EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

04.09.09

Patents Roundup: OIN to Strike Back, Apple Clarifies, Lawsuits Continue, and Turnaround Foreseen

Posted in Apple, Courtroom, GNU/Linux, HP, IBM, Kernel, Microsoft, OIN, Patents, SUN at 3:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

novell-chair

THIS is the latest part in an endless series which explores our software patents landscape. As Jose X put it in last night’s post, “software patents [are] poised to cripple the industry and shut out real innovation.” This affects not only Free software, but as usual, we choose to focus on GNU/Linux.

Microsoft and GNU/Linux

In what came as somewhat of a surprise to many, Microsoft may be forced to pay $388 million for patent infringement. It’s a surprise because this decision was not widely anticipated.

News Analysis. Some court rulings are just rich with irony. Today, April 8, a jury found that Microsoft infringed on Uniloc patents for product activation. Microsoft uses the technology to protect its software from theft. Who’s stealing from whom?

I expect to read lots of comments on this blog praising today’s jury verdict, which ordered Microsoft to pay Uniloc $388 million. Gauging from comments on past posts about product activation, many of you don’t much like it.

This sum of money and the nature of this case is somewhat reminiscent of the Alcatel-Lucent case (involving MP3 support in Windows). It has been a long, fierce battle [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

In other important news, there are more confirmations of the claim that OIN may strike back at Microsoft pretty soon (within weeks).

Indeed, Rooney quotes OIN CEO Keith Bergelt, who was interviewed by our sister site, LinuxDevices, shortly after the Microsoft lawsuit was filed, as saying that there could be a “response” to Microsoft from the open source community in the coming weeks. “It’s Newton’s law. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction,” Bergelt was quoted as saying. The story goes on to quote Bergelt’s assertions that the settlement “says nothing about the validity of the patent.”

Another report (or opinion) suggests that the TomTom case may indeed be used against Microsoft:

So in the short term, Microsoft didn’t gain very much by picking on TomTom. And in the long term, the company’s decision to sue could explode in its face.

TomTom may have stepped aside, but some much bigger and better-funded open-source players are now stepping up to the plate. The Open Invention Network, for example, is already pondering a counterattack that could include legal action designed to invalidate Microsoft’s FAT patent.

The next few weeks will be interesting. Microsoft opened a Pandora’s box.

Apple

Slashdot has just brought back what is old news (but still new to some) about Apple polluting the Web with its patents. The company has a formal response to that and it doesn’t sound too good: “While the current draft patent policy does state a “preference” for royalty-free standards, the ready availability of a RAND option presents too easy an alternative for owners of intellectual property who may seek to use the standardization process to control access to fundamental Web standards. A mandatory royalty-free requirement for all adopted standards will avoid this result.

Well, RAND and Free software don't work together. Apple ought to know this.

Victims of Communication

One recent patent victim which was mentioned a few days ago is Hewlett-Packard. According to this report, it bailed.

Hewlett-Packard has cashed out of a four-year-old Wi-Fi patent lawsuit from Australia’s national science agency that’s targeted a who’s-who list of big tech vendors with wireless products.

Communication is an area where the patent thicket has always been notorious and now there is another massive lawsuit:

Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. and Circle K Stores Inc. were two of nine companies named in a lawsuit filed by Emsat Advanced Geo-Location Technology LLC and patent licensee Location Based Services LLC, alleging the defendants of infringing patents covering enhanced 911 services in cell phones, Law360.com reported.

[...]

The suit claims the telecommunications companies infringe patents titled “Cellular telephone system that uses position of a mobile unit to make call management decisions,” issued between 1999 and 2007, and covering location services for 911 calls, allowing for increased accuracy in determining the location of a cell phone user who has placed a call to an emergency operator, the report stated, citing the complaint. It also alleged the companies infringe a patent application filed January 2008, titled “Cellular telephone system that uses position of a mobile unit to make call management decisions.”

Why are such patents granted in the first place? It’s truly an embarrassment to the practice of patenting.

Turnarounds

As an update on the situation in India [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12], someone who is trying to legalise them wrote this article which explains where the system stands. [via Digital Majority]

In India, for administrative convenience, four patent offices are located in metropolitan cities. However, the offices are inconsistent in their practice with regard to software inventions, mainly due to the lack of clear guidelines. While the Indian Patent Office largely relies on the practice of the European and UK patent offices, there have been instances where inventions claiming software methods with a technical effect that have been allowed by the European or UK patent office have nonetheless been rejected by Indian Patent Office officials on the following grounds:

• The term “technical effect” is not defined in the Indian Patents Act.
• The Draft Manual is not binding on the examiners, as it is only in draft form.
• There are no Indian precedents in respect of software inventions.

As a side note, here is another call for a “global patent”, which is somewhat of a euphemism (think globalisation, like Community patent, harmonisation or centralised court for increased damages, software patents, and so on).

Here is another new editorial about the proposed patent deform[sic] bill in the United States. It addresses the wrong questions and dodges common criticisms like those relating to software patents.

It isn’t often that you see heavyweights in the tech world duking it out in a high-stakes match, with Congress as the referee. It’s happening today over proposed reforms in patent law, which pits the software and information technology giants against their counterparts in biotech. The issues are as fascinating as they are thorny — and while each side paints the choices as black and white, there’s enough gray here to cover a fleet of battleships.

[...]

One reform everyone agrees on is the need to expedite patent applications. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has just over 5,000 underpaid and overworked examiners to review more than 400,000 new applications each year. It would take them two years just to catch up on the current backlog if no new applications arrived. This, too, is stifling innovation. The office needs the money for more staff.

One person opines that software patents, just like network neutrality, suffers from serious misconceptions.

Software patents may be going the way of network neutrality: an arcane policy problem once the preserve of a small circle of wonks is becoming a politicized slanging match. In both cases an esoteric but important research question has become a point of leverage for certain interest groups. In both cases the subject (“network neutrality”, “software patents”) is at best poorly defined, typically has multiple possible meanings, and at worst is so vague as to be useless. And in both cases, the poster child is the small-time innovator, while the sugar daddy is a big money player minimizing costs (e.g. content providers who love net neutrality, and VCs who hate software patents).

Assuming that it’s true and software patents are standing on their last leg, why can’t the Bilski test be invoked? Sun Microsystems has just heroically attempted this but failed due to some federal judge.

A federal judge has shot down an attempt by Sun Microsystems Inc. to use the Bilski test to invalidate two patents for product configuration software held by Versata Software Inc. that Sun is accused of infringing.

Here is an interesting new essay titled “Ten Reasons the Supreme Court Should Take In re Bilski.”

Erika Arner is the co-author of the Bilski petition for certiorari challenging the Federal Circuit’s limits on the patentability of method claims. She handles patent prosecution and litigation at Finnegan Henderson in DC. I asked Ms Arner to write this post.

The thing to look forward to at this stage is OIN’s response to Microsoft, but all in all, this only legitimises software patents rather than challenge them. IBM would not mind.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Microsoft's Media Attack on Free Software and GNU/Linux

    Brainwash war is still being waged by Microsoft and its friends to convince people that Windows is universally dominant and that Microsoft is now part of the Free software world



  2. Microsoft Accounting Practices After Fire Again, After Previous Abuses and Book-Cooking

    After the infamous IRS brawl comes another confrontation between Microsoft and the SEC, which is unhappy with Microsoft for seemingly cooking the books again



  3. Links 26/1/2015: Debian 8.0 “Jessie” RC1, Linux Kernel 3.19 RC6

    Links for the day



  4. Links 25/1/2015: Android Wear 5.0, Tizen in Bangladesh

    Links for the day



  5. IRC Proceedings: January 11th, 2015 – January 24th, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  6. Links 24/1/2015: Zenwalk Linux Reviewed, Netrunner 14.1 Released

    Links for the day



  7. The Latest 'Microsoft is Open Source' Propaganda a Parade of Lies

    Microsoft myth makers continue their assault on what is objectively true and try to tell the public that Microsoft is a friend of "Open Source"



  8. Apple -- Like Microsoft -- Not Interested in the Security of Its Operating Systems

    Apple neglected to patch known security flaws in Mac OS X for no less than three months and only did something about that vector of intrusion when the public found out about it



  9. As Battistelli Breaks the Rules and Topić Silences Staff, New European Parliament Petition for Tackling the EPO's Abuses is Needed

    The neglected (by EPO) Article 4a of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the European Parliament petition/complaint against the EPO's crooked management



  10. Links 23/1/2015: Red Hat on IBM Power, Meizu Leaks With Ubuntu

    Links for the day



  11. Links 23/1/2015: Plasma 5.2, Manjaro 0.9-pre1

    Links for the day



  12. Microsoft is Dying Due to Free Software, Tries to Infect GNU/Linux With .NET and to Infect Moodle in Schools With Microsoft Office and OOXML Lock-in

    'Free' drugs (a proprietary software analogy) the new strategy of Microsoft in its latest battle against Free software, especially in schools where choice is a rarity (if not an impossibility), with the premeditated intention of forming dependency/addiction among young people



  13. Microsoft Symptoms of a Dying Company: More Boosters Depart, Back Doors Revealed, Microsoft's Outlook Cracked

    Bad news for Microsoft shortly before the marketing extravaganza served to cover much of it up



  14. The Collapse of European Patent Office Management Culminates With Resignations

    No blood is spilled, but even the management of the EPO is falling apart as the Director of Internal Communication is said to have just resigned



  15. New LCA Talk: Open Invention Network's Deb Nicholson on Software Patents and Patent Trolls

    Deb Nicholson's LCA talk is now publicly accessible



  16. Links 22/1/2015: GNU/Linux Sysadmin Opportunities, TraceFS Introduced

    Links for the day



  17. Links 21/1/2015: Andrew Tridgell, Torvalds Being Baited

    Links for the day



  18. Vesna Stilin Renews Her Fight for Justice in Željko Topić Case (EPO VP)

    Željko Topić's abuses continue to cloud the legitimacy of the European Patent Office, in which he is a Vice-President



  19. Failure of the EPO Can Derail the Trojan Horse of Software Patents and Patent Trolls

    Dazzled by his endless pursuit of infinite money and power, Battistelli pushes for expansion of patent scope (geographically too), but he won't have it without a challenge



  20. Links 20/1/2015: Linux 3.19 RC5, 30 Years of FSF

    Links for the day



  21. Translations of Member of the European Parliament Complaining About European Patent Office (EPO)

    French, German, Dutch, and English translations of the article from Dennis De Jong



  22. Microsoft, the Back Doors Company, is Gradually Dying and Trying to Embrace the Competition

    The world is leaving Microsoft's common carrier (Windows) behind, so Microsoft, which is shrinking, tries to conquer Free software and GNU/Linux



  23. Battistelli's Latest Propaganda War Tries to Convince EPO Staff That Željko Topić's Many Criminal Charges Don't Exist

    Battistelli's right-hand man, Željko Topić, is now facing real danger of prosecution and possibly arrest in his home country, so Battistelli rushes to defend this thug's reputation



  24. Links 18/1/2015: Sailfish OS RoadMap, ownCloud Turns 5

    Links for the day



  25. Strategy of Litigation With Patents Has Collapsed Since SCOTUS Ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank

    The latest figures from Lex Machina show a massive decrease (-18%) in patent litigation last month; lawyers look for ways to spin the data in their favour



  26. Patent Lawyers Can't Help Rewriting Alice v. CLS Bank History

    The league of patent lawyers -- people who profit at the expense of software producers -- keeps brainwashing the public about the patentability of software (both the rationale and the potential)



  27. Myths and Hype About Patents

    Distortion of history and fabricated reports about patents in the corporate media leave many people confused and ultimately unable to make rational judgment



  28. Large Corporations, Including Microsoft Allies, Call for Abolition of Software Patents

    The calls for ending all patents on software are getting louder and patents as a whole are de-emphasised as a business strategy



  29. Links 17/1/2015: Lennart Poettering in Headlines, Mageia 5 Beta 2

    Links for the day



  30. Links 16/1/2015: Chapeau 21, Tails 1.2.3

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts