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09.11.16

The Patent Microcosm is Losing the Fight Over Software Patenting and Now It Plays Dirty

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 8:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: New evidence suggests that software patents continue their plunge in the United States and those who make money from software patents cannot help shooting the messengers (in the media) and smearing those who simply do their job by applying the criteria agreed upon by the US Supreme Court

TECHRIGHTS has been watching very closely matters pertaining to software patents for about a decade (I’ve watched them much longer than that, predating this site’s existence). After so much activism we finally see tremendous progress; they’re dropping like flies and litigation involving software patents is so uncertain (for the plaintiff who takes a huge risk) that numbers indicate a sharp decline if not dampening. Only a fool would spend money pursuing new software patents; reckless patent holders would dare have them subjected to scrutiny by a court (the higher the court, the higher the risk, thus suing deep-pocketed players is riskiest).

“The number of some types of software patent lawsuits in the US has taken a nosedive since the 2014 decision in Alice v CLS Bank.”
      –WIPR
the numbers are on our side. As WIPR put it the other day (note the use of the word nosedive): “The number of some types of software patent lawsuits in the US has taken a nosedive since the 2014 decision in Alice v CLS Bank.

“This is the finding of Patexia, an online patent research platform, which reported that software patent suits have declined heavily, although the fall was not equal across all software patent classification codes.

“Patexia identified 14 different US classes that describe some sort of software-related system or process.

“Patexia identified 14 different US classes that describe some sort of software-related system or process.”
      –WIPR
“These classes covered more than 14% of the 22,791 unique patents involved in patent suits from 2010 through to the first half of 2016.”

We are pleased to see that even insiders, such as Patexia, recognise the trend and write about it. Patent law firms prefer not to talk about it because it discourages their clients (or prospective/possible clients). Writing for “Canadian Lawyer Magazine”, one person gave 10 reasons you need a Canadian Lawyer (the real headline is “Ten reasons you need a Canadian patent”). This is an example of marketing/advertising in the form of an “article”. To quote from this — cough — article: “You may have heard that it’s not worthwhile to patent your company’s technology in Canada, with its smaller market, its conservative judicial remedies and its skepticism toward software-based patents.”

Well, recall i4i v Microsoft (Canadian company) and how things worked out [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. They pretty much risked going out of business after wasting years in court bickering over software patents. They still have a Web site which is active (last news item was a week ago), but we have not seen them in the media for literally more than half a decade. Recently, another Canadian company chose to turn into a patent troll down in Texas. This failing company, falling back on its patents, is Blackberry. How has it worked out so far? Any better than Nokia, which is still arming patent trolls in pursuit of cash? A lot of these patents are totally worthless, more so after Alice (Nokia — or Symbian at the time — had a famous software patent case in the UK nearly a decade ago).

“A lot of these patents are totally worthless, more so after Alice (Nokia — or Symbian at the time — had a famous software patent case in the UK nearly a decade ago).”Lexology, a site for lawyers, has just reposted (verbatim) an analysis from Fenwick & West LLP. It’s an analysis which we mentioned and also cited here the other day, showing a trend of invalidation of software patents in the US. It’s not looking good for software patents and it’s not getting any better, irrespective of what patent law firms are trying to tell us (by blatantly selective coverage of events or overt cherry-picking).

Dealing with a particular CAFC case, a pro-software patents propaganda site (for a long time) says it’s “keenly awaited” (by the vultures maybe) and that it relates to Alice. Expect it to change nothing at all, even if it somehow ends up in favour of a software patent (like in Enfish). CAFC rules against software patents around 90% of the time, so there’s probably no more of Enfish in the pipeline. Two years and about 3 months after Alice it’s effectively the end of software patents in the United States. Wait and watch how patent law firms (and their media mouthpieces) continue to deny this, hoping to convince the readers (or clients) that all is “business as usual…”

It’s not.

“It’s not looking good for software patents and it’s not getting any better, irrespective of what patent law firms are trying to tell us (by blatantly selective coverage of events or overt cherry-picking)”When pro-software patents propaganda Web sites want to undermine the importance/relevance of Alice they typically resort to insulting those who apply Alice (even judges are insulted!). To quote IAM: “In December last year the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in McRO Inc., DBA Planet Blue v Bandai Namco Games America et al, a case that many, particularly in the software industry, hoped would bring some much needed clarity to the issue of subject matter eligibility.”

Nonsense. It has nothing to do with clarify, that’s just what lobbyists for software patents — people like David Kappos — like to say while they simply object to Alice and the Justices at the Supreme Court. Oh, the vanity!

To quote further from IAM: “As with any 101 case, in the McRO suit there’s not only the matter of the law but also of the Federal Circuit’s complicated relationship with the Supreme Court. A string of decisions from SCOTUS, which have reversed the lower court, has helped create much of the uncertainty around patent eligible subject matter. According to former CAFC Chief Judge, Paul Michel, the stark divisions that have clearly arisen between members of the judiciary, might be the reason for the delay in the McRO decision.”

“When pro-software patents propaganda Web sites want to undermine the importance/relevance of Alice they typically resort to insulting those who apply Alice (even judges are insulted!).”That’s another pattern of FUD we have come across. Proponents of software patents like to scandalise the status quo and pretend there is a fight — if not actually ignite one — between different divisions, courts, boards, etc. It’s typically a fictitious framing that seeks to discredit the system and shake/destablise Alice, making it seem too “controversial” a decision to refer to/cite as precedent.

These software patents proponents, usually patent law firms that never wrote any software, are actively trying to undermine the US Supreme Court. Shame on them for doing that. Watchtroll, with its big mouth, is attacking PTAB again (it won’t stop until they’re gone). They’re like a gang of hyenas. Writing about PTAB, MIP has two more articles on the latest trends. One is titled “Don’t Estop Me Now” and the latter is a subtle attempt to discredit PTAB by associating it with “patent trolls” (again, total fiction!). Making money by trashing patents granted in error by the USPTO (for quick monetary gains) does not make one a “patent troll” and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the definition of “patent troll”. Watch this headline, “Hedge funds and reverse patent trolls” (nothing to do with trolls).

“These software patents proponents, usually patent law firms that never wrote any software, are actively trying to undermine the US Supreme Court.”To quote MIP: “A big story last year was the emergence of hedge funds and other entities using the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. While Kyle Bass is seeing his IPRs through to final decision, other entities are acting as reverse patent trolls, a phenomenon that is predicted to gather pace” (again, nothing to do with trolls and probably a good thing that will compel the USPTO to do its job properly).

Patent lawyers and their mouthpieces reject the term "patent troll" (denying such a problem exists, a lot like those denying global warming), but suddenly, when someone kills bad patents, then they adopt the term and call the actors that. How pathetic and self-serving. Fish & Richardson P.C., which represents patent trolls, pretends patent trolling is all just a myth (published almost a decade ago, but revisited now via Patent Buddy, who is a pro-software patents attorney). To quote the author from Fish & Richardson: “A new breed of companies has emerged, and they are being called patent trolls. A patent troll is a person or entity who acquires ownership of a patent without the intention of actually using it to produce a product. Instead, it licenses the technology to an entity that will incorporate the patent into a product, or it sues an entity it believes has already incorporated the technology in a product without permission. The government, corporate America, and the media are fervently acting against these trolls. New proposed legislation, a blizzard of Supreme Court cases involving trolls, and endless newspaper and magazine articles are all trumpeting the same story line: Patent trolls are bad for society and must be stopped.”

Well, that is very different from those who use IPRs at PTAB to correct the USPTO’s errors (spurious granting of patents). But this kind of distortion of terminology certainly would not bother those with dishonest agenda.

“Put another way, they’re protesting against PTAB because to them — the patent microcosm — less litigation would be a corporate disaster (litigation is their most expensive product, whether as defendants or plaintiffs).”AIA (Leahy-Smith America Invents Act) gave us PTAB, which demolishes software patents by the thousands, so now it’s considered “trolling” to apply quality control to patents and prevent these from going to court? Here is a new Bloomberg piece (titled “Five Years In: The AIA’s Effects on Patent Litigation (Perspective)”) in which it’s stated upfront that “The authors are IP lawyers at a large law firm.” The article is by Daniel Zeilberger, Michael Stramiello, Joseph Palys, and Naveen Modi from Paul Hastings LLP. Their conclusion is as follows: “AIA-created post-grant proceedings are changing the landscape of patent litigation. Complaints and declaratory judgment actions are down. Potential cost savings for accused infringers are huge. And PTAB outcomes historically disfavor patent owners, who have appeared willing to settle a large percentage of disputes. It remains to be seen whether these trends will continue as PTAB practice evolves, guided by an expanding body of caselaw and potential legislative tweaks.”

Put another way, they’re protesting against PTAB because to them — the patent microcosm — less litigation would be a corporate disaster (litigation is their most expensive product, whether as defendants or plaintiffs). They might actually have to find another job — one in which they produce something other than paperwork for monopoly and litigation. One thing we have noticed is, the authors of pro-software patenting pieces are sometimes choosing to write anonymously. Apparently they’re too shamed of their self-serving lies that they want to hide behind pseudonyms or no name/s at all.

Expect more attacks on PTAB (which needs to be defended from them) and expect a lot more attacks on Alice. These attacks typically come from patent bullies, their lobbyists, and their law firms. “A decade of court decisions has shaken the basis of patent law,” says this new article, sending across the message that this is terrible news when fewer cases go to court. To quote:

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court made it easier for patent holders to seek larger damage awards when their patents are infringed.

For patent watchers, however, the high court’s ruling was only just the latest in a particularly active decade of major patent litigation.

Beginning in 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that holders who license their patents cannot win an injunction to stop third parties from infringing on their patent. That lawsuit, eBay v. MercExchange, L.L.C., changed the way patent lawsuits could be waged, altering incentives along the way.

“eBay substantially changed the world of patent litigation by limiting almost every verdict solely to monetary damages,” Robert W. Morris and Michael R. Jones, attorneys at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott L.L.C., wrote in March.

[...]

“The effect is harshest on individuals and smaller businesses that depend on the value of intellectual property for their livelihoods; these are the same inventors that have, for decades, produced many of our greatest technological advances,” MCM argues.

That last part promotes a myth, unless they speak of patent trolls. Those who benefit the most from the status quo are patent bullies like IBM and the only small entities to also benefit (as a side effect) are trolls, not startups that actually produce things.

“We hope that more people will recognise the problem with software patents and react accordingly.”In the area of militarism, arms manufacturers (or war contractors) have taken over the system and became a burden (or a parasite) inside it. The same goes for the area of patent, but the products are patents and lawsuits rather than weapons and wars. We hope that more people will recognise the problem with software patents and react accordingly.

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