11.12.15

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Stop Software Patents to Put an End (or a Near End) to Patent Trolls

Posted in Law, Patents at 9:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It boils down to law, not lawyers whose principal client is themselves

Law library

Summary: Commentary about the software patents and patent trolls debates, which are inherently similar and very highly — not just intrinsically — correlated

ANOTHER day goes by and another law firm, Seyfarth Shaw LLP in this case, writes about Alice — or a high-level decision that led to mass invalidation of software patents in the United States.

“They might even have to change their career and do something practical, not parasitic.”The patent lawyers are rightly concerned about the fate of post-Alice lawsuits. To them, the patent lawyers, this is a potential disaster. They might even have to change their career and do something practical, not parasitic. As the lawyers put it: “The Supreme Court’s Alice decision clearly indicated a dramatic shift in the way software patents are treated by the courts and reduced software patent litigation in the process. One defendant took this a step further and moved for attorneys’ fees against a patent owner – simply for continuing to assert a software patent post-Alice.”

That would further contribute to reduction in litigation. To lawyers, business means lawsuits and armament for lawsuits.

Another law firm, and no ordinary law firm (but a very loud proponent of software patents), has become exceptionally sceptical of Mark Cuban’s position on software patents [1, 2, 3, 4] — a position in which he put money, with the aim of eliminating “bad” patents or software patents (or trolls, depending on what the people he has hires claim to be standing for on some given day at the EFF).

Mr. Cuban is nowadays being mocked for his views on software patents — views which patent lawyers could barely ever tolerate. They view Mr. Cuban as a threat. According to an E-mail interview, Mr. Cuban “wrote software for 10 years,” so he comes from a position of understanding of the underlying process and thus he can explain why patents are not suitable for this domain, namely software. To quote some of the parts about software patents:

QUINN: In the past you have said that software patents should not exist. I have no doubt that is your honest opinion, but I wonder why you single out software patents in particular? Whether a process is carried out in software versus being carried out in hardware is really a design choice. Why should processes carried out by hardware be treated differently than those directed by software?

CUBAN: Code is code. Where it runs doesn’t matter. So it’s not different. I wrote software for 10 years. Not much, if anything, is completely original in software. Like Jobs said, it’s all a remix.

[...]

QUINN: I assume if you could make one change to the patent system it would be to eliminate software patents. Aside from the elimination of software patents, if you could make one other change to the patent system or patent litigation system what would that change be and why?

CUBAN: Getting rid of software patents or at worse limiting them to 5 or 7 years is a huge step forward. After that, if you don’t utilize the patent in a product or service, somewhat similar to how a trademark works, you lose it. I would also disallow patents created without knowledge of the other. If multiple people INDEPENDENTLY come up with the same or comparable idea within a given time frame then to me, it can’t be original.

In other news, software patents are again being used by a patent troll (the trolls’ weapon of choice is software patents) and the number of defendants keeps growing, especially in the trolls' capital, the Eastern District of Texas. To quote the article: “Fresh from suing DraftKings, Inc. and FanDuel, Inc. in the Eastern District of Texas over purported patent infringement of its computer-based interactive gaming systems, Virtual Gaming Technologies, LLC has gone on a full-court press against several more entities, most notably the NFL.

“Virtual Gaming launched complaints accusing DraftPot, LLC; DraftDay Gaming Group, Inc.; ESPN Internet Ventures and NFL Enterprises, LLC on claims the defendants copied the technologies and inventions in connection with United States Patent Numbers 5,860,862 (“the ‘862 patent”) and 6,193,610 (“the ‘610 patent”) “in a relentless effort to expand its market share and profit from the use of infringing” the aforementioned gaming systems.”

How does this benefit innovation? If there were no software patents, this troll would not have existed.

Here is another new article on the subject:

Patent trolls: Extortion at the expense of innovation

An unforeseen burden has plagued Connecticut businesses over the last decade. Between 2005 and 2015, a practice known as “patent trolling” has increased fivefold.

Patent trolls use vaguely written patents to threaten or file frivolous lawsuits against their victims, mostly small and medium-sized business owners. Then they take advantage of the extremely high cost of patent litigation to force settlements, even when the victim knows they’ve done nothing wrong.

What a lot of these writers and groups fail to grasp is that without software patents a lot of these trolls wouldn’t even existed in the first place. The nature of software development is unique because of the ease and low cost (usually %0) associated with copying. It has been estimated that around 70% of troll lawsuits involve software patents.

The United States need to get its act together and axe software patents formally. That would, in due course, help drive patent trolls out of business.

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