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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Photo from Asian Pacific Fund
Summary: The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests
IT IS no longer just rumour or suspicion that USPTO nominates Lee as new director. This is possibly going to result in an appointment, showing us yet again that corporate stewards are truly in charge of the government, not just in the United States. Industrial bodies are full of “revolving door”-type scenarios and altercations.
This probably is not as bad as nominating Philip Johnson (it didn't go down well) or David Kappos from IBM (both big and vocal proponents of software patents), but it’s still not a good thing, either. As we showed in past years, Google had hired many patent lawyers rather than fight software patents; Michelle Lee may therefore be part of the problem. Not much is known about her to Wikipedia. He career at Google was very short (going back to when Google hired patent lawyers) and her career before this is not even mentioned. We wrote about her when she was appointed and even in 2012 when sources said she might lead a Silicon Valley patent office (hence software patents). According to a USPTO press releases, “Lee worked as a computer scientist at Hewlett-Packard” (a proponent of software patents). But much of the private sector stuff is usually omitted. To quote this press release: “Prior to becoming Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, Lee served two terms on the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the U.S. Commerce Secretary and serve to advise the USPTO on its policies, goals, performance, budget and user fees.”
A site that acts as a CCIA front (as well as CCIA itself) and which wrote about her before has worked with Google and for Google, so no wonder it endorses Michelle Lee. CCIA is more concerned about patent trolls but not about abuse by its members (such as Microsoft), so it continues to treat only small abusive companies as the problem, e.g. for lack of evidence. Here is what the CCIA front said:
The White House announced yesterday that it’s nominating current Deputy Director Michelle Lee to be Director of the USPTO. By all accounts, she’s done a good job during a difficult time at the USPTO. This is definitely a smart move by the Administration.
How about appointing someone who is not supporting software patents and has not come from companies that accumulate software patents? Well, that might be too “revolutionary” for the USPTO and for the White House to do. █
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Summary: It has become increasingly official that software patents are being weakened in the United States’ USPTO as well as the courts; will software leaders such as India and Europe stop trying to imitate the old USPTO?
YESTERDAY we wrote about the measurably huge decline in the number of patent lawsuits in the US. There is some more good news in the form of figures.
Andrea Peterson, writing for the Bezos-owned Washington Post, says that “Software patent approval rates sink in months following Supreme Court case”. The patent lawyers, understandably, are stressed about this. They spent so much time attacking the decision or trying to characterise it as anything but a game changer. We gave dozens of examples at the middle of this year. Here again are a couple of patent lawyers using a straw man: “it is doubtful that all software, computer-implemented and business method inventions will be affected by Alice. For example, software inventions that improve the functioning of a computer, or improve other technical fields, may still be eligible for patent protection. Still, while the full effect of Alice is yet to be determined, entities seeking to patent inventions directed to software, computer implementations, and business methods, need to ensure that inventions are sufficiently innovative and directed to concrete ideas.”
“The patent lawyers, understandably, are stressed about this.”Mike Masnick already caught the news from the morning and wrote: “The impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank continues to reverberate around the industry. We’ve already noted that courts have been rapidly invalidating a bunch of patents, and that related lawsuits appear to be dropping rapidly as well. And, now, a new analysis from a (pro-patent) law firm suggests that the US Patent Office is rejecting a lot more software patents as well.”
Software superpower India does not have software patents, but after meeting executives from Microsoft (which has enormous influence over the Indian government), Amazon, Facebook and other patent aggressors it looks like things may change. According to this article about Modi’s trip to the US:
The US-India Joint Statement signed during Modi’s visit to the US has opened the doors for two Indian laws that have been passed by the Indian Parliament. One is on patents – the Indian Patents Act – that contain some measures to keep drug prices low for the people, which the US and its pharmaceutical industries have been trying to change for the last decade. The second is on nuclear liability, again anathema to the US nuclear industry.
Here is a little something about privacy too: “The Modi visit is also important for what he did not raise with the US government. There was no mention of the NSA spying in India, which included the BJP as well. There were six political entities in the world that the NSA spied upon officially, and one of them was the BJP. India is also one of the 33 countries that have signed a 3rd Party agreement with NSA giving it access to our telecommunications and Internet infrastructure. That means India not only allowed NSA to spy on any entity or any person in India but also provided them the physical access required for such spying. Modi not only did not utter one word of protest against such spying against his own party, but also made clear his intention to continue such relationship under Defence and Homeland Security clauses of the Joint Statement.”
It is sad to say this, but India seems to be assimilating to the US system when it comes to patents and also when it comes to militarisation and surveillance.
As we showed before, the corrupt EPO is bringing Europe closer into alignment with the corporations-run USPTO while the USPTO itself is moving away from software patents these days. We covered this aspect of the situation several weeks ago.
Our next post will focus on some more scandals from the EPO. █
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Summary: A weekly roundup of news about patents in the United States and elsewhere, with special focus on software patents
Free/libre software has much less to worry about now that software patents are getting weaker if not fewer, too. There are changes that affect not only software patents but patents as a whole. In the US, for example, patents on genes/genetics were ruled illegal not too long ago. Here is an explanation of why Australia might soon follow suit. Titled “Australian Court Disagrees With US: Claim Genes Are Totally Patentable”, the article reminds us that “Last year, the Supreme Court made an important ruling in the Myriad Genetics case, effectively saying that genes aren’t patentable, even if you can separate them out from the rest of a strand of DNA. Myriad Genetics had isolated two key genes related to breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 and argued that only it could test for those genes, because of its patent. The Supreme Court soundly rejected that, noting that you cannot patent something in nature, and clearly Myriad did not “make” the genes. Unfortunately, as we’d noted just a few months earlier, a court in Australia had come to the opposite conclusion, saying that Myriad Genetics had legitimate patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2. That case was appealed, and there was some hope that after the US’s ruling, higher courts in Australia might see the light. Not yet apparently. An appeals court has agreed that genes are patentable Down Under, which means that such important genetic tests there are likely to be much more expensive and limited.”
Australia, quite infamously as we pointed out before, was one of the countries that succumbed to US lead on software patents, so on genetics too there might be changes afoot. Here is a timely reminder that India still wrestles with software patents, having done so for years. India is famous for its heroic opposition to patents on medicine where life is at stake.
One new article from the Indian press quotes a few people who follow this closely. One of them “said that many of the companies that work on open source software and related segments have raised their opposition while the originator companies are demanding for a patent.”
Actually, many proprietary software patents are also against software patents. It is not a FOSS issue but a CS issue (computer science, not closed source).
“Currently,” continues this article, “software is not patentable under the existing Act and it needs to be registered under copyright. Many experts think that a patent would be stringent than a copyright is and would be advisable for the innovators to protect their software from infringement.
“The draft has been issued in the public domain for comments and the government has to consult every stakeholder on it. The issuance of the guideline is in final stage, he said.
“As per the Intellectual Property Office report, about 80% of patent applications at the Indian Patent Office are filed by foreign global technology companies. In the past decade the number of applications by foreign applicants has risen from about 8,221 to 34,276, said industry leaders.”
So these patents have a strong correlation to and with digital colonialism. Why would Indians ever accept them? The multinational corporations surely want these, but what’s in it for India itself? India has fantastic software engineers of its own. It need never be dependent on multinational entities, especially for software.
Here is a US-based pro-software patents site (run by patent lawyers) saying that “Big Banks Get Software Patents Despite Alice”. It is selective and selection-centric spin. The reality, on the whole, is the very opposite. The pro-business, News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal very recently published “Hard Times for Software Patents” followed by the detailed report titled “Courts Nix More Software Patents” and “Federal Courts Reject More Software Patents”. It says what one ought to expect.
Speaking of large corporations and software patents, watch what BMC is doing. The British press said that “BMC has accused ServiceNow of violating seven of its patents (5,978,594, 6,816,898, 6,895,586, 7,062,683, 7,617,073, 8,646,093 and 8,674,992), spanning incident management, performance analytics, configuration management, discovery, orchestration and change release management.
“The company lodged its suit on Tuesday in the generally litigant-friendly US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.”
BMC is acting like a patent troll and attacks small rivals. Witness the glory of software patents! The weapon of abuses indeed, injustice galore!
Contrariwise, Van Lindberg from Rackpace (very large company) says that they have killed a software patent and potentially a troll. The title says “Another Patent Troll Slain. You Are Now Free To Rotate Your Smartphone.”
Here is more on that: “Over the last few years it’s been great to see companies like Newegg and Rackspace decide that they’re not going to give in to bogus patent troll lawsuits. As we’ve discussed, it’s almost always easier, faster and cheaper to just settle and pay up whatever the troll is asking for. That’s part of why trolling works. Fighting a patent lawsuit — even a totally bogus one (i.e., not infrigning) — on a clearly invalid patent will still cost many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. If the troll is offering to settle for tens of thousands of dollars, many, many companies will do the obvious short-term cost-benefit analysis and settle. It’s hard to directly fault them for this — but it only makes the problem worse for everyone else. Not only does it fund the patent trolls to keep suing others, often they’ll use some of that money to buy more bogus patents and shakedown companies over that new ones as well. On top of that, settling patent threats just puts a big “sucker” sign on your company, meaning that more trolls will start circling. Making a stand and saying that you will not compromise or deal with trolls actually helps in the long run by scaring off some trolls. Both Newegg and Rackspace have been getting a lot of publicity (and goodwill) for their anti-troll efforts.”
Here is a somewhat comical take on a troll that decided to attack the government. The headline says it all: “Patent Troll Told That It Can’t Sue The FTC For Merely Investigating Its Shakedown Scam”
Well, “just when US starts correcting them,” writes Dr. Glyn Moody, Europe, with the corrupt EPO, decides to “Repeat US’s Past Mistakes”:
Back in May, I wrote about a very interesting paper discussing some potential pitfalls of the new Unified Patent Court. Given the magnitude of the change that it and the unitary patent system will bring, it is extraordinary that we still don’t really know how things will work out in practice. That makes another paper called “The Unified Patent Court (UPC) in Action – How Will the Design of the UPC Affect Patent Law? ” particularly welcome, since, as its title suggests, it explores how the new UPC is likely to shape the contours of patent law in Europe.
Since the new paper appeared, there has been a further US Supreme Court ruling, Alice v. CLS Bank, that has already led to no less than 11 software patents being thrown out by lower courts. Indeed, there is every indication that the era of completely insane software patents is drawing to a close in the US. It is therefore deeply ironic – and rather frustrating – that at precisely the moment when sanity starts to break out in the US, the EU incomprehensibly decides to take exactly the same path of madness that produced so many problems across the Atlantic.
Those are all good ideas, but it’s rather depressing that we must already be thinking of ways to minimise the damage the new UPC is likely to cause Europe’s economy in general – and the world of software in particular.
In the coming weeks we will continue to show how the EPO turned rogue and corrupt. It would be foolish to adopt software patents when the US relents.
Here comes another smackdown of a troll. As Mike Masnick put it: “We recently noted that a bunch of courts had been killing off bad software patents thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank. And now, that ruling is even leading the trolls themselves to give up. Notorious patent troll Lumen View recently dropped its appeal in its case against the website FindTheBest, saying that the ruling in Alice made it clear it wouldn’t win…”
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote about this trend as a whole, saying that patent trolls are starting to get trampled. He also quotes OIN:
First, the Open Invention Network (OIN), whose members include Google, IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony, now has more than a thousand licensees in its Linux and open-source, defensive patent pool. In an e-mail , Keith Bergelt, OIN’s CEO said, “The OIN license is becoming part of a broader set of community norms and is increasingly being integrated into the culture of open source/Linux-centric companies. It is for many the foundation around which their IP [intellectual property] strategy is built and a critical enabler of patent non-aggression and freedom to operate.”
We recently wrote about the podcasting troll winning against CBS, but this is definitely not over. As TechDirt put it: “The trial (in East Texas, of course) for CBS came first and the jury sided with Personal Audio, because that’s how East Texas patent juries typically roll. In a moment of semi-kindness, the jury awarded Personal Audio $1.3 million, rather than the nearly $8 million they supposedly requested. This story is really just a stepping stone, however. CBS has made it clear that it will appeal the case to CAFC, and given how software/business method patents are getting tossed out left and right these days, the company has a decent chance of prevailing. Meanwhile, the EFF reminds us that it’s still working hard to invalidate the patent at the Patent Office, which would help accelerate the process of killing off these bogus lawsuits.”
CBS is a bad company, but hopefully it will win on appeal.
Here is Matt Levy quoting the partly pro-software patents Michael Risch while saying: “We cannot continue the excesses of the past. Invalid patents don’t benefit innovation, they block innovation. And we have a patent system where a substantial portion of the issued patents, if not most, are invalid. And the patents in the software area are even worse.”
At the end of the day we will hopefully see patents on software universally invalidated. Until then we will have rumour mills and speculations (e.g. about prices) telling us that Free software is not free, thanks in part to lack of comprehension of what patents really are for and how they affect the industry (it’s a poor article which reveals its author’s ignorance on this subject). We have already covered this issue before (it’s about Samsung and Microsoft). █
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