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Patents Google Bought From IBM Are "Weak" 78

Posted by timothy
from the how-patent-lawyers-taunt-each-other dept.
holy_calamity writes "Slashdot noted in September that Google had bought 1023 patents from IBM. Now IP analytics firms IPVision says they're a 'mixed bag' of mostly unrelated patents that won't be much use in defending against competitors such as Microsoft or Apple. Patents are most useful when they are tightly linked into clusters by references, such that they cover every angle on an idea, something Google's new collection lacks."
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Patents Google Bought From IBM Are "Weak"

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  • Other reason? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mvar (1386987) on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:59PM (#37644698)
    IBM's patents might be useless for defending against MS & Apple (after all they bought Motorola for this reason) but they might prove useful for other plans that Google might have
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The IBM grab-bag clearly wasn't purchased because the patents cluster into convenient cudgels to attack other companies with. They're a broad array of crap that covers stuff Google doesn't do and probably never will do. The broader the array of crap, the more likely it is that the competitor attempting to extract licensing fees does something you have a patent on.

      IBM, you'll notice, almost never licenses. It cross-licenses, which means at a minimum, that they dug through the locker of thousands of ra
      • So Google wants to come to the table with it's own pile of crap the other company might infringe. That's it.

        Yes, I agree. Furthermore, it was probably Apple who taught them they needed to go down that route. You have "the world's most valuable company" threatening Google's own plans for the mobile (and other markets), intimidating their preferred vendors, and the reasoning behind Google's recent purchase of Motorola's physical and intellectual assets becomes clear. The thousand-odd IBM patents are just part of that overall defensive posture.

  • I am tired of crystal ball seers, really. How about this angle: this week: "Baaah. Google's patent portfolio is weak". Next week: Google releases new service, patents cover every angle of it. Two weeks hence: "Baaah. Visionary. Baah".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:02PM (#37644724)
    The patents are weak? Fucking patents are weak. You're weak.
    • by afabbro (33948)

      The patents are weak? Fucking patents are weak. You're weak.

      Well played.

      • by smashr (307484)

        Your patents are weak old man. When I left you, I was but the licensee, now _I_ am the patent troll!

  • weak? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macshit (157376) <[gro.ung] [ta] [selim]> on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:07PM (#37644764) Homepage

    Er, the vast majority of patents being flung around in all the crazy control-freak corporate slap-fights we've seen recently seem to be horribly weak (of the "should never have been granted" variety). That hasn't stopped them from being flung around like monkeys do with, er, you know, and it apparently hasn't stopped other companies from being scared of them.

    And in the end, fear is the goal...

    • People aren't afraid of patents.

      They're afraid of protracted, expensive lawsuits to defend against the patents, no matter how valid or invalid the patents may be.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        True, but some of the damages award have also been nasty so they do care about winning or losing in the end. Nothing like losing $100m to a cringe-worthy patent.

      • by macshit (157376)

        Precisely; what they (er, well, corporations) are afraid of is uncertainty, and hard-to-predict risk. Software patents are a sufficiently wacky area that it's difficult to say what the courts will rule in any particular case, and any time somebody's waving a big bundle of patents at you, there's a danger you'll get reamed (regardless of what "IP analytics firms IPVision" [who?] said).

        So instead of taking on that risk—however silly the patents in question might seem—they'd much rather pay or d

      • People aren't afraid of patents.

        They're afraid of protracted, expensive lawsuits to defend against the patents, no matter how valid or invalid the patents may be.

        They aren't afraid of guns either. They're afraid of the holes they make.

    • corporations are scared of monkeys? Are you sure?

      I have it on good authority that a tech company or two whose technical support team consists of highly trained monkeys. The monkeys who dont make the cut for the tech support gig are given typewriters. Thats how user agreements and TOS contracts are born.
      • by macshit (157376)
        Trained monkeys?! Why we dreamed of being allowed to train our tech-support monkeys!
  • by jimpop (27817) * on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:09PM (#37644782) Homepage Journal

    ....is this listed on /. under "apple"?

    TFA seems like an advert for some patent analysis software.

  • by loftwyr (36717) on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:10PM (#37644794)

    But since they've inheritied 16000 from Motorola, and another 1000 from IBM and I'm sure they're bidding on others, I'm sure the Google patent portfolio will do just fine.

    On it's own Google's word processor isn't the greatest. Add the rest of the Google Apps portfolio, and suddenly you have something interesting.

  • IPVision.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:13PM (#37644818)

    So.. Who's "IPVision" and why do we care what they think? For all we know they could be an industry shill looking to perpetuate the awful mess that is "IP" law. Google's made lots of enemies and they're getting in to the IP game by proxy. Because companies are turning to that avenue of attack, rather than legitimate competition.

    • IPVision is a company that sells Patent-Analysis Software. Its visionary software represents the Patent lawyer of tomorrow (without any of the pesky human limitations, nor any of his/her expensive student loans).

      And just like we have essay-analysis software that can grade a student, replace a teacher, and pronounce a student "weak", we can equally analyzes complex technology patent portfolios worth billions of dollars and make vague pronouncements of "weakness" just as accurately as our essay-analysis softw

  • There's a sucker born every minute...

    or

    A fool and his money are soon parted...

    Though I guess this is a good use for the $40B in cash they have to burn...

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:21PM (#37644856)

    This is what's wrong with the patent system. The idea that you should cover every angle of an idea rather than just patenting the fundamental technology behind it. When did we go from patenting technology to patenting the application?

    For example. Canon has scores of patents related to cameras and imaging technology. Rightfully so. They are useful patents. But then some of them are like this beauty [uspto.gov]. Now here's an patent which covers the use of fuel cells in electronic equipment. Think about that for a second. Covering the frigging obvious use of this technology which the entire world is hoping will replace batteries, with a patent for using the technology (which is not practical yet) in an electronic device.

    We need a cleansing fire. The patent office and all their data should burn down, and all employees should be replaced. The patent system needs to be re-written by some people with zero experience in it. As Einstein said, "Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."

    • We need a cleansing fire. The patent office and all their data should burn down, and all employees should be replaced. The patent system needs to be eradicated forever.

      There, FTFY.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        No I completely disagree with this in every way. You could spend millions on developing something, come up with an idea, and just as you go to capitalise it pretty much every man and his goat could produce the same thing. They being the entrenched producer will often be able to produce cheaper and with more marketing.

        The patent system was originally envisioned to protect inventions. We just need to return to these roots. Be able to for a limited time patent genuine creations, not formulas or methods. Otherw

        • I disagree. These roots you are talking about are evil. Technological progress is better served through organic growth, where companies spend relatively little capital upfront and grow as the market demands. This is how industries and communities become strong and robust.

          Your idea of a single company playing lone inventor for an uncertain payoff that must be protected through patents is more akin to gambling than progress. It's an aberration that must not be *encouraged*.

          History is full of examples of c

          • by vakuona (788200)

            Yeah, because human progress was slower before patents were introduced!

            Patents are a good thing when used properly, to protect unique and significant inventions. It means people can be sure of reward if they invent something that is useful and desirable.

            Patents are not just about lone inventors, and progress is most certainly not of the slow evolutionary kind. Once in a while, we make a leap forward. The invention of the transistor is a case in point. Sometimes, you have to spend a lot of money to invent, t

            • Yeah, because human progress was slower before patents were introduced!

              Was it? That may be, but I think you're conflating a whole lot of things that aren't conflatable. The pace of human progress (e.g., the effective utilization of our best and brightest to advance the state of numerous arts) has very little to do with patents and far more to do with legal, cultural and societal norms that support the creative mind. America, for a long time, was seen as an attractive place to emigrate for those of other nations who had ability, but no means of expression in their countries of

        • by Shihar (153932)

          No I completely disagree with this in every way. You could spend millions on developing something, come up with an idea, and just as you go to capitalise it pretty much every man and his goat could produce the same thing. They being the entrenched producer will often be able to produce cheaper and with more marketing.

          That is non-sense. Patent law has nothing to do with innovation. The cell phone industry is an excellent example of this. Apple, Google, and Samsung wouldn't suddenly give up if they couldn't patent things. They would still be in a bloody knife fight to the death where each tries to out do the other by innovating faster. The first one to stop would be dead.

          The only REAL difference is that it wouldn't just be the big manufacturers.

          Right now, if you wanted to build a start up that takes off the shelf com

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            You're right the cellphone industry is a great example of this.

            Say you come up with a way of improving bandwidth utilisation or speed. You don't have the money to start your own cellphone company. What are you going to do, Pitch your idea to Apple and Samsung in the hope they may pay you millions when they could simply rip off your completely unprotected idea?

            My point was not about entrenched mega companies innovating, it was about small startups. The patent system was designed to put people on equal footin

    • For example. Canon has scores of patents related to cameras and imaging technology. Rightfully so.

      Actually, I believe the most fundamental (and valuable) patents on imaging tech - at least as it applies to digital cameras - belong to Kodak.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Yes.

        But no. The modern camera can't be made without licensing technology from multiple vendors. Autofocus patents aren't owned by Kodak. Patents on creating image sensors that produce excellent quantum efficiency and improving quantum efficiency outside the sensor aren't owend by Kodak. Many of the image processing patents aren't owned by Kodak. Heck the filtering pattern on the sensor in nearly every digital camera on the market is owned by neither Kodak nor Nikon/Canon/Olympus.

        Kodak does own some fundamen

    • by mollymoo (202721)

      But then some of them are like this beauty [uspto.gov]. Now here's an patent which covers the use of fuel cells in electronic equipment.

      Actually it covers a system where a camera body supplies fuel (rather than electrical power) to accessories (lens, flash etc.), each of which have their own fuel cell. It's not a patent covering merely using a fuel cell in a portable device - it's covering a specific method of distributing power to accessories. Still overly broad and obvious IMO, but not as bad as you imply.

    • "Attempting to give the illusion of endorsement to your argument by propping it up with a quote from a famous intellectual is obnoxious and cliche."
      - Not Albert Einstein

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Reading someone as quoting something someone famous said and implying that it somehow was meant to appear as an endorsement is plain darn weird. But hey there's someone on every forum who does this, and you just happen to be by your own admission "thatoneguy".

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:22PM (#37644866) Homepage

    Google isn't stupid. More importantly, Google's lawyers aren't stupid. And if there's one thing Google's good at, it's sifting through masses of data, teasing out the relationships and putting them together. So I'm assuming Google has a plan and it's not completely half-baked. We'll have to see whether it's successful or not, but they do have a plan.

    • So I'm assuming Google has a plan and it's not completely half-baked.

      Google's a company BUILT on half baked plans.

  • So now there are good patents and bad patents. Good patents have lots of close friends, while bad patents are anti-social and pretty much live alone.

    I'll tell you what I'd like to see. I'd like to see all technology patents held by companies not currently producing products involving those patents immediately Voided.

    Then I'd like to see all remaining patents compulsorily licensed so that everybody can build everything and we can chose among who does it best. This current lawsuit climate doesn't suit the
    • by Anonymous Coward

      average citizen at all, and that's who the patent system was supposed to protect.

      Ehm No. It was never supposed to protect the average citizen, it is to protect the ones who innovate against the ones who copy.
      Android isn't about innovation at all, it's about putting things that are already there together and not in an entirely new way, but in a way that it would match the features of modern proprietary OS but using free software. Thus patent system is not supposed to protect Android.
      And it's plain hipocrisy that Google claims Apple is attacking Android with bogus patents, which is entire

      • Ehm No. It was never supposed to protect the average citizen, it is to protect the ones who innovate against the ones who copy.

        False. It is only supposed to "promote the Progress of ... useful Arts" -- you are confusing the means with the ends.

        Android isn't about innovation at all, it's about putting things that are already there together and not in an entirely new way, but in a way that it would match the features of modern proprietary OS but using free software. Thus patent system is not supposed to protect Android.

        What you're saying is that in any fast-paced industry, one company should have a monopoly -- whoever is first to market should patent everything with any relation to the market, then exclude all others from competition. Then they can innovate at half or a quarter or less of the speed the market would in the absence of the patent system, as long as by the end of 20 years they have used their m

      • by Shihar (153932)

        Ehm No. It was never supposed to protect the average citizen, it is to protect the ones who innovate against the ones who copy.
        Android isn't about innovation at all, it's about putting things that are already there together and not in an entirely new way, but in a way that it would match the features of modern proprietary OS but using free software. Thus patent system is not supposed to protect Android.
        And it's plain hipocrisy that Google claims Apple is attacking Android with bogus patents, which is entire

    • I'll tell you what I'd like to see. I'd like to see all technology patents held by companies not currently producing products involving those patents immediately Voided.

      Why do you hate research universities like MIT and Cornell?

  • It is by now an accepted concept, that 'patent war' thing is. And, we are all little bitches caught in the fight in between 4 major companies, regardless of what the size of our small business/outfit is... What we do does not matter zit. the winner takes it all. and we got to this point despite everything that has been done, everything that has been said.

    This tells me patents are unworkable.
  • by tkrotchko (124118) on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:36PM (#37644960) Homepage

    What makes a patent strong is how much money the holder is willing to try to enforce it.

    Consider what IBM had to do to defend itself against SCO. The claims were non-existent, the patents were non-existent, and yet it dragged on for years.

    So if Google could really cause another competitor to squirm. Look at Apple; they managed to convince a judge the shape of an iPad and iPhone are unique and worthy of protection and so they're used to cause Samsung pain. It doesn't matter if its valid or not, Samsung can't sell their devices.

    Patents are legal tools to aid in delaying a competitor. Once you understand that, then the real value of patents become clear.

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      >

      Patents are legal tools to aid in delaying a competitor. Once you understand that, then the real value of patents become clear.

      Of course I didn't RTFA, but according to the sumarry I think this is IPVision's point. But the patents are only good legal tools if the net they cast is a big net with few holes. "Patents are most useful when they are tightly linked " It seems to imply that the more patents you have in an area, the better chance that your competitor is infringing one... uhmmm DUH!

    • by mollymoo (202721)

      Look at Apple; they managed to convince a judge the shape of an iPad and iPhone are unique and worthy of protection and so they're used to cause Samsung pain. It doesn't matter if its valid or not, Samsung can't sell their devices.

      There was a lot more to it than just the shape of the devices. Samsung didn't just make another tablet, they slavishly copied the iPad's industrial design, UI and packaging. You'll note that other tablet manufacturers can still sell their devices, this is because they only copied the concept rather than copying the whole design from top to bottom.

  • When I read this article I had flashbacks to the spurious crap that people used in ye olde Internet bubble. Or maybe the CDO credit bubble. In short, making arbitrary valuations by looking at second or third order artifacts and completely ignoring the value of the underlying thing.

    What makes a good patent is the exact opposite of what these guys suggest. The membership of a patent 'thicket' that they regard as indicating patent quality is really an artifact of the way in which a single potential invention

    • Currently out of points and he's spot-on. This is exactly right. We are in a patent bubble - it'll be the next thing to tank.

      Billions of dollars of bogus estimated worth is just getting ready to evaporate. Gonna be a rough ride.

  • I think "most useful" here means "most profitable".

    Ideas are most useful ... when people use them ..., not when they are collectively monopolized.

  • I find it highly unlikely that Google actually bought 1023 patents from IBM. I suspect they actually bought 1024, but are counting the first one as 0.

  • I'd like to suggest that all patents are inherently weak, until proved in court. Imagine though one may, about the weight of a patent outside of an actual court case, and regardless of how much the thought of a company's ownership of patents may be forwarded as part of an agenda towards stockholders, but practically speaking, a patent has no practical use except as leverage in any legal proceedings for protecting a supposed invention allegedly addressed by the patent.

    The proof is in the pudding, as it were,

  • Patents are most useful when they are tightly linked into clusters by references, such that they cover every angle on an idea

    I'm so confused. I thought patents were most useful when they promoted the progress of science and useful arts. ;-)

    Look how far we've come. The ostensible purpose of patents isn't even given lip service anymore. Everybody knows they're not for what we say they're for. There isn't even a thin veneer of pretense left.

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