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04.02.12

Auctioning Patent Weapons That Attack the Public and Are Funded by the Public

Posted in America, Patents at 11:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Washington working for the trolls

Art museum

Summary: IBM gives ammunition to Facebook and NASA gives public patents to private companies

THE behaviour of IBM, whose lawyer is now running the USPTO, helps show what a farce the patent system really is. IBM is a proponent of software patents and it makes a profit from this burdensome mechanism of protectionism. A patent aggressor which is partly owned by Microsoft is said to have just been sued again:

Mitel, a provider of business communications and collaboration software, has filed a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the social network is infringing on two of its patents.

Facebook, in response to such litigation, buys patent ammunition from IBM [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], but what everyone seems to be missing is that Facebook cannot use those patents against patent trolls. The “defensive” nonsense is merely a talking point.

Quoting one article on the subject:

Facebook has bought a portfolio of 750 technology patents from IBM to help it counter allegations of intellectual property infringement, according to a source.

The company’s patent aggression has already been demonstrated and those patents cannot be used to squash patent trolls. The Yahoo! case is an exception here and the cost of deterrence is very high. It’s a cost that will be passed to the public one way or another.

Speaking of public interests, NASA has been distributing software patents acquired using public money [1, 2] to make a profit. In the process we see press releases for self promotion of private entities, piggybacking what the public was forced to fund [1, 2, 3]. This is an injustice that we wrote about before. It makes NASA look bad.

NASA is now using public money to feed trolls, not even for notable profit. “The market can be cruel,” says Wired, “but it doesn’t lie: Software development algorithms are worth more than cool nanotechnology swarming technologies.

“That’s what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found out this week when it tried to auction three lots of its Goddard Space Flight Center software patents at an event run by the ICAP Patent brokerage.

“It’s a cost that will be passed to the public one way or another.”“The software development patents sold for $75,000. With a starting price of $50,000, nobody bid on the nanotechnology stuff. And they also steered clear of a bargain-basement $30,000 NASA patent that covered a fancy way of reporting a broken smoke detector.”

Here is another article about it. If NASA does not mind becoming a disgraced agency, then it can carry on passing what was public to the private sector, raising the costs of products owing to public support. All those patent lawsuits we keep hearing about are simply making up a tax. NASA is essentially the middleman.

“Software patents have been nothing but trouble for innovation. We the software engineers know this, yet we actually have full-blown posters in our break-room showcasing the individual engineers who came up with something we were able to push through the USPTO. Individually, we pretty much all consider the software-patent showcase poster to be a colossal joke.” —Kelledin, PLI: State Street Overruled… PERIOD

Update on Patent Failures and Microsoft Lawsuits Against Linux Companies

Posted in Patents at 11:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Building patent fences

Fences

Summary: News about the patent system in general and about Microsoft’s role in the fight against Android

IN a system that permits and even encourages monopolies on ideas, no wonder even behaviour gets patented [1, 2, 3]. It’s all rather insane. Recently I was learning and working on the technical side of Splunk, which now turns out to be getting patents on searching log files. Are system administrators about to be massive-scale infringers? Why are abstract things being classified as patentable?

“Why are abstract things being classified as patentable?”Based on this news, Nokia is trying to get a patent on vibrating tattoos while still colluding with Microsoft (exploiting academia for brainwash) — the company that gets patents on goggles [1, 2, 3] and fights Google with patents.

The economic system is fundamentally flawed when monopoly is assumed to be beneficial. This results in consolidation and strengthening of very few companies, including Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle.

Not too long ago we saw Microsoft suing with patents a company that famously uses Linux. This was called off only after a counter-suit, which merely led to deterrence:

TiVo Inc. (TIVO) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) agreed to dismiss their patent litigation against each other Thursday, after TiVo’s settlement with Microsoft’s partner AT&T (T) eliminated the motivation for the suits.

Had the target of Microsoft’s litigation been a smaller company without any patents, the story would have ended differently. TiVo is not a really small company. In fact, TiVo has used the USPTO for turf wars for quite a few years. Considering the status of software patents in Europe, this would not have worked everywhere. And even Microsoft, in its patent fight against Android, is trying to shift a fight from Germany to the US. To quote:

Microsoft has filed a motion in the US to stop Motorola Mobility from enforcing an injunction it may win in a German court next month.

The software behemoth asked a stateside judge to “preserve the status quo” in the market pending the outcome of a separate Microsoft-Motorola patent face-off in a Washington court.

Microsoft hopes to strike a worldwide licensing deal with Motorola in that US legal battle – but fears the enforcement of an injunction in Germany will derail hope for a global agreement.

Redmond lawyers filed their case against Motorola Mobility in America in November 2010 and the German lawsuit was brought by Motorola in July 2011 – so Microsoft is essentially saying that Motorola shouldn’t be allowed to go behind its back and hamstring it in Europe over the same issues.

Motorola is now almost equivalent Google, at least the mobile division. Microsoft is trying to hack hard at the source. If patents are removed, Microsoft will sink.

Oracle/Apple Litigation Versus Android/Linux

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Oracle, Patents at 10:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Newspaper

Summary: News updates on the patent cases against Android, the platform which quickly conquers the mobile phones and tablets space

PATENTS are a thorn on the side of Android’s success. Now that Android and Linux are more tightly joined by the hip, defending one helps defend the other.

Not so long ago, Oracle and Google were urged to negotiate, resulting in a proposition that failed. This continues to be reported on [1, 2].

All those patent fights are proving to be costly and as one article put it last month: “Two upcoming cases in the United States – one against Motorola and the other against Samsung – have the potential to strike deeper blows on either side. The trials involve the legal rights to the core technology behind smartphones and tablet computers and whoever loses could face large damages and increased costs. That could raise prices for consumers.”

Of course, as always, it is good for lawyers, for billionaires who run giant corporations, and it all comes at the expense of everyone else.

Around the same day Reuters published an article on a similar subject and fortunately enough Apple is not getting its way. While it accumulates more controversial patents it is failing to stop Android using them. The Indian press takes the side of Android, To quote this new article titled “touch is forbidden”:

Many are trying, thanks to software patents. Patents have become a bane to the very essence of innovation. They are arsenals, ostensibly meant to defend but more often used to offend. Yahoo’s lawsuit against Facebook over 10 patents further proves that weaponizing software patents is the last gasp of a dying business.

Which brings me to the news that Twitter is trying to patent one of the most instinctive gestures on the iPhone, what they call User Interface Mechanics. Anyone who has used a Twitter client on their phone knows to refresh the page: You “pull” it down and release. Others use this as well, like Google’s Gmail mobile site.

But as Techcrunch noticed, this functionality isn’t built into every core app on the iPhone (like the Mail app), and the reason is probably because it’s potential lawsuit bait.

The Oracle case carries on and Groklaw keeps track of everything. Professor Webbink writes:

Not a lot of activity in the case yesterday. Only a couple of administrative filings. In the first (841 [PDF; Text]) the Court addresses what it expects to be somewhat crowded conditions in the public seating area of the courtroom at the beginning of the trial. In part this is due to the large size of the jury pool. So the Court has asked the respective parties to limit the size of their entourages.

Pamela Jones later adds:

Remember when there were all those scary headlines about Oracle suing Google for $6 billion for alleged patent infringement? Did that preposterous fantasy come true?

Instead, Google, without even any counterclaims of patent infringement to fire back, got almost all of Oracle’s asserted patents tossed out as invalid by the USPTO in reexaminations. There’s one left standing and another that might be valid if Oracle can successfully appeal a preliminary finding of invalidity by the USPTO, with a grand total of damages estimates from the court’s independent adviser being less than a million, after adjustments, if Oracle can prove infringement, a very, very big IF.

Congratulations, Oracle, for shooting yourself in the foot.

Now there are some new scary headlines, like this one, “Why Google Might Be Going to $0″ this morning about how much money Google will have to pay because Google is being sued by Vringo, Vringo calling itself I/P Engine in the litigation, with predictions that Google will surely settle to avoid being valued at zero by the time Vringo is done with it.

The dispute is likely to continue for a while because neither side is backing off:

In the papers, Google argued that the trial could be shortened from its currently scheduled duration of eight weeks and sought to appear before US District Judge William Alsup instead of a jury. Oracle doesn’t believe the trial schedule should be revised nor is it willing to waive its right to a jury trial.

Google estimates it will have to pay about $2.8 million if it’s determined that Android infringes on two Java patents that are being reviewed in the case. The company, which is based in Mountain View, California, told Alsup that it’s also prepared to pay 0.5 percent of Android’s future revenue for one Java patent expiring at the end of this year and 0.015 percent of Android’s future revenue for the other patent, which expires in April 2018.

The court papers don’t explain how Android’s revenue would be calculated. Google doesn’t charge for Android, but makes some money from mobile advertising occurring on the software and third-party applications sold to run on the operating systems.

It is important to keep Android tax-free. When Free software is subjected to patent tax everything gets very tricky; primarily, redistribution is restricted.

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