Internet Machines Uses Patent to Go After PCI-Express Tech and Anyone Using Itby Jarred Walton on September 21, 2011 5:52 PM EST
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 AVADirect.com/AVADirect 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.
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JasonInofuentes - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkThat really calls for a novelty Twitter account. @PatentTroll Explains himself in 140 characters.
sjael - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkAm I the only one who saw the headline and thought "What's Apple got on PCIe?" >_>
I do love these ambiguous patents though. Like the guy in Australia who patented a 'circular transportation facilitation device.'
Camikazi - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkUnless I am reading that wrong, are you saying someone patented the wheel?
sjael - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkIt was an 'Innovation Patent,' which is basically a standard patent, but without any examination process. A guy decided to prove how flawed the system was by patenting the wheel.
This was back in 2001, though.
Camikazi - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkNice, interesting idea though, at least he wasn't serious about using it :P
MobiusStrip - Friday, September 23, 2011 - linkThere was another where an 8-year-old patented "a method of swinging", as in playground swinging. The "method" was to pull down alternately on the chains, causing the seat to oscillate from side to side.
Yes, that's the USPTO: protecting "innovation."
LordOfTheBoired - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - linkThat beats my plan to try and get a patent on "a mechanism for utilizing voltage variances to represent a numerical system".
I figure that given how many dumb patents are granted, it's probably not actually HARD to get a patent on the digital computer if you obfuscate it behind enough words.
The hard part is not getting sued into oblivion the very second you try to collect your first round of royalties.
InternetGeek - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkThere is something odd about the writing style of the patents. It's almost as if the text was generated. Kinda similar to that article in wired.com about the guy who generates books based on internet searches. However, it is clever what they are trying. They are not trying to patent out a standard, but just the way to implement it. Tricky. I hope it gets thrown out.
fatpenguin - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkAren't they just a distributor? How can they be sued when they didn't design anything?
Camikazi - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - linkTiger Direct and Systemax are the same company and Systemax builds and sells computers like Dell.