Learning from bad aspects or what has gone awry in the patent world
Summary: A mishmash of news about patents, mostly regarding the United States, and what can be deduced from that at the moment
THIS coming week promises to be rather big and historic, at the very least in Europe. It’s not just because of Brexit and its impact on the UPC but also because of the Administrative Council’s meeting. Big news is definitely afoot. In order to get some less important news out of the way in preparation for tomorrow (I’m getting back home after 3 days’ holiday), below are bits and pieces of relevance. It’s all from outside Europe.
“With patent ‘quality’ like this, why even pretend that the USPTO does legitimate quality (or novelty) assessment?”
USPTO’s Neglect of Patent Quality a Bursting Bubble
IAM, which is preaching under the guise of 'journalism', actually bemoans not the quality of USPTO patents being terrible and truly worth of cleanup by PTAB. Instead, it keeps moaning about the ‘worth’ of patents, as if not quality control is the problem but lenience of courts etc. “Judge Newman alone again as she warns of devastating loss of public confidence in US patent system” is the latest headline. IAM being IAM, it’s amusing to see how shallow the agenda is to see.
“It sure looks like pride is harder to derive these days from USPTO employment.”For details about the low quality of today’s USPTO patents, see the new article titled “General Mills Granted A Design Patent On A Tortilla Bowl Because Why Even Pretend Anymore?”
To quote the opening part alone: “While we’ve talked in the past about how absurd design patents can get, it’s worth pointing out that, hey, shit’s not getting any less absurd, people. Design patents, as opposed to utility patents, function more like trademarks. The idea is that the “invention” in the case of design patents are supposed to be unique outputs of what might otherwise not be unique inventions that are then said to act as some sort of single-source invented thing. Honestly, the whole concept smells of a workaround on the actual purpose of patent law and it tends to function that way as well. How else do you explain the design patent granted on a toothpick with some lines carved into it, for instance? Or Apple’s design patent on the animation of turning a page within an ebook? Rewarding exclusivity to these types of “inventions” that barely work up the sweat of an “inventor” should seem absurd to you, as should the frequency with which the public is left wondering where exactly the “invention” is in any of this.”
“Patent lawyers everywhere have been trying to spread software patents to just about everywhere on the planet, irrespective of what software developers are saying.”With patent ‘quality’ like this, why even pretend that the USPTO does legitimate quality (or novelty) assessment? We were recently contracted in relation to someone who works for the USPTO and does not wish to be described as such. It sure looks like pride is harder to derive these days from USPTO employment. Today’s USPTO is not what it used to be; rubber-stamping millions of patent applications for large corporations whose managers become USPTO Directors isn’t so scientific anymore.
Trying to Push Software Patents Into India
Patent lawyers everywhere have been trying to spread software patents to just about everywhere on the planet, irrespective of what software developers are saying. Last week, for example, Germany’s Bastian Best asked: “Targeted advertising is patentable in India if a piece of hardware is claimed?” Software patents are not legal in India, but Kenneth Saldanha, one of those hoping to change that, wrote:
A Software Patent in India is a tricky issue. First of all, let us understand what a Patent is. A patent is essentially a set of rights granted to a person in respect of something new (an invention) created by him. This ‘something new’, under the Indian law i.e. the Patents Act, 1970 is called an ‘invention’ and includes a software as well.
No, not really. India’s Patents Act excludes that and those hoping to change that are the same people who say software patents are possible and legal in Europe (or Germany, which is consistently more lenient on the matter). Even Battistelli’s EPO cannot change that, not without the UPC or some other new loophole.
Microsoft Bought a Patents Dud and Engages in Trolling (Through “Microsoft Tech Licensing”)
“Put another way, Microsoft acts like a patent troll (Microsoft Tech Licensing is technically a patent troll).”“At a glance,” IP Watch wrote some days ago, “Microsoft’s portfolio of US patents currently stands at approximately 50,000, compared to LinkedIn’s US patent portfolio of 1,085. Microsoft is well known for asserting its patent rights and has even created a licensing entity Microsoft Tech Licensing Ltd.”
Put another way, Microsoft acts like a patent troll (Microsoft Tech Licensing is technically a patent troll). We wrote over a thousand posts on this subject alone.
Even Microsoft-connected sites have already explained why “Microsoft’s LinkedIn Acquisition Is a Bad Move”. Compare that to other failing companies (LinkedIn had gotten into serious issues before Microsoft placed a bid) that actually have a lot of patents. As IAM put it the other day: “In terms of IP value creation Blackberry is one operating company worth keeping a close eye on. The Canadian tech giant has a huge portfolio of assets – around 38,000 – and has a brand with global cachet; but it is slowly withering in its legacy handset market and is transitioning away from manufacturing devices.”
“Will software patents ever make a comeback in the US? We sure hope not.”We previously wrote explanatory posts on how BlackBerry (or RIM) was becoming a patent troll. Thankfully, many of their patents would no longer be valid or possible to uphold in a court of law. Not in the US and not even in Canada (home country). See the paper “Patents and the Wealth of Nations” by Stephen Haber from Stanford University, published almost 2 months ago.
The Fight Against Patent Trolls Continues
“There are even uglier aspects inside law firms which focus on/pertain to patents and their clients.”Writing about the pro-patent trolls Halo decision, a comment from someone called Mike at IP Kat says that “influential Senator Orrin Hatch has filed an amendment to a funding bill criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision in Halo. Basically, it states that Congress considered the Seagate test and did not act to change it, thus Congress’ intent is for the Seagate test to govern.”
Destruction of Software Patents Continues
Remember some old news about CAFC ruling against software patents, in this case a “patent infringement claim filed by software company Rosebud.” There have been so many such cases since, including a lot from the court that initially authorised software patents in the US. Will software patents ever make a comeback in the US? We sure hope not.
The Ugly Side of Patent Practice
A few days ago Patently-O wrote about “Sexism in Patent Practice”, taking note of what’s characterised as “stories of appalling sexism. Each had been taken as the assistant for the actual lawyer. Each had been called things like “missy” and the like. And each had experienced this at high levels of practice, in recent years, not at some point long ago.”
“That’s where particular patents (or patent holders) do not just have ethical issues but also criminal/forensic issues.”There are even uglier aspects inside law firms which focus on/pertain to patents and their clients. “Commission finally targets Patent Boxes as tools of fiscal evasion,” Benjamin Henrion wrote, “not sure they cover EU2EU transfers” (reference in
europa.eu). Prior to it, Francisco Moreno wrote about this as well, but in Spanish (“Exit taxation en paquete anti-evasión de la Comisión:si sacas patentes fuera de la UE pagarás en función de su valor”), his native language.
This serious subject was covered here before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. That’s where particular patents (or patent holders) do not just have ethical issues but also criminal/forensic issues. █
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Laws can ‘hop’ from one continent to another
Summary: News from Australia regarding software patents that should not be granted and how patent lawyers from Australia rely on European patent law (EPO and UK-IPO) for guidance on patent scope
THE following remarkable article by Mike Masnick (of TechDirt) is titled “Fake Satoshi Nakamoto Trying To Patent All Sorts Of Bitcoin Related Ideas” and it speaks of one of many charlatans who claim to have invented Bitcoin. Masnick has already written a great deal about other fake inventors, notably regarding E-mail. “Earlier this week,” Masnick wrote, “I got knocked out by some pretty serious food poisoning. The few times I would try to do some work or pop in on Twitter, all I was seeing was people mocking the London Review of Books’ somewhat insane 35,000-word-long profile of Craig Wright, the guy who earlier this year claimed to be the real Satoshi Nakamoto. While he even convinced Gavin Andresen (the guy who really turned Nakamoto’s original work into actual Bitcoin), many others quickly pointed out that Wright’s “proof” appeared to be a giant scam. Why write a 35,000-word profile on a guy who isn’t Satoshi Nakamoto? I don’t know, but thankfully the food poisoning and the few snarky tweets I saw saved me from digging into the entire thing and wasting an afternoon. Fusion posted a much shorter summary of the piece, in case you’re wondering.”
Watch how corporate media repeats these lies about this Australian poser who claims to have invented Bitcoin and now wants a monopoly on it. To quote Reuters: “Craig Wright, the Australian who claimed to be the inventor of bitcoin, is attempting to build a large patent portfolio around the digital currency and technology underpinning it, according to associates of his and documents reviewed by Reuters.
“Watch how corporate media repeats these lies about this Australian poser who claims to have invented Bitcoin and now wants a monopoly on it.”“Since February, Wright has filed more than 50 patent applications in Britain through Antigua-registered EITC Holdings Ltd, which a source close to the company confirmed was connected to Wright, government records show.”
Well, these are basically software patents (like those which USPTO is still happy to accept, unlike courts) and they are assigned not to an original inventor but somewhat of a scammer, who ‘stole’ attribution. What has the world sunk to?
Sadly, Australia’s fascination with software patents is becoming a real problem and in the face of a Commission's report against software patents in Australia parasitic firms like Shelston IP and AJ Park started somewhat of a lobbying campaign. Yet another lawyers’ firm, Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick, has just published “Full Court looks into Best Method requirements” where it says “attacks against patents for lack of best method have been relatively rare.”
“Sadly, Australia’s fascination with software patents is becoming a real problem and in the face of a Commission’s report against software patents in Australia parasitic firms like Shelston IP and AJ Park started somewhat of a lobbying campaign.”Well, it’s patents that attack. They are still using misleading language where those who pursue sane patent policy (or patent quality) are “attacking”. Lawyers’ reversal of the narrative is rather typical. The article from Malcolm Bell says: “The trial Judge had held that Servier had failed to describe the best method known to it in performing the invention where it described only the general method of salification rather than any specific method. Such specific methods include the 1986 or 1991 methods which would have provided the reader with information as to a method that met the characteristics of the claimed invention. The Full Court held that Servier had not shown that the trial Judge was wrong.”
That last part frames the situation as one where the judge is right or wrong, almost as though the Full Court is an ultimate arbiter that can just discredit ‘unwanted’ decisions. Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick published this marketing piece and also — on the very same day in fact — published “Software patents in Australia: where to from here?”
“They are still using misleading language where those who pursue sane patent policy (or patent quality) are “attacking”.”So the mask comes off. They’re among the lobbyists for software patents, probably alongside Shelston IP and AJ Park. In principle, software patents are out of scope; moreover “[i]n May 2016,” to quote the above, “The High Court of Australia dismissed an application for special leave to appeal the RPL Central decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia. The Full Federal Court found that RPL Central’s invention was not patentable as it was simply a scheme or idea implemented on a generic computer, using standard software and hardware.”
So both the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia decided that software patents are invalid. Who would the lawyers thus lean on? The USPTO, where Alice crushes software patents on a daily or weekly basis? No, the EPO. Under the section “Moving closer to Europe” it says: “The Full Court looked to the UK Aerotel decision in determining that a claimed invention must make a ‘technical contribution’. Recently received Examination Reports appear to indicate that the Australian Patent Office is applying a European style ‘technical contribution’ approach to patentability, albeit in a less structured manner than is the case before the UK Patent Office or the EPO.”
“So both the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia decided that software patents are invalid.”Surely this helps remind us of the dangers posed by Battistelli's race to the bottom when it comes to patent quality. Software patents are being granted in Europe under pressure (if not collusion) from companies like Microsoft and this can have a knock-on effect far away from Europe, maybe even in New Zealand and in India where loopholes for software patenting are eerily similar to those which exist in Europe (Brimelow’s bad legacy). █
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Lobbying or marketing dressed up as ‘analyses’
Reference: Selective perception
Summary: By misinterpreting the current situation with respect to software patents and misusing terms like “innovation” patent lawyers and others in the patent microcosm hope to convince the public (or potential clients) that nothing in effect has changed and software patents are all fine and dandy
THE USPTO gradually moves away from software patents, whereas the EPO moves closer to them. That’s quite a twist and an unexpected development, but that’s where we are today.
Two days ago we wrote about the Cuozzo decision. We are very pleased as it is another major blow to software patents. Patent lawyers’ sites are still talking about it, but not so much (interest has been lost exponentially). Patently-O, for example, says about another case that “Chief Judge Prost likely held the decision release to await the Cuozzo affirmance that implicitly supports the court’s ruling here.”
“In a nutshell, PTAB survives and all those cranky patent lawyers who compared it to a “death squad” will have to find another lobbying strategy.”Cuozzo coverage from MIP’s Natalie Rahhal said that the “Supreme Court’s decision in Cuozzo v Lee maintains the different standards for claim construction used in the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the district courts. The ruling indicates that the Court believes the USPTO is performing its inter partes reviews (IPR) in accordance with the America Invents Act (AIA).”
In a nutshell, PTAB survives and all those cranky patent lawyers who compared it to a “death squad” will have to find another lobbying strategy. TechDirt wrote about the decision as follows:
Supreme Court Says, Yes, The Patent Office Can Review Crappy Patents Using Broad Standards
Last week, the Supreme Court made life a little easier for patent trolls, and this week it made life a little harder. At issue was just how the Patent Office could review patents after they were granted. The last round of patent reform, the America Invents Act in 2010, included something called Inter Partes Review (IPR) that allows anyone to basically challenge a bad patent, presenting specific evidence that it shouldn’t have been granted due to prior art. A special board at the Patent Office, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), can then decide to review the patent if it decides that there’s a “reasonable likelihood” that it will invalidate some of the patent claims due to the submitted evidence.
In the case that went to the Supreme Court, Cuozzo Speed Technologies was upset that the PTAB knocked out some patent claims on a patent it held after Garmin filed an IPR effort with the Patent Office, claiming that one of the claims in a Cuozzo patent was invalid thanks to prior art. The PTAB knocked out three claims from the patent, saying that two other claims were equally impacted from the prior art. Cuozzo appealed to the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on two points: first it was upset that the PTAB reviewed three claims when Garmin really focused on just one. And, second, it was upset that the PTAB used “the broadest reasonable construction” of the claims rather than the “ordinary meaning as understood by a person of skill in the art.” CAFC sided with the PTAB, saying that the law says that you can’t appeal what PTAB chooses to review, and that the standard it used was perfectly reasonable.
There is not much coverage of this from pro-software patents people, as one might expect. It’s that propaganda by omission as we noted here before. More than a month after Enfish Arent Fox LLP publishes “Enfish Database Case Brings New Twist in Software Patentability Saga” (no, not really). Growing desperate there for good news, don’t they? Enfish is old news and it was quickly contradicted by the very same court only a few days later.
“There is not much coverage of this from pro-software patents people, as one might expect. It’s that propaganda by omission as we noted here before.”Here is IP Kat‘s very latest on SCOTUS. It mentions the Halo case (pro-patent trolls) and says: “Is the U.S. Supreme Court pro-patent or anti-patent? One of my favorite books on patent reform is by economists Adam B. Jaffe and Josh Lerner titled, “Innovation and its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress and What to do About It,” published in 2004 by Princeton University Press. One of the insights from the book is the recognition of how patent legal protection moves like a pendulum throughout history. Notably, we tend to swing either too far in favor of protection or too far away from protection. We have trouble finding the middle way. On June 13, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court in Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics and Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer (Halo) made it easier to obtain enhanced damages for willful infringement in patent infringement cases.”
It’s not a bad post actually and a comment on the above says: There is a clear common theme among most of the patent cases decided by the US Supreme Court in the last couple of years: the CAFC should stop laying down hard-and-fast rules for judging inventive step, patent-eligibility, damages, attorney fees, injunctions, etc. etc. etc. If there is a connection with fear for patent trolls, it is probably that inflexible rules create too many opportunities for abuse.”
“Funny how they mostly evade cases that are not — shall we say — so “convenient” to patent lawyers…”In this particular case not patent scope but the scope of damages was at stake. Those quite likely to benefit from this decision are patent trolls, which most often use patents on software (hence the relevance to patent scope too). IP Kat has also just published this
analysis from Taly Dvorkis (Allen & Overy LLP). It’s about the Halo case as well. Funny how they mostly evade cases that are not — shall we say — so “convenient” to patent lawyers… this particular analysis was posted by a Bristows employee and longtime proponent of software patents, the UPC, etc.
To be frank, my feelings towards IP Kat soured recently, especially in light of the censorship. It’s not about my particular comment but about input I receive about other people whose comments too are being censored, presumably for not concurring with the ‘party line’ (I have repeatedly asked IP Kat on what basis my comment was deleted and I am still waiting for a response, probably in vain). The worst situation is one where people like Merpel hardly write anymore and people from patent law firms write the lion’s share of the blog’s articles. “I’m fully aware of this,” told us someone from the EPO about IP Kat. “Unfortunately I have to agree with you and since Jeremy left the Kat their EPO reports leave a lot to be desired. Also the frequency of reporting (as you already mentioned in Techrights before) dropped remarkably. I suspect pressure from the Dark side…” (EPO management, which earlier this month banned IP Kat). █
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The gentler equivalent of Donald Trump discrediting a US-born judge for being “Mexican”?
Summary: A quick glance at how patent lawyers and their lobbyists/advocates have reacted to the latest decision from the US Supreme Court (Justice Breyer)
TECHRIGHTS isn’t too shy to mock those who mislead the public in order to attract business. They’re selling snake oil.
Earlier today we found this piece from IP Watch which took the side of patent holders [sic] as if they and they alone are the ones who matter. This is rather typical and very much expected from so-called ‘IP’ sites. Dugie Standeford (publishing behind a paywall) tells/covers only one side of this debate — the much smaller side. The narrative is not complete.
“Personal attacks on SCOTUS Justices (especially Justice Breyer) are again quite tactlessly thrown into the mix, with focus on the same Justice whose intelligence was attacked before (see above).”IAM, which is funded by patent law firms and even patent trolls, is once again lobbying for software patents, trolls and many others that lose in the Cuozzo decision last covered here this morning (yesterday’s rant was apparently not enough for this author). Earlier today he selectively mentioned people supportive of his position (i.e. IAM’s sponsors). Just remember that IAM is not a news site but a lobbying campaign dressed up as 'reporting'. It’s an advocacy site for EPO management as well, so it’s important to see what these guys (yes, all male) are up to.
Personal attacks on SCOTUS Justices (especially Justice Breyer) are again quite tactlessly thrown into the mix, with focus on the same Justice whose intelligence was attacked before (see above). And for what? Simply for daring to put an end to (or helping towards the end of) software patents and by extension patent trolls in the US? Watch the ad hominem parts therein. How shameful. Over at Patently-O, which is a lot more professional, two related decisions are named as “their impact could shape the business model of patents licenses as property.”
Actually, patents are not property but a time-limited monopoly on an idea, a concept, and sometimes a mechanical design or chemical recipe etc. SCOTUS is not in any way challenging property rights. There’s nothing physical at stake.
“Actually, patents are not property but a time-limited monopoly on an idea, a concept, and sometimes a mechanical design or chemical recipe etc.”Speaking of physical things, this new post from the Docket Report indicates that § 101 has just eliminated another bogus patent. To quote the original: “Similarly, a lawyer’s legal assistant may provide her with messages or mail in a manner that does not interfere with her primary activity: participating in a conference call. This could be accomplished at a certain time (delivering the message between telephone calls) or in a certain location (placing the message in the corner of her desk).”
It is truly satisfying and increasingly nice to see that all those bogus patents (on old ideas implemented in software) drop like flies. With few exceptions, no doubt, software patents continue to die in the US. For the first time in over a decade (since I started getting involved in this area), patent lawyers are on the defensive and they’re terrified. Their software patents bubble is bursting and they might have to downsize a bit (maybe no yacht and one Ferrari fewer). Patents on algorithms are sinking like the Titanic in the very birthplace of software patents (it has been two years since Alice at SCOTUS; many patent applications get rejected now). It’s great, unless one is a patent lawyer. Having been let down by SCOTUS, lawyers and attorneys now lean on [1, 2] CAFC, the nepotists’ court that gave the US software patents in the first place (several decades ago with Martin Goetz). Incidentally, Patently-O writes about the very same case (Immersion Corp. v HTC Corp., which is effectively against Android/Linux) and it’s not about patentability of software patents at all; it’s about timing. Not much will come out of it and they’re trying to find some small victory to distract themselves from the major defeat (Cuozzo).
“As always, we remain committed to fighting software patents wherever they appear.”Funnily enough, in light of the Cuozzo decision Apple advocacy sites now pretend that Apple is fighting patent trolls when in fact it is Apple that acts like a massive troll, especially when it comes to its war on Android OEMs. Here is one such Apple advocacy site reminding us of Apple’s patents hoard. Another site warns that “LinkedIn’s portfolio of over 1,000 families of granted patents, though only roughly half the size of Facebook’s, is on a par with Twitter’s.” The LinkedIn deal with Microsoft “has a patent profile,” says the headline. These are two companies which are very hostile with software patents, especially against GNU/Linux and Free software.
As always, we remain committed to fighting software patents wherever they appear. Software developers do not want them, whereas many of the above-mentioned parasites want them, in order to claw/grab the money earned by hard-working professionals that actually produce things. █
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Image credit: SCOTUSblog
Summary: Much-anticipated decision on the Cuozzo v Lee case (at the highest possible level) serves to defend the appeal boards which are eliminating software patents by the thousands
THE previous post spoke about Alice v CLS and its impact on software patenting in the US. Lots of encouraging news regarding software patents could be found as of late, not just in the US but also in India. Battistelli’s EPO and the UPC are the only setbacks right now.
Yesterday night we found lots of articles about the Cuozzo v Lee decision
[PDF] (at SCOTUS level). As of midnight, all the following covered the decision (the decision on the gun ban received a lot more coverage):
Here is the corresponding SCOTUSblog page. As expected, IAM’s propagandists still refer to PTAB — which effectively invalidates a lot of software patents — as a “death squad”, even right there in the headline. Well, IAM is a death squad of science and technology (they promote patent trolls and software patents). To quote their biased piece: “In what will widely be considered as a blow to patent owners [sic], the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) this morning declined to overhaul two key tenets of the post-issuance review proceedings, leaving the broadest reasonable claim interpretation intact and ruling that review decisions were not appealable. The Court’s decision in Cuozzo v Lee had been much anticipated by US patent owners [sic], many of whom have seen their patents challenged and claims invalidated in inter partes reviews (IPR) over the last four years.”
All those inter partes reviews which we mentioned here before were great news to software developers, who simply (based on many polls) do not want software patents. Here is what Patently-O wrote about it:
The Supreme Court has upheld the AIA provision barring challenges to the Patent Office’s decision to institute inter partes review. 35 U. S. C. §314(d). In addition, Justice Breyer’s majority opinion approved of the Patent Office’s approach of applying the broadest reasonable construction (BRI) standard to interpret patent claims – finding it a “reasonable exercise of the rulemaking authority that Congress delegated to the Patent Office.”
The Court was unanimous as to the BRI standard however, Justices Alito and Sotomayor dissented from the no-appeal ruling – they would have interpreted the statute as limiting interlocutory appeals but still allowing review of the decision to institute within the context of an appellate review of the PTO’s final decision on the merits.
There’s hope that the USPTO will improve quality control and maybe even become better than the EPO, where quality has declined rapidly under Battistelli. As a side note, WatchTroll talks about the openwashing efforts of the USPTO (mentioned here earlier this month), namely the open APIs.
We would like to commend the US Supreme Court and even the USPTO for doing the right thing by tightening patent scope. This can, in due course, sandbox a lot of patent trolls. █
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One single decision that has changed everything
Summary: A look back at the legacy of Alice v CLS Bank and how it contributed to the demise of software patents in the United States, the birthplace of software patents
THE DAY of Alice I still remember very well. I was in Scotland on holiday at the time and it seemed like the beginning of something amazing, having spent over a decade fighting against software patents.
The EFF has just come out with an announcement titled “Happy Birthday Alice: Two Years Busting Bad Software Patents” (yes, they actually said software patents, for a change).
“This week marks the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Alice v. CLS Bank,” said the EFF. “In Alice, the court ruled that an abstract idea does not become eligible for a patent simply by being implemented on a generic computer. When the case was decided, we wrote that it would be a few years until we knew its true impact. Two years in, we can say that while Alice has not solved all problems with software patents, it has given productive companies a valuable tool for fighting back against patent trolls. And while it has been bad for the trolls, there’s little reason to think the Alice decision harmed real software companies.”
That last sentence is important in light of the quote that we shall give later (from those who profit from software patents without creating anything).
“Two years in, we can say that while Alice has not solved all problems with software patents, it has given productive companies a valuable tool for fighting back against patent trolls.”
–EFFThis decision has had truly profound effects and it has become the nightmare of patent lawyers who rely so heavily on abstract software ideas becoming patents (often just old ideas transformed into code). Robert R. Sachs, who isn’t particularly happy about what Alice has done, says that “well over 36,000 applications have been rejected based on Alice” in yesterday’s analysis. He provides a lot of data and charts, as his blog so often does (very informative blog by the way, with original research).
As expected from Mr. Sachs, he acknowledges this is good news but then pretends it somehow discourages investment (maybe in patent lawyers). It’s a somewhat questionable part (without evidence to back it), as one might expect from patent maximalists. The final paragraph states: “It is true that Alice has been successfully used to combat patent troll litigation based on poor quality patents—and that society benefits when these patents are invalidated. But the price of such benefits cannot be measured because we cannot know at what costs these outcomes came: we will never know what inventions did not get funded and developed because of Alice. That is why it is necessary for the courts and the USPTO to tread carefully.”
Actually, a lot of companies are destroyed by software patents (e.g. patent trolls that use them) before they even have the opportunity to attract investors. We have given examples of that over the years.
“It is true that Alice has been successfully used to combat patent troll litigation based on poor quality patents—and that society benefits when these patents are invalidated.”
–Robert R. SachsDennis Crouch and what seems like a patent lawyer, Michael S. Kwun, inevitably make fun of Alice [1, 2], which helped eliminate a lot of software patents. Also mind the a paid IAM ‘article’ that now speaks about FRAND, a Trojan horse for software patents even when/where they are not legal. The piece says: “Paragraph 63 of the Huawei decision states that the SEP user must express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms.”
FRAND does not mean free, the “F” stands for fair and is typically incompatible with Free software, where the “SE” in SEP means standard/s-essential, meaning that there is no way around some kind of patent tax/payment. Thankfully, after Alice, a lot of so-called FRAND ploys can be rendered irrelevant and obsolete, especially once challenged in a court of law. We already wrote many articles about FRAND in Europe and how Microsoft uses it to push for software patents in Europe and thus exclude GNU/Linux. █
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Two new threats to the status of software patents in the United States (a rapidly-declining status)
Summary: A look at the two latest threats to those who helped put an end to a lot of (if not most) software patents in the US
“In a new petition for writ of certiorari,” Patently-O noted the other day, “Jericho Systems has asked the Supreme Court to review its abstract idea test…”
This is another dangerous attempt to resurrect software patents at the USPTO, in spite of PTAB and sometimes even CAFC (which brought software patents to the US) often throwing them away. Jericho Systems was mentioned here before, both in decisions
[PDF] and in posts about Novell or patents. CAFC, however, is reportedly dissenting against PTAB (some patent lawyers and proponents of software patents mentioned this the other day), which puts an end to a lot of software patents. As MIP put it: “The Federal Circuit has vacated and remanded parts of a Patent Trial and Appeal (PTAB) final written decision that relied on a new claim construction. The problem was not that the Board changed the claim construction but that it did not give parties a chance to respond, said the appeals court.” Compare to to what goes on at the EPO with the appeal boards.
“We need to protect Alice and we need to protect PTAB, which applies the corresponding tests quicker than any single court does (court cases take a lot more time and money).”So here we basically have two threats; the first is Jericho Systems, which wishes to bring the question of software patentability (or the “abstract” patent test) back to the Supreme Court and second is CAFC, originator of software patents and backer of Enfish, which is trying to disrupt PTAB’s excellent work (it’s like the EPO’s EBoA, which Battistelli is crushing). To quote Professor Dennis Crouch: “The district court ended the case with a judgment on the pleadings – finding that the asserted claims of Jericho’s Patent No. 8,560,836 lacked eligibility under Alice and Mayo (focusing on claim 1 as axiomatic).”
We need to protect Alice and we need to protect PTAB, which applies the corresponding tests quicker than any single court does (court cases take a lot more time and money). Otherwise, sadly, software patents might come back with a vengeance to the United States. █
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Halo as a sanctuary for patent trolls
Summary: A Supreme Court ruling on patents, its implications for software patent trolls, and how media that is promoting software patents and patent trolls covered it
THE dishonest/self-serving patent lawyers in the US might never openly admit this, but software patents are dying not only in US courts and PTAB but also, increasingly, at the USPTO. This does not necessarily solve the problem of patent trolls because trolls tend to go after small companies that have neither the will nor the budget to invalidate the asserted patents, e.g. by going to court.
“Court rulings like this,” say anti-trolls lobbyists, “make it much more urgent for Congress to pass patent litigation reform legislation this year” (they probably allude to the VENUE Act or the likes of it).
“This does not necessarily solve the problem of patent trolls because trolls tend to go after small companies that have neither the will nor the budget to invalidate the asserted patents, e.g. by going to court.”“Supreme Court Ruling in Halo/Stryker Case Will Lead to More Lawsuits from Patent Trolls, More Forum Shopping by Repeat Plaintiffs,” says the accompanying PDF. “Ruling Gives Small Businesses Less Incentive to Fight Meritless Suits,” says the second line. This is correct as it’s already far too expensive and laborious. The smaller the company, the more likely it is to just pay ‘protection money’ (extortion) because the ratio between the ‘damages’ and the legal costs in a court makes it the ‘correct’ business choice.
Suppose for a moment that patent trolls don’t get granted (or get to buy) the patents they use. The proposed reform legislation does not actually tackle software patents. The subject is not even on the agenda and that’s a problem. As long as software patents can land on the lap of patent trolls, these are guaranteed to be misused. Natalie Rahhal of MIP wrote about the same decision (Halo/Stryker case) as follows: “The Supreme Court decided both Halo Electronics, Inc v Pulse Electronics, Inc, et al and Stryker Corporation, et al v Zimmer, Inc, et al on Monday, in a decision that significantly lowered the bar for the issuance of enhanced damages in a patent infringement case.
“Gene the WatchTroll (or “Watchdog” as he prefers to think of himself) is so upset that judges are doing their job and eliminating software patents (after SCOTUS Justices ruled on the matter) that he shamelessly exploits these latest developments to assert Justices are writing legislation (untrue).”“Enhanced damages are set out by Section 284 of the Patent Act and allow the Court to award a patent owner up to three times the amount of the damages found, if the jury or the court determines that the infringement was wilful.”
Gene the WatchTroll (or “Watchdog” as he prefers to think of himself) is so upset that judges are doing their job and eliminating software patents (after SCOTUS Justices ruled on the matter) that he shamelessly exploits these latest developments to assert Justices are writing legislation (untrue). In our previous post we showed how he had exploited the Halo/Stryker case to accuse Justices of ignorance and here he is saying that §101 (Alice) is “overused”:
It seems as though once the court realized the claimed invention related to software, it pulled out its §101 goggles and ignored any other grounds for patent invalidity. Such an analysis, which pushes decision-making into 101, which is ill-suited to be used as such a brute force instrument, has perplexed and frustrated patent practitioners. Courts, including the Federal Circuit, simply disregard the other sections of the Patent Act in favor of §101, which for them is easier and leads to decision-making without the need of discovery and without presuming the issued patent is valid.
With or without Halo/Stryker, with or without Enfish, §101 still stands and it will continue to demolish software patents by the thousands (those that reach PTAB and the courts anyway). One can be sure that patent lawyers will keep saying “Halo” and “Enfish” any time they wish to defend trolls and software patents. Joff Wild, for a change, says the T word (“Trolls”) in his article about Halo (a case which we first mentioned here last week) and here is his opening paragraph: “There have already been plenty of articles written about the Supreme Court’s decision in Halo v Pulse, which was handed down yesterday. As is usual in cases where they review the work of the Federal Circuit, the court’s justices have decided that its practices are wrong. This time, it’s the approach that the CAFC has towards determining wilful infringement – it’s too rigid and lets too many potentially very badly behaved defendants off the hook. Instead, the Supreme Court has stated, judges should have a lot more discretion in deciding when a defendant’s behaviour has been so egregious that it deserves the sanction of triple damages.”
“With or without Halo/Stryker, with or without Enfish, §101 still stands and it will continue to demolish software patents by the thousands (those that reach PTAB and the courts anyway).”Expect this to be used to discredit §101 and defend patent trolls. Now that Ericsson’s patent trolls (in Europe) are about get ‘scooped up’ IAM celebrates and as another major lawsuit comes to light IAM says: “Earlier this week an entity called Global Equity Management (GEMSA) filed lawsuits against 20 separate operating companies including Spotify, Netflix and Uber over the alleged infringement of two patents. All of the suits were filed in the Eastern District of Texas.”
That’s just a patent troll in the Eastern District of Texas, as usual. “US Pat 6,690,400, Asserted Against Amazon Web Service Users,” Patent Buddy wrote, adding some of his information about the patent. Apparently that’s just fine with Wild and his colleagues, whose employer received money from patent trolls. This EPO‘s mouthpiece, IAM ‘magazine’, still treats the world's largest patent troll (and Microsoft-connected troll) like some kind of heroic entity that people ought to emulate. Last week it continued to groom this patent troll, Intellectual Ventures. They almost do public relations, having spoken directly to the company’s executives last month (the editor in chief did, the trolls denialist).
“It doesn’t seem to bother Congress enough. Why not? Follow the money.”Perhaps the saddest thing in it all is that most voices that weighed in on the latter (and we were able to find) treated a win for patent trolls as some kind of fantastic ruling from SCOTUS, except perhaps TechDirt with this article titled “Supreme Court Just Made It Easier For Patent Trolls”.
To quote TechDirt: “As we’ve noted over the past decade or so, the Supreme Court has been smacking down the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit (CAFC) over and over and over again on issues related to patent law. And on Monday, the Supreme Court did it once again — but this time in a way that actually might not be good.”
The analysis ends with: “At the very least, this seems like an argument for Congress to finally stop sitting around and doing something to fix the patent troll problem.”
It doesn’t seem to bother Congress enough. Why not? Follow the money. Why is IAM so soft on trolls? Again, follow the money.
We could say a lot more about IAM’s sheer bias. Consider its latest coverage from Asia. IAM, as usual, misses the point. LG and Samsung are absolutely massive companies (almost part of the nation itself, including the military in fact); they are the exception, not the norm, when it comes to the number of patents. IAM says “Korean companies own some of the world’s largest patent portfolios, including of course the single biggest stockpile of US grants – by some margin – which belongs to Samsung Electronics.” But IAM does not mention that this is pretty much limited to just two companies. Regarding Japan, which has a lot more than just two or three giant technology companies, IAM suggests some kind of patent liquidation. Notice how they ascribe or use the word “asset” to refer to a patent (the A in IAM is “asset”), as if it’s some kind of physical object. Euphemisms are everywhere at IAM. It’s lobbying disguised as news. █
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