Monday, August 16, 2004

Acacia patents make New York Times on Aug. 16

The New York Times mentioned it had received a letter from Acacia, and also noted some of the contents of a letter to Johns Hopkins:

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Johns Hopkins University received a letter last year from Acacia, which asked for what would amount to 2 percent of the university's revenues.

"Is it reasonable to even make this kind of request?" asked Wes Blakeslee, associate general counsel of Johns Hopkins University. "We are nonprofit institutions who are already worried about leaving a pack of people behind because education is too expensive. The idea of long distance learning is to make education more affordable."

Hopkins fired back a letter asking for more information but has not yet received a response. Acacia's new round of letters appears to have gone to small colleges, like Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nev. The letters ask for about $5,000 a year in annual licensing fees.

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The New York Times presented information suggesting the claims of the Acacia patents are valid:

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Marc S. Kaufman, a patent lawyer with Nixon Peabody in Washington, who is not affiliated with the company, said that, at least on their faces, the patents appear to be extremely broad. "They are able to go after anybody who is streaming any kind of content over the Internet," he said.

But whether Acacia will prevail in the courts is another question, Mr. Kaufman said.



(...)

But a group of porn companies, led by HomeGrownVideo.com and represented by Fish & Richardson, a well-known intellectual property law firm, have banded together to fight Acacia. Their suit is pending in federal court in California and likely will not be resolved until next year.

Last year Technology Marketing magazine hired PatentRatings, a consulting firm in California, to independently analyze the strength of Acacia's patents, using a computer algorithm that compares patent claims. The company said that Acacia's patents were "very solid."
[The significance of an algorithm to "compare" patent claims, in the context of a validity investigation, remains to be seen.]

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However, the New York Times also mentioned the results of an infringement case concerning the V-chip:

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But those who are targets of Acacia's licensing program may take comfort in a recent victory handed to three companies - Sony, Sharp and Toshiba - who refused to pay any royalties to Acacia for its V-chip patent.

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the nation's highest patent court, upheld a ruling that those television manufacturers do not infringe the V-chip patent and thus owe Acacia no royalties. The companies that have already paid Acacia $26 million in V-chip royalties, however, will receive no refund.

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However, the relevance of this case on noninfringement of the V-chip to the current discussion of invalidity of the streaming video patents remains to be seen.

There are five patents involved in Acacia's streaming video licensing effort. The parent patent is US 5,132,992. There are three patents derived from continuation applications (US 5,253,275; US 5,550,863; 6,002,720) and one from a divisional application (US 6,144,702).

The first claim of the parent patent(US 5,132,992) is in "means plus function" format (35 USC 112 P6) and reads as follows:

1. A transmission system for providing information to be transmitted to remote locations, the transmission system comprising:

library means for storing items containing information;

identification encoding means for retrieving the information in the items from the library means and for assigning a unique identification code to the retrieved information;

conversion means, coupled to the identification encoding means, for placing the retrieved information into a predetermined format as formatted data;

ordering means, coupled to the conversion means, for placing the formatted data into a sequence of addressable data blocks;

compression means, coupled to the ordering means, for compressing the formatted and sequenced data blocks;

compressed data storing means, coupled to the data compression means, for storing as files the compressed, sequenced data blocks received from the data compression means with the unique identification code assigned by the identification encoding means; and

transmitter means, coupled to the compressed data storing means, for sending at least a portion of one of the files to one of the remote locations.

The first claim of the '275 patent (a continuation of application Ser. No. 07/637,562, filed Jan. 7, 1991 U.S. Pat. No. 5,132,992) reads as follows:

1. A transmission system for providing information to be transmitted to remote locations, the transmission system comprising:

library means for storing items containing information;

identification encoding means for retrieving the information in the items from the library means and for assigning a unique identification code to the retrieved information;

conversion means, coupled to the identification encoding means, for placing the retrieved information into a predetermined format as formatted data;

ordering means, coupled to the conversion means, for placing the formatted data into a sequence of addressable data blocks;

compression means, coupled to the ordering means, for compressing the formatted and sequenced data blocks;

compressed data storing means, coupled to the data compression means, for storing as files the compressed, sequenced data blocks received from the data compression means with the unique identification code assigned by the identification encoding means; and

transmitter means, coupled to the compressed data storing means, for sending at least a portion of one of the files to a reception system at a head end of a cable television system for subsequent transmission to one of the remote locations.

The second claim of the '275 patent is to a method:

2. A distribution method responsive to requests from a user identifying items in a transmission system containing information to be sent from the transmission system to receiving systems at remote locations, the method comprising the steps of:

storing, in the transmission system, information from items in a compressed data form, the information including an identification code and being placed into ordered data blocks;

sending a request, by the user to the transmission system, for at least a part of the stored information to be transmitted to a reception system associated with a receiving system at one of the remote locations selected by the user;

sending at least a portion of the stored information from the transmission system to the reception system;

receiving the sent information by the reception system;

storing a complete copy of the received information in the reception system; and

playing back the stored copy of the information from the reception system to the receiving system at the selected remote location at a time requested by the user.

The first claim of the '863 patent reads as follows:

1. A transmission system for providing information to be transmitted to remote locations, the transmission system comprising:

a plurality of library means for storing items containing information;

identification encoding means for retrieving the information in the items from the plurality of library means and for assigning a unique identification code to the retrieved information;

conversion means, coupled to the identification encoding means, for placing the retrieved information into a predetermined format as formatted data;

ordering means, coupled to the conversion means, for placing the formatted data into a sequence of addressable data blocks;

compression means, coupled to the ordering means, for compressing the formatted and sequenced data blocks;

compressed data storing means, coupled to the data compression means, for storing as files the compressed, sequenced data blocks received from the data compression means with the unique identification code assigned by the identification encoding means; and

transmitter means, coupled to the compressed data storing means, for sending at least a portion of one of the files to one of the remote locations.

The first claim of the '720 patent reads as follows:

1. A transmission system responsive to input from a user positioned at an accessing location for transmitting information to a premises selected by the user, the transmission system comprising:

a plurality of libraries for storing items containing information;

identification encoding means for retrieving the information in the items from the plurality of libraries and for assigning a unique identification code to the retrieved information;

conversion means, coupled to the identification encoding means, for placing the retrieved information into a predetermined format as formatted data; and

transmitter means, coupled to the conversion means, for transmitting the formatted data to the premises selected by the user, wherein the premises selected by the user is not limited to a predetermined user premises.

The '702 patent was prosecuted by a different law firm before a different examiner. Its priority chain is as follows:

This is a division of application Ser. No. 08/630,590, filed Apr. 10, 1996, which issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,002,720, which is a continuation of application Ser. No. 08/133,982, filed Oct. 8, 1993, which issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,550,863, which is a continuation of application Ser. No. 07/862,508, filed Apr. 2, 1992, which issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,253,275, which is a continuation application of Ser. No. 07/637,562, filed Jan. 7, 1991, which issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,132,992, which applications are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

The first claim of the '702 patent is as follows:

1. A communication system comprising:

a transmission system at a first location in data communication with a reception system at a second location, wherein said transmission system comprises

a sequence encoder,

an identification encoder, and

a compressed data library in data communication with said identification encoder,

wherein said identification encoder gives items in said compressed data library a unique identification code; and

wherein said reception system comprises

a transceiver in data communication with said transmission system,

a storage device in data communication with said transceiver,

user playback controls in data communication with said storage device,

a digital compressor in data communication with said storage device, and

a playback device in data communication with said digital decompressor.

As of August 17, 2004, the parent '992 patent had been cited by 192 US patents.

These patents which reference the '992 patent include 6,778,649 (issued Aug. 17; a continuation of Ser. No. 09/897,250, filed Jul. 3, 2001, which is a continuation of Ser. No. 09/595,521, filed Jun. 16, 2000 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,373,927, which is a continuation of Ser. No. 08/988,709, filed Dec. 11, 1997, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,128,374, which is a continuation of Ser. No. 08/419,199, filed Apr. 10, 1995, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,706,335); 6,738,978; 6,725,267; 6,674,960; 6,654,827; 6,640,145; 6,614,470; 6,560,651; 6,557,030; 6,549,942.



[Additional information may be obtained at http://www.streamingmedia.com/patent/]

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