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01.12.17

Patent Trolls and Software Patents: CloudTrade, Patent Practitioners Density, and Via Licensing

Posted in America, Asia, Australia, Europe, Patents at 11:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

CloudTrade patents

Summary: Software patents armament from a British company, charted concentration of the patent microcosm in the United States, and US-leaning patent trolls that prey on China

“CloudTrade Awarded US Patent for Its Proprietary Document Data Extraction Software,” says a press release that was widely circulated yesterday [1, 2, 3]. CloudTrade is British and is not a patent troll, but it sounds as though it has nothing to brag about except crappy (and creepy) software patents — those that PTAB and patent courts would likely trash immediately (if a petition or lawsuit gets filed).

Why is a British company pursuing software patents in the US? Has it not heard yet about the futility of such as exercise? Did it receive bad advice from patent practitioners? Previously, the firm bragged about “patented e-invoicing technology” and “patent-pending technology”. They went as far as Australia for software patents. Unless they intend to start suing competitors (sometimes threaten to sue unless competitive products are removed from the market or settlement money is paid out of court), we fail to see what CloudTrade is thinking here. Maybe too much Kool-Aid from the patent microcosm…

Published hours ago was also this analysis by Jason Rantanen, who put together some data to find out which places in the US have a disproportionate number of patent practitioners (lawyers, attorneys etc.) and it was preceded by the following text. It emphasises that it’s about utility patents, not software patents:

A question from two economist friends, Nicholas Ziebarth and Michael Andrews, got me interested in the geographic distribution of patent practitioners in the U.S. and any correlations with issued utility patents and populations. Using the January 8, 2017 list of patent practitioners from the USPTO, the PTO’s data on utility patents issued to inventors by state, and population estimations for 2016 (wikipedia), I put together the following figures. They show what one might expect: patents, population and patent attorneys exhibit high degrees of correlation, although there is some interesting variation. All the linear regressions are highly significant (p<0.001).

It would be interesting to see these methods applied to software patents. It is widely known by now that patent trolls are highly dependent on such patents and it would be interesting to see where Texas fits in an analogous chart (or set of charts).

It is also widely known and recognised that many patent trolls work at the behest of some large, practicing companies. By using a troll for litigation they don’t risk the defendant following suit with a reactionary lawsuit. IAM has a new example of this. It speaks of some entity called Via Licensing (Web site indicates it’s just a troll) and reveals who it’s working for, much like MPEG-LA. To quote:

Dolby-backed patent pool operator Via Licensing has announced some high profile new licensing agreements in Greater China over the past month, with Lenovo and Xiaomi having joined the pool covering AAC technology. A big factor in this apparent momentum is the fact that the pool has introduced a new alternative rate structure which codifies a discount for devices sold in developing markets. This effort to accommodate local market realities in countries like China also adds a welcome dose of transparency to the licensing market.

Terms like “licensing market” are misleading. Intermediaries or satellites or proxies are hardly a “market”. They are a parasite which mostly serves to exclude small players and emergent technologies (competition).

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