Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


"Patent Hawk" Sues Microsoft, Former Client, for Patent Infringement

As reported on The Patent Prospector blog,

Inventor Gary Odom, founder of Patent Hawk, has asserted 7,363,592 against Microsoft. '592 claims a feature of the tool groups used in the Office 2007 tool ribbon.

Now, as noted on the Patent Prospector blog, "Microsoft was a Patent Hawk client for years. They had every opportunity for friendly [sic] discussion. The words 'patent tax' were used, and Microsoft chose a path consistent with their corporate culture."

A few observations. First, it is striking that Odom is suing is former client. Second, Patent Prospector whines that Odom just wanted a "friendly" discussion, and big ole' mean Microsoft wouldn't play ball. Hint: it's not "friendly" when you threaten to sic the state thugs on someone if they don't pony up. If the thugs in power didn't make it legal, it would be called "extortion."

Third, Patent Prospector implies that there's something wrong with viewing such a threat as a "tax". There's not. That's exactly what it is. Odom threatens his former client with severe financial damage by the state's thugs, and they call it a "tax." Hey, unfair! They are supposed to just pay their former attorney! Patent Prospector whines that Microsoft's "corporate culture" is a problem here, in viewing such demands as a tax. Would that more companies would openly call these extortortionate demands what they are.

But maybe we're a bit unfair to just take Patent Prospector's word for what really happened between Patent Hawk/Odom and Microsoft. Oh, wait--Patent Prospector is also apparently run by Patent Hawk/Odom.

Correction: In the original post, I referred to Odom as a patent attorney. My assumption was wrong. After someone suggested to me Odom was not a patent attorney, but was a patent agent instead, I checked on the PTO attorney/agent roster and could not find him. On his Patent Prospector site, he describes his fellow blogger as a patent agent, but not himself. And on the site for Platinum Patents, his "patent prosecution boutique," he describes his colleague as a patent agent, and himself as "a pro se prosecutor of his own inventions". So Odom is apparently a "technical consultant" who advises on a variety of patent-related matters.

I think I just may start asking patent attorneys my company hires to include a little clause in the retainer agreement: "and we promise not to sue you, our client, for patent infringement in the future."

Incidentally, Odom and I had a disagreement previously about the patent system, in the comments to this post. Odom takes the typpical pro-patent position. Unsurprising given that he is "a former professional economist who drove his interest in technology into a career in computers, electronics, and software development, areas he made his profession for 17 years. Gary is a long-standing member of IEEE and ACM."

Regarding the typical approach of engineers to policy and their tendency toward scientistm, see my posts Engineers' Syndrome and Galambos and Other Nuts.

Update: See Techdirt's post by Mike Masnick, Microsoft Sued Over User Editable Toolbar Patent, in particular the comments on the "obviousness" of the claims of the Odom patent. Masnick notes there that Patent Hawk (Odom) has "been known to comment here on occasion, employing the style seen all-too-often among patent system apologists commenting on Techdirt posts: insult repeatedly and broadly, offer no actual points, refuse to actually counter anything we say, provide absolutely no evidence and (for good measure) insult again."

For example, as in this previous post about the poor quality of patent applications, where Odom posted: "This little op-ed piece is ignorant tripe, none of it having any factual basis. Nothing but fantasy based on rumor and imagination. Pathetic, really.

Masnick's reply:

Hi Patent Hawk. Here in the real world, when we disagree with something, we actually make an "argument." It's called explaining why something is incorrect and presenting counter evidence.

I've noticed a pattern when I talk about patents. Most (though, certainly not all) of the folks who disagree with me simply stop by and toss insults and never present a shred of evidence to support their position.

It suggests to me that I'm clearly on the right track.

Indeed! See also Odom's similar style of engagement--or lack thereof--with me on the comments to this post.

See also my comment on that thread:

Note one of the derisive comments on Hawk's blog, which concerns this patent's parent patent:

How about the PARENT patent? #7,036,087 that issued on 04/25/2006.

Why didn't you try to assert this one against micro$oft or others? Or did you? Or was it already invalidated? :)

For the record, here are the issued claims from the parent patent #7,036,087.

1. Software from at least one computer-readable medium automatically rearranging at least one tool based upon relative usage frequency of tools within a toolbar group.

2. Software according to claim 1 preventing at least one tool from being rearranged.

3. Software from at least one computer-readable medium automatically rearranging at least one group of a tools on a toolbar based upon aggregate usage frequency of tools within a tool group compared to another group.

4. Software according to claim 3 preventing at least one group from being rearranged.

(Cross-posted at Mises blog.)


Ideally, the patent hawks of the world will sue each other out of business.

Submit Comment

Blog Post


Email (optional):

Your Humanity:

Prove you are human by retyping the anti-spam code.
For example if the code is unodosthreefour,
type 1234 in the textbox below.

Anti-spam Code



Most Recent Comments

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime It is one of the finest websites I have stumbled upon. It is not only well developed, but has good

Killing people with patents I'm not really commenting the post, but rather asking if this blog is going to make a comeback

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges Finally got around to looking at the comments, sorry for delay... Replying to Stephan: I'm sorry

Let's See: Pallas, Pan, Patents, Persephone, Perses, Poseidon, Prometheus... Seems like a kinda bizarre proposal to me. We just need to abolish the patent system, not replace

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges I'm a bit confused by this--even if "hired to invent" went away, that would just change the default

Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without

Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do

Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous

Yet another proof of the inutility of copyright. The 9/11 Commission report cost $15,000,000 to produce, not counting the salaries of the authors.

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,

What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic

Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the

Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples

Music without copyright Hundreds of businessmen are looking for premium quality article distribution services that can be

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Patent Lawyers Who Don't Toe the Line Should Be Punished! Moreover "the single most destructive force to innovation is patents". We'd like to unite with you

Bonfire of the Missalettes!

Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? So, if our patent system was "broken," TFP of durable goods should have dropped. Conversely, since