Summary: An overview of some very recent news regarding the highest court in the United States, which has been dealing with cases that can determine the fate of Free/Open Source software in an age of patent uncertainty and patent thickets surrounding mobility
SEVERAL days ago we became aware of “Apple’s motion for a permanent injunction against Samsung for infringing upon three software patents.”
This has been covered by quite a few Apple-leaning sites and mainstream news sites, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4]. This article by Dennis Crouch of Patently-O said:
In a one-paragraph order, the Federal Circuit has vacated its prior design patent damages determination in Samsung v. Apple following the Supreme Court’s 2016 reversal. The appeal is reinstated, and new briefs will now be filed. (Federal Circuit Docket No. 14-1335).
Apple’s design patents cover various ornamental designs applied to the iPhone and infringing Samsung Galaxy devices. Samsung was found to infringe because it “sells … [an] article of manufacture to which such design … has been applied.” 35 U.S.C. 289. The statute calls for for the infringer to be “liable to the owner [of the patent] to the extent of his total profits.” In its original decision, the Federal Circuit held that “total profits” referred to Samsung’s total profits on its infringing phones – i.e., total profits associated with the article of manufacture to which the design has been applied.
The US Supreme Court was recently mentioned in relation to other cases. It will take on patents of reasonably large companies. “Today,” Patently-O wrote last week, “the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two dueling petitions involving the Federal Circuit’s 2015 interpretation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009.”
This was also covered by Natalie Rahhal in New York. She said that the “dispute between Amgen and Sandoz over aspects of the so-called patent dance outlined in the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act was granted cert by the US Supreme Court” (SCOTUS).
“If patents are supposed to be in the interest of the public, then why deny ill people access to treatment which they can afford?”Writing from New York, again in relation to a SCOTUS, “Natalie Rahhal analyses the arguments of the amicus briefs filed in Lee v Tam, ahead of oral arguments in the case involving disparaging trade marks at the US Supreme Court on January 18,” according to this from MIP. This is not about patents, but the oral argument is imminent (2 days from now).
Looking outside the US for high-profile cases, there is also this case of Fujifilm v AbbVie (UK), which several sites have covered this month [1, 2] because “[g]eneric companies can seek court declarations that their own products are old or obvious in patent law terms under certain circumstances, the England & Wales Court of Appeal has ruled,” to quote MIP.
In Canada, the Supreme Court might soon hear this case where AstraZeneca is attempting to block generics. To quote MIP again: “The court on November heard arguments in AstraZeneca Canada v Apotex. The case involves AstraZeneca Canada’s patent for Nexium (Esomeprazole), a pharmaceutical product used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease. AstraZeneca attempted to block Apotex from bringing a generic drug to the market. The Federal Court found that the promised utility of Nexium had not been adequately proven at the time of filing. AstaZeneca appealed to the Supreme Court.”
“2017 promises to be rather interesting, especially because later this week Trump gets inaugurated and he can thereafter cause a lot of damage to patent reform.”Suffice to say, we support generic medicine. If patents are supposed to be in the interest of the public, then why deny ill people access to treatment which they can afford?
2017 promises to be rather interesting, especially because later this week Trump gets inaugurated and he can thereafter cause a lot of damage to patent reform. His policies and appointments tend to serve the richest people, not ill and poor people. █
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Nokia is now a de facto patent troll that just licenses the brand
Summary: Nokia’s saber-rattling (and now lawsuits) against Apple are a worrying sign of what’s to come, impacting Android OEMs as well as Apple, which is why the post-Microsoft Nokia is dangerous
TAKING advantage of USPTO-granted patents (for the most part), Nokia started a patent war against Apple just before Christmas [1, 2] and many journalists/pundits were already on holiday, so they did not have a chance to comment. Maybe this was Nokia’s intention as the timing of the press release was at the very least suspicious. Few were even around to cover the followup action, for instance, this complaint that got covered by Matthias Verbergt who said “Nokia Corp. said Thursday [two days before Christmas] it has filed additional complaints against Apple Inc., alleging the iPhone maker has infringed 40 of its patents.” Florian Müller said “Nokia suing Apple over 40 patents in 11 countries” (yes eleven!).
“Nokia is a European company, so there is a concern here that US culture of litigation is spreading to Europe already (the UPC would make a trolling culture even more prevalent if it ever became a reality).”When Nokia/trolls pick on the industry of mobile phones everybody loses, not just Apple. Android too tends to be affected, sooner if not later (than Apple). Nokia is a European company, so there is a concern here that US culture of litigation is spreading to Europe already (the UPC would make a trolling culture even more prevalent if it ever became a reality).
Florian Müller told me that “during the Apple v. Nokia antitrust lawsuit in California” some interesting information is likely to surface. “With Conversant,” he explained, “formerly known as Mosaid, being one of the defendants, I guess MSFT’s involvement will be at issue and MSFT witnesses will be deposed.”
As a reminder, MOSAID received patents from Nokia, at Microsoft’s instruction. This may become very relevant a piece of evidence at a trial/antitrust probe.
“Android too tends to be affected, sooner if not later (than Apple).”“Nokia Is Playing With Fire With Its Patent Infringement Case Against Apple,” one report explained, and another said “Apple and Nokia Could Each Score Victories as Their Patent Battle Unfolds” (usually only the lawyers win in such scenarios). Android sites rightly treat this as Android news because if Apple loses, then expect Nokia to go after Android OEMs too. The latest developments were barely (if at all) covered by the media, probably just as Nokia had hoped. There are now several articles about this in English alone, but if it didn’t happen shortly before Christmas, we’d expect hundreds of reports if not thousands. Matt Levy wrote a poem about this and today (Boxing Day) Müller said that “Nokia’s litigation tactics and privateering ways are, without a doubt, vexatious. So I couldn’t disagree with Apple if it made the case that it’s just not reasonably acceptable for Apple to have to do “business as usual” with a Nokia subsidiary under the present circumstances.”
“Apple should invoke Alice,” Benjamin Henrion (FFII) wrote, “especially for H264 compression algorithms where captive patent courts still allows them…”
Henrion, a Belgian, is well aware of Nokia’s history of patent aggression — a subject we have been covering here since 2007. Take note of this news from Belgium that speaks of “85% tax deduction for qualifying income from patents, copyrighted software, breeders rights, orphan drugs and data or market exclusivity” (sounds like Patent Boxes, but not exactly the same).
“Henrion, a Belgian, is well aware of Nokia’s history of patent aggression — a subject we have been covering here since 2007.”Apple should definitely move to invalidate Nokia’s patents. All patents (there are 40 of them) should be susceptible to criticism, as examiners are not perfect and there are no flawless examinations. Incidentally, Patently-O has just written about “The “Right” to Challenge a Patent” in an antitrust context. “In his recent article,” it says, “Antitrust Economist (and lawyer) Erik Hovenkamp argues that the “right to challenge a patent” should also be an important consideration in antitrust analysis. Hovenkamp defines these “challenge rights” as “the (statutory) rights of third parties to challenge patents as invalid or uninfringed.” Antitrust comes into play when a license or settlement agreement includes challenge restraints that would contractually prevent the exercise of the challenge rights.”
Sounds very much applicable to the case above and as we have said from the very start, we hope that Apple will demolish those patents of Nokia, which might otherwise be asserted against Android OEMs (if this hasn’t been done in out-of-court settlements already). █
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As we correctly predicted way back in 2011…
Nokia suing everyone… except Microsoft.
Summary: Few days before Christmas Nokia decides that the backlash from the media would be minimal enough to finally show its true colours and rear its ugly head again, putting a tax on phones that actually sell (unlike Nokia’s)
VERY LATE LAST NIGHT (as late as 2 AM) we wrote about a story which Nokia probably hoped the media would not notice/cover all that much (hence the timing/date in the year). Nokia is a patent troll now. “Meanwhile,” as this article puts it, “Apple has accused Nokia of using the ‘tactics of a patent troll’.” It’s not just about Apple as Nokia will go after Android OEMs next (if it hasn’t already).
It’s the ‘Microsoft effect’. The company likes turning other (usually vulnerable) companies into a pile of patents, weaponised against Microsoft’s rivals. There are many examples of that which we’ve covered here over the years.
“It’s the ‘Microsoft effect’. The company likes turning other (usually vulnerable) companies into a pile of patents, weaponised against Microsoft’s rivals.”We have already found about a hundred reports about this in English, in spite of Christmas absence of many reporters (even from large British publishers, US publishers and several people at IDG [1, 2]). The Finnish English-speaking media touches the subject and Wall Street media puts it behind a paywall. Tripp Mickle and Matthias Verbergt say that “Apple Inc. and Nokia Corp. filed competing lawsuits over intellectual property used in the iPhone and other Apple products.”
Worth seeing in this case is what Apple finds out about the network of trolls (typically shrouded in secrecy). With evidence admissible by the courts about the patent trolls of Nokia and Microsoft we can improve our information here (growingly extensive and occasionally praised by people who come here in order to understand cryptic trolls.). Florian Müller says “First court hearings in the new Nokia v. Apple dispute will most probably take place in Munich in a few months. I’ll probably go and listen.”
“We believe that the date of the press release was designed (or intended) to dodge negative press coverage.”He also quotes Apple’s spokesperson as saying that Nokia “is now using the tactics of a patent troll to attempt to extort money from Apple…”
He is “not mincing words anymore,” Müller adds, and someone from Finland agrees with him. Finns do not blindly support Nokia. We speak to some Finns who are extremely upset at Nokia. It’s a national embarrassment to some.
As for IAM, it thinks it’s favourable to have patent lawsuit from a troll-like Nokia, but it lacks a vital
disclosure; Nokia’s patent troll MOSAID (now called “Conversant”) has paid IAM, which recently did a lot of puff pieces for it. Maybe that’s just IAM’s business model…
IAM says “Apple is against patent owners doing what they want with their patents to maximise their value.”
Whose value? And to whose advantage? And at whose expense?
“Not sure how that helps R&D,” IAM says, but Benjamin Henrion has already responded to them by saying “that helps P&L [patents and litigation], not R&D.”
We believe that the date of the press release was designed (or intended) to dodge negative press coverage. █
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When all else fails, throw patents at the competition (through trolls so as to avert counteraction)?
Image from BusinessKorea
Summary: With billions of dollars at stake (maybe over a trillion in the long run), the attempt to claw revenue using patents rather than actual sales has become complicated because of plurality of intermediaries, which Apple is trying to tackle with a new antitrust complaint
“In a major antitrust lawsuit Apple charged that Acacia is illegally breaking terms of patents acquired from Nokia,” according to The Street. This is pretty major news and definitely something that warrants a 2 AM article. Florian Müller has already produced a long blog post about it, accompanied by or coupled with the relevant documents.
“Readers can find details like a detailed history in our Wiki page about Acacia, including the hiring (by Acacia) of people from Microsoft and this troll’s repeated attacks on GNU/Linux.”As a reminder to our readers, Acacia is a Microsoft-connected troll. Readers can find details like a detailed history in our Wiki page about Acacia, including the hiring (by Acacia) of people from Microsoft and this troll’s repeated attacks on GNU/Linux.
“For a long time,” Müller wrote today, “I had hoped someone would finally do this. Last year I called out Nokia and others on their privateering ways, and it turned out that Nokia had industrialized the concept of privateering to a far greater extent than anyone else. My list of PAEs fed by Nokia contained all of the defendants in Apple’s antitrust suit–Acacia and Conversant (technically, Apple is also suing particular subsidiaries of those)–and more. That post prompted attempts by Ericsson and Nokia to explain away their privateering ways.”
Nokia‘s patents have also been passed to another anti-Linux/anti-Google troll called MOSAID (renamed “Conversant” since). These were, for a fact, passed at Microsoft’s instructions, as reported in the mainstream media at the time. There’s more on that in the Korean media. When it comes to patents, Nokia is still enslaved by or subservient to Microsoft.
“What does the future of dying mobile giants have in store then?”The full story isn’t just Apple hitting back at Nokia. “Breaking news,” Müller wrote later, “Nokia sues Apple in US and Europe over alleged patent infringement […] Venues: Eastern District of Texas, three German courts: Düsseldorf Mannheim Munich…”
Europe is a growing and increasingly attractive hub for patent parasites already, I’ve told Müller (who probably agreed). Germany and sometimes the UK (London) are favoured among those parasites (see Ericsson's troll choosing London for legal attacks — quite unprecedented a move for such an entity). “For the troll that Nokia is now,” Müller noted, “suing Apple in the ED of Texas is very appropriate. […] When Nokia was still making mobile devices, it had a predilection for the District of Delaware. Now: Eastern District of Texas. Times change…”
I told him that BlackBerry does the same thing now, having lost the market (to which Müller nodded with a retweet). We wrote about this earlier this week and earlier this year.
What does the future of dying mobile giants have in store then? Passage to trolls (the PAE type) that will tax everyone, everywhere? “Something big always seems to happen at Christmas in the patent market,” IAM wrote. “Remember the RPX Rockstar patents purchase a couple of years ago?”
Remember that IAM is partly funded by MOSAID/Conversant, i.e. part of the same ‘gang’. As for Rockstar, we wrote quite a few articles about it, e.g. [1, 2]. It’s like a front for Microsoft (Rockstar Consortium is a patent troll owned by Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson, and Sony). As for RPX, it’s also a patent troll, with Microsoft having joined it 6 years ago.
“My list of PAEs fed by Nokia contained all of the defendants in Apple’s antitrust suit–Acacia and Conversant (technically, Apple is also suing particular subsidiaries of those)–and more.”
–Florian MüllerNina Milanov, an occasional EPO sceptic, told Müller, “I hope Apple sees it through. Every time you settle, to some extent the troll has won.”
“Last time Nokia sued Apple in Germany,” Müller responded, “it was extremely lucky. Key patents have expired. Will be more interesting this time around.”
If Apple gets to the bottom of all these satellite proxies that are patent trolls, it will be a good service not just to Apple but also to Android/Linux. iOS and Android command the market and all that the losers can do right now is attempt to tax those two. Even Oracle is trying to accomplish that. █
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Summary: A $399 million judgment against Android devices from Samsung, with potential implications for other Android OEMs, is rejected by SCOTUS
Excellent news came through AP several hours ago: “Supreme Court throws out $399 million judgment against Samsung in company’s patent dispute with Apple over iPhone design.”
There will certainly be plenty of coverage about this, including quite a lot of rants from Apple advocacy sites. Apple lost a design/UI patent case. It has actually lost quite a few cases against Samsung by now. Many other patents in this domain will be generally lost too, by means of precedence (how many patents out there are no longer valid?).
Here is what Professor Crouch, who followed this case pretty closely, had to say:
In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Sotomayor, the Supreme Court has reversed the Federal Circuit in this important design patent damages case. Although the case offers hope for Samsung and others adjudged of infringing design patents, it offers no clarity as to the rule of law.
There is also this bit of news that’s covered a week late and says:
Apple v. Ameranth: Federal Circuit Partially Reverses PTAB and Finds All Claims for Electronic Menus Unpatentable
On November 29, 2016, in Apple Inc. v. Ameranth, Inc. 15-1703, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) findings of unpatentable independent claims in a Covered Business Method (CBM) review and reversed findings of patentable dependent claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101. On appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed with Apple that there was sufficient evidence to support the finding that dependent claims 3, 6-9, 11 and 13-16 of Ameranth’s U.S. Patent No. 6,982,733 (‘733 patent) were unpatentable as describing insignificant post-solution activities. Despite Ameranth arguing for a substantial evidence standard of review, the Federal Circuit applied a de novo review standard in its reversal of the PTAB’s decision.
Things don’t look too promising for Apple in this CAFC case and another CAFC case, Ameranth, Inc. v. Agilsys, Inc., now gets covered in another site (it’s about PTAB). █
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Witness those truly innovative things — the work of pure genius! — which are rounded corners!
Summary: A quick roundup of recent articles/reports/analyses about Apple v Samsung, including the impending Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case
APPLE’S longstanding patent war with Samsung (or Android, having started to attack it more than 6 years ago) has become a high profile story and probably the leading example of patent litigation in recent times, with a lot of money at stake.
As expected, patent lawyers go ahead and push forth their fairly tales about patents being surrogates for “innovation” (the 1%’s protectionism), this time in relation to Apple and Samsung. To quote Patent Lawyer Magazine:
The recent and numerous cases opposing companies like Apple and Samsung or Google and Oracle highlight that, today, patents are defensive weapons as well as offensive weapons according to the strategy developed by the holder. Many companies notice lately this functional ambivalence of the patent, just as a patent-related dispute happen, like its violation by a counterfeiter party who reproduces without any authorization the protected invention.
If adopting a strategy of patent application may appear expensive in front of the strategy of the secret which consists in keeping the invention undisclosed, it must be clear that the patents ensure an effective legal protection of the inventions against potential counterfeiters and also permit to the innovative companies recouping their Research & Development costs as a patent owner will be able to negotiate royalties for license agreements signed with firms interested in the use of the patented technology.
That’s a rather misleading framing. If one actually considers which patents Apple is suing with/over, then one hasn’t any doubts; it’s not about innovation at all. Maybe it’s about “first to file” or something along those lines. We have covered these patents many times over the years.
As should become apparent pretty soon — because certainly corporate media will be all over it — Apple’s patent war against Samsung will be discussed at SCOTUS, with design patenting as a whole coming under scrutiny. Here is an overview of some more cases to be discussed by SCOTUS:
Constitutional Challenge to Inter Partes Review: Although the Constitutional issues in Cooper v. Lee and MCM v. HP were law-professor-interesting, they were not substantial enough for certiorari. The Supreme Court has now denied the Cooper and MCM petitions — leaving the IPR regime unchanged. Although Cooper v. Square is still pending, its chances are slight. The Supreme Court has also denied certiorari in Encyclopaedia Britannica (malpractice), Gnosis (appellate review), and GeoTag (case-or-controversy).
A new 101 Challenge: In its first conference of the term, the Supreme Court denied all of the pending petitions regarding patent eligibility. However, Trading Technologies has filed a new petition asking whether a new card game is categorically unpatentable so long as it uses a standard deck (rather than a novel deck) of cards. My post on the case asks: Does the Patent Statute Cabin-in the Abstract Idea Exception? That question references Section 100 of the Patent Act that expressly allows for the patenting of new use of a known manufacture.
Extra Territoriality of Trade Secrecy Law: On the trade secrecy front, Sino Legend has petitioned to review the Federal Circuit’s affirmance of the International Trade Commision’s ban on Legend’s importation of rubber resins used for tire production. The underlying bad-act was a trade secret misappropriation that occurred in China and the question on appeal asks: Whether Section 337(a)(1)(A) permits the ITC to adjudicate claims regarding trade secret misappropriation alleged to have occurred outside the United States. A Chinese court looked at the same case and found no misappropriation.
Design Patent Damages: Oral arguments were held earlier this week in Samsung v. Apple. During the arguments, all parties agreed that (1) the statute does not allow for apportionment of damages but rather requires profit disgorgement; (2) the article-of-manufacture from which profits can be calculated may be a component of the product sold to consumers; and (3) the determination of what counts as the article-of-manufacture is a question of fact to be determined by the jury. The only dispute then was on the factors that a jury should be considered and when the “inside gears” of a product should ever be included in the calculation.
The fourth paragraph is about Apple (design patents, not software patents) and the second paragraph speaks of a Section 101 challenge, which isn’t yet likely to happen. Alice is likely to stay here for a long time to come. The focus of the above cases, or the framing that Patently-O has chosen, is ITC. The I in ITC stands for “international” — surely a misleading label. It’s like calling the KGB “international” because it goes (or went) abroad in order to get its way for its home country. The ITC is to US corporations what the FSB is to Russia’s government (or the Kremlin) and we should recognise that there’s nothing “international” about it. It’s not the UN. Now that the patent battles target Asian companies like Samsung IAM likes to obsess about the subject. This patent trolls-funded site wishes us to believe that patent tax that makes phones worse (removed features to avert risk of lawsuits) and more expensive is a desirable aspect. Phones from Samsung almost literally explode and all that IAM can think about is patents, patents, and more patents.
Over at MIP there has been more coverage of the above patent case of Apple v Samsung. Florian Müller foresees more action in this domain (not involving only design patents but much more).
Little attention is being paid to Apple’s practices or tradition of tax evasion with patents as a financial instrument. It continues to happen in Ireland where Apple has a notorious tax-dodging operation and pro-Apple sites touch on the subject yet don’t quite get to the bottom of it (“Apple Moves $9B Worth of iTunes Intellectual Property To Ireland”). Remember what we wrote about Patent Boxes earlier this year.
Joseph Robinson & Robert Schaffer (over at Watchtroll) write about a related case (a different Apple v Samsung). It is apparent that this site is growingly concerned about yet another case reaffirming the death of software patents in the US. Apple has more than one case against Samsung; there are software patents at stake as well, hence the relevance to us. Watchtroll is still opposing patent reform and uses the terminology of anonymous Twitter accounts that taunt us, e.g. “Efficient Infringement”. What a cesspool Watchtroll has become…
Going back to Müller, here is what he recently wrote about both Apple v Samsung cases that are high profile:
Was it just a coincidence that the Federal Circuit made a decision on an Apple petition for a rehearing about eight months after the original decision and just days before the design patents hearing in the top U.S. court? It may very well have been. But when there are already other oddities (such as the decision not to invite further briefing from the parties and hold a rehearing), it’s not impossible that there is a hidden message or agenda.
The Federal Circuit decision certainly gives Apple leverage. Limited leverage, though: the relatively most valuable one of the three patents on which Apple had prevailed at the spring 2014 trial has expired and the most iconic one, slide-to-unlock, is about as valuable in the age of Touch ID and comparable technologies as an ISDN or floppy disk patent.
“Experts Urge Supreme Court To Take A Bite Out Of Apple’s Patent Win Over Samsung,” said this recent report, stating: “As two of the world’s largest consumer electronics companies face off at the Supreme Court Tuesday, experts in legal, patent, technology and consumer advocacy fields are urging the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling in the smartphone war between Apple and Samsung that awarded the iPhone maker the total profit of patent-infringing Galaxy devices.”
Matt Levy wrote about this also [1, 2]. That was 2.5 weeks ago when he pulished some thoughts about “A Funny Thing [That] Happened on the Way to the Court” and to quote:
A funny thing happened on the way to the Supreme Court in yesterday’s Samsung v. Apple design patent dispute. The high court was expected to review the lower court’s award of the entire profits made for 11 different smartphone models — just under $400 million.
Unexpectedly, some time before the argument Apple had agreed to concede that the “article of manufacture” didn’t have to be the entire product sold. That is, Apple agreed with Samsung and the government that the answer to the question that the Court had agreed to decide is “Yes.”
Will design patents not be challenged even by Samsung after all? IAM (wshfully) thinks there may be alignment on the horizon. To quote: “For the last couple of years it has been apparent that the smartphone wars that have raged in US courts since 2009 have been reaching their final skirmishes. Peace deals between the likes of Microsoft and Google and Apple and Google, have brought many of the battles to an end. Except, that is, for what has probably been the most significant confrontation – Apple v Samsung.”
There’s no “Microsoft and Google” “peace deal”; Microsoft continues to attack Android OEMs with patents and it was Microsoft that initiated antitrust action against Android in Europe. Microsoft is a malicious firm that would lie to anyone, anytime.
Joe Mullin asked: “How much punishment is appropriate when it comes to design patents?”
MIP’s coverage at the time spoke of the arguments and Patently-O offered a “view from inside the courtroom”. It said:
At oral argument, Samsung informed the Court that it was dropping its “causation argument” (i.e., that § 289 must be read in light of background causation principles from general tort law) and wanted to focus on its “article of manufacture” argument (i.e., its argument that a successful design patentee should be entitled to the “total profit” from the “article of manufacture” but that the relevant article should be determined mainly by looking at whether the patent claims a whole design or only part).
We eagerly await rulings against Apple in both cases, one involving software patents and another design patents, which in this case closely resemble software patents in multiple ways/aspects. What’s at stake here isn’t just the price of Samsung phones but the financial viability of Android (Linux-based) phones in general. █
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Summary: A quick look at various new articles of interest (about software patents) and what can be deduced from them, especially now that software patents are the primary barrier to Free/Libre Open Source software adoption
THE previous post spoke about misleading coverage which would have us believe there’s a software patents rebound in the US. There is none of that, it’s just wishful thinking.
According to this new Slashdot post, linking to a report already mentioned in our daily links, in spite of the huge number of payment technology software patents being crushed (about 90% of them!), Accenture (somewhat of an evil and manipulative Microsoft ‘proxy’ in the UK) rushes for software patents in that area. As we noted here a few months ago, patents in this area are a growing cause for concern because they can undermine innovation. Things like Bitcoin and even Free/Libre Open Source software are affected profoundly. It’s not necessarily companies like Accenture and Microsoft that sue, but Microsoft has many patent trolls out there. Those trolls are no longer just a problem in the US; even in east Asia’s markets they are a growing problem or an epidemic (patent trolls spread there and there are new reports to that effect from publications that deny the existence of patent trolls).
Speaking of patent trolls, Joe Mullin has this new article about the latest moves from Mr. Horn. He summarised that as “Company backed by Nokia, Sony, and MPEG-LA gets a $3M verdict.” MPEG-LA is a massive obstruction to Free/Libre Open Source software, for reasons we covered here many times over the years.
“MPEG-LA is a massive obstruction to Free/Libre Open Source software, for reasons we covered here many times over the years.”Times are rough for those who develop software whenever software patents maintain some potency and patent trolls have an incentive to sue, not just to threaten. According to last week’s post from Patently-O the “patent act authorizes district court to award enhanced damages.” But only if you actually read patents, so don’t. Willful infringement can induce further penalties. To quote Patently-O regarding Halo [1, 2]:
The patent act authorizes district court to award enhanced damages. 35 U.S.C. 284 (“the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed”). In Halo v. Pulse, the Supreme Court held that the statute grants district courts discretion in awarding enhanced damages – although noting that the punitive damages should ordinarily be limited to egregious infringement – “typified by willful infringement.” In rejecting the Federal Circuit’s Seagate test, the Court held proof of “subjective willfulness” is sufficient to prove egregious infringement. “The subjective willfulness of a patent infringer, intentional or knowing, may warrant enhanced damages, without regard to whether his infringement was objectively reckless.” Halo at 1933. As with other punitive damage regimes – proof sufficient for an award does not necessitate such an award. In patent cases, punitive damages remain within the discretion of the district court even after sufficient evidence establish the egregious behavior.
Another interesting article from Patently-O speaks about obviousness and prior art, along the lines stating that:
In response to being sued for patent infringement, Apple filed for inter partes reexamination of ClassCo’s Patent No. 6,970,695. That litigation (originally filed in 2011) has been stayed pending the resolution here. Although the patent had survived a prior reexamination, this time the Examiner rejected the majority of the patent claims as obvious; the PTAB affirmed those rejections; and the Federal Circuit has now re-affirmed.
The patent relates to a “caller announcement” system that uses a phone’s speaker (rather than screen or separate speaker) to announce caller identity information. The system includes a “memory storage” that stores identify information being announced.
The examiner identified the prior art as U.S. Patent No. 4,894,861 (Fujioka) that teaches all of the claimed elements (of representative claim 2) except for use of the phone’s regular audio speaker (rather than a separate speaker) to announce a caller’s identity (claimed as the “audio transducer”). A second prior art reference was then identified as U.S. Patent No. 5,199,064 (Gulick) that taught the use of the audio transducer for providing a variety of call related alerts.
What’s interesting here is that Apple, which uses software patents against rivals (including against Linux/Android), suddenly fancies invalidating one. Had there been no software patents, none of this mess would be necessary. Moreover, no money would flow into the pockets of patent law firms at the expense of developers and people who purchase products. █
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Summary: Microsoft-connected patent trolls like Larry Horn’s MobileMedia are still attacking Microsoft rivals and Microsoft wants more money from Korea, after it attacked Linux with software patents over there (notably Samsung and LG)
“US Pat RE39231,” wrote a patent attorney, eventually meant that “Apple Must Pat MobileMedia $3M for Infringing this Patent” (MobileMedia is not as real company and we wrote about it before, in relation to MPEG-LA and Larry Horn; we wrote about him in [1, 2]).
How many people out there know that MPEG-LA is a patent troll whose head himself is/was a patent troll? Not many people know this. Horn relies on dishonest lawyers from Proskauer Rose and sues Apple, which itself is part of MPEG-LA (we already took note of how bizarre this is).
Well, “Apple loses ringtone infringement case to Nokia and Sony’s patent troll firm,” according to the headline of this report. To quote: “Apple has been ordered to pony up $3 million in damages by a Delaware judge for infringing the patent of a firm partially owned by Sony and Nokia. The case, which has been running since way back in 2010, saw MobileMedia Ideas originally accuse Apple on 16 counts of patent infringement. Six years and plenty of court activity later, the original claim has been whittled down to just one patent pertaining to iPhone ringer alerts, for which MobileMedia has been awarded a tidy sum of money.”
A patent troll connected to Nokia — a legacy of Microsoft entryism and subsequent passage of patents to trolls like MOSAID — is somewhat of a pattern we’ve seen a lot of recently. Android too is being targeted by these trolls.
“MobileMedia Ideas just won a Delaware trial against Apple over a former Sony patent,” Florian Müller wrote about it. “May file further lawsuit now over iPhone 4S and later.”
Tom O’Reilly from Mobile Media Ideas is advertising for this patent troll. He passed around the press release “MobileMedia Ideas Wins Trial against Apple” and it said:
(CHEVY CHASE, MD, US – 21 September 2016) – MobileMedia Ideas LLC is pleased to announce that the US District Court for the District of Delaware today found MobileMedia Ideas’ “polite-ignore” patent (Re 39,231) for mobile phone call silencing valid and infringed by the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4 and awarded $3M in damages. The case did not include the iPhone 4S, 5/5C/5S and 6/6 Plus on which there may be further proceedings. The patent was filed in 1994 by Sony Corporation, a pioneer in the development of mobile and other consumer electronics technology, and is now part of the patent portfolio licensed by MobileMedia Ideas.
MobileMedia Ideas President and CEO Larry Horn said, “We thank the jury for its service and hard work. This case could have been avoided by the taking of a license, however. MobileMedia Ideas’ business model is based on offering reasonable licenses to a valuable portfolio of important inventions widely practiced across a broad array of mobile phone and other portable products. We still welcome Apple to respect intellectual property developed by others with the taking of a license.”
MobileMedia Ideas was represented by a team of litigators at Proskauer Rose led by Steve Bauer and Kim Mottley of the Boston office.
In relation to an article/report mentioned here earlier this week, there is now an important update. Coming from the Korea Times, it says that the tax authority is likely to reject Microsoft’s appeal for refund of tax. To quote the opening parts:
The South Korean tax authority is expected to reject an appeal by U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp. to refund 634 billion won ($575.7 million) in a withholding tax, according to the tax authority and industry sources Thursday.
Microsoft filed complaints last month against the National Tax Service (NTS), seeking a refund of the withholding taxes paid by Samsung Electronics Co. to the NTS for using the software giant’s patents.
When will Microsoft pay the tax it has evaded? Above the law, still? A lot of the above sum comes from Linux-powered devices (we wrote about this many times before).
Those who believe that Microsoft has changed surely aren’t paying attention to what it does through patent trolls, through Nokia (which Microsoft demanded should pass patents to trolls), and in various distant countries like Korea. Microsoft just became a little more covert in its war against Linux. █
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