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  • How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation

    walterbyrd sends this story from Vox: Everyone agrees that there's been an explosion of patent litigation in recent years, and that lawsuits from non-practicing entities (NPEs) — known to critics as patent trolls — are a major factor. But there's a big debate about whether trolls are creating a drag on innovation — and if so, how big the problem is. A new study (PDF) by researchers at Harvard and the University of Texas provides some insight on this question. Drawing from data on litigation, R&D spending, and patent citations, the researchers find that firms that are forced to pay NPEs (either because they lost a lawsuit or settled out of court) dramatically reduce R&D spending: losing firms spent $211 million less on R&D, on average, than firms that won a lawsuit against a troll. "After losing to NPEs, firms significantly reduce R&D spending — both projects inside the firm and acquiring innovative R&D outside the firm," the authors write. "Our evidence suggests that it really is the NPE litigation event that causes this decrease in innovation."

    52 comments | 3 hours ago

  • Adam Carolla Settles With Podcasting Patent Troll

    Personal Audio has been trying to assert patents they claim cover podcasting for some time now; in March Adam Carolla was sued and decided to fight back. Via the EFF comes news that he has settled with Personal Audio, and the outcome is likely beneficial to those still fighting the trolls. From the article: Although the settlement is confidential, we can guess the terms. This is because Personal Audio sent out a press release last month saying it was willing to walk away from its suit with Carolla. So we can assume that Carolla did not pay Personal Audio a penny. We can also assume that, in exchange, Carolla has given up the opportunity to challenge the patent and the chance to get his attorney’s fees. ... EFF’s own challenge to Personal Audio’s patent is on a separate track and will continue ... with a ruling likely by April 2015. ... We hope that Personal Audio’s public statements on this issue mean that it has truly abandoned threatening and suing podcasters. Though a press release might not be legally binding, the company will have a hard time justifying any further litigation (or threats of litigation) against podcasters. Any future targets can point to this statement. Carolla deserves recognition for getting this result.

    61 comments | yesterday

  • Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit

    First time accepted submitter BarbaraHudson (3785311) writes The CBC is reporting that Blackberry has made preparations to abandon the phone market by spinning pieces of the business off into Blackberry Technology Solutions. From the article: "The unit ... includes QNX, the company that BlackBerry acquired and used to develop the operating system that became the platform for its new smartphones, and Certicom, a former independent Toronto-area company with advanced security software. BTS will also include BlackBerry's Project Ion, which is an application platform focused on machine-to-machine Internet technology, Paratek antenna tuning technology and about 44,000 patents." When you have less market share than Windows Phone, it's time to throw in the towel ... or as they say in the new "lets not admit we screwed up" vernacular, "pivot to take advantage of new opportunities."

    87 comments | yesterday

  • Larry Rosen: A Case Study In Understanding (and Enforcing) the GPL

    lrosen (attorney Lawrence Rosen) writes with a response to an article that appeared on Opensource.com late last month, detailing a court case that arose between Versata Software and Ameriprise Financial Services; part of the resulting dispute hinges on Versata's use of GPL'd software (parsing utility VTD-X, from Ximpleware), though without acknowledging the license. According to the article's author, attorney Aaron Williamson (former staff attorney for the Software Freedom Law Center), "Lawyers for commercial software vendors have feared a claim like this for essentially the entire 20-odd-year lifetime of the GPL: a vendor incorporates some GPL-licensed code into a product—maybe naively, maybe willfully—and could be compelled to freely license the entire product as a result. The documents filed by Amerprise in the case reflect this fearful atmosphere, adopting the classically fear-mongering characterization of the GPL as a 'viral' license that 'infects' its host and 'requires it to become open source, too.'" Rosen writes: I want to acknowledge Aaron's main points: This lawsuit challenges certain assumptions about GPLv2 licensing, and it also emphasizes the effects of patents on the FOSS (and commercial) software ecosystem. I also want to acknowledge that I have been consulted as an expert by the plaintiff in this litigation (Ximpleware vs. Versata, et al.) and so some of what I say below they may also say in court. Read on for the rest (and Williamson's article, too, for a better understanding of this reaction to it). An important take-away: it's not just the license that matters.

    191 comments | about a week ago

  • Patents That Kill

    wabrandsma (2551008) writes From The Economist: "The patent system, which was developed independently in 15th century Venice and then in 17th century England, gave entrepreneurs a monopoly to sell their inventions for a number of years. Yet by the 1860s the patent system came under attack, including from The Economist. Patents, critics argued, stifled future creativity by allowing inventors to rest on their laurels. Recent economic research backs this up."

    239 comments | about a week ago

  • Every Day Is Goof-Off-At-Work Day At the US Patent and Trademark Office

    McGruber writes An internal investigation by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office found that some of its 8,300 patent examiners repeatedly lied about the hours they were putting in and many were receiving bonuses for work they did not do. While half of the USPTO's Patent Examiners work from home full time, oversight of the telework program — and of examiners based at the Alexandria headquarters — was "completely ineffective," investigators concluded. The internal investigation also unearthed another widespread problem. More than 70 percent of the 80 managers interviewed told investigators that a "significant" number of examiners did not work for long periods, then rushed to get their reviews done at the end of each quarter. Supervisors told the review team that the practice "negatively affects" the quality of the work. "Our quality standards are low," one supervisor told the investigators. "We are looking for work that meets minimal requirements." Patent examiners review applications and grant patents on inventions that are new and unique. They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees. They earn at the top of federal pay scale, with the highest taking home $148,000 a year.

    326 comments | about a week ago

  • Microsoft Files Legal Action Against Samsung Over Android Patent Dispute

    DroidJason1 writes: Microsoft has filed a contract dispute lawsuit against Samsung over what Microsoft claims is a breach of contract by Samsung involving Android patent royalties. Back in 2011, Samsung voluntarily entered into a legally binding contract with Microsoft in a cross-licensing IP agreement involving Android patents. Samsung has grown over the past few years and now believes that Microsoft's recent acquisition of Nokia nulls the agreement. Microsoft has gone to court and is asking to settle the disagreement with Samsung in order to continue the original agreement.

    83 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Bose Sues New Apple Acquisition Beats Over Patent Violations

    Bose has taken issue with some of the technology embodied in products in Apple's newly acquired Beats line of headphones. As Ars Technica reports, Bose is suing Apple, claiming that the Beats products violate five Bose patents, covering noise cancellation and signal processing Although Bose never mentions Apple in the 22-page complaint, the acquisition price of the private company may have played a part in spurring Bose to sue. The suit doesn't include a specific damage demand. Bose has also filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission against Beats over the same infringement claims. That means the patent lawsuit filed in federal court will be stayed while the ITC case gets resolved first.

    162 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Firefox 33 Integrates Cisco's OpenH264

    NotInHere (3654617) writes As promised, version 33 of the Firefox browser will fetch the OpenH264 module from Cisco, which enables Firefox to decode and encode H.264 video, for both the <video> tag and WebRTC, which has a codec war on this matter. The module won't be a traditional NPAPI plugin, but a so-called Gecko Media Plugin (GMP), Mozilla's answer to the disliked Pepper API. Firefox had no cross-platform support for H.264 before. Note that only the particular copy of the implementation built and blessed by Cisco is licensed to use the h.264 patents.

    194 comments | about a month ago

  • Appeals Court Affirms Old Polaroid Patent Invalid

    mpicpp (3454017) writes with news of a notoriously abused (basically "method of displaying images on a machine") software patent being declared invalid. From the article: The ruling from last week is one of the first to apply new Supreme Court guidance about when ideas are too "abstract" to be patented. ... The patents in this case describe a type of "device profile" that allows digital images to be accurately displayed on different devices. US Patent No. 6,128,415 was originally filed by Polaroid in 1996. After a series of transfers, in 2012 the patent was sold to Digitech Image Technologies, a branch of Acacia Research Corporation, the largest publicly traded patent assertion company. ... In the opinion, a three-judge panel found that the device profile described in the patent is a "collection of intangible color and spatial information," not a machine or manufactured object. "Data in its ethereal, non-physical form is simply information that does not fall under any of the categories of eligible subject matter under section 101," wrote Circuit Judge Jimmie Reyna on behalf of the panel.

    45 comments | about a month ago

  • Is the Software Renaissance Ending?

    An anonymous reader writes Writer and former software engineer Matt Gemmell adds his voice to the recent rumblings about writing code as a profession. Gemmell worries that the latest "software Renaissance," which was precipitated by the explosion of mobile devices, is drawing to a close. "Small shops are closing. Three-person companies are dropping back to sole proprietorships all over the place. Products are being acquired every week, usually just for their development teams, and then discarded. The implacable, crushing wheels of industry, slow to move because of their size, have at last arrived on the frontier. Our frontier, or at least yours now. I've relinquished my claim." He also pointed out the cumulative and intractable harm being done by software patents, walled-garden app stores, an increasingly crowded market, and race-to-the-bottom pricing. He says that while the available tools make it a fantastic time to develop software, actually being an independent developer may be less sustainable than ever.

    171 comments | about a month ago

  • Google, Dropbox, and Others Forge Patent "Arms Control Pact"

    jfruh writes Patent trolling is a serious irritant and financial drain on many big tech companies — but those same companies can't guarantee that their own future management won't sell the patents they own to a 'non-practicing entity', especially in the case of sale or bankruptcy. That's why a number of tech giants, including Google and Dropbox, have formed the 'License or Transfer Network,' in which a patent will automatically be licensed to everyone else in the network in the event that it's sold to a third party.

    73 comments | about a month ago

  • A Brief History of Patenting the Wheel: What Goes Around Comes Around

    v3rgEz writes Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize, has put together a fascinating history of people patenting the wheel, including one inventor that did it to prove how ridiculous Australia's patent system was and another that put wheels on a wheel so it could wheel while it wheels. From the article: "I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel. The patent office had awarded Innovation Patent #2001100012 to John Keogh of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. Keogh’s application called his invention a “circular transportation facilitation device.” I became acquainted with Mr. Keogh when we awarded him — and the Australian Patent Office — an Ig Nobel Prize, in 2001."

    36 comments | about a month ago

  • Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

    Zothecula writes Imagine showing up at the airport to catch your flight, looking at your plane, and noticing that instead of windows, the cockpit is now a smooth cone of aluminum. It may seem like the worst case of quality control in history, but Airbus argues that this could be the airliner of the future. In a new US patent application, the EU aircraft consortium outlines a new cockpit design that replaces the traditional cockpit with one that uses 3D view screens instead of conventional windows.

    468 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • White House May Name Patent Reform Opponent As New Head of Patent Office

    An anonymous reader writes The Obama Administration is set to appoint Phil Johnson, a pharmaceutical industry executive, as the next Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, according to sources. The move is likely to anger patent reform advocates given Johnson's past efforts to block legislation aimed at reining in patent trolls, and in light of his positions that appear to contradict the White House's professed goal of fixing the patent system. The top job at the Patent Office has been vacant for around 18-months since the departure of previous director David Kappos in early 2013. Currently, the office is being managed by former Googler Michelle Lee, who was appointed deputy director in December. Earlier this month, Republican Senators led by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sent a letter to President Obama that praised Lee but that also described the current USPTO management structure as "unfair, untenable and unacceptable for our country's intellectual property agency."

    211 comments | about 1 month ago

  • How Apple Can Take Its Headphones To the Next Level

    redletterdave (2493036) writes "Apple is one of the biggest headphone makers in the world thanks to those signature white earbuds that have shipped with every iPod, iPhone, and iPad since 2001. But even two years after earbuds became 'EarPods,' the design could still be improved — and competitors are taking notice. Amazon recently unveiled a new pair of in-ear headphones that are magnetic, tangle-free and $5 cheaper than Apple's $30 EarPods, while smaller startups are promoting their own wireless and customizable 3D-printed earbuds. But Apple has an ace up its sleeve, in the form of patents for a set of headphones with 'one or more integrated physiological sensors' designed to help users keep track of their body stats."

    196 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Intuit Beats SSL Patent Troll That Defeated Newegg

    Last fall, Newegg lost a case against patent troll TQP for using SSL with RC4, despite arguments from Diffie of Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Intuit was also targeted by a lawsuit for infringing the same patent, and they were found not to be infringing. mpicpp (3454017) sends this excerpt from Ars: U.S. Circuit Judge William Bryson, sitting "by designation" in the Eastern District of Texas, has found in a summary judgment ruling (PDF) that the patent, owned by TQP Development, is not infringed by the two defendants remaining in the case, Intuit Corp. and Hertz Corp. In a separate ruling (PDF), Bryson rejected Intuit's arguments that the patent was invalid. Not a complete victory (a clearly bogus patent is still not invalidated), but it's a start.

    59 comments | about 2 months ago

  • China Leads In Graphene Patent Applications

    hackingbear writes According to British patent consultancy CambridgeIP, China has filed for more than 2,200 graphene patents, the most of any country, followed by the U.S. with more than 1,700 patents, and South Korea with just under 1,200 patents. In terms of institutions, Samsung, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and IBM lead the way of number of patent filing on this futurist materials with seemingly unlimited potentials, followed by Qinghua University of China. As China's moving its economy to be more innovation based and strengthening its IP laws, American companies will perhaps soon be at the receiving ends of patent law suits.

    86 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Red Hat Assistant General Counsel Analyses Supreme Court's Patent Ruling

    ectoman (594315) writes The U.S. Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision concerning software patents, claiming that abstract ideas are not by themselves patentable. The ruling was a cause for celebration among those opposed to software patent abuse, like Red Hat's Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Rob Tiller. Here, Tiller analyzes and offers some context for the Court's ruling, which "uses the traditional common law methodology of comparing one case to previous similar cases and harmonizing with those most similar."

    43 comments | about 2 months ago

  • The Supreme Court Doesn't Understand Software

    An anonymous reader writes We had some good news yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent for failing to turn an idea into an invention. Unfortunately, the justices weren't willing to make any broader statements about the patentability of basic software tools, so the patent fights will continue. Timothy B. Lee at Vox argues that this is because the Supreme Court does not understand software, and says we won't see significant reform until they do.

    He says, "If a sequence of conventional mathematical operations isn't patentable, then no software should enjoy patent protection. For example, the 'data compression' patents that Justice Kennedy wants to preserve simply claim formulas for converting information from one digital format to another. If that's not a mathematical algorithm, nothing is. This is the fundamental confusion at the heart of America's software patent jurisprudence: many judges seem to believe that mathematical algorithms shouldn't be patented but that certain kinds of software should be patentable. ... If a patent claims a mathematical formula simple enough for a judge to understand how it works, she is likely to recognize that the patent claims a mathematical formula and invalidate it. But if the formula is too complex for her to understand, then she concludes that it's something more than a mathematical algorithm and uphold it."

    263 comments | about a month ago

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