Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Koreans disparage patent trolls; however, wait for the Hwang patents

English chosun: The global IT industry lives in fear of sharp operators that file patents and sue others that use the technology or device covered by it to force lucrative settlements. These so-called patent trolls have no production lines or staff of their own - they are usually merely a handful of patent lawyers. Sometimes they simply buy patents from bankrupt companies.

Closer to home, Samsung Electronics is being sued by an inventor over the patent for the “Chun-Ji-In” keypad system used to input Korean characters using numeric keys on mobile phones. It is too soon to say whether the plaintiff is a patent troll, but he has caused a commotion by taking on Korea’s biggest conglomerate. He was never a Samsung employee but applied for the patent for the keypad system in the late 90s, almost at the same time when Samsung Electronics applied for its own. If he wins, he is expected to make up to W90 billion (US$90 million) in compensation.

The man has also filed a patent lawsuit against Netpia, a Korean online company specializing in the Internet Hangul domain business. Neptia offers a service that allows users to visit a website they want by just typing in the address in Hangul rather than English.

Whatever the truth in these cases, patent trolls are claiming more victims in the U.S., which has led to calls for a law to prevent abuse of patents. Many feel the original purpose of the patent system -- to guarantee inventors' exclusive rights to their own work and thus encourage technology innovation -- is being abused by shysters out for a quick buck whose practices in fact hurt technology development. Several major IT companies including Cisco and Hewlett-Packard last month formed a Coalition for Patent Fairness to fight against patent trolls.

IPBiz says: let's see what people say if some of the patent applications of Hwang Woo-Suk mature into patents. If various California / Proposition 71 people don't like Thomson's WARF patents, they really are not going to like potential Hwang patents. And what about possible Schatten patents?


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