05.15.18

Apple and Microsoft Are Still Suing Companies — Using Patents of Course — Which ‘Dare’ Compete (by Leveraging GNU/Linux)

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 6:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Steve Jobs threatened to sue me, too. [and also] Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. They’d flown in over a weekend to meet with Scott McNealy. [...] Bill skipped the small talk, and went straight to the point, “Microsoft owns the office productivity market, and our patents read all over OpenOffice.” [...] Bill was delivering a slightly more sophisticated variant of the threat Steve had made, but he had a different solution in mind. “We’re happy to get you under license.” That was code for “We’ll go away if you pay us a royalty for every download” – the digital version of a protection racket.”

Jonathan I. Schwartz, Sun

Summary: The vanity of proprietary software giants — as the latest news serves to reveal — targeting companies with patent lawsuits, both directly and indirectly

E

ARLIER today we wrote about Apple v Samsung because there’s an important ongoing case right now. It’s in the United States. For the second time this week Josh Landau (CCIA) wrote about this patent trial:

Opening arguments in Apple v. Samsung started this morning. While round six of the long-running case deals with smartphone patents, the potential impacts range much further. As I noted in my post yesterday, a rule of design patent damages that allows patentees to receive the total profits on the entire product even though the design is only applied to a small component of that product could have potentially negative impacts almost everywhere.

Let’s start with one area that impacts nearly everyone—the auto industry.

Parts Of A Much Larger Whole

Before becoming a lawyer, I worked for a Tier 1 supplier as an automotive engineer. Tier 1 suppliers primarily sell integrated components directly to auto manufacturers like Ford or Daimler, and their products typically include components from smaller suppliers (so-called Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers).

A typical car might include more than 15,000 parts, made by more than 20 different Tier 1 suppliers, which each source components from dozens of Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers. Even your cup holder might be composed of multiple molded plastic pieces and some metal to attach it to the vehicle structure. Most of those components have little to nothing, individually, to do with the decision to buy the car. A cup holder, however pretty, just isn’t worth buying a car for.

But each and every one of those thousands of components ultimately winds up in a vehicle selling for tens of thousands of dollars.

Apple now wants an extraordinary amount of money for a stupid design patent or a few — things whose level of sophistication may match the mental level of a person with single-figure age [1, 2]. To think that patents were granted on such things isn’t just laughable but outright insane.

Similarly, in Microsoft Corporation v Corel Corporation, the dispute was about some stupid designs and lawyers got paid possibly millions of dollars arguing over it. Microsoft just uses patents, exploiting deep pockets to sue its much poorer rivals, trying to bankrupt them still (so much for ‘new’ Microsoft). Here’s the latest on that, as covered some hours ago:

Following a jury trial, the court denied defendant’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law that plaintiff was not entitled to disgorgement damages under 35 U.S.C. § 289 for infringement of its design patents because plaintiff’s software qualified as an article of manufacture.

It’s not only Microsoft that’s suing for Microsoft (directly). There’s also Intellectual Ventures, the Microsoft patent troll which hoards patents and sues Microsoft’s rivals by proxy. It also passes patents by the thousands to other trolls, such as Dominion Harbor which was recalled some hours ago by IAM:

Since Intellectual Ventures started ramping up its rate of sales early last year, it has been clear that the secondary market for patents has a new and particularly deep well of assets shaping it. Among the large disposals, the firm has transferred a portfolio of almost 4,000 former Kodak patents and two big portfolios of legacy American Express and NEC rights, all to Dominion Harbor. Throughout its existence IV has always sold assets – and let others expire – but not at the rate of the last 12 to 18 months

Here we are in 2018 and Apple is still suing Android OEMs while Microsoft passes huge sums of money to patents trolls that attack/target GNU/Linux product producers. To pretend there’s some sort of “patent standstill” (as Red Hat prefers to put it) is to simply lie to oneself.

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