One of our contacts recently made us aware of a new round of lawsuits, which could apparently apply to every major company in the world of personal computers. The list of defendants at includes the following:

  • Alienware Corporation
  • Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
  • Club 3D B.V.
  • Cyclone Microsystems Inc.
  • Dell Computer Corp.
  • Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc.
  • Freedom USA, including Custom Computers
  • GDA Technologies, Inc.
  • General Electric Enterprise Solutions, a division of General Electric Company
  • Integrated Device Technology, Inc.
  • Inventure, Inc.
  • NVIDIA Corporation
  • National Instruments Corp.
  • PLX Technology Inc.
  • Tigerdirect, Inc.
  • Vadatech, Inc.
  • Vrose Microsystems, Inc.

I’m not familiar with all of those names, but I do recognize many of them. How some other big names apparenlty slipped through the cracks isn't clear (Acer/Gateway, Intel, VIA, HP anyone?), but maybe the above list isn't complete. Regardless, let’s look at the patents for a minute to see what they cover.

The first patent (7454552) covers a “switch with transparent and non-transparent ports” while the second (7421532) refers to “switching with transparent and non-transparent ports”. Neither description really says much, but the text below suggests what they’re covering: communication via a switch between PCI Express devices. What’s really crazy is that this sounds like Internet Machines literally managed to patent a portion of PCI Express spec.

Reading through the actual descriptions and language of the patents is like reading a document full of nonsensical jargon. Specific terms are used, but at the same time the descriptions are very nebulous. Take the final claim: “A method for switching data units, the method comprising providing a PCI Express switch having transparent and non-transparent ports associating the transparent ports with a shared address domain associating the non-transparent ports with non-shared address domains routing data units between the transparent ports, between the transparent and non-transparent ports, and between the non-transparent ports in accordance with a PCI Express interconnect standard.” It’s an example of exactly the sort of thing that shouldn’t be patentable, and yet these two patents were granted—along with thousands of others likely sitting dormant waiting for some company to see if they can get a settlement out of them.

Actually, what’s really crazy is that they’re going after system integrators, along with graphics card companies AMD and NVIDIA, and pretty much anyone else they can think of. Why Intel isn’t on the list is a mystery, or maybe Internet Machines knows it’s a bad idea to poke Intel’s legal team in the eye. Hopefully reason and common sense can win out in the legal system, because this appears to be rampant abuse of the patent system and the penchant for patents to be granted for anything and everything. Several of the companies listed should have the expertise required to kick the case to the curb, but one system integrator states that they already settled with Internet Machines a year ago, and now they’re being taken to court for a similar patent, as though their willingness to settle is an admission of guilt.

Source: MaximumPC

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  • TSS - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - link

    Came across this today. I was waiting for a patent litigation post to post it, because sad thing is, i knew one would be along shortly.

    Aren't patents grand?

    I really wonder how much money would be made by companies if patents didn't exist at all. Probably more money would be made in total, by alot more smaller companies then a few big ones raking in all the cash...
  • jimhsu - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - link

    The problem per se is not the patent system, but rather two horribly broken parts of the system: a) the fact that patents with significant prior art go through anyways, and b) the fact that patents go unused by people (until the lawsuit comes up, for example here).

    A Patent, as opposed to a trade secret, is an exclusive RIGHT granted by the state to an inventor for a LIMITED amount of time in exchange for PUBLIC DISCLOSURE. There are three parts to this: the patent must be new, non-obvious, and useful or applicable. An implicit assumption is that the inventor of the patent trades public disclosure for the right to utilize the patent, whether as a product, or licensing it to others, etc.

    The fact that "patent troll" companies exist that neither use nor license their patents fundamentally opposes the goals of the patent system. Hence, reform to address patents that are unutilized is needed, such as having unutilized patents expire prematurely if a) no use can be demonstrated, and b) no attempt to use or license the patent is made.
  • MobiusStrip - Friday, September 23, 2011 - link

    Um, the bigger problem is the patenting of things that are supposed to be unpatentable:

    1. algorithms (all software)
    2. the obvious

    Then we have "business methods"; I don't know what the rules say about them, but they're horseshit. Amazon patents the act of clicking on something to buy it. This is analagous to patenting the act of pointing at the meat you want under the deli counter.
  • semo - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    Never mind how much money companies would have lost. Think how much they would have gained if SED and OLED TVs already existed. Or anything else that was shelved due to patent fears
  • Galcobar - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - link

    Favourite patent still has to be this one:

    Bread Refreshing Method, 1999

    Yes, it's a patent for toast.
  • John Roberts 1 - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    Anyone else visited their website. It's a hoot. Love the totally spurious links to Cambridge, Missouri and the US Navy!
  • versesuvius - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    Accordingly, if it wasn't for patents, humanity would be living in caves or somewhere very close to it. Patents are ridiculous. To begin with, they have never served any kind of "public", and have hindered the advance of prosperity and progress and justice for as long as the idea of "patents' has been put in place. The idea that humanity would not write, compose, invent and create in the absence of patents, is an awful idea that only some instinctively criminal capitalist could come up with and implement with such vengeance as it is in America. It is basically a means to preserve the inevitably temporary edge in the course of history that a society has acquired. It is usury in its meanest form.
  • Cheesetogo - Friday, September 23, 2011 - link

    I've been reading these articles more and more recently, and this just really annoys the heck out of me. I've never written to my congressman or senator before, but I guess this was the last straw. I took 15 minutes to write a letter to both of them. I encourage the rest of you to do the same.

    Don't think, "oh, someone else can do it," and then browse Dailytech for 15 minutes. Just take a few minutes to write to your senator and/or representative.
  • Cheesetogo - Friday, September 23, 2011 - link

    Posting here will do NOTHING. Writing to people with the power to introduce and vote on legislation might do SOMETHING.
  • mars2k - Friday, September 23, 2011 - link

    Please someone tell me

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