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05.15.10

“US International Trade Commission Supports Patent Trolls”

Posted in America, Apple, Courtroom, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 9:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

United States International Trade Commission seal

Summary: How the International Trade Commission (ITC) is adding to harm already caused by the USPTO

ON many occasions in the past we criticised the ITC for incentivising embargoes. Apple and Microsoft both misuse this power.

Law.com has this new report and Florian labels it an “article on how the US International Trade Commission supports patent trolls”

Patent Litigation Weekly: ITC Rolls Out the Welcome Mat for ‘Trolls’”

[...]

The International Trade Commission was created in 1916 to protect U.S.-based companies that made and sold goods within the country’s borders. In recent years, however, the agency’s definition of what qualifies as “domestic industry” has expanded to the point that small patent-holding companies with just a handful of employees (Saxon Innovations, St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants) and even individual inventors have been allowed to proceed with ITC litigation.

Congress helped expand the ranks of who could seek remedies at the ITC in 1988 when it amended the “domestic industry” requirement to include “licensing” as qualification. Patent-holding companies have relied on that change ever since to justify their arguments that the taxpayer-funded ITC should ban imports of certain products on their behalf. Of course, in 1988, the patent litigation landscape was very different, and patent-holding companies—aka “non-practicing entities,” or “patent trolls”—in the modern sense simply didn’t exist.

It is curious that a US agency is called “International Trade Commission”. There are other examples like that, but they are beyond the scope of this post although these too employ sanctions/blackmail. See what the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) does to Free software for example. It’s a recent case.

“The ITC is a mechanism of colonisation and it assumes that the United States deserves the power to restrict trade beyond its borders.”Given the harm ITC can cause to innovation, more countries need to voice dissent. The ITC is a mechanism of colonisation and it assumes that the United States deserves the power to restrict trade beyond its borders. It’s hardly conceivable that huge populations like Brazil or India would impose similar restrictions using their hypothetical newly-minted agencies, which would in turn operate beyond their borders.

The ITC not only serves US interests; it also serves the interests of aggressors like Apple and Microsoft or parasites like Acacia, whose case against Linux we recently covered in:

According to Groklaw, some of the site’s contributors played a role in defeating Acacia, which has former Microsoft executives amongst its staff.

First, a call went out on Groklaw for prior art. When news of this litigation first broke in 2007, and I asked if any of you knew of any prior art, one of the first comments mentioned the Amiga. I kid you not. Another almost immediately mentioned still owning an Amiga or two. In 2009, Red Hat officially asked the world for prior art, and again someone here mentioned the Amiga. So you guys knew before the lawyers did, which of course you would. It’s your area of expertise. That’s what I get from it. And that I should have made sure they were reading Groklaw in 2007. Next time.

Better still, you want to help. When Novell put out a statement about the jury’s ruling, it said that the open source community will always fight for its software. And that is true. It did, it still does, and it always will.

Isn’t it ironic that Novell says this (rather than Red Hat, for example)? It is Novell which is harming the Free software community, parts of which are fighting against Novell/Microsoft. That’s the type of shameless PR we wrote about earlier today (Novell routinely uses the SCO case in the same way, essentially for PR purposes).

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