Patent Troll Smacked Down

by on March 8, 2007 · 10 comments

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit involving a bogus software patent I wrote up last year:

Judge Douglas Woodlock of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston denied a complaint by Skyline Software Systems that the Google Earth mapping software of Google’s Keyhole infringed Skyline patents.

The judge also denied motions from both parties on whether the patents in question were valid, but left the possibility for either party to reassert these issues if they do so before April 20. He canceled a planned trial date set for June.

In his ruling, Woodlock held that Google’s system does not attempt to render views of Earth’s terrain, a key claim of the patent held by Skyline, which is based in Chantilly, Va., and offers its own “fly through” three-dimensional software.

Hat tip: Google Copyright Blog, which doesn’t appear to be officially affiliated with Google, but has some good commentary.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Meanwhile, Verizon has prevailed over Vonage in a lawsuit over VoIP patents that’s actually important.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Meanwhile, Verizon has prevailed over Vonage in a lawsuit over VoIP patents that’s actually important.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Mike at Techdirt wrote:
    ———————————————–
    “If you want a good example of the backwardness of the patent system these days, just check out the lawsuit where Verizon claims Vonage infringed on its patents. It’s pretty well accepted that Vonage really was very innovative in bringing VoIP to market. It was one of the first “telephone replacement” VoIP offerings out there, and did a great job creating that marketplace with a huge marketing effort. However, after it was successful in finding a market (and competing against traditional telecom players like Verizon), Verizon suddenly decided that it held a patent on VoIP offerings and sued Vonage. Remember, that Verizon has done pretty much everything possible to keep people from getting services like Vonage. It had its own offering in the market, but was much later to market than Vonage and noticeably more expensive. It should come as no surprise that the offering didn’t get much attention. So, what do you do when you fail in the market? You sue for patent infringement. Not only that, but you then claim that Vonage owes you $4.93 per customer per month — which seems just a bit excessive.

    This is also a good example to disprove the commonly stated claims of patent system defenders. They usually claim that these patents are needed to protect smaller players from being stomped out of business by a big company with more money and connections who can simply “steal” their idea and dominate the market. In this case, it was Vonage, the smaller player, that innovated in the market while the bigger company was slow to act. Verizon did later copy Vonage’s offering, but was unable to succeed in the marketplace, despite having a lot more money, much better brand recognition, and many more telephony customers already in place. That’s the exact opposite of what the patent defenders would have you believe would happen. Vonage continued to innovate, while Verizon was unable to compete. And then, rather than competing in the marketplace, the big company used patents to try to hamstring Vonage, adding additional fees (and the expense of a pointless patent lawsuit). It’s hard to see how that’s innovative at all.”
    ———————————————–
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070307/16480

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    Mike at Techdirt wrote:
    ———————————————–
    “If you want a good example of the backwardness of the patent system these days, just check out the lawsuit where Verizon claims Vonage infringed on its patents. It’s pretty well accepted that Vonage really was very innovative in bringing VoIP to market. It was one of the first “telephone replacement” VoIP offerings out there, and did a great job creating that marketplace with a huge marketing effort. However, after it was successful in finding a market (and competing against traditional telecom players like Verizon), Verizon suddenly decided that it held a patent on VoIP offerings and sued Vonage. Remember, that Verizon has done pretty much everything possible to keep people from getting services like Vonage. It had its own offering in the market, but was much later to market than Vonage and noticeably more expensive. It should come as no surprise that the offering didn’t get much attention. So, what do you do when you fail in the market? You sue for patent infringement. Not only that, but you then claim that Vonage owes you $4.93 per customer per month — which seems just a bit excessive.

    This is also a good example to disprove the commonly stated claims of patent system defenders. They usually claim that these patents are needed to protect smaller players from being stomped out of business by a big company with more money and connections who can simply “steal” their idea and dominate the market. In this case, it was Vonage, the smaller player, that innovated in the market while the bigger company was slow to act. Verizon did later copy Vonage’s offering, but was unable to succeed in the marketplace, despite having a lot more money, much better brand recognition, and many more telephony customers already in place. That’s the exact opposite of what the patent defenders would have you believe would happen. Vonage continued to innovate, while Verizon was unable to compete. And then, rather than competing in the marketplace, the big company used patents to try to hamstring Vonage, adding additional fees (and the expense of a pointless patent lawsuit). It’s hard to see how that’s innovative at all.”
    ———————————————–
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070307/164802.shtml

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Well, you have to understand Masnick’s business. He doesn’t consult on R&D; strategy, basic research, product development, licensing, venture capital or other aspects of the business relating to patents. He does specialize on “innovation” as he states it, but as far as I see, he does competitive intelligence, branding, PR etc, things that come after a product is invented and to some extent, after it has been commmercialized. Thus, I don’t see what Masnick’s interest in patents is, other than the fact that by downplaying them, he’s trying to get companies to focus on the aspects of innovation his firm works on. Nothing wrong with that, and some of his patent writing is good, but I find him often too extreme.

    Tim, it might have been better for this case to proceed to some extent just so the patent could either be validated or invalidated. THe judge simply found the patent not to apply to Google’s technology.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Well, you have to understand Masnick’s business. He doesn’t consult on R&D strategy, basic research, product development, licensing, venture capital or other aspects of the business relating to patents. He does specialize on “innovation” as he states it, but as far as I see, he does competitive intelligence, branding, PR etc, things that come after a product is invented and to some extent, after it has been commmercialized. Thus, I don’t see what Masnick’s interest in patents is, other than the fact that by downplaying them, he’s trying to get companies to focus on the aspects of innovation his firm works on. Nothing wrong with that, and some of his patent writing is good, but I find him often too extreme.

    Tim, it might have been better for this case to proceed to some extent just so the patent could either be validated or invalidated. THe judge simply found the patent not to apply to Google’s technology.

  • http://googlecopyright.blogspot.com Nick

    Thanks Tim for the shout-out.

  • http://googlecopyright.blogspot.com Nick

    Thanks Tim for the shout-out.

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