Summary: Microsoft-linked and Linux-hostile trolls continue their relentless attacks (albeit with little or no success) while patents as a weapon lose their teeth owing to a Supreme Court ruling
Microsoft’s cofounder is now a patent troll and his trolling activity resumes in the US. As Reuters very recently put it: “A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday revived part of a patent lawsuit brought by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen against AOL, Apple, Google and Yahoo, saying a lower court incorrectly found that the tech companies didn’t infringe one of its patents.
“The patent, held by Allen’s Interval Licensing, relates to the ubiquitous pop-ups that computer users routinely see while surfing the Web or shopping online.
“The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that Chief Judge Marsha Pechman of the federal district court in Seattle had made an “erroneous” interpretation of the patent in 2013 and it sent the case back to her for further hearings.”
Allen has also targeted Android and Microsoft produces patent trolls other than Allen (IV, Interval, Gates et al.) who tend to target Free software and Microsoft rivals such as Google.
Alice is killing the trolls — but expect patent lawyers to strike back
Open source software developers rejoice: Alice Corp. v CLS Bank is fast becoming a landmark decision for patent cases in the United States.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all appeals for patent cases in the United States, has often been criticized for its handling of these cases — Techdirt describes it as “the rogue patent court, captured by the patent bar.” But following the Alice decision, the Court of Appeals seems to have changed.
The Court of Appeals will be the subject of our next post. █
Apple just hit a stumbling block in its second U.S. patent infringement case against Samsung thanks to a Patent and Trademark Office ruling that rejects some of the iPhone and iPad maker’s claims. The ruling targeted the summary judgement Federal Judge Lucy Koh issued ahead of Apple and Samsung’s trial this spring, and relates to infringement claims for Apple’s autocomplete patent.
Now that Android commands the lion’s share of the key market (85% of all sales, according to one source) all that Apple can do is lie and rely on trolls who claim “Apple’s resurgence” for some hits/clicks bait. Here is a new example:
In recent weeks, a drumbeat has grown among tech analysts that Apple’s iPhone is poised for massive uptake while Android smartphone sales may have peaked in developed nations. Also, Android is threatened in the developing world from a Google creation called AOSP, which strips out Google’s services (where Google makes its money) and lets any device maker avoid paying Google service royalties. This is especially significant in China, the world’s biggest emerging market, where AOSP is the top-selling mobile OS and which accounts for 20 percent or more of global “Android” sales. At the same time, various analysts have noted that Samsung is being squeezed by both Apple and AOSP, and Samsung may have already peaked in mobile, with 2012′s Galaxy S III representing the high point.
This is all speculative mambo-jumbo bearing the headline “Android has good reason to fear Apple’s resurgence”. Thankfully there is already a rebuttal to this, which says:
Partisan holy wars are part of the history of technology, and there have been few as bitter as Android versus Apple. While Android has had an amazing run of success over the last few years, some analysts are beginning to think that an Apple resurgence is at hand that could do serious damage to Android.
However, I also understand the need for a horse race in the media. Writers are under pressure to deliver traffic and page views, and a platform battle between Google and Apple certainly offers articles with compelling clickability for readers. And many analysts simply seem to go whichever way they think the wind is blowing without looking deeper into what’s actually happening.
Just remember that a lot of these analysts probably predicted Apple’s doom over the last few years, and now they’ve switched to predicting Android’s doom. So take everything they say with a gigantic grain of salt. I’m sure they’ll flip back over to the other side at some point in the future if they think it will get them attention, clicks and traffic.
Apple is not doing well and even people inside Apple (or fans of Apple) know this. The recent revelations about iOS back doors, the China ‘ban’, etc. are just some of the symptoms and contributing factors/causes. Hopefully, as Apple continues to lose market share, its ability to just sue with patents (frivolously) is going to diminish and the same goes for Microsoft, which is doing what Apple did a couple of years ago (suing Samsung with crappy software patents). █
Summary: The narrative put forth by CCIA, a Microsoft-funded front group, continues to present the patent debate as revolving around the size of extortionists rather than methods and the scope of patents
Michelle Lee, in the mean time, is being approached regarding changes in the USPTO. The other day we noticed that CCIA, somewhat of a Brussels- and Washington DC-based lobby group that’s open for corporations to join and does not reveal all of its corporate members and their relative contributions (Microsoft is among those who pay and its head, Ed Black, received millions of dollars from Microsoft), contacted Lee. Knowing that CCIA is clearly not a public interest group but a corporate front, representing the interests of very large corporations, we needed to check what was said to Lee. CCIA had received a lot of money from Microsoft and in recent years promoted Microsoft interests. In last week’s article at The Hill we found that “The Supreme Court’s decision to toss out some software patents earlier this year led to a swift change of operations at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the agency’s deputy director said on Wednesday.
“Michelle Lee told the House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property that the high court’s June decision caused an immediate flurry of activity.
“It does affect the examination of cases before us and as soon as the ruling came down we were in a position at the PTO where we had to offer guidance to our examiners,” she told lawmakers.’
The site called “Patent Progress”, which is run by CCIA's Matt Levy, hardly told Lee about ‘patent quality’ and instead focused on patent trolls (not even referring to them as such, usually alluding to them as “PAEs”). Lee, the Deputy Director of the USPTO, received this text:
The patent system plays an important role in promoting innovation in the United States. Patents encourage investment in R&D and facilitate technology transfer. But when patent assertion entities (PAEs), commonly called patent trolls, exploit low-quality patents to extort payments from America’s most productive companies and job providers, they harm innovation and the very purpose of the patent system. The solution to this problem is two pronged: the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) must improve the quality of the patents it issues, and Congress must pass patent reform legislation so that PAEs cannot leverage the high cost of litigation as a weapon against economic growth.
Ed Black signed this letter. Remember how much money he received from Microsoft. Not too shockingly, software patents are not even mentioned.
Ali Sternburg, writing in the same blog amid minor updates, said that “CCIA filed comments with the PTO on guidelines after Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank.”
As the case was mostly about scope, why bother focusing on trolls at all?
On the brighter side of things, software patents did get mentioned as “computer-implemented inventions” (CII), which is a term some patent lawyers prefer to use (it’s a loaded term). Here is the relevant part: “Unfortunately, patents claiming computer-implemented inventions frequently have unclear boundaries. This is largely because, to date, some patents have been allowed to issue without much more than a description and recitation in the claims of an abstract idea implemented on a conventional computer system. The Alice decision makes clear that this practice is not consistent with 35 U.S.C. § 101, because such patent claims preempt all practical implementations of the abstract idea and stifle innovation. Further, the public notice function is best served by clear claims and a thorough prosecution history explaining the examiner’s understanding of those claims, as well as express statements by the applicant regarding the meaning of the claims. Computer-implemented inventions are too often patented using ambiguous, vague, or overbroad language. When such poor quality patents issue, they can become weapons in the hands of patent assertion entities, which currently drain billions of dollars a year from U.S. businesses.
“Accordingly, CCIA believes that it is critical for both the examiner and the patent applicant to create a clear prosecution history. In the context of § 101 rejections, the examiner should provide more than a conclusory rejection. Rather, any rejection should identify the abstract idea to which the claim is directed. Further, such a rejection should explain the examiner’s understanding of the claim’s scope, including why the combination of claim elements do not add “significantly more” to the abstract idea, either expressly or through interpretation under 35 U.S.C. § 112(f). This analysis should include an explanation of whether a claim qualifies as a “means-plus-function” claim under section 112(f) and why or why not.”
Well, “poor quality patents” not only “can become weapons in the hands of patent assertion entities” (to quote the above); it is often misused by large companies too, like the companies which are funding CCIA. Here is a new example of a small troll: “Personal Audio LLC is an East Texas shell company that gleaned national attention when it claimed it had the right to demand cash from every podcaster. The company was wielding a patent on “episodic content,” which it said included anyone doing a podcast, as well as many types of online video.”
Today in the news we have many articles about a much bigger troll: Microsoft. Here is an article which says: “Alleging that the company is being stiffed by Samsung, Microsoft turns to the courts.”
The BBC rightly points out that “[t]he case marks the first time that Microsoft has launched legal action against Samsung.
“The two companies have a long-running partnership, due to the Asian manufacturer’s sale of Windows PCs and Windows Phone handsets.”
This is why it’s a misguided move by Microsoft; it is likely to alienate Microsoft even further. Perhaps CCIA should stop promoting this narrative where only trolls are the problem and focus again on showing abuses by Microsoft, which is using software patents to abuse its competition or pressure companies to adopt Microsoft Windows rather than the competition (notably GNU/Linux, ChromeOS, Android, and so on). █
When the US Supreme Court decided the Alice v. CLS Bank case last month, it was a signal that courts should be throwing out a lot more patents for being too abstract to be legally valid. Groups seeking patent reform and tech companies rejoiced, hoping the decision would knock out more of the patents wielded by so-called “patent trolls,” whose only business is litigation.
In legal papers (PDF), Samsung argues that both patents are attempts to “claim an abstract idea, implemented with generic computer functions that do not state any technical innovation.”
The search patent describes using “heuristics,” which an Apple witness described at trial as simply being “good ideas,” to “locate information in multiple locations.” Slide-to-unlock, meanwhile, “covers nothing more than the idea of moving an image to unlock the device.” Everything else in the key patent claim is generic computer language. “This simply is not enough to qualify for patent protection post-Alice,” write Samsung lawyers. “Both claims are invalid as a matter of law.”
Summary: Apple continues to misuse patents as a tool of competitive advantage, relying in part on a biased US corporations-run system (USPTO and ITC) or courts (CAFC)
AS WE SHOWED earlier this month, the US patent office has been exceptionally friendly towards Apple, not the Korean giant, Samsung. The USPTO (and by extension ITC) is one of those pseudo-public institutions that are run by US corporations, not impartial actors. Those are are friendly towards Apple have financial reasons to be like that.
It was very recently reported that Apple patents ideas that relate to stuff which already exists from Samsung but not from Apple. Since the patent system checks what’s already filed rather than what exists in the world/market, this type of abuse is allowed. Apple is basically allowed to patent what the rivals have (and have not patented), then copy the rivals and block their products (e.g. ITC embargo on imports). Watch this ITC war that Apple started. It’s failing badly, but it is still unjust. “Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.,” says this report, “on Friday agreed to drop their appeals of a patent-infringement case at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) that resulted in an import ban on some older model Samsung phones. Samsung has been seeking to overturn the ban, while Apple was trying to revive other patent claims it had lost. The import ban will remain in effect, according to a filing with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Last month both companies blamed each other for their inability to reach a global settlement. Appeals of district court cases between Apple and Samsung are still pending.”
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is a corrupt sham. It should cease to have any impact on law and it is highly predicable (barely surprising) that it let Apple make all this mess. As one respectable site put it, Apple’s patent wars may in fact be “a Marketing Strategy”, pretending that Apple invented everything despite its founder’s admission that it copies a lot from other companies. To quote the analysis: “The latest battle in the three-year long Apple-Samsung patent saga concluded few weeks ago. In contrast to previous litigation between the two tech-giants—which revolved on the overall look of the phones—this case focused around autocomplete, tap-from-search and slide-to-unlock software. Despite the technical nature of these innovations, there are a few broad managerial lessons that have emerged from this prominent patent case.”
Further down it says: “The Apple-Samsung patent war illustrates how patent litigation has impacts that go far beyond stopping a specific firm from copying a particular technology. This narrow view overlooks the effect it has on brands, and on other competitors not named in the suits. In considering their own IP strategy and in responding to litigation, managers can benefit from thinking more broadly about patent wars and recognizing their multiple effects.”
Apple is a shameful embargo company that copies others, then tries to ban them. Apple relies on an inherently corrupt and biased legal system in the US. Those who have not yet chosen to boycott Apple should think about what Apple does to innovation and fair competition. Remember that all those devices that Apple fights against are based on Linux. █
“We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
Summary: Apple is reportedly trying to start a new wave of patent attacks on Android/Linux — a plan which failed after misconduct at the legal system had been made publicly known
The USPTO not only lost the ability to protect its reputation; this long-lost reputation or credibility loss is bound to get worse because scope is expanding and the number of approved patents is rising, to the point where almost every application is successful at one point or another (e.g. after resubmission). Recent numbers showed just how bad it was getting all around.
There is a good new article where a conflict of interest has led to a judge stepping down, proving perhaps that in the area of patents we rely on people in gown ideologically deciding on stuff with their dogma and vested interests.
The USPTO’s conflicts of interest (e.g. profit from patents) and conflicts of interest in the courtroom (e.g. Jury moles) may be beneficial to Apple at one stage or another, but if justice prevails one way or another (eventually), then Apple’s war on Android will always fail miserably at the end. █
Samsung and Apple have been in the courts for years (only lawyers won). Apple started it all because Apple is silly and it was headed by an arrogant man at the time. To quote HBR:
Look out across today’s ultra-competitive smartphone market and you’ll see something resembling the religious wars of the Middle Ages. This is no quaint summer-weekend reenactment. The weapons being brandished are devilishly constructed patents; the rules of engagement the arcane procedures of federal courts. And the havoc being wreaked — in higher prices, banned devices, and stifled innovation — is laying waste to the industry landscape.
The central battle pits Apple against everyone and everything involved with Android, Google’s open source operating system.
Android’s release, for Apple’s late founder and CEO Steve Jobs, was the ultimate heresy. “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to,” Jobs is quoted as saying in a series of jeremiads, “and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40bn in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
And so Apple has. Between 2006 and 2012, the company was involved, sometimes as plaintiff and sometimes as defendant, in nearly 150 patent lawsuits around the world over various features of its iPhone — including hardware, software, and product design.
Like the religious wars of old, a complex web of alliances, side agreements, and mutual defense pacts have conspired to draw the entire industry into open warfare. Sony is suing LG. Nokia is suing HTC. Motorola (owned by Google since 2011) is suing and being sued by everyone.
Apple Inc and Google Inc’s Motorola Mobility unit have agreed to settle all patent litigation between them over smartphone technology, ending one of the highest profile lawsuits in technology.
In a joint statement on Friday, the companies said the settlement does not include a cross license to their respective patents.
“Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform,” the statement said.
Apple and companies that make phones using Google’s Android software have filed dozens of such lawsuits against each other around the world to protect their technology. Apple argued that Android phones that use Google software copy its iPhones.
It is starting to look like Apple is admitting defeat and abandoning Jobs’ aggressive legacy. It is worth noting that Apple has launched no new major cases since Jobs died. It is a good sign because it may mean that Apple as an aggressor in the courtroom might be a dead legacy. █
Summary: Steve Jobs and his ‘genius’ plan of starting “thermonuclear” war against Linux/Android turns out to be a colossal failure
Two companies, namely Apple and Samsung, command the lion’s share of the mobile market, so it should come as no surprise that there is fierce rivalry there. But Apple was the company which chose to start with lawsuits, perhaps realising even years ago that it was losing to Android on several fronts, including smartphones and tablets. Apple first sued HTC (which had few patents) and later took on the giant Samsung, which had a huge number of patents and also produced components for Apple. Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung was in many ways a sign of desperation and at the same time arrogance (claiming that the manufacturer and innovator was “copying” Apple). Google is like Apple in the sense that it doesn’t really manufacture anything, but it works on software and has got hardware partners. Samsung is doing a whole load of stuff, with staff that’s like 10 times (an order of magnitude) bigger than Google’s and Apple’s. Production helps make it all happen. Google focuses on server-side development/hosting and Apple does marketing.
When it comes to the mobile market, another non-hardware-producing company exists but hardly counts. That company is Microsoft and unlike Apple and Google, it is a loss leader. It’s an utter failure, subsidised in part by governments for snooping, back doors, etc. Here is a new article about Microsoft:
Microsoft‘s hopes of establishing a sizeable presence in the tablet market continue to be thwarted, new figures reveal.
And it seems as though Microsoft loses money on every Surface it sells, despite the relatively high retail price of the machines.
Notice this towards the end: “Chitika analysed the tablet web usage habits of tens of millions of North Americans found that Surface users generated a slightly greater share of their total online traffic during working hours when compared to iPad or Android tablet users.”
It probably means that those using a Microsoft-branded product are forced by employers to use it. To Microsoft, litigation against Android (often by proxy) is the only resort left, or racketeering tactics which attempt to make Android a cash cow of Microsoft.
What’s noteworthy at the moment is the outcome of this trial, which granted Apple only 5% (i.e. only cents on each Samsung device sold) of the amount of money it wanted to grab from Samsung. As one report put it:
The Cupertino company can notch a second win, but with far less damages than it requested. Apple wanted $2.2 billion, and the jury awarded it $119.6 million, or just over 5 percent of what Apple had requested.