Bonum Certa Men Certa

Harm Still Caused by Granted Software Patents

KEEP CALM AND CRUSH PATENT TROLLSSoftware patents remain a troll's weapon of choice

Summary: A roundup of recent (past week's) announcements, including legal actions, contingent upon software patents in an age when software patents bear no real legitimacy

SOFTWARE patents are bunk, but if you throw 26 of them at a rival (in six lawsuits which have software patents in the mix) you hope a settlement will be cheaper than justice. This is exactly what happened some days ago [1, 2, 3] and the aggressor said in its press release:



Align Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALGN) today announced that it has filed six patent infringement lawsuits asserting 26 patents against 3Shape A/S, a Danish corporation, and a related U.S. corporate entity, asserting that 3Shape's Trios intraoral scanning system and Dental System software infringe Align patents.


The accused has responded in this press release:

We have today read the news of Align Technology’s lawsuits against 3Shape in the USA. The said lawsuit and infringement claims are completely unfounded and without merit. 3Shape will vigorously defend itself against such claims.


How many of these are software patents we don't know for sure because we didn't look at 26 pertinent patents. But what's at stake here is definitely software. Unfortunately, the USPTO built a large pile (or pool) of software patents for a number of decades and even though Alice renders these obsolete they can still be used, especially in bulk, to force settlement (under threat of heavy legal fees/defense costs).

The USPTO ought to do something about it. The writings are on the wall, but the USPTO lacks the incentive to reduce litigation. In fact, it seems to have just erroneously (again) granted software patents that are invalid under Alice, based on this press release of Foxwordy.

"The USPTO ought to do something about it. The writings are on the wall, but the USPTO lacks the incentive to reduce litigation."As we said as far back as a decade ago, we are not against patents. We are all for patent justice, but when patents are granted which are out of scope and then used en masse to extract 'protection' money (Microsoft does that a lot), then it's mob justice, not real justice. It's 2017 and companies still brag about software patents, perhaps pretending not to know about Alice. GE's promotion of software patents notwithstanding (we covered that many years ago), here it is making deals and boasting about patents in connection to "GE's software platform for the industrial internet, to monitor the printing process and also the health of the machine."

We have seen many of these sorts of patents (oftentimes software patents) connected to "machines" or "cars" or "planes" or whatever. Here is a new report which speaks about "an enormous spike in the number of patents filed by major carmakers for autonomous technology since 2007."

"We have seen many of these sorts of patents (oftentimes software patents) connected to "machines" or "cars" or "planes" or whatever."These are, in essence, software patents where there's plenty of prior art. The patent 'industry' exploits this latest hype to pursue software patents and tax everything inside the car. Here is another new article ("Re-regulating the car industry now it is all about software") which says: "The parts-makers are capturing more and more of the value because their patents give them monopolies over critical components. Their shares have doubled in value relative to the carmakers over the past five years."

Why are patents like these allowed in the first place? We were reminded of FatPipe [1, 2] a few days ago when a press release said that "BCM One, a leading technology solutions provider, announced today a partnership with FatPipe Networks, the inventor and holder of multiple patents of software-defined networks..."

"Each week we look at the news we identify new ways to pass off or characterise software as something which merits patents."These are, again, software patents. How about this other new press release [1, 2, 3] that says "PSS 3.2 has specific software controls for high-speed 3D printing with EnvisionTEC's patented Continuous Digital Light Manufacturing (cDLM) technology."

Each week we look at the news we identify new ways to pass off or characterise software as something which merits patents. The tactics vary over time and we'll cover them separately later today -- in an article dedicated to Alice.

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