04.04.17

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Patent Trolls in the Headlines: TC Heartland, University of Florida, Hilco, and Uniloc

Posted in America, Patents at 8:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Taking out software patents and EDTX would take out many trolls, which would then inhibit large patent aggressors

BlackBerry may have a brighter future monetizing patents than as a software developer
Reference: BlackBerry may have a brighter future monetizing patents than as a software developer

Summary: The latest news about patent trolls in the United States and the ongoing challenges against them, courtesy of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), USPTO transparency (records of reassignment), and Apple’s deep pockets

THE SCOTUS will soon determine whether patent trolls can drag their victims to Texas (or elsewhere, typically where judges are trolls-friendly), adding to Alice that has already contributed to patent improvements at the USPTO (software is more difficult to patent, albeit not impossible). These developments are truly encouraging, as they lend to the perception that the American economy will be friendlier towards producing firms, not parasites.

“These developments are truly encouraging, as they lend to the perception that the American economy will be friendlier towards producing firms, not parasites.”Professor Dennis Crouch, a patents-centric academic, looks deeper into the oral arguments in TC Heartland LLC v Kraft Foods (the above-mentioned SCOTUS case that may soon weed out patent trolls). Here are some of his observations:

Chief Justice Roberts, who tends to focus on precedent, seems to also agree that congressional action since then had no intent to overrule the patent venue cases…

[...]

Only a small portion of the discussion involved policy questions of the focus of patent cases in E.D. of Texas and the pending congressional legislation.

[...]

Big picture here – the statutory interpretation is messy enough that there is not a clean pathway to an answer for the Supreme Court. If we have a reversal – we’ll see more big changes to patent litigation.

Several days ago we wrote about another analysis — that one behind a paywall — which concluded from the questions asked that SCOTUS would likely overturn the case, i.e. deal a lethal blow to patent trolls. We are still not sure when a written determination will be delivered, but it’s probably some time soon. The name TC Heartland might thereafter reverberate across the legal sphere for years if not decades (just like Alice). We certainly look forward to that.

“The name TC Heartland might thereafter reverberate across the legal sphere for years if not decades (just like Alice).”The patent trolls’ voice, IAM, obviously worries about the above case. IAM must be worried that its Sugar Daddies, patent trolls, may be out of business (some already are). Based on what IAM wrote yesterday, it now expects more taxpayers-funded patents to attack the taxpayers. Does IAM explain it like that? Of course not, it’s not part of the agenda. IAM wrote: “With the threat [sic] of inter partes reviews (IPR) hanging over any patent owner looking to assert its rights in the US, there’s bound to be interest in rulings that could help to give potential defendants a shield from prospective challenges. Thus, a PTAB decision in January in the case Covidien LP v University of Florida Research Foundation Inc has not surprisingly attracted a lot of attention for possibly giving state universities sovereign immunity from IPR petitions.”

“IPRs are scary to sites like IAM (which routinely attacks PTAB over it) because they are scary to trolls, to whom IAM is like a front group.”IPRs are not a “threat” but a quality control mechanism that serves to protect the system from abuse/misuse. The reason one cannot sue without a patent is in itself a protection against baseless assertions, inside or outside the court (examiners must first approve merit of claims). IPRs are scary to sites like IAM (which routinely attacks PTAB over it) because they are scary to trolls, to whom IAM is like a front group.

Speaking of IAM and trolls, Blackberry the patent troll (it sues companies through the rocket docket in Texas) passes patents to another patent troll and here is how IAM covered that yesterday:

Blackberry appears to have made a second significant patent disposal in the course of its turnaround strategy, in a deal facilitated by the relatively new IP transactions team at Hilco Global. The transaction history of the shell company that acquired the portfolio points toward a Chinese smartphone company as the possible buyer.

USPTO records show 24 separate assignments of a single patent right between an entity called “Hilco Patent Acquisition 55, LLC” and Golden Valley Holdings Limited. The assignments were all executed on 25th January, and were recorded between 23rd February and 8th March. A document attached to the latest assignment appears to lay out the full schedule of US and foreign rights being transacted – 177 assets in all, among them 31 US patent grants and applications.

A sign of things to come? Certainly. Expect Hilco to go after phone manufacturers (probably Android), either publicly or behind closed doors, as the screenshot above suggests. That’s just pure patent trolling.

“Expect Hilco to go after phone manufacturers (probably Android), either publicly or behind closed doors, as the screenshot above suggests.”In other news about trolls, Uniloc is back and it is using Apple again. Apple-centric sites say “the ’852 patent for “Remote update of computers based on physical device recognition” covers a method of securely updating a user device with a software payload authenticated and received over the internet.”

That’s just a notorious software patent, which should be invalidated under Alice. Apple will hopefully challenge and bury this patent once and for all. Apple certainly has the financial means to not only cripple this troll but also large aggressors like Qualcomm.

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