08.11.15

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Patents Roundup: EPO, Alicestorm, Facebook, ‘Trade’ Agreements, and Google Publicity Stunts

Posted in America, Europe, Google, Patents at 10:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protectionism regime has gone metaphysical

Victorian arcade
Victorian arcade in Manchester

Summary: Today’s roundup of patent news, focusing exclusively on software patents and patent scope, not the scapegoat which is patent trolls

THE patent landscape keeps changing (it’s dynamic just like every law, never static), and the more it’s subjected to public scrutiny, the more likely it is to serve the public’s interests, as opposed to corporate interests (the interests of the tiny minority which is extremely affluent). Today we break down our post into several sections as follows.

Patents Scope in the European Patent Office (EPO)

It has been quite some time since we last wrote about the EPO, but it turns out that the Board of Appeal which Battistelli and his goons try to silently crush (or at least make more subservient) is debating patent scope and doing the right thing sometimes. “The application was refused on appeal for lack of inventive step and lack of clarity,” says IP Kat.

Alicestorm Continues to Eliminate Software Patents

“Let’s hope that Alicestorm will discourage companies, or even patent trolls (JDate has begun acting like one), from blackmailing companies using software patents.”Alicestorm is a term coined to demonstrate just how profound an impact the case of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank has had on patent scope. “US Pat 6,625,582, Converting future retirement,” wrote Patent Buddy, has just been “Killed by 101/Alice @ CAFC” [with analytics at the Patent Buddy Web site].

Chalk up another defeat for software patents (in CAFC even, despite its notorious patent maximalism).

We recently delved into the bullying (using patents) by the JDate 'meat market'. The company, as it turns out, pursues patents on software, despite lots of prior art and obvious triviality, and then uses these patents to bully competitors, even though a court (after a very expensive legal process) would likely invalidate such patents. It’s like SLAPP-type abuse by JDate. As this very long new article puts it, there is nothing novel here. “Does it change anything if it’s on a computer or the Internet?”

Addressing this question, the author says: “This is the question that has been vexing patent types for some time, but patent experts feel that the Supreme Court finally answered the question last year with the unanimous Supreme Court Decision of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l.

“In that case, CLS Bank had software to serve as an intermediary in financial transactions, holding funds in escrow, work that financial intermediaries have been doing as long as humans have traded with money. The Alice Corporation didn’t do any work of that kind and had never created any actual software, but it had a patent describing how it could work using a computer.

“In his opinion on behalf the court, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “The relevant question is whether the claims here do more than simply instruct the practitioner to implement the abstract idea of intermediated settlement on a generic computer. They do not.””

Let’s hope that Alicestorm will discourage companies, or even patent trolls (JDate has begun acting like one), from blackmailing companies using software patents.

Facebook’s Surveillance Software Patents

“Facebook Patents Technology That Could Allow Banks And Businesses to Discriminate Based on Social Connections,” according to this article from AOL. A lot of the fury is directed at Facebook’s privacy violations (as if that’s news), but what about the company’s efforts to patent software — patents which the company sometimes bullies with?

What we find scandalous here is that Facebook patents software, but AOL looks at it from another angle. To quote: “Facebook, the website everyone and their sister, brother, cousin, uncle, and friends you didn’t even know you had is a member of just secured a patent on Tuesday that could help filter spam and offensive content and improve searches. Isn’t that great? Less spam and no more nude pics, Obama monkey memes, and tea-billy racist outbursts, but there’s more. A lot more and it’s not good. The technology could also allow lenders to use a borrower’s social network to determine whether he or she is a good credit risk. Let that sink in.

“Got that? Your Facebook friends and their spending habits, credit rating, behavior – hell, maybe even their character, could determine whether or not you get a loan and presumably how much interest is going to be applied to that loan.

Credit where due: “The patent was uncovered by Mikhail Avady, founder of SmartUp, a legal technology company in Atlanta. Fortune, CNN, TNW News, and VB all say they reached out to Facebook for comment, but none have heard back, according to the articles.”

In case it’s not obvious, we discourage the use of Facebook for anything at all. Facebook servers need to be blocked at operating system/router level, permanently. Facebook is an attack on the Web and nobody truly needs Facebook. It’s Facebook that needs people, not the other way around.

‘Trade’ Agreements for Patent Loopholes

We recently wrote about how so-called 'trade' agreements were exploited by software patents proponents in New Zealand. Now we learn that patent ‘reform’ in the US (not really the required reform) is closely connected to other issues such as the so-called ‘trade’ agreements, notably TPP. To quote the Washington Examiner: “The House of Representatives has delayed voting on the Innovation Act, a bill designed to curb patent trolling, until after the August recess. But patent abuse still finds itself part of the legislative discussion, in this case with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”

“Only in secret, when few of each country’s richest people collude, can such deals be tolerated.”To quote the key part: “The concern centers on sovereign patent funds (SPFs), government-funded organizations that acquire and leverage patents in pursuit of national economic objectives. Ideally, they should act as one-stop clearinghouses where a person or entity can acquire a bundle of interrelated patent licenses instead of negotiating with every individual patent holder. Given that the average smartphone incorporates as many as 250,000 patents, patent pools provide a function in streamlining access to IP rights.”

Patents are a tool of protectionism, perpetuating injustice and social/financial disparity. Why would any country other than patent glorifiers sign these unacceptable ‘trade’ agreements? Only in secret, when few of each country’s richest people collude, can such deals be tolerated. These people are all traitors to their country, especially to their people.

Google’s ‘Good’ Software Patents

Here we go again. The IEEE, steward of leading international journals that I used to do peer reviews for back in my twenties, is doing some shameless Google PR. The “our [software] patents are good patents” nonsense received coverage from Spectrum. It’s that same tactic that IBM once used as part of its PR strategy, portraying itself as a big friend of GNU/Linux. It is still out there. After setting up OIN (headed by an IBM lawyer) we learned that it was an entity so useless against patent trolls that one may wonder whose interests it really serves. Google is now trying to do the same thing. Google keeps saying it will “help startups” (similar to “think about the children!”) by freeing up its patents, even though (as some sites have pointed out by now, even in the corporate media) this helps in no way against patent trolls, since they basically have no actual products to sue over.

Now that a Google-backed company is finding itself as a victim of patent trolls (new article from corporate media), where is Google to help? Where it Alphabet? Nothing.

“We quickly attracted attention,” said the company. “We were living the American Dream. Until a patent troll — a company whose only business is suing legitimate businesses to force expensive settlements — hit us with a frivolous lawsuit.”

So where is Google with its ‘good’ patents that are intended to help startups? Oh, that’s right, there’s no solution there for patent trolls. This alone (situations such as this) helps justify a patent reform — like those delayed until Congress returns to normal sessions after the summer’s vacation.

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