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03.20.17

Apple and Microsoft, Two Patent Aggressors That Habitually Attack GNU/Linux Distributors, Get Sued by a Patent Troll, Soverain IP

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 4:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Background reading: “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” –Steve Jobs

“The term “just war” contains an internal contradiction. War is inherently unjust, and the great challenge of our time is how to deal with evil, tyranny, and oppression without killing huge numbers of people.”

Howard Zinn, Terrorism and War (2002)

Summary: Putting in perspective the latest high-profile (in the press at least) lawsuits filed by a notorious troll, which this time around chose as its targets two patent aggressors that deserve no sympathy because of their own actions

WE occasionally hear about Apple patents at the EPO but cannot say much due to source protection needs. At the USPTO, by contrast, Apple patents have already attracted much criticism, and courts are invalidating some of these (sometimes it happens in Europe as well). The point of the matter is, Apple likes to collect a lot of patents and later it uses these to go after Android OEMs (actual lawsuits), having started with sabre-rattling against Palm prior to that.

Writing in his blog last week, Florian Müller said that the US Supreme Court may soon proceed to challenging yet another Apple case against the largest Android OEM (at least at the time the case was initiated). To quote:

Timing is often an interesting indication of a party’s priorities. Over these past seven years of Apple v. Android lawsuits (it all started with HTC in March 2010), Android companies–HTC more than anyone else–have often shown the behavior of stallers, at least when they were (as Samsung is here) on the defending end of a litigation (obviously not when they were asserting standard-essential patents themselves). Even parties that don’t intend to stall in the slightest (such as Oracle when enforcing its copyrights against Google) typically wait until the end of a filing deadline. It provides them with an opportunity to wait for further relevant developments (case law, public statements by key persons and entities, etc.). So I really am surprised here. Further remedies-related proceedings in that case are ongoing in district court, and a case management conference has just been postponed to next month. With a view to that conference, the Supreme Court is unlikely to make any decision either way in the meantime.

We certainly hope that Apple will decide to compete based on technical merits rather than patents and lawyers. We are not too optimistic about it, as this is essentially a sworn sort of legacy of Steve Jobs and it’s the only thing Apple has left because its market share is diminishing every year (ignore Apple’s “alternative facts” to that effect, focusing only in particular demographies).

“We certainly hope that Apple will decide to compete based on technical merits rather than patents and lawyers.”Apple-aligned Web sites, in the mean time, have the audacity to complain about patent aggression because the patent troll known as "Soverain" (we wrote about it quite frequently in the distant past) is back with vengeance and it is suing Apple. This patent troll isn’t as dead as some Apple fans thoughts/hoped, which is why they’re all complaining [1, 2, 3] in their ‘news’ sites (more like Apple advocacy sites). One of them said that “Soverain Software, a non-practicing entity that gained media attention for suing Newegg and other online retailers over “shopping cart” patents, on Thursday filed a complaint against Apple for alleged infringement of IP relating to internet-based services.”

Curious is the fact that Microsoft too is being sued by this patent troll, and moreover it uses a Microsoft case (Enfish v Microsoft) to justify its case, based on this coverage from IAM. To quote the relevant bits:

With the Supreme Court’s decision not to grant cert to Soverain’s appeal in early 2014, that appeared to be that for the company and its assertion campaign. Except this week Soverain’s patents were back in court as a new, Texas-based entity called Soverain IP filed suit against Microsoft and Apple, alleging that the Windows giant infringes on six patents while the iPhone creator infringes on four.

[...]

One of the patents — no. 5,708,780 — which was granted in 1998, has been litigated before and appears to be one of the online shopping-related grants that led to Soverain securing a $40 million settlement from Amazon in 2005. Notably, in its court filings this week, Soverain cites Enfish v Microsoft, one of several 2016 Federal Circuit decisions which are seen as providing key guidelines over the patentability of software, to back up its claim that the patent does not cover an abstract idea and is therefore valid.

We’re now faced with a hard choice; who to support, so to speak? The ugly patent troll or the two patent aggressors which have been attacking GNU/Linux using patents? Well, as the informal proverb/saying goes, in some wars both sides are evil. The only sure thing is, lawyers will profit from this. They always do, irrespective of who ‘wins’; to them, every lawsuit is a ‘win’ and they lobby their government accordingly.

“The only sure thing is, lawyers will profit from this.”Speaking of patent trolls such as the above, there is an ongoing EFF campaign against universities hoarding and then selling patents, i.e. taxpayers wasting money on patents that are handed to trolls who then attack these same taxpayers. Here is the EFF’s latest update on this:

Last year, EFF, along with our partner organizations, launched Reclaim Invention, a campaign to encourage universities across the country to commit to adopting patent policies that advance the public good. Reclaim Invention asks universities to focus on by bringing their inventions to the public, rather than selling or licensing them to patent assertion entities whose sole business model is threatening other innovators with patent lawsuits.

Now, thanks to Maryland State Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher, the project is taking a step forward. In February, Delegate Waldstreicher introduced H.B. 1357, a bill modeled on Reclaim Invention’s draft legislation, the Reclaim Invention Act.

The above has already attracted some high-profile support that we have come across in sites like Twitter.

This is (almost) the first time we hear about the “Reclaim Invention Act”, except when the EFF mentioned it at the end of last year. Other such “Acts” have not been heard from in a while (in effect they got abandoned); The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act did a lot of good; the above would too (if it ever materialises).

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