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01.06.18

When All That’s Left is a Bunch of Patents: Stories of IBM, Finjan, Ericsson, and Citrix

Posted in America, IBM, Patents at 9:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ericsson troll

Summary: Companies on the decline, where the number of products already verges (or is) zero, decide to just sue the entire industry, thereby reinforcing the cautionary tale about patents as ‘insurance policy’ taking its toll on real (operating) companies

THE USPTO has long granted all sorts of bizarre software patents. Those were granted on ideas that had already been implemented elsewhere (without the coder/developer/programmer pursuing a patent). There was extensive prior art, but code at the time was rarely shared on the Web (definitely not in the nineties and back in the eighties there was no World Wide Web just yet).

“There was extensive prior art, but code at the time was rarely shared on the Web (definitely not in the nineties and back in the eighties there was no World Wide Web just yet).”One such company which pursued many software patents was IBM. It applied for (and received) a humongous number of software patents. That was back in the nineties and the decade that followed. It spent many years in the top spot for prolific patenters (classified by firm). Many of these patents are still valid as in not expired; but they’re not necessarily valid based on triviality and prior art assessments (if done properly). IBM is now trying to ‘monetise’ these patents and as we noted some days ago, IBM now goes after Web firms (there’s a pattern here). A few days ago GeekWire wrote that “IBM is suing Expedia, alleging that the popular travel site has for years been infringing on several of its patents, some of which date back to the early days of the internet.” Because those patents are about to expire and IBM is about to die (the company’s core business is slipping away and layoffs are routine).

Will IBM change its ways? We doubt it. For a number of years we’ve complained about IBM’s ferocious lobbying for software patents in the US, putting aside its many threats and lawsuits against Web firms (such as Twitter). IBM is now a taxman and it is eager to maintain this revenue steam; it has become similar to Microsoft over the past 15 years (Microsoft hadn’t been aggressive with patents until its monopoly was slipping away just before Windows Vista and the ongoing rise of Google/Apple).

“For a number of years we’ve complained about IBM’s ferocious lobbying for software patents in the US, putting aside its many threats and lawsuits against Web firms (such as Twitter).”A few days ago we wrote about the patent troll Finjan because it blackmailed FireEye. It is supported by Microsoft and it received some patents from IBM to bolster its trolling efforts.

“FireEye and Finjan settle,” said this headline just before the weekend. Understatement of the year? So far in 2018? To call trolling and blackmail a “settlement” is to grossly misrepresent what happened. Finjan does nothing but this. It’s a predator. From the article:

Cybersecurity firm FireEye has agreed to pay $12.5 million to patent licensing company Finjan as part of an agreement settling their patent dispute.

The settlement includes a patent licence agreement, granting cross-licences between the two companies for the disputed patents.

Or, in simpler terms, “protection money”. Finjan will now use that as ‘ammunition’ with which to threaten more companies (the few it has not already sued and/or extracted “protection money” from). It’s appalling. IBM and Microsoft actively helped this troll.

“Finjan will now use that as ‘ammunition’ with which to threaten more companies (the few it has not already sued and/or extracted “protection money” from).”Elsewhere in the news we find mentions of Ericsson's trolling practices in Europe. This case was concluded around Christmas (we wrote about it) and IAM rushes to defend the trolling with tweets like this: “Ericsson IP chief highlights “methodological and mathematical errors” in landmark TCL decision as Swedish mobile giant plots appeal…”

Notice how they only tell or emphasise one side of this story. So did the writer of the story, who tweeted this: “Goes without saying that this decision is not good for licensors but taken with UP v Huawei and other big SEP decisions we now have some much clearer guidelines such as use of top down methodology and variable regional rates. That can only be good thing for #patent licensing…” (trolling)

IAM’s coverage, as expected, means amplifying — right from the headline — only the side/assertion/creed of patent trolls:

Key ruling in high-profile US FRAND case “highly biased in favour of infringers”, says Ericsson’s chief IP officer

[...]

Speaking to the IAM blog Ericsson chief IP officer Gustav Brismark has made his first public comments on the judgment handed down by a California court just before Christmas in the Swedish telco’s high-profile FRAND licensing dispute with Chinese mobile manufacturer TCL. The decision, which was filed on 21st December, is the latest case involving standard essential patents (SEPs) to hit the courts and is largely seen to have gone against Ericsson.

This is the kind of coverage we have come to expect from IAM because the site (like the magazine and events) is little more than a megaphone of trolls and patent aggressors. It’s like ‘Watchtroll Lite’.

“This is the kind of coverage we have come to expect from IAM because the site (like the magazine and events) is little more than a megaphone of trolls and patent aggressors.”Watchtroll has just written about a case which we mentioned here before — a case wherein a firm is pushing aside smaller rivals. This is the kind of thing IBM has been doing for decades, relying on its vastly bigger patent portfolio and vastly deeper pockets. And speaking of which, watch this new report about Citrix using its patents against a smaller rival as a form of retaliation for “improper conduct”, “deceptive statements” and so on. Patents are just being used for leverage here; it’s not about patents but about the defendant hiring “a number of its former employees and executives in the last few years.” To quote:

Citrix added that the aim of the suit was to prevent Avi Networks’ “improper conduct” and to recover damages over its wrongful use of its patented technology in its Vantage Platform. Citrix also wants to stop Avi Networks from making “further deceptive statements” and selling its infringing product without the correct licenses.

Citrix appears to have a beef with Avi Networks over its recruitment practices as well, as the smaller firm has hired a number of its former employees and executives in the last few years. This includes Avi Network’s current Chief Executive Officer Amit Pandey, who served as vice president and general manager of Mobile Solutions at Citrix from January 2013 to March 2014.

“Several other Citrix employees have left to join that company, bringing with them their knowledge of Citrix’s products and intellectual property,” Citrix complained in its filing.

What it means to say is that these employees simply know something and by virtue of knowing these things they become a liability. Citrix has been having business deflation issues and it now digs deep for patents with which to ‘punish’ rivals. How typical of software patents and those who possess them…

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