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June 12, 2013


Do you really think an objectively informed public is the goal?

Me? I remain...

Thank you thank you for this post! I'm a big fan of Planet Money and This American Life, but I also understand patenting and licensing, and NPR's coverage of these issues has been so disappointingly one-sided, with many complex and nuanced issues presented as though anyone with common sense would see the system as broken. I was wondering if a different viewpoint could be presented in an accessible way, and this post shows it can be done. How do we get you on NPR?

Rule 11 as written does not work. I have see it in action. A Troll sued my company and within a few months it was clear they violated Rule 11. In this case, a number of companies were sued along with us in east Texas and because of how the case was being handled by the court there was significant cost in getting to the point where we could prove our case. Being a small company we settled because the cost was significantly then moving through the court system and preparing the materials the court demands.

The one place is fix is to create a light process for early review and possible summary judgement. Eliminate the significant burden on production of unnecessary elements because companies get bundled together for expedience. The expedience are a direct result of the trolls clogging the court system.

A summary review and potential judgement needs to be a part of the process not an exception.

Rule 11 is broken. It costs so much to get a case thrown out and the legal dancing and shenanigans make it so it really does not work. Again, seen it in action.

Software patents and the current system will cause America to fall behind on the inovation curve because the burden of the legal system and the fact that the Patent office is and mostly likely can't do a decent job on software patents, though I would like to see them try harder. The patent employees are not to blame necessarily but the magnitude of the process and inbound information makes it an impossible job. The varieties of software, including UI, are almost unbounded and will only increase in magnatude as the industry matures. Remember its a new industry and will mature forever because the only natural resources to actually write code is the mind. Software is just a child. The situation may indicate software should not be patentable rather handle as trade secret. Thats a whole other discussion, Many conflicting patents are approved. Many to broad and subjective. Even in our case there were two patents basically on the same subject that were a couple years apart. Neither of which we violated.

The system is badly broken and in this age of rapid innovation software patents are slowing America down and make us less competitive in an arena we invented and creates artificial limits on the free market that only large companies with deep pockets can avoid. Once the big companies turn on the patent system - if the fly's should get to thick, then we might get so real action.

Finally, it provides incentive to nations such as China or India to make it difficult to assert software patent IP allowing them to be more competitive.

To Skeptical.

The NPR pieces was spot on and described properly a process I have been through. They were accurate and revealed the problem well. Kinda felt like I was reliving my experience.

So showing the other side seems like your trying to say its not happening. This is a well done investigative journalism.

I would be curious for you to enumerate the "why's" underlying your skepticism. Be specific. Otherwise you kinda just saying you guys are lying but doing it politically correct using the "one-sided" slight.


Spot on?


Being one-sided is never spot-on. For any issue from any side.

Sorry for your experience, but I hope that you realize that you are being played emotionally here.


Thank you so much for the comment. I am also avid listener of both of these programs but, like you, I have been disappointed by their coverage of the patent system (but I guess I covered most of that in my post). As for getting onto NPR, I appreciate your suggestion, and I would be more than happy to talk to them if they called (Ira - you know where to find me). Thanks again.


Dear JP,

Thank you for your comments. I am sorry that you have had some bad experiences with the patent system. But, for the record, by highlighting Judge Rader’s Op-Ed piece, I was not taking a position on whether Rule 11 sanctions would be sufficient to end these abuses. In fact, it is unlikely to resolve every situation. Rather, I was pointing out that all three branches of government appear to be concerned about this perceived troll problem.

However, I do not agree that only representing one side of a complex situation is ever really justified, and to call it “well done investigative journalism” is somewhat misleading. And I think it is unfair to accuse me (and/or Skeptical (if that really is his name)) of accusing NPR of lying, simply because I pointed out the problems I had with what I perceived as incomplete coverage of the situation. Do I think the hosts, reporters, and/or contributors to the This American Life episode and the Planet Money podcast were lying? Certainly not. Do I think that the people interviewed on these shows believed what they were saying? Sure, I have no reason to doubt them. My problem with these particular shows was elaborated in my post, so if you disagree with any of these points, please let me know, but please be specific. To make the blanket statement that “the system is badly broken” which is “slowing America down” without any facts to support it is really just an opinion, which makes it difficult for us to provide a response. I think that the patent system continually has issues that need to be addressed, but I still think it is a good system. So I guess we will just have to disagree on that point.


There is a lot to address here.

First, there is a perception that someone who simply has an idea (hey, it would be cool if we ever have anti-gravity to use it to make an end table) can then pay for a patent even though they themselves can't actually make it work.

In the case of podcasting, the fact that the claimants tried to make the "equivalent" of a podcast by sending out tapes of magazine articles undermines their claim. If those tapes are "podcasts", then so is a mix tape or an album of songs. By their definition, there's your prior art.

In addition, I think the public believes it should mean something if a patent holder doesn't say anything for years about their patent, while someone else is publicly supposedly infringing on it. TiVo, for example, could have been accused of infringing on this patent in 1998, and by 2001 they were selling units and publicizing it. Was Personal Audio there then?

I think, though, what really irks people is the idea of suing the podcasters. While they do, in fact, benefit from the concept of an electronically updated playlist, they didn't actually create the infringement. If someone sues Ford for a widget they are using in their trucks, and I drive a Ford truck for my construction business that makes millions of dollars, can you sue me for gaining a benefit from that widget? Most people would think not, and that's what this suit smacks of.

Finally, on this specific patent, it seems most people are reacting to the obviousness of the claim. After all, what is the internet but a collection of files that are updated periodically, then served to the user each time they return to that page? Is Personal Audio going to sue every web site for infringing on their patent?

This is why people are concerned about the Patent Office. They appear to have granted patents too easily and too broadly. More to the point, though, the guys at Personal Audio appear to be too greedy. They got a payday from Apple over iTunes, which I think most people aren't too concerned over. When you start going after the little guy (the most successful podcasts might make a couple hundred thousand per year; most famous ones make NOTHING), you start looking like a jerk

Hell yeah! I'm going to patent the idea of TIME TRAVEL! Just you wait, once hundreds of other people work on it and it's now a reality, I'll alter my patent to make more specific, and then when you try to use it...LOOK OUT!

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