09.05.19

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Patent Trolls Are Destroying Free/Open Source Software and They’re Coming to Europe, Thanks to the European Patent Office

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 7:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent trolls already infest London, but that’s good for London-based law firms (not a tourism attraction, just a drain and a stain on the British economy)

London taxi

Summary: The EPO was forewarned about its impact on innovation and facilitation of cumbersome litigation by trolls; but the EPO ignored all the warnings as if its goal was to attract the trolls

TODAY’S European Patent Office (EPO) organises events with front groups of patent trolls.

Here’s a new example: “If you want to create an IP strategy that supports your business strategy, join us at our joint event with @LESIntl in Dublin…”

There were more examples like that earlier in the week. Why is the EPO associating with and even promoting LESI? As if they don’t know who (or what) LESI fronts for…

“Why is the EPO associating with and even promoting LESI? As if they don’t know who (or what) LESI fronts for…”The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) under Iancu also sides with patent trolls while denying such a thing even exists, but that’s another matter. Today’s EPO regularly meets litigation and trolling front groups; it never meets actual scientists! That exposes the alarming bias. António Campinos does this just like Battistelli did. Nothing has changed. Both of them also promote software patents in Europe (not merely tolerating these but promoting these — a subject we’ll cover in our next post).

Mind yesterday’s blog post from Mozilla ([1] below, already included in yesterday’s daily links but re-added because of importance). This patent troll, Skyhook, has quite a history attacking FOSS with patent lawsuits [1, 2]. About a decade later it’s still doing that and it now targets relatively small companies.

What do the lawyers think about all this? Fantastic! Good for business. Theirs.

Audrey Horton (Bird & Bird, Team UPC) writes some new nonsense from the UK, promoted by IAM’s parent company for a fee (for extra audience). Remember the Unwired Planet case in London (there are already several such cases)? Horton uses misleading euphemisms like RAND, ZRAND and FRAND (all the letters in these acronyms are white-washing lies) to describe what boils down to patent trolls infesting Europe, looking to exploit frivolous litigation with questionable and possibly illegal European Patents. In her words:

Under the Unwired Planet decision, it might not be open to Z selectively to claim the right to be granted a RAND licence. If the licence was a unitary, portfolio, worldwide, group to group licence, arguably Z had to take it as a whole or not at all. It did not follow that Z was somehow prevented from saying to T, and the court, that it no longer relied on any licence to which it was entitled to resist the grant of relief for infringement of the UK patents. Such a waiver ought not to be treated as ineffective or invalid. Unwired Planet did not suggest that a patent owner had an independent right to come to the court for a declaration as to the scope and extent of the licence he was required to offer to an implementer, when the implementer expressed no interest in taking such a licence.

The case above is significant (we covered it many times before) because several years ago we saw this troll increasingly turning to British courts. It’s looking to shake down everything that moves. It doesn’t develop anything, so the money sinks into black holes. Germany too is rapidly becoming a hotspot for patent trolls. Thanks, EPO!

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Mozilla Cloud Services Blog: A New Policy for Mozilla Location Service

    Several years ago we started a geolocation experiment called the Mozilla Location Service (MLS) to create a location service built on open-source software and powered through crowdsourced location data. MLS provides geolocation lookups based on publicly observable cell tower and WiFi access point information. MLS has served the public interest by providing location information to open-source operating systems, research projects, and developers.

    Today Mozilla is announcing a policy change regarding MLS. Our new policy will impose limits on commercial use of MLS. Mozilla has not made this change by choice. Skyhook Holdings, Inc. contacted Mozilla some time ago and alleged that MLS infringed a number of its patents. We subsequently reached an agreement with Skyhook that avoids litigation. While the terms of the agreement are confidential, we can tell you that the agreement exists and that our MLS policy change relates to it. We can also confirm that this agreement does not change the privacy properties of our service: Skyhook does not receive location data from Mozilla or our users.

    Our new policy preserves the public interest heart of the MLS project. Mozilla has never offered any commercial plans for MLS and had no intention to do so. Only a handful of entities have made use of MLS API Query keys for commercial ventures. Nevertheless, we regret having to impose new limits on MLS. Sometimes companies have to make difficult choices that balance the massive cost and uncertainty of patent litigation against other priorities.

    Mozilla has long argued that patents can work to inhibit, rather than promote, innovation. We continue to believe that software development, and especially open-source software, is ill-served by the patent system. Mozilla endeavors to be a good citizen with respect to patents. We offer a free license to our own patents under the Mozilla Open Software Patent License Agreement. We will also continue our advocacy for a better patent system.

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