09.29.11

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Patent Trolls Demystified and Patent Reform Demanded

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 11:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Awareness of the blood-sucking leech which is NPEs keeps growing while more and more people subscribe to a call for real patent reform in the US, not a symbolic signing of some pointless act

THE LEGAL ISSUES-oriented Web sites cannot escape the tough reality about patent trolls. Groklaw carries on tracking the patent troll that gets patents from Microsoft’s former CTO and his extortion firm, Intellectual Ventures. It seems to have been reasonably quiet as of late:

Not a great deal has happened in the various Lodsys cases since we last wrote. A lot of the activity pertains to whether Lodsys will get dragged into federal district court somewhere other than the Eastern District of Texas.

To recount all of the cases, Lodsys has four pending cases in the Eastern District of Texas against a variety of defendants. In turn, Lodsys is the defendant in eight active declaratory judgment actions – four in the Northern District of Illinois, two in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, one in Arizona, and one in the Southern District of California. There was a fifth declaratory judgment action brought against Lodsys in the Eastern District of Wisconsin by ESET, but ESET has voluntarily dismissed that action.

Lodsys has been working not only to discourage development for platforms other than Windows; it also got named for being the alter ego of Microsoft's former CTO, who had become the world’s biggest patent troll. In an article posted by Ron Miller he wonders if “patent wars eventually have an impact on mobile IT,” noting that “anybody who is anybody is suing or being sued for patent violations. The highest profile cases involve the biggest names like Oracle versus Google (which is in negotiations stage right now with the two CEOs supposedly hashing it out) and Apple versus Samsung (and vice versa).”

“Lodsys has been working not only to discourage development for platforms other than Windows; it also got named for being the alter ego of Microsoft’s former CTO, who had become the world’s biggest patent troll.”James Grimmelmann has a similar article, stating: “In the last few weeks, the smartphone industry appeared to produce more lawsuits than phones. Apple briefly managed to stop the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in all of Europe, and is now going after the whole Galaxy line. Back Stateside, Google first complained that Microsoft and Apple were using “bogus patents” to target Android, then spent $12 billion for Motorola and its patent arsenal. These are big, high-stakes fights—and the last company left standing may walk away with control over nothing less than the smartphone market itself.”

Then there is the attack from dozens of patent trolls, which Bessen claims have cost the economy half a trillion dollars in just two decades [1, 2, 3] — a claim that Red Hat’s patent expert puts the spotlight on:

NPEs obviously have not stopped all innovation, but we are starting to understand how the losses they have caused are huge. It makes one wonder: what if the half a trillion dollars lost from NPE lawsuits had been channeled into socially productive uses? How much more innovation could we achieve if we quit tolerating this incredible waste?

Here is another new article on the subject:

The mess is like a hidden tax that hits each one of us every time we buy a gadget, whether it be a smartphone, tablet, PC or video-game console. The leading innovative companies that design and make these things are spending billions—billions—of dollars in an essentially meaningless and often absurd worldwide patent war.

Unfortunately, the America Invents Act addresses none of that.

Indeed. It’s a joke of a ‘reform’. It is worse than useless because it gives only the impression that something substantial was amended.

Over at Masnick’s good Web site there is this criticism of patent trolls:

If At First You Don’t Succeed As A Patent Troll, Just Sue Again

[...]

So, basically, after losing, they’re just trying to expand what they claim the patent covers. It’s hard to see this as anything more than a standard patent troll shakedown of a company that doesn’t do anything demanding cash from the companies who do things… even when those things are obvious next steps that were discussed decades before the troll came on the scene.

One solution would be to amend the law to restrict passage of patents and require implementation, too.

Mr. Pogson gives this example of a patent troll and notes:

Twit Thinks He Invented Web Applications and Troll Sues World

[...]

Of course they wait 14 years to wait for the tech to become really valuable before “defending their property”…

The FSF, which recently got many signatures for a pro-Ogg petition, is now calling for people to sign the petition against software patents in the United States. To quote:

Join me and already over 12,000 others in petitioning the Obama administration to “Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents”.

Some days ago they only had over 10,000 signatures. The number if rising steadily and the White House must take action. This is not some petition hosted on another site but a rather official one which the administration cannot sweep under the carpet or turn a blind eye to. Here is a direct link to the petition (for US citizens).

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3 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    September 29, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Gravatar

    Looking at the costs, it will be cheaper for Google to help change the laws regarding the patentability of software than to fight M$/Oracle/Apple and their proxies one patent at a time.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Don’t count on IBM or Google to change patent law (not in the way we wish anyway). The way this system is constructed, they are out of our league and are shareholders-bound to the degree where they need to marginalise us, ‘small’ developers.

    The “we the people” says “people”, not “corporations”.

    If the government does not listen to the people (they do not want monopolies, it doesn’t benefit them in any way), then the administration has gone rogue.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    There is the same problem in copyright law. See Prof. Lessig’s good presentations on this subject, e.g.:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiu5aZn9GC4

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