Patents on trivial concepts can’t carry water for Apple
Summary: Apple’s attacks on Android (and by extension Linux) run short of results
DESPITE Apple’s ‘generous’ payments to IDG (e.g. for advertisements), IDC‘s parent company, IDC now reports (as widely covered in the media) that Apple is unlikely to ever catch up with Android and Apple’s stock rapidly collapsed recently, costing the company around $100 billion in overall value.
Apple saw the writings on the wall some years ago. It started suing Android half a decade ago, taking advantage of a notorious patent system (the USPTO) that is such an utter joke that it actually let McDonalds have patents on making burgers (patents protectionism) just when in the US, based on this new report, some people are copyrighting a chicken sandwich (or at least trying to). Remember that Oracle attacks Android not only using patents but also copyrights (on APIs). CPTN, a consortium built around Novell’s patents with Apple, Microsoft and Oracle at its core, shows that there is a proprietary software collusion against Android/Linux. Microsoft has been destroying Nokia to turn it into a patent troll, using its patents to feed Android-hostile trolls like MOSAID.
Outside the US (although increasingly in the US too) Apple has not been so lucky when it comes to fighting Android. Watch Europe for instance. Aside from the fact that the system isn’t biased in favour of US companies (like the ITC tends to be), Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent, to give just one example, is nothing more than an old gate lock (thousands of years old) borrowed for digital metaphors. It’s just not patentable in many places, including in Europe. Apple has ultimately embarrassed itself by even trying to follow Steve Jobs' "thermonuclear" (apocalyptic) plan.
“Apple’s anti-Android/anti-Samsung patents are an endangered species in every jurisdiction in which they get challenged (and may soon be an extinct species in Europe)…”
–Florian MüllerAccording to Florian Müller, who has been working for Microsoft (and based on some reports also for Apple) as a sort of lobbyist, Apple continues to be defeated in Europe. To put it in his own words: “The spring 2014 armistice with Google has a major downside for Apple: it related only to infringement cases, not to challenges to the validity of its patents, a fact that was not clear at the time of the original announcement. Five months ago, the European Patent Office revoked Apple’s iconic rubberbanding patent on a Europe-wide basis. The sole remaining party opposing the grant of that patent was Motorola. I have no doubt that Google (not Lenovo) is the driving force behind this continuing effort to shoot down Apple patents, and I guess Google is paying Quinn Emanuel for representing Motorola in cases such as that one.
“Today, Google and QE’s continuing efforts have succeeded once again (and most probably not for the last time): the Federal Court of Justice, Germany’s highest court (besides, theoretically, the Federal Constitutional Court, which has never heard a patent case in its history), today announced (German-language press release) affirmance of the Federal Patent Court’s April 2013 decision to invalidate the German part of Apple’s European slide-to-unlock patent.”
In another article from Müller the failures of Apple are shown to be broader than just in Europe. To quote: “Apple’s anti-Android/anti-Samsung patents are an endangered species in every jurisdiction in which they get challenged (and may soon be an extinct species in Europe), except for the Northern District of California, where Judge Lucy Koh has so far acted as if she was the World Wildlife Fund for Apple patents. But a tipping point may have been reached at which conservation will come to an end even in her district court.”
When even Müller has no favourable opinion on Apple’s case it’s easy to conclude that Apple totally lost the plot.
Let’s hope that Apple will rot on its own, without (any longer) trying to take Android down along with it. █
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Protectionism regime has gone metaphysical
Victorian arcade in Manchester
Summary: Today’s roundup of patent news, focusing exclusively on software patents and patent scope, not the scapegoat which is patent trolls
THE patent landscape keeps changing (it’s dynamic just like every law, never static), and the more it’s subjected to public scrutiny, the more likely it is to serve the public’s interests, as opposed to corporate interests (the interests of the tiny minority which is extremely affluent). Today we break down our post into several sections as follows.
Patents Scope in the European Patent Office (EPO)
It has been quite some time since we last wrote about the EPO, but it turns out that the Board of Appeal which Battistelli and his goons try to silently crush (or at least make more subservient) is debating patent scope and doing the right thing sometimes. “The application was refused on appeal for lack of inventive step and lack of clarity,” says IP Kat.
Alicestorm Continues to Eliminate Software Patents
“Let’s hope that Alicestorm will discourage companies, or even patent trolls (JDate has begun acting like one), from blackmailing companies using software patents.”Alicestorm is a term coined to demonstrate just how profound an impact the case of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank has had on patent scope. “US Pat 6,625,582, Converting future retirement,” wrote Patent Buddy, has just been “Killed by 101/Alice @ CAFC” [with analytics at the Patent Buddy Web site].
Chalk up another defeat for software patents (in CAFC even, despite its notorious patent maximalism).
We recently delved into the bullying (using patents) by the JDate 'meat market'. The company, as it turns out, pursues patents on software, despite lots of prior art and obvious triviality, and then uses these patents to bully competitors, even though a court (after a very expensive legal process) would likely invalidate such patents. It’s like SLAPP-type abuse by JDate. As this very long new article puts it, there is nothing novel here. “Does it change anything if it’s on a computer or the Internet?”
Addressing this question, the author says: “This is the question that has been vexing patent types for some time, but patent experts feel that the Supreme Court finally answered the question last year with the unanimous Supreme Court Decision of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l.
“In that case, CLS Bank had software to serve as an intermediary in financial transactions, holding funds in escrow, work that financial intermediaries have been doing as long as humans have traded with money. The Alice Corporation didn’t do any work of that kind and had never created any actual software, but it had a patent describing how it could work using a computer.
“In his opinion on behalf the court, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “The relevant question is whether the claims here do more than simply instruct the practitioner to implement the abstract idea of intermediated settlement on a generic computer. They do not.””
Let’s hope that Alicestorm will discourage companies, or even patent trolls (JDate has begun acting like one), from blackmailing companies using software patents.
Facebook’s Surveillance Software Patents
“Facebook Patents Technology That Could Allow Banks And Businesses to Discriminate Based on Social Connections,” according to this article from AOL. A lot of the fury is directed at Facebook’s privacy violations (as if that’s news), but what about the company’s efforts to patent software — patents which the company sometimes bullies with?
What we find scandalous here is that Facebook patents software, but AOL looks at it from another angle. To quote: “Facebook, the website everyone and their sister, brother, cousin, uncle, and friends you didn’t even know you had is a member of just secured a patent on Tuesday that could help filter spam and offensive content and improve searches. Isn’t that great? Less spam and no more nude pics, Obama monkey memes, and tea-billy racist outbursts, but there’s more. A lot more and it’s not good. The technology could also allow lenders to use a borrower’s social network to determine whether he or she is a good credit risk. Let that sink in.
“Got that? Your Facebook friends and their spending habits, credit rating, behavior – hell, maybe even their character, could determine whether or not you get a loan and presumably how much interest is going to be applied to that loan.
Credit where due: “The patent was uncovered by Mikhail Avady, founder of SmartUp, a legal technology company in Atlanta. Fortune, CNN, TNW News, and VB all say they reached out to Facebook for comment, but none have heard back, according to the articles.”
In case it’s not obvious, we discourage the use of Facebook for anything at all. Facebook servers need to be blocked at operating system/router level, permanently. Facebook is an attack on the Web and nobody truly needs Facebook. It’s Facebook that needs people, not the other way around.
‘Trade’ Agreements for Patent Loopholes
We recently wrote about how so-called 'trade' agreements were exploited by software patents proponents in New Zealand. Now we learn that patent ‘reform’ in the US (not really the required reform) is closely connected to other issues such as the so-called ‘trade’ agreements, notably TPP. To quote the Washington Examiner: “The House of Representatives has delayed voting on the Innovation Act, a bill designed to curb patent trolling, until after the August recess. But patent abuse still finds itself part of the legislative discussion, in this case with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”
“Only in secret, when few of each country’s richest people collude, can such deals be tolerated.”To quote the key part: “The concern centers on sovereign patent funds (SPFs), government-funded organizations that acquire and leverage patents in pursuit of national economic objectives. Ideally, they should act as one-stop clearinghouses where a person or entity can acquire a bundle of interrelated patent licenses instead of negotiating with every individual patent holder. Given that the average smartphone incorporates as many as 250,000 patents, patent pools provide a function in streamlining access to IP rights.”
Patents are a tool of protectionism, perpetuating injustice and social/financial disparity. Why would any country other than patent glorifiers sign these unacceptable ‘trade’ agreements? Only in secret, when few of each country’s richest people collude, can such deals be tolerated. These people are all traitors to their country, especially to their people.
Google’s ‘Good’ Software Patents
Here we go again. The IEEE, steward of leading international journals that I used to do peer reviews for back in my twenties, is doing some shameless Google PR. The “our [software] patents are good patents” nonsense received coverage from Spectrum. It’s that same tactic that IBM once used as part of its PR strategy, portraying itself as a big friend of GNU/Linux. It is still out there. After setting up OIN (headed by an IBM lawyer) we learned that it was an entity so useless against patent trolls that one may wonder whose interests it really serves. Google is now trying to do the same thing. Google keeps saying it will “help startups” (similar to “think about the children!”) by freeing up its patents, even though (as some sites have pointed out by now, even in the corporate media) this helps in no way against patent trolls, since they basically have no actual products to sue over.
Now that a Google-backed company is finding itself as a victim of patent trolls (new article from corporate media), where is Google to help? Where it Alphabet? Nothing.
“We quickly attracted attention,” said the company. “We were living the American Dream. Until a patent troll — a company whose only business is suing legitimate businesses to force expensive settlements — hit us with a frivolous lawsuit.”
So where is Google with its ‘good’ patents that are intended to help startups? Oh, that’s right, there’s no solution there for patent trolls. This alone (situations such as this) helps justify a patent reform — like those delayed until Congress returns to normal sessions after the summer’s vacation. █
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Patents not on engineering (or physical products) anymore
Summary: News about patents from all across the Web, placing special emphasis on software patents and how these affect Free software projects, including Linux and Android
THIS week’s patents roundup revolves around practicing companies that act in a way which is almost indistinguishable from patent trolls. As we have said here for several years, the term “patent trolls” can be misleading because many large companies act in the same way but don’t get labeled “trolls”, mostly because of their size. It means that a fight against “patent trolls” often turns out to be a fight over scale, waged by large corporations against smaller ones. Check again who is behind the PATENT Act [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
Today’s post brings together several stories and themes/strands in order to keep readers abreast of the latest developments.
Open Invention Network
We have spent over 8 years writing about the Open Invention Network (better known as OIN) and why it cannot effectively protect Free software projects. We also exchanged many E-mails with the OIN and some trolls. We saw how toothless the OIN can be in many scenarios and we challenged the OIN over it. I spoke in length with their CEO a few times over the telephone and I still think that it helps legitimise software patents and rarely achieves very much, except promote the interests of large corporations (like those which founded it and still fund it).
Earlier this morning FOSS Force published this very long interview with Deb Nicholson, who had worked for the FSF before she moved to OIN. This interview is very good and Nicholson’s views on patents are fine. We shared them here before.
“My work at OIN involves a lot of research,” Nicholson says. “I read academic papers on litigation trends and try to stay on top of who’s getting sued this week. It also involves a lot of behind the scenes emailing. I have lots of informal conversations with people about how you run a free and open source software project. Sometimes, they don’t realize that lots of other companies are succeeding with FOSS business models and shared community resources. Once they see that it can be done, they often feel more confident.”
Nicholson then speaks about the role of SCOTUS in lowering the risk of software patents.
“The Supreme Court,” she explains, “has given the lower courts the tools to rule against two specific categories of vague and frivolous patents. This is great for companies that have the cash and the time to go to court. For companies that don’t want to fight in court — which is lots of them, because it really is expensive and time-consuming — the letters will keep coming. Plus, there are still plenty of overly broad or obvious patents on the books that may not be affected by the recent rulings. So, things are improving but I wouldn’t say that we’re finished.”
She makes an important point regarding the cost of litigation, but the matter of fact is, USPTO examiners are now tougher on software patents and fewer companies (or shell firms) are eager to assert software patents for fear of losing them. Not only the extorted party (usually developers) is scared of the courts; the plaintiff, e.g. a patent troll, is too. What SCOTUS has done is, in our humble assessment, the best news in nearly a decade. We cannot recall anything bigger or better in terms of magnitude, at least not when it comes to systematically squashing software patents (not one patent at the time as per the EFF’s much-advertised earlier efforts, dubbed “patent busting”).
The Finjan-led patent extortion crusade was mentioned here just weeks ago (they are Microsoft-connected) and now, just weeks later, this firm’s troll entity (Finjan Holdings) gets extortion money from a really nasty company, Blue Coat, which some say the EPO hired to spy on people like yours truly and EPO staff. “Finjan Holdings,” as a trolls expert explains, is “a patent-licensing company operating in the cybersecurity space” and it has just “won a hefty $39.5 million jury verdict (PDF) on Tuesday, when a San Jose jury found that Blue Coat Systems infringed five of its patents.”
Keep an eye on Finjan, not just because of its Microsoft connections. Finjan has become a very malicious company. It deserves to go out of business. The sooner, the better.
Cisco, now known for its surveillance and back doors (which is even openly discusses when applying for standards), is receiving negative publicly because as its profits run dry (or more meager), it increasingly turns into more of a troll, just like Microsoft and Apple. Is this what Cisco wants to be renowned (or notorious) for? Remember that TrollTracker, a fighter against patent trolls. was a Cisco lawyer, but Cisco is now turning into what it fought. Arista, according to this article, says that Cisco is “Very Much Like a Patent Troll” (that’s the headline) and it’s coming all the way from the top. To quote the article, “Arista’s top lawyer used the company’s earnings call for trash-talk Thursday, saying Cisco is “behaving very much like a patent troll” in its intellectual property lawsuit against Arista.
“Arista Networks Inc. CEO Jayshree Ullal kicked off the badmouthing: “Despite all the overheated rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Cisco blogs about Arista’s brazen copying, we think the only thing brazen about the suit is the extreme length Cisco has gone to,” she said. “Our customers have shown unwavering support.”
“Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents.”“Arista Vice President and General Counsel Marc Taxay agreed. “Ironically … it appears to us at any rate that Cisco is behaving very much like a patent troll, which is pretty much what they’ve spent the last decade condemning.” Cisco is claiming patents for widely implemented features and functionality that exist on a broad range of switches today, and some of the patents affect features the patents were never intended to cover, Taxay said.”
The Wall Street Journal, taking note of “expensive legal battle with Cisco”, also expresses concerns about this case. “That may give some investors pause,” the author claims, “especially when Arista remains embroiled in an expensive legal battle with Cisco, which has accused it of infringing on patents.”
Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents. Cisco used to be on the defensive, but now it’s on the ofsensive, and not against trolls. For a company that is eager to be seen as a FOSS and GNU/Linux supporter, this surely is a dumb strategy whose gains — if any — are massively outweighed by public image erosion.
A new article from Timothy B. Lee helps chastise the bully called JDate, which we wrote about very recently. “JDate,” he explains, “recently sued JSwipe, a mobile dating app for Jews that works like Tinder. Most media coverage has focused on mocking JDate for essentially claiming that it has a monopoly on certain uses of the letter J.
“But in some ways, the part of JDate’s lawsuit that really merits mockery is the patent infringement claims. JDate is suing JSwipe for infringing a broad patent that essentially claims the concept of using a computer to match pairs of users who express interest in each other. The lawsuit illustrates the continuing need for patent reform, because the current system makes it too expensive for defendants to challenge dubious patents.”
There are some interesting comments about JDate here. Although this Web site only targets a small niche, we strongly encourage all readers to boycott JDate, or else they’ll continue their shameful bullying, perhaps inspiring other companies to do the same.
The Economist Versus Patents
The Economist, interestingly and surprisingly enough (given its strong pro-business bias), chastises the patents regime in at least two articles this month. One is titled “A question of utility” and says in its summary: “Patents are protected by governments because they are held to promote innovation. But there is plenty of evidence that they do not” (we have covered such evidence for almost a decade).
“The ability to patent,” says the author, “has been extended from physical devices to software and stretches of DNA, not to mention—notably in America—to business processes and financial products.”
Yes, patent scope is a huge part of the problem.
“Time to fix patents” is the second such article from The Economist and it too is an assault on the status quo. “Ideas fuel the economy. Today’s patent systems are a rotten way of rewarding them,” said the summary.
Here is a key part of this article: “Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils. An early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor business had to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spur bursts of innovation; instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.”
It is nice to see even The Economist debunking these tiresome myths, many of which still perpetually spread by patent profiteers rather than producing companies. Are we on the cusp of a mindset change?
Patent Propaganda From Lawyers’ Sites
Lawyers’ media, seeking to maximise dependence on patent lawyers, promotes patents on construction in this series that starts with the following paragraph: “In the first of this three part series, clean tech, or green construction, was defined as construction that reduces or minimizes the environmental impact in building construction, operation and use. That article also discussed the importance of building intellectual property walls, and especially with patents, to protect inventions from being incorporated into projects by unlicensed users. Equally important is knowing the patents that may prevent a company from incorporating patented technology for which it has no license. Patent rights can shape an industry; consequently, companies must develop patent strategies. Patents for green construction encompass everything from building materials, to software for optimizing various processes, to green energy systems, amongst others.”
Yes, they even suggest software patents right there.
“The US may not have a world class patent system,” say the patent maximalists of IAM, “but its professionals are second to none” (for taxing by lawyers perhaps). Another site of patent lawyers who lobby for a lot of ludicrous types of patents (including software) pretends that patents take a short time to receive, despite that infamous backlog and these notorious issues which can only be tackled by lowing examination standards, hence granting bogus patents (trivial, and/or with prior art).
“Intellectual property & intangible assets” is the headline of this British article which is so full of nonsense that we don’t know where to start. To quote one part of it: “Newton says the real value in business these days is in knowledge, which is tied up in intellectual property, patents, trademarks and designs.”
That’s nonsense. The term “intellectual property” refers to patents, trademarks, and copyrights, so it cannot be separated as above. Then there are designs, which are already (in most domains) covered by copyrights and if the author wishes to speak about trade secrets, that’s different from all the above and still pertains to knowledge, without having to introduce that vague notion of “intellectual property” and “intangible assets” — both horrible propaganda terms that equate ideas with objects.
“Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.”The article titled “9 Tech Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry” talks about proprietary software that patent lawyers use to keep track of their work. “Experts say the market for legal technology is as much as $400 billion,” the article says, but there is nothing like a citation to support such a figure.
“We hear the same complaints over and over every time Congress tries to improve the patent system,” Matt Levy wrote the other day. “In fact, we’ve been hearing some of them for over 70 years.” Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.
Design Patents and Linux Gadgets
Speaking of design patents, watch what patent maximalists celebrated this weekend: “The text cluster provided here shows that much of Hasbro’s portfolio of 1,772 patents (339 of which are active) are related to toy vehicles, electronic games and ornamental designs, indicating a fair amount of design patents.”
The notion of “design patents” has got to be one of the most loathsome and ridiculous. The article “Apple v. Samsung and a Fight Over the Patents for Designs” was published by Forbes the other day, reminding us of so-called design patents (such as the widely-ridiculed 'rounded corners' patents). Apple is very desperate to stop Android (and by extension Linux), but doing so by bullying with outright bogus patents isn’t the way to compete. CPTN members (i.e. holders of Novell’s patents) Oracle, Apple and Microsoft have been systematically attacking Android using patents and Oracle now takes this further. “Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Java copyrights probably won’t be back in a courtroom again until next year,” wrote The Register, “but in the meantime, Oracle has asked the court to let it expand the scope of its complaint to include events that have occurred since it was first filed in 2010.”
This forever-legal-limbo scenario helps hurt Android, so we cannot just pretend that software patents are not a problem. More FOSS and GNU/Linux site must learn to address these issues as a matter of priority. Not enough are doing this at the moment and it definitely helps our foes. Many people seem to forget that Microsoft still attacks GNU/Linux using patents (albeit more discreetly than before). █
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Looking for royalties — no matter how minuscule — on every Linux device sold
Summary: Microsoft is very desperate to extract money out of Linux (which has won major battles and billions of users), using software patents and royalty stacking with help from patent trolls
ONE MUST be deluded or seriously misinformed to actually believe that Microsoft is doing well, having just laid off many employees, admitted billions in losses, permanently ended many of its products, and then revealed a widely-loathed version of Windows which many people are simply unwilling to adopt. They won’t ‘upgrade’ to it, not even for ‘free’ (a false promise even for those who 'upgrade'). Our confidential sources inside Microsoft say that even Microsoft staff doesn’t like Vista 10.
At the same time that Vista 10 was released Bill Gates, who is officially back to Microsoft’s management team, dumped his Microsoft shares by the millions (see “Warning Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) optimists! William Gates just Unloaded 4,000,000 shares.”)
Useds [sic] of Vista 10 don’t like it, so they use other software and defect away from what Microsoft is offering. Based on silence from Microsoft, not many people even install Vista 10. In the first day, despite it being a ‘free’ upgrade, less than 1% of useds actually moved to it and Microsoft has been tight-lipped since then. Every other number has been unofficial, speculative, and patently false, for reasons that we explained here before.
We now see more hogwash from the trend-setting media. Referring to Microsoft’s losses, the author says this “was only the third loss in its history as a public company.”
Not really, as there is a long history of financial fraud (false reporting of revenue and income). The New York Times trusts Microsoft’s claims far too irresponsibly. It’s just gullible. It also promotes the illusion of Microsoft layoffs not being Microsoft’s fault. Remember that Nokia did much better before Microsoft hijacked the company, initially with a mole. Microsoft layoffs are not just a Nokia thing. See this video from a guy whom Microsoft laid off “after 15 years of service” (to use his own words).
IBTimes, another misleading publication (usually misleads in favour of big businesses), pretends that Microsoft was “third among global smartphones”.
“That’s a low bar,” explained iophk to us. “But the ibtimes lumps several categories together to boost appearances of Microsoft market share.” Yes, they make it seem like Microsoft had nearly 4% of the market. In reality it’s far lower than that. Microsoft will soon head down towards 1% or 0%, considering its abandonment — indefinitely — of Windows Phone/Mobile.
A few days ago many news sites (e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4]) covered Nokia’s sale of HERE Maps for just over 3 billion dollars. Recall old articles such as “Nokia to Pay $8.1 Billion for Navteq”. “Contrast with sale price from a few days ago,” iophk wrote to us. It’s now down to less than half, so Microsoft’s damage to Nokia goes far beyond just the mobile business. German companies are eating Nokia’s remaining business, so Nokia will soon appear (and function) as nothing but a pile of patents, i.e. a patent troll.
Florian Müller, a German lobbyist who has worked for Microsoft, calls the sale of HERE Maps the “next stage of transformation into patent troll”. Remember that Microsoft already instructed Nokia to pass its patents to trolls such as MOSAID, i.e. trolls with a Linux-hostile track record. MOSAID has renamed itself since, but it’s the same evil entity with the same patents at hand. Microsoft armed MOSAID using Nokia’s patents. Sites like Groklaw didn’t miss that because of the huge number of patents involved. MOSAID is now known as “Conversant”, not to be confused with the Conservancy (pro-GPL).
“Remember that Microsoft already instructed Nokia to pass its patents to trolls such as MOSAID, i.e. trolls with a Linux-hostile track record.”Müller, incidentally, also wrote about Corel suing Microsoft using patents, perpetuating an unverified myth that “Microsoft has numerous patent cross-license agreements in place (including with dozens of smartphone, tablet and netbook manufacturers who pay Microsoft considerable amounts of royalties on devices powered by Google’s Android and Chrome operating systems)” (we do not know if Microsoft gets anything from these, except FUD and leverage). Remember that Microsoft’s goal is not to make Android its own cash cow but to make it uneconomic (not competitive in terms of price) because of many small royalties, aggregated/combined from many non-producing directions/vectors, to ultimately become huge numbers (patent stacking with help from Microsoft-leaning trolls, of which there can be thousands). Consider Intellectual Ventures, which was pretty much the creation of Microsoft and Bill Gates. It already has thousands of proxies (to litigate from) and 2 days ago this bizarre piece was grooming it (“Built By Industry Leading Companies” even though it is undeniably Microsoft connected). This revisionism and grooming of the world’s largest patent troll ought to worry everyone because in recent months Intellectual Ventures repeatedly used software patents to attack Android (we covered this at the time).
Putting aside the unverified claims from Müller (he has pro-Microsoft history and paychecks from Microsoft too), it is interesting to see Corel, which Microsoft destroyed like it later destroyed Novell and Nokia, taking Microsoft to court after all this time.
Another legal battle that made the news last week was to do with Motorola, a steward of Android (under Google) which Microsoft was extorting using patents. Google bought part of Motorola after Microsoft and other Android foes created CPTN and Rockstar, using patents from large companies that they bought. Those same Android foes wanted to buy Motorola’s patents (based on credible reports), so Google had to act fast and prevent that by bidding defensively, even overpaying by a huge margin. If Android foes tried to buy Motorola’s patents to weaponise them as well, having already used patents from companies like Novell and Nortel offensively, who can blame Google for buying Motorola’s patents? And watch what Microsoft is already doing with Nokia’s patents.
“Don’t think that a dying company like Microsoft will just drop dead without a last fight.”The Microsoft-Motorola situation quickly become a Microsoft-Google feud and some days ago Google lost this battle. To quote corporate media (Fortune): “The patent-fueled litigation frenzy among tech companies has finally subsided but, even as firms make nice with each other, there’s a lot of mopping up to do from the earlier fights that peaked around 2012. Take, for example, that time when Google GOOG bought Motorola and its patents in order to fight rivals, including Microsoft MSFT and Apple AAPL , who had ganged up to attack its Android devices.”
There is a lot more coverage in legal sites, legal chronicles, and legal blogs, not to mention Microsoft-friendly sites, pro-Microsoft sites (by design) [1, 2], and much of the corporate media [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], even some smaller news sites [1, 2, 3], some of which focus on law [1, 2]. These all serve to remind us that Microsoft is still attacking Android (and by extension Linux) using software patents. Don’t think that a dying company like Microsoft will just drop dead without a last fight. Secrecy has been Microsoft’s strongest weapon here; it’s a shame that many Linux-leaning sites have been ignoring or overlooking this. █
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Large companies love Android but also love patents
Summary: A survey of last week’s news with special focus on Google and Android, which are trying to coexist and thrive in a world full of patent maximalists
ONCE upon a time there was a giant called Xerox that supposedly changed the world by packaging together components that can help replicate documents on a piece of paper. “Xerox” became a household name (or ‘officehold’ name), much like Hoover or Google, although neither was the first to do what it was doing (e.g. search), they just did something very well, perhaps much better than the rest of their industry, at the time they became synonymous with the function at least. Xerox leaned on patents for protectionism, causing all sorts of well-documented issues (not to be covered today) and IP Troll Tracker tells us that Xerox created an entity or a proxy do do its patent aggression. “Xerox is doing just that,” wrote Steph, “preventing its financial coffers from being depleted by abusing the patent system.”
Blackberry, which seems to be transitioning into an(other) Android OEM, just bought a firm, based on financial news sites. “The company’s software sales rose year-over-year,” says one source, “but some analysts were disappointed with the increase because it also included revenue from the licensing of technology patents.”
So Blackberry is already becoming parasitic with its patents, much as we feared a couple of years ago [1, 2] and a year ago [1, 2], alleging that Blackberry was becoming somewhat of a troll or feeder of so-called ‘patent assertion’ entities. What does Google (the Android steward) say about this now that it works with Blackberry on a more secure Android variant? After all, Free software such as Android is inherently incompatible with patents.
“What does “free patents” even mean? It’s a meaningless term.”As we pointed out the other day, some famous Android backers now turn to patents as well. An article by Glyn Moody has warned that “Chinese Smartphone Leader Xiaomi Adds Special New Feature In Order To Enter US Market — A Patent Hoard”. To quote Moody: “The smartphone sector is undergoing an upheaval at the moment, as Chinese manufacturers move up the global market share rankings. Already, the third, fourth and fifth places are occupied by Chinese companies: Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi. But it’s the last of these that has emerged as the real star. Although Xiaomi was only founded in 2010, in 2014, the company sold 61 million phones, and hopes to sell 100 million in 2015. Much of that growth will come from outside China: Xiaomi has already started selling its products across Southeast Asia, especially in India, as well as in Mexico, Turkey, Russia and Brazil.”
Google does not seem to mind this and just like Tesla or Panasonic, Google now uses its growing pile of patents for publicity stunts. Google can’t fight back against trolls as they have no products, but it sure likes to pretend to be a champion against trolls.
“Google wasting resources to fight patent troll,” wrote the President of the FFII about this, for it “won’t work anyway” (he linked to this article about “Troll Deterrent” and “Google holds patent giveaway for startups to ward off trolls”).
We have found nearly a hundred articles about this (effectively serving to amplify Google PR), including [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. Nobody really challenges Google’s claims. It’s a PR charade. There are headlines like “Google Offers Free Patents To Halt The Trolls”. What does “free patents” even mean? It’s a meaningless term. It’s something we might expect lawyers to say because they compare ideas to “property” and implementation to “rights” (among other nonsensical metaphors).
One maker of many Android-running boards, Qualcomm, is now in trouble in Europe (we covered this last week) because of patent aggression that goes a long way back, elevating prices and marginalising competition. One writer from IDG calls the effort to split Qualcomm “patently absurd”. “The proposed breakup of Qualcomm by activist investment firm Jana Partners,” he wrote, “as reported by the Wall Street Journal this week, would be a blunder of biblical proportions. The equivalent of Delilah cutting off Samson’s hair while he slept, dividing Qualcomm into separately traded semiconductor and technology licensing businesses would produce two companies of lesser value than the former whole.”
The question is, will that reduce Qualcomm’s ability to exploit patents in a predatory fashion? Qualcomm has become very notorious for that (globally, not just in Europe). We’re not concerned about the “value [of] the former whole”, just the fairness of the competition and one’s ability to enter the market. It’s very relevant to Linux and Free software because whether people know this or not, many devices running Linux (more so than Windows) use stuff from Qualcomm and pay patent tax to Qualcomm even if they avoid Qualcomm.
There is some other patent news pertaining to Android, such as Google’s dumb CCTV Glasses (the Android-powered ‘Google Glass’). We are reminder of this effort and the ambition to hoard people’s CCTV stream, to be retained/stored on the server for searching, based on a new patent [1, 2. Google is treating human lives as an inventory or a resource, which raises all sorts of ethical questions. Apple is hardly better though because it wants to collect people’s fingerprints based on a new patent. Apple’s advocacy sites celebrate other dumb patents from Apple. Android is often being attacked by Apple using patents, so this is definitely relevant.
In summary, Android exists in a hostile environment. Despite that, Android has become the most dominant platform in the world (in terms of growth, sale numbers and so on), so we need to watch out for patent threats. There will be more of them in years to come and Microsoft is blackmailing Android supporters using patents, still. █
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Seeing the dark side of Apple…
Summary: Apple is desperately trying to stop Android from increasing its levels of dominance (in phones, tablets, watches, and so on), so Silicon Valley is lining up against Apple, antagonising its misuse/abuse of patents for anticompetitive purposes
APPLE became somewhat of a patent troll around 2010 when it filed its first anti-Android patent lawsuit, having threatened to do the same to Palm years beforehand (Tim Cook played a big role in these threats at the time). Microsoft and Apple are both bullies and they are not hiding it. They really hate Linux; they try to destroy it rather than adopt it like the rest of the industry, especially in Silicon Valley. With the exception of Microsoft, which habitually supports Apple’s court cases against Android, almost every significant company is now supporting Samsung‘s defence against Apple [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Engadget wrote: “Samsung has also found a powerful group of backers in its fight against Apple in court. According to a document unearthed by Inside Sources, Google, Facebook, eBay, Dell, HP and other big tech corporations have submitted a “friend of the court” brief on July 1st, supporting Samsung’s stance. The two companies have been embroiled in legal fisticuffs for years, ever since Apple first filed a lawsuit against Samsung for violating various intellectual properties, such as tap-to-zoom, sinle-finger scrolling and two-finger zooming, as well as edge-to-edge glass design, among other things.”
“Supporting Apple these days is supporting an arrogant bully, hell-bent on destroying Linux.”There is no “patent fight with Samsung” as some media puts it. It is Apple attacking Android by targeting a top Android entity other than Google (it is clear that Google has far greater an incentive to fight back). It is, by extension, an attack on Linux. Apple fans’ site keep bragging about new Apple patents, perhaps not caring to realise that they now support the equivalent of a giant patent troll, the world’s richest troll.
Google, by contrast, is trying to fix the patent system and to reduce litigation. As Mike Masnick put it a few days ago, “Google Revamps Patent Search To Actually Do What Patent Office Should Do” (that’s Masnick’s headline).
Masnick correctly recalls that this is not the first such effort from Google. To quote some background: “A few years ago, Google seemed to downgrade its patent search features, pulling away a separate “Google Patents” section and mixing it back into the main Google search. This seemed like a major step backwards, especially given how terrible the US Patent Office’s own patent search engine was. Google has tried to do a few things like launching a “prior art finder” and teaming up with StackExchange to help crowdsource prior art.”
Supporting Apple these days is supporting an arrogant bully, hell-bent on destroying Linux. Please don’t buy anything from Apple as it only makes this aggressor stronger. █
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“Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source.”
Summary: The real patent battle is fought not in Congress (with corporate lobbyists) but in the courtroom, with a growing number of outcomes which are favourable to Free/libre software
SOFTWARE PATENTS are severely damaged in the US, especially following the Alice case (ruled by SCOTUS one year ago). The latest cases, which we covered this month, serve to show that software patents are dropping like flies in the courtrooms, even when landing on courts that are historically very friendly towards software patents.
“District courts used Great Atlantic to invalidate patents en masse, much like is done today after Alice,” Patent Buddy wrote the other day. Nevertheless, the corporate media focuses on other matters.
“It looks as though software patents are rapidly dying.”Joe Mullin has revealed that yet more software patents have just died and not a patent troll was behind them. “Rovi,” he explains, “provides digital entertainment guides to cable companies and others and has long used its patents to enforce its dominant position in the market. That strategy has come in for criticism, with Rovi’s patents being viewed as covering the basic idea of an electronic TV Guide. That was especially true when Rovi used its patents to go after Internet companies that wanted to make their own guides and not take Rovi content, like Hulu and Amazon.”
Well, these patents are now dead and Wall Street-centric media says that the company is downgraded. “Multichannel video programming distributors may face the same struggles in court,” says the author, “but those patents are less abstract than software patents, according to analysts.”
Mullin wrote also about Newegg (yet again), showing that it won a patent case that had been brought against it by TQP. “Two weeks after online retailer Newegg filed a petition complaining about “excessive and unreasonable” delays in getting a final judgment in its patent case,” explains Mullin, “the judge in that case has handed Newegg a big win.”
It looks as though software patents are rapidly dying. Every death of a software patents can become precedent for future cases involving software patents and the higher the court, the higher the impact. One lawyers’ site tries to frame this as a “troll” issue, talking about “the projected cost [7 billion dollars] of litigation filed by non-practicing entities, or patent trolls, in 2015.”
What about non-trolls (or very big trolls that the media won’t call “trolls”)? Some media circles are trying to tell us that Microsoft alone makes billions of dollars from extortion against Android alone. The main problem is the patents, not the entity asserting these patents.
Speaking of Google, which is an important example because Microsoft is still attacking it using patents (trying to force Android makers to bundle Microsoft software), there is a new effort to combat patents using prior art. As corporate media put it, “Google is bringing its search powers to bear in hopes of doing what Washington seemingly can’t — roll back a wave of abusive litigation from companies that, according to their critics, simply want to line their pockets with ill-gotten settlement money.” There are many articles about it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. In the form of sourse code, not just publications, it ought to be possible to demonstrate prior art and invalidate a lot of software patents. There is plenty of prior art and duplication in the field of software because a lot of people are able to practice it (requires just a keyboard, no manufacturing).
“It sure looks like this whole cult of “IP” proves problematic not just for Free software but for software in general (monopoly on APIs for instance).”When patent maximalists (IAM) covered it they said Google’s “mission” it to “help raise quality standards”, but that’s nonsense. Google just doesn’t want this patent mess that is looming over Free software like Android. It’s not about “quality” of patents, it’s about patents. Google is still wrestling with Oracle (patents and copyrights) and as this new post put it a couple of days ago: “Out in the real world, the lawsuit between Google and Oracle is preparing to head back to a lower court after the Supreme Court said it would not take the case. At UC Berkeley yesterday, the repercussions of that decision were discussed, along with many other topics around patents and copyright law as they pertain to software, art and more.”
It sure looks like this whole cult of “IP” proves problematic not just for Free software but for software in general (monopoly on APIs for instance). Large proprietary software corporations such as Microsoft and Oracle are abusing so-called ‘IP’ to impede if not altogether destroy their emerging rivals. █
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Image credit: Linux Veda
Summary: Cyanogen continues to expose itself for what it really is and who it is serving, owing to staff background
MICROSOFT took over not only Nokia, inciting it to attack Android (Nokia now attacks Android using patents) but also Cyanogen, the company whose agenda seems to now closely align with Microsoft’s. Many of its employees are based near Microsoft, but that’s not too shocking. It puts the NSA’s leading partner (Microsoft) right at the centre of AOSP whilst smearing Google, which developed AOSP and gave it away as Free software. We previously covered this in posts such as:
Microsoft’s proxy Cyanogen has just hired Microsoft’s Lawler, based on this article. What a surprise? Not! To quote CBS ZDNet: “Formerly Lawler was also chief technology officer of Microsoft’s Bing Maps…”
Microsoft’s strategy against Android has become utterly ugly as it includes patent extortion. Some of the media tries to nevertheless characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free software. The latest example is Windows (proprietary) promotion by payments to OpenBSD — a move that is criticised by FOSS Force, which says: “Of course, it isn’t revealed how much, in code, Microsoft is going to contribute going forward, but as long as the money is there…I guess the money is there.”
Microsoft keeps trying to use its money to disrupt Free software projects. It did this in 2006 with Novell (a GNU/Linux actor at the time) and it is still doing that with other companies or nonprofit entities. Cyanogen is one of these and OpenBSD hopefully has the moral strength to bite the new hand that feeds. █
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