Patents

EFF Beats 'Stupid' Patent Troll In Court (courthousenews.com) 69

An Australian court can't make a California advocacy group take down a web page, a U.S. federal judge just ruled on Friday. Even if that web page calls a company's patents "stupid." Courthouse News reports: San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation sued Global Equity Management, or GEMSA, in April, claiming the Australian firm exploited its home country's weaker free speech protections to secure an unconstitutional injunction against EFF. Kurt Opsahl, EFF's deputy executive director and general counsel, hailed the ruling as a victory for free speech. "We knew all along the speech was protected by the First Amendment," Opsahl said in a phone interview Friday. "We were pleased to see the court agree." Opsahl said the ruling sends a strong message EFF and other speakers can weigh in on important topics, like patent reform, without fear of being muzzled by foreign court orders.

The dispute stems from an article EFF published in June 2016, featuring GEMSA in its "Stupid Patent of the Month" series. The GEMSA patent is for a "virtual cabinet" to store data. In the article, EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer called GEMSA a "classic patent troll" that uses its patent on graphic representations of data storage to sue "just about anyone who runs a website." The article also says GEMSA "appears to have no business other than patent litigation."

The judge granted EFF a default judgment, saying the Australian court's injunction was not only unenforceable in the United States but also "repugnant" to the U. S. Constitution.
Iphone

Israeli Company Sues Apple Over Dual-Lens Cameras In iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus (macrumors.com) 56

Corephotonics, an Israeli maker of dual-lens camera technologies for smartphones, has filed a lawsuit against Apple this week alleging that the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus infringe upon four of its patents. Mac Rumors reports: The patents, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between November 2013 and June 2016, relate to dual-lens camera technologies appropriate for smartphones, including optical zoom and a mini telephoto lens assembly: U.S. Patent No. 9,402,032; U.S. Patent No. 9,568,712; U.S. Patent No. 9,185,291; U.S. Patent No. 9,538,152. Corephotonics alleges that the two iPhone models copy its patented telephoto lens design, optical zoom method, and a method for intelligently fusing images from the wide-angle and telephoto lenses to improve image quality. iPhone X isn't listed as an infringing product, despite having a dual-lens camera, perhaps because the device launched just four days ago.
Patents

Apple Wins $120 Million From Samsung In Slide-To-Unlock Patent Battle (theverge.com) 72

Apple has finally claimed victory over Samsung to the count of $120 million. "The Supreme Court said today that it wouldn't hear an appeal of the patent infringement case, first decided in 2014, which has been bouncing through appeals courts in the years since," reports The Verge. From the report: The case revolved around Apple's famous slide-to-unlock patent and, among others, its less-famous quick links patent, which covered software that automatically turned information like a phone number into a tappable link. Samsung was found to have infringed both patents. The ruling was overturned almost two years later, and then reinstated once again less than a year after that. From there, Samsung appealed to the Supreme Court, which is where the case met its end today. Naturally, Samsung isn't pleased with the outcome. "Our argument was supported by many who believed that the Court should hear the case to reinstate fair standards that promote innovation and prevent abuse of the patent system," a Samsung representative said in a statement. The company also said the ruling would let Apple "unjustly profit" from an invalid patent.
Businesses

Apple Is Designing iPhones, iPads That Would Drop Qualcomm Components (wsj.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Apple, locked in an intensifying legal fight with Qualcomm, is designing iPhones and iPads for next year that would jettison the chipmaker's components, according to people familiar with the matter. Apple is considering building the devices only with modem chips from Intel and possibly MediaTek because San Diego, Calif.-based Qualcomm has withheld software critical to testing its chips in iPhone and iPad prototypes, according to one of the people. Apple's planned move for next year involve the modem chips that handle communications between wireless devices and cellular networks. Qualcomm is by far the biggest supplier of such chips for the current wireless standard. The Apple plans indicate the battle with Qualcomm could spill beyond the courtroom feud over patents into another important Qualcomm business where it has the potential to send ripples through the smartphone supply chain.
The Courts

Apple, Samsung Face New iPhone Damages Trial (reuters.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California issued her order late on Sunday, 10 months after the U.S. Supreme Court set aside a $399 million award against Samsung, whose devices include the Galaxy. The three Apple patents covered design elements of the iPhone such as its black rectangular front face, rounded corners, and colorful grid of icons for programs and apps. Koh's order is a setback for Apple, which called a retrial unnecessary and said the award should be confirmed. The $399 million represented profit from Samsung's sales of infringing smartphones, though the South Korean company has said it deserved reimbursement if it prevailed in the litigation. It was part of a $548 million payment that Samsung made to Apple in December 2015. The legal dispute concerned whether the "article of manufacture" for which Samsung owed damages included its entire smartphones, or only parts that infringed Apple patents.
Transportation

Amazon Patents Drones That Recharge Electric Vehicles (cnet.com) 58

slash.jit shared an article from Futurism: Amazon has been granted a patent for an ambitious new method of maintaining a charge in electric vehicles. The company wants to use drones to allow drivers to top up their vehicles without having to visit a charging station. Drivers would request a top up from a central server, which would dispatch a charging drone to their location. The drone would then dock with the vehicle and start transferring power, without the car ever needing to come to a stop. This solution isn't meant to administer a full charge to the car's battery, it would only supply enough power to get the driver to a charging station, which are still in somewhat limited supply.
"Amazon first applied for this patent back in June 2014," reports CNET, noting it was finally granted this month. "Like many other patents, there's no guarantee that Amazon will actually create a product based on the design. It could merely be an attempt to stop competitors from doing so."
Patents

Activision Patents Pay-To-Win Matchmaker (rollingstone.com) 133

New submitter EndlessNameless writes: If you like fair play, you might not like future Activision games. They will cross the line to encourage microtransactions, specifically matching players to both encourage and reward purchase. Rewarding the purchase, in particular, is an explicit and egregious elimination of any claim to fair play. "For example, if the player purchased a particular weapon, the microtransaction engine may match the player in a gameplay session in which the particular weapon is highly effective, giving the player an impression that the particular weapon was a good purchase," according to the patent. "This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results." Even though the patent's examples are all for a first-person-shooter game, the system could be used across a wide variety of titles. "This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios," an Activision spokesperson tells Rolling Stone. "It has not been implemented in-game." Bungie also confirmed that the technology isn't being used in games currently on the market, mentioning specifically Destiny 2.
Patents

Tribal 'Sovereign Immunity' Patent Protection Could Be Outlawed (arstechnica.com) 92

AnalogDiehard writes: The recent -- and questionable -- practice of technological and pharmaceutical companies selling their patents to U.S. native Indian tribes (where they enjoy "sovereign immunity" from the inter partes review (IPR) process of the PTO) and then the tribes licensing them back to the companies is drawing scrutiny from a federal court and has inspired a new U.S. bill outlawing the practice. The IPR process is a "fast track" (read: much less expensive) process through the PTO to review the validity of challenged patents -- it is loved by defendants and hated by patent holders. Not only has U.S. Circuit Judge William Bryson invalidated Allergan's pharmaceutical patents due to "obviousness," he is questioning the legitimacy of the sovereign immunity tactic. The judge was well aware that the tactic could endanger the IPR process, which was a central component of the America Invents Act of 2011, and writes that sovereign immunity "should not be treated as a monetizable commodity that can be purchased by private entities as part of a scheme to evade their legal responsibility." U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- no stranger to abuses of the patent system -- has introduced a bill that would outlaw the practice she describes as "one of the most brazen and absurd loopholes I've ever seen and it should be illegal." Sovereign immunity is not absolute and has been limited by Congress and the courts in the past. The bill would apply only to the IPR proceedings and not to patent disputes in federal courts.
Android

Essential Is Getting Sued For Allegedly Stealing Wireless Connector Technology (gizmodo.com) 43

"Keyssa, a wireless technology company backed by iPod creator and Nest founder Tony Fadell, filed a lawsuit against Essential on Monday, alleging that the company stole trade secrets and breached their nondisclosure agreement," reports Gizmodo. Keyssa has proprietary technology that reportedly lets users transfer large files in a matter of seconds by holding two devices side by side. From the report: According to the lawsuit, Keyssa and Essential engaged in conversations in which the wireless tech company "divulged to Essential proprietary technology enabling every facet of Keyssa's wireless connectivity," all of which was protected under a non-disclosure agreement. More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Keyssa "deployed a team 20 of its top engineers and scientists" to educate Essential on its proprietary tech, sending them "many thousands of confidential emails, hundreds of confidential technical documents, and dozens of confidential presentations." Essential ended this relationship after over 10 months and later told Keyssa that its engineers would use a competing chip in the Essential Phone. But Keyssa is accusing Essential of including techniques in its phone that were gleaned from their relationship, despite their confidentiality agreement. Central to this lawsuit is one of the Essential Phone's key selling points: the option to swap in modular add-ons, made possible thanks to the phone's unique cordless connector. In short, if Keyssa's claims hold water, then one of the phone's defining factors is a product of theft.
Patents

Apple To Appeal Five-Year-Long Patent Battle After $439.7 Million Loss (theverge.com) 69

Appel has been ordered to pay $439.7 million to the patent-holding firm VirnetX for infringing on four patented technologies that were apparently used in FaceTime and other iOS apps. According to The Verge, Apple plans to appeal the ruling -- continuing this long-running patent battle, which began back in 2012. From the report: VirnetX first filed suit against Apple in 2010, winning $368 million just two years later. It then sued again in 2012, which is the suit that's being ruled on today. Apple initially lost the suit, then filed for a mistrial. It won a new trial, lost that trial, was ordered to pay around $300 million, then lost some more and is now having that amount upped even further. That's because a judge found Apple guilty of willful infringement, bumping its payment amount from $1.20 per infringing Apple device to $1.80 per device. Those include certain iPhones, iPads, and Macs. VirnetX says the ruling is "very reasonable." Apple didn't issue a statement other than to say that it plans to appeal. While $440 million isn't a lot of money for Apple, there's principle at stake here: VirnetX is a patent troll that makes its money from licensing patents and suing other parties. The company's SEC filing states, "Our portfolio of intellectual property is the foundation of our business model."
Businesses

Qualcomm Seeks China iPhone Ban, Escalating Apple Legal Fight (bloomberg.com) 36

Qualcomm filed lawsuits in China seeking to ban the sale and manufacture of iPhones in the country, the chipmaker's biggest shot at Apple so far in a sprawling and bitter legal fight. From a report: The San Diego-based company aims to inflict pain on Apple in the world's largest market for smartphones and cut off production in a country where most iPhones are made. The product provides almost two-thirds of Apple's revenue. Qualcomm filed the suits in a Beijing intellectual property court claiming patent infringement and seeking injunctive relief, according to Christine Trimble, a company spokeswoman. "Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them," Trimble said. An Apple spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. Qualcomm's suits are based on three non-standard essential patents, it said. They cover power management and a touch-screen technology called Force Touch that Apple uses in current iPhones, Qualcomm said. The inventions "are a few examples of the many Qualcomm technologies that Apple uses to improve its devices and increase its profits," Trimble said. The company made the filings at the Beijing court on Sept. 29. The court has not yet made them public.
Businesses

Qualcomm Fined Record $773 Million In Taiwan Antitrust Probe (bloomberg.com) 23

According to Bloomberg, Qualcomm was fined a record NT$23.4 billion ($773 million) by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission in the latest blow from regulators over the way the U.S. company prices mobile phone chips and patents. From the report: The company has been violating antitrust rules for at least 7 years and Qualcomm collected NT$400 billion in licensing fees from local companies during that time, the Taiwanese regulator said on its website Wednesday. Qualcomm disagrees with the decision and intends to appeal, the San Diego-based company said in a statement. The Taiwanese regulator said Qualcomm has monopoly market status over key mobile phone standards and by not providing products to clients who don't agree with its conditions, the U.S. company is violating local laws. It said Taiwanese companies had purchased $30 billion worth of Qualcomm baseband chips. Besides the fine, the Fair Trade Commission told Qualcomm to remove previously signed deals that force competitors to provide price, customer names, shipment, model name and other sensitive information as well as other clauses in its agreements.
Patents

US Congress Investigates Patent 'Gifts' That Evade Inter Partes Review (arstechnica.com) 55

AnalogDiehard writes: Congress created the Inter Partes Review (IPR) in 2012 within the U.S. Patent Office Patent Trials and Appeals Board (PTAB) as a faster and cheaper way to challenge and invalidate bad patents. The IPR expense is a fraction of the cost of a multimillion dollar patent court trial; it is loved by patent challengers and hated by patent owners. The pharmaceutical company Allergen has exploited a novel tactic to evade the IPR process: they hand them to a Native American Indian tribe for safekeeping. Under the arrangement, the tribes earn millions in royalties as long as the patents are valid, they license them back to Allergan, and the patents under the tribes' ownership is immune from lawsuits via sovereign immunity. Under the colonial-era concept of "sovereign immunity" which is codified in the 11th amendment, certain groups like states, universities, and tribes are immune from lawsuits, thus the drug patents are shielded from the IPR process leaving only a full blown multimillion dollar court trial for generic drug companies. This tactic is also attracting the attention of non-practicing entities -- the polite term for "patent trolls" -- and one such NPE company has already exploited sovereign immunity with the intention to sue Apple for infringement.

But court cases have limited the scope of sovereign immunity (especially for commercial activity), and now Congress is investigating Allergan over the tactic that has Congress not only greatly concerned about competition in the drug industry (and exorbitant prices of pharmaceuticals), but also the questionable use of the sovereign immunity law. The four lawmakers who signed the letter to Allergan state: "The unconventional maneuver has received considerable criticism from the generic competitors challenging the drug's patents under the process Congress created (IPR) to enable timelier review of such challenges (read: a fraction of the cost of a court trial)." The letter also notes that the key ingredient in the patent was set to expire in 2014 and that Allergan had filed more patents to extend patent protection to 2024, a signal that Congress is watching for exploitation of patent law to enable "perpetual patents" widely used by the pharmaceuticals.

Patents

Cloudflare Pays First $7,500 Bounties In War Against Patent Troll (cloudflare.com) 35

Cloudflare declared war on a group of lawyers that files patent lawsuits against tech firms, by offering bounties for the discovery of patent-invalidating "prior art." Now an anonymous reader writes: On Thursday, Cloudflare announced it has paid out the first $7,500 to people who discovered documents that could help invalidate Blackbird's patents. The money is part of a $100,000 war chest the company announced this spring... The company said it is ready to launch individual challenges to specific Blackbird patents. The company believes it has enough examples of prior art on US Patent 7,797,448, "GPS-internet Linkage" and US Patent 6,453,335 (the one asserted against Cloudflare) to lodge a challenge.
"We have received more than 230 submissions so far," Cloudflare reports, "and have only just begun to scratch the surface."
Open Source

Facebook Relents, Switches React, Flow, Immuable.js and Jest To MIT License (theregister.co.uk) 50

An anonymous reader quotes the Register: Faced with growing dissatisfaction about licensing requirements for some of its open-source projects, Facebook said it will move React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js under the MIT license next week. "We're relicensing these projects because React is the foundation of a broad ecosystem of open source software for the web, and we don't want to hold back forward progress for nontechnical reasons," said Facebook engineering director Adam Wolff in a blog post on Friday. Wolff said while Facebook continues to believe its BSD + Patents license has benefits, "we acknowledge that we failed to decisively convince this community"... Wolff said the updated licensing scheme will arrive next week with the launch of React 16, a rewrite of the library designed for more efficient operation at scale.
Facebook was facing strong criticism from the Apache Software Foundation and last week Wordpress.com had announced plans to move away from React.

"Wolff said Facebook considered a license change for its other open-source projects, but wasn't ready to commit to anything," the Register adds. "Some projects, he said, will keep the BSD + Patents license."
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Pledges Patent Protection For 99 Percent of FOSS-ware (theregister.co.uk) 65

Red Hat says it has amassed over 2,000 patents and won't enforce them if the technologies they describe are used in properly-licensed open-source software. From a report: The company has made more or less the same offer since 2002, when it first made a "Patent Promise" in order to "discourage patent aggression in free and open source software." Back then the company didn't own many patents and claimed its non-enforcement promise covered 35 per cent of open-source software. The Promise was revised in order to reflect the company's growing patent trove and to spruce up the language it uses to make it more relevant. The revised promise "applies to all software meeting the free software or open source definitions of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) or the Open Source Initiative (OSI)." [...] It's not a blank cheque. Hardware isn't covered and Red Hat is at pains to point out that "Our Promise is not an assurance that Red Hat's patents are enforceable or that practicing Red Hat's patented inventions does not infringe others' patents or other intellectual property." But the company says 99 percent of FOSS software should be covered by the Promise.
Facebook

WordPress Ditches ReactJS Over Facebook's Patent Clause (techcrunch.com) 72

An anonymous reader quote TechCrunch: Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of the popular open source web publishing software WordPress, has said the community will be pulling away from using Facebook's React JavaScript library over concerns about a patent clause in Facebook's open source license. In a blog post explaining the decision yesterday, Mullenweg said he had hoped to officially adopt React for WordPress -- noting that Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com which he also founded, had already used React for the Calypso ground-up rewrite of WordPress.com a few years ago, while the WordPress community had started using it for its major Gutenberg core project.

But he said he has changed his mind after seeing Facebook dig in behind the patent clause -- which was recently added to the Apache Software Foundation's list of disallowed licenses... [H]e writes that he cannot, in good conscience, require users of the very widely used open source WordPress software to inherit the patent clause and associated legal risk. So he's made the decision to ditch React.

Facebook can revoke their license if a React user challenges Facebook's patents.
Google

Google Accused of Trying To Patent Public Domain Technology (bleepingcomputer.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Polish academic is accusing Google of trying to patent technology he invented and that he purposely released into the public domain so companies like Google couldn't trap it inside restrictive licenses. The technology's name is Asymmetric Numeral Systems (ANS), a family of entropy coding methods that Polish assistant professor Jarosaw (Jarek) Duda developed in the early 2000s, and which is now hot tech at companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, mostly because it can improve data compression from 3 to 30 times. Duda says that Google is now trying to register a patent that includes most of the ANS basic principles. Ironically, most of the technology described in the patent, Duda said he explained to Google engineers in a Google Groups discussion from 2014. The researcher already filed a complaint, to which WIPO ISA responded by calling out Google for not coming up with "an inventive contribution over the prior art, because it is no more than a straightforward application of known coding algorithms." A Google spokesperson refused to comment, and the mystery remains surrounding Google's decision to patent something that's in the public domain since 2014.
Wii

Jury Finds Nintendo Wii Infringes Dallas Inventor's Patent, Awards $10 Million (arstechnica.com) 113

A jury has ruled that Nintendo must pay $10.1 million because its Wii and Wii U systems infringe a patent belonging to a Dallas medical motion-detection company. Ars Technica reports: iLife sued Nintendo (PDF) in 2013 after filing lawsuits against four other companies in 2012. The case went to a jury trial in Dallas, and yesterday the jury returned its verdict (PDF). They found that Nintendo infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,864,796, first filed in 1999, which describes "systems and methods for evaluating movement of a body relative to an environment." The patent drawings show a body-mounted motion detector that could detect falls in the elderly, which is the market that iLife was targeting, according to its now defunct website. The $10.1 million was less than 10 percent of what iLife's attorneys had been asking for. When the trial began in Dallas on August 21, Law360 reported that iLife lawyers asked the jury for a $144 million payout. That damage demand was based on a royalty of $4 per Wii unit, multiplied by 36 million systems sold in the six years before the lawsuit was filed.
Patents

Kaspersky Lab Forces 'Patent Troll' To Pay Cash To End Case (arstechnica.com) 108

In October, Kaspersky Labs was sued by a "do-nothing patent holder in East Texas who demanded a cash settlement before it would go away," reports Ars Technica. Today, founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky said his company has defeated five patent assertion entities, including the infamous claims from Lodsys, "a much-maligned patent holder that sent demand letters to small app developers." The patent-licensing company who sued Kaspersky Labs in October was not only defeated, but they ended up paying Kaspersky $5,000 to end the litigation. From the report: The patent-licensing company, Wetro Lan LLC, owned U.S. Patent No. 6,795,918, which essentially claimed an Internet firewall. The patent was filed in 2000 despite the fact that computer network firewalls date to the 1980s. The '918 patent was used in what the Electronic Frontier Foundation called an "outrageous trolling campaign," in which dozens of companies were sued out of Wetro Lan's "headquarters," a Plano office suite that it shared with several other firms that engage in what is pejoratively called "patent-trolling." Wetro Lan's complaints argued that a vast array of Internet routers and switches infringed its patent. Most companies sued by Wetro Lan apparently reached settlements within a short time, a likely indicator of low-value settlement demands. Not a single one of the cases even reached the claim construction phase. But Kaspersky wouldn't pay up. As claim construction approached, Kaspersky's lead lawyer Casey Kniser served discovery requests for Wetro Lan's other license agreements. He suspected the amounts were low. Wetro Lan's settlement demands kept dropping, down from its initial "amicable" demand of $60,000. Eventually, the demands reached $10,000 -- an amount that's extremely low in the world of patent litigation. Kniser tried to explain that it didn't matter how far the company dropped the demand. "Kaspersky won't pay these people even if it's a nickel," he said. Then Kniser took a new tack. "We said, actually, $10,000 is fine," said Kniser. "Why don't you pay us $10,000?" After some back-and-forth, Wetro Lan's lawyer agreed to pay Kaspersky $5,000 to end the litigation. Papers were filed Monday, and both sides have dropped their claims.

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