05.12.11

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What the Skype Takeover Means for Microsoft Patents (and Other Software Patents News)

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 11:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Elephant close-up

Summary: The elephant in the room, software patents, is investigated in Skype’s case, revealing that Acacia was in fact applying pressure against the company; Patent TrollTracker Rick Frenkel is back online

OUR community has grown recently and with this unprecedented growth comes improved research (we also have a second hand to help with Daily Links now). As pointed out yesterday in IRC, there is more than meets the eye in the Skype takeover.

Some people have already remarked on Microsoft’s VoIP-related patents, which they say that Microsoft can now exploit inside Skype. But nobody appears to be talking about the impact of Skype being in Europe (where software patents hardly count and patent trolls are very scarce) and also the pressure exerted by Acacia with its lawsuits. Yes, there is some history there. The gist of it is that Peer Communications is a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation. It sued Skype a while back. Acacia uses several such tentacles to taunt real companies and it has a special taste/appetite for GNU/Linux players such as Red Hat. Now that Microsoft owns Skype we shall see if the lawsuits from Acacia will carry on.

“Now that Microsoft owns Skype we shall see if the lawsuits from Acacia will carry on.”In other news, US patent #6,098,180 is being used by a patent troll, Content Delivery Solutions LLC, in order to extort many companies and as pointed out in Twitter, Free software utilities are also affected. To quote one opinion piece on the subject: “At 3:45 pm on March 18th 2011, the company Content Delivery Solutions LLC filed a complaint in a court in Texas, USA. [...] The complaint was later amended with an additional patent (filed on April 18th), making it list three patents that these companies are claimed to violate (I can’t find the amended version online though). Two of the patents ( 6,393,471 and 6,058,418) are for marketing data and how to use client info to present ads basically. The third is about file transfer resumes.”

This goes on to explaining how Free software is affected. Given that the US government recognised the threat of patents to “Open Source”, how come the patent system remains unshaken? “Software patents and some styles of cloud computing are blunting the ability of average people to innovate,” points out this new piece from Bruce Sterling, who talks about Dr. Vernor Vinge.

The other day we also wrote about Patent Hawk losing his weapon and here is a good new piece on the subject:

A couple of years ago, we wrote about a patent infringement lawsuit filed by a guy named Gary Odom, who is better known in the patent blogging world as the Patent Hawk. He’s an… aggressive supporter of all things patent, and has a way with words, often shown off in his inimical insult-to-backuppable-statement ratio, seen at times here in the Techdirt comments. The “patent” (7,363,592) was on editable toolbars in software. What’s amusing in our post on the initial lawsuit is to see the usual crew of defenders insisting that the patent likely is valid, in part because of Odom’s job as a prior art searcher, suggesting he would clearly know of any prior art that would invalidate the patent. We were also told that Odom’s “expertise” on the subject was something we should learn from. A few months later, Odom used the same patent to sue 28 more companies.

Speaking of Patent Hawk (who worked for Microsoft), remember Patent TrollTracker? He is back online after cataloguing many patent trolls and their activities), Also, he is available on Twitter. We owe him great gratitude as based on his work we prepare an important exposé this month. He wrote a lot about Acacia.

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A Single Comment

  1. patent litigation said,

    May 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm

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    One thing I find interesting in a recent FTC report is the FTC’s distinction between “good” NPEs and patent trolls (which it refers to as “PAEs”). Many have long noted that there is a need to differentiate between NPEs such as universities and those other entities who abuse the system through arguably-excessive patent litigation. Distinguishing between those bad actors and other NPEs may be helpful in narrowing the focus and the terms of the debate over patent trolls.

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