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01.10.13

FRAND Quite Likely the First Casualty at USPTO, Not Patents (Directly)

Posted in Patents at 6:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The US Department of Justice takes on FRAND, but systemic patent problems endure

The monopolists’ offices celebrate patent monopolies wherever they may be. Their business of monopoly grants benefits a lot when nations compete over who has more monopolies on more ideas. It’s nothing to do with the public benefiting; the contrary is true when it comes to the public. The EPO too is part of the problem and The Greens funded a group to show this:

In December 2012, M∙CAM, Inc. was tasked by The Greens|EFA in the European Parliament to analyze, on a preliminary basis, certain outputs of the European Patent Office (EPO) that may be problematic in the context of the patentability standards of the European Patent Convention (EPC), Articles 52 and 53. To do so, M∙CAM aggregated a total of 482,102 patent issuances from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in eighteen selected US classification codes, and determined if European equivalents for any of those documents existed.

The duplicates are not a problem for patent offices because the offices around the world gain more money from duplicate applications, irrespective of whether they are accepted or not. Watch the USPTO getting excited about patents sum rather than quality. “The patent system is busted,” says this new article about attempts by USPTO to legitimise software patents as a concept.

Another news site says: “The US Patent and Trademark Office wants to fix the horribly broken US patent system as it pertains to software and the agency is asking for help from the public.”

It already knows what is broken and what the public wants. With strong public (and at times corporate) backlash we can help change things, but changes will be made from within. It’s corporate backlash that antagonises patents in standards, for example, leading to real changes as we’ll show later. Masnick says “Congress So Dysfunctional, It Can’t Even Fix The Errors It ADMITS It Made In Patent Reform” and he also criticises USPTO by writing that “US Patent Office Seeking ‘Partnership’ With Software Community, Hoping To ‘Enhance Quality Of Software Patents’” (also covered in light of motives).

Another class of controversial patents is all about profit disguised as benefit like feeding poor people. Here is Masnick’s response to this:

he Main Problem With Patented GM Food Is The Patent, Not The Fact That It’s GM

[...]

Initially, Monsanto and Pioneer asked to license the gene, but then lost interest for some reason. So eventually Dr Ronald made the GM rice freely available to developing countries, thus allowing them to exploit it for their peoples’ benefit without needing to pay.

Seeding the market with patents, not just metaphorically speaking, is now Monsanto’s business model, aided in part by the Gates Foundation. Going back to the issue of patents in standards, i.e. patents that are requiring payments from anyone wishing to comply with standards, the DOJ/FTC’s action addresses them while Microsoft shows its hypocrisy in a biased Seattle court with ITC (USPTO border enforcement facility) bans being used to sanction import of Android devices. There is a step in right direction as US DOJ steps in to impede FRAND:

The Department of Justice and the US Patent and Trademark Office sent a policy statement [PDF] today, suggesting that the International Trade Commission or ITC back away from enforcing “exclusion orders,” which can kick a product off the US market in cases involving standards-based patents.

It’s an important issue which just came up last week when the Federal Trade Commission closed its 19-month investigation of Google over antitrust issues. A variety of corporate patent battles have been moved to the ITC recently, including some of the biggest struggles over smartphones.

In closing that investigation, the FTC said that Google shouldn’t ask for exclusion orders or injunctions on its standards-based patents.

Andy Updegrove wrote about this as well:

Yesterday the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and the U.S. Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) united in issuing a rare joint policy statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments. As the title suggests, the policy focuses on those patent claims that would be necessarily infringed by the implementation of a standard (so-called standards essential patents, or “SEPs”), where the owner of the claims has pledged to make the claims available on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (or “F/RAND”) terms. More specifically, the policy statement addresses the question of whether, and if so when, the owner of SEPs should be entitled to ask the International Trade Commission (ITC) for an injunction to bar the importation of products implementing the standard in question.

Until recently, the ITC rarely found itself in the limelight, as its purpose is to protect U.S. markets from unfair inroads by foreign commercial interests. One way it can do so is to protect the owners of U.S. patents from unauthorized foreign vendors when they seek to sell products into the U.S. that would infringe the U.S. patents. In such a case, the ITC has the poser to bar the importation of the goods until such time, if ever, as the vendor has acquired a patent license from the owner of the infringed patent claims on terms satisfactory to the owner.

Carlo Piana wrote an article about altogether stopping those patents and his strong opening goes like this:

“Patents are here to stay.” This is the sort of statement that makes me uneasy. I guess in the 17th century the common wisdom was “slavery is here to stay.” In the 18th century giving voting rights to women seemed absurd and foreseeing open borders between France and German was crazy talk in 1945. At a certain point, fortunately, those things changed for the better. Is it time to change the common wisdom on patents as well? Is the time ripe—will it ever be?—to utter the frightening word abolition? I do not have the privilege to know the answer, but I regard the question as a legitimate one. According to some patent experts, however, questioning the very existence of patents seems blasphemous.

In an increasingly-degrading system integrity that’s designed to just suit corporations (like the USPTO does) we ought to expect no real reform, not without some major intervention. Officials who assassinate people against the principle of due process (including their own citizens), torture people and not releasing them when they are found innocent (abroad in order to dodge laws), and use secret services to crush protests against bankers are clearly corrupted by power. At home, FISA is passed to spy on domestic folks, NDAA allows the citizens to to be assassinated, tortured, and be indefinitely detained. So the software patents issue is part of a systemic issue. Here we have another case of ITC going Rambo for some parasite with patents:

InterDigital, known for owning a number of patents related to wireless products, has filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission against several technology firms.

Claiming they infringed seven of its patents, InterDigital has requested the ITC apply a ban on the U.S. import of products created by Samsung, Nokia, ZTE and Huawei.

With many rogue patents from giants like Sony [1, 2] and Microsoft we just know that things won’t improve. Nothing will change unless legal action by the likes of the DOJ is taken. So the news about FRAND being challenged is a step in the right direction.

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