10.14.18

Federal Circuit Doubles Down on User Interface Patents, Helps Microsoft-Connected Patent Trolls Curtail the Prime Competitor of Microsoft Office

Posted in Google, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 8:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dan Bricklin
Dan Bricklin, photographed by Betsy Devine at a blogger brunch in Boston’s Chinatown 2/25/2007. Licence: CC BY 2.5

Summary: Patent trolls that are connected to Microsoft continue to sue Microsoft rivals using old patents; this time, for a change, even the Federal Circuit lets them get away with it

THE Federal Circuit (CAFC) with its current Chief Judge (Prost) is rather different from what it used to be. Perhaps it learned to accept that reversals by SCOTUS must end, not by means of changing SCOTUS itself but by getting rid of corrupt judges like Rader (he actually got caught).

Today’s CAFC is supportive of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs) and typically affirms PTAB’s decisions — a topic we shall write about separately in view of newer/latest determinations. 35 U.S.C. § 101 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has enabled both PTAB and CAFC to rule out patents quite promptly, without having to engage in a lengthy process like search and assessment of prior art.

“Back in 1992,” Patently-O recalled for those who forgot, “Borland Software invented a tabbed spreadsheet for its Quattro Pro that was then copied by Excel, Google Sheets, and others. Today, the Federal Circuit finally found the patent claims enforceable (or at least patent eligible).”

Microsoft copied everyone, but nowadays it is suing everyone, including Corel.

Found initially via [1, 2, 3] was this article/blog post titled “Tabbed Spreadsheet — Patent Eligible”. It’s what Patently-O covered along/after the above tweet:

D.Delaware Judge Stark dismissed DET’s case on the pleadings — holding that the Borland/DET spreadsheet-tab patent claims were directed to abstract ideas. On appeal, the Federal Circuit has partially reversed — finding that some of the claims are directed toward “specific improved method for navigating through complex three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets” and thus are patent eligible. The decision here is authored by Judge STOLL and joined by Judges REYNA and BRYSON.

The patents at issue here basically cover the use of tabs in a spreadsheet document. You might be thinking – “WHAT I’VE BEEN USING TABS FOR 25 YEARS” — at least that is what I was thinking. The thing is that DET’s patents were invented by folks at Borland Software — baker of Quattro Pro — and claim priority back to 1992. BOOM! Microsoft came out with its tabbed version of Excel in 1993 following Borland’s release. Back then I used Quattro Pro – and tabs were awesome. The case here is against Google for its tabbed sheets.

As you’ll see below, the claims include a “notebook tab” — and that feature seems to be the key for patent eligibility. This aspect of the decision makes it fairly questionable.

I’ll note that this case may well fit into the IP case-books as a companion to the 1996 Supreme Court case on spreadsheet menu copyright. Lotus Dev. Corp. v. Borland Int’l, Inc., 516 U.S. 233 (1996).

“CAFC only exists to be reversed by SCOTUS,” Carlo Piana wrote about it (he became famous for his Samba lawyering).

Benjamin Henrion said: “Despite Alice, CAFC just founds “tabs in a spreadsheet” to be patent eligible. Software patents are back, specialized patent courts are dangerous, biased, populated by the patent establishment, and don’t want to listen http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/17-1135.Opinion.10-9-2018.pdf …”

“It’s actually not so unusual for CAFC,” I told Henrion, “as not too long ago they said OK to other GUI patents; not exactly the same as algorithms/callback functions…”

We wrote about this as recently as January. To Piana I said: “That was true when Rader, the corrupt man, was in charge. His successor is OK and CAFC improved…” (under Prost)

Paul Redmond Michel was also pretty bad (he still is), but unlike Rader he was not corrupt.

Since the above alludes to spreadsheets, noteworthy is also coverage about Microsoft’s ‘proxy’ Acacia. These patent trolls of Microsoft continue to sue Microsoft’s rivals using dubious software patents. To quote Law 360:

The Federal Circuit on Tuesday reversed a lower court’s invalidation of three patents asserted against Google LLC by a unit of patent licensing company Acacia Research Corp.

So a unit of a patent troll of Microsoft (Acacia Research Corp.) sued Google, Microsoft’s main rival in this sector. Patently-O revisited the subject, citing/mentioning Dan Bricklin (the so-called father of spreadsheets):

This week’s decision in DET v. GOOGLE focuses on patent eligibility of a muti-sheet spreadsheet displayed with notebook tabs. The case is reminiscent of a 2014 Patently-O post by Howard Skaist written in the still roiling wake of Alice and Mayo. In his post, Skaist considered ways that the inventor of VisiCalc (Dan Bricklin) might have claimed the computerized spreadsheet he first created in 1979.

[...]

In some pre-Bilski writing, Dan Bricklin explained why he didn’t actually try to patent the spreadsheet.

After Alice these patents would be null and void anyway. Microsoft insists that it wants "truce" (as recently as days ago), but here we have a Microsoft-connected troll attacking another OIN member, Google. OIN has no way/mechanism for dealing with intermediaries.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

This post is also available in Gemini over at:

gemini://gemini.techrights.org/2018/10/14/acacia-det-v-google/

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Classic: Old EPO Strike

    2008 EPO video, predating the Benoît Battistelli EPO regime



  2. Links 13/6/2021: Linux 5.14 Work, Lots of Patent News

    Links for the day



  3. Update on Gemini, IPFS, and IRC

    "The video which was supposed to be a few minutes long ended up taking a lot longer, but it does cover a broad range of topics that are relevant and very recent (based on recent developments)."



  4. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, June 12, 2021

    IRC logs for Saturday, June 12, 2021



  5. Virtual Injustice -- Part 5: Benoît's “Friends” in Budapest

    "Battistelli went to considerable lengths to secure the support of the Hungarian delegation."



  6. Links 13/6/2021: KDE Frameworks 5.83.0 and helloSystem 0.5

    Links for the day



  7. The Story of Techrights, in Banners...

    A look back at site banners from 2006-2021; they help illuminate or show our changing focus over the years



  8. With KDE Plasma 5.22 Having Just Been Released It's Time to Give KDE a Try (or Move to GNU/Linux, Leveraging the Best Features of Any Operating System Out There)

    A quick recommendation of KDE based on a reasonably recent (but not latest) build; there's this myth about KDE being difficult and flaky, but for a number of decades it has been the most advanced desktop (on any operating system) and its developers managed to hide the complexity while offering users all the power they may want/need



  9. Open Letter to the FSF About Taking Control of the FSF's (and GNU's) IRC Channels

    The FSF should have seized the opportunity, in light of self-harming IRC infighting (instability and unpredictability), to create its own IRC network and then help this new (or "GNU") network flourish



  10. EU Already Captured by -- and Lying for -- Corrupt EPO Officials, Team UPC, and Lobbyists of Multinational Corporations

    12 pages of lies; is the European Parliament reduced to a mere marionette of corrupt officials who run the EPO into the ground?



  11. [Meme] Virtual Code of Conduct (ViCoC)

    Cheapening of basic concepts and principles like "right to be heard" or "access to justice" is an international trend; we need to push back in the direction of justice, not fake 'innovation' or 'tech' (where it clearly does not belong)



  12. IRC Proceedings: Friday, June 11, 2021

    IRC logs for Friday, June 11, 2021



  13. Virtual Injustice -- Part 4: Mihály Ficsor, the EPO's Hungarian “Fixer”

    One key operative of António Campinos, who is fiercely in favour of software patents, has quite a colourful past and background



  14. Conversation With Richard Stallman in Brazil, May 31st 2021

    At the end of last month Richard Stallman had a 2-hour (and beyond, considering some of the afterthoughts) conversation, which is now available online



  15. Links 11/6/2021: Nginx Rising and SteamPal Rumours

    Links for the day



  16. New Introduction at Gemini

    As part of ongoing improvements to our capsule we have a new introductory text, reproduced below



  17. Links 11/6/2021: A Torvalds COVID Rant and RISC-V Risk of Takeover

    Links for the day



  18. Petition Against Richard Stallman Continues Losing Signatures, Open Letter of Support Reaches 6,750 Signatures

    The latest (if not last) person to garden the anti-RMS petition is an IBM employee. As has been the case for months. Another removal. IBM has a grudge against GNU's founder and by extension the FSF (they want the FSF to be a slave of IBM, just like the Linux Foundation is; we last covered this a day ago). “An open letter in support of Richard Matthew Stallman being reinstated by the Free Software Foundation” has meanwhile reached 6,750 signatures and that number grows by about 50 every 3-4 weeks, so it’s reasonable to expect 7,000 by year’s end. The anti-RMS petition may fall below 3,000.



  19. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, June 10, 2021

    IRC logs for Thursday, June 10, 2021



  20. Virtual Injustice -- Part 3: All the President's Men…

    Benoît Battistelli‘s army of minions, combined with former colleagues of António Campinos, team up to participate in the legal fudge of the EPO



  21. EPO ‘ViCo’ Prior Art (or ViCo Going Back to the 1980s)

    A previous post (video from yesterday) gave examples of prior art from the early/ier 1990s, debunking the EPO’s foolish and irrational embrace of this notion that so-called ‘ViCo’ is so absolutely incredible (we’ve kept talking, e.g. in many prior videos, about how the only real ‘innovation’ was connection speeds); MinceR recalls that “when UMTS (“3G”) was new, video calls on mobile was the feature that was supposed to sell the technology” and in the mid-80s you could already see who you spoke to (almost) in real time



  22. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Needs to Get Its Act Together on the EPO's GDPR Violations

    EU authorities aren't keeping abreast of EPO abuses; as a result, people's basic rights and fundamental sense of dignity erode, with impunity resulting in passage of massive piles of data to foreign corporations and governments that engage in industrial and political espionage



  23. Links 10/6/2021: Raspberry Digital Signage 15.0, NVIDIA Driver 470

    Links for the day



  24. EPO 'ViCo' Prior Art (~30 Years Ago): Barely Innovative at All

    Debunking the EPO‘s Big Lie that ViCo is some sort of incredible and innovative thing that must therefore be embraced fully; the missing ingredient was fast network connections, so there’s no excuse for EPO claiming that we must embrace such stuff irrespective of the law, constitutions etc.



  25. Improvements in the Techrights Gemini Capsule

    Further improvements are being made to our Gemini capsule, which contains all the latest stories sans the graphics; it now has a total of 35,820 pages



  26. Linux Foundation is a Foundation of Mass Surveillance

    Whatever the so-called ‘Linux’ Foundation touches turns to dust; they’re already killed the site known as Linux.com and now they scatter the “Linux” brand to the wind (in pursuit of misbranding cash)



  27. [Meme] Lord Justice Sir

    Inspired by an old Internet joke, we present the state of EPO 'justice'



  28. The EPO's Lack of Objective Legal System is No Laughing Matter

    The array of abuses committed by António Campinos and his EPO minions (people who meddle in legal affairs) is mentioned in this new video; we focus on what was shown this morning, i.e. in Part 2 of an ongoing series (to last two more weeks)



  29. Virtual Injustice -- Part 2: The ViCo Oral Proceedings of 28 May 2021

    More than half a day of theatrics and stonewalling by the EBA may have done a damage so enormous to the EBA's credibility that irrespective of the final outcome the case is already seen as compromised



  30. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, June 09, 2021

    IRC logs for Wednesday, June 09, 2021


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts