I have promised to stay on top of news related to our old friend CopyTele in their continuing efforts to suck money out of any web conferencing vendor with deep enough pockets to make it worth their while. Read to the end, because while this starts off dry and "newsy" it gets more fun!
You can catch up with my take on CopyTele patent infringement suits against Microsoft's Skype (May 2013), Citrix and Logitech (July 2013), and additional patent portfolio purchases (November 2013).
This week the company filed suit against Apple and its FaceTime conferencing solution, including every Apple hardware device that is capable of running FaceTime. The infringement suit is based on the same patent called out in the Microsoft litigation last year.
Perhaps CopyTele was getting tired of the negative publicity they have received in various press articles since starting their web conferencing patent push. At the start of this month, they formally changed their company name to ITUS Corporation (all caps is their official name branding).
The short press release announcing the name change has two sentences that caught my eye. The first is their boilerplate corporate identifier. This is a standard bit of marketingspeak that goes in the first sentence of most corporate press releases. It takes the form of:
DATELINE - XYZ Corporation (NYSE: XYZ), a leading provider of widgets and doohickeys for detection of bovine effluence, today announced…
In the case of CopyTele, they have gone with:
DATELINE - CopyTele, Inc. (OTCQB: COPY), a company that protects the rights of inventors through patent monetization and patent assertion, today announced…
That is awfully noble. I am all for protecting the rights of inventors. Honestly, I am. But I am more than cynical about CopyTele/ITUS doing much in the way of "protecting" John Q. Inventor. They pay him off (more commonly, they pay the company he worked for during the invention period) in a one-time fee and then see if they can make huge amounts through lawsuits that are easier to settle than fight in a protracted court case. The inventor is not really protected from harm, since his business no longer holds any stake in the invention anyway.
The second sentence of interest came in a quote from the company's president and CEO, Robert Berman: "In Greek mythology, ITUS was the God of Protection."
I took a course in Greek mythology in college. I didn't remember that god, but that is hardly surprising… There were a lot of them. More surprising to me was the entire concept of a "God of Protection." Ancient Greeks prayed to a lot of different gods, each charged with looking after specific areas of control. There was a god of love, god of light, god of dark, god of day and god of night, god of mountains and a god of the sea, and dozens more. You could pray to the sea god for protection before going on a voyage. You could pray to the goddess of home and hearth to keep you safe in your house. You could even pray to minor gods to protect your flocks of sheep. It just didn't seem right that there would be one overarching God that ran a general protection racket. Was he played by Marlon Brando?
So I did a little quick Google searching. There aren't many phrases you can search for that don't return hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of results. But "Greek god Itus" is one of them. The only results are hits on the CopyTele/ITUS name change, referencing the press release quote.
I then turned to Wikipedia. They have a master list of Greek mythological figures. No Itus in the bunch.
After trying some various other search phrases, I finally hit pay dirt. Itus was a mortal made a god by Zeus at age 35, after having faithfully protected Apollo from other gods. You can read the story yourself… It is a fabrication created in November of 2007 by username Sorcerio on a fan fiction website. The site's title motto is "unleash your imagination," which Sorcerio did in his little 500-word short story, inventing the character and his history. It's cute, but hardly the stuff of ancient Greek mythology that has been handed down through the ages.
Interestingly, another company picked the same name and back story… Itus Defense is a small family owned and operated business in Sacramento, California dedicated to teaching personal defense and selling protective devices online. They were formed in January of this year and they feature a synopsis of Sorcerio's same short story on their web page, explaining the company's name as a nod to the ancient Greeks.
Perhaps CopyTele should pay something to www.fanfiction.net to "protect" the hard-working authors who contributed to the site's success and did not expect their work to be picked up and reused for the enrichment of other companies.