In an interesting turn, the US International Trade Commission ruled that Apple violated Samsung patents regarding technology that sends information over wireless networks. If an appeals court cannot overturn or presidential veto (which has to happen within 60 days), certain Apple products would be barred from AT&T’s network.
This ruling does not affect 3rd or 4th generation iPad, iPhone5, iPhone 4S or iPad mini (These models are on or have option for 4G/LTE). It does affect iPhone 4, 3GS along with 1st and 2nd Gen iPads with 3G (aka iPad1 and iPad2).
Since the models that could be banned are older models, many are writing this ban off. All iPhone models in the ban are available for upgrade anyway and a report last year on Gigaom said that only 1 out of 10 iPads sold were 3G models (mostly in the 64GB flavor).
It’s a small victory for Samsung in the patent wars against Apple – even though the blow is more like a mosquito bite to the leg.
Why Would IBM want to sell their patents? And to Google, nonetheless?
Think of it this way – You’re at a garage sale and you see a box of comic books (or records if you are not a comic nut). You buy the box for $20, hoping there is a valuable comic (record) in there. You pull out the important ones and what is left is a box of comics you don’t care about.
IBM has been gobbling up different companies throughout the years and some of the patents are like the odd comic books. Nortel is a great example – IBM had over 6,000 patents that they didn’t need. Therefore in May, they decided to auction off those patents that didn’t pertain to them. Google didn’t win that bidding war.
But , according to SEO by the Sea, IBM last week did find 1,030 patents that they sold to Google for an undisclosed sum. It was a hodge-podge of patents – from fabrication to database structures. These are patents that could keep Google from going to the courts for their Android devices, new products coming out on the market and other threats to future revenue.
It’s also a case of Google picking out the ones they need, then keeping a couple in the back pocket for future need (whether for selling or future projects). A couple of those patents relate to search methods. It will be interesting how that effects other search engines like rival Bing.
We’ll have to wait and see how Google utilizes these patents.
Back in Honolulu and the weather is fantastic. Lots of controversial topics on today’s show. Hope that you will chime in and provide some feedback. Bit of a comedy on tonights show as the lower third in the video had a mind of its own.
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Every week we hear either a patent that Apple applied for, then the next week it’s a story on how Apple is suing another company for their patents. Some of these patents are pretty ridiculous. Some of it feels more like a squatting practice. So when will patent squatting become more a monopolistic practice for a company like Apple?
Owning a patent is pretty easy. You create something, then go to the patent office, make sure no one else has something similar and patent it. If someone is watching your patent, they can make changes and patent it for themselves.
Case in point: I remember a story about a little girl that invented the clip for your sunglasses onto a visor. A patent was issued for a metal clip, but someone found it and changed the design, using plastic. The end result was the little girl was out millions.
Then there is the option of wading through all the patents, find something that doesn’t have one and patent it. I remember when someone found that pnumatic tires were not patented (or the patent expired), therefore applied.
This week, it’s Apple going after Samsung Galaxy devices. More specifically, the look and feel of the Samsung devices are too close to Apple’s. They are even complaining the packaging is too close to Apple’s.
While I understand looking too close in packaging, I don’t understand on looking in devices. In some cases, it might actually be the opposite.
After all, Samsung put out a white tablet before Apple did.
Still, let’s look at the Galaxy line. The only thing that looks “Apple-ly” is the top of the device. The Galaxy S has a square button and a contoured design in the back. The bottom “call” buttons look a little like an iPhone’s. Yet, the icons are squared – not rounded like iPhone.
Nitpicking on patents sometimes seems to be really petty. There are some cases where it’s important, but a patent on how you can unlock a phone using a graphic? A visual experience when flipping through songs?
When does it become too much? Can it become a monopolistic practice? I am not a patent lawyer, but if Apple has patent complaints on each mobile device, Apple could work out a deal with the companies, then get a percentage of any device you end up buying.
When does it become a non-Apple patent? How much of a “Graphical experience” must I change to be able to unlock a phone?
A few months ago we learned about certain patents in Android that Apple owned. It also risked certain open-source programs because of functions that were under the microscope.
Can a patent become open-source?
So if I put together a new mobile device, I could easily be hit with an infringement if my look and feel of anything matches that of others. It’s not just Apple, either.
One of the positive points to HP buying WebOS last year was they obtained not only the patents by Palm, but also by all the companies that Palm ended up consuming (Handspring, for example). They are older patents, but definitely cases could be made.
Then you have the opposite – Microsoft vs. i4i. Microsoft wants to make the challenge process more complex. If the challenger doesn’t have their paperwork in order, they could easily loose. In i4i’s case, they sold the product for 4 years before applying. That could invalidate the patent simply because of it’s prior use and saturation in the marketplace. After all, you cannot throw out seeds out of a plane, then lay claim to all the plants that are grown.
Back to Samsung – Apple. Once again, I see some things that Samsung should change to not mimic the iconic iPhone. With these software changes, the phone looks different. Apple holds a lot of cards in mobile devices. No different than Microsoft holds in Windows, IBM holds in servers and Facebook holds in social networking.
Let’s just hope that these lawsuits don’t hold off a company that makes the next big thing in technology.
IBM has applied for a patent for a “system and method for extracting value from a portfolio of assets”, filed in April, but becoming public on October 18. While the Slashdot article infers that it is a formalisation of a patent protection racket (which is loosely the large company version of what a patent troll does) it is unlikely that IBM would try to patent this style of operation. Too much prior art.
This appears to be my un-lawyerly eyes to be ‘patent-troll’ insurance. One method to protect yourself from certain types of patent claims is to have a protective portfolio of patents yourself. A suit of patent infringement can then turn into a case on who’s patent is valid in that case. For an opportunistic claimant, pursuing a case against you is harder and more risky.
IBM has lots of patents (over 40,000 according to them) and are highly skilled in IP law. The thought of having to defend themselves against a rival IBM patent would be a negative motivator to a prospective lawsuit. For a small to medium company to have access to this protection would be worth some money.
For IBM this also would simplify the management of their IP and make it easier for others to license IBM technology, which increases the revenue potential for them. While it appears to be a good business idea, whether it should be patentable is another matter. I have a personal dislike of patenting business models or ideas, or of the patenting of the use of a technology. Maybe a lower class of patent needs to be introduced, where the patent office can say “yeah, interesting idea but a bit anti-competitive to have a patent. Have 2 years of exclusivity only.”
Sean Lyndersay a member of the Microsoft RSS team has responded on the Microsoft Team RSS blog on the Microsoft RSS fiasco, and after reading the post I can tell he was painfully careful in his words.
According to Sean they are essentially claiming innovation in a number of areas, and while I do not see innovation in their application as their in my opinion is plenty of prior art this sadly this will be up to the patent office to determine.
What I would like to see though as others in the space have been calling for, is official assurance from a officer of the corporation that they are using the patent as a defensive filing only. [Microsoft Team RSS Blog]