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Judge Invalidates 13 Motorola Patent Claims Against Microsoft 109

Posted by timothy
from the lucky-number dept.
walterbyrd writes "Microsoft scored a victory against Google-owned Motorola Mobility this week after a judge scrapped 13 of the latter party's patent claims in a years-long dispute over H.264-related royalties. Waged in U.S. and German courts, the battle involves three patents (7,310,374, 7,310,375, and 7,310,376) that Motorola licenses to Microsoft for several products, including the Xbox 360, Windows and Windows Phone. PJ is commenting on the case over at Groklaw.net."
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Judge Invalidates 13 Motorola Patent Claims Against Microsoft

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  • Christ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Sunday February 10, 2013 @03:29AM (#42848663)

    This is good. No, it's bad. No, its good. Wait, no, it's bad. Is Apple involved? It's bad. No it's good⦠Jesus, who the fuck knows. As a fanboi, what the fuck am I to do?

    • Maybe this is what makes a man go neutral...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For Apple, and the rest of the corporate world, it's bad news, because it seems it's getting harder and harder to use patents as weapons. For all the huffing and puffing, most corporations discover their arsenal of patents, is nothing more than paper nukes.

      For the consumers (and lawyers involved), it's a very very good thing. Please continue.

      • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:21AM (#42848827)

        For Apple, and the rest of the corporate world, it's bad news, because it seems it's getting harder and harder to use patents as weapons.

        For Apple it's great news.

        No Apple lawsuit has had any real effect to date. The biggest one is a not negligible 1 billion dollar payout by Samsung - but that's not even certain yet.

        So by with all these patents folding like a house of cards, it saves Apple a lot of money that would otherwise go to "fruitless" lawsuits.

        Basically corporations (not just Apple) kind of have to sue to protect patents. It''s like a legal reflex. With that need removed, they will spend less on litigation.

        Apple (and other companies) have done just fine competing in a world where companies are making using of technologies patented by the other side. So the weak patents being thrown out will have no impact.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          For Apple, and the rest of the corporate world, it's bad news, because it seems it's getting harder and harder to use patents as weapons.

          For Apple it's great news.

          No Apple lawsuit has had any real effect to date. The biggest one is a not negligible 1 billion dollar payout by Samsung - but that's not even certain yet.

          So by with all these patents folding like a house of cards, it saves Apple a lot of money that would otherwise go to "fruitless" lawsuits.

          Basically corporations (not just Apple) kind of have to sue to protect patents. It''s like a legal reflex. With that need removed, they will spend less on litigation.

          Apple (and other companies) have done just fine competing in a world where companies are making using of technologies patented by the other side. So the weak patents being thrown out will have no impact.

          Congratulations, you have somehow managed to make a lawsuit between Microsoft and Google be mostly about Apple. At least you stopped short of trying to explain why Apple patenting 'rounded rectangles' is bad but Google suing people for violating a patent on 'encoding and decoding stuff on a computer' is good like a diehard fanboy would have.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            That's nice.

            If you'd check parent poster's history (damn, if you'd even care to read the parent post), you'd see he's very much pro-Apple, but - hey, those mindless Google fanboys always be defending Google, eh, unlike us, quiet and shy Apple fans! And someone even modded you up, for shame.

            By the way, I very much agree with GP's sentiment - the more judges get tired of this patently bullshit and slap the companies silly for dragging it on, the better it'll be for competition climate. Out of the courtrooms a

            • by mitzampt (2002856)
              Yeah but besides that, why did this piece of thread (didn't mean it, honestly) get to be about Apple anyway? Does this world have only three tech giants? And why do we perpetuate that illusion? Shouldn't it derail to something a little more interesting such as impact on small players on the market? Innovators? Anyone?
      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        For Apple, and the rest of the corporate world, it's bad news, because it seems it's getting harder and harder to use patents as weapons. For all the huffing and puffing, most corporations discover their arsenal of patents, is nothing more than paper nukes.

        For the consumers (and lawyers involved), it's a very very good thing. Please continue.

        Paper tiger seeks paper nukes. Paper rattling ...

      • For Apple, and the rest of the corporate world, it's bad news, because it seems it's getting harder and harder to use patents as weapons.

        I think this could have a positive effect including for the corporate world. The end of patents-as-weapons will make it easier to introduce new products without getting sued, and mean companies spending less time in expensive courtroom battles.

        If I want to introduce the next iPod or Xbox 360 or just about anything, someone out there has a patent that covers something on it

      • by ewibble (1655195)

        If stupid patents fall:
        For Corporates its good news, they just don't know it, they can just get on with making products.
        For small players its good, they can just get on with making products.
        For consumers its good, they can get better products. Why don't we have a standard video format that plays on all browsers (patents).
        The only people it is bad for, are patent lawyers.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Having read the judgement, I'd say it is good news regardless of the parties involved. Basically it is a patent on encoding and decoding video "on a computer", which doesn't describe how you might actually go about doing the encoding or decoding.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        It was a pretty good bet that a video patent violation claim would not stick to Microsoft since they not only license H.263 and H.264 but also contributed 39 (just on H.264) patents to the consortium.

        The claim was essentially that MPEG-LA didn't cover its ass with the many hundreds of patents it had collected on each, which is doubtful when one of the only motives that MPEG-LA used when determining the standard was that the methods used be patented and contributed to the consortium.
      • by rwreed (470734)

        doesn't describe how you might actually go about doing the encoding or decoding.

        In his order, Judge Robart specifically points out that the patent describes how to do the encoding but not the decoding.

    • In these cases I just tend to root for the Fuck Software Patents side.

    • So were her panties in a twist.....
  • by lxs (131946) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @03:43AM (#42848689)

    Just a simple plan to help you survive these times of financial strife.

    1. Stop wasting money on lawyers.
    2. Start making quality products.
    3. ??? (actually you can skip this step)
    4. profit.

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      when everyone is poking everyone else with sharp sticks, the one who stops poking gets skewered. The war was started by patent trolls but they inevitably dragged everyone into it.
      • by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:53AM (#42848911) Journal

        The way to end that war is to take away the sharp sticks from everyone involved.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Rockoon (1252108)
        The war was started by Apple. I wouldn't classify them as a patent troll.. just a patent abuser. Prior to Apple there was an understanding that everyone in the mobile business was guilty of patent infringement so nobody should press the issue. Then Apple came along and pressed anyways...

        Now Apple is involved in something like 60% of the patent lawsuits. There were some mobile patent disputes before Apple got involved, but it was never two manufacturers duking it out.. it was always patent holding companie
        • My understanding is that lawsuits over patents between manufacturers actually happened before, it's just the rules of the game were that, if you lose, you can still license the patents in question out for a reasonable fee. What Apple changed was denying to license the patents outright, or charging insane fees on them (which in practice amounts to the same thing, since it drives the price of any product including those patents high enough that it would become utterly noncompetitive).

    • 1a. Stop wasting money on patent based acquisitions.

      • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:42AM (#42849181)

        1a. Stop wasting money on patent based acquisitions.

        This entire war was started by Apple and Microsoft setting out to block other companies from exactly the strategy the grandparent post proposed and who were exactly failing to buy patents. Microsoft's stupid FAT patents; Apple's stupid "rounded corners" design patents; patents on obvious gestures in a user interface. The companies which were trying the strategy of "just give the consumer what they want" were being sued to hell. The lawyers were making it very clear that if you attempt to opt out of the patents protection racket then their friends, the judges, will make you pay more than you can afford.

        At one point, it looked as if Microsoft might honestly have frightened the device manufacturers away from Android. Spineless companies like HTC rolled over and let Microsoft tickle their tummy. Only after Google started acquiring large patent portfolios did some of those manufacturer's get a bit of guts. HTC, on the other hand, will likely never recover.

        If you look at the history of this, it's very clear that Google is only succeeding by buying their way through the US legal system. It's very hard then to argue that their investment in "patent based acquisitions" was a waste of money. Just like a certain level of bribery is the cost of doing business in Russia and your people may die if you don't pay it, in the corrupt US justice system you have to be seen to be paying your protection money to the patent barons.

        • by Rockoon (1252108) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:07AM (#42849363)
          HTC's problems werent from Microsoft.. HTC was the target of the opening salvo of mobile patent lawsuits, initiated by Apple.

          When the first wave of the mobile lawsuit armageddon geared up, the three companies distinctly absent from either end of these lawsuits were Google, Palm, and Microsoft (citation [nytimes.com].)

          To accuse Microsoft of being somehow a big offender is ignoring the history of these battles. Patent lawsuits wasn't how Microsoft operated, and to a large extent still isn't because nearly every lawsuit that targets Microsoft or is initiated by Microsoft ends in a (cross)licensing deal rather than a judgment and that includes Microsoft taking the short end of it (ex: licensing from Acacia Research.)

          I do understand that Microsoft is one of the only companies that have gone after Linux, and its probably unforgivable, but that doesnt make them one of the big offenders in mobile patent lawsuits. Making that claim just doesnt hold up to reality.
          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by rtfa-troll (1340807)

            HTC's problems werent from Microsoft.. HTC was the target of the opening salvo of mobile patent lawsuits, initiated by Apple.

            N.B. I'm not saying that Microsoft's patent attacks directly went against HTC. HTC's poblems seem to be largely from redirecting R&D in the direction Windows Phone. Have a look at exactly when the competitiveness of their phones went down and it's exactly the time when they must have been directing a large effort to porting Windows to their hardware. What I'm saying is that it was partnering with Microsoft that damaged HTC. That at least partly will have

            When the first wave of the mobile lawsuit armageddon geared up, the three companies distinctly absent from either end of these lawsuits were Google, Palm, and Microsoft ( citation [nytimes.com].)

            A long time ago Microsoft even opposed patents

            • by robsku (1381635)

              You should be receiving positive mod points - sadly it seems to be the opposite... can't help but think...

          • Microsoft will never let lawsuits go to trial if they can help it. They surely love those NDAs that help seal the deal. Barnes and Noble made a pretty big stink about it, and with it, offered good reasons to believe that Microsoft was one of the biggest offenders.

        • I can buy a car, spend within my means and get a car.

          I can waste money on a car by spending outside of my means and get a really flashy car.

          They paid way too much for Moto Mobility. 12 billion? Sheesh. Ouch.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You have perhaps overlooked the fact that plenty of companies would love to 1. Stop wasting money on lawyers, and 2... make quality products.

      However, OTHER companies would rather use lawyers to steal from their betters, like Apple for instance, whose MO since forever has been to steal other people's ideas, polish the hell out of them, then pretend the ideas were theirs to begin with, and sue anyone for using an idea that wasn't ever actually theirs. They did it with the Macintosh interface, the mouse, the

    • 1. Stop wasting money on lawyers.

      Wasting? Are you kidding? Apple's investment in scam lawsuits have paid off tremendously for Apple.

      2. Start making quality products.

      Apple already does.

      3. ??? (actually you can skip this step)
      4. profit.

      Apple does profit - huge profits, unheard of profits. What's $100 million a quarter in legal fees, if you making about $15 billion a quarter in pure profits?

  • by mdm42 (244204) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:10AM (#42848789) Homepage Journal
    The patents were *not* invalidated.

    Some claims within the patents were invalidated.

    Go RTFA.

    • by MrDoh! (71235)
      Thank you, this bit keeps getting skimmed over.
    • by Xest (935314)

      Yes, I actually read the first few paragraphs of the very Groklaw article that the summary links and it contradicts in big bold letters that headline/summary of the article.

      Do people who submit even read the articles they link? or do they just make up random titles and submit random URLs in the hope that if they do it enough at least some of the stories will appear at least somewhat plausible, even if wrong?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The headline clearly states "invalidates patent claims", so how come the headline is bullshit?

      Go RTFH(eadline).

  • A Judge did? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrDoh! (71235) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:11AM (#42848791) Homepage Journal
    If a Judge (not a Jury) can invalidate Patent claims (are they THAT skilled in the science of these things?) then what the heck's the Patent Office for?
    Is there any point in lodging a complaint to the Patent Office, when a Judge appears to be able to do it quicker, and knows the parties involved?
    So in future, don't waste time with going the usual route, just get a Judge to decide on complex matters, and then the Patent Office, now with more time on it's hands, can start ruling in criminal trials.
    What a mess.
    • by MrDoh! (71235)
      Though the line from that article; "On the flip side, Robart said that Microsoft has provided substantial evidence from technical journals and dictionaries to prove, for instance, that some of Motorola's technologies amount to general purpose devices that are indistinguishable from the general purpose computer." Are interesting, as if that was applied fairly to everything, then most of the other Patent lawsuits going on atm would be thrown out too. This is all crazy, really seems to be random on what Judg
      • The patent office has the judgement of a drunk 12 yr old today. Also once a patent is granted they almost never invalidate it. Whether by demand or in general. There are still perpetual motion "" machines with patents. Also, do you really think it would be a criminal court judge presiding? Obvious troll is obvious.
        • by green1 (322787)

          While I agree with your point in general, perpetual motion machines are not an example of the patent office's failings.
          The patent office's job is to determine if something is new and novel, substantially different from anything previously invented, and not overly broad in scope. Their job is not to determine if something works as claimed. A patent on something that doesn't, and can't, work, doesn't harm any real inventors. A patent on something that someone else has already done, or on something obvious, or

          • I was just saying they dont even invalidate patents used as a vehicle for multi-million dollar fraud schemes. Perpmot machines being a very common example. But the failure to even see prior art as relevance is the big problem.
            • by green1 (322787)

              It's not the patent office's fault if people think patents mean something is legit. And I would say that invalidating all those patents would put exactly zero dent in those fraud schemes.
              Fixing human stupidity is far outside the scope of the patent office.

              Prior art is a problem, broad and vague patents are an even bigger problem. Honestly, I believe "patents" are the problem, but I know that this view is not widely held (despite much research to support it)

    • If a Judge (not a Jury) can invalidate Patent claims (are they THAT skilled in the science of these things?) then what the heck's the Patent Office for? Is there any point in lodging a complaint to the Patent Office, when a Judge appears to be able to do it quicker, and knows the parties involved? So in future, don't waste time with going the usual route, just get a Judge to decide on complex matters, and then the Patent Office, now with more time on it's hands, can start ruling in criminal trials. What a mess.

      The summary said US and German courts. German courts haven't had juries since the Emminger reform of 1924, there was an attempt to reinstate juries in 1925 but it was unsuccessful since the verdicts of juries were widely considered to be inconsistent and sometimes downright unjust. Since then German courts have used a mixture of professional judges and lay judges which is a very old German tradition. The lay judges are chosen from the citizenry. People excluded from being chosen as lay judges are those unde

      • Is there some sort of timeline that correlates Hitler' rise to power with changes in the German judicial system? Seem I recall reading he gained power more through legal maneuvering than anything else. To a judge the law is interpreted as the law, to person the law is intepreted as "to how will this effect me?".

    • what the heck's the Patent Office for?

      It is there to tax people for being clever, like the lottery is there to tax people for being foolish. What is Google for? (RTFM)

    • If a Judge (not a Jury) can invalidate Patent claims (are they THAT skilled in the science of these things?) then what the heck's the Patent Office for?

      The Patent Office doesn't make law or decide legal issues - they decide factual ones. The patents in this case were not invalidated as obvious or anticipated by some prior art, which would be a matter of fact. Instead, the judge determined that 35 U.S.C. 112(2) requires disclosure of an algorithm when claims utilize the means-plus-function format of 35 U.S.C. 112(6). That's a matter of law. In other words, the "science of these things" is the science of jurisprudence, not the science of video encoding.

      Or,

  • by jkflying (2190798) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:29AM (#42848845)

    Microsoft is arguing that as a 'means plus function' patent, it isn't specific enough because it doesn't specifically give an algorithm. Surely if this goes through it will invalidate the vast majority of software patents?

    • by MrDoh! (71235)
      Yeah, that's what I'm reading from this, though as said elsewhere, this is some claims in the patents were invalidated, but I'm wondering then can Moto re-apply with more detail? But yeah, does this mean anyone without a full listing of the algorithm (which is most 'with a computer/on the internet' patent these days) has a chance to have parts made invalid? Can of Worms.
      • Yeah, that's what I'm reading from this, though as said elsewhere, this is some claims in the patents were invalidated, but I'm wondering then can Moto re-apply with more detail? But yeah, does this mean anyone without a full listing of the algorithm (which is most 'with a computer/on the internet' patent these days) has a chance to have parts made invalid? Can of Worms.

        That could be difficult, because they were suing Microsoft for infringing their patent, so presumably they would know now what Microsoft has implemented and can't really claim they invented it _afterwards_. And it's not about the algorithm, it is about stating clearly what is actually invented, so that someone else can reproduce it. Any ordinary programmer should be able to take a precise spec and turn it into an algorithm or actual code.

      • Yeah, that's what I'm reading from this, though as said elsewhere, this is some claims in the patents were invalidated, but I'm wondering then can Moto re-apply with more detail? But yeah, does this mean anyone without a full listing of the algorithm (which is most 'with a computer/on the internet' patent these days) has a chance to have parts made invalid?

        (i) Yes, but only those claims that invoke means-plus-function limitations under 35 U.S.C. 112(6). System claims, method claims, and Beauregard claims would still be valid;

        (ii) And no, most "with a computer/on the internet" patents* do include a "full listing of the algorithm". They aren't required to include source code, or even pseudocode, but rather, as the judge notes:

        The specification can express the algorithm “in any understandable terms including as a mathematical formula, in prose, or as a flow chart, or in any other manner that provides sufficient structure.” Finisar Corp. v. DirecTV Grp., Inc., 523 F.3d 1323, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted).

        And honestly, it's pretty rare that a software related patent doesn't include a flow chart these days. Consider the beloved Amazon one-c [google.com]

    • by gnasher719 (869701) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:13AM (#42849269)

      Microsoft is arguing that as a 'means plus function' patent, it isn't specific enough because it doesn't specifically give an algorithm. Surely if this goes through it will invalidate the vast majority of software patents?

      It's not really about an algorithm per se. It's about specifying precisely what the algorithm is going to achieve. "Pick some block using some algorithm" isn't specific enough. "Pick some block using the following algorith: blablabla" is. "Pick some block by choosing among all blocks with distance less than 5 units the one that minimises the prediction error defined by the formula xxx" is specific enough, even if the implementor has to find their own algorithm.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        OMG someone on slashdot that understands the scope of patents. Unreal.
      • Ironically, this may well be the middle ground that would allow software patents to be retained without them being harmful to the industry (and maybe even being useful, same way regular patents originally were).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:38AM (#42848877)

    Software patents are so problematic because if you expose your essential algorithm which uses code blocks then all someone has to do is code to it with different variable names.

    It is the same problem as why technology stagnated during the times before the renaissance and then industrial revolution, methods were kept secret by guilds.

    We are placing far too much monetary value upon "the intellectual property of software" and if too much software is granted "a Royal Monopoly" like status. Because that status can then be horded we are headed for a technological dark age.

    Who can blame the Chinese for employing industrial espionage when much of the technology they seek to achieve is being bartered by those who would squirrel it away in medieval style corporate guilds.

    Queen Elizabeth the First at the end of her reign had the foresight to abolish the monopolies, we are reversing the trend and it will eventually cause stagnation and strife in the advancement of technology if left unchecked to run amok. The same as the imaginary mortgage security products market did to us all.

    We either open up the patent system and let the best engineers and manufactures win or have a bunch of coders at desks trading ideas for imaginary devices in a ponzi scheme of so called intellectual property rights for products and services.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:46AM (#42849047)

      Software patents are so problematic because if you expose your essential algorithm which uses code blocks then all someone has to do is code to it with different variable names.

      No that's copyright that covers variable names, and you'd have to do a lot more than just change variable names to make it an original work. Patents will cover the algorithm itself regardless of variable names or even implementation language.

      It is the same problem as why technology stagnated during the times before the renaissance and then industrial revolution, methods were kept secret by guilds. ... too much software is granted "a Royal Monopoly" like status. Because that status can then be horded we are headed for a technological dark age.

      What a load of bullshit. It was patents that opened up the guild secrets, by allowing guilds to make inventions known without competitors being able to take advantage of that. It's the lack of patent enforcement in China and the lack of software patents in most of the world that is keeping software like Google's locked up in the cloud. What's their current search algorithm? What AI breakthroughs do they secret away? We may never know because the inventions they value the most they don't even patent, they can't be used against them.

      Parent post makes no sense. If you work on closed-source code and you are against software patents then you are pro-guild, pro-dark ages.

      • by JazzXP (770338)
        Wish I had mod points to mod this up. I was about to write the same thing.
    • Software patents are so problematic because if you expose your essential algorithm which uses code blocks then all someone has to do is code to it with different variable names.

      WTF? Are you on drugs? That's what patents are all about: You _publish_ the invention, so that others _can_ replicate it, and then they have to pay you license fees if they use it. They can also replicate it, _improve_ it and get their own patents. Making it possible for others to reproduce it is the _purpose_ of the patent.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        Indeed. The thing to keep in mind is that originally patents did not cover the stuff inside products but instead the methods of making products. The idea was that a company could get a time-limited exclusive right to use a specific manufacturing improvement (efficiency, etc) if they made that improvement public knowledge.

        Its still optional, and in fact some companies specifically do not patent some of their manufacturing techniques in order to keep them a secret (so called "trade secrets") .. Intel is in
    • Since when did patents ever legitimately cover algorithms in the first place?

      The idea that 'doing it on a computer' is enough to get a patent is ridiculous. The computer is a general purpose calculating device that applies to any known practical algorithm. IT IS OBVIOUS to put your algorithm on a computer.

      Software patents are intrinsically unpatentable. End of story.

      The argument that allowing patents on algorithms benefits society is a fail also. Patents are a contract between inventor and government that g

      • Since when did patents ever legitimately cover algorithms in the first place?

        The idea that 'doing it on a computer' is enough to get a patent is ridiculous. The computer is a general purpose calculating device that applies to any known practical algorithm. IT IS OBVIOUS to put your algorithm on a computer.

        Agreed, but that's not what we're talking about here. You specified "known" algorithms. H.264 encoding wasn't a "known" algorithm prior to 2001, even without a computer.

  • The title sounds a little sensational, but the reality is less so. Please read PJ's post at Groklaw. Patents are good, just some claims in them were dismissed.

    Microsoft had already agreed to license the patents, so the real fight was over the RAND rate for those, and the possible penalties for willful infringement. Seems like that part is mostly over.

    • by kbdd (823155)
      Commenting on my own post: "Patents are good" is meant in the context of this case. For my opinion about software patents in general, see http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index.html [nosoftwarepatents.com]
    • Read it again Potsy, "....this ruling does not invalidate any of these patents in whole, but only in part..." So the title was not sensational. And PJ was actually rooting for Motorola - surprise she has her head so far up Google's ass, she's no longer objective.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why not invalidate Apple patents? At least once, dear judge.

    • by green1 (322787)

      As much as I would LOVE them to do this... I'm not sure how a judge is supposed to invalidate the patent of a company that wasn't even involved in the lawsuit?

  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:48AM (#42849461) Homepage

    I consider Groklaw to be an extremely reliable source of fact, insight and opinion. The patents are NOT invalidated, but the claims cited within are. It's a software patent, after all.

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