EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

04.14.18

The ‘Blockchaining’ of Software Patents (to Dodge the Rules/Guidelines) Now Coming to Europe

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 1:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s really just a topological trick and it is barely unprecedented

What is the Difference Between a Blockchain and a Database?
Reference: What is the Difference Between a Blockchain and a Database?

Summary: A lot of software patents are being declared invalid (or not granted in the first place); having said that, using all sorts of hype waves (like calling databases “blockchains”) firms and individuals manage to still be granted software patents and sometimes patent trolls hoard these

TACKLING software patents is a process which takes a lot of time. There are many such patents out there and software patents aren’t typically marked as such. At the EPO they keep coming up with new buzzwords and the USPTO allows software patents as long as their abstract nature is disguised somehow. Patent lawyers now make a career out of manipulating or fooling examiners. Examiners oughtn’t find that amusing because it takes its toll on the reputation of examiners, not these mischievous law firms’ reputation. The presumption of honesty just isn’t there anymore. Closer and longer scrutiny of patent applications may be needed. We have said all this before, so rather than repeat ourselves let’s look at examples from the past week’s news.

The OSI’s Simon Phipps was a feature story/item in Linux Journal some days ago. Here is the part about software patents:

Software patents represent one of several areas into which OSI has been expanding. Patents have long been a thorny issue for open source, because they have the potential to affect not only people who develop software, but also companies who merely run open-source software on their machines. They also can be like a snake in the grass; any software application can be infringing on an unknown patent.

OSI has been rather disappointing in the sense that it did virtually nothing on the subject; to be fair, that’s not a unique problem because the Linux Foundation, OIN and others are equally culpable. How can they keep promoting Free software (which they misname “Open Source”) without talking about the perils of software patents? The FSF is perhaps the exception here; it still habitually talks about such issues. We’ll come to that in a second, in the context of the Linux Foundation in particular.

There’s good news however. Each year that goes by we generally see Alice getting further entrenched in the system. Last year, for example, the high patent court (CAFC) accepted virtually no software patents. We’ve mentioned this many times so far this year. It doesn’t mean that workarounds do not exist or cannot be exploited. “Over the Internet” patents, for example, are one common trick for disguising software patents — a subject we’ve been writing about for approximately 8 years. Thankfully, such patents too are still being rejected by courts. Here is an example which is only days old. In this particular case the court rejected an “over the Internet” patent under Alice/Section 101.

Here’s the relevant part:

A Federal Court has granted SemaConnect’s motion to dismiss a patent infringement lawsuit filed by ChargePoint. The suit, filed in December, accused SemaConnect of infringing four of ChargePoint’s patents for technology to connect electric vehicle charging stations to the internet.

In a 70-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis agreed with SemaConnect’s assertion that there was no infringement. Additionally, the court held that the claims brought by ChargePoint were little more than abstract ideas and did not, therefore, qualify for patent protection under the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Alice” opinion (2014), which established standards for software-related patents.

Another day goes by and yet another invalid(ated) software patent shows up in the news, this time in Morris Reese v Sprint Nextel Corporation et al. To be fair, it wasn’t “in the news” per se but there was a Docket Report from Docket Navigator and it said this:

The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss because the asserted claims of plaintiff’s caller ID patent encompassed unpatentable subject matter and found that the claims were directed toward an abstract idea.

About a decade ago we showed how a caller ID patent literally destroyed an 'app' and took it offline. Probably for good! All it took was a bunch of threats of litigation. That was many years before Alice, but still, the cost of litigation for indie developers (even if they win the case) is far too high. Maybe PTAB is almost affordable, but the cost of IPRs rose some months back. Whatever eliminates all software patents would be a godsend to developers.

How about software patents on things like databases? Is it enough to call these something like “blockchain” to ride a hype wave which is certainly out of control these days? Watch sci-fi-like headlines, e.g. “Blockchain in Space” the other day. There are perhaps thousands of articles about something “blockchain” or “blockchainy” things every week. Here’s a new one about the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project, courtesy of the Linux Foundation itself. Behind this project there are companies with varying policies, but the main one is IBM, which is hoarding software patents on blockchains. We wrote about this before. Do not expect the Linux Foundation to ever bring up the subject, let alone criticise such patents.

Speaking of IBM, which gradually turns into more of a patent troll and feeds patent trolls (we wrote about that last night), another one like it is BlackBerry. From market dominance it came to trolling. Market penetration grinds to a halt and all they’re left with is a massive pile of patents.

Just before the weekend the Canadian media published “Has BlackBerry become a ‘patent troll’? Not quite, says Ottawa researcher” (this is their headline).

It’s a white-washing, damage-controlling piece. Has BlackBerry become a ‘patent troll’? We’d say not yet, or not fully (yet). But it’s getting there. People are noticing the trend. BlackBerry nowadays uses broad software patents — not hardware patents — to go after companies that do not even make phones but merely develop applications for chatting. The Financial Post (Canada) doesn’t seem to mind software patents. A few days ago it published this nonsense titled “From blockchain to augmented reality, Canada’s big banks aim to patent the future of finance” (several buzzwords/hype waves in there, including “blockchain” again). To quote:

These are just some of the ideas Canadian banks have been envisioning in public patent filings, which lenders have increasingly made in recent years as banking becomes more and more dependent on technology.

Toronto-Dominion Bank, for example, used to file around one patent application a year. But after ramping up its strategy about five years ago, it now files about 40 to 50 applications annually, according to Josh Death, associate vice president, legal, intellectual property and patentable innovation at TD.

We have been writing about the “blockchain” hype for at least 2 years now, exclusively in relation to patents on blockchains. We’re sad to see it spreading even to Europe. Remember that these are all software patents, basically disguised as “blockchain” because it makes these sound innovative and exciting. Many patent examiners aren’t familiar with the underlying concepts, which aren’t even particularly complicated. Consider this new press release titled “ZK International Ready to Implement Patent Pending Software, IoTs and Blockchain Technologies into its Manufacturing Process and Supply Chain Management System” and scroll down to the part which says “to implement its patent pending software and blockchain technologies” as if they openly reveal that it’s about software. Why would the US patent office grant a patent on such a thing? Why on Earth does EPO grant patents like these as well?

Several days ago we saw articles like this one:

Nchain to Offer Smart Contract Patents Exclusively to the Bitcoin Cash Community

[...]

According to the blockchain firm Nchain and its CEO Jimmy Nguyen, the company has secured its first approved patent recognized by the European Patent Office. The patent involves an invention that provides a method for an automated management and blockchain-enforced smart contracts.

This was preceded by this, wherein it was revealed that the EPO had been granting software patents disguised as “blockchain”. This is a disgrace. To quote:

London-based nChain, a company involved in research and development of blockchain technologies, has announced that it has registered its first patent (#EP3257191) successfully with the European Patent Office (EPO). The patent , granted on April 11, 2018, is for a registry and automated management method for blockchain-enforced smart contracts. nChain has confirmed that it would use technological advancement for the growth of Bitcoin Cash.

The patent titled “A method and system for securing computer software using a distributed hash table and a blockchain” explains a technique that can be applied to any content, including music, video, and even PDF files) with an executable phase. The blockchain will guarantee that a party which possess a valid license gains access to the content. According to nChain, the invention can be deployed by content producers and rights holders to more efficiently perform digital rights management.

European Patent Office patent number EP3257191 shows that the EPO now grants software patents that are disguised using a hype wave, “blockchain”. Here is the corresponding press release [1, 2]. “The patent,” it says, “European Patent Office number EP3257191 – is entitled “A method and system for securing computer software using a distributed hash table and a blockchain”.”

When we brought it up half a week ago the FFII’s President wrote: “And after that blockchain patent, the EPO will still claim it does not grant software patents?”

“Software patents at the EPO [are] not even disguised as such anymore (or very thinly),” I responded to him. Other people too have noticed that since. Slide in quality of patents at the EPO, including software patents, is being noticed. One person wrote about it in German: “Jetzt kann man – überspitzt formuliert – seine #Blockchain beim @EPOorg patentieren lassen… WTF? So werden #Softwarepatente durch die Hintertür erteilt! #swpat // @FFII @zoobab https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nchain-receives-first-patent-grant-for-blockchain-enforced-smart-contract-invention-300628007.html …”

In the next post we’ll give some more examples of software patents at the EPO. This is not acceptable and it actually puts European software innovation at peril.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Lots of UPC Noise/News This Week Over a Document Which Merely Weakens Commitment to the UPC

    Lost in the noise created by Team UPC this week is the simple fact that the British government now admits it's willing to abandon all Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement (UPCA) plans



  2. Director Iancu and President Campinos Both Serve the Litigation 'Industry' Instead of Science and Technology

    When some of the world's largest patent offices only listen to the new 'industry' (created only by virtue of these offices themselves) there's danger that patents will be granted for the sake of there being more patents and lawsuits rather than for advancement of the sciences



  3. Links 25/9/2018: Mesa 18.1.9, New Fedora Beta, and Oracle Solaris 11.4 SRU1

    Links for the day



  4. Technology Groups and Innovators Bemoan Attempts to Override the Courts to Promote Patent Maximalists' Agenda by USPTO Director Andrei Iancu

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is not listening to the views of actual innovators; it seems to be serving just the patent and litigation 'industry' (i.e. those who profit from illegitimate patents and baseless lawsuits)



  5. Patent Trolls Roundup: Microsoft's Patent Troll Collapses, Samsung Fuels Patent Troll Sisvel, and Patent Troll VirnetX Wants Apple's Cash

    Microsoft's largest patent troll continues to experience a mass exodus (in addition to all the layoffs), Sisvel receives armament from Samsung, and VirnetX carries on pretending -- to shareholders at least -- that it will get a lot of money out of Apple (albeit an appeal will likely prevent that altogether)



  6. António Campinos Goes to UPC-Hostile Country, UPC Continues to Languish and Team UPC Carries on Pushing for Software Patents in Europe (Courts Also)

    The Unified Patent Court (UPC) fantasy has fizzled, but those striving to interject software patents agenda into Europe from the back door (e.g. labeling these "AI" or ignoring the stance of actual courts) aren't giving up just yet



  7. The Man Whose Actions Could Potentially Land Team Battistelli in Jail

    As new evidence and more material surfaces about Benalla, Battistelli tries hard to hide himself from French media, knowing that he might be criminally culpable



  8. Links 24/9/2018: Linux 4.19 RC5 From Greg Kroah-Hartman, OpenShot 2.4.3 Released

    Links for the day



  9. Reader's Article: Affaire Benalla Strongly Connected to EPO/OEB/EPA and Former President Benoît Battistelli

    A Macron scandal has led French media to finally (and years too late) exploring some of the much more explosive scandals at the EPO, revealing some interesting new details in the process



  10. Language Patent Lawyers Are Using to Warp the Debate and Decrease Public Understanding of Patents

    The patent microcosm, trying to get the public all baffled/confused about the patent system, continues (mis)using words to convey things in misleading ways



  11. USPTO FEES ACT Makes the US Patent Office a Money-Making Machine That Systematically Disregards Patent Quality

    The lingering issues with patent assessment at the US patent office, which unlike US courts isn't quite so impartial an actor (it benefits more from granting than from rejecting)



  12. Guest Post on Ronan Le Gleut and Benalla at the French Senate (in Light of Battistelli's Epic Abuses)

    Thoughts on the possibility that Battistelli will belatedly be held accountable for his abuses, knowing that a senator representing French Citizens residing Abroad comes from the EPO



  13. A Lot of US Patents Are Entirely Bogus, But Apple Was Willing to Pay for Them

    Apple's resistance to Qualcomm's patent aggression was preceded by very heavy ("thermonuclear" by Steve Jobs' description/words) patent wars against Android and even legitimisation of clearly bogus software patents from Amazon



  14. 'Owning' Nature, Thanks to Patent Insanity and People Who Profit From That

    Questionable patents on things that always existed and are merely being explained or reassembled; those sorts of patents typically serve to merely discredit the patent system and courts too increasingly reject such patents (e.g. SCOTUS on Mayo Collaborative Services and Myriad Genetics, Inc.)



  15. Patents Stranger Than Fiction and 'Protection' From Fictional Things

    Fictional things are being treated like "inventions" and insurance companies now look to exploit fear of fictional things (man-made concepts), such as ownership of mere ideas or words



  16. Benoît Battistelli Refuses to Talk to the Media About Bringing Firearms to the EPO

    Benoît Battistelli's highly aggressive approach has attracted the attention of French media; Battistelli has reportedly refused to comment on that matter, knowing that he lacks a defense (same thing happened after he had hauled millions of EPO euros to his other employer)



  17. Patent Law Firms Have Become More Like Marketing Departments With an Aptitude for Buzzwords

    What we're observing, without much reluctance anymore, is that a lot of patent lawyers still push abstract software patents, desperately looking for new trendy terms or adjectives by which to make these seem non-abstract



  18. Interlude: The Need to Counter Misinformation From the Patent and Litigation 'Industry'

    24,500 posts reached; so we pause and reflect, seeing that many sites/blogs of patent maximalists gradually ebb away



  19. Advocacy of the Unitary Patent System Has Become Almost Identical to the 'Leave' (Brexit) Campaign

    The charades of Team UPC carry on in Kluwer Patent Blog — a blog which for a very long time served no purpose other than Unified Patent Court (UPC) advocacy



  20. Open Invention Network is Rendered Obsolete in the Wake of Alice and It's Not Even Useful in Combating Microsoft's Patent Trolls

    Changes at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and in US courts' outcomes may have already meant that patent trolls rather than software patents in general are a growing threat, including those that Microsoft is backing, funding and arming to put legal pressure on GNU/Linux (and compel people/companies to host GNU/Linux instances on Azure for patent 'protection' from these trolls)



  21. Bogus Patents Which Oughtn't Have Been Granted Make Products Deliberately Worse, Reducing Innovation and Worsening Customers' Experience

    How shallow patents — or patent applications that no patent office should be accepting — turn out to be at the core of multi-billion-dollar cases/lawsuits, with potentially a billion people impacted (their products made worse to work around such questionable patents)



  22. EPO is Like a Patent Litigation (Without Actual Trial) Office, Not a Patent Examination Office

    Examination of patent applications isn't taken seriously by an office whose entire existence was supposed to be about examination; bureaucracy at the top of this office has apparently decided that the sole goal is to create more demand (i.e. lawsuits) for the litigation 'industry'



  23. Philippe Cadre From the French National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) Wants to Join António Campinos

    Yet another example of INPI's creeping influence if not 'entryism' at the EPO and this time too patent quality isn't a priority



  24. Links 22/9/2018: Mesa 18.2.1, CLIP OS, GPL Settlement in Artifex/First National Title Insurance Company

    Links for the day



  25. Links 21/9/2018: Cockpit 178, Purism 'Dongle'

    Links for the day



  26. Criticism of Unitary Patent (UPC) Agreement Doomed the UPC and Patent Trolls' Plan -- Along With the Litigation Lobby -- for Unified 'Extortion Vector'

    The Unitary Patent or Unified Patent Court (UPC) was the trolls' weapon against potentially millions of European businesses; but those businesses have woken up to the fact that it was against their interests and European member states such as Spain and Poland now oppose it while Germany halts ratification



  27. It Wasn't Judges With Weapons in Their Office, It Was Benoît Battistelli Who Brought Firearms to the European Patent Office (EPO)

    The EPO scandals deepen in light of a very major scandal which has occupied the French media for a couple of months



  28. Links 20/9/2018: 2018 Linux Audio Miniconference and Blackboard's Openwashing

    Links for the day



  29. Links 19/9/2018: Chromebooks Get More DEBs, LLVM 7.0.0 Released

    Links for the day



  30. Links 18/9/2018: Qt 5.12 Alpha , MAAS 2.5.0 Beta, PostgreSQL CoC

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts