Summary: Google, Red Hat et al. versus the old guard which is lawyers and ageing companies such as IBM
Following a much-publicised action against patent trolls a lot of awareness is spread about the issue and some “Ask FTC, DoJ To Do The Same” (i.e. take a stand). Being part of the corrupt system which harbuors the monopolies office, the USPTO, they are hardly doing anything, so the negatively-affected corporations are lobbying. The government did take a stand against some other patent practices as of late, why not trolls? There are a variety issues such as FRAND (see this battle which hits Android from numerous directions) that show not only trolls are a problem. Google focuses on the price of trolls because Microsoft uses trolls like MOSAID as proxies in this battle — an issue about which Google has already spoken. One article says that “Google — along with Blackberry and other tech companies — has asked the FTC to pay greater attention to patent trolls, who embroil companies in expensive litigation over bogus claims on the ownership of new technologies.” If trolls are stopped, the litigation-by-proxy strategy too is impeded.
The FTC has not been promising when it comes to justice, but Red Hat is at least helping raise awareness with that aforementioned complaint. The EFF is also involved in this. It wrote:
EFF filed comments today urging the Federal Trade Commission to take action against patent trolls. We have written often about the rise of the patent troll—entities that don’t create products themselves, but instead buy patents and make money from lawsuits—and the serious harm they are causing true innovators.
Here is some coverage from London:
Google, Red Hat, BlackBerry and ISP EarthLink have called on the US Federal Trade Commission and US Department of Justice to take action against patent assertion entities (PAEs), or as they are more commonly known, patent trolls. In a letter to the agencies, the companies point out that PAEs are now filing four times as many cases as they did in 2005 and claims cost US companies at least $29 billion in direct costs in 2011 and $80 billion when accounting for indirect costs. Although large companies face hundreds of PAE lawsuits, the vendors point out that small and medium-sized companies are the most frequent targets. According to the comments, 62% of all recently filed patent litigation is PAE lawsuits.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a one-sided battle in the press. The debate is rigged and there's more. Corporate media has some troll toll apologists with weird lines of logic, as shown in the case of Tim Worstall. Not too long ago the same site’s blogs amplified the arguments of Lundberg, one of the most vocal software patents proponents [1, 2]. There is also IBM which is appearing in a prominent pro-software patents site (run by patent lawyers).Manny Schecter (IBM’s patents chief) is again being borrowed by the patent maximalist, who is latching onto glorified lawyer Rader. Pamela Jones responded by writing: “Judge Rader is describing only one form of abuse, trolls. Companies can abuse the system too, as the smartphone patent wars have so ably demonstrated. Until someone addresses the issues of patentable subject matter, invalid but issued patents, and design patent misuse, none of the above will really help. Trolls are a problem, but they are not the only problem.”
In the midst of all this opposition to patent trolls we find that a very notorious troll is suing many companies again. To quote one report:
Remember Lodsys, the “inventions” firm that started issuing letters to iOS developers’ doors back in 2011, warning them that by using Apple’s in-app payment mechanism they were infringing on patents it owned? Well, as MacRumors notes, Lodsys has now risen from its slumber to take on the might of Disney, and others.
Another article about it says that 10 mobile game makers have been hit by these software patents. There is no lack of examples of the harms of software patents (a troll’s favorite weapon) and the latest nonsensical arguments and flawed analogy from Goetz [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] gets smashed by Jones, who wrote: “Aside from the ridiculousness, and inaccuracy, of his posited example, may I just point out that the Wright Brothers held back innovation in the US aviation industry for years? As Patent Plaques writes: “The Wright’s patent wars were not without consequences. Unfortunately, all of the time spent fighting to protect their patent was time the Wright’s were not spending on innovation and the development of new planes. Their planes became inferior to the planes being produced in Europe.” Neither were they the inventors of airplanes, despite the claims. Many others flew before or contemporaneously, we now know. Nor was the patent on airplanes; it was only on one aspect of it, a method of flight control, and France and Germany refused to grant them a patent there, which is why inventors there bypassed US aviation. The same thing will happen with software, by the way, if no one acts to stop the strangulation of innovation via software patents.”
That spin, unsurprising enough, came from a lawyers’ site, Patently-O. Here is one new column that slams the patent system. No text shows up in this page. It may seem as though software patents are being pushed back, but not enough software developers write about this issue. Lawyers specialising in patents are rigging the public debates, still. It for their own profit — profit at the expense of programmers. █