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Patents Roundup: Microsoft Sues, Patents Critic Become Nobel Laureate, and More

Microsoft Sues in Patent Dispute



Microsoft is already using its patents offensively and business woes might be tied to this strategy. Microsoft is doing it again, but it insists this is done defensively. Readers can judge for themselves based on the following reports:

1. Microsoft Files Suit to Defend Visual Studio Users

Microsoft is not mentioned in any of the three complaints. However, in the suit that Microsoft filed against WebXchange, it says that the charges relate to the companies' use of Microsoft's Visual Studio software. By asking the court to declare WebXchange's patents invalid, Microsoft hopes to defend its customers FedEx, Dell and Allstate and spare the thousands of other Visual Studio users from similar suits, Microsoft says.

FedEx, Dell and Allstate have already sought indemnification from Microsoft, Microsoft said in the lawsuit. Most large software makers like Microsoft indemnify their customers, meaning that if their products are found to cause harm including patent infringement, the software developer will bear the responsibility for the problems.


2. Guess which patents are not infringed in the Microsoft Visual Studio suit?

WebXchange is suing Microsoft--or, rather, three of its customers--for allegedly infringing its patents in Microsoft Visual Studio, as CNET reports. Just desserts? Nah. Microsoft rarely sues anyone, preferring instead to threaten to sue.


3. Microsoft in patent battle over Visual Studio

"Microsoft filed this action to protect our customers and ourselves against spurious patent infringement lawsuits filed by WebXchange," Microsoft said in a statement. "We will demonstrate to the Court that WebXchange's patents are not infringed by Microsoft technology and that WebXchange's patents are invalid and unenforceable."


Communication



One of the biggest sorts of chaos -- cold or nuclear war with IPR -- is caused by software patents and can be found in wireless and mobile communication. There are hardly any signs of abatement during this storm, as the following new reports ought to show:

1. Alcatel Lucent Files Contextual Advertising Patent For TV Over IPTV

This should be particular interest to Media companies - Telecom major Alcatel-Lucent has filed for a patent in India, for contextual advertising on IPTV networks. Since advertising will be delivered to the screen over the broadband network, it gives them the opportunity of contextualizing ads based on location, personal TV viewing habits etc. The ads will probably be stored on the Personal Video Recorder (PVR) or Set Top Box (STB), and delivered during specific TV spots, based on selection.


2. Calypso Wireless sues T-Mobile USA for patent Infringement

Calypso says it owns a patent on Automatic Switching of Network Access Points, technology, which helps carriers achieve more efficient allocation of resources by freeing more wide area cellular spectrum space for voice, video and data, and increasing overall bandwidth available to other users.


3. Revenue news boosts Wi-LAN; Patent dispute with RIM settled

Shares of Wi-LAN Inc. shot up more than 25% in trading after the technology licensing company announced it was revising its revenue guidance for the year after the settlement of a pending patent infringement lawsuit yesterday with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd.


Software Patentability on the Cliff



Yet another opposer of the patent system is made a Nobel Laureate.

The FFII congratulates Eric S. Maskin, an economist who has long criticised the patenting of software, for receiving the 2007 Nobel Prize for Economics. Prof. Maskin and two colleagues receive the Prize for research into the optimal design of economic mechanisms. By applying his theory to the IT sector, Maskin demonstrated "that in such a dynamic industry, patent protection may reduce overall innovation and welfare."


Stiglitz, another Nobel Laureate whom we mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], is a renowned vocal critic of the patent system.

Fortunately, as we stressed before, the re Bilski ruling has changed a lot of things [1, 2] and here is another article with text of interest. [via Digital Majority]

Q: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently has been trying to curtail the flood of software and business method patent applications by limiting the interpretation of what constitutes patentable subject matter. What accounts for this deluge of business method applications?

A: The PTO has been deluged, truly, with patent applications on various methodologies that involve the use of a computer. I have applications on … business methods, and we file periodic status reports for the patent office so we can find out when these patent applications are going to be examined. You write one, you file it, and you wait until it gets assigned to a particular patent examiner before it gets reviewed and the overall process starts. I have been getting responses now that say it may be a year or two before it gets to an examiner, and it may be as much as five years. That’s why the patent office doesn’t want any more; they can’t handle what they’ve got. So that’s their natural reaction, is to try to … develop some clearly rudimentary standards for (rejection).


Pointing to this new xkcd cartoon, PJ (of Groklaw) writes: "If you think software isn't mathematics, take a look at this cartoon. It will help you grasp it, and you'll smile at the same time, which is the pleasantest way to learn."

It is new complications such as this that a reform can hopefully resolve for good.

US print procurement company e-Lynxx has been awarded a patent covering competitive tendering of a specified item on an electronic platform, such as print management.

The company plans to licence the business method to users.

William Gindlesperger, patent inventor and chief executive of e-Lynxx, said: "Every organisation with an electronic procurement system... that follows the steps outlined in this new patent, will need a licence to use the patented methodology."

However, the UK patent office said that merely transferring a process that already existed to an electronic platform was unlikely to result in an enforceable patent.


In this particular case, the producer might choose inferior solutions to get around fences. How on earth is this beneficial to the consumer? Also worth noting is motion from Encyclopaedia Britannica, which returns to pursuing its junk patent.

Last year, we pointed out how rather ironic it seemed that a company like Encyclopaedia Britannica, who is supposed to be in the business of spreading knowledge, would sue GPS makers for patent infringement. However, at the time, we were unaware of the history of the patents in question. Joe Mullin, over at The Prior Art, has the full story, including the fact that the case relied on a rather infamous patent, that gave many folks a preview of future patent battles to come.


The likes of Wikipedia must really be injuring Britannica.

Patent-swatting



A Peer-to-Patent-inspired project -- or one that is only akin to Peer-to-Patent -- strives to elevate patent quality.

The company hopes to build on the progress being made by Peer-to-Patent, a program run by New York Law School that publishes patent applications online in order to gather prior art to be passed along to the Patent Office during the examination process.

But there is one key difference. Unlike Peer-to-Patent, Article One Partners offers people a financial incentive to donate their time and expertise. "We feel people should be compensated for the value of their information," Milone said.


Incentives for the assassination of poor patents are finally being offered, rather than incentives to those who pursue more patents.

Information gathered from bounty winners will be used in two ways. It may be sold, either to a patent owner wishing to strengthen or replace a weak patent, or to a competitor.


Europe



“Staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money.”

“One of the ways that the EPO has done this is by issuing software patents in defiance of the treaty that set it up.”

--Richard Stallman



The Stop Software Patents initiative echoes the sentiments expressed by protesters from the EPO. Those who bear guilt have been milking the system for far too long and it's time for refreshing changes.

Examiners of the European Patent Office have recently invaded one of the secret meetings of the Administrative Council with chocolate coins, pointing to the conflict of interests between the National Patent Offices (NPOs) and their appetite of "more patents, more money".


Another threat to Europe's exclusion of software patents seems to be drifting away.

I am currently at the EPO offices in The Hague for Trilateral Authorities users’ meeting. There are a lot of big names here and, obviously, I could not let that pass without finding out a bit more about the status of the negotiations surrounding the Community patent and single European patent. For those hoping for a breakthrough under the French presidency – which comes to an end on 31st December – things do not look good...


We also wrote about this two days ago. Digital Majority provides information about the European Interoperability Framework, which may be at risk due inclusion of pro-Microsoft and pro-patent 'tax' groups like CompTIA.

The Commission has published on its website the list of stakeholders who contributed to the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) consultation. Even if the European Interoperability Framework is mostly directed to provide open standards to be used by governments when they communicate with citizens, it can be expected that some large industry players wants to put their patents and restrictions on how citizens can communicate with their governments.


There is probably an argument brewing there. Monopolists won't allow interoperability to be standard-based, free, and genuinely decentralised.

Software patents protest against EPO

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