07.20.17

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The Bizarre World of US Patents and Ongoing Pursuit/Granting of Software Patents in Spite of Section 101

Posted in America, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 11:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A survey of recent patents that are either far too trivial, pertain purely to software, promote surveillance, or are pursued purely for vanity (when a court is likely to deem these invalid anyway)

THE US patent office is still granting all sorts of bizarre patents (low quality/certainty levels), sometimes to be facing challenge/refutation/overturning by courts, PTAB, oppositions etc. Patent examination is not a simple task, but the more safeguards exist, the more likely patents are to be upheld and successfully enforced at the end (when plenty of money is invested in litigation/negotiation). A legitimate patent would be granted in the interest of the public on novel ideas that are also not trivial and can be demonstrated physically (e.g. with a prototype). There aren’t many such patents, certainly not millions. Some of the most notorious patents were granted on mere concepts or tasks which can be carried out using pen and paper (or in one’s mind alone).

“Some of the most notorious patents were granted on mere concepts or tasks which can be carried out using pen and paper (or in one’s mind alone).”Over the summer we’ve taken note of news about patents we wish to comment on, for we believe that these demonstrate a problem with quality control and/or perception of patents in the US.

Symantec

It’s no secret that Symantec is still pursuing software patents. This latest example is said to “Protect Torrent Users Against Malware”, which means that it’s a software patent on security. Generally speaking, Symantec does not have a track record as a patent bully; in fact, it sometimes fights back against patent trolls, notably in Intellectual Ventures LLC v Symantec Corp (fairly recent case, decided by a high court).

“What chance does this patent have when properly scrutinised like in Intellectual Ventures LLC v Symantec Corp?”What isn’t clear here, however, is the USPTO’s decision to continue granting software patents after Alice. What chance does this patent have when properly scrutinised like in Intellectual Ventures LLC v Symantec Corp? Is such a patent necessary in the first place? Can it be challenged at PTAB with an IPR?

Apple

Apple’s patents are often a source of amusement because the company rides a wave of hype, powered both by fans and by paid marketing. Look at this new patent. Can one say “trivial”? Like… ridiculously trivial? Can one not see that this is a software patent (thus invalid/not patent-eligible) that is not novel, either?

“Can one not see that this is a software patent (thus invalid/not patent-eligible) that is not novel, either?”The truth of the matter is, Apple continues pursuing very trivial patents and examiners in the US don’t seem to mind. We have heard similar stories from inside the EPO (regarding applications from Apple). Here is another one: see the first article about it [1, 2] (cross-posted) and some followup from the mainstream media. This is not an invention but a trivial software patent (Alice would definitely swat it) that probably merits a yawn. There have been British derivatives of these reports with “999″ rather than “911″ [1, 2]. It wouldn’t even make the news if it didn’t involve the brand name “Apple”. The patent in a nutshell? “Apple has patented a process that would allow users to secretly call 911 using only their fingerprint.

“In a patent published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, the tech giant outlined a feature that would allow users to call emergency services “when a conventional method may not be practical.””

“Do they get a monopoly on this because they were first to file?!”It’s just about as trivial as it sounds. Do they get a monopoly on this because they were first to file?!

Microsoft

Speaking of Apple and the likes of them, watch Microsoft trying to grab patents on things it did not even ‘invent’. “You will soon be able to track laptops in case of theft, Microsoft patent reveals,” according to this report, which rightly then adds that it’s something users “already have on… Android smartphones.”

“Are they going to use “hands” as the equivalent of “device” to pretend that it doesn’t simply boil down to computer vision and is thus pure software?”So can Microsoft now go bullying Android OEMs? Even if it did not invent this? And it boils down to spying? More spying on people using cameras was covered in this article titled “Patents show Apple & Microsoft Racing to bring Hand Gesturing Systems to Computers, Home Appliances & more” (footage going upstream for them to conduct surveillance with).

Are they going to use “hands” as the equivalent of “device” to pretend that it doesn’t simply boil down to computer vision and is thus pure software?

Google

Speaking of privacy-hostile patents, “Google Patents Extracting Facts from the Web” (or data-mining).

“This is pure software, or machine learning. It oughtn’t merit a patent.”I already wrote a proposal and did this 12 years ago (akin to prior art), but it doesn’t seem to bother large companies like Google, which simply want to stockpile lots of low-quality patents. “When Google crawls the Web,” says the article, “it collects information about content on the pages it finds as well as links on pages. How much does it collect information about facts on the Web?”

This is pure software, or machine learning. It oughtn’t merit a patent.

Cisco

Some large corporations are more aggressive than others and Cisco is one of those companies that often get sued by patent trolls. But Cisco is itself rather aggressive too and we previously wrote about how Cisco continued to (mis)use patents for embargoes on Arista products [1, 2, 3, 4]. There was recently a successful suspension of imports. As one report put it:

Cisco Systems has won a significant victory in its legal battle with Arista Networks, since its smaller rival agreed to suspend imports of some of its network switching products. However, it’s unclear how long that suspension will remain in place.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) in May ruled that Arista’s Ethernet switches violated two of six Cisco patents and ordered that the company stop shipping those products into the United States. However, the regulatory board allowed a 60-day “Presidential review period” during which Arista could continue importing the switches.

IAM wrote about a different Cisco case. Being a mouthpiece for patent trolls in the US and elsewhere, IAM was calling for “balance in patent debates in the US” (by balance it meant the opposite of balance, for only balance that IAM understands is the bank balance of Joff Wild and cohorts). Here is what IAM said in relation to a Cisco case:

In the US the patent troll narrative has become one of the dominant forces in how IP owners, lawyers and legislators talk about and view the patent system. It is a narrative that has been extraordinarily successful and while there have been and continue to be abuses of the system by some entities looking to extract nuisance settlements with poor quality or overly broad patents, there is also another side to this debate.

Terms such as “IP owners” (above) are meaningless because “IP” is not a patent but a nebulous, vague concept and patents are assigned/granted, not “owned”.

Now that Blockchains are being polluted by patent thickets [1, 2] see what IAM is publishing about such patents. As if innovation does not matter as much as a gold rush for patents.

Patent Hype

It’s quite a problem when companies apply for patents merely to use them as some kind of trophy or a badge of honour, even when there’s virtually no use to them. Being granted a software patent, for example, is not “innovation” but protectionism by restricting others’ right to write algorithms; yet watch this press release from June [1, 2] and this article which claimed “three patents to show for its four decades in existence.”

“It’s quite a problem when companies apply for patents merely to use them as some kind of trophy or a badge of honour, even when there’s virtually no use to them.”Well, patents and innovation are not the same thing, so less than one patent per decade is fine. They need to reject the myth of patents as surrogate for value or innovation.

Watch what Lifeline claimed last month [1, 2]. To quote: “The principals of Lifeline and the engineers at NTU filed for and received software patents on the technology.”

“Software patents were granted by USPTO examiners, but we are pretty certain that PTAB and/or courts would disagree with the grant, citing Section 101.”So they’re invalid. Software patents no longer have much (or any) value.

Here is another press release from that time [1, 2], calling someone “the inventor and multiple patents holder of software-defined networks…”

Software again.

How about this one? Software patents were granted by USPTO examiners, but we are pretty certain that PTAB and/or courts would disagree with the grant, citing Section 101.

“If all you have to show is a US patent in a paid press release, then maybe you have nothing else to show (or do).”Here is another press release that’s purely about patents [1, 2]. This one has a photo too. How cheesy! We have decided to reproduce it below:

TELoIP patent

If all you have to show is a US patent in a paid press release, then maybe you have nothing else to show (or do). TELoIP actually paid to publish this!

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