Suddenly software patents don’t suit even Apple’s agenda all that much…
Summary: Another blow for software patents in the United States (US) as even a company that notoriously exploited them to impose embargoes on Linux (Android) devices is finally finding these patents unsuitable
THE USPTO has been thoroughly impacted by the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS), for a ruling from last summer meant that a lot of patent applications, especially ones that pertain to software, are no longer eligible and should thus be rejected/discarded. Techrights believes that Alice v. CLS Bank can gradually pave the way to a world free from software patents and that without this case, software patents would only gradually expand and become universally acceptable.
“Techrights believes that Alice v. CLS Bank can gradually pave the way to a world free from software patents and that without this case, software patents would only gradually expand and become universally acceptable.”The Alice case, which continues to squash a lot of software patents (those that are being tested in a court of law), changed the game and even Apple, a leading foe of Linux and Free/libre Open Source software, is now using Alice in order to squash software patents (those which are asserted against Apple). According to this article from Florian Müller: “The Apple v. Ericsson docket in the Northern District of California was worth taking another look (after quite a while): two weeks ago, Apple brought a motion for summary judgment of invalidity of two patents asserted by Ericsson in its counterclaims to Apple’s declaratory judgment complaint, and the motion is entirely based on 35. U.S.C. § 101 in light of last year’s famous (or infamous in the eyes of patent attorneys) Alice ruling by the Supreme Court on patent-ineligible subject matter…”
Patent Buddy took note of these patents [1, 2] and we wish to remind readers of our recent post about patent trolls in Europe and Ericsson's troll, Unwired Planet.
“Maybe the folks at the ITC think they’re above the law, even above the Supreme Court.”The fascinating thing here is that even Apple, which is attacking users with software patents (embargoes, feature removal, price hikes) and maliciously spying on users, is making use of the Alice case. But perhaps the most interesting article today concerns the United States ‘International’ Trade Commission (it’s not really international, it’s nationalistic and biased; it’s often used by Microsoft and Apple to ban Android devices), which according to patent lawyers remains reluctant to take account of the Alice case. Maybe the folks at the ITC think they’re above the law, even above the Supreme Court.
“Outside of the ITC,” wrote the author, “defendants have been increasingly successful in challenging the patentability of asserted claims under Section 101. Recent decisions by the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit have clarified, and arguably narrowed, the scope of patentable subject matter, and have repeatedly urged district courts to resolve any Section 101 defenses as soon as possible. At the ITC, however, this defense has rarely been asserted, and has only once been successful since Bilski. Nevertheless, ITC practitioners should expect to see more of these defenses in the near future, and there are interesting, open questions surrounding how the ITC will interpret and implement the Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue.”
“The injunctions are so biased that it’s just too hard to ignore.”We have been vocal critics of the ITC and its dubious practices since the Bilski days, so this one is yet another example for our list. It often seems like all that the can ITC offer is protectionism for US (mega)corporations, not justice. The injunctions are so biased that it’s just too hard to ignore. █
“Software patents have been nothing but trouble for innovation. We the software engineers know this, yet we actually have full-blown posters in our break-room showcasing the individual engineers who came up with something we were able to push through the USPTO. Individually, we pretty much all consider the software-patent showcase poster to be a colossal joke.” —Kelledin, PLI: State Street Overruled… PERIOD
Send this to a friend
Power serving Power
Summary: Analysis of the embedded biases inherent not just in self-acclaimed independent auditors but also union-busting, espionage-connected entities like Control Risks
THE MORE we learn about the EPO, the more appalling it looks. They have plenty to hide up there, hence they’re desperate to crush whistle-blowing and journalism.
The EPO’s witch-hunt against people is going well beyond staff. Like the CIA (based on relatively new leaks), they target “investigative journalists” and we too became a target, as we explained in previous articles, such as:
Last year we wrote about action (or lack thereof) by Transparency International, which has done virtually nothing to stop institutional abuse and serious harassment. What kind of spineless body is that?
Well, when one looks beneath the surface, Transparency International isn’t quite what it seems. People who are familiar with the pseudo-politics behind it (mostly commercial interests, not politics) shared some interesting information. “Strange links” is what they called it and these are strange connections indeed, for they serve to show that the supposed oversight or regulator is in bed (or the same bank account) with the subject/target of oversight and regulation. It’s basically a sham and it makes “Transparency International” looks like just a corporate publicity stunt, or a badge of endorsement that is paid for. To quote:
In 2014 Transparency International published a so-called “integrity study” of several EU institutions. The study analysed whether these institutions had the regulations and mechanisms in place to detect and prevent corruption. SUEPO suggested at the time that the EPO invite Transparency International to do the same for the EPO. “Transparency” seemed supportive. Not surprisingly, the EPOrg (Mr Kongstad) was quick to dismiss the idea. But obviously: “Transparency” does not really need a company or organization to welcome them in order to do a study. If that were the case, few if any deficiencies would ever be exposed. So we were a little disappointed that “Transparency” simply vanished from the scene without a trace for unclear reasons.
The German magazine “Der Spiegel” reported on various Union bashing scandals involving Control Risks, the firm that is now assisting the Investigative Unit interrogating EPO Union officials and staff representatives (see below).
Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn were amongst the clients of Control Risks. Given that background, it is surprising that Control Risks is a corporate member of Transparency International Germany, something that could easily be interpreted as a seal of approval. But there are more surprises waiting: Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn are also on the list of corporate members of “Transparency”. These corporate members pay for the honour. We are not the first to wonder whether such contributions from corporate friends could affect Transparency’s independence. The European Patent Office is fortunately not (yet?) on the list. Nevertheless: the very concept of “corporate friends” would not seem in line with Transparency’s message and mission.
Back to Control Risks: the Control Risks employee who seems to be the main consultant for the EPO (and the main interrogator) is Matthew Kinch of Control Risks Berlin. He is the co-author of an article about “Krisenmanagement im Falle einer externen Korruptions- ermittlung” (sic). Control Risks claims strict adherence to national law and to their code of ethics. We have some doubts about that. In the pending procedures Mr Kinch and other Control Risk employees cannot claim they adhere to the EPO regulations, as they are no EPO employee, but external contractor / consultant. As with all other contractors working for or at the EPO, national law remains applicable to them:
The employees of Control Risk remain bound by national law in their interactions with individual EPO staff members. This means that they should respect the broader rights given to EPO staff members by national law, e.g. right to remain silent, right to be accompanied by legal assistance of their choice, and right to know who is the accuser1.
It further means that if an EPO staff member suffers damage, e.g. undue dismissal, on the basis of material collected by Control Risks in a procedure that would be considered flawed under national German law, Control Risks can be held liable for that damage. We are currently looking into this matter.
1 This right is even recognised by ILOAT, see Judgment 2014: “It is contrary to due process to require an accused staff member to answer unsubstantiated allegations made by unknown persons. The staff member is entitled to confront his or her accusers. In the present case, if the Organization was not willing to disclose the identity of the complainant’s accusers, and had no other independent evidence to rely on, the charges should not have been brought.” It is, however, happily ignored by the Investigative Unit.
As a matter of law, as pointed out in the footnote, the accused has the right to know who the accuser is. The European Patent Organisation systematically hides the supposed accuser, in an effort to intimidate and entrap people (ensuring they don’t have access to a lawyer in the interim). This may be the same kind of bullying used against Elizabeth Hardon, where there are efforts to exploit lack of awareness of the laws and therefore bring allegations against a person from a total vacuum, not a person. The European Patent Organisation is not a person but a collection of people who laughably call themselves public servants.
Next month we are going to show how the EPO does this not only in one single case. There is systemic misuse of the law and a systematic effort to crush truth-telling. █
Send this to a friend
Summary: Indian proprietary software and Free/libre Open Source software (i.e. everything except for large multinationals’, such as Microsoft or IBM) is at great danger after terrible changes were proposed to Indian patent law
TECHRIGHTS spent a lot of time writing about software patents in India, especially recently. These have not been legal, but Modi’s government threatens to change this. Does Modi work for patent lawyers and multinationals, or will he keep his promise (like many vacuous election promises) to defend the people of India from such corporate, colonialist occupations? Recent trips to software giants in the US don’t serve to inspire much confidence in Modi right now.
Patent lawyers in India go where the money is: protecting the companies that profit from Indian deaths. Many of these patent lawyers (essentially profiteers) lobby for stronger protectionism of foreign pharmaceutical giants (driving up prices of medicine), but to make matters worse, there are those who want software patents in India because they can profit at the expense of Indian programmers. Are lawyers and their big clients (foreign companies) winning this battle?
“It is unthinkable that India can in any way benefit from software patents.”“New patent guidelines may spell trouble for Indian software developers” was the other day’s headline from Legally India, a site which correctly states that: “Every city or town, big or small, is seeing a spurt of startups that do path-breaking work in the area of software products, mobile apps and embedded products. However, these firms could soon be threatened by the dark-clouds looming large over the technology horizon of India in the form of software patents.”
It is unthinkable that India can in any way benefit from software patents. The Hindu, a large Indian news site, published “Tying up innovation in legal knots”. It said that: “While law-making in Parliament seems to have come to something of a halt over the last couple of years, the executive branch of government, in contravention of its constitutional role, is busy passing regulations that are, in essence, amendments to laws. The examples of executive overreach over the last few years are numerous — for instance, the notification of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, which, inter alia, expanded the scope of offences under the Indian Penal Code in the context of the Internet by criminalising activities such as blasphemy.”
“If Modi and his government don’t choose to stop this madness, India will definitely shoot itself in the foot, all for multinationals’ sake (trying to attract foreign businesses at the expense or mortality of local companies).”What is happening to India? No sane person (except perhaps lobbyists of software patents) can deny that software patents would be a terrible thing for software powehouse like India. Programmers don’t want patents, they already have copyrights (instantaneously obtained and easily enforceable by law).
“Software patents back to the fore” was another news article that got published early this week. To quote: “Successive governments have supported open source software. The earlier Open Standards Policy and the recently released Open Source Software for E-Governance, are all welcome measures in this direction. How, then do we explain government’s sudden shift towards software patenting, that too through executive action and in violation of the will of the Parliament?
“Software patents are like the “living dead” in the zombie film genre that Hollywood has made popular. They just refuse to die. As many times you kill them, they revive again and keep coming back.”
If Modi and his government don’t choose to stop this madness, India will definitely shoot itself in the foot, all for multinationals’ sake (trying to attract foreign businesses at the expense or mortality of local companies). Recall what we wrote about this government earlier this year in relation to Free/libre Open Source software.
Indians should consider taking action, and not just public protests. Maybe if enough politicians, who never wrote or even saw a computer program in their entire life (not at code level), became better informed, things would quickly change, much like the debate in the media. Indian politicians need programmers to explain to them the stark difference between patent protection and copyright protection. If programmers don’t speak out, only lobbyists of companies like Microsoft will. We already saw how Microsoft worked to derail India's Free/libre Open Source software policy, behind the scenes (with help from front groups that pretend to represent India's interests). Never underestimate Microsoft’s influence in the Indian government. █
Send this to a friend
Defeatism or learned helplessness increasingly unjustified in the fight against software patents
Summary: The United States’ supposed leadership in software patenting grinds to a halt as more software patents simply die in the courtrooms and patent lawyers try hard to overcome this new debacle of theirs, usually by misleading current and prospective clients
COMPANIES that are consciously — as matter of strategy in fact — patenting software usually patent everything in bulk. A handful of patents would just be ineffective, unless one is a patent troll (i.e. lacking any real products) or plans to sell the patents to a patent troll somewhere along the way (e.g. bankruptcy). There is no one patent for every single program or — put another way — there is no one-to-one correspondence between a component in a program and a single patent. Think of poetry and ponder the equivalence involving a program’s components and verses (or paragraphs). Software is, by its very basic nature, quite suitable for copyright assignment (not at a binary level) but not for verbal descriptions asserting a monopoly over a mathematical (implemented and executed by a machine) idea. In practice it means that in order for a company to effectively use software patents (offensively) it needs a huge pile of software patents — much bigger than those of its competitors. Suffice to say, such a state of affairs favours and inevitably benefits vast companies such as IBM. No small software company can sue IBM over software patent infringement because IBM, in response, can sue with far greater a number of patents, covering an almost infinite number of software that can conceivably be created. It’s shameless stockpiling that makes up deterrence. People who have actually looked into pertinent software patents will probably know why; they’re so vague and often so trivial that almost every simple program can infringe on thousands of patents (some patents may already be expired, inferring woes for past generations and possibly planned retardation of science and technology).
“No small software company can sue IBM over software patent infringement because IBM, in response, can sue with far greater a number of patents, covering an almost infinite number of software that can conceivably be created.”Thankfully, courts in the United States have not lost sight of last year’s SCOTUS ruling — an important and very widely-referenced ruling which determined that abstract software patents (that’s a lot of them!) have no room in the system. Not only has that discouraged filings of new software patents and lawsuits; it also helped invalidate existing software patents which, once brought forth litigiously (even defensively, in response to offensive action), were subjected to lengthy challenges in courts, whereupon they stood little chance of surviving (statistically-speaking, so far). Today we present some new examples that we have been gathering over the past 4 weeks. We will start, however, with a cautionary tale or two. It is largely reactionary as we still see misconceptions about patents in the mass media.
The Mirage of ‘Defensive’ Software Patents
The Alice Case/§101 has already shut down many cases involving software patents, but not everyone caught up with the news. Some companies carry on pursuing software patents. Bank of America, for instance, is patenting software [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] pertaining to cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin.
“Does Coinbase really think it can take on Bank of America when it comes to patent battles?”Coinbase, a Bitcoin company, is already patenting software too (applying for nine patents at the moment) although according to this article: “The CEO went on to say that while he does not personally believe in software patents, the company would invest effort in ensuring it would “play nice” while navigating the realities of the patent space.”
Does Coinbase really think it can take on Bank of America when it comes to patent battles? Who would be bankrupted first due to quickly-amassing legal fees? Which side would have more leverage in a court of law? Patenting of software is the core issue; the solution to it isn’t acquiring more patents of one’s own.
“We continue to protect our freight tracking software with new patents,” said this statement some weeks ago, from a company which is apparently hoping it can block competition using software patents. Has it not heard the news about the status of software patents in the US? Has it considered hypothetical scenarios in which this patent can actually help the company? Is this patent just purely for marketing/posing (as is often the case these days)?
“These examiners put aside science for the sake of business-minded considerations.”Misguided USPTO examiners will no doubt continue to issue some software patents, in order to increase their profits (quantity rather than quality). By rushing their job (not properly reviewing the applications and searching for prior art) they actually increase income rather than compromise their income (rewarded for doing a poor job as opposed to a proper job). These examiners put aside science for the sake of business-minded considerations. They operate in somewhat of a business now, and they treat other patent offices as “competition”. The EPO has had the same problem in recent years and it even prioritised large applicants (discrimination by design), disgracing the very foundations of this overly glorified occupation.
The USPO still glamourises monopolies (patents) in a bunch of recent articles in which the sheer number of patents is publicly boasted, as if the more patents get granted, the merrier (irrespective of the quality/thoroughness of an examination job). China has a huge number of patents (probably the most granted per year in recent years), but that doesn’t mean that China is at the forefront of innovation. To quote one article: “The US Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched PatentsView(link is external), a new patent data visualization platform. The PatentsView beta search tool allows members of the public to interact with nearly 40 years of data on patenting activity in the United States.”
It does not really say much except lenience in acceptance of applications. Consider the fact that about 92% of US patent applications eventually reach "success" (granted). It’s nothing to brag about, it highlights the poor quality of these patents and the USPTO’s incompetence (if not corruption).
“Consider the fact that about 92% of US patent applications eventually reach “success” (granted).”Courts, unlike the USPTO, don’t earn any less or any more based on the validity of patents. They usually just do their job and each time a patent gets re-examinated (and usually then trashed after a court’s intervention) it serves to discredit the USPTO. Below are recent examples of this.
Video-On-Demand Patent Killed by Alice Case/§101
Earlier this month we learned from this post that the famous “pen and paper” analogy was used to invalidate (or in the process of invalidating) a software patent. Here is the core of the story: “The court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment that plaintiff’s video-on-demand patent was invalid for lack of patentable subject matter and found that the claims were directed toward an abstract idea. “Plaintiff briefly complains that Defendants’ descriptions of the patent claims are ‘oversimplifications,’ but it does not delineate what, if anything, Defendants leave out. . . . [T]he patent claims the concept of ‘using the same hierarchical ordering based on metadata to facilitate the display and locating of video content.’ To do so, the patent exploits matches between hierarchical identifiers – uploaded at one end of the process as metadata, and read at the other end to display listed videos – in order to facilitate the automatic [electronic program guide] listing of videos sent to cable companies by outside publishers. . . . Even though the [patent-in-suit] anticipates that its steps will be performed through computer operation, it describes a process that a person could perform ‘[u]sing a pen, paper, and her own brain.’””
Signal Transmission Patent Killed by Alice Case/§101
“Another signal transmission patent [was] held invalid under 101/ Alice,” Patent Buddy noted, linking to this analysis (same blog as above). To quote: “The court granted defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings that plaintiff’s signal transmission patent was invalid for lack of patentable subject matter and found that the patent was directed toward the abstract concept of translation. “Plaintiff argues that the claimed invention is not directed to an abstract idea because it addresses a problem that ‘specifically arises in the context of communication networks due to the presence of incompatible devices and formats.’. . . This problem, however, does not ‘specifically aris[e] in the realm of computer networks,’ and the solution is not ‘necessarily rooted in computer technology.’ Incompatible communication types have existed since before the emergence of computers and the Internet. Translators have been used for centuries to facilitate communication between individuals who speak different languages. The translator receives a message in one language, translates it into another, and delivers the translated message. Here, the claims require a computer system that receives a payload in one media form, translates it into a different media form, and delivers the translated payload. This is no different than the function of a translator.”
“Courts, unlike the USPTO, don’t earn any less or any more based on the validity of patents.”Take note of the punchline, so to speak. “This is no different than the function of a translator.”
eDekka Lost to 84 Defendants Thanks to Alice Case/§101
“Notorious Patent Troll, eDekka,” wrote Patent Buddy, “Lost Patent and 84 Defendants with one Alice/101 Kill” (cited case).
This has also been covered by Joe Mullin, who wrote: “The most prolific patent troll of last year, eDekka LLC, has had its patent wiped out. The ruling (PDF) will shut down 168 lawsuits that eDekka filed based on US Patent No. 6,266,674, according to Texas Lawyer, which first reported the ruling.
“The ruling comes from a surprising source: US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, the East Texas judge who has been criticized for making life extra-difficult for patent defendants. Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases than any other US judge, will eliminate about 10 percent of his entire patent docket by wiping out the eDekka cases.”
“Patent profiteers try to sell the impression that all is fine and dandy for software patents.”Over the weekend it was mentioned here too, with the author saying that there is a lot of public interest in the outcome (many victims, hence widespread concern).
Sole Survivor of Alice Case/§101
We only know of one case where a patent seemingly withstood challenge from Alice Case/§101 in recent weeks. This is about US patent number 6,963,859 and it’s quite a rare case where software patents are successfully defended in court. Patent lawyers, understandably, always latch on to such rulings and hype them up (endless jubilation and repetition). Patent profiteers try to sell the impression that all is fine and dandy for software patents. They are cherry-picking for their desired bias.
Let’s look at what patent lawyers have had to say about the status quo in recent weeks.
What Patent Lawyers (Profiteers) Are Saying
“Maybe they would rather not pay attention or remain in denial over the facts, or the statistically-meaningful number of rulings against software patents since Alice (2014).”The spin from patent lawyers is very much expected. Asking them about the situation here is like asking companies which manufacture weapons about the state of war (or peace) in some countries where weapon sales are imminent, possible, or at risk. Patents are the armament equivalent in the field of patent litigation.
“Value of software patents has fallen by 80% since SCOTUS decisions in Mayo and Alice,” wrote one ‘IP’-centric account at IPO Annual Meeting (#IPOAM15). Another, from IAM's patent maximalists, said: “No surprise that it’s standing room only for #IPOAM15 session on software post-Alice and Oracle” (the case of Oracle has been covered here too).
In short, patent lawyers try to deny the importance of Alice. There are some exceptions to this, but they are few. Here we have “Hawley Troxell partner Brad Frazer, with contributions from Hawley Troxell Patent Group Chair Phil McKay and patent attorney Allison Parker,” going with the dramatic headline “Software patents are dead! Long live software patents!” The article is in fact in favour of software patents and claims that they are far from dead. Here is the punchline: “So the next time you hear or read that software patents are dead because of Alice, think of young King Tommen and remember that a good experienced software patent attorney can still do much to obtain patent protection for your software-based inventions.”
“It’s sometimes referred to as cognitive dissonance.”It doesn’t seem as though they have been paying attention. Maybe they would rather not pay attention or remain in denial over the facts, or the statistically-meaningful number of rulings against software patents since Alice (2014). It’s sometimes referred to as cognitive dissonance.
Here we have proponents of software patents who are also patent lawyers admitting (in the headline even) that “Statistics show Alice PTAB interpretation not favorable to patent applicants”. To quote some relevant parts: “The United States Supreme Court is commonly known to resolve difficult issues of law. Yet, Alice v. CLS Bank[ii], last year’s unanimous Supreme Court decision, has caused confusion about whether computer-implemented business methods and software innovations are patentable under 35 U.S.C. §101. The question of patentability of software-related innovations – even those involving merely implementations of business-related innovations – seemed settled after State Street v. Signature Financial[iii], the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s 1998 decision[iv].
“After State Street, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) granted thousands of patents related to computer-implemented business methods and software.[v] Simultaneously. America experienced an explosion of growth in e-commerce, Internet, and mobile phone technologies. Nonetheless, without even mentioning the terms “business method” or “software,”[vi] Alice has upended the understanding that computer-implemented business method innovations and software innovations are patentable under §101. One veteran litigation attorney starkly stated that the decision left us with the question of “[a]re software patents dead?”[vii] The Federal Circuit’s decisions after Alice have not provided much clear guidance to answer this question.”
“To say that software patents are as potent as ever before is to shamelessly lie.”The author says that the USPTO “granted thousands of patents related to computer-implemented business methods and software.” But how does the number relate/compare to previous years? There was a reported slowdown in litigation, application, etc. To say that software patents are as potent as ever before is to shamelessly lie.
Seyfarth Shaw LLP (patent lawyers) decided to come out with a gross dichotomy that frames secrecy and software patents as very much necessary. What about copyrights? They are not even mentioned before therein no lawyers fees are likely to ever materialise/emanate. To quote the lawyers-like language: “There are many ways to obtain intellectual property protection for software creations. Many keep the software code confidential and maintain the software as a trade secret. Others seek patent protection on the software, which discloses the higher-level concepts surrounding the software without explicitly publishing the source code. Recent changes in patent law have changed what types of software inventions are patentable and the requirements for obtaining such patents. However, the evolution of the law has been ongoing for quite some time.”
What about copyrights? They just pretend that it does not exist. How convenient. Gross propaganda terms like “intellectual property” are used instead.
“Parasitic, self-serving elements (or Hubris) in any patent system are ultimately its Nemesis.”IAM’s own patent maximalists (patent lawyers who profit from it) accept that software patents are now besieged by courts, albeit not in the USPTO. We mentioned the reasons for this earlier on. This is an institutionalised conflict which needs to be overcome by structural changes. Both the USPTO and patent lawyers profit from the injustice of dealing with bogus patents. Technical people are the ones whose personal wealth will be afforded and wasted. IAM uses the word “uncertainty” to say invalidity — the same word that other patent maximalists use (“Uncertainty is Where Patentability Resides”). Why are patent lawyers and lobbyists of software patents so eager to associate bogus patents with uncertainty? Is that really what they mean to say? That’s like saying that only in case of error or bad decisions will software patents be granted right now. It’s almost like admitting that they are trying to fool, game, and maybe even corrupt the system. Some cynics would nonchalantly say that this is what they indeed do; it’s their job and this is what they’re paid for. Parasitic, self-serving elements (or Hubris) in any patent system are ultimately its Nemesis. █
Send this to a friend
Software patents demolition in the United States
Summary: The crackdown on software patents is coming along nicely and the Alice case is now being utilised even in the capital of patent trolls
WE RECENTLY gave many examples where Alice demolished software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. The Alice v. CLS Bank case (at SCOTUS) led even the CAFC (overzealously in favour of software patents and their original endorser decades ago) to — believe it or not — overturning decisions/biases. They must all simply obey the new rules/laws and examiners at the USPTO cannot grant patents on software like they used to. It’s huge news, even if many news sites continue to overlook these developments (patent lawyers’ sites try to counter these worrisome — to them of course — developments and precedents using propaganda and cherry-picking of facts).
“Business method patent app[lications] get no respect,” says Patently-O‘s article, according to Richard Beem (patent lawyer). He just says (or whines) that it harms his parasitic business. “The chart above shows the USPTO patent grant rate across a variety of major technology areas,” says Patently-O, but notice the reluctance to distinguish software patents from the rest. The survey does not list “software” separately from other things. Therein lies a potentially strong bias, like that of the originator of software patents, Martin Goetz. He recently wrote no less than two articles dismissing altogether the existence of a “software patents” category/classification.
“If this trend continues, then perhaps the trolls epidemic too will stop, not because of some corporate lobbyists who ask for a bogus ‘reform’ but because of the US Supreme Court.”The EFF, taking note of some recent developments, writes about the quick demise of software patents in the US, owing to courts’ decisions (each reinforcing predecessors). “With Kafkaesque Flourish,” says the title, “the Eastern District of Texas Penalizes Parties for Following the Rules” (we have already written some articles about corruption in Eastern District of Texas courts).
The Eastern District of Texas is the worst court when it comes to patents (favourable to software patents and patent trolls who wield these). To quote the EFF: “In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, most courts have been quickly and efficiently getting rid of patents that improperly claim “abstract ideas.” In Alice, the Supreme Court held that “abstract ideas,” without more, were unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101. According to one source, at least 150 patents have had claims invalidated as “abstract” since Alice. Those accused of infringing these invalid patents have regularly filed motions to dismiss at the outset of a case, having the issue heard before too much time and energy is spent. Courts have, for the large part, embraced these “Alice motions” and invalidated abstract patents as soon as practicable.”
Here comes the new part: “Following the Eastern District of Texas’s unconventional rules, the defendants filed a letter asking permission to file their Alice motion. Given the potential for wasted time, effort, and money, the defendants very shortly thereafter filed a motion for a stay of the case while the court decided the issue of whether the asserted patent claims are invalid under Alice. The patent owner did not oppose the motion to stay. Presumably the patent owner also recognized that it was more efficient to hear the issue at the outset, without incurring costs that may prove to be wasted if the Alice motion is granted.”
It is nice to see Alice being brought up even in Eastern District of Texas courts. If this trend continues, then perhaps the trolls epidemic too will stop, not because of some corporate lobbyists who ask for a bogus ‘reform’ but because of the US Supreme Court. Even corrupt courts must sooner or later follow the law to avoid being throughly discredited and potentially abolished. █
Send this to a friend
One important case has put potentially hundreds of thousands of software patents in a mass grave
Summary: Patent scope in the United States continues to be narrowed down as more software patents get their wings clipped
“US Pat 6,326,978, Display for selectively rotating windows,” wrote Patent Buddy was “Killed by CAFC” (using Alice as precedent).
This is consistent with the outcome of Alice (Alice v. CLS Bank at SCOTUS level) as we have covered it in the past few months [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
Despite all this, patent lawyers say that “US software patent suits being filed at higher rate than in 2013″. To quote their sources: “An analysis of patent litigation by Managing IP using the Docket Navigator database has revealed that software patent lawsuit filing is not only up on 2014, but has rebounded to exceed the levels in 2013.
“When Managing IP last carried out this analysis in December 2014, the figures revealed a plunge in software lawsuit filing. This was attributed to the Supreme Court’s Alice v CLS Bank ruling on June 19, which held that merely claiming an abstract idea is insufficient to establish patent eligibility.”
Irrespective of the number of lawsuits, many of them are lost (legal toll becoming a burden to the plaintiff) because of Alice; that is very important. Patent lawyers are trying to convince their existing and prospective clients to keep patenting software, so they only tell part of the whole story.
“Patent scope is clearly a key problem.”It is clear that swpats (software patents’ shorthand) continue to collapse in the United States and this month is no exception. Examples continue to be covered, just not by media of patent lawyers (they lie by omission, as we have explained before).
“CAFC Refused to Re-Hear Case,” wrote Patent Buddy, “First Patent Kill by Alice” (the latest such example).
Here is some analysis which says: “In its first substantive application of Alice v. CLS Bank in 2015, the Federal Circuit has once again shot down claims for not meeting the patent-eligibility requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 101.”
When it comes to the USPTO, which adapts to these developments slowly but surely, a patent lawyer in London says that the judicial exceptions are now very broad.
Patent scope is clearly a key problem. It’s not about patent trolls, however they’re defined. Some sites continue to focus on “Companies Sued The Most Over Patents In 2015″ (without scaling for the size of companies, hence serving as propaganda that frames large corporations as the biggest victims), but we all know that the patents themselves, not the users thereof or the target of lawsuits, open the door to misuse, abuse, and anti-competitive behaviour, as our previous post demonstrated (Apple versus Android). █
Send this to a friend
More protectionism for more large companies, even those coming from outside of New Zealand
Summary: Corporate conquest or takeover of New Zealand culminates in empty promises from government officials and blackmail against citizens of New Zealand, especially the country’s dairy industry
THE DEBATE about software patents in New Zealand is very important because it set the tone for similar debates in Europe and Anglo-Saxon-dominated countries such as Australia and Canada. It usually revolves around lobbying from US giants against local companies in New Zealand. The lobbying is done through law firms and front groups, but sometimes it’s done more directly (risking backlash and brand erosion for the likes of Microsoft and IBM).
The fight is back in a big way and there are many articles in the local media, as well as the international media. The Institute of IT Professionals has just had the corporate media in New Zealand lobbying for TPP, as expected, despite it being an evil secretive deal, enabling more systemic looting by the world’s super-rich. Some myths and classic nonsense get propagated, but there is also criticism of the secrecy, for instance: “Despite some of the potentially positive matters outlined below, we still hold concerns about the detail – or rather, lack of it. As the negotiations are being held in private, the actual wording being negotiated is restricted to negotiators and other government officials only. This means we and others can’t undertake independent analysis of the impact of what is being agreed until negotiations are complete.”
Rob O’Neill, who has used his role at the CBS-owned ZDNet to fight back against software patents in his country, now explains “How New Zealand’s software patent ban can survive the TPP”.
“Officials give assurances there will be no changes to software patents, ISP liability and parallel importation,” he wrote the other day. Does he really trust these officials given their terrible track record on other secrets? Remember how John Key repeatedly lied about surveillance. It was only when leaks came out (undoing the secrecy) that he had to respond like an angry brat, shooting the messengers rather than admit that he had lied.
It may sometimes seem like the corporate press helps raise scrutiny rather than help the corporations that own the media. Despite that, on the very same day IDG hosted (at ComputerWorld) a notable lobbyist these days for software patents (Martin Goetz). He is now treated as a guest author in this nonsensical piece denying the existence of patents on software, even if he’s just reposting there (plus some “NZ” added) what he very recently wrote for lobbyists of software patents in IP Watchdog (patent lawyers with an exceptionally big mouth). How dumb does he think the readers are?
The people who want software patents in New Zealand are basically blackmailing for changed laws, using sanctions in reverse. As Clare Curran (MP) put it the other day, “Will Groser trade NZ innovation 4 dairy? Software sector raises concern over patents 2 secure access 4 dairy products”
See this Australian article which supports what she wrote and take note of this article from New Zealand:
While not unanimous, there is strong consensus from the industry against software patents. “In a 2013 poll of over 1,000 New Zealand IT Professionals across the sector, around 94% of those with a view wanted to see software patents gone,” Taylor says.
“Following significant work by IITP and others, the Government agreed and modified the Patents Act to protect New Zealand technology firms from software patents in their home market.”
“The patent system doesn’t work for software. Research shows it’s near impossible for software to be developed without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents awarded around the world, often for ‘obvious’ work.
The government is of course lying and misrepresenting the opposition. It just wants this deal sealed and done for the plutocrats, some of whom are not even based in New Zealand at all. As one author put it the other day, alluding to Groser: “The government is also running the line that those same hard core anti-TPP protesters have opposed every single trade deal that New Zealand has entered. This is willfully deceptive in that it assumes the TPP is a free trade deal – when in reality, several of its most noxious provisions are anti-trade in that they entrench existing corporate advantage.
“Also, regular protest is necessary because successive “trade” pacts have included the same objectionable elements for well over 20 years. Almost identical investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms (which enable corporations to sue sovereign governments when they pass laws that infringe on profit expectations) have cropped up in mooted trade deals ever since the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Trade) proposals in the 1990s. Eventually, the MAI was defeated by a mass mobilization around the world very similar to the anti-TPP protests today. It can be done.”
New Zealand is under attack. It’s not just affecting software professionals but also countries outside of New Zealand, which is why we hope that citizens of New Zealand will get involved and help crush TPP. The assurances given by government officials are just lies and a shallow form of deception whose purpose it to sell the deal. Once it’s signed there’s no going back. █
Send this to a friend
SCOTUS changed everything
Summary: A comprehensive look at the past week’s news, including new cases that serve to weaken software patents in their country of origin
THE very existence of software patents is troubling. Not everyone can understand that because not everyone is a software developer. If the notion of a global patent system ever becomes a reality, then we must ensure that this system does not have any software patents. Therein lies the importance of the fight in the United States, by far the most influential country in international politics.
A couple of days ago some Microsoft-friendly media (paid by Microsoft for a lot of advertising) published the post titled “Copyright is enough for software”. It is not a bad post and it helps echo the feelings of many software developers. To quote the opening part: “Now I will fully admit that software patents are getting more restrictive, and the patent office, working with members of the community, has offered up a few ideas to make software patents less offensive and broad. This is a good thing, as in the past we’ve had some truly horrendous software patents issued for utterly mundane things that every developer uses every day.”
As we are about to show later in this post, the US patent office is indeed narrowing down scope in some areas (such as software) and courts support such a move, which they quite likely motivated in the first place.
Patent lawyers are, quite understandably, nervous. They try to lure people into conducting patent searches and fall into the wasteful trap which is software patenting. See this new article from the technical press, suitably titled “Patents: Exercises in Futility and Incomprehensibility?”
They are a waste of time and they achieve nothing but collective fear, which slows down development. “Learning anything from patent documents has to be one of the world’s least productive endeavors,” explains the author. “But there are a few techniques by which you can squeeze out what useful information may be hidden there.”
Better yet, never look at any patents at all. It only increases liability in case of infringement. This isn’t an act of civil disobedience but a matter of setting priorities correctly. Software developers should write code, not read patents. Imagine patents on recipes and cooking, leading chefs to endless reading of patents (instead of cooking), whereupon some forms of cuisine will be deemed too risky to do, making food more expensive and stale. Who benefits? Certainly neither chefs nor the public. Such a system would result in cooking ‘conglomerates’ and hoarding by their facilitators like lawyers.
In BRICS nations there is resistance to software patents, although based on this new article, China is allowing patents on software in some cases. China has been trying to artificially elevate the number of its patents for quite some time, even by lowering the threshold/bar of what’s patentable. It is, in part, a PR exercise. It’s part of the national agenda, seeking to rid this growing economy and great nation of the “knockoff” reputation.
Not many Western companies bother patenting their work in China (unlike, say, Korea and Japan, where companies also love to patent their stuff in Europe and the in US). Not many people or companies in China get sued over patents, at least not based on what we can see. Western companies very rarely get sued in China (over patents or anything else for that matter); there are only few cases that are seldom covered (on very rare occasions), usually involving some big brand like Apple because such stories ‘sell’ better.
Quoting the above: “The first [patent] is from the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office (No. 200880126543.0) entitled “Method, System and Computed Program for Identification and Sharing of Digital Images with Face Signatures”, while the second patent is from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office under the same title (No. CA 2711143).”
It is interesting that Chinese patents are sought by companies for the same ideas that are patented in Canada. Depending on which application was made first, we may be able to deduce or at least guess the intention. Not too long ago Apple was sued over patent infringement in China, where Apple is clearly losing to Android players like Xiaomi (now exceeding Apple in terms of sales). Before China was fighting back against patent aggressors like Microsoft Chinese companies like ZTE surrendered to Microsoft without a fight. It helped demonstrate the role of software patents in China. Microsoft can try to ban imports from China until or unless products are castrated (features removed), money gets paid to Microsoft, or Android is dumped in favour of Windows (or a Microsoft-centric version of Android, with a lot of Microsoft malware preinstalled). Overall, China has nothing to gain from software patents. It merely suffers from these. Thankfully, China isn’t falling for all these horrible ‘trade’ deals (misleadingly marketed to the public as “against China”), where increase in patents and their scope/range of applicability is paramount.
According to a new article from IAM, China’s ZTE is now fighting a battle with a US-based troll. It’s the Microsoft-backed Android/Google-hostile Vringo. Patent Buddy called this “ZTE’s Plan to Disparage Vringo and Change US Patent Law (to make it anti-patent)” (so again, US patent law is relevant here).
Over in India, another BRICS nation that does not in principle allow software patents, Google has just received a software patent. “Google has secured an Indian patent,” said the Financial Express, “for an invention regarding a method and system for transferring annotations associated with video files. ”
There seems to be some kind of confusion when Western companies come to BRICS nations and attempt to patent software. Are patent examiners aware at all of the fact that software is ineligible for a patent where they are? Perhaps we need to focus more on the source of this influence, which fools examiners into granting patents on software, gradually taking these global, even against the law.
USPTO Guidance ‘Reform’
The US patent office, the USPTO, is trying to keep up with the courts. It plays catchup with the law, keeping abreast of big judgments more than a year later (because the USPTO, like the court system, is far too slow). Here are the concerns of Barnes & Thornburg’s Intellectual Property Law Department (i.e. patent lawyers), among others. It’s about Alice and software patents (§ 101). This is again input from patent lawyers (Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP), also echoed here. What we basically see here is a lot of responses from patent lawyers to changes that are happening at the USPTO, based on new guidelines for patent examiners. Snow Christensen & Martineau (more lawyers) chose the title “New examination guidelines from the USPTO on subject matter eligibility: what it means for the patentability of your inventions” (the most desperate headline came from the most shameless promoters of software patents).
For the uninitiated, software patents are gradually dying in the US, for the courts repeatedly rule against them, invalidating a lot of patents in the process (even by extension, through precedence). The USPTO is just trying to keep abreast here and refrain from granting more patents that would later get invalidated because 1) it damages the credibility/reputation of the USPTO (granting patents in error) and 2) it lowers, in due course, the incentive to file/apply for patents at the USPTO, for they may not be honoured by the court system, deeming them a massive waste of time and money.
Courts Continue to Crush Software Patents
As another week goes by, another case serves to show that software patents are not potent enough for winning a case, not even in the US. Invaliding patents on invisible things (like algorithms) is the big trend these days and here again is a reminder of that in lawyers’ media. “It is very important to provide adequate disclosure when using “means-plus-function” claims in a U.S. patent,” says the author, “particularly in the field of software.”
According to this same publication, more software patents are about to get invalidated. To quote the opening paragraph: “On July 9, a judge in the district of Oregon granted two motions for summary judgment finding that the claims of United States Patent Nos. 7,346,766 and 6,728,877 fail to state an inventive concept sufficient to satisfy the Supreme Court’s test for patentability of an abstract idea under Section 101, and are therefore invalid. The patents-in-suit involve technology related to the migration of user configuration settings from a source computing system to a target computing system. In granting defendant’s motions for summary judgment, the court followed the Supreme Court’s guidance in the landmark Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank, Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014) decision.”
No wonder patent lawyers worry. Alice has been doing this time after time. “The Supreme Court has made changes to patent law and how it’s interpreted, he says, which makes the interpretation of patent laws more uncertain, particularly where software is involved,” corporate media wrote the other day.
Here is another new article about this. “To be granted a patent for software,” it says, “the patent application had to overcome objections based on a 2014 US Supreme Court case holding that the mere computer implementation of a business method is unpatentable. The US patent examiner has judged Arria’s “Method and Apparatus for Configurable Microplanning” to be an innovation that contributes to the field of computer science. The innovations underlying this and Arria’s two other US patents enhance the quality and authority of the plain English narratives being written by the Arria NLG Software Engine without human intervention.”
We gradually get to the point where most software patents are worth $0 and no new ones (or very few ones) actually get granted. In this trend broadens in the US, then software patents will be universally (globally) dead. It’s only a matter of time.
The USPTO has been changed and perturbed over hundreds of years, with scope expanding to millions of patents on mere ideas (not physical, no mechanics), but some people live in the past and pretend that no correction is required. Martin Goetz, who has been making a career out of speaking in favour of software patents, is now enjoying support from patent lawyers who give him their platform. The man who started software patents (Martin Goetz got the first one) wants us to stop saying “software patents” as if trying to just dodge the debate by changing words will make these patentable again. CII? Computer-implemented inventions? That term never caught on. Just like “NPE” for trolls, or formerly patent sharks.
Patent lawyers are having an ‘ACTA moment’ right now, realising that what they tried so hard to defend has got a very bad name, so they try to rename. This basically means they lost.
It is going to be interesting to see how the rest of the world responds to the post-Alice status quo in the US. Software patents are in the process of rapid demise, but it may take half a decade for this plague to be totally eradicated. These systems are very slow to adapt to change. █
Send this to a friend
« Previous Page — « Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries » — Next Page »