phantomfive writes "Congressman Charles Schumer has written a piece decrying the evils of patent trolls. 'Because of the high cost of patent litigation—the average litigation defense costs a small or midsize company $1.75 million—it is often marginally cheaper for a defendant to pay up front to make the case go away. The average settlement for the same group of companies is $1.33 million....Patent trolls cost U.S. companies $29 billion in 2011 alone.' His solution? Make it easier for low quality patents to be re-examined and rejected by the patent office."
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ColdWetDog writes "The ongoing story of Myriad Genetics versus the rest of the world has come to an end. In a 9-0 decision, the US Supreme Court has decided that human genes cannot be patented. From a brief Bloomberg article: 'Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said isolated DNA is a "product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated." At the same time, Thomas said synthetic molecules known as complementary DNA, or cDNA, can be patented because they require a significant amount of human manipulation to create.' Seems perfectly sane. Raw genes, the ones you find in nature are, wait for it — natural. Other bits of manipulated DNA / RNA / protein which take skill and time to create are potentially patentable. Oddly, Myriad Genetics stock actually rose on that information." Adds reader the eric conspiracy: "The result for Myriad is that they still have protection for their test, however the decision also allows researchers to work with the DNA sequences that are predecessors to the cDNA used in the test." Here's an AP report on the ruling, as carried by the Washington Post.
jrepin writes "On Friday the 7th of June the German Parliament decided upon a joint motion to limit software patents. The Parliament urges the German Government to take steps to limit the granting of patents on computer programs (PDF, German; English translation). Software should exclusively be covered by copyright, and the rights of the copyright holders should not be devalued by third parties' software patents. The only exception where patents should be allowed are computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component. In addition the Parliament made clear that governmental actions related to patents must never interfere with the legality of distributing Free Software."
Zothecula writes "Ever since it was first unveiled in 2007, many people were captivated with the sleek, futuristic looks of the Aptera. When Aptera Motors went out of business in 2011, not having commercially produced a single vehicle, those same people were understandably disappointed. Now, word comes that a new company may be manufacturing and selling Apteras as soon as next year." Says the article: "Aptera USA has most of the original company’s prototypes, equipment, patents and designs, so it wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Given that fact, Deringer hopes that Aptera USA could be making cars as early as the first quarter of 2014. He’s currently in the process of hiring engineers, and the company has already put in an order for 1,000 bodies from its Detroit-based supplier." Until there really is a super-charger network from central Texas to California, I wish I could get one of the gas-powered (or gas-electric hybrid) Apteras. Why should Tesla have all the fun?
James Logan founded MicroTouch Systems in the 80s and served on the on the Board of Directors of Andover.net, the company that acquired Slashdot back in 1999, but it is the company he founded in 1996, Personal Audio, that has garnered him much attention recently. Personal Audio sued Apple in 2009 for $84 million, claiming infringement on patents for downloadable playlists. Apple eventually lost the case and a jury ordered them to pay $8 million in damages. More recently, Personal Audio has filed suit against several prominent podcasters claiming that “Personal Audio is the owner of a fundamental patent involving the distribution of podcasts.” The EFF challenged the patents calling the company a patent troll saying, "Patent trolls have been wreaking havoc on innovative companies for some time now." The vice president of licensing for the Texas company counters that the EFF is working for "large companies against a small business and a couple of inventors," adding "Every defendant calls every plaintiff a patent troll. I've heard IBM called a patent troll. It's one of those terms everyone defines differently." Mr. Logan has agreed to answer your questions about his company and his patents. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Fnord666 writes "When a company called FlatWorld Interactives LLC filed suit against Apple just over a year ago, it looked like a typical 'patent troll' lawsuit against a tech company, brought by someone who no longer had much of a business beyond lawsuits. Court documents unsealed this week reveal who's behind FlatWorld, and it's anything but typical. FlatWorld is partly owned by the named inventor on the patents, a Philadelphia design professor named Slavko Milekic. But 35 percent of the company has been quietly controlled by an attorney at one of Apple's own go-to law firms, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. E-mail logs show that the attorney, John McAleese, worked together with his wife and began planning a wide-ranging patent attack against Apple's touch-screen products in January 2007—just days after the iPhone was revealed to the world."
another random user writes "Apple has applied for a patent on a combined virtual currency and digital wallet technology that would allow you to store money in the cloud, make payments with your iPhone, and maybe communicate with point-of-sale terminals via NFC. The patent application, published [Thursday] by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization, details how iPhone users could walk into a store, pay for goods with their phone, and walk out with their merchandise. Though Apple is late to the virtual wallet game, that doesn't seem to stop them trying to patent the process. There does not appear to be anything in the patent application which describes something that can't already be done."
Excelcia writes "Users could soon be asked to pull a series of faces to unlock their Android phones or tablets. Google has filed a patent suggesting users stick out their tongue or wrinkle their nose in place of a password. Requiring specific gestures could prevent the existing Face Unlock facility being fooled by photos. The software could monitor if there were changes in the angle of the person's face to ensure the device was not being shown a still image with a fake gesture animated on top."
Bent Spoke writes "The U.S. trade agency has banned the import of older Apple iPhone and iPad models due to the violation of a patent held by Samsung (PDF). 'The president can overturn the import ban on public-policy grounds, though that rarely happens. Apple can keep selling the devices during the 60-day review period. ... Apple pledged to appeal the ITC decision. The underlying findings will be reviewed by a U.S. appeals court specializing in patent cases. ... The decision could mean fewer choices for AT&T and T-Mobile customers who want to get an iPhone without paying the higher cost of the iPhone 5. Samsung told the commission that Cupertino, California-based Apple could drop the price of the iPhone 5 if it was worried about losing potential customers. All of the iPhones are made in Asia.' It's getting so complicated we need a scorecard to keep track of who's winning these offensive patent battles in the smartphone coliseum."
andy1307 writes "According to Politico (and, paywalled, at The Wall Street Journal), the White House on Tuesday [released] plans to announce a set of executive actions President Barack Obama will take that are aimed at reining in certain patent-holding firms, known as 'patent trolls' to their detractors, amid concerns that the firms are abusing the patent system and disrupting competition. The plan includes five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations. They include requiring patent holders and applicants to disclose who really owns and controls the patent, changing how fees are awarded to the prevailing parties in patent litigation, and protecting consumers with better protections against being sued for patent infringement."
A virus that has so far killed nearly thirty people in seven countries faces a non-medical obstacle to treatment: Patents. Reader Presto Vivace writes with this excerpt from the Council on Foreign Relations: "At the center of the dispute is a Dutch laboratory that claims all rights to the genetic sequence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus [MERS-CoV]. Saudi Arabia's deputy health minister, Ziad Memish, told the WHO meeting that "someone"--a reference to Egyptian virologist Ali Zaki--mailed a sample of the new SARS-like virus out of his country without government consent in June 2012, giving it to Dutch virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam."
New submitter kwyjibo87 writes "The World Health Organization (WHO) publicly expressed dismay yesterday concerning news that intellectual property claims were hindering research on a deadly new emerging virus. Novel coronavirus (nCoV), a member of the same viral genus as the causative agent of SARS, has claimed the lives of 22 people (out of 44 reported infected) and left both researchers and health officials scrambling to develop effective diagnostic tests in addition to possible medications and vaccines against nCoV. Now, however, claims of intellectual property on the new virus are hindering research on nCoV according to the WHO, delaying advancements on tools to prevent further spread of the infection. Stories of intellectual property rights in science hindering advancements in research, particularly in clinical applications, are nothing new; the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments on the validity of patents on the BRCA1/2 genes and has yet to issue a decision. The issue of sharing scientific information in order to promote faster research on emerging pathogens is not limited to intellectual property — a recent article in the journal Nature highlighted a case where Chinese researchers risked having their research scooped after uploading viral sequences to a public database designed aid global scientific collaboration."
phrackthat writes "A UC Berkeley group, in a bid to drive down the costs of 3-D printing, has been focusing on more natural materials such as salt, wood, ceramics and concrete (the last two, while not naturally occurring, are made of naturally occurring components). The use of these materials create new avenues for architecture, such as printing buildings. Professor Ronald Rael, the head of the project, stated that these materials and the designs they enable will require new IP protections — 'This is going to require some IP protection for designs, so if you design architecture in the computer, you're protected, just as music and movies are.' I wonder if he's ever heard of design patents?"
Nyder writes "Kim Dotcom posted via Twitter, with a link to Torrentfreak, that he owns a security patent US6078908, titled 'Method for authorizing in data transmission systems.'" Techdirt points out that Dotcom isn't just asking for financial help: Instead, he's asking companies which use two-factor authentication "to help fund his defense, in exchange for not getting sued for the patent. He points out that his actual funds are still frozen by the DOJ and (more importantly) that his case actually matters a great deal to Google, Facebook and Twitter, because the eventual ruling will likely set a precedent that may impact them -- especially around the DMCA." Update: 05/23 14:23 GMT by T : Why is this relevant to Twitter? If you're not an active Twitter user, you might not realize that (after some well publicized twitter-account hijackings), the company is trying to regain some ground on security. Nerval's Lobster writes "Twitter is now offering two-factor authentication, a feature that could help prevent embarrassing security breaches. Twitter users interested in activating two-factor authentication will need to head over to their account settings page and click the checkbox beside 'Require a verification code when I sign in.'"
Via the H comes a report that the Simon Phipps, current President of the Open Source Initiative, thinks that the VP8 patent Cross-license agreeement Google brokered with the MPEG-LA is incompatible with the Open Source definition. The primary problems are that the license is not sub-licensable and only covers certain uses, leading to conflict with OSD clauses five, six, and seven. Phipps concludes: "As a consequence, I suggest the license is flawed when considered in relation to open source projects and is likely to be negatively received by many communities that value software freedom. Doubtless a case can be made that the patent license is optional, but I suspect the community issues may remain. Once again we're left with our fingers crossed. Google's making the right noises, but this draft agreement seems like a particularly unworkable approach for free and open source software. Its failure to allow sublicensing seems like a major flaw. Even if this doesn't result in a requirement for all end-users to sign the agreement, the discrepancies between this document and the OSD leave it disruptive to open source adoption of VP8."
First time accepted submitter ectoman writes "A third party steps into a financial transaction to make sure all parties exchange funds at the same time and as expected. Can you patent this process? What if the third party is a computer? Rob Tiller, vice president and general counsel for Red Hat, details a recent court ruling on this very matter—one that has critical implications for the future of software patents, and one that divided the judges involved. Tiller writes that: 'The judges mostly agreed that the idea of managing settlement risk with a third party was abstract such that by itself it could not be patented. They differed, though, on whether using a general purpose computer for managing settlement risk meant that the patents avoided invalidity based on abstraction.' Interestingly, some judges suggested that a computer becomes a 'new machine' every time it loads different software."
dp619 writes "The tactic of patenting open source software to guard against patent trolls and the weaponization of corporate patent portfolios is gaining momentum in the FOSS community. Organizations including the Open Innovation Network, Google and Red Hat have built defensive patent portfolios (the latter two are defending their product lines). This approach has limitations. Penn State law professor Clark Asay writes in an Outercurve Foundation blog examining the trend, 'Patenting FOSS may help in some cases, but the nature of FOSS development itself may mean that patenting some collaboratively developed inventions is inherently more difficult, if not impossible, in many others. Consequently, strategies for mitigating patent risk that rely on FOSS communities patenting their technologies include inherent limitations. It's not entirely clear how best to reform patent law in order to better reconcile it with alternative models of innovation. But in the meantime, FOSS still presents certain advantages that, while dimmed by the prospect of patent suits, remain significant.'"
Newegg's policy of not backing down from patent trolls, even ones as large as Alcatel-Lucent, continues to result in victory. Earlier this year, Overstock and Newegg successfully defended themselves with a jury invalidating Alcatel-Lucent's main patent used to force companies as large as Amazon to settle. Naturally, Alcatel-Lucent appealed, but the appeals court quickly ruled in favor of Newegg and Overstock.com. From Ars: "Federal Circuit judges typically take months, and occasionally years, to review the patent appeals that come before them. Briefs in this case were submitted last year, and oral arguments were held last Friday, May 10. The three-judge panel upheld Newegg's win (PDF), without comment — in just three days. ... Alcatel-Lucent dropped the case over its other two patents, desperate to get back the '131 patent that Newegg and Overstock had killed at trial. 'If they had been able to revive this patent, the litigation machine would have continued on,' Reines told Reuters after the win."
davecb writes "The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has recently published two notices for patent examiners relating to patent interpretation, and in particular computer-related/business method type patents saying: 'for example, what appears on its face to be a claim for an "art" or a "process" may, on a proper construction, be a claim for a mathematical formula and therefore not patentable subject matter.'"
theodp writes "The latest round of patents granted by the USPTO included one for Cartoon Face Generation, an invention which Microsoft explains 'generates an attractive cartoon face or graphic of a user's facial image'. Microsoft adds, 'The style of cartoon face achieved resembles the likeness of the user more than cartoons generated by conventional vector-based cartooning techniques. The cartoon faces thus achieved provide an attractive facial appearance and thus have wide applicability in art, gaming, and messaging applications in which a pleasing degree of realism is desirable without exaggerated comedy or caricature.' A Microsoft Research Face SDK Beta is available. Hey, too bad Microsoft didn't have this technology when they generated Bob from Ralphie!"