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Patents The Almighty Buck The Courts Apple

Are Patent Wars Worth the Price Tag? 128

Posted by samzenpus
from the cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face dept.
ericjones12398 writes "It's beginning to feel like a TV series, a weekly patent war drama. Apple and Samsung have consistently been going back and forth with claims of IP infringement, to the point where who is accusing who of what is exhausting to follow. The question I would like to ask and try to answer is what the opportunity costs are of pursuing litigation versus just toughing it out? Would it be more economic for both companies to live and let live, or is there value to be captured in legal finger pointing? My best guess would be that this isn't about stopping sales this quarter or next, nor is it about defending the small-scale tech features that merely mildly differentiate. It's instead about momentum and branding. Winning these cases is PR that says, we are the leaders in smartphone technology, we are the innovators."
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Are Patent Wars Worth the Price Tag?

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  • Shoot a lawyer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gription (1006467) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:15PM (#40443601)
    This is more about the legal department making decisions. Are they going to decide "Let's not do any litigation!"? Of course not. They will always pick a choice that keeps them employed.
    • I'm pretty sure that even the lawyers have to get it past the bean counters before they can make a move.

      • In my company at least, the bean counters have to clear everything they do with the lawyers. Not the other way around.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The ability to own an idea, and to have the full force of law behind my ability to control the utilization of that idea for *everyone in the world,* is worth every penny.

      Of course, the only people who can actually leverage patents to this effect are the already-entrenched wealthy, but that is a practical necessity; if patent enforcement were available to everyone then the whole system would come crashing down in a gridlock. What a waste *that* would be! So since the utilization of patents is already limit

    • Re:Shoot a lawyer... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by reebmmm (939463) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:56PM (#40444237)

      This is more about the legal department making decisions

      This is usually very much NOT the case. Legal departments in major corporations don't usually make these sorts of decisions. Or, when they do make the decisions, they're usually very conscious of the fact that lawsuits (and legal fees generally) are not viewed as revenue centers, but cost centers. Wins in any litigation are usually windfalls, not strategic investments.

      There are exceptions, of course. Companies do exist with litigation as their business model. However, you might be surprised about how much strategic planning goes into that as well.

      Are they going to decide "Let's not do any litigation!"? Of course not. They will always pick a choice that keeps them employed.

      In-house lawyers don't view litigation as job security. Few companies staff litigation lawyers. That work is almost always moved to outside counsel. Those with litigators on staff don't usually do patent litigation. Litigation tends to detract from scarce corporate resources for legal services that are usually necessary to keep a business running.

      For most companies, in-house counsel are concerned more about avoiding litigation and the expense of that litigation than they are with prolonging that litigation.

      All of that said, it may come as a surprise to you that BUSINESS teams are usually more litigation happy than the lawyers especially if they see a competitive reason. In fact, at Apple, Steve Jobs famously said that he's willing to go "to thermonuclear war" with Google over Android: http://www.insidecounsel.com/2012/06/04/steve-jobs-quotes-allowed-in-apple-google-patent-t [insidecounsel.com]

      In addition, business teams tend to be less calculating about their litigation risks than the lawyers they have on staff.

      • by s.petry (762400)

        Wait, you are claiming that the post is not valid because in-house lawyers don't generally do the litigation? You state yourself that outside firms normally handle that litigation. This points at the post being more correct, not less correct based on that fact. An outside firm has to worry about their jobs, so of course prolong cases to increase revenue when possible. At the same time, I'm sure that businesses are shown over and over how companyA won a million dollars from companyB, and using case law t

        • by reebmmm (939463)

          An outside firm has to worry about their jobs, so of course prolong cases to increase revenue when possible

          There are a few mitigating factors here. First, outside law firms don't usually drive business decisions. Management still needs to be convinced of the value of a course of action. And, outside counsel is not free to do whatever they want. They are typically on a short leash. General Counsel's office gets every bill and is involved in the strategy. To say that "outside counsel does the litigation" i

          • by s.petry (762400)

            Actually I make few assumptions since I'm pretty familiar with how it works, hence my example of how law firms will try and continue cases. Do those tactics work with the larger companies? Maybe not, but they do work well with small to middle sized companies, and even the smaller large companies. Remember that the majority of companies and corporations in the US can not afford the type of legal staff you are talking about, or have the operational knowledge you are talking about. The reason is obviously

    • by Artagel (114272)
      The parts of the company that develop and sell goods control the expenditures of the legal department all the time. The legal department does not conduct litigation -- it farms that out. And it has to defend all those dollars spent to the CEO And CFO. Historically, high technology companies have not litigated much. A company has only so many things it can pay attention to. A litigation can divert the attention of top people at the company whose time is probably better spent doing anything else. Entering li
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is no way to estimate the cost of not playing the game without stopping it. There is too much testosterone involved to try anything that radical. This is as much about CEOs throwing a hissy as it is about bidness.
  • by WilliamGeorge (816305) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:15PM (#40443611)

    To the community at large: no. End of line.

  • I despise patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:16PM (#40443623)

    I am convinced that at least 99% of patents are useless. They are trivial expansions on previous patents, maybe changing the temperature of an annealing, maybe adding .01% more chromium, or changing the angle of a gear surface by a degree. Software patents are far worse them mechanical patents, and I have not heard of a single one that is not obvious to someone skilled in the arts.

    If those companies spent half on research what they spend on patent lawyers, they'd beat the competition in products and build up their internal skills to keep their edge.

    Patents are the first refuge of the unskilled.

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      Excellent, so do you agree then that all patents and copyrights must be abolished? [slashdot.org]

      • Re:I despise patents (Score:5, Interesting)

        by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:38PM (#40443965)

        Yes I do. Intellectual property is no more property than vibrations in air.

        The idea that someone can write a song and retire and the grandkids can probably retire at birth too is disgusting. Whereas I write a program and have a job. Did K&R retire from writing C? No, it just gave them the reputation to get further work. That's all anyone should get.

        I have a neighbor whose father wrote some famous songs, and now he spends half his time ferreting out bands who don't pay the proper respect. Nice for him, does nothing for productivity or creating new works or making anyone, including him, any happier.

        • Re:I despise patents (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:49PM (#40444131) Journal
          There, there. I agree that intellectual property ha been completely subverted. I agree that software patents should be outlawed, that the copyrightableness of code should be carefully examined, and the copyrightableness of binaries also. However, there are indeed domains where a period of exclusive commercial exploitation makes sense. Drug research, movie production.

          I like the position of the pirate party : copyrights should be a lot shorter (~10 years) and non-commercial sharing should be allowed. It is, however, productive to propose a period of commercial exclusivity.
          • However, there are indeed domains where a period of exclusive commercial exploitation makes sense. Drug research, movie production.

            I don't by that at all. Most copyrighted items make all their money in the first few months. That's the lead time when your imitators are copying you and when you should be already working on the next project.

            As for copying books and such, I know many people who are quite happy only buying the real thing. I have no doubt that enough people do that to make it worthwhile. If movie budgets have to be cut back and movie stars no longer get $20M for phoning in a mediocre performance, I won't be crying.

            Then t

          • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 25, 2012 @05:01PM (#40444323)

            However, there are indeed domains where a period of exclusive commercial exploitation makes sense. Drug research, movie production.

            Disagree on both counts. Drug research should be publicly funded, for the benefit of the public and of humanity at large. Why should pharmaceutical companies get to extort money from people who desperately need medicines, and deny medicines to entire regions that are plagued by disease? We have also seen these companies push medications harder than those medications need to be pushed, pressuring doctors to give unnecessary and sometimes dangerous prescriptions, and pressuring politicians to keep easy-to-produce medicines illegal (and that means more than just marijuana).

            As for movies, it is almost impossible to tell at this point whether or even if the movie industry has had financial problems resulting from online copyright infringement. We have seen them claim that blockbuster hits like Forrest Gump actually turned a loss, just to deny payment to people who foolishly requested a cut of the profits. With the questionable accounting practices we see in the entertainment industry, the cutthroat tactics that have nothing to do with copyrights, I am not sure that industry needs any government protection.

            • by roman_mir (125474)

              Drug research should be publicly funded, for the benefit of the public and of humanity at large. Why should pharmaceutical companies get to extort money from people who desperately need medicines,

              - that's so stupid.

              What are you going to do? Outlaw private funding into medical research? Outlaw results of such private research from being used to make money on the drug market?

              The problem is exactly what you propose as a solution - government IN research with its patents and FDA and various subsidies, and you want to solve that problem ... wait for it .... with more government.

              Are you a government employee?

              • What are you going to do? Outlaw private funding into medical research? Outlaw results of such private research from being used to make money on the drug market?

                No, I rather see the end of patents on drugs, and a vast increase in NIH and NSF funding for drug research. Let the scientists at universities develop new drugs, and let anyone who wants to produce them do so. If private companies want to compete with that, they are free to try.

                The problem is exactly what you propose as a solution - government IN research with its patents and FDA and various subsidies, and you want to solve that problem ... wait for it .... with more government.

                No, the problem is not the government. John Galt's character is a sociopath, not a hero. The problem is a particular government program: patents granted on medicines. Here, on the other hand, is the sort of government progr

                • by roman_mir (125474)

                  No, I rather see the end of patents on drugs,

                  - sure, I absolutely 100% agree with that [slashdot.org]. Not because it's about healthcare, but because government shouldn't be allowed to create and maintain monopolies, to give unfair codified advantages to some people over others, that's the only reason.

                  Let the scientists at universities develop new drugs, and let anyone who wants to produce them do so. If private companies want to compete with that, they are free to try.

                  - fine, as long as the universities are NOT publicly funded doesn't bother me.

                  The rest of your comment is complete nonsense, you are doubling down on a completely broken premise that government should be running any program or any type of business at all. You are of

                  • The rest of your comment is complete nonsense, you are doubling down on a completely broken premise that government should be running any program or any type of business at all

                    Funny how vast amounts of research, including ground-breaking research that ultimately finds its way into consumer products, is done by researchers using grant money from the government.

                    You are of an opinion that the free market is unable to create competition

                    No, I am of the opinion that the R&D costs associated with drug research are high, that the risks are high, and that the combination of risks and costs requires pharmaceutical companies to raise their prices to remain profitable. It is not a matter of competition, it is a matter of up-front costs, the risk that thos

                    • by roman_mir (125474)

                      Funny how vast amounts of research, including ground-breaking research that ultimately finds its way into consumer products, is done by researchers using grant money from the government.

                      - no, it's not funny, it's terrifying to think how much money is stolen from the private sector and diverted to government that even such inefficient and broken system can sometimes produce something that ends up being used later on.

                      It's horrifying to think how much money is wasted, money that could have been used much more productively in the private sector, because in private sector people live by the rule of survival of the fittest ideas.

                      By the way, the long term research is also done by private compani

                    • by roman_mir (125474)

                      Hm, that's funny, because our universities were decent places where people could become educated beyond the minimum vocational training

                      - yeah, thanks to the wealth of the private sector, thanks to the growth of private industries. Thanks to free market capitalism.

                      Universities do not appear out of thin air, they appear when the private sector creates enough wealth and enough complex problems are solved in order to create that wealth, so that productivity of people grows and most people don't have to be farmers and hunters. All this while the manufacturing can benefit and find new efficiencies if the new types of problems are solved and al

            • by houghi (78078)

              Drug research should be publicly funded

              Isn't it already? I mean I see tv shows asking for my money all the time. Radio shows asking for donations.

              Or what happens with that money and what if somebody actually found a cure for cancer? Would they say: "ey, we got this great thing because the people gave us money, so let us open-source it and give it away for free, so anybody can produce it and people can buy it at the lowest price."

              Or would they say "Sod them, this is where people will give their and their ki

            • by chrb (1083577)

              Drug research should be publicly funded, for the benefit of the public and of humanity at large.

              What I would like to see is X-Prize [wikipedia.org] style competitions for open drug research. If $10 million can get us a modern, reusable spaceship, then imagine what that could do to the drug research industry. A lousy $1 million prize got us several years of competitive research into statistical prediction algorithms for something as frivolous as choosing what movies to watch. [wikipedia.org] Imagine what humanity could gain from a $50 million prize for a malaria vaccination or similar.

            • by Yvanhoe (564877)
              While I agree that in an ideal world drug research would be publicly funded, I am proposing an arrangement to make it work with private funds. The question is not whether private or public entity are better suited, it is about how to make an efficient system emerge from just IP laws.

              For movies, I agree that Hollywood accounting is in the realm of the absurd (IIRC Peter Jackson is in court because the producer says LOTR did not turn any profit, so that they don't have to pay him extras) but that doesn't ch
          • by twmcneil (942300)
            Please so not confuse copyrights with patents.
          • by aitikin (909209)

            Posts like yours and (moreso) the posts that follow tell me that I no longer belong reading slashdot. Musicians deserve payment. Fuck off if you feel they do not. Sure the music companies don't deserve the majority of the payment, but that doesn't deter from the fact that, if I write a song, and you love said song, I should be able to reap some reward from it.

            I don't have a problem with copyrights being shorter, although, I'd say 10 years is a hair short, 20-25 is plenty though. If I, personally, ever

            • Re:I despise patents (Score:4, Interesting)

              by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Monday June 25, 2012 @11:07PM (#40448235)

              So if a programmer writes code that you like in your phone, should you pay every time you use it?

              If an ironworker installs an elevator, does everyone who rides it pay a fee, inclduing for 75 years after his death?

              If you take a trip on the subway, does the driver get paid for that trip until he dies, and his children and grandchildren collect royalties for 75 years more?

              If you have a really good juicy apple some day, should the farmer who grew it collect royalties for the rest of his life, and his children for 75 years after?

              Fuck you. Everyone is people too, and enrich your life far more than songs. They also have families and bills to pay. Unlike songwriters, they don't expect to collect royalties for every use, or for their descendants to keep collecting said royalties for 75 years after they die.

              • by aitikin (909209)

                No. A coder is paid up front. An Ironworker is paid up front. A driver gets paid at the end of the trip. A farmer gets paid before I eat it.

                A musician gets paid a loan, and then gets fucked over by the RIAA and then, people like yourself, who are seemingly inherently jealous of the fact that they have creative talent, fuck them over as well. Frankly, good sir or madam, fuck you and your philosophy on people who create things making nothing in the way of money and being ignored the entire way through.

                • by drkstr1 (2072368)
                  More artists would be able to make a living wage if the media monopolies were broken up, loosing thier strangle hold on all the distrobution channels, and the services they once filled a need for be provided by small specialist companies whom work FOR said artists.

                  Piracy helps artists by tanking the business model that exploits them and the consumers.
                  • by aitikin (909209)
                    And these are not points I'm arguing. In fact, I agree with everything you've said. I'm arguing that the artist deserves the right to hold a limited monopoly on their work and control the distribution thereof.
                    • by drkstr1 (2072368)

                      I'm arguing that the artist deserves the right to hold a limited monopoly on their work and control the distribution thereof.

                      And your arguments are weak, to be frank.

                      I'll pick through the ones from your previous posts

                      Musicians deserve payment. Fuck off if you feel they do not.

                      That's the first "point" you said, and it's not even an argument. You just insulted people who might disagree with you.

                      Sure the music companies don't deserve the majority of the payment, but that doesn't deter from the fact that, if I write a song, and you love said song, I should be able to reap some reward from it.

                      That does not justify having government grant you the privilege (not "right") to a monopoly or control of what is essentially vibrations in the air or just an idea.

                      "Able to" - you don't need a monopoly to go up to people and ask for a reward. If they really like your song, they would give you a reward voluntarily without some government backed copyright. You see this with people who go out to support the bands at concerts and buying merchandise even though they may not have paid for the song.

                      "Some reward" also does not say it's up to government to help you collect that reward. See, it's up to YOU to set up a business model to secure payment. It's one thing if people abuse your system once or twice, but people today are finding ways around your (outdated) system repeatedly. This is no longer an issue with the people - it's a problem with your system; your business model.

                      The government should not grant you any special privileges (not rights) just so you can keep a bad model running.

                      I don't know. I'm starting to think that, when it comes to IP law, Slashdot is almost as bad as the creationists when it comes to evolution.

                      That again is not an argument like your "fuck you" line. It's just an insult.

                      No. A coder is paid up front. An Ironworker is paid up front. A driver gets paid at the end of the trip. A farmer gets paid before I eat it.

                      A musician gets paid a loan

                      As said by others, that isn't always the case. In the old days, people went with the patronage system, and artists were paid for the piecework. I'll say it again that in concerts, you usually do have to pay up front, or you can't get in.

                      people like yourself, who are seemingly inherently jealous of the fact that they have creative talent, fuck them over as well.

                      Yet another insult. First they're like creationists, now they're jealous?

                      Frankly, good sir or madam, fuck you and your philosophy on people who create things making nothing in the way of money and being ignored the entire way through.

                      Ignoring the swearing (I'll be ignoring a few more times before the end of my post, but I do hope you realize that insults don't make for good arguments), as said before: it's up to YOU to make sure people pay you for the things you make. If people can ignore you the entire way, the problem lies on YOUR inability to form a proper business model, not government's. This does not justify government granting you a monopoly.

                      respect that there are people who hold a separate opinion from yourself and deserve to be able to express themselves without having to worry about the fact that the people around them hate what they have to say.

                      Considering how you're throwing the swearing and insults out, I'd say the you're doing more hating than the people you argue with.

                      No one deserves payment for anything they do. You're a coder? Code for free. You're IT in a major corporation? Do it for free. You're a mechanic? Fix my car for free. You don't like it, too bad, you're arguing for it.

                      As said by the one you responded to, that's not his argument. I would say you're the one not reading people's comments

                      But for the sake of argument... indeed NOBODY deserves payment. What everybody can do is TRY to get payment, and it's up to the individual to try, not the government. Coders, mechanics, etc. found ways to secure their payments. If anything, for coders and mechanics, government often place LIMITS on what payment they can secure (as a mechanic, you might be subject to safety regulations, and implementing those regulations cost money)

                      Artists should be no different. They should not get special treatment (aka copyright)

                      If not, feel free to ignore my comments, but if you respond, at least read what I'm saying unlike the majority of responses on this topic.

                      I for one have been reading your comments, and I'll remind you I have read plenty of instances of swearing and insults.

                      The vast majority of people are trying to do something they enjoy doing and get paid for it,

                      I disagree. I think the vast majority of people are doing whatever that pays the bills, even if it's something they don't like. I think many people wish they were involved in the adult film industry, or the... "get drunk and/or high while playing video games all day" industry, but aren't ;p (if there's a job for the latter, please let me know ;p)

                      I think for a vast majority of people, what they "enjoy doing" is a hobby

                      Finding a way to making people pay for what you enjoy doing is something everybody TRIES to do. There's no guarantee they'll do it. And they do not get government granted "rights" (actually privileges) to do it.

                      If you ask me, than I think that fact that musicians make money these days is a shit ton better than living your life as a well respected individual who can't afford to even pay for more than a modest funeral.

                      Most people can only pay for a "modest" funeral. Nobody guarantees you will be able to pay for ANY funeral, no matter what job you do, including being an artist. It's up to you the individual to make money to pay for a funeral. Government doesn't have to give you a monopoly.

                      Oh, the fact Mozart could afford a funeral means he was making money, so he's not much worse off than many artists today. See, most artists today don't get to be super stars that make it to the MTV and top the charts. Just like athletes (not everyone makes it to a big league and make money off product endorsements, etc). Just like coders (not everybody is the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs). Just like everyone else.

                      Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with trying to become rich. The thing is everybody's pretty much on their own - nobody should get special privileges from government (I know I'm repeating myself, but that's the underlying point against yours: you think artists "deserve" this, I say they don't, as nobody should get special treatment)

                      Not that I give a rats ass about mod points, but there was a time when someone who voiced a decent dissenting opinion with decent arguments would at least be modded interesting. Now all that happens is someone who does that gets flamed or modded flamebait or troll.

                      That still happens: http://apple.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2937679&cid=40444131 [slashdot.org]

                      I think getting negatively modded has a lot about how you say things instead of just what you say. Your tone of post has been constantly antagonistic.

                      Verification word is "reaped", which is appropriate, as what I'm trying to say about the mods you get is you reap what you sow

                      I couldn't have said it better (no really, I couldn't, I suck at dem' words), so I will just "steal" your words instead.

                • by roman_mir (125474)

                  No. A coder is paid up front.

                  - says who?

                  By the way, this:

                  Musicians deserve payment.

                  - says who?

                  What does it mean they 'deserve payment'? Does it mean that government should have authorisation to threaten violence to people who do not pay the musician if they listen to the product or redistribute it?

                  The gov't must NEVER be allowed to meddle in business, including setting up such scams as copyrights, patents and even limited liability corporations. But gov't also must not be allowed to dictate to individuals how they can do business, gov't must not be allowed t

            • Musicians deserve payment

              Did some magical entity tell you that that is a fact?

              I'm starting to think that, when it comes to IP law, Slashdot is almost as bad as the creationists when it comes to evolution.

              I don't believe most people are debating the specifics of "IP" law, but that they're giving their opinions about it. Therefore, it has nothing to do with being factually correct.

              • by aitikin (909209)

                Musicians deserve payment

                Did some magical entity tell you that that is a fact?

                Okay. Fuck that. No one deserves payment for anything they do. You're a coder? Code for free. You're IT in a major corporation? Do it for free. You're a mechanic? Fix my car for free. You don't like it, too bad, you're arguing for it.

                You want my honest to flying spaghetti monster opinion? If not, feel free to ignore my comments, but if you respond, at least read what I'm saying unlike the majority of responses on this topic. The vast majority of people are trying to do something they enjoy doing

                • You don't like it, too bad, you're arguing for it.

                  No, that was a straw man argument you came up with. I just want to know what magical entity decided that these people "should" be paid. Who decided that? How do you decide if someone "should" do something? I implied nothing about copyright being right or wrong there.

                  So, according to you, having an opinion that is based on nothing or incomplete assumptions is valid?

                  I was implying that it's a subjective matter. "I don't like copyright." is an opinion.

                  I bet, if I were to search this site alone, I could find posts from you arguing that people are idiots for that very thing! The hypocrisy here is unimaginable.

                  Wait... you theorize that such comments exist (and I don't even know what you were talking about there), offer no evidence that they do, and then call me a hyp

        • Re:I despise patents (Score:5, Informative)

          by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:54PM (#40444209)

          he idea that someone can write a song and retire and the grandkids can probably retire at birth too is disgusting. Whereas I write a program and have a job. Did K&R retire from writing C? No, it just gave them the reputation to get further work. That's all anyone should get.

          I agree. For example, I recently went to an Elton John concert here in Costa Rica. Sir Elton is what, 60-odd now? We had a great time and he played his all time hits. I went home and looked at his concert schedule. The man is working in Vegas every weeknight, and flies internationally on his private jet on the weekends. What this means is he is working his ASS off. Therefore he well deserves all the fabulous riches that he has.

          Now look at some of those "one hit wonders" from the same time period that go around complaining and suing people at the drop of a hat. Yeah, fuck em. They don't deserve any more than they got. If they didn't manage their money and decided they could retire at 20, well, they are reaping the rewards life gives such people.

          • Now look at some of those "one hit wonders" from the same time period that go around complaining and suing people at the drop of a hat.

            To be fair, they're probably doing that because it's the only income they have. Remember, not all of those "one hit wonders" stopped recording after their hit; they kept on going, kept trying for another hit but only struck paydirt that one time. Now, royalties on that one hit are their main source of income and they'll do whatever they can to protect it, just as you wo
            • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Monday June 25, 2012 @05:21PM (#40444619)

              To be fair ... are you serious? Should we be fair to serial killers or politicians who know no other line of work?

              • Yes. Of course. The fact that you don't approve of them, or what they've done is no reason not to be fair to them. If it were, you'd probably find yourself on the wrong side of that sooner than you'd like. And, the fact that your post is currently at +3 says a lot about the attitudes of some of the moderators, none of it good.
                • I'm not sure he was saying that we shouldn't be fair, I think what he was saying is that it's NOT fair for someone who obviously sucks at his job to still get paid for it.

                  If they are unable to make money writing new music, maybe they should get a different job? I'm a programmer. If I wrote one program for my company and then never could get anything else to compile, they wouldn't think it was "fair" to keep paying me anyway.

                  So, I think he agrees. Let's be fair. Let's let EVERYONE be paid for what th

                  • Exactly. Thank you.

                  • If they are unable to make money writing new music, maybe they should get a different job?

                    Writing a hit song isn't easy, because it's hard (if not impossible) to know what people are going to want to listen to, except in the most general way. (Young people are more likely to buy some sort of rock than they are to buy a waltz, or a polka.) Some people have a nack for it, but not many. And, there's no way to know if you've gotten it right except to have it recorded and put it on the market. And, I thin
                    • Then either it's pure dumb luck and they need to get a day job, or it's a skill, and they can keep doing it.

                      Neither justifies life + 75 years of living off royalties.

        • The problem is - how do you do it? How do you change the copyright/IP rights?

          The problem is clearly political - the media magnates that reap the benefits of the current regulation have enough power to bury any politician that might try to cut their profits. Who is going to pick a fight with them?

    • by neonKow (1239288)

      The question is that will they then proceed to get their pants sued off because they have no teeth in the form of patents and lawyers. Not saying it's fair, but the reality of the patent system in the US right now is that it is a business weapon that can be used to pressure companies to license patents they don't need, or to devalue a stock, or a number of other things.

      Yes, if everyone played nice, we probably wouldn't need very many patent lawyers at all, but as things are,companies do need to protect them

      • Say what? Are you saying we need patents to protect companies from other companies who sue them for patent infringement?

        • by Xenx (2211586)

          Say what? Are you saying we need patents to protect companies from other companies who sue them for patent infringement?

          As a society, we use the same strategy with nukes... I don't see a reason to be surprised by the logic of using patents the same way.

          • But patents are a legal creation and can be easily destroyed, unlike nukes.

            As for foreign patents and foreign companies suing US companies in their home countries for patent infringement, not much can be done about that, other than US legislation forbidding those companies doing business in the US, or something similar. But the likelihood of the US abolishing patents is pretty unlikely, so I won't worry about that yet.

        • by neonKow (1239288)

          Yes....this is a known thing that big companies do. Google and Microsoft both spend a ton keeping up a patent portfolio and a team of lawyers, not only to push people around if they need to, but also as a deterrent to being sued. If you follow the news, you'll see something like, Samsung sues Google for violation on 52 patents, and google countersues for infringement on 41 of its own patents.

          There's even Intellectual Ventures, which offers their protection as a service. They don't make any products; they ju

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      Sounds to me like you're only reading Slashdot's patent stories.

      Many (if not most) patents are indeed practically useless, because they cover specific areas of practically uncontested fields, and will never be challenged, so they serve only to document a technology that may or may not ever be needed in the future. How many companies really care about the arrangement of lenses in a particular theatrical spotlight? Less than a dozen, and they all have their own preferred designs that the company's brand is ba

      • So you are claiming that a patent which no one ever violates is a tool for innovation?

        I say the patent holder could have better invested that money in other ways. Patent lawyers are overhead.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          Yes, in that the actual invention is documented and publicly available for future inventors to build on, archived using the best methods available to ensure that the knowledge is never lost.

          Throughout history, vast amounts of research have been gained and lost as novel inventions failed to succeed in the market, or as the inventing culture or company was destroyed by invaders or competitors. The only traces we now have of such inventions are the non-functioning relics found in attics and archaeological site

    • by trout007 (975317)

      All of the supposed benefits of patents and copyrights are provided in a free market by being the first to market. People do place a premium on innovation. Look at fashion. I couldn't tell the difference between a $20 pocketbook and a $500 one. But there are people who care about these differences that manage to keep the companies that make the $500 ones in business.

      Also notice there is very little variability in patent lengths depending on how innovative a patent is. The free market allows such things. If

      • Complete deregulation of the pharmaceutical industry would be nuts. You just have to look at the shit they get away with now, with strong regulation in place - it makes the plot of "The Fugitive", where a pharmaceutical company frames a doctor for murder because he's on the brink of discovering their new wonder-drug is killing people, seem pretty plausible. There's a reason they are strongly regulated in the first place ; it used to be the laissez faire environment you propose. Removing this regulatory stru

    • by chrb (1083577)

      Patents are the first refuge of the unskilled.

      What I find interesting is that "business people" (by which I mean those who are concerned with money rather than engineering) are mostly obsessed with patents. Often the first question asked after an investment pitch is "do you have a patent for this?" And if the answer is negative - then no investment. It is as if they can't understand the potential of the technology itself, they can't see how it could change people's lives, they need instead to have a simple, concrete unit by which to evaluate and differ

      • No, you don't understand business. The business of business is to pragmatically make money in the current environment. Screw trying to be idealistic and change the environment -- that's for fat cats who donate millions and take Cabinet positions. Most business people have learned the hard way that they do what it takes with the system as it is, and that means patents. Has nothing to do with whether they like patents or abhor them. They have to deal with patents or take up some other line of work.

        Busine

  • by thomasdz (178114) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:16PM (#40443643)

    After a few years of these patent wars, all the Googles, Apples, Microsofts, Samsungs, etc have big war chests that they can win some battles and lose some battles. unfortunately, battles will kill the smaller companies and keep the existing big companies in place.
    Status quo all the way baby...it's a new world.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nail, head hit. It means that someone who has something truly innovative either faces the choice of being bought out by a big company for pennies on the dollar of what they are worth, versus being forced into bankruptcy.

      And people wonder why zero R&D is done in the US these days...

    • Status quo all the way baby...it's a new world.

      That's a definition of 'new' of which I was previously unaware. We already have big business, the status quo, the stagnation of our technology and engineering industries, the lack of people entering college who can pass the entrance exams to take science and technology courses... everything happening right now seems centered around depriving the middle class of any ability to exist, let alone move into wealth.

      Whether it's Google, Intel, Apple, Microsoft... or big pharma, or big oil, or whomever... the agen

      • by Loughla (2531696) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:45PM (#40444077)

        We're moving in to milk it dry, wait for the infrastructure to rot out, and then move on like locusts to another country we can develop, exploit, and then impoverish.

        It's called shock economics - was popular in the 80's and 90's on the international scene (I think they re-branded it and call it austerity now). It is a theory based on breaking unions, abolishing the middle class, privatizing everything in the interests of global companies, and creating two distinct classes of folks - rich and poor. Many of it's proponents and architects came from the University of Chicago. . . . And it seems that they've turned their sights on our country in the last ten years.

        There's a book out called the Shock Doctrine - it's about the IMF's and US's involvement in South America, Europe and the Middle East, and our policy of shocking an economy back to health. It's older at this point, but it's main ideas are still relevant, and startlingly similar to what we have going on in places like Greece, and the early stages of what's happening here in the US. Privatize (for a profit for my buddies), because private industry does it soooo much better. What's that? Health care - NOPE. Living wage? NOPE. Suck on that po' folks. But I digress. It's a good book, and is just the start of the rabbit hole.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The book is full of errors and unsubstantiated claims. Please do see Norberg's rebuttals of central claims of the book.

          • Pardon me if I assume that a "Briefing Paper [cato.org]" by a right-wing think-tank might also be biased. Both of them can cherry-pick bits of Milton Friedman to support one point of view or the other.

            I find this paper to also be full of spin ; e.g.

            More damaging for Klein’s case, Thatcher
            was not implementing unpopular reforms. On
            the contrary, surveys during the strike showed
            that the public systematically opposed the
            strikers, and that opposition grew during the
            strike.

            It doesn't cite who performed the surveys, what bias *they* may have had, etc. Never mind that we are talking about a government here, of a party that has recently been shown to be deeply in bed with the popular press, who as I recall, worked very hard to bias public opinio

    • Except that, if I have a BS patent, I'm going to throw it against all of these guys with, say, a $5000 settlement price. That shakedown should work against most significant companies since just involving a lawyer to respond in any way will cost more. The big companies have already asked for, and failed to get, patent reform that would prevent this. I would have thought that there would be enough entrepreneurs out there to apply this business model to have the big guys looking for real patent reform (eg e
      • by Xenx (2211586)
        Most big companies have lawyers on staff already.. no extra cost out of pocket.
    • by oxdas (2447598) on Monday June 25, 2012 @06:28PM (#40445429)

      What is most interesting to me about this is that patents were originally created to encourage companies to share their designs instead of hording trade secrets. In the current climate, however, many companies are more inclined to keep their products closed source rather than risk having someone sue them for patent violation. Perversely, a highly litigious patent climate encourages the exact behavior that patents were intended to remedy.

  • It depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:17PM (#40443647)

    If you can spend $20M on litigation and it gives you a monopoly over a key feature in a market worth even a few billion, it may well be worth it.

    Whether it's worth it to *society* is a different question, one that has to do with when and to what extent patents actually do their job of promoting innovation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ColdCat (2586245)

      Maybe but personally I haven't in mind even one patented feature which gives a company a monopoly sufficient to kill competition. Today's patents is made to fight between company of the same size.

      It's used by big company to kill small once.

      It's completely ignored by big company because they could handle years of procedures.

      It's used by dying company to try to win maximum money before completely collapsing.

  • by EliSowash (2532508) <eli AT sowash DOT net> on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:17PM (#40443663)
    A little part of me wonders if the lawsuits are as much a strategic business plan to foil the competition. Y'know, like throwing around some bad press will dissuade investors, and a court ordered delay for a product's entrance to market in a particular region will cost the opponent so much in revenue, and allow the plaintiff time to get a foothold in the marketplace. Sort of 'gaming' the legal system to get a competitive edge, without so much concern for the outcome of the suit.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      A little part of me wonders if the lawsuits are as much a strategic business plan to foil the competition. Y'know, like throwing around some bad press will dissuade investors, and a court ordered delay for a product's entrance to market in a particular region will cost the opponent so much in revenue, and allow the plaintiff time to get a foothold in the marketplace. Sort of 'gaming' the legal system to get a competitive edge, without so much concern for the outcome of the suit.

      Well, that's basically what TFA said. Due to the nature of Samsung being a vertically integrated business, whereas Apple is basically a design firm, they're both motivated to fight this battle, since Samsung stands to encroach upon Apple's market share, and Apple can't afford to lose any of the "uniqueness" attributed to their designs.
      Of course, since Samsung makes Apple's hardware, they've both collaborated on Apple products, and Samsung now stands a chance of using their expertise to steal some market sha

    • by slew (2918)

      I agree with this sentiment. Legal wranglings seem to be mostly attempts to put potholes into the path of the competition to slow them down.

      Unfortunatly, it's a bit like game theory going out of control. You have all these patents and a multi-party prisoner's dillema. If everyone agreed to not to assert patent infringment suits, everyone could do better, but why not be the one that defects and gains a temporary upper hand. If you study a multi-party iterated prisoner's dillemma, the perennial question i

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_In_Motion#Patent_litigation

      On May 1, 2006, RIM was sued by Visto for infringement of four patents.[47] Though the patents were widely considered invalid and in the same veins as the NTP patents – with a judgement going against Visto in the U.K.[48][49] – RIM settled the lawsuit in the United States on July 16, 2009, with RIM agreeing to pay Visto US$267.5M plus other undisclosed terms.[50]

      Purely about the money.

  • I'm bored with it all. This kind of shit just makes people want to stay out of business all together. It's no wonder some people resort to leaving the system and smoking themselves to a stupor. Simply. Just. Done.
    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:22PM (#40443719) Homepage Journal

      My personal belief is *any* public policy that favors huge corporations over small business is a job killer. It's not the huge corporations that are creating the jobs and it never will be again unless the U.S. goes to 3rd world status and people start taking jobs for $1 an hour.

      That means patents. It means tax law and abatement. That been big money lobbying.

      You can list all day.

  • Of course they are worth it.
    You have to factor in the huge advantage of patents in transforming a virtual landscape, where the idea of a startup can sink an established competitor in a matter of months, in a real market where the advantage of being big makes it very hard for real competition to emerge.
    Add the secondary advantage of dealing with imaginary property, which let corrupt managers of big corporations create empty shells/patent troll companies that can transfer money with no need for justification

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The point of all this is not just a given case, but the force of software patent law altogether. Most of these patents are ridiculous and should not have been granted. In my opinion, software "patents" should be abolished altogether. But that is not the point either. The point of all this litigiousness is to use patent law to create giant software monopolies as walled gardens allowing the monopolies to get away with charging exorbitant fees for DEPLOYING applications. At some point, the war between

  • Are they worth it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:29PM (#40443831)

    A patent is a contract between the inventor and the government. The exchange is:

    1. The government grants an right to the inventor to prevent others from practicing the invention for some period of time, currently 20 years.

    2. The inventor publishes in the patent the details of the invention which would give others the ability to practice the invention.

    So it's worth it if having the details of the invention published outweighs the costs associated with the restriction on practicing the invention.

    Your mileage will vary depending on the nature of the invention. The less obvious it is the more likely you will come out ahead.

    For the vast majority of the inventions that Samsung and Apple are quibbling about the answer is pretty simple to see. It's not worth it.

    These patents should have never issued.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You are correct in that this is the theory behind why the US has patents.

      You are incorrect in the practice. Anything truly worthy of becoming a patent most often is instead treated as a closely guarded business secret; both for international competition among whack-a-mole importers and the hope that they can keep the secret longer than 20 years.

      I am convinced that we would all be better off with /copyright/ having a term much more like patents (if you haven't made your money back within 10 years you'll hav

      • >Anything truly worthy of becoming a patent most often is instead treated as a closely guarded business secret

        Eventually people will reverse engineer almost anything, especially if the economic value is there. Without patents a new problem arises - a lot of things will be sold with licenses and contractual agreements constructed to prevent reverse engineering. Some things, like some industrial catalysts are already sold in this fashion. Not having disclosure of a technology is harmful.

        My analysis of the

  • If we're talking about consumers and society in general, than the short answer is "NO"... The long answer is also "NO," but prefaced with a long string of expletives.

    Now, if we're asking whether or not patent trolling is worth the effort for those who engage in it... I don't know, but I assume they wouldn't be involved in these patent wars of attrition if there was no benefit to be found.


    Hey, there's a thought: Somebody go patent the process of suing people over patents, that should fix it...
  • Would it be more economic for both companies to live and let live, or is there value to be captured in legal finger pointing?

    I would be willing to wager that the majority of patent litigation stems from a combination of arrogance and machismo. The exception would be patent trolls, which are leeches on the skin of innovation.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:43PM (#40444043) Journal

    It's instead about momentum and branding. Winning these cases is PR that says, we are the leaders in smartphone technology, we are the innovators.

    It has nothing to do with PR. It has everything to do with frightening your competitors and locking new entrants out of the marketplace. These IPO litigations are expensive. On a slightly deeper level they are about trying to establish revenue streams based around licensing agreements.

  • 90 percent of the time it is better for the people to just not fight it. The problem is, once you do that:

    1) Other people notice and start taking advantage of it.

    2) The courts notice and say you gave up your patent rights.

    3) 10% of the time it IS relevant - and people get screwed over for millions of dollars. Significant examples are the 'intermittent windshield wiper' story. (wikipedia it) or the MANY many Thomas Edison patent cases - most of which make Thomas Edison look like a second place man

  • Patents only have value with corporate entities. The value lies in the "legal leveraging" over the competition. Period.

    For the average person a patent is mostly worthless. If someone with more money can survive you in a legal battle, they'll drag you through the courts till you give up, or are broke.

    Hopefully this is changing.

  • A patent is a license to enrich ones lawyer. - kps

    Once you read Don's writings on this topic - there isn't much left to be said.

    See:
    http://www.google.com/cse?cx=003767467503737118174%3Aw_hild2gcro&q=patents&sa=Search+Guru's+Lair&cof=FORID%3A0#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=patents&gsc.page=1 [google.com]

  • It's nothing to do with PR, that's for sure. It's never good PR. It's about competitors trying to get one over on the opposition. Sometimes by stopping them shipping, and sometimes by making them pay through the nose for it. Trying to make it more complicated than that is a waste of time.

  • Prisoner's Dilemma (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Patch86 (1465427) on Monday June 25, 2012 @05:35PM (#40444821)

    In many ways, patent wars resemble a version of the Prisoner's Dilemma.

    If both companies sue each other for patent infringement, they both lose. If neither company sued the other, they would have a pleasant status quo. But if just one company sued the other, they would win big.

    Although both players know that they'd be better off if they didn't play, it is literally a logical certainty that they have to sue each other.

    I'm not sure how "make a cross licensing agreement and move on" fits into a classic Prisoner's Dilemma, but why let real life complications get in the way of a good philosophy metaphor.

    • by reebmmm (939463)

      It's not quite a prisoner's dilemma because the choice by one actor is typically countered by the other. In the PD, the dilemma is whether to act first, i.e., whether to rat out the other, because if you act first, then the punishment is small relative to the other person acting first. Both parties are good if neither acts.

      In this case, if one patent holder sues another the other just counter sues.

      If you wanted to make a PD case, it would be for whether industry participants seek patents at all. If no on

  • 5, 6, 7, 8, I know how to litigate."
    I think that also shows what I feel the maturity level of these "patent wars" are.

  • I invented Rounded Corner Rectangles by Think(ing) Different(ly)
  • Winning these cases is PR that says, we are the leaders in smartphone technology, we are the innovators.

    No, it's PR that says, we are fucking douchebags, we hate competition. Apple has a few parties that eat that up, but that's about it. That crowd tends to take most anything Apple does as good news, though.

  • Its just passed down to the consumers anyway, so why should they care?

  • Its less about making money in the short term, and more about eliminating competition, and sending a message to future would be competitors than short term profits.

    So if apple beats samsung or vice versa, its a warning to smaller companies not to try and compete with the big boys, otherwise lawyers will just flat out steal everything they have, legally. Its a prelude to extortion via reputation. Patent wars have devolved to the level of street gangs.
  • A fight between huge players like Apple and Samsung serves to scare any new players from entering the market... These big companies know how to deal with other big companies, what they are most scared of is new, innovative and nimble upstarts.

  • Let P be the probability that either Apple or Samsung "wins" the patent war. In this case "winning" would be any market outcome that, due to the litigation, is substantially better than what would otherwise have been achieved through more conventional means such as advertising, features and price competition. The probability of losing then is 1 - P. Let cost of litigation be C and amount of winnings be W. Now, what will be the expected "winnings" for a party involved in the patent war? It would be as follow

  • For the lawyers.

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