Quality of patents causes markets to prosper or contrariwise perish
Giving aggressors like Microsoft sacks of patents to breed Mafia-like behaviour, not healthy competition
Summary: Revisiting the EPO’s vision of poor patent examination and the effect of discriminatory granting practices, favouring patent bullies such as Microsoft (which actively attacks Linux using low-quality and usually pure software patents)
“A skilled patent attorney working with a qualified searcher could cobble together a colorable obviousness argument against the vast majority of issued patent claims,” says a new article from Patently-O. Not to mention “abstract” criteria, prior art and so on. “Part of the difficulty for patentees,” continues the article, “stem from the the billions of prior art references available via increasingly effective search tools. Even when an invention results from a ‘flash of genius,’ patent law typically back-fills extensive knowledge for the obviousness analysis – even when that knowledge was not actually available at the time of the invention. The larger difficulty though is likely the large number of hard-to-pin-down facts such as the motivations, common sense, and level of creativity of a person having ordinary skill in the art.”
“In the case of large companies like Microsoft, mountains of patents (granted in bulk by the EPO]) can be used to compel companies to pay up without even a trial.”If the EPO replaces examiners with algorithms, things will exacerbate further and patents get granted incorrectly, leading to an ocean of frivolous lawsuits. In the case of large companies like Microsoft, mountains of patents (granted in bulk by the EPO) can be used to compel companies to pay up without even a trial. Recall the Microsoft v TomTom case. Picking on small companies is Microsoft’s thing; it doesn’t sue Google.
The above reminds us of the danger of poor patent quality as well as streamlining grants, which is what Battistelli’s EPO has in effect done for Microsoft (and evidence we showed for that led to legal threats from the EPO). They — like the USPTO — in effect facilitate patent racketeering by Microsoft.
“They — like the USPTO — in effect facilitate patent racketeering by Microsoft.”Watch this new article titled “Primetime: Microsoft’s Android Cross Patent Dealings”. That’s misleading because it's not cross-licensing, it's a patent settlement (in bundling form) and it’s essentially a patent shakedown without even a trial and without an opportunity to properly assess the quality (and thus in/validity) of patents. The article says that “to press on this advantage, Microsoft does need to sign into more cross licensing or similar patent deals with manufacturers. Given Microsoft’s patent portfolio and how useful this will be to those manufacturers wishing to break into the North American market, such as Xiaomi, we may be seeing more of these arrangements in the coming months. The alternative might be Microsoft suing any manufacturer that tries to sell devices into a patent-friendly market.”
But again, these are not cross-licensing deals, these are patent shakedowns. One might even call this extortion or racketeering, even though Microsoft is too well-connected to face court charges brought forth by the government.
It is worth noting that many of Microsoft’s patents — those which it uses to shake down Android players (OEMs) — are not even valid anymore (if properly scrutinised), but there are so many of them that it would cost a fortune to demonstrate it to the court. It’s a numbers game, quantity rather than quality. It’s cheaper to just settle and let Microsoft continue to wield software patents like a weapon, even post-Alice. PTAB cannot take a request to review hundreds of patents from just one single company because it’s already overburdened by a growing number of reviews (IPRs).
Speaking of patent aggressors, there is this new software patent from Facebook (the usual, see our Facebook wiki page). These are oftentimes surveillance patents, but this time is’s about languages, at a time of increased competition with Google. Facebook's growing stockpile of patents is a real problem (Facebook has a history of going aggressive with them) and The Next Web says that “the US patent office issued 6,789 patents. Each patent adds a little something new to the human knowledge base. As we cannot list all six thousand, the PatentYogi team has selected the five most interesting patents.” How many of these are software patents that oughtn’t have been granted? How many of these will be toothless some time in the near future?
Patently-O says “The number of pending Ex Parte appeals continue to drop. Great work PTO.” There are other statistics of interest, based on PDFs from the USPTO (like this one). Patently-O claims they suggest that: “Design patent applications expected to reach 40,000 for FY2016 – up from under 30,000 in FY2010. The PTO is working to improve design patent prosecution speed – current wait of more than a year for a first office action.”
Well, the Office may have granted 40,000 patents on designs, but once reassessed the Office may need to throw them all away, on a per-request basis (post-Apple v Samsung at SCOTUS). Granting again for the sake of granting? Until the next Alice happens?
Patent quality control is the principal pillar of true and potent patent offices, otherwise they would be just archives of untested claims (a registration/filing system). █
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Microsoft, IBM and few other large companies pay former USPTO officials to promote software patents
Summary: The latest lobbying from David Kappos, who blatantly exploits his connections in patent circles to promote software patents and work towards their resurgence after Alice v CLS Bank
LAST NIGHT we wrote about the demise of software patents in the US. The USPTO, which David Kappos had turned into more of a rubber-stamping operation (because of the growing backlog), finally had to accept that many patents were erroneously granted (if not fraudulently granted to increase measurable figures).
“The FTC PAE report should be the final nail in the coffin for Software Patents,” AntiSoftwarePat wrote last night in response to my article. He or she has been saying this for quite a while. PAE is a type of patent troll, for those who don’t know.
“He doesn’t want people to know what he does for a living in his capacity as a de facto lobbyist.”Kappos deserves at least some of the blame for the terrible status quo. So many patents at the USPTO are junk and patent trolls needn’t even go to court and face the burden of proof; they just target small businesses in secret (divide and rule) to shake these down using bogus patents. Kappos is absolutely fine with that and we wrote a lot about this nefarious activity of his quite a lot this year. He doesn’t want people to know what he does for a living in his capacity as a de facto lobbyist. Instead, says his own description of himself: “Dave Kappos is a partner at Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP and previously served as under secretary of commerce and director of the United States Patent and Trade Office.”
He does not disclose he works for a front group funded by monopolists which support software patents. Yesterday, published in the Morning Consult Web site was this Kappos piece protesting Alice v CLS Bank. He took wonderful news, namely the gradual end of software patents in the US, and called it “the terrible” (not for software developers but for parasites like him and his ilk).
Once again he pretends it’s a loss to software innovation and other such malarkey. He does not disclose who pays him to utter this nonsense. Here is the ending paragraph:
Rather than celebrate or mourn the anniversary of Alice, we should recognize that its overly broad application stifles software innovation in fields that require major, sustained investments to address humanity’s truly daunting challenges—across industries from life sciences to information technology to transportation and beyond. There is some room for cautious optimism—recent decisions from the federal circuit in Enfish, Bascom and Rapid Litigation Management have upheld quality patents challenged on eligibility grounds—but unless the courts continue to provide clearer guidance, a long heritage of American innovation leadership will be at risk. We should seek balance by applying Alice narrowly, “lest [Section 101′s exclusionary principle] swallow all of patent law”— and let the other parts of the law do their work.
“When legislation and/or caselaw is up for sale we all lose.”It’s clear that he is asking for loopholes so that software patents can still be granted and asserted (successfully) in courts. It’s not about “clarity” (we explained this spin of his before and also showed the so-called whitepaper he published last year to reveal his bias on this topic). Quick to promote this article was IBM’s Manny Schecter, who is funding him through IBM (Kappos used to work at IBM, which now just pays him through a front group). Congratulating one’s own lobbyist again? Does he not see ethical breach amid all that patent aggression by IBM? Microsoft is paying Kappos as well and it too is attacking even Android/Linux using patents, as recently as a few days ago.
What will it take for these companies to stop bribing former officials and hide behind them while they lobby for the resurrection of software patents? Who are those people kidding? Can one file a formal complaint for “revolving doors” kind of abuse here? We might try soon, perhaps once we identify the best authority/institution to address regarding the unprofessional (and likely unethical if not in breach of contract) practice. When legislation and/or caselaw is up for sale we all lose. █
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Summary: A parade of misinformation as seen in Indian (but English-speaking) press this week as questions about patentability of software resurface
FOREIGN giants which operate in India (companies like IBM and Microsoft) just can’t help trying to repeatedly introduce software patents in India, aided by front groups and lawyers of theirs. Why on Earth is NASSCOM, which is connected to Bill Gates [1, 2, 3], participating in a debate in India regarding software patents or even just software? “NEW rules designed to boost India’s software industry will open for public consultation in a matter of days, say sources close to the matter,” said one new article among several this week (e.g. [1, 2). These mentioned software patents as well and some correctly noted that “this opens them [software companies] to patent trolls. Dealing with patent trolls here as India doesn’t have software patents.” The English here is problematic and then it says this: “So the conundrum for startups is whether to stay in India or not.”
“India is constantly being lobbied by big businesses that are not even Indian.”No, startups would be wasting their time pursuing patents on software. In practice, heavy-pocketed corporations from abroad want software patents. Indian startups do not. But don’t count on corporate media like the above to accurately represent the desires and needs of ordinary Indians. Neither should anyone trust NASSCOM, one among several Indian agencies that act like outposts and brought India nothing but EDGI.
India is constantly being lobbied by big businesses that are not even Indian. Watch what Microsoft has done to the Modi government earlier this year and last year. It shot down a Free/Open Source software policy. █
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Another outrageous patent settlement that requires Microsoft bundling, but the Linux Foundation is too bribed by Microsoft to actually antagonise it any longer
“I’ve killed at least two Mac conferences. [...] by injecting Microsoft content into the conference, the conference got shut down. The guy who ran it said, why am I doing this?”
–Microsoft's chief evangelist
Summary: This morning’s reminder that Nadella is just another Ballmer (with a different face); Motorola and Lenovo surrender to Microsoft’s patent demands and will soon put Microsoft spyware/malware on their Linux-powered products to avert costly legal battles
MICROSOFT is not a friend. It’s a predator. It just changed the logo, the PR, and the CEO. It also started paying more and more money to its critics, including Linux OEMs, to keep them quiet. “Microsoft Keynoting LinuxCon,” said a headline from Phoronix yesterday. What it failed to say is that Microsoft actually pays the Linux Foundation to infiltrate it. This has gone on for a while. Earlier this month the Linux Foundation posted a Microsoft puff piece paid for by Microsoft. We mentioned it this worrisome development the other day (to their credit, the Linux Foundation did add a disclosure to this). The payment was made under the pretense of supporting a conference (i.e. interjecting Microsoft stuff into it).
Is Microsoft becoming more open? No, it’s spying more and more. All the core products are proprietary. What is PowerShell all about? Openwashing. “Embrace and extend” of
curl (soon to have Mono as well) while claiming to be “opening up” a part of Windows, which is proprietary spyware that defies law (and had Microsoft lose cases in court).
But never mind all the above. Has Microsoft actually made peace with GNU/Linux? Hardly. Au contraire. Microsoft is still attacking GNU/Linux. If “Microsoft loves Linux,” then it sure shows it like an abusive spouse that beats up the wife (to borrow the analogy from Simon Phipps). Microsoft extorts Linux again, but it has bamboozled the media like it first did when it attacked Acer. It did this several times more thereafter and we covered it earlier this year, e.g. in:
Remember what happened to Samsung when it said “No!”
Microsoft took it to court and Samsung later settled with bundling (early 2015). That’s like racketeering, but Microsoft is far too politically-connected to face charges under the RICO Act.
In the past, Microsoft was offering payments for bundling; right now, instead, it’s a patent settlement. A patent settlement over what? Linux. The media is calling it all sorts of things other than patent settlement (after threats), which is what it really is. Here is the coverage we see right now (misleading):
The following two articles suggest that Motorola too (already sued by Microsoft over patents) is a victim of this strategy:
All that Microsoft is trying to achieve here is control over Linux (or Android) users, e.g. using Skype malware. People who actually think that Microsoft has changed need to reassess their trust in corporate media (much of the above is Microsoft-connected media and Microsoft advocacy sites that help mislead other media). █
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Summary: Another roundup of patent news from around the Web with special focus on software patenting
THE USPTO is problematic for quite a few reasons, chiefly or primarily the low patent quality (especially in recent years). When there’s no quality control, as was increasingly the case under Kappos, patents cease to be respected and people resort to filing lawsuits and fighting in courts, which is an expensive process (small companies would just settle out of court, even if they know they can win the case).
“As Suntory and Asahi settle their patent dispute over non-alcoholic beer,” wrote MIP the other say, “John A Tessensohn surveys the state of litigation in Japan, and compares it with the United States” (where litigation is extremely high in frequency).
It is worth taking stock of who’s suing with patents in the US. “Of the 19 patent lawsuits filed today,” United for Patent Reform wrote some days ago, “16 were filed by patent trolls — 84%. It’s time for Congress to take action to #fixpatents!”
It has been estimated recently that nearly 90% of all technology patent lawsuits are now filed by patent trolls. Most of them use software patents. In other words, in the absence of software patents, there would be far fewer trolls and lawsuits.
Speaking of trolls, the EFF’s Elliot Harmon tackles an old problem which is universities selling their patents by the tons/bucketloads to patent trolls (Microsoft’s patent troll Intellectual Ventures, quite notably compared to other entities, buys them and then shakes companies down with these patents, which were originally earned thanks to taxpayers’ money/investment). Here is what Harmon wrote:
When universities invent, those inventions should benefit everyone. Unfortunately, they sometimes end up in the hands of patent trolls—companies that serve no purpose but to amass patents and demand money from others. When a university sells patents to trolls, it undermines the university’s purpose as a driver of innovation. Those patents become landmines that make innovation more difficult.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about the problem of universities selling or licensing patents to trolls. We said that the only way that universities will change their patenting and technology transfer policies is if students, professors, and other members of the university community start demanding it.
It’s time to start making those demands.
Well, many demands should be made, even here in Europe. The system is unregulated, so it has been evolving along the lines large corporations and their patent lawyers demand, not the public good. Watch this new article about the “Patent Box Regime”, which is a tax evasion scam/scheme (Microsoft does a lot of that), using patents as loophole. “It relates to income that arises from patents, copyrighted software, and, in the case of smaller companies, other intellectual property that is similar to an invention that could be patented,” according to this article from Tax News.
“The system is unregulated, so it has been evolving along the lines large corporations and their patent lawyers demand, not the public good.”That’s probably too much for small companies to apply for, as is often the case when it comes to Ireland as a notorious tax haven. To quote: “The regime is only available to the companies that carried out the research and development, within the meaning of section 766 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The guidance provides definitions of a qualifying company, a qualifying asset, and profits arising from exploiting the qualifying asset. It also explains the extensive documentation requirements that must be complied with to claim relief under the KDB.”
We wrote about this subject many times before. There’s no indication that European authorities are doing anything at all to stop this abuse.
Speaking of Microsoft, a Microsoft promotion site says that PTAB, abolisher of many software patents, has just come to Microsoft’s rescue. “Personalized Home Page patent troll threatening Microsoft, Google and others squashed by appeal court,” says the headline. To quote:
Bloomberg Legal reports that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board has invalidated a patent held by B.E. Technology LLC for a Personalized Internet User Interface or home page which dates back to 1998 and which the company was using against Google, Microsoft and 6 other companies.
B.E. Technology filed 11 lawsuits accused smartphones and tablets of infringing their patent, but also included a wide variety of other devices, including Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles.
Google , Microsoft, Samsung and Sony all challenged the patent, submitting 5 petitions with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and was eventually able to show that a 1996 patent covered all of B.E. Technology’s claims, rendering it invalid.
Speaking of PTAB, Michael Loney wrote a couple of articles (from New York) about the latest figures. He is presenting some graph about big growth in post-grant reviews in 2016, but also demonstrates a decline in the first half of year for filings. The “Patent Trial and Appeal Board filing so far this year is down on 2015,” he notes (as he did before). However, another graph is presented in this article. It says that “Post-grant review petition filing this year is already higher than the whole of 2015, with biopharma companies leading the way.” The part about the decline says this: “The 826 petitions filed in the first six months of the year was the lowest half-year figure since the 730 filed in the first half of 2014 while the PTAB’s appeal was taking hold.”
It’s not entirely clear (yet) if PTAB will grow fast enough to ever overwhelm all software patents, or most patents which Alice effectively invalidates. The patent microcosm just keeps attacking PTAB’s legitimacy, with shameless smears too.
A theme we found in the news today [1-3] was patents of pharmaceutical giants (often referred to, collectively, as Big Pharma). It is common knowledge that Big Pharma are to a large degree subsidised by the US government (i.e. taxpayers), consistently to the tune of tens of billions of dollars per year (this number too is common knowledge), yet all money and patents go to private hands. Talk about injustice! Here is a new comment regarding one of these new articles:
It seems the new patentability landscape post-Alice, Myriad and Mayo is taking shape
- Alice really meant that computer implemented inventions were only patentable in as far as they related to the working of a computer somehow, and so business methods and mental acts are unpatentable inventions
- Myriad and Mayo could could not have meant all inventions relating to natural products and laws were not patentable, and products in particular which are different from nature and have practical uses remain patentable
- Mayo remains a bit of mystery until the Federal Circuit approves an invention based on a natural correlation. Sequenom shows it is difficult to get broad claims where any sort of natural correlation is involved and so diagnostic inventions remain in limbo.
In an age when patents are foolishly treated like money  and the patent microcosm spreads tired old myths about patents (marketing)  it’s only to be expected that reduction in patents would be portrayed as a loss to “innovation” or something along those lines. Shelston IP, the self-serving propagandists (for their own pocket) who lobby for software patents down under [1, 2] can again be found in the media . They still try to change New Zealand’s patent law so as to allow software patenting. They don’t care about programmers, they just want to tax programmers.
In the US, software patents are somewhat of a passing fad. It doesn’t mean that nobody applies for them and even gets granted some. According to this new article about an acquisition, “Denning noted that AppFirst also has a number of patents around the architecture of its agents.” Additionally, this other new article says that “several patents related to the technology behind their picking system.”
This sounds like software patents, but software patents are rather useless when it comes to litigation as courts typically reject those nowadays. This new article states about CAFC (where software patents very rarely survive scrutiny) that “[i]t is also a reminder that, for the Federal Circuit, the underlying patent and prior art documents represent the most important evidence available in a patent validity dispute.” Well, that’s just common sense and any courts ought to consider that aside from Alice (in the circumstances of allegedly abstract patents).
Another new article says that “Bose holds several patents on this technology…Bose also improved the sound silencing software.” Regarding BlackBerry, which is becoming somewhat of a patent troll nowadays, this article says that “Blackberry [is] slowly fading into obscurity when it comes to the handset market, it makes sense the company would turn to its software, patents, and enterprise expertise as a way to keep the company afloat.”
Nowadays, as we correctly predicted, BlackBerry is a troll (PAE). It is even filing lawsuits down in Texas, as we noted earlier this month. Some of these patents are on software, some on hardware, and some on networking. And speaking of which, there is this new article (behind paywall) about Internet Protocol (IP) patents. The summary says: “Fluent in both types of IP: Scott Bradner has been an architect of intellectual property (IP) policy for internet protocol (IP) standards. He played a core role in the development of internet protocol, leading to the very digital revolution we know today, as well as the next generation IPv6, all the while designing intellectual property policy to go along with it. Here is an interview with Bradner.”
The Internet is supposed to be open to all. Just like the World Wide Web, it should be free from patents (less true today than it was at its genesis, for reasons we covered in past years), so the notion of so-called ‘IP’ on IP (Internet Protocol) is troubling. So is the notion of a ‘FOSS’ group which is open to software patents. OIN, for instance, was created by companies that are not against software patents but wish to minimise risk of being sued. Deb Nicholson, who moved to OIN from the Free Software Foundation, defends OIN as follows. From an interview published earlier today:
The Open Invention Network — OIN, as its friends call it — “is a defensive patent pool and community of patent non-aggression which enables freedom of action in Linux.” That’s what it says (among other things) on the front page of the organization’s website. Basically, if you join OIN (which costs $0) you agree not to sue other members over Linux and Android-related patents, and in return they promise not to sue you. Google, IBM, and NEC are the top three members shown on OIN’s “community” page, which lists over 2,000 members/licensees ranging from Ford to one-person Android app developers.
Today’s interviewee, Deb Nicholson, is the group’s community outreach director. One description of her says she “blurs the line between professional and punk rock,” which is a very cool line to blur. She travels a lot and speaks at a lot of conferences.
She used to work for the Free Software Foundation. You may have heard of them. It is less likely, however, that you know about OIN. But you should, because it does hugely valuable work in keeping the slimy jaws of patent trolls away from innocent FOSS developers and users. If you’re an OIN member and a nasty software patent beast comes after you, they risk the wrath of… well, not “The Wrath of Khan,” but of running afoul of one of the many thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of patents held by OIN’s many members.
That’s hardly the solution at all. Just hoarding software patents and putting them in a very large pool — no matter how large — does not rid us from the actual menace. It’s like stockpiling weapons to make one secure from other groups with a large arsenal. Mutual disarmament of all groups, or invalidation of software patents, is the solution. Nicholson’s previous employer, the Free Software Foundation, ‘gets’ that. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Two recent developments in U.S. patent law mean mixed news for the bio-pharmaceutical industry. First, the bad news — the U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept for review the closely-watched Ariosa Diagnostics v. Sequenom case concerning the patentability of a diagnostic method. Second, the good news — a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued the Rapid Litigation Management v. Cellz Direct decision further clarifying application of the two-step Alice/Mayo test (1. claim directed to a patent ineligible category and 2. lack of inventive concept) concerning laws of nature.
Earlier this summer, the Patent and Trademark Office created an expedited review process for certain patent applications covering “immunotherapies” — new cancer treatments that re-engineer the body’s immune system to attack tumors. Within days, the National Institutes of Health rejected a petition that urged the agency to use “march-in” rights to effectively take back the patent on a prostate cancer drug: It would’ve had a chilling effect on the development of new drugs if such blatant government overreach was implemented.
It’s time to restore the U.S. patent system to its original purpose – to protect and incentivize invention, not innovation. There’s a difference. Innovation is the investment in the commercialization of inventions. Just because a company invests money to commercialize a drug does not mean it has invented a new drug. This is where today’s patent system is broken. If we continue to muddle innovation with the patent system’s original purpose of invention, we will continue to hand out 20 years or more of monopoly power to companies for the same science over and over again and keep paying higher drug prices. Instead of incentivizing a race to the top, we are pursuing a policy of a race to the bottom. Only with genuine inventions can true medical innovations flourish and support both society’s health and a strong drug development pipeline.
Thailand has enforced a new law to promote using intellectual property as loan collateral, an effort likely to make intellectual property a more valuable asset for its holders. But experts caution that the country still lacks the infrastructure of a viable IP market.
A New Zealand “innovation patent”? Unlikely, but watch this space nonetheless. The popularity of Australia’s innovation patents regime has been well documented. Although it is not without its faults, has been prone to certain unintended outcomes and has recently gained some high-profile critics, the Australian innovation patents regime has arguably been relatively successful in stimulating R&D activity (innovation) amongst Australian small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).
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Microsoft has swallowed everything it could from within Yahoo!
“Bartz says search engine Bing unlikely to make significant mark”
–MarketWatch (June 2009)
Summary: A look at what happens to companies whose value is a house of software patents rather than code and a broad base of users/customers
QUINN (Watchtroll), who does not know how software works, is actually one of the most vocal proponents of software patents out there. He can also be quite rude when he doesn't get his way. Watch how Watchtroll bemoans being rejected over a bogus software patent application, then calling the process “bogus” (blaming/hating the game, not the player). Benjamin Henrion politely asked him: “Which part of abstract you don’t understand?”
As we have been showing here since 2014, Alice is having a profound effect on software patenting in the US and this new blog post looks into how Alice eliminates software patents (or does not). As one might expect, the legal profession only focuses on the rare cases where software patents somehow survive scrutiny (they hope to replicate the outcome).
“There is so much at stake here (billions if not a trillion dollars across all companies).”Curiously enough — albeit not too shockingly — since Monday morning we have been seeing a lot of articles about the sale of Yahoo! (there were rumours about it over the weekend). Journalists are rewriting the recent history of Yahoo! and omitting the role of Microsoft in killing Yahoo. A few months ago people noted that Alice would significantly reduce the value of Yahoo, but what about the damage caused by Microsoft, reducing the bidding price for the company by almost 90%? This new article titled “Yahoo, Verizon Deal Clears Way for Patent Sale” says that “Yahoo’s sale of its core internet business to Verizon on Monday opens the door for the company’s next major step — the sale of more than 3,000 granted and pending patents covering e-commerce, search and other components of the modern web.”
It also noted that Alice “resulted in many software patents being thrown out. Many top tech firms also already have cross-licensing deals with Yahoo, so a firm purchasing the patents would face barriers to monetizing them.”
One has to wonder how much of their value companies like IBM and Microsoft lost after Alice. There is so much at stake here (billions if not a trillion dollars across all companies). The bubble has burst. █
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Summary: Highlighting just two of the many entities that Microsoft (and partners) use in order to induce additional costs on Free (as in freedom) software
AN article from exactly 5 years ago spoke about Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft’s largest patent troll. To quote the outline from BoingBoing: “NPR’s Planet Money looks at Intellectual Ventures, the patent-exploitation firm started by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. Intellectual Ventures presents itself as a firm that goes to bat for inventors, buying up their patents with the intention of getting big guys who abuse them to pay up. But the reality discovered by Planet Money is very different: Intellectual Ventures doesn’t put up very many compelling reference customers for their “protecting and enriching inventors” mandate, but there are examples of patents being sold on again to out-and-out trolls who make nothing but lawsuits, using shaky patents to attack big and small firms and extract rent from them. It appears there’s even a town in Texas where empty office buildings house the “headquarters” of shell companies who buy poor-quality patents from distressed companies and get big judgements from a sympathetic local court. Overall, Planet Money paints a picture of software patent aggregators like IV as parasitic bullies who use their enormous patent portfolios to intimidate other firms into paying fees that end up being incorporated into the prices that you and I pay when we buy goods and services.”
Well, Intellectual Ventures is still being treated so favourably by IAM, which receives money from patent trolls and sets up events for them. Today it said that “a slowdown in buying activity at Intellectual Ventures (IV) has been highlighted as having had a substantial impact on Transpacific’s income.”
Layoffs at Intellectual Ventures have been mentioned over the past couple of years, but as Intellectual Ventures is not Microsoft’s only weapon we can look further into another new IAM article which says: “Recently published research has shed new light on the strategies employed by the world’s three leading sovereign patent funds (SPFs) – while discussion about the creation of similar entities in other countries appears to be picking up.”
Towards the end it says that “$4.5 billion eventually paid for it by the Rockstar consortium,” which is a Microsoft-connected patent troll we wrote about in past years. This is the troll which already targets Android/Linux with lawsuits [1, 2, 3, 4], just as Intellectual Ventures did (albeit less directly). █
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The role of Ericsson and the EPO’s PR agency is mentioned as well
Summary: Weaponisation of European companies for the sake of artificial elevation of prices (patent taxes) a growing issue for Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and those behind it are circulating money among themselves not for betterment of products but for the crippling of FOSS contenders
THE long if not endless war waged by Microsoft against GNU/Linux is far from over. This past week, e.g. in our daily links, we gave several examples of the latest assaults by Microsoft (Android antitrust, Linux booting restrictions, lobbying against freedom-respecting policies and more), aside from the patent angle. Microsoft sure knows what it’s doing and if Microsoft succeeds, Linux-powered products will lose their broad appeal due to removed (thanks to legal threats) features and artificially-elevated prices. In this post we shall focus on the patent aspects alone, as we so typically do in order to keep things simpler.
“Microsoft sure knows what it’s doing and if Microsoft succeeds, Linux-powered products will lose their broad appeal due to removed (thanks to legal threats) features and artificially-elevated prices.”Let’s start with the Microsoft-friendly advocacy site, IAM ‘magazine’. IAM’s innuendo-filled focus on China’s patent activity as of late [1, 2] finally culminates in China’s “misuse of competition law for protectionist policies,” as if the West never ever does this (it’s certainly the norm at the USPTO and ITC). IAM wants to make China’s system (patents, courts etc.) look unfair and unjust, as it did the other day too. China is apparently very mean because there’s bias there that’s hardly unique to China. Huawei is the one major Android OEM that Microsoft never managed to blackmail using patents (it reportedly did try over the years) and IAM now says that “Huawei attracts flak from Nokia, while adversary Samsung signs major deal with the Finnish company” (good cop, bad cop). It is obviously a loaded headline and IAM does not tell readers that Nokia’s patent troll, MOSAID (now Conversant), is paying IAM. What a farce of a ‘news’ site. MOSAID (fed with Nokia patents at Microsoft’s instruction) can be viewed as somewhat of an extension of these entities and after Microsoft effectively hijacked Nokia it’s taxing Google/Android (hence Linux) in a royalty stacking fashion. This happens right now not only in the Western world but also in Asia, albeit Huawei has been one of the very few exceptions (the Chinese government, which is connected to it, seems to have protected it). “Here’s Why Nokia Is About To Get More Money Out Of Its Patents” is a new article from Fortune (writing a lot about patents so far this month) which reminds us that Microsoft essentially turned Nokia into a patent aggressor. Put another way, Microsoft made Nokia yet another one of its (many) patent trolls that are openly against Android and Linux. “I booked http://nokiaplanp.com,” wrote Benjamin Henrion, but that was “years ago, I was right.” The P stands for Patents and it happened around the time people were making jokes about Nokia’s plans under Microsoft’s mole, Elop (there were nearly a dozen such plans with a different alphabetic letter for each).
People are kindly asked to remember what Microsoft did to Nokia as revisionism about it is quite routine nowadays. Not only Nokia engages in such behaviour; Ericsson does this too and it goes as far as south Asia, e.g. India. European patent trolls come to India even if there are no software patents in India and virtually no patent trolls either, as we mentioned here before. Well, Micromax was last mentioned here a couple of months ago in relation to patent trolls, primarily Ericsson’s (the equivalent of MOSAID/Conversant to Nokia) and here is a new blog post about it:
Ericsson has been going all out to enforce its Standard Essentials Patents (SEP) against several mobile phone companies, such as Micromax, Intex and Lava, among others, who are primarily selling mobile phones in India. The outcome of these law suits will no doubt play a significant role in defining the future of licensing and enforcement of SEP in India.
The latest in these law suits is an interim judgement by The High Court of Delhi in the matter between TELEFONKTIEBOLAGET LM ERICSSON (Ericsson) and LAVA INTERNATIONAL LTD (Lava). The interim judgement is in favour of Ericsson. More importantly, the judgement deals with various aspects of licensing and enforcement of SEP.
Ericsson keeps 'hiding' behind proxies that are patent trolls in order to shake down practicing companies. It’s hardly even covert like Microsoft’s scheme. Everyone knows that Ericsson is doing this. Standard-essential patents (SEPs) are used here (Nokia has many of these too) and speaking of which, the Kat who is the most pro-software patents (based on years of posting history) wrote about the EPO's PR firm the other day, noting its take on SEP holders. “The final speaker was Mark Bezant from FTI consulting,” she wrote. “He mentioned that he is amongst the FRAND experts in the pending UK case of Unwired Planet v Samsung and Huawei [last reported by IPKat here]. He noted the two key issues in FRAND disputes: (a) the obligations placed on the SEP holders, and (b) the appropriate level of royalty rates. After reminding the audience of some of the methods discussed by Garreth Wong, he mentioned particular issues that arise in practice, such as having to rely on outdated licences or inherently complicated agreements. With respect to the incremental method of calculating royalties, he noted the difficulty in understanding the exact value a single patent has added to a standard. The most common approach, he explained, is looking at established comparable rates and matching them to the situation at hand. Mr Bezant concluded that one must establish a number of factors before assessing whether a licence is FRAND, such as the validity of the patents, the number of declared essential patents, the number of essential patents confirmed by a court, and the qualitative assessment performed by experts on the patents.”
“Remember that there are practically no workarounds for SEPs (by definition) and FRAND is not compatible with FOSS.”It’s rather curious to see Battistelli’s PR firm (at the expense of the EPO) promoting a software patents loophole and patent aggression. Then again, they also promote the UPC and pay IAM, which incidentally gets paid by patent trolls also. It is a hostile world out there and it makes life hard for FOSS proponents. Remember that there are practically no workarounds for SEPs (by definition) and FRAND is not compatible with FOSS. █
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