Yahoo! Crosses The Line
The patents that Yahoo! is suing Facebook over are a crock of shit. None of them represent unique and new ideas at the time of the filing. I supect they all can be thrown out over prior art if Facebook takes the time and effort to do that.
But worse, Yahoo! has broken ranks and crossed the unspoken line which is that web companies don't sue each other over their bogus patent portfolios. I don't think there's a unique idea out there in the web space and hasn't been for well over a decade. Pretty much everything useful is based on prior art going back before the commercial web existed.
Yahoo! thinks they can bully Internet newcomers with their bogus patents. And that's a line they should not have crossed. Because other companies have bogus patents too. And they've opened themselves up to be sued back. Frankly I'd like to see it happen just to show them how stupid they are.
I am not writing this in defense of Facebook. They can and will defend themselves. I am wrting this in outrage at Yahoo! I used to care about that company for some reason. No more. They are dead to me. Dead and gone. I hate them now.
someone is angry this morning 🙂
pissed off big time. i hate everything about this move by Yahoo!it is a defining decision for what that company is now. a patent troll. fuck.
i have been reading your blog for many years. first time i see you so pissed offi agree this is a stupid move. quite frankly this is nothing to be surprised of. Yahoo has been keeping going the wrong way on any single strategic and non strategic decision that could be made for years…
Ah.You’ve forgotten SOPA/PIPA so quickly.. 🙂
Ok. Twice :)_____________________*Not sent from a computer ****News: Appsfire, best app ever 2011 [148apps]***
honestly I think it just makes me sad. they’re scared as shit. god help their angry techie souls
This is what I think of patents:http://www.lindventures.com…
As the song said: Ahhhh!!!! I hate you so much right now!!!!http://www.youtube.com/watc…
“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” The problem here is that drastic is sometimes just that, drastic.. not always good.
When I first heard the news, I wanted to express my displeasure by boycotting Yahoo then I realized that I haven’t used any of their services in years. Oh well.
comment deleted… no longer relevant after above comment modified
A drowning man will clutch at a strawWhat irks me is their timing. Pure dirtyness.#death_throes
#dirty is actually a compliment among the youngsters these days. my son will tell my wife that “dinner was dirty” or that “derrick rose was dirty last night”. go figure!
“Wicked” was hard enough, but it had a nice little sting to it. I still can’t quite accept “sick” as having a positive connotation.
round these parts it’s “fully sick”.
I’m really sorry.
That was a phat comment, Donna…See, I just can’t pull that off.
Part of your charm. But amusing to see you try.But just wait. You’ll have teenagers one day. You’ll discover talents you never knew you had.
meh to that newfangled slang – just speak in english!
Embrace change 😉
There was a sense of patheticness. Made me sad — but not sympathetic.
At first I thought this was a guest post. Although I’m glad it’s not.I must admit that these words from Reuters made me sad…”the first major legal battle among big technology companies in social media.” Does this change the game?
we will see. i hope not. if it changes it, it makes it worse.
Yes, guest post by AngryFred
The other party we should be pissed off at is the US patent office for granting them these types of patents. These are “process patents” which shouldn’t have been granted in the first place. I read them, and they all are so mundane & widely used everywhere today, such that Yahoo! might as well be sueing everybody else. I doubt very much that Zuckerberg even knew about or read these patents & then said I’m going to copy them. This proves that the whole patent granting thing is flawed & a waste of time.
This exposes one of the biggest dangers of software patents. We’ve now got a class of companies that have a lot of them for defensive purposes, that are starting to see their business models erode under the next class of companies. New management comes in and cares little for what the company does, and just see this “untapped asset”, so convert a previously productive company to a legal troll. I think SCO was just an early precursor to a much more dangerous trend that is going to happen.It’s really time to get software patents out of the system, because right now they are just dynamite in a nursery.
exactly. that’s what scares me and makes me angry.
Excactly: there is no such thing as a defensive weapon, only a weapon you haven’t yet used to attack.
This is why I don’t really buy the “unspoken line which is that web companies don’t sue each other over their bogus patent portfolios” bit. Don’t get me wrong, I say the exact same thing to myself regularly, but that doesn’t make it true. The problem is that even given that the big companies won’t hurt each other, the threat that the bogus portfolios hold over startups’ heads is too great, and I sort of care about them more.That all being said, I’m still living in La La Land, as I’m optimistic that Yahoo’s breaking rank will help shine a light on all this silliness. I feel like this case getting tossed out can only help the ecosystem. “Reform” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind.
Perhaps Yahoo! itself has realised it has little to lose now. No dominant products, no real innovation, probably little self belief, so not that much at risk in a lawsuit. I’m a little worried about Microsoft in this regard too. Sure they still make heaps of money, but they’ve been comprehensively out-innovated over the past 10 years or so and profits are something of a lagging indicator. I’m hopeful Microsoft will start doing cool stuff again (Windows 8, WP 7, Azure, their OSS projects) rather than going down the patent route (e.g. Android).
“dynamite in a nursery” that’s funny. ^2
Lets see, lawsuits….I thought that was something that old economy companies did….I am still dealing with one, getting ready for another one, and two months ago I got a cease and desist letter on something I said on my blog (to which I my response was, “…are you sure that you want to acknowledge that you are one of only three people who read my blog?”)It must be rough trying to make a living as an attorney nowadays!
actually it still is, technically speaking – its nearly impossible to find jobs if you are newly minted.
Hard to be disappointed when I’ve had no expectations.
Of course the whole thing is bullshit. When you add this to all of the other lawsuits, you have another example of corporate trying to stifle progress.OTOH, since this decade is one with acceleration the ignorant cannot understand, you simply leave them where. By 2015, to know who Yahoo was will make you a master at trivia.
As much as I think the way patents work is terrible, annoying, and bad for a number of industies(including medicine)1) Facebook is hard to call a young company in certain ways – its a young adult company.2) I’m not surprised – yahoo is way devalued for what it is because it can’t seem to define itself (not even innovate). They refuse to admit that they have the largest valuable content portfolio (for the sake of discussion, they are the number one news site on the web). They refuse to admit that there is a lot they can do if they weren’t so scared by what they are. They’ve been running around mad about patents because they are being treated ad a technology company – they’re not, and transitioning into “content” is hard. Look at AOL!3)a more philosophical point – if you want yahoo to be like nothing, you need to inactively forget them – otherwise you’ll just remember the hate.
Lawyers … Damn lawyers again. They’re playing the system. Even if Yahoo wins, they have lost the users.
Sorry…Agree with this post 100% but don’t agree that it is lawyers to blame. They don’t run the company, the CEO and board does.Don’t shoot the messenger.
Good point Waldo.
I agree Arnold
But they will have a field day with this. It will set a precedent.
Desperate times…It’s sad to watch giants fall.Lawsuits aside, will the internet tech field produce enduring companies? I mean 25 years on. Or will each giant be displaced by a fresh entrant within 10 to 15 year cycles?
Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook, and many moreYahoo is off the list
Have visions in my mind of Dr Strangelove being adapted to ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patent’ …
One, and perhaps two, of the companies you list will die in the next 10 years. I don’t wish it on them, I just think that’s how disruptive the internet is/will be. It’s early days yet.And now that you mention AMZN, it reminds me…didn’t _they_ sue back in the web 1.0 days to stop other sites from deploying 1-click purchases?I’m not defending patents or lawsuits. Just sayin’ I think we’ve seen this movie before.#AllArtIsDerivative
Take a look at the world’s leading companies over the last 50 years. The turnover is remarkable and change is accelerating. No reason to assume internet companies will be any different. If, for example, someone finds a way to capture the interest graph that is more powerful than search then google’s remarkable infrastructure is suddenly a gigantic overhead and cash drain.
As a first step for a new CEO this is a complete disaster for the company. YHOO should be totally focused on getting their act together and providing value to their customers. Where was their new Board?This is like telling the world we have no idea what to do so we’ll start suing people and see what happens.
Resignation on their part. Very disappointing from an internet pioneer…
Fred what is your take on start-ups applying for patents? Do you think if you are doing something in a novel and unique way that you should apply for one? We’ve developed a unique approach to mobile payments and ecommerce and just received our draft patent – however a for a start-up its an expensive exercise. I decided to have a crack and see if I could get the idea protected, but only because I was worried that someone else might attempt to protect the idea if I didn’t.
You raise an important issue: How to protect valuable technical work in an information technology company? I explain my thinking as an entrepreneur, although I’m not a lawyer. I emphasize trade secrets and keeping the technical work well hidden.If you make the idea public by implementing it so that everyone can see it, then the idea is “prior art” and, as I understand patents, in principle not patentable. And with enough money for lawyers and some years in court, you might be able to defend against a patent.If you don’t make the idea public and keep it, say, just in software secure on a server and never, ever let it or any hint of it out of your server farm, then you, as I understand the dance steps, can in principle get some protection of the idea as a trade secret. There a main point is, you just don’t tell anyone.What if someone later patents an idea that you have been using as a trade secret hidden in your server farm? Hmm …. I’ve never been able to get a clear answer to that question from lawyers, etc. My guess is, in principle the patent holder could sue and win but in practice they would need X-ray vision through the security of your server farm to know what stuff was going on inside there so that they would know to sue; and there may be an issue of, do they have standing or right to sue? So, my first cut guess is, just keep quiet and out of sight and count on no X-ray vision.There may be some risks here, e.g., if you have an employee who understands the idea, sees that you are using it in your server farm, leaves your company, and tells the world that you are using that patented idea or, if it’s not yet patented, patents it, then some lawyers could show up with some legal documents. Yes, you will think of just shooting the lawyers; but that’s a very old idea; it’s not so easy to get away with shooting lawyers; so shooting them, whatever the moral status, is not good in practice! So, for such an idea, you have to keep it as a secret, even from your employees.To be more clear, there are some dozens, maybe hundreds, of algorithms in computer science and related applied math that are very powerful, can yield very valuable results, but are dared difficult to invent.A now classic example is heap sort: For sorting n items, heap sort runs in place in time proportional to (n)ln(n) in both worst case and best case. So it achieves the Gleason bound and in that sense is the fastest such algorithm possible — forever. Dreaming up heap sort is not easy; to see this, if you don’t know the algorithm, then just try to dream it up or any algorithm with such properties! Please excuse me if I don’t wait for your efforts!Since heap sort dates from maybe the 1960s before such work could be patented and has been described in many texts in computer science for decades, e.g.,Donald E. Knuth, ‘The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 3, Sorting and Searching’, ISBN 0-201-03803-X, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, 1973.I doubt that it has been patented. Coded, heap sort can be quite short; I have one version in less than 10 lines.But there is also extendible hashing as in:Ronald Fagin, Jurg Nievergelt, Nicholas Pippenger, H. Raymond Strong, ‘Extendible hashing—a fast access method for dynamic files’, “ACM Transactions on Database Systems”, ISSN 0362-5915, Volume 4, Issue 3, September 1979, Pages: 315 – 344.It, too, is darned clever, some very nice work, tough to reinvent, and in some circumstances quite powerful. My rough understanding is that the work is patented. Use it for what? Sure: Use it for keeping track of session state in a Web server!Coded, the algorithm is not long, likely less than 100 lines. So, it’s a small piece of code; looking at 100,000 lines of code in a server farm, it could be difficult to find the code for this algorithm.So, if someone uses extendible hashing, reinvented or not, in some software deep inside a server farm and kept that usage secret, then it would be essentially impossible for anyone outside to know that.There is no limit to what additional techniques, algorithms, etc. might be invented. E.g., maybe someone in machine learning wants to use principal components and to speed the calculations and uses an eigenvalue approximation from a Gershgorin circle theorem. Such work is “prior art” now, but at one time was new and, thus, with current rules on patents, could be patented. So here we would have an algorithm based not really on computer science but applied math.BELIEVE me there is no limit to much more such work. And for such work, a question will remain: Patent the work or keep it locked up inside a server farm and protected as a trade secret? At this point, I prefer trade secrets — just don’t tell anyone.Some software algorithms get patented and then published. If you use such an idea, or just reinvent it, in software hidden deep inside your server farm and keep your usage a secret, then as a practical matter you may be quite safe from legal attacks based on your usage of that idea.Or, I have to doubt that just because someone holds a patent on a software idea they are then permitted to require everyone with software to hand over all their source code and documentation to prove that they are not using the patented idea.Generally what is going on inside a server farm is impossible to determine just from the outside. E.g., generally there is no good way to know what database software is being used. Database software is enormous; for just some algorithm that can be coded up in less than 1000 lines of code, generally it can be still more difficult to say, from outside the server farm, what those 1000 lines are doing. Heck, it’s difficult to say what’s going on in 100,000 lines of code even with all the documentation and source code inside the server farm!But if you want to sell the company, then you will have to disclose your use of any tricky stuff during due diligence? Maybe. But my reading of business people is that they have next to no respect for tricky, detailed algorithms, e.g., extendible hashing, wouldn’t recognize that such an algorithm was being used even if they saw the source code, and are quite prepared to regard source code as all just routine. Yes, extendible hashing, as good as it is, will likely not be the crucial, core secret sauce, of a successful business, but some other such work might!My reading is that business people are much more eager just to look much as Buffett claims he does — the brand, the market, the revenue and earnings and the growth in these, the competition, etc. If the company was selling, say, titanium dioxide powder made with a tricky process, maybe protected only as a trade secret, then due diligence might well look at the process. But some tricky calculation in 1000 lines buried in 100,000 lines of code inside a server? In practice likely “Naw!”. Instead, no matter how amazing the results, the due diligence people will just assume that it’s all routine software if only because they want to assume all software is just routine! Likely! How to know this? Try to convince anyone in business some tricky algorithms, software, etc. have any financial value before can show them users, revenue, and earnings with all those growing rapidly! Naw, don’t try to do that! Do something much easier: Teach a dog to walk on water in warm weather!People in business no more believe in the value or importance of tricky software than a Roman would have believed in, say, GPS! And, even seeing GPS, they would not be very curious about just how it worked!Net, that business people ignore the value of tricky software can be seen as a problem, but the flip side is an opportunity: Just keep the software secret inside your server farm and, if want to say to others that the business has value (which is generally not a good idea until necessary since it’s better just to keep secret the level of success), emphasize ComScore numbers, revenue, and earnings and never mention the crucial, core, tricky secret sauce. Even if want to sell the company, in due diligence just ignore the tricky software. So, keep the tricky stuff as a trade secret, smile all the way to the bank, and f’get about patents and lawyers! Don’t actually have to shoot the lawyers; just don’t let them know what’s going on!
Good point on the value of trade secrets – that is how most google IP is protected. But of course it is only feasible for some software products.You can’t patent math or algorithms.
Yes, on Google, that has been my guess although I have no details.Mostly the software patents startup people are screaming bloody murder about have to do with what is easily visible to a user via, say, user interface., e.g., a “one-click” button. Otherwise, with the current extreme role of client-server computing via the Internet, nearly all the non-routine software is locked up, hopefully, inside a server farm and, thus, can be hidden and maybe protected well enough just as trade secrets. But that software also tends to be of the kind that the startup community is more willing to see receive patent protection. So, net, now nearly all software that one should want to protect can be protected with patents or trade secrets.At least for a while in recent years, could patent an algorithm in some cases. For math, just patent an algorithm that does the calculations for the math. When I was working in AI at Yorktown Heights, we had some good patent lawyers that did patent some of our algorithms.If someone finds an algorithm that shows that P = NP (one of the most challenging problems in math and computer science — Clay Math in Boston will award $1 million for the first correct solution), they might want a patent, and unless the rules changed recently would get one. It might be one heck of a valuable patent. Of course, the NSA and CIA would be screaming bloody murder!My understanding is that the RSA encryption work got a patent. Of course the hope is that an algorithm that shows that P = NP would provide a fast way to ‘hack’ RSA simply because it would provide a fast way to factor a product of two large prime numbers.So, if have an algorithm that shows P = NP, then set up a server and offer to do factoring, solve logic problems, solve integer linear programming problems, etc. Maybe don’t tell anyone that actually have shown that P = NP and, instead, just claim that usually the server reports correct results quickly!There are ways to argue that an algorithm that shows P = NP would trivialize essentially all of math and revolutionize much of science and civilization. It’s a curious problem and a case of just an idea being astoundingly powerful and, thus, a challenge to all concepts of protection of intellectual property.
I am pretty confident such results are specifically excluded. And whilst anyone who achieves a landmark result in complexity theory or theory of computation will doubtless achieve eternal fame, they won’t get a patent no matter how much they want one. 🙂
For what part of it – the algorithm in a sense is a proof – and proofs may not be patentable.(this may be because I am thinking of algorithms as applied math as opposed to the P=NP problem as theoretical with uses in applied – am I off for thinking that?)
Shana, I don’t understand all the legal details. Sure, can’t patent a mathematical proof or a theorem. But at Yorktown Heights, our lawyers DID patent some of our algorithms in AI. And my understanding is that IBM got a patent on extendible hashing. The Yorktown Heights lab was awash in patent filings, including in computer science, including for things that are essentially algorithms.For an applied math theorem and proof for an algorithm that shows that P = NP, maybe, I’m no legal expert, the patent would be for a mid-tower case that would give guaranteed polynomial performance on all the NP-complete and NP-hard problems. Of course, everything about that mid-tower case would be routine except the applied math theorem and proof which might not even be mentioned in the patent application! Or, just say that the mid-tower case quickly factors products of large prime numbers. Or quickly determines if a logical expression in Boolean variables (that is, True or False) has a solution — this problem is called SAT for the satisfiability problem. Then, as a special case of SAT, call it a theorem proving box: Given any conjecture in math, the box quickly and correctly finds a proof or says that the conjecture is false. Would be a nice box. P = NP is a curious question.Here I mentioned the question P = NP just as an extreme case of protection and patents for technical intellectual property, and, still, I’m no IP lawyer.I can’t get more into P = NP here: Some aspects of the question are easy, some are subtle, but clearly the core question is one of the hardest humans have ever addressed if only because a large fraction of every Ph.D. in applied math and computer science in the last several decades has spent at least some weeks on this question and broken their pick in their effort. One of the subtle issues is, even if we find an algorithm that shows P = NP, it is still not clear just how fast that algorithm will be on average for practical problems, and our current experience is that such an algorithm might in this sense actually be slow. It’s all very curious.
That would work if your idea was an algorithm that magically did something that consumers couldn’t see – however if you are patenting something everyone sees – like a Facebook wall or a One-Click button – then how would this work?
Elsewhere in this thread, I’ve tried to be clear. For innovations such as “one-click” that hundreds of millions of people have seen in user interfaces, can’t use trade secret protection. So, could be tempted to file, and then try to enforce, a patent. Such a patent would promise to be in the collection that people in the startup community have been screaming bloody murder about, getting “pissed off” at, and not just pissed but “way, way beyond pissed” (from a movie!).So, for the startup community, the difficulty of getting intellectual property protection for something like one-click is moot — such a user interface tool deserves no patent protection if only because it is totally routine and obvious. Apparently there’s something about obvious that IP lawyers, the courts, and the USPTO don’t understand!So, what’s left in the world of tricky software is what can be hidden in code, now, usually inside a server farm. There, even if get a patent, as I tried to explain, would have one heck of a time trying to enforce it. So, don’t patent it and just keep it a secret, as a trade secret. If someone else patents the idea, then let them try to enforce their patent for some 100 lines of code among the 100,000 secret in your server farm — lots of luck.All of this adds up to, software patents are good essentially only for some lawyers and a real pain in the back side for everyone else and, really, should just be abolished.
If you can afford the time and money and plan to use them only for defensive purposes, go for it
From my own experience of evolving my plans, after time of having thought through things enough I realize that patents won’t do much other than perhaps sway exact clones. I think you once said to at least only patent something once you have something worth patenting.
I’m sure that at the time, Yahoo only planned to use their patents for defensive purposes. That was Sun’s position too. We can see how well that worked out over the long term.Given that any patent a startup is granted is almost certainly destined to become part of someone’s much larger portfolio, isn’t this advice going to make the problem worse?
Then why are patents so important when valuating companies and positioning them to lead in something innovative.
We don’t even think about patents when we evaluate a new investment
Really? That’s great to hear but I never expected you to say that
When I first met Fred, FOWA conference awhile back (during a workshop he had there), you could hear it in his voice at his distaste for patents when he said “get your patents if you really need to” … hehe.One thing though, other future investors may prefer to have a patent portfolio – though the best investments will be companies that don’t require patents to have defensibility against competitors.
Hi Fred:”We don’t even think about patents when we evaluate a new investment”.This may be the most interesting comment on the comments thread. You don’t have to do it today, but sometime could you elaborate on what you mean? I get the sense you man that phrase differently than how I understand it. thanks
exactly what i said. it doesn’t even come up. its irrelevant to us.
Then you are willfully ignoring relevant information and not doing as well as you could, as these studies prove:http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2… http://ipassetmaximizerblog…
i’m quite happy with our performance
To be fair there are valuable and beneficial patents. I would hope that those are the ones that are valued. Not stupid BS like the ones Yahoo! is bitching about.
As I understand it, in practice now, for information technology companies the main value of patents is for defense: So if you are such a company and some patent troll sues you, then you can use your patents to sue them. Patents can be appropriate and valuable in some fields, but somehow it’s mostly assumed in business that software is not such a field. That is, the assumption is that the invisible internals of software are all routine. So, the part of software that people try to patent is for process, e.g., aspects of a user interface, say, a button for “one click”, and such patents are just absurd and a full employment situation for lawyers and a threat to startups.
Coincidentally, Yahoo, through its subsidiary Overture was suing Google for patent infringement in the run up to their IPO too.Ended up settling 9 days before they went public – http://bit.ly/iwpA9R
Coincidence? I think not.
That was bad too but at least Overture did invent paid search
Yahoo invented lots of things too, especially in the very earliest days of The Web. I know, I was working at HotWired at the time. Where were you?
funding internet startups
This. Just a shakedown. The timing says it all.
If you’re going to be a highway robber you may as well do it when you have maximum leverage.
Fred, I fear you’ve lost perspective here.I’m as vocal a critic of software patents as you’ll ever see (try Googling “7669123” … the USPTO designation for Facebook’s Newsfeed patent), but for cripes sake, once you have the damned things, what else is the point besides using them as leverage wherever you can?In fact, once you’ve spent the considerable time and resources it takes to acquire patent protection, failure to protect them is grounds for revocation, so … you kinda HAVE TO “defend them”.I’m sorry, Fred … I smell a rat
I smell a weasel
That’s like saying “since you’ve spent the money to acquire nuclear weapons, you might as well use them”Take your logic forward to its ultimate conclusion and you will see that it is flawed
No, Fred, it isn’t like that at all :-(Nuclear weapons (insert diatribe pro or con here) are what they are. Patents are obtained SOLELY for the purpose of “protecting intellectual property”. I suppose you can create a distinction between inventors getting them so they have a chance to make money from their inventions and patent trolls/acquirers using them in a predatory manner( http://answerguy.com/2010/0… ), but short of that, IF YOU OWN A PATENT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO USE/(defend?) IT. And you can lose your patent for failing to do so.Maybe—and again, I think software patents in particular ought to be viewed differently by the already overtaxed USPTO—the answer is that patents should be non-transferable. You invent something, you have rights. You BUY an invention, you have none … or at least the rights you do have change.
patents are not obtained to protect intellectual property. they are obtained because they can be obtained.
Case in point – GOOG’s Motorola / patent haul.
“because it’s there”? SERIOUSLY?Words fail me, Fred. That’s just nonsense
The intended reason to “have the damned things” is for cross licensing. A patent doesn’t give you the right to make something, it gives you the right to prevent someone else from making it. Your “invention” (read: “incremental improvement”) in all likelihood reads on someone else’s patent and thus you must either license or cross-license to realise any commercial gain from said invention.Using them for leverage wherever you can is the exclusive domain of those companies who have largely run out of ideas or never had any in the first place.
Cross-licensing is just a variety of MAD. Keeps out people who aren’t part of the NuclearClub.
I smell lawyers
What do the smell like?No judgement here.Just asking.; > )
slightly metallic wet garbage sitting in the sun?
failure to protect them is grounds for revocation, so … you kinda HAVE TO “defend themThat’s a gray area an always thrown around when you get a nasty lawyer letter. “We have to do this, sorry”.Infringement is not black and white. Obviously. You make it sound like one person invented fuel injection and another person copied and sold fuel injection. The devil is in the details. And all this assumes of course that the patents are valid and should have been issued in the first place.
Dunno what I make things sound like, but I certainly know it’s grey as can be.I’m really, as is my wont, shooting for pragmatism. No, of course nobody “has to defend” a patent. OTOH, you are SUPPOSED to do so “when you become aware it’s being infringed”.That last part is the best, right? Now that the Intertubes are here and work as they do, it’s all but inconceivable that (especially the larger) companies with patent portfolios wouldn’t know about infringing activities pretty much immediately. So now we end up at a choice between pursuing everybody in accordance with the letter of the law, or pursuing selectively, a la what is, let’s face it, happening here.Underneath it all, though, I still say that it comes down to the very idea of a software patent. “Unique and non-obvious” are almost impossible to really create in software, and are supposed to be precursors for patents getting issued.The system is broken. Yahoo is taking advantage of that.Their executives, lawyers and shareholders all think that’s appropriate. And attempts to cast them as bad guys for that, absent turning business issues into moral ones (ha!) are, as I said in my original comment (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…, a loss of perspective
I think you may be conflating Trademarks with Patents. There is no requirement to pro-actively “defend” patents. Trademarks DO have this requirement though.
Thank you; I may have had that detail skewed.
“I’m sorry, Fred … I smell a rat”Yes – Fred’s post seemed uncharacteristically emotional but the level of disfunction around software patents is very disheartening as it seriously undercuts the remix/synthesis zeitgeist opportunities we desperately need to effectively leverage our future social and economic success.Its a good thing cellular DNA didn’t have patent mechanisms on board. Oh wait Monsanto is working on that for us all!
While this does suck and basically shows very little humanity, it’s been happening for years. I’ve spoken with a few people in the patent industry and most big internet companies rely on patents to make most of their money.
lol this post is great!
I aim to please
You’re on fire this week- – yesterday was a great educational post and today is an entertaining and controversial beef!
In a lot of ways I’m glad. For a while, Yahoo was like that girlfriend you couldn’t dump, no matter how hard you tried. You would see her pop up randomly on Facebook with horribly written stories no one really cared about, when in autopilot at 3 AM by accident I would type her name in my browser and mindless looking over her page before I inevitably passed out (but nonetheless still feeling dirty in the morning). IN the dead to me society we are living in, its always easier to break it off clean when she steps over the line (whether she cheats on you, or becomes a patent whore).
Thank you for the morning chuckle.
—-just a desperate move … Yahoo should sell itself before it’s too late!—-
just a desperate move
Should you start publicly ignoring pitches/emails from yahoo email adresses as a protest?
No. Its not their fault. But I don’t intend to reply to calls and emails from yahoo execs. They are dead to me
I realize this might be a stupid question, but why would Yahoo! execs call you or send you emails?Also, how do you plan to implement this? Setup a Gmail filter? Do you have the names of all the senior management of Yahoo memorized? I realize that this is an implementation detail of your “dead to me” policy, but I’m an engineer so such things interest me.
Patents are like nuclear warheads. State actors are supposed to pile them up, point them at each other, but never fire them for fear of retribution. Terrorists strap them to their chests and walk into malls.
BAD business often results in MAD times…
That’s my view too Matt
I think you’re cross wiring your ordnance, and perhaps reading and accepting too easily the recent corporate media propaganda about Iran.
“cross wiring your ordnance”is that an original phase or have I just managed to miss that one some howbecause I’m seriously going to steal that one!
patently assured destruction
Welcome to capitalism home boys
government-enforced monopolies have nothing to do with capitalism
you guys are missing the point capitalism is about competition. Yahoo is a aggresive competitor. +1 for capitalism .
No, Yahoo is not a competitor. Competitors produce useful stuff which is competitive. Those who can’t compete on merit use unethical methods like software patent litigation to squeeze some income. So it has nothing to do with competition. It has something to do with Yahoo becoming obsolete.
Aren’t ?government granted monopoliesandrugged capitalist competitionflip sides of the samerule of law coina coin that buys a stable-predictable-enforceable working environment for all comers? Sure the “rules of law” need constant rework but that overhead is just an intrinsic dynamic all such social dialectics force on their participants.After all the rule of law lives in the resonant interval between: government interference(laws)andcorporate free for all(chaos)the answer is in developing better tools of coding that slippery rule of law thingamajig.
I thought capitalism involves competing in markets. Not courts.
im sorry but are you insane? How do you think you get a government to enforce a monopoly? You lobby them with money until they do what you want. Enforced monopolies are the very definition of capitalism
you lose on two grounds: (1) needlessly insulting cypherpunks by calling him/her insane and (2) mistaking any economy in which government can print as much money as it wants as a free-market capitalist one. cypherpunks wins this beef easy
You’re mistaking capitalism with corporatism. very different:http://reason.com/archives/…
@e1cee57d12a4c18cd88ce171606c1a58:disqus re: ” You’re mistaking capitalism with corporatism.”Spoken like a true believer in the religion of capitalism. See me, I don’t “believe” in capitalism as some abstract Hayekian fantasy land, I evaluate WHAT CAPITALISM AND CAPITALISTS ACTUALLY DO.Yes, I know its a wild idea to judge capitalism on its real world effects instead of on the purist definition, but hey, I live right in the middle of this shit. And from what I can see, there ain’t a country in the world that calls itself capitalist that doesn’t practice massive state intervention in the economy to PROP UP those supposedly rugged individualist capitalist heroes. Why, I seem to recall trillions of dollars going to the banksters after they crashed the global financial system.
Jim Browski,Okay… Hayek aside, there is a difference between Corporatism and Capitalism. Whether you choose to conflate the two as a practicality is up to you, but Communism and Oligarchy are two different things too, regardless of their practical association. Semantics mean something.Accuracy in language is a merit we all fail at sometimes. Still a good idea to be accurate.
free market doesn’t have patents. they are a government granted monopoly.
Government-granted IP monopolies have as much to do with capitalism as the birth of Jesus had to do with sex.
This has nothing to do with capitalism or socialism or whatever *ism that you prefer.In spanish I would call it “patadas de ahogado”, something like “the kicks done by a drowning person”. Yahoo is sinking. And they don’t know what to do about it.The have turn out for help to a broken system. In the US the patent system is particularly broken. A system that people were not turning to, because it may do more harm than good in the long term in the startup comunity. Nevertheless, they did. And some people are upset because of the possible consequences.In communism, or socialism (they are not the same), or any other ism, they may have turned out to any other absurd law to help them keep afloat.It’s just frustrating to see the first search engine I used go so low.
Great minds think alike, http://jamessiminoff.com/po…
Reminds me of something I once heard a high level entertainment exec say — once you need to pull out the contract, you no longer have a relationship.Not exactly the same situation, of course, but wisdom from a similar vein. There are some legal instruments that by their very use lead to a path of destruction…or reveal that you are already on it.
Get the fukkk outta here!!! Fred Wilson is a cunt, who is desperately hoping zuck buys one of his piece of shit companies!! Seriously, he’d be faggin all the way out to the valley if he could be zuck’s bitch!! YAHOO LIVES!!! FUKK FACEBOOK!!!
i dont own that domain
Who exactly are the state actors, the terrorists, and the malls in your analogy? (written as someone who has spend a number of years living in a country where terrorists do strap bombs to their chests and walk into malls)
Non-state actors are non-practicing entities or trolls. They have nothing to lose in filing lawsuits because no one can sue them. Because they don’t DO ANYTHING. State actors are real companies. Think Microsoft, Apple, Google. And smaller ones. They could all sue each other to death over patents, but they typically don’t since they know the others have a big portfolio that could be pointed against them as well. In this case, a state actor is seemingly behaving like a non-state actor, which is unusual. Matt
After (too long) as one of their small business customers, looks like this is the tipping-point for me and time to move on – ironic timing after just yesterday posting about my very early-days yahoo.com email address ID – suddenly, it is no longer very cool…
Thank god I’m not the only one pissed off. It’s pathetic. It’s weak. A true sign of a dying company trying to squeeze every last drop.
Patent infringement lawsuits are the weapon of choice for the uninspired.
You’re immune to patent trolling only if you do nothing. Mayhap Yahoo reached the point when they don’t care about their own products and features?
Dammit, the first time in forever I use Yahoo! because of March Madness and now you spoil it for me Fred. :)There needs to be a better way that a public that is very much against this use of patents can apply real pressure. Paul Graham wrote an essay last year that outlined a possible pledge, but I don’t see that happening.http://paulgraham.com/paten…It’s one thing not to use these patents, but companies shouldn’t even feel the need to file them or acquire them in the first place.Here’s my one patent idea: Every time a patent is transferred to new ownership, the remaining period of protection is reduced by 1/2. -At least that will combat the use of patents as currency.
Every time a patent is transferred to new ownership, the remaining period of protection is reduced by 1/2. -At least that will combat the use of patents as currency.Or speed up enforcement. Paul Graham wrote an essay last year that outlined a possible pledge, but I don’t see that happening.Pledge, smedge. Almost meaningless. People and owners at companies change. Nothing heals like cold steel. You get more with a smile and a gun than a smile alone. If anything drawing a boundary like that will increase other actions by making them seem ok to do.
Geeez, what’s the fuss? Apple is sueing the crap out of other techies and all the Fanboys are getting shiny eyes – so, who gives a damn?
@fredwilson:disqus What’s the distinction here? I don’t know enough about it, so I’m not asking rhetorically; are the mobile patents more reasonable than Yahoo’s, or is it the same-thing-different-industry? I feel like the mobile suits haven’t garnered the kind of outrage that Yahoo is getting.
one thing i’ve been thinking a lot about is tim berners lee’s decision to simply give away the world wide web instead of patenting iti think that is a big part of why the web ethos is different
Wow Fred – Rarely is the content of this blog anything but measured and thoughtful. Yahoo really got under your skin. Not defending them, mind – I think you’re probably right.
I rant and rave occasionally
Suing over patent infringement stinks of desperation and any doubt I had that Yahoo! wasn’t committed to innovation has now been removed. Sad.
Yahoo has lost its top-line and bottom-line … big way … and trying to make some through ….middle-line (taking the bottom line of someone else).
Every web tech mobile empire has outstanding legal action against another for patent and tech infringement. Very few go to court for a ruling. The lawyers settle it. No doubt Facebook has applied for something that Yahoo wants access to.
It’d be pretty depressing to work for Yahoo now. “So, Yahoo huh….pretty cool…what are you guys working on now?””Oh pretty much just search for ways that we could sue innovative companies for stealing ideas that we couldn’t execute on.””So….make it a double?”
On the upside… It’s ripe ground for recruiting engineers now.
Starters and the benare and the bench’s bench are already long gone.
How should intellectual property in the digital age be protected? It’s clear that our current system is rife with abuse and encourages frivolous lawsuits. The system is extremely outdated and needs an overhaul.
Protect it by executing well on it
Exactly!!! Does Apple really need it’s patents? Superb execution is what protects IP; the iPad has been out for how long now … and still no tablet is close.Patents are intended to give someone a monopoly as to protect their investment (good idea in principal); but there needs to be some economic threshold for what qualifies as an investment.If you spend $500M developing a drug and bringing it to market, I think you should have some protection from copiers; but most of the patents I see in software are based on less than $10,000 of investment (read: some guy thinks up something clever and patents it).The only exception I could see would be a short-term patent to help inventors bring their ideas to market; maybe 3-4 years. Of course, the execution of this is probably undoable, since you’d need these patents to be turned around much quicker … could you image a patent office that issued or rejected patents in 3 months?
I’d like to see the same thing applied to copyright. It makes no sense that a songwriter or author is given a monopoly on their song for their entire life plus an additional 75 years. Often the songwriter, spent almost no time writing the song, and their dollar investment is trivial. The current copyright laws make no sense. Perhaps, copyright should be reduced to 3-4 years to help the person (or movie studio) to bring their work to market.
I am reminded of a story about Picasso. He was sitting in a cafe when a lady came over. “Mr Picasso, I so love your work, please just draw something for me. Anything.” So Picasso took a napkin, quickly drew something and handed it to her. “Thank you Mr Picasso. Thank you so much. How much do I owe you.” To which Picasso replied – “Nothing Maam.” The lady insisted “I couldn’t possibly accept, please tell me how much I owe you.” Picasso “Very well – that will be $50,000” The lady freaked. “$50,000!? But it only took you a moment.” “True.” replied Picasso. “A moment and a lifetime of experience.”
Interesting – almost certainly untrue (For one, I’d expect that Picaso would be more interested in Francs). But, regardless, the same is true for both inventors and artists. Frankly, if anything most serious inventors spent far more time studying their craft (and have the degrees to prove it) than most artists.
Say you are a brilliant inventor, and invent the airplane. You decide to obtain patent protection and share the invention with the world and allow people to use it under a reasonable license. Because although you are a great engineer, you know you are a poor businessman. And you want to focus on research (funded by royalties) rather than running a business. Should this person not be rewarded for his efforts? I understand you’re a VC, but not everyone wants to “execute” or create a business or be involved in commercialization.
software patents and hardware patents are two entirely different games. most of the anti-patent crowd focus on software, because the economics of software are inconsistent with patent laws written pre-software, with hardware in mind.
I think it’s more complex than that.The real problem is the level of obviousness in the vast majority of patents being issued.If someone invented a software algorithm you could build into routers to multiply the capacity of a copper wire by 10x – which would instantly transform the US into a high speed broadband nation – I’d be cool with giving them a patent and letting them profit from that invention.Tabs under a spreadsheet? A newsfeed? A music playlist? I don’t think so.Even hardware patents can be abused. Watch the Shark Tank episode two weeks ago, where Mark Cuban rips a patent troll a new one for his patent on “running wires through holes in clothing.” 😉
You can’t get a patent for Tabs under a spreadsheet or A newsfeed or A music playlist.
I’d argue that you shouldn’t be able to, but the USPTO has most definitely issued patents for all three of those things.
His comment was directed to both.
i don’t think society should reward ideas that aren’t executed on. that’s my belief.
Not buying Yahoo is dead to you. Perhaps dead to you until they want to acquire one of your companies
None of Fred’s companies want to be acquired by Yahoo, I can tell you that.
Yahoo, where companies go to die. Even their cool purchases like Flickr.
I can’t stop that because we don’t control our portfolio but I promise you I will argue vehemently against it
If your portfolio companies have any ethical sense, they wouldn’t want to join a patent troll.If they have any business sense, they’ll insist on cash, not equity.
I may be way off here but I think Yahoo want to be bought. And I think Facebook might be the company to buy them. This would put them in more direct competition with Google with a search engine, only they can really drive the social aspects deep into it, possibly more than Google could get away with.I expect a lot of the Yahoo properties would go behind the Facebook walled garden. An interesting question would be whether they’d continue to be powered by Bing?
that’s not a great way to ask to get boughtthat’s like walking up to a girl at a bar who you’d like to date and punching her in the gut
So is there anything we can do? (Can’t help but think about your post The Engineers Brain)Maybe start a fund to crowdsource search of prior art via a platform like Article One Partners? Not to help Fb (they have enough resources) but as a way to invalidate the most generic and bogus patents that could hit small startups any day?
something like that is needed. i’m sifting through a lot of mail in the wake of this post and some of it involves ideas like this.
Yahoo’s actions are not okay, but they are a symptom of a more systematic ill.
Companies play nice when they are in a position of strength, when they are cornered, running out of options and drowning then “don’t do evil” goes out of the window. Yahoo!’s actions are disgusting and way below belt especially given the pre-IPO timing. However they are not too surprising – after all this company has been mismanaged (senior management) and mis-directed (Board of Directors) for years. It feels that the coup de gras is near. And it won’t be too soon – the employees, the real talent there, deserve better opportunities.
The need for patent reform is so obvious.Here is a breakdown of the patents in question: http://paidcontent.org/arti…One of them is for a “Dynamic Page Generator”. Basically it’s a patent for a personalized homepage. By the letter of the law Yahoo is due licensing fees from the entire internet.I get the feeling that no one at the USPTO has ever used the internet…
Amazon for a start – their homepage is 85% personalised merchandising.
You would in fact be surprised at the level of technical competence higher-ups in the USPTO exhibit. They aren’t idiots, I think they just have problems defining prior art / outdefining the patent lawyers :- also they don’t care about patents the way we do afaict.
You are correct I am making assumptions without really knowing anyone who works there. But they can’t all be Einsteins am I right? 😉
Luke, that patent was filed in 1997 (Think My-Yahoo) and issued in 1999. How many personalized sites did you see in 1996/1997?
quite a few. i almost invested in a couple of them.
“Dynamic Page Generator”Didn’t Word Perfect have thatI thing they called it merge or something.
I remember when I first saw a personalized home page for myself (i think it was igoogle)…I thought it was the greatest thing ever.Looking back, I laugh, but at the time….
i agree with you, but there is always that debate as to how obvious it really was. i mean to me, slide to unlock a smartphone is obvious, but i know lots of people that disagree. software patents in general man……that stuff has to go
Agree with you.I think the real problem is the vagueness in these patents. One criteria for rejecting a patent application is if the subject is too “vague or general”.Slide to unlock a smartphone is dubious in my opinion, but at least it’s reasonably narrow in scope.When you read the pattens Yahoo! was granted, they could be used to sue 95% of the sites on the internet. What’s worse is that they’re _intentionally_ vague. Lawyers try to see how vague and general they can be and still get the patent to keep their options open.
It’s important to consider the age of the patents here and what was around at the time.For example, the dynamic page generation based on user preferences was filed in ’97, granted ’99 when things like this weren’t quite so common.It’s all very well that site breaking things down into single sentences but it covers up a lot of the particulars of the patent, and the devil is in the details.
Rage against Yahoo. Block their Slurp bot… wait… they are Bing powered, (Ironically, Slurp still crawls, (Someone forgot to turn the lights off)).
Its all about the money they have done the same thing in past.
Perhaps Yahoo! is trying to make as much money as it can to avoid/prior to bankruptcy…
they make plenty of money actually
Fred,Can you say Novell? — writting is now clearly on the wall. Apple too is getting very heavy in the “sue and ask later” category as well.
Memories of SCO. I learnt Unix on SCO – how times change…
I heard the other day that SCO had spent 45 million just in legal alone. Forget the total and complete distraction from actually trying to run and grow their business. #FAIL
Good Grief.It’s just a huge scale of marital divorce ambulance-chasing, isn’t it?Shameless.
I say this column is a crock of shit.Do you hate Google for backing Motorola’s patent suits? Do you hate Apple? Microsoft? Oracle?Yahoo is going after a big company that is pre-IPO. That’s why there’s all the outrage. Fear by VCs that “prior art” (aka intellectual *property*) might slow down their ticket to riches.
Read up on Yahoos bogus patents. They claim to own “the ability to selectively share news items with some friends and not with others”.Big difference between Motorola’s engineering patents (who actually invented the first cell phone).
Then your argument is with the patent office, not Yahoo.
Two separate issues with both the patent office and Yahoo.All established tech companies have similarly bogus patents. But there is an unspoken agreement not to enforce them because deep down everyone knows how bogus they are. Yahoo broke that agreement.
So then, has Apple broken this “unspoken agreement”? Has Oracle? Google?I contend the outrage is directed at Yahoo partly because they are on their knees but mostly because they might be standing in the way of the Facebook IPO.If the patent office has awarded you a patent, defend it. I sure would. Let others argue if it was awarded despite being bogus.
You are correct that it’s easy to pick on the weakest link and it’s been a part of human nature for a long time. There is probably some of that here.People overlook Apple lawsuits because they love their products. Yahoo hasn’t made any meaningful contributions in a while so they get called patent trolls.But maybe you’re underestimating how important trust is in the startups and tech communities. It’s the broken trust that people are really mad about.
There’s a gradiated line between Apple/Motorola who engineered novel and useful things down to Yahoo!, which patented its dumb luck.I think you underplay the culture aspect here. One could take the law to its logical conclusion and sue someone who accidentally stood on your toe, but we have a collective unwritten agreement not to — and that benefits us all.Yahoo! is the equivalent of the widely-reviled idiots who sue for bogus reasons (“the coffee was HOT!”) and degrade culture while taking the law to its logical conclusion.
Yes the whole thing is a tar ball cluster fuck !
Both, in my case:1) Patent office is passing foolishly trivial patents.2) Yahoo is actively using them.I can accept the necessity of maintaining a patent war-chest under the current system. Like Nukes, you need them mostly because everyone else has them. You’d never want to actually use one.. but you need it to make sure no one uses theirs on you.However actually using one is deplorable. Yes, the absolutely shouldn’t have been issued in the first place, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them. Like with our politicians and nukes, we rather foolishly hope that those capable of pressing the big red button are adult enough not to.
Here’s the thing, and I’ll accept being labeled a hypocrite for it. Yes, I have mixed feelings re patents and how our government issues them and how companies use them, or not.But — if the US government gave me a patent on things like ‘social media advertising’ I’d sue the hell out of anyone that infringed on them. The potential for these things is simply too great.
Exactly. There are patents that represent real, unique breakthroughs.Then there are patents for patently obvious ideas, like running wires through a hole in clothing. (Anybody see Mark Cuban go ballistic on that patent troll on Shark Tank a few weeks ago?)
Yeah that was awesome. His patent was for “a hole in a garment for the purpose of running an electrical wire through it” (i.e. for headphones) and he had successfully sued North Face, Columbia, all the big clothing brands.!?(·_·;?
that’s ok. you are entitled to your opinion here. i am not a fan of what Google is doing here or Apple or Microsoft or Oracle.
Not hate, but disrespect. All those who support software patent aggression.
Prior art is unpatentable, and intellectual property is not like other property. Copyright and patent in the US come from the government’s power (not obligation) to grant temporary privileges to the creators of new things.
The Constitution didn’t grant the power so that it is not used.
that ticket to richesis being earned with lots of imagination, hard work and riskthat’s probably whats being defended (the American dream)I do like your point on Google backing Motorola’s patent suits.
Right on target! None of these hypocrites condemning Yahoo give a shit when their oh-beloved Apple and MSFT are wielding those same bogus weapons to stifle innovation in the smartphone industry. This time of course it is about a has-been company going after their darling upcomer and expert at stealing others’ ideas! Go Yahoo! Good for ya.
world of difference between hardware patents and software patents. internet economics apply a lot less when you start dealing with physical stuff. although since you mentioned apple, i definitely think they are taking patents way too far — they are basically trying to sue samsung out of existence. totally lame.
A lot of the patents Apple and Microsoft are suing over are software patents in the mobile space.
Yes- – and im more sympathetic to some of the hardware ones. USPTO is a mess though any way you slice it
Fred is so full of shit!! It’s not even funny!!! He’d be Zuck’s biatch if he could get some!!! You think he’d say the same shit if it were fb suing yhoo? Yeah, right!!
At least he isn’t afraid to use his real name … sorry: epic fail. And who says the critics that agree with him like I do let Apple off the hook? They’re just as confining as Yahoo – only with higher paid lawyers.
i own fuckfredwilson.comi’ll sell it to you if you’d likeand i would never be Zuck’s bitch”don’t be a google bitch, a facebook bitch, a twitter bitch, be your own bitch”
“i own fuckfredwilson.com”—-you ‘own’ a domain name huh.. i thought you were just a socialist not ‘owning’ nothin..or, is it value only what you ‘own’ huh..
I’m building a time machine and going back to patent a unique business method for “customer service at point of ingress”. Them I’m going to sue every business that places clerical staff by the entry door.
Patent the time machine instead.
Ssshhh. I’m working on it…(Along with patenting the use of Yoda avatar on Disqus)..
You have repeatedly violated my patent for “a system and method for cheering people up by inserting pithy quotations into blog post comment streams.”Pay up, buddy.
The language has gotta be a tad more complicated..lol
“Yahoo! thinks they can bully Internet newcomers with their bogus patents.”Facebook = Internet newcomers?
Facebook is a pre-IPO eight-year-old so relatively speaking yes.
Relatively speaking? Pinterest is an internet newcomer, Facebook, most assuredly, is not.
Compared to Yahoo, FB sure is. But pinterest has no money to pinterest Yahoo (pun intended).Wasn’t it Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, said, “That’s where the money is?”
Yes, Pinterest is a newcomer relative to Facebook.But, Facebook is a newcomer relative to Yahoo.
Did you mean to say ?Facebook = Google = Internet Silos
relative to Yahoo, yes
This whole patent lawsuit issue has been worrying me as of late, so much so that I contacted a friend of mine who is a seasoned IP attorney to discuss options about dealing with potential patent lawsuits–and my startup isn’t even in alpha yet. I keep hearing stories about fledgling startups getting C&D letters and other threats (!) before they can even get a foothold in the market. It’s not an issue of fear, but of knowing the costs and headaches associated with dealing with this issue, even illegitimate claims. And here I thought the aim of P&T law was to encourage innovation, not stymie it.
Come on, Fred. The problem isn’t Yahoo, it is the whole idea of “business method” or “business process” patents. These should have been thrown out years ago. Yahoo is misbehaving, sure, but to be fair, if the CEO looks at a company and sees these patents as the only asset he has left, does he not have a fiduciary obligation to his shareholders to use them to generate value? I don’t think they should do this, I think they should get a better understanding of what real long-term assets they have and leverage them, but the problem is that they have these inane patents in the first place. Get rid of the business method patent problem, all the rest go away. Everyone wins.Well, except the lawyers, but no real loss there….
And what I didn’t make clear: if he sees the patents as his only remaining real asset, the board should terminate him immediately, and hire someone who can find real value.
Oh please. The Yahoo board is clearly a bunch of imbeciles. But the (parody) Twitter account is totally awesome & the best thing about Yahoo’s continued existence.
I didn’t say they are smart, neutral or imbeciles, just that the board has a duty to get rid of this guy if he sees that as the biggest asset Yahoo has.If the board sees it the same way, time for activist investors to terminate the board.
It IS the best asset Yahoo has.I say this in full good conscience, as they acquired one of my former employers and devastated that brand and its IP, and have done the same for many others.
Reminds me of the old IBM, used to buy up lots of companies on the upswing, and ruin them. I remember exactly when Tivoli division, e.g., crossed new licenses <50% of revenues. Is Yahoo really in that bad shape? Pathetic.
I agree with you Avi, whilst I don’t like the fact that Yahoo are using their patents in attempt to extract something. There would undoubtedly be a set of shareholders that would hold management responsible if they did not attempt to monetise them.
Agreed. I think Yahoo has a lot more assets than a bunch of patents, so management should be held responsible for focusing on the worst.Maybe I should run for the Board? LOL!As @eroach:disqus said, SCO spent 45MM on legal fees in its patent pursuits, and what did it really get?
there’s lots of problems here. you are right that business method patents are one of them. but yahoo!’s behavior here is deplorable too.
do you own FB pre-ipo shares?
no. i don’t own any FB shares and never have. good question. i’m glad you asked it.
Why is it deplorable? Their business sucks. They are running out of options. They have an asset, and they are leveraging it to bring in cash and hopefully buy more time to try other ideas in order to turn around their business.
Yahoo has failed as a sustainable business. So maybe patent troll is theironly future.
It is unfortunate that Yahoo has to do this to try and save the company. I hope that Facebook doesn’t cave to the IPO pressure and fights this.
Sorry Peter, but that idea isn’t unique. I just read your patent (which I really hate doing) and I am sure I could find prior art. Come on, dynamically generated context menus? And you think no one did that before you filed your provisional application in 2007? You really can’t be serious. Software patents and business method patents are a joke and this is coming from someone listed as an inventor of several patents.
Well then you should be able to find some prior art. Let me know when you do – and please show it working so we can validate it.As for what you think of patents – that’s just your opinion.
I can name 3 examples of prior art for your patent: Google Maps, Google Docs and Gmail. Or you can use another Google product – Search – and type in “dynamic contextual menu”.Anyhow, good luck trying to enforce/defend your patent. I have seen those legal bills. I am sure it is fun paying your lawyers $350/hour. Let me guess, they probably said you had a great idea and their $10,000 prior art search only turned up supporting reference patents because they only searched through issued patents.
Obviously you didn’t read the patent very carefully… it talks to changing the browser menu that is currently fixed by the OEM. So I went to Google Maps in my browser and you’re not going to believe this (but you can test it yourself) my browser menus staid exactly the same. I tried 6 different browsers and then i tried 2 mobile browsers and guess what – still the same fixed menus… File, Edit, View, History, Bookmarks, Develop, Window and Help.What I want to do is change the menu to File, Edit, View, My Google, History, Bookmarks etc.Now you tell me how to do that?
Go to Google Maps again. Right click. Look! It just dynamically changed the context of a browser menu via HTTP based on the web service. And, funny enough, the menu it changed is called the Context Menu. Boom!
Every situation is different of course. Some companies will take a stand and defend against anything to make a point. Others will settle to avoid litigation if the cost makes sense and depending on other circumstances.Not sure if this is true anymore but years ago if you slipped at a McDonalds it was an instant $10,000 to $15,000 settlement.
Here is some prior art for your patent: Google Maps, Google Docs and Gmail. Or you can use another Google product – Search – and type in “dynamic contextual menu”.Have fun paying your lawyers $350/hour to enforce/defend that.
It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what the patent claims. And your patent’s independent claims are all to “dynamically reconfigure menu information/structure presented by an operating system or an application”.Again prior art: Google Maps, Google Docs and Gmail. Right click. Normally, you would see a browser menu with options including navigation. But in those Google products (and many others) instead of the default browser menu you see a dynamically reconfigured menu specific to that web service.Your patent does not specify or differentiate between different browser menus. So how does your patent not describe the actions of an AJAX Context Menu which has been around over a decade? Plus, I am sure I am missing tons and tons of prior art. Like, aren’t there lots of browser plug-ins and add-ons which dynamically change the menus based on the current website? Do you know how many experimental browsers have been created in universities (lots of first year CS assignments)? Not to mention everything in your patent is obvious to any expert in the field.
Sorry but the browser context menu IS a browser menu. So that is a pretty obvious example of prior art for your patent.If you only meant accessing native OS APIs or only meant browser menubars then you should have specified that in your patent and not made your claims overly broad. But browsers are allowing more native access (HTML5! Now with GPS!) and what browsers still display menubars?Peter, here is some good advice for life, in general. In a battle between Patent Trolls and Internet Trolls, no one wins. Except the Internet Trolls.
“Software patents and business method patents are a joke and this is coming from someone listed as an inventor of several patents.” I couldn’t agree more. As a software engineer that also spent time running corporate development at a large public software company where I was deeply involved in the patent process I have to say the patent system for software is completely broken from end to end.The reason our Founding Father’s put a patent system in place was “not to protect your idea”. It was “to promote the sciences and the useful arts.” IMO it no longer does this, and in fact, pretty much does the opposite in the software world. It made sense when inventions were purely mechanical and knowledge about the new device could only be transferred through slow and direct physical interaction. This obviously is no longer the case and we need reform badly if the patent system is going to continue to promote the greater good. This battle will be long and hard as there are so many vested interests in the legal world (patent lawyers, politicians, etc) that want to keep the status quo, but in end, I think major reform will be inevitable…at least I dearly hope so.
that was my take as well. it sure feels like the patent office gives away patents to anyone who asks
doesn’t feel all that novel to me
That’s because you’re not looking at in the context of Mobile. Try this – go to Google Docs on your mobile phone and see how well those AJAX menus work (they don’t). Then think about how hard it is to program those AJAX menus so that they work all the time (they don’t because of the Mobile OS), on every single Mobile OSRight now we’re currently supporting 62 mobile OS versions running on 16 carriers all with a single line of HTML. That single line of code works on 100’s of millions of devices without a single change to your backend server (AJAX is a beast to make work on servers).Also that single line of HTML gets there a whole lot faster than an AJAX menu (bandwidth savings). And finally AJAX eats mobile batteries – single lines of HTML don’t.And that’s just the beginning of what we can do. Wait until you start looking at Mobile Privacy.
Fred,You have access to some of the very best programmers out there. So lets challenge them to see how novel our idea is.Here’s your challenge – ask them to recreate Google Doc’s browser contextual menus in an HTML page that loads in Androids Mobile browser. Here are the menus they need to create: File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, Help (they have to support dynamic changes e.g. i click on File and then i get a different set of menus)Using our “novel” approach we can do it 9 lines of “standard” code and about 2 minutes. Link to screen shots: http://petercranstone.blogs…And the reason i highlight the word standard is as follows. AJAX is non trivial to implement and support especially when you’re trying to make it work in all the different mobile browsers. I know you’re probably thinking there’s an app for that – and there is. But I don’t want to hire a mobile programmer, I want to use my current web standards based infrastructure and simply extend my web service to mobile. All i have is a knowledge of HTML and that’s it. I don’t want to burden my server, I don’t want to add anything new that could cause problems with my existing user base and the CEO wants it done this afternoon.And just for fun – load Google Docs in your browser and then do a right click and view the source for the page. Web apps are really complex to get right and require a ton of resources.Cheers,Peter
Yeah that was awesome. His patent was for “a hole in a garment for the purpose of running an electrical wire through it” (i.e. for headphones) and he had successfully sued North Face, Columbia, all the big clothing brands.!?(·_·;?
( * l * )
How much time do you spend on GitHub?
Oops that was meant to be a reply to another comment but it didn’t post right.I guess it works in this context as well?
This is SOPA for Apple.My favorite is Apple’s patent on the “ornamental design on an electronic device” (the front rubber feet) on the macbook airhttp://assets.sbnation.com/…Another? Apple is suing Samsung over the Galaxy Tab 10.1’s similarity to the iPad 2. The problem is the Galaxy tab 10.1 was shown and publicly announced BEFORE the iPad 2.
well i’ve already said what i think of them
Fred, check out who is the most recent addition to the Yahoo board. ‘Nuff said.
Alfred Amoroso Retired President and Chief Executive Officer, Rovi Corp.http://investor.yahoo.net/d…Mr. Amoroso has served as a member of our Board since February 2012…….Member of the Transactions and Strategic Planning Committee–I’d say this is the strategy going forward.
Kara Swisher @karaswisher Retweet: former board member on patents: ouch “@erichippeau: Pathetic and heartbreaking last stand for Yahoo. It’s all over. I loved you very much.”
great. just great.
Yahoo’s new revenue model 🙂
Companies that become stagnant and can’t innovate anymore make a choice. Erect a legislative regulatory fence for barrier to entry or pursue court adjudication to disrupt competitors while they try and catch up. Yahoo has been dead for years now. They lost. Microsoft saved a lot of money and headache buy not being able to buy them.
silly and super lame. … and who is Yahoo!? #LOL
Yahoo reminds me of AOL in its late stage before the major drop-off. Every day they add another service that not many people are using.
It’s sad, it didn’t have to be this way. There was a moment when Jerry coud have turned it around, but the joint ineptitude of the board of directors plus Microsoft’s vicious attacks were a perfect storm of fuckup.And maybe Jerry’s heart really wasn’t there anymore.Their board of diectors must have been one of the worst in history, securing the company’s death well in advance to its time.It’s all the way down from here.
Way to go Yahoo! I think this is awesome! Fred, you sound like an insane communist. Locate the prior art first, then publish a story.
I hope Yahoo die a quick, painful and unnecessary death.As for people who promote this type of behaviour, I hope they just STFU and learn something one of these days.
Comrade Fred the VCNow there is an inherent contradiction – very funny indeed!But be careful slinging that communist thingy around or someone is likely to lose an eyeball.;-)
prokofy calls me a technocommunist
locate it? it is everywhere. this is the web we are talking about. that’s what is so laughable about those patents. my kids could find the prior art in about ten seconds.
If you’ve read each of the claims and determined that there is prior art disclosing each of the limitations set out in each of the claims, and by prior art I mean patents or publications that were printed more than one year prior to the filing of each of the patents, then you ought to be able to list the references. Can you point to One reference that teaches One element in One claim in One of the patents, where the teaching wasn’t in any of the references cited during the prosecution of that patent? And note that there has to be a rationale for combining the new reference with other references so that collectively, the combined references teach each of the limitations in the claim. I’d challenge you to see who can locate such a reference first if I had the free time to play with, but commenting on your blog is about all I’m able to spare presently.Cheers.
it doesn’t have to be patented to be prior art
You’re right Fred, you can also look to ‘printed publications’ that were published more than a year before the filing of a patent application. You can assert both patents and printed publications in a request for reexamination of a patent.Anyone can file a request for ex parte reexamination….and given the intensity of your feelings on this subject, and the interest you’ve stirred up, I’m sure more than a few people would like to see how you fare actually searching for references, writing the request for reexamination, and filing it with the Patent Office.Yahoo’s suit is so upsetting to you, you’ll feel better if you use the opportunity to educate yourself and to share the experience with people.Oh, and take another look at my last reply. You’ll see that I wrote “patents OR publications.”
it seems to me that you lack the basic knowledge of what a patent is..’prior art’ is soooo far from what a ‘patent’ is that i am surprised you have no problem displaying your ignorance all over the web.i guess when you ‘own’ a ton money you don’t need common sense anymore huh..
i love posts like this. reblogged the best line earlier this morning.
You mean you love seeing Fred pissed off? 😉
i would call it high energy
Maybe just too much morning coffee?
i wrote this at 5am (ish)i don’t have my morning cup until 8 or 9ami only drink one cup a day
lol yeah this post was loads of fun
Perhaps this will provide the catalyst to reform patent laws, particularly as they relate to software patents. Software patent brawls, even involving newer players like Google, are way too common. Non-practicing entity trolls are ridiculously prevalent in all spaces. Maybe this will be the issue that starts to bring home to normal people how stupid all the software patents are.
Your VoiceBunny applet adds in an extra word at the bottom of the post. Here’s what is said:”They are dead to me. Dead and gone. Idiots! I hate them now.”Does the applet add in commentary as well or does this represent an earlier edit?
that was in my original post. i edited it out. voice bunny got the original edit i guess.
As a patent holder I am somewhat biased but many companies encourage their employees to register patents and then use them offensively; at Google we only use the to defend ourselves and the common folk against the likes on Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Groupon, Oracle, Apple and other for-profit corporations.Ultimately, it has to do with ethics and the DNA that makes each company. Ex-softies tell me that they have patent forms in each desk, with lawyers ready to patent even the smallest thing. At Google, the opposite happens: when a search quality engineer finds a way to increase ad clicks (by tweaking the ranking of websites,) he does run to the lawyers, he runs to Amit Singhal to implement it. That’s why I love working at Google.
at Google we only use the (sic) to defend ourselves andthe common folk against the likes on Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Groupon, Oracle, Apple and other for-profit corporations.Ultimately, it has to do with ethics and the DNA that makes each company. Matt – I know you are well respected, quoted, and head of the webspam team at Google. (And I’m assuming that I am replying to the real “Matt Cutts” by the way.)Now, specifically let me address this statement: “Ultimately, it has to do with ethics and the DNA that makes each company.”You’re entire view of business is based upon your years at google. From what I can tell prior to that you were in college. I’ve been in business for 30 years. I can assure you that over time companies do what they have to do.The only reason that Google might appear to have something great in their DNA is very simple.They earn a boatload of money. They can afford to take the high road. If you have followed business over the years (and I don’t mean read about it now based on history) you will see that companies (and people) over time will do what they have to do to survive. While someone’s ethics (and “dna”) definitely differ (no question some people are more eager to screw others) people in the end do what they have to do when their “life” is at stake. Listen I think you’re lucky to be working at Google. You are well paid and it’s a great place. But the majority of companies are not google and that environment is not representative of the rest of the world.Edit: Just read the rest of his comments. Ironic. This was spam.
As long as the folks with both influence and authority within Google embrace this culture it will continue to exist. The ultimate test is as you aptly mentioned hard times.What will Google do in its final days?
Matt – I applaud your sentiments. But whilst the google culture is not some kind of demi-patent troll, let’s remember that 2 rather important things about Google.a) google does hold patents b) google’s core IP is best protected as a trade secret not by patent. A patent has to be revealed to the world and hence can be learnt from and worked around. A trade secret can be held as a secret forever. And google’s core IP is held server side and hence is extremely well suited to being protected as a trade secret.
On a personal level (not on a “I work at google on search” level) how do you think patents should be used? Do you think there is a conflict between you as patentholder and you as part of a bigco as patent holder?(this is more being curious about your biases)
This sounds a little like institutionally cultivated self-delusion or are they now requiring everyone at Google to hand in their third-eye before receiving their employee badges?I realize all you people at Google are bright burning stars but everyone especially bright burning stars needs to work that third-eye!
“At Google we only use (patents) to defend ourselves and the common folk against the likes on Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Groupon, Oracle, Apple and other for-profit corporations.”I’m sure the rank-and-file developers at Yahoo would have been told exactly the same thing.In reality a “defensive patent” should be seen as an example of Chekov’s Gun ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wik… ). If it shows up in Act 1, it will be fired in Act 3.
I work on web search at Google. This comment by “Guest” is dubious. Let me set the record straight in case anybody takes it seriously: Amit Signhal is the head of algorithmic search quality. He does NOT work on ads. We have a Chinese wall between ranking and ads. The ranking team meets every week to discuss changes to the algorithm, and I’ve NEVER heard anyone even MENTION ad clicks in those discussions.It is true that Google encourages employees to file patents for defensive purposes, and has never used patents offensively — although this action Yahoo does serve as a cautionary tale to all of us in the software industry.
Yahoo suing over lost ‘Intellectual’ Property. Perhaps they feel like they are running out…?
Maybe you should begin by deleting your Flickr account then…
Not until that last Flickr of life.
i haven’t used it in a long time. it is also dead and gone to me
Is Amazon dead to you?
Amazon – P/E = 135the bet keeps getting longer?
i love that line “the bets get longer”PE is an approximation of how many years it will take to get your money back (unadjusted for growth)i realize that amazon is growing so it won’t take 135 years, but it might take 40-50that seems like a long long tme
the one click patent thing is absurd too.
This not a patent war, just a pre IPO blackmail.They think they will collect easy money to go away.A banker’s trade, not an entrepeneur’s trade
I’m surprised nobody posted a HATERS GONNA HATE pic yet. Last night at a taping of John Oliver’s Comedy Central special one of the comics mentioned that he got all his news from Yahoo News and got a huge laugh. I guess they’re the new Compuserve punchline. On a useful note, This American Life has a great episode on patent trolls – http://www.thisamericanlife…
You’re really funny!
I think more than anything, this is just sad. It not only reflects the current state of Yahoo but what is to come. The best idea that new leadership has to offer is lawsuits? Come on. Intimidation over collaboration? How often is that a successful business strategy in the modern world? In many ways it says “if we can’t beat you, we’ll sue you”. Yahoo – a shadow of what it once was.
Are you hating Apple too? Because they do the exactly the same…
yes, of course. i guess you don’t read this blog very often.
I am still not sure what Yahoo is doing wrong here. These are billion $ companies this is how they compete.. I mean if yahoo started sueing every small startup then I can understand.. but for Christs sake get a grip on all the Hate. All companies do that – Google, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung you name it ..
the web is different. it is based on IP that was given away. there is a different business ethos on the web. and yahoo just violated that ethos. they fucked themselves.
Now that the emotions are out and everyone including Fred vetted their frustation or amusement with the situation, Danny Sullivan over at Marketing Land has a level headed analysis that basically says this is a well calculated and timed move (pre-IPO for FB), where Yahoo will be looking for a settlement, the same way it did with Google when it sued them for AdWords and got $1.5 billion. Only remaining question is whether they would settle for a lump sum or ask for on-going licensing fees. http://marketingland.com/ya…
Thank you for being a voice of reason
But still, the core of the issue is that they are allowed to do that and get away with it. The root of the problem is the Software Patent process.
Right – though it might just be the patent process period. Something is wrong with how it works. EG: THe original patents on AZT were violated internationally because of AIDS.Yeah, patents need an overhaul.
“everyone including Fred vetted their frustration or amusement with the situation”comedically succinct !
Been there done this. I worked for FindWhat way back – Y! Sued us. Settled. Licensing fees into eternity. It s not about money so much as psychological mojo.
If you can’t innovate, then litigate. That seems to be the message, and unfortunately, the first audience for that message is Yahoo rank-and-file, who must now know that their leadership has so little confidence in their abilities to tip the needle, that they’ve chosen a non-market strategy.Unfortunately, the recent history of being an aggressor without innovation hasn’t worked out so well, as Darl McBride of SCO Group can attest. They took the same strategy, quickly became a pariah, even more quickly became defined by their litigiousness over their product, and ended up in bankruptcy, which got McBride canned.Those who forget history….
Fred, I am trying to find a pattern in when and why you serve up petulant posts like this one.Web companies do sue web companies. And we seem to tolerate the patent stuff with Apple.My big problem is with this line which is an insult to many many people trying every day to do new things.”I don’t think there’s a unique idea out there in the web space and hasn’t been for well over a decade.”It also makes one wonder, are in the business of funding imitators and not innovators?
not too hard to understand why he’s upset……the closer you get to stealing his money, the more upset he’ll be. 99% of people (conservative estimate) operate from the same psychology; no one likes being robbed. i don’t know if he has shares in fb, but the more stuff like this happens, the more all his portfolio companies are likely to get sued. this increases operating costs significantly — it probably already has.
unique software idea vs unique software product constructionsthere is a difference!
i’m in the business of funding innovators who take obvious ideas and do something special with them
And what in the world did Yahoo! ever do with those patents? Absolutely nothing, which is why their business strategy is reduced to being patent trolls.
The Patent cold war is as old as the 8080 microprocessor. Microsoft has a huge arsenal as does AOL (many foundational patents of key Internet technology). AOL could chase everyone doing many cloud fundamentals as simple as downloading and updating software; everything to do with Instant messaging and presence – much much more. In the old days no one pulled the trigger because it was mutually assured self destruction. But since Apple, Google and others have fired the first missiles, the holocaust has just begun. It’s not just Yahoo – in the end, we will be hating everyone. This is bad for the industry, and particularly bad for entrepreneurs.
I wonder if AOL has a patent for mailing software CDs in tin cans to prospective users.
If not, they should. It would prevent everyone else from doing it.
I wish I had saved all those old AOL CD’s.I’d like to mail them, out of the blue, to friends as comedy relief.
Or build a concrete house and cover it with them as a brick face. Get it profiled in the NYT Magazine. Would be a nice gimmick for an up-and-coming architect.
Just as a matter of interest, whom did Google sue that justifies your putting them together with Apple’s aggressive use of patents against Android manufacturers?
yup. that’s exactly why i am so upset.
Whether you believe it or not, there are innovators, andthere are copiers. FB is an (admitted) wholesale copier. Their entire business mode is based onimitating their competitors. Ifanything Yahoo! waited too long to sue them and a whole bunch of otherinterlopers. But to respond specifically to your points: “None of them represent unique and new ideas at thetime of the filing.” Sorry, but I didn’t realize that VCs were now experts inpatent law and had such prescient and perfect knowledge of what was or was nota new idea that is patentable under the law. I know you are very good at what you do, but trust me, thisisn’t one of your fortes. “But worse, Yahoo! has broken ranks and crossed theunspoken line which is that web companies don’t sue each other over their boguspatent portfolios.” An “unspoken” line by definition has noboundaries, and is worthless – anyone can see that FB’s actions, in”borrowing” from every idea on the planet, were going to get it intotrouble. This is just the beginning of their troubles in this space, and theycertainly deserve the admonishments. “ I don’t think there’s a unique idea out there in the webspace and hasn’t been for well over a decade. “ I’m sure this is a refrain that is echoed every time thereis a software patent lawsuit. For some reason, it seems that everything wasalready “invented” exactly 10 years ago. I’m sure that 10 years agothey said that everything was invented 10 years before that. Well, there’s areason: most ideas take time to make themselves into the mainstream, by whichtime, folks like your are up in arms because you know take them for granted andthink they were always there. The fact is, like any other industry, software folks need topay attention before they start trespassing on other people’s intellectualproperty. And if you are REALLY worried, you can always buy insurance againstthis risk, like any other business does with the risks inherent in itsenterprise.
Kudos on the excellent post. I agree. Facebook has been stealing from others for years. I am surprised it took so long for someone to finally get upset enough about it to do something.
“FB is an (admitted) wholesale copier. Their entire business mode is based on imitating their competitors.”What are you talking about? Seriously, can you actually believe that Facebook is the one company in this history of the web that had zero new ideas? I have no special love for Facebook, but I fully believe that Facebook rose to 700 million users by with a combination of good ideas and good implementation — they built a damn good product that didn’t exist that people wanted.
Not sure, but definitely inside of turkeys during the holidays
This is pretty well said. Does anyone know how I’d be able to find out the outcome of a patent filed by Yahoo regarding the concept of “interestingness” on Flickr? They filed a patent application but when I search the patent database I can’t find any information on it at all.http://goo.gl/qvUJU
As much as I hate Yahoo for doing this, I wouldn’t be surprised if in their mind this is no different than Apple suing Android manufacturers for patent infringement.
Apple vs Android – Oh no Mr. Bill!:-(
How is it different in your mind?
Very strong post Mr. Wilson. I understand your displeasure but we must also see it from Yahoo’s point of view. It is there way of remaining relevant to some extent.
relevant as a patent troll. good luck with that.
YHOO trading off about .05. Not much reaction in the market.
The news didn’t break today.
An act of desperation from a v 1.0 dinosaur.
I hope Zuckerberg didn’t use Yahoo! to do college research when he chose Harvard. They may take his non-degree away.
Fred,You should seek out Professor Paul Ohm from CU Law to do a guest post on this issue. He’d provide some great insight.
Getty images (see attached) sends out letters demanding payments (see amount) when they determine an image is on the web that they feel they own. As they have purchased many images over the years they are even sending out demand letters for images that might have originally appeared on an “image disc” cd that someone bought for $20 (containing thousands of images). Attached demand letter is for one of those images. No doubt there are people paying the invoices. (Throw it at the fan and see what sticks).Getty Images was acquired in 2008 “by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman for $2.4 billion including debt”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008…I don’t know if this practice existed prior to the buyout or not. Somehow I’m guessing it did not. Does it surprise anyone that in a declining and competitive market for images that H&F did this?Do you think they didn’t know they were going to do this when they made the acquisition?
It’s like Yahoo! wants to retroactively patent the internet. Very sad to see such move from a former Internet giant. The same is happening between Microsoft and Google over Smartphone patents.I don’t think patents are helping innovation in software. If I was to thoroughly research the patent space for my products, I would probably never start anything.
You think it is easy to invalidate all 10 patents (and all associated claims) by clear and convincing evidence? Good luck. Yahoo probably has thousands of patents. It didn’t pick the 10 easiest ones to invalidate. What you “suspect” is irrelevant.
this post will definitely hurrt the geocities acquisition negotiations
NOW THAT IS FUNNY.
i wonder if any of those patents were acquired in that deal
Looks like Yahoo is starting to act a lot like the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America). Both aren’t as powerful as they used to be and like to take their frustration out on other successful companies. Hopefully Facebook makes Yahoo look foolish in court
That’s because they both are heavy on the content and aren’t sure what to do with it.
True, but they shouldn’t be trying to bring everyone down with them. Instead of attacking others why not try to innovate, that’s the only true path back to prominence.
I love when you go on rants…
Yes it is somehow reassuring that levelheaded people like Fred can do rants too!
It is a very level headed rant:)
Fred – I respect your concerns. The only problems I have with this piece are:a) whilst you may be right that the is some kind of unwritten rule you would like to see respected all has always been fair in love war and business. b) perhaps more concerning to me is the unsupported statement that the patents are a crock of shit. Maybe they are. But as you surely well know, there is generally a huge difference between popular statements about what a patent is and what it actually is. I for one haven’t read the patents and most especially haven’t read the claims, so I have no idea what they truly represent. I certainly don’t trust popular representations of such matters and don’t trust the overwhelming majority of journalists to get to the bottom of it. Furthermore, it is ONLY by understanding the exact nature of the claims that you can state with any confidence what may well have been prior art.My concern here is that hating on software patents has become a conventional wisdom in some startup circles and much of this hating flat out doesn’t understand much about the way patents actually work. A huge amount is just a knee jerk reaction to how crazy this or that patent is, relying entirely on a characterization of the patent which in my experience has often been wildly wrong – most particularly understanding the patent as being much broader than it actually is.All that being said – do I think Yahoo is doing something smart? No. They are just thrashing around in their death throes.
@myscrawl:disqus “Furthermore, it is ONLY by understanding the exact nature of the claims that you can state with any confidence””The patents . . . are a crock of shit.”Bring on the microscopes!
Where was all the outrage over the Amazon One Click Patent lawsuit, the Oracle lawsuit with Google, the Apple lawsuits, the endless Microsoft lawsuits, all the IBM lawsuits?IBM claims to have invented everything!http://www-03.ibm.com/press…What a bunch of faux selective outrage. The software patent system is badly broken, but this article reeks of hypocrisy.
Exactly my view on this bogus outrage!
hypocrisy would be if i was behind those bullshit patent suits. i was not.
I don’t know Yahoo’s new CEO, Scott Thompson, but from folks I do know that interacted with him at PayPal he is pretty aggressive and did not really build what I would call an “endearing” or “customer centric” culture at PayPal during his time there. This move seems from my outside perspective to fit in to the same mold (pun intended). I wonder if Jerry Yang is selling or holding his shares.
Crazy idea? Have tech companies everywhere contribute patents to a non-practicing entity whose business model is to retaliate against aggressive patent disputes and use winnings to lobby for reform.First target, of course: Yahoo.
What Yahoo is doing is not against the rules…but if they were playing baseball they might see a pitch high and inside in their next at bat.(Take that as a metaphor…not a threat)
“I don’t think there’s a unique idea out there in the web space and hasn’t been for well over a decade. Pretty much everything useful is based on prior art going back before the commercial web existed.”I suspect that quote is going to haunt you in pitch meetings to come. I hope I’m wrong, but it seems… rash, and needlessly comprehensive.
@fredwilson:disqus this is a good point.I think we are in a golden age of media. Innovation is about to explode, as people imagine uses and innovative designs that are native to a HyperNet distribution platform.And this statement is patent troll induced overstatement.Not that patents don’ t need reform.Well done Hal.
why would it?
Perhaps I’m misunderstanding things, but given this quote, it certainly seems possible when a company with USV money behind it makes the claim it’s innovative, the response may well be, “Funny… Fred’s said on record he doesn’t think so. Why should we?”
innovation on the web comes from the way an idea is executed. that’s what innovative. not the idea itself.
So glad to see a thorough debunking of the patents by careful analysis of the claims and relevant prior art at the time of filing!Wait, that’s not what’s here? Maybe just a cursory glance at the claims, then? What, not even that?? Maybe some conscientious author somewhere on the web has made an honest attempt…? No?Oh, right! This is the Internet. All patents are “obvious”, “bogus” and “junk” and there’s just tons of prior art lying around to kill them. Who needs even a basic understanding of the patent system to denounce it! Claims? What are those? Oh, the stuff that really matters? Hah, why even look at those when the titles and abstracts are so conveniently vague and broad!And then you all wonder why nobody listens to you when you go around telling everyone “the patent system is broken.” The answer is simple: you are spouting uninformed nonsense. If you want to fix the patent system (yes, it has problems), educate yourselves and talk about the things that really need fixing.
Exactly. Good luck invalidating all claims of all 10 patents by clear and convincing evidence that the US government has already blessed as valid.
Why outrage ? Yahoo are protecting their bottom line, welcome to capitalism, if you have a problem with the US patent system then take it up with your government.
been doing that. will continue to.
actually, it would be a lot easier for people who already made a ton of money to just steal from inventors..you know.. i like that toy and i’ll pay someone to make me one just like that..
Still sad that Flickr sold out to those bozos. Was a bad fit then and now it’s even more disastrous. I trusted Flickr for their original purpose: back up all your photos and allow the web to help you organize them (tags). An amazing social network resulted, and Yahoo! blew it. Everything Yahoo has ever touched has turned to crap. It’s a place where ideas and enthusiasm go to die. Once I find a suitable replacement for Flickr, all Yahoo! will forever be dead to me. Quite frankly, I should have done so a long time ago. And I definitely should soon because they won’t be in business much longer most likely.
Why doesn’t Yahoo just stick to what they’re good at: Final Four brackets. Oh wait, they ‘borrowed’ that idea from someone else.
This post inspired me to write a post arguing that Yahoo isn’t dead… rather it died a long time ago and is now Zombie Yahoo: http://daltoncaldwell.tumbl…
One element worth watching is the activist hedge fund campaign being carried out against Yahoo right now by Dan Loeb and Third Point LLC. Third Point is agitating for major changes to the Board and is rallying around the idea that Yahoo has not done enough to “maximize shareholder value.” They’ve already helped shove Yang and Bostock off the Board and have nominated 4 new directors for election at the next annual meeting. With a threat like that on the horizon, I would expect the current directors are scrambling for a way to generate new revenue and show that they are handling the shareholder value issue. It’s a terrible move, and I agree with your post, but I think it’s happening at least in part because the board is a wounded animal lashing out to try and save itself from being replaced.
he called me to discuss this post. i think he agrees with my point of view on this.
This popped to mind:’Patent litigation is a hate crime.’I have not read others’ comments, and I am sure many will fixate on the use of the words ‘dead’ and ‘hate’ at the end of Fred’s post, I’ll admit that I thought it was badass that Fred used both hand and both feet on his proverbial pipe organ as he totally blasted Yahoo.Jerry Colonna said in his guest post a few Fridays back about Fred that he has a ‘flair for understatement’ (that cracked me up), so this post helps to make up for that :)And I think there are worse adjectives than ‘dead’ to describe YHOO’s move. ‘Scared’ and ‘spineless’ and ‘weak’ are a few of the top-of-mind terms that come to mind.As Chicagoans say about their old Chicago Stadium (pre United Center) ‘Remember the Roar,’ and well, Fred’s pipe organ roared on this post and I thought this was a badass post.
Isn’t the whole post really just Fred transferring his frustrations about patent law onto Yahoo’s financial desperation.
Chris interesting point regarding hate crime–Yahoo’s aggression shows a contempt towards others reminiscent of the theme discussed in “The Culture of Make Believe”.
Wanted to capture the TOT placement (Top of Techmeme) to commemorate the impact of when Fred steps on the gas with both feet when he wants to make a point. It’s as if Techmeme’s editor’s hair stood up on the backs of the necks to put it there asap.
I’d like to see them sue each other until they find that they are spending so much time and effort on law suits that they decide it’s time to fix the patent system.
Fred:I respect your writing–and I’m no fan of how Yahoo has continually “mis-orged” it’s way to near oblivion–however isn’t this a little unfair on Yahoo.A lawsuit is just a degree in what has become a innovation-encumbering round robin of “patent battles” in the valley…but these stretch back all the way to Tribe and LinkedIn spurning Friendster in social networking patents.Maybe Yahoo wanted some more concessions from Facebook. Maybe they wanted to them to think about a certain direction that they–Yahoo–are going in. I hardly think it’s fair to single out Yahoo here.
Further evidence that the software patent system is broken.Fred, seems like this post has gotten a ton of traction outside the AVC community. I’d be interested to see the Google Analytics data.
70,000 visits that day. probably over 100k over a few days
How is this any worse than what Microsoft and Apple are doing with suing Android over patents? I agree that the whole thing is ridiculous and wildly anti-innovation, but Microsoft and Apple both seem to be a lot more successful at using these legal exploits for their own anti competitive advantage.
Mark Cuban:”I Hope Yahoo Crushes Facebook in its Patent Suit”http://blogmaverick.com/201…Rather than originating in Congress, its going to take a consumer uprising to cause change. What better way to create a consumer uprising than to financially cripple and possibly put out of business the largest social network on the planet ?…Which is the exact reason why Yahoo should do everything possible to use the patents to tear apart facebook with as large an award as it possibly can get. 1 Billion. Peanuts. 10 Billion, Peanuts. Start at 50B. After all there is no way Facebook gets as large as it is without use of Yahoo’s Patents. No personalized pages, no PPC, no Facebook IPO. No Facebook as we know it….I hope Yahoo is awarded 50Billion dollars. It is the only way that consumers will realize what is at stake with patent law as is.I’m not sure what kind of consumer uprising will take place if Yahoo is awarded a hypothetical $50 Billion. Facebook will remain in business it will just have new owners. The 16 year old girl standing next to you in the line at Starbucks doesn’t really care about patents or who owns facebook. Neither does my Uncle.
I agree with Fred’s comments in theory. But what if you are an investor in Yahoo. Wouldn’t you want Yahoo to pursue any and every avenue to support the stock price? Even if you think the pursuit is trivial, wouldn’t any windfall be considered a ‘success?’Since when did business become a morality play? Don’t take this so personally. It’s just business. Yahoo will either win or lose. But the pursuit is entirely justified if for no other reason than securing revenue by any and every legal move available to them. As an investor –morality aside – you should expect as much, no?
there is a cost to Yahoo in doing this. many engineers will never work there anymore. many companies will never sell out to them anymore. they have become a patent troll. that is ugly and it will hurt them badly.
YOU SAY THAT LIKE ANY ENGINEER WOULD WORK FOR THEM BEFORE THIS?YAHOO STOP BEING DESTINATION FOR ANYTHING BUT FAIL LONG TIME AGO.
Can we Google bomb “patent troll” to link to http://www.yahoo.com ?
we all really need to stop buying these patents. we’re doing this to ourselves if we pump money into these broken systems
I think Fred is jealous of these large companies having patented broad applications that he thinks are obvious now. Fred is not named on any patents; and none of his portfolio companies retain many patents; even though their products may have been patentable when new. I think he’s mainly concerned about how his portfolio companies will defend themselves in the future when imitators drown their business, that’s why he rages so fiercely against companies that use them, even going so far as to try to negate the entire patent system as it applies to digital inventions.
I wouldn’t say jealous, but certainly concerned. And with a reason. And right to be I think.I don’t know Fred. But I agree with him in many things.I think that more of a rant on Yahoo, what is needed is a complete change of the patent system. So, tomorrow maybe Yahoo sues Amazon too. And you may answer, go for it! they have the patents or not? and that’s just absurd.The hole point of the patent system is to protect the IP of individuals, but not because the IP it’s a holy right that some communist erased from the ten Decalogue, but because protecting IP helps flourish innovation which in turns helps build a better society creating jobs and solving real problems.When protecting the IP demotivates innovation, protects the status quo of enterprises that are doing a shitty business, the system is broken as broken can be.So now Tim Ferris could be sued for Shopify, or WordPress, or any “Dynamic Page Generator” there is, whatever that means.Oh, maybe that idea that I have, that could generate lots of jobs, also uses a “Dynamic Page Generator” or whatever, and I could get sued too! and if I get sued at a startup fase, I won’t make.So guess what, I just might stay in Europe. Where software patents are not possible. That plus privacy issues, means Europe is only lacking people with balls and money to invest.So of course Fred is mad. I would be too if I were him. I won’t say I’m mad, but certainly worried. Seriously. Who says that if I make it, Yahoo (or google, or amazon, of facebook) won’t sue me because some stupid patent that doesn’t make any sense (“Dynamic Page Generator”, really? I can even make it with C++ now days, look at http://www.webtoolkit.eu).Take the patent throlling, privacy issues, and SOPA, and it’s the perfect storm to kill innovation in one of the most (or THE most) innovative country in the world. Which it’s a pity to us all.So no, I don’t think is a matter of jealousy.
Sorry to tell you that software patents are just as allowed in the EU as in the U.S… Maybe their examiners are a little bit more hardline than ours, but the very patent you speak of “Dynamic Page Generator” is also patented by Yahoo in the E.U.Fred said it somewhere else in this thread that he was afraid of software patents. Fear leads to anger… Anger leads to hate… Hate leads to…?My take on the patent system is that it’s an established, explicit landscape for technology. I don’t have a problem with the patent system but startup people, who are generally “anti-establishment”, have their problem with it on principle just because it is indeed an “establishment”. That leads them to ignore the patent system. When patents come around years later, they have not really prepared (simply because they ignored it) and now they are afraid / angry / hateful, in addition to just being anti-establishment.Indeed, the establishment is rather robust and can handle changes and eliminate errors. The patent system has slowly eroded over time to allow for more broad patents on things like business methods. This wasn’t the work of the establishment, it was the work of startups and other innovators who wanted to join the technology landscape.
The patent system it’s indeed “an established, explicit landscape for technology”. So? that doesn’t means that it works. I doesn’t mean that it cannot be improved, changed, modified to meet today’s needs.If your take it’s on the startup people, then you have one big issue. The startup people generates jobs and technology that you probably use.I don’t have anything against no one, but realize that some things have to change. They are no longer serving it’s purpose. If the patent system is not helping innovation, what is it doing? I don’t have anything against patents per se, I just thing that now days people are patenting anything… and that’s just crazy. And retrograde. Patents are fine with me. I actually like them a lot. If you actually patenting something worth patenting of course!
The patent system has changed, and is constantly being changed, every time a new patent is granted or a patent case is opened. Thirty years ago raw business methods were basically un-patentable but since then that has changed, because inventors wanted to own their innovations in those fields.You may think and espouse that patents squash innovation in this field… however, do you think that Facebook would have gotten to where it is without the shitty products that Yahoo put out before them? Did Facebook not reiterate the same tired social media model that Yahoo invented in the late 90s, simply succeeding because they reached a broader market?Yahoo did make shitty products – but they did also invent them, and put them out in the world to be used by the likes of Zuckerburg, who then made his own successful product knowing the shortcomings of his predecessors. And you better know that Zuckerburg is named on several patents on the innovations in FB; and believe that FB would use them in the future if it was to their advantage.In the discussion about software patents I am forever reminded of the patents involved in the 3D imaging of the inside of your body with MRI and CT scanners. Over the course of the late 70s and early 80s a small company invented a software method for 3D imaging using density data taken from an array of sensors. Most argumentative techies on the internet would call these “broad, obvious software patents”. GE and Philips both used their published papers to build commercially successful machines and created multibillion dollar businesses out of it while the original company faltered. Only through almost a decade of litigation did the original inventors get any comeuppance from their patents. So you can thank patents everytime you get a CT scan that the original software patent was held up in court, upholding the rights of the forward thinking inventor against the business oriented executor.
why are you turning my point around? I already said I agree with patents. Did you read what I wrote? what’s the conexion between what I wrote and your response?No, FB did not implement the same social media model. I think they are very different models actually. Broader market? yahoo had quite all the market at some point.Again, the whole story about CT scans it’s totally out of context. Pantents are good. Patent trolling is not. Right now things are being patent that doesn’t make any sense. And that means the system is broken. It doesn’t mean that patents are not usefull. The technology behind a CT scan it’s pretty different from a html button.Get serious. Really.
@jbcolme:disqus I use the CT scan example because the company that successfully sued GE and philips for royalties on the patents would be considered a patent troll by your standards, and the patents themselves, when put in front an anti-patent zealot, would be lumped into the same category as the social media and advertising patents held by Yahoo. But they still managed to get the original inventors paid, and well.
jealous noworried yes
It is interesting to see everyone’s views and speculation on the subject of internet IP. I agree these sorts of patents should never have been issued. But that train left the station not 10 years ago, but twenty years ago and whether or not patents like these should have been issued, has been debated for at least ten years. I hope that highly visible lawsuits like this one will accelerate reform.I also agree that patents like these have the potential to impact the tech startup community negatively which is a shame. I recently had my free hour with a tech startup attorney and was quoted $700-$1000/hr for internet IP legal work. That’s a lot for most start-ups.I happen to be very close to an IP co-owner of a very famous internet patent that sat for 10 years basically unleveraged. Then, after changing hands a few times, it fell into the domain of a patent troll, er, I meant internet IP attorney and in the last 10 years, this particular patent has been used aggressively and has made the owners very wealthy at the expense of some really decent and ethical companies. In the end, what these patent lawsuits have done is fuel more patents. I can see this downward spiral continuing before something gets done to correct the mess. Some words that other commenters have mentioned struck me here: bullying, shakedown, uninspired. Oh, and Fred, will you be removing the Yahoo user authentication for your site login? Not being sarcastic or disrespectful, just curious.
great suggestioni will see if i can
Yahoo is desperate. That much is clear, and clearer every day. I do not have a problem with them suing Facebook…let the courts decide. I do think our justice system is broken…if this lawsuit ends up being dismissed, the only people who will have gotten rich(er) are the lawyers. Other countries structure it so that if the defendant loses, the defendant bears some/all of the legal costs of the plaintiff. My wife is a world class litigator and she totally agrees. The side with the deepest pockets oftentimes wins. That tells me that Facebook wins this one, irrespective of the relative merits of the case.
PROBLEM WITH GIANT PILE OF PATENTS IS EVENTUALLY SOMEONE RUN OUT OF REASONS NOT TO USE THEM.
To the Death of Yahoo!
I agree with you completely….yahoos last ditch effort in defending their relevancy is disgusting and shameful.
Is Disqus having trouble with threading at the moment? This comment thread is all over the place – make it impossible to follow.
Personally I’m glad Yahoo is doing this. If the patents are as bogus and ‘thin’ as claimed then they need to be tossed out and the only way to do that is for someone to sue or be sued and break them apart. Hopefully Facebook will do just that.
Relax. Once FB checks into their patent archive, they’ll pull 20 out to counter Yahoo’s 10. This game is played like poker, and patents are simply some cards dealt out to the players. Give it a little time and FB will construct a decent hand and this will blow over.Agree ultimately a royal waste of time and a distraction from real innovation. Lawyers will go home with some nice paychecks but the industry won’t see much benefit from the sideshow.Let’s move on. Nothing to see here.
wow, one can feel your energy in that post! I agree, they are breaking the gentlemen’s agreement.
For pretty much all I care now, they can go with RIM.
That’s just frivolous suing now, shooting fishies for the sake of it! going back to the attempts of “ambiguous patient infringing law sues”…. “Acacia Research Corporation (ACTG) ” = FAIL……they’re doing quite well now! should of jumped-in on that IPO….props to them for moving forward.
but they were trying to extort me!….so, F___ them!
What WAS that procedure?
I think what’s right is right, and the wrong won’t get their way, not as easily as it would be, we can see it clearly.
please excuse my frivolous lawsuits spellings…
Mark Cuban’s take.http://blogmaverick.com/
I would fully comply with patents and patent laws that is more specialized, more specific to a point, ie (niche)…but such patent as (PPC) is as ambiguous as using a fork for feeding, there’s a difference and I think time will buffer that out. I think it’s worth a 50 Billion dollar battle for that idealism. For 50B, I’d drag it out till the end of time or till I can patent the rights of arm-moving motion to feed myself as mine. just my2cen but what do I know?
Mark Cuban’s link…add to favorite
I hated them when I competed against them at Lycos – but I respected them. We pushed each other to be great competitors via competition and the attached innovative paranoia that created. I’m with you. The timing of this says it all. It sucks, but with all of the newcos we advise, the patent process is critical to the conversation as a DEFENSIVE move. It _doesn’t_ spur innovation and it costs a lot for young companies to go through this. Sad part? Even if they do it, it’s no guarantee that huge zombies like Yahoo won’t chase them down anyway with lawyers in tow. For years I kept my Yahoo home page. I’m with you. No mas. Makes me sad.
I would really like to talk to Fred Wilson about this. It sounds as if there is no room for new companies to spawn and protect themselves from the Mighty Giants (Google, Facebook, Apple, Cisco and YES, Microsoft and Yahoo)…Patents give protection to UNIQUE ideas. Is it fair what happened to Tivo? Being biggest does not mean you own the entire thing does it? Muscling and ignoring companies with good ideas should not be encouraged? Facebook has great position right now but what do you think they will do when Pinterest continues to grow and steal audience and ideas that hold audience and revenues that Facebook created that were “unique”? I also disclose that we are a small company that has been issued Patents and took the route because without them we had no protection to building unique and useful software within Social Media…without it we would just another small company hoping a small group of people push us through the tidal wave of cash grab, PR push and ‘relationship meetings’ to allow us to succeed. We wanted to build great software and not be the shiny company but a good and helpful company to many sites. We first figured that we had to be sure our investors could feel protected by the balance of a third party, the USPTO. We sure don’t want to be involved with law suits but we do not want to be disregarded because we are small either. Really would love to discuss this with you to understand the hate of Patents or maybe it is the hate of lawsuits? I too hate lawsuits/lawyers but also wonder why the big companies get to take all the opportunity because they became bigger and powerful off of others unique and original ideas? Hopefully this spurns conversation and further understanding for me because I respect you Fred Wilson.
by all means file for patents to defend yourself. but if your business fails, please don’t become a patent troll.
We have 2 patents issued and thus anyone that takes our technology and does not recognize the need to license is supposed to be excused? Or is there a way that you see a need for those developing ideas to take some responsibility for accepting and respecting the Patent holders and their licenses? Seems as if you still think all that can be accepted is who gets audience first and then protection?If someone has worked to build and then another has money or a relationship that leaps this for public awareness that does not diminish values of a Patent holder or give cause to ignore does it?Again, we are not looking to troll anything or sue anyone. We want to work with everyone that wants to use Comments for SEO and Advertising but those we approach seem to want to hold that piece all unto themselves and discredit our value in the Patent. Respect our technology just as we respect your clients and users…both sides win?I guess I ask you, what is the Chicken and the Egg? and do they not both matter? Do they not have to work together? I really would enjoy a good 20 minutes of conversation about this if your time merits it ever. I want to understand both sides…I want it to work for both sides.
“It’s only worth it, if it’s worth doing”……..Look, Mr.”Patgiblin”…just my 2cen. I don’t feel why ANY big companies would be a threat to you, if anything, they would nurture companies like yours. It’s your nearest and closest competitors/associates that you should be concerned about, but if your unique ideas/patents are AWESOME! who wouldn’t want you to succeed? it would be cheaper to buy you out then to try to develop your unique idea, no? You certainly have my vote! Keep at it, spam here! what the name?
I like Mark Cuban’s thoughts on this one — a ridiculous patent court finding based on existing laws should show the need for overhaul of our broken patent laws which restrict innovation rather than promote it. – http://blogmaverick.com/201…
The patent system was “overhauled” over decades as innovators appealed the patent system to get their more ethereal “business method” or “software” patents granted. This wasn’t the work of the patent office or the powers that be; it was the work of inventors trying to get their inventions patented. Now that software and business methods are common practice, the average innovator in the software field is raging against the changes their forefathers introduced decades earlier; basically, trying to “progress” backwards. Factually speaking, the patent system is dynamic; and most big companies or patent trolls’ patent portfolios are factually a house of cards that a true innovator in the field could topple. I’ve done it, at least in a hardware field. So a true innovator has nothing to fear, except their own lack of true innovation.
Software is different.
I write software too. And the only difference between software and hardware technology is that software is more fluid; thus, it’s easier to modify and easier to bullshit about. Patents are definitively bullshit, words on paper, describing stuff. So if there is a software patent that is encroaching on my software, I know it’s much easier to either: a) change my software, however slightly, to evade the patentb) use rhetoric (bullshit) to counter the defendant patent’s claims regarding my software.Whereas in the case of hardware, changing the hardware is difficult and expensive; and it’s hard to wax philosophical about how a piece of hardware is physically different from that described in a patent.That is what I mean by a house of cards. However scary software patents may seem to an uninitiated techy, they are really just stacks of bullshit – a house of cards – that can be toppled by evading 1 claim.
But most investors don’t want to stand under the house as it falls. Most people aren’t “true innovators”–you know this. So do you want a meritocracy where only a few crusaders have the courage to compete, or do you want an ecosystem for innovation?
If I had my way patents would be simple to get and would be issued quickly, and could be enforced or licensed within a simplified legal / financial framework. Think something more along the lines of Etsy for IP. The USPTO is an ecosystem – it’s just an overgrown jungle. Building a new interface to the ecosystem – Providing a shopping mall for IP, and a click through license system, would make innovation much easier and more lucrative. That way anyone could be a true innovator. But of course most of the people that post on the internet are not solution oriented and would rather just rage against the patent system like a bunch of anarchists raging against private property.
I hope you are correct-One innovator (Google) has already paid a very large tax (2.7 million shares) on the obvious and non-innovative “361 patent” owned by Yahoo via its acquisition of Overture. Yahoo is behaving like a patent troll by trying to create incentive to settle before Facebook’s IPO, as it previously did against Google.Also, disputes over this patent delayed Microsoft’s entry into search by almost a decade. This has not been good for innovation or competition in internet search or search based advertising.
While in college I interned for a patent law office as a patent engineer. My role was to talk to the inventors, understand the invention, and write the first draft of the patent before it went to a partner. At first it was really exciting to be part of the innovation process, but after a while of seeing I realized that our clients were all massive corporations stockpiling thousands of patents for their war chests so that some day they could squash smaller competitors with a barrage of documents that would be prohibitively expensive to sort out. This strategy was just as likely to be used for hardware as software.
I don’t understand why people assume this will be a net positive for Yahoo financially. Just because it’s legally allowed doesn’t mean the tech power structure is going to allow it. It’s disappointing not just from an ethical perspective, but from an investor’s perspective, because Yahoo is signaling desperation. A desperate patent claim reflects negatively on the value of all Yahoo’s other assets. Let’s not look at this lawsuit as a cost-less venture by Yahoo. Internet biz might not have the formalized code of the diamond industry, but there are some norms which will be enforced.
I could not agree with Fred more. Bogus patents are to be accumulated and postured with as in an arms race. Patent troll. Fuck is right
The exclamation mark has to be made to stand for something. There’s nothing ! about Yahoo’s products or services.
I dislike the situation with patents as much as the next entrepreneur, but I think we need to be honest with ourselves here.How much of the outrage around Yahoo suing Facebook due to the fact that Yahoo is the uncool kid? Yes, many of us would despise this move no matter who the party was. I’m sure you’re this way Fred.But I can’t help but think that a big piece of the outrage is due to the fact that the cool kids are pissed that the loser is sticking up for itself.Do a mental exercise, and be honest:Would people be outraged if Facebook sued Yahoo because they knowingly violated patents from Facebook’s innovations? Would Facebook be “dead and gone” to Fred?Where is the outrage at Apple suing company after company over patents? Why is Apple not “dead and gone” to Fred? To everyone else? What if it were Nest who owned the silly patents on a thermostat and they sued the Honeywell for copying their innovations?Would Nest be “dead and gone” to us?If we—all of us—are being intellectually honest, we have to acknowledge that if you switch the players around, our feelings on the matter change. I’m not defending the patent system. It’s a train wreck. But it’s the law of the land and we are all afforded equal protection under law, including patents and the value they contain. Even the losers.===I’m no fan of Yahoo. It’s tragic what happened to a once great company. But alas, that’s our industry, and you reap what you sow.And I think it’s insane that Congress cant see past the lobbying money on this matter and is risking strangling some of the most promising industries in America—the industries of not only our future, but the industries advancing humanity at an accelerating rate.But let’s save the “screw Yahoo” hypocrisy. Yes, the patent system is broken and the situation for innovators sucks, but if it were Path suing Yahoo, few would complain.And that’s the truth.
path wouldn’t sue Yahooand i’ve said my piece on Apple. i’m no fan of them.
Patents hurt innovation (http://rww.to/patentvsinnov…, or http://bit.ly/patentvsinnov2 – I believe), and are, as mentioned by Matt Blumberg and acknowledged by you Fred, like nuclear warheads.I also believe these nuclear warheads should be dismantled, specially the bogus ones !So, with all my due respect I don’t understand why Yahoo! is crossing the line? Why now? Why them? Why not Apple, Kodak, Google, Microsoft, Sony, RIM, etc??Why haven’t you raised your powerful and influential voice earlier about all these stupide, bogus patents that the US Patent and Trademark Office has been delivering for so many years? You might answer “better now than never”, but still… I don’t understand.
Most IP law seems to be written in favour of the companies that spend the most time and money lobbying the government. The arguments against this are frequently made very strongly by people in entrepreneurial businesses. Interesting though that entrepreneurs in developing countries are arguing for greater protection for their ideas…http://thebln.com/2012/03/i…
yahoo wants some money off facebook 😉
Yahoo! Wants Some Good Press.
This is an interesting clip on how the lack patents don’t prevent innovation in many fields:http://marginalrevolution.c…
Indeed, the area of software patents looks to be the next frontier of extensive intellectual property legal battles. While I’m not against the idea of patenting software, I wouldn’t be surprised if these coming fights eventually led either to new limitations on software patents, or even to their elimination altogether.http://www.aminn.org/patent…
Losing respect for Fred Wilson really quickly here.. it sounds like IP means nothing to him. Also, it sounds like he would encourage companies he invests in to take as much as possible from others.I find it shocking that a company that claims a valuation of $100B+ would not invest in creating clean IP but stealing from others instead..Fred Wilson, go invest in other countries where IP means nothing.
Wonder if Facebook would let others use their patents freely?remember, Facebook is suing every company that uses the word ‘book’ in their name.I guess, the IP is good only for some but not for others huh..where was fred wilson then?
Here are your heros, trying to patent the word “book.”http://arstechnica.com/tech…
and they are not my herosi think i’ve said more negative things about that company than any other on this blog
See, I just don’t see playlists as something that is patentable. It’s just a digital take on the mix tapes we made in the 80s.Patents are for REAL innovations. Where we discover something new that we didn’t know how to do before. A touch screen that is 10x more responsive. An algorithm that lets you transmit 10x more data in the same amount of time over a copper wire. Something that is truly innovative that pushes technology and science forward.And then we put it into the public domain in exchange for a time-limited monopoly, and anyone else can build on it without paying royalties.That’s one thing a lot of AVC commenters don’t seem to grok. If I get a patent for A+B+C+D, you can only infringe by doing A+B+C+D or A+B+C+D+E.If you can pull off a derivative work with A+B+C+E…you’re not infringing my patent.I’m glad your friend thought up something cool, but making a list of songs is just NOT innovative or original.
Maybe I’m underestimating what the patent really covered, but I just don’t think the idea of making a collection of songs in a different order or mix from how they were originally released is an invention.Let me put it this way…Inventing glue should be patentable.The idea of gluing a greeting card shut and printing the gag on the back should not be patentable.One moved science forward. The other didn’t.We grant the temporary monopoly to encourage the inventor of glue to put the formula into the public domain, so that everyone else can understand that A+B+C+D = Glue and work on derivative projects.If someone else figures out that A+B+C+E = post-it note adhesive, that doesn’t infringe on the glue patent.That’s how patents are really supposed to work, but we seem to be patenting greeting card gags instead.