A Yahoo alert alerted me to a PTC settlement with Acacia Research (aka Software Restore) over patent litigation. What kind of patent did PTC agree it violated? Yahoo linked to a two-sentence press release from Acacia, which didn't say.
Perusing Acacia's Web site, I found that terseness is their style. Too busy in the courtroom to have much time left over for chatty Web pages or massive press releases. For Acacia is a patent troll. They buy up patents from others, and then sue using the shotgun approach. Their list of 160 patents includes ones that cover compact disks, manufacturing data transfer, GPSs, and online ad tracking.
A Google search for "Software Restore" PTC resulted in a single usable hit: a document at Scribd that would cost me $1.97. I didn't pay, because the first three "freely available" pages were blank. Perhaps the other 70 would be just as useless.
I tried to get more info from Acacia's Web site. Although it is filled with press releases, none contains useful information. I went back to the Google hit, and wondered if its cache might be more useful. It was, but only marginally. While it contained the text of the Scribd document, the words in sentences were scrambled.
I could see that PTC was just one of many being sued at the same time. Scanning some more through the mixed-up words, I noticed references to Acacia's '511 patent. " '511" is the shorthand method of referring to a US patent number.
I googled "United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois" 511 patent, since Acacia's press release had made mention of the court.
Bingo! Another Web site had Acacia's complaint freely available. The complaint was against Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, Delcam, Parametric Technology Corp, and 23 other non-CAD software businesses. It was dated June 11 of this year.
Acacia complained that these companies operate in Illinois, that they have customers, and that they sell software. Also, that their software uses patent #5,832,511: "The patented technology enables, among other features, the automatic detection and resetting of computer software to a preferred configuration status upon discovery of certain configuration discrepancies."
The court document included the full patent number, 5,832,511, which I located through Google Patents.
Reading patents is always a thick-headed experience, but I managed to make out that this patent seems to cover the case where a group of computers is using the same software, and one computer is missing the latest file or folder. The patent describes a way in which software can determine this, and then retrieve the needed data from a host computer. For example, here is claim 23 from the patent:
23. A method in accordance with claim 22 wherein the instruction copies a file and the precise configuration of the file is recorded as the status of instruction execution, wherein the current condition of the workstation includes the current status of the same file, and wherein the instruction is re-executed if the file has been deleted or otherwise modified in any way, thereby restoring the file to a preferred proper state.
At some point prior to Nov 9, PTC settled with Acacia by agreeing to pay a license fee for the use of the patented technology. It appears that the other CAD vendors are continuing to fight -- or just haven't settled yet.