Thursday, July 28, 2011

Latest Juxtacomm case stayed

In the continuing saga of the Juxtacomm patent tale, the case against Lanier Parking Systems has been stayed, pending the outcome of the reexamination of the patent. From Pacer:

Case 3:11-cv-00299-JRS   Document 74    Filed 07/21/11

Civil Action No. 3:11BCVB299

United States District Court
Eastern District of Virginia
Richmond Division


THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Motion to Stay Case Pending Reexamination filed by Defendant Lanier Parking Systems of Virginia, Inc. (ECF No. 39). Defendants Dominion Tower Financial Associates LLC, First Tower Associates LLC, First States Investors 3500 LLC, James Center Property LLC, and Hines Riverfront Plaza, LP have joined the motion (ECF Nos. 55, 57, 65, 71), which Plaintiff JuxtaComm-Texas Software, LLC, opposes. The Court held a hearing on this matter on July 20, 2011.

Courts deciding motions to stay patent litigation pending reexamination consider the following factors:

(1) whether discovery is complete and a trial date is scheduled;
(2) whether a stay would simplify the matters at issue; and
(3) whether a stay would unduly prejudice or clearly disadvantage the non-moving party.

 NTP, Inc. v. T-Mobile, USA, Inc., No. 3:07–CV–548, 2007 WL 3254796, at *2 (E.D.Va. Nov. 2, 2007).

Each of these considerations favors granting a stay. First, the status of the reexamination is advanced when juxtaposed with the stage of litigation—that is, while the reexamination has reached the Final Office Action stage, this litigation is in its infancy. Furthermore, JuxtaComm served the Defendants after receiving a Final Office Action that rejected virtually all the claims at issue in this litigation. Next, it appears likely that final resolution of the reexamination would simplify matters in this case by indicating whether JuxtaComm has grounds to proceed in this patent infringement matter. Finally, any harms that JuxtaComm experiences as a result of a stay would be recoverable through monetary damages.

For these reasons, which will be discussed in greater detail in the forthcoming Memorandum Opinion, the Court finds that the Defendants’ request is not a dilatory litigation tactic but a reasonable request designed to prevent this litigation from proceeding under a “cloud of invalidity.” Accordingly, the Court GRANTS the motion to stay and DIRECTS the Plaintiff to file reexamination status reports every 120 days.
Let the Clerk send a copy of this Order to all counsel of record.


ENTERED this 21st day of July 2011.
James R. Spencer
Chief United States District Judge

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Noanet Woodlands

This morning I drove out to Dover to visit Noanet Woodlands, yet another Trustees of Reservations site. It turns out to be a bit tricky to find. It's not marked with the usual, large "Trustees of Reservations" sign; it's actually accessed thru Caryl Park. If you look closely at the entrance to the eastern parking lot for the park there's a small mention of the Trustees site, but you'll never see it from the road.

I only covered a small portion of the available trails; this is a very large reservation.

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I suggest staying on the side trails as much as possible; the wealthy good people of Dover use this heavily for dog-walking and mountain-biking. The dogs kinda got to me; they were generally off-leash and roaming freely. You won't see a lot of wildlife for that reason.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nature Walks in the Western burbs

I spent today riding my scooter around the western suburbs of Boston, in search of nature walks. Before leaving I picked out a few places to visit, based on our family memberships in the Mass Audubon Society and Trustees of Reservations; I would definitely visit Drumlin Farm in Lincoln and the Broadmoor sanctuary in Natick. As it turned out, I did more than that, and just missed a place I really want to go back and pick up. I also stopped in for a visit with Dan, one of my former colleagues at IBM.

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We used to take the kids out to Drumlin Farm pretty regularly, but I haven't been there in probably at least 10 years. It is bigger than I remembered, and it now has this cool, solar-powered bird mobile.

From 2011-07-16

I wandered around for about an hour, and then rode down to Dan's house in Wayland. He suggested I visit nearby Garden in the Woods, so when I left his house, I did.

The New England Wild Flower Society runs the Garden, and it's a lovely spot. Here are some of the pictures I took as I walked around.

From 2011-07-16

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From 2011-07-16

From there I made my way, not especially directly, to the Broadmoor sanctuary in Natick. Because of our connection with Drumlin Farm, we've been Mass Audubon members for probably 20 years, but this was the first time I've visited Broadmoor. It's enormous, with a large trail system.

From 2011-07-16

From 2011-07-16

From 2011-07-16

From 2011-07-16

From 2011-07-16

I want to go back to Broadmoor again; they open a portion of the trails in the winter for cross-country skiing.

My last two stops were accidental; I passed the Trustees of Reservations sites Chase Woodlands and Powisset Farm. I was unfortunately unaware that, while at Powisset Farm, I was literally across the street from Noanet Highlands, a truly gigantic preserve with views of downtown Boston. Ah, well - something for another day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

...and yet...

Today's APOD has a picture of Atlantis making its last docking approach to the International Space Station.

I've long felt that the Shuttle was a terrible mistake for NASA - fragile, expensive, limited in usefulness. I can't help but think that we could, instead, have gone to Mars, pursued a much more robust robotic planetary exploration program, and in general gotten a lot more for our money.

And yet - the images, the hardware, the teamwork required to fly these monsters are inspiring.

I'm glad the program is ending - and I will miss it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bottle Bill

Tonight I walked over to my local beer outlet in Davis Square, Downtown Wine and Spirits, to return empties and buy more beer. I really like the selection at Downtown, but they are a pain to deal with regarding empties. Like many liquor stores, they have gone to the freakin' redemption machines that turn what should be a really quick transaction into a drawn-out process of shoving in bottles Downtown is also slow to update the machines when they add new brands, with the result that you have to return some bottles outside and then get on line to return the rest inside - where they take them rather grudgingly.

Tonight, the machine was just flat-out down, and when I took the bottles inside, the guy behind the counter tried to tell me that I'd have to come back once the machine was repaired. I got pushy and got him to take my bottles - but the confrontation sucked.

SO - when I got home, I checked on the law. Here's a part of what the Massachusetts state government site has to say about the bottle bill (I've added some emphasis at places):

Where can I return empty beverage containers?
Residents can return empty containers to any redemption center that agrees to accept the containers, or any retail outlet that sells or sold within the past sixty days the same brand, type and size of container. Retail outlets must redeem containers for their full redemption value. 

What obligations do retailers have in accepting containers?
Retailers must redeem empty containers during all of their business hours. There is no similar restriction on redemption centers. Restaurants charging a deposit on containers for off- or on-premise consumption must redeem empty containers. Restaurants do not have to redeem empty containers if they sell beverages for on-premise consumption and do not charge a deposit. Vending machine operators must redeem containers at the location of the vending machine, or post a conspicuous notice on the machine stating where and from whom a refund may be obtained. The notice does not have to specify how close the refund location is to the vending machine. If you encounter a business that is not complying with any of these requirements, you may register a complaint by calling the MassDEP Bottle Bill Hotline at 617-556-1054.

Is there a limit on the number of containers that can be returned at one time?
A retailer is only required to accept 120 containers in one day from any one person, but may choose to accept more. There is no similar restriction on redemption centers.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hiking Monadnock with Anil

Today Anil and I hiked to the summit of Mt. Monadnock. This was Anil's first hike ever.

This GPS track shows where we went, and contains placemarks with pictures.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

The Juxtacomm patent may soon be invalidated

I learned yesterday (via Vincent McBurney's blog) that the infamous "ETL patent" (technically, patent 6,195,662 - System for transforming and exchanging data between distributed heterogeneous computer systems) is being re-examined by the U.S. Patent Office. The examiner intends to withdraw essentially all of the claims.

It's a bit tricky to get information about this from the USPTO web site, and it's not possible to link to much of its content. If you want to look, here are the necessary steps:

  • Go to the Public PAIR start page, type in the captcha, and click "continue".
  • In the "search for application" panel, make sure the top radio button is selected ("Application number"), enter 90/011267 in the box, and click "search".
  • Click on the "Image File Wrapper" tab. You'll then see a list of documents associated with the application. You may want to look at Reexam proceeding - Advisory Action, dated 06-07-2011, 9 pages. It states the intent to withdraw claims 1-11 and 14-19.
The patent is held by Teilhard Technologies, a privately-held Canadian firm, also known as Juxtacomm. They successfully used this patent to reach settlements with a large number of companies (Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Informatica, and many more) worth millions of dollars.

In 2009, while working for IBM, I was deposed in the matter and got to see, up close and personal, how this kind of legal action works. I can't discuss my involvement in any detail, but I will say that it was my impression that there was adequate prior art to have prevented this patent from issuing. This was a stupendous waste of resources; the defendants in the case seem to have paid out nearly $100 million in settlements, to say nothing of the money spent on legal fees. The supposed purpose of the patent system - to encourage innovation - was not served in any way by this affair. 

I don't know how to fix our patent system, but this case is a clear demonstration that it's broken.

Update This American Life has done a show on patent trolls.