12.07.15

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FRAND Tax, Patent Trolls as Satellites of Large Patent Aggressors, EPO Puff Pieces, and Another Imminent EPO Protest

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents, RAND at 8:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: A roundup of patent news from the US and from Europe, focusing on various themes which we have been covering for many years

Unfair, Discriminatory and Unreasonable FRAND (no FRIEND)

POPULAR patent lawyers’ Web site/blog, Patently-O (usually quite subjective on the subject of software patents, although not as grossly so as IAM or Gene Quinn, whom we’ll allude to later on) has just published a piece from Prof. Contreras, who therein remarks on the now-popular subject which is RAND (or FRAND, an even more misleading euphemism because it adds the word “fair” to something which is clearly unfair, never mind unreasonable and discriminatory, definitely no FRIEND). We wrote a lot about RAND/FRAND more than three quarters of a decade ago (perhaps 18,000 articles ago), especially in relation to Europe because there were technical parliamentary debates about it, accompanied by heavy lobbying by Microsoft, very persistently in fact so as to exclude Free/Open Source software as a matter of law. A Microsoft front group is now lobbying on the FRAND front again, using a new livery, “All Things FRAND”. So watch out! This new guest post by Prof. Contreras cites a somewhat popular caselaw, involving Microsoft’s patent war on Android/Linux, fought through Motorola before the Google takeover (see our Wiki page about it).

“We wrote a lot about RAND/FRAND more than three quarters of a decade ago (perhaps 18,000 articles ago), especially in relation to Europe because there were technical parliamentary debates about it, accompanied by heavy lobbying by Microsoft, very persistently in fact so as to exclude Free/Open Source software as a matter of law.”To quote one relevant (to us) part of the piece: “Interestingly, this case represents the second appellate decision this year in which the admissibility of comparable license agreements has been challenged in RAND royalty determinations. In the prior case, Microsoft v. Motorola, 795 F.3d 1024 (9th Cir. 2015), the Ninth Circuit was more deferential to the District Court’s exclusion of potentially comparable license agreements. In Microsoft, the Circuit Court upheld the District Court’s exclusion of three arm’s length license agreements to which Motorola was a party for reasons including the fact that some agreements were entered into to settle or forestall litigation, they included patents other than the patents at issue, they included cross-licenses and they included royalty caps. It will be interesting to see how the Circuits reconcile their interpretations of this key evidentiary standard in future cases.”

Litigation/Extortion by (Patent) Proxy

Now, recall and consider the latest output from other pro-patent maximalism sites (meaning they want more feuds, hence more lawyer income). Right now it’s IAM which, without using the T word (troll), reveals that Panasonic too, not just companies like Microsoft, supports outside trolls for business objectives (Microsoft uses trolls like Intellectual Ventures and MOSAID, which has been renamed in a likely effort to dodge negative publicity). These companies use their patent portfolio in a very mischievous way, passing patents to trolls like Ericsson did. Ericsson’s troll too has changed its name after receiving a lot of negative press. Remember that Ericsson is a European company and take note of new or emergent patent trolls in Europe. This plague is spreading across the Atlantic.

“These companies use their patent portfolio in a very mischievous way, passing patents to trolls like Ericsson did.”Notice the connection of all the above companies to the EPO (we covered all of these before) and recall the special the role of one of them in discriminatory patent granting at the EPO (or closer/special contacts).

EPO is Innovative! According to Shallow ‘Placements’…

Speaking of contacts, we must wonder if this new patent lawyers’ analysis is basically some kind of media placement or presence (this new one from Managing IP also looks similar to classic puff pieces, but not exactly so). It paints the EPO as some kind of a super-advanced system where — gasp! — video conferencing is used. Welcome to the 1990s!

“It paints the EPO as some kind of a super-advanced system where — gasp! — video conferencing is used. Welcome to the 1990s!”“Many of us,” wrote the author, “are familiar with conducting business by video conference. It provides an extra option for talking to remote clients that is much less expensive and time-consuming than an in-person meeting, but can result in a better personal connection than a phone meeting.”

So basically the whole article then hails the EPO for using — gasp! — video conferencing. Wow, the innovation!

EPO Staff Not Gonna Take It Anymore

Well, it’s now increasingly clear that the EPO is desperate for positive publicity because it is widely loathed. Another EPO staff protest will take place this Thursday, as planned quite some time ago. The exact plans are now being outlined by SUEPO in their new update (top of this public page). To quote SUEPO: “The next demonstration will take place on Thursday 10 December, starting from the Pschorrhöfe building at 12h. The demonstrators will march peacefully to the local Palace of Justice.

“Isn’t it funny that the EPO’s management tries to frame staff as the issuer of threats when it’s actually the management doing so?”“With these demonstrations staff protests against the persistent attacks on its staff representatives, culminating in the suspension of and disciplinary procedures against 3 Union officials in Munich.”

Of course there will (as usual) be attempt to crush these protests by all means possible/available, even ahead of time. It’s commonly done using threats directed at organisers. Isn’t it funny that the EPO’s management tries to frame staff as the issuer of threats when it’s actually the management doing so? Well, a French politician who represents French workers abroad (that’s a lot of French patent examiners) rapidly becomes Battistelli’s Nemesis and we hope these protests will help demonstrate to more politicians that not all is well and serious reform is desperately needed.

Software Patents

Longtime readers already know that our main concern about the EPO has always been software patents in Europe. Software professionals universally reject software patents, but they’re not the ones voting on such matters if the likes of Battistelli want to meet so-called ‘production’ goals, meaning, by definition of these goals, granting patents in more domains and granting invalid/bogus patents.

“Europe’s patent system is now having far broader an issue than just patent scope.”Gene Quinn, a “blowhard” (to quote IP Troll Tracker) patent lawyer and longtime proponent of software patents, is still at it. He and I exchanged over a hundred messages in Twitter, only to find out that he never wrote any code that he can point to (he claimed he had written some but was unable to find evidence). He just doesn’t understand how software works and cannot tell the difference between data/input and program code. He is now trying to give people tips for patenting software, even after US courts repeatedly ruled against (many) such patents.

Europe’s patent system is now having far broader an issue than just patent scope. At the end — and we hope or suppose patent examiners will agree — we sorely need a patent policy that represents public opinion and maximises benefit to the public. Over-patenting leads to higher costs on everything (the ‘lawyers tax’) and can also suppress innovation and development, either by means of deterrence/fear or by over-encumbering litigation, sometimes initiated by opportunistic patent trolls (occasionally operating at the behest of larger entities seeking to annihilate rivals, as noted above).

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