07.20.12

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The Patent Wars Deepen

Posted in Patents at 2:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: A roundup of news about software patents and other controversial patents

THE patent wars continue to receive more and more media attention. Last month, before Facebook and Yahoo! settled their case (more on that to be covered soon), the financial press said that “[f]or big players like Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), last summer marked a dramatic turn toward patent warfare in the world of technology.”

Facebook is quite the patent aggressor itself. Being an ally of Microsoft (like Yahoo!), this is not too shocking. Microsoft has been trying to extort its competitors, especially Android as of late (resulting even in bans). Then there is the patent lawsuit from Microsoft’s cofounder (now a patent troll), who also sued over Android, amongst other things. Here is the latest from that case: “As we noted in our story (Allen v World – Stay Lifted – Expect A Rough Ride) a few weeks ago, the Court granted Interval’s motion to lift the stay in this case. At the time the Court asked the parties to file a joint status report suggesting a timeline for the case. The parties have now filed that joint status report. (270 [PDF; Text]) The schedule calls for the Markman hearing to occur in November of this year with the trial to commence in October 2013.”

“Encryption patents, especially ones that relate to SSL, should never be granted. They impede security and stifle adoption of standards.”There are new examples where financial harm is caused by patent aggression [1, 2, 3]. Elaborating on one of these three very recent examples: “The SSL patents relate to an authentication and encryption program. Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Citrix argued that it uses a different method of sending information than what is covered by the two patents.” Encryption patents, especially ones that relate to SSL, should never be granted. They impede security and stifle adoption of standards. Contrary to reports like this one, we are seeing the patent problem getting worse, not better. Pemale Jones calls for participation in a survey, noting that she “found out some more details about the patent demand survey that Professor Colleen Chien of Santa Clara University is asking folks to fill out. First, the link didn’t resolve properly in the previous article that mentioned it, so I’ve corrected it now, but I wanted to highlight it here also, in case you gave up earlier. If you go here, you can fill it out.”

Patent parasites harm real companies again. Sometimes they harm life, too. Here is an example of software patents on cellular research. To quote: “A University of Saskatchewan (U of S) research team has harnessed bioinformatics and molecular biology to create powerful software that promises to become a “must have” tool in drug development research labs around the world.

“Led by U of S professors Tony Kusalik and Scott Napper, the team has developed software which is used to analyze kinases – a type of enzyme involved in virtually every cellular function.”

We also see software patents granted on medical procedures.

“Right now many of the patent wars happen in the US; they are a symptom of a dysfunctional system…”Not too long ago the SCOTUS weighed the effect of patents that affect life, but it was unable to come up with the conclusion that patent scope should be limited. In fact, its review was worse than useless. Therefore, the chaos continues.

Other patent stories help shed light on the growing problem that relies on software patents (a fast-growing patenting area in the US). There are also parasites exploiting patent issues in the mobile market and monetising the conflicts, with patent trolls being notable in that regard.

Several new patents [1, 2, 3, 4] give room for concern because they are related to software and sometimes they verge Europe (EPO) too. Quoting that last example: “The approval of the patent from the European Patent Office is a strong indication that our U.S. patent application will be granted in due course.”

As we will show in our interview about software patents (with Richard Stallman), it is important to prevent software patents from getting into more nations. Right now many of the patent wars happen in the US; they are a symptom of a dysfunctional system, as we’ll show in the next post.

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