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Unified Patents Goes After Patent Trolls Funded and Armed (Given Patents) by Microsoft

Microsoft and trolls



Summary: Opposition to dubious patents (typically on software) comes from a firm that crowd-funds the process; it's curious to see several of Microsoft's trolls being challenged

A COUPLE of days ago we wrote about patent trolls that Unified Patents had tackled just before the year's end. Another proxy (among many) of the patent troll Bradley Liddle was mentioned 3 days ago and then we learned more about Uniloc, which is just a litigation pipeline that ought not exist. We might take a closer look at it some time in the near future because readers sent us relevant information.



Unified Patents wrote that on the final day of the year, "December 31, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 7,020,252 owned by well-known NPE Uniloc 2017 LLC. The ‘252 patent, directed to group voice messaging, has been asserted against Hike, Microsoft and Apple."

Microsoft has already paid this troll a lot of money; apparently not enough to keep it away. But make no mistake; Microsoft isn't the victim because Microsoft actively contributes to this problem. Microsoft spent a tremendous amount of time and money promoting software patents and now there's this big mess. Unified Patents has just tackled this patent on "verifying electronic forms" (obviously abstract) and even if courts would reject such patents, their very existence is a major nuisance as they can be leveraged for extortion. It's widely known by now (even IAM admitted it a few days) that patent litigation has collapsed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the extortion is winding down (it's impossible to reliably measure/quantify). "2018 US patent cases down 41% from 2015," patent maximalists noted some days ago, but what about the extortion?

The decrease in district court patent cases was proportionally smaller last year than the year before, suggesting the volume of new patent disputes is levelling out


They're just looking for some positive spin to make this decline sound like good news for patent maximalists. Here comes another troll, whose sole apparent 'business' will be challenged by an inter partes review (IPR) at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB):

On December 28, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 6,411,871 owned by American GNC Corporation (an NPE). The ‘871 patent, directed to vehicle sensors, has never been asserted.


Maybe not in court. Extortion is still a possibility.

New IPRs that we find more interesting, however, were published no sooner than Friday. Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft's main patent troll (which is arming proxies and shells that sue everyone), is also targeting automobile companies:

On December 31, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 7,925,416 owned and asserted by Carrum Technologies, LLC after it was transferred from an Intellectual Ventures subsidiary. The ‘416 patent, directed to vehicle sensors, was asserted in October against BMW, FCA, and Ford.


A Microsoft patent troll-armed (by Intellectual Ventures) patent troll rears its ugly head again. It's this troll that nowadays uses shells that sue everyone and an IPR against it was also noted on Friday:

On December 31, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 7,376,645 asserted by Portal Communications LLC (owned by well-known NPE Dominion Harbor). The ‘645 patent, directed to natural language processing techniques, has been asserted against SoundHound, Microsoft, and Apple.


Again it's curious to see Microsoft among those targeted because Microsoft's own patent troll gave patents to Dominion Harbor. Has Microsoft lost control of the mess it created? Either way, this mess helps sell “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18].

There's one more newly-advertised IPR. "On December 31," Robert Jain wrote "Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 9,324,365 owned by Hertl Media LLC. The ‘365 patent, directed to techniques for buffering multiple audio tracks of a video, has been asserted against several companies with streaming media services such as Cox, Netflix, and Amazon."

A lot of the above are abstract patents, but Unified Patents often leverages prior art to squash such patents. Considering the very high success rates of IPRs, one might assume that few (if any) of the above patents will endure PTAB's scrutiny.

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