Re: [ba-ohs-talk] Slashdot: Under Attack by PanIP's Patent Lawyers?
----- Original Message -----
From: Paul Fernhout <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 7:21 PM
Subject: [ba-ohs-talk] Slashdot: Under Attack by PanIP's Patent Lawyers? (01)
> Couldn't resist -- just saw this and thought about about the risk to
> volunteers from the colloquiums "permission to use" indemnification
> clause from something as simple as putting up a web page these days... (02)
Well, even paranoids can have enemies... (03)
>From Ross E. Cheit's "Corporate Ambulance Chasers" (he teaches
poli sci at Brown U.): (04)
"... Questionable litigation also taints the field of patent and copyright
law. For example, Kenner Parker Toys, maker of Play-Doh, sued
Tyco Toys, claiming that Tyco's Double Dough Doer copied the
"confidential idea" of pushing twocolors of Play-Doh through an
extrusion machine. (05)
"Some companies actually specialize in suing for profit. Eugene Lang,
renowned for offering some inner-city school kids college tuition,
is most prominent. His company, Refac Technology Development
Corp., develops lawsuits, not technology. Refac has made millions
buying patents, filing lawsuits and settling out of court. ..." (06)
> > "I work for a small plumbing, heating,
> > irrigation, and BBQ supply house. Over the past four we have built
> > up quite a website that houses tons of information and offers many
> > products for sale via an online store. Recently a company known as
> > PanIP has decided to sue us on 2 counts of patent infringement. To
> > the best of my understanding, as you can see from their website,
> > they claim that they invented the use of text and images as a
> > method of business on the Internet. They also claim that they
> > invented the use of a form to enter customer information.
> > Obviously this is ridiculous and most likely won't hold up in court!
> > However, this is not the problem. PanIP has also sued 10 other
> > small companies. PanIP chose small companies because they hope
> > that none of them can afford the legal fees that would ultimately
> > remove their patents. Most defendants, including us, want to opt to
> > bail out for a smaller licensing fee of $30,000. PanIP will continue
> > this vicious cycle on small companies of which many of you may
> > become victim of. Eventually they will have so many cases under
> > their belt that they will be able to attack larger companies."
> So any volunteer creating a website with text and images related to
> UnRevII or OHS and in any way conceivably used commercially by BI or
> Stanford under "permission to use" might want to just get out their
> checkbooks now to write a nice big $30K check to each of Stanford and BI
> preemptively for when PanIP comes a knockin' :-) (unless you also want
> to pay BIs and Bootstraps legal fees before they settle anyway as you
> have no choice in their course of defense). Let's see -- together that's
> $60K, so any BI volunteer who has owned a house for a decade or so might
> want to cough that up preferentially to bankruptcy. A bit painful
> I hope this patent won't also be construed to apply to these emails
> being posted as web pages on BI's email archives? Maybe everyone on the
> list can kick in a few grand so we can start a preemptive defense fund
> to pay Stanford or BI in such a case?
> The point isn't that such patents are valid or invalid (though obviously
> it's probably bogus with prior art) -- but the cost of fighting such a
> threatened lawsuits if you are being shaken down (even to ask a patent
> lawyer to just evaluate the situation for a coupel of hours) may be high
> and you have no choice in whether BI or Stanford decides to settle.
> Sadly, regardless of "permission to use" being resolved, in the U.S.
> this software patent thing is probably going to get a lot worse before
> it gets better... And the risk is higher in some ways for open source
> work because the operation is more open to inspection and thus charges
> of patent infringement can be made more easily.
> To turn "permission to use" on its head, perhaps BI and Stanford could
> figure out a way to indemnify all volunteers worldwide for work done on
> any open source OHS-like systems in good faith -- such as by obtaining
> extensive comprehensive E&O insurance (as opposed to the current state
> of indemnification the other way around) if such can be had -- say for a
> few million dollars a year? Or at least, they could pledge a few million
> in trust to come to the legal defense of accused volunteer developers of
> OHS like systems anywhere in the world? That's one action that would
> ease my mind when working in this field.
> -Paul Fernhout (07)
"The hardest single part of building a software system
is deciding precisely what to build." -- Frederick Brooks (08)