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Businesses

How the NSA Profits Off of Its Surveillance Technology 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-guessing-ebay dept.
blottsie writes: The National Security Agency has been making money on the side by licensing its technology to private businesses for more than two decades. It's called the Technology Transfer Program, under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they're swayed by an American company's business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out. The products include tools to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone's touched your phone's SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn't available on the open market.
Patents

Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back 92

Posted by timothy
from the waiting-in-the-wings-now-patented dept.
snydeq writes The wheels of justice spin slowly, but they seem finally to be running software patents out of town, writes Simon Phipps in his analysis of how Alice Corp. v CLS Bank is becoming a landmark decision for patent cases in the U.S. 'In case after case, the Court of Appeals is using Alice to resolve patent appeals. In each case so far, the Court of Appeals has found the software patents in question to be invalid. ... As PatentlyO points out, the Alice effect is even reaching to lower courts, saving the Court of Appeals from having to strike down patent findings on appeal.' Although the patent industry broadly speaking sees the Alice verdict as a death knell for many existing patents, some expect Alice to turn software patents into 'draftsmen's art because as you and I have seen over the years, every time there's a court ruling it just means that you have to word the patent claims differently.'
Patents

US Patent Office Seeking Consultant That Can Stamp Out Fraud By Patent Examiners 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the stamping-out-the-rot dept.
McGruber writes: A month after Slashdot discussed "Every Day Is Goof-Off-At-Work Day At the US Patent and Trademark Office," the USPTO issued a statement that it is "committed to taking any measures necessary" to stop employees who review patents from lying about their hours and getting overtime pay and bonuses for work they didn't do.

USPTO officials also told congressional investigators that they are seeking an outside consulting firm to advise them on how managers can improve their monitoring of more than 8,000 patent examiners. The Patent Examiners union responded to the original Washington Post report with a statement that includes this line: "If 'thousands' of USPTO employees were not doing their work, it would be impossible for this agency to be producing the best performance in recent memory and, perhaps, in its entire 224 year history."

In related news, USPTO Commissioner Deborah Cohn has announced plans to resign just months after a watchdog agency revealed that she had pressured staffers to hire the live-in boyfriend of an immediate family member over other, better-qualified applicants. When he finished 75th out of 76 applicants in the final round of screening, Cohn "intervened and created an additional position specifically for the applicant," wrote Inspector General Todd Zinser in a statement on the matter.
Patents

Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the system-and-method-for-smacking-trolls dept.
walterbyrd writes: In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent, many in the tech industry hoped it would be the beginning of sweeping changes to how the patent system handles software. Just a few months later, lower courts are making it happen. Quoting Vox: "By my count there have been 10 court rulings on the patentability of software since the Supreme Court's decision — including six that were decided this month. Every single one of them has led to the patent being invalidated. This doesn't necessarily mean that all software patents are in danger — these are mostly patents that are particularly vulnerable to challenge under the new Alice precedent. But it does mean that the pendulum of patent law is now clearly swinging in an anti-patent direction. Every time a patent gets invalidated, it strengthens the bargaining position of every defendant facing a lawsuit from a patent troll." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on alleged corruption in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Cellphones

NVIDIA Sues Qualcomm and Samsung Seeking To Ban Import of Samsung Phones 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the sue-baby-sue dept.
Calibax writes NVIDIA has filed complaints against Samsung and Qualcomm at the ITC and in the U.S. District court in Delaware. The suit alleges that the companies are both infringing NVIDIA GPU patents covering technology including programmable shading, unified shaders and multithreaded parallel processing. NVIDIA is seeking damages and a ban on U.S. import of a number of devices with Snapdragon and Exynos processors until there is an agreement on licensing.
Patents

Intellectual Ventures Sheds At Least Part of Its "Patent Troll" Reputation 75

Posted by timothy
from the look-sir-it-has-atoms dept.
pacopico writes Intellectual Ventures, the world's most infamous patent troll, has changed its tune — maybe. According to a story in Businessweek, the company has started turning a number of its ideas into products, ranging from hydration sensors to waterless washing machines and self-healing concrete. The story reveals some new tidbits about IV, including that it pays inventors $17,000 per idea, has a new start-up fund and that one of its cofounders got tossed out of school for hacking. IV is obvisouly trying to improve its reputation, but plenty of skeptics remain who think this is just a ruse meant to draw attention away from its patent lawsuits.
Patents

SpaceX Challenges Blue Origin Patents Over Sea-Landing Rocket Tech 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the system-and-method-for-not-quite-slipping-the-surly-bonds-of-earth dept.
speedplane writes: Last week, Elon Musk's SpaceX fired two challenges (PDFs) at Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin over U.S. Patent 8,678,321, entitled "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods." The patent appears to cover a method of landing a rocket on a floating platform at sea. In their papers, SpaceX says that "by 2009, the earliest possibly priority date listed on the face of the patent, the basic concepts of 'rocket science' were well known and widely understood. The "rocket science" claimed in the '321 patent was, at best, 'old hat[.]'" Blue Origin has approximately three months to file a preliminary response to the challenge. You can review the litigation documents here and here. (Disclosure: I run the website hosting several of the above documents.)
Cellphones

Judge Lucy Koh Rejects Apple's Quest For Anti-Samsung Injunction 30

Posted by timothy
from the sound-reasoning dept.
The Associated Press, in a story carried by The Financial Express, reports that Federal Judge Lucy Koh has has rejected Apple's attempt to block the sale of several older Samsung smartphones that copied features in the iPhone. Wednesday's rebuff comes nearly four months after a jury awarded Apple Inc. $119 million in damages for Samsung's infringements on technology used in the trend-setting iPhone. The amount was well below the $2.2 billion in damages that Apple had been seeking in the latest round of legal wrangling between the world's two leading smartphone makers since the tussle began four years ago. The Register also carries the story, and notes Perhaps because the ongoing battle was turning the two companies into law firms rather than tech titans, the two agreed to abandon all patent lawsuits outside the USA earlier this month. However, Apple still wanted the infringing features extirpated from American stores, and was seeking to have phones nobody bought banned as ammo for future battles.
Google

Google Wins $1.3 Million From Patent Troll 35

Posted by timothy
from the may-the-bridge-collapse-upon-you-and-your-family dept.
An anonymous reader writes Earlier this year, Google sued Beneficial Innovations for breach of contract, ostensibly in defense of its Doubleclick ad technology clients against whom Beneficial Innovations had filed suits despite Google having already paid licensing fees for the technology. Following Google's jury trial win, the company was originally awarded only 'nominal damages of $1 and a judicial order stopping Beneficial from going after more Doubleclick customers.' Now, however, the presiding judge has ruled that Google is entitled to some attorneys' fees in the amount of $1.3 million (PDF).
Education

Free Law Casebook Project Starts With IP Coursebook 22

Posted by timothy
from the good-way-to-start dept.
An anonymous reader writes Duke Law School's James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins just published a CC licensed, freely downloadable textbook called "Intellectual Property Law and the Information Society." (Which includes a discussion of whether and when the term "intellectual property" is a dangerous misnomer). The book is apparently part of an attempt to lower what the authors describe as the "obscene cost" of legal textbooks. "This is the first in a series of free digital/low cost print legal educational materials to be published by Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain—starting with statutory supplements aimed at the basic classes. The goal of this project... is to improve the pricing and access norms of the world of legal textbook publishing, while offering the flexibility and possibility for customization that unfettered digital access provides. We hope it will provide a pleasant, restorative, competitive pressure on the commercial publishers to lower their prices and improve their digital access norms." The book's "problems range from a video of the Napster oral argument to counseling clients about search engines and trademarks, applying the First Amendment to digital rights management and copyright or commenting on the Supreme Court's new rulings on gene patents.. [The book] includes discussions of such issues as the Redskins trademark cancelations, the Google Books case and the America Invents Act."
Patents

How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-had-an-idea-therefore-your-effort-is-mine dept.
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."
Patents

Adam Carolla Settles With Podcasting Patent Troll 63

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the could-have-been-worse dept.
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.
Blackberry

Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit 89

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the at-least-qnx-gets-to-live dept.
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."
Businesses

Larry Rosen: A Case Study In Understanding (and Enforcing) the GPL 191

Posted by timothy
from the he-actually-wrote-the-book dept.
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.
Patents

Patents That Kill 240

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the no-medicine-for-you dept.
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."
United States

Every Day Is Goof-Off-At-Work Day At the US Patent and Trademark Office 327

Posted by samzenpus
from the I'll-do-it-later dept.
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.
Microsoft

Microsoft Files Legal Action Against Samsung Over Android Patent Dispute 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the ready-for-a-rematch dept.
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.
Patents

Bose Sues New Apple Acquisition Beats Over Patent Violations 162

Posted by timothy
from the stick-it-in-your-ear dept.
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.
Firefox

Firefox 33 Integrates Cisco's OpenH264 194

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the monty-does-it-better dept.
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.
Patents

Appeals Court Affirms Old Polaroid Patent Invalid 45

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the bite-the-dust dept.
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.

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