back to article Mohawks fling patent infringement sueball at Microsoft and Amazon

A Native American tribe in New York is going after Microsoft and Amazon for infringing its patents. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe filed lawsuits against the tech firms Wednesday, a spokesperson for the tribe told The Register. The patents, which deal with data processing, actually come from a US tech firm called SRC Labs. But …

  1. MiguelC Silver badge

    Patent dark spot

    If the tribe has sovereign immunity to patent challenges then aren't, effectively, in a sort of "patent dark spot" where patents don't apply?

    If so, they should be likewise barred from legally challenging patents.

    1. WolfFan

      Re: Patent dark spot

      They have sovereign immunity, period. Any Indian tribe recognised by the Feds could do this, the Mohawks just have a rep for being intransigent. Most other tribes just want to sit back and let palefaces scalp themselves buying tax-free liquor or cigarettes, or 'playing games' in casinos, but the Mohawks take a more activist stance.

      Seriously, get out the popcorn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Patent dark spot

        FWIW, at least some of the tribal communities that run casinos do try to use the revenue stream in a responsible manner, if only issuing Per-Capita checks to community members. (There are other things as well, like making sure infrastructure is functional and whatnot.)

        anon for patently obvious reasons.

    2. ibmalone

      Re: Patent dark spot

      No, patents still work, but they are exempted from a newish review process supposed to allow challenging patents without having to do it as the subject of a prosecution for infringement (that is, someone has a patent, you think it's invalid, you - and an army of lawyers - can get it reviewed, which is not how things used to work, in the USA anyway). That they ended up with this ability is the unexpected upshot of a measure intended for state owned institutions (i.e. universities).

  2. WolfFan

    Time to make sure that your powder's dry

    They weren't 'forced to leave the Mohawk valley in the 1700s', they picked the wrong side. Twice. The US was Not Amused. The Canuks have had problems, too.

    Time to get out the popcorn.


    Christ on a bike......What the hell is WRONG with your country?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Christ on a bike......What the hell is WRONG with your country?

      Are you referring to patents, or the appropriation of land occupied by the original native inhabitants and destruction of their societies?

      1. WolfFan

        Oh, please. Some people just don't know history. Look up Andrew Jackson and Trail of Tears; hell look up Little Phil Sheridan. Little Phil Quote #1: "I saw a good Indian once. He was dead." Little Phil Quote #2, on being questioned why he allowed troops under his command to kill women and children in Indian villages: "Nits make lice."

        I'm pretty damn sure that the Mohawks already know all about the above, and a lot more.

        (For fairness, Little Phil also burned down most of the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War, and as Military Governor of Texas and Louisiana after the war locked up a large number of white politicians, registered blacks to vote, and enforced the laws stating that only registered voters, including the above-mentioned blacks, could be on juries. Or could be elected to public office. For some reason Little Phil was less than loved by palefaces and redskins alike throughout the Confederacy. He didn't care. Little Phil Quote #3: "A crow flying over the Shenandoah would have to carry his own provender.")

      2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        The Indian

        has made over 400 treaties with the white man.

        They have kept only one promise, they took our land.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "...the appropriation of land occupied by the original native inhabitants and destruction of their societies?"

        Done by Europeans, modeled on long standing European practices.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        What's wrong is a bunch of Europeans came over to practice using North America in preparation for screwing over Africa, India & SE Asia.

    2. WolfFan

      Look who got elected prez. Ask that question again.

      It could be worse. It could be Venezuela, or Zimbabwe. Hmm... parts of Alabama and Mississippi actually make Zimbabwe look good... (No, I'm not joking. Go off the main highways and have a look for yourselves. And it ain't just the black parts of those states, either.)

      1. Jonathan Schwatrz

        Re: WolfFan

        ".... parts of Alabama and Mississippi actually make Zimbabwe look good...." Er, no, they may be bad but they are nowhere near that bad. First-hand experience.

      2. Alistair


        Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan..... I could add a few more states to that list....... Sadly I have relatives down there that I suspect I'll have to retrieve at some point in the near future. I'm gonna need a HumVee for a couple of those highways.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If it helps, think of it as a 240 year old car, repaired with band-aids over the years. And earwax. Don't know why I'm thinking of cars today, or earwax for that matter...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No way out

      "What the hell is WRONG with your country?"

      Every time I see those sentiments expressed, I must suppress the urge to inquire as to the identity of the commenter's apparently utopian home country (so I can immediately move there). That's because every time I do inquire, it turns out the country in question is just as backward and messed-up as mine, oy!

      1. PATSYQB

        Re: No way out

        Yep - sorry - you're right. I don't know what came over me when I posted that comment. Exasperation? Possibly. Fear? Almost certainly. In my defence I had just read the article on civil forfeiture in America and was probably in a state of concussion. It's not that my country has laws any less deranged than your own, my real problem is that your country seems hell bent on exporting or this particular type of insanity to the rest of the planet. Sorry 'bout that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No way out

          In recent years certain members of the US Supreme Court have (controversially) suggested it might be proper for that court to take its cues from international courts and not just their own counsel. So here the big judicial fear is exactly the same as yours, except it's that the new laws will be coming in, not going out. Makes one think, eh?

  4. graeme leggett Silver badge

    a problem of the US own making

    I'd say this sort of activity brings patent law into disrepute. But having read a lot of Register articles, perhaps that's too late.

    On a more technical point. While Mohawks have immunity within US against such legal challenges, presumably such protection cannot be extended into the international sphere?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a problem of the US own making

      I'd say "probably not" on the immunity to international patent challenges. The relevant laws were between the U.S. federal government and native american tribes.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Red man speak with forked tongue. *

    Remember MS's bankrolling that decades long Linux troll suite?

    *Yeah, not in the least PC I know.

  6. kotaKat

    Living up here close to the Mohawk reservation, all I can say is that money's not going to what they say it's going to. It's going to line the coffers of the top, not improve the faltering healthcare in the region. It's going to do nothing to cure the rampant opioid epidemic up here. It's going to do nothing to bring more jobs into the area. It's going to do nothing except buy the top some shiny new toys.

    1. James O'Shea

      Why am I totally unsurprised by that?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > nothing except buy the top some shiny new toys.

      The Mohawks are well aligned with general US cultural norms then?

    3. Palpy
      Paris Hilton

      Wait... "buy the top some shiny toys"...

      ... didn't you just describe the current Republican tax deform plan?

  7. ibmalone

    Having been following Derek Lowe's posts on Allergan, what they have immunity against is the patent invalidation process introduced a few years ago. It can still be invalidated in the courts (of course, requiring you to be pretty confident before you infringe the patent). Whether this actually works has been called into question by the latest ruling in the Allergan case, that in effect, the tribe is attempting to lease out their immunity, which they can't do (I don't know if that sticks though, since it was an aside and the judge has, to my limited understanding, ruled that patent invalid anyway).

    1. Josh 14

      Did you see the most recent of Derek Lowe's posts, reporting on Allergan having 6 of their patents thrown out, and the judge stating: “. . .sovereign immunity should not be treated as a monetizable commodity that can be purchased by private entities as part of a scheme to evade their legal responsibilities. It is not an inexhaustible asset that can be sold to any party that might find it convenient to purchase immunity from suit.”

      Good reading:

      1. Fred Goldstein

        Yes, this week's Allergan ruling invalidating the patent on Ristasis is the key precedent that kills the Mohawk scam. Perhaps the court could also have held that the immunity in question only protected the patent on the reservation itself... so the Mohawks would have to license things from themselves. The patent system is stupid but trust a patent-holder's lawyer to make it seem even stupider than it is.

  8. a_yank_lurker

    Native Americans Sovereignty

    What is confusing to most about this situation is the fact that Native American Tribes and a unique legal status in the US. Many feral and state laws do not apply on the reservations, especially excise taxes. Precisely what the tribal rights are is determined by specific treaty between the tribe and the ferals.

    I remember an incident while living in the Buffalo NY area when the Senecas shut down the NY State Thruway over whether they owned NY state any taxes on sales on the reservation (they do not by treaty with the ferals). Since the Thruway ran through the reservation they simply blocked it until the state backed down. The Senecas had very strong local support and I think many in Western NY were hoping Mario Cuomo would opt for a showdown forcing the ferals to support the Senecas. But Mario backed down.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Native Americans Sovereignty

      "Many feral and state laws "

      Feral? Typo of 'federal' or deliberate?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Native Americans Sovereignty

        Feral? Typo of 'federal' or deliberate?

        Yes :-)

        (The OP always refers to them that way. It does seem somewhat appropriate - having had some experience of feral cats.. Herding them is even more difficult that herding domesticated ones.)

      2. a_yank_lurker

        Re: Native Americans Sovereignty

        deliberate as the ferals often like to ignore niceties like the Constitution or there own laws and otherwise often lack a veneer of civilization.

  9. fluffybunnyuk

    I think that Seymour would be pleased. He never did like authority or the corporate nonsense. Maybe he's taken time out from designing his latest mainframe for the choir invisible to lend a hand.

  10. DeeCee

    Blankets anyone ?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a bunch of cowboys...

    ... oh, hang on.

  12. disgruntled yank

    Surely a Siouxball?

    Or is that covered under a different sovereign immunity?

  13. gerryg


    ..has no-one asked Apache if they want to join the litigation?

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