06.17.15

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A Glance at Free/Libre Software Foes With Their Software Patents

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 4:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A quick roundup of news of interest about patent abusers, especially those who jeopardise the freedom of software

“Ray Niro, one of the lawyers who pioneered the wave of contingent-fee patent litigation, says he’s ready to exit the business,” according to an article cited by a patent trolls expert. Given all the things we have seen coming from Niro, this sure seems like a relief. As Mike Masnick put it: “Anyone remember Ray Niro? He’s the lawyer who so perfected patent trolling that the term “patent trolling” was first used (by future patent troll Peter Detkin) back in the 1990s to describe… Ray Niro for his lawsuits. Niro was the original uber patent troll, demanding settlements and suing all sorts of people. Perhaps his most famous move was that he had control over a patent that he argued covered any use of a JPEG image — and would use it to go after basically anyone who displeased him (if they had any JPEGs on their websites). This included the Green Bay Packers and a resort in Florida. When noted patent system critic Greg Aharonian described that patent as “crap,” Niro sued him for infringing on it as well. Niro also put a bounty on the identify of an (at the time) anonymous blogger who called himself the “Patent Troll Tracker.””

Meanwhile, the world’s largest patent troll IV (which now targets companies that distribute Android) fights more companies in court (not through shell entities/proxies but directly) and another infamous troll, Vringo, targets ZTE (which also distributes Android). Vringo has been behind plenty of anti-Android and anti-Google actions. There are Microsoft connections as we pointed out before (Microsoft gave Vringo patents with which to attack Microsoft’s competition), just like in IV’s case.

Microsoft itself is now being accused of infringing on ‘out-of-band’ patents. As the Washington Examiner put it: “A New Jersey-based software company has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft Corp., alleging the computer giant is infringing on three of its patents.

“StrikeForce Technologies Inc., headquartered in Edison, N.J., filed its lawsuit against Microsoft in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware June 5.”

Apple, being Apple, is hoarding more patents and its promotion sites celebrate this [1, 2, 3], even if Apple is a patent aggressor with a notorious track record (especially against Samsung). Samsung too is making headlines for some of its latest patents (Samsung is one of the top companies when it comes to patent numbers in recent years, but it’s hardly an aggressor).

Ericsson, acting similarly to patent trolls in Europe (yes, even in Europe!), is still chasing Apple with patents. Sometimes Ericsson feeds trolls with patents, hurting not only Apple but also Android (which Ericsson itself uses).

Apple’s patents are especially annoying because some of them limit the freedom to develop in my field, computer vision. Here is a new article which alludes to “Apple’s camera software patents.” It says that “June’s co-founders seem like the right kind of people to bring this product to reality. CEO Matt Van Horn helped found Zimride, which spun off the popular ride-sharing service Lyft. Nikhil Bhogal, who serves as CTO, designed the camera software used on the first five generations of the iPhone, and is listed as an inventor on many of Apple’s camera software patents.”

Software patents are still the leading issue, especially if one minds the freedom of software (without it, there is no secure software, among other things). The media does not entertain this debate anymore, or hardly ever does. It’s all about “trolls” now.

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