Patent battles

I have been following news around patents lately. I have followed what happens on patent field because I am an inventor that has made some patents and being referenced on some other. The patent situation seem to be quite insane right now, especially on smartphone field.

I can agree the comment Patent law is a very imperfect tool for establishing moral culpability I saw in Linux Magazine. Whether you favor patents or not, it is important to face the fact that patent law is a construct of the business world. Patents protect opportunities for patent holders and restrict opportunities for others. What engineers need to know about patents article tells that most engineers know what a patent is broadly; for example, a bundle of rights related to an invention.

Patents are considered by many parties as vitally important to protecting intellectual property. Plenty of creativity occurs within the technology industry, and without patents, executives say they could never justify spending fortunes on new products. And academics say that some aspects of the patent system, like protections for pharmaceuticals, often function smoothly. It’s clearly demonstrably true that wielding patents to stop people copying protected methods obliges them to come up with new methods of their own. This is why patents are so widely supported by inventors, industry and governments. It’s an irreplaceable component of industrial organisation that produces and propagates invention. In April 2012, in its report on Intellectual Property, the US Patent Office (USPTO) concluded that the entire US economy relies on some form of IP, because virtually every industry either produces or uses it.

Patents have become a technology industry battleground as mobile-phone, tablet and computer makers try to lure consumers with constant improvements to their video and sound. Smartphones have become the focal point for lawsuits and licensing talks because the market is so huge, it is growing so quickly and cutting-edge technology is used in them. There Are 250,000 Active Patents That Impact Smartphones; Representing One In Six Active Patents Today. And this is for for an industry that is certainly less than 1% of US GDP. It definitely appears that there’s something of a “bubble” going on around smartphone patents. The explosive growth of the smartphone market means mobile patents are particularly valuable these days. Major players are increasingly going to court with one another over alleged infringements. It also makes for an astounding minefield for anyone new who wants to enter the space, especially if you don’t have a massive war chest to license or fight in court.

Patents have been a very important tool on industrial era to protect companies. Many people argue that the nation’s patent rules, intended for a mechanical world, are inadequate in today’s digital marketplace. Nowadays patents seem to be especially on on the software side especially old-fashioned and even harming economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis recently published a working paper calling for the abolition of patents, saying they do more harm than good. Import bans over patents cause ‘substantial harm,’ FTC says.

Unlike patents for new drug formulas, patents on software often effectively grant ownership of concepts, rather than tangible creations. Today, the patent office routinely approves patents that describe vague algorithms or business methods, without patent examiners demanding specifics about how those calculations occur or how the software operates. The patent office has a reputation for being overworked, understaffed and plagued by employee turnover, and employees concede that some of their work is subjective. As a result, some patents are so broad that they allow patent holders to claim sweeping ownership of seemingly unrelated products built by others. And it happens more and more often. Yes, the system is frequently gamed, it generates avoidable costs, it’s unnecessarily complex, and it creates many absurdities. There Are Too Many Patents In America.

Recent research supports view that patent troll activity is rising — costing America a fortune in wasted legal fees and lost jobs. Patent trolls are a plague. And they are every day armed with more and more patents. ‘Patent trolls’ cost other US bodies $29bn last year, says study. And this figure does not include indirect costs to the defendants’ businesses such as diversion of resources, delays in new products, and loss of market share. Direct costs are large relative to total spending on [research and development], which totalled $247bn in 2009, implying that NPE patent assertations effectively impose a significant tax on investment in innovation. Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Calls For Governments To End Patent Wars. The problems with the current system are so pervasive, that many companies say, that the courts, lawmakers and Silicon Valley must find their own fixes.

In the smartphone industry alone, according to a Stanford University analysis, as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions. Last year spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products, according to public filings. Apple’s CEO thinks that patent system is broken in a fundamental way. It allows companies to exploit standards-essential patents — patents that must be licensed in order for products to function according to accepted industry standards. The Patent Wars: Infographic confirms that everyone in the tech world is way too sue-happy.

Apple vs. Samsung patent verdict was a lot of talked about event lately. Apple-Samsung trial has clarified that patents are the “lifeblood of business” and putting powerful short-term legal protections under inventions is overwhelmingly more convincing than any mooted alternative. Apple v. Samsung case highlights money to be made from patent litigation. Linux Magazine editor is amazed at how little all the “authorities” seem to know. Is there a lesson in all this? A huge team of lawyers billing US$ 200 to US$ 800 per hour erected weeks of elegant arguments and a jury thought about the whole thing for 21 hours and 37 minutes. The 109 pages of jury instructions contained 700 questions, which means that jury reached consensus on one point approximately every 33 seconds.

The Apple v. Samsung case really ought to shame the industry. It let a jury, also known as “people off the street”, decide on liability and damages amounts and kept a lot of lawyers in alligator skin shoes. And while it is probably the lawyers that benefited the most from the whole ordeal, no one else is. And I’m not convinced that any of these patents are actually valid. Of course, Samsung argued that Apple also copied, which is no doubt true, but just because Apple got away with it doesn’t make it okay. Apple and Samsung would be better off — and their consumers would be better served — if the tech giants took their epic patent battle out of the courtroom and into the marketplace. The best thing about the case is that it has exposed just how awful the patent situation has become in the US.

A new patent case has just started. Microsoft v Google judge could shape the world in new patent punchup because that could finally tell tech companies how much a standards-essential patent is worth is about to kick off in the US. Microsoft filed a lawsuit in 2010 that challenges Google-owned Motorola over the its use of standards-essential patents (SEP) in court cases. Microsoft and Apple have tried to argue that Samsung and Motorola shouldn’t be allowed to use their SEP in court cases. Both European and US authorities have also been investigating whether any firm should be allowed to get the law involved in SEP but haven’t come to any conclusions yet. Motorola has tried to get 2.25 per cent per device out of Apple and Microsoft. The patents this case is are related to for example to H.264 video coding. Redmond is accusing Motorola of violating its responsibilities to standards organisations to license the patents at fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory rates (FRAND).

364 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Most popular cellphone processors break Apple’s patents?

    Apple is now blaming Qualcomm for patent infringement. According to the smartphone manufacturer, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and 820 series processors are breaking its patented technologies to optimize processor power consumption.

    Reuters news agency Reuters has reported on Apple’s response to Qualcomm’s right to a lawsuit in July.

    According to Reuters, 800 and 820 series Snapdragon processors are used, for example, in Samsung’s smartphones and in Google’s Pixel phones.

    Source: http://etn.fi/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7242&via=n&datum=2017-11-30_15:21:26&mottagare=31202

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Qualcomm, Apple Exchange Fresh Salvos
    https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1332674&

    Qualcomm filed three more patent infringement complaints against Apple Inc., one day after Apple turned the tables and accused Qualcomm of infringing patents held by Apple.

    The latest moves ratchet up the tension in an already red hot feud between the two longtime partners over contractual disputes, withheld payments and accusations of exorbitant licensing fees.

    Qualcomm (San Diego) filed three new patent infringement complaints in U.S. District Court in San Diego, alleging Apple is in violation of an additional 16 patents held by Qualcomm. The fabless chip firm also filed a new complaint against Apple at the U.S. International Trade Commission, arguing that Apple is in violation of five of the same patents.

    Apple filed a $1 billion suit against Qualcomm in January over allegedly withheld royalty rebates. Qualcomm first filed suit against Apple alleging infringement of battery life technology patents in July, around the same time it asked the ITC to ban the importation of Apple iPhones that use Intel modems.

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Qualcomm seeks ban on sales of Intel-based iPhone X in US
    https://www.cnet.com/news/qualcomm-apple-iphone-x-7-8-plus-itc-ban-patent-infringement/#ftag=CADf328eec

    Legal filing with ITC is the latest move in a heated patent infringement battle between Apple and its key chip supplier.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Bloomberg:
    Mindful of smartphone patent wars, automakers, now among top US patent filers, work together on self-driving IP issues via industry associations to avoid suits — Automakers are learning the mistakes by smartphone companies — Ford, BMW among those looking for licenses without lawsuits

    Carmakers Want Silicon Valley’s Tech Without Its Patent Wars
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-07/carmakers-want-silicon-valley-s-tech-without-its-patent-wars

    Automakers are learning the mistakes by smartphone companies
    Ford, BMW among those looking for licenses without lawsuits

    As automakers turn their vehicles into app-laden computers on wheels, there’s one habit they don’t want to acquire from Silicon Valley: fighting over patents in court.

    Manufacturers from BMW AG to Hyundai Motor Co. to Ford Motor Co. are trying to learn from the smartphone wars, which cost technology companies hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees, as they prepare to revolutionize their vehicles.

    “No sane automaker wants to repeat these wars, where the lawyers were the only winners,” said William Coughlin, chief executive officer of Ford Global Technologies, Ford’s intellectual property arm.

    Automakers have ramped up their patent applications as they compete to roll out crash avoidance systems, on-board Wi-Fi and cars that can drive themselves. To avoid court battles over who gets paid and how much, competitors are banding together to jointly license technology, use non-proprietary software and buying or challenging patents that might be used in lawsuits against them.

    The smartphone wars that began in 2010 were sparked by a clash of the phone and computer industries and pitted iPhone-maker Apple against manufacturers of phones that ran on Android, the operating system owned by Google. Microsoft Corp. also got swept in when it demanded royalties on phones that used Android.

    Technology companies frequently resolve patent disputes — others have been over computer memory, networking and video cards — in court. But the big automakers tend to settle their fights more informally or let suppliers duke it out.

    “They see every day there is litigation and they don’t want that,” said Kasim Alfalahi, head of Avanci LLC, a Dallas-based group that operates the patent pool. “They say, ‘We have looked at this, we have studied this and we would like to avoid it.’ “

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Euro Patent Office fails miserably in key accountability case
    Administrative Council underlines real concerns with European patent regime
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/12/21/euro_patent_office_accountability_case/

    The Administrative Council of the European Patent Office (EPO) has inflamed already heightened tensions within the organization by failing to properly address an important accountability test case.

    The ruling body of the international organization – made up of representatives of European governments – was formally criticized earlier this month for not doing its job and questioning the treatment of a patent judge by EPO management. It then considered the case of patent judge Patrick Corcoran at a closed-door meeting, going through two judgments from the International Labor Organisation (ILO) that ordered Corcoran immediately be reinstated from a three-year suspension.

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Brittany A. Roston / SlashGear:
    Shenzen judge rules Samsung infringed on one of Huawei’s wireless communications patents and must stop selling products using infringing technology in China

    Huawei beats Samsung in lawsuit over wireless patent
    https://www.slashgear.com/huawei-beats-samsung-in-lawsuit-over-wireless-patent-12515079/

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    UMC Files Countersuit Against Micron
    https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1332844

    United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) said it filed a lawsuit against Micron Technology subsidiaries in China for patent infringements that are part of a growing wrangle related to memory chips.

    The countersuit comes nearly a month after Micron filed suit against UMC in the U.S.

    As China seeks to establish a domestic semiconductor industry to offset the billions of dollars of chips that it imports annually, legal skirmishes between the U.S. and China have started in the memory segment, where China aims to grab a slice of the business that’s dominated by Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Predicting the 10 Millionth U.S. Patent
    https://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1333290

    Qualcomm will be granted the ten millionth U.S. patent on June 19, 2018, for a 5G application, an experts predicts.

    Innovation has been the lifeblood of America since the country’s founding fathers established a patent office in 1790. In recent years, the pace of innovation has certainly increased, especially for engineers who design chips and systems.

    We have now reached a point where the 10 millionth utility patent is about to be granted. Only three years ago, the USPTO granted the 9 millionth patent, and you can expect that patent number 11 million will be granted about three years from now.

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What President Trump Doesn’t Know About ZTE
    https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/26/what-president-trump-doesnt-know-about-zte/?utm_source=tcfbpage&sr_share=facebook

    President Trump is planning to ease penalties on the Chinese telecommunications giant for violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

    But what Mr. Trump may not realize is that ZTE is also one of the world’s most notorious intellectual property thieves — perhaps even the most notorious of all.

    A search of PACER reveals that in the U.S. alone, ZTE has been sued for patent infringement an astonishing 126 times just in the last five years. This number is even more shocking when you consider that only a subset of companies who believe their IP rights have been violated by ZTE has the means or the will to spend the millions of dollars needed to wage a multi-year lawsuit in federal courts.

    According to one Chinese tech publication, ZTE has also been sued for patent infringement an additional 100 times in China, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, India, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other countries.

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica:
    A history of landmark software patent rulings in the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit, and how they have shifted the rules for software patents in the US

    Why a 40-year-old SCOTUS ruling against software patents still matters today
    A controversial ruling limiting software patents has been making a comeback.
    https://arstechnica.com/features/2018/06/why-the-supreme-courts-software-patent-ban-didnt-last/

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Patent Reforms Need Reform Now
    https://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1333431

    America ranks #12 in the world tied with Italy in a 2018 scoring of patent systems by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We used to be #1.

    Twenty years ago, patents still had value. Duly issued U.S. patents were legally valid and patent owners could rely on the presumption of validity if they had to defend them in court. Patent owners could practice, enforce or license them. Patents were personal, private property rights, protected by the copyright clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

    All this has changed. Today, none of this is guaranteed or supported by U.S. law or courts.

    Patent owners frequently must involuntarily defend the validity of duly issued patents, often repeatedly, before panels of unelected executive-branch government employees called administrative patent judges in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These so-called judges are charged with killing patents in proceedings called inter partes review (IPR), trials conducted without due process, completely devoid of any semblance of the rights, privileges and safeguards patent owners enjoyed under U.S. law for 220+ years–since George Washington signed the Patent Act of 1790 into law.

    America is the world’s foremost economic power largely because of the rights and privileges provided to inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors, secured by title to patents historically considered personal private property rights aka assets.

    Technology doesn’t develop all by itself.

    The America Invents Act (AIA), along with decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, reversed all that. Inventors can no longer rely on patents to obtain financing. Today, patents are liabilities – not assets – often requiring owners to pay millions in legal fees to defend validity challenges under one-sided new IPR rules. Owners of patents that manage to survive IPR often cannot obtain court-ordered injunctions needed to enforce them.

    Historically friendly to small inventor/entrepreneurs, the U.S. today actually thwarts innovation.

    The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is often called the patent death squad because it kills off more than 80% of patents it reviews. Multiple IPR’s are frequently instituted back-to-back. Thus, the PTAB’s effective kill rate is in effect even higher.

    One logical question is whether the USPTO issues patents erroneously 80+% of the time, or whether the PTAB erroneously extinguishes issued patents 80+% of the time. Both can’t be true.

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Vigilante engineer stops Waymo from patenting key lidar technology
    https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/10/lone-engineer-spanks-waymo-in-lidar-patent-battle/

    Eric Swildens had no dog in the fight other than intellectual curiosity.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Microsoft has open sourced its 60,000+ patent portfolio by joining the Open Invention Network.

    ​Microsoft open-sources its patent portfolio
    https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-open-sources-its-entire-patent-portfolio/

    By joining the Open Invention Network, Microsoft is offering its entire patent portfolio — with the legacy exception of its Windows and desktop application code — to all of the open-source patent consortium’s members.

    Several years ago, I said the one thing Microsoft has to do — to convince everyone in open source that it’s truly an open-source supporter — is stop using its patents against Android vendors. Now, it’s joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent consortium. Microsoft has essentially agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members.

    Reply

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