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: Microsoft and Google have teamed up against a company that holds a geotagging patent and sued 397 companies last year in Texas, most of them in mid December. The list, published on Scribd and Crocodoc, includes plenty of household names. Now the two tech giants have entered the fray together and want the patent declared invalid and seek an injunction to prevent further lawsuits over it. Since the patent holder has already filed for an initial public offering, this intervention may come at just the right time to prevent the worst. Google and Microsoft say that there was prior art when the patent on an 'Internet organizer for accessing geographically and topically based information' was applied for in 1996.
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: 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: Bloomberg was first to report on a suit filed by mobile software company Myriad Group against Oracle in Delaware on Friday. The Swiss company, which sells its own Java implementation for mobile devices, claims Oracle doesn't honor its licensing commitments and overcharged Myriad and its customers by at least $120 million. Observers see a potential Google hand in this, given the obvious connection with the dispute between Oracle and Google. It turns out that on the same day Oracle sued Myriad (in Northern California) for infringement of the Java trademark. Oracle says Myriad stopped paying royalties more than a year ago and demanded a royalty-free license, which Oracle apparently isn't willing to grant. The Apache Foundation finds itself in a similar situation--but not in court (yet).
FlorianMueller writes: In addition to suing Motorola in a district court, Microsoft also lodged a complaint with the US International Trade Commission. The USITC provides a fast track to an injunction: while court cases most often take years, the USITC could ban imports of Motorola Droid phones within about 18 months. Apple's complaint against HTC was also filed with the USITC in addition to a court. Oracle could complain against vendors of Android-based phones to step up pressure on Google. At any rate, Android is caught in a formidable crossfire of patents covering a wide range of technologies.
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?