Screenshots taken by Jan Wildeboer (Red Hat)
Summary: Further reinforcing the current trend, software patents’ demise in the United States has just been ascertained again, even if legal firms and patent maximalists prefer not to comment on it (as it would give this latest decision more visibility)
THE latest decision (see portions above) from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) is eye-catching, but either it hasn’t caught the eye of legal firms or they’re just trying to ignore it, so we’ll be covering it more than we usually cover such decisions. We have made a local copy
[PDF] (original here) of the full decision. We also mentioned it earlier today and yesterday, reaffirming that several software patents are dead, potentially implicating many more (by precedence/extrapolation).
Jan Wildeboer wrote to us (and few others) [1, 2]: “Wow! Software patents can violate #1stamendment according to #CAFC judge! [...] Can’t get enough. Judge defines patent trolls. #CAFC level. Huge. Page 36…”
Some people are also writing to us about it in our IRC channels today. They want this subject covered.
Where is the news coverage about it? It has been several days since this decision and patent law firms are still a month behind the times (McRO again), obsessing over very old news. Consider as a new example Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox’s “Patent Rights in the U.S.: Is the Pendulum Finally Swinging Back to Center?” (earlier today)
They speak about McRO while ignoring everything that has happened since. Shame on them. It seems as though bad legal advice from patent law firms is becoming the norm. They mislead scientists for cash (litigation, patent applications etc.), attempting to convince them that patents on algorithms are still a ‘thing’ after Alice. One does not even need to sue a company with software patents in order to lose these patents, owing to inter partes reviews (IPRs). The above lawyers reveal their biases with their obligatory rants about PTAB, stating that “PTAB [is] causing uncertainty over validity and enforcement of patents.”
We are still waiting to see patent law firms which offer their bogus ‘analyses’ (if any) of this latest CAFC ruling on software patents; they hope we don’t see it, judging by the fact that only Patently-O wrote about it (we covered it this morning). The ruling is very important because it serves to demonstrate a loss for patent trolls and for software patents (or patent trolls that use software patents, which is typical). The decision criticises patent trolling as well.
Judging by this new press release (from Trend Micro, which is itself a patent aggressor, not the patent microcosm), some other companies breathe in relief.
So far, based on our research, only one press article has been published about this decision. It’s titled “Here’s Why Software Patents Are in Peril After the Intellectual Ventures Ruling” and it says:
The end may be in sight for software patents—which have long been highly controversial in the tech industry—in the wake of a remarkable appeals court ruling that described such patents as a “deadweight loss on the nation’s economy” and a threat to the First Amendment’s free speech protections.
The ruling, issued on Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, found that three patents asserted against anti-virus companies Symantec symc and Trend Micro were invalid because they did not describe a patentable invention. The patents were owned by Intellectual Ventures, which has a notorious reputation in the tech world as a so-called “patent troll,” a phrase that describes firms that buy up old patents and wage lawsuits in order to demand payments from productive companies.
Software Patents as a Threat to Free Speech
Friday’s ruling is also significant because Judge Mayer eschews the insider baseball language that typically dominates patent law, and addresses patents in the broader context of technology and government monopolies.
Pointing out that intellectual property monopolies can limit free speech, Mayer notes that copyright law has built-in First Amendment protections such as “fair use” and that patent law must include similar safeguards. He suggests that the safeguard comes in the form of a part of the Patent Act, known as “Section 101,” which says some things—including abstract ideas—simply can’t be patented in the first place.
IAM ‘magazine’ has not said anything about this decision. So much for ‘news’; it was so quick to crow about McRO (beating everybody to it), but not a word about Intellectual Ventures? They have just released a new issue of the magazine and this time the Intellectual Ventures troll is not on their main feature/cover page (puff pieces galore); not this time around…
Over at Twitter IAM wrote: “Trolls don’t fight it out in the courtroom. They seek to leverage low quality patents to secure quick licensing wins” (does not mention Intellectual Ventures)
Funny that IAM mentions the VirnetX case but not Intellectual Ventures, which speaks directly to IAM. This case was actually mentioned here twice in the past few days alone and it was challenged in court. David Kravets wrote about it, publishing this article that clarifies Texan courts (i.e. notorious bias) ruled on it, not CAFC:
An East Texas jury concluded late Friday that Apple must pay a patent troll $302.4 million in damages for infringing two patents connected to Apple’s FaceTime communication application.
The verdict is the third in the long-running case in which two earlier verdicts were overturned—one on appeal and the other by the Tyler, Texas federal judge presiding over the 6-year-long litigation.
The latest outcome is certain to renew the same legal arguments that were made in the earlier cases: Apple, for one, has maintained all along that the evidence doesn’t support infringement. VirnetX, as it did in the past and is now doing, is seeking more damages for what it says is “willful” infringement on Apple’s part. What’s more, in the previous litigation, the Nevada patent-holding company had asked the judge to shutter the Apple service at issue. Apple has maintained that such a demand was made “So that it can be used to extract a massive licensing fee.”
The case began with four of VirnetX’s patents (1, 2, 3, 4), which had originated at a company called Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC. VirnetX has been saying for years that it plans to market various products, but its income comes from licensing patents.
If Apple can escalate this upwards, then a court like CAFC would quite likely invalidate the patents, as usual. The higher one goes (in the courts/legal system), the less room for mischief and leeway for software patents. It’s a shame that courts lower down don’t obey rulings that are handed from above, especially courts that are based in Texas. █
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“There is an old joke which asks – how to tell if a politician is lying? The answer – if they are moving their lips.” (source)
Source (original): Rospatent
Summary: An interview prepared by Battistelli’s department, inclusive of all the ‘official’ narratives, is now translated into English and responded to succinctly (for accuracy and a more complete record of events)
THE EPO‘s President is basically a politician, and like most politicians he habitually lies with apparent sincerity. We recently asked for a translation of an article from Juve, which is essentially a written interview in which Battistelli and his PR people stick their ‘official’ story. We now have a complete translation to which we respond in-line (below the quotes):
Here is the introductory part:
EPO PRESIDENT BATTISTELLI IN INTERVIEW: “I AM DELEGATING RESPONSIBILITIES”
In July, the European Patent Office reformed its Boards of Appeals. This reform must be implemented by the beginning of 2017. To achieve this, a President of the Boards of Appeal has to be found. Critics complain that the reform will not give the EPO Boards enough independence. In this JUVE interview, EPO President Battistelli gives his view and explains why patent renewal fees will not necessarily reduce if the UK leaves the EU and, with it, the new European patent system.
We gave a sort of translation of the mirage of independence for the boards. AMBA later refuted that as well.
Regarding the UK, it does not have to leave the EPO if it leaves the EU as the EPO is not an EU organisation and it includes several member states outside the EU.
JUVE: The Administrative Council and the Office describe the reform of the Boards of Appeal as a milestone for the strengthening of status, efficiency and sustainability of the EPO appeal system. Why?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: The reform is pioneering because attempts at a structural reform have already failed twice, in 1995 and 2004. The Administrative Council gave the Office the mandate to develop a reform proposal which was within the boundaries of the European Patent Convention (EPC). This allowed, in spite of the scope of the reform, a fast implementation. Because otherwise a protracted process would have been needed, including a diplomatic conference and ratification by the parliaments of all 38 member states.
What he is trying to say is, suddenly he cares about the EPC, even though we showed many times in the past that Battistelli arrogantly defies the EPC.
What “fast implementation” means in this context is a forced implementation that does not allow much time for discussion and potentially resistance (same as in patent appeals). It’s just autocracy. To him, diplomacy is just a nuisance that needs to be overcome. We have seen a lot of this in the UPC.
JUVE: What have you achieved?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: The Boards of Appeal play a very important role in the European Patent System. The reform shall emphasise that and ensure the sustainability of the EPO appeal system: it strengthens the organisational and managerial autonomy of the boards, the perception of their independence, and their efficiency. In addition, a series of measures will be introduced, that will allow the Administrative Council and the future President of the Boards of Appeal to improve legal proceedings for the parties – for instance, by shortening process times and making the appeal procedures more consistent.
In reality, all that’s being achieved is shrinking of the appeals body, less opportunities to appeal (not to mention less time), higher financial barriers (for access) to appeals and no substantial separation at all, given that Battistelli is, according to Board 28, continuing to attack a judge.
JUVE: Nevertheless, not only EPO Boards of Appeal members have criticised that the emphasis has been too much on efficiency and less on the independence of the EPO Boards. How do you respond?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: The independence of the Boards of Appeal is clearly incorporated in the EPC, and their role as an independent judicial institution has always been recognised by the highest European and national courts. Therefore, the reform shall primarily improve the perception of independence. To achieve this the current DG3 will be restructured into a Boards of Appeal Unit with its own President. The President of the Boards of Appeal will be given tasks and powers which have been delegated to him by the President of the EPO. As far as management duties are concerned, he is only answerable to the Administrative Council. This is a substantial change. This is because as well as improvements to independence the President of the Boards of Appeal shall also increase the efficiency of the Boards of Appeal.
When Battistelli alludes to the EPC he basically admits that he violates it. Why? Because it’s abundantly clear that he has not respected their independence and continues doing so. He keeps speaking about “perception of independence” perhaps because he knows that he wants to give them no real independence; he’s faking it.
JUVE: Why is this at all necessary?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: The current backlog and the protracted length of the procedure need sorting out. The continuous increase in litigation in the last couple of decades is, however, in no way only limited to the EPO Boards of Appeal. However, it is necessary to confront this situation with appropriate measures.
In other words, quality control is a nuisance to Battistelli because it means that the whole process is slower and there is a queue. God forbid! He acknowledges an increase in litigation, as though this is desirable or somewhat of a given. So in short, speed and raw quantity (quantified using a dumb politician’s yardstick) trump quality now. It’s quite evident from what he is saying.
JUVE: By having, with the new Boards of Appeal Committee, a joint right of proposal for the new President you will have further influence on the Boards of Appeal. Why is the participation of the EPO President at all necessary in this matter?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: It is stipulated in the EPC that the Chairman of the Enlarged Board of Appeal shall be appointed by the Administrative Council upon a proposal by the President of the Office. According to the reform, the Office President and Boards of Appeal Committee shall jointly propose the President of the Boards of Appeal, who will be delegated managerial responsibilities. In this way the President of the EPO will share the right of proposal with the Committee – currently he alone has this right. This will allow the President of the Boards of Appeal to lead his unit without influence by the management of the EPO.
Given that the Administrative Council is almost in bed with Battistelli (hardly overseeing him at all), and given the track record of bad faith from both, it seems apparent that the above answer is lots of hogwash and hot air.
JUVE: Once more: why, as Office President, will you continue to participate in these matters?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: At the end of the day the President is legally responsible for ensuring that the whole Office functions in a proper way, including the budget. Hence, he must be able to trust that the person that takes over his powers exercises them properly. The decision to appoint the President of the Boards of Appeal lies, anyway, with the Administrative Council.
…which in itself is somewhat in the pocket — some believe almost literally — of Battistelli.
JUVE: When will you delegate your powers?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI. As soon as the President of the Boards of Appeal has been appointed I will be able to sign a document to transfer powers.
One can safely assume that Battistelli will have veto power and can therefore ensure that the person is subservient or obedient to begin with.
JUVE: Has it already been decided who the first President of the Boards of Appeal will be?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: He shall be appointed by the Administrative Council before the end of the year. It is planned that he will take up his duties when the reform comes into effect in January 2017.
Notice the word “he” (maybe an artifact of translation from German). Given the lack of diversity at the Office, it would not at all be surprising if the person turned out to be white male, possibly French and right wing.
JUVE: In the future the Office and the Boards of Appeal shall be separately housed in Munich. Has there already been a decision over the future location of the Boards of Appeal?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI. Negotiations with property owners in Munich are already very advanced and hence the decision can be made in October.
They already decided, but they are playing a game here.
JUVE: The disciplinary procedure against the judge that you suspended has still not been concluded. In June the Enlarged Board of Appeal deviated from the recommendation, by the Administrative Council, of dismissal. By October Jesper Kongstad, Chairman of the Administrative Council, has to draw up a proposal as to how to further proceed. According to the statutes he has to propose that the judge be reinstated. You wouldn’t favour that?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: According to our Convention the Administrative Council has disciplinary authority over Boards of Appeal members, while the President has the power to suggest disciplinary measures and furthermore carries total responsibility for the proper functioning of the Office. In the case in question the Council decided in December 2014, because of the knowledge of serious misconduct, to suspend the Boards of Appeal member from service. After the submission of an extensive investigation report the Council, in March 2015, initiated a disciplinary procedure. Under the chairmanship of a former ECJ judge, a disciplinary committee, which also had members of the EPO Boards of Appeal and experienced external lawyers, came unanimously to the conclusion that the serious misconduct of the Boards of Appeal member demanded his dismissal. In decisions in June and October 2015 the Council followed this review and requested that the Enlarged Board of Appeal submit a proposal for dismissal. However, almost a year after this request the Enlarged Board of Appeal decided to not follow the request, because I pointed out that at the EPO disciplinary proceedings are confidential and cannot be carried out in public. These are the facts. Let us be clear: this isn’t about personal sensitivities, but the integrity of the appeal system at the EPO.
Complete nonsense. Battistelli’s lips just move a lot.
Regarding confidentiality, it’s quite likely Battistelli and his goons who leaked smears to the media in order to defame the accused, making the Office look worse than bad, one might even say “corrupt”. A short time afterwards they began attacking me too — all this shortly after they had signed the FTI Consulting contract that was later expanded to dominate Dutch and German media (separate from the EPO’s payments to media giants which soon turned into EPO mouthpieces).
JUVE: The Brexit decision endangers the start of the new European patent system. The EPO is involved in this system. What chance do you see that the Unitary Patent and hence the whole system will start in April 2017 as planned?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: The EPO hopes to find a solution that lets the Unitary Patent come into force as soon as possible. It is here crucial that partaking member states ratify the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. After the referendum the Dutch parliament agreed to ratification and so sent out an important political signal. Independently from the political decisions it can be assumed that the system will come, albeit very probably with a delay. The work is, however, far too advanced, and has generated too much positive momentum, for it to be shelved.
No, the UPC is almost certainly dead (in its current form), if not just in the UK then in the whole of Europe. They’ll probably try to repackage it and maybe even rename it again. This can take years and there’s no guarantee anything will come out of it. In the mean time, the EPO is rotting and there's expectation of layoffs within a couple of years if Battistelli's vision gets implemented.
JUVE: If the UK can’t take part in the system will the renewal fees for the EU patent have to be recalculated?
BENOIT BATTISTELLI: It is too early to estimate the impact on the renewal fees for the Unitary Patent. They have been so determined to correspond to the sum of the renewal fees for the four countries in which classical European patents are most frequently validated. This so-called “Top 4” solution was preceded by very long and difficult discussions of the member states. By the way, the level of the fees was already decided before the accession of Italy and wasn’t increased afterwards, because the member states didn’t want to reopen the debate. This could also be the case if the UK leaves. Finally, the model would even then still offer excellent value, because it would give patent protection in a multitude of EU member states at a very attractive cost.
The patent trolls would certainly love it, but again, why assume this can ever happen? Why suppose an inevitability? The UPC is about as dead as the EU Patent or Community Patent, which several years ago we were told were inevitable and only a matter of time. Remember Charlie McCreevy‘s and Michel Barnier‘s lobbying for this? The latter, incidentally, became the key person in Brexit negotiations.
At the end of last week IAM remarked on this Brexit update, asking, “lawyers, would this have UPC implications?”
“Depends which lawyers one asks,” I replied. Patent lawyers (especially those who invested in UPC) are not David Allen Green, who writes a lot about Brexit these days (one of the most prominent commentators on the subject in the UK). Incidentally, David Allen Green is the person who defended me from several vicious attacks from the EPO.
“Theresa May,” told us a reader last night, “said at the Conservative Party Conference that after Brexit the UK will be “a fully-independent, sovereign country” that will no longer be in the “jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”, Bang goes the UPC then!”
“Anybody claiming from now on that UK should ratify the UPC soon should loose their illusions,” wrote another person last night [1, 2]. To quote the full comment:
It has just become known that procedure according to Art 50 will be started fore the end of March 2017.
The European communities act of 1972 will be repelled and a Great Repeal Bill will be decided.
It becomes thus clear that the Brexit is on its way. Any ratification before this date has been transferred to dream world…..
Anybody claiming from now on that UK should ratify the UPC soon should have lost its illusions; it would better think how UPC could progress without UK.
Battistelli is a chronic liar (with a track record to prove it). He said the UPC would be in effect this year (he said this as recently as last year) and he keeps changing his story every time he’s caught in a lie. Don’t believe anything that Battistelli and Team UPC say about the unitary patent system, or whatever they will choose to call next year. █
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The demise of software patents everywhere, in slow motion…
Summary: The industry formed around the patenting of algorithms is suffering a rapid decline, as people everywhere realise that software patents in the US are worthless, even if they are somehow granted in the first place
THE TRANSITION into a software patents-free US is costing a lot of money to patent law firms all the around the world. They have become accustomed to telling clients to pursue US patents on software, but this doesn’t work anymore. These clients know a little better, in spite of misleading and selective ‘analyses’ from patent law firms.
Following the lines of pro-software patents blogs like “Bilski Blog”, the “Section 101 Blog” attempts to perpetuate the illusion of software patents potency in the US, soon to be cited by Bastian Best, who promotes software patents in Europe. Almost 3 weeks later these people are still obsessing about McRO — or about one single patent — obviously while ignoring the latest CAFC decisions because these weaken their case. We wrote about it yesterday (almost nobody else wrote about, much as we predicted because of cherry-picking, or lies by omission). Professor Dennis Crouch wrote about it yesterday as well. To quote:
The big news from Intellectual Ventures v. Symantec (Fed. Cir. 2016) is not that the court found IV’s content identification system patents invalid as claiming ineligible subject matter. (Although that did happen). Rather, the big event is Judge Mayer’s concurring opinion that makes “make two points: (1) patents constricting the essential channels of online communication run afoul of the First Amendment; and (2) claims directed to software implemented on a generic computer are categorically not eligible for patent.”
Declaring that software implemented on a generic computer falls outside of section 101 would provide much-needed clarity and consistency in our approach to patent eligibility.
This decision cites even Microsoft. It’s one of the large majority of decisions which show that CAFC is still very hostile towards software patents (more so than district courts), thanks to SCOTUS (notably the Alice decision).
Alice is causing layoffs and shutdowns of patent law firms that depend on software patents or the perception that they’re worth something, as covered here a month ago (high profile examples). Here we have a new example of this (often a blog that promotes software patents). One attorney moves from software patents to actual development of software and Benjamin Henrion told him last night “welcome back to software development.”
The explanation for this move is as follows:
The US Supreme Court issued a decision, in Alice, that has (perhaps unintentionally) granted US patent examiners and the lower courts effective carte blanche to reject claims to any computer-implemented invention they do not like the look or smell of. In around 2010, IP Australia decided that it was time to crack down on claims directed to certain computer-implemented business methods, and created a monster that ultimately resulted in the decision of a Full Bench of the Federal Court of Australia in the RPL Central case and similarly rendered a broader range of subject matter effectively unpatentable. More recently, the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission published a draft report in its enquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements which contained a recommendation ‘to explicitly exclude business methods and software from being patentable subject matter’ in Australia.
Do I think that all computer-implemented innovations should be patentable? No. Are there still many software-based inventions that remain patentable despite the recent developments? Yes, of course there are. Do I think that the pendulum has swung too far against patent-eligibility in the US and Australia? Well, yes, I do. But what I think about all this is not really the issue right now.
The fact is that, rightly or wrongly, the law has shifted, and as a result the nature and value of advice that I provide to clients in the software space has changed as a result. I simply cannot add value to businesses in this area that I could when the boundaries of patent-eligibility were clearer and more stable. Whether I think it should be this way or not, the end result is still that my skills, knowledge and experience are now under-utilised as a patent attorney. Aside from anything else, this is highly demotivating, and I have come to believe that my talents might be put to better use elsewhere.
Or, to put it more bluntly, what is the point of me if the things I do best are of limited value to clients?
“Based on EPO insiders, they now allow patenting of software as long as it’s combined with something (like a car in this case).”Well, maybe they just realise that they lie to the public and to clients, and they have a guilty conscience over it. That’s what we have been saying for years. The world needs more software development, not more software patents. It needs more development and innovation, not more protectionism and lawsuits.
The above alludes to the situation in Australia, where patents are not worth that much because of the small population size and hence US patents are often pursued. This morning in the Indian press we have some articles [1, 2] that speaks of a company called Rivigo, which is pursing software patents in the US. To quote: “Rivigo has developed algorithms that deal with managing fuel efficiency and pilferage, availability of drivers in the relay system, and loading plans to help reduce damages to products carried by its trucks.”
“It often feels like the only way to get something out of software patents is to go to Texas — something which even BlackBerry (Canadian) has begun doing.”Well, the company went to the US to patent software because these patents are not permitted in India, but such patent would be invalided by courts or boards in the US as well, especially because of Alice. Just because the USPTO (or Battistelli’s EPO for that matter) accept some application doesn’t mean the claimed invention is novel and innovative. Based on EPO insiders, they now allow patenting of software as long as it's combined with something (like a car in this case). The courts wouldn’t quite fall for it and therefore it seems safe to say that software patents everywhere are just a slowly-imploding bubble.
Also mentioned yesterday was this case against Apple down in Texas (we last wrote about the corrupt Texas courts yesterday). It often feels like the only way to get something out of software patents is to go to Texas — something which even BlackBerry (Canadian) has begun doing. █
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