04.07.16

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US Patent Trolls Epidemic and Microsoft/Intellectual Ventures’ Latest Contribution to That

Posted in America, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 5:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

‘Managing’ the competition using software patents…

Bill and Nathan

Summary: Some of the latest developments in the United States, where the number of lawsuits is high, potency of software patents is on the decline (at the courts at least), and Microsoft too explores the potential of patent extortion, just like patent trolls (shown above are Bill and Nathan, two close friends from Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures, respectively, although there are strong connections and clear financial overlap)

“Out of the 47 patent lawsuits filed today, 37 were filed by patent trolls,” said United 4 Patent Reform (that makes it 79% of lawsuits). No doubt it’s a big issue, but how many of these were using software patents, which the USPTO loves so much in spite of court rulings?

“That’s a lot of lawsuits and it doesn’t even count any of the secret settlements, which not only patent trolls are reaching with their victims but also companies like Microsoft sign as a form of covert attack on Linux.”Is the patent bubble bursting or is this just premature optimism? According to the patent maximalists from IAM, who have a patents review for 2015 (composed by patent lawyers) and some Asian angle (sanitised as usual): “The number of patent litigation cases in the US dropped dramatically in the first three months of this year, reaching levels not seen since 2011 – the year when the America Invents Act was signed into law. A total of 947 new patent lawsuits were filed between January and March, according to data from Unified Patents, down from 1,554 in the fourth quarter of 2015. That is the lowest number since the third quarter of 2011 when 924 new cases were filed.”

That’s a lot of lawsuits and it doesn’t even count any of the secret settlements, which not only patent trolls are reaching with their victims but also companies like Microsoft sign as a form of covert attack on Linux. Incidentally, new potential patent attacks from Microsoft against Linux have been brought to our attention a couple of hours ago. Having destroyed Yahoo, Microsoft now wants its patents (just like Novell with CPTN). Not too long ago an article from BI, citing News Corp. (more of a tabloid in this case), claimed: “The report said that companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, and LinkedIn have been closely following Yahoo’s sales process because they realize the intrinsic value of the company’s massive patent portfolio, which includes 6,000 intellectual properties in the field of mobile, data, and advertising technology.”

We already saw how Microsoft weaponised MOSAID (since then renamed to Conversant, an IAM sponsor) using Nokia’s patents, after Microsoft had hijacked Nokia. This too was an attack on Linux, e.g. in Android and ChromeOS form (distribution).

“Having destroyed Yahoo, Microsoft now wants its patents (just like Novell with CPTN).”As we noted a bunch of days ago, the Supreme People’s Court of China is increasingly concerned about what goes on in the patent litigation space (China is about as lenient as the US when it comes to patent examination) and MIP has just written a new report about it. Writing about PTAB, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board which is invalidating a lot of software patents these days, MIP says that it is “likely help to reduce the rate of institution of trials” and that the “USPTO dropping a proposed pilot programme” (the USPTO is an obstacle to any form of change that jeopardises near-zero quality control).

It sure looks as though right now the US remains too ripe a platform for patent trolls and extortion because of software patents, ease of litigation (including preferential venue/court selection), and various other factors that we covered here before. According to this new report a “Jacksonville tax software company thwarts patent infringement lawsuit,” but that comes at a high cost. To quote: “A Jacksonville tax preparation software company has emerged victorious in a lawsuit that claimed it violated another company’s patents for computerized tax preparation.

“The lawsuit was filed in February 2015 by Aatrix Software Inc. based in Grand Forks, N.D., against Greenshades Software Inc. claiming the Jacksonville firm infringed on two patents. Those patents essentially covered filings to the Internal Revenue Service for payroll taxes.”

“We already saw how Microsoft weaponised MOSAID (since then renamed to Conversant, an IAM sponsor) using Nokia’s patents, after Microsoft had hijacked Nokia.”So it had to pay patent lawyers for a whole year because of two software patents which were invalid (bogus) all along, owing to USPTO incompetence (if not institutional corruption). How many firms can even afford to do this? Many would just settle to dodge the legal fees, which certainly serve nobody except lawyers (at both sides, plaintiff and defendant alike).

In other news about patents, the Intellectual Ventures-connected Rovi is suing Comcast and patent maximalists indicate that it’s filed, as usual “in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division. In the complaint filed, which is quite detailed and very long (174 pages), Rovi is asking for a preliminary injunction, a finding that Comcast’s infringement is willful and deliberate, a finding that the case is exception and attorneys fees are appropriate, as well as damages for the infringement.”

“Europe already has patent trolls (Joff Wild denies that they exist). IAM probably wants more of them because they pay IAM.”Take this with a barrel of salt because it comes from the propaganda site of Quinn (pro-software patents spin), who now accuses courts of doing an improper job because they follow SCOTUS (Quinn, like Kappos, thinks he knows better than the Justices, and they both get paid for this shameless spin).

Going back to IAM, it turns out that Ericsson’s shell game with patent trolls is getting harder to follow as the shell is renamed for the third time (Ericsson’s patents becoming Openwave, then Unwired Planet, now something else). To quote IAM (which as usual neglects to say what Unwired Planet really is): “Speaking to IAM after the most recent UK decision, Teksler gave no hint that the firm’s position would soon change so dramatically. In quotes not included in the blog piece published on 29th March, he stated that he was looking forward to a further UK trial slated for October that would focus on how Unwired Planet reached its FRAND licensing rates. “We are hopeful that the court will confirm our approach and provide a much needed FRAND licensing framework for the industry,” he told IAM editor Joff Wild. Whether that trial now goes ahead remains to be seen.” Europe already has patent trolls (Joff Wild denies that they exist). IAM probably wants more of them because they pay IAM.

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