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ORAL HISTORY / PATENTS
I am glad that this sordid piece of broadcast history on how greed overtook
sanity and morality is on the forum.
Patents are important instruments in protecting intellectual property. In my
opinion patents shall primarily be used to avoid a third party from claiming
untrue prior ownership. Also acceptable is the use of patents to license an
invention that otherwise could not be developed.
In CCC's case (later INPROP) it was never a question of actually licensing
technology for application into a modern piece of color corrector, the patents
where useless for this purpose. Instead a very aggressive and unfriendly hunt
was carried out on all users, sellers and manufacturers that allegedly
"infringed". The intent was to gain very large shares of the product cost. This
was up to a point where it seriously hindered application and evolution of basic
color correction in other areas of television (ie tape to tape). It grossly
hindered natural competition, and is in my opinion one reason why many of you
are now paying very high prices for current colorcorrector technology.
Effectively an oligopol.
In the specific CCC cases my experience tells me that the actual question,
whether the patents (most of them) have any validity, is NOT (not yelling here)
the issue at all. The real issue is that no one could afford to take on the
legal battle to prove it. Harvey Dubner told me, on the phone a few years ago,
that he wasted USD 2million just to settle out of court. This is entirely a US
problem as these patents would not stand up in any european patent office. CCC
used this legal catch22 as an instrument of terror and even today many users,
dealers etc. are afraid of getting near any issues relating to scene by scene
and secondary CC. We know now that Sarabia, with keen aid of his lawyer,
cunningly used the US legal systems weakness for his own gain.
The story is not at its full end yet, someone bought the remainder of INPROP's
patents and are sitting on them at this time and there is yet another company
out there holding a patent for the use of rotary (shaft) encoders (a shaft
encoder is a 5dollar digital potentiometer available at Radio Shack) for
application in color correction. Potentially, both companies have instruments of
"terror" as neither have declared that they will not use it to make life
difficult for a competitor.
Finally, I would like to offer my thanks to all who have spoken out on this
issue and encourage all who have not yet done so to tell their story.