back to article Mystery co. sues Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle...

An east-Texas company, BetaNet LLC, has filed a patent-infringement suit against Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, IBM, SAP, and a dozen other companies. The patent in question, "Secure system for activating personal computer software at remote locations," describes in sweeping terms a remote software installation and …


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  1. Goat Jam


    is looking like it's gonna be an interesting ride.

    <reaches for popcorn>

    Oh, and beer. Where's my beer? Ah, there it is.

  2. Big-nosed Pengie
    Thumb Up

    Oh, Lordy!

    Fine xmas entertainment indeed!

    /reaches for a handful of Goat Jam's popcorn.

    1. Goat Jam


      You can have some popcorn but keep your mitts off my cold one, its 40C where I am.

      Oh, what the hell, here, have a beer on me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh no you dont

        I've patented the simultaneous consumption of Popcorn and Beer...and am now suing the both of you.

        1. Rob


          I have a patent on suing people who sue people for drinking beer and eating popcorn, so I've got your number AC, my lawyers from the firm Bendover & Shaft will be in touch v.soon.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    what a load

    of complete bollocks - is it me or are patents just been used to milk money for old rope at the moment,

    i patent the numbers 1 and 0 everyone owes me lots of money.... blah blah blah

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      I believe you just infringed the patent I hold for making money in exchange for old rope there.

      That'll be 2 buckets of cash please - what's that, sorry? You own the patent for carrying cash in a bucket?

      Let's just call it quits then!

  4. Samuel Walker

    re: iTunes

    iTunes could conceivably fall under it via the iTunes store specifically DRM encoded tracks - the file is unplayable until data has been sent from the server containing the key.

    Do they even still do DRMed tracks? Or did they finally go fully DRM-free?

    Oh and i'm not making any claims about the stupidity of this patent - i'm jsut saying how it might conceivably apply to the iTunes store.

  5. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Good reputation

    Keep it flowing, US District Court of Eastern Texas. Surely there are many lawyers working on proving that there's a clear and unjust bias favoring patent trolls, abuse of the patent system, and abuse of the legal system. Victims of fraudulent patent claims will all show up to claim reimbursement. Lawyers will ravage your land like horrific apocalyptic swarms of... um... lawyers.

  6. Mark Simon

    Sooner or Later

    It has to fall apart. The whole patent thing. With enough dumb law suits like this, maybe somebody will finally realise how moronic the system is. Then again, maybe not ...

  7. M Gale

    Lol, the ironing.

    The Windows "Genuine Advantage" was what persuaded me to finally give Microsoft the old heave-ho. My old copies of XP are genuine enough, but I just don't like having spyware on my machine. I would guess this patent also applies to Steam, that ever so lovely method by which you have yet another username/password to forget and require Internet access to play a single-player game.

    I'm sure quite a few people would paint me as someone who just wants to torrent unauthorized copies for free. I know a lot of people have when this has come up before. However, if I want a copy of the Orange Box (or Windows 7 for example), I can either download it or get hold of it. Fact is I've probably lost more genuine software in my time than a lot of the same people accusing me of criminality have ever bought. I am, or was a pretty good customer, even of Microsoft-published games and their PC game controllers. I've a hundred quid's worth of MS Flight Sim 2k4 plus add-ons here to prove that. Make things that run in The Toy Unix without assuming I'm a criminal, and I might be again.

    And hopefully, just hopefully, this might be one more nail in the coffin of software and method patents.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Feeling a bit defensive there aren´t ya? you must have something on your continuance.

  8. 5inister

    Problem with software patents

    That's what happens when you live in a world where software patents are ok. Software has a practical value that we all benefit from, if the algorithms/code of a program are patented than only a handful of people benefit from it. Since the same code may be useful in a variety of contexts patenting software creates an obstacle to the creation of new computer programas and thus to progress.

    The choices in this case are either pay a lot of money to the patent holder or live without the algorithm for licence protection and risk ilegal distribution of your program. Either way you are robbed of your rights (and your money).

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Charles Manning

    "Overlay " might be the downfall

    "Overlay" has a very specific technical meaning and no large OS really uses these any more (they're still used with some 8 & 16-bit embedded micros).

    It would be like patenting a procedure using a slide rule.

    If their patent depends on the use of "overlays" then it isn't worth the punch cards it is written on.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      What is an overlay anyway?

      That depends on how the patent defines an overlay.

      Is this an overlay in the sense of a binary patch or an overlay in the sense of "you need this extra DLL for it to do anything useful"?

      If the second sense, then you get into all sorts of issues as to whether the full version of Doom is guilty as you receive extra WADs which augment the original limited package to finish the game.

      What about plugins? Are they "overlays"?

  11. Fremma

    Term of patent?

    A quick search of Wikipedia (as I can't be bothered doing any real research) tells me that for patents granted in the US prior to June 8, 1995 the term of the patent is 17 years from date of issue or 20 years from date of filing, whichever is the longest.

    Looks like they got in just in time.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Fuck retarded companies like this

  13. g e


    Let's hope that the fckd US Patent system finally destroysa their digital economoy once and for all.. Or maybe all those co's will de-headquarter from the USA to elsewhere (there's a thought)

    When the shareholders and lobbying groups start losing money because of it then someone might actually sort that pile of crap out.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Software patents are silly...

    After all, whats to stop me patenting my loop that reads my SQL database and presents the data as a webpage? I'm gonna patent that and sue anyone using a loop to convert SQL to html!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      What's to stop me...

      ...Prior Art

  15. magnetik


    Those idiots should be heavily fined for wasting the court's time. The annoying thing is that all those big companies will have to waste their own time and money defending against this stupid suit which is bad for their consumers.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Hook, line & sinker

    Things must be awfully quiet at the BetaNet offices these days. Maybe that's why they're going on this 'fishing expedition'?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't apply to most companies?

    "The abstract of patent #5,222,134, the core of the dispute, describes a system in which, after registration, an "overlay" is transmitted to the licensee's computer that "includes critical portions of the main program, without which the main program would not operate and also contains licensee identification and license control data.""

    Surely this is an important part of the patent. How many of the companies being sued actually download a critical part of the application at activation? Microsoft at least lets you use their software without it being activated, so the activation process must not download "critical portions of the main program, without which the main program would not operate".

    Of course, I'm not a legal expert, but it seems like quite a crucial part of what is patented.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If this keeps up...

    .... everyone will just pull out of the American markets completely and leave people State Side without any IT at all ... it'll just be too risky a market to deal in.

    Maybe then, the US government might actually do something about it. ... maybe.

  19. Dunstan Vavasour


    The simple fact is, lots of patent trolls get to be very rich indeed. The purest patent trolls don't make anything themselves, so can't be counter-sued using the arsenal which most software companies have ready.

    This is a fairly classic approach, and it only needs one or two companies to settle for the costs to be covered. The rest is pur profit.

    1. Swarthy

      Until Haliburton sues

      I don't remember the Reg article, but didn't Haliburton recently file a patent on patent trolling?

  20. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    I'd like to...

    ... patent the method of taking out silly patents, sitting on them for years, and then suing other companies as a method of making money without producing anything useful.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    So sick and tired...

    Sick and tired of these stories. Huge corps who have run out of ideas, nothing to do so the legal team find some possible chance of fleecing one of the other corps for a few quid or some other backhanded agreement.

    Who loses? We all do, stagnation as everyone gets too firghtened to do anything or attempt to come up with an idea, find out it's already been done, they can't change it as they are arse-deep in litigation before even getting to market!

    Absolute utter crap!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Dunstan Vavasour

    ... but not as rich as the lawyers.

  23. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Yeah, I think it's a signature key that may be downloaded.

    I think that typically, what you purchase and obtain online is a digital decryption key or signature key. The program otherwise is complete in all its functional components but does not run unless a correct key is presented to it.

    It is not the same as shipping a program without some required DLLs until the customer pays.

    It also is not the same as replacing a trial or beta installation of a product with an entire new copy.

    All of this is probably covered by prior art from early shareware - except for allowing the process to depend on Internet access.

    Patents generally are required to be specific and achievable, I think, about what is done. I can't patent the idea of using the Starship Enterprise's matter transporter to obtain antimatter from inside the sun, because I don't specify how it works and I can't build it.

    Rec[ntly, patents for business processes seem to have been allowed for inventions of the form, "We do exactly what people have been doing for years, but we do it on a computer." And then separately patented all over again with "computer" replaced by "mobile phone". That is ridiculous.

  24. Gobhicks

    Oh dear

    Apart from anything else, the claims of this patent suffer a fatal flaw common to many software patents, especially early ones.

    None of the claims are directly infringed by either a user or a provider. The method claims include steps performed by the user, the user’s computer and the provider’s computer. The system claims include the user’s computer and the provider’s computer.

  25. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Right you lot - you're nicked

    I have just been granted a patent in Northern Nepal that covers "a method of computation by the use of sub-atomic particles delivered by metal conductors" and I sue the lot of you. Meet me in court halfway up Everest.

    PS I'm working on pop-corn and beer delivery system patent too and expect to sue the rest of you lazy bastards by Friday. It would have been earlier but I'm having the devil of a job popping popcorn at this altitude.

  26. Matt 95
    Thumb Down

    East Texas

    Once you see East Texas mentioned, it's over folks. If you see that location on ANY patent dispute it's a near 100% indication that the suit is false from top to bottom.

  27. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    now compare these jokers with i4i

    i4i Company owners wrote the patent they defended. Developed and delivered products presumably based on the IP protection provided by the patent as you can see on their website. When they identified a specific infringer based on evidence in the product they took action. their patent should be good till about 2018

    BetaNet LLC

    A company no one has heard of buys 2 nearly expired patents off another company no one has ever heard of (which implies they have neither successfully licensed it or incorporated it in *any* product they have sold) and proceeds to mass attack a list of big name public companies who they *think* might operate in the way described in the patents.

    NB East Texas for patent hearings seems to be the equivalent of corporate registration in Delaware (look up where MS is actually registered). However a full scale review of the software patents systems should definitely address their *astonishing* popularity with plantiffs. I suggest that most of this is down tot he fact that *most* software patent infriingements are total BS to begin with.

    In 4 years this will all be public domain and all of these "features" will be free to be implemented in any software.

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