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AU Optronics Asks For US Ban On LG LCD Sales 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the alphabet-soup dept.
eldavojohn writes "After a lengthy patent case, complete with countersuits, AU Optronics has asked for an injunction against all LCD products made by LG. While this may not sound serious, LG is the number one manufacturer of LCDs used in LCD TVs, laptop PCs and desktop monitors. A quarter of global LCDs shipped in March were LG brand. The bizarre part of the story is that LG Display struck first against AU Optronics way back in 2006 with a patent suit to the tune of $690 million, and in 2009, when the case finally went to court, AUO filed counter-claims of patent infringement that are now coming to fruition. So before you call AUO a patent troll, keep in mind that LGD shot first."
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AU Optronics Asks For US Ban On LG LCD Sales

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2010 @12:45PM (#32064656)
    It seems the 'tech' companies have shifted their focus on making money by suing others rather than selling things.

    And of course - when litigious bastards like Apple are hailed as Jesus Christ, you wonder if we have moved into a different era now.
  • Eliminate Patents. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @12:46PM (#32064658)
    Quite honestly, it is time to eliminate patents. As we've seen from countries with lax IP enforcement (AKA China), if you have a quality product, the knock-offs can't compete. The entire point of patents is to add to public knowledge, but that isn't happening. So really, we need shorter patent protection times, or just eliminate it all together.
  • by Immostlyharmless (1311531) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @12:57PM (#32064746)
    Might make sure that people aren't drawing attention to themselves, if LG hadn't started the fight, perhaps AUoptics might not have stepped in to finish it. Perhaps this will have a bit of a chilling effect in 'throw the first punch' lawsuits where it's not entirely sure where their own patent portfolios stand.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:00PM (#32064764)

    They spend millions upon millions fighting in a broken system that for each side amounts to a crap shoot, endless appeals, and slowing down the entire production cycle with needless approvals and cross-checking to attempt to deflect or marginalize the risks, raising the cost of entry into the market, and do you know who pays for all of this?

    You.

    This isn't bad news for Optronics, or LG -- it's bad news for us. The consumers. Because regardless of who wins, there'll still be LCD displays being produced, and they'll be just that much more expensive now to cover the costs of the elephant mating going on between these two massive corporations. That's why the system needs reform -- not because arguments that are pro- or anti-intellectual property have any validity, but because the way it's setup now costs too damn much.

  • by RudeIota (1131331) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:02PM (#32064774) Homepage
    May not look serious? What the Hell does that mean? Why would this NOT sound serious? :-)

    Personally, I think sales injunctions under *most* situations are merely a "dick" move to shut down competition. What company wouldn't jump at the chance to disable any portion of sales by their competitor?

    I think a more sophisticated way to deal with this is levy royalties, retroactive if need be, and enjoy your opponent's success.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:11PM (#32064852)

    ...or just eliminate it all together.

    The patent system was originally designed to protect the small inventor from a large business entity that could simply absorb the product into their existing product line and mass-produce it at a lower cost than the inventor ever could. This was done by creating a time-limited exclusive right and granting it to the small inventor specifically to prevent this -- thereby forcing the larger business to pay them for their invention (licensing) instead of simply copying the product and leaving the inventor with no return on his/her investment.

    That need still exists today, and the principle behind it is still solid -- so solid in fact, that it's written into our Constitution as a specific right granted to the government. And you might recall, our founding fathers were quite stingy about giving the federal government much power at all even after the failure known as the Articles of Confederation. That speaks clearly to the need for patents and copyright.

    The problem is that it's been mutated and corrupted into something businesses use to fight one another in endless litigation, and the patent office has been so poorly funded that there's no way for them to vet the process correctly. The only people who even know how to file a patent are lawyers and large corporations dedicated to the task. The patent office is so pathetic that they'll reject a patent if it's faxed in upside down. Imagine if Thomas Edison had the light bulb rejected because he put it in a brown envelope instead of a white one -- it's that kind of idiocy that needs fixing.

    We don't need to eliminate patents and copyright; We need to restore them to their proper place and purpose, which is to protect individuals from corporations, not the other way around. And we need reasonable time limits -- and if you want to eliminate anything, start with that mother fucker Mickey Mouse and the corporation that owns it, because that's what started this whole trend towards a billion years plus the life of the author bullshit.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:14PM (#32064884) Homepage

    Bingo. Lawyers are the new priests; worthless parasites who spout esoteric gibberish, and the cost of their tithe is built right into the economy.

    Actually, I doubt there were ever as many priests per populace as we have lawyers now. As with the Reformation, the only real solution is to cut them out of the loop, and just ignore them. Just get on with business, shred any legal demands, and when Men With Guns do finally come to sieze your assets at the behest of their masters, fold the company. Hell, burn it to the ground rather than let them get their pound of flesh. They must be starved into finding real jobs.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:19PM (#32064932)

    Well, the question is a bit more complicated than that. Yes, patents result in goods being more expensive due to the monopoly-or-royalties effect on prices. (The legal costs of "elephant mating" pale in comparison to the eventual elephantine damage awards or settlement that may result.) But the other question that must be asked is whether the economic incentive of patents is necessary (or even just helpful) in inducing companies to develop new products in the first place. Unfortunately, it's extremely hard to quantify this, in part because we've never had it any other way.

    Similar arguments can be made concerning price controls on health care (particularly pharmaceuticals). If the US imposed nationwide price controls on medical procedures and drugs, the incentive for developing those procedures and drugs would be substantially reduced. Yes, most people would be able to afford cutting-edge treatments then, but the difference is that the cutting edge would be in a different (less advanced) place. Imagine if MRI had been delayed by 20 years or so, for instance.

  • by rotide (1015173) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:20PM (#32064948)
    People _love_ to bash lawyers but the fact of the matter is that someone has to _hire_ the lawyer before they sue/defend/etc/etc. So get pissed at LG or AUO. The lawyers didn't start this fight.
  • by shalla (642644) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:24PM (#32064982)

    "The entire point of patents is to add to public knowledge, but that isn't happening."

    Only in the most roundabout way. The point of patents is to give the creator a period of time to profit off their invention before everyone can completely copy it for free. It's to give people a reason and reward for innovation--if you are the one who comes up with something and patents it, you are the one who has the right to decide who can use your patent and how (and for how much) for that 17 years or whatever. Without that protection, in theory, people have little incentive to innovate because as soon as they create something, someone else just copies it and they've lost their invention and any money they put into it. So yes, it adds to public knowledge in that it encourages innovation and publication, but it then protects those rights for a period. I do think the protection is important. One of the biggest problems with the patent system today is how corrupt it is, with the little guy getting shut out by corporations who claim to have invented things. I happen to think that little guy should be compensated for his time and effort.

    So the problem is that the US patent system is corrupt, slow, designed for a 19th century national business arena and timetable (as opposed to 21st century international), and it bogs down in litigation. It certainly needs an overhaul. So does copyright. Frankly, though, so long as big business interests have the ear of Congress, neither of those will happen.

  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:26PM (#32064996) Homepage Journal

    if you have a quality product, the knock-offs can't compete.

    In an ideal world, maybe. (depending on the market) The problem is not focused on competing in the sales market so much as it is in the R&D arena. R&D is outrageously expensive, and has a very high probability at any time of generating zero return for all the money you dump into it. The whole idea of patent is to allow you a chance to recoup your investments when your R&D pays off. If you eliminate patents, it stifles innovation because companies start spending more time doing "market research" (corporate espionage and trying to reproduce the competition's products) and it ends up in somewhat of a "Race to the Bottom [wikipedia.org] in terms of amount of R&D done because the profit margin for copying is much higher than innovating. In the end, everyone is watching everyone else like a hawk and nobody's making anything original.

    Trademarks are somewhat involved with this because they help the innovators to reap additional benefits from their R&D by improving the value of their brand. Without trademarks and patents, brands lose their meaning. Just ask yourself how many things you buy based on brand. Not just technology... think even about the grocery store. Half of what you put in your cart is probably chosen by brand. How would you like to lose that choice? You wouldn't lose the choice, but you'd lose the meaning, as every brand of beans would taste the same.

    The concept of patent and trademark itself is a very good idea, it's just implemented with laws made in a totally different world. (era) As with so much of today's laws, they are so screwed up from assumptions made 200 years ago that they are beyond fixing and just need to be thrown out and start from scratch with modern circumstances taken fully into account. People keep trying to "fix" them, but its like trying to fix a building with a bad foundation. If it's too broken you just have to knock the building down and put up a new one.

    People that say "we need to get rid of patents!" only have it half right.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:28PM (#32065020) Homepage

    Well, if those lawyers were so crystal clear and professional, they should be able to see that LG case was weak...but that wouldn't result in charges related to trial.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:34PM (#32065086)

    History disagrees with you. There are a large number of lawsuits brought by small companies against existing products of larger companies. I see different flaws than most. Most think getting rid of patents solves the problem but it will make it harder to develop new products and make the investment very risky. The real problems are that a large number potentially involve reinventing the wheel. Two companies come up with the same thing. Company "A" comes up with it in the 90s but doesn't produce a product. Company "B" comes up with the same thing in 2001 and sells it for 10 years then gets sued by company "A". Often times they wait until the damages are enough to make it a big payday. The flaws in the scenario are the re-invention was not done in malice and there was no stealing of ideas and company "A" never intended to develop a product so the spirit of the law was not broken. Company "A: should not be able to sue company "B". The other issue is companies waiting for the fat payday. Letting company "B" sell products for 10 years then hit them with a 100 million dollar lawsuit is unfair to company "B" who was not aware of the patent. Like other lawsuits there needs to be a window. If they miss the window they can produce their own version since they have the rights. If they already had a product and wasn't aware of the competing product possibly they could halt the sale of the item but expecting 10 years of profits makes for abuse. We need sensible laws not no law.

  • Communist America (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Becausegodhasmademe (861067) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:42PM (#32065148)

    Every patent issued effectively blocks off a segment of a market to competitors, creating a micro-monopoly. We are rapidly approaching a time where, due to patent trading large corporations are coming close to total ownership of a particular market.

    America is the major culprit in all this patent absurdity. Behind the friendly face of enterprise and free capitalism lies a very different reality. Corporations with vast resources and political lobbying power apply for patents shotgun-style to prevent any form of competition, so that they can profit by driving down production costs giving consumers overpriced, low-quality products.

    From the abuse of patent law comes state-sanctioned monopolies, which is reminiscient of Soviet communist economic practice.

    China, a formerly Communist nation is far more capitalist than America these days.

    Posting from the UK.

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:54PM (#32065230)

    We need to restore them to their proper place and purpose, which is to protect individuals from corporations, not the other way around.

    Sigh. No, their proper place and purpose is not to "protect individuals from corporations." It's

    To promote [cornell.edu] the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

    All you have to ask about a given patent application is, "Is this going to promote the progress of anything but some lawyer's vacation-home equity?" If an engineer who's confronted with the same problem is likely to arrive at a similar solution, then the answer is "No," and the patent should not be granted.

    If we could just make the USPTO understand that whatever solution is immediately grasped by the first person to confront a problem is not always worth a government-granted monopoly, we'd go a long way toward reforming the system. It has nothing to do with whatever anti-corporatist agenda you're pushing. The patent system is ridiculously broken, and I'm not sure it's possible to make it work equitably for all stakeholders from inventors to end users. But if it is, then that should be the goal.

  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @02:08PM (#32065334)

    Considering AUO is a chinese company, maybe we should ignore their patents until they stop ignoring everybody else's.

    Well, perhaps that's just a little hypocritical. The USA has been running around the world getting everyone to follow their patents. You have to "set an example" if you want to be convincing. China is, in a real way, just following your lead from the times when you used to ignore European imaginary property. Maybe after a hundred years or so of you showing your respect for their property, they'll show the appropriate respect for yours. More hopefully, maybe you'll realise that most of the idea is stupid in the first place.

    And, the government backed industrial espionage while we are at it.

    Perhaps ignoring the "government backed industrial espionage" isn't the best way to counteract it. Maybe you could begin by asking the CIA to stop spying on European (and other foreign civilian) firms and handing that information on to US based companies. Once that's done, maybe some general international agreements for everyone to stop and penalties for those that continue, combined with arresting CEOs and CTOs of companies that fail to implement effective security measures would help.

  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @02:09PM (#32065336) Journal

    You know, I keep hearing 'abolition patents' said over and over, but considering the current system, for all its problems, does actually function ... I've yet to hear any really compelling reason to abolish it.

    Everytime a patent troll gets someone the company takes a hit, redesigns the product to not get hit by the patent and moves on. Patent trolls really do actually inspire invention just from trying to get away from the bastards.

    Broken window fallacy. And you're ignoring all the companies where the company or product took a hit and burned to the waterline. And all the companies and products which were never brought past the concept stage for fear of infringement.

  • Free rider problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @02:22PM (#32065444)

    Quite honestly, it is time to eliminate patents.

    No problem. Just come up with a solution to the free rider problem [wikipedia.org] and we won't need patents or copyright. A Nobel prize in economics awaits your brilliance.

    As we've seen from countries with lax IP enforcement (AKA China), if you have a quality product, the knock-offs can't compete.

    Knockoffs compete just fine. Ask any drug manufacturer if generics (a knock off even though a legal one) hurt their business.

    The entire point of patents is to add to public knowledge, but that isn't happening. So really, we need shorter patent protection times, or just eliminate it all together.

    Sure it is. The laws and patent system just have loop holes and faults that are creating unintended problems. The problem isn't with the idea of patents it's with the implementation.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @02:49PM (#32065632)

    Not quite.

    Each individual patent does not need "to promote the progress of science and useful arts", just the system as a whole. Some bad patents that are balanced by good patents for a net gain is still a system promoting progress.

  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @03:03PM (#32065718) Homepage

    The problem is wider than lawyers, but lawyers are the ones supposedly charged with the responsibility to not let their profession become a pox on society. When they fail, the judge is supposed to sanction them, but judges are just anointed lawyers and are also failing.

    Truly, a few bad apples have given the other 1% a bad name.

  • right vs wrong (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2010 @03:07PM (#32065738)

    Who cares anymore? Fix the damn system before the system permanently fixes all of us!

  • by dpilot (134227) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @03:21PM (#32065830) Homepage Journal

    > Bingo. Lawyers are the new priests; worthless parasites

    Isn't this a fun quandry.

    The Law and Government are the evolution of what started in the 1200's with the Magna Carta. Prior to that we had Kings, and what the king said, was Law. (Not exact with all of this, but the general gist.) In essence, Law and Government are recognition that a society works better that enables and rewards more of its populace, not just a hereditary few. Absent Law and Government, we'd mostly be farming, sometimes having wars when egotistic kings got on each others' nerves, etc. They are what makes the society we have possible.

    So who are today's underlying bogeymen?
    Lawyers and Government.

    Unfortunately, when corruption sets in, that's true. But WE have to understand that both institutions are there to serve us, have enabled us, and have enabled this thing we call human progress. WE have to recognize that the corruption is the problem, not the institutions.

  • by msclrhd (1211086) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @03:25PM (#32065866)

    Don't you mean: "Neener, neener, I *filed* it first!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2010 @04:39PM (#32066304)

    Hahahah everyone loves to bash those darn lawyers and their evil-doing ways. Oh except those ones down at Legal Aid who protect battered wives. Or the ones in Law School Clinics who represent the poor against giant corporations. Or the ones at the ACLU arguing on behalf of the constitution. Or the ones at the EFF who fight for things we like. Or the government ones going after companies who pollute or exploit or violate or whatever else have you. Or that one who protected your interests in that road accident. Or the public defender who kept your innocent buddy out of jail. Or the public prosecutor who got that murderer put into jail. Or that one who went after the government for that thing it was doing wrong.

    Yeah those guys are complete wastes of space.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @04:58PM (#32066410) Journal

    The patent system is designed to promote innovation - it wasn't designed to protect any individual or corporation regardless of size.

    That's a bit disingenuous. At the time the patent system was created, there was no notion of a corporation as we know it today with most of the same rights as an individual. As far as I've been able to determine, corporations didn't typically own patents until around a century after U.S. patent law came into being, though it's hard to say that with any degree of certainty.

    More to the point, when the patent system was created, we didn't have works for hire. We didn't have work contracts that require employees to assign all patents to their employer. And so on. Those assignment agreements completely change the nature of patents from benefitting the inventor to benefitting someone else in exchange for continued employment for a while. Thus, the patent system is not at all operating as originally designed, dramatically diminishing the incentive to innovate. After all, if you have a job anyway, where is the added incentive to come up with these great ideas? A chance to maybe get a raise, maybe get a bonus, maybe get squat? It's hardly a good deal for the inventor, though it's a great deal for the leechers.

    The real question is whether corporate-owned patents have produced more innovation. I would contend that the reverse is true. If corporations had to go back to explicitly negotiating a license for each patent from its inventors, individuals would have greater incentive to come up with innovative ideas because they would reap the benefits directly instead of indirectly through their salaries (which rarely reflect a reasonable price for the contribution of those patents).

  • by gd2shoe (747932) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @06:05PM (#32066776) Journal

    Both of you bring up good points, but I think that it is "Man On Pink Corner" that identifies the vital missing piece. Individual patent examiners really should adopt the progress clause as a personal mandate. A lot of the problems could be fixed from within the patent office if just a few of them stood for principle. (They need an organizational refit, and their budget should be re-examined, but those would be much more effective if internal reform has already begun.)

    Personally, I think the progress clause ought to be enforced by the courts*. The patent office gets its authority from congress. Congress gets its mandate from the Constitution (its authority comes from both the legitimate election by the people and the Constitution). Congress cannot delegate authority that it doesn't have, and the progress language reads as binding to me. The framers didn't include much that was extraneous, and those few words seem quite important. Note that it does not say: "The Congress shall have power to... secure for limited times... exclusive rights." Rather it says: "The Congress shall have power... To promote the progress of science and useful arts..." Let me say that again, for emphasis. They have power "To promote", not "To secure rights". They may promote by securing rights, but securing rights is subordinate to promoting. It is that way in the language of the Constitution, it should be that way in our legal system.

    *(I won't be, but I can dream.)

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