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Patent Markings May Spell Trouble For Activision 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the almost-rocket-docket dept.
eldavojohn writes "If you pick up your copy of Guitar Hero and read the literature, you'll notice it says 'patent pending' and cites a number of patents. A group alleges no such patent pends nor are some of the patents applicable. If a judge finds Activision guilty of misleading the public in this manner, they could become liable for up to $500 per product sold under false patent marking. The patents in question seem to be legitimately Guitar Hero-oriented, and little is to be found about the mysterious group. The final piece of the puzzle puts the filing in Texas Northern District Court, which might be close enough to Texas Eastern District Court to write this off as a new kind of 'false patent marking troll' targeting big fish with deep coffers."
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Patent Markings May Spell Trouble For Activision

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  • by itsdapead (734413) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:06AM (#31243344)

    So what's the big difference between a "false patent marking troll" and EFF?

    Well, the obvious difference is that most of the EFF actions in the article you linked to involve them defending people who have actually received DCMA takedowns, C&Ds or similar nastygrams from the people dubiously claiming copyright infringement.

    By contrast, if Activision have actually been threatening people over their (allegedly) false patent claims then TFA neglects to mention it.

  • by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:11AM (#31243386) Homepage

    Neither did this group - they're filing in Northern Texas ;)

  • by camg188 (932324) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:43AM (#31244346)
    It's a money grab, a shakedown. Patent Compliance Group filed a "qui tam" action.
    Qui tam is a writ whereby a private individual who assists a prosecution can receive all or part of any penalty imposed (from wikipedia).

    Does anyone have any info on Patent Compliance Group, Inc.? Even though they are incorporated, I can't find any information about them, like who is on their board and where they are located.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:10AM (#31244666)
    You can adjust your settings to ignore moderation scores so no comments would be "promoted" or "buried". Digg has this setting also (just in case you were confusing the two. You see, digg is the site where comments get "buried", not /.).
  • by s-whs (959229) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:36AM (#31244924)

    This reminds me of the 'Abmanhnungen' in Germany. In both cases it's gaming the system and should be severely punished...

    For many years in Germany attorneys have gamed the system, related to what you are allowed and not allowed to do esp. when selling something. These 'people' have for example scoured ebay ads, and when they found say a missing telephone number or missing note on how to undo the deal for a business seller, they sent such a 'Mahnung'. Not for free obviously, no, with an invoice for payment (for their own time/effort!). Yes, you will have to pay... It gets even worse. Suppose you've got an old magazine with old demo software disk on it and put it on ebay.de (as a German, I don't think you can be touched if not), then you'd better check there are no programs on there that are now forbidden. DVD copying software for example that circumvents the protection scheme is no longer allowed since several years.

    People have been sent a 'Mahnung' for putting a mag with such no longer allowed software on ebay, and had to pay large amounts of money to such 'scammers'. You think you get a few euros, but you have to pay many hundreds. Nice.

    These people are the worst kinds of assholes around just as the guy I mentioned in a previous posting, 'Pieter Lakeman' (who created a foundation supposedly to help clients of the DSB bank with supposedly bad loans, but in reality this foundation just pays his 300 euro/hour salary and there were hardly any bad loans anyway; He then influenced people to take away their money from DSB which led to its collapse. Nice!), and I consider them to be legal scammers.

    See for one notorious guy, who was sentenced to jail for other things, this page (it didn't end well for him and I don't think many people will give a damn, he was really hated as one can see in many forums...): http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%BCnter_Freiherr_von_Gravenreuth [wikipedia.org]

  • Okay, to recap what is actually happening for insane people who have no reading comprehension: No one is going after any patents whatsoever.

    Some extraneous 'patent pending' numbers were printed on software boxes. No one has even slightly indicated that anyone would attempt to 'enforce' said patent-printing mistakes, or that other people wish to use said patents on their software, because the patents do not even relate to software.

    Again: There are no actual patents involved at all. The 'offense' was a box that asserted that various pending patents applied to it, when they clearly do not, and no one is even slightly asserting they do. No one is attempting to enforce any patents, no one is attempting to strike down any patents. The patents mentioned will remain valid (For the things they actually apply to) even if this suit succeeds.

    Apparently, falsely claiming you have a patent pending is a civil liability, as is claiming a pending patent applies to something it doesn't, and groups have arisen to run around suing people for this. This is the story of one of those groups.

  • The pending patents are for hardware, not software. They cannot apply to a box of software people purchase.

    Okay, everyone seems to be very ignorant here, and the article isn't explaining this, so I guess I have to give a damn history lesson:

    The US government requires that you put notification of patent use on things you sell. (Either your own patent, or something you've licensed from someone else.)

    That is fine for issued patents, but what about pending patents? Remember, you can use something for up to a year before filing a patent on it, and you do have some amount of protection when patents are pending.

    Ergo, you should have to put pending patent notifications, so people can look those up, too, and not waste their time building something that's going to be in violation of a patent in two months.

    Well, the problem then arose. You see, actual patents are easy to look up. Patent lawyers could have copies of the entire set, you could go to a law courthouse in state capital, etc.

    Pending patents, OTOH, are real bitch to find. Only the patent office has those. So some enterprising people who couldn't, or didn't bother, to get patents, just went around putting 'patent pending' on everything, resulting in other people unable to figure out what, exactly, was patented. Or they could keep resubmitted a rejected patent, and it remain 'pending'.

    Hence, at some point, falsely claiming to have patents pending, or actually having one pending, but unrelated to what you put it on, was made criminal and you can be fined for it.

    Those laws don't really make any sense anymore, but are still there.

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