Patents

Patent Troll VirnetX Awarded $626M In Damages From Apple (arstechnica.com) 123

Tackhead writes: Having won a $200M judgement against Microsoft in 2010, lost a $258M appeal against Cisco in 2013, and having beaten Apple for $368M in 2012, only to see the verdict overturned in 2014, patent troll VirnetX is back in the news, having been awarded $626M in damages arising from the 2012 Facetime patent infringement case against Apple.
Toys

German Inventor, Innovator and Businessman Artur Fischer Dies At Age of 96 38

Qbertino writes: As Spiegel.de reports (German link) inventor Artur Fischer has died at the age of 96. Artur Fischer is a classic example of the innovator and businessman of post-war Germany — he invented the synchronous flash for photography, the famed Fischer Fixing (aka Screwanchor/rawlplug or "Dübel" in German) and the Fischer Technik Construction Sets with which many a nerd grew up with, including the famous C64 Fischer Robotics Kit of the 80s. His heritage includes an impressive portfolio of over 1100 patents and he reportedly remained inventive and interested in solving technical problems til the very end. ... Rest in piece and thanks for the hours of fun tinkering with Fischertechnik. ... Now where did that old C64 robot go?

Newegg Sues Patent Troll After Troll Dropped Its Own Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 172

WheezyJoe writes: Not satisfied that a patent troll dropped its lawsuit against them, Newegg has sued the troll. So-called "patent holding company" Minero Digital sought to exact royalty payments on a wide range of USB hubs, suing, among others, Newegg's subsidiary Rosewill. But the "non-practicing entity" dropped its East Texas lawsuit against Rosewill within days of getting a call from the Newegg's lawyer. However, Minero dismissed its Texas lawsuit "without prejudice", meaning it can refile the case at a time of its choosing. So, Newegg filed its own lawsuit against Minero in Los Angeles federal court, asking a judge to lay down a ruling that Minero's case against Rosewill is baseless. Says Newegg's Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng, "Minero's case does not have merit, and its patent is not only expired but would suck even if it wasn't expired. Now that they have started the litigation, it would be irresponsible for Newegg to not finish it."
Transportation

Insurance Companies Looking For Fallback Plans To Survive Driverless Cars (csmonitor.com) 293

An anonymous reader writes: Driverless cars could mean a huge downsizing of the auto insurance industry, as the frequency of accidents declines and liability shifts from the driver to the vehicle's software or automaker. This is compounded by the rise of ride-sharing services. Once summoning a vehicle to take you somewhere isn't limited by the number of people available to drive them (and are correspondingly cheaper), car ownership is likely to decline. Many major automakers and tech companies are throwing billions of research dollars into making this happen, and insurance companies are trying to figure out how to survive. For example, a recent patent application shows State Farm is betting on collecting massive amounts of data about you. While they'll no doubt use it to set your insurance rates, they also plan to "send you advice, alerts, coupons or discounts on insurance or other goods and services." Traveler's Insurance is thinking along somewhat similar lines. They want to create "a device that offers specific suggestions for managing errands and other travel. Customers would be able to see a map of 'risk zone' data for places they want to go, such as stores, restaurants and roads. They could then plan the day 'with an eye toward how risky such endeavors may be,' according to the patent application."
Patents

Dropbox Obtains Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Patent (thestack.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: Cloud-based file hosting giant Dropbox has patented a new synchronization technology which could allow users to use a peer-to-peer network to securely share and collaborate on documents without the need to store them in the company's centralized servers. The patent application details how the system could allow back up to a range of media to multiple devices simultaneously, cutting the need for users to constantly upload and download from remote hardware. Dropbox argues that the development of peer-to-peer distributed sharing could boost content download speeds, eliminating bottlenecks, therefore increasing the speed at which content can be shared among individuals.
Education

Khan Academy Seeks Patent On Education A/B Testing 49

theodp writes: The Education Revolution will be patented. USPTO records show that Khan Academy is seeking a patent for Systems and Methods for Split Testing Educational Videos. From the patent application: "Systems and methods are provided for comparing different videos pertaining to a topic. Two different versions of an educational video may be compared using split comparison testing. A set of questions may be provided along with each video about the topic taught in the video. Users may view one of the videos and answer the questions. Data about the user responses may be aggregated and used to determine which video more effectively conveys information to the viewer based on the question responses." Now it's up to the USPTO to decide if something like the test and control studies conducted 40+ years ago (pdf) by the PLATO system to measure the effectiveness of different teaching methods would count as prior art. In response to an earlier post on Khan Academy's pending patents on learning computer programming and 'social programming,' Slashdot user Khan Academy said that the nonprofit is using patents for good, so not to worry.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Microsoft Patents a Slider, Earning EFF's "Stupid Patent of the Month" Award (arstechnica.com) 127

An anonymous reader writes with news that the EFF has given Microsoft a dubious award this month for their slider patent. According to Ars: "The Electronic Frontier Foundation's 'Stupid Patent of the Month' for December isn't owned by a sketchy shell company, but rather the Microsoft Corporation. The selection, published yesterday, is the first time the EFF has picked a design patent as the SPOTM. The blog post seeks to highlight some of the problems with those lesser-known cousins to standard 'utility' patents, especially the damages that can result. The chosen patent (PDF), numbered D554,140, would seem to be one of those things that's so simple it raises some basic philosophical questions about the patent system. That's because it's just a slider, in the bottom-right corner of a window, with a plus sign at one end and a minus sign at the other. That's it.
Businesses

Apple To Pay Ericsson Patent Royalties On iPhones and iPads (cio.com) 75

itwbennett writes: In settlement of a long-standing dispute over patents that Ericsson considers essential to the implementation of a number of mobile communications standards, including GSM, the 3G standard UMTS and LTE, Apple has agreed to pay Ericsson royalties on sales of iPhones and iPads. While the companies would not disclose further details of their agreement, Ericsson gave a hint about its value. For the full year 2015, Ericsson predicts its intellectual property rights revenue will amount to between 13 billion and 14 billion Swedish krona ($1.64 billion). In comparison, it reported IPR revenue of 10.6 billion krona for the full year 2014, including a 4.2 billion krona lump sum in settlement of a similar global dispute with Samsung Electronics.
Microsoft

Microsoft Offers Linux Certification. Yes, Really. (dice.com) 200

Nerval's Lobster writes: Former CEO Steve Ballmer once publicly referred to Linux as a 'cancer.' Not content to just let Ballmer blow up about it, company also spent a good deal of money and legal effort on claiming that open-source software violated its patents. A decade ago, the idea of Microsoft creating a Linux certification would have seemed like lunacy. But now that very thing has come to pass, (Dice link) with the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) Linux on Azure certification, designed in conjunction with the Linux Foundation. Earning the Linux on Azure certification requires tech pros to pass Microsoft Exam 70-533 (Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions) as well as the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) exam, which collectively require knowledge of Linux and Azure implementation. Microsoft evidently recognizes that open-source technology increasingly powers the cloud and mobile, and that it needs to play nice with the open-source community if it wants to survive and evolve.
Businesses

Apple's Legal Fight With Samsung Revealed a Gold Mine of Top-Secret Information (bgr.com) 109

An anonymous reader writes with this story about how the Apple vs. Samsung battle brought to light the inner workings of Apple product development. BGR reports: "Following a contentious patent battle that raged on for nearly five years, Samsung last week finally agreed to pay Apple $548 million in damages for infringing upon a number of iPhone and iPad patents. While Samsung may still be holding out hope that it may someday recover those millions, it seems that we can finally start closing the book on the most widely publicized patent dispute in recent memory, one which saw Apple and Samsung battle it out in courtrooms across all corners of the globe.

One of the more interesting aspects of Apple's legal battle with Samsung is that it gave us an unprecedented look behind the veil of secrecy that typically shrouds all aspects of Apple's product development and day-to-day operations. Over the course of discovery, innumerable court filings, and a fascinating trial, the inner workings of Apple were brought to the forefront for the fist time in history. From photographs of iPhone prototypes to how Apple conducts market research, Apple's legal battles with Samsung provided tech enthusiasts with a treasure trove of previously top-secret information.

With Samsung now agreeing to pony up for damages, we thought it'd be a good time to take a step back, reminisce, and take a look at some of the more interesting nuggets of information the hard-fought patent dispute brought to light."
Patents

Samsung Agrees To Pay Apple $548 Million Over Smartphone Patents (theverge.com) 64

An anonymous reader writes: After years of legal wrangling over smartphone patents, Apple and Samsung appear to have reached an agreement. The two companies released a joint statement (PDF) saying Samsung will pay Apple $548 million before December 14th. Apple must send them an invoice before they'll pay. It's not a complete stand-down; even their agreement contains disagreement. "The statement notes that Samsung 'continues to reserve all rights to obtain reimbursement from Apple,' although in the same document, Apple disputes these rights. ... Not only does the joint statement reserve Samsung's right to take some of this money back in any future cases, but this summer, the South Korean company announced it would be requesting a U.S. Supreme Court review of its legal case." At the very least, it's a big step toward resolving the mountain of patent issues between the companies.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Approach Big Companies With Your Product? 174

New submitter ily2013 writes: My family have invented a product that will prevent electrical related fires for homes and businesses. A patent has been filed and approved worldwide, which includes the United States. Now I would like to take this product, and ask Apple/Microsoft/Big vendors to see if they would be willing to integrate our product into their existing and future products, because we believe the product will truly change the way safety of electric/electrical devices are viewed. What is the best way to approach this? Should I start by cold-calling Apple/Microsoft/Big vendors? or send them a mail/email?
The Courts

Video The FSF's Donald Robertson Talks About Secretive Trade Negotiations (Video) 32

Donald Robertson, is the Free Software Foundation (FSF) copyright administrator (and wearer of several other hats as well), so he's the FSF person to turn to when you want to discuss trade agreements, how they are negotiated, and how info on these (typically) secret) goings-on get leaked so that we can see what our negotiators are up to. And don't think, even for a second, that the TPP is the only trade agreement our government is working on, or necessarily the worst. After that, we learn how Don Robertson hooked up with the FSF and got what may be the best job in the world for an attorney who likes (and uses) GNU/Linux. (And for more, check out yesterday's interview with Mr. Robertson.)
Microsoft

Why Legal Experts Are Up In Arms Over a Trade-Secrets Bill Microsoft Loves (cio.com) 48

itwbennett writes: At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers heard arguments over the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015. The proposed legislation would allow companies to pursue trade-secrets cases in federal court much as they can copyright or patent cases, thereby freeing them from the state-level constraints of today's laws. It also allows for so-called ex parte seizure, enabling a company that thinks a secret has been stolen to ask the government to seize a suspected thief's property without notice, to prevent misuse of that secret. It's the ex parte seizure provision, as well as the bill's potential to increase the duration and cost of trade-secrets litigation, that prompted more than 40 law professors to write a joint letter expressing their concern. Companies have long protected algorithms such as consumer credit-scoring mechanisms under trade-secret law, intellectual property expert and Hamline University professor Sharon Sandeen said in an interview after the hearing. If passed, the new bill could give them new powers to conceal those algorithms, she said. Voicing the opposing view, lawyers from Corning and DuPont cited the increasingly digital and global nature of trade-secrets theft, a sentiment that was echoed in a blog post by Jule Sigall, Microsoft's assistant general counsel of IP policy and strategy.
Patents

City Sued Over Smart Meter-Related Patent (chicagotribune.com) 60

New submitter wb8nbs writes: Florida patent troll Atlas LLC has filed a suit against the municipality of Naperville, Illinois (paywalled). Atlas claims infringement of their patent on wireless communication where a hub node controls remote node responses. In 2011-2013 Naperville, which owns the local electrical utility network, installed Smart Meters on nearly all customers in its serving area, a move that was bitterly opposed by a small group of residents. The Naperville Smart Meter network uses Zigbee protocol to return readings to their fiber optic collection network. The Atlas suit could have long range implications to the Internet of Things, but it appears they have sued and lost a similar case in Florida.
The Courts

Video The FSF's Donald Robertson Talks About Copyrights, Patents, and the TPP (Video) 39

We all know (or know about) Richard M. Stallmann, founder of and vociferous spokesman for the Free Software Foundation. But the organization is far from a one-man band, and Donald Robertson, their copyright administrator (and wearer of several other hats as well) is the person to turn to when you want to get into the murky depths of copyright and patent law. He's also somewhat of an expert on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the FSF says, '...has a number of truly dangerous provisions that harm software freedom."

What can you do to help stop this trade agreement that has gotten the FSF (and the EFF, among others) up in arms? Don answers that question in the video (and accompanying transcript for those who would rather read than watch). And any unanswered questions will probably be taken care of in a second video interview with Mr. Robertson that we plan to run in the next day or two.
Patents

Sued For Using HTTPS: Companies In Crypto Patent Fight (theregister.co.uk) 130

yoink! writes: According to an article in The Register, corporations big and small are coming under legal fire from CryptoPeak. The Company holds U.S. Patent 6,202,150, which describes "auto-escrowable and auto-certifiable cryptosystems" and has claimed that the Elliptic Curve Cryptography methods/implementations used as part of the HTTPS protocol violates their intellectual property. Naturally, reasonable people disagree.
Patents

EFF Asks Appeals Court To "Shut Down the Eastern District of Texas" (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge have asked a federal appeals court to make big changes to the rules governing venue in patent cases. The two public interest groups are seeking to file an amicus brief (PDF) which attacks the Eastern District of Texas as being one of the "most notorious situations of forum shopping in recent history." This district has made quite a few appearances on Slashdot; this is one of my favorites.
Businesses

Does Government Science Funding Drive Innovation? (wsj.com) 248

An anonymous reader writes: In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, British businessman and science journalist Matt Ridley argues that basic science research does not lead to technological innovation, and therefore isn't deserving of taxpayer funding. Ridley says, "Increasingly, technology is developing the kind of autonomy that hitherto characterized biological entities. The Stanford economist Brian Arthur argues that technology is self-organizing and can, in effect, reproduce and adapt to its environment. ... The implications of this new way of seeing technology—as an autonomous, evolving entity that continues to progress whoever is in charge—are startling. People are pawns in a process. We ride rather than drive the innovation wave. Technology will find its inventors, rather than vice versa.

Patents and copyright laws grant too much credit and reward to individuals and imply that technology evolves by jerks. Recall that the original rationale for granting patents was not to reward inventors with monopoly profits but to encourage them to share their inventions. ... It follows that there is less need for government to fund science: Industry will do this itself. Having made innovations, it will then pay for research into the principles behind them. Having invented the steam engine, it will pay for thermodynamics."

Medicine

Drug Firm Offers $1 Version of $750 Daraprim Pill (chicagotribune.com) 168

An anonymous reader writes: We recently read about a U.S. company that bought the rights to a drug called Daraprim and then boosted the price over 5,000%. There was widespread outrage over this blatant price gouging, most of it focused on hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli. Now, a San Diego-based drug company called Imprimis has stepped in to fill the void. They announced that they'll be supplying capsules containing the same active ingredients in Daraprim for $1 per dose. Their CEO, Mark Baum, said they'll also start making alternative versions of other generic medicines that have skyrocketed in price lately. "Imprimis, which primarily makes compounded drugs to treat cataracts and urological conditions, will work with health insurers and prescription benefit managers in each state to make its new capsules and other compounded generic medicines widely available, Baum said."

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