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03.25.17

It Certainly Looks Like Microsoft is Already Siccing Its Patent Trolls, Including Intellectual Ventures, on Companies That Use Linux (Until They Pay ‘Protection’ Money)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The patent strategy of Bill, Steve and Horacio seems to be alive and well even in their absence

Ballmer on patents
Full, 6-frame explanation of Microsoft’s strategy

“People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.”

Steve Ballmer

Summary: News about Intellectual Ventures and Finjan Holdings (Microsoft-funded patent trolls) reinforces our allegations — not mere suspicions anymore — that Microsoft would ‘punish’ companies that are not paying subscription fees (hosting) or royalties (patent tax) to Microsoft and are thus in some sense ‘indebted’ to Microsoft

THE analysis we presented here last month turns out to be very accurate. Our predictions didn’t take long to materialise.

Let’s start with some background. In spite of courts in the US limiting the patentability of software, the USPTO keeps granting these and failing to invalidate those already granted, unless someone petitions PTAB to look into particular patents. This means that, for the time being, even bogus patents continue to exist and they can be used for litigation. Challenging them, especially if they are used in bulk, can be very expensive (legal fees). Recently, some companies challenged Intellectual Ventures‘ claims against them and won. All of the software patents of Intellectual Ventures were found to be invalid. But at what cost? These cases had to be escalated all the way up to CAFC before that happened. How many companies out there can afford justice and how rarely would that be an option cheaper than just settling?

“How many companies out there can afford justice and how rarely would that be an option cheaper than just settling?”Nowadays, a lot of small companies choose the so-called ‘cloud’ for hosting. There are numerous reasons for this and they don’t typically receive legal protections or indemnification from the host. There have already been cases where companies got hit with a lawsuit (or more) for a bunch of virtual machines.

This new article by Richard Kemp, providing a good example of what we mean by cloudwashing of software patents (adding something like “on the cloud”, in order to fool examiners into granting software patents, thinking these are novel and combined with a machine).

“Cloud software patent claims will likely increase as more users migrate to the cloud,” it says in the summary, alluding in particular sections about trolls to this phenomenon. Here are the relevant parts:

As the public cloud services market continues to mature and grow – up from $178bn in 2015 to $209bn in 2016 according to research company Gartner – the concentration of computing resources into cloud data centres is increasingly attracting the attention of Non-Practising Entities (NPEs) as a target for patent litigation. At a time when data security and privacy risks are front of mind for cloud service providers (CSPs) and their users, the intellectual property (IP) risks to cloud service availability posed by NPE patent claims are rising up the business agenda.

NPEs are businesses that assert patents through litigation to achieve revenues from alleged infringers without practising or commercialising the technology covered by the patents they hold. NPEs are uniquely well placed to monetise their patents at each stage of the litigation cycle. They have access to capital and all necessary forensic and legal resources; and an NPE doesn’t practise its patents so is immune to a counterclaim that a defendant might otherwise be able to bring against a competitor, or a cross-licence that the defendant could otherwise offer.

[...]

From the CSP’s standpoint all this is bad enough, but software patent risks are further exacerbated by increasing use of open source software (OSS) in the cloud. OSS, long in the mainstream, now commonly powers cloud computing systems. OSS developments are created by communities of individual developers. With no single holder of software rights, patent infringement issues are unlikely to be top of mind, and if they are, developers will generally lack the resources to help them navigate the risks. Simply because they are open, OSS developments and communities are easier targets for NPEs than proprietary software as they don’t need to go to the same lengths to discover potential infringement. The softness of the target increases risk for CSPs using OSS and their users.

Cloud software patent risk is evident and growing, so it is perhaps surprising that it has figured so little in the register of perceived risks up to now, especially when data protection, privacy and information security figure so high. Yet an unsettled cloud software patent claim runs risks to cloud service availability that are arguably of the same order as information security risks. The reason why cloud computing IP risks have had little public airing so far is probably that, while implicitly acknowledged, they have yet to be thoroughly expressed and articulated. For example, in UK financial services, now one of the most heavily regulated sectors, cloud computing is treated as outsourcing and in its cloud guidance, the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority, the UK regulator) states that regulated firms should, amongst other things: “monitor concentration risk and consider what action it would take if the provider failed ….”

How does that relate to Microsoft? Now comes the key part. Microsoft is trying to turn Azure into its new cash cow and it is also trying to turn its patents into cash cows. It’s now doing in the cars what it’s planning to do in the ‘cloud’, namely demand payments for patents (where [GNU/]Linux is used), otherwise send a bunch of trolls to make a legal mess. The Mafia model.

“It’s now doing in the cars what it’s planning to do in the ‘cloud’, namely demand payments for patents (where [GNU/]Linux is used), otherwise send a bunch of trolls to make a legal mess. The Mafia model.”The other day we wrote about what Microsoft and its biggest troll (Intellectual Ventures) had been doing lately, having recently written about Microsoft marketing of “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] — eerily similar in many ways to the Microsoft-Novell patent deal.

It looks like Microsoft is already siccing its patent trolls on companies that don't pay 'protection' money, we noted, and now it looks like we have another new example, as covered yesterday by friends of Intellectual Ventures, IAM magazine. To quote the relevant bits:

The auto industry has been a hive of patent activity for several years. Manufacturers and suppliers are far more sophisticated players in terms of their own patenting, have become more assertive in fighting claims and are increasingly signing-up to defensive initiatives such as the LOT Network and Unified Patents. The emerging dynamics in the sector were on full display in two separate developments this week.

First up, on Monday, Intellectual Ventures filed seven lawsuits in Delaware against Toyota, Honda and BMW, and the suppliers Denso, Nidec, Aisin Seiki and Mitsuba. Each has been accused of infringing between one and five patents. IV has been attempting to license the auto sector for several years and in a significant boost to its efforts did a deal with Ford in 2015. Obviously not everyone in the industry has been as willing as Ford, hence this week’s move.

[...]

On Wednesday Microsoft announced that it had agreed a new patent licensing deal with Toyota that includes broad coverage for connected car technologies. That deal, the software giant says, is the first in its new auto licensing programme; and so we can presumably expect some similar announcements in the coming months. The deal release was light on details, but the two companies have an existing IP relationship thanks to Microsoft’s recent Azure IP Advantage initiative, which Toyota was quick to sign up to. What will be interesting to follow is how any upcoming deals are structured given that Microsoft’s recent focus has been on using its IP as leverage in getting more of its products onto devices rather than as a driver of licensing dollars.

The Japanese car giant is clearly looking to ensure it has freedom to operate in a rapidly changing market. That strategy, so far, has not included signing a licence with IV — which Microsoft was an early investor in — but the Delaware lawsuit might bring things to a head.

The Microsoft-Toyota patent deal was mentioned here the other day. We later said that Microsoft is using software patents against GNU/Linux and relies on secrecy around what’s covered (Android, file systems, etc.); for those who don’t yet know, Toyota was historically close to Microsoft, but it recently defected to the Linux camp. Microsoft can’t be too happy about that. Here are three items from the news:

  • Toyota licenses Microsoft’s portfolio of connected car patents

    In a blog post, Microsoft Intellectual Property Group chief IP Counsel Erich Anderson suggests the company’s software patents will play a significant role in the automotive industry’s “digital transformation” as more vehicles are connected to the internet and cloud services.

  • Microsoft expands connected car push with patent licensing

    Rather than trying to build a high-tech automobile of its own, Microsoft is focusing on providing carmakers with the tools they need to create smarter vehicles and the Toyota deal is the first of what it hopes will be a series of such agreements.

    [...]

    The deal signed with Toyota includes intellectual property {sic} related to information processing technology and communication technology used in connected cars. In typical Microsoft fashion, the terms of the deal beyond that have been kept secret.

  • Daimler Jumps on Linux Bandwagon

    Not long ago, if a major corporation were to take out membership in an open source project, that would be big news — doubly so for a company whose primary business isn’t tech related. Times have changed. These days the corporate world’s involvement in open source is taken for granted, even for companies whose business isn’t computer related. Actually, there’s really no such thing anymore. One way or another, computer technology is at the core of nearly every product on the market.

    So it wasn’t surprising that hardly anyone noticed earlier this month when Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz and the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, announced it had joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an organization that seeks to protect open source projects from patent litigation. According to a quick and unscientific search of Google, only one tech site covered the news, and that didn’t come until a full 10 days after the announcement was made.

That third one is particularly noteworthy as Daimler may be looking for some sort of protection though OIN — a protection that will not come for reasons we explained some days ago. There’s no redemption from trolls there, by OIN’s own admission. OIN has in fact done nothing against Microsoft’s latest patent manoeuvres against Linux. Nothing.

“Our prediction is that in various fields, be it security, car navigation, or anything “on a cloud” Microsoft will send trolls to wreak havoc unless/until the victims join some Microsoft ‘protection’ scheme such as “Azure IP Advantage”.”To clarify, Intellectual Ventures is not the only Microsoft-connected troll which is storming and suing companies that Microsoft dislikes, particularly Linux distributors (e.g. devices). There are a lot of Microsoft-armed and Microsoft-funded trolls out there (we’ve named many over the years). Last night in the news for example, we saw this patent troll which is connected to Microsoft (even financed by it) settling with Avast. Based on the wording, it’s maybe a settlement or ‘protection’ money (they don’t say), but the text does say “Finjan remains, in various capacities, involved in patent-associated cases against FireEye, Sophos, Symantec, Palo Alto Networks, Blue Coat Systems, ESET (and affiliates) and Cisco Systems.”

Finjan is a troll (as last mentioned earlier this year) and it seems to be going after every security company out there, equipped with nothing but software patents which we looked at closely in the past. Our prediction is that in various fields, be it security, car navigation, or anything “on a cloud” Microsoft will send trolls to wreak havoc unless/until the victims join some Microsoft ‘protection’ scheme such as “Azure IP Advantage”.

03.21.17

Intellectual Ventures — Like Microsoft (Which It Came From) — Spreads Patents to Manifest a Lot of Lawsuits

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 4:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

They are still close friends…

Bill and Nathan
Bill Gates (Microsoft co-founder) and Nathan Myhrvold (Intellectual Ventures founder, former Microsoft CTO). Credit: Reuters

Summary: That worrisome strategy which is passage of patents to active (legally-aggressive) trolls seems to be a commonality, seen across both Microsoft and its biggest ally among trolls, which Microsoft and Bill Gates helped create and still fund

TWO days ago we wrote that it certainly seemed (based on new evidence) like Microsoft would start siccing trolls on (and against) companies such as Amazon and AWS customers — something that some pundits had already hypothesised about (since the “Azure IP Advantage” announcement [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]).

“Is this a new modus operandi for Intellectual Ventures? Is Microsoft, a close ally of Intellectual Ventures, in the know about this?”We are now hearing, right from the mouths of Intellectual Ventures apologists, that the patents it gives away to other fake companies (which produce nothing) are being used to attack legitimate companies down in the Eastern District of Texas. Is this a new modus operandi for Intellectual Ventures? Is Microsoft, a close ally of Intellectual Ventures, in the know about this? Will some of these firms that Intellectual Ventures is arming go after AWS customers and never against Azure customers? We shall see…

As IAM put it today (remember that IAM repeatedly groomed this troll, the world’s largest patent troll): “In December last year, however, IV’s Invention Science Fund made three separate transfers of 49 assets to an entity called Location Based Services LLC, a Plano-based business that appears to be controlled by Leigh Rothschild. He is listed on IV’s website as being part of its invention network and, according to the site, has turned to IV in the past to help monetise his own patents. He has also been only too happy to pursue alleged infringers through the courts and now appears prepared to try to monetise some of IV’s grants. Last month, Location Based Services filed three infringement lawsuits in East Texas against Rand McNally, MITAC Digital Corp and Garmin International.”

“It’s going to be difficult to keep track as Intellectual Ventures already has literally thousands of proxies, based on reliable press reports.”It’s not an isolated example. The title of the article is, “As IV increases its rate of patent sales, more of the assets it divests are ending up in court”.

So it’s Intellectual Ventures — not just Microsoft — which is now fueling massive number of lawsuits by giving patents to trolls. It’s going to be difficult to keep track as Intellectual Ventures already has literally thousands of proxies, based on reliable press reports.

03.20.17

Apple and Microsoft, Two Patent Aggressors That Habitually Attack GNU/Linux Distributors, Get Sued by a Patent Troll, Soverain IP

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 4:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Background reading: “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” –Steve Jobs

“The term “just war” contains an internal contradiction. War is inherently unjust, and the great challenge of our time is how to deal with evil, tyranny, and oppression without killing huge numbers of people.”

Howard Zinn, Terrorism and War (2002)

Summary: Putting in perspective the latest high-profile (in the press at least) lawsuits filed by a notorious troll, which this time around chose as its targets two patent aggressors that deserve no sympathy because of their own actions

WE occasionally hear about Apple patents at the EPO but cannot say much due to source protection needs. At the USPTO, by contrast, Apple patents have already attracted much criticism, and courts are invalidating some of these (sometimes it happens in Europe as well). The point of the matter is, Apple likes to collect a lot of patents and later it uses these to go after Android OEMs (actual lawsuits), having started with sabre-rattling against Palm prior to that.

Writing in his blog last week, Florian Müller said that the US Supreme Court may soon proceed to challenging yet another Apple case against the largest Android OEM (at least at the time the case was initiated). To quote:

Timing is often an interesting indication of a party’s priorities. Over these past seven years of Apple v. Android lawsuits (it all started with HTC in March 2010), Android companies–HTC more than anyone else–have often shown the behavior of stallers, at least when they were (as Samsung is here) on the defending end of a litigation (obviously not when they were asserting standard-essential patents themselves). Even parties that don’t intend to stall in the slightest (such as Oracle when enforcing its copyrights against Google) typically wait until the end of a filing deadline. It provides them with an opportunity to wait for further relevant developments (case law, public statements by key persons and entities, etc.). So I really am surprised here. Further remedies-related proceedings in that case are ongoing in district court, and a case management conference has just been postponed to next month. With a view to that conference, the Supreme Court is unlikely to make any decision either way in the meantime.

We certainly hope that Apple will decide to compete based on technical merits rather than patents and lawyers. We are not too optimistic about it, as this is essentially a sworn sort of legacy of Steve Jobs and it’s the only thing Apple has left because its market share is diminishing every year (ignore Apple’s “alternative facts” to that effect, focusing only in particular demographies).

“We certainly hope that Apple will decide to compete based on technical merits rather than patents and lawyers.”Apple-aligned Web sites, in the mean time, have the audacity to complain about patent aggression because the patent troll known as "Soverain" (we wrote about it quite frequently in the distant past) is back with vengeance and it is suing Apple. This patent troll isn’t as dead as some Apple fans thoughts/hoped, which is why they’re all complaining [1, 2, 3] in their ‘news’ sites (more like Apple advocacy sites). One of them said that “Soverain Software, a non-practicing entity that gained media attention for suing Newegg and other online retailers over “shopping cart” patents, on Thursday filed a complaint against Apple for alleged infringement of IP relating to internet-based services.”

Curious is the fact that Microsoft too is being sued by this patent troll, and moreover it uses a Microsoft case (Enfish v Microsoft) to justify its case, based on this coverage from IAM. To quote the relevant bits:

With the Supreme Court’s decision not to grant cert to Soverain’s appeal in early 2014, that appeared to be that for the company and its assertion campaign. Except this week Soverain’s patents were back in court as a new, Texas-based entity called Soverain IP filed suit against Microsoft and Apple, alleging that the Windows giant infringes on six patents while the iPhone creator infringes on four.

[...]

One of the patents — no. 5,708,780 — which was granted in 1998, has been litigated before and appears to be one of the online shopping-related grants that led to Soverain securing a $40 million settlement from Amazon in 2005. Notably, in its court filings this week, Soverain cites Enfish v Microsoft, one of several 2016 Federal Circuit decisions which are seen as providing key guidelines over the patentability of software, to back up its claim that the patent does not cover an abstract idea and is therefore valid.

We’re now faced with a hard choice; who to support, so to speak? The ugly patent troll or the two patent aggressors which have been attacking GNU/Linux using patents? Well, as the informal proverb/saying goes, in some wars both sides are evil. The only sure thing is, lawyers will profit from this. They always do, irrespective of who ‘wins’; to them, every lawsuit is a ‘win’ and they lobby their government accordingly.

“The only sure thing is, lawyers will profit from this.”Speaking of patent trolls such as the above, there is an ongoing EFF campaign against universities hoarding and then selling patents, i.e. taxpayers wasting money on patents that are handed to trolls who then attack these same taxpayers. Here is the EFF’s latest update on this:

Last year, EFF, along with our partner organizations, launched Reclaim Invention, a campaign to encourage universities across the country to commit to adopting patent policies that advance the public good. Reclaim Invention asks universities to focus on by bringing their inventions to the public, rather than selling or licensing them to patent assertion entities whose sole business model is threatening other innovators with patent lawsuits.

Now, thanks to Maryland State Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher, the project is taking a step forward. In February, Delegate Waldstreicher introduced H.B. 1357, a bill modeled on Reclaim Invention’s draft legislation, the Reclaim Invention Act.

The above has already attracted some high-profile support that we have come across in sites like Twitter.

This is (almost) the first time we hear about the “Reclaim Invention Act”, except when the EFF mentioned it at the end of last year. Other such “Acts” have not been heard from in a while (in effect they got abandoned); The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act did a lot of good; the above would too (if it ever materialises).

03.19.17

What’s OIN Doing While Microsoft is Siccing Patent Trolls on Azure Competitors’ Customers?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 9:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Attacks on GNU/Linux and Free/libre software, but OIN cannot do anything about it

Submarine (patents)

Summary: Microsoft’s patent litigation strategy has become clearer, and patents-centric efforts such as OIN offer no defence against such a strategy, which attempts to pressure everyone to flock to Microsoft for ‘protection’ (from Microsoft itself)

SEVERAL readers have sent us this latest article about OIN, which we no longer believe does anything beneficial to Linux, except in name. The USPTO continues to grant software patents (more rarely than before) and OIN plays a role in a group designed to promote software patents, or support their resurgence. Where has OIN been when we needed it? Our readers emphasise that OIN is not effective against trolls and Benjamin Henrion (FFII) recently said that OIN itself had admitted it. So if OIN isn’t trying to stop software patents and isn’t effective against trolls, what good is it anyway? It’s somewhat of a distraction from the real solutions. The latest puff piece for OIN says: “When you think of Linux and open-source companies, the automobile industry is not the first business to spring to mind. But maybe it should be. Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), the Linux and open-source non-aggression patent consortium.”

So what?

“Where is OIN now that Microsoft is coercing Linux/Android OEMs into bundling malware, using threats of patent lawsuits?”The piece was possibly initiated by some phonecall and/or a press release from OIN’s CEO (I should know as he phoned me too, in order to garner support). Where has OIN been when Microsoft attacked GNU/Linux? Where is OIN now that Microsoft is coercing Linux/Android OEMs into bundling malware, using threats of patent lawsuits? Microsoft already sued over it, e.g. Microsoft v Samsung.

We kindly remind readers that Microsoft is passing patents, usually in bulk, to trolls, which OIN can do nothing about (by its own admission). Buying patents before these make it into the hands of trolls would not work if the seller is Microsoft or a company intruded by Microsoft, such as Nokia when it sold patents to MOSAID. OIN is absolutely useless in circumstances such as these. Recall our recent article titled "As Long as Software Patents Are Granted and Microsoft Equips Trolls With Them, “Azure IP Advantage” is an Attack on Free/Libre Software" — one among several such articles, posted along with the following articles:

One reader that alerted us about the OIN piece had already found out a curious report from Microsoft’s booster Kurt Mackie. “I lost the link (ignored it because of Azure),” this reader explained, “but after thinking about it, if Microsoft is selling or renting patents to trolls (NPE) then their tactic works. In particular they are able to attract trolls with the bait on Azure, let them have a patent for a fee, and then point the troll at their competitors. Just speculation but I that’s what I though after considering the Azure news.”

Upon further exploration the article in question was found again. “I found where I saw it,” our reader explained, quoting the following passage from it:

Lastly, Microsoft is promising that if it transfers Azure-associated patents to “nonpracticing entities,” then the arrangement will be such that the holding company can’t assert IP claims against Azure customers. This latter arrangement is called a “springing license” arrangement in legal lingo.

This is pretty significant as it shows that our interpretation of the strategy was all along correct. “If Microsoft is doing those “transfers”,” our reader noted, then “it is effectively siccing trolls on its competitors’ customers.”

The strategy above is rightly compared to the Novell deal that we protested against for a very long time. To quote: “On the IP side, Microsoft early on provided “IP peace of mind” by issuing certificates for Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise server use in a controversial program that promised customers using that software that they would not be subject to IP claims from Microsoft. That program emerged from Microsoft’s early legal claims that Linux and other open source software had violated 235 of Microsoft’s patents.”

“This is pretty significant as it shows that our interpretation of the strategy was all along correct.”So again, just like we had said all along, Microsoft basically reintroduced the same tactics. It just markets them differently now, using similar words but a different platform. 10 years ago Microsoft tried to get everyone to use SUSE, which it taxed, and now it is trying to make everyone move to Azure, with perceived or concrete risk of patent lawsuits as an encouraging factor.

And some people naïvely believe (based on a PR campaign) that Microsoft has changed…

03.15.17

More Good News About the US Patent System Crushing Software Patents While the Reformer, Michelle Lee, Stays

Posted in America, Microsoft, Patents at 5:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Something positive for a change

Reading newspaper

Summary: A quick roundup of patent cases in the US and what these mean to growing optimism about the practicing industry, not a bunch of parasitic firms that prey on and tax the practicing industry

TECHRIGHTS has been emphasising for nearly a decade now that low patent quality leads to patent trolls or gives them greater strength. If one removes software patents, that will immediately knock out a large majority of patent troll lawsuits. To a certain degree, in the US at least, this is already happening, thanks largely to Alice.

“Another example of the value of Alice in improving patent quality & protecting businesses from trolls,” United for Patent Reform wrote this week about this article, which was mentioned here before. To quote a portion again, it’s about Microsoft’s patent troll which was a ticking time bomb until several years back:

After staying quiescent for years, IV [Intellectual Ventures] opened up a barrage of lawsuits to enforce its patents in 2010. But the companies that decided to stand up to IV rather than buckle under have been faring well, as judges have found the patents that IV has chosen to enforce in court less than impressive. It’s a telling sign about the giant patent-holder’s collection. Given the opportunity to pull just about any patent out of its huge collection, one would assume the company would choose the best of the lot. But much of it appears to be exactly the kind of easy handouts from the dot-com boom era that have been called out by critics of “patent trolls.”

Never forget Intellectual Ventures’ very strong ties to Microsoft, and to Bill Gates at a personal capacity. A lot of people choose to forget this or simply don’t know. Intellectual Ventures also has literally thousands of satellite firms, based on numerous reliable reports. This is very relevant in light of our previous post. Microsoft runs an expensive and extensive trolling operation which is being used to coerce (or exercise control over) a lot of companies out there. It’s a form of blackmail: do as we tell you or someone out there will come and burn your house/business (e.g. patent trolls). Microsoft now offers the equivalent of ‘protection’ money, in the form of “Azure IP Advantage”, equivalent to “peace of mind” back in the Novell days (one decade ago).

Thankfully, as the above report shows, Intellectual Ventures is not so successful (so far) and there have been both layoffs (since about 3 years ago) and departures of top executives. Intellectual Ventures is basically rotting. It wouldn’t have rotten if it weren’t for decisions like Alice, which some fear the Trump administration has a financial incentive to overturn (Trump’s family business). IP Watch has just caught up with the ‘news’ about Michelle Lee (it’s not really news that she keeps her jobs; Nobody ever said otherwise, except the patent maximalists’ propaganda mill, which had been hoping and trying to oust her in favour of trolls-friendly candidates). To quote IP Watch:

A letter made public only by a United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request confirms that Michelle Lee remains the director of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), ending a mystery that has been curiously kept secret since President Trump took office over 50 days ago.

One might ask, why do we care so much about Michelle Lee? Well, we have written more than a dozen posts about her since Trump’s inauguration because we noticed a malicious lobbying campaign to remove her, primarily because she did not tolerate trolls and was reasonably OK with the demise of software patents. For those who may be wondering where we stand right now, it’s still looking good. As of this week, software patents proponents take note of software patent being invalidated, with holders relying on wasteful/futile appeals. To quote this one example: “Patent Owner Brief Appealing Invalidation of Email Patent under Alice/101: https://dlbjbjzgnk95t.cloudfront.net/0901000/901132/document%20(27).pdf

That’s unlikely to change. See this new article titled “Fed. Circ. Affirms Nixing Of Email Patent Under Alice,” which says a “district court had found the asserted claims of Network Apparel Group LP’s patent to be invalid…”

Even a district court found the patent to be invalid. District courts are typically more tolerant of software patents than the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). Here is another new report from the same site:

Fed. Circ. Affirms Medical Billing Patent Invalid Under Alice

The Federal Circuit on Monday affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s rejection of an application for a patent on a method of electronically transferring patient medical records over a network, saying the concept is abstract and therefore not patent-eligible under Alice.

In a per curiam opinion, the three-judge panel said the claims of inventor Angadbir Singh Salwan’s U.S. Patent Application Number 12/587,101 are unpatentable because they cover the abstract idea of billing insurance companies and organizing patient health information.

See the trend? The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is crushing software patents and, as happens about 80% of the time, CAFC reaffirms its judgment. Dennis Crouch is trying to put an end to that or at least slow that down as it makes him increasingly redundant/obsolete. Yesterday he chose to cover a particular CAFC/PTAB case because challenged patents were not invalidated, for a change (as happens only about 20% of the time). Here’s an except:

That suggests to me that the case is over with the patentee winning the IPR.

Claim Scope: I’m still somewhat confused about whether the claim structure used here is proper under the law. 35 USC 112 states that “A claim in dependent form shall be construed to incorporate by reference all the limitations of the claim to which it refers.” In my mind, one element of claim 12 is that it is a “method” and claim 21 is a “machine . . . configured to perform the method.” As such, claim 21 cannot itself meet the method limitation of claim 12.

Well, there are far, far more such cases where CAFC agrees with PTAB and invalidates patents; we suspect that Crouch just doesn’t want to highlight such cases; maybe he picks edge cases or exceptional scenarios for the purposes of open inquiry. Whatever it is, let it be clear that software patents are in an unprecedented crisis in the US and this is hurting firms which choose to just sue rather than innovate.

“In the more than two years since the Alice decision,” Industry Week wrote yesterday, “courts have held many software patents invalid as claiming nothing more than an abstract idea.”

Let it stay that way.

Microsoft Continues to Hoard Patents — Even Buying Patents — While Using Them Against GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

Protection racket
Wikipedia

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

Mark Shuttleworth

Summary: Basic scrutiny of Microsoft’s patent activity and its latest moves serves to reinforce the prior analysis, which says Microsoft uses patents to force OEMs to ‘bundle in’ Microsoft ‘apps’ (typically spyware that sends user data to Microsoft) and pressure companies to host GNU/Linux virtual machines only in Azure, for perceived “peace of mind” (they call it “Azure IP Advantage”) in a climate of patent aggression which Microsoft contributes to by sending patents to large patent trolls

THE USPTO continues to grant software patents, albeit at a slow pace (because of the courts and the most recent, post-Alice guidelines). We should not take things for granted and simply assume that software patents will always be toothless.

“Microsoft attacked the independence of both Yahoo and Nokia, leading their patents into the hands of patents trolls.”Microsoft, in the mean time, continues using software patents to blackmail or at least coerce large GNU/Linux/ChromeOS/Android OEMs, either for money, for bundling of Microsoft spyware, or both (see this recent hybrid deal with Xiaomi). This is a very serious matter because at the midst of all that coercion Microsoft claims that it “loves Linux”, which is of course an utterly ridiculous lie. As we put it last year, "Microsoft Loves Linux Patent Tax" (it loves Linux inside its plate, like people love beef).

Now watch this (via). From the company that continues to attack GNU/Linux using patents there is now a large patent purchase. The proponents of Microsoft (and software patents and patent trolls), namely IAM, said “[i]t is worth noting that Microsoft itself does not compete directly in the chipmaking market. This makes it unlikely that the US company purchased the patents purely to secure its own freedom of action. Rather, the acquisition may be intended to provide defensive coverage for strategic partners, or for customers of Microsoft’s cloud computing services through its Azure IP Advantage programme.”

“At the same time Microsoft is harvesting all sorts of patents which it actively uses to attack the independence of various Android OEMs, forcing them to put Microsoft spyware on phones and tablets (or else face ruinous patent lawsuits).”This is Microsoft’s latest trick for taxing GNU/Linux and Free software, using all sorts of patents.

In addition, need we remind readers that Microsoft sent Nokia‘s patents to Google-hostile patent trolls like MOSAID (Conversant), which incidentally also pays IAM? Something quite similar may be happening with Yahoo (another famous victim of Microsoft entryism) as IAM reveals that Yahoo’s software patents find their way into the hands of trolls. It also recalls the following:

This is a sensible tactic to try to convince potential buyers that the company has plenty of options. Plus it’s worth remembering that one of Altbaba’s board members, Jeffrey Smith of Starboard Capital, has a track record of pushing companies to do more with their patents. In 2012 the activist investor bought into AOL and forced the company to look at actively monetising its portfolio, ultimately leading to a $1 billion patent sale to Microsoft.

Microsoft attacked the independence of both Yahoo and Nokia, leading their patents into the hands of patents trolls. In Novell’s case, Microsoft grabbed Novell’s patents. At the same time Microsoft is harvesting all sorts of patents which it actively uses to attack the independence of various Android OEMs, forcing them to put Microsoft spyware on phones and tablets (or else face ruinous patent lawsuits).

So much for ‘new’ Microsoft… new PR and new CEO, but same old villainous tactics. We have been writing more on that subject recently. See the list of articles below.

03.13.17

Ten Years Later, Microsoft Admission on Dirty Tricks and Borderline Corruption Which It Uses to This Day in Order to Suppress GNU/Linux Adoption in Desktops

Posted in Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument at 7:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Munich, pay attention

“I have decided that we should not publish these extensions. We should wait until we have a way to do a high level of integration that will be harder for the likes of Notes, Wordperfect to achieve, and which will give Office a real advantage.”

Bill Gates [PDF]

Summary: Remarkable new admission from the former head of Microsoft Office development, who makes it no secret that the war over file formats (trying to pass off proprietary formats as a ‘standard’) was “a critical competitive moat” (denying the competition access to the desktop)

Microsoft is a very corrupt company. I should know. I wrote many thousands of articles about it, including nearly 1,000 articles about the OOXML saga (almost as many as the EPO saga that makes the US counterpart look like an angel).

I’ve noticed something over the past few years, and I cannot understand if it’s due to erosion of collective memory or due to young people joining in, with little or no understanding of Microsoft’s past (which mostly continues to present, just better veiled or misleadingly marketed). Reddit actually censored a link to this article of ours about Microsoft's ongoing attacks on Free software proponents. It was deleted from the Linux subreddit. Is this like a new thing? Cannot criticise Microsoft even in Linux-centric forums? It had a lot of upvotes and comments. It was on topic and widely appreciated by most. We have been hearing similar things over the past two weeks in relation to other forums, but were unable to verify with strong enough evidence that this was a conscious decision to gag members who had criticised Microsoft. Is the “Microsoft loves Linux” charm offensive targeting enough gullible people to actually be effective?

“Is the “Microsoft loves Linux” charm offensive targeting enough gullible people to actually be effective?”Anyway, this new article was brought up yesterday in the Linux subreddit. It is not directly about GNU/Linux, but as the title put it, “Former head of Microsoft Office development brags that file formats were “a critical competitive moat””

So now they admit this so openly. Having infected so many infrastructures with OOXML lock-in, which typically limits or prevents access by Free software users. Or has developers wasting a lot of time chasing a bogus ‘standard’ that even Microsoft cannot implement or conform to.

“Gates spoke about breaking compatibility on numerous occasions (that we caught him in antitrust exhibits). The above is just one example among several which we covered here before.”This head of Microsoft Office development wrote: “This is probably already way too long but I also wanted to just touch on the ongoing discussions we had with Bill Gates over my entire career at Microsoft that directly related to these perspectives on complexity.”

Gates spoke about breaking compatibility on numerous occasions (that we caught him in antitrust exhibits). The above is just one example among several which we covered here before.

The thugs from Microsoft, for those who cannot recall articles from one decade ago, bribed, colluded and did even worse things for OOXML. The whole thing was a culmination of desperate need to counter fair competition through ODF. Microsoft was put under investigations, but just like Battistelli at the EPO it always managed to get away with it. It never got punished for it. It was absolutely extraordinary and it demonstrated what a large corporation can get away with. It was a good example of when crime pays off, and one manages to stay out of jail “because well-connected” or “that’s just business” or “we deny the allegations.”

“Well, the only ‘standard’ Microsoft accepts and embraces is Microsoft.”In Reddit, a lot of people commented about this issue. One person said: “I’ve said before that even Microsoft couldn’t re-implement MS Office file formats in another product with perfect compatibility, and here they admit it!’

They almost admitted it before and we quoted them on it. Nobody ever implemented OOXML, not even Microsoft. It was just a mirage ‘standard’ — or the mere pretense that Microsoft and its proprietary software adhere to industry standards. Well, the only ‘standard’ Microsoft accepts and embraces is Microsoft. None of that has changed. All other embraces are “embrace, extend, extinguish” (EEE). Right now it’s trying to interject such bogus 'standards' into Free/Open source software.

03.10.17

With Latest Promotions, Microsoft Puts Its Tokens in the Patent Shakedown Basket, Its Patent Trolls Fight for Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 2:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

More on the latest defeat to software patents in the US; Microsoft keeps pursuing these anyway

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

Summary: Microsoft is again promoting its patent extortion staff — those who attack GNU/Linux with software patents — while its trolls, notably Intellectual Ventures, fight for software patents (but thankfully lose their battle, yet again)

BELATEDLY published in Techrights (late because of more urgent EPO news) is this reminder that Microsoft not only persists in patent shakedown against GNU/Linux but also PROMOTES the patent extortion folks (after Brad and Horacio, both of whom were repeatedly promoted, it is happening yet again). For those who have not been paying attention, see the following posts from last month and earlier this month:

Anyone who still believes that “Microsoft loves Linux” is clearly paying too little (if any) attention to the facts.

According to a blog post from IAM, “Microsoft IP supremo promoted after overseeing series of value creation initiatives,” which in IAM’s terminology (it’s a pro-trolls site) means aggressive litigation (“value creation” is the euphemism). Mind the following part, which whitewashes the above-shown initiative that creates the notion of “unsafe” (or uncovered from litigation by Microsoft or its trolls) GNU/Linux and Free software:

Most recently, the company announced a package of IP-related benefits for users of its Azure cloud service which expanded its indemnification policy to include open source technology providers that power Azure services, made 10,000 patents available to Azure customers to help defend themselves from infringement lawsuits and guaranteed that if Microsoft sold patents to an NPE they couldn’t be asserted against those customers. The initiative, known as the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage programme, demonstrated how the software giant is prepared to use its significant IP resources to gain an advantage over key cloud competitors Amazon and Google.

It would not at all surprise us if Microsoft-connected trolls started hammering Amazon with patent lawsuits or instead targeted AWS customers, thus pushing them towards the perceived ‘safety’ of Microsoft with “IP Advantage”.

“Anyone who still believes that “Microsoft loves Linux” is clearly paying too little (if any) attention to the facts.”Microsoft’s biggest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, is suing a lot of companies (sometimes directly, sometimes though its huge collection of shells), but it has just failed to revive software patents again, after a case got escalated to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).

CAFC will be the subject of some longer articles, probably to be published over the weekend, but the above case is unique because of the Microsoft angle. There have been many articles about it, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], and yesterday Patently-O called it “yet another Intellectual Ventures loss” (at CAFC) and added a statement about “NO STANDING TO SUE”. To quote: “In yet another Intellectual Ventures loss, the the Federal Circuit has affirmed the W.D. Pennsylvania district court ruling that the asserted patents are invalid as ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.[1] This decision was issued in parallel with IV v. Capital One discussed previously. I’m going to put-off the Section 101 discussion for another post, however, and write here about the assignment debacle.”

“It would not at all surprise us if Microsoft-connected trolls started hammering Amazon with patent lawsuits or instead targeted AWS customers, thus pushing them towards the perceived ‘safety’ of Microsoft with “IP Advantage”.”What Dennis Crouch describes is unique (not mentioned in the above press articles) and states that “before reaching the Section 101 eligibility issues, the district court dismissed IV’s infringement case related to the ‘581 patent for lack of standing – finding that IV didn’t actually own the patent.”

We mentioned such a debacle last weekend as well. It’s a recurring theme now. How is that not treated as a serious offense? Thankfully, in this scenario (Erie Indemnity Co.), Intellectual Ventures failed to revive software patents, but it will certainly keep trying and Microsoft will count on it. Quite a few victims of Intellectual Ventures bullying are companies that use GNU/Linux a lot; some of them even distribute GNU/Linux.

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