Written by Brandon Shalton

August 23, 2003

Interview with the Vampire: Company claims ownership over downloadable video


This is a satirical article with a fictitious conversation with the Lead Attorney of a fictitious company called National Video Interactive that has a patent claim concerning their extension of their patent to claim ownership to the idea of downloading videos from a web server.


FightThePatent: Mr. Lead Attorney.

Mr. Lead Attorney: [interrupting FightThePatent], please, call me Lead, Mr. Attorney is my father.

FightThePatent: Ok, Lead, I understand that your company has a patent that was filed in 1990 and approved in 1991 with the title 'Store and Forward Perpetual Motion Video System'. With the filing of your lawsuit against www.download-movies-for-a-fee-from-major-movie-studios.com, I assume that you feel your patent is being infringed by their service that allows people to pay for a download of a movie file?

Lead: Yes

FightThePatent: Do you believe that your patent covers the concept of downloading a video file from a web server for playback on a pc (whether you paid for it or not) ?

Lead: Yes

FightThePatent: Oh, that's pretty broad isn't it? If you did have a patent that covered that, you could get licensing fees from any website that had video to download and you guys would be bazillionaires?

Lead: Yes

FightThePatent: You don't talk much to you?

Lead: No

FightThePatent: Would CNN's use of videos on their website be considered an infringement?

Lead: Yes

FightThePatent: If a church website has a video clip of the pastor's Sunday sermon, would that be considered an infringement?

Lead: Yes

FightThePatent: [looking perplexed] If I had a video clip on my personal homepage of my puppy, would that be considered an infringement?

Lead: Yes

FightThePatent: Whoa! That's severe.

Lead: According to patent law, the end user can infringe upon a patent even if they have purchased or used third party software.

FightThePatent: So you mean if I purchased a Real Media server and used it to stream videos of my puppy, I am in violation of infringing your patent?

Lead: Yes, and we could take action against Real Media, Microsoft, and other companies, but why bite the hand that feeds you? Let them continue to sell and offer their services, we'll just target the individual websites that use their technology that serves up the patent infringement. You don't have to have Real Media server to be infringing on our patent. A link to the file that is sent via the web server to the person's computer is infringing our patent..

FightThePatent: Wow, you say more than one word and you let loose a whole paragraph. But what if I didnt use a streaming server, I just put up an AVI or MPEG file of my puppy?

Lead: You are infringing on our patent.

FightThePatent: But wait a minute, I thought that your patent consisted of technology that the inventors created, and even tested it in a trials. Your technology isn't being used at all in my example of downloading a video clip of my puppy.

Lead: Doesn't matter if our technology is being used, the process of downloading a video file from one place to another is what we patented.

FightThePatent: But I thought that patents were supposed to be more tangible as an invention that provided specific functionality.

Lead: I don't know where you got your Patent Law degree, but I got mine from Francis University Patent Law School (F.U. Law), so I know what I am talking about. We have the patent to a PROCESS. Our patent doesn't mention any specific electronic devices or apparatus to make the concept work.

FightThePatent: F.U. Patent Law, ya, I heard about them. I think one of your alumni tried to patent Air, but got rejected due to some minor technicality of Air already existing prior to his patent application, something about prior art mumbo-jumbo. Do you have a hardware/software solution that you can sell as a product today that represents the concepts described in the patent and the original invention?

Lead: Advances in technology by Real Networks and Microsoft on the Internet side, and Video on Demand companies on the broadcast side, have outpaced the original invention. We seek to generate revenue by licensing the idea of our patent, rather than the actual invention. Companies who developed technology simply stole our patented idea and for that, we are entitled to retribution.

FightThePatent: So why don't you sue Real and Microsoft for developing and profiting from the illegal use of your patent?

Lead: I already answer that. We are entitled to stop people from using our patent. We can make a lot more money by requiring a huge number of smaller websites to license our patent, then to just have a handful of companies that provide the technology to license our patent. Why make millions when you can make bazillions?

FightThePatent: Can you cite one company that is able to charge a "licensing fee" to a website to use a concept of an idea, when a software/hardware piece was not purchased?

Lead: Um, GIF images?

FightThePatent: Nope, Unisys had the patent for the GIF file format, but licensed the format to graphic programs. It's pronounced "Jiff" not like "Gift" without the "t", by the way.

Lead: MP3?

FightThePatent: Nope, software that encodes and decodes MP3 files pay a licensing fee to use the MP3 codec. Websites that offer downloads of MP3 files are not infringing.

Lead: I can't think of any, that's why this case will be groundbreaking! [Lead gets a little red and excited in the cheeks at the prospect of global ownership of video downloads].

FightThePatent: Well, there is Acacia Research, they seem to have licensed their "technology" and patents to some companies.

Lead: We are aware of their efforts.

FightThePatent: So why didn't you bring them up?

Lead: We don't want to have our name used in the same sentence as them. Our patent is different, we had technology, Acacia never did.

FightThePatent: Moving on, What about all the Internet development that occurred prior to the web coming out, and prior to the 1990 filing date? Have you researched the history and development of the Internet?

Lead: I have done some Google searches and read some articles.

FightThePatent: Do you know who Vint Cerf is?

Lead: No

FightThePatent: WTF?!??!? You don't know who Vint Cerf is????

Lead: No

FightThePatent: Many Internet Historians regard him as the "Father of the Internet" and is certainly among a very esteemed group of people who developed the original ARPANET that evolved to the modern day Internet. The reason I bring this up, is maybe you havent done enough historical research about possible prior art. You must just be looking into previous patents for your research?

Lead: No, we use google and other sources

FightThePatent: And you never came across Vint Cerf?

Lead: No and I don't understand his importance or relevance of him to this issue.

FightThePatent: Never mind. Let's now look at the actual patent:The inventors came up with an idea that was far ahead of their time. Much like Arthur C. Clarke's article that described satellites in 1945, ideas of the future were further ahead than technology. It was considered Science Fiction.

Around the time frame of 1990 when the inventors were creating their invention, ISDN was touted as the next generation voice and data network. With leap frogs to digital, fiber optics would not be that far away. The inventors probably thought ahead to a situation where fiber optics would be run to all homes, thus creating the wide pipe to the home to handle the video transfer. ISDN never got implemented to the masses as everyone thought, and Fiber Optics to every home is still sci-fi.From your patent:

"The convenience and usefulness of the system described above depends in large part on the ability to be able to quickly down load a video program to the receiving unit 16. In order to illustrate the convenience of the system described above, an example illustrating the numbers involved will now be described. "


"Assuming 2.3 gigabytes are required for a compressed program, and that a 50% overhead is required for serial transmission of the program data, for error correcting code, blocking, and the like, 3.45 gigabytes of serial data must be transmitted between the central data facility 10 and the receiving unit 16. At eight bits per byte, this results in 27.6 gigabits to be transferred. Optical fiber connections currently planned for installation to residential customers will have a maximum data transfer rate of 144 megabits per second. At this rate, the required 27.6 gigabits can be transferred to the receiving unit 16 in 192 seconds, which is just over three minutes. Thus, approximately three minutes is required to transfer a typical video program to the receiving unit 16. "

You are claiming that a website like www.download-movies-for-a-fee-from-major-movie-studios.cominfringes upon your patent because they offer "pay per view" downloads of movies.

The website claims the average download is about 80 minutes (assuming broadband connection).

3 minutes from the patented "invention" vs. 80 minutes for the download doesn't seem like the same thing. If www.download-movies-for-a-fee-from-major-movie-studios.comwere infringing the patent, wouldn't the downloads be like 3 minutes??

Lead: Most people don't have fiber optics to their home. The only way to achieve this kind of download is through Fiber. Our patent describes the PROCESS of downloading a video file FASTER THAN REAL TIME. So if a 90 minute movie takes 80 minutes to download, I would say that is FASTER than real time, wouldn't you?

FightThePatent: Um, sure. And downloading a 90 minute video in 89 minutes is still faster than real time. If the whole point of the patent is to provide technology that enables the fast transfer of video (over fiber optics) , how does that apply to a website and transferring the video over the internet?

Lead: This interview is over. We are not arguing our case before the Public Court, but rather a Court of Law, thank you for your concern over the issue, but we feel confident that our patent will prevail.

FightThePatent: And there you have it. If National Video Interactive is successful in their lawsuit, they could literally suck the blood from a website's veins as a licensing fee for the use of their "patent". Sounds a lot like some other patent [cough] abuse [/cough] case we have been covering.


Read about USA Video and their patent claims to owning the process of downloading video from a (web) server

copyright 2003, FightThePatent.com