Summary: The press of the rich and the powerful continues its attempt to preserve software patents, despite the US Supreme Court’s decision to abolish a lot of them on the basis of abstraction
LAST WEEK we wrote about corporate media lionising IBM for a hoard of patents. IBM is now preparing to lay off over 100,000 workers, demonstrating that its patent strategy does very little for staff; it’s about protectionism and potentially bullying of rivals (something that IBM isn’t foreign to). Forbes relays Cringely’s remarks that over 100,000 people are to be laid off (Cringely warned about this in his blog and foresaw it for years, based on unnamed sources), but watch this new propaganda piece from the plutocrats’ media, USA Today (owned and run by very rich people). It conflates patents with innovation. It is rather telling as it shows gross distortion of the truth. We have become accustomed to this. Whether the authors are willingly or unwillingly dumb (i.e. pushing agenda and misleading readers) is the only unknown. It is well known that patents are not a measure of innovation but mostly a function of paperwork.
Techrights has spent over 8 years and wrote thousands of posts debunking patent myths, but nonetheless, the myths live on and propagate. Earlier this week we saw the ‘patent industry’ shoving press releases into various sites to rewrite Alice history (watch as others are shamelessly exploiting a dead black man for patent PR) and we continue to see lawyers’ Web sites teaching patent lawyers tricks for bypassing patent law, essentially ignoring even Court rulings (from the highest court) to continue doing whatever it wants, all in the name of profit. It is not a sole example. Over the past week we found many other examples that dominate news about software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and do little more than discredit the Court’s decision, acting as though all software patents are still fine and dandy. The patent lawyers who engage in this propaganda/marketing campaign are basically misleading potential clients. The truth of the matter is, courts in the US invalidate and throw out patent lawsuits where the patents are shallow and merely relate to abstract ideas. Patent lawyers prefer to only cover cases where software patents somehow survive a court’s scrutiny, as we have demonstrated in recent months. Lies by omission? You bet.
Days ago we found this article titled “Software, the Supreme Court, and 3D Printing: Why You Should Care About Alice v. CLS Bank”. Here is a key part: “Software—some mundane, some truly ingenious—runs the printers, scanners, and files that power 3D printing. In the past, inventors and technology owners could comfortably look to patent law to protect the proprietary advantage software inventions gave. But with its June 2014 decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, some say that the U.S. Supreme Court fundamentally changed the rules for software patentability. Since Alice, some believe that courts around the country have been on a software patent killing spree. Because of the large role software plays in 3D printing, those with a stake in the technology need to understand Alice—and the strategies that exist to get around it.”
While it is acknowledged that things have changed, it serves to legitimise those who want to “get around” the rules (i.e. cheat). Watch vocal boosters of software patents providing tips on how to cheat (or fool) the system. They also try to give a false impression that software patents are thriving. One statement being made therein: “Software and method patents may appear to have fallen out of favor because of recent court decisions and legislation. However, recent trends indicate that they comprise surprisingly high portions of four US companies’ recent grants.” Well, that’s not the point. The point is, the USPTO has become more strict and more importantly the courts (where real tests of validity are put forth) do not honour software patents much of the time. The author is of course being selective (two companies only, Microsoft and Google) to support a bogus hypothesis, putting aside the fact that he chose two companies that increasingly turn to patents as their business strategy. One uses them offensively (Microsoft), whereas the other turns to them mostly for defensively purposes (because Microsoft is attacking it with patents).
Companies like Microsoft, which resort to patent abuse and aggression because the monopoly is quickly crumbling, are bound to lose a lot because of the Alice ruling. Patent lawyers too are bound to lose from a sobering society that knows the limits of patenting. █
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Summary: The patent systems and their peripheral enforcers continue to put so-called ‘rights’ of corporations before interests of citizens
Political corruption and unlimited scope of patents seem to have a correlation. When large businesses want infinite protectionism they tend to massage copyright and/or patent laws, completely oblivious to the interests of the residents who supposedly elect politicians to serve them. Such is the case not only in the US (see USPTO) but also in Europe, especially in recent years because new governance bodies are forming and some unite or harmonise laws. We end up being captives of multinationals such as Philips and Siemens. The EPO goes as far as hiring very corrupt individuals and the current Presidency of the EU Council, Latvia, is sponsored by BMW, Microsoft, etc. It is basically a corporate Presidency, just like the political parties in the United States (funded and controlled by large corporations). One doesn’t need to be a cynic to talk about what’s wrong about the Presidency of nearly a whole continent being sponsored by Microsoft. The EU has basically inherited ‘Russian oligarchs’ standards and is no longer trying to even hide it (not so well anyway). It helps explain how we get all these ‘trade’ collusions and other nonsense-based legislation in Europe. The FFII actively works in this area and so are other groups from Europe. There is activism all the time, but will the population win?
“There is activism all the time, but will the population win?”Florian Müller (Microsoft Florian) appears to have joined our cause in reforming the EPO or ousting its management. He says that “pressure mounts on EPO president and administrative council over suspension of patent judge”. Linking to Techrights he notes: “Having watched various political scandals over the years, I consider it a rule of thumb that an affair that results in statements and actions even during the Holiday Season, and that continues with undiminished force after the Holiday Season, tends to result in someone’s resignation or ousting. Smaller issues go away and are not carried over into the new year. But the really big issues do survive the Holiday Season.”
We have a real problem in Europe right now because the legal ‘industry’ has basically taken over much of the political system. Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, who is close to the FFII and April (France), says that “during Unitary Patent procedure, Wikström was the representative of the patent microcosm” (meaning the patent lawyers and other pro-patents maximalists).
Across the Atlantic in the US (and across the Pacific for Asia) there remains a xenophobic embargo agency (for US companies only) called the ITC. It is still active and this report explains how. To quote the new article:
When making their case against alleged infringers, patent-holders have two options in the US legal system: filing a case in federal court, or petitioning for an investigation at the International Trade Commission (ITC).
We live in an unfair world where unfair competition is standard. People who head large corporations, i.e. managers, acquire monopolies through lawyers-dominated systems (where scientists are dominated and intimidated by corrupt managers) and these monopolies are in turn used against science and technology, all in the name of profit (for the few). It’s like a kind of coup against hard-working people. Whether it’s the EPO, USPTO, ITC or some other state-run or state-sanctioned entities (not private companies or patent trolls), we are surrounded by many who are trying to harm us while throwing around words like “innovation”, “protection”, etc. In many cases, private firms exploit these supposedly public bodies for private profit (externally/peripherally). It’s a massive swindle enabling transfer of wealth and control.
Toyota deserves some credit this week for following the path of Tesla and throwing patents out of its arsenal (it's misleading to call this "open source", it is merely disarmament). If only more companies did that… █
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Summary: No US patent reform last year, but there are improvements nonetheless, especially in the area of patents on algorithms
THE USPTO has amended its examination guidelines following an important ruling from SCOTUS, which at the very least limited the scope of software patents. Change came not from politics (driven dominantly and excessively by corporate money, especially in the US) but from a courtroom and The Hill continues the corporate media’s obsession with patent trolls, who are not the same as software patents (despite some correlations).
“Heading into the year,” writes The Hill, “few issues seemed to be as well-supported as reforming the nation’s patent laws to prevent “trolls” from harassing companies with scores of lawsuits.
“A patent reform bill cruised through the House last December, and President Obama highlighted the issue in his State of the Union address as one of his 2014 priorities for Capitol Hill.
“Yet despite months of work from some of the Senate’s most senior lawmakers in both parties, the reform push was killed just before completion, at the request of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).”
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t stop large aggressors like Microsoft and Apple from suing small companies using software patents. This approach is basically what large corporations are lobbying for. They have done it for years. This elusive pursuit of so-called ‘reforms’ that only affect small trolls isn’t the thing to root for. Scope itself is the issue (scope of patents, not scale of the litigant).
Incidentally, there is a decent new article about patents on genetics in the US. “Last month in Silicon Valley,” writes Technology Review, “biologists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier showed up in black gowns to receive the $3 million Breakthrough Prize, a glitzy award put on by Internet billionaires including Mark Zuckerberg. They’d won for developing CRISPR-Cas9, a “powerful and general technology” for editing genomes that’s been hailed as a biotechnology breakthrough.” (further interpreted by Glyn Moody)
This is about patents. As Moody put it, “Whether obvious or not, it looks like the patent granted may complicate turning the undoubtedly important CRISPR technique into products. That, in its turn, will mean delays for life-changing and even life-saving therapies: for example, CRISPR could potentially allow the defective gene that causes serious problems for those with cystic fibrosis to be edited to produce normal proteins, thus eliminating those problems. ”
Speaking of patents on genes, IP Troll Tracker correctly stresses that Monsanto deserves to be hated for its (ab)use of patents for monopoly. The post is titled “People Hate Monsanto For Reasons Other Than Their Patent Litigation Policies?” One clear issue with this post is that it conveniently overlooks many other issues with Monsanto, including genocide in Vietnam (Agent Orange), the impact of toxins in pesticides, and the unknown impact of genetically-modified foods on one’s health (several studies show a correlation to cancer, among other detriments).
Patents are inherently a monopoly and if monopolies are allowed to enter the field of software, where many people code with simple tools like a keyboard, then we limit expression. Code can be like prose and patenting prose (not the same as copyright) would be disastrous. █
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Summary: Signs that the US is turning against software patents, not just against patent trolls which so-called patent reforms strive to tackle
THE UNITED STATES is improving when it comes to patents sanity because scope is being narrowed, especially when it comes to software patents. We wrote over a dozen articles about it, but the media is still full with so-called ‘reports’ (shameless self-promotion and self service) from patent lawyers, who would deliberately have the public believe that not much has changed. Always remember that patents (as per their mission statement) are supposed to be about publication, innovation, and public interests, not about securing the newly-created jobs of parasitic lawyers and their monopolistic clients.
“Always remember that patents (as per their mission statement) are supposed to be about publication, innovation, and public interests, not about securing the newly-created jobs of parasitic lawyers and their monopolistic clients.”The EFF recently made this good move against software patents, specifically naming software patents as the issue (not “trolls” or “stupid” patents as the EFF habitually addresses the issue).
To quote the EFF: “There are many reasons software patents cause so much trouble. The Patent Office does not do a good job reviewing software patent applications to see if they are claiming something new. And these patents often describe the purported invention with highly vague and ambiguous language. Software patents also tend to claim every way to solve a problem, rather than the particular solution developed by the applicant. This is known as functional claiming. While it may seem like an arcane legal dispute, functional claiming is a key feature of overbroad software patents.”
The EFF recently improved its activism in this area, having wasted nearly a decade tackling one patent at a time (so-called ‘busting’), talking about patent trolls, or alluding to patents that are “stupid” rather than ones whose class/type/scope makes them illegitimate. Alas, the “Stupid Patent of the Month” series from the EFF continues. It usually names software patents, but does not refer to them as such. Here is the example from a few days ago:
In the Spirit of the Holidays: It’s Not Too Late for Uber to Avoid Stupid Patent of the Month
Because Uber did just that, Uber is being forewarned of its risk of receiving the Stupid Patent of the Month award. Specifically, Uber has applied for a patent on a form of dynamic pricing, a practice that (even if it didn’t exist before the study of economics) has been heavily in use by various industries, including most famously by airlines, for over 20 years.
Stallman recently published a good list of reasons not to use Uber (the car ride brokering company), but that is a subject for another day. The EFF has provided yet another reason to avoid Uber.
Make no mistake however. The EFF’s lawyers are outnumbered by patents-loving lawyers who flood the media with pro-software patents articles (we are reviewing this on a daily basis). The only exception we have found in the past fortnight was Timothy B. Lee, who published the article titled “Software patents are a disaster. The courts finally did something about it in 2014.” Here are some opening paragraphs:
For two decades, people in Silicon Valley have been complaining about software patents. People would get patents on broad concepts like checking email wirelessly or scanning documents to an email account, and then sue anyone who happened to stumble across the same concept. Thanks to this kind of frivolous litigation, patents in the software industry may actually be discouraging innovation instead of encouraging it.
But until recently, complaints about excessive patenting of software mostly fell on deaf ears. The patent office issued tens of thousands of new software patents every year, and the courts upheld most of them. Congress showed little interest in addressing the issue.
The fiercest pro-software patents sites refuse to talk about the demise of software patents or even call patent trolls “trolls” (they use other words). What they do care about is the patent reform in the US; yes, even patent lawyers’ sites speak about it and some worry about the (rather likely) imminent appointment of Michelle Lee, who is one of them (a lawyer, albeit with a scientific background as a computer scientist). Louis J. Foreman says: “I’m concerned independent inventors, small businesses and the property protections we all depend on are about to become collateral damage as Congress once again tries to crack down on “patent trolls.” The popular definition of a patent troll as used in the congressional debate is a company that doesn’t make any products itself, but that owns patents and tries to make money by accusing other companies of infringement.”
We have seen more of that argument elsewhere, basically complaining that patent trolls are not a problem. As one person put it, “obviously, these guys have never been sued by a patent troll…the Wright Brothers…really?”
It was said in reference to this odd article. “Take a look at the website of the ‘tech’ company 1 of the authors works for,” said one person. It sure looks like those who defend trolls are either trolls themselves or those who work with trolls.
In relation to a patent reform this puff piece from The Hill gave a platform the the BSA (Microsoft front group). One relevant part says:
“I think the change in the Senate is a good thing for patent reform,” said Craig Albright, a top lobbyist with BSA | The Software Alliance. “And that change is important for the prospects of getting patent reform done and it’s one of the reasons why we’re optimistic.”
As we have shown before, when Microsoft and its partners speak about patent reform they don’t speak about eliminating or limiting software patents, which they love dearly. Here is another new article titled “Patent Reform Likely to Succeed in Next Congress” and further commentary from TechDirt:
As we’ve noted recently, a series of Supreme Court decisions over the past decade, culminating in the big Alice v. CLS Bank ruling in July, has clearly put a serious crimp on the patent trolling business. Vague, broad, dangerous patents are falling like flies, new patent trolling lawsuits are on the decline and the US Patent Office is rejecting a lot more questionable software and business method patent applications. All good news. But is it enough?
That is pretty much where favourable coverage ends. The biased media of patent lawyers still dominates the news feeds, aided by large corporations’ press.
Bloomberg, i.e. Wall Street, gives them a platform with which to defend software patents in the wake of Alice v. CLS Bank and blogs of patent maximalists write about it in a self-serving fashion. “Look at those patent guys scared to death about loosing their jobs with the removal of software patents,” wrote the FFII’s President. There is more where it came from (bypassing limitations), glorification of patents and revisionism (disguised as ‘history’) about software patents, as noted in an article we published 2 weeks ago. When Gene Quinn talks about history he speaks of a highly modified version that helps patent lawyers fool judges or lawmakers.
A lot of other legal sites, such as Mondaq, Lexology and Law 360 showed their clear bias. Only patent lawyers write there on this topic and it’s unsurprisingly biased. Some are willing to acknowledge the fact that software patents are in trouble, but they selective pick cases where software patents endure. To quote an example from today: “In discussing computer software patentability, the court stated outright that “software must be eligible under § 101″ and that the Supreme Court has implicitly endorsed the patentability of software, including in Alice. Specifically, the court reasoned that patent law must balance between encouraging creation of new computing solutions and protecting against applying established ideas through a computer environment. Caltech, 156 C.D. Cal. at 9095. The court also interpreted Alice as acknowledging the patent eligibility of software if it improves “the functioning of the computer itself” or “any other technology.””
“No, Mr Crouch,” insists the FFII’s Present, “loading software on a PC does not make it a new machine” (Crouch is one of the most prominent boosters of patents).
Joe Mullin recently showed that not only software patents are dying in the US but patents on genetics too. As Susan Decker from Bloomberg put it: “Myriad Genetics Inc. (MYGN) can’t block competitors’ DNA tests to determine risk for breast and ovarian cancer after a U.S. appeals court said three patents on the tests never should have been issued.
“The patents cover products of nature and ideas that aren’t eligible for legal protection, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion posted today on the court’s docket. The court upheld a trial judge’s decision to allow the competing tests, including those made by Ambry Genetics Corp., to remain on the market.”
It sure looks like the US improves a lot on the patent front, but reading the lawyers-dominated press won’t quite reinforce this impression.
“Comments will be accepted until March 16, 2015,” says the USPTO regarding the “Interim Guidance on Subject Matter Eligibility”. Three weeks from now we shall receive some new sregarding patent scope in the US and perhaps also find out who is going to head the USPTO,
A public forum will be hosted at the Alexandria campus of the USPTO on Jan. 21, 2015, to receive public feedback from any interested member of the public. The Eligibility Forum will be an opportunity for the Office to provide an overview of the Interim Eligibility Guidance and for participants to present their interpretation of the impact of Supreme Court precedent on the complex legal and technical issues involved in subject matter eligibility analysis during examination by providing oral feedback on the Interim Eligibility Guidance and claim example sets. Individuals will be provided an opportunity to make a presentation, to the extent that time permits.
It is very likely that law firms and large corporations will submit the lion’s share of comments and those who are unaffiliated will be ignored or mostly unaccounted for. Software patents will lose when the wealthy interests against them outweigh the likes of Microsoft. In a world where Free software increasingly dominates (sharing and collaboration among software companies) the vision of a software patents-free world is no fantasy. █
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Finally seeing the light?
A lighthouse in Denmark
Summary: Instability in the EPO seemingly prevents further expansion of patent scope, which is the subject of scrutiny of EPO staff
TECHRIGHTS has neither actively observed nor spotted much discussion/debate about the Unitary Patent as of late; either it’s being silently stalled or it is being pushed forth in secret (behind closed doors). Truth be told, the EPO is now wrestling with much bigger issues and we will continue to expose damning facts about people who currently run the EPO. They need to be sacked or forced into resignation.
Watch how a lawyers’ propaganda site, IAM, tries to defend the Mafia of the EPO (very much expected from such a zealous site), though as this site puts it:
Keep in mind that this is a poorly attempt to disguise oneself’s doubtful actions! The IAM interview with Battistelli is in my opinion a one-sided version of events. The origin and core of this conflict isn’t about salaries or that 1 judge who was suspended solely rather than violation of National, European and International Law’s in respect of Social Security, Basic Rights and Human Rights! The list of suspended and dissmissed, in some cases, illegal dissmissed servants is long! Do not forget, and here is the point where it starts to get really nasty, in case of dissmissal, wrongfully or not, proven or not, EPO servants do have absolutely NO RIGHTS!!! NO SOCIAL SECURITY, nothing Nada, Niente whereas every European Citizen do own this Rights!
Why does Battistelli don’t comment on why he rules out the labour union first?
Battistelli will most likely be out quite soon. Our EPO series is far from over and it will continue when the time is right (many newspaper journalists go on vacation soon, so it might be worth waiting).
” It is important to impede or altogether prevent the proliferation of software patents; the place they spread from is cracking down on them.”The USPTO, unlike the EPO, is gradually treading away from software patents. Due to the bias of software patents-centric lawyers in the media is may appear like nothing is changing, but actually, a lot is changing quite rapidly in the US. Here is a new example of selective coverage by lawyers’ media and blogs of software patents proponents like Dennis Crouch, who says: “The US Patent Office has released a new set of guidelines for judging patent eligiblity based upon the Supreme Court’s recent quartet of Bilski, Mayo, Myriad, and Alice. The guidelines do not carry the force of law but are designed to serve as a manual for examiners when determining eligibility.”
These guidelines will be hard to change unless SCOTUS gets involved again, which is rare (happens perhaps twice per decade). We are thankful for these developments which not only will hurt patent trolls but also villainous extortion operations such as Microsoft’s. It is important to impede or altogether prevent the proliferation of software patents; the place they spread from is cracking down on them. █
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Profit conflated with innovation
Summary: The scope of patents, as evidenced by some statistical figures and individual patents, shows that the USPTO is broken and must be reformed or dismantled
Kevin Drum from Mother Jones is a very good writer who covers a broad range of topics. Several weeks ago he wrote about patents, noting that “More Patents Does Not Equal More Innovation”. Well, more patents mean more business for the USPTO and patent lawyers, but they would rather just paint their profit as “innovation”. Here is what Mr. Drum writes, citing the corporate media:
Via James Pethokoukis, here’s a chart from a new CBO report on federal policies and innovation. Needless to say, you can’t read too much into it. It shows the growth since 1963 of total factor productivity (roughly speaking, the share of productivity growth due to technology improvements), and there are lots of possible reasons that TFP hasn’t changed much over the past five decades. At a minimum, though, the fact that patent activity has skyrocketed since 1983 with no associated growth in TFP suggests, as the CBO report says dryly, “that the large increase in patenting activity since 1983 may have made little contribution to innovation.”
We recently showed that almost every application for a patent is now successful, i.e. patent granted (proving that there no quality control at all and demonstrating laziness or greed, motivated by wrong yardsticks by which to assess patent examiners). This whole system has become a sham and people should do something about it, as the problem won’t go away on its own.
“This whole system has become a sham and people should do something about it, as the problem won’t go away on its own.”Might we ever see USPTO staff demonstrating in the streets of Washington, following the example set by EPO staff? The problem and the grievances (about scope and corruption) are similar.
The other week we saw the EFF highlighting yet another “Stupid Patent of the Month”. It is a software patent which is basically something that a child can come up with, or even an observer of what has been going on for centuries. To put it in the words of Ars Technica:
November’s “Stupid Patent of the Month,” brought to you by Penn State
Three months ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation inaugurated a monthly tradition in which they wrote about a “Stupid Patent of the Month.” The first patent they publicized was basically a description of a doctor’s “computer-secretary.” Since then, they’ve highlighted a vague software patent owned by a serial litigant, a patent on filming a yoga class, and a patent with a formula for curing cancer (a combination of “sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, evening primrose seeds,” among other things.)
Here is the latest:
One of the items for sale is US Patent No. 8,442,839, entitled “Agent-based collaborative recognition-primed decision-making.” The lead inventors are PSU professors John Yen and Michael McNeese. The patent essentially describes different ways that people work together to solve a problem.
Steps include “receiving information regarding a current situation to be analyzed,” interacting to receive “assistance in the form of assumptions or expectancies about the situation,” and using “collected information to determine whether a decision about the situation is evolving in an anticipated direction.” A PSU news site describes the invention as using a framework called “Collaborative Agents for Simulating Teamwork.”
“The patent reads a little like what might result if you ate a dictionary filled with buzzwords and drank a bottle of tequila,” writes EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer. He notes the patent was originally rejected by the patent office. “Penn State responded by amending its claim to ‘include a team-oriented computer architecture that transforms subject matter.’ In other words, it took an abstract patent and said, ‘Do it on a computer.’”
A lot of software patents are like that. They merely add “over the Internet” or “on a computer” to some process that has existed for a very long time. There’s no innovation in it, except perhaps the innovation which is the Internet or the computer itself.
Anyone who still thinks that the patent system promotes innovation should take a look at a patent or two, setting aside the jargon and buzzwords. We covered other examples in the past and examined their lack of novelty. Some examples came from Nintendo and there is this new example where Nintendo patents something using the “in mobile devices” pseudo ‘novelty’. To quote AOL:
A new patent published by the USPTO yesterday details an invention by Nintendo that would allow it to emulate its mobile game consoles, including the Game Boy line of devices specifically, in other settings, including on seat-back displays in airplanes and trains, and on mobile devices including cell phones. The patent is an updated take on an older piece of IP, so it’s not an entirely new idea, but it’s still very interesting to consider that Nintendo could have renewed interest in the idea of running its own back catalogue on many different kinds of screens.
It is not an entirely new idea at all. In-flight entertainment, emulation and mobile devices are very old ideas and just combining them should not be enough to earn a patent. Then again, as USPTO eventually accepts (grants patents for) 92% of all applications, it seems to have become an illegitimate system of protectionism that puts the burden on innocence on victims, passes a lot of incentive to patent lawyers, and has small companies foot the legal bills. █
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Not much in terms of changes except the public face
Photo from Asian Pacific Fund
Summary: An update on efforts to reform the patent system in the United States, including the possibly imminent appointment of Michelle Lee to USPTO leadership role
OUR friends over at IP Troll Tracker argue with proponents of patent trolls, including those who try to classify the world’s biggest trolls (firms like Intellectual Ventures) as something else. Apparently, trying to say who qualifies as a patent troll is a controversial issue among those who are in this business and this is why there was hardly any substantial progress on eradication of patent trolls. The de facto definition of “troll” these days is “small actor that uses patents”. It’s about scale, not scope. If you are a massive corporation like IBM and Microsoft, then you somehow can’t qualify as “troll” even when you engage in the very same tactics on a much larger scale.
“If you are a massive corporation like IBM and Microsoft, then you somehow can’t qualify as “troll” even when you engage in the very same tactics on a much larger scale.”This new article from TechDirt speaks of the fight for patent reform by the likes of Newegg, correctly noting that “the company became a leader in fighting back against ridiculous patent lawsuits, going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest trolls around. The company’s Chief Legal Officer, Lee Cheng, has vowed to never settle with a patent troll, and so far has never lost an appeal on a patent claim.”
Another older article from TechDirt cites Professor Bessen and reminds us that Free software projects are directly being harmed and even eliminated by patent trolls (we gave some examples before). To quote the article, via James Bessen, “we [now] learn of how a patent trolling operation by StreamScale has resulted in an open source project completely shutting down, despite the fact that the patent in question (US Patent 8,683,296 for an “Accelerated erasure coding system and method”) is almost certainly ineligible for patent protection as an abstract idea, following the Supreme Court’s Alice ruling and plenty of prior art. Erasure codes are used regularly today in cloud computing data storage and are considered to be rather important. Not surprisingly, companies and lawyers are starting to pop out of the woodwork to claim patents on key pieces. I won’t pretend to understand the fundamental details of erasure codes, but the link above provides all the details. It goes through the specific claims in the patents, breaking down what they actually say (basically an erasure code on a computer using SIMD instructions), and how that’s clearly an abstract idea and thus not patent-eligible.”
See this page about the patent: “The Accelerated erasure coding system and method software patent was filed by StreamScale, a patent holding company, and granted by the US patent office in march 2014 (filed july 2013). It claims to own the idea to use SIMD instructions to speed up the computation of Erasure Code. It is a patent-ineligible abstract idea and can be ignored.”
Well, it may be a patent-ineligible abstract idea, but proving in in Court can be costly, especially for a Free software project.
It is being reported right now that Michelle Lee, formerly of Google, is en route to becoming the next head of the USPTO (the pro-software patents sites exploit this to try to promote stronger policy in favour of software patents). “There were no big surprises,” writes Patent Progress, “on Michelle Lee’s nomination as head of the USPTO. The Committee went fairly easy on her with their questions, with the possible exception of Senator Durbin, who admits that he knows nothing about patents or patent law, but seems convinced by his Illinois constituents that there is no patent troll problem.”
Durbin and the likes of him seem to be talking based on (mis)information from lobbyists and funders, not facts. It’s the big corporations talking. Either way, while it’s clear that there is a patent troll problem, there is also a patent scope problem and that’s what trolls tend to exploit. It’s not a surprise that a site like Patent Progress only focuses on patent trolls; see who funds the site by proxy (certain type of big corporations). Another new post from this site states that “Commissioner Brill’s main point was that we shouldn’t wait for the study to be concluded before pursuing legislation against PAEs. There’s no question that the PAE problem exists and is getting worse; she made clear that the new Congress should act immediately after taking office.”
PAE is just a euphemism for troll or shark.
As readers may recall, the Republicans (GOP) spoke about 'reform' on patents roughly one month ago, but nothing was really going to change. Mike Masnick from TechDirt recently published this update that says: “Back in May, we wrote about how, despite pretty much everyone agreeing on a (decent, if not amazing) patent reform bill in the Senate, the whole thing got shot down at the last minute. That was when the trial lawyers called Senator Harry Reid, asking him to kill the whole thing, which he did by telling Senator Patrick Leahy that he wouldn’t allow the bill to go to the floor for a vote. This came after months of detailed negotiations, getting nearly everyone into agreement on the bill, which would have made life at least somewhat more difficult for patent trolls. About a week after that, we pointed out that it seemed likely that the patent trolls had miscalculated badly, because it was widely expected that the Republicans would take control of the Senate in the fall (as they did), and they were more gungho on real patent reform and (obviously) not concerned with what trial lawyers think (mocking trial lawyers being a hobby of Republican politicians).”
To make a long story short, there is still no sign of reform on patents and even if there’s reform some time in the near future, it won’t actually address the problem of patent scope; it only targets “small trolls”, not “big trolls” like Microsoft and Apple, which still can use software patents to imitimate or extort Free software projects, including Android and Linux. █
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Photo from Reuters
Summary: Randall R. Rader, the disgraced judge from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), is still trying to impose his patent agenda on the United States, despite the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) repeatedly throwing away his rulings
Amdocs, a very surveillance-oriented company (although not advertised as such), has just lost an important case. Dennis Crouch wrote about it in “Software as an Abstract Idea”. “In yet another case,” wrote Crouch, “a district court has invalidated a set of software patents as unduly abstract under Alice Corp., Mayo, and 35 U.S.C. 101. In this case, E.D. Va. Judge Brinkema issued a judgment-on-the-pleadings that all of the asserted claims of the four Amdocs patents were invalid as patent-ineligible. The Decision.”
Here again we are seeing the impact of the Alice case on software patents in the United States. “Alice Corp. Oral Argument Goes to the Dogs” is a new post from Matt Levy that’s basically a comical video. It has been widely agreed by now (except by the more delusional patent lawyers) that software patents are severely affected by the ruling in the Alice case on software patents in the United States.
Meanwhile, the CAFC‘s corrupt trolls apologist and software patents proponent Rader reportedly says that “The law makes no sense any more” because SCOTUS, ruling in the Alice case, has struck down many software patents (if not all). The site (source) is vigorously preventing copy/paste (we’ve tried many browsers and even page source), but it basically shows that Rader continues his zealous pursuit in the maximalists’ agenda (he himself has a serious conflict of interest, which is why he was ousted). █
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