Bonum Certa Men Certa

Patents Roundup: Microsoft Loses Visual Studio Case, Makes Acacia-Like Moves

IN AN IMPORTANT court case that we wrote about in [1, 2, 3], Microsoft sued WebXchange under a complex situation that more or less involved a retaliation to protect Visual Studio. Well, Microsoft has just lost the case and Law.com has this report:



For the last few months, Microsoft has been trying to pick a fight with a company called WebXchange, but Tuesday a San Francisco federal district court judge ruled there was nothing to fight about and dismissed the action.

[...]

Microsoft was seeking a declaratory judgment that it was not liable for inducement of infringement by customers that used its Visual Studio software, which allows companies to create their own business applications. The reason: In March 2008, WebXchange had sued three companies--Allstate, Dell, and FedEx--that used Visual Studio for infringement of three patents for systems that facilitate real-time transactions on the Internet. Those three companies asked Microsoft to defend and indemnify them in the suits.

Microsoft is represented by John Vandenberg of Klarquist Sparkman and Michael Bettinger of K&L Gates.


According to Wikipedia, "Notable K&L lawyers include Gates, father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum and former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh."

Notice the inclusion there of Bill Gates' dad and some politicians. Bill Gates' dad was also involved in the Abramoff fiasco, so he may still be pulling a lot of strings behind the scenes (including SCO, from which he pulled money last year). We recently remarked on reports that Bill Gates' dad leverages a lot of litigious powers and the effect is there for all to see [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

“Notice the inclusion there of Bill Gates' dad and some politicians.”Further to this, to repeat what is stated in Wikipedia, "As of December 4, 2008, K&L Gates was in merger talks with the Chicago-based firm of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd. The two partnerships agreed to merge on January 30, 2009. The combined firm will practice under the K&L Gates name and will dramatically expand the firm's presence in Chicago and open an office in San Diego. According to legal blog Above the Law, the merger will be completed on March 1, 2009."

If Bill Gates' dad works with the former U.S. Attorney General, then it's worth bearing in mind when a Microsoft-sympathetic antitrust chief gets appointed after publicly attacking Google.

This confirms some widespread allegations that Microsoft is more than just a company and somewhat of a "cult" (to borrow the word used by a Euopean government delegate) or a "political movement".

This case above was an important one also because it may have ramifications for Mono, as we explained before.

Microsoft Versus Free Software and GNU/Linux (Using Software Patents)



In other interesting news, Google's embrace of GNU/Linux is beginning to transcend the server and popular mobile devices. Google's Android platform is now being embraced for some sub-notebooks, so according to reports like this one, the monopolist might stifle GNU/Linux adoption using a last resort: software patents.

The problem Android creates for Microsoft is long-term. If engineers can create applications that do mirror what Window does on the PC, Redmond has a problem. But that development process could take years and could run into patent problems because of key IP rights that Microsoft has set up over the last two decades.


We have already seen the company's Bill Gates scheming to use software patents against OpenOffice.org (StarOffice at the time).

Google has another front to battle on, namely that of patent trolls. Here is a new article on the subject.

Google Inc. is going on the offensive to fight patent claims, a strategy the Internet search company says will deter frivolous lawsuits. The number of patent challenges against Google rose to 14 last year, from 11 in 2007 and three in 2006. The company wants to curb that growth by fighting rather than settling lawsuits, said Catherine Lacavera, Googles senior litigation counsel.


As was mentioned earlier, Microsoft is promoting the very same person who is engaging in the following type of behaviour:

Gutierrez, who has taken an increasingly active role in Microsoft's intellectual-property strategy since moving back from Paris a few years ago, where he had served as Microsoft's associate general counsel for Europe, Middle East and Africa (and where I first met him for hot chocolate and coffee), is well-known to the open-source crowd for his involvement in Microsoft's accusations in 2007 that Linux violates 235 of Microsoft's patents.


It is worth seeing how Microsoft wraps around ("schmoozes", to use its own terms) the very same people whom it threatens and abuses. The above is a confession from an open source company executive.

Horacio Gutierrez
Picture contributed by twitter



Acacia/Microsoft Patent Trolls



It is also important to keep track of patent trolls which accommodate Microsoft moles. Acacia is one of the bigger examples [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] and it has already attacked GNU/Linux. In its latest extortion, Acacia manages to squeeze out money from Johnson & Johnson.

Acacia Research Corp. announced that its Cardio Access subsidiary has entered into a license agreement with Johnson & Johnson covering a 1993 patent relating to medical devices.


What is going through the minds of people whose companies produce no products? The Earnings Call Transcript from Acacia (just days old) sheds light on the thinking inside firms that are all about extortion and exploitation (misuse) of a broken system.

Here is another new Acacia extortion which exploit patents on "e-commerce pricing".

No "Change"



After appointing several pro-intellectual monopolies people to join the cabinet [1, 2, 3], Obama's administration shows no concrete signs of that it has a roadmap for resolving this plague of intellectual monopolies.

Today IP-Watch has an amazing story of an Obama administration trip to Geneva to discuss intellectual property issues. Apparently the USPTO organized the trip, which included several Obama officials, plus these congressional staff...


There are some other articles that are worth a mention, e.g.:

i. How Reporters Contribute To Misconceptions About Patent Lawsuits

Joe Mullin has another fantastic post, discussing how way too many reporters, in covering patent disputes, mislead the public into thinking that the patent holder is accusing another company of copying its invention. The truth is that it's very, very rare for a patent infringement lawsuit to actually involve a company that copied (or, as the patent system supporters would falsely claim, "stole") someone else's invention. Usually, it's about companies coming up with a similar offering independently.


ii. The solution to the US's patent problems are international, says former USPTO chief

It has become increasingly clear that offices all over the world face the same broad problems in getting fee structures right, deciding what requirements should be placed on applicants and dealing with the backlog. So the best way to tackle them is to work together to find solutions.


iii. Will 4G get stuck in the technology patent trap?

WCMDA offered higher capacities and more features than GSM, but operators could not substitute their 2G networks for 3G networks overnight. 3G handsets continue to support the previous generation of technology.

This trend will continue with LTE; there will probably never be a pure LTE handset – even data-only dongles are likely to be multimode. Next generation handsets will likely support LTE, WCDMA and GSM/GPRS, not to mention a number of other connection technologies such as Bluetooth, WiFi, WiMAX and RFiD.

Each additional standards-based technology will add incremental cost to the product in terms of technical complexity, but also royalty costs. The mix of other technologies expected in modern handsets such as MP3, cameras, DVB-H, GPS and touch screens increase this complexity further.


Chaos Galore



Until a solution is found and also devised, this patent system will continue to be a laughing stock. To give examples from the past few days, one company without products has patented text messages and another company has just patented underwater metal detecting. Kaspersky gets its own monopoly on software that removes viruses (i.e. a patent that can harm security) and TV guides too become the virtual ownership of one company. Security of card games is now a patent and so are universal remote controls.

Unsurprisingly, some of these trivial patents lead to spurious lawsuits which produce no innovation. They do not pass any value to customers, only additional cost.

On the brighter side of things, a patent on "asymmetric picture compression" has just been invalidated, proving that bad patents can still be challenged successfully. Why grant them in the first place though? Maybe because staff in the patent office is incentivised to accept and rarely to reject applications?

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