08.25.16

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Creative Technology, Now Operating in ‘Patent Troll’ Mode, Shot Down by the ITC; Jawbone Too Shot Down

Posted in America, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 12:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Has the U.S. International Trade Commission finally become less trigged-happy when it comes to embargoes?

BLASTING RIVALS WITH PATENTS
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Sound Blaster

Summary: Some good news from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which may have put an end to Creative’s new war on Android (using old patents)

OVER THE years we have not had much (or anything) good to say about the ITC. It seemed nationalistic and unreasonable. Based on allegation or suspicion alone it could suspend operations or businesses in the United States, especially when these were foreign (non-US).

Earlier this summer we wrote about Creative Technology, based in Singapore, going after Android OEMs with massive patent demands, having been ‘endorsed’ by Apple payments. Well, it turns out Apple should never have paid them in the first place. Their patents are junk.

“When once-famous brands like Creative and BlackBerry become nothing but a pile of patents there’s a lot of trouble for FOSS such as Android, which is built on top of Linux. ““First spotted by Law360,” an Apple advocacy site wrote, “Administrative Law Judge David Shaw of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) has ruled that Creative Technology’s patent that addresses music library navigation and sorting in the iPod, and now iOS overall, was too abstract to be eligible for a patent.”

It also said: “A patent that Creative Technologies used in the beginning of the century against the iPod forcing a $100 million payout by Apple has been invalidated, saving the rest of the smartphone industry from costly settlements and protracted legal battles.”

According to this, “Apple paid Creative a single license fee of $100 million to use Creative’s software interface patent,” which is certainly a lot of money, probably enough to convince Creative to prey on Android OEMs that can barely afford it (and might prefer to settle out of court). The original report said “U.S. International Trade Commission judge handed smartphone makers a win Friday, ruling that a media player patent that netted a Singapore software company a $100 million settlement with Apple is invalid under Alice, in what appears to be the first time an ITC investigation has been terminated during its early review program.”

This is great news and a huge relief to some Android OEMs. On the face of it, ITC made a determination on another case, as reported by MIP. “In a first for its 100-day pilot programme, the ITC has invalidated a patent involved in a $100m iPod-related settlement a decade ago. In a separate ruling, the commission has ruled that Fitbit did not misappropriate Jawbone’ trade secrets,” says the summary. We wrote a great deal about the latter case too. It’s now a two-way battle. They would both be better off just focusing on development, not bickering over patents. The latter case was also mentioned in corporate media this week (albeit very briefly). To quote CNBC: “A U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Fitbit did not steal rival Jawbone’s trade secrets. Jawbone accused Fitbit of infringing six patents and luring away employees to with confidential data about Jawbone’s business.”

The behaviour of Creative without a doubt was becoming a problem for Android and by extension a threat to Linux, so the former of the two aforementioned cases is important. BlackBerry’s transition into ‘patent troll’ was also mentioned here recently and it’s receiving unwanted media attention from a trolls expert. “BlackBerry’s new round of patent lawsuits targets BLU—and Android,” says the headline. Here is an except:

BlackBerry has filed three patent infringement lawsuits in as many weeks. The struggling phone company’s offensive barrage began with a case filed against IP telephony company Avaya on July 27. Last week, BlackBerry filed two lawsuits against budget cell phone maker BLU’s products, alleging that BLU infringes a whopping 15 patents.

The dual lawsuits against BLU suggest that BlackBerry’s new turn toward patent licensing isn’t going to be a one-off event, but rather a more extended campaign. In a May earnings call, BlackBerry CEO John Chen told investors he’s in a “patent licensing mode” and is hoping to monetize his company’s 38,000 patents.

The new lawsuits also suggest that BlackBerry has patents it believes describe Android features, so don’t be surprised if more Android phones are in the crosshairs soon. One of the two cases filed last week accuses user-interface features that are more about Android than they are about BLU. A small manufacturer like BLU could make for a good “test case” against a maker of Android phones.

When once-famous brands like Creative and BlackBerry become nothing but a pile of patents there’s a lot of trouble for FOSS such as Android, which is built on top of Linux. Software patents need to end and patent sanity assured. Customers only lose when products are intentionally made more primitive due to fear of litigation. A lot of them are incredibly overpriced, too.

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