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Patent Troll Sues X-Plane 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the uniloc-has-a-lot-of-x-planing-to-do dept.
symbolset writes "X-plane is a cross-platform flight simulator app, notably the only serious one that supports Mac OSX and Linux. It was the first to include NASA data in their terrain modelling. It's now under threat by an NPE (Non-Practicing Entity) called Uniloc. Uniloc is suing for things X-Plane has done for decades. X-plane cannot afford to defend this suit, so if somebody doesn't step up and defend them then we lose X-plane forever. Quoting: 'I have spoken to a lawyer about this, and I am told that it will cost me about $1,500,000 (one and a half million dollars) to defend this suit. He also told me that it should take about two to three years to defend. This is more money than I have made selling Android Apps in the first place.'"
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Patent Troll Sues X-Plane

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  • Errrm what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    Where did "selling Android Apps" enter the picture? Turns out the patent has nothing to do with "things X-Plane has done for decades". Couldn't the editors have checked that?
    • Re:Errrm what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by icebike (68054) * on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:05PM (#41339885)

      Where did "selling Android Apps" enter the picture? Turns out the patent has nothing to do with "things X-Plane has done for decades". Couldn't the editors have checked that?

      It enters into the picture because x-Plain is using a standard Android API developed by Google and shipped with Android to check if the user bought the package before allowing it to be used.

      This pretty much means Google is going to go after the Troll since the patents cited have plenty of prior art that the patent office overlooked.

      The editors could have checked for this, but quite frankly you could have clicked a link an RTFA.

      • Re:Errrm what? (Score:5, Informative)

        by idontgno (624372) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:15PM (#41340035) Journal

        The summary is, as usually, fairly terribad.

        The patent (filed 2001, granted 2005) is for remote license checking. This, you may surmise, is ancient technology. It's ubiquitous technology. It's an egregiously bad candidate for a patent (in my non-lawyer opinion). But, there it is.

        The "decades" part has nothing explicit to do with X-Plane, or with the Android license checking API. It has entirely to do with the fact that remote license checking has been done for decades, not that X-Plane has been doing it for decades.

        Way to misinterpret TFA when constructing the summary, Original Submitter. (Assuming Editor didn't botch the summary and make it look like they're quoting the Submitter's pristine words.)

        I love this place. It makes "finding the real story" into a bizarre and almost-entertaining "Where's Waldo" game.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It would be nice if Google actually went after this troll; however, this troll obviously knows they're probability of surviving against Google is 0 so they went after these 8 developers. Heck, even Oracle didn't survive against Google.

        The trick shot there is these 8 developers convincing a judge that the patent is invalid because of "prior art" if you will (see this link [x-plane.com] from Laminar Research); or if it's considered valid that the plaintiff should go after Google instead. If the judge agrees the case is ov

      • by arth1 (260657)

        This pretty much means Google is going to go after the Troll since the patents cited have plenty of prior art that the patent office overlooked.

        I would think that Apollo's NetLS from 1987 would be the prime example here - even its name means Network Licensing System.
        Unlike the later FlexLM, it did have a global server that pointed to the correct local server, so it's highly relevant here.

        IBM: you guys bought NetLS, and now call it IBM LUM, so why not take off your gloves and go after this fscker with a pre-emptive suit?

      • by MECC (8478)

        Turns out the patent has nothing to do with "things X-Plane has done for decades".

        Kind of and kind of not. The patent the troll is claiming has been infringed on is for things others have done for decades - remote license checking:

        Section 107 of the patent, which they claim I violated, contains: “107. code for verifying the license data stored on the licensing medium by communicating with a registration authority having verification data.”

        The article goes on to point out a few others that have been doing this for decades. HP Openview has been doing it for as long as it has existed. I'm sure scores of others not listed have as well. Honestly, it's been a common practice for decades to be certain.

        This is just another example of how software patenting is bad for the industry. Trolls can get pa

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Seems like the simple solution is to just not use that API. I never understood the point of it anyway - if I'm going to pirate software using my phone, wouldn't I just intercept the API call? The OS is open source.

  • by drakaan (688386) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:02PM (#41339835) Homepage Journal

    ...but (FTFA)

    ...Note: I have enough money to defend thus suit all the way through trial without it being a severe financial hardship, so please do not give if it is a hardship for you. But, if you would like to make a contribution to help with the cause because you want to help stop people like this, then it will surely be appreciated!...

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Plus, I bet Google steps in. Its a Google API he is using that is the subject of the troll.

      • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:48PM (#41340543)

        Plus, I bet Google steps in. Its a Google API he is using that is the subject of the troll.

        Actually, I'm surprised it took so long for a response. Laminar Research was sued back in July 22, 2012 [pcworld.com].

        In fact, this is part of the lawsuit that Uniloc filed against Mojang (Minecraft) as well, plus EA and many other big names. And the one where the founder says he's not a "patent troll" [theverge.com].

        I'd be surprised if Google didn't step in - it's Google's technology they're all using in the end. Just like how Apple stepped in when a bunch of iOS developers (and later, Android devs) got sued over in-app purchases.

        • by Plekto (1018050)

          As noted above, the technology seems to have been bought from another company by IBM and dates back to the 80s. I remember using exactly this sort of system in 1999 at a firm that I worked for. Each computer would contact the central server for verification before being authorized to get online with the stock exchange computers. Every time the program was run, in fact. Not some obscure patent rotting in a file cabinet, but dozens of actual commercial level products back in the 90s.

          In fact, a search of "D

  • Flightgear (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure the developers of Flightgear would be pleased to hear their efforts aren't serious.

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:06PM (#41339893)
    One day I'll come on slashdot and read "Patent Troll had his legs broken by unknown assailants, was tarred and then dumped in a bin of shredded legal papers. :
  • by Picass0 (147474) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:10PM (#41339953) Homepage Journal

    * Laminar Research is being sued specifically for the Android version
    * Uniloc is suing Laminar Research because X-Plane phones home to validate it's license
    * X-Plane is using a system for license validation provided by Google. Nearly everyone else in the Android market is using this same code, so Uniloc is not going to stop here.

    I would say Laminar Research needs to get EFF on the phone but I don't know if they would help defend a commercial product.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:12PM (#41339983)

      Sounds like he should get Google on the phone.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Of course they would. They have in the past. Take the lawsuits against ReplayTV for example. Unfortunatly, they were too little too late, but the EFF was there.
    • I would say Laminar Research needs to get EFF on the phone but I don't know if they would help defend a commercial product.

      The EFF does defend commercial products sometimes, but yes, EFF defending DRM? I certainly hope not. If the EFF did ever start defending things like DRM, they'd lose half their membership.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:11PM (#41339967)

    You need to move to a free country. Innovation is dead in this country. If you don't have several million dollars, you're nobody. You aren't entitled to legal protection, you're just a consumer waiting to be extorted. I'm not saying this to be sarcastic or political; I mean it. Move your development overseas, contribute under an alias, use Tor, whatever it takes. The United States is not a place for innovators or creators to be right now. It is, however, a great place for lawyers and thieves.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by some1001 (2489796)
      Just another alarmist that doesn't know what the heck is he talking about.

      True, the patent system for software is completely hosed up. But to say, "Innovation is dead in this country," is just you talking out of your ass.

      There are plenty of companies in many other facets of science and engineering that are doing just fine by staying in the states (not to mention having some of the best schools in the world plus lots of very good ones). As an example, why do international companies in the petroleum ind
      • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:40PM (#41340445)

        True, the patent system for software is completely hosed up. But to say, "Innovation is dead in this country," is just you talking out of your ass.

        There are plenty of companies in many other facets of science and engineering that are doing just fine by staying in the states (not to mention having some of the best schools in the world plus lots of very good ones). As an example, why do international companies in the petroleum industry routinely do business in the states? Oh wait, is it because innovation is dead? No, it's because we have some of the very best technology and great minds to advise companies all over the world.

        Or, it's just software's turn this century.

        Patent trolls have been around practically forever. The 19th century had patent lawsuits flying around over motorized vehicles, probably just as much as we're seeing between Apple, Microsoft, Google/Motorola, Samsung, etc. And probably just as stupid.

        I believe it's a sure sign of innovation when it happens - when a technology is booming, people start mining for gold. When the high-technology sector settles down, so will the lawsuits. And then some OTHER field will experience a rise in patent lawsuits, and they too will wonder about reforming the system, blah blah blah.

        History repeating itself over and over again. I tihnk some of the greatest inventors (Edison?) were also some of the most prolific lawsuit-filers.

        • Whether it's historical or not, the business decision remains the same: The United States is no longer a safe place to innovate. It doesn't reward innovation, it punishes it.
      • by Hatta (162192) on Friday September 14, 2012 @06:03PM (#41340733) Journal

        As an example, why do international companies in the petroleum industry routinely do business in the states?

        Because we have a corrupt government that gives favors to powerful industries.

      • by Plekto (1018050)

        But hardly anything these days runs or works without some sort of installed or embedded software. Even your coffee maker has a CPU in it.

        Catch-22.

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:19PM (#41342121)

        No, it's because we have some of the very best technology and great minds to advise companies all over the world.

        I couldn't find a single piece of electronics gear in my house with the words "Made in the USA" stamped on the bottom. And as far as the "great minds to advise[sic] companies", since our educational standards are falling like a rock, and China has more honor students than we have students, let me go out on a limb and suggest that the advice they're offering is business, not engineering. Deny it all you want, but the reality is right there for anyone to see. I'm not an "alarmist" -- I can hop a plane and fly to Japan where they have state of the art cell phones that make ours look like antiques. The iPhone 5 launch there will be met with a yawn, just like every other release. I can hop another plane to Britain and walk into the dingiest apartment in the suburbs and buy internet access 10x faster than what they have here, and in some markets at a lower place. I can hop another plane to pretty much any other country on the planet and get medication at a fraction of the price it's sold for here.

        In virtually every market, in every scientific and engineering discipline, I do not need to look very hard to find people not just competing with America, but beating the snot out of it. The only thing we're good at is business -- we're litigators, we're service providers, we're the world's police force. But do not fucking sit there and tell me that we are innovators. Innovation died a long time ago in this country, and that's a fact you need to square with, instead of living off the fumes of the burned out husk of the American Dream.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          I used to buy servers from a US company, but in the end they were just Chinese servers made from generic parts with a US sticker on the front and a bit of extra price markup. Having to ship a machine full of Chinese parts to the USA then waiting for them to get parts from China to fix it was the final straw since I'm just about in the same time zone as China.
          I still get stuff made by a US owned company (SuperMicro), but it never touches your shores.
          Anyway, IMHO Silicon Valley (and a lot of technological st
      • Even with the messed up patent system for software, the software industry is doing just fine. Software patents are a thorn in the side, but not enough to stop anything.
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:12PM (#41339985)
    Isn't it cheaper, not to mention more socially responsible, to simply bomb that company's headquarters?
    • ...more socially responsible, to simply bomb that company's headquarters

      Do you have any idea how much CO2 that bomb will release!??!?!??

      • TNT is oxygen deficient, so it tends to release CO, but no CO2. Even with a worst-case high explosive a couple 500 pound bombs aren't going to release more than a couple hundred pounds of CO2. Lawyers, on the other hand, release quite a lot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Isn't it cheaper, not to mention more socially responsible, to simply bomb that company's headquarters?

      Way to make it onto a no fly list Mr. Kyosuke!

  • Telling the troll to spend all the money on defending onself seems to be the best bet to win [kitware.com].
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Oooh these guys are the genuine parasitic troll, too:

      "Well, at Unilocs’ website, at the time of this writing, lives the text: “In the device recognition space, for example, we believe that we have uncovered a billion dollar market And it fits our straightforward development model. Look at many ideas. Pick an outstanding one. Patent it. Commercialize it. Reap the rewards.”"

  • FlightGear (Score:4, Interesting)

    by leandrod (17766) <l&dutras,org> on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:18PM (#41340089) Homepage Journal

    What makes X Plane more serious than Flight Gear, let alone the only serious one?

    • Re:FlightGear (Score:4, Informative)

      by Peter Bortas (130) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:30PM (#41340283)

      X-Plane does aerodynamic simulations on that no other civilian solution can touch.

    • Re:FlightGear (Score:5, Informative)

      by X0563511 (793323) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:35PM (#41340349) Homepage Journal

      FAA certification? [x-plane.com]

      • by leandrod (17766)

        FAA certification? [x-plane.com]

        It seems at least one FAA certified product is a set including Flight Gear, so I would not use that to say X Plane is the only serious flight simulator to run on Apple Mac OS X & GNU/Linux.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          This [slashdot.org] makes it seem like Flightgear is only being used for the visuals. As I know nothing about Flightgear... is this true? I think it's cool either way then, but if it's true, it's a shame Flightgear didn't go the way X-Plane did for the simulation itself. (if you are unaware, only the airfoil's characteristics are "programmed" - the rest is supposed to be fully simulated. Other sims, like MS, they just plug in some numbers and define how the craft behaves, statically (as far as my understanding goes))

          This [youtube.com]

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        These kinds of certifications are more a matter of spending a lot of money than having any particular capability (though the capabilities usually are a pre-requisite).

        It is kind of like saying that Diginotar is more secure than CACert because they passed all the audits needed to be included as a root on Firefox. The catch is that CACert doesn't just issue wildcard intermediate certs to whoever asks for them.

        I work on regulated software. Certifications are more about paperwork than quality. In fact, I've

  • Never heard of X-Plane before, but I just bought the Android version. I wuld never have heard aboutt his otherwise. Patent Troll, meet Streisand effect !

    • by marsu_k (701360)
      I hate people who reply with "this", but, this. I was considering going LOIC (but obviously wouldn't do so, as I'm not anon at the moment :) So I'll support X-Plane, even though I'll probably never use it, after reading the trolls blog. Holy fuck. Those people need to die.
    • by Altrag (195300)

      They would love to meet the Streisand effect -- Laminar would then have more money to hand over should they end up having to settle or lose the case.

      And if Laminar follows it through to court and wins, the troll isn't going to feel any additional pain just because Laminar made a few extra sales in the meantime.

      The only way this would cause the troll a problem is if:
      - Laminar currently doesn't have the money to defend, AND
      - They make enough additional sales that they DO have enough money to defend.

      $1.5mill i

  • Seriously, come and live in a free country, like somewhere in the European Union.
    • Just what I was thinking. X-Plane is produced by Laminar Research [wikipedia.org] who are based in Columbia, South Carolina, USA. If they moved here (England) they would not have a language problem and could continue to develop and sell X-Plane, but probably no sales to the USA. They would then tell their political representatives why they moved and point out how this was costing the USA economy. If enough companies did this then maybe the message might get through the thick skulls of the politicians.

      • by jbssm (961115)

        Not only that, but people here, hardly go bankrupt to fight a stupid claim in the tribunal.

        That's the serious problem in USA. Even if you are right and the law is on your side, you still have abandon your work because you simply don't have enough money to fight a big corporation in the courts. Talk about "liberty and justice for all".

  • by waimate (147056) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:25PM (#41340191) Homepage

    I got hit by a patent troll a few years back. I used the same technique that I'd used when MSFT once approached us and said they thought we might be infringing on their IP and could we prove that we're not. And again when another large company said we needed to change our logo because it looked like we had dotted a capital 'i', and they owned that. Just ignore them. We got one additional letter from the patent troll, and that was the last ever heard. As someone else has said, these people are looking for deep pools of money.

    In the first instance, ignore. If they demand that you must do something by some certain date, ignore. When they send the follow-up, ignore. If they come back a third time, then send a really badly written letter produced on a manual typewriter or written in crayon with a hand-written envelope telling them what they're claiming isn't applicable, but provide no details. Make yourself look small, impoverished and hard work.

    • by waimate (147056)

      Sorry - correction: they're not looking for "deep" pools of money otherwise they'd be going after GOOG and MSFT as well. They're looking for modest pools of money.

      • by Grond (15515)

        Actually, Uniloc has sued Microsoft, Sony, Adobe, Electronic Arts, [arstechnica.com] and a host of other companies large and small. Some of those suits (such as those against Mojang and EA) were based on the same patent as the suit against Laminar Research. It seems to me that the defendants should try to work out a shared defense, since it's in all of their interests to see the patent invalidated.

        I'll also note that it's interesting that Google has apparently not tried to intervene in the suit. Compare that to the Lodsys

  • Wow, this troll thinks they own ALL implementations of "Software Activation" of any kind.. What a bunch of nimrods! Even their own website is super focused on litigation! http://www.uniloc.com/index.php/intellectual-property/ [uniloc.com]

  • I can see it now

    "Okay we need to find prior art for to break this patent?? Okay task the interns from SanFran unit Baker 12 to run nodes 6854623D - 6854902E to find prior art"

    then they come to the courthouse with A LITERAL SEMI-TRUCK LOAD of prior art (and when did WINDOWS start doing GA checks??)

  • by yourlord (473099) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:33PM (#41340331) Homepage

    "X-plane is a cross-platform flight simulator app, notably the only serious one that supports Mac OSX and Linux."

    And here I've been using http://flightgear.org/ [flightgear.org] all this time. I thought I was using a serious, free, GPL open-source flight simulator that runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.. I'm glad this slashdot post came up to tell me I was wrong.

    Dude charges for X-plane.. When you decide to charge for software you accept all the financial responsibility for defending it against litigation. Welcome to it.

    • by rat7307 (218353)
      Flightgear is a game compared to x-plane, especially in the flight dynamics department.
  • Austin Meyer is a total asshole. As a paying customer, he treated me like a pirate the one time I asked a support question on his web site. I hope he loses a lot of money.
    • As a paying customer, he treated me like a pirate the one time I asked a support question on his web site.

      How about a link to that thread, or a couple emails to back that up. I'm not disagreeing with you, but if you are looking for support for that statement from this crowd how about some proof of assholishness? I don't like some people, but I have also gotten off on the wrong foot with people too and have learned not to judge quickly. I have never met Austin but have had good rapport with the Laminar guys over the years when I have asked questions. I don't think it's been more than once or twice in ten years,

      • Ask him if it's possible to run the game without the disc in the drive and see how he reacts. When I did, he went on tirade about how kids these days want everything for free.
      • by pbjones (315127)

        I have dealt with Austin for many years, he can be a total ass-hole. There doesn't need to be links etc. the x-plane forums, X-Plane.org, will have many references to stupid changes made to the product just because Austin wanted it that way, not because it was better. Silly programming errors that persisted for years, suggestions that were rejected, usually with abusive emails, that were later implemented. Nope, Austin can be a total crap pile, and nothing will change my opinion, that's why I stopped using

  • IANAL but here was the story from earlier today Easy Fix For Software Patents Found In US Patent Act [slashdot.org]. I think will go and email the x-plane guy about it as it could be that "Stanford law professor Mark Lemley" may be willing to do some pro-bono work. Or easily ask the EFF and google to chip in. Can't quite see how this company is getting away with this.
  • Jesus Christ, I cannot believe this. This is really horrible news. Not only is X-Plane the best flight sim out there and I'm flying it for more than 8 years now, it also always used to be the best example for me that a smart guy can make a living nowadays simply by selling software. (They started as a one man company and I think by now are about 4 or something; it's hard to tell because there are so many dedicated hobbyists helping out for free. Not even Microsoft could harm Austin, and now that.

    I hope the

  • Another mobile app dev gets the shaft from a patent troll. Well, I bought the app for my iPad and have had it on my Mac for years, so I think I've donated to the legal defense fund. I do have to say that Google should be addressing this as I can't see how they are not responsible if it's their API presumably violating the patent. Not sure how the devs using the API could be held accountable, but that's why I have a friend who is a patent attorney.
  • He should try contacting the Electronic Frontiers Foundation to see if they could help him.
  • Now we see why things are so so screwed up when it comes to IP as the lawyers are not going to kill of their cash cow.

    That is just ludicrous.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well, he has a very expensive lawyer.

      10000 dollars per line of text. he already did the work, couldn't he just show up at the court and cite prior art?

  • Quote:

    "(Note: I have enough money to defend thus suit all the way through trial without it being a severe financial hardship, so please do not give if it is a hardship for you. But, if you would like to make a contribution to help with the cause because you want to help stop people like this, then it will surely be appreciated!)"

  • Of fark.com. He recently had to defend against one of these patent trolls. His advice on a TED talk was (if I recall): fight the infringement, not the patent. His response with a lawyer was actually pretty cheap, and asked the plaintiff to circle the infringement and to disclose various things about the shell company. The other side doesn't want battle in court, either. Drew settled for nothing.
  • ... Then litigation may not be the best answer. Damages could only be 100% of your profits at most (and they never, ever are in utility patents - think more like 2%), so if it costs $1.5M to successfully defend the suit but only $50k or less if you lose, then losing may be a better option. And if you actually negotiate a license, rather than going through the suit, it may be much less: Uniloc may just want licensees so that they can point to those license agreements in their suit with Microsoft. It may be w
  • The business model may suck royally - making a demo that last's 5 minutes, and forcing you to download tons of GB of data even if you are just trying the game - seriously [though the IDEA of download it all, if you like it, just register and you have the full version is a good one] - but the sim, from what I've heard and seen, is incredible - I would hate for this to fuck all that up.
    • If you believe in privacy, and believe you have "nothing to hide" at the same time, you're a goddammed idiot
      ----
      If you believe you can hide in this online world and that the "powers that be" aren't capable of reading off everything you download and that you are really hiding anything, then you are a complete fool.

       

      • Says the one implying hings not even stated - or implied - by the sig, derailing this discussion course. Oh the irony.
  • it is just an android issue, so kill x-plane for android, or find another way to stop people stealing (not having lawfully obtained) software and the issue goes away.

  • Stress is caused by the difference between what is happening and what one thinks should be happening. In this case, the main stress is caused by spending money and time on a case where you may be ruled against (though I do not see how). Along the way there will be ups and downs as things slowly move forward. There needs to me no stress what so ever.
    Here are a couple of ways to look at this situation;
    1. I am spending hard earned money to prove that the lawsuit is invalid and I will come out victorious. I may

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