Bonum Certa Men Certa

Ridiculous Patents at the USPTO, Trolls as 'NPEs', and an Update on Microsoft-Connected Patent Trolls

Summary: A roundup of patent news and in particular news pertaining to software patents, trolls that threaten Free software, and media bias

EVERY NOW and then Techrights covers examples of patents -- not necessarily software patents -- which show how ridiculous the patent system has become, especially the USPTO.



Some days ago the EFF wrote about a patent on how to film a yoga class -- a patent similar in some sense to Amazon's patent on photographing objects with a white background at the back.

EFF recently learned about a patent that covered a method of filming a yoga class. We reviewed the patent and discovered that it was just as ridiculous as it sounded. Despite our familiarity with absurd patents and our concerns about cursory review at the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), we were still surprised that this one issued. It seemed the so-called “invention” wasn’t the kind of thing that should be patented at all—or at the very least, was not something novel or nonobvious. Yet another stupid patent, and winner of our October accolades.


Another new article from the EFF says that a "patent troll [was] hit with double fee award". "Lumen View is a typical patent troll," says the EFF. "Armed with a vague patent on “facilitating bilateral and multilateral decision-making,” it sent out aggressive letters demanding payment. It refused to explain how its targets actually infringed its patent. Instead, it made shakedown offers it knew would be less than the cost of defending a lawsuit. When startup FindTheBest spoke up about Lumen View’s tactics, the troll asked for a gag order. Thankfully, Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York refused the troll’s censorship demand."

Now everyone is against patent trolls. The plutocrats' paper, Forbes, calls them "Non-Practicing Entities" in this "interview Shawn Ambawni the COO of Unified Patents." (not to be confused with the proposed European Unified Patent Court)

"Unified Patents" issued some numbers on decrease in patent litigation although its numbers where not quite as encouraging as those from Lex Machina and they tried to paint it as a troll issue, not a patent scope issue. Here is the original spin with the "NPE" euphemism for trolls.

Instead of chastising the real patent aggressors, corporate media likes to pick on companies like Google (because Google stopped pursing real reform). It's just too popular to pick on Google and not companies that are aggressive with patents and use them against Google, e.g. Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft.

The corporate media, USA Today for example, continues to reveal its support for abusive litigation with patents by big companies and trolls (referring to trolls as "NPEs") and a patent maximalists' Web site writes about Wi-LAN, a very notorious troll, as though it's an "NPE" too:

Japan’s ROHM Semiconductor has entered into an agreement with Wi-LAN which will see it transfer a portfolio of patents to the Canadian firm. This is the latest deal in which a Japanese technology company – traditionally a very conservative bunch when it comes to aggressive IP monetisation – has teamed up with an NPE in an effort to improve returns from its patents.


From the same patent maximalists' site comes an interview where Lemley says: "The tech industry is not monolithic – Apple and IBM, and increasingly Microsoft, are actually now fairly vocal proponents of patents as they become sort of more mature companies and see their market share being taken away by others. My guess is that if you asked engineers in the software world they would say, maybe not universally, but almost to a person, we’re on a roll lets just get rid of them."

In other news about trolls, Acacia has just been defeated and here is an interesting observation about Intellectual Ventures (both are Microsoft-connected):

How can they have more subsidiaries than IV? Or rather, how can their fewer-than-IV-subsidiaries have filed more lawsuits than IV’s? It’s possible and highly likely because Joe’s a very thorough guy and wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true. It’s just surprising that I didn’t know that because I pride myself on knowing all the things about all the trolls.


One sure thing is, patent trolls and big trolls such as Microsoft continue to be defended by some of the largest (and corporations-run) media, leaving everyone in a state of anxiety and disarray. The patent system as it stands at the moment serves virtually nobody except the richest people and richest corporations. It's a system of protectionism.

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