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Android Google Patents The Courts Technology

Google Takes a Small Step in Lodsys Patent-Troll Case 83

Posted by timothy
from the when-does-the-rubber-band-snap? dept.
The Lodsys saga continues; reader WyzrdX writes with this excerpt from Wired: "Google has intervened in an ongoing intellectual property dispute between smartphone application developers and a patent-holding firm, Wired.com has learned, marking the Mountain View company's first public move to defend Android coders from a patent troll lawsuit that's cast a pall on the community. The company says it filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark office Friday for reexamination of two patents asserted by East Texas-based patent firm Lodsys. Google's request calls for the USPTO to assess whether or not the patents' claims are valid."
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Google Takes a Small Step in Lodsys Patent-Troll Case

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  • Drug patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Saturday August 13, 2011 @12:43PM (#37079780) Homepage Journal
    Other than with the expected value of a patent monopoly, how will the maker of a new drug finance FDA-mandated clinical trials? Show a viable alternative to patents for industries that are as heavily regulated for product safety and truth in advertising as the drug industry, and the case against patents will become clearer.
  • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lysander7 (2085382) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @12:44PM (#37079786)

    Except Google doesn't use them offensively to stifle other companies.

  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @12:44PM (#37079788) Homepage

    I welcome the fact that Google finally does at least something (after months of not answering related questions [blogspot.com] from affected Android app developers), and Google did a very good job so far on patent reexaminations in its dispute with Oracle [blogspot.com].

    However, these reexamination requests are of very limited use on their own [blogspot.com]. They don't change the situation of developers who get letters from Lodsys or are actually sued by Lodsys and have to decide whether to pay up or fight. Even the combination of Apple's motion for a narrowly-focused intervention (Apple just raises contractual issues as opposed to defending app developers against Lodsys's infringement assertions per se; Apple's 'exhaustion' theory could work but it's far from certain to hold water [blogspot.com]) and Google's reexamination requests doesn't really strengthen little 'indie' app developers at this stage. Also, the Wired article pointed out that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas grants stays pending reexaminations only in 20% of all cases. Most of the time, those federal lawsuits continue unabatedly, even though the patent may subsequently be invalidated.

    Short of blanket coverage from Apple and Google, what those two platform companies do against Lodsys is insufficient. It would be great if they could give their developers some real guidance -- many right now don't even dare to implement in-app purchasing or links to an app store (Lodsys also brings assertions against links, not just in-app purchasing) because they don't want to take risks. Others have removed their apps from the U.S. market because of Lodsys (which goes after international developers, too, but can only sue them if those do business in the U.S.). Apple and Google fail to create a basis on which developers would be able to simply ignore Lodsys and go about their business.

  • Re:Drug patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @12:49PM (#37079816) Homepage

    Other than with the expected value of a patent monopoly, how will the maker of a new drug finance FDA-mandated clinical trials? Show a viable alternative to patents for industries that are as heavily regulated for product safety and truth in advertising as the drug industry, and the case against patents will become clearer.

    As much as I think the patent system in the Pharmaceutical industry has been misused (Omeprazole vs. Esomeprazole) [wikipedia.org] comes to mind, at least they are patenting a molecule, or a change in a molecule. A substantial thing. As in something of substance.

    Software patents are all too often patenting vague hand waving processes or ideas. Usually just one brain cell shy of completely obvious. Hot air and lawyer drivel.

  • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @12:51PM (#37079838)
    There's nothing wrong with patents for things you can hold in your hand, it's the software and business-method patents that never should have been allowed in the first place, and need to go away.
  • by Microlith (54737) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @01:04PM (#37079888)

    I think the next version of Android ... Ice Cream Sandwich is going to be fully vetted for patent claims.

    This is impossible. There is not enough time or money to sift through all of the thousands upon thousands of software patents out there and say "our software does not violate this" to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Even if you do come to that conclusion, the patent holder could disagree and take you to court anyway, where you have to fight until the judge can say "no it doesn't violate the patent."

  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @01:20PM (#37079976) Homepage

    If things were as easy as you (gnasher719) say, it would certainly be just a matter of contract interpretation. But it's not. You wrote your post prior to reading my explanation of why it's far from easy [blogspot.com] to argue with the existing license agreement. I linked to that explanation before.

    Apple (and Google and others) got a license to Lodsys's patents not from Lodsys itself but from Intellectual Ventures, along with roughly 30,000 other Intellectual Ventures patents. It's highly unlikely that Intellectual Ventures' standard patent licensing agreement says anything about 'app developers'. Chances are 99.99% that the term 'app developers' doesn't appear in that license agreement at all.

    The analysis of whether or not Apple's license constitutes 'exhaustion' of any given Lodsys patent is no less complicated than analyzing Lodsys's infringement assertions. As I explained on my blog, 'exhaustion' is a concept that requires an in-depth technical analysis of the technology that is licensed (in this case, Apple's technology) and the one that is accused of infringement (the apps) and, very importantly, how those two layers interact. This means that the court has to go through a detailed technical analysis based on so-called infringement claim charts, which typically require the construction (interpretation) of the most relevant terms used in the language of those patents.

    What I just said is also supported in full by Apple's own arguments to the court for why its intervention should be admitted [blogspot.com] (Apple stresses that only Apple itself can explain how its technology works) and a letter sent to the court by Atari, Electronic Arts, Quickoffice and Square-Enix [blogspot.com] in support of Apple's proposed intervention. Those four companies also stress the importance of access to Apple's information not only regarding the license agreement but also the technology at issue.

    Exhaustion defenses are very difficult to analyze. Do some research on the case law and you'll see that those mattesr are by no means less difficult to analyze than infringement assertions.

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