Friday, February 10, 2006

Giant Trolls: Who Owns Your Home Videos?

Most coverage of the 'patent troll' issue over the past few years has followed an identifiable pattern: little company with no products, and no intention to make any products, uses some overly-broad, ill-begotten patent as a bludgeon against a company that is trying to get an innovative product to consumers. So it was with NTP, Forgent, Acacia, Scientigo, Fraunhofer, and countless others.

Today, AT&T is threatening dozens of companies over the MPEG-4 'standard', claiming ownership of one of today's most widely used digital video formats. MPEG-4 is used in Windows Media, Apple Quicktime, DivX, and most other third-party software video players. It is also implemented in countless DVD players and several PVRs.

Much like GIF, JPEG and MP3 today, the patent trolls have shown corporate America how to rake in money. The formula is simple:
  1. proselytize a standard format, and encourage its widespread use,
  2. wait until it becomes entrenched in consumer software and products, and only then,
  3. send out letters demanding that all implementors pay royalties.
The scary thing is, corporate America is learning. When Microsoft and AT&T start playing the shakedown game with their massive portfolios, it is time to fret and worry. The time for reform which frees ideas from such restrictive private ownership is now.

See also:

2 Comments:

Anonymous Chad Thomas said...

I think that one of the keys to defending trademarks is enforcement.

Maybe patents should be the same.

If the owner does not bother to assert ownership then they should be deemed to not have interest.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a small guy with one patent.

It is probably being widely infringed upon by the industry.

But how am I supposed to know ?

Nobody would tell me, certainly not those big infringers.

Now you want to take my patent away from me because
I do not have resources to
police the industry at large.
Very clever solution...

7:16 PM  

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