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afisher

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Reply with quote  #1 
Many of you in these forums appear to be lawyers, given the amount of comments I've seen about patent validity or lack thereof.  For those of you who are not lawyers, here are a few items for your consideration.

Patent litigation is expensive
Litigating a patent as a defendant (like Iron Speed) is expensive, generally costing $2M-$3M over a 2-3 year period.  Yes, that's two to three million dollars, and we shopped around!

Patent claims are what is litigated
Many have posted comments based on the patent's abstract and description of the invention.  That's great, but the description's purpose is to demonstrate the invention can be build ("realized into practice" as the attorneys like to say).

What are actually litigated are the patent's claims which you'll find at the very end of the patent.  Claims are numbered, and the most important are the primary claims, of which there are three:

Quote:

1. Computer software for automatically generating a graphical user interface for a relational database, said software embodied in a computer readable medium having a set of computer instructions encoded thereon and comprising:

utility software extracting schema information from the relational database and automatically generating corresponding schema and graphical user interface metadata stored in a repository;

user interface software automatically developing from the metadata a user interface appropriate to the relational database;

and software permitting addition of non-automatically-generated functionality to said developed user interface selected from the group consisting of scripts, external components, business rules, and triggers.

 

7. Computer apparatus for automatically generating a user interface for a relational database, said apparatus comprising:

means embodied in a computer readable medium having a set of computer instructions encoded thereon for extracting schema information from the relational database and automatically generating corresponding schema and graphical user interface metadata;

repository means for containing said metadata;

means embodied in a computer readable medium having a set of computer instructions encoded thereon for automatically developing from the metadata a user interface appropriate to the relational database;

and means embodied in a computer readable medium having a set of computer instructions encoded thereon permitting addition of non-automatically-generated functionality to said developed user interface selected from the
group consisting of scripts, external components, business rules, and triggers.

 


13. A method of automatically generating a graphical user interface for a relational database, the method comprising the steps of:

extracting schema information from the relational database and automatically generating corresponding schema and graphical user interface metadata;

storing the metadata in a repository;

automatically developing from the metadata a user interface appropriate to the relational database;

and adding non-automatically-generated functionality to the developed user interface selected from the group consisting of scripts, external components, business rules, and triggers.




Prior art
There's a patent concept called 'prior art' referring to publicly disclosed, pre-existing technology.  Obviously a patent can't (or shouldn't) be granted if it claims something that's prior art.  That's the basis for our argument.  We believe there is very strong prior art in the form of several database products that date to the early 1990's.

Oracle Designer
Microsoft Access
Ashton-Tate dBase III

Nevertheless, we would need to prove that these products did the same thing as the patent in order for a court to invalidate the patent.  And that's a very expensive process.

How patent trolls make money
Patent trolls know your litigation cost is very expensive, and their aim is to get you to buy a license to their patent rather than endure the litigation expense and the massive distraction to your management team.  They exploit an asymmetric cost advantage.  The troll's costs are largely their time and court filing feeds whereas you have to hire a patent litigator at $700 per hour, plus expert witness fees, etc.

It doesn't really matter whether you actually infringe or not; the litigation cost outweighs the licensing cost so you are inclined to settle by buying a license to the patent.  In our case, the license cost was much higher than we could afford, unfortunately.

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Alan Fisher Chairman Iron Speed, Inc. @afisher1024
scrimej

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Reply with quote  #2 
Alan,

I am not asking you to speak for other companies, but can you give your opinion as to why other companies that do code generation either have not heard of the patent or have stated they are not subject to any litigation now and don't predict any in the future.  The tools from other companies seem to be similar in nature to Iron Speed.

Your insight on this would be very helpful in assisting your customers transitioning to alternatives.  

Thanks,
Jeremy
afisher

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Reply with quote  #3 
Jeremy,
We had not heard of this patent either until December when several of our attorneys alerted me that we had been sued.  The patent was filed in December 2001 and issued in June 2006.  As far as I know, the patent has been litigated only after being acquired by the patent troll.  We weren't the only ones sued; Microsoft, Oracle and several others were also sued.

We never pursued patent protection for Designer because we believe there is strong prior art, expressed by products like Oracle Designer, Microsoft Access and Ashton-Tate dBase III.  Those products and others, in our opinion, do the same thing as Designer; Designer's unique feature is we generated applications for the Web and for multiple databases, unlike the others which generated apps for the desktop and only for their own respective databases.

I suspect the patent troll has not yet sued other code generation firms simply because they aren't aware of their existence.  Iron Speed, being the leader in app generation, was probably an easy target for the troll to find, due to our extensive advertising and industry presence.

Just because others haven't been sued doesn't mean they're immune or the troll has somehow determined they don't infringe.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  As has been explained to me, trolls often seek out a firm of our size because it's easier for them to negotiate a settlement (license), which they can then use as leverage with larger firms they sue.  If they go after firms that are too small, like most of our competitors, that won't hold much sway.  They need someone of reasonable size, but not too large, they can use as an example.

I suppose to be fair, we should alert the patent troll about these other firms in case they wish to litigate them!  [wink]  Quite possibly they'll now pursue other competitors now that we've exited the playing field, but that's only speculation on my part.

Remember, patent trolls aren't software experts; they're litigators.  They don't really care if your product actually infringes the patent or not; they just want to extract license fees.

I hope this perspective helps...

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Alan Fisher Chairman Iron Speed, Inc. @afisher1024
moulay

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Reply with quote  #4 

Hello,
the generation of "forms" is not the most important functionality. why not market a version without.
you give up like that your loyal customers, without trying to give them solutions so they can continue without problems. for example :
   - An offline activation,
   - An open source version
   - A version without the generation of forms, the IDE is sufficient to continue to operate with ISD.
  - Etc ..
I suggest you keep in touch with your customers who want to continue working with all your tools and do your best to reassure them and give them the support they expect from you.
Best regards

grreek

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Reply with quote  #5 

Hi, Alan,

I am not sure, but I am curious.   Are the license fees so high?  If not, why you don't try to get a deal.  After all, the troll wants you to make money to pay him.  So, the fees should not be that high.

So paying license fees may not be a bad idea.  

Another way of doing this is to group as defendants with the other sued or to be sued companies and share the legal fees.  That may significantly lower the fees and keep you alive.

In addition, since the IS argument is strong and a viable one, you can also hire lawyers and pay them annually like you would pay any employee.   

New attorneys look for ANY job, even a paralegal job, to survive and they will take a smaller salary to start. 

 So, you may be able to contract with one to work for you for  $35k to $60k per year so he can survive and then a balloon payment of, say, $100k after the case is closed..  Compare that to millions if you hire a patent law firm. 

Since your position is strong, you can afford to have an inexperienced lawyer that is more cost effective than hiring an experienced law firm.

Of course, patent lawyers are not easy to find because they must have a science degree in addition to being an attorney.  However, there are so many lawyers coming out of law school each year that it might not be that hard to find them.

If you could hire one, this could take years, if your lawyer uses delaying techniques. If so, IS will be making money for the next few years even if you eventually lost the case.

This is more complicated but meanwhile, another solution may be found along the way such as setting up a corporation in a country that is not subject to U.S. patent law.  With a downloadable product, the sky is the limit.

 A foreign corporation is just that and being a passive shareholder of one is not against U.S. law.  If the website is located in a foreign country, IS will be downloaded from that country.  In order for the corporation to be illegally selling in the United States, there must be a court decision that enjoins it.

 Since suing a foreign entity may be at best very difficult, it may take years for the troll to catch up with you if they ever do.  If they do, they have to get a decision here but they will not be able to enforce it because the court has no jurisdiction to do so. 

 So, the trolls  have to  take the decision to the foreign country to make it enforceable there.  As you understand that is very difficult, expensive and time consuming if not impossible and the trolls will likely not attempt it.   

 The court has jurisdiction of the U.S. Clients that will buy it from that country so the court can stop them (very difficult) but the court cannot stop you from selling it from your own foreign country website even if U.S. clients download it here in the U.S.

Now, merchant credit card processors, such as stripe, sign up merchants / clients in foreign countries and they can process payments in the United States.  So, there will be no issue in collecting payments from the U.S. with a foreign merchant account.

Good Luck; Hope You Find a Solution.


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John 14:15-30

jadach

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Reply with quote  #6 
This patent troll reminds me of a virus. Iron Speed has been infected. It's just hard to comprehend how this could happen.
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Jerry
rshope

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Reply with quote  #7 
Is there any threat of litigation falling to my company for using Iron Speed?
grreek

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by moulay

Hello,
the generation of "forms" is not the most important functionality. why not market a version without.
you give up like that your loyal customers, without trying to give them solutions so they can continue without problems. for example :
   - An offline activation,
   - An open source version
   - A version without the generation of forms, the IDE is sufficient to continue to operate with ISD.
  - Etc ..
I suggest you keep in touch with your customers who want to continue working with all your tools and do your best to reassure them and give them the support they expect from you.
Best regards



This link describes the difference between Code on time and Ironspeed.  

http://codeontime.com/ironspeed

Of course, I am not an engineer and don't exactly understand the process but Code on time claims that their model does not violate the patent.

The code on time end product is not a database browser (as they claim Ironspeed is)  that violates the patent but a program that produces source code for a developer who can later publish the program on a Microsoft server in order to use it.

Not sure how exactly this works but perhaps Ironspeed can combine their technology with code on time like technology.

IS may be able to  reduce the steps and turn the current ironspeed generation of a database browser application to a program that produces source code for an application developer, who can compile and publish the code to a Microsoft web server as codeontime does.

That will help a lot of Ironspeed clients migrate applications to the new program and save a lot of time, effort and money.  Hope IS can create such a software. 

I agree with moulay that whatever happens, as a courtesy to all loyal IS customers, IS shoud at least provide an offline activation and a way to download all versions of IS for at least the next 5-10 years for all perpetual license holders.  

That will definitely provide a relief to all IS clients who are heavily invested in IS projects and may take a fortune to convert 'em to another program.  


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John 14:15-30

pkoutoul

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Reply with quote  #9 
I think a lot of you folks are missing the point. Iron Speed has "discontinued operations". They have apparently done so to protect their assets. If they choose to resurrect the company and the product, regardless of what changes they make, they will be vulnerable to prior claims of patent infringement. So suggesting changes in the product is useless, IMHO. 

Face it: the tool by which many of us primarily earn our living is now abandon ware. 

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Pete Koutoulas • Fayette County Public Schools • Lexington, KY
scrimej

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Reply with quote  #10 
Well said Pete.  RIP Iron Speed.
krishna

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Reply with quote  #11 
HI ALL

SHF (shite hit the fan ...) 

One thing I need an answer.. please..

question raised by rshope..

Will my company also be sued for using ISD ?!


krishna

JimiJ

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Reply with quote  #12 
krishna, the answer is NO!
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  Jaime Jegonia
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". . . and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" 2 Cor 9:6

moulay

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Reply with quote  #13 

hello sir Fisher

we have built several applications with your tools, we want a clear and precise answer to the following questions to allow us to decide whether to abandon your tool and move towards something else.

If you permanently leave your tool, why not provide us with the off-line activation or non keyed release.  What do you care about the number of unofficial copies which can circulate.

Should the opposite occur, I suppose that you have a strategy to boost your activity under another banner. We are willing to remain faithful to you and support you, but we need clarification on your part.

silence would amount to us non-compliance with your customers.

bblyzka

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Reply with quote  #14 
I noticed that Clarion (Softvelocity.com) was not mentioned in the group of companies considered as like products.   They have been doing database generation applications for over 20 years, including windows environments.   This strikes me as prior art in a big way.  I don't know if they hold patents on their product but it would be interesting to find out.
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Gerard

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Reply with quote  #15 
what about a slightly different act for ISD  not quite as convenient as the current model but it could work and make a mockery of the patent claim which is based on a database
Don't know if this would work for all the supported databases but in ms sql if you script the database you essentially have a text document which could act as a standalone document that drives the interface the distinction is that you are building the interface of an script/ xml document
The fact that you could generate the document from in side or out side of ISD would become a point of debate but essentially prior art would say that visual studio integrates everything to make intellisense work and ISD is just doing the same thing
I am sure some lawyers etc could expand on that
Gerard
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