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01.16.17

Independent and Untainted Web Sites About Patents Are Still Few and Rare

Posted in Patents at 8:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Commentary about news sources that we rely on, as well as the known pitfalls or the vested interests deeply ingrained in them

TECHRIGHTS started in 2006 primarily as a campaigning site. Our first campaign was about patents and about Novell. We have since then never been funded or affiliated with anyone. We are not perfect, but nobody out there is able to claim that we’re compromised by some monetary interests. I actually left my job as a writer (for a large publisher) the following year, after I had experienced editorial censorship that impeded my freedom of expression and inevitably led to an unhealthy dose of self-censorship (could not quite criticise the advertisers/sponsors).

“We are not perfect, but nobody out there is able to claim that we’re compromised by some monetary interests.”It’s no secret that a lot of news sites are funded (salaried) by venture capitalists who want something in return (like selling of an agenda for some particular client/s, setup of ‘events’ for lobbying etc.) and sites of patent lawyers are all about shameless self-promotion (even IP Kat resorted to that). They’re not reader-funded and definitely not independent. In the case of sites like IP Watch, there seems to be relatively real independence; Patently-O, on the other hand, seems indebted or beholden to the funding sources of Crouch’s university and the drivers of his research. There is no true independence there. As for the UK-based IAM and MIP (Managing IP), just look where their subscribers and partners come from; they are both megaphones of the patent microcosm and occasionally the EPO‘s too. In Patent Docs, Donald Zuhn’s (Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP) choice of top patent stories for last year omits cases where software patents are rejected and instead focuses on the opposite, i.e. more of the usual. Also see MIP’s “Cases to look out for in 2017 – Japan and China” (it’s actually behind a paywall, so only the patent microcosm is likely to read it all). As we repeatedly said here before, a lot of the corporate media is still steered by the patent microcosm whenever it covers patent issues/news; it either quotes it extensively, consults it extensively (for supposed fact-checking), or simply hands over the platform to it (guest posts, occasional columns and so on).

Firmly established bias connected to the income sources (strings) cannot be dismissed, ignored or downplayed. It’s a crucial factor and it’s almost everywhere. Some sites, such as Wikileaks, rely on donations from the public ; media partners too provide a cushion. Here is how they present their list of media partners (past and present):

Wikileaks partners

Not everyone out there likes Wikileaks. It is thoroughly demonised by corporate media which deems it “competition” and envies its breadth of sources, troves of material etc. In our view, in spite of the witch-hunt, Wikileaks has a lot of credibility because it provides original material with which to back its claims. We have operated similarly for over a decade, but never did we receive the same scale or magnitude of leaks.

Going back to patents, while we’re reading very closely a lot of sites that cover the topic, very few of them we can actually trust for objective assessment. Scepticism is sorely required. Whitewashing of software patents from The Economist came just days ago in an article about Blockchain. Reality evades the author [1, 2, 3], who appears to conflate patenting with “success” or good news. Also see today’s article from the Nigerian media, titled “Things Bitcoin Companies Try To Patent”. Here is how it starts (name-dropping big brands, which have had nothing to do with Bitcon’s inception or popularisation): “Amazon. AT&T. Bank of America. Goldman Sachs. IBM. JPMorgan. Mastercard. R3. Western Union. Verizon. These are just a few of the corporations which have filed blockchain-related patent applications worldwide. But, what about bitcoin-specific patent applications, not blockchain?”

“We previously highlighted the use of terms like “death squad” (PTAB), “kill” (invalidate), and “survive” (not invalidated) in relation to patents. These are the terms made up by the patent microcosm, which typically inverses the narrative of aggression.”All that they hope to accomplish here is protectionism and control over disruptive technology that they had nothing to do with in the first place. It’s like the strategy of buying one’s competitor, often idealogical competitor (like buying the “organic” or “generic” competitor so as to limit people’s ability to escape unethical monopolies).

The use of language sure can be misleading. We previously highlighted the use of terms like “death squad” (PTAB), “kill” (invalidate), and “survive” (not invalidated) in relation to patents. These are the terms made up by the patent microcosm, which typically inverses the narrative of aggression. The defendant magically becomes a “killer”, the aggressor becomes the victim, and scientists are basically a “death squad”. George Orwell would have loved it!

In IAM, in this recent self-promotion (we assumed it’s paid for), the word “damages” is chosen as a truth-inverting euphemism; when the party damaged is one that must pay a ‘fine’ (settlement) why must we accept the narrative when the plaintiff is the ‘poor baby’? Such is the inherent bias of IAM, where the “T” word (troll) is rarely used at all.

“Since virtually none of these agents and clients use encryption, and as mass surveillance has become so pervasive, privilege has become merely an illusion for them. It’s marketing.”Now, let’s turn our attention to some recent articles from Patently-O, which some people out there consider to be some sort of yardstick of objectivity because it’s supposedly “academic” or “scholarly” (not that it rules out financial strings or conditions for employment/grants). We wrote about this subject 6 years ago in “Subjective Subject Matter”. This one Patently-O post says that “the Federal Circuit has reversed — finding that the examiner did not have (or at least explain) a substantial ‘reason to believe’ that the prior art inherently taught the functional limitation of being configured to reach a bone.”

Prior art is key to rejection of patent applications (i.e. patent quality); the very fact that one would go as high as the Federal Circuit to dispute an examiner’s judgment is rather worrisome.

On another day, Patently-O called for help with a job. To quote: “I’m writing a paper on privilege (patent agent, and patent lawyers who are in-house but not licensed in the state they practice in). In the course of doing so , I’ve been reading these state statutes and also thinking about them. I compiled a list and thought I’d share it. The ABA’s first, since it compiles them, but many links are broken and so the correct ones follow. So, if you don’t see your state, go to the ABA site. If you see your state, use this link.”

Well, “privilege” alludes to privacy in this case. Since virtually none of these agents and clients use encryption, and as mass surveillance has become so pervasive, privilege has become merely an illusion for them. It’s marketing.

“Patent maximalism keeps them and their occupation relevant.”Patently-O also entertained the possibility of lack of loyalty, or a patent agent knowing something that constitutes a conflict of interest. To quote: “Suppose you’re representing a party to a lawsuit, and you have no conflicts, but you need to take discovery of a client, or a former client and the lawsuit is related to your work for your former client. While your representation of the party in the suit isn’t adverse, some courts hold that taking discovery is adverse, and so if it’s taken from a current client, that’s a conflict, and if taken from a former client, that’s adverse and can’t be done if the matter for the former client is “substantially related” to the discovery requests.”

It comes to show just how problematic this whole occupation might be. And let’s not forget that lawyers like to plagiarise legal documents or reuse their own, i.e. using the work done for a former client to make shortcuts in the next (templates, copy-paste and so on).

Last but not least, consider this PTAB article from Patently-O. “In this case,” it says, “the patentee ImmunoGen won its case before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) with a judgment that the challenged claims are not obvious. U.S. Patent No. 8,337,856 Phigenix appealed, but the court here has dismissed the case for lack of standing – holding that the challenger-appellant failed provide “sufficient proof establishing that it has suffered an injury in fact.””

We wrote about this on Sunday afternoon, noting that PTAB remains strong in enforcing patent quality — something which the patent microcosm sure likes to deny.

“The majority of sites provide some information or links to information, but their analysis tends to fall short because it’s basically marketing or lobbying wrapped up (or disguised) as “news”.”Today or last night, Patently-O highlighted a criticism of patent maximalism. It’s titled “Has the Academy Led Patent Law Astray?”

“In the article,” Patently-O says, “Barnett primarily focuses on the idea of a patent thicket and whether these patent thickets have inhibited downstream innovation. Barnett concludes: “Without a secure expectation of injunctive relief and compensatory damages, false prophecies of too many patents may result in too little innovation.” Of course this conclusion also rests upon weak empirical ground.””

We still get the impression that Patently-O opposes these views, based on what it has been writing over the past half a decade. It’s not hard to see the vested interests of the writers there. Patent maximalism keeps them and their occupation relevant.

One last example of bias comes from this new article, courtesy of a patent maximalism site, promoted by an advocate of software patents in Europe (he profits from it). It says that the “patent-eligibility jurisprudence under Section 101 and Alice is a model of inconsistency,” which is untrue. The author, Charles Bieneman (patent microcosm, obviously), is attempting to impose alternatives to Alice — those that would make software easier to patent. He basically does what David Kappos is now paid to do at the behest of companies like IBM and Microsoft.

We often sound negative and critical of many if not most things we cite. Well, when it comes to patents, it’s just so hard to find objective sources (there used to be Groklaw). The majority of sites provide some information or links to information, but their analysis tends to fall short because it’s basically marketing or lobbying wrapped up (or disguised) as “news”. Great caution is therefore imperative.

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