The Courts

East Texas Judge Throws Out 168 Patent Cases 150

Earthquake Retrofit writes: Ars Technica is reporting that an East Texas judge has thrown out 168 patent cases in one fell swoop. The judge's order puts the most litigious patent troll of 2014, eDekka LLC, out of business. The ruling comes from a surprising source: U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, the East Texas judge who has been criticized for making life extra-difficult for patent defendants. Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases than any other U.S. judge, will eliminate about 10 percent of his entire patent docket by wiping out the eDekka cases.

Google and Microsoft Agree To Stand Down In Patent Wars 42

_0x783czar writes: Today Google and Microsoft have announced an end to litigious hostilities between themselves; signaling another step on the road to peace as the "global smartphone wars" wind down. This moves settles 18 lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany, including those involving Motorola Mobility's patents, which Google retained after selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo. Both companies hope this move will help settle the smartphone wars and refocus their efforts on consumers. Reuters reports: "Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers."

Another Pharma Company Recaptures a Generic Medication 372

Applehu Akbar writes: Daraprim, currently used as a niche AIDS medication, was developed and patented by Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKlein) decades ago. Though Glaxo's patent has long since expired, a startup called Turing Pharmaceuticals has been the latest pharma company to 'recapture' a generic by using legal trickery to gain exclusive rights to sell it in the US. Though Turing has just marketing rights, not a patent, on Daraprim, it takes advantage of pharma-pushed laws that forbid Americans from shopping around on the world market for prescriptions. Not long ago, Google was fined half a billion dollars by the FDA for allowing perfectly legal Canadian pharmacies to advertise on its site. So now that Turing has a lock on Daraprim, it has raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750. In 2009 another small pharma company inveigled an exclusive on the longstanding generic gout medication colchicine from the FDA, effectively rebranding the unmodified generic so they could raise its price by a similar percentage.

Appeals Court Bans Features From Older Samsung Phones 69

walterbyrd writes with news that Apple has finally emerged victorious in a long-standing patent case against Samsung — though it's more of a moral victory than a practical one. Samsung is no longer allowed to sell some of its older phones unless the company disables features that infringe upon Apple patents. "The market impact will likely be limited, since the lawsuit was filed in 2012 and covers products that came out that year, like the Galaxy S3. Furthermore, software updates to Samsung software mean that the patents may not be infringed anymore. For instance, Samsung's Android phones no longer use a 'slide to unlock' feature on the bottom of the phone. In dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Sharon Prost paints a sharply different picture (PDF) from the majority. 'This is not a close case,' she writes, noting that Apple's patents cover a spelling correction feature it doesn't use, and two others cover 'minor features' out of 'many thousands.'"

Why Patent Law Shouldn't Block the Sale of Used Tech Products 215

An anonymous reader writes: Lexmark is best known for its printers, but even more important to its business is toner. Toner cartridges are Lexmark's lifeblood, and they've been battling hard in court to protect their cashflow. The NY Times has published an editorial arguing that one of their recent strategies is bogus: making patent infringement claims on companies who refill used cartridges. Think about that, for a moment: Lexmark says that by taking one of their old, empty cartridges, refilling it with toner, and then selling it somehow infringes upon their patents to said cartridges. "This case raises important questions about the reach of American patent law and how much control a manufacturer can exert after its products have been lawfully sold. Taken to their logical conclusion, Lexmark's arguments would mean that producers could use patent law to dictate how things like computers, printers and other patented goods are used, changed or resold and place restrictions on international trade. That makes no sense, especially in a world where technology products and components are brought and sold numerous times, which is why the court should rule in favor of Impression." The Times paints it as the latest attack on ownership in the age of DRM.

Mozilla, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Others Form 'Alliance For Open Media' 99

BrianFagioli tips news that Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Intel, Amazon, and Netflix are teaming up to create the Alliance for Open Media, "an open-source project that will develop next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies in the public interest." Several of these companies have been working on this problem alone: Mozilla started Daala, Google has VP9 and VP10, and Cisco just recently announced Thor. Amazon and Netflix, of course, are major suppliers of online video streaming, so they have a vested interested in royalty-free codecs. They're inviting others to join them — the more technology and patents they get on their side, the less likely they'll run into the issues that Microsoft's VC-1 and Google's VP8 struggled with. "The Alliance will operate under W3C patent rules and release code under an Apache 2.0 license. This means all Alliance participants are waiving royalties both for the codec implementation and for any patents on the codec itself."

A Courtroom Victory For Microsoft In Cellphone-Related Patent Suit 14

Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has been cleared of patent infringement by the US International Trade Commission. The case dates back to 2007 when InterDigital Inc claimed Microsoft infringed its patents, and there were calls for a ban on the import of handsets. InterDigital Inc has been battling in court for eight years, initially trying to claim royalties on phones made by Nokia, now transferred to Microsoft. As well as blocking the call for an import ban, the ITC stated that Microsoft did not infringe patents relating to the way mobiles make calls. In short Microsoft is in the clear and InterDigital's rights have not been violated.

The History of the Patent Troll 40

An anonymous reader writes: Patent trolling is not a new problem, although recently it seems that the issue has captured the attention of a broader audience. Four years ago, NPR produced an episode of This American Life called "When Patents Attack!" And, four months ago, John Oliver devoted the bulk of his time on Last Week Tonight to raising awareness about patent trolls. "Most of these companies don't produce anything—they just shake down anyone who does, so calling them trolls is a little misleading—at least trolls actually do something, they control bridge access for goats and ask fun riddles," he explained. " Patent trolls just threaten to sue the living s*** out of people, and believe me, those lawsuits add up." In an article on, Red Hat patent litigation defender David Perry takes a look back at the history of patent trolling, as well as some possible solutions to the problem.

Cisco Developing Royalty Free Video Codec: Thor 145

An anonymous reader writes: Video codec licensing has never been great, and it's gotten even more complicated and expensive in recent years. While H.264 had a single license pool and an upper bound on yearly licensing costs, successor H.265 has two pools (so far) and no limit. Cisco has decided that this precludes the use of H.265 in open source or other free-as-in-beer software, so they've struck out on their own to create a new, royalty-free codec called Thor. They've already open-sourced the code and invited contributions.

Cisco says, "The effort is being staffed by some of the world's most foremost codec experts, including the legendary Gisle Bjøntegaard and Arild Fuldseth, both of whom have been heavy contributors to prior video codecs. We also hired patent lawyers and consultants familiar with this technology area. We created a new codec development process which would allow us to work through the long list of patents in this space, and continually evolve our codec to work around or avoid those patents."

IBM Locking Up Lots of Cloud Computing Patents 70

dkatana writes: In an article for InformationWeek Charles Babcock notes that IBM has been hoarding patents on every aspect of cloud computing. They've secured about 1,200 in the past 18 months, including ~400 so far this year. "For those who conceive of the cloud as an environment based on public standards with many shared elements, the grant of these patents isn't entirely reassuring." Babcock says, and he adds: "Whatever the intent, these patents illustrate how the cloud, even though it's conceived of as a shared environment following public standards, may be subject to some of the same intellectual property disputes and patent trolling as earlier, more directly proprietary environments."

Samsung Wants To Bring Back the Flip Phone With Bendable Screens 59

redletterdave writes: A new patent filed last April but published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month suggests Samsung might be working on a smartphone that can bend in half like a flip phone. The biggest problem, according to the patent, is all the strain that accumulates by continually folding the display, or keeping the display folded for a long period of time, which can result in deformations and imperfections, Samsung notes. But Samsung's patent also describes how the phone could keep track of how long it's been in the folded and unfolded states, so as to alert the user of any strain that needs to be relieved. This could help extend the lifetime of the phone and its display.
GNU is Not Unix

Interviews: Ask Richard Stallman a Question 359

RMS founded the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. He now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. RMS has agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, how GNU relates to Linux the kernel, free software, why he disagrees with the idea of open source, and other issues of public concern. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

MPEG LA Announces Call For DASH Patents 66

An anonymous reader writes: The MPEG LA has announced a call for patents essential to the Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (or DASH) standard. According to the MPEG LA's press release, "Market adoption of DASH technology standards has increased to the point where the market would benefit from the availability of a convenient nondiscriminatory, nonexclusive worldwide one-stop patent pool license." The newly formed MPEG-DASH patent pool's licensing program will allegedly offer the market "efficient access to this important technology."
The Courts

Newegg Beats Patent Troll Over SSL and RC4 Encryption 93

New submitter codguy writes to note that a few days ago, and after a previous failed attempt to fight patent troll TQP Development in late 2013, Newegg has now beaten this troll in a rematch. From the linked post: "Newegg went against a company that claimed its patent covered SSL and RC4 encryption, a common encryption system used by many retailers and websites. This particular patent troll has gone against over 100 other companies, and brought in $45 million in settlements before going after Newegg." This follows on Intuit's recent success in defending itself against this claim.
United States

Modernizing the Copyright Office 49

An anonymous reader writes: Joshua Simmons has written a new article discussing the growing consensus that it is time to modernize the Copyright Office. It reviews the developments that led to the last major revision of the Copyright Act; discusses Congress's focus since 1976 on narrower copyright bills, rather than a wholesale revision of U.S. copyright law, and the developments that have led to the review hearings; and considers the growing focus on Copyright Office modernization.

HEVC Advance Announces H.265 Royalty Rates, Raises Some Hackles 184

An anonymous reader writes: The HEVC Advance patent pool has announced the royalty rates for their patent license for HEVC (aka H.265) video. HEVC users must pay these fees in addition to the license fees payable to the competing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. With HEVC Advance's fees targeting 0.5% of content owner revenue which could translate to licensing costs of over $100M a year for companies like Facebook and Netflix, Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media advocates that "content owners band together and agree not to license from HEVC Advance" in the hope that "HEVC Advance will fail in the market and be forced to change strategy, or change their terms to be fair and reasonable." John Carmack, Oculus VR CTO, has cited the new patent license as a reason to end his efforts to encode VR video with H.265.

Apple Patents Bank Account Balance Snooping Tech 133

An anonymous reader writes: Apple's latest patent filings shows that the company is looking into displaying advertising based on your available bank balance. If Apple moves forward with this type of technology it would be a complete 360 on its previous direction to not monetize everything they know about customers. Tim Cook has even said multiple times that companies are targeting consumers on multiple fronts and that he's completely against using customer information in this manner and it's not the kind of company he wants Apple to be.

Google Applies For Patents That Touch On Fundamental AI Concepts 101

mikejuk writes: Google may have been wowing the web with its trippy images from neural networks but meanwhile it has just revealed that it has applied for at least six patents on fundamental neural network and AI [concepts]. This isn't good for academic research or for the development of AI by companies. The patents are on very specific things invented by Geoffrey Hinton's team like using drop out during training, or modifying data to provide additional training cases, but also include very general ideas such as classification itself. If Google was granted a patent on classification it would cover just about every method used for pattern recognition! You might make the charitable assumption that Google has just patented the ideas so that it can protect them — i.e. to stop other more evil companies from patenting them and extracting fees from open source implementations of machine learning libraries. Google has just started an AI arms race, and you can expect others to follow.

Boeing Patents an Engine Run By Laser-Generated Fusion Explosions 242

MarkWhittington writes: Boeing has had a patent approved for an aircraft engine that uses laser-generated nuclear fusion as a power source, according to a story in Business Insider. The idea is already generating a great deal of controversy, according to the website Counter Punch. The patent has generated fears of what might happen if an aircraft containing radioactive material as fuel were to crash, spreading such fuel across the crash site.