Author Topic: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement  (Read 13019 times)

Unbeliever

Hi

Probably like some other people here, I received unsolicited advertising material from Molten Voltage regarding their "Tap Tempo Low Frequency Oscillator chip, MV-53". I noted in their blurb they said this:
"For a limited time, we are offering manufacturers samples of our patent-pending chip"

I don't visit these forums any more, but as I understand from a brief search there has been some interaction between MV and forum members, presumably with some benefit to MV (as often happens with commercial vendors that visit this forum).

When I questioned MV about the patentability of this particular device, which has been created by other people before in commercial products, and has been posted about here in some detail by people such as RG, the response was that I wouldn't hear from them again UNLESS I 'infringed'. The MV representative seems to be implying that, assuming their patent is approved (which, given the sad state of the patent system in the USA, would not surprise me) AND I choose to develop and market my own "Tap Tempo LFO chip", they would then pursue legal action against me. Presumably this also applies to anyone else who develops such a chip.

I have asked MV directly about their intentions in this regard, but have received no response. Responses from their side previously made references to an attorney and so on.

This kind of behaviour is one major reason I no longer contribute to these forums. "And nothing of value was lost" I hear you say - and you could well be right! ;) However, it's worth - again - pausing for a moment before you post information here to 'help' people if companies like MV do indeed benefit from this information, and especially if they then seek to patent such IP as their 'own', for their own commercial benefit.

Mike / prophecysound systems

earthtonesaudio

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2009, 08:25:12 AM »
It's funny you mention being careful what you say that may help those with commercial interests.  I look at it slightly differently.  I figure the more I "help," the more the information becomes "common knowledge," and the harder it becomes for someone to later try to exert sole ownership of the idea.  Like appnotes, the information is freely given, and so anyone can use them without worrying about litigation.  That's my idealized notion anyway, assuming the patent system works correctly. 

But even with a flawed patent system that grants patents for things that shouldn't be patented, isn't there still some protection?  Assuming the patent office doesn't arbitrarily change its mind about what should and shouldn't be awarded a patent, then MV will get its patent, and then later you (or anyone else) can come along with a 99% similar device and get a separate patent.  The danger would be if the patent office does change its mind and doesn't want to admit it was wrong to give the first patent.  Unfortunately, I have no idea which scenario is the reality...

jacobyjd

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2009, 01:23:27 PM »
Interesting. my MV-52 has yet to drive a 4017--I haven't had a chance to contact MV about it yet. The above, plus my experience with the MV-52 so far (not working in a context identical to the app note) will most likely deter me from future purchases. I'll program my own controller.

MoltenVoltage

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2009, 01:23:56 PM »
Well Mike, you don't disappoint.

Let me set the record straight.  We have been directly contacting individual pedal manufacturers who might have a genuine interest in our latest chip.  Mike's "prophecy sound" site was listed on Harmony Central and his page says "under construction" but had an email address.  We sent him an email.

Mike was deeply and profoundly offended that he got what he considered "spam" and proceeded to threaten our intellectual property and rail against the patent system.

First, individually written emails are not "spam" which is "sending unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(electronic)

Second, we did a little research and found that Mike's (former?) business made its money copying pedals and using trade names to advertise those pedals:

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:kD5PEU1CmfgJ:www.prophecysound.com/777.html+prophecy+sound&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:PxTx_l4w7UsJ:www.prophecysound.com/sweetfa.html+prophecy+sound&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

We pointed out that the reason he is so openly hostile to the whole idea of intellectual property is that his business depends on that worldview and that he fundamentally misunderstands patent law.  Thus began the pissing contest (for which we were partly responsible).  Mike then threatened to "take the issue public" as part of a "smear campaign" against our business, which he has now done.

With respect to MV-53, we have applied for a patents related to certain original features such as its programmability.  We spend huge amounts of time and money developing products and are justified in protecting those investments.

Anyone who knows the slightest thing about patent law understands that you don't need to patent an entire device.  You can patent just the original components.  For example if you come up with a new braking system, you don't need to patent the entire car.

Regarding this forum, we both request and provide advice to the extent we can without giving away trade secrets.  We have also paid for advice on this forum which was then freely available to everyone.

What we don't do is try to patent anything that has already been done.  This would be a waste of time and money and contrary to our philosophy.


MoltenVoltage

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2009, 01:29:18 PM »
Interesting. my MV-52 has yet to drive a 4017--I haven't had a chance to contact MV about it yet. The above, plus my experience with the MV-52 so far (not working in a context identical to the app note) will most likely deter me from future purchases. I'll program my own controller.

Well Josh, thanks for airing your grievance here without contacting us first...

I have personally tested each chip before shipping, so I know that they work.


jacobyjd

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2009, 01:38:45 PM »
Interesting. my MV-52 has yet to drive a 4017--I haven't had a chance to contact MV about it yet. The above, plus my experience with the MV-52 so far (not working in a context identical to the app note) will most likely deter me from future purchases. I'll program my own controller.

Well Josh, thanks for airing your grievance here without contacting us first...

I have personally tested each chip before shipping, so I know that they work.

I mentioned that I haven't had the chance to contact you yet--time to put together all the details you would need to remedy the issue. If you take it so personally that I mention my issue on a forum I frequent (in context with something relevant that I find interesting and unsettling) before contacting you, you may want to lighten up.

Testing doesn't account for what may have occurred in shipping, or your testing may not have covered all the possibilities. Either way, it's not a major issue to me--just a $10 speculation. Your sarcasm is duly noted.

MoltenVoltage

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2009, 01:51:25 PM »
Interesting. my MV-52 has yet to drive a 4017--I haven't had a chance to contact MV about it yet. The above, plus my experience with the MV-52 so far (not working in a context identical to the app note) will most likely deter me from future purchases. I'll program my own controller.

Well Josh, thanks for airing your grievance here without contacting us first...

I have personally tested each chip before shipping, so I know that they work.

I mentioned that I haven't had the chance to contact you yet--time to put together all the details you would need to remedy the issue. If you take it so personally that I mention my issue on a forum I frequent (in context with something relevant that I find interesting and unsettling) before contacting you, you may want to lighten up.

Testing doesn't account for what may have occurred in shipping, or your testing may not have covered all the possibilities. Either way, it's not a major issue to me--just a $10 speculation. Your sarcasm is duly noted.


The fact that you aired your grievance in the context of a thread started by someone who it trying his best to harm our business makes your motive obvious.  Elementary school teachers call it "piling on".
« Last Edit: September 02, 2009, 01:59:03 PM by MoltenVoltage »

jacobyjd

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2009, 02:09:15 PM »
I think you're drawing a conclusion that is based on your ability to read my mind. The issues I've had with the MV-52 are simply a fact, not a grievance. Negative initial review? Sure. Attempt to harm your business? Nope.

I never said that I agree with Mike's point of view, nor do I want to hurt your business. I am, however, interested in issues related to IP that are relevant to me as a builder. I know there are several works in progress for tap-tempo LFO chips that are being pursued by individuals here and elsewhere, and the prospect of action being taken on a similar, and possibly better/less expensive product makes me look at purchasing more conservatively.

Perhaps you can shed a better light on your operations by giving a forthcoming statement that would let us as a community into what action could or would be taken against a similar product that performs the same function as your LFO chip? I know that would go a long way for me, but I'm hardly a major addition to your bottom line.

Unbeliever

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2009, 02:34:43 PM »
I am willing to supply all emails involved in this discussion, if people ask for them, and then they can make up their own mind about Molten Voltage's position and my own. That someone can't even google 'infinitphase' doesn't give me much hope of a reasonable discussion with them.  ;) That someone doesn't realise I give away schematics and PCB layouts to my 'original' devices freely makes me realise that they probably aren't in the demographic of people I care about - fellow builders / designers / tweakers / information seekers.

The point stands regarding companies that will take advantage of people's generosity on this forum, but then to patent - or try to - information they have developed with the assistance of others, or that will kills other's efforts cold - is about as low as it gets in this business. If Molten Voltage happens to fall into this basket because of their own actions, they have no one to blame but themselves. As I said, I asked for direct clarification of what action might be taken against me if I developed and sold a similar product, and no information was forthcoming (aside from the original bully-boy 'I know an attorney' tactics). It's an easy question to answer, and an easy to way to put one's company morally and ethically in the clear, at least with respect to mixing 'business with pleasure' in this forum.

The way to make the most of your 'innovations' is to keep ahead of everyone else, rather than just sitting on one's IP arse and throwing lawyers at the problem. Patenting ideas, especially ones already developed by others or ones that are 'obvious' to like-minded people, suppresses innovation and is an abhorrent, deplorable practice.

MoltenVoltage

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2009, 03:11:35 PM »
Nothing we have filed patents on has even been suggested on this forum.  That's the bottom line.

jacobyjd

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2009, 04:00:16 PM »
Nothing we have filed patents on has even been suggested on this forum.  That's the bottom line.

That seems to be a concrete answer.

After reading the emails Mike passed along, I found the actual issue to be overshadowed by the overwhelming tone of condescension and sarcasm coming from MV. I'm feeling that somewhat in this thread as well--I can understand that you might feel as though any negative press toward your products or practices are unwarranted, but it's certainly hard to walk away from this feeling warm and fuzzy after noting the tone your company seems to reserve toward past/potential customers whose opinions and/or practices you don't agree with.

I would be fired immediately if I responded to emails from my company's clients with that kind of sarcasm. You may want to consider your policies on this matter.

Unbeliever

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2009, 04:02:33 PM »
Nothing we have filed patents on has even been suggested on this forum.  That's the bottom line.

I refer you to your advertising email again (italics mine):
"For a limited time, we are offering manufacturers samples of our patent-pending chip".

This tends to indicate you have filed patents (there is more than one now?) on the entire functionality embodied in the chip, some of which I would hazard to guess has been suggested - and 'suggested' in some detail - on this forum previously. If you won't clearly state that you won't pursue litigation against others who develop a tap-tempo LFO device, then please supply the number of the patent application (or applications) so people can look up the details and decide for themselves. Otherwise, I suggest that people who develop such systems - in the USA at least - would be wise to take legal advice about their position with respect to a potential infringement. In fact, given your reticence to 'come clean', it's probably a good idea in any case.

Unbeliever

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2009, 11:46:52 PM »
I've done a patent application search on http://patft.uspto.gov/ - using the names of Molten Voltage employees - and have found nothing.

Molten Voltage, your lack of a response could therefore be interpreted in two ways:
1) you haven't actually filed ANY patents, and your claims to have done so are mere bluffing OR
2) you have indeed filed patents, will actively go after infringers, but have decided to keep quiet and hope the issue goes away so as to avoid alienating the community here (and potential customers)

Such a silence could be a motivating factor behind an open-source development effort to develop a tap-tempo LFO controller.


Unbeliever

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2009, 03:39:36 PM »
Hear that, folks?

That's the deafening silence coming from a company who appear willing to bully people privately with insinuations of infringements on patents that haven't even necessarily been filed, but - in public, in front of their customers - are seemingly unwilling to clarify their policy on sueing DIYers who might infringe on their 'patents'. Considering the legalese on their website with respect to their 'proprietry technology', it's not unreasonable to assume this silence is a calculated position advised by their 'legal team'.

In such situations, what you don't say can be far more significant than what you do say.

aziltz

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2009, 10:34:19 AM »
please correct me if I'm wrong, but if you're able to patent, it is "the way tap tempo was implemented on your chip" and not "tap tempo on a chip" ?

I'm just trying to understand some distinction here, not fuel for the fire.

cpm

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2009, 10:42:15 AM »
please correct me if I'm wrong, but if you're able to patent, it is "the way tap tempo was implemented on your chip" and not "tap tempo on a chip" ?

I'm just trying to understand some distinction here, not fuel for the fire.

and what happens if the implementation its something as trivial as "count the millisecond between taps and use that value to generate a waveform of said frequency"??
more or less what anybody can do with a PIC and some hours of straightforward work


MoltenVoltage

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2009, 01:32:56 PM »
So I spent a little time looking through "Unbeliever" Michael Both (formerly? prophecy sound)'s posts, and its just one negative comment, cynical aside, criticism and complaint after another:
http://www.diystompboxes.com/smfforum/index.php?action=profile;u=5171;sa=showPosts

You really are a ray of sunshine.

Now, about that patent you wanted:
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4159718.html

jacobyjd

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2009, 01:39:37 PM »
So I spent a little time looking through "Unbeliever" Michael Both (formerly? prophecy sound)'s posts, and its just one negative comment, cynical aside, criticism and complaint after another:
http://www.diystompboxes.com/smfforum/index.php?action=profile;u=5171;sa=showPosts

You really are a ray of sunshine.

Now, about that patent you wanted:
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4159718.html

Regardless of Mike's credibility, his request stands--is there any chance of you providing some disclosure on what you're patenting that goes beyond distasteful humor?
« Last Edit: September 08, 2009, 01:46:10 PM by jacobyjd »

aziltz

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2009, 07:15:15 PM »
Perhaps molten volts could take a hint from some of our other commercial participants. You're only tarnishing your name here it seems.

MoltenVoltage

Re: Develop your own tap-tempo controller - and be sued for patent infringement
« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2009, 09:41:44 PM »
You're probably right, so this will be our last post on this subject.

If you read this thread you will see we have repeatedly stated that we haven't filed patents on anything that anyone on this forum has ever suggested.  That answer was good enough for Josh earlier, but now it seems it isn't.

For the last time, we are not about to publish our pending patents, and we are not about to sue, or even accuse anyone of infringement when their products don't use our original ideas.

I think the fact that older schematics are passed around and posted all the time gives people the impression that there is no value to intellectual property when it comes to guitar effects.  But I'm also sure that anyone who has spent a thousand hours programming a microcontroller or working out a complex circuit feels a very strong sense of ownership.

Contrary to the way some people would like it, participating in a forum does not obligate you to disclose all of your original ideas, trade secrets or publish pending patents or do anything of the sort.