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Patent Round Up At Internext

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Jan 6, 2004 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – While the pool of adult entertainment representatives that know patent issues inside and out is still relatively small, it is an intense and thoroughly informed group of individuals, three of whom served as panelists for Internext’s ‘Lowdown On Patents’ seminar.

Brandon of Fight The Patent, Greg Clayman, president of Video Secrets, and Spike Goldberg of Homegrown Video all shared their thoughts with seminar attendees on patent issues facing the adult entertainment world, which at present seem to generally spell “Acacia.”

Clayman and Goldberg are two of eleven litigants contesting Acacia’s patents that cover the streaming and audio technology commonly used by many adult sites. And while the panelists provided ample general advice on the issue of adult webmasters versus Acacia, they were reluctant to get too specific on details pending a Feb. 6 Markman hearing during which a judge will begin the process of examining the language of Acacia’s patents. A final outcome of which could prove a major victory for the adult industry and many other industries that have been approached by Acacia, or a major defeat for the counter-litigants and those to follow.

Webmasters with questions pertaining to Acacia and other similar patent-related questions were more than eager to take advantage of the three-person panel of that urged attendees to be wary of patent claims which are sometimes illegitimate, although they warned of the amount of time and money it actually takes to stand up and contest patent holders in court.

“As an industry we don’t get a whole lot of respect,” Goldberg said. “At some point we are all going to connect. But what would you do in your business if someone came to you unexpectedly and said you owed them back royalties?”

According to Brandon, the typical litigation period against patent holders can be between two and four years and can be very costly, although in many cases, if there is prior art and the case is strong, that time period can be significantly shortened.

Brandon added that in many cases, the U.S. Patent Office is under-staffed to deal with the volume of patent applications that are filed, and many times the patents that are approved are more easily challenged than people realize. According to Brandon, more than 50 percent of the patents challenged in court have been overturned.

Among Brandon’s examples was a recently-approved patent for using jelly on a piece of toilet paper as a bathroom aid.

“There is a lot of silliness that goes on in the patent office,” Brandon told the crowd. “They have limited information.”

Brandon added that in 1908, Henry Ford contested a patent on the automobile, claiming it was too broad for its claim. Ford and others eventually overturned the patent.

“There has to be some ground upon which people take a stand,” said Clayman. “We have to look to Congress and lobbying efforts for help.”

Goldberg and Clayman pushed the point that the adult industry is badly in need of a trade organization outside of the Free Speech Coalition that will better serve the immediate needs of industry businesses in crisis over patent infringement litigation.

Both Clayman and Goldberg are among the founders of an organization called the Internet Media Protective Association (IMPA) that was formed in February of this year to support the online adult industry confront the numerous issues threatening its foundation.

Goldberg and Clayman were careful to distinguish between IMPA's mission statement and the fact that several of its founding board members are also among the counter-litigants challenging Acacia's patents, however all three panelists continued to stress the importance of having industry representation during difficult legal times such as these.

“Almost every industry has their own trade organization that will serve all of our needs as an industry. So it isn’t all on one company’s shoulders,” said Clayman. “Hopefully those companies recently named by Acacia will decide to fight.”

Clayman added that through the proper industry support, donations, membership, and sponsorships, organizations like IMPA could potentially represent the interests of the adult industry at this difficult juncture and in the future.

“We do mean business,” said Goldberg. “But we have multiple hills to cross before we succeed.”

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