01.21.17

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Shakeup Against Patent Parasites in the US and More Rumours/Speculations About USPTO Director Michelle Lee After Trump’s Inauguration

Posted in America, Apple, Patents at 5:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The US patent system is becoming ever more hostile towards patent trolls, owing in part to reforms introduced under Michelle Lee’s tenure, but people are still not certain that she will maintain her job and continue to fix the system

THE phones that are being made in east Asia are attracting many patent parasites and patent trolls, as we last noted yesterday. The same goes for tablets, wristbands, watches etc. albeit their overall worth (or market size) is relatively small. Qualcomm has been one among the top parasites in this area (harming both Android OEMs and Apple) and its behaviour is belatedly getting the attention of the FTC, not too long after it published a study about PAEs (a sort/type of patent trolls). The corporate media including Reuters is still writing about it:

Apple files $1 billion lawsuit against chip supplier Qualcomm

Apple Inc filed a $1 billion lawsuit against supplier Qualcomm Inc on Friday, days after the U.S. government filed a lawsuit that accused the chip maker of resorting to anticompetitive tactics to maintain a monopoly over a key semiconductor in mobile phones.

Qualcomm is a major supplier to both Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd for “modem” chips that help phones connect to wireless networks. The two companies together accounted for 40 percent of Qualcomm’s $23.5 billion in revenue in its most recent fiscal year.

IAM’s slant on the news wants us to think that Trump is going to change it all, even though there are no indications of any imminent changes at the USPTO. The article starts as follows:

After an investigation lasting more than two years, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Qualcomm on Tuesday over what it alleges are the chipmaker’s anti-competitive practices in the supply of its baseband processors and the licensing of its patent portfolio. The lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of California, is the latest example of Qualcomm’s licensing practices being placed under the microscope by regulators around the world.

The FTC’s case is framed around three main points: first, that Qualcomm adopted a “no licence, no chips” policy, whereby it refused to sell its chips to those companies that declined to take a licence to its patent portfolio; second, that the tech giant refused to license its competitors; and, finally, that Qualcomm put in place a deal with Apple in which the iPhone maker was precluded from sourcing baseband processors from competitors from 2011 to 2016.

IAM then veers off into seemingly irrelevant spin involving Trump. According to this short update, confusion over the vocation of the USPTO remains. To quote Patently-O:

Folks are having fun today with Federal Government web page conversions.

We still do not have confirmation that Michelle Lee will stay-on as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director. The newly updated COMMERCE.GOV website shows the position vacant while other positions remain filled.

It should all be figured out by Monday.

Lee’s roots in east Asia and Trump’s rhetoric against China (unlike Taiwan, which he uses as a sort of provocative weapon where he also has business investment) is something which we mentioned before in relation to this. As mentioned by many people before, Trump’s appointments are predominantly white, male, straight, and old (sometimes also corrupt). Someone like Rader seems like he fits the bill.

It will be interesting to see what happens this coming week and we shall watch it closely.

There are meanwhile some developments in the patent world that are worth noting. In Taiwan, for example, according to this new article, invalidity of a patent can have a ripple effect. “In patent infringement civil lawsuits,” it says, “the accused party cannot only claim invalidity of the patent with the civil court, but can also initiate a cancellation action with the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO) for the invalidation of the patent. Such a two-track mechanism may lead to a difference of opinion between the civil court and TIPO.”

A lot of US patents are being invalidated these days,

“Visually negligible” is another type of subject which is being explored. We covered it earlier this month.

Right now we are eager to see an unambiguous confirmation of Lee’s (re)appointment.

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