Apple sued, again

News.com reports: Apple sued over iTunes interface:

A Vermont company has sued Apple Computer, alleging that the interface for iTunes infringes on its patent.
Contois Music & Technology filed suit last week in U.S. District Court in Vermont, alleging that Apple’s actions are ‘irreparably’ damaging Contois. The company seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, as well as unspecified damages, according to the lawsuit. Contois is also charging that Apple’s patent infringement is willful, and is asking the court to take this into account in calculating damages by tripling the amount it would otherwise award.

Software Patents and multimedia

The great, open-source VideoLAN project is threatened by software patents: “VideoLAN is seriously threatened by software patents due to the numerous patented techniques it implements and uses. Also threatened are the many libraries and projects which VLC is built upon, like FFmpeg, and the other fellow Free And Open Source software multimedia players, which include MPlayer, xine, Freevo, MythTV, gstreamer.”

Patentability of Crustless Sandwich

atently-O reports: Federal Circuit to Decide Patentability of Crustless Sandwich: “On April 6 at 2:00 pm, Judges Clevenger, Gajarsa & Prost will hear in re Kretchman (Case No. 04–1448) that involves peanut butter and jelly sandwich technology.  Smuckers has already received one patent on its highly profitable ‘Uncrustables,’ and is now appealing a patent office rejection of a second, broader set of claims.”
Previous sandwich-related posts: The Earl of Sandwich would be proud (sandwich market research) and Is phone food too slow?

Profits in the Attic

In Slate, Daniel Gross discusses how Ampex has turned its patent portfolio and the threat of patent litigation into profit: The Profits in the Attic – How an old technology has turned Ampex into America’s hottest stock:

The hottest tech stock in America hasn’t been surging because of what its products promise to do in the future, but for breakthroughs it made more than a decade ago. Ampex has quietly risen a whopping 2,000 percent in the past six months. It is perhaps the most extreme vindication of Kevin G. Rivette and David Kline’s book Rembrandts in the Attic, which argued that companies’ patent collections could constitute an overlooked treasure trove. In the past year, Ampex has found several Rembrandts in its attic, and maybe even a Renoir or two.

Eminent Domain over Patents?

Can a state use its power of eminent domain to obtain public control of a patent in order to promote lower drug prices? One D.C. Councilman hopes so. The American Prospect reports: Patents Pending: “[District of Columbia Councilman David] Catania, a Republican who recently registered as independent after breaking with President Bush over the same-sex-marriage issue, introduced a compulsory license bill February 1. It authorizes Washington, D.C.’s mayor to declare a health emergency and, under eminent domain authority, issue a compulsory license to a generic firm to produce select patented drugs.”

Open Source Patent Policy

At ACS Blog, Sean Kellogg writes about The Open Source Approach to Patent Policy: “The past months have witnessed amazing developments in the area of software patents. First IBM, and then Sun Microsystems, announced they were granting the rights to more than 2000 patents to open source developers for use in software development. The announcement comes at a critical moment in Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) history, with some companies in active litigation over the Linux operating system and others issuing veiled threats.”

When dot-com patents go bad

Salon.com: When dot-com patents go bad

When faced with two choices — selling a company’s patents as part of its overall assets or selling the patents alone — the court (and the market) chose the latter. This means that in the eyes of the legal system and the marketplace, the Commerce One patents were more valuable to independent licensing firms as legal threats than they were to an actual company that makes a Web services product.

Patent Problem

The Economist: Monopolies of the mind

Patents, said Thomas Jefferson, should draw “a line between the things which are worth to the public the embarrassment of an exclusive patent, and those which are not.” As the value that society places on intellectual property has increased, that line has become murkier—and the cause of some embarrassment, too. Around the world, patent offices are being inundated with applications. In many cases, this represents the extraordinary inventiveness that is occurring in new fields such as the internet, genomics and nanotechnology. But another, less-acceptable reason for the flood is that patent offices have been too lax in granting patents, encouraging many firms to rush to patent as many, often dubious, ideas as possible in an effort to erect legal obstacles to competitors. The result has been a series of messy and expensive court battles, and growing doubts about the effectiveness of patent systems as a spur to innovation, just as their importance should be getting bigger