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Rooting for an unlikely patent troll, Kim DotCom

Mark Gibbs | May 29, 2013
Kim DotCom holds what may be a key software patent that could rake in huge amounts of cash but he's got bigger plans

I loathe patent trolls. A paper, "The Private and Social Costs of Patent Trolls" by James Bessen, Jennifer Ford, and Michael J. Meurer of Boston University School of Law explains, "Using stock market event studies around patent lawsuit filings, we find that NPE lawsuits are associated with half a trillion dollars of lost wealth to defendants from 1990 through 2010, mostly from technology companies. Moreover, very little of this loss represents a transfer to small inventors. Instead, it implies reduced innovation incentives and a net loss of social welfare."

I also loathe software patents which are the main tools of the patent trolls. The US Patent and Trademark Office says that to be patentable an invention must be "nonobvious" to "a person having ordinary skill in the art." As [Wikipedia notes], "In other words, '[the] nonobviousness principle asks whether the invention is an adequate distance beyond or above the state of the art.'"

Remember in 1999 when Amazon was awarded the patent (US 5960411) for "1-Click" ordering? It was challenged in 2006 and the patent was subsequently re-examined and revised to apply more narrowly to shopping cart systems, but what has always amazed me is that what was patented was a process that most definitely was obvious to a skilled practitioner. It was obvious to me and obvious to you. We're skilled practitioners and 1-Click ordering wasn't and still isn't an adequate distance beyond or above the state of the art.

But in a wonderfully ironic twist there's one patent troll with an arguably non-obvious patent who I'm rooting for. That troll is, somewhat surprisingly, Kim DotCom, the notorious Internet entrepreneur who founded Megaupload.com.

In case you don't remember, Megaupload.com was accused of enabling and abetting copyright infringement through users uploading and downloading music and videos on a massive scale and the site was eventually shutdown by the US Department of Justice in early 2012.

Kim DotCom (his last name was legally changed from Schmitz in 2005), who now lives in splendor in New Zealand, is, to say the least, a colorful character who is metaphorically and in reality larger than life (he's 6' 7" and weighs in at 290 pounds).

Along with the closure of Megaupload.com came a raft of legal actions in the U.S. and other countries and now Mr. DotCom faces legal bills estimated at something like $50 million.

Now, here's where the irony comes in. It was recently revealed that Mr. DotCom holds a rather powerful patent in his original name. The patent (US6078908) is titled "Method for authorizing in data transmission systems." It was filed in 1998 and published in 2000. From its title the patent doesn't sound particularly powerful, but what it embodies is the concept of two factor authentication. This is huge!

 

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