Patently Absurd

Patently Absurd

Creepy New Verizon Patent Would Let Set-Top Box Serve Condom Ads When It Hears You Having Sex

Soon, he'll be able to hear YOU. (Photo: Fonesea)

When last we checked in on creepy technologies that wholly encroach on your sense of personal privacy, Microsoft had registered a patent that would allow the Kinect to detect how many people are in a room and stop playback on a movie if it sensed more people than the copyright allowed. But a new patent filed by Verizon takes that concept a step further by allowing a set-top box to observe what’s going on in your house and serve you ads based on what it hears. Read More

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

Patently Absurd

Patent Trolls Target 3D Printing, Seek to Limit Our Ability to Print Human Flesh


Apparently the advent of 3D printing technology is scary enough that before we’re even able to print out a new pair of shoes, patent trolls Intellectual Ventures have secured a patent that might prevent the use of 3D printing technology for making really fun stuff like cars, or zeppelins.

MIT’s Technology Review blog has taken a look at the patent and finds that it is a weirdly comprehensive attempt to enforce digital rights management (DRM) for items no one ever knew might need such protection: Read More

Patently Absurd

Anyone Shilling for Google and/or Oracle Might Want to ‘Fess Up Now


These patent cases are really starting to get the goats of America’s fine judicial personalities. Back in June, Judge Richard Posner dismissed the Apple v. Motorola battle royale, saying neither could “establish a right to relief.”

Now PaidContent reports that William Alsup, who’s stuck presiding over the final stages of Oracle’s case against Google, is laying down the law on the subject of disclosures. Specifically, he wants the two companies to provide complete lists of any bloggers and/or journalists they might have on the payroll. Shady!

The order says: Read More

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A Kinda-Sorta Verdict in Oracle v. Google

Google CEO Larry Page (Google+)

After a partial ruling on the question of copyright infringement, the Oracle v. Google saga continues. But as of yet, there’s no answer to the question everyone’s asking: Are APIs copyrightable? And if they are, what does that mean for the tech industry?

Background: Oracle claims that, when Google built the Android platform, the company infringed on Java-related copyrights and patents (acquired by Oracle when it bought Sun). This first phase of the case deals specifically with the copyright allegations and, as Wired points out, Judge William Alsup has instructed the jury to assume for the purposes of the trial that APIs can be copyrighted. Mr. Alsup will ultimately have to make that call himself. Read More

Patently Absurd

Priceline’s Litigious Founder Jay Walker: I Am Not a Troll

Mr. Cohen, left, and Mr. Walker, right, under the image of Mr. Walker in 1999.

In Connecticut in 1997, Jay Walker, inventor, created the idea for a “demand collection system,” which is how he describes the mechanism behind Priceline, of course, lets customers name their own price and other conditions, input their credit cards and agree to rent a hotel, flight, car or whatever, typically sight unseen.

At the time, the New York Times called Priceline a “reverse auction,” a term that has stuck around long enough to work its way into the consciousness of moderator and adjunct professor Aaron Cohen, who made the mistake of employing it during an interview on Tuesday night at NYU for a series called Inside the Internet Garage produced by NYU Steinhardt.

Priceline is not a reverse auction, emphasized Mr. Walker—a slight, grey-haired man with dark eyebrows and a sense of righteousness—before an audience of students. “Saul Hansell, who was the journalist for the New York Times, was lazy and stupid,” he declared, “and I told him so numerous times.”

The quibble was the beginning of an at-times contentious look back at the history of Priceline, now one of the most valuable Internet companies based in New York with a market cap of $37.21 billion, and whether Mr. Walker’s numerous lawsuits over patent infringement constitute a tax on innovation. Read More

Patently Absurd

After Six Years and Three Rejections,’s Steve Rosenbaum Gets a Patent for Video Discovery

Steve Rosenbaum Magnify patent

Looks like much-maligned U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is getting into the holiday spirit and trying to make entrepreneurs swoon. After six years, the agency has suddenly decided to give Steve Rosenbaum, founder and CEO of, the gift he’s been waiting for—U.S. Patent No. 8,117,545, covering a hosted video discovery and publishing platform—complete with a Valentine’s issuance date.

It’s a “big thumpy one too :), ” Mr. Rosenbaum told Betabeat over Skype. Thumpy? “Makes noise when you put in on the desk… thump,” he explained.

Considering Mr. Rosenbaum, author of “Curation Nation,” had to suffer through three rejections and two years of straight silence along the way, we say it should’ve come a bag of Sweethearts®, at least.

While consumers may not be familiar with Magnify, its video platform powers sites like New York magazine, TEDxTALKS, and Mediaite. It allows publishers to populate their sites with video from around the web and create their own video channels.

We talked to Mr. Rosenbaum, who was recently named entrepreneur-in-residence by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and also built the 9/11 Memorial iPad app, about why Fred Wilson calls patents “the Anti-Christ” and the three ways a company can respond once its been granted a patent. Read More

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Kickstarter Sues Patent Troll Who Claims To Have Invented Crowdfunding

You'll be funding my next project, like it or not

As first reported by PaidContent, Kickstarter is embroiled in a legal battle with musician and entrepreneur named Brian Camelio, who’s notable achievements include playing on a Journey record. In their claim, Kickstarter says Mr. Camelio has shown up multiple times to demand they pay to license his technology. He currently runs the site ArtistShare, where users can contribute to musicians and participate in the creative process. He obtained a patent for this process earlier this year. Read More

Patently Absurd

New Patent Law Might Invalidate Business Method Patents Altogether

Let there be light, and let me patent it.

This is a guest post by Steve Rubin, a patent attorney specializing in computer science at Dilworth & Barrese.

The America Invents Act became law last week. It is touted as creating jobs and fostering innovation. Those are great sound bites. However, a close read of the Act reveals it will hurt innovation and will be especially harmful to startup companies. In fact, the new law leaves open the possibility that an entire class of patents may be invalidated by corporations with the money to lobby Congress. Read More