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10.05.17

“Cloud”, “AI”, and “IoT” Among the Buzzwords Used to Bypass Limitations/Bans on Software Patents

Posted in America, Patents at 4:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Don’t fall for these tricks, which law firms advertise in the form of ‘drafting tips’

To bamboozle
Don’t be a victim of buzzwords and the art of semantics

Summary: Now that ‘pure’ software patents are pretty much impossible to enforce (except in China) there are efforts by law firms to mislead clients into further pursuits, usually relying on misleading words to avoid an impression of abstractness

THE REALITY in 2017 is that software patents are practically dead in the US courts. Sure, examiners still grant some (even at the EPO), but courts say “No!” almost every time (the higher the court, the more likely the rejection). Law firms that promote software patents consciously waste people’s time and money; after all, what do/why should they care about the outcome? They make money from legal fees either way (no matter the outcome). Yesterday we saw this article titled “Drafting Software Patents Post-Alice: Lessons From Courts” (which ones, district courts?).

Much of the article is behind a paywall, but the introduction says: “Since the decision in Alice[1] three years ago, applicants, patent practitioners and even patent examiners are trying to sort out what is and is not an abstract idea in the software arts for patentability purposes. With no clear objective test, each new decision potentially provides guidance on what may be determined to be abstract, and also may provide clues on how to better structure claims and specifications to avoid or at least overcome Alice-related rejections.”

But given the repeated rejection of such patents, what’s the point? Changing the words might help fool examiners into granting software patents, but courts (with witnesses, expert testimonies etc.) will almost always reach the same conclusion. Don’t bother. Don’t try to pursue software patents anymore. Don’t believe these law firms. They just try to make money for themselves, not for clients.

Unfortunately, we continue to see the dodge or departure from conventional language and into the realm of buzzwords, such as “AI”*. Even this morning we saw this piece published by a firm connected to Microsoft. It’s about Uniloc, a patent troll which has received money from Microsoft. It tries to use buzzwords to leverage software patents against companies: this time the buzzword is “cloud” and the author uses the euphemism “NPE”, which just means patent troll. To quote:

As Cloud IPQ will continue to demonstrate, a growing but often overlooked trend of NPE patent litigations against cloud computing providers and users has emerged in recent years. While many NPEs target big technology companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft, Uniloc has cast a wider net that includes health service providers, gaming companies and software developers. In less than two years, Uniloc has filed 59 district court cases against 39 defendants in the cloud computing space. The patents asserted relate to cloud software and platforms capable of remote network access and management in fields ranging from business management, software and game security, identity management, critical infrastructure security, and IP rights management. The lawsuits target both cloud computing providers (e.g., Nexon, Blackboard, Netsuite, Nutanix, etc.) and users (e.g., Riot Games, AthenaHealth, H&R Block, etc.).

These are just software patents. Courts or even PTAB would reject these post-Alice. Judges who don’t grasp these buzzwords will likely rely on technical people to explain/deconstruct these. It’s all abstract.

Another new example of a buzzword is “IoT” — an example we last wrote about in the weekend. Audrey Lo from Lee and Li Attorneys at Law has just published this article about the ‘dressing up’ of software patents as “IoT”. Just because one refers to software patents by some buzzword (with “things”, like “devices” in them) does not make these any more valid; it’s just a Trojan horse to fool examiners. As even Lo admits, “IoT technology is closely related to software development.” Here are some portions:

It is clear from the above that Taiwanese corporations lag much behind their foreign competitors in developing IoT technology. Moreover, according to the IoT patent report published by the UKIPO in 2014 and that by LexInnova in 2016, Chinese corporations were among the top three IoT patent applicants. However, none of the top ten IoT patent applicants in Taiwan came from China.

IoT technology is closely related to software development. Whether a patent can be granted depends greatly how the claims are drafted. Since the regulations and standards for assessing the patentability of software-related inventions are slightly different in each country, one should consider those differences in order to ensure the patentability of his/her invention. All the possible scenarios that may occur during enforcement must also be considered in claim drafting; otherwise, even if a patent is granted, the patent holder may not be able to enforce his/her patent against others.

It is worth noting that China does allow software patents (it’s one of the few countries that allow that), though we’re not sure about Taiwan, which China tries to assert sovereignty over.

As always, most software patents are laughable. Even patent maximalists like Patently-O are sometimes willing to admit this and days ago it gave an example — only to receive a threatening E-mail from the so-called ‘inventor’ (whereupon the blog published the E-mail). What’s the point trying to defend a terrible software patent which is obviously bogus? It’s 2017. We’re in the post-software patents era now. Just stop calling these patents things they’re not (buzzwords).
______
* There was another example of this last night, in a press release which said “Element Data, Inc., a decision support software platform that harnesses artificial intelligence and machine learning has acquired the assets and patent of BehaviorMatrix, LLC” (this patent is totally worthless as it’s a software patent).

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