Technologizer posts about Patents

Wow. FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller, the go-to blogger for analysis of the mobile patent wars, says that Google has given Motorola Mobility, which it’s in the process of acquiring, permission to seek an injunction preventing Apple from selling the iPhone 4S and iCloud. Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson he was willing to go “thermonuclear” on Android; the longer these lawsuits last and the nastier they get, the more the whole thing does start to feel like warfare.

Posted by Harry at 1:12 pm

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Microsoft has struck a deal with Quanta, the giant contract manufacturer, to license its patents which may be violated by Google’s Android and Chrome OS. (I knew that Microsoft had been doing these pacts for Android, but wasn’t aware that it thinks that Chrome OS also rips off its intellectual property.)

Jay Green of Cnet reports:

As Android has grown and surpassed Microsoft’s mobile-phone operating systems in the marketplace, the company has targeted handset and tablet makers that use the Google operating system. It’s racked up a laundry list of licensees in a little more than a year, starting with longtime partner HTC. Just last month, Microsoft reached an Android licensing agreement with Acer.

I’m not criticizing Microsoft for its dealmaking. For one thing, I’m not a patent lawyer, so I don’t have a stance on the legitimacy of its claims against Google’s products. For another, aggressive licensing is probably less depressing than what the rest of the industry is doing: Attempting to sue everybody else’s pants off. But considering the company’s lack of success with Windows Phone so far, the possibility exists that it’ll slowly devolve from a product company into a patent-licensing one–and that would be sad.

Posted by Harry at 11:24 am

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Is Apple Considering Adding Mini Projectors to iOS Devices? Could Be Cool!

By  |  Posted at 11:01 am on Thursday, August 11, 2011

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Patently Apple is one of my favorite sites to watch for news on Cupertino’s latest and greatest, and its latest post is no obsession. The site has dug up patents that indicate the company has worked on the idea of  integrating pico projectors into iOS devices, as well as developing some type of projector accessory for Mac devices.

What’s a pico projector? The devices have become popular as a low-cost way to project an image anywhere.  I’m seeing more and more of them at tech shows lately, although typically as a standalone device and not integrated like we’re seeing here.

There’s definitely a cool factor: as well as offering the projection capabilities you’d expect, Apple’s patent involves making the projected images gesture enabled. Say you have two iOS projecting devices side by side, for example. You could transfer the projected content from one device to the next by swiping. Pretty cool, eh?

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Over at This is My Next, Nilay Patel’ latest piece on patents makes the case that much of the current fury over patents on software is misplaced. It’s a long, good read.

Posted by Harry at 10:11 am

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Google Shows How Not to Complain About the Patent Mess

By  |  Posted at 11:01 am on Thursday, August 4, 2011

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Yesterday, Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond blogged about the patents arms race that has major tech companies building gigantic portfolios of pricey patents, then using them to launch lawsuits or extract licensing fees (or, sometimes, to defend themselves against other companies launching lawsuits or extracting licensing fees). He called his post “When patents attack Android,” and accused Google competitors such as Apple and Microsoft of conspiring to buy patents and use them to damage Android in the marketplace.

And then something unexpected happened: Microsoft released an e-mail from a Google executive which seemed to prove that Microsoft had invited Google to join it in bidding on some of the patents in question. Google declined to participate. Some conspiracy!

Drummond’s post has accomplished something which you might have thought was impossible: it’s leading to blogosphere coverage which largely sides with the patent aggressors. And while I agree with at least part of the gist of the post–patents on questionable “inventions” are stifling innovation rather than aiding it–the post doesn’t make a convincing case that Google is being persecuted.

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The public radio program This American Life did an excellent, depressing story on patent trolls–ranging from Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures to tiny, shadowy outfits–and their ugly business that’s enabled by a broken patent system. Here’s a transcript.

Posted by Harry at 9:00 pm

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Nokia and Apple have resolved their patent lawsuits, with Nokia coming out on top. That’s one ugly mobile-patents tussle down, umpteen more to go.

Posted by Harry at 12:37 pm

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Last week, a company named Lodsys sent letters to a bunch of iOS developers saying their use of iOS features were violating its patents, and demanding royalty payments. Now Apple has sent a letter to Lodsys saying that the license Apple holds to the patents in question covers third-party developers as well. The story doesn’t end here–the companies which Lodsys is threatening still have to choose between coughing up money and facing protracted, expensive legal trouble-but Apple’s intervention is an encouraging development. I’d like to see Lodsys’s bid to collect royalties from users of Apple’s APIs fail decisively, if only so that other patent trolls don’t have an incentive to pull similar tricks on small developers.

Posted by Harry at 3:18 pm

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Who’s Suing Who? A Cheat Sheet to the Mobile Patent Mess

All the legal ugliness in the phone business--and a few peaceable relationships--all on one page.

By  |  Posted at 7:32 pm on Tuesday, April 19, 2011

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So Apple is suing Samsung, accusing it of imitating Apple products with its Galaxy phones and tablets. The most startling thing about the news may be that the two companies weren’t already in court with each other. Over the past few years, the mobile industry has been so rife with suits and countersuits that if every complainant managed to sue every subject of its ire out of business…well, there’d hardly be a mobile industry left.

I had trouble remembering the precise details of the umpteen cases that have made headlines–as well as some related relationships, such as Microsoft’s licensing agreements with Amazon and HTC–so I decided to document them with a handy-dandy infographic, as much for my own edification as anyone else’s.

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More Patent Madness: Microsoft is Suing Barnes & Noble

By  |  Posted at 2:57 pm on Monday, March 21, 2011

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More news in the never-ending saga of technology companies suing each other over patents: Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble and its manfuacturing partners Foxconn and Inventec, saying that the bookseller’s Android-based Nook and Nookcolor e-readers violate Microsoft software patents dating back to the 1990s. The move isn’t a shocker given that Microsoft had already sued Motorola over Android phones and struck licensing agreements with HTC (for Android phones) and Amazon.com (for the not-based-on-Android Kindle e-reader).

The license fee that Microsoft says it expects makers of Android devices to pay it would make it the only company to collect a royalty on every Android-based gadget sold. (Google gives away the software.)

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It’s just a patent–and it doesn’t jibe very well with Steve Jobs’ declaration that anyone who designs a device that uses a stylus has failed, by definition. But I for one love the idea of an iPad with a screen you could draw on using a pen.

Posted by Harry at 9:27 am

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Can Motion Control Actually Shake Up Apple Keyboards?

By  |  Posted at 9:23 am on Monday, January 24, 2011

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While Apple’s been assaulting the traditional mouse with multi-touch surfaces, so far the keyboard remains unchanged from its basic design.

But an Apple patent found by MacRumors suggests that there’s keyboard revolution on the brain in Cupertino. It calls for four small cameras around the main keys, pointing upwards at the user. By hovering hands above the keys, users could point and perform gestures like they would on a track pad.

In other words, it’s Kinect for your keyboard.

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Merry Christmas! Here’s a 2008 story I forgot I did: The Santaland Patents, a look at the art of the Christmas-related patent drawing.

Posted by Harry at 5:31 am

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Great, Now Microsoft is Suing Motorola

By  |  Posted at 12:56 pm on Friday, October 1, 2010

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Microsoft has announced that it’s suing Motorola for making Android phones that violate Microsoft patents. I’ve lost track of all the phone-related suits out there, but off the top of my head: Apple is suing Nokia, Nokia is suing Apple. Apple is suing HTC, HTC is suing Apple. and Oracle is suing Google. Oh, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen is suing…well, pretty much everyone except Microsoft, but I’m not sure if any of the patents in question relate to phones.

Microsoft VP Horacio Gutierrez has a blog post up in which he says:

Our action today merely seeks to ensure respect for our intellectual property rights infringed by Android devices; and judging by the recent actions by Apple and Oracle, we are not alone in this respect.

I dunno–I’m in favor of intellectual property, but I’d like someone (ideally someone who isn’t in the process of suing anyone else) to explain how the current patent system and its impact on the technology industry helps the industry, consumers, or the country. Is it possible to root against everyone involved?

Also, can someone explain to me how this suit will help Microsoft become relevant again in the phone business, or why it’s a better investment of time and money than pouring as much effort as possible into Windows Phone 7?



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Sony’s Playstation 2 Backwards Compatibility Patent: Don’t Count On It

By  |  Posted at 8:07 am on Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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From the wild world of Sony video game patents comes a little adapter box that can supposedly run Playstation 2 games when attached to a Playstation 3.

According to Eurogamer, the patent application calls for a device with its own DVD decoder and emulator, CPU, GPU, sound processor and memory. The adapter would read information from Playstation 2 discs, inserted into the PS3, and perform all the legwork, possibly sending compressed audio and video back to the PS3 via ethernet connection. This would allow PS2 support without the Emotion Engine, a processor Sony included in early PS3 models specifically for playing last-generation games.

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Supreme Court Leaves Software Patent Issues Unanswered

By  |  Posted at 10:44 pm on Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a long awaited decision on a patent case that could have changed how or whether software patents are granted. Ultimately, little changed, except that the Court’s decision was at odds with 150 years of patent law, says a legal expert.

The Court’s Bilski v. Kappos decision could have invalidated many software patents had it accepted a Federal circuit court’s “machine or transformation” test for what is patentable. Proponents of the lower court’s decision had hoped that the high court would finally bring an end to excessive patent litigation and eliminate questionable patents that they say can slow the pace of innovation in technology.

The Bilski case involved a patent claim for a business method for hedging risks in commodities trading. The Justices affirmed the lower court’s decision that the Bilski patent was too abstract and therefore un-patentable. However, it did not accept the machine or transformation test, thus failing to provide any guidance to government patent examiners, defendants, or patent filers.

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