US patent lawsuits now dominated by ‘trolls’ -study

For the first time,individuals and companies that do not themselves make anything -commonly known as “patent trolls” – are bringing the majority ofU.S. patent lawsuits, according to a study by a California lawprofessor.

The sharp increase in this type of lawsuit serves as amilestone likely to exacerbate the tension over patent issuesand increase calls for patent reform and scrutiny of the system.

This year, about 61 percent of all patent lawsuits filedthrough Dec. 1 were brought by patent-assertion entities, orindividuals and companies that work aggressively andopportunistically to assert patents as a business model ratherthan build their own technology, according to a paper by ColleenChien, a law professor at Santa Clara University.

Innovation, really.

What the New York Times Should Have Asked

This is what Apple “invented” the idea of sliding a latch to open something. But because they were doing it on a computer they got to patent it. Probably it cost some effort to work out the code to create the image and so forth – although if it cost them millions their programmers are incompetent – even tens of thousands seems high for that particular coding job. But here is the point: Nobody gets to copy their code with or without patents. The thing they actually paid for is protected.

How a rogue appeals court wrecked the patent system

No institution is more responsible for the recent explosion of patent litigation in the software industry, the rise of patent trolls, and the proliferation of patent thickets than the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The patent court’s thirtieth birthday this week is a good time to ask whether it was a mistake to give the nation’s most patent-friendly appeals court such broad authority over the patent system.

Further “Either way, breaking the Federal Circuit’s monopoly on patent appeals may be the single most important step we can take to fix the patent system.”

Is it surprising that a judicial monopoly over an intellectual monopoly should turn out poorly?

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner spikes Apple-Google case, calls patent system ???dysfunctional???

In a series of earlier rulings in the Apple case, Posner didn???t mince words as he used plain language to beat up the over-reaching arguments of both sides:

[re a slide-to-unlock patent] Apple???s .. argument is that ???a tap is a zero-length swipe.??? That???s silly.  It???s like saying that a point is a zero-length line.
Motorola???s contention that the term has a ???plain and ordinary meaning??? is ridiculous; Motorola seems to have forgotten that this is a jury trial.
In his ruling to dismiss, Posner noted that a trial would ???impose costs disproportionate to the harm ??? and would be contrary to the public interest.???

Anti-competitive, thank you judge.

Yahoo! v Facebook: Making a tough job harder

This is not the first time that Yahoo! has reached for its lawyers to target a firm about to go public. In 2004 it launched a legal assault on Google involving patents shortly before the search firm staged its own listing. Google ultimately agreed to a settlement over the matter, taking a $200m charge against its earnings to do so. Yahoo! is no doubt hoping that Facebook will throw in the towel as well to avoid awkward legal wrangling in the run-up to its initial public offering (IPO).

Perhaps Yahoo will patent the pre-IPO patent suit. A wonderful innovation that deserves state protection.

OPINION: US heavies NZ on software patents

Analysis of the costs and benefits of IP protection shows there is a tendency toward overprotection of IP in all our societies, particularly in the areas of copyright and patents. 

The analysis also shows the optimal rate of protection differs between countries and that it can differ across time as countries move through different stages of economic development.

The problems of overprotection are particularly acute for technology importing countries, including developing countries.

The analysis shows that for these countries, IP rights that are too strong will detract from innovation rather than promote it.

It’s not a question of protection, it’s how long and how broad that protection should be.