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01.30.18

The Lobby for Software Patents — Including Microsoft-Connected Law Firms — Clings Onto One Patent From a Microsoft-Sponsored Patent Troll

Posted in America, Deception, Microsoft, Patents at 11:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It helps to follow the money…

Microsoft Finjan stake

Summary: There’s no evidence that software patents are coming back to the US any time soon, but lobbyists of this ’cause’ (like the firm of Bill Gates’ father) obsess over a single patent of the Microsoft-sponsored Finjan, hailing it as some sort of ‘evidence’ of a resurgence

THE UNITED STATES is certainly moving away from software patents. Don’t be misled by those who claim otherwise. They’re typically those who stand to gain (financially) from the practice of patenting algorithms — not because they actually develop software/write code but because they work for law firms that milk coders. I have been writing about it since my early 20s and I know how these people think. They’re not honest. They tend to be pretty greedy and they justify their lies to themselves (e.g. about coders needing patents and about software patents having ‘teeth’ in the UK).

Earlier today the Indian press published something titled “Where is Indian science headed?” It looked OK until the following sentence: “Software patents have been on the rise vis-a-vis pharma patents and this is MNC-driven, especially at the US end.”

What planet is he living on?! The US cracks down on software patents. The only thing on the rise is invalidation of software patents.

Record year for PTAB, as we noted here before, is something that even foes of PTAB find themselves having to admit today (IAM’s own headline said “PTAB breaks records” a few hours ago). PTAB is very important because it eliminates many USPTO-granted software patents, even when there’s no lawsuit but merely a threat of one (trolls do this a lot, especially to poor people/businesses because it keeps the racket safer from scrutiny). There’s nothing new to see in that IAM article; IAM is just reprinting charts from RPX and Unified Patents. Let’s pretend for a moment that IAM is serious journalism and not just lobbying. Oh, wait; never mind… that would be hard to pretend.

Let’s look at how the patent microcosm is attempting to spin decisions of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). CAFC has just agreed (as usual) with PTAB and threw away a bad patent (not about software, but problematic for other reasons). Donald Zuhn wrote about it:

Last week, the Federal Circuit affirmed the rejection by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board of claims 1-7 of U.S. Patent No. 6,284,471 as being unpatentable under the doctrine of obviousness-type double patenting. Janssen Biotech, Inc. and New York University (“Janssen”), co-assignees of the ’471 patent, argued on appeal that obviousness-type double patenting was not applicable because the safe-harbor provision of 35 U.S.C. § 121 protected the ’471 patent claims. In affirming the Board’s decision, however, the Federal Circuit determined that the ’471 patent was not entitled to safe-harbor protections.

[...]

The opinion concludes with the panel finding to be unpersuasive Janssen’s argument that the Board erred by failing to apply a two-way test for double patenting. Instead, the panel concluded that Janssen failed to establish that the PTO is “solely responsible” for any alleged delay associated with the issuance of the ’471 patent. Finding that the ’471 patent was not entitled to safe-harbor protections, and that the Board did not err in applying the one-way test for double patenting, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s rejection of claims 1–7 of the ’471 patent as being unpatentable under the doctrine of obviousness-type double patenting.

The Federal Circuit (CAFC) almost always agrees with PTAB. In 2016 and 2017 estimates stood at about 80% validation rate (CAFC validating the PTAB’s judgments in 4 out of 5 cases). The patent microcosm does not like pointing it out because it wants us to think that PTAB does mock trials or is a “kangaroo court” (Watchtroll used that smear yesterday).

Here is something we found curious this morning. Nolan R. Hubbard and Kenneth C. Liao from K&L Gates (the firm of Bill Gates Sr. and hence somewhat of a Microsoft proxy) continue to lobby for software patents in the US. Microsoft can pretend to have nothing to do with it, but over the years we covered the many overlaps at K&L Gates. They actually use as their CAFC case study this Microsoft-sponsored patent troll, Finjan. To quote a portion:

Many software-related and business method-related patents have been invalidated for being directed to “abstract ideas.” On January 10, 2018, in Finjan, Inc., v. Blue Coat Systems, Inc., the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that Finjan’s U.S. Patent No. 6,154,844 (“the ’844 patent”) [1] was not directed to an abstract idea and was therefore patent eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The court’s threshold test for patent eligibility under § 101 is “whether the claims focus on the specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities . . . or, instead on a process that qualifies as an ‘abstract idea’ for which computers are invoked merely as a tool.” [2] The court’s recent decision provides additional guidance regarding the types of claims that constitute specific improvements in computer capabilities rather than being abstract ideas. The court additionally ruled on issues of infringement and damages.

They must love Finjan — a troll case that we first covered weeks ago (we have written approximately half a dozen times about it since). Also today there’s this article titled “The Current State of Computer Software Patentability” (sounds authoritative enough a headline). “It’s hard to predict the future of computer software patentability,” says Adam Richards (sales and marketing person), who tries to sneak in software patents in spite of Alice. From his column which cites Microsoft cases like Enfish (CAFC level):

The intellectual property protection of software is extremely important for every industry. After all, the modern society depends on computer software. However, the intellectual property of it has been debated in recent years. Back in 2014, the United States Supreme Court made a huge patent decision. They stated that simply adding computer language to ordinary aspects of technology were not enough for someone to deserve a patent.

Before this decision was made, many thought that software patents would be completely eliminated. The Supreme Court decided not to take it that far and noted that software patents will still be allowed. Nevertheless, in order for someone to earn a patent, they would have to either improve an existing technological process or improve the functioning of the computer. Following this decision, a lot of patents became invalid since district court judges figured that most of them were simply abstract ideas that never even deserved a patent to begin with. It also became harder to obtain software patents because of the expectations.

[...]

It’s hard to predict the future of computer software patentability. After all, there haven’t been a lot of cases where a software invention was eligible for a patent. However, each case helps inventors learn more about how to determine patent eligibility for their innovations. Every company is encouraged to at least try and see if their software patents could be valid, even though the odds are against them.

The odds are indeed against them. Last year CAFC threw away pretty much every software patent. The Supreme Court won't overturn its judgment on Alice-type cases any time soon (if ever).

CAFC has meanwhile moved to ruling on another patent case involving so-called 'Divided Infringement' (capitalised even because it became somewhat of a formal term). As one law firm has just explained it:

Reaffirming the breadth of the Akamai standard for divided infringement, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a summary judgment of non-infringement where two steps of a four-step method for luggage screening were performed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rather than by the defendant. Travel Sentry, Inc. v. Tropp, Case Nos. 16-2386; -2387; -2714; 17-1025 (Fed. Cir., Dec. 19, 2017) (O’Malley, J).

We certainly hope that CAFC and the Supreme Court won’t do anything irrational in the sense that it feeds hopes of a software patents resurgence. One troll case where one patent among many survived the Section 101 test is hardly hope, except for wishful thinkers looking to deceive readers/clients.

The Failure of ILO’s Administrative Tribunal Highlights Poor State of Justice in Europe and Worldwide

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Administrative Tribunal of ILO: President may set aside judgment according to opinions of the disciplinary committee. So workers are at the mercy of arbitrary [sic] — why a disciplinary committee?”

Summary: As the EPO and the UPC serve to demonstrate, we’re back to being ruled by ‘kings’ or governed by ‘monarchies’ while tribunals serve only (or primarily) a theatrical role

THE EPO is wasting millions of euros (stakeholders’ money) on lawyers, simply in order for them to help cover up Battistelli’s abuses. That also means crushing staff (his victims, whose legal budget isn’t limitless). We wrote about it earlier today. The EPO has said nothing about it. The EPO’s Twitter feed is full of fluff (“You just came up with some buzzword/acronym and then claim that many things belong to it,” I told them; they pay the media to ‘plant’ some puff pieces about this at the expense of stakeholders/EPO budget, conveniently forgetting that they're supposed to be a patent office).

“The EPO is wasting millions of euros (stakeholders’ money) on lawyers, simply in order for them to help cover up Battistelli’s abusesl.”The Presidential Palace of Battistelli continues gaining infinite powers while indulging in immunity and therein lies the problem, argues the following comment:

In my view, the judgements discussed in this article provide a rather neat illustration of a worrying problem with the governance of the EPO, namely a serious imbalance of arms between EPO employees and EPO senior management.

For example, in the Hardon case, the e-mail may well have shocked and offended “Mr A”. This seems to have been taken by the ILO as the only relevant starting point. However, I understand that the EPO management blocked all efforts to initiate an independent investigation into the events to which Ms Hardon’s e-mail referred … and so we will never know whether her “undiplomatic” description of the events could actually have been accurate (or justified / justifiable).

Thus, it is perfectly possible that by exerting control over how (if at all) events were investigated, the EPO management were able to construct their own narrative in which the dismissal of Ms Hardon appears to be an appropriate response. In the absence of any independent fact-finding, we will simply never know the truth of the matter … and neither will the ILO.

Another, more stark illustration of the imbalance of arms is provided by the ILO’s response to the alleged leaking of confidential information by those “briefing against” Mr Corcoran. There is no doubt that confidential information was leaked, as there is irrefutable proof that it came into the public domain. The nature of the information and the manner in which it was leaked also point to an effort to undermine the presumption of innocence in Mr Corcoran’s case. Nevertheless, clear evidence of wrongdoing by an unspecified individual led the EPO management to conduct …. no investigations whatsoever! This is precisely the opposite of what happened when the EPO management became aware of “leaks” that were unflattering to them.

The huge irony and double-standards evident in the contrasting outcomes could not be more obvious. This is further compounded by the fact that a defamation action against the “leaker” is impossible … again because of the inequality of arms. For example, Mr Corcoran’s lack of access to records of internal EPO communications would make it almost impossible to identify the “leaker” … and even if that hurdle was overcome, knowing the identity might not help (eg if the “leaker” asserted immunity from prosecution). On the other hand, those pursuing defamation claims against Mr Corcoran had full access to information obtained by “snooping” on internal communications, and did not need to worry about the defendant asserting immunity.

With such an obvious (and serious) inequality of arms evident in disputes between the EPO and its employees, is there anyone out there who still believes that the “protections” and “access to justice” afforded to EPO employees are in any way comparable to those afforded to employees under EU and German / Dutch national laws? Is it therefore not time that we gave those employees the same protections and access to justice as those enjoyed by individuals who do not happen to work for an international organisation?

This brings us to the UPC, another potentially lawless concept where one can be subjected to binding court rulings in a language different from one’s own (and from courts overseas, possibly with a plaintiff outside the EU, even some shell entity). GRUR is apparently the latest to pretend this is perfectly OK. Alexander Esslinger and Birgit Clark both link to this tweet which said: “The German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (#GRUR) has published its amicus curiae brief in the constitutional complaint against the #UPC Agreement before the German Constitutional Court (@BVerfG ) #Patent ”

Esslinger pretty much copied this entire tweet (how odd) and I responded by saying that “the court ought to ask groups other than the patent ‘industry’ if they’ve been consulted about UPC (it would hurt them a lot)…”

“For similar reasons (hosting international organisations like ICC), the Dutch government does not want to remove Battistelli’s immunity when he breaks the law and ILO in Geneva is far too soft on the EPO.”What about people who are actually impacted by these laws? It’s like they don’t seem to matter to Germany. As for the EPO, it’s a convenient cash cow owing to its location. It oughtn’t be a taboo subject. The staff representation said it very clearly, repeatedly even. For similar reasons (hosting international organisations like ICC), the Dutch government does not want to remove Battistelli’s immunity when he breaks the law and ILO in Geneva is far too soft on the EPO. This is a mutual back-rubbing exercise rather than real accountability and justice. They construct a hypothetical or theoretical hierarchy of accountability (like the EPC attempted to do), but it clearly doesn’t function.

Anyway, here is a direct link to the PDF from GRUR (dated just over a month ago; 31 pages long and signed by “Gert Würtenberger, Präsident”). We are guessing that Team UPC is already reading this and preparing puff pieces about it, possibly to appear by the week’s end somewhere like Kluwer Patent Blog. These people certainly don’t care about the law (all they care about is their money) and if EPO staff is being crushed because of them, well… they couldn’t care any less.

Links 30/1/2018: Godot 3.0 and ncurses 6.1

Posted in News Roundup at 8:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Refreshing old computers with Linux

      It’s nearly impossible to enter a school these days without seeing an abundance of technology. Despite this influx of computers into education, funding inequity forces school systems to make difficult choices. Some educators see things as they are and wonder, “Why?” while others see problems as opportunities and think, “Why not?”

      Andrew Dobbie is one of those visionaries who saw his love of Linux and computer reimaging as a unique learning opportunity for his students.

  • Kernel Space

    • Btrfs Gets More RAID 5/6 Fixes In Linux 4.16

      The Btrfs file-system updates were mailed in and subsequently pulled today to the mainline tree for the Linux 4.16 kernel merge window.

      There are some minor improvements like a zero range mode for fallocate, code clean-ups, improved bio merging on multiple devices, compression heuristic changes, and other small work.

    • Jailhouse Guest Support To Be Included With Linux 4.16

      With Linux 4.16 is initial support for the Jailhouse hypervisor to support native Linux guests in non-root cells.

      The past half-decade Siemens has been developing the Jailhouse partitioning hypervisor that is lighter than KVM and designed for their demanding, real-time, safety and security critical workloads. With Linux 4.16 the first bits of it are being mainlined in the Linux kernel in the form of the new JAILHOUSE_GUEST option to allow non-root cells to let Linux run as a guest.

    • Block Updates Land In The Linux 4.16 Kernel

      The block subsystem updates have now landed in Linus Torvalds’ Git tree during the first full day of the Linux 4.16 kernel merge window.

      There isn’t any “breakthrough” new block features for Linux 4.16 but the block optimizations are notable and I look forward to benchmarking that shortly.

    • L2 CDP Added To Linux 4.16 For L2 Cache Partitioning On Intel CPUs

      L2 Code and Data Prioritization (L2 CDP) is a feature of Intel’s Resource Director Technology (RDT) that will now be supported with the Linux 4.16 kernel.

      Intel RDT’s L2 Code and Data Prioritization feature allows for programmatic control over code and data placement in the L2 cache. This feature will be supported by future Intel Atom CPUs and is intended for use-cases where precise L2 cache control is desired for a VM/container/application.

    • Linux_4.15
    • Linux 4.15 Kernel, GCC, LinuxBoot Project and More Cryptojacking
    • SD Times news digest: Linux 4.15 not final, TensorFlow 1.5, and Cettia 1.0.0
    • Linus Torvalds announces Linux kernel 4.15 with a focus on Spectre and Meltdown

      After a long wait, the much-anticipated Linux kernel 4.15 is finally here. While these kernel releases are always important, this one is particularly noteworthy. Why? Because it largely focuses on Spectre and Meltdown mitigation. With that said, it is not only about those vulnerabilities, of course.

    • Torvalds Releases Linux 4.15 With Improved Meltdown, Spectre Patches

      CPU security issues required the longest Linux kernel development cycle since 2011, as Linus Torvalds releases Linux 4.15

      Linus Torvalds released the first new Linux kernel of 2018 on Jan. 28, after the longest development cycle for a new Linux kernel in seven years.

      During the release Linux Kernel release cycle, Torvalds typically issues a release candidate once a week, with most cycles including six to eight release candidates.

    • Microsoft Hyper-V Guests Get PCID Support With Linux 4.16

      With the in-development Linux 4.16 kernel there is now support for PCID with Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization guests.

    • Linux Foundation

      • CNCF to Host the Rook Project to Further Cloud-Native Storage Capabilities

        Today, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) voted to accept Rook as the 15th hosted project alongside Kubernetes, Prometheus, OpenTracing, Fluentd, Linkerd, gRPC, CoreDNS, containerd, rkt, CNI, Envoy, Jaeger, Notary and TUF.

        Rook has been accepted as an inception-level project, under the CNCF Graduation Criteria v1.0. The CNCF provides every project an associated maturity level of either inception, incubating or graduated. At a minimum, an inception-level project is required to add value to cloud native computing and be aligned with the CNCF charter.

      • CNCF’s First Cloud-Native Storage Project Is Rook

        Rook helped support HBO’s Game of Thrones season 7 premiere. Now, the open source software-defined storage project is the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s 15th hosted project and first in the storage category.

        Kubernetes container deployments typically use external storage systems. Rook, on the other hand, brings file, block, and object storage systems into the Kubernetes cluster. This allows the systems to run alongside other applications that use their data, and it makes the cloud-native cluster portable across public and private clouds.

      • Jorge Castro: Updating your CNCF Developer Affiliation

        The Cloud Native Computing Foundation uses gitdm to figue out who is contributing and from where. This is used to generate reports and so forth.

      • AT&T plans to accelerate White Box adoption by releasing dNOS into open source

        AT&T has announced that it will open source its Disaggregated Network Operating System (dNOS) project and that it will soon be hosted by the Linux Foundation. The dNOS project provides a software framework to speed the adoption and use of white boxes in a service provider’s infrastructure. The idea is that telcos, software developers, cloud providers, hardware makers and networking application developers can quickly create new white box infrastructure to meet evolving carrier requirements – and, perhaps just as importantly, do it in a more cost-effective way.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • You Can Now Use VirtualBox to Test KDE Plasma Mobile

        If you’re keen to try KDE Plasma mobile first hand I’ve some good news for you: it just got super easy to download and test it.

        Yup, KDE has announced that a new ISO image is now available to download. Using this image you can boot an alpha-quality version of Plasma Mobile in a virtual machine app like VirtualBox or KVM.

      • Events: Akademy 2018

        Not nearly as close as FOSDEM, but still coming up on the KDE Community calendar: Akademy 2018. It’s in Vienna. I vaguely remember visiting Vienna once, long ago — possibly an FSFE function. So it’s high time to head out that way again to visit the local KDE team and to see what 2017-2018 has brought (and will bring) the KDE community.

      • KEXI 3.1.0 Beta & Frameworks

        Today is the release day for KEXI 3.1.0 Beta & its frameworks: https://community.kde.org/Kexi/Releases#3.1.0_Beta_1

        Since version 3 it becomes KEXI not Kexi to suggest becoming a standalone app. It’s standalone status includes being first-class app also outside of KDE Plasma. To make this real things such as useful yet simple file widget are developed or single click mode is really single click mode “even” on XFCE. Actually implementing optimal experience for Windows is quite similar to supporting XFCE.

        KEXI Frameworks are now prepared for backward compatibility rules within the series >=3.1. So I would encourage to try KProperty if you need powerful property editing features in your app in place of tedious Qt list or tree views. There’s KPropertyExample in the same repository. Then there’s KDb if you actually expect more (something low or high-level) than QtSql, that is also need to create database or SQLite-based documents, what seems to be very popular container in our times. Then try KReport if you want escape from generating (ODF/HTML/whatever) documents “by hand”, or QPainting them by hand, just to be able to print your application’s data in a structured way with nice title, header, footer. Try KReportExample to see KReport in action with “a few lines of code” app.

      • New artwork for Falkon, do you have any ideas?

        The lead developer has called for submissions on a new logo for Falkon. One of the current submissions, which I must say I love, is shown below by Andres Betts who is on the KDE VDG team.

      • Polishing Plasma 5.12
    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME Tweaks 3.28 Progress Report 1

        A few days ago, I released GNOME Tweaks 3.27.4, a development snapshot on the way to the next stable version 3.28 which will be released alongside GNOME 3.28 in March. Here are some highlights of what’s changed since 3.26.

  • Distributions

    • Quick Look at the Arch Based Indie Linux Distribution: MagpieOS

      Most of the Linux distros that are in use today are either created and developed in the US or Europe. A young developer from Bangladesh wants to change all that.

    • Gentoo Family

      • FOSDEM is near

        Excitement is building with FOSDEM 2018 only a few days away. There are now 14 current and one former developer in planned attendance, along with many from the Gentoo community.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

    • Slackware Family

      • Chromium 64 – and 32bit pain

        The new release of the Chromium sources gives us version 64 of Google’s browser. I have created Slackware packages for you, but that was not entirely trivial.

        The Chromium compilation on my 32bit Slackware OS kept failing on the embedded ffmpeg. I am afraid the fact that some of the bigger distros are dropping 32bit variants starts showing and things are coming apart at the seams.

        When you are a developer and there’s no 32bit release of your favorite OS, this makes it quite difficult to test the validity of code paths when you only compile and test your code on a 64bit platform. This is what’s happening with Google’s Chromium code and it will probably only get worse.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Webmail and whole class of problems.

        I am sure some people would suggest either Emacs or alpine or some other tool which works and I’m sure it worked right out of bat for them, for me I wanted to have something which had a GUI and I didn’t have to think too much about it. It also points out the reason why Thunderbird was eventually moved out of mozilla in a sense so that community could do feature and bug-fixing more faster than either mozilla did or had the resources or the will to do so.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • LXD Weekly Status #32
          • Ubuntu reverting to Xorg in Bionic Beaver

            Ten years’ worth of effort to replace the Xorg graphics framework has been given a “must try harder” mark by Ubuntu, which says its next release will not use Wayland by default.

            Ubuntu’s desktop engineering manager Will Cooke made the announcement last Friday, saying the decision applies to the Bionic Beaver release due in April.

            He listed three shortcomings in Wayland: screen sharing works (for example in Skype, Hangouts and WebRTC) better in Xorg, remote desktop control ditto, and “recoverability from Shell crashes is less dramatic”.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • System76 Wants to Offer Full Disk Encryption for Its Ubuntu-Based Pop!_OS Linux

              System76, the computer reseller specialized in the sale of Linux-based notebook, desktop, and server computers, shared details on new installer work for the next release of Pop!_OS Linux.

              It would appear that System76 is collaborating with elementary’s Daniel Foré on a new installer, which will offer full disk encryption support, for the next major release of their Ubuntu-Based Pop!_OS Linux distribution, which is coming this spring based on Canonical’s Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open source needs contributions: automation, scale & security are key

    Automated software container security company Twistlock claims to be passionate about open source contributions.

    Company CTO John Morello points out that all too few firms actually contribute with ‘code commits’ despite many claiming to be open source advocates, or openly stating their use of open technologies.

  • Blockchain is this year’s buzzword – but can it outlive the hype?

    “Blockchain has the potential to replace mediators who are present today in multiple industries to provide transparency and accountability, such as banks for financial transactions, universities for verifying academic certificates or music companies to reward music creators,” says Dr David Galindo, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham and a cryptography expert.

  • A Project Overview of Cardstack Cryptocurrency and Open-source Blockchain

    Since its invention in 2009, blockchain has evolved to become a major revolutionary technology of the digital world. Decentralized tech like Bitcoin, Ethereum and several other cryptocurrencies and ventures have established and utilized the proficiency of blockchain in making money. There is a new player in the market and it is called Cardstack, a likely solution for decentralized internet founded by Chris Tse.

  • Can Mycroft’s Privacy-Centric Voice Assistant Take On Alexa And Google?

    Ask Joshua Montgomery what’s wrong with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and you’ll likely get a cynical answer.

    Montgomery is the CEO of Mycroft, which for the past few years has been building an open-source alternative to big tech’s voice assistants. He doesn’t trust any of those companies–not Google, nor Apple, nor Amazon–to protect people’s privacy or act in users’ best interests.

  • Events

    • Fleet Commander!

      I’ve presented a talk about Fleet Commander at DevConf CZ’2018, which basically show-cases the current status of the project after having the whole integration with FreeIPA and SSSD done!

    • We are back! #LinuXatUNI on the stage
    • Meet us at FOSDEM 2018!

      Members of the Purism design team, Librem 5 development team, and PureOS developers will be meeting up and walking around the event, namely: François, Predrag (Peter), Jeff, Nicole, Dorota, Guido, Matthias and Zlatan will all be on-site. You can check out what they look like on our team page. Come and say hi!

    • Day one of the pre-FOSDEM Debconf Videoteam sprint

      I’m at the Linux Belgium training center, where this last week before FOSDEM the DebConf video team is holding a sprint. The nice folks of Linux Belgium made us feel pretty welcome…

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla’s Public Policy Impact on Internet Health

        Rest assured, in 2018, we will invest heavily in shaping public policy issues that contribute to and advance a healthy internet. We’ll continue our leadership on multi-year issues like privacy and security. We’ll keep fighting the critical ongoing battles like copyright reform and net neutrality. And we’re looking at emerging topics related to openness and decentralization, understanding and fighting back against the future of gatekeeper control of our internet. We also have incredible depth left to be explored on how we perceive and experience trust online, and who around the world really gets included and can take full advantages of the opportunities of the internet. Some of the policy issues we tackle will be major headlines, even more so in 2018 than they were in 2017 – issues like competition, artificial intelligence, and intermediary liability. And we will be there. Across the board, in 2018, we will engage in public policy wherever we can to promote a healthy, open, trusted internet.

      • Progressive Web Apps are here. What’s the big deal?

        The web is the largest software platform ever, a great equalizer that works on any device, anywhere. The more it can do, the better off we’ll be. That’s the thinking behind Progressive Web Apps (PWA), mobile-friendly websites that can almost everything native apps can do, and they’re coming to Firefox for Android.

      • January 2018 CA Communication

        Mozilla has sent a CA Communication to inform Certificate Authorities (CAs) who have root certificates included in Mozilla’s program about current events related to domain validation for SSL certificates and to remind them of a number of upcoming deadlines.

      • Everything you need to know about privacy may just be on Reality TV

        One of the most prevalent and frightening things that women have to deal with online is the threat of stalking and severe harassment. Having been frequent targets of abuse, online harassment and stalking for the better part of a decade, it is clear that over the past few years, the Kardashian-Jenner clan have become experts in privacy because they’ve been forced to— these women have learned the hard way that they need to be in control of information about their private lives.

      • FOSDEM, Rust, and Debugging

        I’ve recently switched groups at Mozilla to start working full-time on improving Rust debugging.

      • Firefox to emit ‘occasional sponsored story’ in ads test

        Some users who bravely test betas of Mozilla’s Firefox browser will soon also test an “occasional sponsored story” as the browser-maker tries to re-invent web ads.

        This story starts with Mozilla’s February 2017 acquisition of web-clipping app Pocket.

        Pocket let users bookmark content they like, then sync that list of sites across multiple devices. The occasional sponsored post popped up among those lists.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Announcing ncurses 6.1

      The ncurses (new curses) library is a free software emulation of curses in System V Release 4.0 (SVr4), and more. It uses terminfo format, supports pads and color and multiple highlights and forms characters and function-key mapping, and has all the other SVr4-curses enhancements over BSD curses. SVr4 curses became the basis of X/Open Curses.

    • Ncurses 6.1 Released With A Variety Of Improvements & Other Changes

      Ncurses 6.1 retains compatibility support for Ncurses 5.0/6.0, but adds in a variety of new features and improvements. There is now extended numeric capabilities, various internal code changes to enhance Ncurses’ performance, some new functions introduced, and a variety of corrections to existing features.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Truly open education will require sweeping changes

      It is no secret that American schools have struggled to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Critics have blamed schools’ shortcomings on a variety of factors: change-resistant bureaucracy, low standards, straying too far from the Three R’s, inadequate teacher training, and more. One potential root cause of this fundamental issue is that the education system isn’t built to be responsive to a rapidly changing environment.

      Public education’s aims—providing every student with a free and appropriate education regardless of race, sex, class, disability, etc.—are undeniably admirable. An unfortunate outgrowth of these aims is an emphasis on standardization that can be sluggish and stagnant. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the world wasn’t evolving so rapidly economically, technologically, politically, and socially. Parents, students, and employers are sounding the alarm about this issue. It’s becoming clear that a structural shift will have to happen for the education system to become more responsive to the needs of its key stakeholders.

  • Programming/Development

    • Introducing RLlib: A composable and scalable reinforcement learning library

      In a previous post, I outlined emerging applications of reinforcement learning (RL) in industry. I began by listing a few challenges facing anyone wanting to apply RL, including the need for large amounts of data, and the difficulty of reproducing research results and deriving the error estimates needed for mission-critical applications. Nevertheless, the success of RL in certain domains has been the subject of much media coverage. This has sparked interest, and companies are beginning to explore some of the use cases and applications I described in my earlier post. Many tasks and professions, including software development, are poised to incorporate some forms of AI-powered automation. In this post, I’ll describe how RISE Lab’s Ray platform continues to mature and evolve just as companies are examining use cases for RL.

    • Employers want JavaScript, but developers want Python

      When it comes to which programming languages are in demand by employers, JavaScript, Java, Python, C++, and C—in that order—came out on top in a recent developer survey. Developers, however, want to learn languages like Python, Go, and Kotlin.

      A survey of developers by technical recruiter HackerRank, conducted in October, found no gap between languages employers want and what developers actually know, with JavaScript barely edging out Java. But as far as which languages developers prefer, Python is the language developers most want to learn—and many already know it, HackerRank found.

Leftovers

  • Ten Days in Shenzhen

    Despite the several issues I ran into, including the tech issues I encountered because of my pig-headed insistence on preserving a high level of security and some poor choices I made, I consider my ten day stay in Shenzhen a resounding success. I feel much more confident moving my project along and more solid in my understanding of hardware after the experience. It highlighted several issues and opened the door to several new possibilities. I don’t know of any other place in the world that I’ve traveled to that could offer this much for a hardware project. There are certainly much wider ramifications to such a realization than my personal interests and the hardware segment of the tech world, but that’s a separate topic.

  • Apple iPhone X demand: More data, more questions

    Initially, the big question was whether Apple Inc. AAPL, -2.07% would be able to produce iPhone X devices quickly enough to meet demand for the phone, which was expected to drive a “supercycle” of upgrades. Now, however, analysts are wondering whether Apple might be easing up on build orders for the phone given that interest hasn’t quite manifested as anticipated, and whether this even matters for the stock.

  • Science

    • Human genome decoded with pocket-sized device

      Scientists used a portable device no bigger than a cellphone to sequence the most complete human genome ever assembled with a single technology, according to a study published Monday.

      The breakthrough, detailed in the journal Nature Biotechnology, brings us closer to the day when family doctors will order up genome scans during a regular check-up along with blood work, the authors suggested.

      “We are definitely approaching the point where sequencing genomes will become a routine part of advanced clinical exams,” lead author Matthew Loose, a professor at the University of Nottingham, told AFP.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Faced with failing antibiotics, scientists are using killer viruses to fight superbugs

      Resistance is much less likely to develop with phages, because each type of phage infects a specific type of bacteria. Using them to fight infections is an old idea. But until recently, finding the right type of phage was little more than guesswork. Sometimes a doctor would inject a patient with a phage and it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t.

      As a result, phage therapy is now used only for the sickest patients, as a treatment of last resort. But DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence could make finding the right phage much easier, turning the strategy into a more practical treatment option.

    • Washington State Wants to Make It Easier to Sterilize People With Disabilities

      n 1936, Ann Cooper Hewitt filed a lawsuit against her mother — and with good reason. At the age of 20, her mother Ann had sterilized her against her will. Having succeeded in classifying her as having an intellectual disability, Ann’s mother was legally allowed to authorize the operation over Ann’s objections. Her mother’s lawyer responded by claiming that Ann’s sterilization had been “for society’s sake” due to the girl’s “erotic tendencies.”

      Even in the age of the eugenics movement, where tens of thousands were involuntarily sterilized by state governments who sought to breed “better” human beings by removing disability from the gene pool, the Hewitt case attracted nationwide attention. Could a diagnosis of disability allow parents to control their child’s reproductive future against his or her will?

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Trump’s secret assassinations programme

      It was approved by President Trump casually over dinner – a midnight raid and drone strike on the village of Yakla in Yemen. Concerns about the quality of the intelligence and legality of the operation would later prove to be warnings he should have heeded, but he gave the order anyway. What happened next left 10 children dead and was described by President Trump as a “win”. Reprieve’s investigations have revealed that it was anything but. Instead, we have uncovered violations of international law that led to an appalling loss of life.

      [...]

      The first year of the Trump administration has resulted in more loss of life from drone strikes than all eight years of Obama’s presidency. Trump ripped up the limited safeguards President Obama put in place.This is now industrial-scale executions, hugely expanded in both scale and callousness, conducted with no regard for human life or human rights.

    • Miscalculations in Israel Could Pave Way to Wider War

      Last week, Israeli political leaders were rolling with guffaws and ribbing each other in delight as Vice-President Mike Pence proved that, as a Christian Zionist, he was more Zionist than the Zionists in the Knesset (minus, of course, its evicted Arab members – see here). But one might wonder what the more sober Israeli security echelon figures were thinking as they listened to Pence’s Knesset speech, which was rife with Biblical references and declarations of his “admiration for the People of the Book.”

      Perhaps they were speculating how far they might be able to go in influencing Pence and his boss, Donald Trump, to wield U.S. military power to advance Israeli interests.

      Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, via the Trump family go-betweens – Jared Kushner, and the Trump family lawyers – has certainly had an impact in Washington. The Middle East landscape has changed considerably over the last year as a consequence, but the nature of that change is what is at issue. How many of these changes have actually benefited Israel’s – or the U.S.’s – security interests?

    • The War That Never Ends (for the U.S. Military High Command)

      Of course, the U.S. military and Washington policymakers lost the war in Vietnam in the previous century and perhaps it’s well that they did. The United States really had no business intervening in that anti-colonial civil war in the first place, supporting a South Vietnamese government of questionable legitimacy, and stifling promised nationwide elections on both sides of that country’s artificial border. In doing so, Washington presented an easy villain for a North Vietnamese-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) insurgency, a group known to Americans in those years as the Vietcong.

      More than two decades of involvement and, at the war’s peak, half a million American troops never altered the basic weakness of the U.S.-backed regime in Saigon. Despite millions of Asian deaths and 58,000 American ones, South Vietnam’s military could not, in the end, hold the line without American support and finally collapsed under the weight of a conventional North Vietnamese invasion in April 1975.

      There’s just one thing. Though a majority of historians (known in academia as the “orthodox” school) subscribe to the basic contours of the above narrative, the vast majority of senior American military officers do not. Instead, they’re still refighting the Vietnam War to a far cheerier outcome through the books they read, the scholarship they publish, and (most disturbingly) the policies they continue to pursue in the Greater Middle East.

    • Tillerson’s Promise of More War in Syria Gets Warm Reception From Corporate Media

      In a speech at Stanford this month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that America intends to keep military troops in Syria indefinitely, in pursuit of the US’s “key end states for Syria,” including “post-Assad leadership,” the marginalization of Iran and the elimination of “weapons of mass destruction” that the US claims Syria has.

      Occupying a country without the permission of the host government, as America is doing in Syria, contravenes international law. Nor does the US have a legal right to pursue regime change in Syria. Yet multiple media outlets have praised Tillerson’s remarks.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

  • Finance

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • “Polish death camps” censorship bill angers Israeli government

      Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized a bill passed last week by the Polish Sejm which would make phrases like “Polish death camps” illegal.

      “I strongly oppose it,” Netanyahu said in an official statement on Saturday. “…We will under no circumstances accept any attempt to rewrite history.”

      The bill would amend an existing law to make use of the term by Poles or foreigners punishable by a fine or up to three years’ imprisonment. It still requires approval by the Senate and a signature from Polish President Andrzej Duda, which is likely.

    • Give young journalists protections from school censorship

      While no law prevents school administrators from censoring student reporters, some schools in Washington are protecting the voices of students through local practices that entrust student editors with responsibility for content…

    • It’s Time to Talk About Internet Companies’ Content Moderation Operations

      Many user-generated content (UGC) services aspire to build scalable businesses where usage and revenues grow without increasing headcount. Even with advances in automated filtering and artificial intelligence, this goal is not realistic. Large UGC databases require substantial human intervention to moderate anti-social and otherwise unwanted content and activities. Despite the often-misguided assumptions by policymakers, problematic content usually does not have flashing neon signs saying “FILTER ME!” Instead, humans must find and remove that content—especially with borderline cases, where machines can’t make sufficiently nuanced judgments.

      At the largest UGC services, the number of people working on content moderation is eye-popping. By 2018, YouTube will have 10,000 people on its “trust & safety teams.” Facebook’s “safety and security team” will grow to 20,000 people in 2018.

    • Austria refers Facebook ‘Hate-Speech’ case to the CJEU

      The plaintiff in this case is Dr Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, a green politician from Austria. In April 2016, a Facebook user with the fake alias ‘Michaela Jaskova’ posted an image of Glawischnig-Piesczek, and made some rude comments in German (“wretched traitor”, “corrupt clumsy oaf”, “member of a fascist party”) regarding the politician. Facebook was requested to delete the image and the comments in July 2016, but failed to do so.

    • Sina Weibo in trouble with Chinese censors

      China’s efforts to undermine freedom of speech and freedom of the press continue unabated within the country’s borders.

      After the 19th National People’s congress last year, it was widely recognized that China’s efforts towards “national rejuvenation” under President Xi Jinping would accompany increased online censorship and state supervision of domestic media platforms.

      Over the past two months there have been orders to ban the use of all personal VPNs online, as well as efforts to further regulate what kinds of imagery is permitted on Chinese television, with the party declaring hip-hop and other urban subcultures unfit for public viewing.

    • SC to hear Palekar’s plea on pre-censorship of films
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Patching isn’t working and end-users ignore breaches, says ex-NSA security VP David Venable [Ed: Your employees are using Microsoft Windows (which you put back doors in) to store cracking tools. And Kaspesky too. You yourselves are the problem.]

      David Venable, VP of cyber security at network provider and security firm Masergy, thinks that the world’s approach to patching is broken, and the evidence – data leaks and exploits like WannaCry…

    • A Response to “Americans, the NSA is Still Listening: Section 702 is Alive and Well”

      I begin with acknowledging that, on at least one point, Mr. Husick accurately judges my disposition. I have no use for the treachery and deceit by which Edward Snowden breached his confidentiality commitments, manipulated and abused his access, and then betrayed his country. Notably, five years after the first of his well-reported disclosures, Snowden has yet to reveal any program or action undertaken by the National Security Agency (NSA) or any other element of the Intelligence Community that broke the law. As the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) concluded after its exhaustive post-Snowden review (and as remains true today), there has never been an intentional violation of the standards that govern the operation of the Section 702 Program—one of the most heavily regulated and tightly monitored undertakings conducted by the U.S. government.[3]

    • Congressional Votes on Controversial Surveillance Law Close Door on Privacy Debate—Or Do They?

      Everywhere Americans look today, threats to their privacy are prevalent. Whether hackers are gaining access to our financial data or social media accounts, our location is being compromised by the GPS technology in our phones, or Internet of Things devices such as digital assistants and connected Barbie dolls passively listening to conversations in our homes, privacy is proving to be increasingly elusive.

    • It’s Time to Make Student Privacy a Priority

      Last month, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Education held a workshop in Washington, DC. The topic was “Student Privacy and Ed Tech.” We at EFF have been trying to get the FTC to focus on the privacy risks of educational technology (or “ed tech”) for over two years, so we eagerly filed formal comments.

      We’ve long been concerned about how technology impacts student privacy. As schools and classrooms become increasingly wired, and as schools put more digital devices and services in the hands of students, we’ve been contacted by a large number of concerned students, parents, teachers, and even administrators.

      They want to know: What data are ed tech providers collecting about our kids? How are they using it? How well do they disclose (if at all) the scope of their data collection? How much control (if any) do they give to schools and parents over the retention and use of the data they collect? Do they even attempt to obtain parental consent before collecting and using incredibly sensitive student data?

    • When Trading Track Records Means Less Privacy

      Sharing your personal fitness goals—lowered heart rates, accurate calorie counts, jogging times, and GPS paths—sounds like a fun, competitive feature offered by today’s digital fitness trackers, but a recent report from The Washington Post highlights how this same feature might end up revealing not just where you are, where you’ve been, and how often you’ve traveled there, but sensitive national security information.

      According to The Washington Post report, the fitness tracking software company Strava—whose software is implemented into devices made by Fitbit and Jawbone—posted a “heat map” in November 2017 showing activity of some of its 27 million users around the world. Unintentionally included in that map were the locations, daily routines, and possible supply routes of disclosed and undisclosed U.S. military bases and outposts, including what appear to be classified CIA sites.

    • Senators Demand Investigation Of Intelligence Community’s Refusal To Implement Whistleblower Protections

      When the Snowden leaks dropped, plenty of people rushed to criticize his actions, saying he should have brought his concerns to officials via the proper channels. Always assumed to be mostly worthless, the intervening four years have proven nothing shoots messengers faster than the “proper channels.” Despite periodic legislative attempts to institute better whistleblower protections, working within the system rarely produces positive changes. It does, however, subject the whistleblower to plenty of retaliation.

      This sad fact is personified by Dan Meyer — the former official whistleblower channel for the Intelligence Community. Meyer blew the whistle himself, pointing out wrongdoing by top IC officials. Now, he’s being forced out of office, clearing the path for the IC’s attempt to rebrand whistleblowers as “insider threats.” Meyer is facing an ad hoc Star Chamber of IC Inspector Generals, all of them apparently gunning for his swift removal.

    • ICE Accesses a Massive Amount of License Plate Data. Will California Take Action?

      The news that Immigrations & Customs Enforcement is using a massive database of license plate scans from a private company sent shockwaves through the civil liberties and immigrants’ rights community, who are already sounding the alarm about how mass surveillance will be used to fuel deportation efforts.

      The concerns are certainly justified: the vendor, Vigilant Solutions, offers access to 6.5 billion data points, plus millions more collected by law enforcement agencies around the country. Using advanced algorithms, this information—often collected by roving vehicles equipped with automated license plate readers (ALPRs) that scan every license plate they pass—can be used to reveal a driver’s travel patterns and to track a vehicle in real time.

    • Fitness Tracker Data Exposes Military Operations, Shows What Damage That Can Be Done With ‘Just Metadata’

      Andy Robertson covered this for Forbes in May of 2015. The Flyby feature connects users by providing them links to public profile pages of other users they’d “passed” during a run. The feature may not give users each other’s addresses, but users can assume their “competitors” work or live close by.

      Strava does allow users to geofence “private” areas to prevent tracking in those areas. But it’s not a default option. If you don’t want to share every movement with Strava, you have to opt out. Most users don’t. And most users are seemingly unaware of how much data they’re leaving behind.

      This “metadata” — something our government refers to as harmless when gathered in bulk — can result in real-world security issues. Conflict analyst Nathan Ruser was the first to point out how Strava’s data was making it easy for people to pinpoint military bases and operations.

    • Strava’s privacy PR nightmare shows why you can’t trust social fitness apps to protect your data

      For years, I used the popular activity-tracking app Strava to log my bike rides, almost all of which started and ended at my San Francisco apartment. At some point I thought, hey, maybe it’s not a great idea to share such precise data about my location, so I set up an online perimeter several blocks in diameter around my home to make the beginning and end of my journey a little less obvious. That way, the app wouldn’t show my movements once I’d entered that zone.

    • NSA cryptologist gets 10 years in prison for attempted sexual encounter with a minor

      Mark Anthony Pazmino, then a 28-year-old linguist assigned to the National Security Agency, showed up at the swimming pool of a local Air Force base with condoms and booze for a sexual encounter with someone he thought would be an underage teenage girl.

      But Pazmino was not met by the 14-year-old who he believed was receiving his explicit messages via a cell phone app. Rather, federal agents were waiting for him. In short order, the Army corporal’s brief career and his stint at the NSA ended. He was later dismissed with an “other than honorable discharge” upon pleading guilty to attempted coercion and enticement of a minor.

    • The NSA Literally Removed “Honesty” From Its Core Values

      On January 12, the National Security Agency (NSA) removed “honesty” from the core values listed on its website. To replace the word, “commitment to service” “respect for people,” and “accountability,” have been added.

      While this may seem like linguistic nitpicking, it’s a bit strange for such a heavily-scrutinized government agency to drop their commitment to honesty. Ever since Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the scope of the NSA’s surveillance and data collections, it’s been clear that the agency obfuscated the scale of their spying operations.

    • Judge orders U.S. government to seek consent to give data to AT&T, Time Warner

      The judge hearing the Justice Department’s lawsuit to stop AT&T from buying Time Warner ordered the department on Monday to seek permission to give the two companies access to rivals’ pricing data.

      Judge Richard Leon, living up to a pledge made during a hearing last week, ordered the Justice Department, which has the data, to ask the companies that gave it to the government for consent to pass it on to AT&T and Time Warner’s legal team.

      The Justice Department sued in November to stop AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. wireless company, from buying Time Warner for $85 billion because of concerns that it could raise prices for rivals and pay-TV subscribers as well as hamper the development of online video. Trial is set for March 19.

    • Aussie military says tracking app doesn’t breach security
    • What He Did on His Summer Break: Exposed a Global Security Flaw
  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • My First Night on Death Row as an Innocent Man

      I arrived at death row on November 1, 1994, the same year director Frank Darabont turned Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” into the now classic movie about a wrongfully convicted banker and his wise black friend. A green stone tower at the entrance to the Ellis Unit prison looked a little like the structures that rose from the Maine dirt in that film. A white female guard stood atop the tower. A pistol holstered to her hip, she also held a rifle in her right hand. She looked to be in her 50s, and her Southern drawl told me she’d been plucked from a roster of job applicants who lived somewhere nearby.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Leaked Trump Plan To ‘Nationalize’ Nation’s 5G Networks A Bizarre, Unrealistic Pipe Dream

      There’s been a lot of hand wringing and hyperventilation over a new report claiming that the Trump administration wants to nationalize the nation’s looming fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, despite the fact the proposal has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever actually materializing. According to a leaked PowerPoint deck and memo drafted by a “Senior National Security Council official,” the Trump administration wants the U.S. government to build and own a centralized, government-controlled 5G network in order to, purportedly, fight Chinese hackers.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Salt Lake Comic Con files for new trial in trademark case

        Salt Lake Comic Con lawyers have filed a motion for a new trial following a federal jury’s decision that the convention infringes on San Diego Comic-Con’s trademark.

        The Salt Lake lawyers filed the paperwork on Tuesday in response to last month’s eight-day trial in U.S. District Court, during which jurors decided that the California convention’s trademarks are valid. The jury found that the infringement was not willful and awarded $20,000 in damages to the San Diego Comic-Con, which had sought $12 million.

      • Salt Lake Comic Con Files For A New Trial And Seeks Round 2

        In the wake of San Diego Comic-Con winning its years-long lawsuit against Salt Lake Comicon over its trademark on the term “comic-con”, much of the media coverage was somewhat apocalyptic as to what the consequences would be for cons across the country. Despite the payout for winning the suit being a paltry $20k, more focus was put on just how other cons would react. The early returns are mixed, with some proactively undergoing name-changes to avoid litigation and others staying stalwart. The point we have made all along is that this win for SDCC was not some ultimate final act on the matter.

      • Nestle, Atari settle lawsuit over Kit Kat campaign

        Nestle SA has settled a lawsuit in which Atari SA accused the Swiss food company of using the hit 1970s video game “Breakout” without permission to sell Kit Kat bars.

        U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, dismissed Atari’s copyright infringement case on Wednesday after the companies settled, court records show.

    • Copyrights

      • Ninth Circuit Issues Important Decision on Software Licensing Practices and Web Scraping

        Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit issued a noteworthy ruling in a dispute between an enterprise software licensor and a third-party support provider. The case is particularly important as it addresses the common practice of using automated means to download information (in this case, software) from websites in contravention of website terms and conditions. Also, the case examines and interprets fairly “standard” software licensing language in light of evolving business practices in the software industry. (Oracle USA, Inc. v. Rimini Street, Inc., No. 16-16832 (9th Cir. Jan. 8, 2018)).

China’s Patent Policy Likely to Drive Out Foreign Companies and Maybe That’s Just the Intention

Posted in Asia, Patents at 5:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From manufacturing powerhouse to litigation hub; what would that cause to investment though?

Pudong skyline
Pudong, a district of Shanghai, China

Summary: While corporate media focuses on trade war (e.g. US almost banning Huawei-branded phones) there’s a broader picture which includes patent aspects (Huawei and other Chinese giants use patents for sanctions)

AS we noted in our last post, it’s becoming a liability for firms to operate (e.g. sell) in China, manufacture in China, or be based in China because it makes them susceptible to more patent lawsuits. Korean, Japanese, European and American firms might learn this sooner or later.

As IAM put it yesterday, “Shenzhen will play host to one of the first patent-related domestic court clashes between Chinese mobile device manufacturers following Coolpad’s launch of a suit against Xiaomi…”

IAM loves it, as its funding sources are litigators and even trolls. But what does that mean for the rest of us, who are neither litigators nor trolls?

IAM covered this latest twist in the Coolpad case (mentioned here last week), alluding to news from late on Friday:

Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad announced late Friday night that it has sued larger rival Xiaomi for infringing three Chinese invention patents. The cases will play out in the city where Coolpad is headquartered, at the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court. Notably, it will be one of the first major patent clashes between major players in China’s smartphone sector to play out in domestic courts.

In a voluntary disclosure filed with the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, Coolpad said that six separate cases have been accepted by the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court. The plaintiff is a subsidiary of the group called Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific.

Korean companies like Samsung are also being legally harassed in China by patent giants and trolls. It’s not the sort of environment it used to be; it’s a lot more hostile. There are even embargoes being imposed by the state (to protect state-connected firms like Huawei).

What adds to/fans the flames of this litigation atmosphere is the poor patent scope. SIPO has gone further and further out of its way to expand the scope of patents. Last week we wrote about the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruling in favour of GUI patents [1, 2] (incidentally against a Korean company, LG, which we’ve just mentioned), but this lunacy which is patents on GUIs has gone wild in China. Yesterday Managing IP published this article about that:

At the end of December 2017, Beijing IP Court decided the first GUI (graphical user interface) patent infringement case in China. This case is a battle between two anti-virus software giants: the plaintiff Qihoo 360 currently is the largest cyber security company in China; and the defendant Jiangmin is a pioneer anti-virus software provider in the PC era. Beijing IP Court rendered a decision in favour of Jiangmin.

There’s also a slightly older article about that. To quote:

China’s first lawsuit for infringement of graphical user interface (GUI) design has been recently concluded by the Beijing IP Court. This case has attracted much public attention, as GUI designs have become protectable in China by so-called design patents only as of 1 May 2014, and despite a large number of GUI design patents being granted since then, their enforceability remained untested until the present case. The judgment issued on 25 December 2017 now results in heated discussion and leaves, in particular, software developers counting on strong GUI design protection very disappointed.

GUI patents are so broad and vague that it’s pretty incredible they even get granted. They’re not inventions. Combine that with China’s litigation rates (soaring nowadays) and it looks ever more daunting to enter the Chinese market. Maybe, in a sense, this is what Xi’s CPC intended; maybe it just wants to drive out foreign companies in order to promote local brands like Huawei (government-connected). Censorship has long been one pretext for banning foreign firms from operating in China, so why not patents? It makes it look a lot more rational than nativism/nationalism.

A Korean Android OEM is Bullied by Patent Trolls Which Microsoft Gave Patents to and Paid

Posted in GNU/Linux, LG, Microsoft, Patents at 4:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LG is the latest victim, but let’s carry on pretending that “Microsoft loves Linux”

LG phone

Summary: Even though LG already pays Microsoft ‘protection’ money for alleged patent infringements in Linux (since 2007) the trolls that are connected to Microsoft carry on chasing it with lawsuits in East Texas, so Microsoft’s ‘protection’ is illusionary at best and Microsoft is a back-stabbing ‘ally’

THE malicious MOSAID (now known as Conversant and led by Boris Teksler) is a patent troll. It was armed by Microsoft some years ago and it now attacks Android OEMs. The latest victim? LG. As IAM put it yesterday: “Over the last four years the licensing dispute between Conversant subsidiary Core Wireless and LG has had all the familiar traits of a modern day infringement spat as the battle has dragged on in two separate district court cases.”

It’s the district court in East Texas and, as a reminder, “Conversant acquired the Core Wireless portfolio of around 2,000 assets from Nokia in 2011.” Remember that Microsoft guided the transfer of patents from Nokia to Conversant (known as MOSAID back then). We have been writing a lot about that. Boris Teksler is aware of it.

LG has also just been attacked by Uniloc, which Microsoft paid a lot of money back in the days (we wrote many articles about that). Again it’s in Texas, but the troll now preys on Korean firms. The English-speaking mainstream media in Korea wrote about that yesterday:

A nonpracticing entity filed a series of patent infringement lawsuits last year against South Korea’s information technology giants, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, in an apparent move to ride their recently improved sales in the US market, a local intellectual property service provider said Monday.

Most recently, Uniloc filed a suit to the federal court of Texas in October last year, claiming LG Electronics infringed upon one of its patents through products equipped with smart home platform system SmartThinQ, according to Seoul-based global patent information company WIPS and US-based patent risk solution provider Rational Patent Exchange.

Notice how they target Korean companies not in Korea but in Texas. They drag their cases to the most notorious courts, which are also troll-friendly courts. This might get harder in the future because of TC Heartland. Based on this new report, patent law firms pack up and go as the number of new patent lawsuits filed in Texas fell by more than half. To quote:

San Francisco-based patent attorney Richard Hung never found an easy way to travel to eastern Texas to litigate patent cases.

But like hundreds of patent attorneys across the U.S., he had to. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas was once the most popular venue for patent infringement lawsuits in the country.

A partner at Morrison & Foerster, LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation Group, Hung would spend at least six hours hopping through airports to the regional business hub in Shreveport, La., then drive west on I-20 for 35 miles. Once, when a return flight from Shreveport was canceled, he was forced to drive more than 200 miles to Houston to fly home.

[...]

The TC Heartland decision, which held that a domestic corporation “resides” only in its state of incorporation, upended nearly 30 years of precedent in patent law and dramatically restricted where patent cases may be litigated. Previously, the rules for where a patent infringement lawsuit could be filed made it easy to select the east Texas court, which had a reputation for being a friendly venue for patent owners.

It’s becoming a liability for firms to operate in Texas or be based in Texas because after TC Heartland it makes them susceptible to more patent lawsuits. Surely China too should know what it means to become the ‘next Texas’, but we’ll say more about that in our next post (regarding China).

St. Regis Mohawk Nation Now Exploited as a Lobby and an Attack Vector Against PTAB

Posted in America, Patents at 3:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

CAFC and SCOTUS should definitely take note of the Koch Brothers' role in that lobby (which harms technology companies)

Koch Network Plans to Spend $400 Million in U.S. Midterm Cycle
Reference (in the news 2 days ago): Koch Network Plans to Spend $400 Million in U.S. Midterm Cycle

Summary: The anti-PTAB lobby, which is basically attempting to influence Oil States v Greene's Energy (imminent Supreme Court decision), still tries hard to find scandals or make up scandals; the Mohawk tribe became a convenient channel for that (paid to participate in a scam)

THE biggest PTAB story of 2017 was probably the Mohawk patent scam. It carries on; it’s piggybacked by patent extremists. The USPTO granted some dubious patents and now they’re being shielded using a tribe which has absolutely nothing to do with them. An unethical lawyer paid them some money through shell entities for this (makes one wonder where the money really comes from). Here’s a long new article by Kevin E. Noonan. It’s about the amicus briefs which support the scam (the patent microcosm would rather focus on these):

In what everyone (including the Patent Trial and Appeal Board) considers an unprecedented administrative action, the PTAB late last year set out an order (Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s Order, 2017 WL 5067421, P.T.A.B. Nov. 3, 2017) inviting amicus briefing on the question of whether the transfer of patent rights from Allergan to the St. Regis Mohawk Nation should lead the Board to dismiss several consolidated inter partes review actions (Nos. IPR2016-01127, IPR2016-01128, IPR2016-01129, IPR2016-01130, IPR2016-01131, and IPR2016-01132, instituted against U.S. Patent Nos. 8,685,930, 8,629,111, 8,642,556, 8,633,162, 8,648,048, and 9,248,191, respectively) on the grounds of sovereign immunity (see “Mohawk Nation Exercises Sovereign Immunity in Inter Partes Review”).

[...]

A brief from the High Tech Inventors Alliance, Computer & Communications Industry Association, and Internet Association repeats the argument that patent laws are law of general applicability from which sovereign immunity provides no protection, basing this characterization in part because “[private petitioners] cannot compel the Patent Office to conduct a review and their ongoing participation is unnecessary to complete one” (another argument also made in the brief from Askeladden LLC). According to this brief, “[i]nter partes review is thus ‘less like a judicial proceeding and more like a specialized agency proceeding’ in which third parties that petition for review ‘need not have a concrete stake in the outcome; indeed, they may lack constitutional standing,’” citing Cuozzo Speed Techs., LLC v. Lee, 136 S. Ct. 2131, 2143-44 (2016). According to this brief (in an argument made nowhere else), “tribes that own patents must, like all other patentees, pay the fees to maintain the patent, or else the patent will expire. See 35 U.S.C. § 41(b). The condition that the Patent Office may reexamine or review the patent is no different.”

The Mohawk people/tribe hired lawyers who take the tribe for a ‘ride’, looking for anything by which to shoot the messengers (PTAB judges) while pretending to be poor Natives (they’re not; they’re rich, corrupt lawyers). The lawyers picked by the Mohawk people have disgraced the tribe to the point where it’s accused of “conspiracy theories” and a “scam”. Why can’t this tribe see the incredible damage already done to its reputation? It’s never too late to end this. They sold out though and ending it may result in loss of money (funneled through shells).

Watchtroll, in its usual fashion, has just used the Mohawk patent scam in an effort to make PTAB look bad. The tribe has been reduced to a tool.

Watchtroll, relying on two decisions among many thousands, says the “the entirety of the concurring opinions are word for word identical. Obviously, the concurring opinions were shared internally in some form or fashion prior to being issued by the PTAB. But why? It seems perfectly reasonable for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to want to know who actually wrote these two concurring opinions.”

They’re aiming to discredit PTAB rather than justify their ‘case’ (scam). Classic “shoot the messenger”.

“In light of these two identical concurring opinions,” Watchtroll concluded, “the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe raised the plausible possibility that ex parte oral or written communications may have occurred involving APJs on the merits panels of these cases. If such communications did occur they should be made public. The PTAB should not refuse to answer these legitimate questions, because at some point they will have to answer how and why this happened.”

These have absolutely nothing to do with the Mohawk scam; the lawyers they hired simply use them as a tool for anti-PTAB lobbying while attending events hosted by a think tank of the Koch Brothers. This doesn’t look good at all. Another attack on the same day (Watchtroll against PTAB) called PTAB a kangaroo court. Got to protect bad patent and patent trolls, eh? And the Mohawk people are used as a moral shield for people who are aligned with billionaires’ interests.

To better understand what the Kochs have at stake here, remember Oil States. As Patently-O reminded readers yesterday, the Supreme Court is not assessing any cases which give hope for software patents, but it will rule (probably this summer) for or against PTAB (which asserts/applies Alice). This is important. Also yesterday, as can be seen in this post, Patently-O was back to belittling PTAB judges. Not only does Patently-O cite Watchtroll’s attacks on PTAB but it also makes it blatantly obvious that it wants PTAB obliterated. From the post:

In 2007, Prof. John Duffy penned a Patently-O essay explaining that Administrative Patent Judges are at least “inferior officers” under the US Constitution (art. II, § 2, cl. 2) — requiring appointment by a Head of Department (i.e., Secretary of Commerce). Duffy’s work on the topic prompted statutory reform and now all PTAB follow that appointment process.

In a new article, Prof. Gary Larsen takes Duffy’s analysis a major step forward – explaining that the PTAB is special because its Inter Partes Review actions are not further reviewed by any executive actor — rendering Administrative Patent Judges principal officer (rather than inferior) and requiring appointment by the President with Advice and Consent of the Senate.

These people have long attempted to convince SCOTUS Justices that patents are “property” (that's a lie), that PTAB lacks certain authority and so on. They try to influence the outcome in Oil States. Duffy is from the University of Virginia School of Law and Crouch is from Kansas, where the Kochs are known to be throwing lots of money at universities. It’s worth checking what motivates these scholars, either consciously or subconsciously.

A Danish Company Has Just Collapsed Due to Patent Quality Issues at the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Forward PharmaSummary: Rushed examination at the EPO is taking its toll on companies that need legal certainty and instead get just Early Certainty™ (which is no certainty at all, just an excuse to fake ‘production’ numbers for Battistelli)

THE EPO may have become worse than the USPTO when it comes to patent quality if it’s true that it’s now easier to get software patents at the EPO than at the USPTO (as some law firms publicly claim). Then there’s the aspect of patents on life.

This is alarming because the EPO used to be the best bar none when it comes to patent quality. A European Patent (EP) offered very high legal certainty, e.g. in case a lawsuit gets filed.

Yesterday, IAM’s editor was reposting for Haseltine Lake LLP. It’s about that latest study of theirs (first mentioned by us about 3 weeks ago). It is, however, preceded by his introduction, which goes as follows (after calling the Battistelli era “highly controversial” — a gross understatement).

As President Battistelli sees out his final months, the big question is how much of an impact the changes have had. Well, if research by James Ward and Frances Wilding, partners at Haseltine Lake LLP, is correct, the answer is a great deal. In the following overview of detailed number-crunching they have done, the pair explain that the amount of grants the office made in 2017 is likely to have exceeded 100,000 for the very first time, while the examination backlog could be on the way down; though the number of oppositions is on the rise. What the numbers cannot tell us is whether there has been any impact on the quality of the rights the EPO issues – that, of course, will always be subjective (IAM readers have always seen the office as being the leader of the pack among the IP5).

IAM cites IAM to maintain the illusion that patent quality is OK under Battistelli. This is also what Battistelli keeps citing. Circular logic?

Either way, there have been several high-profile mistakes lately. Thankfully, these were corrected upon opposition. The most famous example is the Broad Institute's CRISPR patent, which has just been mentioned again by Awapatent’s Sofia Willquist. Here is what she wrote: “The CRISPR systems are covered by several patents and patent applications filed by different applicants, and are currently owned by the Broad Institute at MIT, the Max-Planck Institute in Berlin, University of California and MilliporeSigma. Early last year, the Broad Institute won a first dispute, which concerned fundamental patent rights in the US, as previously reported here. However, last week on this side of the ocean, the pendulum swung the other way and Broad suffered a serious set-back when one of the core patents was revoked by the European Patent Office (EPO).”

Rightly so.

Mark Summerfield, an Australian patent maximalist, wrote that “Loss of CRISPR Priority in Europe is a Warning to All Patent Applicants” (more like “Loss of CRISPR Priority in Europe is Great News to People Who Object to Patents on Life”).

From his blog post:

On 17 January 2018, a panel of the European Patent Office (EPO) opposition division wholly revoked a patent co-owned by the Broad Institute (‘Broad’) relating to CRISPR/Cas9 ‘gene editing’ technology. The European patent in question, number EP2771468, is entitled ‘Engineering of systems, methods and optimized guide compositions for sequence manipulation’, and is a European equivalent to US patent no. 8,906,616, which is one of the key Broad patents involved in the US patent interference dispute with the University of California (UC) – which is currently on appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. As is usual with European opposition proceedings, the ruling was issued immediately at the hearing (which had originally been scheduled to continue for two further days). A full written decision providing detailed reasons is likely to be a few weeks away.

Technically, the basis for revocation in the final decision is likely to be lack of novelty and/or inventive step of all claims of the Broad patent. However, the underlying reason for Broad’s failure to defend its patent is a loss of priority. In particular, the EPO panel determined that Broad was not entitled to claim priority from four of its earlier US provisional applications, including the earliest filing, US provisional application no. 61/736,527, which was filed on 12 December 2012. This loss of priority was fatal to the patent, as a result of a number of publications – including Broad’s own – that occurred subsequently, but prior to the full application’s filing date of 12 December 2013.

The good news is, the Office managed to correct it. It’s now likely to be on its way to the EPO’s Enlarged Board (on appeal). It’s incredible that such a ludicrous patent can even get this far. It’s also incredible that the Enlarged Board can still get some things done in spite of Battistelli (they’re constantly under several attacks from him). Here’s yesterday’s coverage from Denmark regarding decision G 1/16:

The EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) recently issued its long-awaited decision G 1/16 relating to undisclosed disclaimers. The decision lays down under which circumstances the introduction during prosecution of a patent application before the EPO of a disclaimer not disclosed in the application as filed may be allowable under Article 123(2) EPC. The decision essentially confirms the standard defined in decision G 1/03 of 2004.

The more interesting news from Denmark, however, started with this press release (“Forward Pharma Announces the Decision of the European Patent Office in the Opposition Proceedings for the EP2801355 Patent”) and then an article titled “Here’s Why Forward Pharma Lost 30% Today” (published only hours ago).

Based in Copenhagen (Denmark) on the face of it, Forward Pharma has collapsed. The EPO has just managed to correct itself after nearly granting a bogus patent. Watch the effect of the EPO rejecting a bogus patent after false hopes were given: “Shares of Forward Pharma A/S (NASDAQ: FWP), a Denmark-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, lost around 30 percent Monday after the company announced a disappointing update related to its patent.”

From the press release:

Forward Pharma A/S (NASDAQ:FWP) (“Forward” or the “Company”) today announced that the European Patent Office (the “EPO”) has revoked the EP2801355 patent (the “’355 patent”) following the oral hearing in the Opposition Proceedings.

The EPO Opposition Division revoked the ’355 patent after considering third-party oppositions from several opponents. The Opposition Division will issue detailed reasons for the decision in written form in due course, and following receipt and review of these, Forward plans to appeal the Opposition Division’s decision to the Technical Board of Appeal, with an expected duration of the appeal process of an additional two to three years.

It probably serves to show how rushed examination, Early Certainty™ etc. can do more harm than good. These put a strain on the EPO Opposition Division (now dealing with about 4,000 oppositions per year) because examiners are pressured to work in a rush. How much of this work won’t be corrected by the Opposition Division or the Boards but by the courts? At a huge expense to both plaintiff and defendant/s…

The patent certainty surrounding EPs is gone. So much for Early Certainty™…

ILO Has Once Again Let Down Labour at the EPO by Siding With Union Busters

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 2:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

So much for Labour Org…

ILO and Battistelli

Summary: ILO continues to protect Battistelli as the ILOAT fails to see a pretty blatant union-busting campaign for what it really is

THE EPO has already come under several legal actions in Dutch courts. It sometimes even refused to obey court orders from Dutch judges whilst attacking Dutch nationals like Elizabeth Hardon (an EPO staff representative). It was around that time that the EPO funneled money to better control (mislead/silence/bribe) Dutch media with FTI Consulting's outside help. Battistelli, in his typical fashion, sought to derail journalism (nowadays the EPO does the same to academia). He tried hard; he just flings EPO budget at whatever official he needs a vote from, so why not publications too?

FNV, which we mentioned here before [1, 2] (it’s mentioned a lot in Dutch articles), is in the news again [1, 2, 3, 4]. These articles are all in Dutch and they might be translated by SUEPO some time soon (into English and maybe French). An automated translation of the original from FNV says this: “The FNV called Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Wouter Koolmees in a letter to intervene at the European Patent Office (EPO). EPO again violates Dutch law.”

This comes in a timely fashion because a couple of hours ago an anonymous blogger said that “ILO Administrative Tribunal dismisses complaints against EPO president,” alluding specifically Hardon’s case and then moving on to a few others:

The Administrative Tribunal of the ILO (ILOAT), which decided a series of cases concerning the EPO in its 125th session last week, dismissed a complaint of the former SUEPO trade union chairman Elizabeth Hardon against her downgrading by EPO president Benoit Battistelli.

[...]

Another case the ILOAT decided last week concerned Aurélien Pétiaud, a long-time EPO employee and staff representative. He had been ordered to participate in sessions of the Internal Appeals Committee (IAC). ‘On 25 March 2014 the complainant informed the Chairperson of the IAC that he would not participate in the IAC session held that day as he was on strike. He subsequently informed the Chairperson of the IAC that he would not be able to attend the June and July sessions of the IAC because of his existing workload and the limited support received from the secretariat.’

We knew that ILOAT would rule on some staff representation cases, but we did not imagine that ILO would show such incredible weakness and cowardice. A sad day (or week) for the EPO…

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