Patently Absurd

Microsoft Wants to Build a Creepy ‘Consumer Detector’ That Charges for Content Based on How Many People Are in a Room

I'm watching you... (Photo: Game Informer)

The Kinect add-on for Microsoft’s Xbox, which allows users to play fully-immersive games as the Kinect tracks your movements and translates them to the screen, is a fun alternative to typical couch potato gaming. But did you know it can also help corporations spy on you? America!

Back in 2011, Microsoft applied for a patent that would allow cameras and sensors, much like the ones embedded in the Kinect, to track how many people are in a room. Developed by Microsoft’s “incubation team,” which is where they test new approaches to hardware, the patent was recently made public. They’re calling the invention a “consumer detector” and it’s just as frightening as it sounds. Read More


Booting Up: ‘Difficult’ Jack Dorsey Edition

Oh goodie, it's Monday. (Photo: Cat Food Breath)

Microsoft “accidentally” sent a DMCA takedown notice to Google, asking them to remove pages from TechCrunch, the BBC, Wikipedia and the U.S. Government. Psst… no one cares that much about Windows 8. [TorrentFreak]

Companies are using patents to stifle innovation and the Times is ON IT. [New York Times]

Is EBay staging a pivot? [TechCrunch]

Whoa, you can raise money for a company without Kickstarter? Mind blown. [TechCrunch]

Jack Dorsey apparently got pushed to a backseat role at Twitter because he’s “difficult” to work with. [SiliconBeat]

Speaking of Twitter, who knew CEO Dick Costolo used to be a standup comedian? [New York Times]

Teach Me How to Startup

CornellNYC’s Unpredecented Partnership with Dept. of Commerce Will Help Startups with Patents

(Photo: CornellNYC Tech)

The patent wars rage on in the tech world, but today a couple of big names extended olive branches in hopes of brokering a peace–or at least one between the industry and the notion of patents. This morning, leaders from the Commerce Department and Cornell University announced that there’ll be a U.S. Patent Office staffer permanently planted right on campus.

That individual will serve as a kind of liaison between the worlds of tech and intellectual property, working to connect university students and affiliates to whatever resources the Commerce Department has to offer. (Before you private sector devotees scoff, that ranges from IP strategizing to government grants.) It’s all in the service of speeding innovations from academic notion to marketable product.

This is the first time the bureau has ever devoted such attention to a particular university campus. How you like dem apples, Stanford? Read More

Patently Insane

Microsoft Has Patented What’s Basically a Holodeck

Let's get freaky. (Photo: Rikomatic)

Sometimes when you can’t make the trip to Risa, you might feel the need to recreate the pleasure planet in a fully-immersive alternate reality. Who wouldn’t? Ars Technica reports that Microsoft filed a patent last year for a “Holodeck-style, full room immersive display.” Score one for the Star Trek nerds.

The patent, of course, goes hand-in-hand with the Xbox 360’s Kinect add-on, which allows for virtual reality-like game play where users can interact with elements on the TV by moving around in their own physical environment. Microsoft’s patent would allow users to do this, but in a literal 360-degree field, meaning that even the walls, floor and ceiling would become part of the game. Read More

They See Me Trollin'

Congress Considers Bill That Would Make Patent Trolls Pay, Literally

Seriously, do not fuck with startups.

Seems like just about everyone’s had it up to here with patent trolls, up to and including certain members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Ars Technica reports that Oregonian Democrat Peter DeFazio has introduced a bill torturously named “Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes” Act, designed to put a stop to the most blatant instances.

You can call it the SHEILD Act. No, it does not come with either Samuel L. Jackson or an Agent Coulson. Sorry. Read More


Booting Up: The Internet Is One Giant Out-Of-Office Message Edition

Morning, sunshine! (Photo:

Apparently not content to let Google and Apple have all the fun doling out directions, Amazon has acquired UpNext, its very own mapping startup. [GigaOm]

The makers in Silicon Valley are getting a patent office. Just remember: Don’t feed the trolls. [Bloomberg]

Google decided to make the Nexus Q in America because it cares about fast, not cheap. [Reuters]

GM might come back to Facebook, but the social network’ll have to work for it. [Wall Street Journal]

Facebook has brand-new timeline icons for same-sex newlyweds. One of the first users? Cofounder Chris Hughes, of course. [CNET]

Microsoft lost $6.2 billion on its digital advertising bet, aQuantive. We’d say losing that much money deserves some sort of prize, but then J.P. Morgan would’ve already collected it. [DealBook]

They See Me Trollin'

No Sooner Does Etsy Raise $40M Than It’s Hit With a Dumb Patent Suit

(Illustration by David Saracino / New York Observer.)

Man, is there anything worse than getting mugged on payday? Just last week, Etsy announced a $40 million Series F with investors including Union Square Ventures and Accel Partners, a round that’ll help the company go global. But Unified Messaging Solutions–a subsidiary of the patent pitbulls over at Acacia Research Corporation–has other plans. GigaOm reports that firm has just filed a lawsuit accusing Etsy of infringing its patents on “methods for storing, delivering and managing messages.”

Sure it has, Unified Messaging Solutions. Sure it has. Read More

Let's Talk Trolls

Patent Trolls Lay Claim to Emoticons and the Twilight Premiere Date

Emoticons, making the world a better place one ^_^ at a time.

Say the term “patent” aloud, and the guttural “ughs” erupting from the throats of open source fans everywhere will keel you over sideways. Say the term “patent troll,” and you’ll automatically feel their collective scorn tunneling deep into your heart. But open source lovers do have a point.

Patent trolls–people who buy up patents for absurdly broad ideas and then sue companies who infringe upon them–are the kind of people who stifle innovation and inhibit the tech industry from properly exploring its creative side. They also claim to own things that should belong to the general public–like emoticons, for instance. Read More