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  1. #1
    Bob Kellogg
    Guest

    POD patent infringement

    This came in today''s Publisher's Lunch:

    Jury Rocks POD's World
    The future course of nearly everything involving print-on-demand-based creation and selling of books is subject to potential change as the result of a jury verdict announced yesterday in a St. Louis federal district court. The jury found that Lightning Source (amusingly typed as Lightening Source in court papers) both infringed and induced the infringement of the 1995 Ross patent held by the On Demand Machine Corporation, and that Amazon.com also infringed the patent.

    The total award was $15 million. Lightning Source, Ingram Industries, and Amazon were all judged to have infringed willfully as well, which reportedly means that the judge will now decide whether to increase the damages as a result. (By Lightning's own count, they have manufactured somewhat over 10 million books.)

    Issued in late 1995 to Harvey Ross (who died three years ago), the patent covers a "System and method of manufacturing a single book copy." According to a U.S. Patent Office abstract, "A computer based book manufacturing, distributing and retailing system for the high speed reproduction of a single copy of a book is disclosed. The system is especially adapted for direct consumer sales since the manufacture of a selected book can take place at the point of sale. A master module includes a computer having a database of books to be selected, the books preferably being stored in a digital book-description format."

    The trial itself included about three weeks of testimony, though as one participant explains it, much of the important nuance in the decision is to be found in a 46-page set of rulings made by the judge last September, which formed the basis of instructions to the jury about how to interpret the applicability of the patent.

    Are you still with me? Patent law is obviously very complex in and of itself, and a big part of the case involved the judge's determining exactly what the patent means in practice. (The jury then decided whether infringement had occurred, under the judge's rulings and definitions.) I have not seen the 46-page ruling from the judge, so much of this is flying in the dark.

    Expert witness for the defense Ken Brooks, president of Publishing Dimensions, says that the ruling could apply to "Anyone ordering a print-on-demand book." Though the patent has been the subject of research and discussion within the POD world for years, Brooks says, "I don't think anyone ever thought it would be this big. We were wrong." (Though On Demand Machine always maintained that its patent covered most uses of POD distribution in the book business, the ill-fated Sprout is apparently the only company that ever actually executed a license for the patent.)

    Brooks predicts that, "It's going to have very significant impact within the industry. I think most people are viewing it as being Lightning Source's problem, or the printer's problem, or Baker & Taylor's problem." But with patent licensing fees being proposed by On Demand Machine at approximately 5 percent of manufacturing cost, Brooks expects that "This will be the excuse to drive a general 5% increase" almost immediately. Certainly "Publishers should expect a price increase, and should expect that that will indemnify and cover them."

    As an expert witness for the plaintiff explains, what's of essence in the patent is a system or process whereby a customer can look at a computerized list of titles and select one for purchase that triggers the retrieval of file that sets in motion the printing of the book.

    Needless to say, it will probably take some time--and more informed legal minds than I--for the broader implications of this decision to be fully defined. It could apply broadly to everyone from publishers running their POD operations and POD self-publishing companies to traditional printers doing digital printing and direct-to-press inposition, or it could be defined more narrowly to concentrate the impact on wholesalers and retailers. (We were not able to reach On Demand Machine or Lightning Source prior to publishing. Publishers we contacted were not familiar with the verdict yet.) Consider this the first chapter.

    Note how it distinguishes between POd as a printing process and self-publishing.

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    Bob K.



  2. #2
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    So, if we thought POD-process books were unreasonably expensive now . . .

  3. #3
    Scott Allen
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    I actually broke this story last night, and have a statement from an Ingram spokesperson:

    http://entrepreneurs.about.com/b/a/069774.htm

  4. #4
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    Good scoop.

  5. #5
    Scott Allen
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    Credit where credit is due -- I got it from someone on a Yahoo Group. I just did the legwork to do the fact-checking and get the statements from the parties involved.

    It won't win me a Pulitzer, but a few thousand extra eyeballs on my site sure would be nice. ;-)

  6. #6
    Publius2
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    Not bad Scott. Here's the verdict: <http://www.bookmachine.com/Verdict/verdict-1.html>

    This is just one more nail in the coffin of vanity presses who hinge their operation on this machine. Apparently illegally all along. How fitting.

  7. #7
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    A little disconcerting for all of those traditional trade and academic publishers that use the POD printing process for some of their books, as well--since, of course, "POD" is a type of printing, not a type of publisher. :-)

  8. #8
    Publius2
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    "traditional trade" who use POD. This is microscopic except in your universe of traditional. They don't use with any regularity at all except if they're pretending to be a publisher to start with.

  9. #9
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    From what little you know about it, that's an understandable conclusion, Mark.

  10. #10
    Publius2
    Guest

    Re: POD patent infringement

    Right, I don't travel in the underground of publishing like you do Gary. Going to Georgia to publish. That's the big time.

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