08.09.16

The Problem With Overpatenting: The Google Example

Posted in Apple, Google, Oracle, Patents at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Patents, especially software patents, continue to pose a threat to progress where innovation is a lot faster than in most scientific domains

SEVERAL years ago I developed software designed to help cars navigate. It was a research project funded by the EU. I did not pursue patents, nor did I look up any. In the USPTO — unlike in the EPO — ‘pure’ software patents exist (for now at least) and there are software patents on driving, not just on miniature computing systems that distract from the task of actually driving (the buzzword these days is “infotainment”).

“In our daily links we’ve recently included many news items about the dangers associated with autonomous cars (bugs, back doors, lack of human judgment and no communication — verbal or body gestures — with other drivers).”According to this news, “Google Self-Driving Car Director Chris Urmson Hits Exit Ramp To Pursue Other Projects,” which says a lot about market prospects. In our daily links we’ve recently included many news items about the dangers associated with autonomous cars (bugs, back doors, lack of human judgment and no communication — verbal or body gestures — with other drivers). If Google is having issues with this endeavor (as does Tesla reportedly), who would pursue moving from theory (or even from patents) to reality/practice? My project’s supervisor at the time worked part time for Google (primarily a university professor) and he too wasn’t optimistic about the work. It’s just a very hard task, not just because of lack of patents or anything like this. For similar reasons, voting should not be done by machines (there is extensive literature about the drawbacks) and patent examination cannot be done by machines (no matter what Battistelli and his clueless circle believe or hear from the opportunistic private sector looking for outsourcing).

According to a pro-software patents author, patents on “infotainment” are being pursued not so much by Google and Apple but by automakers. To quote one bit:

According to market research reports, the market for in-car infotainment systems is expected to rise from $14.4 billion in 2016 up to $35.2 billion in 2020.

Putting aside the fact that drivers should focus on driving rather than phonecalls and Internet browsing, it’s not entirely accurate to say that Google stays out of it because Google is pursing a lot of patents on things inside the car, including the driver (which Google hopes to replace with a machine). Cars that are entirely autonomous may be a distant dream, but partial mechanisation — like vocal/visual assistance while parking — is already here and there is nothing innovative about it (it’s actually extremely simple to implement).

“Cars that are entirely autonomous may be a distant dream, but partial mechanisation — like vocal/visual assistance while parking — is already here and there is nothing innovative about it (it’s actually extremely simple to implement).”Speaking of Google, in this new article Florian Müller says that “Google’s integration of Android into Chrome makes a third Android-Java copyright trial 100% inevitable,” even though APIs are not copyrightable (there was a ruling on that a few months back, but there were also patents thrown into the mix). He told me “[i]t’s not about ARC but about the full integration of the Android Marshmallow APIs into Chrome.” Well, as long as there is no copyright on APIs (as the latest judgment acknowledged), Oracle would just be wasting its money and become even less popular.

Regarding Apple-Android/Google (or Samsung being one OEM of several) disputes, Müller didn’t imagine that “Apple would entirely fail to garner support from companies” in its patent wars using design patents, but he later corrected his article and said: “An earlier version of this post was based on the (false) assumption that last week’s widely-reported amicus brief by 111 designers and design educators was the only amicus brief supporting Apple. This misperception was due to the delay with which both the court’s own website and the SCOTUSblog get updated. Actually, a total of 10 briefs were filed in support of Apple. Furthermore, the first version of this post noted an “artsy font” used on the title page of the designers’ brief. However, that font was only used in the version published on Apple’s website.” (links in the article)

These petty patent wars between Apple and Android OEMs are clearly far from over. Apple is losing market share to Android pretty rapidly, so it hopes to simply tax Android rather than beat it (artificially raising the price of Android, henceforth becoming a little more competitive). Well, such is the legacy of dumb patents on every stupid thing. Battistelli has proven to be totally clueless about Apple's patents at the EPO (these were found invalid in the courts after they had been granted by the Office).

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