IT IS ABUNDANTLY clear based on some shallow surveys that Microsoft’s patents are often very poor in terms of quality. All sorts of simple algorithms which have been around for decades suddenly have Microsoft claim ownership of them. Here is the latest such example:
Microsoft attempting to patent automated console time limits
The idea of automatically limiting the amount of time kids can play video games is already one of the key features of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Family Settings. But is the approach worthy of a patent?
“Predictive snooping” would be another simple idea. Since UPSTO had it granted as a patent, Apple will need to shell out $19,000,000 in fines. That’s what innovation is all about, right?
Apple has been ordered to pay $19m (£12.9m/€14.3m) in damages after losing a patent infringement case which its lawyers hoped might only cost the firm $270,000.
Well, at least the lawyers make some money. This whole broken system is for them.
This brings us to another new perspective. Patent Hawk used to work with Microsoft, but he is now suing 28 companies including Microsoft. According to this short report, Patent Hawk (Troll) may be violating a contract that he has with Microsoft
You may recall last summer that we wrote about Gary Odom (as known as Patent Hawk) who has been known to stop by our site here to throw around an insult or two (nice guy!). It seems that Odom, who had previously worked with Microsoft, doing prior art research for its patents, had decided to turn around and sue Microsoft for having software toolbars that take different toolbar items and group the items together (stunning innovation, there). It later turned out that he may have violated his contracts in suing Microsoft.
That case is still ongoing, but why stop with just suing one company? Especially when that company is big and has lots of lawyers. Why not sue 28 other companies over the same patent.
While companies in the United States are suing each other for the use of algorithms, China could benefit:
I just read a great paper by Andrea Wechsler ‘Intellectual Property Law in the P.R. China: A powerful Economic Tool for Innovation and Development’, Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition & Tax Law Research Paper No. 09-02, November 12, 2008, download at SSRN here.
In 56 pages Ms Wechsler takes you on a journey to see the changing purposes in and rationales for international IP protection, the political economy of IP protection and the Chinese approach to IP policy in the light of international IP law developments.
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) is an integral part of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Agreement. Therefore this treaty (TRIPs) is a hybrid form which for most countries decreases the manoeuvring space in the field of IP protection policy. That China is an exception in this case Ms Wechsler writes on page 18: “The case of China thus demonstrates that – due to China’s sheer size but also due to its growing economic and political importance – China is to some extent defying the limitation of policy space in the field of IP protection through integration of this area into international trade policy.”
We wrote about ACTA and TRIPs in [1, 2]. It’s supposed to remain a secret for the time being because the ACTA is only negotiated by ‘responsible adults’ [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. It’s not about democracy or opportunity for small businesses. It never was. █
“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”
–Bill Gates (when Microsoft was smaller)