Sony and Activision Get (Patent) Trolled

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Sony and Activision Get (Patent) Trolled

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Digital security company Uniloc has sued Sony, Activision Blizzard, Aspyr and other companies over claims that their DRM infringes upon its 1996 patent for "a system, device and/or method for reducing software piracy."

Uniloc, which offers technology that "provides integrity at the net's edge, evolving beyond simple access protection to provide peerless identification, security, and integrity within a trust environment," was given patent number 5,490,216, entitled "System for Software Registration," in 1996. Specifics of the patent weren't made clear (although they're available for your perusal at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, if you're interested) but now, 14 years later, Uniloc has decided that Sony, Activision and others are drinking its milkshake, and it wants them to pay for it.

Uniloc alleges that the companies named in the suit have "directly and/or indirectly infringed at least one claim of the '216 patent... by, among other things, making, using, offering for sale, selling and/or importing a system, device and/or method for reducing software piracy, reducing casual copying and/or reducing the unauthorized use of software." Sony's SecuROM, Activision's product activation and registration system, Aspyr's product registration system and others are named as specific examples of infringement which have caused "reparable and irreparable damage" to Uniloc.

I'm not a lawyer so I don't want to start passing out the "patent troll" signs just yet, but I think it's worth mentioning that the California-based Uniloc filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which has been notorious for some years as an extremely "plaintiff-friendly" court in patent disputes. This lawsuit is also apparently similar to one Uniloc filed in 2003 against Microsoft that resulted in a record-setting $388 million judgment in its favor. That verdict was overturned by a judge in September 2009, although Uniloc vowed to appeal that decision.

A full copy of Uniloc's lawsuit is available in PDF format from the Entertainment Consumers Association. Allegations that Uniloc's mission statement was actually constructed by the website "WTF is My Social Media Strategy?" remain under investigation.

via: GamePolitics

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I am amused by entire lawsuit.

Go Uniloc!

More people trying to bring down the big companies for stuff they supposedly made years ago but have done nothing sense? When will it stop.

Good. Sue these idiots who ever introduced this idiotic DRM that doesn't benefit anyone at all. I hope they win and the respective publishers stop with this nonsense completly.

Note: Looking into the future and patenting an idea that will become incredibly popular with large, rich companies is a great way to earn money through lawsuits.

So those companies have been doing this for 14 years, yet only now its decided: "Hey, those companies are making money, lets grab some lol!"

I call hypocricy and hopefully a loss.

If this lawsuit means these companies will have to stop producing DRM, then go Uniloc!

It's such a shame that they couldn't sue Ubisoft as well (I believe) due to their being French.

Don't patents only last 14 years from date of grant?

Edit: Some last 20 years. Not sure if this is a design patent or not, but they are certainly cutting it close to the wire if it IS a design patent.

BTW, Andy, go ahead and use "patent troll". No one with a serious claim waits 14 years to sue over practices quite common for every one of those 14 years.

Seems like desperation to me. A last shot effort at big money before they disappear completely.

SaintWaldo:
Don't patents only last 13 years from date of grant?

I can't confirm that myself but even if that's the case these blasted trollz would be suing for the use of their supposed "idea" during the 13 years they held the patent.

Cases like these really piss me off, people file for broad vague patents on technology; NEVER do a damned thing with it and then decide "Hey, lets sue these people for comming up with an idea we failed to ever follow through on since we have this piece of paper saying it's ours." Sadly, because of where they filed the law suite they're probably going to win. Almost makes me want to become a lawyer just so I can one day become a judge and laugh these fuckwads out of court when they show up.

How many times can you appeal something? You win, it gets appealed you lose so you appeal the appeal who will then get appealed forcing you to re appeal. Why not just cut out the middle man and trade the millions back and forth?

On one hand, it sounds like a silly lawsuit to get money from big companies. On the other hand, a small part of me would like to see this succeed if it means the practice of DRM getting royally destroyed (which of course isn't going to happen, but we can always hope).

This would be AWESOME if it happened.

KeyMaster45:

SaintWaldo:
Don't patents only last 13 years from date of grant?

I can't confirm that myself but even if that's the case these blasted trollz would be suing for the use of their supposed "idea" during the 13 years they held the patent.

Cases like these really piss me off, people file for broad vague patents on technology; NEVER do a damned thing with it and then decide "Hey, lets sue these people for comming up with an idea we failed to ever follow through on since we have this piece of paper saying it's ours." Sadly, because of where they filed the law suite they're probably going to win. Almost makes me want to become a lawyer just so I can one day become a judge and laugh these fuckwads out of court when they show up.

I edited my original post with some wikinsight.

You are correct that they have a high chance of winning before the traditionally tech-unsavvy judges of East Texas, but take heart in the fact that most patent judgments from that district are turned over quite frequently. That's why it was important for Andy to note the venue in the article.

squid5580:
How many times can you appeal something? You win, it gets appealed you lose so you appeal the appeal who will then get appealed forcing you to re appeal. Why not just cut out the middle man and trade the millions back and forth?

All appeals stop at the Supreme Court. They either hear your case or let the lower rulings stand. Game over.

I don't know who to support.

They all sound like dicks here.

Hummm....DRM is bad.....sooo.....i go with people that want to take DRM away?

I don't even know what to say. There are so many good and bad things that could come of this that I am rendered speechless...

AC10:
This would be AWESOME if it happened.

Yes, but think of the ramifications of all those companies losing all that money. Think how much longer Diablo 3 will take when they lose all that money!

ionveau:
Hummm....DRM is bad.....sooo.....i go with people that want to take DRM away?

Even if this does go through, which is most likely won't, they will just make a new DRM.

The_root_of_all_evil:
I am amused by entire lawsuit.

Go Uniloc!

Yes.

At first i thought of another "Edge"-y lawsuit, but this is very different. Uniloc patented a whole system, where as the former(Edge, i forgot the guy's name) trademarked a common word in the English language.

So i'm with Uniloc. Because this amuses me.

Someone is trying to stretch a fair bit far hre, aint they? Well...I suppose anyone will try

KoreyGM:

ionveau:
Hummm....DRM is bad.....sooo.....i go with people that want to take DRM away?

Even if this does go through, which is most likely won't, they will just make a new DRM.

Exactly, they'll just invent new ways to screw the customer. The status quo won't be messed with for more than a couple of weeks.

The idea that I can be presented with a problem, set out to logically solve it with the tools at hand, and wind up with a program that could not be legally used because someone else followed the same logical steps some years ago and filed for a patent on it is horrifying.

John Carmack on software patents

Seriously I despise DRM as much as the next guy but the US really needs to retool their laws on patents. I am waiting for the patent on controlling a system with a some sort of control to come out of the woodwork if someone owned that they could theoretically sue darn near every manufacturer in the us. If you do not use my codebase, my graphics, or my name then sure go ahead and make whatever it is you came up with an idea to make.

This is almost as stupid as apples suits because they had a patent on a touch interactivity and a object oriented graphics system.

SaintWaldo:
Don't patents only last 14 years from date of grant?

Edit: Some last 20 years. Not sure if this is a design patent or not, but they are certainly cutting it close to the wire if it IS a design patent.

BTW, Andy, go ahead and use "patent troll". No one with a serious claim waits 14 years to sue over practices quite common for every one of those 14 years.

It depends on the patent and what it is for. Some like medical patents last less then others like say this one. It also depends on the country that it is registered in.

Really its a stupid case that they have nearly no grounds on. Its a very vague patent that may or may not be actively used. I hope they loose the case and get a nice hefty lawers bill from everybody they are sueing. Duno about the US but in Canada patents actually have to be for specif things, not like any software that prevents or reduces piracy. I didnt read the actual patent but it did seem vague in the article and since the microsoft lawsuit got overturned I dont think this one will fare any better. Also for some reason I highly doubt a lawsuit this stupid would stand up in any other country.

KoreyGM:

ionveau:
Hummm....DRM is bad.....sooo.....i go with people that want to take DRM away?

Even if this does go through, which is most likely won't, they will just make a new DRM.

Or companies will pay Uniloc from now on for the rights to make DRM or DRM-like technology. I find it improbable that these companies will drop it altogether, if pissing off their customers wasn't incentive enough...

As much as I want to root for Uniloc, something tells me that Sonya and Acti-blindness are the lesser of two evils. Go Sony, I guess.

Dr. wonderful:

Darn it all, you beat me to it. Good on ya, mate.

MaxPowers666:
I didnt read the actual patent but it did seem vague in the article and since the microsoft lawsuit got overturned I dont think this one will fare any better. Also for some reason I highly doubt a lawsuit this stupid would stand up in any other country.

I read the patent. It was granted in Australia in 1992 and the grant of US patent in 1996 was likely part of a whole set of international patent reconciliations around then. From what I can tell, even Kagi and Ambrosia Software style DRM could be targeted. I highly suspect the size of their markets had a HUGE bearing on their lack of inclusion.

Im sorry but as soon as i read "Milkshake" this got stuck in my head >.<

And can i ask, i know im going to sound like a retarded Goose, but what exactly is DRM? =S I've heard it over and over again and still get confused (yes...i could try Google, but lately i think i should just rather ask my cat, i would get alot more sense from her)

I take it it's a bad thing, considering no one likes it XD

On the one hand, it's nice they're suing over DRM which is a bane on gamers. On the other, this is clearly a group of filthy money grubbers who are only suing because companies now have lots of money.

Kind of a weird situation.

Still, it's more profitable than trying to sue an octopus.

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/1/2/

SaintWaldo:

MaxPowers666:
I didnt read the actual patent but it did seem vague in the article and since the microsoft lawsuit got overturned I dont think this one will fare any better. Also for some reason I highly doubt a lawsuit this stupid would stand up in any other country.

I read the patent. It was granted in Australia in 1992 and the grant of US patent in 1996 was likely part of a whole set of international patent reconciliations around then. From what I can tell, even Kagi and Ambrosia Software style DRM could be targeted. I highly suspect the size of their markets had a HUGE bearing on their lack of inclusion.

Ah in that case then I think the best defence they have is the anti-monopoly or consumer laws. The patent basically prevents them from competing in the market and protecting their own products. They could also probably do something on the grounds that the patent hasnt been enforced in 14 years so its nolonger valid.

Cases like these really piss me off, people file for broad vague patents on technology; NEVER do a damned thing with it and then decide "Hey, lets sue these people for comming up with an idea we failed to ever follow through on since we have this piece of paper saying it's ours."

While this particular instance seems relatively one-sided... I bet it really pisses people off when they have a good/great/useful idea, present said idea to a large company, get laughed out of the room or ignored entirely, and eventually find said big company using their idea some years later to turn an enormous profit.

It's really not so cut and dry wherever money is involved. People on both sides have every reason to manipulate the truth.

I agree with Carmac. Broad conceptual software patents are nonsensical - unless someone is blatantly ripping off a detailed program or feature "word for word", anyways.

Yes, it might be good if the DRM is dropped, but these people are a) doing it for the wrong reasons, and b) annoying morons.

To be honest I'm a big defender of patent laws, especially internationally.

When it comes to things like this, it can be touchy since your dealing with what amounts to a patent on an idea which the developer didn't have the resources to follow through on when conceived. A lot of inventors come up with ideas, patent them, and then try and sell them to companies to develop. This can be a touchy subject if someone shops around a patented idea, a company rejects them (not wanting to pay) and then steals the idea, it can get paticularly nasty if people then start copying the ideas of the thief.

Big businesses also have major legal departments, and can make things very difficult for idea men and inventors to obtain reparations. We've seen stuff like this going on for decades involving all kinds of things from airplanes, to cars. Heck, I believe there was one not too terribly long ago about someone who patented the idea of an MMO including an idea of how it would work, shopped it around, never sold it, and then was going after a ton of companies. Not sure how it worked out, but I thought they had a legitimate point at the time.

At any rate, we're only hearing part of the story here. We have no idea if these guys really did nothing for 14 years, or if they have been fighting on the fringes of this trying to get friendly acknowlegement before going legal. They could have been being strung along. Also, while prolific we have no idea what kind of knowlege these guys had, and/or it might have only been recently where they were able to examine the systems in enough detail to determine that their ideas were being stolen.

Given that they were involved in a case they won in 2003, and apparently still fighting it until 2009 where an initial victory was overturned (not surprising given who they were up against and how much money was involved), I'm not sure if that counts as "doing nothing" exactly since they seem to have been at this for six years. There is a practical limit in how many legal actions someone can be involved in due to time, effort, and expense. I have no idea how big "Uniloc" actualy is but I'm guessing not very.

We'll see how it turns out. I'm not supporting them because of the fact that they are after big businesses, or even the fact that this could kill DRM, but simply because if they are patent holders and really did come up with this kind of a system 14 years ago and had it patented they deserve credit for their idea.

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