Apple Wants to Compete on Patent Portfolio, Not Products

(Cross-posted on DisCo)

Apple has been an odd player in the patent debate. On the one hand, it’s the company that gets sued by patent trolls more than any other. As a result, it supports most of the patent reform bill, and Apple uses the Covered Business Method (CBM) program far more than any other company. (As of today, Apple has filed 17 CBM petitions, while the next biggest user of CBM, Liberty Insurance, has filed only 10 CBM petitions.)

On the other hand, Apple is using its own software patents to go after Samsung. And Apple strongly opposed any expansion of the CBM program, apparently for fear that Samsung might use it to challenge Apple’s patents.

This schizophrenic approach to patents might explain why Apple didn’t file an amicus brief in the Alice v. CLS Bank case: Apple is victimized by software patents more than anyone, but it needs its software patents to try to crush Android.

Apple’s whole approach seems strange. In its case against Samsung, Apple is demanding around $40 per phone, even though all the accused features are part of Android. Android is free. And the software patents Apple is using are questionable at best.

(more…)

Progress on Patent Reform Takes a Little Time

As you may have heard, we basically have a deal on patent reform in the Senate Judiciary Committee. While lawmakers couldn’t quite get it done before recess, they left town with what Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) described as a “broad bipartisan agreement in principle” on patent reform. I’m hearing from sources that nearly everything is worked out except the fine tuning of language.  We can expect to see the manager’s amendment in a couple of weeks when the Senate returns.

The members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spent weeks listening to stakeholders and conducting a lot of in depth substantive discussions. And lest you think that this bill sprang out of nowhere, provisions to deal with patent trolls were debated as part of the America Invents Act; that’s 8 years in the making.

This deal comes after the House passed the Innovation Act 325-91, with Democrats supporting it 2 to 1. Chairman Leahy is working in collaboration with Chairman Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee, which really improves the chances of getting the House and Senate to agree on a bill pretty quickly.

Another sign that we’re nearly there is that some big companies seem to be accepting the inevitability of reform. One harbinger is the recent news that Intellectual Ventures, the “gentleman gangster” of patent trolls, is having trouble with some of its early funders. Reports late last week in Reuters and National Journal say Apple and Intel—both previous financial backers of IV—have demurred on investing in its latest acquisition fund. Some analysts say the decision by Apple and Intel to shut off the spigot to IV has more to do with IV’s diminishing rate of return than with politics. But I have to believe that the impending reality of patent reform played a major role.

On the other hand, pronouncing patent reform doomed due to partisan bickering is a provocative narrative, so some commentators are running with it.

(more…)

Roundup of This Week’s Patent News: April 11 Edition

Good morning!  Progress was made on patent reform this week, but not enough to get a vote before the Senate went on recess for two weeks.

A Senate Judiciary Executive Business Meeting scheduled for Tuesday was postponed, as was a potential markup for yesterday, although a “tentative deal” was announced Wednesday.  Chairman Leahy put out a statement Wednesday night saying that although members of the Senate Judiciary Committee “have made enormous progress” and they “now have a broad bipartisan agreement in principle,” patent reform would be delayed until after recess.  Chairman Leahy “will circulate a manager’s package the day we return from recess, and the Judiciary Committee will consider that legislation the first week we are back.”

In other news, at CCIA’s 2014 Washington Caucus on Wednesday, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill gave an update on the FTC’s 6(b) study examining PAEs, but emphasized that “Congress should not wait.  Further patent reforms are clearly warranted now.  I believe Congress should act as soon as possible.”  For more on her speech, check out Patent Progress’s retweets of the CCIA account on Wednesday.

And on Monday, the Main Street Patent Coalition put on a great event on the need for patent reform, demonstrating how many non-tech industries are being affected by patent trolls.

Did we miss something?  Questions or suggestions?  Feel free to leave a comment below, mention us on Twitter (@PatentProgress), or email us: patentprogress[AT]ccianet[DOT]org

Main Street Patent Coalition Members Advocate for Patent Reform in the Senate

This morning, the Main Street Patent Coalition held an informative discussion on patent reform.  There were speakers from associations representing home builders, realtors, franchisees and franchisors, convenience stores, credit unions, bankers, grocers, the retail industry, the gaming industry, Latino-owned businesses, and application developers.  They represent millions of Americans working in small, medium, and large businesses all across the country.  And they all want patent reform.

Several priorities that were raised repeatedly were (1) demand letter reform, (2) litigation reforms, such as a customer stay provision, and (3) patent quality.  And all of the speakers demonstrated how patent trolls’ extortionist behaviors directly harm jobs, economic growth, and innovation in their industries.

Patents being asserted against participants included patents on drop-down menus on websites, search alert functions, valuation tools, QR codes, ATMs, and other common tools.  Some of their members had even received demand letters asserting patents that had been invalidated.

One important point that was made was that nothing in the Senate’s bill will affect good-quality patents that are held by stakeholders like universities, pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturers.

Tim Sparapani of the App Developers Alliance summed it up well:  Congress’s goal for passing patent reform legislation should be that when the ink is dry, they have done enough to change the patent troll business model.

Roundup of This Week’s Patent News: April 4 Edition

We’re back with news!

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held an Executive Business Meeting, at which Senator Leahy’s Patent Transparency and Improvement Act was discussed.  Senator Leahy postponed consideration of his bill to Tuesday, April 8, and released a statement about the plan for moving patent reform legislation in the Senate, as I wrote yesterday.  It is possible that there will be a markup or even a vote next week, but it’s not clear yet, as “negotiations are in full swing.”  For additional background information, see Matt Levy’s op-ed in the Hill from Wednesday getting into some specifics about patent reform in the Senate.

In other news, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Alice v. CLS Bank on Monday.  CCIA had filed an amicus brief in support of CLS Bank.  Ars Technica has a good summary of the argument.  The New York Times editorial board came out on Sunday a great editorial in support of CLS Bank, titled “Abstract Ideas Don’t Deserve Patents.”  Monday also brought the latest Apple-Samsung litigation, and CCIA’s Matt Schruers wrote about this episode in the smartphone patent wars and the innovation issues at stake on the Disruptive Competition Project.

There’s also a new Main Street Patent Coalition ad on patent reform, which demonstrates how patent trolls affect non-tech small businesses, and provides another voice joining the chorus that it’s time to #fixpatents.

Did we miss something?  Questions or suggestions?  Feel free to leave a comment below, mention us on Twitter (@PatentProgress), or email us: patentprogress[AT]ccianet[DOT]org