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07.26.16

The Death of Software Patents and Microsoft’s Coup Against Yahoo! Made the Company Worthless

Posted in America, Microsoft, Patents at 5:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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.

Microsoft Says It Loves Linux, But Its Anti-Linux Patent Trolls Are Still Around and Active

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 3:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rockstar Consortium

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).

07.17.16

Microsoft and Its Patent Minions at Nokia Still Have Patent Stacking Ambitions Against Android/Linux OEMs

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, RAND at 12:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The role of Ericsson and the EPO’s PR agency is mentioned as well

Calculator for tax

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.

07.11.16

Yet More Reality Distortion Fields From Microsoft’s Ex-Chief Patent Counsel in Collaboration With IAM

Posted in Courtroom, Deception, Microsoft, Patents at 3:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Reality distortion field (RDF) is a term coined by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981…” –Wikipedia

Shook, Hardy and Bacon L.L.P.
Shook, Hardy and Bacon L.L.P. with a slant

Summary: Another new example of software patents advocacy from IAM, with help from Microsoft’s people (or ‘former’ people)

NOT only patent trolls, the PR firm of the EPO and various patent law firms send money IAM’s way. Joff Wild has quite a few hands feeding him and these tend to be ardent advocates of patent wars (they profit from wars). It’s not really a news site, even if Google News recognises it as such. It is agenda. Sometimes it’s marketing.

Earlier today IAM gave readers the impression of software patents resurgence. As we have been showing here for a number of months, this could not be further from the truth and this claim comes (or sourced) from Microsoft’s former Patent Counsel, Bart Eppenauer. Joff Wild previously gave Bart Eppenauer a voice/platform in his Microsoft-powered site for similar reasons. It is not too shocking to find the site once again being composed, by proxy, by Microsoft folks in order to promote software patents, like those which Microsoft uses to continue its war on GNU/Linux, Android, ChromeOS, and Free software in general.

“It is not too shocking to find the site once again being composed, by proxy, by Microsoft folks in order to promote software patents, like those which Microsoft uses to continue its war on GNU/Linux, Android, ChromeOS, and Free software in general.”Wild wants us to believe that just two decisions (among many thousands) at CAFC (a corruptible court by the way), one of which involved Microsoft directly, somehow mean “eligibility nightmare the US software and biotech industries have been going through may – just may – be coming to an end.”

Well, the very opposite is true as SCOTUS refuses to revisit anything that pertains to Alice and litigation fell sharply. Lies by omission, selection, cherry-picking or just wishful thinking? Microsoft, a lobbyist for software patents, is hardly a reliable or objective source regarding software patents (especially in cases that involve Microsoft) and Joff Wild is experienced enough to know this. Does IAM even make an attempt to hide its agenda (and Microsoft’s) any longer? It has been getting pretty shallow.

This is what we often allude to as the problem of patent lawyers dominating if not abducting the media and thus controlling (or distorting) the message.

07.06.16

Microsoft and Its Lobbyist David Kappos (Former USPTO Director) Are Still Lobbying for Software Patents

Posted in America, Microsoft, Patents at 5:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another reminder of revolving doors culture at the USPTO

Microsoft links to David Kappos

Summary: Just as things are beginning to improve in the US — where patent scope is tightened and software patents often get invalidated/rejected — the Microsoft-funded David Kappos (who came from inside the USPTO) rears his ugly head again

SOFTWARE patents are dying in the US and as we noted here yesterday, the “patent global warming” — as Benjamin Henrion habitually calls it — cools down a bit. The National Law Review (based in Chicago, i.e. US-centric) has a new series of articles the latest part of which discusses software patents (versus copyright on code) and correctly says that “the Alice Corp v CLS Bank Int’l decision at the US Supreme Court which made it much harder to patent software.” Asserting existing (old) software patents in a court of law has become even harder, as the USPTO has a build-in conflict of interests (so-called ‘production’ versus quality control — the same problem we now see at the EPO). So yes, Alice became a nightmare to big patent bullies like Microsoft and IBM (the previous employer of Kappos).

“Asserting existing (old) software patents in a court of law has become even harder, as the USPTO has a build-in conflict of interests (so-called ‘production’ versus quality control — the same problem we now see at the EPO).”Microsoft now links to David Kappos (its anti-Alice lobbyist) and his Web site which promotes software patents. “Patents Fuel the American Dream” is the title and Microsoft has just piggybacked US Independence Day for this lobbying push (opportunistic marketing stunts that strive to associate patent maximalism with patriotism). Benjamin Henrion responded by saying that “patents fuel the American nightmare.” It’s especially true for software developers, who are often hit by patent trolls that almost always use software patents.

Last week we wrote about the Sequenom decision (or lack thereof), which was good news for abolishers of software patents. Glyn Moody, who wrote a book on the subject on genome monopolies, said that “Diagnostic Patents Suffer Another Setback In US As Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Sequenom Appeal” (more about Mayo than about Alice). To quote Dr. Moody:

In recent years, there have been a couple of really important US Supreme Court decisions in the biotech field. One is the 2013 judgment striking down gene patents. The other is a ruling from 2012 that rejected the patenting of basic medical diagnostics, in a case involving Mayo Collaborative Services and Prometheus Labs. The resultant loss for biotech companies in terms of devalued patent portfolios, and their reduced ability to control the market using intellectual monopolies, has been so serious that it is no surprise that there are periodic attempts to get these decisions mitigated through subsequent court rulings.

[...]

Although the industry will doubtless whine about how there is no incentive to produce new diagnostic tests, there’s no evidence that research and development in this area has ground to a halt in the US since the Supreme Court ruling on Mayo. All that has happened is that obvious applications of natural biological phenomena have been removed from patentability. Given the inherent reasonableness of that, we can probably hope that further challenges to Mayo will also fail.

The above does not deal with the angle of software patenting (covered here a few days ago), but in essence and in brief the SCOTUS rejection means that there will be no potent challenges to Alice and Mayo and the foreseeable future.

06.28.16

Today’s Media Coverage Says Microsoft Loves Linux, But Today Microsoft Extorted Linux Using Software Patents Again

Posted in Microsoft, Red Hat at 6:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Relying on mass deception using the media while blackmailing companies behind closed doors

BP loves puppies

Summary: Luna Mobile has just been extorted by Microsoft (using dubious software patents, as usual) for using Android/Linux, but Microsoft-influenced media carries on spreading the lie that “Microsoft loves Linux”

RED HAT’S own event has just been hijacked by Microsoft again (see articles below along with the comments) and Microsoft used Red Hat’s platform to call its proprietary (Open Core) platform “Open Source”, to say it “loves Linux” (the infamous old lie), and so on. On the other hand, Microsoft’s own booster Mary Jo Foley says that “Microsoft signs Android patent-licensing deal with Luna Mobile”. She insists that “Microsoft has signed an Android patent deal with Luna Mobile, even though its announcement of the arrangement never mentions the word ‘Android’.”

Yes, so much for love. It must love all that ‘protection money’ it is silently amassing.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Red Hat Delivers More Secure Containers with New Scanning Capability [Ed: helping Microsoft’s parasite]
  2. Microsoft unveils .NET Core 1.0, extends partnership with Red Hat [Ed: Red Hat is so focused on meeting short-term profit goals that it forgot Microsoft's past]
  3. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Unveils .NET Core 1.0 Availability
  4. Microsoft Releases Open Source .NET Core 1.0 For Linux, Windows, And macOS [Ed: Another reminder that’s needed here is that open core is not open source]
  5. Microsoft Announces Open .NET Core 1.0 at Red Hat Summit [Ed: stealing Red Hat's thunder at its own event]
  6. Microsoft releases cross-platform .NET Core 1.0 at Linux event [Ed: How Microsoft turns Linux events into its own. Microsoft love love love… if they keep saying it often enough, preferably with “Linux” in headlines, then maybe fools will believe it.]
  7. Microsoft starts proving its Linux love [Ed: As big a lie as it gets; when will it stop taunting Linux with patents then?]
  8. Microsoft announces open-source Language Server Protocol
  9. Microsoft’s Open Source .NET Core Project Hits v1.0, Gets General Availability
  10. Microsoft launches Net Core 1.0 for Linux, OS X and Windows
  11. Microsoft’s open sourcing of .NET hits a major milestone
  12. Microsoft Proves Its Love For Linux With Net Core Software, Open Source And Ready To Go [Ed: People don't want Microsoft love. They just want Microsoft to start obeying the law.]
  13. Codenvy, Microsoft and Red Hat Collaborate on a Protocol for Sharing Programming Language Guidance
  14. Microsoft further embraces open source with cross-platform version of .Net Framework
  15. MapR, Microsoft make announcements at Hadoop and Red Hat summits
  16. Microsoft brings .NET Core to MacOS and Linux
  17. Microsoft launches its cross-platform .Net Core
  18. Microsoft announces general availability of .NET Core and ASP.NET Core 1.0
  19. Latest Microsoft Mechanics video shows Red Hat Linux running on Azure [Ed: Does anyone really believe (literally) Microsoft loves Linux ? All I see is Microsoft boosters and ghostwriters claiming such people exist.]
  20. Microsoft announces .NET Core 1.0 for Linux, MacOS and Windows
  21. Announcing .NET Core 1.0
  22. Microsoft finally introduces ASP.NET Core 1.0, supported inherently by Red Hat
  23. .NET Core 1.0 Released

06.27.16

Techrights (Almost) at 10: From Software Patents to Novell and to Present Focus on EPO

Posted in Apple, Europe, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Patents at 9:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A weak and/or incompetent EPO would harm everyone in the world

10 dollars

Summary: A short story about how and why we ended up writing so much about the European Patent Office (EPO) and the impact beyond Europe

THE EPO has become a subject of considerable debate and focus here. It started around 2014 after we had primarily focused on the US patent system, the USPTO.

For those who have not been reading the site since its inception, here is a short introduction.

I had been a GNU/Linux advocate well before this site existed and an opponent of software patents (not patents as a whole) for a little longer than that. People who have themselves developed software don’t find it difficult to understand why copyrights, not patents, are suitable protection for one’s work (protection from plagiarism, misuse, misattribution, and so on).

The earliest goal of the site, back almost 10 years ago, was to end the software patents assault by Microsoft against GNU/Linux and Free software in general — an assault which began if not publicly culminated with the Microsoft/Novell patent deal. Novell took several years to decline after this deal and ultimately, unsurprisingly, Microsoft grabbed Novell’s own software patents, in a joint takeover along with Apple, Oracle, etc. These companies do not want Linux and Android to succeed, not without them being heavily taxed by the proprietary software oligopoly (Microsoft, Apple and Oracle still have ongoing patent/copyright fights against Android).

Apple’s attack on Linux (through Android) officially began in 2010, whereupon we wrote a great deal about Apple and shortly afterwards Oracle joined this war. It had already shown some hostility towards Red Hat, just shortly before the Microsoft/Novell deal in 2006.

For those who are not yet seeing a pattern, let it be spelled out clearly; the rise of Free software and GNU/Linux gave power to new actors such as Google, which made proper use of Free software in order to build back- and front-end stacks (databases, operating systems, AI, Web servers and so on). This meant that gadgets-selling giants, database giants, operating systems giants/monopolies etc. that were and still are proprietary (e.g. iOS, Mac OS X, Oracle, Windows) needed to either crash/crush emergent forces or tax them, using either patents or copyrights (this goes back to 2003 with the Microsoft-backed SCO assault on Linux).

Right now, in 2016, the aforementioned issues are unresolved. Microsoft is still attacking Linux (but more cleverly, with shrewdly-worded announcements that brand/frame patent settlements as bundling deals), Apple still has several patent cases against Android OEMs, and Oracle refuses to give up even after 6 years in the courtroom (against Android through Google). The cause of utmost importance here deals not only with software patents anymore but also with some design patents (Apple v Samsung) and copyright on APIs (Oracle v Google).

About 8 years ago we expressed concerns about software patents in Europe due to FRAND lobbying (from companies like Microsoft) and Brimelow’s loophole “as such”. We thereafter didn’t keep a close eye on the EPO for quite some time. Not much seemed to happen, but new kinds of abuses started to emerge and these seemed to be related to the resurrection of the “EU patent” or “community patent”, this time under a new kind of name and marketing (equating maximalism with union, unity, universality etc.) accompanied by/with repression of staff and suppression of critics. Even the staff union of the EPO, which had existed for several decades, came under unprecedented (even outside the EPO) attacks.

The reason we now focus a great deal on the EPO is that we have reasonably good understanding of the matters involved. We also have many articles on the subject, which helps us create a cohesive story with a lot of cross-referencing. Our goal now is to help other people (EPO insiders as well as politicians who are outsiders) gain an equally good understanding of why the EPO’s management must be chopped laterally and replaced en masse. It is the only way to save the EPO right now. Delegates that make up the Administrative Council probably have a good grip on the current situation, but they are afraid (or tied up by Battistelli’s hand on the budget), so they are not likely to do anything. The EPO needs somewhat of a revolution and strikes/demonstrations are steps towards that.

In the coming days we shall have a lot to write about the EPO and we will devote plenty of time and resources to ensure this historic period in the EPO is properly documented. We welcome feedback from readers and we hope that new material will continue to flow in. Now that everyone in the UK (and increasingly beyond) talks about “Brexit” it looks like Battistelli will definitely fail to deliver on his promises. He will be remembered not as a pioneer manager who compromised the rule of law for some ‘necessary’ reform but as a ruthless tyrant that shattered the EPO’s reputation for many years if not decades to come.

The EPO will outlive Battistelli and it is everyone’s job, especially at the EPO, to fight for patent quality (i.e. defy Battistelli’s ‘productivity’ obsession or lunacy). Remember that patent offices live or die (or make or break if not perish) based on the value or perceived value of their granted patents, i.e. examination that increases certainty in a court of law. Being an ENA graduate, Battistelli perhaps hopes that his predecessor will be left to deal with the aftermath of his atrocious policies (brain drain, low patent quality, reputation problems). Then the blame might be misplaced. A retired Battistelli would have little or nothing to worry about, but what about patent examiners who are far from retirement? How about retired examiners whose pension will be at risk? Given some upcoming Battistelli ‘reforms’, many people’s pensions are already at risk. This is just bad for Europe’s competitiveness across many sectors (medicine, chemistry, physics, telecommunication and many more). As patents get granted and assigned not just to European applicants (only the employees of the EPO are European), this may also means innovation will happen in the courts (lawyers’ strategies with patent trolls) rather than in the laboratories. Patent monopolies that are granted for the sake of being granted (artificially elevating some measure of EPO ‘output’) rather than to promote innovation can retard human progress as a whole.

06.12.16

Samsung’s Patent Cases Matter to Design Patents (Scope), to Android, and by Extension to GNU/Linux

Posted in Apple, Corel, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, Samsung at 5:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Samsung has the power to put an end to a controversial type of patents that are similar to software patents

Gates
Slide to unlock: novel or medieval?

Summary: A couple of new developments in Apple’s dispute about the ‘design’ of Samsung’s Android phones, which emulate extremely old concepts in digital form

WE are definitely not friends of Samsung (never have been), but some of its patent cases in recent years (especially against Microsoft and Apple) have had profound implications/impact.

“How on Earth were such patents granted in the first place?”Here is Professor Mark Lemley sharing his “brief for 50 IP professors on design patent damages in the Samsung v. Apple Supreme Court case” (local copy to ensure it endures the test of time). This is one of several such cases that involve Apple and Samsung. Florian Müller wrote that this is about as absurd as Microsoft’s patent bullying “over tiny arrow”. To quote the relevant part: “This is one of the patents Microsoft is presently asserting against Corel. Last summer I reported on Corel drawing first blood by suing Microsoft over a bunch of preview-related patents. A few months later, Microsoft retaliated with the assertion of six utility patents and four design patents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation named one of Microsoft’s design patents-in-suit the “stupid patent of the month” of December 2015 because it merely covered the design of a slider. But that patent isn’t nearly as bad as U.S. Design Patent No. D550,237, which practically just covers a tiny arrow positioned in the lower right corner of a rectangle. If you look at the drawings, particularly this one, note that the dotted lines mark the parts that aren’t claimed. What’s really claimed is just a rectangle with another rectangle inside and that tiny graphical arrow in the bottom right corner.”

“This sounds good on the surface, but unless the SCOTUS Justices rule on this, the perceived legitimacy of design patents may persist.”How on Earth were such patents granted in the first place? It’s not surprising that USPTO patent quality has declined so badly and so quickly and there are new patent quality studies regarding the USPTO. Will any similar studies look closely at EPO patent quality as well?

According to an Apple advocacy site, patents on design might not reach SCOTUS after all. This is bad news to all who hoped that SCOTUS would put en end to design patents once and for all.”Samsung Electronics welcomes support for overturning U.S. court ruling in Apple case,” said this new article, which along with others said “Justice Department Urges High Court Overturn Award to Apple Over Samsung Smartphones”. This sounds good on the surface, but unless the SCOTUS Justices rule on this, the perceived legitimacy of design patents may persist. As Müller put it: “Reading all amicus briefs in Samsung v. Apple (design patent damages). Momentum behind call for reasonableness is very impressive.” It looks very likely that if the SCOTUS rules on this, it will help demolish many design patents by extension, in the same way that Alice at SCOTUS put an end to many software patents in the United States. “A federal appeals court awarded about $500 million in damages to Apple for design patent infringement,” recalled one article, demonstrating just how much money can be at stake due to one single patent. “Design patent owners shouldn’t get 100% of the profits when only 1% of the product infringes, EFF tells court,” according to the EFF’s Twitter account and accompanying blog post that says: “The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the U.S. Supreme Court today to reverse a ruling that required Samsung to pay Apple all the profits it earned from smartphones that infringed three basic design patents owned by the iPhone maker.

“Apple is the aggressor, whereas Samsung — like Google — is hardly ever initiating patent lawsuits.”“The $399-million damage award against Samsung, upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the Apple v. Samsung patent lawsuit, should be thrown out, EFF told the court in an amicus brief filed today with Public Knowledge and The R Street Institute. Forcing defendants to give up 100% of their profits for infringing designs that may only marginally contribute to a product’s overall look and functionality will encourage frivolous lawsuits and lead to excessive damage awards that will raise prices for consumers and deter innovation.”

Don’t fall for the corporate media’s narrative of Apple as the victim even when software patents are to blame. Apple is the aggressor, whereas Samsung — like Google — is hardly ever initiating patent lawsuits. We hope that Samsung will take this all the way up to the Supreme Court (more expensive to Samsung but collectively beneficial to all) and eventually win. The net effect might be the end of many design patents in the US. Those patents so often threaten GNU/Linux or Android products, as we have repeatedly shown here over the years. Will Samsung do a public service here?

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