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12.23.11

Microsoft Stacked Patent Panels, Front Groups for Patents, and Proxy Patent Trolls

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 3:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stringing

Summary: A roundup of Microsoft patent lobbying and aggression that go on mostly unnoticed

A stacked panel was described by Microsoft as “a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select die panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only “independent ISVs” on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed -just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the “real world.” Sounds marvellously independent doesn’t it? In feet, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.” See the full Microsoft document [PDF] for more details.

We already know, based on prior incidents, that Microsoft loves to stack panels, e.g. for OOXML. Microsoft and its front groups are entering another forum, where just like the Gates Foundation agents they spread the pro-patents talking points. Gates has more political power outside of Microsoft and we previously showed what he and his new minions/’foundamentalists’ do on the subject of patents. As one good journalist points out:

In short, Gates is a spent force. He says he will not lead Microsoft again as rumoured in some media outlets recently – but then it wouldn’t matter even if he did.

Microsoft’s MSN says that a “[s]oftware group spends $190k on lobbying in 3Q,” but this number from a third-party source is far lower than the real amount and patent policy is part of the lobbying, with focus on the USPTO:

The Software and Information Industry Association spent $190,000 on lobbying on such issues as intellectual property in the third quarter, according to federal disclosure reports.

[...]

The group lobbied Congress, the Education Department, the Commerce Department, the State Department, the U.S. Copyright Office, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As we showed before, Bill Gates and his good friend who is the world’s biggest patent troll have also spent money lobbying for worse patent laws. Microsoft lobbies on the subject from many different directions, usually using proxies that it sponsors. Contrary to propaganda about “protection”, this is against the interest of citizens, but they just never get access to the ears of politicians, unlike for instance Microsoft’s Mundie [1, 2, 3].

Craig Mundie Is lobbying for Microsoft again, based on Microsoft’s own site. He lobbies on the subject of patents in Europe and the FFII’s president claims that “Microsoft is using Barroso, the President of the European Commission, to push for more patents and “innovation” salad”. In relation to the stack panel we wrote about earlier, he notes that:

IPweek: ACT, Microsoft and BSA discussing on the same panel, sounds like a Microsoft panel on its own

Mike Sax [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] is part of ACT (Microsoft front group) and Ronald Zink is from Microsoft. Here is another new example of:

Microsof’s association of SMEs ACT calls for software patents via a central EU patent court

Microsoft’s patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, is also busy doing its nasty things and “[t]heir pattern of behavior indicates they are acting as a proxy for Microsoft,” notes this one poster. Quoting in context:

It should also be pointed out that Intellectual Ventures targets companies that are major competitors to Microsoft such as makers of Android phones. IV has over 35,000 patents and there is virtual certainty that every company that writes software is infringing on at least one of their patents but they are highly selective about who they extort money from. Their pattern of behavior indicates they are acting as a proxy for Microsoft. If Microsoft were to file suits they would be subject to counter claims but since IV produces nothing they are immune from counter claims of patent infringement.

Lodsys and its connection to Intellectual Ventures has just been mentioned by Timothy B. Lee, who spots a common misconception and rebuts it:

Software Patents and Barriers to Entry

On one level this just begs the question. Obviously, if software patents promote innovation, that’s a strong argument for allowing them. But if software patents actually discorage innovation, as I and people who’ve crunched the numbers have argued they do, then people who care about entrepreneurial innovation should be equally anxious to get rid of them. Rosen doesn’t really engage in the arguments that I and others have offered that software patents are bad for innovation. He seems to just take it as a given that patents promote innovation.

But since Rosen brought up Angry Birds, I’d like to zoom in on the specific case of mobile apps. Too often, the patent debate occurs in broad abstractions, so it’s important to pay attention to the actual innovators being harmed by software patents.

So let’s talk about Lodsys, a patent troll (with alleged ties to uber-troll Intellectual Ventures) that began suing independent mobile app developers for patent infringement earlier this year. Lodsys’s holds broad patents related to the purchase of digital content over a network, and claims dozens of firms have infringed its patents. Few if any of the defendants in these cases copied from the Lodsys patents, but they (allegedly) stumbled across the broad concepts in the patents and are now facing the threat of a lawsuit.

“Shuffling patents around among shell companies and suing the same company twice with the same patent” is another thing we are seeing covered as follows:

We’ve written about famed patent troll Erich Spangenberg and the variety of shell companies under his control a few times in the past. He’s the guy who a court told to pay $4 million for shuffling patents around among shell companies and suing the same company twice with the same patent, despite a settlement the first time that precluded future suits. Spangenberg is also famous for his motto, “sue first, ask questions later,” in part because he wants his lawsuits to take place in Eastern Texas.

A company that is headed by a lot of former Microsoft executives has just gone hostile with patents as well:

A lawsuit has been filed by Juniper Networks, which has accused Palo Alto Networks of allegedly infringing six of its patents relating to firewall technology.

In the lawsuit, filed 19 December in a federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, Juniper said that while the technology used in its next-generation firewalls were invented by the founders of Palo Alto Networks, the patents actually belonged to Juniper Networks.

To be fair, others do similar things by choosing aggression, but just because others are doing this does not make it acceptable. Microsoft is generally very unique in 1) its attacks on Linux and 2) its operation via proxies. Nasty yet evasive.

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