy.

      That's fundamentally different to a firm which has never produced anything, has no intention of ever producing anything or setting up a reasonable licensing scheme (e.g. like ARM does), and doesn't even benefit the original patent author.

      1. IGotOut

        Re: pot

        anything or setting up a reasonable licensing scheme (e.g. like ARM does)....

        That would be the Arm owned by Softbank?

        1. steviebuk Silver badge

          Re: pot

          But the licensing scheme for ARM was setup before Softbank bought them out.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: pot

      I have no problem with Intel asserting patent rights for patents they use in their own products. It is companies that sue over patents they own when they make nothing (i.e. patent trolls) that are the problem.

      Not that patents should be worthless if you don't make products using them, but it throws the normal back and forth of patent assertion off if the other company isn't using any patents AT ALL. This is where you get stuff like that VirnetX suing everyone under the sun for hundreds of millions over patents that probably should have never been granted. If they were making any products that used other company's IP those patents would just be something they could leverage to get a better deal, rather than being the sole business model for a lawyer only company.

      It seems like Softbank is trying to have it both ways - they own AMD who has many patents Intel uses, and uses many of Intel's patents, so they have a cross licensing agreement. They also own this apparent troll, who they apparent bought to operate as a patent troll. Bet we don't see it suing AMD the way it is suing Intel!

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: pot

        Just realized they own ARM, not AMD (they're owned by a different foreign investment vehicle)

        So I guess they will leave Apple and Qualcomm alone instead of AMD...

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Who has the deepest pockets?

    Sadly and I'm not fan of Intel, it has to be Softbank.

    I also feel that this is just the first move in a controlled attempt to put a number of Internationally known companies out of business from a litigation war.

    Softbank should -> see Icon

  3. lglethal Silver badge
    Stop

    Not an Intel fan...

    ... but companies that dont actually produce anything (either produts or research) really shouldnt be allowed to own patents.

    the case mentioned where VLSI just kept shutting down cases and opening them in new jurisdictions really should see there lawyers disbarred, but of course that will never happen.

    United States of America - the Land of the (legal) Fee, and Home of the Ambulance Chaser...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not an Intel fan...

      >.. but companies that dont actually produce anything (either produts or research) really shouldnt be allowed to own patents.

      A little tough on the lone inventor.

      Invent something

      Show it to possible investors/customers

      Have them steal it

      Get money to build product yourself

      Patent protection

      Profit?

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Not an Intel fan...

        Not really. In that scenario you are producer (of research). It should be pretty easy to show that a) you had a meeting with the investors/customers, b) they signed an NDA (you did have them sign an NDA, right?), and c) that they are now producing your product.

        That's a straight up case for patent protection and there's nothing stopping you bringing that case.

        1. Woodnag

          Re: Not an Intel fan...

          Have a look at the Dyson case. It's not that easy.

        2. rcxb Bronze badge

          Re: Not an Intel fan...

          It should be pretty easy to show that a) you had a meeting with the investors/customers, b) they signed an NDA (you did have them sign an NDA, right?), and c) that they are now producing your product. That's a straight up case for patent protection

          What are you talking about? Patents are the polar opposite of NDAs (trade secrets). People can implement your patented technologies even if you've never had a meeting with them.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Not an Intel fan...

            1, patents (or at least provisional filings) can be a very good way of proving priority before a meeting - compared to having to argue a bunch of unsigned lab notebooks in court

            2, NDAs offer no protection if you are up against a MEGACORP with more lawyers. Neither are patents but they are a little better.

            3, Global MEGACORP won't sign an NDA. Simply there is no way that Mr X at an IBM/Samsung/Google can know if there isn't a Mr Y in another office working internally on the same thing you are going to talk about. So signing an NDA before a meeting puts them into a world of conflict.

            1. ckm5

              Re: Not an Intel fan...

              #3 is not true - large corps sign NDAs all the time, even with small players - we have several NDAs with F10 (yes ten) companies, no issues.

              Now, whether we can enforce these or not is another question, although we have gone to court in the past to get contracts enforced....

      2. matt 83

        Re: Not an Intel fan...

        I don't think the patent system protects lone inventors anyway.

        I've never filed a patent but I did once have a chat with a lone inventor who had filed patents, produced a product based on those patents and then sued someone for infringing on those patents. He said it basically works like this:

        1) Invent something

        2) Patent it

        3) Build it yourself

        4) Have someone "steal" the idea and produce a clone product

        5) You sue the for patent infringement

        6) If you win they just disappear and pop up again with a new name

        Repeat 5 & 6 until you are bankrupt.

        It probably used to work when the products were manufactured in the countries where the products were used as loosing the patent infringement case would mean your factory with all its expensive tooling would get lost.

        These days though the only person you can sue is the importer who could be a teenager with a cheap laptop and Amazon seller account so it's a lot cheaper for them to setup again than it is for you to sue them.

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Not an Intel fan...

          7) Softbank buys your patent from the bankruptcy trustee for a pittance and uses it to extort money from every manufacturer - even those making stuff that has nothing to do with the patent.

        2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: Not an Intel fan...

          You sue whoever sells the product.. Amazon, etc.

        3. rcxb Bronze badge

          Re: Not an Intel fan...

          I don't think the patent system protects lone inventors anyway.

          Which is a rather good reason to SELL your patents to a big mega-corp (like SoftBank) for a pile of cash up-front. Of course if they can't use it, they won't be willing to spend a dollar to buy it.

          Of course if they're abusing the court system, that's another matter entirely, and should be pursued irrelevant of the patents they own.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      If there was a simple solution to this

      Like "can't own patents unless you make products that use them" or "can't sell patents", it would have been implemented long ago. I don't think anyone has figured out how to a craft a law that prevents obvious patent trolling like this, but doesn't screw over small time inventors, or companies that invent something novel and try to develop it into a product, but go bankrupt before they get there.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: If there was a simple solution to this

        Tsk. Here in the Reg forums, every complicated problem has a simple solution, which is blindingly obvious to the astonishing intellects of the commentariat.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple....

    Patents shouldn't be transferable....

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Simple....

      Or they should only be able to filed in the name of, and owned by, individuals. Not corporations.

      1. Dolvaran

        Re: Simple....

        Legally, a corporation is an individual entity. You would have to insist on an organic individual.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Simple....

      "Patents shouldn't be transferable...."

      Let's do a thought experiment.

      You invent something.

      You patent it.

      You find you really don't have the money to build and sell it.

      Do you

      (a) Hock your house, children & right arm (assuming that allows you enough credit) to borrow money from the bank to set up a factory and marketing organisation, not of which you have experience of or

      (b) Go to a VC who requires the above and 95% of the profits to set up the factory & marketing organisation or

      (c) Sell the patent to someone who already has the business in place to develop it and cash out not?

      Suddenly we see there's a good reason to be able to transfer patents.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Simple....

        Suddenly we see there's a good reason to be able to transfer patents.

        Why transfer instead of license?

        Surely the patent can be held by the individual and also be licensed for manufacture?

        If it works for DRMed copyrighted products (licensed not sold) why not other IP like patents?

        Oh. That's right. It doesn't help the few filthy rich owners of this planet.

        1. rcxb Bronze badge

          Re: Simple....

          Why transfer instead of license?

          Because it's still some little guy who will be responsible for pursuing the lawsuits against any and all infringers, which could be a mega-corp with deep pockets. If he ever opts not to bother, those who licensed the patent are at quite a disadvantage to those who stole it.

          1. Dolvaran

            Re: Simple....

            ARM has only (relatively) recently become large, and this has been its business model for decades. So, absolutely it can work this way.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we have both lose ?

    I still think Intel were not punished enough for the dirty tricks they did against AMD.

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Lawyers win

      Intel and SoftBank fighting to the death will produce a large number of filthy rich lawyers, who will then take their disease of extreme greed junk pattents to new corporations. It's a much better outcome if the pattents are declared invalid.

  6. DigitalLogic

    When Elephants Fight....

    ...it’s the mice who get squashed.

    Are patent trolls out of control? Yes.

    Does this battle help the small company/inventor? Probably not.

    Patent enforcement by the issuing authorities needs a serious overhaul, re-emphasizing the ‘reasonable fees’ licensing assumption that justifies the monopoly position they grant.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: When Elephants Fight....

      Patent enforcement granting by the issuing authorities needs a serious overhaul

  7. Mr. Nanook

    Something whiffs of Research in Motion here. No products to sell but indiscriminate lawsuits galore.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019