12.26.15

Witnessing the Patent Mess That the USPTO Created

Posted in America, Courtroom, Europe, Patents at 8:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Where patent trolls with software patents are the stars of the show…

Erich Spangenberg

Summary: A look at some recent court actions in the US, motivated by software patent grants

The power outage at the USPTO aside (“It will be interesting indeed to find out how this quite extraordinary state of affairs plays out after the holiday weekend,” IP Kat wrote), there were some other problems at the USPTO earlier this holiday (or just before it began). It’s something for the EPO to learn from (EPO staff as a whole, not management).

A ‘superstar’ patent troll, Spangenberg (shown above with troll cross-pollination), which we wrote about before [1, 2, 3], is said to have just attacked a company which produces Free software. It happened just shortly prior to an IPO and watch how many other companies were sued. To quote this report: “In the realm of patent assertion, there is one man who stands head and shoulders above the rest: Erich Spangenberg. Of the more than 1,600 companies he has sued for patent infringement in the past decade, the most recent is Atlassian.

“The likes of Spangenberg, wielding software patents, attack thousands of practicing companies.”“Not that you’d know it was Spangenberg doing the suing; the action comes from Spangenberg-controlled Pherah LLC, a company that doesn’t even have a website.”

Also published just days ago was this article titled “Patent Trolls Attacked My Business”. The likes of Spangenberg, wielding software patents, attack thousands of practicing companies.

“My small business was the victim of abusive patent litigation,” said the author of of the latter article, “and I want to share my story to promote awareness of this growing problem. Capstone Photography provides photography services at events across the country, like marathons, triathlons and 5K road races. We have been in business since 2005. Naturally, we have a website where athletes can find and view their photos. It’s not rocket science. The basic premise of our site relies on a simple lookup function that any high school programmer could describe and execute.”

“Some of these patents were granted by the EPO and later invalidated (after Apple had sued Samsung and others).”Not only software companies are affected. Watch how Apple, a branding giant, attacked Samsung (mostly a hardware company) just before Christmas. As Florian Müller put it: “While Apple is usually the net payer when it comes to patents (most recently vis-à-vis Ericsson), it has received $548 million from Samsung this month, though a reimbursement may be demanded later. Samsung might base a future reimbursement claim on its design patent-related appeal to the Supreme Court (if that one suceeds, which would not be a huge surprise) and/or on the fact that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has held the ’915 pinch-to-zoom API-related patent invalid (a decision Apple is appealing to the Federal Circuit) and/or the increasingly likely invalidation of the D’677 iPhone design patent.”

Some of these patents were granted by the EPO and later invalidated (after Apple had sued Samsung and others). What does that tell us about the direction the EPO is heading in? Europe already attracts some patent trolls with software patents.

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