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+ - Microsoft to sell Bing Maps, advertising sections->

UnknowingFool writes: Microsoft has announced that they will sell some Bing Maps technology to Uber and their advertising business to AOL. About 1300 employees are expected to be offered positions in their new companies. CEO Nadella said previously that there would be "tough choices" to be made. Some outside analysts have said neither venture was very profitable for Microsoft and may have been unprofitable at times.
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+ - Prenda Law's 9th Circuit Appeal Does Not Go Well->

UnknowingFool writes: In May 2013, US District Court Judge Otis Wright issued a blistering and Star Trek referencing sanctions order against copyright troll Prenda Law fining them for $80,000 for conduct and referring them for criminal action. Since then the firm has dissolved but their lawyer appeared before three judges of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to have them overturn the decision and the now $250,000 fine ($80,000 plus accrued penalties). It did not go well for their lawyer Daniel Voelker who at times evaded basic questions about who ran the firm and a forged document irking judges Pregerson and Tallman. Mr. Voelker kept repeating his argument that since Judge Wright threatened criminal penalties and denied a witness to appear, his clients were denied due process and thus everything should be remanded back for criminal contempt. Judge Nguyen seemingly rebuffed this argument stating that the fines were civil and not subject to criminal proceedings and tried to focus Voelker on legal arguments on the amount of the fines. Judge Tallman also expressed incredulity that Voelker was asking the court for criminal contempt as the maximum penalty for that was life imprisonment and not the $250,000 fine that was owed. Judge Pregerson at one point explicitly stated that Prenda had engaged in extortion.

Part of Prenda's Law problem was that Judge Wright had written much about their operations in his Findings of Fact which is rarely overturned by higher courts as opposed to the Findings of Law which can be scrutinized by higher courts. The court's first question to Voelker expressly asked that for the appeal court to rule in his client's favor they would have to find clear error in the Findings of Fact which he characteristically dodged again and again.

Morgan Pietz representing the opposing side did better on answering the Judges' questions. For example in doubling the original fine which may have crossed the line between criminal and civil, Pietz responded that deterrence is an important element of sanctions and doubling the fine was justified. Pietz also argued that a separate criminal proceeding could still be held without voiding the civil result.

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+ - Apple DRM lawsuit loses last plaintiff; judge rules against dismissal->

UnknowingFool writes: In the Apple DRM lawsuit, the last plaintiff in the case has been disqualified but due to the number of potential consumers affected, the judge has denied Apple's motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs' lawyers will have to find a qualified plaintiff. To recap, the suit lost both plaintiffs in the last week when Apple reported to the judge that their iPods were not eligible (iPods must be purchased between Sept 2006 and May 2009). The first plaintiff withdrew when all her iPods were found to be outside the time period. The second plaintiff produced one iPod that was not eligible but two others that were eligible; however, Apple challenged the two eligible ones as the plaintiff could not prove she purchased them. They were purchased by her ex-husband's law firm. With one of the main claims of suit being that the price of the iPod was raised due to Apple's actions it was important to establish that she purchased them.

At the heart of the case is that Apple's use of DRM harmed customers by raising the price of the iPod and that Apple removed other competitor's music from the iPod namely RealPlayer's Harmony music files. Apple does not dispute that it removed RealPlayer's files but contends it was done for security reasons as RealPlayer was able to get the music files onto the iPod by posing as Apple FairPlay files. In testimony, Steve Jobs called RealPlayer's move "a hack" and there was considerable discussion at the time.

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+ - iPod DRM lawsuit might be dismissed: Plaintiffs didn't own affected iPods->

UnknowingFool writes: The lawsuit involving Apple and iTunes DRM may be thrown out because the plaintiffs did not own the iPods for which they are suing. The lawsuit covers iPods for the time period between September of 2006 and March of 2009. When Apple checked the serial numbers of the iPods of the plaintiffs, it appears they were not manufactured during this time. One plaintiff did purchase an iPod in 2005 and in 2010 and has withdrawn from the suit. The second plaintiff's iPod was manufactured in July 2009 but claims purchasing another iPod in 2008. Since the two plaintiffs were the only ones in the suit, the case may be dismissed for lack of standing.
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+ - Microsoft shows off Windows 10->

UnknowingFool writes: Today Microsoft unveiled the next version of their OS but it will be called Windows 10 instead of 9. No reason on the skip in version numbers but Microsoft hasn't been known for their consistent naming conventions before. Windows 10 will be "mobile-first, cloud-first world" and operate both tablets and desktops. Some considerations however have been given for desktop users with Windows 7 type features. Also a feature called Continuum will change the UI depending if the user is in desktop mode or tablet mode. It is due to be released in spring 2015
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+ - Supreme Court rules for and against EPA on greenhouse gases->

UnknowingFool writes: In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled against the EPA on some limits to greenhouse gases but also upheld other limits. In a 5-4 partial decision, the high court ruled that EPA overstepped their authority in requiring permits only for greenhouse gases for new and modified facilities using the Clean Air act. Such regulatory action can only be granted by Congress. But in the same case on a 7-2 decision, the court also ruled that the EPA can enforce greenhouse gas limits on facilities that already require permits for other air pollutants. This leaves intact the most of the new regulations proposed by the Obama administration earlier this month as many coal plants produce other air pollutants that can be regulated by the EPA.
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+ - MS to sell Xbox One without Kinect and separate Apps from Live Gold->

UnknowingFool writes: Starting June 9, MS will offer a $399 Xbox One that will not be come with a Kinect peripheral. Many fans wanted the Kinect optional as they did not feel the need for it. Additionally streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and HBO Go will no longer require a Live Gold subscription. There are some apps like Game DVR that will require Live Gold.
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+ - Supreme Court makes it easier to get lawyers fees in patent cases->

UnknowingFool writes: In a pair of unanimous rulings yesterday, the Supreme Court made it easier for defendants in patent cases to collect attorneys fees if the litigation was frivolous. In the first case, Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness , the court ruled that a standard used by lower courts to award attorney's fees was impossible to meet. The original standard under Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int’l, Inc. had ruled that a claim had to be both “objectively baseless” and “brought in subjective bad faith” before fees could be awarded. The high court ruled that fees should be awarded merely when the case is “exceptional” and not when the defendant must prove there was zero merit.

In the second case, Highmark v. Allcare Health Management , the Supreme Court also noted the “exceptional” standard in reversing the appellate court's decision but specifically ruled that appellate courts should give more deference to the lower courts on rulings of fact. In Highmark, the district court found that Allcare had engaged in a pattern of “vexatious” and “deceitful” conduct throughout the litigation and awarded fees. The appellate court while agreeing with the lower court about part of the case reversed the fees in their de novo review of the case. In de novo reviews, the court case is essentially retried with the higher court. The Supreme Court iterated that de novo reviews should be done typically for “questions of law” and reviews on “questions of fact” are done if there are clear errors with decisions on matters of discretion “reviewable for ‘abuse of discretion.’” In other words, the appellate courts can review a case if a lower court has not correctly interpreted law; however, they should not retry a lower case on facts unless the lower court made a clear error. Also unless the lower court abused their power in some way, the appellate court should not review their final decisions.

For example, if a person is tried for murder, an appellate court could rule that a district court misinterpreted a statute about sentencing if the person if found guilty. The appellate court should not retry the facts of the case unless the lower court had made a clear error like ruling that there was a DNA match when there was not. Also an appellate court should not reverse the lower court if they sentenced the person to a reasonable time. Now if the district court sentenced the person to 400 years for one murder, then the appellate court should intervene.

In effect the two rulings make it easier for companies to recover money should they be sued in frivolous patent lawsuits. This would make the risks greater for those who sue.

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+ - GM announces first female CEO Mary Barra->

UnknowingFool writes: Right after the US Treasury Department sold off its last stake in GM, two surprises followed . First, CEO Dan Akerson announced his retirement, and the board chose long-time employee Mary Barra as his replacement as GM's first female CEO. While there will be comparisons to Carly Fiorina because of gender, there are major differences between the two situations. Barra has been with GM for 33 years and started working as a university co-op student while Fiorina was hired from Lucent. Barra started out as a plant engineer before completing her MBA and rising through the ranks to varied positions like plant manager, head of HR, and senior vice president of global product development while Fiorina was always in management.
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+ - SCOTUS agrees to hear case to clarify software patents->

UnknowingFool writes: The Supreme Court agreed today to hear the case of Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International to help establish clearer guidelines on what may be patented in software. The case involves Alice Corporation who holds four patents originating in the 1990s of which was for "a computerized system for creating and exchanging financial instruments such as derivatives." These patents were challenged by CLS Bank International in 2007. The district court ruled summarily for CLS in that none of patents were valid. The Federal Circuit initially reversed the lower court; however, the full panel (en banc) voted (7 out of 10) to affirm the district court but also issued 5 separate concurring and dissenting opinions.

This confusion was noted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in its amicus brief:

" . . . the Federal Circuit has failed to implement a workable standard—or, frankly, any standard at all—as to what computer- and Internet-implemented inventions are patentable. The resulting legal instability has driven up the already-ballooning costs of patent litigation . . ."

In my opinion, it appears that main patent simply added "on the computer" to an existing process, namely in an business transaction between two parties, there is a third party that ensures that payment is made and is facilitated. The computer made the transaction faster and more automated as noted by Judge Lourie in his opinion.

“simply appending generic computer functionality to lend speed or efficiency to the performance of an otherwise abstract concept does not meaningfully limit claim scope for purposes of patent eligibility.

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+ - US FDA moves to ban trans fat->

UnknowingFool writes: Citing growing health concerns about trans fat, the FDA today proposed measures to eliminate it from the US food supply. While trans fat can still be used, the new measures now place the burden on food processors to justify the inclusion of it in a food product as experts have maintained that there is no safe level of consumption and no health benefits. Since 2006, the amount of trans far eaten by the average American has declined from 4.5g per serving to less than 1g as restaurants and the food industry have reduced their use of it. There will be a 60 day public comment period for the new proposal.
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+ - Blockbuster to close remaining US locations->

UnknowingFool writes: Blockbuster announced that it will close its remaining 300 US locations by January and discontinue the DVD by mail service. Before being bought out by Dish, the chain was slowly closing locations. From an all time high of 9,000 locations in 2004, the chain has fallen on hard times and had emerged from bankruptcy in 2011.
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+ - Blackberry ends attempts to sell itself, will replace CEO->

UnknowingFool writes: Blackberry has announced it will no longer sell itself and will attempt to raise $1B from investors and shareholders. Also CEO Thorston Heins will leave in two weeks, replaced by John Chen, former CEO of Sybase. This is the second change in leadership in the last two years as Blackerry's finances have struggled against the rise of Apple and Android smartphones.
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+ - Windows 8.1 for RT update pulled from Windows store->

UnknowingFool writes: After reports of update problems including bricking of some devices, Microsoft has pulled the 8.1 update for RT from their store while they investigate.

"Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users updating their Windows RT devices to Windows RT 8.1. As a result, we have temporarily removed the Windows RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. We will provide updates as they become available"

While update problems are not new to software, could this be a consequence of MS not releasing 8.1 RTM to developers? Developers may have experienced problems earlier and alerted MS before it went live.
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+ - Yale "Freakonomics" professor: Bing is not preferred 2:1 as Microsoft claims->

UnknowingFool writes: In 2009, Microsoft launched a national TV and print advertising campaign for Bing claiming that their study showed that it was preferred 2 to 1 over Google in search results in a head-to-head challenge reminiscent of the Pepsi challenges from the 1980s. MS then invited consumers to take their own test at www.bingiton.com.

Yale law professor Ian Ayres (of Freakonomics fame) and his law students published a paper On their study that found that Google was preferred over Bing 53% to 41% with 6% ties. This was far from the 2:1 ratio MS claimed. Professor Ayres matched the small sample size (1000 people). Although the commercials gives the impression that the results of the MS was a head-to-head street challenge, the results came from a online study MS commissioned through Answer Research.

Noted differences between the two studies was that the Yale study randomly assigned the user one of three different sets of searches: 1) Bing supplied searches, 2) top 25 web searches, or 3) user defined searches. One Bing searches the results were almost the same but users preferred Google in the other two sets. Another main difference is that MS has not published the methodology used or tracked individual user responses.

Legally, one conclusion of the study was that Google might have a deceptive advertising suit against Microsoft.

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Computer Science is the only discipline in which we view adding a new wing to a building as being maintenance -- Jim Horning