U.S. supreme court rules on digital privacy, but the real issue is digital property

When most of the data you collect, create, buy or simply passively generate is stored on someone else’s server, what belongs to you and what belongs to the company storing it? What is your property?

That’s the question that the U.S. supreme court wrestled with in yesterday’s decision limiting police use of mobile phone tracking data. Every time a phone communicates with a cell site – which is pretty much all of the time – that contact is recorded by the mobile carrier.… More

Texan judges and juries can't hold high tech hostage any more

Goodbye to all that.

A particularly pathological cottage industry in east Texas is coming to an end, much to the delight of high tech entrepreneurs, and they have a low tech court case to thank for it. The federal supreme court ruled that patent trolls can’t go shopping for the most easily bamboozled judges and juries, but instead have to file law suits in the home state of the companies they’re trying to shake down.

According to a story in the Hill, the decision came in a case where Kraft – decidedly not a troll – tried to sue an Indiana-based company, TC Heartland, over water flavoring technology in a Delaware-based court…

The ruling will have broad implications for patent lawsuits, which are frequently moved to certain districts that have a track record of being favorable to patent infringement claims.


Patent trolls come in two sizes, FTC says

16 October 2016 by Steve Blum
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Watch out for the little one.

It’s the small patent trolls, the kind cultivated by the predatory bar, that cause the most problems for entrepreneurs and other small businesses. Not problems with million dollar price tags or even vaguely legitimate claims. Just the most problems.

That’s the conclusion of a study by the Federal Trade Commission that looked at what it politely calls “patent assertion entities” (PAEs) and what anyone else – at least anyone who’s actually tried to create something – calls patent trolls.… More

Video tape era comes to an end

23 July 2016 by Steve Blum

Play it while you can.

The last known manufacturer of video cassette recorders is throwing in the towel. According to Nikkei, Funai Electronics will stop making VCRs next month at the one plant, in China, where it still makes them. The units are sold in the U.S. under the Sanyo brand.

In 2015, Funai sold 750,000 VCRs, mostly as VCR/DVD combos. There was actually some growth in that particular product line – it was cited as one of Funai’s strong points in its annual report – but the overall trend is down, as are Funai’s sales overall.… More

Patent troll fight moves to, but not through the senate

John Oliver explains patent trolls and the U.S. senate.

The U.S. senate started working on its own version of an anti-patent troll bill with great optimism last week but, like a similar effort in the house of representatives, it’s bogging down in the Washington legislative swamp.

The objective is to keep shell companies from buying up patents and engaging the services of the predatory bar to launch bogus lawsuits and collection efforts against thousands of small companies, in the hopes that maybe hundreds of them will just write a check to make them go away.… More

Congress and trolls: who's feeding whom?

Trolls and trial lawyers are gaining the upper hand in Washington, as congress once again considers a bill that was originally aimed at stopping abusive demand letters from legal bottom feeders. According to an article in Ars Technica, a house subcommittee watered down provisions that would have created penalties for trolls that keep sending reams of bogus patent infringement letters in the hopes that a few people and businesses will simply pay up, rather than fight

For instance, the bill would only ban demand letters sent in “bad faith,” which will make enforcement actions harder.


Senators enjoy a clubbing from patent trolls

Patent reform legislation is dead in Washington right now, killed by senate majority leader Harry Reid as a favor to trial lawyers, who have given him as much as $4 million in campaign contributions in the past 5 years, and pharmaceutical companies. The senate has backed off from anti-troll measures passed last year by a wide, bipartisan majority in the house.

The heart of the package was a loser-pay provision, which would have given judges the power to make patent trolls pay defence costs when the verdict goes against them.… More

Mom and pop store bashing earns patent trolls a whack from congress

7 December 2013 by Steve Blum
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Which way to the senate?

Patent trolls aren’t on the run yet, but life could get bleaker for them if a bill passed this week by a bipartisan majority – 325 to 91– in the U.S. house of representatives is approved by the senate. Called the Innovation Act, the legislation would make it harder for the predatory bar to weave dubious theories about why stockpiled patents apply to common, everyday products and business practices, and then try to intimidate small businesses into coughing up cash to avoid a court battle.… More