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Old 01-10-2013, 01:47 AM   #1
zerogear
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Default US Patent Office, DoJ fed up with Apple, Samsung, Moto battles

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/01...patent_policy/

Quote:
Hey, tech titans! Those smartmobe sales bans? Give it a rest. NOW

US Patent Office, DoJ fed up with Apple, Samsung, Moto battles

By Brid-Aine Parnell

Posted in Law, 9th January 2013 13:16 GMT

Companies can only ban the sales of rival products using patents essential to communications standards in rare and specific cases. That's the latest common-sense thinking from the US Justice Department and the US Patent Office.

The two bodies have taken the unusual step of releasing a joint policy statement on standards-essential patents (SEP) as their use in smartphone and tablet court cases, usually to shoo away Apple, has increased. The statement didn't name any names, but fandroid firms such as Samsung and Google-owned Motorola Mobility have been known to throw claims of SEP infringement back at the iPhone maker when it takes them to court.

The policy guidelines [PDF] [1] were sent to the International Trade Commission (ITC), which has the power to block imports of patent-infringing gear into the US. The DoJ and USPTO's stance comes after the Federal Trade Commission last week said that SEP infringement should only be punished by cash damages except in special circumstances.

The various federal and judicial bodies are mostly citing competition as the reason to deny sales bans. The DoJ and PTO said that owning SEPs put firms in a position to "gain market power and potentially take advantage of it by engaging in patent holdup".

"The ITC, may conclude, after applying its public interest factors, that exclusion orders (sales injunctions) are inappropriate," the two organisations added.

Of course, while their opinions may carry some weight with judges and lawmakers, no one actually has to obey the statement as it's not legally binding.

Ideally, SEPs are licensed to companies on a fair and reasonable basis so that standardised technologies covered by the patents, such as 3G mobile networking, can be implemented by competing manufacturers and will therefore just work for users regardless of the product they choose to use.

So when a patent owner accuses a rival of infringing a protected system and demands a sales ban, rather than working out a simple licensing deal, it's rather counterproductive for paying customers: if gadget makers can't use established communications standards without being sued or financially ruined, rival devices will become incompatible as each firm invents it own system and buyers face chaos.

That said, the DoJ and PTO were keen to point out that if a potential licensee was offering unreasonable royalty rates in an attempt to evade paying up, or was deliberately avoiding negotiations, then it needed to be held accountable.

"Although we recommend caution in granting injunctions or exclusion orders based on infringement of voluntarily FRAND [fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory] encumbered patents essential to a standard, DOJ and USPTO strongly support the protection of intellectual property rights and believe that a patent holder who makes such a FRAND commitment should receive appropriate compensation that reflects the value of the technology contributed to the standard," they said.
About freaking time.
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Old 01-10-2013, 04:24 AM   #2
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And I think the system did it to themselves by some of the original rulings that they made when the complaints should have been laughed out of court. If suits kept getting thrown out, i dont think the companies would be actively trying to find new ones the way they are currently.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:37 AM   #3
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Companies have abuse the law really badly before they fix it. This nonsense has been going on for decades but having got so incredibly stupid and ridiculous over the last few years (when Apple tried to prove it was the best and this silly game when it sued like everyone at once, multiple times) that it finally hit hilariously expensive.

I wonder how many legal jobs this thing created? 'Fixing it' could cost the economy quite a bit.
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Old 01-10-2013, 07:12 AM   #4
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This has been a long time coming. Motorola and Samsung having been playing a dangerous game trying to leverage their standards essential patents against Apple and Microsoft. Now that competition authorities are involved, it's hard to believe either (or anyone else) will be able to get injunctions based on SEPs against anyone. The official releases give a user of the patents a pretty clear line not to cross to avoid injunctions. Basically they just need to agree that once a court has set a rate they'll pay it.

Procedurally this is important because (unlike the recent FTC settlement with Google, which binds Googles conduct with regard to SEPs) it provides standing guidance to the ITC about how to view SEP lawsuits. Generally they give such guidance a lot of weight. It's not quite like changing the law, but it is giving the ITC clear instructions about how to interpret the law.
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Old 01-10-2013, 09:16 AM   #5
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but rounded edges are innovative! Before apple invented rounded edges hundreds of millions of people were bleeding because companies used hard razor sharp edges on ALL their phones!

Seriously though, the patent office operating in their mindset of the 1900s brought this on themselves. This is the first sensible thing they did in decades.
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Old 01-10-2013, 09:28 AM   #6
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I like how Apple is mentioned in the article, but hasn't used its SEPs to sue the other companies.
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Old 01-10-2013, 09:37 AM   #7
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Ban software patents
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrightCandle View Post
Companies have abuse the law really badly before they fix it. This nonsense has been going on for decades but having got so incredibly stupid and ridiculous over the last few years (when Apple tried to prove it was the best and this silly game when it sued like everyone at once, multiple times) that it finally hit hilariously expensive.

I wonder how many legal jobs this thing created? 'Fixing it' could cost the economy quite a bit.

You do realise Motorolla and Nokia sued Apple first?
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:19 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by ChAoTiCpInOy View Post
I like how Apple is mentioned in the article, but hasn't used its SEPs to sue the other companies.
Yeah. I was think that this article isn't about what most people think it's about. It isn't removing method/software/design patents but instead it's about FRAND abuse.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:31 PM   #10
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Ban software patents
I don't think they should be banned, but they definitely shouldn't exist in their current format. The problem is that you can't patent algorithms, which I think is utterly silly. You can patent a physical embodiment of one, but just not the idea itself. At best you can copyright it, but that's unlikely to be effective at protecting the investment to develop it.

Really, any software patent granted should require an exact description of the algorithm using predicate logic, or some other method that allows for perfect reproduction of the algorithm, much like a patent should allow perfect reproduction of a physical invention. This also makes it easy to determine if a violation has occurred or if prior art exists as it's easy to simply compare an application with any existing patents to determine if it is actually unique or to what extent it is new and novel. It also prevents the obvious (this has been done before but not on a phone/tablet/microwave oven) patents that a lot of people complain about.

Also, they really need to reduce the duration of any patents for non-physical objects, or possibly just all patents in general. Five years, and then a fee to extend the patent for another three years would probably be a reasonable amount of time.
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:03 PM   #11
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Yeah they are actually telling Samsung, Google et al to stop using FRAND patents to bully other competitors.

Apple has not done this.
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