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06.20.15

Better Watch Out or the United States Will Export Software Patents to Europe, Along With Patent Trolls

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 4:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The lobbyists are evidently and demonstrably working behind the scenes

Unitary Patent
Picture from FFII

Summary: The growing risk of an ‘export’ of patent trolling through increasingly corporations-leaning globalisation (e.g. trade agreements) in Europe

IN THE UNITES STATES there is plenty of talk about patent reform (it’s everywhere in the media), but the existing reform is pretty weak if not altogether bogus as it’s designed to discourage participation by small patent aggressors for large corporations’ sake [1, 2, 3, 4]. It’s already weakened by lobbyists of these large corporations, as always.

IAM’s patent maximalists, as we last mentioned a day ago in light of glorification of patent aggressors, is all for it. “There is a reason US patent owners with infringement issues like the German system,” it wrote, “look forward to the UPC” (see what we previously wrote about the UPC in relation to Europe; it is helping patent trolls expand to Europe). Rather than a reform it’s a revolution, exploiting the merger of European member states to launder some laws on behalf of large corporations. We should definitely keep an eye on this. As Richard Stallman warned some years ago (well before the Benoît Battistelli era), EPO staff “went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money. One of the ways that the EPO has done this is by issuing software patents in defiance of the treaty that set it up.”

“Rather than a reform it’s a revolution, exploiting the merger of European member states to launder some laws on behalf of large corporations.”The capital of patent trolls, Texas, where software patents run like water, must be licking its lips in anticipation for this long-promised European expansion (taking their racket to another wealthy continent). As the EFF’s article “Judges in Texas Unfairly Impose New Requirements on Patent Defendants” serves to show, Texas has high hopes for patent trolls. It’s all about profit (a hoard at programmers’ expense) for some opportunistic lawyers. Engadget, for example, wrote: “Federal courts might have made it harder for patent trolls to sue over vague ideas, but the Eastern District of Texas (the trolls’ preferred venue) just put the ball back in their court. Some judges in the region now demand that the targets of these lawsuits get permission before they file motions to dismiss cases based on abstract concepts. If the defendants don’t show “good cause” for needing those motions, the lawsuits go ahead — and historically, that means that the trolls either win their cases or extract settlements from companies unwilling to endure the costs of a prolonged legal battle.”

These parasitic creatures — patent trolls — are already causing huge financial damage in the United States. Financial organisations are reportedly taking action. To quote one new report: “Financial services organizations are continuing to urge Congress to pass legislation that combats patent abuse. They’re claiming demand letters from so-called “patent trolls” signify a great and growing threat to financial service organizations.

“NAFCU, CUNA, the Independent Community Bankers of America, the American Bankers Association, the American Insurance Association, The Clearing House, Financial Services Roundtable, NACHA and The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies have asked Congress to adopt needed legislation to stop abusive practices from law firms representing patent assertion entities.”

“These parasitic creatures — patent trolls — are already causing huge financial damage in the United States.”On the other hand, a venture capital trade group defends the trolls. As Fortune put it: “The latest attempt by Congress to curb the problem of “patent trolls” is on the ropes yet again, and this time the opposition is coming from an unlikely source: The National Venture Capital Association, a trade group which is taking steps to water down patent reform legislation, even though many of its members are vocal advocates for it.”

Andy Updegrove, a lawyer for the Linux Foundation, has meanwhile spoken to a European trade group (OFE), discussing the US patent ‘reform’ and software patents here in Europe. Below are some of the relevant parts of this interview:

MB: I would like to talk about patent reform. I know you have done quite a lot of work on this and so I was wondering if you could give our readers – particularly those in the EU who might not have been following the debates so closely – a top-level view of the current state of patent regulation in the US.

AU: Patent reform suffers from several challenges. One of which is the concept of the patent as a one size fits all, legally speaking. In software there is little doubt that the engineer would create an invention with or without patents and indeed in the US until the late 1990s, software was not even recognised as being patentable. And yet there was an enormous amount of software written in the golden age of software. You could even say that the first golden age of Operating System development occurred when patents were not available for them at all. And indeed in Europe the ability to patent software is very limited and yet innovation continues. So my personal belief is that there would be just as much innovation in software if patents were to become unavailable today….

MB: And what has the US Government and US Congress done to address this? Can you talk a little bit about the policy and legal rather initiatives that have been put forward to address concerns around “patent trolls”.

AU: There is a lot of lobbying in the US on this, especially from large patent holders. But you have to understand that these companies are both patent owners and patent consumers. So they have a very schizophrenic relationship as well. In fact, many of the companies with the most patents comparatively rarely actually sue anyone for infringement. They worry as much about being sued by other owners of patents, so at the same time as they invest enormous amounts of money in patents they also want to have a patent system where they can defend themselves successfully when they think that they are being sued unfairly. So there is something of a check and balance and it would be wrong to assume that most high-tech companies necessarily campaign against reform. They in fact are in favour of legislation that would curtail trolls….

These fragments of text about software patents and the so-called ‘reform’ ought to remind us of the great dangers posed by the corrupt EPO, where expansion of patent scope has been a strategic focus. We have written about this for nearly a decade now.

Expect the secretive trans-Atlantic ‘agreements’ (between rich people on both sides of the ocean) to deal more and more with patents, blurring the continental gaps that currently guard many European businesses from an abundance of patent trolls in north America. Actors who do this are usually lobbyists or front groups that also paved the way to software patents in Europe.

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