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More Good News About Demise of Software Patents and Along With Them, Consequently, Patent Trolls

Summary: A weekly roundup of news about patents in the United States and elsewhere, with special focus on software patents

Free/libre software has much less to worry about now that software patents are getting weaker if not fewer, too. There are changes that affect not only software patents but patents as a whole. In the US, for example, patents on genes/genetics were ruled illegal not too long ago. Here is an explanation of why Australia might soon follow suit. Titled "Australian Court Disagrees With US: Claim Genes Are Totally Patentable", the article reminds us that "Last year, the Supreme Court made an important ruling in the Myriad Genetics case, effectively saying that genes aren't patentable, even if you can separate them out from the rest of a strand of DNA. Myriad Genetics had isolated two key genes related to breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 and argued that only it could test for those genes, because of its patent. The Supreme Court soundly rejected that, noting that you cannot patent something in nature, and clearly Myriad did not "make" the genes. Unfortunately, as we'd noted just a few months earlier, a court in Australia had come to the opposite conclusion, saying that Myriad Genetics had legitimate patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2. That case was appealed, and there was some hope that after the US's ruling, higher courts in Australia might see the light. Not yet apparently. An appeals court has agreed that genes are patentable Down Under, which means that such important genetic tests there are likely to be much more expensive and limited."



Australia, quite infamously as we pointed out before, was one of the countries that succumbed to US lead on software patents, so on genetics too there might be changes afoot. Here is a timely reminder that India still wrestles with software patents, having done so for years. India is famous for its heroic opposition to patents on medicine where life is at stake.

One new article from the Indian press quotes a few people who follow this closely. One of them "said that many of the companies that work on open source software and related segments have raised their opposition while the originator companies are demanding for a patent."

Actually, many proprietary software patents are also against software patents. It is not a FOSS issue but a CS issue (computer science, not closed source).

"Currently," continues this article, "software is not patentable under the existing Act and it needs to be registered under copyright. Many experts think that a patent would be stringent than a copyright is and would be advisable for the innovators to protect their software from infringement.

"The draft has been issued in the public domain for comments and the government has to consult every stakeholder on it. The issuance of the guideline is in final stage, he said.

"As per the Intellectual Property Office report, about 80% of patent applications at the Indian Patent Office are filed by foreign global technology companies. In the past decade the number of applications by foreign applicants has risen from about 8,221 to 34,276, said industry leaders."

So these patents have a strong correlation to and with digital colonialism. Why would Indians ever accept them? The multinational corporations surely want these, but what's in it for India itself? India has fantastic software engineers of its own. It need never be dependent on multinational entities, especially for software.

Here is a US-based pro-software patents site (run by patent lawyers) saying that "Big Banks Get Software Patents Despite Alice". It is selective and selection-centric spin. The reality, on the whole, is the very opposite. The pro-business, News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal very recently published "Hard Times for Software Patents" followed by the detailed report titled "Courts Nix More Software Patents" and "Federal Courts Reject More Software Patents". It says what one ought to expect.

Speaking of large corporations and software patents, watch what BMC is doing. The British press said that "BMC has accused ServiceNow of violating seven of its patents (5,978,594, 6,816,898, 6,895,586, 7,062,683, 7,617,073, 8,646,093 and 8,674,992), spanning incident management, performance analytics, configuration management, discovery, orchestration and change release management.

"The company lodged its suit on Tuesday in the generally litigant-friendly US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas."

BMC is acting like a patent troll and attacks small rivals. Witness the glory of software patents! The weapon of abuses indeed, injustice galore!

Contrariwise, Van Lindberg from Rackpace (very large company) says that they have killed a software patent and potentially a troll. The title says "Another Patent Troll Slain. You Are Now Free To Rotate Your Smartphone."

Here is more on that: "Over the last few years it's been great to see companies like Newegg and Rackspace decide that they're not going to give in to bogus patent troll lawsuits. As we've discussed, it's almost always easier, faster and cheaper to just settle and pay up whatever the troll is asking for. That's part of why trolling works. Fighting a patent lawsuit -- even a totally bogus one (i.e., not infrigning) -- on a clearly invalid patent will still cost many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. If the troll is offering to settle for tens of thousands of dollars, many, many companies will do the obvious short-term cost-benefit analysis and settle. It's hard to directly fault them for this -- but it only makes the problem worse for everyone else. Not only does it fund the patent trolls to keep suing others, often they'll use some of that money to buy more bogus patents and shakedown companies over that new ones as well. On top of that, settling patent threats just puts a big "sucker" sign on your company, meaning that more trolls will start circling. Making a stand and saying that you will not compromise or deal with trolls actually helps in the long run by scaring off some trolls. Both Newegg and Rackspace have been getting a lot of publicity (and goodwill) for their anti-troll efforts."

Here is a somewhat comical take on a troll that decided to attack the government. The headline says it all: "Patent Troll Told That It Can't Sue The FTC For Merely Investigating Its Shakedown Scam"

Well, "just when US starts correcting them," writes Dr. Glyn Moody, Europe, with the corrupt EPO, decides to "Repeat US's Past Mistakes":

Back in May, I wrote about a very interesting paper discussing some potential pitfalls of the new Unified Patent Court. Given the magnitude of the change that it and the unitary patent system will bring, it is extraordinary that we still don't really know how things will work out in practice. That makes another paper called "The Unified Patent Court (UPC) in Action - How Will the Design of the UPC Affect Patent Law? " particularly welcome, since, as its title suggests, it explores how the new UPC is likely to shape the contours of patent law in Europe.

[...]

Since the new paper appeared, there has been a further US Supreme Court ruling, Alice v. CLS Bank, that has already led to no less than 11 software patents being thrown out by lower courts. Indeed, there is every indication that the era of completely insane software patents is drawing to a close in the US. It is therefore deeply ironic - and rather frustrating - that at precisely the moment when sanity starts to break out in the US, the EU incomprehensibly decides to take exactly the same path of madness that produced so many problems across the Atlantic.

[...]

Those are all good ideas, but it's rather depressing that we must already be thinking of ways to minimise the damage the new UPC is likely to cause Europe's economy in general - and the world of software in particular.


In the coming weeks we will continue to show how the EPO turned rogue and corrupt. It would be foolish to adopt software patents when the US relents.

Here comes another smackdown of a troll. As Mike Masnick put it: "We recently noted that a bunch of courts had been killing off bad software patents thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank. And now, that ruling is even leading the trolls themselves to give up. Notorious patent troll Lumen View recently dropped its appeal in its case against the website FindTheBest, saying that the ruling in Alice made it clear it wouldn't win..."

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote about this trend as a whole, saying that patent trolls are starting to get trampled. He also quotes OIN:

First, the Open Invention Network (OIN), whose members include Google, IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony, now has more than a thousand licensees in its Linux and open-source, defensive patent pool. In an e-mail , Keith Bergelt, OIN's CEO said, "The OIN license is becoming part of a broader set of community norms and is increasingly being integrated into the culture of open source/Linux-centric companies. It is for many the foundation around which their IP [intellectual property] strategy is built and a critical enabler of patent non-aggression and freedom to operate."


We recently wrote about the podcasting troll winning against CBS, but this is definitely not over. As TechDirt put it: "The trial (in East Texas, of course) for CBS came first and the jury sided with Personal Audio, because that's how East Texas patent juries typically roll. In a moment of semi-kindness, the jury awarded Personal Audio $1.3 million, rather than the nearly $8 million they supposedly requested. This story is really just a stepping stone, however. CBS has made it clear that it will appeal the case to CAFC, and given how software/business method patents are getting tossed out left and right these days, the company has a decent chance of prevailing. Meanwhile, the EFF reminds us that it's still working hard to invalidate the patent at the Patent Office, which would help accelerate the process of killing off these bogus lawsuits."

CBS is a bad company, but hopefully it will win on appeal.

Here is Matt Levy quoting the partly pro-software patents Michael Risch while saying: "We cannot continue the excesses of the past. Invalid patents don’t benefit innovation, they block innovation. And we have a patent system where a substantial portion of the issued patents, if not most, are invalid. And the patents in the software area are even worse."

At the end of the day we will hopefully see patents on software universally invalidated. Until then we will have rumour mills and speculations (e.g. about prices) telling us that Free software is not free, thanks in part to lack of comprehension of what patents really are for and how they affect the industry (it's a poor article which reveals its author's ignorance on this subject). We have already covered this issue before (it's about Samsung and Microsoft).

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