[osflash] Patents (was: Out with a bang)
hank777 at gmail.com
Thu Dec 29 12:29:02 EST 2005
On 12/29/05, Jonas Beckeman <list at jobe.nu> wrote:
> I can't seem to make these two statements match:
> > By the way, patent protection is **by far** more beneficial
> > to the little inventor than the big company.
> > Companies with lots of money have ***all*** the power.
My point is that a patent, in at least some circumstances, has the
capacity to stop a big player in its tracks. Unfortunately, the open
source community is generally pissed when this happens because of
potential market reprocussions. Big companies almost never use patent
law against little companies.
> I agree that patents in some form is beneficial to small companies, but the
> current system that allows so many bogus patents, defended by an armada of
> expensive lawyers, is heavily slanted in favour of the big and rich IMO.
I agree that patent litigation is too expensive.
> BTW, are patent lawsuits dealt with in court with a grand jury (randomly
> selected citizens)? Or is it just the lawyers fighting it out? Maybe normal
> people could see through the veil of lawyer lingo - when decoded to
> "natural" language and process flow diagrams, I'm sure many patents would
> appear in all their "emperor's new clothes" glory...
Nothing is ever "just lawyers fighting it out". As to whether these
cases more often come before a jury or judge I do not know, but when I
read these cases, alot of them seem to have decisions from the bench
> > So the point is that many great new
> > ideas have the hallmark of "seeming obvious".
> Very true, but with the current state of affairs it's very expensive to even
> start investigating whether it was a natural course of events or not.
**Everything** involving law is expensive. That doesnt mean we
shouldnt have them.
> > No
> > company is ever not funded over fear of patent infringement.
> Actually, I'm involved in patent issues that are likely to keep the US
> market out of reach for us. It's costing a lot of money to just investigate
> the matter, and it's not improbable we'll drop it altogether for the US.
> Your statement has just been proven wrong - if we didn't fear it, we'd
> already have a US subsidiary.
I cannot speak to european ventures. In america, the venture community
does not operate in fear of patents. They operate in fear of
Microsoft, or Google, etc. With all due respect, european
"entrepreneurship" is alot more conservative than american
entrepreneurship. There is much less of it in europe, and seemingly
less interest. I cant comment on your specific case without details,
and no absolute is ever absolute. But the point is that patents, as a
general rule, do not stop people from creating products, at least here
in america. Smart business people get their products to market and ask
> > It is rare that a little guy will be put out of business over
> > a patent.
> Isn't that partly because it doesn't generate a lot of press when they are?
> And because generally the little guy doesn't pose a thread worth dealing
Well, actually, I think big things that companies do against little
guys do generate press. LOTS of press. Negative press. Like Adobe
suing that poor software engineer for reverse engineering their DRM.
So big companies have to be very careful when the do these things.
But regarding the little guy not posing a threat, Yes, this is true.
But that is the point. It is rare for small companies to be attacked
by big companies. But all of the discussion about patents is about how
they hurt the little guy. My point is that - regardless of the reason,
the little guy has far less to fear than the big guys, and with a
solid defensible clear patent, a little guy can defend his turf
through partnerships that will fund the law suit. have never sued
anyone over a patent. But I have sold patents and made money. As an
"inventor" in the software space, patents are quite valueable to me.
> > So the
> > bottom line is all of you guys that hate patents are really
> > doing the bidding of the huge multinational companies that
> > hate them way more than you do. You should all get checks
> > from Microsoft.
> Sure, it's costing them top lawyer dollar, but the big companies can always
> counter-sue (because they all have these obscure, imprecise patents) so I
> don't think it's that big an issue for them.
Yes it is. Acacia, Eolas, and NTP are prime examples.
One good patent against a big company can really cost.
> Maybe I'm making lots of incorrect assumptions because I don't fully
> understand how the claims in a patent work. It would be interesting to
> dissect a dubious patent, say 5,467,443 (generating pixels from a set of
> parameters), and see if it does seem valid - and get MM's lawyers' views on
You will never get MM's lawyers to comment on it. They will never use
it offensively. The idea is to build a fortress, just in case. This
kind of stuff is used so that if say adobe sued them (oh, adobe is
them now) well if someone big and serious sued them they have
bargaining chips. Getting worked up over some likely useless patents
is a waste of time because you dont have that much to fear.
My point is that, at the end of the day, small companies sue big
companies over patents. Big companies do not sue small companies over
patents because generally, the economics dont work. When small
companies do sue big companies its generally because the patent is
strong and the big company has made alot of money off the patent.
So in some sense, the cost issue prevents alot of frivolous suits
because it is only worth it when the stakes are high enough. I'm not
saying this is the best way, but I do think its true.
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