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Re: ORAL HISTORY / PATENTS



In a message dated 96-10-23 15:52:43 EDT, you write:

<< 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.  >>

U.S. patent law, which goes back to the late 1780s, states that the primary
purpose of a patent "is to encourage the useful arts and sciences" by
allowing inventors to enjoy the fruits of their labor for a certain period of
time (17 years).  Exactly how inventors may do this is not spelled out, but
it is accepted that if the contents of a patent are held to be infringed, the
owner of the patent may sue anybody who used or benifitted from the material.

<< 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.
 >>

While CCC's lawsuit-happy policy of going after everybody who supposedly
infringed was hardly calculated to make friends, the patents were upheld and
CCC was within its rights.  They did eventually license da Vinci and Pandora,
however.

<< 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 color
corrector technology. >>

Sony, For-A, and others made numerous basic color correctors specifically for
tape-to-tape correction.  The Sony model was BVX-30; I don't remember the
other model numbers specifically.  These products did not come with computer
control, so owning or using one, even in an edit suite, was not infringement
as long as you didn't hook the editing computer to the color corrector.

<< 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. >>

The fundamental problem here, which appears again and again in U.S. patent
cases, is that court judges are extremely reluctant to reverse the opinions
of the patent office.  In other words, once the examiners have granted a
patent, it becomes very difficult (=expensive) to have it invalidated unless
it is clear that facts were falsified or there was gross oversight.  Lawyers
and lawsuits are for those who can afford them!

I know I am going to sound like a "Philadelphia lawyer" here, but I have read
the Rainbow patent, and in my opinion, there is just enough new and unique
material in it that it would have been very hard to convince a judge and jury
to toss it out, even if they were capable of understanding the technical
issues.  Furthermore, I'd say the basic claims to color correction were
overly broad (considering that they were an electronic analog of the
electromechanical color correcting systems that were used in film printing
decades earlier), and the patent office erred in allowing these claims to
stand.

<< 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. >>

Well, 17 years from 1978 is 1995, so many of the earlier patents have expired
or about to do so--though I would advise anybody so concerned to check and
see if any of them have been reissued!  

<< 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. >>

Again, as long as there's a patent system, this is always going to be the
case.  Nor is it only a U.S. issue, as anybody who got deep into the bowels
of a Rank and then tried to go into the aftermarket business before they saw
the light and became the kinder and gentler (?!?) Cintel will remember.  I
guess the real word to the wise is for anybody buying a piece of equipment to
have a look at the patent and licensing information in the fine print before
signing the purchase contract.  

Christopher Bacon