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Many Patents Are Being Passed to Android-Hostile Patent Trolls (by the Thousands) and Microsoft is in the Shadows



Shadow and trees

Summary: Some of the latest moves and actions (and auctions) which pose a danger to GNU/Linux in mobile devices in particular

THE daily (and sometimes bi-daily) links that we post here contain many news items about Android. It's now dominant with nearly 90% of the mobile market. Android is based on Free/Libre Open Source software (AOSP) and contains Linux at the core, so it matters to us. We are not huge fans of Google, but having said that, Google is at least supporting Linux and not just posting promotional materials like leaflets with heart symbols on them. Microsoft actively attacks Linux in many ways (see recent examples in Munich and even patent lawsuits); Google does not.



"Microsoft actively attacks Linux in many ways (see recent examples in Munich and even patent lawsuits); Google does not."Earlier today Benjamin Henrion pointed out that David Pridham, "CEO of the patent advisory [sic] Dominion Harbor Group," now has a blog (even an attack on Google) over at Forbes. Dominion Harbor Group is a patent troll, not "patent advisory" or whatever euphemism they may choose. It's also connected to Intellectual Ventures, the world's largest patent troll. So what we have here are anti-Google articles from a man who is connected to Microsoft's patent troll. Ain't that just too shallow? Is he going to sue Google next? He recently got a big load of patents from Intellectual Ventures [1, 2]. Such patents can never be used against Microsoft because Intellectual Ventures is deep in the pockets of Microsoft and Bill Gates (at a personal capacity, too).

“Telecom equipment giant Nokia is offloading more than 6,000 patents related to 4G, 5G, SDN, VR, and more in the wake of its recent merger deal with Alcatel-Lucent.”
      --WirelessWeek
A couple of days ago we also learned that after Microsoft 'took over' Nokia it is still passing patents to patent trolls which are likely to attack Microsoft's rivals (even under Microsoft's direct guidance). This is the latest:

Telecom equipment giant Nokia is offloading more than 6,000 patents related to 4G, 5G, SDN, VR, and more in the wake of its recent merger deal with Alcatel-Lucent.

According to a listing from transaction firm Aqua Licensing LLC, which was first spotted by Law360, Nokia is selling a portfolio containing 6,069 granted patents and 734 patent applications. The patents up for grabs come from patent families in six different technology categories, including Wireless; Services; IP and Networks; Access, Fixed, and Optical Networks; Hardware and Components; and User Experience, Mechanics, and Materials.


How many of these patents (many of which are likely bogus or ripoffs) are going to be used against Android OEMs? As we last showed earlier this year, Nokia is already shaking down some Android OEMs directly. So does Qualcomm, which has taken its battle to Europe in spite such battles being bad for business. The latest on Qualcomm is, they too acknowledged lack of merit in some of the claims:

In early July, Qualcomm brought an ITC complaint against Apple over six non-standard-essential patents (NEPs) related to efficient battery usage, seeking an import ban against iPhones with Intel (or other third-party chips) but not against devices that might include Qualcomm's own chips.

A couple of weeks ago, the ITC instituted the investigation. As I wrote last month, it would have been unusual for the ITC not to investigate the complaint, despite the partly valid points raised in various public-interest statements.

But something unusual has happened now. On Friday, Qualcomm filed a motion (unopposed by Apple) for partial termination of the investigation by withdrawal of U.S. Patent No. 8,487,658 on a "compact and robust layout shifter design."

What's unusual here is not Qualcomm's decision to drop a patent. I'm sure they'll drop more as this investigation unfolds because that's what the ITC expects complainants to do so it can keep its relatively ambitious timelines (Qualcomm's motion makes reference to the normal course of business at the ITC, though the motion tends to portray a totally ordinary ITC timeline as something special, which it is not in my observation). What is strange and even pretty much unprecedented is the timing: two weeks into a just-launched investigation. In all other cases I've watched, with an exception I'll discuss next, parties withdrew patents after significant procedural progress. At a minimum, parties would want to review the respondent's non-infringement and/or invalidity arguments. Here, Qualcomm withdrew the patent without anything happening other than Qualcomm having changed its mind.


This case has a lot to do with Android because if Apple loses it, so will Android OEMs (some have already dissented).

As usual, when it comes to large companies like Microsoft, Nokia and Qualcomm (many thousands of patents), they just throw a whole bunch of patents of varying levels of quality to over-encumber the accused with legal fees. When this method targets Android OEMs (many small ones, unlike one large OEM known as Apple) the incentive to fight back or take things to court is very low. Sometimes Google jumps in to assist, but a lot of the time there are back room settlements. We can safely assume that this is part of Microsoft's patent stacking strategy, so we cannot carry on pretending that Microsoft now "loves Linux". It's a colossal lie.

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