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Firm Seeks To Ban Mobile Companies' Imports To US 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the even-silly-patent-claims-are-bigger-in-texas dept.
snydeq writes "Texas-based Saxon Innovations has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission to bar six companies — including Research in Motion, Palm, and Nokia — from importing handheld devices into the US. At issue are three patents that Saxon purchased in July 2007; a patent for keypad monitor with keypad activity-based activation; a patent for an apparatus and method for disabling interrupt marks in processors or the like; and a patent for a device and method for interprocessor communication by using mailboxes owned by processor devices. Saxon, with five employees, purchased about 180 US patents formerly owned by Advanced Micro Devices or Legerity in 2007, according to its ITC complaint."
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Firm Seeks To Ban Mobile Companies' Imports To US

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:03PM (#26491853)

    If you can't innovate, litigate!

  • Very nice! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:05PM (#26491887) Homepage

    As if the frakin' telecommunications industry in this country wasn't crap enough compared to Europe and Asia.

    Way to go.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:10PM (#26491955)

    ...but filing ITC complaints is cheap.

    The whole point here is that enforcing these patents against all of those companies is an expensive proposition with no guarantee of returns. However, they can get Free Money by extorting those companies to pay them royalties, backed up by the threat of an import ban from the ITC, and even if their complaint is rejected, they've spent practically nothing.

    • by StuartHankins (1020819) on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:16PM (#26492003)
      It's way past time for patent reform, these patent trolls are way out of hand.

      Can we require businesses that patent the ideas to have real, actual products to retain the patent?

      They buy an idea, then sit on it. No one benefits from it (except lining their pockets with no efforts on their part). Bad for consumers, bad for other businesses. Boo!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ColdWetDog (752185) *
        Don't be too sure that nobody profits from these sorts of things.

        I'll bet that this is the real reason that the iPhone doesn't have a keyboard.
      • by Zordak (123132) on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:29PM (#26492123) Homepage Journal

        Can we require businesses that patent the ideas to have real, actual products to retain the patent?

        Well, since one of the things the complainant has to prove in the ITC is that they have a domestic industry practicing the asserted claims, yes, we can.

        • Mod parent up. ITC != (USPTO || US Court System).

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by KarrdeSW (996917)

          Can we require businesses that patent the ideas to have real, actual products to retain the patent?

          Well, since one of the things the complainant has to prove in the ITC is that they have a domestic industry practicing the asserted claims, yes, we can.

          Patent trolling companies cover this by purchasing common stock in a company that practices whatever idea they are suing over. Stock represents equity which represents ownership of said 'domestic industry'. It's messy, but it works.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Zordak (123132)
            Still, somebody must be practicing the invention. You can't just pull the classic troll trick of having a thousand questionable patents and filing shotgun suits. It has to be more targeted because you (or somebody related) have to actually be doing it.
      • They buy an idea, then sit on it.

        Horseshit. Patent 'trolls' buy an idea and then license it. Only an idiot would spend good money for something and then sit on it - especially something like a patent with a limited lifespan.

        No one benefits from it (except lining their pockets with no efforts on their part).

        Again, horseshit. If nobody licenses it, then and only then does nobody benefit. If a company does license it - then they make money selling the product, and the buyers benefit from th

        • by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:41PM (#26492235) Homepage Journal

          Sorry, you haven't been keeping up. The popular M.O. is to sit on the idea until it has already become popular, THEN offer licenses. If you come out with the patent to begin with, potential licensees will just work around it. Waiting until they have built their business on it is far more profitable in the long run.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by philspear (1142299)

        It's way past time for patent reform, these patent trolls are way out of hand.

        Why is this not happening? Seems like the companies who actually produce stuff have a major economic interest in this, that usually translates into lobbyists and shortly, political action. Seems like the only time big buisness doesn't get it's way on issues like this is when there's another big buisness interest opposing it.

        What exactly is keeping patent law open to trolling like this? Big powerful patent troll association I've never heard of? Or is it more that the buisnesses hurt by abuses don't have

        • "A system whih can dispose of soiled water while retaining life forms which possess at least one million cells and in the primate kingdom. This has the side effect of also assisting singers with primate pets from losing them too."

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:16PM (#26492543)

        Can we require businesses that patent the ideas to have real, actual products to retain the patent?

        No, because some times sitting on an idea to get another company to pay for it is a legitimate practice.

        Let's say I create Startup Inc, and design a new type of lithography. I don't have the money to build a fab or anything, so I show the tech to Intel and offer to let them use it in exchange for royalties. Under your system they could say no, use it anyway, and I wouldn't be able to sue, because I don't have an actual product.

        Patent trolls suck, and there should be a way to stop them through litigation, but we have to be sure that we don't kill off real innovators in the process.

        • Ah, but offering to license it to someone who could actually make use of it isn't just sitting on it. Sitting on a patent is generally taken to mean that no offers or demands for licenses are made until the patent thing is wide use, and only then going after the users for royalties.
        • by turbidostato (878842) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:12PM (#26492887)

          "Let's say I create Startup Inc, and design a new type of lithography. I don't have the money to build a fab or anything, so I show the tech to Intel and offer to let them use it in exchange for royalties."

          In order for you to convince Intel you show them a prototype. *Then* you have a working example covering your patent. If you don't have even a prototype then all you have is an idea and ideas shouldn't be subjected to patents.

          "Patent trolls suck, and there should be a way to stop them through litigation, but we have to be sure that we don't kill off real innovators in the process."

          Two words: Trade Secrets.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            In order for you to convince Intel you show them a prototype.

            Uh, what? You are so wrong. That's not how science necessarily works. You can do a lot of science without ever actually building anything. Then you run the idea past some other smart people, and they say "yes, this ought to work" and then you sell your idea and they go forth and build a technology on it - or you show them a prototype. Just demonstrating the effect might well be enough, you don't actually have to necessarily do anything useful with it if it is clear that it will be useful.

            J. Random Fucko who

            • "Uh, what? You are so wrong. That's not how science necessarily works."

              Not at all. But *you* are so wrong. Where was I talking about science? I was talking about *patents*, which should be tied to an industrial endevour.

              "Ideas are precisely what patents are designed to protect"

              *You* are *so* wrong! Please pay a little attention what patents are about and come later. Hint: patents are about protecting industrial processes, machines, articles of manufactures, not ideas.

              But it's true there's a strong lobb

      • The one problem with requiring execution of a concept before granting a patent is that you need the money and resources to execute it. If I managed to invent a process for producing hydrogen at 1/1000'th of the cost but it required a massive amount of money to actually produce the plant, for example...

        Sure, there would be ways to protect your idea while seeking investors, but eventually that takes lawyers, and money, and the whole point of patents is that you don't need a lot of money to make an idea rel
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          If I managed to invent a process for producing hydrogen at 1/1000'th of the cost but it required a massive amount of money to actually produce the plant, for example...

          If you didn't build a prototype then you didn't know whether your process would actually work. If you didn't know whether it would work then you didn't really invent anything. And if you didn't really invent anything then you didn't deserve a patent anyway!

          • Try telling all those physicists who guesstimated the mass of the galaxy that you need to have anything approaching evidence for an idea to be worth something.

            If there's any astrophysicists reading this, don't hurt me!
      • Can we require businesses that patent the ideas...

        ...to not patent ideas because ideas are ten a penny, but rather to patent working inventions which actually require some effort?

        Yes, easy. Doesn't even need any new legislation.

      • How about getting rid of patents altogether? Not just on software, but on everything. They ain't natural, but are purely government created monopoly privileges.

        History seems to hint that rather than foster innovation, patents retard it. Here's an article summary that suggests Watt's patent slowed down steam engine innovation [reason.com].

      • by symbolset (646467)

        No one benefits from it (except lining their pockets with no efforts on their part).

        The winning lawyers profit. The losing lawyers profit. The judge profits with demand for his services. The clerk profits with record requests. The transcriptionist gets profit from her work.

        Who doesn't profit? Generally, the parties at issue and the general public.

      • If you required patent owners to make actual products it would actually hurt the little fellow since he's got to either spend lots of money to build the darn thing and try to sell it or lose the patent. Making the darn thing and trying to sell it is expensive. Selling or licensing the patent is much more do-able. Also, a lot of patents make use of other patents, so if XYZ Inc. holds the patent for a certain type of levitation device and you figure out how to make it operate 100x more efficiently and pat
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mxs (42717)

        They buy an idea, then sit on it. No one benefits from it (except lining their pockets with no efforts on their part). Bad for consumers, bad for other businesses. Boo!

        Let's step back a bit here though. "no efforts on their part" is not exactly true. They have capital in the matter. They are investing in those patents, presumably because they think the idea has merit -- but they are taking the risk that it does not. They do not "line their pockets" without the patent having some form of merit.

        The patents came from somewhere, their original creators presumably got compensated and therefore had more incentive to patent in the first case (instead of keeping their ideas a tra

        • by WNight (23683)

          But they do absolutely nothing for society. Bank robbers have capital - the masks, guns, the car (even if stolen), the "plan" is valuable IP. They're risking their capital versus greater rewards. If they merely had a Marque and the bank were a Spanish Galleon (and this the 1500s...) this would be legal...

          Real patents - ones that function as society intends and help people, are disclosed. They're advertised. The company WANTS people to know that their methods are easier. They want you to use their proven tec

        • Patent holding companies need to disappear forever. Let me define that for you - businesses whose primary source of revenue is generated from the purchase, sale, litigation and licensing of patent rights.

          If a company wants to protect their patents, they should be forced to demonstrate that they are intent on manufacturing devices that utilize that patent's claims. I don't mean "manufacture" like auto companies homologate race cars(build 1, call it a production car...). A company should be planning to manufa

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        What about for example ARM, which designs chips and licences them to other people to manufacture? They don't make any actual products themselves, but nevertheless their business model is much more agreeable than your average patent troll.

        It is very difficult to make rules that target the people you are after without adversely affecting other people.

      • by PMuse (320639)

        . . . these patent trolls are way out of hand.

        More chopping, less talking, please.

        "Son, we live in a world that has [trolls], and those [trolls] have to be [slain] by men with [swords]. . . . I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand at post. Either way, I don't give a damn . . ." about /. comments.

    • by Zordak (123132)

      The other benefit of ITC proceedings is they are very, very fast. I don't see that a trial date is set yet, but I would expect to see this go to trial around August or September.

      But don't make the mistake of thinking ITC proceedings are cheap. Basically, you're paying much of the cost of a district court proceeding, but all in a compressed time period. So don't expect this to be something like the NTP case. You should expect to see something (most likely a settlement---that's what always happens anym

  • Saxon, with five employees

    All IP lawyers, no doubt. Well, okay, maybe four and a secretary.

  • patents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by p51d007 (656414) on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:14PM (#26491987)
    This is exactly what is wrong with the patent process. You have a "company" of only FIVE people, who could potentially stop any technology that might "infringe" on these obscure patents.
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      This is exactly what is wrong with the patent process. You have a "company" of only FIVE people, who could potentially stop any technology that might "infringe" on these obscure patents.

      Necessity is the mother of invention. -- Aesop
      Patents are the motherfucker of necessity. -- Me

      • by jd (1658)

        Saxon tried suing Necessity, but Aesop was called as an expert witness to establish the allegations were fables.

    • Until.... (Score:3, Funny)

      by maz2331 (1104901)

      Just until they threaten a company with large revenues run as a mob front and their office is suddenly visited by Luca Brasi and Furio....

    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      Now if I can just patent the art of patent trolling...
    • by dimeglio (456244)

      The cost of buying a patent, any patent, from anyone should legislated be one billion dollar minimum with half of that going to the government. Enough already.

  • Change the law so that they cant go to the ITC and ask for an import ban, they instead need to go to the courts and ask for an injunction. If they have to go to the courts, they presumably have to at least demonstrate something vaguely resembling evidence to back up their patent claims.

    • by Zordak (123132)

      Change the law so that they cant go to the ITC and ask for an import ban, they instead need to go to the courts and ask for an injunction. If they have to go to the courts, they presumably have to at least demonstrate something vaguely resembling evidence to back up their patent claims.

      The ITC basically follows all the rules of federal evidence. The big differences are (1) it's much faster, (2) there's no jury, and (3) you have to prove that you have a domestic industry practicing the asserted claims. If

      • by HJED (1304957)

        If Saxon only has 5 employees, it will be interesting to see what their domestic industry is.

        Licencing Patents?

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      If they have to go to the courts, they presumably have to at least demonstrate something vaguely resembling evidence to back up their patent claims.

      But they do. They have an actual patent. That's evidence that backs up their patent claims. The real problem is that they got the patent in the first place.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:36PM (#26492193)
    my god the US patent office needs to start applying this thing called the obviousness test.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by temcat (873475)

      Moreover, the obviousness test should be much more stringent: if I can easily recreate the thing by just looking at it, then it isn't patentable. Only stuff that can exist as trade secrets (that is, can't be easily figured out by studying the item) should be patentable. Which is far closer to the original intent of the patent system.

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Well, read the third story here [thedailywtf.com]. Even though the USPTO's hiring standards ought to have changed, there's probably still a lot of patent examinators without any or much formal CS training that have to examine IT patents. An engineering degree probably won't help you see that a given patent actually covers all uses of Dijkstra's algorithm or applies to all smartphones even though it was registered in 2007 (and thus should be subject to former art).

      There really should be an open platform that allows the publ
  • by KokorHekkus (986906) on Friday January 16, 2009 @09:46PM (#26492279)
    If the US patent system diverges far enough from the global average rights of patents then the US market will become too expensive to both develop for and enter into. Of course the US market is a major one but if the worldwide market share is bigger it means that the risks in the US (submarine patents etc) are not worth spending your money on primarily. So it will protect the US companies on their home turf. But multinational companpanies, even US based, will be looking at the US as a secondary market because of the risks.
    • by bigsteve@dstc (140392) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:13PM (#26492515)
      Another possible outcome is that companies cave in to the trolls and enter into licensing arrangements for products sold in the US. Multiply by a factor of 100 or so for each of the patents for so-called "inventions" that might be infringed by any given product.

      The costs will then be passed on to the US consumer. The end result is a private taxation system where every consumer and every business effectively pays a "high tech" tax on every high tech device purchased and every service used. And the money just disappears into the pockets of the patent speculators ... with no net return to businesses, consumers, or even to the people who created the inventions in the first place.

    • But multinational companies, even US based, will be looking at the US as a secondary market because of the risks.

      I know little to nothing about this area, but it seems to me this may already be the case (maybe for different reasons? I don't know). Witness the truckloads of bleeding edge and even in many cases several year old technology that just isn't available in the US, but which the rest of the developed world enjoys...

    • I've been figuring that eventually US patents will stop being accepted in other countries and will need to be filed separately.
  • The judge in the case should say "Uh... that's not what patents are for... buying them so you can sue people. I find your behavior is not consistent with the spirit of the law and that as a result, your case is done."

    • That would be a very brave judge. A judgement like that is likely to be appealed all the way to SCOTUS, and most likely overturned.

      This is a problem that needs to fixed by changing the law.

    • by conureman (748753)

      Will this be litigated in Texas?

  • Seriously. Imagine the public outcry if even just RIM and Nokia stopped all imports of mobile devices overnight (people luuuurve their N810s---don't even get me started on Crackberries). Since RIM's communications all go through a couple of central points, maybe they could even disable ALL of their devices.

    "Sorry John Q. Public...this company here, at address ABC, phone number NNX-XXXX, says we're being bad. Take it up with them."

    OK, so maybe that wouldn't really happen...I'll go back to the basement now. O

  • Excellent (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Speaking as a non-American, I think this is fantastic! The faster the ban happens the better! What an excellent way to make sure that the US lags in technology and becomes non-competitive. Neat way to destroy your technology lead.

    Now if we can encourage you to do the same in other fields of endeavor. Shakes head with wonder and disbelief.

  • by russotto (537200) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:03PM (#26492417) Journal

    ...because they're crap. I looked at the first patent and the first few claims looked suspiciously like the (certainly not novel) idea of connecting up a keyboard matrix in such a way that pressing a key triggers an interrupt on the row lines, which triggers a wake-up event and a keyboard scan. I couldn't tell about the later claims. Then I looked at the interrupt mask patent

    1. An interrupt mask disable circuit comprising:

    first logic circuitry operably coupled to receive an interrupt request and a mask signal and to provide an interrupt signal when the interrupt request is active and the mask signal is disabled, and to provide a non-interrupt signal when the mask signal is enabled regardless of whether the interrupt request is active or inactive; and
    second logic circuitry operably coupled to receive a mask activation signal and a mask override signal and to produce the mask signal, wherein the mask signal is enabled when the mask activation signal is active and the mask override signal is not enabled and wherein the mask signal is disabled when the mask override signal is active regardless of whether the mask activation signal is enabled or disabled.

    You've got to be kidding me. AMD patented a common interrupt mask circuit... in 1994? Apparently it isn't only with respect to software that the patent office is out of touch.

  • by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:21PM (#26492583)
    So Im reading yet another article on how some troll is ransoming out some more patents.. great.. meanwhile, a day or two ago I read the who's got the most patents for 2008 and numbers like.. IBM said it earned 4,186 U.S. patents in 2008, Microsoft Corp earned 2,030 patents, while Intel Corp had 1,776 and Hewlett-Packard 1,424. (from a Slashdot article)

    Im thinkin the real weight of the patent system isnt even touched by major corps. Individual and small group/investment firm patent companys like Eolas looking for that ONE patent to go home on, by sheer numbers, probably dwarf the IBM and MS's of the world.. regardless..

    By sheer brute force attack on common technology methods, conduits, hardware and the like they create a "monkeys typing Shakespear" effect, not with letters, but with common terms and principles.

    At the rate the monkeys are being added, soon no one should be able to do anything without everyones approval.



    Tada...
    • by turbidostato (878842) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:25PM (#26492977)

      "Im thinkin the real weight of the patent system isnt even touched by major corps. Individual and small group/investment firm patent companys like Eolas looking for that ONE patent to go home on, by sheer numbers, probably dwarf the IBM and MS's of the world.. regardless.."

      I really don't know, but it doesn't matter. The core of the bussines here is not having "that ONE patent" but having that one patent WITHOUT an industry backing it up. Big corps have used patents as deterrent weapons against their rivals for decades now but the problem here is not a little tech company with the "ONE patent": as long as they produce something, they are probably in violation of dozens of patents belonging to the very ones they want to license to, so they will be forced into a mutual agreement; if the case is between two big corps they have such a big patent arsenal that they again are forced to cooperate or face an assured mutual destruction scenario. But lawyer-based firms don't produce anything so they are immune to the usual patent counterattack which has made the patent system flaws more obvious.

  • Domestic Industry? (Score:3, Informative)

    by UnrealisticWhample (972663) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:27PM (#26492615)
    They don't even have an actual website. If you go to , all you'll find is an under construction message. Pretty much all you can find about them online is related to suing people. I miss the good ole days of the 1790's when Thomas Jefferson would deny a patent if the inventor couldn't demonstrate a working product.
    • Not sure why it cut the link out. It's http://www.saxoninnovations.com/ [saxoninnovations.com]. I probably used an = instead of the :
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by conureman (748753)

      I think the lesson here is that the system was designed with some basic assumptions about the "anybody" who would be running it, but the Founding Fathers were not aware that The Enlightenment would be just a temporary aberration.

    • These guys bought their patents from the inventors, who did have a working product.

      If IP is treated as property, you need to protect the exchange and new ownership as well.

  • by Hangtime (19526) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:34PM (#26493047) Homepage

    U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, ding ding ding

    I'm from Texas and I think every judge in that district should be removed.

  • Saxon... handheld devices... Sounds like a masterplan. What are they going to do next? Shoot some satellites into orbit and start an earth-wide mobilephone satellite network?

    Huh? Do you hear that sound? Kinda sounds like drums!?

  • by toby (759) * on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:41PM (#26493125) Homepage Journal

    You worked out yet why your economy is in the crapper?

    Imports. And outsourcing all your manufacturing to China.

    • ... you should try to work out why all that manufacturing went overseas in the first place.

      Cheers,

      • by int69h (60728)

        Because Americans won't work for 3 pieces of rice / day, and require that their employers don't needlessly endanger them?

        • by TheSync (5291)

          Because Americans won't work for 3 pieces of rice / day, and require that their employers don't needlessly endanger them?

          How many Slashdot users would ever make shoes or plastic toys?

    • by Ztream (584474)

      Talk about selective memory. Did you miss the global financial crisis? Everybody elses economy is in the crapper too. Including China.

  • Quickest solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yabba-dabba-do (948536) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:07AM (#26494217)
    Is for RIM to disable Obama's phone. "Sorry, when the patent mess is cleaned up, we'll turn it back on."
  • "Saxon Innovations... purchased about 180 US patents formerly owned by Advanced Micro Devices or Legerity in 2007"

    Not a massive amount of innovation going on there really, is there?

  • by r00t (33219)

    Mercury Computer Systems, Inc.

    late 1990's, maybe early 1990's, maybe ongoing

    Each CPU had mailboxes in the north bridge chip.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OolimPhon (1120895)

      I can do much better than that. Honeywell Level 66 mainframes had mailboxes in their CPUs to talk to the I/O processors. This dates back to at least 1975, when I first encountered them. Probably true for Multics mainframes from the '60s too.

  • by Llian (615902)
    I wonder what else the US citizenry will allow to screw them over. I mean in economic times like these STILL allowing the big boys to LESSEN competition? WTG!!

    Drill --> Nose --> Power On --> Push upwards
  • by josepha48 (13953) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:07PM (#26498983) Journal
    pretty simple, companies should not sell and buy patents!

    Either that or they should be treated as real property and taxed, like real estate is taxed in most states. Then annual taxes would be assessed to patent holder.

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