[linux-elitists] Laptop that doesn't suck?

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Thu Jan 22 19:11:08 PST 2004

on Thu, Jan 22, 2004 at 12:20:49PM +1100, Martin Pool (mbp@samba.org) wrote:
> On 19 Jan 2004, Don Marti <dmarti@zgp.org> wrote:
> > begin Greg KH quotation of Mon, Jan 19, 2004 at 02:05:20PM -0800:
> > 
> > > You are saying that NVidia has code that infringes on another company's
> > > IP in their closed source module?  Oh, that makes me feel even better...
> > 
> > I asked them about this, and the answer is basically that they know
> > there are a hell of a lot of graphics patents out there, hardware
> > and software, valid and invalid, and if they published driver source
> > it would make it easier for a patent holder to make a case, bogus
> > or not, against them.
> I wonder what happens in this MAD scenario when one of the companies
> has nothing left to lose?  Suppose one of the vendors goes (nearly)
> broke, and their patent portfolio is acquired by an unscrupulous Utah
> investment company?

There are two cases of "nothing left to lose".

There's the classic "IP litigation house" model, where the patents are
bought by a litigating law firm, who essentially runs a milking
operation.  The good news here is that the outfit is still in the
for-profit mode of operation, and will tend to avoid both small pockets
and tarpit clients (money is money (corollary:  no money is no money),
and time is money).  Which isn't ideal, but it's hardly unknown.

Lemelson's "submarine" patents are the classic instance.  Some dude in
South Lake Tahoe has a wing of the Smithsonian named for him, and is a
small-inventors folk hero for taking on GM and Motorola.  Others have a
different view....

The other propspect is pulling a Wanger:  dying vestiges of a once-proud
tech company are aquired or held subservient to the interests of a
larger power, playing a proxy fight.  Wang invoked patents against
Netscape in one part of the Browser Wars, shortly after a substantial
interest was aquired by Microsoft.  The Caldera/TSG case is seen by many
to have strong parallels.

So long as the connections can be drawn (or strongly inferred), and if
there is reasonable rule of law, this sort of attack will also typically
fail, though it can be long, bloody, and expensive.

> Opposing patents are no longer a strong deterrent if the litigant
> doesn't sell products anymore.

There are _some_ checks on the practice.  It's a tough nut though.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
  I was never no good after that night, Charlie.
  - M. Brando
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