12.07.19

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Fake European Patents (on Algorithms) Leading to Fake Embargoes

Posted in Courtroom, Europe, Patents at 11:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

35 U.S.C. § 101 would void corresponding USPTO patents

A dreamworld corporate

Summary: Law firms have gotten their way in Germany; instead of supporting the productive workers the patent system is nowadays promoting the litigation ‘industry’ and it ought to be corrected

CITING Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), which used to cover European Patent Office (EPO) scandals, my online friend said that “BlackBerry wins German patent injunctions against Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram over four (most likely invalid!) software patents” (he pinged Facebook and pinged “Ip2Innovate” about it).

“The Munich I Regional Court ordered a #patent injunction against #Facebook, #WhatsApp, #Instagram,” he said in another tweet. “It’s feature-specific but still, those are simply #softwarepatents that shouldn’t even be allowed in Europe. Germany needs patent reform badly! #BlackBerry is a troll.”

“It doesn’t matter if the software we developed is proprietary or Free software. It doesn’t even matter if we develop software or merely use it.”We’ve said that for years and we hope he will help us (Techrights, FFII etc.) fight back against fake software patents in Europe — an urgent and growing problem!

“I am stunned that the court didn’t stay all five cases over serious doubts concerning the validity of those patents,” he wrote. “When I looked at the claims of the patents-in-suit earlier this year, I quickly concluded that they’d all be highly likely to be annulled…”

This is a pretty decent article about a serious problem. It’s a good article about fake European Patents on software. If the Office grants invalid patents (IPs) that are abstract and incompatible with the EPC, we all suffer as a result. It doesn’t matter if the software we developed is proprietary or Free software. It doesn’t even matter if we develop software or merely use it.

“..they want lenient courts that accept — i.e. presume to be valid in a great rush — invalid patents and then grant injunctions for quick settlements (embargoes/sanctions can be ruinous enough to lead to it, irrespective of justice/truth).”Citing 5 European Patents, he names the following accused functionalities: showing two chat histories in parallel, automatically identifying user profiles containing partly identical data, sharing messages from the chat history, displaying chat history while text is being edited, chatting during gameplay.

There are actually European Patents on those things! Not only are these abstract; they are also trivial and there’s likely ample prior art.

From his post:

Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), a Munich-based newspaper, reported yesterday evening on a set of Germany-wide patent injunctions that BlackBerry–once a smartphone maker, now basically a patent troll–just obtained against Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram subsidiaries over a total of four different patents covering chat features.

The injunction is provisionally enforceable. If BlackBerry posts a bond or makes a deposit, it can enforce the injunctions at this stage, though Facebook can appeal to the Munich Higher Regional Court and is, in parallel, challenging the validity of those patents before the Federal Patent Court of Germany. But Facebook has already told the media that the affected services–Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram–wouldn’t go out of service in Germany: workarounds have been prepared, so the related features would have to be removed.

BlackBerry sued Facebook (with a focus on Facebook Messenger rather than the social media stream) and those two subsidiaries over five different patents, which I listed earlier this year and will list again further below.

[...]

I am stunned that the court didn’t stay all five cases over serious doubts concerning the validity of those patents. When I looked at the claims of the patents-in-suit earlier this year, I quickly concluded that they’d all be highly likely to be annulled by the Federal Patent Court of Germany (which also happens to be based in Munich, which is sort of the Capital of the Patent Movement, at least for Europe). That’s partly because software as such isn’t patent-eligible in Europe. While the courts rarely ever invalidate a patent as a whole on that basis, they do exclude any non-technical features from their novelty and non-obviousness analysis–and it’s hard to see how anything novel or inventive could be found in those patent claims that isn’t just software stuff without a technical effect. I already operated a chat service (as part of an online gaming network) in the 1990s and wrote an IRC client in 2000, so I know a lot of the prior art from hands-on experience.

What I have been able to find out is that BlackBerry, represented by Quinn Emanuel (a great firm that has not so great clients at times), had to narrow multiple patent claims-in-suit during the infringement proceedings just to address the court’s concerns over non-novelty. There are two problem with German patent infringement courts in the context to grant or deny a stay pending a nullity action. First, they apply an unreasonably high standard (and the “guru” from the Dusseldorf appeals court who has been promoting that high standard for many years more aggressively and fanatically than anyone else recently made dozens of employees of a small company lose their jobs–with Quinn Emanuel again on the enforcing side–over a patent subsequently held invalid). Second–though in many cases that’s even more important than the standard–they take only non-novelty (anticipation) arguments seriously and largely refuse to consider obviousness contentions (lack of inventive step) for no good reason (if they can rule on infringement without appointing expert witnesses, they certainly could also assess the existence of absence of an inventive step, but they just don’t want to).

Patent zealots from Mannheim, Düsseldorf and Munich (where António Campinos succeeded Battistelli) want us to think that everything is OK and even thriving. For the litigation ‘industry’? Sure. They don’t seem to care too much about the validity of granted patents; moreover, they want lenient courts that accept — i.e. presume to be valid in a great rush — invalid patents and then grant injunctions for quick settlements (embargoes/sanctions can be ruinous enough to lead to it, irrespective of justice/truth).

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