02.22.10

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Patents Roundup: Amazon, Centrify, Microsoft, TecSec, and Bilski

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 10:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: This is a set of news links about patents and their injustices

Looking out for Bilski: software patents v. FOSS (see our Bilski index)

This period also saw the rise of FOSS as a threat to monopolistic proprietary software companies. The rule of required sharing of computer program source code in FOSS, and creation of a “protected commons” for the free exchange of ideas embodied in program source code eliminated the need for patents. “Copyleft” sharing, under the GNU General Public License (“GPL”) and similar licenses, helped firms to increase their levels of investment in cooperative production, and to exchange ideas, secure in the knowledge that those investments would not be appropriated by others claiming exclusive rights.

But companies in the business of acquiring patents merely to license or sue parties refusing to pay for a license, called “patent trolls,” also sprang up in great numbers. They imposed license fees that FOSS projects could not afford under terms that unacceptably conflicted with FOSS licenses. They exploited companies’ willingness to pay license fees for patent claims of questionable validity, in order to avoid the high costs of patent litigation.

Usually, these trolls prefer to bite deep-pocketed businesses and not small FOSS distributors, much less non-profit communities of programmers. Proprietary software giants charge their customers high prices, in effect collecting in advance any patent royalties they may be required to pay to trolls. Thus, patent rent is included in the cost of proprietary products: Microsoft and similar companies may sting from reduction of their profits, but their users have been stung in advance. Moreover, cross-licensing works well for them, as they have or can build a portfolio of patents with which to buy others’ claims without using money. But the same approach is not available to FOSS communities, which in general do not seek patents; their users thus risk ending up as casualties in the war.

ITC Becomes Battleground in Nokia-Apple Patent Dispute (more on the ITC’s embargoes right here)

The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has agreed to investigate Apple’s patent claims against Nokia, after already agreeing last month to do the same for Nokia’s patent claims against Apple. With dueling lawsuits pending in federal court over the patent disputes, the ITC has become the battlefield du jour.

USPTO’s 1-Click Indecisiveness Enters 5th Year (FFII’s president shares this link which he says contains “Amazon testimony in front of Congress on 1-click patent, software patents and patent trolls”)

theodp writes “When it comes to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ 1-Click patent, the USPTO is an agency that just can’t say no. Or yes. It’s now been 4+ years since actor Peter Calveley submitted prior art that triggered a USPTO reexamination of the 1-Click patent. Still no ‘final answer’ from the USPTO, although an Examiner recently issued yet another Final Rejection of 1-Click related claims (pdf), admonishing Amazon for making him ‘sift through hundreds of submitted references to identify what applicant allegedly has already submitted,’ which he complained is ‘adding an undue burden’ to his workload. Looks like Bezos’ 2000 pledge of ‘less work for the overworked Patent and Trademark Office’ isn’t working out so well in practice. Not too surprising — after all, Amazon did inform Congress that it ‘has modified its specific [patent] reform proposals from the year 2000.’”

Centrify Suite 2010 Expands Ability to Ensure Higher Levels of Trust, Control and Compliance in the Data Center [1, 2] (more on the latest from Centrify, which is putting Microsoft patents in GNU/Linux)

Pfizer, Microsoft, Viacom: Intellectual Property

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software company, received a patent for a method of encoding and transmitting network data over a satellite network.

According to patent 7,644,092, one of 4,484 U.S. patents issued yesterday, the technology would enable Internet protocol data packets of variable length to be encoded and sent through a fixed-length multi-packet transport system.

Nazomi sues Amazon, Microsoft, Nokia over Java

California-based Nazomi late yesterday sued several tech firms, including Amazon, Microsoft and Nokia, for allegedly violating patents it owns on translating Java code to specific devices. Filed in a Los Angeles court, the lawsuit complains that the three main firms as well as Garmin, Iomega, Sling, Vizio and Western Digital all have devices that supposedly copy its techniques. These include the Kindle and Zune as well as less common devices like the Slingbox or Nokia’s tablet computers.

Nokia, Microsoft, Amazon Sued on Translation Patents (Microsoft faces patent-related legal action from over 50 directions, including Emblaze)

Nokia Corp., Microsoft Corp., and Amazon.com Inc. were sued by a closely held company which claims they used two patents used for translating Java code for specific computers.

Nazomi Communications Inc. claims in the suit, filed yesterday in federal court in Los Angeles, that each of the companies sells consumer electronics that infringe its patents. The suit is seeking an order stopping the infringement and unspecified damages.

Cognition In Licensing Deal With Microsoft

The firm–which is headed by Scott Jarus–said it has licensed some of its proprietary semantic technologies to Microsoft Corp.

TecSec Aims Suits at IBM, Cisco, eBay (covered the other day, as the situation is akin to that of Eolas [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8])

TecSec, a closely held firm near Washington D.C., filed patent suits against IBM, Cisco, Sun Microsystems and a host of other tech companies after recently settling one with Microsoft.

[Expired patents]

People are increasingly filing lawsuits over expired patents. An engineer’s claim against Sigma-Aldrich, a chemical company, is the twelfth such claim filed this year in courts covered by Courthouse News. Lawsuits over labels marked with expired patents are not a new cause of action, but the sudden surge in such claims is new.

Harold Josephs sued Sigma-Aldrich in Detroit Federal Court on Tuesday, citing seven chemical products he claims the company falsely labels as patented, though the patents have expired.

Sony seeks ‘universal console controller’ patent (prior art, anyone?)

It’s perhaps a step too far to say that just because Sony has applied for a US patent that covers a “universal game console controller” that it’s actually developing one with a view to bringing such a product to market.

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