22
Jan
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When you hear about a patent case in the Eastern District of Texas, you can bet there will be shenanigans. This time a jury in the capital of software patent lawsuits has found that Google infringed on a patent held by a company called SimpleAir that reportedly covers push messaging systems used in Android.

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If you've never heard of SimpleAir, there is a good reason. This is an "inventor-owned technology licensing company." You can call it a patent troll if you want, but we're not here to judge (too much). The point is that SimpleAir doesn't actually make anything, but has set up shop in the Eastern District of Texas to take advantage of its relaxed stance on patent suits.

The jury found after deliberation that Google's Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM, now deprecated) and Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) infringe on all five claims made in patent number 7,035,914 held by SimpleAir. GCM is the system that allows apps to send messages to your phone from a server without having the phone reach out and waste battery.

SimpleAir has signed confidential licensing deals with several companies in recent years including Apple, Blackberry, and Microsoft. The penalty phase of the trial could result in Google paying out as much as $125 million, but it's not in the interest of SimpleAir to make Google (or developers) stop using the infringing technology – it just wants money. Luckily, Google has plenty of that. If SimpleAir doesn't get what it wants from Google, it could maybe go after individual devs (like Lodsys and IAPs).

[BusinessWire]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Leonardo Baez

    US goverment need to do something about patent trolls.... they will make to much damage sonner than later

    • rals

      or just not infringe....

      • rooly

        There's a patent on a doubly-linked list for crying out loud. It's not possible to "not infringe"

        • ssj4Gogeta

          I really hope you're kidding. :(

          • David Sousa
          • ssj4Gogeta

            It seems any data structure with multiple links between nodes for different ordering is covered under that patent. Really sad.
            EDIT: What worse is that the patent is fairly recent - 2006. It's highly improbably that no one had thought of or implemented such a simple thing before that.

      • David Thoren

        And any developer will tell you that it's virtually impossible to develop software that does not infringe. Not because they are trying to, but because the solutions are, frequently, "obvious" and the developer implemented them without knowledge that the processes they were using might be patented.

        • didibus

          This is the problem. You want to protect people copying from others, but if they don't copy, just come up with the same solution, it is fair game. I mean, someone born 10 years after you is already at a disadvantage. These patents are like heritage, they make the field uneven.

          It's hard to find a balance though, how do you know someone stole, instead of inventing it themselves?

    • drvadlamudi

      Really? So if someone made an invention that can improve another product, they shouldn't get paid for its use?

      • Alexei Watson

        The most innovative product should be the one that people buy.

        Like that car you drive around in? If we had patent trolls back in the early days of motorcars, we'd be driving around in very different vehicles today.

        • drvadlamudi

          If let's say someone invented abs, but didn't have the resources or know how to mass produce and market it, is it wrong for him/her to sell that invention to a large company that can?

          • geekmad

            License it.

            It should be impossible to sell a patent. That'd kill all this trolling stone dead.

          • Matthew Fry

            Well that isn't a good solution either. That would mean that if you business was unlucky, something you paid to invent will become free to copy.

          • Stephen McGann

            That would be a valid point if the Defendant was inspired by the Plaintiff's developments, or the Plaintiff helped the defendant implement said technology. This is more akin to patenting the idea for break that pulse when the tire is slipping, waiting for some one else to independently develop the product and suing them for patent infringement.

            These companies are contributing in any way to the implementation of the ideas they have panted and they aren't trying to bring said products to market either.

          • Alexei Watson

            No, I don't think that's wrong.

            The way i see it though, is these patent trolls have no intention of inventing something, they just try to get ideas they know another company will eventually invent, then punish them for it.

            They use a flawed legal system for monetary game, at the cost of hurting innovation.

            Royalties for using someones unique idea is fine by me.

          • Alexei Watson

            Consider this;

            whether or not people are pro or anti Google, there is no arguing the fact that the company has driven huge technological advancement across a really wide range of industries.

            What would have happened if someone had patented an idea in the 90's to use eigenvectors and linear algebra to index the entire internet for searching and getting more relevant results?

            Google could have been stopped before it ever got going, for some settlement a startup couldn't recover from.

            Meanwhile, lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank. We just need to get some lawyers to fix the legal system. Oh wait.

        • drvadlamudi

          Do you by Abs? Traction control? Auto lights and wipers? No, you buy a car WITH them. This are all inventions that made cars better. Just because someone can invent something doesn't mean that they are capable of starting and running a successful car company. It also doesn't mean their invention is useless either.

          • Telefunken

            Sure, but some stuff is just obvious and is going to get invented by people independently. The people who happened to invent that first shouldn't get a penny.

      • שלו מויאל

        most of the time those companies aren't inventing anything!
        they are just buying patents from small (cheap, probably) companies or from individuals, and then using it against big companies.
        to be short, the man who invented this patent? already got his payment! (and its probably way lower than what those companies earned over it)

        • Roger Siegenthaler

          It says "inventor-owned"... in that case your point is wrong.

          In every other case where there's just a company that has bought up patents I agree (cough rockstar cough) :).

          • שלו מויאל

            It's just their description from their website. That's why it quoted!!!
            I can build a website and say that I'm the inventor of electricity, it doesn't make it true...
            Believe me, patent trolls doesn't know anything about anything they own, and they surely didn't invent those patents.

          • didibus

            I thought that meant they owned patents invented by inventors, as opposed to another company. So, in effect, they meant they buy inventions from individuals who have an idea, but can't afford to patent it themselves.

      • FlexPlexico

        This patent is what I usually call a junk patent. They have "invented" and patented the obvious. Actually last week I wrote a solution design for our corporate servers that uses the same setup - only it wasn't mobile devices connecting through the cloud but servers on our internal network subscribing.

        In this case there is nothing wrong with the patent holder defending his patent - the problem lies in the patent system itself. The patent ahould never have been granted.

      • Christoforos Panos

        Software should not be patentable. Why? Solutions to math problems are not patentable. A computer program is actually a set of mathematical equations trying to solve some problem based on some input. Ironically, in mathematics, this process is not patentable. Can you imagine how the world would be if even solving a linear equation would mean courts, fines, and suing? We would still be in the dark age now because no one would be able to get any work done in math without breaking a patent or paying tons of loyalties. This is where the software industry is today because of patents, in its dark ages.

        • fonix232

          So if you write a unique solution to a problem, that nobody else thought of, and can be used in various implementations to increase efficiency (thus save money), you shouldn't be able to patent it?

          Let's say you invent a way to store 100x more data on the same disk, without any compression, or tons of extra processing required to write and read. You start a business around it, selling the solution. Then some no-life jackass decides to reverse-engineer your solution, implements it, and sells it at half the price. As you couldn't patent it, you can't do anything about it, and soon you're out of business.

          Patents are okay, if implemented correctly. They should have an invalidity deadline, based on complexity (simple patents - 2 years, more complex patents - 5 years tops), and ownership should be limited to the following two:
          - Original inventor of the solution - this is without any other requirement. He/She does not need to produce anything with the patent.
          - Outsider company - a company should be able to buy the patent, if A, they are already producing something using it or B, they have plans for a product that will be using it, and production begins in no more than 3 (or in case of complex patents, 6) months after purchase. If no product is on the market by that time, invalidate the patent, or return to previous owner. Usage of the patent in legal claims is restricted until the moment they have a product using the patent on the market.

          Patents should also be checked if they're not too generic, "obvious" as some people say, and if they are truly innovative (not route no.22875 around the same problem).

          This is quite complex, and not perfect, but solve a lot of problems. No more patent troll companies, and after a short time, they become public property (hence invalidation time). Win-win situation, I think.

          • MeAsAGuest

            Not trying to be the troll, but your example does not apply. A "way to store 100x more data on the same disk, without any compression" is a hardware solution, not a software one (you can't increase the number of physical bits in software). I believe hardware innovation can and should be patented, but this is not the case here.
            I think what your are referring to in your "outsider" case is comparable more to licensing than to selling. Licensing is perfectly valid, even more with your "invalidity deadline".
            With our current system, I think the only moment someone should be granted a patent is if they have a shipping (or in advanced stages of conclusion) product, no abstract ideas allowed. It obviously can hurt the small innovators, but they would be pushed to develop prototypes first, or to side with a big enterprise who can materialize their idea.
            Sadly, the "powers that be" are rolling enough on the cash made by the current system to even think about changing it. "Wealth Addiction" is what causes most of the problems in our current capitalist world.

          • fonix232

            If you read it carefully, it IS software - hence "same disk". My example would be a real-time compression algorithm built into a file system, enabling the 100x storage increase, or more like, file size decrease.

            Your solution (prototype requirement) wouldn't solve the problem either, especially with software patents. Especially if the inventor goes to a big enterprise. Why? Because the enterprise will want to have most of the income from the patent (if rightfully or not is not my job to decide), if not all. What would we achieve? Even more inventors going broke and giving up, while big enterprises earn all the big bucks.

            Your vision is something the big companies would accept, though, because it would grant them even further wealth increase. The person would then be thrown away, rewarded with little to nothing for his/her achievements.

            Now I'm not saying that we should give the yearly income of a huge international company to every person who registers a patent, no. But neither should they be let go without reimbursement, and with your described system, it is more likely to happen.

          • Christoforos Panos

            Your paradigm can also be extrapolated in mathematics as well and it occurs every day. Scientists and mathematicians optimise the solutions of mathematical problems and find unique solutions all the time. Are you saying that their solutions (which ARE used in various implementations to increase efficiency thus save money), should be patentable?

            If yes, then, most likely, you would be incapable of inventing anything (for example a way to store 100x more data on the same disk), because, in the process, any existing mathematical solution or algorithm you utilize would already be patented.

  • Captain Canada

    Patent trolling needs to be stopped BUT if all five claims were found to infringe what is supposed to happen? Someone owns those patents and wants to be paid/acknowledged for their work right. It irritates me whenever I see a post related to patent disputes because they aren't the reason I come to sites like Android Police. So I just don't know, should corporations like Google, Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, HTC, Sony be able to take what they like because they're superpowers? I think they should pay the pocket change or innovate technologies that substitute those that are owned by others, just my opinion.

    • Joe Blair

      Of course they should pay for patents they use, I don't think anyone is disputing that but it's hard to innovate when the patents that exist are so broad and vague that it's pretty much impossible to invent something that doesn't overlap into that territory.

      • Captain Canada

        I got 7 thumbs down for saying this. Maybe what I should have said was don't hate the patent litigation, hate the patent approval process.

        • fonix232

          Yes you got that much downs because, just like the patents in question, your post was too vague :)

          The problem is that most of these superpowers (by your words) do something, publish it, completely from their own work lab. Then comes a broad patent owner (Rockstar, or this SimpleAir), who see a good opportunity in taking it into court, and does this sh*t. All of them (well maybe not Apple and Samsung, and HTC) pays the proper patent licensing fees to the others, but that's no news, it won't create interest at all, so that's not published (imagine a headline "Google pays all their licensing fees for technologies used in Android". Dull, isn't it?). And so, we don't know about those cases.

    • D Canfield

      You wouldn't hear complaining if the organization doing the suing was a company that made a competing product (or even just a tech company that does actual R&D). But if it's an IP troll that doesn't actually make anything (and has nothing to lose by suing companies that do), what work are they being paid for? The people doing the hard work of actually making a product are the ones being penalized here, while a bunch of lawyers write up or buy an idea and extort money from the people making an actual product.

    • Stephen McGann

      Counter Point, if the IP developed by the Plantiff was in no way directly used by the defendant, and the Plantiff it's self has no revenue from the IP to try and protect then it would seem to me that no damage was actually done.

    • Gabernasher

      For their work? The hard work they did buying a patent? They shouldn't be allowed more in damages than they paid for the patent.

    • Coder

      I am no super power - just a lowly software developer. And I bet that in my long time spent programming I have inadvertently infringed on a LOT of software patents since many are so broad. Being big rich and powerful, or small has nothing to do with the broken state of the software patent system, and the trolls that take advantage of it.

  • brkshr

    Larry Page opens his desk drawer... "Here you go..."

  • Joe

    I hope Obama administration will veto this verdict like he did for Apple

  • Michael C

    Anything that has to do with the cloud has gotten better since I added the "cloud-to-butt" extension for Chrome haha.

    • Sir_Brizz

      Thank you! *installs* Best extension ever made.

      • Michael J Carroll

        Don't forget the keyboard to Leopard extension!

    • Lalit Mali

      This extension is brilliant!! :')

  • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

    So, GCM is infringing on someone's patent, auto-complete on keyboard violates Apples patent... what is next? I hope Google does something about stopping these from happening; once and for all.

    • Lalit Mali

      Before Google drowns into paying these royalties and then starts charging us :|

  • Matthew Fry

    Software protection needs to go through a different mechanism than the patent office. It's ridiculous to say the rules should be the same for a mechanical or electronic device/system when one requires such a huge undertaking (creating, designing, manufacturing, distributing, sales) and the other can be published with the press of a button. I also think that patents for software that isn't currently in development should be canceled. Whoever the original patent owner was, they most likely have no working implementation of the technology.

  • Matthew Fry

    Looks like the patent was filed in 1999 (good golly that was a long time ago in technology years) by a venture capitalist group and was then sold to SimpleAir, probably to offset the losses for whatever company actually did the design and failed.

  • Shawn Cheever

    Why doesn't Google just buy the patent office? Seems like a stop-all. =)

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    So.... Push Messaging arrived on Android with the advent of Froyo - in 2010. Why exactly has it taken this company that is apparently desperate to protect its patents - this long to take any action? I don't understand how courts don't see through this crap.

    • Gabernasher

      The jury is from Texas.

  • jcopernicus

    Is there another source for this, every news story points back to the same Press Release from SimpleAir themselves,

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    Well.... I have just had a quick read at the stated Patent number and it sounds NOTHING like the Android C2DM system - it sounds more like the Cell Broadcast system. Much reference is made to the user interface which allows the user to subscribe and unsubscribe from specific types of messages - which doesn't exist in the Android C2DM implementation. Much reference is made to what happens on the device when a message is received - specifically the patent states that a notification will appear and clicking the notification will open the dedicated viewer software to view that notification, in the Android C2DM implementation - whilst you can post a notification to the System informing the user of whatever you like, there are also many examples of receiving a C2DM message and NOT informing the user - for instance - the Android Device Manager might receive a C2DM telling it to reply with the location of the device, the user of the device does not get informed this is happening. The Patent also makes reference to how the system can be used to broadcast a message Nationwide or to a subset of users or a specific user - while the C2DM system obviously can broadcast to a specific user, it cannot broadcast to a subset of users or "Nationwide". The patent does not necessarily explain the transport methods for its message delivery system, it just makes vague constant use of the word "wireless" and reads very much like its system would broadcast the message much like SMS or MMS and not via the internet (which makes sense considering when the Patent was filed - the ability for mobiles to access the internet was fairly new and they certainly didn't have persistent data connections like they do these days) I hope this little dissection helps those who haven't read the patent.

  • Glich

    I have said it before and I will say it again. One of these days a troll is going to go after somone who finds a hitman a better investment then a lawyer.

  • MeMe

    I say Google should buy this shi*ty company, and make money off every other company (Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry) that licensed this ;)

  • TheMotto

    All of you should watch this before making any claims about the patent system..
    http://vimeo.com/36881035

  • Quinton

    Sounds like a patent troll to me . . .

  • mark boyle

    So something as generic as sending text messages through a server is consider a patentable invention?

  • Victor

    By the comments, I think most people here didn't take the time to read about this patent.

    SimpleAir did not develop a software or solution, they simply patented the idea. For example, let's say I patent the idea of a "flying car" (I'm not actually inventing/engineering the technology behind, just the idea). Let's say 50 years from now (I know it's far fetched) someone actually engineers one... would that give me the rights? I don't think so....

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