Friday, November 27, 2009

Cars and patents and Jacob Krippelz

Of the silliness of Gray/Wegner on counting numbers of patents, the PatentHawk blog has text:

Wegner and Gray get silly over automotive patents. "Does patenting a better muffler help the auto industry? In the automotive industry - where cars are sold based upon every factor other than patents - more patents are obtained by the majors than in biotech and pharma." Style matters, but cars are in fact sold based upon leading technology, which is, of course, embodied in patents. Toyota leads the world in automotive sales, technology, and patents.

Meanwhile, back at district court ranch in ND Ill, one Jacob Krippelz has won a $55 million dollar verdict against Ford for infringement of a patent involving a sideview mirror light.

The Sun-Times story concludes with text from Judge Zagel:

"The sending of the patent made good sense for Krippelz. He was not in a position to put his invention into commerce; he did not make automobiles or their parts. His market was automakers, and their suppliers. It is quite reasonable that he would send his patent, once issued, to an automaker, and that is what he did."

Would the IT people, or Mike Masnick, call Krippelz a patent troll? Also, from the Sun-Times:

Because he bought Ford trucks and he liked Mercedes-Benz, Krippelz sent the patents to both companies.

"Ford turned him down. Mercedes turned him down," said Krippelz's attorney, James Ryndak.

Fast-forward to 1997. Krippelz walked into a Ford dealership in St. Charles and was greeted by a salesman congratulating him on selling the "puddle lamp" idea to Ford, which had put the lights on 1998 Ford Explorer models.

Neither Gray/Wegner (who were only counting numbers) nor PatentHawk (who talked about technology) mentioned the design patent issue in repair parts. From an earlier IPBiz post [ Design patents and the costs of auto repairs ]:

In last 5 years, design patents to OEMs have grown to nearly 25% of all
patents to auto manufacturers, with Ford, Toyota, and Honda leading the way.

Quality Parts Coalition [QPC] says OEMs, which control more than 50% of
aftermarket parts, are taking aggressive steps against suppliers of non-OEM parts by enforcing these design patents.

Parts identified as crash parts account for between 50 to 93% of design patents to OEMs.

The non-branded parts suppliers suggest a plan to smother competition in replacement parts market.

See also

Neither Gray/Wegner nor PatentHawk talk about windshield wipers or the infringement litigation against the Toyota Prius.
Yes, cars are about technology, but whose technology?

The PatentHawk blog did have some memorable comments:

"If you are going to take on the big boys, you walk into a gun fight carrying a knife."

If I'm going to take on the big boys I generally ride into a gun fight in a tank.

[IPBiz notes that, in the above story, Jacob Krippelz, the "man with the knife [a patent] in the gun fight," walked away with $55 million.]


However, take for example, claim 1 of US Patent No. 7,624,231 issued today (11/24/09) to IBM, which consists of only 56 words:

1. A computer implemented method for caching data, the method comprising: striping value data associated with each of a plurality of keyed data sets across a plurality of processes in a data process set; and accessing a first keyed data set among the plurality of keyed data sets using at least one of the plurality of processes.

If you send me a C&D letter on this, I'm much more worried about infringement.

Anyone can play the "bash on patents" game by picking on a single patent.

IPBiz notes that academics have been playing the "bash on patents" game with the swing patent and the "peanut butter and jelly sandwich" patent for years, even though both are gone.


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