Apple in Your Eye
It costs $35 million to send an HD video via text while roaming on AT&T. Not a bad deal. [Ryan Kearny]
New Yorkers are surprisingly polite on Twitter. [NBC]
“Have you heard that early Groupon investors are bailing on the company? Well, some of them. Maybe less than half. But one of them is a big name, so it must mean the entire Internet sector is screwed.” [Fortune]
Is Google actually considering ditching its current patent system? [CNET]
Going up! Meet the dude who wants to eschew rockets in favor of elevators to space. [BBC]
They See Me Trollin'
In the race to bring a computer to your face, Google has a clear lead, with Google Glasses expected on shelves by 2013. But if Jobesian history has taught us anything, we assumed that when iGlasses (iEyes, if they want to make it easier to discuss) comes out in, oh, let’s say 2014, it will be a sleeker, more socially-adjusted affair. So we were surprised to come across a patent sketch that depicts them as anything but.
Attack of the Clones
Patent trolls–or, as a new study drolly dubs them, “non-practicing entities”–have a business model that’s simple, elegant, and dastardly: Buy broad patents and start suing companies that could conceivably be infringing upon them. And the costs are adding up to a nice chunk of change: Two researchers estimate the costs at no fewer than $29 billion, reports Ars Technica.
Plus, that’s just direct costs for things like lawyer bills and licensing fees. A previous study by the same pair put indirect costs at the stratospheric tab of $83 billion.
The startup world is rife with clones and copycats, fueled by the ease of opening up shop on the web. You can find ads on Craigslist shopping for scripts to rip off entire sites. But typically it’s the small fry who are aping the success of their larger, more established rivals.
So the folks at New York based Paperless Post were a little taken aback when they saw Postmark, a new offering from Evite, which looked to them like a total clone of their product.
To make their case, Paperless Post laid out for Betabeat the nitty gritty details of the overlap between Postmark and their service. To them, it copied the user experience and design assets, right down to individual cards. Everything had an eerie familiarity, from the pricing scheme to the name.
“We kind of stumbled on it while redesigning our logo,” said Alexa Hirschfeld, who founded the site with her brother James. “We were checking out the competitors and when we got to Evite’s postmark we had one of those moments, it was actually confusing, looking at it and then at our site, realizing we had been cloned.”
The Senate voted 89-to-9 yesterday to approve the America Invests Act, a sweeping bill that will rehaul the country’s broken patent system for the first time in decades. Patents will now be awarded on a “first to file” basis, ostensibly doing away with the expensive, drawn out legal battles to determine “first to invent.” Although the bill has been years in the making, “first to file” is already used as a barometer in Europe and Asia.
But as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times report, some small companies allege that this isn’t exactly the kind of reform they were looking for, claiming that the bill favors corporations that can shell out for teams of patent lawyers as opposed to small businesses that are typically responsible for creating new jobs.
Ever since Jay Walker founded Walker Digital in 1994, the company has made its fortune by spinning ideas like Priceline out into companies. But in a profile today, the Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Walker’s new money-making strategy seems to be filing lawsuits.
Last year, the Stamford, Connecticut-based company put its patent portfolio up for auction. But although a bid was made for $135 million for ideas like “managing identities and connecting with friends online” (circa 1996) it didn’t meet Mr. Walker’s minimum.
So instead, he resorted to teaming up with IP Navigation Group, which describes itself as a “patent monetization” firm. As FOSS Patents recently pointed out, others describe the IP Navigation Group and its affiliates a little differently. Law.com, for example, says owner Erich Spangenberg runs one of the “largest, and most litigious, patent-holding companies” and recommends a “sue first, ask questions later” approach.
A complete ripoff of Turntable.fm called Rolling.fm has emerged that would make Chinese copycats proud. Because the firm has the distinction of being founded by one Tim Zhou, who used to work at Google, the tech press has gone gaga for it. Gaga, meanwhile, has apparently chosen to put her funds into the original.
“Hot on the heels of Turntable.fm’s big reported round of funding comes Rolling.fm, a clone that does just about everything the original service does. Will it achieve the same popularity? Who knows, but we’re impressed that someone has already launched such a complete knock-off of the Turntable.fm concept,” writes a breathless Eliot Van Buskirk, a former Wired writer who left for music start-up Evolver.fm but continues to contribute pieces of reportage.