We were just reporting on a hospital tech that declined to seek a patent for his creation, laughably stating that there are more important things than money (what a buffoon). He serves as a nice contrast to the wonderful world of patent trolls. One man is trying to help people and thinks that's more important than patents, while patent trolls are trying to leech off of producing entities and think that there is nothing more important than the patent (except perhaps the blood of small kittens or something). Often times they don't bother to produce anything, instead vampiring off of actual…you know…businesses.
Reader dfed alerts us to one such vampiric occasion, in which a non-producing entity patent troll is suing the developers of X-Plane, a rather innovative flight simulator. Uniloc has filed (pdf) for infringement on a patent, (6,857,067) for a “system and method are provided for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data stored on an electronic device.” If the Uniloc name sounds familiar to you, you may remember when we wrote about it suing Minecraft (over the same patent) with such fervor that its lawyers couldn't be bothered to spell the game's name correctly. This patent was filed back in 2001, after, as X-Plane developer Laminar Research notes, several other software companies prior-arted all over this patent.
In 1988, FlexNet used a system to check a central server for permission to run a computer program. In 1989, Sassafras developed KeyServer, a computer program that checked with a central server for permission to run a program only if it had been purchased. In 1999, a program called “Clearcase” checked with a central server for permission to run a program only if it had been purchased. (Link here and instructions here.)
Laminar Research initially wrote a blog post on their site posing the same questions I imagine many victims of patent trolls have like whether they should be doing business in the United States. Such wonderful consequences our patent system produces. They were also initially seeking donations to fund their defense, which they were advised would cost roughly one and a half million dollars. Fortunately, because Uniloc is a patent troll, they also sued 9 other software developers and all the defendants are banding together to share the costs of defending themselves.
But that isn't the point. The point is that they shouldn't have to be in this position in the first place. For these developers to have to defend themselves in costly litigation against a company that can't be bothered to produce anything beyond a patent suit for something used years before its filing is a burden in direct conflict of the stated purpose for patents to begin with. I can't explain the silliness of this better than X-Plane's developer did on his site.
When I explained this to my Mom, she listened to my entire speech on Unilocs’ Lawsuit against me, my ideas on patent and litigation reforms, my thoughts on Uniloc and the lawyers representing them, and the total lawsuit cost of over $1,500,000, 3 years of stress to me and my wife, and the possible loss of a grandchild to her, and all she could stammer was “I don’t understand… what did you do that is WRONG?” All I could really answer was: “Well… I wrote a flight simulator for Android”.
And producing that software is supposed to cost the producer over a million dollars? What a joke.