06.16.19

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Stuffed/Stacked Panels Sent Back Packing After One-Sided Patent Hearings That Will Convince Nobody, Just Preach to the Choir

Posted in America, Deception, EFF, Law, Patents at 9:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select die panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. [...] Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.”
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Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

TripsSummary: Almost a week ago the ‘world tour’ of patent lobbyists in US Senate finally ended; it was an utterly ridiculous case study in panel stacking and bribery (attempts to buy laws)

THE NEW Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not like 35 U.S.C. § 101, but there’s nothing he can do about it. He has already crafted some poor guidelines and it doesn’t change how judges decide cases. To make matters worse, the USPTO got bombarded with very negative comments, perhaps 90% of all the comments, based on some estimates we saw. The patent maximalists try to blame it on the EFF, which means that the EFF is doing something right (rallying supporters who actually support technology rather than litigation).

“The EFF was there, but it was surrounded by dozens of think tanks and lobbyists of litigators.”Sites of patent trolls (sponsored by them) tried hard to amplify this month’s Senate hearings, knowing these hearings were grossly biased, one-sided, and therefore misleading. The EFF was there, but it was surrounded by dozens of think tanks and lobbyists of litigators. It was so profoundly ridiculous that we couldn’t help but respond, repeatedly, even though we said that we’d try focusing on the European Patent Office (EPO) instead.

“Apple is a constant target of high-tech patent assertions, with 58 cases filed against it in the US last year (Lex Machina),” Battistelli‘s friends at IAM write at the moment. But actually, Apple itself is a patent aggressor and bully. Hardly the victim. Taking into account the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX), the EFF has just told this story of trolls whose targets include Apple. To quote:

For years, the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX) has been a magnet for lawsuits filed by patent trolls—companies who make money with patent threats, rather than selling products or services. Technology companies large and small were sued in EDTX every week. We’ve written about how that district’s unfair and irregular procedures made it a haven for patent trolls.

In 2017, the Supreme Court put limits on this venue abuse with its TC Heartland decision. The court ruled that companies can only be sued in a particular venue if they are incorporated there, or have a “regular and established” place of business.

That was great for tech companies that had no connection to EDTX, but it left brick-and-mortar retailers exposed. In February, Apple, a company that has been sued hundreds of times in EDTX, closed its only two stores that were in the district, located in Richardson and Plano. With no stores located in EDTX, Apple will be able to ask for a transfer in any future patent cases.

In the last few days those stores were open, Apple was sued for patent infringement four times, as patent trolls took what is likely their last chance to sue Apple in EDTX.

This month, as part of our Stupid Patent of the Month series, we’re taking a closer look at one of these last-minute lawsuits against Apple. On April 12, the last day the store was open, Apple was sued by LBS Innovations, LLC, a patent-licensing company owned by two New York patent lawyers, Daniel Mitry and Timothy Salmon. Since it was formed in 2011, LBS has sued more than 60 companies, all in the Eastern District of Texas. Those defendants include some companies that make their own technology, like Yahoo, Waze, and Microsoft, but they’re mostly retailers that use software made by others. LBS has sued tire stores, pizza shops, pet-food stores, and many others, all for using internet-based maps and “store location” features. LBS has sued retailers that use software made by Microsoft, others that use Mapquest, some that use Google, as well as those that use the open-source provider OpenStreetMaps.

So it has become a serious problem for Free/Open Source software, even directly. Thankfully, nowadays it’s easier to tackle the underlying patents these trolls leverage. Will any of that change? Not any time soon. We doubt it.

Regardless, the EFF’s Joe Mullin wrote the following some days ago:

xperts Warn Congress: Proposed Changes to Patent Law Would Thwart Innovation

It should be clear now that messing around with Section 101 of the Patent Act is a bad idea. A Senate subcommittee has just finished hearing testimony about a bill that would wreak havoc on the patent system. Dozens of witnesses have testified, including EFF Staff Attorney Alex Moss. Alex’s testimony [PDF] emphasized EFF’s success in protecting individuals and small businesses from threats of meritless patent litigation, thanks to Section 101.

Section 101 is one the most powerful tools patent law provides for defending against patents that never should have been issued in the first place. We’ve written many times about small businesses that were saved because the patents being used to sue them were thrown out under Section 101, especially following the Supreme Court’s Alice v. CLS Bank decision. Now, the Senate IP subcommittee is currently considering a proposal that will eviscerate Section 101, opening the door to more stupid patents, more aggressive patent licensing demands, and more litigation threats from patent trolls.

Three days of testimony has made it clear that we’re far from alone in seeing the problems in this bill. Patents that would fail today’s Section 101 aren’t necessary to promote innovation. We’ve written about how the proposal, by Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons, would create a field day for patent trolls with abstract software patents. Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the other potential effects of the proposal, none of them good.

This will hopefully be our last post in this subject (we have already published about half a dozen). Over the past week we’ve kept an eye on Twitter (sadly, a lot of input goes into those social control media sites instead of proper news sites) and here’s what we can report as concisely as possible.

“So it has become a serious problem for Free/Open Source software, even directly.”First of all, the hearings were full of buzzwords. They were, as usual, misusing/misapplying buzzwords like “HEY AI” (AI) to promote fake patents on software. It isn’t just done in Europe but also in the US and in Israel [1, 2] (we mentioned this the other day; that same article has been reposted everywhere they could fling it).

Benjamin Henrion (FFII) quoted and said: “the ILPO adopted the “technical effect” test used in the EU jurisprudence” while there is no European Union involved, only rogue EPO administrative tribunals…”

That’s based on a purely promotional piece, more or less marketing and lobbying by law firms, but it’s still worth entertaining again because we see the same buzzwords brought up in the hearings. As one person put it: “Senate Judiciary Committee on 101: Laurie Hill (Genentech); Genentech pioneers biologics; Under 101/Alice/Mayo, many of these inventions are unpatentable; AI/bioinformatics/biology is the future of medicine but is not patentable.”

“They were, as usual, misusing/misapplying buzzwords like “HEY AI” (AI) to promote fake patents on software.”There it is: “AI”. And again here: “The SCP (Standing Committee on the Law of Patents) at @WIPO has just published a revealing document on AI and Patentability under the title “Background document on patents and emerging technologies”.”

Of course WIPO too participates in the “HEY AI” (AI) hype; that’s just done in order to grant fake patents on maths — no doubt patents that would be rejected if tested by courts.

Henrion also said (having watched these dull hearings): “Till and Coons strongly motivated to restore software patents, citing buzzwords such as “AI”, “quantum computing”, or “5G”…”

He found this tweet: “The AI hype is pervasive and everybody wonders when the bubble will burst, but it is true this technology poses some challenges to patentability…”

It links to this blog post by Leopoldo Belda Soriano. He says “AI” many dozens of times.

“Of course WIPO too participates in the “HEY AI” (AI) hype; that’s just done in order to grant fake patents on maths — no doubt patents that would be rejected if tested by courts.”On the rogue composition of the panels, as expected, much has been said as well. Here’s the list of people. Stacked panels. Very stacked. Patent zealots were (at the time) linking to things like “Final Panelists at Senate 101 Hearing Stress Real-World Effects of Status Quo, Tillis Signals Changes to Draft Text” from Watchtroll’s Eileen McDermott and other blogs like Patently-O.

Henrion took note of IBM’s role in these hearings when he wrote: “Senate hearing: IBM has also used super low quality software patents such as a diff between 2 contact lists to extract money from Groupon [] Qualcomm says they want to patent encoding algos such as OFDM, you could infringe them with a pen and paper https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthogonal_frequency-division_multiplexing … [] At least americans are pretty clear about software patents, and not this CII mess…”

Henrion carried on speaking about IBM: “Nokia and IBM thanks Tillis and Coons for an “open legislative process”, while the interventions are all stacked by the patent community [] Not inviting small companies nor software developers “reminding those present that they had specifically invited Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Dell, who declined to come in favor of being represented by industry associations.”

Jan Wildeboer, who will soon be an IBM employee, expressed concerns about policies that are actually supported by IBM: “51 pages on so-called #FRAND licensing of Standard Essential Patents (SEP) by CEN/CENELEC. And they manage to completely avoid the simple question of how such schemes would work for #OpenSource implementations (Hint: it’s not possible IMHO). https://www.cencenelec.eu/news/workshops/Pages/WS-2019-014.aspx …”

“On the rogue composition of the panels, as expected, much has been said as well.”All these patents on maths are highly problematic. They oughtn’t be granted. On went Henrion: “Michael Blankstein of Scientific Games wants to restore software patents for games, and wants US to avoid copying the European Patent Convention, which explicitely bans computer programs, and rules for playing games [] Cyborg patents logic to compress data, wants to see Alice abolished https://cyborg.co/tech/intellectual-property [] John D. Vandenberg says Alice is not a mess, says the proposed bill will restore software patents…”

Alice actually restored order. How is elimination of fake patents not a positive thing? For patent trolls it certainly isn’t… but should they count?

The CCIA’s main patent person soon weighed in as well, followed by Henrion: “The “innovation” is using existing data mining techniques on data sets to determine a correlative relationship. Is that what we want to promote with patents? [] [Spot the disconnect: Tillis/Coons, op-ed: “We have no intention of overruling that central holding of the Myriad decision.” Tillis/Coons, bill: ‘No implicit exceptions to subject matter eligibility shall be used and all cases regarding those exceptions are abrogated.” [] Also, Tillis made it a point to complain that tech didn’t come. Given that the 4-1 stacked panels today on other issues, is it any wonder those companies didn’t want to show up?”

“That’s just political corruption (check who’s bribing Coons for this bill).”The funding of Coons (over a million bucks from lawyers and liars) means that lying is part of the show. As Henrion explained: “Lawyers always win when they own the “patent reform”, law firms sending donations to Senators @ChrisCoons , I guess “Small Businesses” don’t donate enough…”

That’s just political corruption (check who’s bribing Coons for this bill). It’s quite blatant and obvious.

“ACLU popping up a banner against genes patents at the senate hearing on the patent maximalist bill,” Henrion added, “where are the protesters against software patents?”

Here’s a photo of it.

ACLU banner

On the other hand we could also quote some patent maximalists, to whom these stacked hearings were a festival of joy; one of them said: “Senate Judiciary Committee on 101: Sean Reilly (Clearing House); Financial Services Industry has strong interest in strong patent system; 101/Alice has killed low quality patents; Clearing House opposes any changes to status quo.”

“The sponsors called these initiatives of theirs “bipartisan” to give an illusion of widespread consent, but what they really meant was, they got a couple of politicians from two ‘opposing’ (corporate) parties inside their pockets.”Another one quoted “George, Invitae (1:11:00): “As you consider legislative proposals, instead of abrogating 150 years of precedent case law [e.g. fixing 101], I believe the right approach is to start where the law is correctly working…” https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/the-state-of-patent-eligibility-in-america-part-iii …”

Working for who? Lawyers? Trolls? Science? Anyway, these hearings are now nearly a week behind us. As we’ve said right from the very start, we don’t expect these to change anything. The sponsors called these initiatives of theirs “bipartisan” to give an illusion of widespread consent, but what they really meant was, they got a couple of politicians from two ‘opposing’ (corporate) parties inside their pockets. So much for ‘public’ support…

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