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02.27.17

Patent Trolls on Their Way Out in the United States and Their Way Into China, No Thanks to the Open Invention Network (OIN)

Posted in America, Asia, IBM, OIN, Patents at 3:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OIN has in many ways contributed to the problem rather than or instead of working to tackle it

Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) logo

Summary: An update on patent trolls and the role played by supposed allies of Free/libre software, who in practice do everything to exacerbate the problem rather than resolve it

Trolls are a symptom of a big problem, typically the granting of far too many patents and too lenient a treatment (favouring the claimant) at the courts. This is why the US was so popular among patent trolls and China is now attracting if not giving birth to those same sorts of trolls.

Things are about to change for the better in the US. “Broad patent venue rules allowing corporations to be sued for patent infringement almost anywhere,” as this new article puts it, is a regime which will likely end soon (it’s reminiscent of what UPC proponents envision in Europe — a recipe for patent trolls in the EU and beyond).

“This is why the US was so popular among patent trolls and China is now attracting if not giving birth to those same sorts of trolls.”This new article refers to TC Heartland — a decision we eagerly await — and says this: “Broad patent venue rules allowing corporations to be sued for patent infringement almost anywhere are under siege both in Congress and in the courts. Yet, a non-patent case that was recently granted certiorari by the Supreme Court, although not widely noted in intellectual property law circles, may provide another potential front in this ongoing battle. [...] Based on the cert grant, the U.S. Supreme Court now appears set to decide when a claim sufficiently “arises out of or relates to” a defendant’s contacts with the forum state. Although Bristol-Myers is not a patent case, it involves the same specific jurisdiction criteria that the Federal Circuit has found satisfied in patent cases by product shipments into a forum. Therefore, it is possible that a Supreme Court decision that tightens the nexus between the claims and the defendant’s acts that is required to establish specific personal jurisdiction may curb patent owners’ abilities to bring suit in as wide array of fora as is possible under current Federal Circuit precedent.”

“OIN has become pretty useless and it’s likely that it was always this useless.”Some time later this year, assuming that new Justices grasp the damage caused by patent trolls, the whole business model of trolls is likely to collapse, having already suffered a great deal when Alice made their patents a lot weaker. We cannot rest on the laurels, however, as patent maximalists constantly try to sabotage all this progress and Make Trolls Great Again, as we last noted yesterday. Here, in this new article from Embry-Riddle, a person who makes a living by promoting patents (or patent maximalism) unsurprisingly promotes more and more patents. We see articles like these every day. This other new article, one from Beta News, is very wrong and misguided; it oddly enough calls or paints OIN as anti-trolls, even though OIN openly admits that it’s not (OIN is absolutely incapable of stopping trolls). Here is the key part:

More and more, we’re seeing businesses band together to find creative, efficient solutions to the patent troll problem.

Take OIN (Open Innovation Network) [sic, it's Invention] as an example. This organization operates in the open source community, cross-licensing patents to protect companies against litigation using Linux-related patents. Another example is the LOT Network, the non-profit community that I lead. More than 80 percent of patents litigated by patent trolls are acquired from operating companies through events like bankruptcies, M&A, or when a company is looking for an extra revenue stream. LOT members agree that if one of their patents falls into the hands of a troll, the other members get a free license. This acts as immunization for member companies — rendering a troll lawsuit involving that patent moot. At the same time, LOT Network does not affect the traditional uses of patents — like buying, selling, or even suing other companies.

One could argue that OIN helps weaken trolls by attempting to grab (buy) particular patents which would otherwise be given to trolls, but having seen how it works from the inside (long conversations more than half a decade ago), that just barely ever happens. It happened maybe once before (that we know of). OIN has become pretty useless and it’s likely that it was always this useless. Its stated goals are not its real goals. Recently, OIN pretty much endorsed a lobby for software patents, misleadingly named Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU). OIN often seems to have remained somewhat of an IBM front group, often aligned with IBM’s own agenda and even led by former IBM staff. Speaking of IBM, which is becoming an ally of Apple and a foe of GNU/Linux, its patent chief said the other day: “Patents should promote innovation regardless of inventor size (large co, small co, independent) and regardless of technology” (easy for him to say, coming from the largest patent assignee). Benjamin Henrion’s response to him can be see here; it’s all just mumbo-jumbo from IBM, equating patents with “innovation” — however one defines that thing. IBM uses its patents to bully competitors and extract ‘protection’ money from them. That’s hardly innovation.

“Recently, OIN pretty much endorsed a lobby for software patents, misleadingly named Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU).”Where was OIN when Acacia, a patent troll with connections to Microsoft, attacked GNU/Linux vendors such as Novell and Red Hat? As expected, patent trolls such as Acacia pivot/expand in China after SIPO and the courts had done damage to the country (diluting the patent system with low-quality patents). According to the trolls’ news site the “Texas-based NPE [which the headline calls "Acacia alumni NPE"] Longhorn IP announced this week that it has acquired a patent portfolio, including several China-only patent families, from a major Chinese telecoms company.”

Guess what will happen next…

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