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Summary: Why Boston University’s reputation is simply not worth what it used to be worth after Theodore Moustakas embarked on an ego trip
A few days ago we wrote about Boston University acting like a troll at the behest of Moustakas and his privatised, taxpayers-funded venture. Patents assigned to the university are used as tools of embargo, making one wonder if universities should just be banned from acquiring patents. Many patents of theirs end up getting passed to patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures, hence taxing the taxpayers who subsidised those patents in the first place. It’s outrageous.
The press in Boston, as biased as one can expect it to be, covered the news as follows:
Boston University is taking on the richest consumer electronics company on the planet, claiming Apple ripped off a computer engineering professor’s patented electronic semiconductor and stuffed it into the world’s most popular devices.
In a bombshell lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, the university alleges that a small electronic component patented by computer engineering professor Theodore D. Moustakas in 1997 is included in the iPhone 5, iPad, and MacBook Air.
The CBS-owned CNET, a booster of Apple much of the time (Apple is a client and the author, Lance Whitney, worked for Microsoft), criticised BU for it and so did Troll Tracker, where BU gets treated like a patent troll. But let’s look at what the claimed ‘invention’ actually is. The target of the lawsuit does not matter here (the Boston press focuses on Apple’s wealth as though it somehow affects the legitimacy of the case), but what is it that Moustakas actually claims ownership — not credit — of? Let’s examine. Here is the patent, assigned only to “Trustees of Boston University” under Moustakas. The patent is basically a sort of ‘recipe’ of what it takes to make a form of gallium nitride (GaN), which has been at the centre of a mysterious death in Singapore (the court ruled two days ago that there had been no apparent assassination). For those who don’t know gallium nitride, it is basically essential for laser diodes. Moustakas did not invent it or anything. Gertrude Neumark Rothschild from Columbia University also tried to claim credit for some light-emitting diodes, suing a lot of companies. All that Moustakas appears to have done is extended somewhat the application of gallium nitride. Did Moustakas need to pay so-called ‘royalties’ for others before him who laid the foundations (probably in academia) to make his work possible? No, not really. Moustakas is an opportunist and a troll. He wants to get almost $100 million by going after the richest corporation which uses gallium nitride (he could claim the same infringement by just about any other company). Since the patent is about to expire and Moustakas has not much of a career left he is just trying to squeeze some money out or someone and we oughtn’t defend him for it. Apple will hopefully defeat this troll in court. █
The primary forces behind Intellectual Ventures
Bill and Nathan, two patent profiteers and sharks. Credit: Reuters
Summary: The world’s largest troll, and the troll behind some anti-FOSS litigation, is trying to impede federal action that targets patent trolls
Red Hat’s David Perry, who is “responsible for managing the company’s on-going defense in patent litigation” according to his description, is worried about how things are progressing. Earlier this year Red Hat got extorted by Acacia (Microsoft-connected) yet again and last year was a “banner year for patent litigation,” he says. To quote: “Open source community members and most everyone else involved in software are concerned about patent lawsuits and the activities of non-practicing entities (NPEs). While we all have a sense from personal experience or by reading the news that patent litigation and NPEs are a large and growing concern, at times it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. A new report from a respected accounting firm gives a bird’s eye view of the forest.”
Guess who else has a new ‘report’ (self-serving propaganda)? Microsoft’s patent troll, then world’s biggest patent troll, bankrolled by Bill Gates and run by his friend Nathan (with whom he collaborates a lot). Now that the FTC is going after trolls and may try to depose this massive troll (it can go after Intellectual Ventures for suing Linux/Android for example) there needs to be a lot of lying. The lies are so bad that Masnick is having a field day with them. To quote parts of the debunking:
Ah, Intellectual Ventures, and its hamfisted attempts to make itself and its massive patent trolling operation look good. Today it tried to wrap itself in the American Flag for July 4th, by posting the results of a “survey” that it commissioned, pretending to make itself look awesome. Of course, as pretty much everyone knows, when you ask leading questions in a survey, you can get the answers you want.
Once again, IV seems to think people are stupid, and that all it needs to do is spew bullshit to support its position. What a sad place it must be to work at when the best they can do is to ask misleading questions that, even when answered as is, make “big corporation” Intellectual Ventures look so bad.
With approximately 2,000 proxies attacking actual companies which do something real, it is clear that IV is purely a parasite and it is reportedly lobbying with the Gates Foundation in Washington (huge lobbying budget reported a couple of years ago); both are parasites that use patents to enrich themselves at everyone else’s expense.
While lots of companies hate patent trolls, few have gone quite as far as NewEgg to flat out declare very publicly that they will never settle with a patent troll. While this has lead to some lawsuits, the strategy seems to be working for the company, and we wonder why more companies don’t do the same. Since many trolls just want companies to settle quickly, having a reputation as a fighter should (hopefully) lead those trolls to stay away.
Rather than deal with patent trolls and cours fees, how about dealing with the patents they use? These are almost always software patents. As for Intellectual Ventures, this operation should be shut down for racketeering and the people who run it put in prison after charges under the RICO Act. But we live in a world where rules simply do not apply to very wealthy people who lobby the government, so expect no justice. █
Photo credit: Dana Blankenhorn
Summary: The anti-FOSS, pro-patents lobbyist Florian Müller (deceivingly called “FOSS patents”) is at it again and this time his lies are being challenged by one who is better informed about the subject at hand
Grooming an unaccountable liar for agenda-serving by spin is not a novel concept. Microsoft has done that for ages and it also paid Florian Müller to achieve this. Some people sell themselves this way. Perception management is their business model.
Oracle, a CPTN member and a Microsoft partner as of late, employed Florian Müller to help smear Android. This lobbyist is not known for using facts; being a lobbyist, he needs to use spin and lies. The amount of factual errors in what he writes led Pamela Jones to writing a detailed breakdown of his inaccuracies, preceded by:
Oracle is another client of Mueller’s. Oracle hired him to “advise” the company, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that he generally mirrors the Oracle point of view in an endless stream of anti-Google articles. And if that is what you want, X marks the spot. Read whatever you enjoy.
But if what you want is an analysis that includes both sides in litigation, not to mention predictions that actually come true, I fear you will not find it there. So let’s take a look at what he wrote about Oracle’s brief, and I’ll try to give you a better understanding of the issues in this appeal by adding some accurate information about Google’s position.
For those who see Florian Müller quoted in the press after mass-mailing journalists (that’s his business method and model), be sure to point out to the author who Florian Müller really is and what his record is. He sells agenda. A lot of reports don’t know this, so they continuously fall into his trap. He exploits their nativity and he misrepresents himself to them. █
Summary: Two of the primary battlegrounds defining the future of software patents are infiltrated by special interests, representing less than 1% of the population
The EPO and the EU Patent are two of the forces which strive to expand the scope of patents to software, even in Europe. Lobbying from multinationals such as Microsoft contributed to that. A few days ago we saw a law firm trying to tilt the debate while patent lawyers framed the issue as trying to “limit” software patents (which are already sort of banned). See the article “German proposal to limit software patenting”. They want to reinforce a ban, not to limit software patents [1, 2, 3]. The author somehow ties Open Source into it when he concludes with: “Reform recommendation 3 is vague. As mentioned above, open source is often attractive but may not always provide the best solution – either in terms of guaranteeing long term investment in research and technical innovation, or in terms of meeting current commercial needs. The patent system provides important incentives for research and investment, and great care is needed before creating exceptions that will bypass long-established and effective laws and change the commercial landscape.”
Research does not require patents. That’s a myth. Investment does not necessitate monopolies, either. Academia is a good example of that. Over in New Zealand there is a similar war being waged by patent lawyers against the rest of the population. This new analysis we found says:
Last month, the IT sector in New Zealand celebrated the passing of a bill that removes the patentability of software, perceived to be a major barrier to software-led innovation, from the Patents Bill.
In fact, many countries around the world either already forbid software from being patented, or are in the process of doing so. But, isn’t a patent supposed to help innovation, so why would any government forbid software from being patented in their country?
A patent gives an inventor the monopoly on the use of their idea for an extended period of time. In return, the inventor has to disclose the secret behind the invention to the public. The system is designed to induce the sharing of idea and knowledge, something which would have been kept secret if there were no such system in place.
The designers of the patent system believed that the sharing of knowledge behind inventions would lead to more invention, which would in turn lead to general benefits to society.
No, this is not the case. In the age of the Internet dissemination of ideas — especially software ideas — is very simple and it is rewarded in various ways. Throwing in the word “innovation” is pointless as it’s mostly a marketing term. Society does not benefit from monopolies but from a maximal sharing if knowledge, which speeds up what the author can call “innovation”. The author, Jay Jootar, is a management guy, not an engineer. It’s not surprising to see the debate starting like this, but like many VCs he recognises that patents mostly benefit the large multinationals (of which New Zealand has almost none that’s domestic). To quote his final words:
Big companies accumulate patents, not to use them for innovation, but to protect themselves in patent disputes by counter-suing the other parties. A case in point is Google’s acquisition of Motorola and its patents to protect itself from lawsuits by Apple and Microsoft, among others.
The software patent obviously has no benefit whatsoever for society, innovation and tech start-ups.
What about Thailand? Luckily, we are among the countries that do not allow software patents, except for special circumstances. This is one of a few things we have done right. Hopefully, no one is clueless enough to change that.
The fear here is that lawyers at various levels are hijacking the debate about software patents, striving to make those expand outwards from the United States. Developers and ordinary people who buy electronics need to intervene more. █
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