Bonum Certa Men Certa

Patents Roundup: Patent Maximalism, Apple's Patent Deception, and Failure of Patent-Centric Media to Name and Shame Patent Trolls

Summary: Some of the past week's patent stories grouped together for easier absorption (sans the patent lawyers' bias)

IAM 'magazine', which glorifies patent stockpiling and litigation (follow the money), basically continued to promote stockpiling of patents earlier this week. It's about USPTO registration, which IAM uses to reinforce the notion of patents as "ownership" and innovation. Nicola from IP Kat, who is often sceptical of patent maximalists (she's one of their best writers on such topics), linked to this paper and said: "The key finding is that, “55% of triadic patents are commercialized. We also find that 17% of all triadic patents are not commercialized but are at least partially for preemption, though only 3% of all triadic patents are purely preemptive patents.” Preemption is patenting for strategic purposes, rather than commercial. (You could argue the two are one and the same, but the paper focuses on preemptive non-use, as in strategic patenting with no intention to use the patent.) The paper goes into much more detail, but the punchline is that nearly half of triadic patents are not used, but ‘strategic’ patenting may be less prevalent than popular discourse would have you believe."



"Patenting without boundaries devalues pertinent patents and harms confidence in patents."What we appreciate about Nicola is that in spite of backlash in the comments (probably from patent lawyers) she continues to insist that when it comes to patents, more is not necessarily merrier. Patenting without boundaries devalues pertinent patents and harms confidence in patents. That's just overpatenting. This is particularly true when it comes to software patents, which often correspond to very old ideas being implemented on a computer, on a device, over the Internet and so on. According to this new puff piece, for example, "Viridity Energy secures patent for transport-based energy storage software," which probably corresponds quite loosely to something like the first software patent ever to be granted in the US (granted to Martin Goetz using the guise of "transport"). Software in general isn't adequately protectable by patents but by copyright and there is no single patent that covers an entire computer program (there is no one-to-one correspondence and a single program can potentially infringe on thousands of software patents these days). We sure hope that the EPO won't be gullible enough to believe otherwise.

Moving on a little, GoPro, which Microsoft extorted using patents earlier this year, becomes aggressive with patents of its own. As Digital Trends put it: "After Polaroid manufacturer C&A Marketing Inc. sued GoPro for copying the Cube’s design last year, GoPro is turning the tables, saying that it’s the Cube that is using GoPro’s patented technology. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, GoPro alleges that the Polaroid Cube copies two patents owned by the action-cam giant."

"...when Apple wants to remotely control your phone, microphone, cameras etc. (or allow others to gain such control) it’s OK “because copyrights!”"GoPro may be aggressive with patents, but no company these days is nearly as aggressive as Apple, which sees its empire devoured by Google with Android. Apple is now pursuing patents on censorship, as quite a few sites correctly note. Rick Falkvinge (Pirate Party founder) correctly went with the headline "Apple patents technology enabling police to prevent iPhones from filming police abuse". One article had the headline "Apple gets patent for remotely disabling iPhone cameras, raising censorship fears", but many of the other articles about it (literally hundreds if not thousands of them) were so terrible that they repeated Apple's talking points. Poor reporting took Apple's word (at face value) on how cameras being hijack would be used; when Apple wants to remotely control your phone, microphone, cameras etc. (or allow others to gain such control) it’s OK “because copyrights!” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72]. How misleading. These lies dominated the media and made Apple's patent look like "protecting artists" rather than censoring photographers (who are themselves artists). See the article "The New iPhone Might Shut Off Next Time You Try to Film the Police in Public" for better perspective, unlike advocacy sites of Apple patents. This one said: "The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 44 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover an Apple invention that pointed to the coming indoor GPS trend that is about to come to market first with the Lenovo-Google Tango smartphone this fall. In our report covering the Lenovo phone we pointed to a feature that will be introducing augmented reality. To a certain degree this is covered in today's granted patent. Apple's technology discusses working with venues like a museum that could provide visitors with guided tours and beyond on a future iPhone. In 2014 we posted a report titled "Apple and Google Headed for an Indoor Location Services War," and indeed they are with Lenovo-Google taking the first shot. The second aspect of today's granted invention caused a massive roar from techies who were upset with the camera being able to block smartphone video recording at concerts."

Speaking of Apple, IAM insinuates that iPhone sales ban in China is a bad thing (suddenly IAM thinks patent assertion is bad, probably because China isn't paying IAM) and MIP says "Apple’s latest China setback could encourage patent trolls". "The Beijing IP Court has ruled that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus infringe the design patent of a Chinese-made smartphone, in a case that one IP lawyer believes could provide inspiration to patent trolls," MIP writes. Well, if they are so supportive of patents, why is this bad when China uses patents? A bit of hypocrisy here, no? On the other hand, IAM published "Fujifilm’s Chinese pharma patent licensing deal marks a milestone in its IP-driven transformation" and "Qualcomm's licensing model will be “destroyed” if it can’t win key China case, says its ex-Asian patent director" (also about china). So a monopoly abuser wishes to conquer China with patents that China doesn’t care for and IAM takes the side of the monopolist. How predictable. Moving further east to Japan, watch how IAM promotes/grooms Intellectual Ventures, the world's largest patent troll (which came from Microsoft originally). IAM wrote: "Earlier this month, we learned that Intellectual Ventures (IV) is spinning out its Invention Development Fund (IDF) into a separate entity. The news was confirmed by Paul Levins, who has been head of IV’s Australia and New Zealand operations and is the Asia and Europe programme director for IDF, while speaking on a panel at IPBC Global 2016 in Barcelona. As I understand it, this process has been underway for a few months and is still ongoing - but this has not stopped IDF from doing deals."

"We see more of the same bias coming from patent lawyers' (supposedly 'news') sites, which prefer to treat all patents as necessary and those that sue companies as "doing the right thing" (irrespective of merit or benefit to science, technology, and society)."The word troll isn't even mentioned in this article (nor is it mentioned in this new article about the patent troll of Ericsson, which now goes to Asia for some shakedown, extortion, blackmail or whatever). WatchTroll only puts the word troll in scare quotes, reflecting the same kind of bias. We see more of the same bias coming from patent lawyers' (supposedly 'news') sites, which prefer to treat all patents as necessary and those that sue companies as "doing the right thing" (irrespective of merit or benefit to science, technology, and society). "Amicus Briefs Due Soon in Supreme Court Copyright and Patent Cases," one such site said after it suggested how to destroy small companies using patents. "A tactic sometimes used by a well-established competitor against a startup is to accuse the startup of patent infringement," the article said. "Unless the startup has deep pockets, it cannot really afford to defend a patent lawsuit..."

This is why patent trolls are particularly problematic for small companies. Sometimes patent trolls are just proxies/satellites of large companies. If only more patent lawyers' sites cared to cover the subject...

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