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

02.09.10

Patents Roundup: EFF Defends VoIP; Google, Apple, and Black Duck Stifle Progress; Microsoft Joins RPX

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Patents at 5:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.”

Richard Stallman

Summary: A quick look at some patent news from the past week, ranging from defence to offence

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

THE EFF still fights one patent at a time. According to this new page, it is going after VoIP monopolies right now.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won reexamination of an illegitimate patent on voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) that could cripple the adoption of new VoIP technologies.

IDG wrote about this too:

The patent, held by a small company called C2 Communications Technologies, is one of 10 that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been trying to strike down for several years through its Patent Busting Project. On Friday, the patent office granted the EFF’s request for a re-examination, the EFF said. The digital civil-liberties organization argued that another applicant had submitted basically some of the same technology to the patent office before C2 did.

The EFF means well, but a better solution would be abolition of software patents as a whole. The problem is that companies like IBM, Google, Novell, and fronts like OIN are proponents of software patents, which makes them far from defenders of Free software.

Do Know Evil?

Google is acquiring/obtaining some more software patents. Here is the original report:

Google has filed at least four patent applications for technology it’s building into its Chrome browser to try to make the Web a more powerful foundation for applications.

Google is part of the software patents problem, just like IBM. Sometimes it gets sued.

Apple

A few weeks ago we explained why Apple too is part of the software patents problem. Here is Apple applying for some more patents and blocking developers’ use of their associated ideas/functions.

Apple this week notified iPhone developers that they cannot use the device’s GPS data to serve location-aware advertisements to users of App Store software.

[..]

One patent application described a dynamic home screen that would display specific applications automatically populated based on factors like the current location of the phone. For example, when traveling in San Francisco, a specific “San Francisco” icon could appear on the screen, and give users easy access to local weather, time, maps and contacts.

More information here and here:

Apple doesn’t appear to be opposed to location-based targeted advertising in principle. It has filed patents for location-based targeted advertising, especially in relation to offering currently playing songs or videos at a particular location for purchase via iTunes.

 

Is Apple’s banning iPhone applications that would use location data for displaying advertising not as onerous as anything Microsoft tried–and mostly didn’t get away with?

What about banning the word “Android” from the App Store? Like Apple thinks it can control the flow of information its customers receive? Give me a break.

This new article brings back memories of Apple’s patent fight with Microsoft. Well, Microsoft ripped off a lot of companies, Apple included.

Back in the dark ages, around 1991, Apple had some pretty cool Macs while PC users were still mired in DOS. Apple was making good money. Meanwhile, on the PC side, just marrying a mouse with DOS was the big thing. However, over time, Microsoft was able to copy what Apple was doing with the WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointing device).

That was due in part to poor IP protections and a strategic error made by John Sculley who opened the door, contractually, to a GUI for Microsoft back in the 1980s. That resulted in a lawsuit by Apple against Microsoft in 1988, one that Apple eventually lost. (The fascinating saga has been documented at Low End Mac.) Once that GUI door was opened, Microsoft was eventually able to mimic the Mac OS look and feel. Today, many non-technical users are not able to differentiate between Windows 7 and Snow Leopard, and that has to irk Apple.

Black Parasite Software

Black Duck’s new patent (mentioned in [1, 2]) is still receiving some press coverage. Confrontation with the SFLC too gets it some attention:

Bradley Kuhn, the technology director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) expressed dismay this week after learning that Black Duck Software was granted a patent that covers software methods for detecting and resolving open source software licensing conflicts. Kuhn, who plays a major role in the SFLC’s GPL enforcement efforts, contends that Black Duck’s patent is far from novel and describes techniques that he has been using for licensing compliance analysis for over a decade.

Black Duck was founded in 2002 with the aim of providing automated solutions for tracking the provenance of source code in applications. The company’s first product, called Protex, reached the market at a time when the software industry was being confronted by emerging legislation and high-profile litigation that raised concerns about software licensing practices. At the time, the ill-fated SCO trial was just starting to heat up and there were still unanswered questions about whether the newly-passed Sarbanes-Oxley Act would require more rigorous internal audits of software licensing. Black Duck turned the industry’s fear over these issues into a marketing tool and became one of the leading vendors in the compliance management market.

Black Duck ought to withdraw the patent or be perceived as even more of a parasite to the Free software community. With a Microsoft-tied genesis, Black Duck was always difficult to trust. This brings us to Microsoft.

Microsoft

Microsoft has signed a new patent deal, this time with Webmap Technologies.

Webmap Technologies, LLC has entered into a license agreement with Microsoft Corporation, a developer and licensor of software solutions. Webmap Technologies is a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation, through its operating subsidiaries, acquires, develops, licenses and enforces patented technologies. All the companies are based in the US.

Here is another new article about Microsoft’s patent deal with Funai — a deal which we previously wrote about in [1, 2, 3].

Software major Microsoft and Japanese home technology firm Funai have struck an IP cross-licensing deal, granting each other access to agreed areas of their patent portfolios. Set to bolster the companies’ mutual research and development (R&D) efforts in integrated media, the deal reflects the growing popularity of cross-licensing and patent pools in the technology field as key players aim to avoid IP disputes.

The most significant news though is probably to do with RPX [1, 2, 3], a patent pool/racket which Microsoft is entering. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Microsoft signed a deal with Acacia and now it joins RPX with the excuse that it needs protection from “patent trolls.”

Microsoft Corp., a technology giant that wins thousands of patents every year, has joined RPX Corp., a start-up network aimed at aggregating intellectual property to shield its members from what are known as “patent trolls.”

Here is a funny headline (“Tech Giants’ New Plan To Fight Patent Trolls”). It is funny given that Microsoft itself created the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures. For Microsoft to complain about “patent trolls” would be nonsensical and hyporitical.

Microsoft has signed up for “patent insurance” with a startup called RPX, which buys up patents that could be used against its clients. Microsoft says this approach can save the industry billions of dollars by thwarting the industry’s controversial “patent trolls” and their litigation. But how much can a firm like RPX do to prevent litigation?

This is also covered at Law.com, requiring subscription though. Here is an article everyone can read at the site, as well as a few others:

Frustrated by litigation costs, Microsoft, Sony, and Nokia are paying third-party patent acquirers such as RPX to fend off patent lawsuits

Dallas News has this story to tell:

That’s what Melsheimer of Fish & Richardson PC’s Dallas office found in getting a $511.6 million verdict against Microsoft reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Plaintiff Alcatel-Lucent initially sought $50 billion in damages.

The ruling ended a seven-year odyssey featuring seven different cases and three jury trials. One case hinged on the value of a particular feature of Microsoft’s Outlook electronic mail program. Melsheimer and his team convinced the appeals court that the feature wasn’t part of Outlook’s appeal to customers, hence no damages.

We wrote about Fish & Richardson a couple of months ago.

Patents as Barriers

Against Monopoly has something to say about “Common Sense” and the Economist has published an article against patents (essentially monopolies).

DO PATENTS help or hinder innovation? Instinctively, they would seem a blessing, especially for backroom tinkerers. Patenting an idea gives its inventor a 20-year monopoly to exploit the fruit of his labour in the marketplace, in exchange for publishing a full account of how the new product, process or material works for all and sundry to see. For the inventor, that may be a reasonable trade-off. For society, however, the loss of competition through the granting sole rights to an individual or organisation is justified only if it stimulates the economy and delivers goods that change people’s lives for the better.

[...]

If truth be told, few inventions are really worth patenting. Time and again, surveys show that in both America and Europe companies rate superior sales and service, lead time and secrecy as far more important than patents when it comes to profiting from innovation. And, although applying for patents is relatively cheap, the cost of maintaining them can be horrendous. If the idea behind a patent has any commercial merit, it will attract imitators—and the inventor must be prepared to defend it in the courts. In a majority of cases, the cost of litigation will far exceed any revenue the inventor may subsequently earn from royalties or licensing.

By and large, the inventions and discoveries worth patenting are those in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields, where the pay-off for blockbuster drugs can amount to billions of dollars a year. Also, because the vast majority of inventions in such areas depend on unique molecular architectures, patents for new products are easier to defend in the courts. A me-too drug that is believed to violate a firm’s patent is either based on the same molecule or not.

[...]

An end to frivolous patents for business processes will be a blessing to online commerce. Meanwhile, the loss of patent protection for software could make programmers realise at last that they have more in common with authors, artists, publishers and musicians than they ever had with molecular architects and chip designers. In short, they produce expressions of ideas that are eminently copyrightable.

That could be good news for innovation. After all, who in his right mind would seek a lousy old patent offering a mere 20 years of protection when copyright can provide monopoly rights for up to 70 years after the author’s death? That one fact alone could spur more innovation than all the tinkering attempted so far.

A new study (already mentioned here) shows that patent trolls are taking over the system.

“Adobe pays patent royalties for the h264 codec so that video plays reliably worldwide, across browsers and OS’s,” says the president of the FFII, pointing to this from Adobe:

But in follow the comments from our CTO’s posting “Open access to Content and Apps”, I noticed that there are comments about Flash not being an “open” technology and questions about why we don’t open source the Player, so I thought I’d jump in and provide some details to help clear up some misconceptions and explain how open we are with the Flash Platform.

Another new article shows that one researcher has decided that sharing is better than not sharing (“open-source research”), which probably means that patents too will be affected.

One medical researcher applies generosity of spirit with his open-source research project designed to fight a tropical disease for which medical treatment is expensive and tough to come by.

[..]

Now, Scientific American reports that Australian chemist and entrepreneur Matthew Todd is initiating a totally open-source research project geared to the fight against the tropical disease schistosomiasis.

Sharing is better than not sharing. Scientists understand that. Investors don’t care.

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

2 Comments

  1. NotZed said,

    February 9, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Gravatar

    “chemist and entrepreneur Matthew Todd is initiating a totally open-source research project ”

    How silly is that. That isn’t ‘open source’. It’s called science. It’s a model free software mimics, not the other way around. As opposed to ‘business’, which is what science has turned into.

    I replied to the Adobe blog with this:

    “”Adobe pays for that codec so video plays reliably worldwide, across browsers and OS’s. So we make it as open as we can – by releasing the specifications.”

    Do you pay patent licenses for copies that go to countries where patents do not apply?

    Anyway it was a choice to choose a codec that required per-copy licensing fees. It is not a choice that had to be made – `industry standard’ or not. There are alternative codecs that do not require licensing fess, and Adobe is probably big enough to sponsor the development of it’s own (now there’s a challenge).

    Flash without video isn’t really flash, so it is hard to consider it anything other than a proprietary platform.”

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, they can use DIRAC or OGG. Bear in mind that Adobe does not like software patents.

    “Let me make my position on the patentability of software clear. I believe that software per se should not be allowed patent protection. […] We take this position because it is the best policy for maintaining a healthy software industry, where innovation can prosper.” —Douglas Brotz, Adobe Systems, Inc.

    “Software patents harm the industry, with no corresponding benefit” —Adobe, Douglas Brotz, JamessHuggins: Adobe Systems Statement on Software Patents

What Else is New


  1. Links 19/2/2018: Linux 4.16 RC2, Nintendo Switch Now Full-fledged GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  2. PTAB Continues to Invalidate a Lot of Software Patents and to Stop Patent Examiners From Issuing Them

    Erasure of software patents by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) carries on unabated in spite of attempts to cause controversy and disdain towards PTAB



  3. The Patent 'Industry' Likes to Mention Berkheimer and Aatrix to Give the Mere Impression of Section 101/Alice Weakness

    Contrary to what patent maximalists keep saying about Berkheimer and Aatrix (two decisions of the Federal Circuit from earlier this month, both dealing with Alice-type challenges), neither actually changed anything in any substantial way



  4. Makan Delrahim is Wrong; Patents Are a Major Antitrust Problem, Sometimes Disguised Using Trolls Somewhere Like the Eastern District of Texas

    Debates and open disagreements over the stance of the lobbyist who is the current United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division



  5. Patent Trolls Watch: Microsoft-Connected Intellectual Ventures, Finjan, and Rumour of Technicolor-InterDigital Buyout

    Connections between various patent trolls and some patent troll statistics which have been circulated lately



  6. Software Patents Trickle in After § 101/Alice, But Courts Would Not Honour Them Anyway

    The dawn of § 101/Alice, which in principle eliminates almost every software patent, means that applicants find themselves having to utilise loopholes to fool examiners, but that's unlikely to impress judges (if they ever come to assessing these patents)



  7. In Aatrix v Green Shades the Court is Not Tolerating Software Patents But Merely Inquires/Wonders Whether the Patents at Hand Are Abstract

    Aatrix alleges patent infringement by Green Shades, but whether the patents at hand are abstract or not remains to be seen; this is not what patent maximalists claim it to be ("A Valentine for Software Patent Owners" or "valentine for patentee")



  8. An Indoctrinated Minority is Maintaining the Illusion That Patent Policy is to Blame for All or Most Problems of the United States

    The zealots who want to patent everything under the Sun and sue everyone under the Sun blame nations in the east (where the Sun rises) for all their misfortunes; this has reached somewhat ludicrous levels



  9. Berkheimer Decision is Still Being Spun by the Anti-Section 101/Alice Lobby

    12 days after Berkheimer v HP Inc. the patent maximalists continue to paint this decision as a game changer with regards to patent scope; the reality, however, is that this decision will soon be forgotten about and will have no substantial effect on either PTAB or Alice (because it's about neither of these)



  10. Academic Patent Immunity is Laughable and Academics Are Influenced by Corporate Money (for Steering Patent Agenda)

    Universities appear to have become battlegrounds in the war between practicing entities and a bunch of parasites who make a living out of litigation and patent bubbles



  11. UPC Optimism Languishes Even Among Paid UPC Propagandists Such as IAM

    Even voices which are attempting to give UPC momentum that it clearly lacks admit that things aren't looking well; the UK is not ratifying and Germany make take years to look into constitutional barriers



  12. Bejin Bieneman Props Up the Disgraced Randall Rader for Litigation Agenda

    Randall Rader keeps hanging out with the litigation 'industry' -- the very same 'industry' which he served in a closeted fashion when he was Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit (and vocal proponent of software patents, patent trolls and so on)



  13. With Stambler v Mastercard, Patent Maximalists Are Hoping to Prop Up Software Patents and Damage PTAB

    The patent 'industry' is hoping to persuade the highest US court to weaken the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), for PTAB is making patent lawsuits a lot harder and raises the threshold for patent eligibility



  14. Apple Discovers That Its Patent Disputes Are a Losing Battle Which Only Lawyers Win (Profit From)

    By pouring a lot of money and energy into the 'litigation card' Apple lost focus and it's also losing some key cases, as its patents are simply not strong enough



  15. The Patent Microcosm Takes Berkheimer v HP Out of Context to Pretend PTAB Disregards Fact-Finding Process

    In view or in light of a recent decision (excerpt above), patent maximalists who are afraid of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) try to paint it as inherently unjust and uncaring for facts



  16. Microsoft Has Left RPX, But RPX Now Pays a Microsoft Patent Troll, Intellectual Ventures

    The patent/litigation arms race keeps getting a little more complicated, as the 'arms' are being passed around to new and old entities that do nothing but shake-downs



  17. UPC Has Done Nothing for Europe Except Destruction of the EPO and Imminent Layoffs Due to Lack of Applications and Lowered Value of European Patents

    The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is merely a distant dream or a fantasy for litigators; to everyone else the UPC lobby has done nothing but damage, including potentially irreparable damage to the European Patent Office, which is declining very sharply



  18. Links 17/2/2018: Mesa 17.3.4, Wine 3.2, Go 1.10

    Links for the day



  19. Patent Trolls Are Thwarted by Judges, But Patent Lawyers View Them as a 'Business' Opportunity

    Patent lawyers are salivating over the idea that trolls may be coming to their state/s; owing to courts and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) other trolls' software patents get invalidated



  20. Microsoft's Patent Moves: Dominion Harbor, Intellectual Ventures, Intellectual Discovery, NEC and Uber

    A look at some of the latest moves and twists, as patents change hands and there are still signs of Microsoft's 'hidden hand'



  21. Links 15/2/2018: GNOME 3.28 Beta, Rust 1.24

    Links for the day



  22. Bavarian State Parliament Has Upcoming Debate About Issues Which Can Thwart UPC for Good

    An upcoming debate about Battistelli's attacks on the EPO Boards of Appeal will open an old can of worms, which serves to show why UPC is a non-starter



  23. The EPO is Being Destroyed and There's Nothing Left to Replace It Except National Patent Offices

    It looks like Battistelli is setting up the European Patent Office (EPO) for mass layoffs; in fact, it looks as though he is so certain that the UPC will materialise that he obsesses over "validation" for mass litigation worldwide, departing from a "model office" that used to lead the world in terms of patent quality and workers' welfare/conditions



  24. IBM is Getting Desperate and Now Suing Microsoft Over Lost Staff, Not Just Suing Everyone Using Patents

    IBM's policy when it comes to patents, not to mention its alignment with patent extremists, gives room for thought if not deep concern; the company rapidly becomes more and more like a troll



  25. In Microsoft's Lawsuit Against Corel the Only Winner is the Lawyers

    The outcome of the old Microsoft v Corel lawsuit reaffirms a trend; companies with deep pockets harass their competitors, knowing that the legal bills are more cumbersome to the defendants; there's a similar example today in Cisco v Arista Networks



  26. The Latest Lies About Unitary Patent (UPC) and the EPO

    Lobbying defies facts; we are once again seeing some easily-debunked talking points from those who stand to benefit from the UPC and mass litigation



  27. Speech Deficit and No Freedom of Association at the EPO

    True information cannot be disseminated at the EPO and justice too is beyond elusive; this poses a threat to the EPO's future, not only to its already-damaged reputation



  28. No, Britain is Not Ratifying 'Unitary' Anything, But Team UPC Insinuates It Will (Desperate Effort to Affect Tomorrow's Outcome)

    Contrary to several misleading headlines from Bristows (in its blog and others'), the UPC isn't happening and isn't coming to the UK; it all amounts to lobbying (by setting false expectations)



  29. The EPO's Paid Promotion of Software Patents Gets Patent Maximalists All Excited and Emboldened

    The software patents advocacy from Battistelli (and his cohorts) isn't just a spit in the face of European Parliament but also the EPC; but patent scope seems to no longer exist or matter under his watch, as all he cares about is granting as many patents as possible, irrespective of real quality/legitimacy/merit



  30. Andrei Iancu Begins His USPTO Career While Former USPTO Director (and Now Paid Lobbyist) Keeps Meddling in Office Affairs

    The USPTO, which is supposed to be a government branch (loosely speaking) is being lobbied by former officials, who are now being paid by private corporations to help influence and shape policies; this damages the image of the Office and harms its independence from corporate influence


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