03.12.09

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Patent Trolls — Including Acacia — Attack Linux Users/Devices

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 12:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent troll (cat)

Summary: McKesson, Android and G1 hit by patent trolls

HAVING SHOWN possible relationships between Microsoft and Acacia [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], more recently we showed Acacia’s moves of aggression in the world of technology, for example (sorted reverse chronologically):

McKesson Besieged

Acacia has just resorted to successful extortion against a large user of GNU/Linux.

Acacia Research Corporation (Nasdaq: ACTG) announced today that its Hospital Systems Corporation subsidiary has entered into a license agreement with McKesson Information Solutions LLC covering a portfolio of patents that apply to medical picture archiving and communication system (PACS) technology. This agreement resolves the parties’ dispute that was pending in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Got that? Eastern District of Texas again.

This may be particularly interesting because McKesson uses GNU/Linux. To cite an old article:

LinuxWorld: Health care IT solutions

At the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, McKesson CIO Randal Spratt explains why his company deploys its health care applications on Linux. He says these applications are scalable, affordable on tight hospital budgets, and reliable–making better patient care possible.

Here is a press release from McKesson:

As a leading provider of technology solutions to the healthcare industry, McKesson has been at the forefront of innovative technologies, deploying many of its advanced Horizon Clinicals applications on Linux running on Intel-based hardware. Hospitals with these deployments have already realized cost savings of up to 60% compared with traditional system deployments.

Acacia’s targeting is unlikely to have been intentional, it is not related to the underlying platform, but it shows that Linux devices/appliances are not immune to patents trolls. There is another case of point further down at the bottom.

According to this new press release, EFI too is a victim of Acacia’s patents extortion. Sure, it must be all about ‘innovation’ when a company without any products is taking money away from those who have some. The industry is saturated if not occupied predominantly by patent trolls who have nothing to lose in terms of public perception.

Android Besieged

Google’s Linux-powered (well, Android-powered) phone is a new victim of Judah Klausner, who is yet another patent troll that has already extracted money from other companies.

Google has agreed to settle an intellectual property claim brought by serial inventor Judah Klausner, who has won settlements in the past from Apple, Skype and LG Electronics, Klausner said on Monday.

The dispute concerned patents that Klausner holds covering so-called visual voicemail, which makes voicemail work more like email by sending visual alerts of voice messages to computers or phones, allowing users to selectively retrieve the messages.

Visual voicemail is a key feature of many of the latest touchscreen phones on the market, including Apple’s iPhone. New York-based Klausner holds several patents relating to the technology in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Klausner grabbed the attention of the mobile phone industry in late 2007 when his company, privately held Klausner Technologies Inc, sued Apple and six other companies for $360 million for violating patents on visual voicemail technology.

“Visual voicemail” is no invention, but who has the energy to fight? Google publicly complained last week, arguing that approximately 90% of the patent lawsuits against it come from patent trolls.

More coverage in:

  1. Google bites the bullet and pays up for visual voicemail
  2. Inventor says Google settles patent claim

G1 Besieged

Bernhard Frohwitter is another patent troll whose attack on an Android-based phone we mentioned briefly a couple of days ago. Here is another report on the same subject:

According to the dirctor of IPCom GmbH, Bernhard Frohwitter, if IPCom can’t attain an agreement with HTC then HTC may well be force to stop selling UNTS mobile phones in Germany, and that will include the Google Android T-Mobile G1, and the soon to be released HTC Magic.

Additional coverage in:

Shades of GIMP

A couple of times in the past we wrote about the GIMP losing a great plug-in due to patents and — specifically — intimidation from a patent holder who was prepared to take legal action. This is quite a rare event when it comes to Free software and it’s happening right now to this Blackberry program. Watch what it says at the top of the homepage:

If you have purchased this program, I will refund your money. It seems that there is a patent on a program that does this already made by Cequint. and they want me to stop selling this program.

Can the USPTO smell the scent on innovation in the air?

Might Be Getting Worse

Things will not improve based on this short report about judgments in East Texas.

Earlier this year, we noted that the judges in East Texas were actually transferring some patent lawsuits out of the court, following a ruling from a year ago at the appeals court level (CAFC) telling the district courts to move cases to where they were more “convenient.” For a few months, however, various patent attorneys have been saying to keep watching, and that the folks in East Texas, who know they have a good thing going, will come up with ways to keep more cases in their favorite courthouse. And… that appears to be happening. In a few recent rulings in Marshall, Texas, Judge Ward has denied attempts to move the cases to more convenient locations, sometimes challenging the question of whether or not they really were more convenient — but the reasoning doesn’t pass the sniff test.

This seems like a patent crisis. Sooner or later, however, this bubble — just like other analogous bubbles — might suddenly burst.

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