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Re: Amazon Patents Getting Numbers Off a Check

From: Tim Jackson
Subject: Re: Amazon Patents Getting Numbers Off a Check
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 00:46:27 +0100 wrote on Mon, 26 Jul 2004 11:40:35 -
> In gnu.misc.discuss Tim Jackson <news@winterbourne.freeserve.invalid> wrote:
> > What's screwing my competitors is the bad patent.  There's no 
> > obligation on me to tell them that it's bad.  Failing to do so doesn't 
> > amount to me screwing them.
> Yes, yes it does. If you see someone push someone else in the river
> and you could pull them out, and you decide not to, then ethically you
> have failed in your duty to a fellow human being. Remember, next time
> round it might be you in the river.

Hardly an apt comparison.

> Of course, in business finding
> ethical people is pretty damn unusual.

Failing to help a business competitor to compete against me is not 
unethical.  Neither would I expect him to help me if the situation 
were reversed.

Business ethics are important, and there are many things that I would 
or wouldn't do as a result.  But this isn't one of them.  

And by the way, all I was trying to do in my previous posts was to 
explain why the procedure suggested by Prof. Hollaar is very little 
used in practice.  There's usually no business reason to use it.

Except, that is, where one has adopted the open source business model.  
As Prof. Hollaar says, you might indeed then find it sensible to use 
this procedure.  That's up to you and I don't have a problem with it.  
Just don't expect everyone else to behave the same.  Open source is 
not the only acceptable way to do business.

> Also, in the case of patents, a given software product will be influenced
> by a very large number of patents. It is not a simple matter to decide
> that the bad patent will automatically give you an advantage over your
> competitors.

I'm not deciding anything of the sort.  All I'm deciding is whether I 
can safely ignore the patent because it is invalid.  And maybe letting 
the patentee know that I know it's invalid, so that he will think 
twice about suing me.

Beyond that, I'm just doing nothing, because there's no obligation on 
me (ethical or otherwise) to do anything, nor to tell anybody else 
about my reasons.

There's another point you've missed.  If I send my prior art to the 
patentee, he'll presumably realise that his patent is invalid 
(assuming my prior art is any good).  He is actually then less likely 
to go gunning for my competitors, as well as for me.  If he did, the 
fact that he knew about my prior art would come out during the 
discovery process.  He could then be liable for sanctions under Rule 
11, as Prof. Hollaar pointed out.

There's also quite a reasonable chance that, realising that his patent 
is less valuable than he thought and that he can't use it in anger, 
the patentee may decide to let it expire the next time a maintenance 
fee falls due.

So despite what you are saying, my actions may actually help my 
competitors, even though they might not realise it.

> For example, the market may decide to shift standards away
> from the bad patent and TOWARDS another patent and your competitors make
> a deal amongst themselves to lock you out. Alternatively, your competitors
> may send lots of money to the patent holder who then has plenty to spend
> on a legal team and reminds you of some of their OTHER bad patents that
> you hadn't noticed up till now and which you don't have any prior art for.

What you are suggesting here goes *way* beyond merely passively doing 
nothing, so again your comparison is not apt.  It begins to look like 
the actions of a anti-competitive cartel.  That's why there are anti-
trust laws.

Tim Jackson
(Change '.invalid' to '' to reply direct)
Absurd patents: visit

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