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Small Devs Attacked Over In-App Purchase Button Patent

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the under-the-bridge dept.

Patents 229

Thornburg writes with this excerpt from a story at MacRumors: "Yesterday, we received word from Rob Gloess of Computer LogicX ... that he had received legal documents threatening a patent lawsuit over the use of an 'upgrade' button in the lite version of his application linking users to the App Store where they could purchase the full version. 'Our app, Mix & Mash, has the common model of a limited free, lite, version and a full version that contains all the features. We were told that the button that users click on to upgrade the app, or rather link to the full version on the app store was in breach of US patent no 7222078. We couldn't believe it, the upgrade button!?!' The patent in question was filed in December 2003 as part of series of continuations on earlier patent applications dating back to 1992. The patent is credited to Dan Abelow, who sold his extensive portfolio of patents to holding firm Lodsys in 2004. Lodsys is indeed the company issuing the threats of a lawsuit regarding the patent in question."

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What Would Officer Collins Do? (2)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120866)

That's why all my apps use: Upgrayedd. The two D's are for a double-dose of pipping infringement.

Glad to see today's lawyers turning the movie Idiocracy into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Where's my Brawndo?

Re:What Would Officer Collins Do? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120910)

One button? First flush!

Re:What Would Officer Collins Do? (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120972)

The company ran out of electrolytes. You'll just have to drink from the toilet.

Re:What Would Officer Collins Do? (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120990)

That would only be applicable if it were a trademark dispute over the term "upgrade", in this case it is about something much more lucrative, payment methods.

I'm curious to see Apple's response. Buy Lodsys and lock everyone else out?

Re:What Would Officer Collins Do? (4, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121520)

in this case it is about something much more lucrative, payment methods

IANAPL, but the 74 claims of the patent seem to cover any sort of user feed-back, interaction and results display. I suspect that the /. "Reply to This" link, "Post a Comment" button and probably the entire /. site are in violation as well. Yes, the claims are that broad and numerous.

Microsoft has their own version (1, Offtopic)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121176)

I'm forced to use a Windows 7 machine.

It's got a "Anytime Downgrade" button.

Unfortunately someone forgot to tell Microsoft that "down" is not spelled "u" "p".

Blegh. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36120896)

Perhaps it's just best to do your technology outside of the USA and leave it to devour itself.

Re:Blegh. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121526)

Funny? Insightful.

Re:Blegh. (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121590)

I guess having a mod of "Sadly insightful in a funny way" wouldn't work.

I hold the patent for Obvious Buttons (4, Funny)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120914)

The claimant is in violation of my patent and owes me license fees.

In the amount of (holds pinkie to side of mouth) one million dollars (evil laugh) ...

big corporations, take notice. (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120918)

Hey Microsoft, how's that Upgrade Anytime feature of Windows 7 looking right now? Like a big fat target? This case is to set a legal precident -- if you're smart, you'll help this guy now, before it becomes a multi-million dollar cock-up.

Re:big corporations, take notice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36120944)

It doesn't even look like the patent should apply. Every claim requires users. Plural. Upgrading an app involves a user, singular, one or more intermediaries, and a vendor...

Re:big corporations, take notice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36120992)

No because microsoft's legal team would crush these guys like I crushed Clippy in my dream last night...

Here we go with idiocy again (1, Insightful)

uberjack (1311219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120922)

I seriously doubt this type of an idiotic patent would fly in court. On the other side, given that this affects smaller developers who would rather not become entangled in lawsuits, this issue will likely not be handled for a while - at least not until larger companies become involved.

You Mean like... (1)

h2okies (1203490) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120960)

.... Amazon's One click....

Re:Here we go with idiocy again (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36120962)

The problem is that the patent could be absolutely baseless, but it takes money to go to court over patent cases, especially when the plaintiff has the home field advantage in choosing the court to try the case in, what judge hears it (if you don't think a good patent lawyer knows which judges rotate to what cases, think again), and when it appears on the docket (it can always be stalled), most small developers will just settle.

These are just tactics that do work almost always taken from the RIAA playbook. I'm amazed that lawyers have not been doing this sooner.

Re:Here we go with idiocy again (4, Informative)

Albanach (527650) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121004)

at least not until larger companies become involved.

According to this page [priorsmart.com] the company is suing HP, Lexmark, Samsung, Hulu, Trend Micro, Canon, Lenovo and others over the same patent (amongst others).

I'd say big companies might just be involved already.

Re:Here we go with idiocy again (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121008)

Or perhaps we ought to have a time out one patents, if they can't get their application through in a reasonable amount of time, then it gets denied. I find it hard to believe that something "invented" in 1992 really would take 12 years to go through the patent process without making some pretty ham fisted mistakes.

It's almost as if they were wanting to give time for others to implement the patented idea in order to sue even more people than would otherwise be possible.

Re:Here we go with idiocy again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121066)

They are going after the small guy instead of Apple precisely because they know their case is baseless.

The proper solution to this kind of stuff is similar to the concept of rubber-hose cryptanalysis.

Rubber hose against corporate trolls? (2)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121200)

The proper solution to this kind of stuff is similar to the concept of rubber-hose cryptanalysis.

This only works against actual human beings.

Is this what it is coming to? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36120934)

Honestly?

Another reason to love capitalism; you think of gravity, the universe is your's!

Re:Is this what it is coming to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121198)

In which universe is "your's" a word?

Re:Is this what it is coming to? (1)

sopwath (95515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121444)

"your's" is a copyrighted word in the universe of Anonymous Coward. Please send payments to the undersigned for the amount of 1 space bux ($1000000 USD equivalent)

Re:Is this what it is coming to? (3, Informative)

TheEyes (1686556) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121418)

Honestly?

Another reason to love capitalism; you think of gravity, the universe is your's!

Patents aren't capitalism. In fact they're almost the exact opposite of capitalism: they are government-granted monopolies on production. They were originally granted to protect individual innovators from exploitation by wealthy corporations, but almost since the laws were first passed they were used for the exact opposite purpose. They need to die, or at least be seriously reformed, but in the current pro-corporate, anti-consumer climate of, well both parties but I'm thinking of one in particular we'll never see real patent reform, just like how real health care reform and real banking reform were "compromised" to death, and even their hollowed-out husks are drawing fire from the radical right.

Re:Is this what it is coming to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121534)

Patents aren't intrinsically tied to the notion of capitalism or the free market. You could argue that they're more of a socialist imposition on the market by the state.

I think that, overall, they're a good thing, but are being utilized in fields and domains they don't belong in.

Oh, great... (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120958)

Take a look at their patent portfolio:

- provide online help, customer support, and tutorials

- conduct online subscription renewals

- provide for online purchasing of consumable supplies
survey users for their impressions of their products and services

- assist customers to customize their products and services
display interactive online advertisements

- collect information on how users actually use their products and services

- sell upgrades or complimentary products

- maintain products by providing users notice of available updates and assisting in the installation of those updates.

Why do they call things "inventions"? What about prior art? What about obviousness? Methinks there should be a law against ridiculous and/or frivolous patents.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121034)

collect information on how users actually use their products and services

Still, there might be an upside if companies can no longer spy on their users without paying license fees.

Re:Oh, great... (2)

chargersfan420 (1487195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121124)

Unless their license fee includes sharing of the collected data... then things could get worse.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121140)

What about algorithms? Simply taking a bunch of components (that someone else invented) and rearranging the order in which they are used or interact isn't inventive, it's just mucking about with an algorithm.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121186)

Congrats, you've listed the areas of their patent portfolio. What about their claims? Is anything original or innovative in their claims?

Prior art, meet procedural loopholes (5, Interesting)

danaris (525051) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121224)

Apparently, the particular patent involved in this case was originally filed in 1992, and then got a long series of "continuations".

Now, I haven't gone and looked at it, but I rather doubt that the patent filed in 1992, before what we know as the Internet existed, bore much resemblance to what is being claimed today...but that's the patent system for you. Anything that was created after the original filing date cannot count as prior art, so they can claim they thought of it all, even if they added various claims a decade later based on stuff they saw people already doing, by more "continuations."

Dan Aris

Re:Prior art, meet procedural loopholes (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121352)

Now, I haven't gone and looked at it, but I rather doubt that the patent filed in 1992, before what we know as the Internet existed, bore much resemblance to what is being claimed today...

You mean what you know of the Internet. And just because you didn't know about it, doesn't mean it didn't exist.

Re:Prior art, meet procedural loopholes (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121562)

Oh please, the internet as all of us know it didn't exist back then. When this patent was filed spam hadn't even been invented yet.

Re:Prior art, meet procedural loopholes (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121416)

Apparently, the particular patent involved in this case was originally filed in 1992, and then got a long series of "continuations".

Now, I haven't gone and looked at it, but I rather doubt that the patent filed in 1992, before what we know as the Internet existed, bore much resemblance to what is being claimed today...but that's the patent system for you. Anything that was created after the original filing date cannot count as prior art, so they can claim they thought of it all, even if they added various claims a decade later based on stuff they saw people already doing, by more "continuations."

Aren't submarine patents illegal at the US Federal level, due to Symbol Technologies, Inc. et al. v. Lemelson Medical, Education & Research Foundation, LP (PDF [patenthawk.com] )?

Re:Prior art, meet procedural loopholes (1)

CaptBubba (696284) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121538)

The physical device disclosed is a fax machine, office phone, or cell phone that basically has an integrated survey system, then talks about aggregating that data to improve on future devices. Unfortunately the claims are so broad they seemingly encompass any sort of method of using user feedback collected via an electronic device in a product development cycle.

The patent was issued in May 20th 2007, which because of the multi-month delay in issuing allowed patents means it was allowed by the Patent Office BEFORE KSR v Teleflex (April 30th 2007) completely changed the standards of obviousness which the lower courts had forced the Patent Office to use. I would be shocked if these claims survive re-examination in a form anything like they are now.

Re:Prior art, meet procedural loopholes (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121606)

The Internet existed in 1992. The Web, as we know it, didn't, and most discussion was on newsgroups. If I remember correctly, that was the period when there was a lot of discussion about commercial use of the Internet.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

StormReaver (59959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121330)

Methinks there should be a law against ridiculous and/or frivolous patents.

There is, right in the Constitution, but the patent office and courts ignore it -- just like most of the rest of the Constitution.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121348)

I think we should get rid of SW patents altogether.
I'm sure there are some genuinely inventive people out there that may get taken advantage of, but at least the one taking advantage could use it; right now you can patent it and lock it up to never been seen or heard from again.

Considering how stifling these SW patents are currently, given the choice of a "Wild West" of SW patents and what we have now, I'd much rather have the Wild West version, if simply so that they could get used and further innovated on. Locking them is a hindrance in the long run, and hurts as as a society/industry.

Major John Plaster (3, Insightful)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36120978)

had a solution to "insurgent tax collectors and parasites".

Check "The Ultimate Sniper".

Soap and ballot boxes didn't avail. The slimebags will never stop till there is a penalty. Either suck it up or do something, all the whining hasn't accomplished anything.

Well now I know who to shoot. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36120984)

I hate those sorts of buttons. It's the reason that I didn't purchase the recent versions of Guitar hero and Rock Band. They made it difficult to tell (well, non-obvious to the novices you invited over to play some songs at least) if the songs on the list were ones you already had, or if clicking the button would take real money away from your wallet. Just like the real music industry, it stops being fun when all you see is rampant greed all over the place.

Re:Well now I know who to shoot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121052)

WTF? I haven't played past Guitar Hero 4, but neither that nor Rock Band (any version) has anything like what you say. In both cases you have to go to the "music store" (not even reachable without going back to the main menu) entry. If your buddies are too stupid to know that you go to a store to buy stuff, and saying "confirm purchase" will take money away from your wallet, maybe you should get better friends.

Re:Well now I know who to shoot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121558)

False. Rock Band 3 has a "recommended song" feature which "recommends" songs you don't own.

Libertarians (2, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121002)

This is why we need Libertarians to control Congress and the White House so they will get rid of government (especially Federal government) supporting this kind of theft, and promote a fully Free Enterprise system where anyone can invent whatever they want and not worry about the government stealing it. Ron Paul officially announced his candidacy for President today. Let's find out if he is a true Libertarian or just some two-faced Republican and get him to take a side.

Re:Libertarians (5, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121104)

Yeah, 'cos I'm sure with no government getting in the way, the big boys will all agree to play nice. Yes siree, can't see any problem with that.

Patents aren't the problem, stupid patents are the problem.

Re:Libertarians (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121242)

The 'big boys' have a symbiotic relationship with big government, which gives them the laws that keep competitors out of the market, funnel huge government contracts their way and bail them out when they're going bankrupt.

Eliminate big government and parasitic big business goes with it. Only actual useful big business would continue to exist.

Re:Libertarians (2)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121468)

The 'big boys' have a symbiotic relationship with big government, which gives them the laws that keep competitors out of the market, funnel huge government contracts their way and bail them out when they're going bankrupt.

Eliminate big government and parasitic big business goes with it. Only actual useful big business would continue to exist.

I think you misspelt "corrupt" twice. It's not the size of the governemnt that matters, its who controls it.

Re:Libertarians (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121530)

We only see these patent suits because it's something the government enforces. Patents are a form of taking property away from those who own it. Each inventor owns what he invents. But the government allows the first who filed for a patent to take the property away from other inventors. So the 2nd and latter inventors lose.

Of course, there always has been the risk that someone will see what is done and steal that, claiming to have invented it. The patent system was intended to encourage invention that never would have happened without the patent system. Most inventions today, like the upgrade button, are so trivial that no one would believe that they would only have been invented because a patent system exists.

Let me take a moment now to defend the patent system. There are a few very innovative or very expensive inventions that really do need the patent system. IMHO, these constitute a tiny fraction of patents actually issued, probably less than one percent. We need the patent system to get these inventions to come about.

What we do not need is a patent system that just issues patents for anything that comes along (under the guise that the courts will figure it out later). Because we have such an unfair court system (money rules, not justice), that means the patent system is unfair, too. And this harms the nation and its businesses, especially the innovative ones, the most. We need a complete and thorough patent system and patent process overhaul. It needs to judge each and every patent on the merit that founds the whole patent system to begin with. If an invention is something that we would have seen invented anyway, by the time it is needed, or soon after, typically because it is obvious to at least a number of people who could invent it, when posed with the problem, then that invention does not meet the real reason for a patent, and it should be denied.

The USPTO and the US Government itself are getting money because they issue these patents. And this is a big factor in why the system is so screwed up. They don't have an incentive to fix it.

Re:Libertarians (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121648)

Patents are a form of taking property away from those who own it. Each inventor owns what he invents. But the government allows the first who filed for a patent to take the property away from other inventors. So the 2nd and latter inventors lose.

In the US a patent goes to whoever is first to invent, in most of the rest of the world it is first to file.

Re:Libertarians (1)

wall0645 (1665631) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121376)

Not only stupid patents, but also the length of time a patent lasts, and the scope of what can be patented (e.g. software patents). Plus the fact you can sell patents to other companies (allowing for companies whose sole purpose is to sue people for patent infringement without making or doing anything of value). Oh and also the fact that large companies infringe on each others' patents regularly, but choose to ignore it because it's mutual (but it isn't mutual for the up-and-coming tech startup).

Wait, are we sure it isn't patents that are the problem?

Re:Libertarians (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121624)

Wait, are we sure it isn't patents that are the problem?

Yes. You only restated my point, it's stupid patents that are the problem. Stupid because they aren't merit-worthy in the first place, stupid because they are obvious, stupid because they are too broad or stupid because they last too long. I don't think anybody is going to argue that patents don't need a massive overhaul, but there's no point throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Re:Libertarians (2)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121456)

Paraphrasing Linus: given enough educated minds, all patents are obvious.

So no, the problem *is* that all patents are stupid.

Re:Libertarians (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121568)

Yeah, 'cos I'm sure with no government getting in the way, the big boys will all agree to play nice. Yes siree, can't see any problem with that.

Patents aren't the problem, stupid patents are the problem.

No, patents are the problem. Let's look at copyright for just a sec: To infringe I have to willfully duplicate all or most of an existing work covered by copyright. Now, back to patents: To infringe I can be clever in a steel box fully detached from the rest of the world and accidentally create something that's mostly similar to something some other sucker got the the patent office first with.

Know why I'm always re-inventing the wheel? Because it's damn simple to do, and blatantly obvious -- Know why I've infringed 4 "clever" patents without even knowing it? Because it was damn simple to do, and blatantly obvious to a clever person.

The purpose of both the copyright and patent system is to help society, not the inventors or authors... Yet, I create and distribute free software that benefits the general public, and can be prevented from distributing due to patents.

It's easy for a software creator like myself to avoid infringing copyright law -- I just don't look at anyone else's code. There is no way to attempt to avoid infringing patents -- I must try to not accidentally think the same as anyone who's been to the patent office in the last 20 years.

In a way you are correct about "stupid patents" being the problem. I put it to you that since patent law exists primarily for the benefit of society the capacity for any given patent to harm society makes them all stupid patents.

Re:Libertarians (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121152)

And then when the poor rise up and kill all the wealthy who have used those principles to keep the money, deprive them of health care and anything approaching a just, decent society, you can ponder that using Libertarian principles to get rid of bad patent law is the equivalent of chopping off every man's penis to eliminate rape.

Re:Libertarians (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121574)

Oh, I'm personally not a Libertarian at all. There are a few things I do believe in that are very libertarian in leaning. The patent system overhaul I suggest, is one of those things that is, or should be, both libertarian and progressive supported. But I do like to call Libertarians to the carpet for being untrue to libertarianism. Another example is government issued marriage licenses. A true libertarian would get the government out of that business. Why should the government, at any level, be the gateway to getting married (even though for the most part that has not been a problem with it). If Ron Paul is a true libertarian, he would be seeking to remove the government from these activities. That doesn't mean that I would actually vote for him. Whether he would, or would not, I would not vote for him.

Re:Libertarians (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121628)

That Ron Paul would likely work towards good things. It's the bad things that worry the hell out of sensible people. The one thing Ron Paul is not is a pragmatist. He's a fanatic.

Re:Libertarians (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121238)

Under statism men oppress men. Under Libertarianism it's the other way around.

Libertarianism in its modern form has been floating around for a while now. When it serves the elites (Free Trade) it becomes law. When it serves the common man (ending the war on drugs that turns cities into combat zones and saddles young men with felony convictions) Libertarian ideals are swept under the rug.

Libertarians != Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121304)

No. You're confusing Libertarians with today's Republicans. Easy mistake to make. And even then ... The last REAL Republican was Barry Goldwater.

Re:Libertarians != Republicans (0)

bigspring (1791856) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121496)

Barry Goldwater, what a guy, they don't make them like him anymore. It's such a damned shame that politicians these days aren't more interested in promoting racism between attempts at killing everyone on the planet in a fiery nuclear apocalypse. We miss you, Barry.

Re:Libertarians (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121314)

Oh aren't you precious. I almost hope you get what you want, just so I can witness your disillusionment.

Re:Libertarians (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121358)

I have an easier set of questions. Does he want government to control who marries who? What I can ingest? What women can do with their own bodies?

I am sure he will spout states rights on several. Which is just another way of him saying that he thinks the states will do his dirty work for him.

Re:Libertarians (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121410)

I'm not sure there is an identifiable, unambiguously "libertarian" position on patents.

Some people believe in the right to "own" an idea or expression in the same way one owns a piece of land or a physical object. For libertarians in that camp, the artificial institution of "intellectual property" merely institutionalizes theft by artificially restricting the owner's natural rights over his property (e.g. expiring exclusive rights to patents, or allowing fair use in copyright).

Other people don't think that ideas can be "owned" like a piece of land or a physical object. Libertarians who agree with that are bound to see "intellectual property" as restricting peoples' rights over their property by forbidding them to use it in a way that "infringes" on some patent.

The one thing that seems certain is that anything like the current system of intellectual property is bound to tick off most libertarians. It's a system in which the government sets arbitrary limits on individual behavior using ad hoc, pragmatic criteria for "the public good" rather than upon fundamental individual rights. From a libertarian perspective, limiting individual liberty "for the public good" is an oxymoron, because there is no concept of "the public good" other than the exercise of individual liberties.

Re:Libertarians (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121512)

a fully Free Enterprise system where anyone can invent whatever they want and not worry about the government stealing it.

Nope, they won't have to worry about the *government* stealing it. The multibillion-dollar corporations, on the other hand, will be "free" to raep anybody they want.

Move countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121024)

Simple as that.

Don't try an overhaul the patent system - get the fuck out.

When there are no taxpayers left maybe then big government will get it.

Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121042)

There is no prior art before 1993 of clicking on a hyperlink?

Re:Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121446)

O'RLY?!? [wikipedia.org]

I've been not clicking upgrade buttons for years (1)

cob666 (656740) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121046)

How is this different than any other 'lite' version of an application that has an Upgrade menu option (which is in reality a button)? I'm also interested in this concept of a continuation patent? Are you really allowed to just add stuff onto existing patents?

Re:I've been not clicking upgrade buttons for year (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121640)

Consider this chain... You start out with a patent for shareware software. You distribute a 'light' version of the software for cheap or free, and once you get to a certain level, or want to access a certain feature, it prints out a phone number or address to the DOS terminal to mail order a more complete version. A few years later, the internet, browsers, and graphical OSs become common. In place of the terminal printout, you hook into your OS's defined browser, and open a webpage from which you can order a more compete version on CD. Internet speeds increase, and a few years later your webpage offers a digital download. Next, you implement a secure API into your website, and allow credit card purchases from directly within your application, combined with the previous digital download, and the program now self-updates without ever exiting it. Next, you tie your website into some digital wallet service that allows a single configuration shared against multiple applications and services.

Each step along this path is a logical procession as technology and methods improve around it, the original patent from the early '90s has lapsed, so other can distribute such shareware, but your latest patent covers the latest incarnation where the software is updated internally using funds from a shared marketplace.

Bye guys (4, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121074)

You're a small company, they're a large company. They have powerful lawyers, you don't.

They can pretty much sue you for anything, no matter how stupid and baseless it is.

Sorry, this is the stupid way software patents are.

Re:Bye guys (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121298)

At times, there are organizations (the EFF come to mind, although they seem to cover governemnt-related cases more) that have the money and lawyers to not only win the case, but win legal fees for frivolous suits. If you can hire a lawyer that can give you a good reason why you *should* win, it may be worth finding the support to ensure you can stick to the fight long enough.

Then again, it might not, too. These things should be evaluated on a case-by-base basis.

Re:Bye guys (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121602)

And the Republicans are all for lawsuit overhaul ... at least for lawsuits against Republicans.

Re:Bye guys (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121660)

Anyone can sue anyone for any reason, no matter how stupid and baseless it is, and unless extremely grievous, there are generally no repercussions. There won't be a change in the system until the plaintiff's attorneys have some real liability on the case to protect the defendant. Until that happens, it will be cheaper in the short term to settle out of court than to win a court case, and there will be lawyers looking to make a quick buck that are all too willing to facilitate.

Remove the upgrade button (1)

Synn (6288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121082)

Problem solved?

Unless you want to fight it in court.

Re:Remove the upgrade button (1)

Sunshinerat (1114191) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121260)

I wonder if a "Click here to get an enhanced experience" button would avoid the patent.
The descriptions above of other patents from this douche are as descriptive as "Pissing in a toilet bowl" and I am sure nobody would patent that (or would they?).

Re:Remove the upgrade button (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121284)

That doesn't solve "damages" for past use. They're not interested in eliminating competition--the original worthless/misguided purpose of patents. They're interested in fleecing anyone that happens over the bridge they're lying in wait under.

Send them all of ur mony b4 its 2late (-1)

spads (1095039) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121116)

hi.

come on please America... (1, Interesting)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121130)

for deity's sake... it's about time all software patents were declared null and void and this entire stupidity stopped...

Stop trying to invalidate patents on technicalities and go to the heart of the matter that they are not patentable in the first place.

Re:come on please America... (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121328)

The problem isn't simply "software" patents. It's patents in general. Software patents were segregated out mostly as a legal strategy but the same fouling of innovation applies to the physical world as well.

Re:come on please America... (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121570)

This is true. But voiding all software patents would be a great first step, eliminating an entire category of nonsense.

Use it or lose it (2)

CokeJunky (51666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121154)

I think that governments should be lobbied to enact patent reform to require patent holders to actively use and promote the patented technology within some timeframe of the patent being granted in order to continue to have patent protection. My reasoning is this: If a patent is so intrinsically valuable to you that it was worth filing the patent in the first place, then you must capitalize on it to be able to protect it. If you can't get funding or sell licenses to get a product to market within a reasonable amount of time, you lose the right to get the courts to do that for you. Seeing as most things truly deserving of patent protection are put in use and on sale while the patent is still pending or not yet filed, I don't think this would harm the kinds of industries that patents were designed to work for, while patent holding companies and trolls would be under the requirement to actually do something with their portfolio instead of waiting for someone else to do the hard work and then forcing them to pay through the courts. A side effect of this is that pharmaceuticals companies that decide a medicine is not worth selling and shut it down would also lose protection.

The core of the idea is to recognize that the ideas embodied by patents have no value unless someone is using them - 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. If you have the idea, and develop far enough to patent it, you can get some time protection to get it into production, but there needs to be a limit to how long you get protection without making reasonable efforts.

Maths should be unpatentable (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121156)

Someone recently proved that most if not all computer code was equivalent to lambda calculus.

Sooner or later a court is going to wake up and nix the idea that a patent can cover pure software or, by extension, software running on physical hardware that is not in and of itself covered by the same patent or a related one.

A patent to do x, y, or z using a particular circuit that is implemented in custom hardware, non-eraseable custom ROM, or other "this is clearly hardware" custom things, fine. But the same concepts implemented in software on top of a general-purpose computer, those are math and as such should be considered non-infringing on their face.

uhm you mean church and turing in the 1930s? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121216)

that whole turing machine thing?

Re:Maths should be unpatentable (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121230)

That wasn't recently proved unless you consider the 1930s recent.

Re:Maths should be unpatentable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121430)

To /. editors, it might be!

OT: Sig comment (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121612)

From your signature:

"Who is the Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?" --Stephen Hawking

Regardless of who or what, my guess is that until it is observed it believes and doesn't believe simultaneously.

MMM I love these topics (2)

The Dawn Of Time (2115350) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121166)

The comments on these topics always suffer from Slashdot Oversimplification Syndrome.

Definitely a riot to read. Thanks guys! Keep up the... work.

prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121180)

Those Soleau Software games have a said "Upgrade button" which lead you to ordering information. THIS IS IN THE 1991-1995 DOS DAYS.

Buttons do things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121194)

In software interfaces, hell -- even in not-computer interfaces -- buttons do things. They are attached to an action. Once the humans realized we need things that our little stubby fingers can push, innovation was over. Whether a button triggers a recompile, a download, or a purchase should not matter.

Buttons in software are there to trigger things in the physical space. We do not need, rather we cannot put up with patents that cover a button in a software UI doing physical activity X in, for all X.

tell them yourself (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121286)

This patent was well deserved for hard work and innovation... if you would like to thank these productive members of society for their brilliance, they can be reached here:

dan@abelow.com
mark.small@lodsys.com

better start learning Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121302)

The United States is fucked.

Patent length (1)

idontusenumbers (1367883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121324)

It's cool that independent re-invention or implementing this patent from scratch would take less time than reading the actual patent.

Simple cure (1)

Cosgrach (1737088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121338)

Get a gun and shoot patent trolls in the head. When will people learn?

To quote a great man.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121340)

I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121378)

How is teletext, prestel, viewdata, etc not prior art for this patent? There were working systems in the field in the 1970's and 80s.

Please don't call this guy; here is his number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121480)

From the egomaniacal site http://abelow.com

Contact Information

Dan Abelow Phone : (407) 786-7422 Email: dan@abelow.com

Re:Please don't call this guy; here is his number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36121548)

Oh, check this address, it might be his home:

3788 Watercrest Dr
Longwood, FL
(407) 786-7422

This might also be the same lame-o:

108 Bay Hammock Ln
Longwood, FL
(407) 786-3567

Microsoft's "send feedback on experience"... (1)

kfsone (63008) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121586)

... slams into this patent.

The "upgrade buttons" are running into it at a very, very shallow level; if the upgrade button is just a button for a hyperlink, it does not interact with this patent. If their upgrade button submits feedback on their use of the application or anything like that, then there may be enough gray area for it to actually go to court =/

This is really weird (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#36121636)

The referenced patent seems to be entirely focused on systems that allow users of a product to generate feedback to owners of the product, such that the owners can improve and enhance the product or even determine new directions for future products. Here's a clip from the description, which seems to show the general direction of each of the individual claims:

For products (and information systems) that contain this Module, customers may continuously inform vendors (or developers) of their current and emerging needs. The vendors of those products may have the best opportunity to respond swiftly to a much clearer view of customer problems, product problems and market opportunities than they have today. The inventor believes that within a generation it will be normal for many products and services to include this type of Module, so that customers (in aggregate, the market) comes to play a larger role in directing and controlling the commercial development of many products and services.

Then later:

Simply put, this invention helps vendors and customers by transforming their learning cycle: It compresses the time and steps between setting business objectives, creating effective products and services, and improving them continuously. It also alters their roles: Customers become partners in the improvement process along with vendors and distributors.

Reading through the claims with my layman's understanding... I don't see any of them that even suggests a click-to-upgrade scheme might be related. The closest that I can find is:

16. The system of claim 1 in which the user interface presents information in one or more of the following styles: text, lists, charts, views, arrangements, hierarchies, graphical maps, sample extracts, abstracts, summary descriptions, or hypertext.

A button could be construed as hypertext, so let's look at claim 1:

1. A system comprising: units of a commodity that can be used by respective users in different locations, a user interface, which is part of each of the units of the commodity, configured to provide a medium for two-way local interaction between one of the users and the corresponding unit of the commodity, and further configured to elicit, from a user, information about the user's perception of the commodity, a memory within each of the units of the commodity capable of storing results of the two-way local interaction, the results including elicited information about user perception of the commodity, a communication element associated with each of the units of the commodity capable of carrying results of the two-way local interaction from each of the units of the commodity to a central location, and a component capable of managing the interactions of the users in different locations and collecting the results of the interactions at the central location.

Again, it's all about reporting back on the user's experience and perception - nothing to do with upgrade. In this light, I find it extremely odd that they would even attempt to file suit for violation of this patent.

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