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08.29.17

Many Patents Are Being Passed to Android-Hostile Patent Trolls (by the Thousands) and Microsoft is in the Shadows

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft at 11:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Shadow and trees

Summary: Some of the latest moves and actions (and auctions) which pose a danger to GNU/Linux in mobile devices in particular

THE daily (and sometimes bi-daily) links that we post here contain many news items about Android. It’s now dominant with nearly 90% of the mobile market. Android is based on Free/Libre Open Source software (AOSP) and contains Linux at the core, so it matters to us. We are not huge fans of Google, but having said that, Google is at least supporting Linux and not just posting promotional materials like leaflets with heart symbols on them. Microsoft actively attacks Linux in many ways (see recent examples in Munich and even patent lawsuits); Google does not.

“Microsoft actively attacks Linux in many ways (see recent examples in Munich and even patent lawsuits); Google does not.”Earlier today Benjamin Henrion pointed out that David Pridham, “CEO of the patent advisory [sic] Dominion Harbor Group,” now has a blog (even an attack on Google) over at Forbes. Dominion Harbor Group is a patent troll, not “patent advisory” or whatever euphemism they may choose. It’s also connected to Intellectual Ventures, the world’s largest patent troll. So what we have here are anti-Google articles from a man who is connected to Microsoft’s patent troll. Ain’t that just too shallow? Is he going to sue Google next? He recently got a big load of patents from Intellectual Ventures [1, 2]. Such patents can never be used against Microsoft because Intellectual Ventures is deep in the pockets of Microsoft and Bill Gates (at a personal capacity, too).

“Telecom equipment giant Nokia is offloading more than 6,000 patents related to 4G, 5G, SDN, VR, and more in the wake of its recent merger deal with Alcatel-Lucent.”
      –WirelessWeek
A couple of days ago we also learned that after Microsoft ‘took over’ Nokia it is still passing patents to patent trolls which are likely to attack Microsoft’s rivals (even under Microsoft’s direct guidance). This is the latest:

Telecom equipment giant Nokia is offloading more than 6,000 patents related to 4G, 5G, SDN, VR, and more in the wake of its recent merger deal with Alcatel-Lucent.

According to a listing from transaction firm Aqua Licensing LLC, which was first spotted by Law360, Nokia is selling a portfolio containing 6,069 granted patents and 734 patent applications. The patents up for grabs come from patent families in six different technology categories, including Wireless; Services; IP and Networks; Access, Fixed, and Optical Networks; Hardware and Components; and User Experience, Mechanics, and Materials.

How many of these patents (many of which are likely bogus or ripoffs) are going to be used against Android OEMs? As we last showed earlier this year, Nokia is already shaking down some Android OEMs directly. So does Qualcomm, which has taken its battle to Europe in spite such battles being bad for business. The latest on Qualcomm is, they too acknowledged lack of merit in some of the claims:

In early July, Qualcomm brought an ITC complaint against Apple over six non-standard-essential patents (NEPs) related to efficient battery usage, seeking an import ban against iPhones with Intel (or other third-party chips) but not against devices that might include Qualcomm’s own chips.

A couple of weeks ago, the ITC instituted the investigation. As I wrote last month, it would have been unusual for the ITC not to investigate the complaint, despite the partly valid points raised in various public-interest statements.

But something unusual has happened now. On Friday, Qualcomm filed a motion (unopposed by Apple) for partial termination of the investigation by withdrawal of U.S. Patent No. 8,487,658 on a “compact and robust layout shifter design.”

What’s unusual here is not Qualcomm’s decision to drop a patent. I’m sure they’ll drop more as this investigation unfolds because that’s what the ITC expects complainants to do so it can keep its relatively ambitious timelines (Qualcomm’s motion makes reference to the normal course of business at the ITC, though the motion tends to portray a totally ordinary ITC timeline as something special, which it is not in my observation). What is strange and even pretty much unprecedented is the timing: two weeks into a just-launched investigation. In all other cases I’ve watched, with an exception I’ll discuss next, parties withdrew patents after significant procedural progress. At a minimum, parties would want to review the respondent’s non-infringement and/or invalidity arguments. Here, Qualcomm withdrew the patent without anything happening other than Qualcomm having changed its mind.

This case has a lot to do with Android because if Apple loses it, so will Android OEMs (some have already dissented).

As usual, when it comes to large companies like Microsoft, Nokia and Qualcomm (many thousands of patents), they just throw a whole bunch of patents of varying levels of quality to over-encumber the accused with legal fees. When this method targets Android OEMs (many small ones, unlike one large OEM known as Apple) the incentive to fight back or take things to court is very low. Sometimes Google jumps in to assist, but a lot of the time there are back room settlements. We can safely assume that this is part of Microsoft’s patent stacking strategy, so we cannot carry on pretending that Microsoft now “loves Linux”. It’s a colossal lie.

08.27.17

Patent Aggression is Bad for Business

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 4:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

FTC Charges Qualcomm

Summary: Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Virtual StrongBox are missing the point and relying too much on patents, failing to see the backlash that patent aggression typically entails

MANY people dislike all sorts of companies, but rarely do they campaign against them. The reason this site exists in the first place is Microsoft’s patent attacks on Free software. Microsoft, based on new headlines like these [1, 2, 3, 4], continues to stockpile patents. What will these be used for? We don’t know yet. Had Microsoft not been so aggressive with patents (and trolls), we would not protest. We published about 5,000 articles about Microsoft — all of them negative. Patents make enemies.

“Microsoft too learned it the hard way; nowadays it carefully attempts to hide legal action against GNU/Linux (Microsoft satellites are suing and Microsoft keeps the extortion behind closed doors).”For quite a while now Qualcomm has been receiving negative press because it uses software and hardware patents to bully a lot of companies and shake them down for ‘protection’ money. There’s growing resistance to it. Well, according to this (citing several other press reports), Qualcomm’s investors belatedly realise that being a patent bully is bad for business. The stock already collapsed several times. Florian Müller said:

About a month ago I shared the observation that Qualcomm’s approach to its FTC and Apple litigations was in part driven by investor relations (IR) considerations. That same day, Qualcomm delivered another piece of that particular puzzle by filing two German patent infringement lawsuits against Apple just before a quarterly earnings report–they can file lawsuits whenever they want, but that was hardly a coincidence.

Patent aggression comes at a high cost. Just look at Qualcomm’s performance. Microsoft too learned it the hard way; nowadays it carefully attempts to hide legal action against GNU/Linux (Microsoft satellites are suing and Microsoft keeps the extortion behind closed doors). As for Apple? When did it last file a patent lawsuit against an Android OEM?

“Patent aggression comes at a high cost.”What’s baffling, especially for it is tactless, is the number of companies that waste money promoting ‘news’ about patent grants rather than actual releases, products, etc. In this new press release from Virtual StrongBox, for example, they brag about a new patent. That’s just a software patent i.e. a totally worthless patent, a waste of time and money (as courts would not take it seriously). “For the fifth time in just over two years,” they say, “Virtual StrongBox, Inc. has received a patent, which covers its best-in-class, data-protection software.”

So what next? Patent lawsuits? And if not, then what’s the point of these patents? Totally pointless waste of funds. Who are they attempting to impress?

08.22.17

News About Patents Dominated by Patent Trolls/Aggressors, Their Press Releases, and Sympathisers

Posted in Apple, Deception, Patents at 6:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A collection of news items from yesterday, demonstrating just to what degree the narrative of patent trolls (or aggressors) is being spread by paying for distribution

THE USPTO has been granted far too many patents (by lowering quality) — patents that are mostly used by trolls to shake down companies and sometimes sue them (only then do such patent disputes become publicly visible). Thankfully, US courts are not tolerating these patents and PTAB, moreover, leaps to the rescue quite often, reducing the incentive to even approach a company with patent claims (with or without a lawsuit being filed).

BigbellyOver at Watchtroll (a couple of days ago), the so-called “patent market” (the term used in the headline) is said to be “depressed”. They are speaking for patent aggressors and parasites, so the word “market” is inadeuate here (trolls have no market, they prey on the market). The actual, real market is thriving, but the patent ‘industry’ is being made obsolete. Trolls and their lawyers are seeing decline in ‘business’ and as we noted earlier this year, some legal firms appear to be shutting down (which is a good thing). The same is true for trolls.

Yesterday we saw the notorious patent troll VirnetX publishing this press release [1, 2], which means it literally paid for some hogwash. We rarely see even a single press release from patent trolls, but now that it gets its way with shakedown it’s paying to pretend that it’s gentle and amicable rather than a bunch of bullies. “Patent Standstill Agreement” they call it. Sounds more like secret settlement. The term was recently used by Red Hat and Microsoft in relation to a secret deal.

Another new piece of hogwash came from Bigbelly — a company which we named earlier this summer. It is just suing lots of companies using patents; What a garbage ‘company’ it must be, not only dealing with trash (literally) but also patenting software and pursuing legal actions all around the world. Yesterday’s statement said that the “same complaint filed against Ecube Labs Co. Ltd. (South Korea), and similar complaints filed in the German Court against EconX Waste Solutions B.V. (Netherlands) and German Ecotec GMBH are in the process of being served.”

“Being served…”

What? A gourmet meal?

Speaking of Germany/Europe, trolls and parasites are coming there too. Trolling activity is up sharply and Florian Müller, a German software developer known for his activism against software patents, is rightly concerned about this. Yesterday he published another article about Qualcomm, a company which became just a serial patent aggressor. Well, we last wrote a long article about it after Qualcomm’s aggression had expanded to Europe. Here is the latest:

Qualcomm has to defend itself against the Federal Trade Commission in the Northern District of California, where Judge Lucy H. Koh has so far been great for the mobile device industry, and against Apple in the Southern District of California, where Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel held a hearing on Friday. Apart from case management orders scheduling a March 22, 2018 claim construction hearing and a September 28, 2018 final pretrial conference for the non-patent claims, all I know about the hearing is what I found on the Twitter feeds of Law.com’s Scott Graham and MLex’s Mike Swift.

It’s unsurprising that, according to these two reporters, Judge Curiel will consolidate Apple v. Qualcomm with Qualcomm’s lawsuit against four Apple contract manufacturers (who in turn invited Apple to join, which Apple appeared happy to do), and that Qualcomm appears unlikely to obtain a preliminary injunction requiring those contract manufacturers to resume their royalty payments. The overlap between those cases is gigantic, and seeking a preliminary injunction for the purpose of collecting payments is–let’s try to understate how hard it is–a long shot.

I would like to comment on a couple of other things I read about the hearing. The first one is that Evan Chesler, Qualcomm’s counsel and chairman of the Cravath firm, told Judge Curiel the 18 patents Apple claims are invalid and not infringed were just a “drop in the bucket” and adjucating them wouldn’t put the parties any closer to a settlement.

This case might go on for a while. We have said right from the beginning that we hope Apple will win because such an outcome would be favourable to Linux/Android as well. Qualcomm has become little more than a patent parasite; some would go as far as labeling it a “troll”.

08.20.17

Software Patents and Patent Trolls Are Almost the Same Problem (Still)

Posted in America, Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 4:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The strong connection that not many people/organisations/publications are willing to speak about…

Got connection

Summary: Apple just got sued again, Microsoft-connected patent trolls continue serial litigation against Microsoft’s competitors, and a bike shop gets sued using software patents

THE plague of software patents and patent trolls certainly hurts progress and damages US productivity. A lot of politicians, pundits and technologists nowadays speak about it.

A few days ago Gulf News reposted Noah Smith’s piece from Bloomberg — an article titled “We need to put the patent trolls out of business” and summarised with “Patent infringement lawsuits have increased by a factor of 10 since 2000″ (without innovation increasing by a factor of ten).

“He rightly focuses also on the type of patents, not just the entity which is suing (trolls).”“A recent research paper by economists Ian Appel, Joan Farre-Mensa and Elena Simintzi,” Smith wrote, “shows that the show’s humorous scenario isn’t that far from real life. Appel et al. note that patent infringement lawsuits have increased by a factor of 10 since 2000, and that so-called non-practicing entities — basically, companies that own patents but don’t use them to produce anything — account for more than two-thirds of the increase. The cases that go to court obviously represent just a fraction of the times that NPEs put pressure on tech companies — their more typical mode of operation is to send threatening letters. Small businesses are the most common targets. Most of the time, companies cough up the cash, viewing the trolls as merely one more cost of doing business.”

“Intellectual property reform needs to happen,” Smith added, “There have been some encouraging signs in recent years — for example, courts seem to be less willing to enforce patents on business methods, one of the most egregiously abused categories. The state anti-troll laws are another good move. But the health and dynamism of the US start-up ecosystem might require larger-scale action. Intellectual property in the US has probably gone past the point of encouraging innovation, and both courts and legislators should think about how to further curb the patenting craze.”

“It ought to be recognised and widely stated that the inherent problem is software patents, not just the entities that exploit these.”He rightly focuses also on the type of patents, not just the entity which is suing (trolls). One enables or empowers the other.

“Filed in the patent holder-friendly Eastern Texas District,” wrote Apple Insider a couple of days ago, was another lawsuit against Apple, this time too over software patents.

Earlier this month we mentioned how the Microsoft-connected patent troll known as Finjan Holdings was suing lots of companies. It was doing it again earlier this month, using software patents as usual, then bragging about it in press releases. Well, days ago it did this again, this time with another target in sight:

Finjan Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: FNJN), a cybersecurity company, today announced that its subsidiary Finjan, Inc. (“Finjan”) has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Bitdefender, Inc., a Florida Company, and Bitdefender S.R.L., a Romanian corporation, (collectively “Bitdefender”) in the U.S. Northern District of California.

This pattern of trolling isn’t being overlooked by the likes of the EFF, which days ago resumed its series about Alice (software patents), this time naming another troll and the story of the company it targeted:

Rick Pepper is passionate about designing cool products for cyclists and other adventurous types. He started his company Elevengear as a one-person shop in 2007, and it’s since grown to a small, successful team. But all of that could have changed when his company was sued for allegedly infringing a group of obscure patents on delivery and tracking protocols.

Before Rick even realized that he’d been sued, his inbox was flooded with solicitations from lawyers offering to take on his case. “I remember getting an email that I thought was super spammy,” Rick recalls. “It said something like, ‘Hey, since you’re in a bit of legal difficulty, and we have experience with cases like this …’ I thought for sure it was a scam. I thought it was one of those Nigerian prince sort of things.”

Notice how, despite the fact that the company deals with bikes, it is being attacked using software patents. As the EFF put it:

If only it were. Rick had really been sued by Eclipse IP (now called Electronic Communication Technologies LLC), a classic patent troll whose business is demanding licensing fees from real, practicing companies. Eclipse accused Elevengear of infringing three patents. U.S. Patent No. 7,119,716 (the ’716 patent) covers letting the recipient of a notification send a message requesting a change in settings for future notifications. U.S. Patent No. 7,479,899 is a continuation of the ‘716 patent and relates to a delivery recipient sending a message in order to change delivery settings or to provide information to the delivery person. Finally, U.S. Patent No. 7,876,239 (also a continuation of the ’716 patent) covers the practice of sending the recipient of a delivery a notification that that delivery is coming from an authorized source. Although Elevengear is based in Sebastopol, California, and Eclipse was a Florida company, the suit was filed across the country in a federal court in New Jersey.

It ought to be recognised and widely stated that the inherent problem is software patents, not just the entities that exploit these.

08.04.17

The United States Supreme Court Should Further Restrict Patent Scope and Not Question PTAB’s Work (Which Merely Enforces That Scope)

Posted in America, Apple, Courtroom, Patents, Samsung at 4:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

PTAB has probably been the best when it comes to enforcing Supreme Court decisions such as Alice

United States Supreme Court

Summary: A glance at the ongoing debate over which patent case/s the Justices of the United States Supreme Court should look at next

PTAB is a good, valuable ally of the software industry, for it invalidates a lot of software patents. PTAB is defended by almost every software company but protested against by the patent microcosm (striving to tax software companies).

“PTAB is defended by almost every software company but protested against by the patent microcosm (striving to tax software companies).”Based on this new press release, a lawsuit which was mentioned here earlier this week got escalated by the defendant, which sought help from PTAB. Taser (now renamed) is battling to dodge PTAB’s scrutiny (as it can potentially invalidate the patent they use aggressively) and this time it got its way. But that’s not the end of it. PTAB is generally a get-out clause in case a patent lawsuit is meritless based on the patent/s at hand. Failing PTAB, there are still judges and sometimes also a jury to determine whether a patent asserted is bogus or not. Just because an examiner at the USPTO decided to grant a patent doesn’t necessarily mean it’s both novel and patent-eligible. Prior art is sometimes discovered in court proceedings and expert witnesses can attest to the triviality of some patents. In some cases, the trial itself constitutes misconduct; we gave an example of that yesterday, citing Patently-O, whose contributor David did a followup. “First off,” he wrote, “according to the panel-majority, mere negligence by litigation counsel is enough to justify an adverse inference under the law of this regional circuit…”

“As we explained here before, Patently-O is no friend of PTAB and certainly it is a friend of software patents.”Over the years we have given many examples of misconduct, e.g. companies asserting patents that they don’t even ‘own’ (are assigned). In some cases, expired patents are being used to intimidate companies.

As we explained here before, Patently-O is no friend of PTAB and certainly it is a friend of software patents. Moreover, its lead writer (Crouch) is still trying to slow down or discourage CAFC's support for PTAB. Yesterday he did that again. To quote the relevant paragraph:

A third petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court has now been filed stemming from the Federal Circuit’s Rule 36 Debacle. Despite the need for clear guidance on the implementation of AIA Trials, most such appeals are being decided by the Federal Circuit without any opinion. I have argued that the process violates a provision of the Patent Act that requires an the court to issue an opinion in cases on appeal from the Patent & Trademark Office.

We already wrote extensively about why it’s justified. There’s a massive ‘scatterback’ of appeals from PTAB and CAFC cannot possibly issue a pertinent written opinion for each individual appeal. Crouch should know that. He’s a law professor, but at the same time he’s also immersed in the patent microcosm, which hates PTAB with a very great passion (to the point of insulting judges).

“He’s a law professor, but at the same time he’s also immersed in the patent microcosm, which hates PTAB with a very great passion (to the point of insulting judges).”The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is already busy with more important matters, such as patent scope and patent trolls. In fact, it has already deemed business methods-related patents invalid. There’s Bilski and Alice. Now it’s down to the courts below SCOTUS to obey precedents/prior decisions. But Crouch wonders aloud whether the matter will be revisited yet again:

Although the Federal Circuit walked through its Alice/Mayo analysis, I expect that a more infringer-friendly panel would have almost certainly sided with the district court. Now, Openet has petitioned the Supreme Court for writ of certiorari – arguing that the Federal Circuit improperly reached beyond the clearly overbroad claims when making its decision.

“Rao decided to write for The Hill about an Apple case against an Android OEM.”Experience suggests that almost always the SCOTUS will overrule the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). But does it need to revisit something it already dealt with? Even Crouch touches that aspect (see the above post).

In other news, yesterday there was a publication from Nagesh Rao, who is described as “a former U.S. patent examiner and senior policy advisor with the Department of Commerce-U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He represents the United States as an Eisenhower Fellow and advisor to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Lemelson Invention Ambassadors Program.”

“Rao explains that “if not for low-quality patents […] we would not even be having this discussion right now.””Rao decided to write for The Hill about an Apple case against an Android OEM. It was the biggest Android OEM at the time the lawsuit was filed. He said that the “Supreme Court could strengthen the patent system” and by strengthen he means make more strict, not what “STRONGER” means in that infamous bill (“The STRONGER Patents Act” is reducing their quality to spur frivolous litigation).

Rao explains that “if not for low-quality patents […] we would not even be having this discussion right now.”

People inside the EPO have told us that highly dubious patents (EPs) are being granted to Apple in Europe as well. It’s a global problem.

Patent quality is brought up by Rao as follows:

I mentioned patent quality is at the core of this case. As a former U.S. patent examiner that’s an issue I feel very strongly about. After all, if not for low-quality patents (it’s not just my opinion, the U.S. appeals court that originally found some of Apple’s controversial patents to be invalid would likely agree), we would not even be having this discussion right now.

The Supreme Court should hear this case and seize the opportunity to defend higher patent quality for a number of reasons – an issue that the USPTO has for years attempted to address, and made great strides in assuring. And in what some view as a positive step towards review, on Monday, the Court asked the acting U.S. Solicitor General to weigh in on the case.

We certainly hope that the Supreme Court will assess this case and overturn it in favour of Free software (Android). In this day and age when software is free (usually in terms of freedom and also price) there’s no room for all this ‘taxation’ by declining firms — at least in the mobile sector — such as Apple.

08.02.17

Growing Threat to Free/Libre Software From Software Patents: Apple, Microsoft and Nokia Charge Ahead

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 7:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We have warned about this for over 7 years (since the time when we made the cartoon below)

Patent stooges

Summary: The triplet of phone companies with dying ambitions (or declining market share) and just a big pile of patents is still a potent threat to the success of (GNU/)Linux-powered devices which now dominate the market

THE menace which is software patents has been more or less the basis for the existence of Techrights. We have done this for nearly 11 years.

“Even Android, which nobody can honestly claim to be a “failure”, is Free/Libre at its core (AOSP).”Yesterday, to our surprise, IAM put “the rise and rise of open source” on the cover (sort of). It’s in this introductory post’s headline and it says: “Another big change over the last decade has been open source software’s emergence as the primary underpinning of so many high-tech products.”

Even Android, which nobody can honestly claim to be a “failure”, is Free/Libre at its core (AOSP).

This probably alludes to this article by the publisher’s loudest pusher of software patents, Richard Lloyd. He wrote (outside the paywall): “Open source software has come to dominate the underlying infrastructure of much of the world’s technology. But with success have come the inevitable growing pains…”

“It’s no secret that software patents are probably the biggest barrier to Free/Libre (sometimes called “Open Source”) software.”Due to the paywall we can read no further, but we are pretty certain he is talking about patents (because it’s Lloyd, not just because it’s IAM).

It’s no secret that software patents are probably the biggest barrier to Free/Libre (sometimes called “Open Source”) software. I routinely chat about this with the founder of Free software, Richard Stallman (as I last did yesterday). But software patents are a profound threat to software development in general, not just Free software. That’s a very important point.

The matter of fact is, software patents are inherently incompatible with free distribution of software; in the case of proprietary software, this impacts pricing. Yesterday, a “New Podcast Series” was announced [1, 2] in a press release that said: “Shortly after Versata discovered Ford’s secretly-developed, copycat software, Ford raced to file a secret lawsuit in federal court. Ford sought a federal judge to recognize Ford’s copycat software as not infringing upon Versata’s software patents.”

“The matter of fact is, software patents are inherently incompatible with free distribution of software; in the case of proprietary software, this impacts pricing.”This is a case which we wrote about before. It’s about proprietary software and software patents. Just because something is proprietary software doesn’t mean a patent fight against it is in our interest; in fact, what we preferably want is to bring proprietary software vendors over to our side. Some of them already advocate Alice and openly oppose software patents.

Incidentally, earlier this week we said that software patents from Nokia are a threat to Android and GNU/Linux (a view which was reinforced by IAM the following day). The British technology publishers finally catch up with the news and sent to us by a reader this morning was another British article. The reader was quoting this passage: “It has not been a bad year for Nokia, despite appearances, and the firm has just welcomed a €1.7bn cash payment from Apple for some intellectual property {sic} hoo-hah.”

“As for Microsoft, its “Linux”-related patent deals with LG and Samsung go more than 10 years back.”See what Microsoft turned Nokia into? We were right all along about this.

Apple too continues to battle Android using patents. Yesterday, for example, Managing IP said: “The Northern District of California has ruled that the article of manufacture issue has not been waived in Samsung’s bid for a retrial of its design patents dispute with Apple. But Judge Koh deferred consideration of whether a new trial is necessary until further briefing”

This has gone on for half a decade. Going further back, Apple’s fight against HTC goes more than 7 years back. As for Microsoft, its “Linux”-related patent deals with LG and Samsung go more than 10 years back. It’s not hard to see the pattern and identify the main enemies.

07.30.17

Microsoft’s (Patent) War on GNU/Linux Continues, But It’s Disguised Using Intermediaries

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 2:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft and trolls

Summary: A look at Microsoft’s latest manoeuvres that implant patent traps in Linux and have patents passed to patent aggressors, which in turn go after original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that distribute GNU/Linux

THE previous post was about companies that choose to use patents for pure aggression (even pro-actively). They typically use terms like “protection” or “defense”, but they are not the defendants. They’re the bullies. Such is the case with Microsoft, which leverages software patents (granted by the USPTO) against companies all around the world. Microsoft typically uses proxies to do the litigation (for fear it might otherwise damage the image of Microsoft). Almost every day we still see some gullible journalists who mindlessly repeat the “Microsoft loves Linux” jingle.

“Microsoft typically uses proxies to do the litigation (for fear it might otherwise damage the image of Microsoft).”Let something be very clear; Microsoft still attacks GNU/Linux with patents; pretty hard in fact. Silently, Microsoft uses patents to compel companies to pre-install Microsoft programs (even on operating systems such as Android) and sometimes — as the lawsuit against Samsung served to show — Microsoft takes the aggression public (outside the back room) by filing lawsuits and flinging a lot of weak patents at the defendant, in order to pressure towards quick (albeit ruinous) settlement.

Microsoft is not a reformed company; it’s actively taxing everything in an effort to raise costs (or “rents”) associated with production and distribution, even of mere software, i.e. no devices/hardware sold. See what Azure has become patents-wise [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. Using various consortia (like those of the Linux Foundation), Microsoft also acts like a Trojan horse. It’s trying to add patents-encumbered ‘standards’ to all sorts of things. 3 days ago Tuxera resurfaced again, this time promoting a Microsoft patent trap (and tax) inside Linux with the promotional headline “Tuxera FAT+ File System for Embedded Systems is Compatible with FAT32, Faster, and Supports Files up to 16TB” (putting aside GPL issues, not just patent issues).

“Microsoft is not a reformed company; it’s actively taxing everything in an effort to raise costs (or “rents”) associated with production and distribution, even of mere software, i.e. no devices/hardware sold.”To make matters worse, a couple of days ago MOSAID resurfaced again in “Conversant” clothing (it changed its name after all the negative publicity) and this pro-patent trolls site put a happy face on it. A Microsoft-connected patent troll (which Microsoft passed Nokia patents to) comes to Europe and IAM seems satisfied. “The NPE has seen mixed results in its attempts to monetise the portfolio,” it wrote, “although recently it has notched up significant court victories in the US against LG and Apple. Despite those wins, filing this latest case in London shows that, like many patent owners that have become frustrated with the US courts, Conversant believes that in certain circumstances Europe offers a much more conducive climate for patent assertion.”

It means trolling, not “climate for patent assertion.” Disregard these euphemisms. As noted above, they also go after Android OEMs (not just the likes of Apple). They are doing this already. And in Europe! For those who missed it, Ericsson's troll is doing this as well in Europe. It has become a growing problem and potentially a massive headache for firms in Europe.

No company in Europe, however, has been a bigger ‘troll’ than Nokia, especially after Microsoft took charge. As we showed earlier this month, Nokia now targets Android OEMs with its patents.

“No company in Europe, however, has been a bigger ‘troll’ than Nokia, especially after Microsoft took charge.”Having already assigned, at the behest and request of Microsoft, some of its patents to the above patent troll, Nokia now goes further. “Microsoft Transfers 500 Nokia Design Patents To HMD Global,” said a report some days ago, but nobody else seems to have covered it. “None of the involved parties have yet issued a comment on the matter in any capacity,” the report said. So they pass 500 patents and nobody says a thing? I informed the Linux Foundation about it (2 days ago), but have heard nothing since.

Is Microsoft still using Nokia as a patent attack vector against Microsoft’s rivals?

Here are the details:

Microsoft transferred approximately 500 Nokia-related design patents to HMD Global Oy, according to the filings uncovered in the database of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The patent portfolio that the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant yielded to the Finnish tech company doesn’t represent the entirety of Microsoft’s remaining Nokia-related holdings, with the company’s mobile division still owning around 200 design patents that it originally acquired following its purchase of Nokia in mid-2014. It’s currently unclear whether the patents that have now changed hands were part of the original deal that saw Microsoft sell Nokia to the Foxconn-owned FIH Mobile for $350 million and HMD Global Oy being granted a license by Nokia to develop and sell new devices under its brand, or if the transfer was negotiated at a later date.

For those who view it as benign, mind the role of HMD after Microsoft essentially destroyed Nokia. It’s more like a licensor. Microsoft turned Nokia into a patent troll that attacks Microsoft’s rivals. It’s even in the news today. A few days ago a reader sent us this link, quoting the following passage:

The lawsuit, the second high-profile patent dispute between Apple and Nokia in the last decade, began last year when Nokia accused Apple of infringing on dozens of patents it owns, as well as patents owned by Nokia subsidiaries.

Yes, “Nokia subsidiaries.” The same old trick. Microsoft too has all sorts of subsidiaries that act like classic patent trolls.

“For those who view it as benign, mind the role of HMD after Microsoft essentially destroyed Nokia.”Tom Hochstatter‏, a patent professional, asked Unified Patents: “Is Nokia considered at troll? Nokia gets $2 billion from Apple $AAPL for #patent infringement…”

He linked to this article, but it’s all over the news today (even though it’s a Sunday), e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4]. This is about software patents too; they’re definitely in the mix. As one article put it, “Nokia alleged Apple of 32 patent infringements related to display, user interface, software, antenna, chip-set, and video encoding…”

“Microsoft too has all sorts of subsidiaries that act like classic patent trolls.”A lot of these are pure software.

When does Nokia sue or settle with Microsoft? Well, the answer here says it all really. Nokia and Microsoft are in this together.

Here is how AOL framed it 2 days ago:

After a quick fight, Apple and Nokia settled a patent lawsuit back in May. But the two companies didn’t comment on the value of this settlement. While terms of the deal are still undisclosed, Nokiamob first spotted that Nokia announced that it has received a $2 billion upfront cash payment from Apple (€1.7 billion).

[...]

It’s going to be interesting to look at Nokia’s upcoming quarterly earnings release to figure out how much Apple is paying for this agreement. But there’s one thing for sure — Nokia must be quite happy with this new revenue stream.

At whose expense?

“Android OEMs are already affected by this and some need to shell out money to avoid being sued.”Not only Apple is impacted.

Android OEMs are already affected by this and some need to shell out money to avoid being sued. BlackBerry, for that matter, is on a similar boat, except without Microsoft on it. BlackBerry too has become a patent parasite, suing companies in the Eastern District of Texas as it cannot sell enough products to survive. Some people evidently continue to worship BlackBerry’s patents. If only they knew what BlackBerry has truly become…

Our Wiki page about Nokia chronicled its various attacks on Android over the years; don’t be mistaken by the company’s new Android phones (or BlackBerry’s). They take advantage of Android (because there’s nothing else they can use; iOS is an Apple monopoly) while suing fellow Android OEMs.

“Microsoft — more so than Apple — does a lot of these patent battles via intermediaries and the mainstream media rarely bothers mentioning that. Instead it’s obsessing over “Microsoft loves Linux” and advertising proprietary Microsoft software as if it’s a “Linux” thing.”Suffice to say, what makes matters even worse is that Apple too sues Android OEMs. Florian Müller has the latest on the Samsung case. “The parties have until Tuesday to propose a briefing schedule, and a case management conference will be held on Wednesday,” he wrote this weekend. And in other noteworthy news, Apple is being sued again. “Florida company CustomPlay filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple today,” Mac Rumours said on Thursday, “claiming a Siri feature that allows fourth-generation Apple TV users to rewatch a portion of video with closed captioning copies its movie companion software.”

Timothy B. Lee seems to be back at Ars Technica and he wrote about it too. “It’s a problem everyone has had,” he said, when “you’re watching a movie and don’t catch a key bit of dialogue. In September 2015, Apple unveiled a new feature for Apple TV that solves the problem. Users can ask “what did she say?” and Siri will skip back 15 seconds and temporarily enable captions.”

Software patents again.

But the bottom line is, patents that oughtn’t even be valid (under Alice/Section 101) are actively used to elevate the price of products with GNU and/or Linux in them. Microsoft — more so than Apple — does a lot of these patent battles via intermediaries and the mainstream media rarely bothers mentioning that. Instead it’s obsessing over “Microsoft loves Linux” and advertising proprietary Microsoft software as if it's a "Linux" thing.

“Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering.”

Mark Shuttleworth

07.26.17

Latest High-Profile Patent Cases Against Apple and What These Mean to Linux-Powered Competitors of Apple

Posted in Apple, Courtroom, Patents at 6:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A look at the latest patent news and developments surrounding Apple products (and the possible ramifications for OEMs that directly compete against Apple)

EARLIER today Reuters reported that “Apple [is] ordered to pay $506 million to university in patent dispute”, alluding to a decision that’s two days old:

A U.S. judge on Monday ordered Apple Inc to pay $506 million for infringing on a patent owned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s patent licensing arm, more than doubling the damages initially imposed on Apple by a jury.

U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison added $272 million to a $234 million jury verdict the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation won against Apple in October 2015. Conley said WARF is owed additional damages plus interest because Apple continued to infringe the patent, which relates to computer processor technology, until it expired in December 2016.

This was referenced by few news sites other than Apple-connected or Apple-leaning sites. We wrote about this case several times before; it’s not about software patents, but the penalty seems to be huge and it’s rather obscene that institutions funded by public money use that money to pursue patents and then increase the prices of products through litigation (often privatised for private gain/profit).

Nokia Still Passive-Aggressive

Microsoft has turned Nokia into a reckless, merciless patent troll which preys on Microsoft’s competitors (not just Apple; this has been dangerous to Android OEMs too). See the new Reuters report titled “Patents boost to offset weak networks for Nokia” (via Tom Hochstatter‏, who remarked: “Patents boost to offset weak networks for Nokia – as well they (and other large corporations) should.”).

Nokia seems to be using patents as a sort of ‘insurance policy’ and is suing companies, not just passing patents to trolls (at Microsoft’s instruction). As the article put it:

Telecoms gear maker Nokia is likely to see a boost to quarterly earnings on Thursday from a recent patent licensing deal with Apple that offsets weak demand in its main equipment business from network operators.

However, investors have grown more nervous on the stock since loss-making Swedish rival Ericsson slashed its forecast on the global network market last week.

In a Reuters poll of analysts, Nokia’s networks sales are seen falling 3 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, while revenues from its technologies unit, including patent royalties, are seen up 40 percent following the deal with Apple.

It doesn’t mention what Nokia is doing to Android OEMs now.

Qualcomm in the Corner

Then there’s Qualcomm, whose situation we wrote about a few days ago. As CCIA put it yesterday:

Last week, CCIA filed a statement on the public interest in Qualcomm v. Apple at the International Trade Commission (ITC), Qualcomm’s newest attempt to use patent law to reinforce their monopoly power over the baseband processor market.

In a response filed yesterday, Qualcomm accused CCIA of partaking in a “coordinated effort aimed at misdirecting the [ITC], all but ignoring the statutory public interest factors.”1 Unfortunately, Qualcomm’s response fails to actually address the filing’s criticisms. Qualcomm’s engaging in some misdirection of their own.

CCIA’s complaint was mentioned prior to this by Florian Müller, who stated:

Earlier this month, Qualcomm filed an ITC complaint in pursuit of a U.S. import ban against Apple’s iPhones (except for iPhones coming with a Qualcomm baseband chipset). Last week, Apple, Intel and two industries groups (CCIA and ACT) filed public-interest statements seeking to dissuade the U.S. trade agency from granting Qualcomm its requested relief and proposing, at a minimum, that the public-interest aspects of this case be referred to an Administrative Law Judge.

An outright decision by the ITC not to investigate Qualcomm’s complaint would be unusual and I wouldn’t bet on this happening, but in this particular case there are reasons for which Qualcomm would probably be denied an import ban at the end of the proceedings even if it prevailed on the merits (if it came to worst, by a presidential veto).

As we stated earlier this year, if Apple succeeds in this battle, it would actually be beneficial to Android (and Tizen, Sailfish OS etc.) OEMs. They too are suffering from Qualcomm.

ACT is a Microsoft front group, but this stance (as elucidated above) isn’t too surprising because Qualcomm has patent disputes with Microsoft as well.

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