10.21.18

Data Engine Technologies (DET) Just One Among Many Microsoft-Connected Patent Trolls That Pick on Microsoft’s Biggest Competitors

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, OIN, OpenOffice, Patents at 5:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Data Engine Technologies (DET) and Acacia Research Corp.

Summary: Lawyers’ articles/blog posts continue to obscure the fact that Data Engine Technologies is merely a satellite or unit (one among many) of patent trolling giant Acacia Research Corp., connected to Microsoft and sporting a long history of lawsuits against GNU/Linux

As covered in an earlier post last weekend, potential ‘satellites’ of Microsoft are still attacking Microsoft’s biggest rivals using software patents.

Michael Borella (McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP) wrote about a patent troll connected to Microsoft through Acacia, but like many others he overlooked or missed out the Acacia connection, having published his detailed analysis in a couple of places to say:

Data Engine Technologies (DET) filed an infringement suit against Google in the District of Delaware contending infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259, 5,784,545, 6,282,551, and 5,303,146. Google responded with a Rule 12(c) motion arguing that the patents are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The District Court agreed and invalidated the patents. DET appealed.

In Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, the Supreme Court set forth a two-part test to determine whether claims are directed to patent-eligible subject matter under § 101. One must first decide whether the claim at hand is directed to a judicially-excluded law of nature, a natural phenomenon, or an abstract idea. If so, then one must further decide whether any element or combination of elements in the claim is sufficient to ensure that the claim amounts to significantly more than the judicial exclusion. But generic computer implementation of an otherwise abstract process does not qualify as “significantly more,” nor will elements that are well-understood, routine, and conventional lift the claim over the § 101 hurdle.

[...]

I have to agree with PatentlyO, which viewed as “fairly questionable” the reasoning under which the notebook tab was the linchpin for patent-eligibility. And if you contrast the surviving Tab Patent claims with the claims that were held ineligible, this case certainly seems to equate claim breadth with patent-ineligibility – perhaps confirming that, as many of us suspect, an “abstract idea” is simply a really broad idea. In any event, decisions like this highlight the not-infrequent anomaly that claims can survive novelty and obviousness challenges, but fail on patent-eligibility. And as we saw here, the present court’s analysis, stripped down to what it really was, had a lot to do with obviousness.

Dozens of long paragraphs about this decision from Judges Reyna, Bryson, and Stoll (with opinion by Judge Stoll) and Acacia not mentioned even once? It already sued major GNU/Linux companies several times after it had hired from Microsoft. Now it goes after Google, specifically the biggest rival to Microsoft’s cash cow, Microsoft Office.

This same case was mentioned by Charles Bienema, who also overlooked the connection when he focused on patent scope:

Some claims directed to a computer spreadsheet are patent-eligible, while others are not, said the Federal Circuit in Data Engine Techs. LLC v. Google LLC (Fed. Cir. 2018) (precedential). The District of Delaware had granted a Rule 12 judgment on the pleadings of 35 U.S.C. § 101 invalidity of claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259; 5,784,545; 6,282,551; and 5,303,146; the Federal Circuit thus reversed-in-part, affirmed-in-part, and remanded.

The three surviving patents (with the exception of one independent claim which had a patentable dependent claim), the ’259, ’545, and ’551) were dubbed the “Tab Patents.” The Tab Patents purportedly solved the problem that “complex commands” were required by “prior art three-dimensional or multipage electronic spreadsheets.” The patent-eligible solution was “a notebook-tabbed interface” to provide users with easy navigation through three-dimensional spreadsheet. Why? Because the notebook tab “allowed computers, for the first time, to provide rapid access to and processing of information in different spreadsheets, as well as easy navigation in three-dimensional spreadsheets.”

A widely-spread article [1, 2] by Joseph Saphia and Bonnie L. Gaudette (Haug Partners) said this:

On October 9, 2018, the Federal Circuit added to its growing collection of favorable Alice step one rulings1 by reversing portions of a decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware concerning an invention aimed to streamline the technology of electronic spreadsheets—a technology that has been around for twenty-five years. See Data Engine Technologies LLC v. Google LLC, No. 2017-1135, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 28412 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 10, 2018). The Federal Circuit’s decision may be viewed as a not-so-gentle reminder to patent applicants and drafters alike to continue to draft software patent claims narrowly and with specificity if they wish to survive patent eligibility challenges under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and Alice step one.

The court commenced its opinion with a robust overview of Data Engine’s patents-at-issue: U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259; 5,784,545; and 6,282,551 (the “Tab Patents”) and U.S. Patent No. 5,303,146 (the “’146 Patent”). See Data Engine, at *2-12. The Tab Patents are entitled “System and Methods for Improved Spreadsheet Interface With User-Familiar Objects.” Id. at *1-2. In its detailed review of the Tab Patents, the court noted that they claim “systems and methods for making complex electronic spreadsheets more accessible by providing familiar, user-friendly interface objects—specifically, notebook tabs—to navigate through spreadsheets while circumventing the arduous process of searching for, memorizing, and entering complex commands.” Id. at *2. In essence, the Tab Patents aim to overcome some of the challenges users encountered when navigating electronic spreadsheets due to complex menu systems that “diminished the utility and ease of use of this technology.” Id. at *3. In an attempt to offer a solution to the challenges of prior art multipage electronic spreadsheets, the Tab Patents are directed to “implementing a notebook-tabbed interface, which allows users to easily navigate through three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets” and “conveniently flip through several pages of notebook to rapidly locate information of interest.” Id. at *4-5. The ’146 Patent is entitled, “System and Methods for Improved Scenario Management in an Electronic Spreadsheet” and is directed to tools that permit “electronic spreadsheet users to track their changes” automatically, as opposed to manually, when testing a multitude of modeling scenarios. Id. at *10-11.

Yes, patents on user interfaces are still being tolerated in the US, at least in the Federal Circuit. Charles Bieneman classifies these as “Software Patents” and recalls a related albeit older case on which he says: “Claims directed to an “information management and real time synchronous communications system for configuring and transmitting hospitality menus” were held patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice abstract idea test in Ameranth, Inc. v. Pizza Hut, Inc., No. 3-11-cv-01810 (S.D. Cal. Sept 25, 2018). The court thus granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment that U.S. Patent No. 8,146,077 is unpatentable.”

“This is a problem. It impacts LibreOffice, OpenOffice etc. because these too have tabbing.”“The patent owner,” he later added, “tried to rely on two Federal Circuit decisions, Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Electronics, Inc. (2018), and Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp. (2017), as well as a recent district court case. But these cases were distinguishable…”

We covered this before. The above comes from a blog that advocates software patents. Generally speaking, software patents are the joke of all jokes. Not innovation at all. But lobbying from patent law firms has made the unthinkable reality. Bieneman accepted defeat when he wrote about another more neglected case (because it’s a district court): “Agreeing that patent claims “are directed to the abstract idea of facilitating cross-marketing relationships and fail to add any inventive concept” under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo abstract test, Delaware’s Judge Stark granted a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint alleging infringement of claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,768,760. DiStefano Patent Trust III, LLC v. LinkedIn Corp., C.A. No. 17-1798-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Sept. 28, 2018).”

“OIN cannot do anything about such a racket.”Why was such a ridiculous patent granted in the first place? The headline should be a “duh” moment: “Linking Web Pages to Each Other Not Patent-Eligible” (based on prior art too, not just obviousness and abstractness).

As the above (main) story shows, however, merely adding tabs to spreadsheets is still considered innovative. The high court considers or determines this to be patent-eligible. This is a problem. It impacts LibreOffice, OpenOffice etc. because these too have tabbing. Will the troll go after them too while Microsoft claims to have reached a “truce” and looks the other way? The only known ‘cure’ is buying Microsoft ‘protection’ in the form of “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] — a racket that extends to trolls Microsoft can control. OIN cannot do anything about such a racket.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

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. Links 28/1/2021: Stable Kernels and Sudo Bugfixes

    Links for the day



  2. Showing Solidarity With FSFE Survivors

    What does justice look like?



  3. IBM is Throwing Away Red Hat's 'de Facto Standard' Status in Servers, Wrongly Assuming People Can't (or Won't) Go Elsewhere

    This new video is over half an hour long and it’s a discussion of IBM’s self-harming (shot-in-the-foot) move, which it already seems to regret



  4. Why 6 Screens and 6 Virtual Desktops

    An explanation of how I use computers and how I distribute tasks (across screens and across virtual desktops)



  5. Red Hat Developer Network Promoting Microsoft's Proprietary Software, Sometimes by Mass-Mailing People

    Red Hat is doing a disservice to people who subscribe to E-mail newsletters; those people are almost never into Microsoft's proprietary software, which they want to get away from



  6. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, January 26, 2021

    IRC logs for Tuesday, January 26, 2021



  7. Links 26/1/2021: Mozilla Firefox 85.0, Tails 4.15, Zentyal Server 7.0, GNOME 40 Alpha

    Links for the day



  8. Instead of Making Access to COVID-19 Solutions Easier Bill Gates Has Made It Harder (Patent Profits)

    Counterproductively — and at a great cost to human civilisation — Bill Gates has once again put profits and monopoly ahead of global goals such as collective health



  9. We Need More Documents Leaked to Know Intel (From the) Inside

    We invite more leaks from the belly of the beast "chipzilla", seeing that it is becoming a drone of Microsoft again, yearning for the "Wintel" days instead of moving on to a world dominated by GNU/Linux and Free/libre software



  10. Why GNU/Linux Users (and the Public at Large) Should Support Leaking/Whistleblowing Sites (Including Wikileaks)

    To demonstrate the value of "scientific journalism" (a term apparently coined by Wikileaks) we take a look at Red Hat's response to embarrassing leaks (demonstrating what a scam their certification and examination programmes really are)



  11. EPO President António Campinos is Still Not Listening, According to Internal EPO Documents

    Increasingly arrogant and unaccountable management of Europe's second-largest institution (EPO) has left staff disillusioned but still defiant; there's clearly unsuitable or unfit-for-purpose management at the EPO, self-selecting based on nepotism/loyalty so as to cover up abuses



  12. Why You Should Give Falkon (the Web Browser) a Chance on GNU/Linux, BSD, or Windows

    In this crazy new world where advertisers are the real customers and Web users ("audiences") have been reduced to mere products we need a browser that isn't controlled by a company; try Falkon



  13. Kluwer Patent Spin and Distortion of Facts (Regarding UPC and More)

    Kluwer Patent Blog disgraces the firm that puts its name on it; instead of sticking to facts they're distorting the facts and the sole/principal goal is to manipulate/mislead the public and public servants



  14. Links 26/1/2021: 4MLinux 35.1, GParted 1.2, Gnuastro 0.14

    Links for the day



  15. IRC Proceedings: Monday, January 25, 2021

    IRC logs for Monday, January 25, 2021



  16. It's Wrong to Assume Red Hat Competes With Microsoft

    The community ought to stop pretending that one monopoly seeks to replace another despite close partnerships (some would say "collusion") between the two



  17. EPO Staff Representation Complains That EPO Management Exploits Pandemic and 'House Arrests' to Overwork Staff, Lower Quality

    The EPO keeps breaking its promises to workers; not only are key employees seeing their net salary cut (inflation factored in) but pensioners too are being robbed and in the meantime the total time spent on work is increasing



  18. Fake News is Not a 'Wing' Thing

    The two-party corporate-led system (and media) would have us obsess/bicker about accuracy of news based on some binary/dual system of blind loyalty rather than underlying facts and priorities



  19. Links 25/1/2021: Huawei on GNU/Linux, NuTyX 20.12.1, Whisker Menu 2.5.3, Lutris 0.5.8.3, Linux 5.11 RC5

    Links for the day



  20. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) in ZDNet is the Norm

    ZDNet continues to emit lots of garbage 'journalism', in effect Microsoft PR and what's known as "black PR" for Linux; just like Bleeping Computer, which ZDNet hired this writer from, there's no adherence to facts, just smears and innuendo



  21. Truth Tellers Aren't an Enemy of Free Software

    There's a perpetual attack on people who speak out against actors and corporations in positions of great power, however subtle and indirect those attacks may seem on the surface (they don't wish to be held accountable for defaming activists)



  22. The Linux Foundation, With Over 124 Million Dollars in Annual Revenue, is in Trouble Because of the Pandemic, So It's Trying to Reinvent Itself as Training and Certifications Outfit

    With mountains of cash and a Public Relations (PR) or marketing business model the so-called 'Linux' Foundation became reliant on travel, lodging, booths and speeches on sale; COVID-19 is a great risk to that business model



  23. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, January 24, 2021

    IRC logs for Sunday, January 24, 2021



  24. Our Move Further Away From the World Wide Web, the Browser Monopolies, HTTP, and HTML

    The World Wide Web (WWW) is going down a bad path and a clearly regressive direction; the solution isn't going 'retro' but exploring more sophisticated systems which are robust to censorship (localised or globalised) and downtime (related to censorship) while reducing surveillance by leveraging encryption at the endpoints



  25. Important Issues Not Entertained in the Community, Especially Critics of the Status Quo

    here's corporate infiltration inside communities (for oligarchy hunts volunteer, unpaid labour) and those who speak about that as a threat to our cause and objectives are painted as misguided outcasts who must be ignored



  26. Internet Origins of the Mob

    Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock



  27. When Proprietary Software Users Dictate the Freedom-Leaning Communities

    Fedora doesn't care about software freedom and its steward (or parent company) is sometimes imposing proprietary software on staff; they've quit caring



  28. In 2020 Onwards 'Open Source' is Just a Marketing Ploy of Monopolies, Unlike Free Software

    More people are nowadays seeing or witnessing 'Open Source' for what it truly is; the term has become a misleading marketing term of proprietary software firms looking to rebrand as "ethical" (e.g. by sharing some code with other proprietary software firms, over proprietary platforms such as GitHub)



  29. Microsoft: The Year After We Bought GitHub There Was a Significant Decline in Number of New Projects on GitHub

    Microsoft has just admitted that in 2019 GitHub saw a very significant decline in number of new projects (and users, which it is conveniently miscounting by adding 'phantom' ones) on the site. Just what we had heard before they confirmed it (and they foresaw this effect of the takeover, hence the lies about "loving" Linux).



  30. Social Control Media is a Passing Fad, We Should All Go Back to Blogging and Subscribing to RSS Feeds

    The whole "social control media" phenomenon has been oversold or promoted using lies; in reality, as a mountain of evidence serves to show, it's a way to manage society at a macro scale


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

Recent Posts