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Patent Troll Sues Apple, Dell, HP, 21 Others Over Automation

By - Source: MJ | B 52 comments

It is a plot that we see several times every week.

An old patent gets snapped up by someone who creates a company around it and sues a bunch of easy targets to extract license fees in the hope that their potential victims want to avoid perhaps even higher fees following a court ruling. This here is one remarkable example.

A company called Data Carriers is suing 24 tech companies, including Apple, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, RIM, Nokia, Nintendo, Motorola, LG, Lenovo, HP, Dell and Asus over a patent that is entitled "Proactive presentation of automating features to a computer user." That may sound very general in its nature and is, in fact, a rather complex description of what we find to be common sense today: The patent describes the idea that a an application is able to record a certain usage of an application to provide a feature that would provide an automated execution feature later on. You could consider it a patent that covers all context-sensitive aspects of applications today. Every time a software reacts to user input with the suggestions of some automation feature, this patent could potentially be infringed. A prime example would be Microsoft's ribbon menu bar. Interestingly, Microsoft is not among those being sued at this time.

The patent was originally filed in 1992 by Symantec and was awarded to the company in 1995. For unknown reasons, the patents was acquired by Data Carriers, a Dover, Delaware-based company with no history on March 16, 2012. Four days later, Data Carriers filed 24 patent infringement lawsuits. In the case of Apple, the plaintiff claims that the "iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, iTunes, Macbook, desktops, Safari, iOS, and OS X, and various versions thereof, and www.apple.com" are violating the patent. Sony apparently infringes the patent with products such as "laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets, Playstation, Playstation Store and software loaded onto and used on such devices". HP is affected with its entire client PC product line, including "laptops, desktops, tablets", the suit claims.

It is interesting to note that Data Carriers is not asking the court for an injunction. It simply wants its victims to pay "its damages, costs, expenses, and prejudgment and post-judgment interest".

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    molo9000 , March 26, 2012 4:32 PM
    billybobserPerhaps, with patents like these should have a sell-by date. I mean, if implemented in the 90's then it would be ahead of it's time (to a degree). But at the stage we are, it is obvious and could easily be implemented without thought by a weekend programmer.


    Patents do have a sell by date. That's the whole point of patents. Otherwise they would create indefinite monopolies.
    I think patent duration is 20 years from the day of the first filing in most countries these days. Way too long for some of the bullshit that can be patented these days.
  • 12 Hide
    rantoc , March 26, 2012 4:22 PM
    Hardly surprising with todays so called patent system! It needs a restart to actually encourage advances not use them for bullying the competition or like this.
  • 11 Hide
    drwho1 , March 26, 2012 4:58 PM
    I'm going to issue a formal Patent for the invention of the Wheel.
    I'm certain that someone forgot to patent that one...

    /sarcasm
Other Comments
  • 6 Hide
    jdamon113 , March 26, 2012 4:09 PM
    BS junk through this out
  • 11 Hide
    sykozis , March 26, 2012 4:14 PM
    And here's perfect proof that the system is completely broken.... "Automation" was conceived more than 100 years ago. Software "automation" is used in every industry and started it's usage prior to Symantec ever filing for the patent (think back to the 60's people as "software automation" is one of the things that allows the internet to function). This is a good case for "prior art" as even Windows used "software automation" to a small extent prior to 1992....maybe that's why MS isn't included in this suit? If by some act of pure stupidity these idiots win, expect higher prices on EVERYTHING.
  • 4 Hide
    billybobser , March 26, 2012 4:17 PM
    Perhaps, with patents like these should have a sell-by date. I mean, if implemented in the 90's then it would be ahead of it's time (to a degree). But at the stage we are, it is obvious and could easily be implemented without thought by a weekend programmer.

  • 12 Hide
    rantoc , March 26, 2012 4:22 PM
    Hardly surprising with todays so called patent system! It needs a restart to actually encourage advances not use them for bullying the competition or like this.
  • 3 Hide
    memadmax , March 26, 2012 4:32 PM
    .................................
  • 13 Hide
    molo9000 , March 26, 2012 4:32 PM
    billybobserPerhaps, with patents like these should have a sell-by date. I mean, if implemented in the 90's then it would be ahead of it's time (to a degree). But at the stage we are, it is obvious and could easily be implemented without thought by a weekend programmer.


    Patents do have a sell by date. That's the whole point of patents. Otherwise they would create indefinite monopolies.
    I think patent duration is 20 years from the day of the first filing in most countries these days. Way too long for some of the bullshit that can be patented these days.
  • -2 Hide
    zaznet , March 26, 2012 4:37 PM
    rantocHardly surprising with todays so called patent system! It needs a restart to actually encourage advances not use them for bullying the competition or like this.


    Patents that were issued need a short expire date and the new system needs international agreement. It does need to be restarted and on an even playing field so that products made in one country aren't able to avoid the costs of licenses in another.
  • 8 Hide
    bak0n , March 26, 2012 4:38 PM
    Two groups I'd like to see forfeit their right to life. Trolls and paparazzi.
  • 6 Hide
    chomlee , March 26, 2012 4:49 PM
    It seems what many of the lawyers seem to do in this country is create more work and profit for themselves without every contributing to the quality of life to the rest of the country. Just look at all the lawyers at capital hill and what they are doing.
  • 9 Hide
    Devoteicon , March 26, 2012 4:57 PM
    A broken system produces broken results. It's quite laughable at this point in time.
  • 11 Hide
    drwho1 , March 26, 2012 4:58 PM
    I'm going to issue a formal Patent for the invention of the Wheel.
    I'm certain that someone forgot to patent that one...

    /sarcasm
  • 6 Hide
    in_the_loop , March 26, 2012 5:04 PM
    Everything that has or is dependent on a chip (whether it is hardware or software) shoudn't be patented!
    It would be the best thing that could happen for innovation!
    Only the patent lawyers would be the real losers.



  • 8 Hide
    guruofchem , March 26, 2012 5:20 PM
    The newest get-rich-quick game --- Corporate Ransom by Application of Patent, or CRAP for short.

    Wait - better trademark that one before someone comes after me...
  • 4 Hide
    cchambers , March 26, 2012 5:20 PM
    I wonder what would happen if someone patented the act of suing over a patent violation (patent troll patent).
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , March 26, 2012 5:27 PM
    drwho1I'm going to issue a formal Patent for the invention of the Wheel.I'm certain that someone forgot to patent that one.../sarcasm

    An Aussie beat you to it. :p 
  • -1 Hide
    Benihana , March 26, 2012 5:35 PM
    They're probably not suing Microsoft, 'cause everybody knows Bill Gates goes for your Achilles' Tendon.
  • 5 Hide
    chickenhoagie , March 26, 2012 5:48 PM
    sooo why don't they just sue everyone on earth for living while they're at it? they summed up pretty much every device/software all tech companies offer. Dammnn, Data Carriers must be the grandfather of all technology to be suing over that much. *Laugh*
  • 6 Hide
    ikefu , March 26, 2012 5:57 PM
    Who at the patent office is approving such general "encompasses the whole universe" patents? I'd like to think that the patent office is full of Einsteins waiting to be discovered but this makes it seem more likely that its mostly engineering and scientist rejects who couldn't make it in industry or academia.
  • 4 Hide
    TeraMedia , March 26, 2012 6:23 PM
    @cchambers: IBM already did. That way, they can shut down any patent troll that tries to go after them.

    Anyone else ever use the "Record Macro" feature in MS Excel back in like 1990? I suspect that's why MSFT wasn't named. It isn't just an interpretation of the patent to a set of features. It is the very description given in this article.
  • 1 Hide
    Vorador2 , March 26, 2012 6:50 PM
    Just how much of this bullshit the industry has to suffer until someone steps up and changes patent laws?

    Anyone?
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