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04.02.16

VENUE Act Not the Solution and Amid EFF News About Intellectual Ventures and Garfum It’s Time to Tackle Software Patents

Posted in America, EFF, Law, Patents at 9:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reform jokeSummary: Some news regarding patents with emphasis on the EFF’s situation and current strategy, which overlooks the core issue, software patentability in the United States

TODAY’s (or this afternoon’s) focus will be the USPTO. There is a lot to be said about the US patent system, both good news and bad news. As longtime readers of ours know, we’re not opponents of the patent system per se, we’re against software patents, which oughtn’t be granted at all because code is properly protected by copyright law. Virtually all software developers (based on old surveys and polls) agree with us on software patents. It’s hardly even a subject of debate inside the software community, only outside of it.

“Virtually all software developers (based on old surveys and polls) agree with us on software patents.”Days ago we remarked on the VENUE Act, the latest hyped-up bill which claims to tackle issues even if it’s a half-cooked solution. Last year we saw Innovation and PATENT Act (remember it? One of many incarnations and efforts [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]). They’re all just buzzwords and they focus on patent trolls, not patent scope. The effort taken to come up with those silly acronyms (like PATRIOT) shows that it’s more about marketing than about substance. As TechDirt has just explained VENUE Act (Nathan Leamer and Zach Graves, the authors, aren’t TechDirt people), “it isn’t the kind of comprehensive corrective to America’s “patent troll” problem that we’d like to see, the newly introduced Venue Equity and Non-Uniformity Elimination Act would address one small piece of the problem. The bill, S. 2733, would curtail rampant venue shopping that unfairly distorts legal outcomes by allowing plaintiffs to select friendly judges in advance.”

Given some judges’ or courts’ inclination to accept abstract software patents, this potentially has a positive effect on resistance to software patents. At around the same time as the above, TechDirt also reposted the EFF’s article (the EFF is a proponent of VENUE Act by the way) about Microsoft’s biggest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, calling it “Mega-Troll” and stating that it “Hits Florist With Do-It-On-A-Computer Scheduling Patent” (software patent).

“This Microsoft-connected troll also attacks Linux and Android, as we showed here before.”To quote the EFF: “When it comes to patent trolls, no one is bigger than Intellectual Ventures. The Washington State-based behemoth is at the center of both patent trolling and the debate around patent reform. Though it claims to promote innovation, Intellectual Ventures is behind some of the most outrageous troll campaigns in recent years. Famous for hiding behind thousands of shell companies, it spawned Lodsys, the troll that harassed small app developers, and the Oasis Research litigation featured in This American Life.

“This month, Intellectual Ventures filed some fresh lawsuits against targets including JCPenney, Sally Beauty, and flower delivery service Florists’ Transworld Delivery. We checked out the asserted patents to see if any deserved our Stupid Patent of the Month award. All were worthy candidates, but one in particular stood out.”

This Microsoft-connected troll also attacks Linux and Android, as we showed here before. It is acting as a sort of Microsoft proxy, one among many. Intellectual Ventures also has a network of thousands of satellite firms, making it like a phantom that’s too cumbersome to properly track.

“Intellectual Ventures also has a network of thousands of satellite firms, making it like a phantom that’s too cumbersome to properly track.”Separately, based on this post from the EFF, “Blue Spike is a repeat patent litigation player. Lex Machina (a service that collects patent litigation filings from across the country) indicates there are over 100 lawsuits involving Blue Spike and its patents. Unsurprisingly then, Blue Spike’s campaign has garnered press attention. We’ve written about Blue Spike and its patents in connection with our “Stupid Patent of the Month” series. Others have written about Blue Spike too.”

In more positive news from the EFF, on Twitter it said: “Court orders that patent bully must pay EFF client’s attorneys’ fees.” Here is the corresponding article which says:

In a decision that could help other victims of abusive patent litigation, a court today ordered that Garfum.com Corporation must pay an EFF client’s attorneys’ fees. The court found that Garfum’s patent suit lacked merit and was litigated unreasonably.

Back in late 2014, Garfum sued a small photography website called Bytephoto.com for patent infringement. Garfum claimed to own the idea of having a ‘vote for the best’ competition, but on the Internet. Even though its absurd patent was plainly invalid under the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, Garfum demanded that the owners of Bytephoto, Ruth and Steve Taylor, pay it $50,000. Given the substantial cost of defending even a frivolous patent lawsuit, the Taylors faced a difficult situation.

This has already been covered by Joe Mullin, who tracked patent trolls for about a decade. “The Electronic Frontier Foundation,” he wrote, “has advocated against ridiculous software patents for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until last year that the organization took on a pro bono client accused of patent infringement. A little-used video website called Garfum.com sued Pennsylvania photographer Ruth Taylor, saying she was infringing US Patent No. 8,209,618. Garfum, owned by a New Jersey man named Michael Garofalo, says the patent was infringed by the photo contests Taylor runs on her website, Bytephoto.”

Worth noting here is that we’re dealing with a software patent, again. Why doesn’t the EFF just tackle software patents as opposed to “stupid patents” or “patent trolls”? Better join the good fight, better late than never.

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