Government of China Bursts M$’s Patent-bubble

M$ has been taxing Android/Linux distributors by threatening legal suits over software patents. “A list of hundreds of patents that Microsoft believes entitle it to royalties over Android phones, and perhaps smartphones in general, has been published on a Chinese language website.” For years, M$ has not bothered to publicize the patents in question because fear is a powerful motivator. Thanks to inquiries in China, a list is now public. This will permit M$’s competitors to organize a cooperative response rather than suffering under “divide and conquer” conditions.

For a start, one of the patents in question is for differential GPS, something that has been known for decades… This is another example of re-patenting the wheel, something that is supposed to be blocked by USPTO but is not. OEMs have been paying up because it’s cheaper than taking on a patent-troll in court. If all the OEMs get together they could sue M$ collectively and cause the empire to crumble. What’s it worth to clog the courts for a decade to drive these bastards from the market? $50 million? It would be a bargain rather than paying $billions in “royalties” to extortionists.

See Chinese gov’t reveals Microsoft’s secret list of Android-killer patents.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.

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14 Responses to Government of China Bursts M$’s Patent-bubble

  1. oiaohm wrote, “there is absolutely no punishment for submitting a patent that turns out to be invalid due to prior art.”

    Actually, there is but it’s insignificant for the big guys and serves only to punish inventors/small guys/startups. There is a fee to submit the applications and it does take time to document stuff. Of course, software patents are special because, apparently, USPTO no longer requires a “working copy”, actual code or any evidence of actually putting something into production. For a real invention, applicants are required at lest to publish a picture of the device. Not so with “software-patents”. A few pages of gobbledy-gook insufficient to actually produce a smartphone or whatever with the invention in place is all that is required. Heck, it’s even OK to copy and paste from some other invention and change/add a few words. It’s different. It must be a new invention…

  2. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser the problem with patents is there is absolutely no punishment for submitting a patent that turns out to be invalid due to prior art. All prior art check responsablity is pushed on to the patent office that end up overloaded under patents. Next problem is the patent system is a invisible company tax. Remember you have to pay your yearly fees to the patent office so they keep you patent registered.

    Mathematics was blocked from getting patents a long time ago and the patent system kept on going. A lot of things are blocked already.

  3. DrLoser says:

    And before Dougie replies with his customary honorific of “Bing-a-Ling,” I thought I’d share my personal experience of the Microsoft Patent process with you.

    Bing (and I assume other Microsoft depts.) is very serious about encouraging each and every one of its employees to file patents (or more accurately to provide fodder for the lawyers to do so). They even give out those noxious Lucite “I’m So Great, I am” paperweight things for them.

    I’d suggest that it’s part of a Mutually Assured Destruction program — after all, patents are the only real reason that Google spent $7 billion on Motorola Mobile, and let’s not forget the massive IBM patent bank — but it doesn’t really matter. M$ could be truly evil in doing this, or just herd-like.

    The one impression I was left with is that every single last one of the ones I saw was thoroughly worthless.

  4. DrLoser says:

    Curiously (not to me, but to you lot), I too am opposed to 99% or more of software patents. I’m not entirely sure you can ban the entire genre without doing severe damage to the structure of patents in general, which can be a Good Thing. Generally, however, in software, they’re the exact opposite.

    However, instead of just sitting on your fat arses and whinging about them, hoping in vain that somebody else does something about them, why not summon up that Community Spirit and do something yourself? Ask Patents springs to mind. (See general instructions on the process by Joel Spolsky.)

    No, seriously, why not give it a go? It would make for an interesting article on the results, if nothing else…

  5. kurkosdr says:

    @Pogson

    Unfortunately the opportunity to abolish software patents has departed. A venture capitalist business has been created around soft patents, with VCs betting on soft patents much like they bet on financial products. Said VCs will never allow lawmakers to make soft patents unenforcable (aka abolish soft patents), because their “investments” in soft patents would immediately evaporate. Not to mention the pressure from companies like Microsoft and Apple. Unless you believe lawmakers serve the people, in which case… hahaha…

    IMO the only option Google has is to play with the current broken and unfair system, they can’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist and do so much little as they do now. For example colaborate with an OEM to invalidate every single junk patent that affects Android. Microsoft is giving Windows Phone for free nowadays, so the one with the price disadvantage is actually Google, if you count the extortion fees OEMs have to pay. (yet Windows-fanbois like Thurrot still claim that Google “dumps” Android and competes unfairly with MS, whatever dudes…)

    PS: The good news is that, after the mess of soft patents became evident in the few nations that have adopted them, no other countries want to adopt soft patents.

    PS: Do Android OEMs pay extortion fees for devices shipped in countries without soft patents, as part of a “global” agreement with MS? I couldn’t find any solid info on this.

  6. kurkosdr wrote, “it’s no wonder most OEMs just pay up.”.

    There have been a few cases published where OEMs fought back but they are few. The problem is that with millions of lines of code in any smartphone, there are thousands of “patents” which might apply and the cost of paying all of them would drive OEMs from the market entirely. There’s no profit in making a smartphone for ~$100 and paying $1000 in royalties. OTOH, if only copyright applies, there’s a single deal which settles the matter and folks move on. Software-patents make no sense. As things stand, the only way OEMs could safely proceed is to make a few million smartphones, put them in storage to let all the relevant patents expire and then to sell obsolete technology. That is the exact opposite of what patents are supposed to do, inspire/reward invention.

  7. kurkosdr wrote, “any OS vendor not offering protection for OEMs is just giving them the middle finger.”

    Nonsense. Patent-laws are created by legislators. Legislators should fix that. It’s not the responsibility of writers to pay the costs of dealing with faulty laws. Software, in particular, should be covered by copyright, not patents. Legislators could fix that within a few days if they wanted to but they are in the pay of big players who profit from the status quo. If some of the numbers flying around the web are close, M$ is the biggest patent-troll out there.

  8. oiaohm says:

    Link1: http://www.engadget.com/2013/12/25/google-seeks-judgment-protecting-android-from-rockstar/
    Link2: http://www.samba.org/samba/PFIF/
    kurkosdr sorry patent law suxs. Link 1 shows google is willing to attempt to protect. Even if you have a offer of protection from Microsoft or Redhat the patent troll can still choose to attack you directly. USA patent law does not recognise patent infringement protection agreements as a means to limit who a patent troll can sue. Australian patent law on the other hand does recognise patent infringement protection agreements. Yes it a country by country thing if Microsoft or Redhat offer of protection is worth anything. OIN group has proven this one. All the OIN group can do against trolls in some countries is attempt to enforce their patent pool that is in most cases worth more against the troll. Does not help that patent trolls don’t have business actives other than being trolls. The OIN group list of patents effectively means without them you are not legally allowed to use a computer. Problem is it take years to enforce patents.

    Google in fact offers companies patent protection who agree to work on the core Android with them. Problem is this is just as worthless as OIN has found.

    kurkosdr that old 2011 solution idea leaves out the 2012 OIN battles with patent trolls when most of those ideas was disproven.

    Some of those patents being used against Android do in fact fall under PFIF. Link2. activesync for example falls under PFIF. So really each of the PFIF protocol items should have been split out into groups. these patents for X protocol. Particularly thinking Microsoft has legally agreed only to apply restricted lists of those patents against open source implementations.

    Of course Microsoft does not like mentioning the existence of the PFIF agreement. Any company/person can join PFIF as a contractor and get access to the lists.

  9. kurkosdr says:

    Also, Microsoft is not the only theat to Android OEMs. There is also companies like Tandberg, outright patenting open-source code that existed before the patent, the Lodsys patents, there is a huge “junk patent race” out there.

    With such a situation, any OS vendor not offering protection for OEMs is just giving them the middle finger.

  10. kurkosdr says:

    “For a start, one of the patents in question is for differential GPS, something that has been known for decades… ”

    However, credit must be given where credit is due. The following patents made me wonder how it’s possible for a company to come up with such completely new, completely novel ideas:

    -Allow apps to superimpose download status on top of the downloading content
    -Permit users to easily select text in a document and adjust that selection

    Source: http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_on_the_issues/archive/2011/03/21/android-patent-infringement-licensing-is-the-solution.aspx

    The following innovation made my head explode:

    -Method and system for displaying internet shortcut icons on the desktop

    source: https://www.google.com/patents/US5877765?dq=162+5877765&hl=el&sa=X&ei=UcigU-q3FLPB7AaGvICwDA&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA

    Here come the totally non-overly-broad ones:

    -Custom local search
    Source: https://www.google.com/patents/US8255379

    It doesn’t matter what the patent actually is. Obvious, overly broad, having prior act… it doesn’t matter. The targeted company has to go in court and invalidate every single one of those junk patents. And the fact a patent like the one Lodsys is holding, one originally referring to freaking fax machines and being used to target app makers, is allowed to exist proves that yes, you do have to go in court for even thes silliest of them. So, it’s no wonder most OEMs just pay up.

    Basically, it’s Google’s fault for not offering protection to their OEMs (at least for the patents “infringed” on by stock Android), like RedHat offers protection to clients and OEMs, or Microsoft offers protection for WP. Google makes money of Android, they should protect OEMs.

    PS: I can’t wait for DrLoser to weigh on this. I can’t form an educated opinion without the help of DrLoser.

  11. DrLoser says:

    (Wrong thread – my apologies.)

  12. DrLoser says:

    Briefly, from the cite:

    “It seems that the licence model of the big software firms is aimed at raising turnover and profit”, Greifzu said in Dublin. “Worldwide, there are only a handful of persons that can understand and perhaps explain the licence rules.”

    Shock horror -Red Hat- -Ubuntu- M$ wants to turn a profit! (More on this in my final paragraph.)

    You’d have to be pretty thick not to understand the basics of M$ licensing: almost all modern IT departments can do that. But apparently Lars Greifzu is particularly thick, because the unfortunate city of Leipzig spun off their IT to his private little domain and let him get audited and fined for non-compliance.

    Quoted number of workstations? 4,300. Quoted saving per year (once all those expensive migration issues are overcome, if indeed they ever are, which I doubt with Lars at the helm)? €100,000. That’s €25 per year per workstation. Or 20¢ per citizen of Leipzig. Less, if you count the province.

    My estimate is that you could save at least half of that by firing Lars. A human vacuum couldn’t do worse. And if you fire his legal department … the ones that failed to audit 4,300 workstations, a fairly straightforward task I would have thought … you could probably save five times as much as with this silly little doomed enterprise.

  13. oiaohm says:

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd299451%28v=exchg.80%29.aspx
    Agent_Smith exactly the problem.

    The other thing it now clearly shows that items like the above link are in fact patent encumbered in exactly the same way Long filenames on fat file systems are. Microsoft does not like putting out clean documentation on what is encumbered.

  14. Agent_Smith says:

    Indeed, obvious patents, but prove it in court ? That would need judge Alsup…

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