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Patents Roundup: Apple Sues Android/Linux Again, 'Anti-Microsoft' Patent Upheld, In Re Bilski May be Due Today

The grudge



Summary: Latest updates about software patents, ranging from Microsoft and Apple to the impact on GNU/Linux users

For entertainment purposes only, see this new video titled "Software patents are dirty scum."



Apple is once again attacking Linux using software patents. Shame on Apple. It is also part of the Apple vs HTC case and as Slashdot puts it:

Although Android is not mentioned in any of the court documents, many of the patent infringement complaints refer to the software rather than the hardware that HTC manufactures, leading to speculation that Google is the real target, especially considering that Android sales are surpassing the iPhone's.


Here is the original:

As the court documents (embedded below) show, Apple mentions four of its patents in the suit. However, two of them had already been included in the initial suit, and it appears like they are being re-included because of some minor corrections that needed to be made by the USPTO.


HTC counter-sued, leading to the threat of banning hypePads and other Apple-branded gadgets.

In other patent news, the software patents-loving Facebook is now at Amazon's mercy due to Amazon's latest outrageous patent [1, 2] (this week's fantasies about overlap and duplicates do not take account of the scale and time required to avoid these). Some critics already use this as a demonstration of the failure of the patent system and software patents in particular.

Moving on a little, here we have VirnetX issuing a press release about the patent it used against Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. This news is mostly covered by Microsoft boosters who worry about the effects on Microsoft:



According to a new survey from the law community, the alleged link between patents and innovation is weak, but they still defend patents in their survey (they are -- after all -- in the field of law, not science). From the overview:

The first major survey of high-tech entrepreneurs finds that patents provide less incentive to innovate than popularly believed. A large share of software startups avoid patents altogether, finding it more critical to move fast to market. But patents do offer tangible benefits across industries by limiting competition, attracting financing, and increasing the chances of an acquisition or IPO.


Actually, prominent VCs beg to differ. They publicly say that they are against software patents in particular.

Here is a company buying some software patents as assets, as if the right to write some algorithm can become a transferable monopoly.

IMMI’s technology is a patented proprietary software platform that respondents download to their own smartphone or a smartphone provided to them. According to IMMI’s website, the phone randomly samples ambient audio in the room several times a minute, tracking exposure to TV, movies and radio. In addition, IMMI software monitors mobile web surfing activity and measures internet use.


As readers are probably aware, we wrote a lot of posts about WebM because it's extremely important as a deterrent of patent aggression against GNU/Linux. LWN has made public its coverage on the subject, going under the headline "Swift and predictable reactions to WebM" and Linux Journal says that "Mozilla, Opera, and Flock Release VP8 Ready Browsers" (that sure was fast!)

The latest wares of three popular browsing applications were released this week reflecting a changing Internet. Open formats are taking center stage at Mozilla, Opera, and Flock as lock-in (or freeze-out), security concerns, and performance issues fuel the drive toward the VP8 video format.

[...]

The VP8 codec reference implementation was open sourced by Google on May 19 and is regulated under a BSD license.


Also see "Get Rolling with WebM Video – VP8 WebM Encoding Tools":

Now the tools are still in the proverbial Stone Age (those that are free) as it’s just been announced recently and you’ll need some tech savviness to get going. Of course if you’re a user of some of the services who have already begun to offer VP8 and WebM support, then you’re already ahead of the pack. I’ll list those services at the end of this article.


This hopefully makes the MPEG cartel simpler to ignore. YouTube may soon be MPEG-free, for those who wish for it to be that way. Canonical indirectly pays MPEG-LA [1, 2], but it really ought not to, at least in the long term.

Everyone is waiting for Bilski right now [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It's not just business method and software patents that boggle the mind these days. Here is another new article about gene patents. It's titled "Myriad Gene Patent Litigation Goes Down Under" [via]

On Tuesday, June 9, 2010, several plaintiffs, including a breast cancer patient and a cancer advocacy group, sued in a Sydney, Australia federal court to invalidate Myriad Genetics’ patents on the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA-1 and 2. According to published reports and comments by Australian patent law experts, the suit substantially tracks the much-publicized one filed in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union. In particular, this suit is also a frontal attack on the Myriad patents, seeking a judgment that genes in isolation from the body are products of nature and thus not patentable inventions.

The factual background in Australia seems a bit different. Myriad has granted an exclusive license to perform BRCA gene tests to a Melbourne company called Genetic Technologies Limited, which is a co-defendant in the case. But GTL has been reported to have “gifted” its patent rights to health care institutions, and not to charge royalties. Nonetheless, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have expressed concern about the possibility of GLT exploiting their monopoly as in the U.S., where the tests cost over $3,000. They note that on two earlier occasions GLT sent letters to hospitals telling them to stop testing. A number of Australian sources have also worried aloud about the implications of the patents for medical research.


More patents lead to less innovation, contrary to what lobbyists and propagandists (like the guy shown below) tell legislators. Such weak arguments from them refer to no concrete evidence. Studies have shown repeatedly that software patents are harmful, unless one is a paranoid monopoly or a lawyer.

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