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Archive for July, 2009

LinkedIn Question by Vagelis Hristidis: Desired Features or Properties of a Patents Search Engine

I have been working for a year now on a search engine for patents. Clearly, a key property is the quality of search, that is, discovering the most relevant patents. But are there any other useful features (e.g., automatically email the results of a search) or properties (e.g., encrypt queries for privacy) that are missing from current patent search systems?

Dear Vagelis,

Interesting question regarding encryption. Generally, I have never seen anything in terms of encryption on the public patent searching sites. However, any web site that offers SSL or https:// access is encrypted and thus you likely won’t have any issues when using those.

More generally, I have found that simply by using proper security on your system (e.g. connecting to routers with WPA) is sufficient to achieve your needs of privacy. In other words, if you’re worried about people snooping on your patent searches, then don’t connect to public internet wireless access points without proper protection.

As for e-mailing the results of a search, offhand I’ve seen that feature in a number of places. My favorite search tool is patentlens.net (http://www.patentlens.net/patentlens/structured.cgi) which allows me to save and e-mail my search results.

I hope this helps.


Robert Z. Cashman is a patent litigation attorney / patent attorney in Houston, TX.  He has started an informative website using the name Cashman IP which will be a resource for those who wish to obtain a patent or for those who would like to find out how to prevent companies from stealing their inventions. Services include help with entering into IP Agreements & Licensing options, IP Enforcement and Litigation, and Strategic Counseling.

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Today in Barron’s, there was an article “RIMM To Pay $267.5 Million To Settle Visto Patent Suit” by Eric Savitz.

I’m actually not that sad about this settlement. If Visto’s patents genuinely covered the technology used by RIM, then they had a duty to license their technology and not to steal it. Without delving deeper into the facts, I’d give RIM the benefit of the doubt that they just didn’t know about Visto’s patents when they went into that technology area. That happens quite often, and is the reason the patent system is in place. Here, Visto bought patents owned by Motorola and I would expect that RIM should have known about these patents and should have sought a license for the use of the subjects they cover, but I’m guessing that their GC thought, “hey, these patents were just bought by some venture capital (VC) company. What are the chances they’ll sue us?” Silly GC, VC’s are often trolls under a legitimate business structure.

Nevertheless, even if Visto was not some VC, it’s likely the same story — Big companies don’t take little companies / inventors holding patents seriously. They fail to realize that inventors pour out their life’s savings to develop a technology with the hopes of one day achieving some kind of financial remuneration for their inspiration and innovation. It is only fair that an inventor can hold a legal monopoly and can go to court to sue when their patent is infringe (noting that laches is always a good defense for the infringer as a side note because inventors often don’t act fast enough or they trip up while trying to send threat letters to the big companies letting them know of their infringement and then doing nothing when the big companies retort).

That being said, companies as big as RIM often take the little guy not seriously when they come with a valid patent in which they are practicing. They’ll stall, hee and haw, and will cost them thousands just to convince the huge companies to take a license from them.

Any inventor / small company that has to resort to going to court to resolve a patent disagreement deserves a good judgment because if it has come to a lawsuit, the licensing negotiation and stalling tactics by the big company has taken too long.

Obviously patent trolls are a different story. They didn’t invent the technology; they bought it at a fire sale and now they’re trying to assert it EVEN when they don’t have a strong case.


Robert Z. Cashman is a patent litigation attorney / patent attorney in Houston, TX.  He has started an informative website using the name Cashman IP which will be a resource for those who wish to obtain a patent or for those who would like to find out how to prevent companies from stealing their inventions. Services include help with entering into IP Agreements & Licensing options, IP Enforcement and Litigation, and Strategic Counseling.

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It just occurred to me that social networking sites are about to become fewer in the coming months. There is an article in the Jewelry BlogStore Blog, “Facebook Huddles with Patent Vampire” referring to talks between Nathan Myhrvold from Intellectual Ventures, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook.com. In the article, it shows the two icons talking.

Here is how I would think the conversation likely went:

Zuckerberg: “What do you think you can do for me by me selling you my patents for millions of bucks?”

Myhrvold: “How would you like to be the only social networking site in existence?”

Zuckerberg: “You can do that? How?”

Myhrvold: “Well, you know all those me-too social networking sites? Do you have any idea how many of them are infringing patents?”

Zuckerberg: “My patents don’t cover their activities. I’m not so sure it will work.”

Myhrvold: “Think a bit bigger, my friend. We’ve been buying patents on social networking for years, so much so that we can even put you out of business with our patents. We obviously wouldn’t of course, and we’re friends, and I’d like it to stay that way.”

Zuckerberg: [a bit nervous] “Uh huh…” *frown*

Myhrvold: “If you sell us your patents, we will give you a license to keep practicing your patent forever. Think of it as a royalty-free lifetime license. We — together — will bring the other social networks down to their knees, and we’ll share the profit 60/40.”

Zuckerberg: “I’m not so sure about this.”

Myhrvold: “You can’t lose. The patents speak for themselves. Plus, imagine what you’ll be allowed to do on your own facebook.com site because we’ll license you these patents which will allow you to expand your capabilities. You’ll have the #1 social networking site in the world!”

Zuckerberg: “What about the Twitter problem?”

Myhrvold: “We’re working on it. ;)”


Robert Z. Cashman is a patent litigation attorney / patent attorney in Houston, TX.  He has started an informative website using the name Cashman IP which will be a resource for those who wish to obtain a patent or for those who would like to find out how to prevent companies from stealing their inventions. Services include help with entering into IP Agreements & Licensing options, IP Enforcement and Litigation, and Strategic Counseling.

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It’s assumed in the blog world that IV is evil and that Nathan M. is public troll #1. I keep wondering in the back of my mind, what if he is up to good rather than no good.

Everybody agrees that there are serious kinks in the patent laws and that the USPTO is backlogged until Moshiach comes. 😉 There IS a hole in the system regarding people being able to enforce patents they did not invent. This is one of the big holes IV is exploiting.

The thought is — what if they’re trying to gather enough political clout to force a change in the law? What if as the biggest potential troll in the world, they are able to eradicate all other trolls from the patent system? What if they are trying to bring justice to the system (in a socialistic kind of way which I don’t quite understand or support) by bringing huge companies down to their knees?

There is a lot of money behind those patent conglomerate companies, and they’re obviously doing what they do for some reason. G-d knows they own enough patents to cripple the patent litigation system forever with valid (not frivolous) lawsuits should they choose to. It would take a flick of a pen and we could say goodbye to the system as we know it.

How’s that for an apocalyptic view of the patent litigation system and those who hold the true power of it? 😉

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Recently when I’ve searched for “Intellectual Ventures” on the Twitter web site, all I’ve been seeing are comments about how they hit up a big company for a large sum of money over a license based on a number of patents they owned (a.k.a. purchased). The opinion, as described in the “Microsoft Wants to ‘Save’ the World, Using Restrictive Monopolies” article suggests that IV has gone bad.

It’s both surprising and not surprising to me that IV is said to have gone offensive, especially with the recent Intuit license that has everyone in a frenzy.

I thought the whole purpose of IV/RPX was to form a patent protection conglomerate to protect against frivolous lawsuits claiming patent infringement when there was none. The purchase of all those patents as far as I understood was for the use of member companies (those who paid to join in) to defeat those claims that ordinarily would cost companies millions.

I’m not so quick to start calling Intellectual Ventures a super-troll. There is probably a lot going on there behind closed doors. Some good may come of it.

On the point of the article regarding Microsoft giving open source programmers a difficult time because of their patents, that somewhat hits a nerve between the programmer in me who believes in open source and the attorney in me who believes in copyrights, patents, and protection of intellectual property. On the one hand, I suggest that Microsoft leave the open source community alone as there are bigger fish to fry, so to speak, as there are commercial applications infringing many of Microsoft’s longstanding patents. However, if their method of attack is to sue members of the open source community to go after lost profits based on what they claim they would have made had they sold the same program for which they own the patent, I understand that their damages would be greater, however their ability to collect would be nominal.

Maybe it’s more about acquiring a meaningful judgment to bolster the strength of their patents and in patents in general rather than a small-to-moderate judgment that will make their shareholders a few dollars (more likely a few pennies on their stock, if even that), as I’m sure they don’t need the latter or the aggravation of collecting a judgment against a small fish.


Robert Z. Cashman is a patent litigation attorney / patent attorney in Houston, TX.  He has started an informative website using the name Cashman IP which will be a resource for those who wish to obtain a patent or for those who would like to find out how to prevent companies from stealing their inventions. Services include help with entering into IP Agreements & Licensing options, IP Enforcement and Litigation, and Strategic Counseling.

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