FlorianMueller writes: "Smartphone patent suits continue to sweep over the land. After getting bad vibes from the ITC on its complaint against Apple, Nokia just filed another suit over seven more patents. In Southern California, a spatial data patent is asserted against RIM, Google and Microsoft. Oddly, the patent holder is represented by the law firm that advises the Open Source Initiative. But the latest smartphone patent suit, filed by a company named H-W Technology L.C., is particularly worrying: among the 32 defendants it names — besides Google, Microsoft and device makers (all of whom are used to getting sued ) — various companies because of their smartphone apps: Amazon.com, eBay, Hotels.com, Expedia, Priceline.com, Orbitz Worldwide, Kayak.com, and Verizon. Those are companies who can defend themselves, but what if patent holders start to go after other app developers who don't have deep pockets? Patent holders may already have begun to demand royalties from developers of commercially successful apps..."
FlorianMueller writes: On Friday LG filed a complaint against Sony with the US International Trade Commission, claiming the PlayStation 3 infringes four Blu-ray Disc patents and demanding a permanent ban of the PS3 (and possibly other products) from the US market. LG, which boasts that it owns 90,000 patents worldwide, appears to take this step in retaliation for a previous Sony complaint about various LG smartphones, which the ITC is already investigating. This is reminiscent of Motorola's infringement action against the Xbox 360 that is part of its wider dispute with Microsoft. In other words, you touch my smartphones and I bomb your game consoles.
FlorianMueller writes: Complaints by the Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation Europe against the sale of 882 Novell patents to CPTN Holdings LLC (a consortium of Apple, EMC, Microsoft and Oracle) have apparently not impressed the EU's chief antitrust enforcer. Asked by a Member of the European Parliament about this deal, European Commission vice president Almunia confirmed that he was aware of the proposed transaction and stated that 'the Commission has currently no indication that the mere acquisition of the patents in question by CPTN Holdings would lead to an infringement of EU competition rules.' In Mr. Almunia's opinion, such a sale of patents is 'unlikely' to even require a regulatory review.
FlorianMueller writes: The IDG News Service reported that Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle withdrew their notification of the formation of the CPTN Holdings patent consortium to the German competition authority. Some prematurely celebrated this as an achievement of the Open Source Initiative, which recently complained about the deal. But OSI board member Simon Phipps clarified on Twitter that "no evidence [he's] seen so far suggests it is in fact the collapse of the deal." He expects a refiling. Tech journalist Maureen O'Gara contacted Microsoft and was told that the withdrawal "is a purely procedural step necessary to provide time to allow for review of the proposed transaction." Regulatory filings are sometimes withdrawn and refiled at a time that is more convenient to regulators. For example, Oracle withdrew its Russian notification of the acquisition of Sun, only to resubmit it later.
FlorianMueller writes: A couple of weeks after Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Interval Licensing saw its patent infringement suit against major tech companies thrown out, it has refiled an amended complaint. The court found that the original complaint wasn't sufficiently specific about the accused products and services. Now those are named. The amended complaint accuses, among other things, Android and all devices based on Google's mobile operating system, of infringement of a user interface patent. Interval says it's an example of an infringement that "when a user receives a new Google Voice message, the Android Operating System and Google Voice software display a notification in the status bar screen for a short period of time." Allegations against Apple are less fundamental: they relate to content recommendations provided to users by iTunes, the App Store, and Apple TV.
FlorianMueller writes: CNN.com/Fortune reflects on how the patent dispute between Apple and Nokia has escalated over the last 14 months: "In Oct. 2009, when Nokia (NOK) first complained in a U.S. federal court that Apple (AAPL) had infringed on 10 of its telecommunications patents, the case could be summarized in a fairly simple chart [...] Fourteen months later, that relatively straightforward patent dispute has escalated through suits and countersuits into a legal battle of Dickensian complexity now being fought in seven different venues, from Delaware to Dusseldorf." The article then refers to "what is likely to be the definitive map of Nokia vs. Apple. The finished document covers 19 'moves,' 11 reference pages, 31 PDF slides and more than 75 individual patents. A preview is also avialable on Twitpic.
FlorianMueller writes: Patent suits are the IT industry's new Christmas cards: Microsoft and Motorola just added new accusations to their row. Motorola filed another suit in the Western District of Wisconsin, for the first time also attacking the Kinect. Microsoft threw in seven patents in Southern Florida. Two of them cover touchscreen technologies and two allegedly read on Motorola's DVRs. At this stage of the game, 35 patents are in suit between the companies. Afraid to lose track of so much peace and harmony? There's a visualization available (detailed reference material included).
FlorianMueller writes: There seems to be no end to those smartphone patent suits. This week's special: audio and video patents that its owners claim are key to formats like MP3 and MPEG 2. The targets: Apple and Android. On Monday, Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary Multimedia Patent Trust filed a patent infringement suit in Southern California against Apple, LG (over 64 different phones including some Android-based ones), Canon and TiVo over four video patents. Fortunately for Apple and LG, none of the patents asserted against those two companies are likely to be in force by the time the judge decides, so there's no risk of an injunction. They may nevertheless have to pay for past damages. The same company once obtained a record $1.5 billion jury verdict against Microsoft but saw it slashed by a judge. And on Tuesday, Hybrid Audio LLC filed a suit in Eastern Texas, asserting a patent against various Apple products and certain Android-based products from HTC and Dell.
FlorianMueller writes: The US International Trade Commission, which is increasingly popular as a patent enforcement agency, voted to investigate a complaint filed by Motorola against Microsoft last month. Motorola claims that the Xbox infringes five of its patents. In October, Microsoft complained against Motorola, alleging patent infringement by its Android-based smartphones. Apple, Nokia and HTC are also involved with ITC investigations as complainants and respondents. A new one-page overview document shows the ongoing ITC investigations related to smartphones and the products that the complainants would like to be banned from entry into the US market. The good news is that any import bans won't be ordered until long after Christmas. The ITC is faster than courts, but not that fast.
FlorianMueller writes: Apple's patent dispute with Motorola is one of the biggest legal battles going on at the moment. Apple, which is also entangled in litigation with Nokia and HTC, recently beefed up its legal team, but it also keeps throwing in ever more patents. Apple made important court filings on Wednesday and Thursday. The bottom line: Apple now asserts 24 patents against Motorola, which uses 18 patents in claims against Apple. 21 of Apple's infringement allegations relate to Android, 3 to Motorola set-top boxes and DVRs. Motorola targets the whole range of Apple products.
FlorianMueller writes: Yesterday, Vertical Computer Systems filed a patent infringement suit in Eastern Texas against Android device makers Samsung and LG as well as Internet software company Interwoven. Vertical asserts a patent over which it previously sued Microsoft. That case was settled with a license deal. Earlier this year the USPTO granted Vertical a continuation patent extending the original one by another 32 claims. In an SEC filing, the company already announced its plan to exploit the extended version of the patent aggressively. This is just the latest in a series of suits relating to the Android operating system. Google also has to defend itself directly against Oracle but so far hasn't countersued anyone attacking Android.
FlorianMueller writes: As if there weren't already enough patent suits related to smartphone technologies, Motorola just announced its widely anticipated countersuit against Microsoft. Its subsidiary Motorola Mobility filed complaints with two US District Courts (Southern District of Florida and Western District of Wisconsin). Motorola already litigates with Apple in those and other courts. According to Motorola, the patents relate to technologies in the fields of operating systems, video codecs, email, instant messaging, object-oriented software architectures, WiFi, and graphical passwords. Motorola claims Windows, the Live messenger, Windows Phone, Outlook and other Microsoft products infringe. Motorola's action is no surprise given that all of the companies sued over patent infringement by Android--with the exception of Google--have already countersued.
FlorianMueller writes: In February, Apple asked the US International Trade Commission to ban the entry of several Nokia products into the US market because of patent infringement. In a pre-trial hearing that started this week, the ITC staff presented an analysis according to which "the evidence will not establish a violation... as to any of the asserted patents", reports the IDG News Service. However, most media reports don't mention that this relates to only four of the patents Apple asserted against Nokia. The case hit a fork in the road back in April. Nokia's alleged infringement of five other patents now forms part of the case Apple filed against HTC. Even if those four patents turned out invalid (or valid but not infringed), Apple could still prevail over Nokia. Also, not counting the patents the ITC views skeptically, Apple has 24 different patents in play against HTC and Motorola. Android has become a popular target of patent suits.
FlorianMueller writes: Computerworld reports that the US International Trade Commission takes Nokia's side in a patent battle in which Apple wants a number of Nokia phones to be banned from entry into the US market. According to a preliminary analysis by the ITC staff (which could theoretically still be overruled), "the evidence will not establish a violation... as to any of the asserted patents." But this relates to only four of the patents Apple asserted. The original complaint listed five more patents but those are now part of a case involving HTC as well. Three of the four patents analyzed by the ITC so far are also used against Android phone makers HTC and Motorola in different US district courts. But so are 24 others, including several multi-touch patents. Even after the ITC's findings, Android still faces essentially the same crossfire of patents.
FlorianMueller writes: In a recent Slashdot discussion, a Linux evangelist from Google, Jeremy Allison, said that "Google submitted an anti-software patent brief in the Bilski case." He disclosed his affiliation and encouraged double-checking. I have performed a detailed analysis of Google's amicus curiae brief in re Bilski. While it cites some patent-critical literature, the document stops far short of advocating the abolition of software patents. The brief supports the idea that patent law should expand according to technological progress. It complains about some software patents being too abstract and others making only a "conventional" use of a computer, but under patent law, that doesn't mean that all software is conventional by definition. Google's own patents, such as the PageRank patent, are (at least intended to be) non-abstract and non-conventional. Is anyone aware of Google ever having spoken out against the patentability of all software, including the software Google itself patents every day?