A Nasty Tale

From Andrew Leonard’s How The World Works blog at Salon: The heart of patent litigation darkness

An unseemly piece of gloating arrived in How the World Works’ mailbox today, from an outfit called Patriot Scientific Corp. The e-mail started off by citing the $612 million settlement agreed to last Friday between RIM, the makers of the BlackBerry communications device, and NTP, a small software company that had sued RIM for patent infringement.

But that’s nothing compared to what Patriot was about to extract from the entire world’s computer industry, crowed the e-mail. Patriot “co-owns and markets core microprocessor architecture technology patents which affects every computer manufactured since 1994 and semiconductors which run faster than 120 MHz.

“The $612 million settlement last week will seem small compared to more than 150 computer/semiconductor manufacturers and consumer electronics companies worldwide now being sued or put on notice for industry wide patent infringement that is validated by recent licensing or court settlements by Intel, AMD, HP, Casio and last week Fujitsu.”

Ah, the sweet smell of patent litigation in the morning. […]

Pushing the Envelope

Backed by Bain: Online music service to let users swap CDs [pdf]

A new online music service called La la Media Inc. aims to offer full-length CDs for $1 by letting users trade discs, in a bid to avoid legal pitfalls that face online song trading.

Backed with $9 million in funding by Bain Capital and Ignition Partners, La la works like an online music co-op by enabling members to trade physical CDs they own for physical CDs they want, Bill Nguyen, co-founder of La la, said ahead of the Tuesday announcement.

With 1.8 million album titles available, members trade the CDs in prepaid envelopes, much like the way popular mail-order DVD service Netflix Inc. operates.

La la founders argue that, unlike underground online file-sharing services, which have been sued for copyright infringement, La la is protected under an exception to the U.S. Copyright Act. They argue that the owner of a CD can transfer a legally-acquired copy without permission or payment of additional royalties.

Members will pay $1 to La la for facilitating the trade once they receive the disc from other members, plus a 49 cent shipping charge.

Some People Are Embracing New Technology A Little *Too* Readily

But that’s just my opinion: Cell phones are rewiring our social connections [pdf]

In a 2005 study by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, 83 percent of respondents said cell phones have made life easier, besting the Internet in second place at 76 percent. But an additional 60 percent said they find cell phones somewhat irritating when used in public.

A study by Telephia, a mobile industry tracker, found that Americans used their phone an average of almost 13 hours a month — with users ages 18 to 24 racking up close to 22 hours of cell phone talk time a month.

In a 2005 international survey of more than 3,000 people by BBDO Worldwide, an advertising agency, 75 percent of Americans said they had the phone turned on and within reach during their waking hours.

According to the BBDO survey, 15 percent of Americans have interrupted sex to answer a cell phone call. It also found that 59 percent of us wouldn’t think of lending our cell phone to a friend for a day. Another 26 percent said that a cell phone was more important to go home to retrieve than a wallet.