Patent News and Views

How the software industry's litigation explosion is devastating small startups.

The Real Victims in the Patent Wars by Timothy Lee on Slate

From the article:

Last May, James Thompson, the maker of a popular calculator app for the iPhone, got a nasty surprise. "Just got hit by very worrying threat of patent infringement lawsuit," he tweeted.

The letter came from a Texas company called Lodsys LLC. The firm, widely described as a "patent troll," doesn't produce any useful products. Rather, its primary business is suing other companies that accidentally infringe its portfolio of patents, including one on the concept of buying content from within a mobile application.

Read the rest at



Ideas and Ownership, The Art of War: Know Your Enemy's Patents, And Your Own

From The Conversation (Australia) IDEAS AND OWNERSHIP: The concept of protecting ideas and innovation by legal means dates back to antiquity. But many of our existing laws are under strain, their suitability and ultimate purpose called into question... might be surprised to know that many, perhaps even most, patents today are not used this way. In fact, patents are used in a whole range of different, strategic ways that raise interesting questions about the patent system and whether it is doing what we think it is doing – that is, providing incentives for inventors. One way we see patents used these days is in the accumulation of large patent portfolios.

Economists have tracked the rise of such portfolios, but in a way, all you have to do is look at the yearly patent league tables, which will tell you, for example, that IBM was granted more than 6,000 patents in the US in 2011, and Samsung more than 4,800. In fact, most patent offices around the world have been experiencing sustained rises in the number of applications for patents, and in patents granted, including in Australia.

Read the rest of the articles on IDEAS AND OWNERSHIP at the Conversation website:


HTML 5 and video patents

From the article at "End Software Patents" wiki. "HTML is the standard, set by w3c, for how to write webpages. HTML5 was supposed to include a standard way to add video to webpages, but after lengthy discussions about software patents, the drafters announced on June 30th 2009 that they could find no freely implementable video format to recommend."

The W3C has been fighting with Apple over HTML 5 patents and a simple search on Google Patents reveals pages of patents for the "open" standard.


Apple Has the Most Powerful Patent Portfolio in Consumer Electronics

New Patent Power Scorecards show U.S. companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo inventing their way to global dominance. Read the article at IEEE Spectrum.

Study: patent trolls have cost innovators half a trillion dollars - Ars Technica

“By now, the story of patent trolls has become well-known: a small company with no products of its own threatens lawsuits against larger companies who inadvertently infringe its portfolio of broad patents. The scenario has become so common that we don't even try to cover all the cases here at Ars. If we did, we'd have little time to write about much else.

But anecdotal evidence is one thing. Data is another. Three Boston University researchers have produced a rigorous empirical estimate of the cost of patent trolling. And the number is breath-taking: patent trolls ("non-practicing entity" is the clinical term) have cost publicly traded defendants $500 billion since 1990. And the problem has become most severe in recent years. In the last four years, the costs have averaged $83 billion per year. The study says this is more than a quarter of US industrial research and development spending during those years.”

Read the rest at Ars Technica.


Patent Reform - A Rush To The Courthouse By Trolls - Groklaw

One consequence of the passage of the America Invents Act (HR1249) signed into law by President Obama last Friday (September 16) was a mad rush to the courthouse by some patent trolls. You see, one of the favorite tactics used by patent trolls is to bring a suit with dozens of defendants regardless of whether there are common issues of infringement other than the commonality of the asserted patents. This tactic allows the troll to benefit from a consolidated action, thus drastically reducing the troll's cost of litigation. Of course, this tactic doesn't always work as we learned in the Interval Licensing case.
But Congress, in an attempt to restrain patent trolls and to eliminate this "incentive" to file consolidated actions, included a provision in HR 1249 that would virtually eliminate such actions. That provision, codified in Section 19 of the Act, reads... 



New Patent Law Will Do Little To Halt The Smartphone Litigation Frenzy

"In the short term, the America Invents Act won’t reduce the amount of litigation among mobile companies and patent trolls. The final version of the law drops earlier provisions that would have reigned in the out-sized jury awards that lead many companies to settle, and it does little to eliminate the proliferation of low-quality patents (the most infamous examples are for a crustless PBJ and a method for swinging on a swing.)

Still, there are a few bright spots in a law that experts describe as the most significant change to patent law in 60 years. First, the bill allows the patent office to keep most of the fees it collects, meaning it will have more time to scrutinize patent applications. Second, the new law makes it easier to challenge patents after they are granted.

@jeffjohnroberts at


The Effects of the America Invents Act on Technological Disclosure - Patently Obvious

" I conclude that while the new patent laws have the potential to encourage at least one category of disclosures, they may also negatively impact other types of information disclosures."


Mostly pointless patent reform bill goes to Obama for signature, ArsTechnica

Congress has been wrestling with patent reform legislation since 2005. When we last took an in-depth look at the issue in 2008, we concluded that the legislation then under consideration was not the kind of serious patent reform the nation needs. This year's legislation is weaker still.


5 Key Facts About Patent Reform Act, InformationWeek

After years of hand-wringing about patent reform, the Senate approved major changes to America's patent laws Thursday with an 89-9 vote passing the America Invents Act. That sets the stage for President Obama to sign the patent overhaul into law just days after the Patent Office issued its 8 millionth patent.

Here are five key pieces included in and missing from the overhaul, and what they mean for inventors, entrepreneurs, established tech companies, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office itself.