Monday, November 09, 2009

"The best of times and the worst of times": US Ethernet and Apple

In October 09, there was some buzz about US Ethernet suing Apple and others over patents US Ethernet obtained from 3Com.

From AppleInsider on 19 Oct.:

the lawsuit from U.S. Ethernet Innovations targets Apple's MacBook Pro, along with hardware from a number of other manufacturers. The complaint was filed in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas earlier this month.

According to the suit, 3Com Corporation was granted four patents from 1994 to 1998 pertaining to network adapters. Two deal with the automatic initiation of data transmission, and one addresses "host indication optimization."

It is only the fourth patent, entitled "Network Interface with Host Independent Buffer Management," of which Apple is alleged to be in violation. That patent, numbered 5,299,313, was issued in 1994 to 3Com.

Also, from Fudzilla on 20 Oct.:

US Ethernet Innovations claims that Apple's MacBook Pro's network interface did not spring fully formed from the head of Steve Jobs but was technology patented by 3Com. A patent, entitled "Network Interface with Host Independent Buffer Management," numbered 5,299,313, was issued in 1994 to 3Com.
The hope is of course that all the named people will pay up for a licence for technology that they thought they already knew. Patent trolling has become big business in the US.

As to a tale of two cities, Mike Masnick at TechDirt wrote on 14 Oct.:

Remember back when 3Com was a big innovative company coming up with interesting new products? What happened since then? Well, as we've seen over and over again, once a company runs into trouble continuing to innovate, its last ditch effort to stay in business is to start suing everyone for patent infringement. Step up to the plate, 3Com. The company set up a subsidiary specifically for suing other companies for patent infringement and just sued Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, Sony, and Toshiba. Oh, and take a guess where this "subsidiary" set up shop? East Texas... of course. All the better to file patent lawsuits apparently...

On 8 Nov., Joff Wild concluded a piece with the text:

Finally, it is clear that US Ethernet Innovations is an NPE. Some would call it a patent troll. I am uncomfortable with its stance on "protecting the competitiveness of this American technology and American companies in general" when many of the defendants in the current suit are themselves US companies and 3Com does a lot of its work outside the US - surely infringed rights are infringed rights whoever owns them. However, is US Ethernet the real bad guy here? I don't think so. Certainly in buying patent rights from another party and then seeking to enforce them against potential infringers, it is doing what NPEs/trolls do all the time. But what is wrong with this? Why shouldn't 3Com seek to monetise rights created as a direct result of its investment in R&D in any way it sees fit, as long as it is legal? If the alleged infringement has actually taken place, why on earth should the infringers get away with it? How on earth does that help the innovation process?

IPBiz wonders simply: is the patent valid and infringed?


Post a Comment

<< Home