12.30.16

Korea’s Challenge of Abusive Patents, China’s Race to the Bottom, and the United States’ Gradual Improvement

Posted in America, Asia, Patents at 2:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

South Korea typically finds a healthy balance on patents, from which the country benefits (economy and innovation)

Seoul Plaza, South Korea
Seoul Plaza, South Korea

Summary: An outline of recent stories about patents, where patent quality is key, reflecting upon the population’s interests rather than the interests of few very powerful corporations

THE NEW YEAR IS ABOUT to start and we are eager to see governments all across the world recognising that patents have gone too far if examiners are granting millions of them. Techrights was never an anti-patent site; rather, it was pro-patent quality. We need to limit patent scope so as to ensure that the practical (or economic) impact of patents benefits society at large. The former Chief Economist of the EPO spoke about it earlier this winter.

“We need to limit patent scope so as to ensure that the practical (or economic) impact of patents benefits society at large.”Florian Müller has this new article about a Korean antitrust ruling. We have been writing about rulings of this kind for nearly a decade (going back to the Korean ruling on monopolistic Intel) and 3 months ago we wrote about Microsoft's latest patents controversy in Korea. We remind readers that Korea’s official position is that software is not patentable (different from Japan’s and China’s policy).

“I wish to point out,” Müller wrote, “that ACT is generally very IPR owner-friendly, but when it comes to FRAND licensing of standard-essential patents, its positions are pretty consistent with mine. An organization that takes similar positions on FRAND (and of which Google is a member) is the Brussels-based Fair Standards Alliance. Presumably the reason the FSA hasn’t spoken out on the Korean ruling yet is simply that people in Brussels tend to be on vacation this week (to a far greater extent than in the U.S.).”

“For the record, Florian Müller assured me he had been in no way associated with (or paid by) Microsoft for several years now.”As we noted earlier this year, the Fair Standards Alliance is rather mysterious, but the same cannot be said about ACT. I politely told Müller it’s worth pointing out that Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) is a Microsoft front group with decades of history (going back to the nineties, under another name and acronym). We have exchanged some messages about that [1, 2, 3, 4]. For the record, Florian Müller assured me he had been in no way associated with (or paid by) Microsoft for several years now. A lot of what we wrote about Florian Müller is no longer relevant/applicable as he left behind his Microsoft work and has no intention to do that again. Some people will never forgive him for that, but I have. I believe that he’s not “up for sale” now that he leads a team of “app” developers, hence not dependent on contracts from companies like Oracle, either.

“Just updated post on antitrust ruling against Qualcomm with link to unofficial translation of KFTC press release,” he added, after he mostly focused on ACT’s message. Here is a report we found about the news earlier this week:

A South Korean regulator said it would fine Qualcomm Inc. about $853 million for alleged antitrust violations, the highest such penalty handed to an individual company here, as the U.S. chip maker faces global scrutiny over its patent-licensing business.

A lot of people later discussed the relevance of this to the situation in China, where Qualcomm’s shakedown efforts have only met very limited success.

The Reinhold Cohn Group, writing this new article (“China may become more liberal towards business method and software related patents”), reminds us that China has gone bonkers with patent scope. SIPO now copies/emulates the mistakes of the USPTO and it already becomes a patent trolls’ heaven. It’s beneficial to nobody. “On 27 October 2016,” as the law firm put it, “the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) published, for comments by the public, proposed draft revisions to its current Examination Guidelines for examining software-related inventions. In the draft revised Guidelines SIPO goes one step further, as, in addition to granting patents on software-related inventions that solve a technical problem, is willing to allow patents for data carriers, and, in some cases, even for business methods.”

“SIPO now copies/emulates the mistakes of the USPTO and it already becomes a patent trolls’ heaven.”So basically they want to be the garbage dump of failed patent applications, or the equivalent of scholarly journals that almost blindly accept every submitted paper (and are hence worthless and have no following). We are gratified to see the USPTO departing from this lunacy left (having been accentuated) by David Kappos. Incidentally, some LLC (usually trolls) turns out to have sued the USPTO for last year’s long outage; it has just lost the case*.

Jasper L. Tran, writing in the Iowa Law Review, has just published “Abstracting About “Abstract Idea”” — a short paper in which he tackles the classification of some patents as “abstract”. Also today, an article titled “Software patent eligibility in Canada: IP year in review” was published but then deleted, maybe by accident.
__________
* To quote Pharma Patents Blog: “On December 2, 2016, Judge O’Grady of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted the USPTO’s motion to dismiss the complaint brought by Elm 3DS Innovations, LLC over the “holidays” declared December 22-24, 2015 when the USPTO experienced a power outage that impacted its electronic filing systems. The decision may leave other stakeholders wondering whether Elm was not the best party to challenge the USPTO’s action, or whether the action is simply unreviewable under the APA.”

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