Patently Absurd

Patently Absurd

What Happens to Startups Now That the Senate Says Patents are Based on ‘First to File’ Instead of ‘First to Invent’?

George Lucas's patent.

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. Read More

Patently Absurd

Paul Graham Invents a ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Pledge to Shame Patent Trolls


Is there anything Paul Graham can’t do? He developed the first ever web app, co-founded Y Combinator, knows how to be zen about the competition, and now, Mr. Graham has figured out a way to stop the patent wars–without waiting around for Uncle Sam. Rather than rely on federal reform around the way patents are issued, Mr. Graham suggests interceding further downstream at the the point where the patents are being used.

And what better way to do that by making any would-be patent trolls publicly accountable? Read More

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Priceline Founder Jay Walker Sure Has Filed a Lot of Lawsuits For Someone Who’s Not a Patent Troll


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., 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. Read More

Patently Absurd

What’s Worth More: Kodak’s Patents, or Its People?

Quick, to the patent office!

Tim Carmondy has an interesting piece up on Wired’s Epicenter blog about the value of Kodak’s patent portfolio. Following the massive $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola by Google, and the recent record setting $4.5 billion auction for Nortel’s patent portfolio, it’s a seller’s market for ailing tech companies with large and storied troves of patents.

Kodak has an incredible array of patents in the mobile photo space dating back to the early 20th century. While it might seem odd that patents on vintage cameras could be valuable in the age of Instagram, when it comes to defending a patent in court, the more prior art a company can own, the better. It’s the reason Bloomberg recently ran a story entitled, Read More

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NYC Tech’s Most Wanted Patent Criminals

14 Photos

... it's Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union Square Ventures, which invested in Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and Zynga, among tech companies.

When it comes to patent infringers, New York is more like Dodge City. There isn’t a start-up varmint in this town who has not been hit with a lawsuit, filed by civilized companies just looking to protect their innocent IP from these digital rustlers. Betabeat has rounded up a collection of composite sketches for these idea thieves. If you can identify any of them, please leave a comment, or file a report with your local ICANN authority.

For a deep dive into the world of patent trolls, check out our new feature. The following composite sketches were created using the Faces software from IQ Biometrix, a small time patent troll who swears to have reformed its ways. Can you identify any of Silicon Alley’s most wanted? Read More

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Patent Trolls Come in All Shapes and Sizes

tech job data

The team at Oddcast, a viral marketing firm founded in New York during the peak of the dot-com boom, has a special affinity for faces. In campaigns for blue-chip clients like McDonalds, Disney, Verizon and Ford, Oddcast created online games and promotions that allowed users to upload photos of themselves and create virtual avatars, digital composites that took their facial features and produced a likeness they could share with friends.

Oddcast was one of the small group of companies among hundreds of start-ups launched in 1999 to survive the bursting of the tech bubble in 2001. Over the next decade the company grew to more 40 employees and was able to secure a $4 million round of funding in 2004 from Union Square Ventures, one of the top V.C. firms in the nation. Little did they know that around the same time, a small, Fresno, Calif., firm called IQ Biometrix was securing several patents related to the creation of digital facial images. It wasn’t until 2009, when they received notice of a lawsuit over patent infringement, that Oddcast even knew IQ Biometrix existed.

A source familiar with the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because of the nature of the lawsuit, said the team at Oddcast felt like the victims of a practical joke. “Anyone who has owned a Mr. Potato Head understands the idea of taking different features and putting them together to make a face. Oddcast never competed with this company for market share, never saw a line of their code and never borrowed an idea from them to create their business.” But at the urging of their board members, lawyers and investors, Oddcast agreed to settle, rather than fight the lawsuit in court. Read More