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09.25.16

Patents Roundup: Accenture Software Patents, Patent Troll Against Apple, Willful Infringements, and Apple Against a Software Patent

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Patents at 11:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A quick look at various new articles of interest (about software patents) and what can be deduced from them, especially now that software patents are the primary barrier to Free/Libre Open Source software adoption

THE previous post spoke about misleading coverage which would have us believe there’s a software patents rebound in the US. There is none of that, it’s just wishful thinking.

According to this new Slashdot post, linking to a report already mentioned in our daily links, in spite of the huge number of payment technology software patents being crushed (about 90% of them!), Accenture (somewhat of an evil and manipulative Microsoft ‘proxy’ in the UK) rushes for software patents in that area. As we noted here a few months ago, patents in this area are a growing cause for concern because they can undermine innovation. Things like Bitcoin and even Free/Libre Open Source software are affected profoundly. It’s not necessarily companies like Accenture and Microsoft that sue, but Microsoft has many patent trolls out there. Those trolls are no longer just a problem in the US; even in east Asia’s markets they are a growing problem or an epidemic (patent trolls spread there and there are new reports to that effect from publications that deny the existence of patent trolls).

Speaking of patent trolls, Joe Mullin has this new article about the latest moves from Mr. Horn. He summarised that as “Company backed by Nokia, Sony, and MPEG-LA gets a $3M verdict.” MPEG-LA is a massive obstruction to Free/Libre Open Source software, for reasons we covered here many times over the years.

“MPEG-LA is a massive obstruction to Free/Libre Open Source software, for reasons we covered here many times over the years.”Times are rough for those who develop software whenever software patents maintain some potency and patent trolls have an incentive to sue, not just to threaten. According to last week’s post from Patently-O the “patent act authorizes district court to award enhanced damages.” But only if you actually read patents, so don’t. Willful infringement can induce further penalties. To quote Patently-O regarding Halo [1, 2]:

The patent act authorizes district court to award enhanced damages. 35 U.S.C. 284 (“the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed”). In Halo v. Pulse, the Supreme Court held that the statute grants district courts discretion in awarding enhanced damages – although noting that the punitive damages should ordinarily be limited to egregious infringement – “typified by willful infringement.” In rejecting the Federal Circuit’s Seagate test, the Court held proof of “subjective willfulness” is sufficient to prove egregious infringement. “The subjective willfulness of a patent infringer, intentional or knowing, may warrant enhanced damages, without regard to whether his infringement was objectively reckless.” Halo at 1933. As with other punitive damage regimes – proof sufficient for an award does not necessitate such an award. In patent cases, punitive damages remain within the discretion of the district court even after sufficient evidence establish the egregious behavior.

Another interesting article from Patently-O speaks about obviousness and prior art, along the lines stating that:

In response to being sued for patent infringement, Apple filed for inter partes reexamination of ClassCo’s Patent No. 6,970,695. That litigation (originally filed in 2011) has been stayed pending the resolution here. Although the patent had survived a prior reexamination, this time the Examiner rejected the majority of the patent claims as obvious; the PTAB affirmed those rejections; and the Federal Circuit has now re-affirmed.

The patent relates to a “caller announcement” system that uses a phone’s speaker (rather than screen or separate speaker) to announce caller identity information. The system includes a “memory storage” that stores identify information being announced.

The examiner identified the prior art as U.S. Patent No. 4,894,861 (Fujioka) that teaches all of the claimed elements (of representative claim 2) except for use of the phone’s regular audio speaker (rather than a separate speaker) to announce a caller’s identity (claimed as the “audio transducer”). A second prior art reference was then identified as U.S. Patent No. 5,199,064 (Gulick) that taught the use of the audio transducer for providing a variety of call related alerts.

What’s interesting here is that Apple, which uses software patents against rivals (including against Linux/Android), suddenly fancies invalidating one. Had there been no software patents, none of this mess would be necessary. Moreover, no money would flow into the pockets of patent law firms at the expense of developers and people who purchase products.

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