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


Intellectual Ventures Revisited as Facebook is Hoarding Patents; Apple Patents Other People’s Ideas/Implementations

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 9:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Steve Jobs, Apple

Happing hogs

Summary: Facebook is hogging again and Apple shows that it’s not only a patent threat but also a cheeky hoarder of other people’s ideas

IN A POST that we wrote earlier on about Facebook (a Microsoft partner) we mentioned Microsoft's patent troll (Nathan Myrhvold) because Facebook’s founder (Zuckerberg) was meeting with this troll, according to reports. It is possible that Zuckerberg was looking to buy some software patents, which he eventually got off of Friendster for more than Friendster is even worth, according to TechDirt:

Facebook Picked Up Friendster’s Patents For More Than It Cost To Buy Friendster


What’s impressive here is that the entire company Friendster had been sold just a few months earlier for… $39.5 million. So the buyer has effectively recouped the purchase price in less than a year. Impressive. As for why Facebook just wasted so much money (even if not all of it is “real”) on a bunch of patents? As Liz Gannes postulates, it’s probably just to keep the patents from getting in the way of an upcoming IPO. For a company currently valued at such insane levels, $40 million to clear an obstacle to an IPO is nothing major — especially when a portion of the deal is via in-kind services. Hopefully Facebook knows better than to start using the patents offensively, but somehow, I get the feeling this is not the last we’ll hear about these patents.

It probably remains to be seen how these patents will be used (maybe just as a deterrent) and we have reasons to be concerned [1, 2]. Did Facebook ever buy patents from Nathan Myrhvold’s racketeering firm (Intellectual Ventures)? According to another new post from TechDirt, Intellectual Ventures continues to sell patents, even to large companies like Verizon (which is now working with Google to destroy net neutrality, for shame!).

Intellectual Ventures is the infamous company founded by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myrhvold to hoard patents on a massive scale and to basically get companies to pay up “protection money” to (1) keep those patents from being used against them and (2) let them use those patents against others. While for years Myrhvold insisted that Intellectual Ventures was avoiding lawsuits, we have seen IV patents showing up in lawsuits lately. The first one was last year, involving a patent IV had sold, but it wasn’t clear if it still had an interest in any awards or settlements received. It has become clear that the company has set up over 1,000 shell companies, however, so that makes it more difficult to know sometimes.

However, there have been two cases of IV patents officially involved in lawsuits lately, and both are on the “defensive” side. The first was back in March, where IV sold some patents to Verizon that it could use in its fight against TiVo. TiVo had sued Verizon, but since Verizon had paid IV some huge amount of money (hundreds of millions of dollars), it had the right to pick from IV’s patent portfolio to sue back. That same thing appears to be happening again, though, this time with a smaller company who wasn’t already an IV member. Speech to text company Vlingo was sued by speech recognition software giant Nuance for patent infringement, and now Vlingo has paid Intellectual Ventures to “join” and to get patents back, which it can use to fight back against Nuance.

Remember who’s behind Intellectual Ventures in terms of funding. It’s Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Apple. And in other news about Apple, its latest outrageous software patents are being discussed in Slashdot, which points to several sources. Jan Wildeboer says: “[A]pple patents “inspired” by existing 3rd party work? Or plain stealing? You decide.” Here is the referenced article which says:

The patent has been filed in December 2009. And clearly, the number of details with all the icons, their ordering and the actual app name “Where To?” in the title bar (which, as a sidenote, doesn’t make a lot of sense as a module in a potential iTravel app) can’t be randomly invented the same way by someone else.


In summary, this episode once more reinforces my personal aversion against software patents. In my opinion they discriminate against smaller developers who can’t afford building a huge legal department to defend against such patent cases and to research existing patent mine fields.

Wildeboer added: “Is Apple trying to patent apps to create an innovation tax on android apps?”

Consider more information on the same subject:

Not a Joke: An Apple App Patent (Pic) That Looks Like an Actual App Selling on the App Store


Dan Wineman explains that ”the diagram is just part of an example of one way the technology in question might operate. I think it’s more likely that the people involved in drawing up this patent simply didn’t think about the message it would send to developers. I’m sure it’s not Apple’s practice (or intention) to plunder the App Store submissions bin for new things to patent.”

Reader Gary Watson says: “After reading the claims, it’s clear that the spinning wheel image stolen from the 3rd party app was not part of the claimed invention at all and was just an illustration. You see this a lot in patents, where a an exemplar device such as a Dell laptop is used in a drawing but is not part of the claims.”

Earlier this week we wrote about a TechCrunch report which gave Apple’s hypePhone as an example of a product with over 1,000 patents on it (and Apple uses hypePhone patents offensively against Linux). This report led TechDirt to asking “How Much Of The World Is A Patent Free Zone”. From the opening:

Vivek Wadhwa has an interesting post at TechCrunch, pointing out that much of the world beyond the US, Europe and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are effectively a patent free zone. Even if many of these places do have patent laws, very few companies find it worth the trouble to file for patents in those places — and, technically, that means that anyone producing products in those areas can legally copy from the patents filed elsewhere.

Had there been no patents in this area (especially mobile phones), products would improve, according to analyses*. But big companies like Apple would then not be as wealthy. That’s just who patents typically serve — the already-wealthy. Patents are an expensive protectionist tool, not a progressive tool, contrary to myths. Here is a video of a phone which runs Linux but Microsoft is taxing using software patents that it refuses to disclose (it’s a Samsung Galaxy S).

* Many phones are deliberately limiting function due to patents.

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. Luxembourg Can Become a Hub of Patent Trolls If the EPO Carries on With Its 'Reforms', Even Without the UPC

    With or without the Unified Patent Court (UPC), which is the wet dream of patent trolls and their legal representatives, the EPO's terrible policies have landed a lot of low-quality patents on the hands of patent trolls (many of which operate through city-states that exist for tax evasion -- a fiscal environment ripe for shells)

  2. The Patent 'Printing Machine' of the EPO Will Spawn Many Lawsuits and Extortions (Threats of Lawsuits), in Effect Taxing Europe

    The money-obsessed, money-printing patent office, where the assembly line mentality has been adopted and patent-printing management is in charge, is devaluing or diluting the pool of European Patents, more so with restrictions (monetary barriers) to challenging bad patents

  3. Links 17/3/2018: Varnish 6, Wine 3.4

    Links for the day

  4. Deleted EPO Tweets and Promotion of Software Patents Amid Complaints About Abuse and Demise of Patent Quality

    Another ordinary day at the EPO with repressions of workforce, promotion of patents that aren't even allowed, and Team UPC failing to get its act together

  5. Guest Post: Suspected “Whitewashing” Operations by Željko Topić in Croatia

    Articles about EPO Vice-President Željko Topić are disappearing and sources indicate that it’s a result of yet more SLAPP from him

  6. Monumental Effort to Highlight Decline in Quality of European Patents (a Quarter of Examiners Sign Petition in Spite of Fear), Yet Barely Any Press Coverage

    he media in Europe continues to be largely apathetic towards the EPO crisis, instead relaying a bunch of press releases and doctored figures from the EPO; only blogs that closely follow EPO scandals bothered mentioning the new petition

  7. Careful Not to Conflate UPC Critics With AfD or Anti-EU Elements

    The tyrannical Unified Patent Court (UPC) is being spun as something that only fascists would oppose after the right-wing, anti-EU politicians in Germany express strong opposition to it

  8. Links 15/3/2018: Qt Creator 4.6 RC, Microsoft Openwashing

    Links for the day

  9. PTAB Continues to Increase Capacity Ahead of Oil States; Patent Maximalists Utterly Upset

    The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) sees the number of filings up to an almost all-time high and efforts to undermine PTAB are failing pretty badly -- a trend which will be further cemented quite soon when the US Supreme Court (quite likely) backs the processes of PTAB

  10. Patent Maximalists Are Still Trying to Create a Patent Bubble in India

    Litigation maximalists and patent zealots continue to taunt India, looking for an opportunity to sue over just about anything including abstract ideas because that's what they derive income from

  11. EPO Staff Has Just Warned the National Delegates That EPO's Decline (in Terms of Patent Quality and Staff Welfare) Would Be Beneficial to Patent Trolls

    The staff of the EPO increasingly recognises the grave dangers of low-quality patents -- an issue we've written about (also in relation to the EPO) for many years

  12. The EPO is a Mess Under Battistelli and Stakeholders Including Law Firms Will Suffer, Not Just EP Holders

    As one last 'gift' from Battistelli, appeals are becoming a lot more expensive -- the very opposite of what he does to applications, in effect ensuring a sharp increase in wrongly-granted patents

  13. The EPO Under Battistelli Has Become Like China Under Xi and CPC

    The EPO is trying very hard to silence not only the union but also staff representatives; it's evidently worried that the lies told by Team Battistelli will be refuted and morale be affected by reality

  14. Links 14/3/2018: IPFire 2.19 – Core Update 119, Tails 3.6

    Links for the day

  15. Links 13/3/2018: Qt Creator 4.5.2, Tails 3.6, Firefox 59

    Links for the day

  16. Willy Minnoye (EPO) Threatened Staff With Disabilities Said to Have Been Caused by the EPO Work Pressures

    Willy Minnoye, or Battistelli's 'deputy' at the EPO until last year, turns out to have misused powers (and immunity) to essentially bully vulnerable staff

  17. IAM and IBM Want Lots of Patent Litigation in India

    Having 'championed' lobbying for litigation Armageddon in China (where IBM's practicing business units have gone), patent maximalists set their eyes on India

  18. The Patent Trolls' Lobby (IAM) Already Pressures Andrei Iancu, Inciting a USPTO Director Against PTAB

    Suspicions that Iancu might destroy the integrity of the Office for the sake of the litigation ‘industry’ may be further reaffirmed by the approach towards patent maximalists from IAM, who also participated in the shaming of his predecessor, Michelle Lee, and promoted a disgraced judge (and friend of patent trolls) for her then-vacant role

  19. Patent Trolls in the United States Increasingly Target Small Businesses Which Cannot Challenge Their Likely-Invalid Software Patents

    South by Southwest (SXSW Conference/Festivals in Austin, Texas) has a presentation about patent trolls, whose general message may be reaffirmed by recent legal actions in Texas and outside Texas

  20. EPO Staff Union Organises Protest to Complain About Inability “of the Office to Recruit the Highly Qualified Staff it Needs.”

    Having already targeted union leaders and staff representatives, the EPO may soon be going after those whom they passionately represented and the staff union (SUEPO) wants the Administrative Council to be aware

  21. Battistelli Likes to Describe His Critics as 'Nazis', Team UPC Will Attempt the Same Thing Against UPC Critics

    Demonising one's opposition or framing it as "fascist" is a classic trick; to what degree will Team UPC exploit such tactics?

  22. Session in Bavaria to Discuss the Abuses of the European Patent Office Later Today

    The EPO shambles in Munich have gotten the attention of more Bavarian politicians, more so in light of the Constitutional complaint against the UPC (now dealt with by the German FCC, which saw merit in the complaint)

  23. Links 12/3/2018: Linux 4.16 RC5, KEXI 3.1, Karton 1.0, Netrunner 18.03, Debian 9.4

    Links for the day

  24. EPO Patent 'Growth' Not Achieved But Demanded/Mandated by Battistelli, by Lowering Quality of Patents/Services

    Targets at the EPO are not actually reached but are being imposed by overzealous management which dries up all the work in a hurry in order to make examiners redundant and many European Patents worthless

  25. Doubt Over Independence of Judges at the EPO Clouds Reason in Deciding Regarding Patents on Life

    With the growing prospect of a Board of Appeal (BoA) having to decide on patentability of CRISPR 'innovation' (more like explanation/discovery), questions linger or persist about judges' ability to rule as they see fit rather than what some lunatic wants

  26. Patent Academics and CAFC Make a Living Out of Patents, But Both Must Begrudgingly Learn to Accept That Patents Went Too Far

    A look at academic pundits' views on the patent system of the United States and where the Federal Circuit (a high patent court) stands on these matters after the US Supreme Court (highest possible court) lashed out at many of its decisions, especially those from the disgraced Rader years

  27. Patent Maximalists Cause a Crisis of Legitimacy for Patent Law

    The patent extremists who nowadays equate monopolies on mere ideas to "property" and "rights" gradually cause the public to lose respect for patents, more or less in the same way copyright maximalists (and copyright trolls) cause the population to seek alternatives (both legal and illegal)

  28. We Shall Soon Find Out Where Trump Appointees Such as Neil Gorsuch Stand on Patent Policies

    Staff shuffles at top-level roles will soon reveal what Donald Trump's changes mean to patent law and caselaw

  29. Trump's USPTO Changes Patent Designs, Changes Director/Deputy Director, and Anticipat 'Ranks' Patent Examiners Based on How They Deal With Section 101

    Today's USPTO isn't the same USPTO which was managed by Michelle Lee and anti-PTAB groups (proponents of software patents) have begun profiling examiners based on their stance on abstract/software patents -- a form of neo-McCarthyism

  30. Links 10/3/2018: Amarok 2.9.0, Debian 9.4, Sparky 5.3

    Links for the day


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


Recent Posts