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LG Wants PlayStation 3 Banned From US Market 165

FlorianMueller writes "On Friday LG filed a complaint against Sony with the US International Trade Commission, claiming the PlayStation 3 infringes four Blu-ray Disc patents and demanding a permanent ban of the PS3 (and possibly other products) from the US market. LG, which boasts that it owns 90,000 patents worldwide, appears to take this step in retaliation for a previous Sony complaint about various LG smartphones, which the ITC is already investigating. This is reminiscent of Motorola's infringement action against the Xbox 360 that is part of its wider dispute with Microsoft. In other words, you touch my smartphones and I bomb your game consoles."
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LG Wants PlayStation 3 Banned From US Market

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  • Wait, am I mistaken in believing that Sony invented the Blu-Ray protocol? Is LG trying to cash in at this late stage?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sony was one of the board members of the Blu-Ray Disc Association who established the standard. However, so was LG.

    • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @09:55AM (#35136886) Homepage Journal

      9 companies were in on the formation of Blu-ray, though Sony is widely creditted as being the primary creators of the technology. []

      • Which means LG going after Sony in this manner could probably result in a retaliatory action that would call for the halt of sale for all blu ray devices that LG makes because of some obscure BR patent owned by Sony. This doesn't seem like a good idea at all.
        • by ghjm ( 8918 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @11:05AM (#35137922) Homepage

          The idea is that both companies hold so many patents that starting an actual war just results in the annihilation of both parties. But then Sony launched a missile. What's LG supposed to do? Not respond?

          • The only winning move is not to play.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by natehoy ( 1608657 )

          This is already a retaliatory action. Even the summary mentions this.

          Han Sony shot first.

        • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @11:16AM (#35138052) Homepage

          On the contrary! This is an AWESOME thing! I've got to stock up on popcorn and other snacks while I watch this unfold into what I hope is so much patent litigation that the government steps in and kills software patents entirely. ("If you two can't play together then you can't play at all! No more software patents for ANYONE!")

        • Which means LG going after Sony in this manner could probably result in a retaliatory action that would call for the halt of sale for all blu ray devices that LG makes because of some obscure BR patent owned by Sony. This doesn't seem like a good idea at all.

          On the contrary, Blu Ray player shipments are a small part of LG's business while they are a major part of Sony's.

          Looking forward to Sony retreating with tail between its legs on this one. Couldn't happen to a nicer company.

          • by f8l_0e ( 775982 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @12:12PM (#35138798)
            This reminds me of the Aliens vs Predator posters. "No matter who wins, we lose."
          • On the contrary, Blu Ray player shipments are a small part of LG's business while they are a major part of Sony's.

            Since when? Sony makes $88 billion in revenue a year and it's highly doubtful that a major part of that is Blu-Ray players or Blu-Ray royalties considering how many divisions make up Sony. If you care to show otherwise, please cite their financials.

            Looking forward to Sony retreating with tail between its legs on this one. Couldn't happen to a nicer company.

            Don't hold your breath. You'll suffocate waiting.

        • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @12:27PM (#35139030) Journal

          Actually I'd say its a smart move. After all who has more to lose LG, who gets but a tiny fraction of their money from BD players and last I heard their big markets were smart phones and LCD TVs? Or Sony, who has a pretty big chunk of their business tied to the PS3 and who is finally making them at a profit and still needs to catch up to the X360 in terms of sales? If this goes through, even for only a month or two it'll hurt Sony bad with a capital B, whereas banning all LG BD players won't even make a dent in their quarterly reports.

          But this to me points out something that is wrong with our current patent system, in that instead of protecting the little guy patents have become WMDs to be trotted out by the megacorps. The worst part about it isn't when the megacorps fight each other like King Kong VS Godzilla, it is how they use them to pretty much insure the field stays amongst themselves. I mean can you even imagine trying to come out with a new graphics card design with all the patents the big three have? Or trying to come up with a new X86 like Cyrix and Winchip did back in the day? If you had less than 100 billion the lawyers would crush you like a bug!

          That is why I think the USPTO needs to be a hell of a lot more stingy when it comes to handing out patents, and software patents needs to DIAF. Throughout our history we have always had to "stand on the shoulders of giants" to reach new heights, but with the rise of the multinational corporation those shoulders now have patents up the ying yang. That is why I think once they get up to speed the next big breakthroughs will probably come from India and China, simply because there you'll be able to try new ideas and build upon existing tech without an army of lawyers and a mountain of cash. I wouldn't be surprised if the Chinese just hack in a subset of X86 into those new Dragon CPUs they are working on, giving them the best of ARM and X86 and giving us the finger. After all they can do it, whereas unless you are AMD or Intel you simply can't even try here, the lawyers will bury you.

          • by Plekto ( 1018050 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @01:54PM (#35140262)

            And you wonder why more and more companies are fleeing to China where (U.S. - remember we created the entire world "patent system" to cover our asses after we blatantly stole everything we could in the 1700s and 1800s) patents simply don't exist.

            Right now it can take you literally a year to deal with the red tape and legal issues involved in a new product because of some connector or screen or other small part that the company that owns the patent is being an asshat about. Meanwhile, the same piece of metal and plastic can be designed and manufactured in weeks overseas.

            The #1 thing that patents need to have changed about them is simple - that ANYONE can use them. Ability to utilize existing patents should always include a mandatory option to pay fees to use the technology. Sitting on a patent (especially IP) being a cock-block is counter to everything the system stands for, since the original idea was that while you had exclusive rights to a product, you also would license it for a fee to your competitors for use in non-competing products. ie - they could sell something similar using your part but likely at a worse price than you could build it for. This kept unrelated larger projects like designing new jet engines from grinding to a halt because of the company that designs a tiny part inside it being jerks and simply saying no.

            Now, it's a tool to pressure competition out of any and all markets. Nobody licenses anything anymore, and nobody builds anything for you either, even if you ask.(unless you're another mega-corp) Most companies won't be even bothered to sell you their product or idea if you offer to pay them. It's always "we own this idea, so go away or we'll sue you."

            None of this exists in China. You simply buy an item, reverse engineer the one critical part, and include it in your design. Kind of like Edison and everyone else a hundred years ago did in the U.S. You wonder why we're bleeding jobs in the U.S.? Because we've come full circle in 235 years. We're now worse than the tyranny and oppression that we fought to get away from. We're drowning in paperwork, red tape, lawyers, and arcane laws to the point where normal citizens can't do business any more, and large corporations simply move everything to China and India.

            I know if I had a business, I'd build it overseas. Where I live in California, it's so hostile to business in general, let alone dealing with patents and copyrights, that it's nearly impossible to do anything unless you are filthy rich to begin with.(or open a franchise and suck up to some giant corporation)

            • And you wonder why more and more companies are fleeing to China where (U.S. - remember we created the entire world "patent system" to cover our asses after we blatantly stole everything we could in the 1700s and 1800s) patents simply don't exist.

              LG is a South Korean industrial mega-corp - a cartel. Sony is a Japanese industrial mega-corp - a cartel. The cartel does not welcome newcomers to its markets. Not an unfamiliar pattern in Asia. Tell me what makes China different.

              • by Plekto ( 1018050 )

                True, they don't like competition, but China's status as a place where IP and copyright issues are looked at as being nearly meaningless doe shave advantages to the company that uses workers there or makes their product there. They can't necessarily sell the product in the U.S., and there might be issues to deal with, but say, if I wanted to design or build a new type of solar panel. I wouldn't get my pants sued off for tinkering in my garage just because what I cam e up with was claimed by some corporati

        • Which means LG going after Sony in this manner could probably result in a retaliatory action

          RTFA...or even the summary. This *is* the retaliatory action, taken by LG after Sony targeted its smartphones. This is how patent disputes work, company one files a complaint against company two, company two files a retaliatory complaint and they settle with a cross-licensing deal.

    • The summary is probably misleading. Apparently LG claims to have patents which Bluray infringes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      More like LG owns some of the patents behind the technology behind it (but not the protocol itself) and are using that is bite back at Sony for their patent infringement charges they are pressing against their phones.

      Basically put, Sony should learn "Thoughs who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones" They didn't listen and threw something at someone who could return the favor.

  • ahem (Score:5, Funny)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @09:56AM (#35136898)

    Sony, you know that sharp pain in your rear right now?

    That is what us commoners call karma, and it is currently biting you in the ass.

  • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @09:57AM (#35136914)
    There's so many tech companies suing each other (sometimes simultaneously for different reasons) that this really is just another drop in the bucket.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I believe that some "genius"in these companies concluded that it is more profitable to sue other companies that actually produce products to sell to someone.

      Seriously, it's best to just shoot the heads of these lunatics before this insanity can get worse?
      • Re:Too many lawsuits (Score:5, Informative)

        by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:17AM (#35137200) Homepage Journal
        There are quite few companies that -sue first- Patents portfolios are often compared to WMD arsenal. You keep your patents so that nobody dares to attack you because they infringe on many of your patents. If they do though, you launch a retaliatory strike. You must be either very inexperienced or have really massive portfolio (or have your essential profit source attacked) to assert your patents. Or simply be a patent troll with no production at all (so unable to infringe upon any patents). Of course if you get attacked, you counterattack with full strength in hope to intimidate the opponent into out-of-court settlement and backing off from their attack. Yeah, Sony, let us sell our smartphones and we will let you sell your Playstations. Following up and not settling leads to MAD, because companies can easily kill each other's production entirely, because about every single product out there infringes on one patent or another in possession of some other company, so if they launch total war, the court can shut down operations of both - and without sources of revenue they won't be able to pay compensation for patent violations and go down really fast.
      • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:42AM (#35137552)

        Also very useful at stopping new companies from setting up shop.

        If they cough, you sue the crap out of them. They won't have enough Patent Power to fight back and they collapse.

        • by gutnor ( 872759 )

          Big companies don't really need much to stop a small/just starting company. Just sue them, they won't have the financial resources to survive or be competitive. Patents are just one convenient way to do it.

          Most classic way is just to partner with the little one and stop paying them or steal them or both. Scaring their client is another one. Another trick is scare some regulatory body; local government is especially good: the ratio of annoyance power vs lobbying effort is amazingly high. That way you can

      • Agree. This approach will stifle innovation in the US.

    • Re:Too many lawsuits (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:04AM (#35136988)

      LG and Sony are both members of the coalition that created the Blu-Ray standard, though. It's kind of perverse that LG would then turn around and start suing members of that coalition for patent infringement for using a technology they helped develop and promote. Perhaps next time somebody forms such a coalition they should put a nonagression clause in the agreement alongside the trademark licencing for the logo.

      • Re:Too many lawsuits (Score:5, Informative)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:21AM (#35137252) Journal
        I suspect that LG has no actual interest in damaging the success of blu-ray as such; but are rather just playing the classic "Patents: Mutually Assured Destruction" game that large companies play. Since patents are so numerous, and often so broad, it is likely that both Sony and LG are guilty as sin of violating one another's patents. However, Sony was tactless enough to sue LG about it. Instead of just trying a conventional defense-in-court(and potentially ending up paying out serious cash and/or having injunctions placed against important products), LG is counter-suing. Since both parties know that they, and their opponent, are almost certainly guilty, the end result will probably be an out-of-court arrangement of some sort, with an agreement to drop the issue, and possibly a cash payment from the party with the less impressive patent chest to the one with the more impressive one...

        Aside from the futile legal costs this imposes on the big players, there are two main problems with this status-quo strategy:

        One, it gives the large players substantial latitude to threaten, and then crush or aquire, small competitors. If it is titan to titan, both sides can be reasonably assured that the other violates their patents in some ways and they violate the other's patents in some ways. If it is a titan vs. a startup, the latter has few or no patents to violate, and almost certainly violates(or is close enough to potentially violating that they could be tied up in court long after the VC money runs out...) the larger company's patents. This creates an unfortunate pro-incumbent pressure.

        Second, of course, are the patent trolls. As long as you don't produce anything but lawsuits, you probably don't violate anybody's patents. You therefore spend your time acquiring patents at fire sales and bankruptcies in the greatest bulk possible, at the lowest cost possible, and then use those to shake down the people who actually do produce things. Since a protracted legal battle is expensive and risky(because of product injunctions or willful infringement damages), you can usually walk away with a quick chunk of cash if you size your extortion demands correctly.
        • Fuzzy, you have that exactly right, and that's why getting patent reform is so hard - the big guys may hate each other, but they fear actual competition and innovation from a new startup much more. Even now, since they lost all ability to innovate (don't get me started on this, fanbois, nothing new exists we didn't think of in the early '70s before the hardware existed to make it real - from digital audio to smartphones with touchscreens) -- what they do is merge and acquire to buy marketshare, so shortsig
        • What we need is a patient white knight, a company that holds a lot of patients, does nothing but the moment a company sues another company over a patient offers it services to the company being sued.
      • LG and Sony are both members of the coalition that created the Blu-Ray standard, though. It's kind of perverse that LG would then turn around and start suing members of that coalition for patent infringement for using a technology they helped develop and promote. Perhaps next time somebody forms such a coalition they should put a nonagression clause in the agreement alongside the trademark licencing for the logo.

        If LG was holding back patents that were essential to the Blu-Ray patent pool, the DoJ may start looking at them for anti-trust violations.

      • LG and Sony are both members

        I can honestly say that if both companies went down in flames of lawsuit conflagration I would not care even a little bit. If Blu-Ray technology was locked away in a chest and sent to the bottom of the sea forever, my life would not be reduced in any way.

        Now, Sony does make a little portable AM-FM radio, the SRF-M37W, that I use to listen to my local sports franchises' games while I walk my dog in the evening, but that radio is a cheapened and much crummier version of the model

      • by Jonner ( 189691 )

        I think this is good ammunition against the FUD-mongers who claim that the only way to be safe from codec patent infringement suits is to kowtow to the MPEG-LA. The reality is that no company is ever safe from patent trolls, no matter how big or small and regardless of how many patents they've licensed. What value is a standard if one can be sued at any time by fellow collaborators or some previously-unknown patent holder?

    • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:08AM (#35137046)
      From the complaint itself...

      The general technology at issue involves the playback of Blu-Ray Discs, i.e., the reproduction of data recorded on Blu-Ray Disc media. As discussed below, LGE hold patents addressed to certain elements of Blu-Ray Disc playback. for example, two of the Asserted Patents, the '080 patent and the '961 patent, relate to reproducing data from a recording medium, i.e., a Blu-Ray Disc, including linking areas and data areas. Another of the Asserted Patents, the '835 patent, relates to technology for managing the reproduction o f multiple data streams, e.g., multiple camera angles, that are recorded on a recording medium, i.e., a Blu-Ray Disc. The remaining Asserted Patent, the '398 patent, relates to technology for reproducing a text subtitle stream that is recorded on a recorded medium, i.e., a Blu-Ray Disc, and updating palette information, e.g., font color and opacity, for the text subtitle stream.

      Jesus, does Microsoft have a patent for recreating font styles stored in a text document?

      • Shhhhhh do not give ideas!
      • In the future, I'm guessing there will be a patent on adding a plurality of integer values, each equaling one, to give the result two, and another on adding a plurality of integer values, one equaling one, the other equaling two, to give a result of three, etc.
      • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

        This is why the patent system is broken. If you can't patent the idea of changing fonts and styles in a word processing document, you shouldn't be able to patent the same concept in a spreadsheet, or video player, or anywhere else. The technology is the same, you're just implementing it somewhere else. It's not groundbreaking, nor does it require huge amounts of development time.

        • The patent system broke when we started allowing people to hold patents on algebra (well, algebra dressed up to look like something else):


          There are hundreds of similar stories: patents on elliptic curve methods, patents on lattice methods, and other patents on algebra/number theory. This is not even supposed to be possible, but for some reason patent examiners see the word "computer" and completely forget that they are reading about mathematics.
      • Presumably the patent is for the ability to do so consistently across versions.

    • by martas ( 1439879 )
      one word: clusterfuck
    • by rwv ( 1636355 )
      I don't know about you, but I enjoy when Mega-Corporations fight. Their pissing contests serve to expose how broken the system is.
    • This what you have when you have an over abundance of lawyers, lawyers running companies and failure to innovate.

      If you have a company run by lawyers then it is easier for them to understand suing a company to death than actually working with engineers to make a better product.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In general, being a foreigner, I think the biggest technological problem with the US is their (IMO) clueless and braindead patent office. You can basically patent just about anything and when you find someone other company or individual using it its "We'll sue!".

    Of course; trying to reach a compromise might actually result in business deals which can be profitable for both parties, but it would appear as if many US companies seem totally incapable to think or reason beyond the word "lawsuit".

    Quite a patheti

    • Foreigner or not, your thinking makes sense to me. I swear, my fellow Americans are all freaking brain dead lunatics. And, having put that statement into print, I'm certain that one or more of the brain dead lunatics will be dragging me to court soon.
    • by gartogg ( 317481 )

      How would you suggest running the patent office - the rest of the world generally does a worse job and/or relies on US patents.

      You have a limited budget, and those skilled enough to investigate won't work for the money you can afford to pay them. Oh, and you have a legal requirement to deal with patents in a given time frame.

      • you have a legal requirement to deal with patents in a given time frame.

        Then reject patents that you do not have time to examine. Seriously, the default policy of "accept based on the title" is what got us into the mess we are in right now. If the patent office is having trouble meeting its obligation to examine patents in a timely fashion, they need to hire more examiners. We are far too loose when to comes to giving patents, and we are going to get bitten really hard if we do not fix that problem.

    • Apparently it's not as profitable for these entities to actually do what's best for the consumer.
  • by Vapula ( 14703 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:12AM (#35137132)

    It would be fun if a couple of judges decided to act together and ban all the infringing devices...

    Immediate ban on XBox, PS3, iPhone, Android Phones, Windows Phones, and so on...

    I guess that it'd not take long before all these tech companies start to lobby against flacky patents and the associated lawsuits...

    • I think game starved youths would respond by hunting down these judges and ripping their skulls and spines from their bodies predator style.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        What I think is, you watch to many of those moronic movies. Game starved youths? WTF? Did you seriously mean what you typed? Let's face it - any "game starved youths" that you might meet are totally incapable of interacting with the power brokers of the world in any meaningful way. In your little scenario, those youths would just become a blip on police statistics charts. NYT headline reads, "Three more demented kids shot dead while trying to break into corporate offices in Manhattan."
        • Woah. Calm down cowboy.

          Since you seem unaware, I don't believe people will literally tear out skulls and spines. If you are always this humorless, your life will be pretty grim.

        • It only takes one competent one, though. Odds are usually on the side of the masses.

    • removed, blacklisted, and potentially disappeared.

      Justice these days seems to rely on corporate coffers.

  • Driving Innovation Forward.

    Since Sarcastic O'Clock.

    • by cpghost ( 719344 )
      Patents are certainly driving innovation in the legalistic realm forward. There, fixed that for you.
  • LG jumped right on those infringements didn't they? Because the PS3 is a brand new product.

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      This is in response to a similar style of lawsuit Sony did to them over something in their phones that's been there for a bit. As someone pointed out, they're very likely both violating each others' patents in the manner the suits allege- it's just Sony showed the poor form of suing them instead of working out a deal with them first. But then, Sony's been showing poor/bad form for a while now in my not so humble opinion...things like asking for the people that viewed the jailbreak video GeoHotz put up on

    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      To be fair, Sony only really started touting the PS3 as a blu-ray player with that spokesman guy they have fairly recently. And, since LG executives apparently get all their information through television, they've been in the dark about this capability until now.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well, they thought about countersuing using smartphone patents but then they realized that they're lucky goldstar and that they don't have any.

  • Interviewer: "So what do you want to do here at our company?"

    Interviewee: "I want to develop innovative products!"

    Interviewer: "Sorry, we're looking for someone to help sue our competition. And any other company that we don't like, as well. Even if they aren't competition."

    With all these lawsuits, instead of stories about who is suing who, it would be easier to report on which companies is not being sued:

    "Hey, we found one! Company XXX is not being sued this week by anyone! Amazing!"

  • Just goes to show... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stenchwarrior ( 1335051 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:38AM (#35137500) fights and juvenile conflicts don't change when you get older...they just cost more and the bullies wear Armani.
  • So does this mean LG plans to stay out of the Blu Ray pool and sue everyone making Blu Ray drives? []

  • It's like little kids squabbling on a playground.

  • SO, this is all business as usual in the technology industry, right?

  • Does any of this really matter? Doesn't Netflix streaming solve most of this stuff? Hell, since their streaming service started having decent content, we haven't purchased a DVD. For those titles that aren't available to stream, they send us a DVD, but even that is likely to go away sooner than later.

    • Video is heavily compressed and the audio is even worse. Streaming does not match the quality of BD
      • This is true, so there will, of course, always be a market for it. But I wonder how many people care that much? I find it plenty good enough, and being able to pick the movie I want from a menu and watch it beats fiddling with discs even if we aren't considering that every blu ray movie individually accounts for 2-3 months of Netflix.
    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      Unfortunately, the only device I own that is able to stream Netflix is a old PS3, which I bought in part because it had the Other OS option.

    • It will until Netflix gets sued for violating patent "technology for reproducing a metadata stream that is streamed from a real time source" or some similar nonsense

  • is laughing it's ass off.

  • I just bought an LG TV. Not planning on buying nor recommend others buy Sony for a long, long time.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes