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Patents

Patent Trolls On the Run But Not Vanquished Yet 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-forget-the-fire dept.
snydeq writes Strong legislation that will weaken the ability of the trolls to shake down innovators is likely to pass Congress, but more should be done, writes InfoWorld's Bill Snyder. "The Innovation Act isn't an ideal fix for the program patent system. But provisions in the proposed law, like one that will make trolls pay legal costs if their claims are rejected, will remove a good deal of the risk that smaller companies face when they decide to resist a spurious lawsuit," Snyder writes. That said, "You'd have to be wildly optimistic to think that software patents will be abolished. Although the EFF's proposals call for the idea to be studied, [EFF attorney Daniel] Nazer doesn't expect it to happen; he instead advocates several reforms not contained in the Innovation Act."
Patents

Jury Tells Apple To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Suit 186

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-remit-821,110-iphones dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Smartflash LLC has won a patent lawsuit against Apple over DRM and technology relating to the storage of downloaded songs, games, and videos on iTunes. Apple must now pay $532.9 million in damages. An Apple spokesperson did not hesitate to imply Smartflash is a patent troll: "Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented. We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system." The trial happened in the same court that decided Apple owed VirnetX $368 million over FaceTime-related patents back in 2012.
Google

Google Teams Up With 3 Wireless Carriers To Combat Apple Pay 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
HughPickens.com writes AP reports that in an effort to undercut Apple's hit service Apple Pay, Google is teaming up with three wireless carriers by building its payment service into Android smartphones sold by AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. Besides trying to make it more convenient to use Wallet, Google also is hoping to improve the nearly 4-year-old service. Toward that end, Google is buying some mobile payment technology and patents from Softcard, a 5-year-old venture owned by the wireless carriers. Financial terms weren't disclosed but Apple Pay's popularity probably helped forge the unlikely alliance between Google and the wireless carriers. Google traditionally has had a prickly relationship with the carriers, largely because it doesn't believe enough has been done to upgrade wireless networks and make them cheaper so more people can spend more time online.

The biggest challenge however is one that both Apple and Google face: Only a small fraction of the 10 million or so retail outlets in the U.S.–220,000 at last count–have checkout readers that can accept payments from either system. Both wallets use a radio technology called Near Field Communication to send payment, and it's expected to take years for most stores to be upgraded. What's at play? The big tech companies and carriers seem convinced that our phones will eventually replace our wallets. For carriers, that could make mobile wallet technology table stakes over the next few years as they compete for consumers.
AT&T

AT&T Patents System To "Fast-Lane" File-Sharing Traffic 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
An anonymous reader writes Telecom giant AT&T has been awarded a patent for speeding up BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer traffic, and reducing the impact that these transactions have on the speed of its network. Unauthorized file-sharing generates thousands of petabytes of downloads every month, sparking considerable concern among the ISP community due to its detrimental effect on network speeds. AT&T and its Intellectual Property team has targeted the issue in a positive manner, and has appealed for the new patent to create a 'fast lane' for BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic. As well as developing systems around the caching of local files, the ISP has proposed analyzing BitTorrent traffic to connect high-impact clients to peers who use fewer resources.
Displays

Apple Patent Could Have "Broad Ramifications" For VR Headsets 128

Posted by timothy
from the it's-on-your-face dept.
An anonymous reader writes Filed in 2008, published in 2013, and legally granted to Apple this week, the company's patent for a 'Head-mounted display apparatus for retaining a portable electronic device with display' could have "broad ramifications" for mobile VR headsets like Samsung's Gear VR and Google Cardboard, says patent attorney Eric Greenbaum. "This Apple HMD patent is significant. I would say it introduces potential litigation risks for companies that have or are planning to release a mobile device HMD," he said. "There is no duty for Apple to make or sell an HMD. They can sit on this patent and use it strategically either by enforcing it against potential infringers, licensing it, or using it as leverage in forming strategic partnerships."
Patents

Patent Troll Wins $15.7M From Samsung By Claiming To Own Bluetooth 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-invented-the-moon dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A jury has upheld patent claims against Samsung and awarded the patent-holder $15.7 million. "The patents relate to compatibility between different types of modems, and connect to a string of applications going back to 1997. The first version of Bluetooth was invented by Swedish cell phone company Ericsson in 1994." Lawyers for the plaintiff argue that the patents cover all devices that use Bluetooth 2.0 or later, so further cases could extend far beyond Samsung. Of course, the company that won the lawsuit wasn't the one who made the invention, or the one who patented it. The company is Rembrandt IP, "one of the oldest and most successful" patent trolls.
Displays

Apple Patents Head-Mounted iPhone 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the short-step-to-a-literal-eyephone dept.
mpicpp sends word of a patent newly awarded to Apple, #8,957,835, which describes a head-mounted apparatus that uses an iPhone (or iPod) as a display. The device "temporarily integrates or merges both mechanically and electronically a head-mounted device with a portable electronic device." It sounds a bit like Samsung's Gear VR headset, and many outlets are reporting it as being a virtual reality device. However, the patent itself doesn't mention VR, and it was filed in 2008, long before the VR rush of the past few years. That said, Apple has recently been trying to hire engineers with experience developing VR-related software, so it's something they could be evaluating.
Patents

Algorithmic Patenting 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the monkeys-at-typewriters dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Venturebeat reports on companies using software to "create" patents. They say a company called Cloem will use the software to "linguistically manipulate a seed set of a client's patent claims by, for example, substituting in synonyms or reordering steps in a process, thereby generating tens of thousands of potentially patentable inventions." The article says, "There is reason to believe that at least some of its computer-conceived inventions could be patentable and, indeed, patents have already been granted on inventions designed wholly or in part by software."
The Courts

Dept. of Justice Blesses IEEE Rules On Injunctions and Reasonability 32

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-it-out-of-court dept.
Andy Updegrove writes During the mobile platform patent wars of recent years Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola and the rest of the major vendors sought injunctions against each other to prevent their competitor from selling their products at all. The suits were often based on claims that a vendor had to pay a reasonable royalty on a 'standards essential patent.' The resulting litigation clogged up the courts, and the regulators were not amused. Now, after almost two years of vigorous debate, the standards development organization behind WiFi and thousands of other ICT standards (IEEE-SA) has received the blessing of the U.S. Dept. of Justice to forbid members that have pledged to license such patents from seeking an injunction until all other remedies have been exhausted. Whether other standards organizations will follow suit remains to be seen.
Japan

Japanese Nobel Laureate Blasts His Country's Treatment of Inventors 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the let-the-makers-make dept.
schwit1 writes: Shuji Nakamura won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics (along with two other scientists) for his work inventing blue LEDs. But long ago he abandoned Japan for the U.S. because his country's culture and patent law did not favor him as an inventor. Nakamura has now blasted Japan for considering further legislation that would do more harm to inventors.

"In the early 2000s, Nakamura had a falling out with his employer and, it seemed, all of Japan. Relying on a clause in Japan's patent law, article 35, that assigns patents to individual inventors, he took the unprecedented step of suing his former employer for a share of the profits his invention was generating. He eventually agreed to a court-mediated $8 million settlement, moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and became an American citizen. During this period he bitterly complained about Japan's treatment of inventors, the country's educational system and its legal procedures. 'The problem is now the Japanese government wants to eliminate patent law article 35 and give all patent rights to the company. If the Japanese government changes the patent law it means basically there would no compensation [for inventors].'"

There is a similar problem with copyright law in the U.S., where changes to the law in the 1970s and 1990s have made it almost impossible for copyrights to ever expire. The changes favor the corporations rather than the individuals who might actually create the work.
IBM

The Mainframe Is Dead! Long Live the Mainframe! 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new-stuff dept.
HughPickens.com writes The death of the mainframe has been predicted many times over the years but it has prevailed because it has been overhauled time and again. Now Steve Lohr reports that IBM has just released the z13, a new mainframe engineered to cope with the huge volume of data and transactions generated by people using smartphones and tablets. "This is a mainframe for the mobile digital economy," says Tom Rosamilia. "It's a computer for the bow wave of mobile transactions coming our way." IBM claims the z13 mainframe is the first system able to process 2.5 billion transactions a day and has a host of technical improvements over its predecessor, including three times the memory, faster processing and greater data-handling capability. IBM spent $1 billion to develop the z13, and that research generated 500 new patents, including some for encryption intended to improve the security of mobile computing. Much of the new technology is designed for real-time analysis in business. For example, the mainframe system can allow automated fraud prevention while a purchase is being made on a smartphone. Another example would be providing shoppers with personalized offers while they are in a store, by tracking their locations and tapping data on their preferences, mainly from their previous buying patterns at that retailer.

IBM brings out a new mainframe about every three years, and the success of this one is critical to the company's business. Mainframes alone account for only about 3 percent of IBM's sales. But when mainframe-related software, services and storage are included, the business as a whole contributes 25 percent of IBM's revenue and 35 percent of its operating profit. Ronald J. Peri, chief executive of Radixx International was an early advocate in the 1980s of moving off mainframes and onto networks of personal computers. Today Peri is shifting the back-end computing engine in the Radixx data center from a cluster of industry-standard servers to a new IBM mainframe and estimates the total cost of ownership including hardware, software and labor will be 50 percent less with a mainframe. "We kind of rediscovered the mainframe," says Peri.
Input Devices

Apple Awarded Gesture-Control Patent 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the nothing-is-obvious-to-the-uspto dept.
mpicpp points out a report that Apple has been awarded a broad patent for gesture control of a computer interface (8,933,876). The company inherited the patent after their acquisition of motion-sensor company PrimeSense in 2013. (PrimeSense's technology is used in Microsoft's Kinect gesture control system.) Here's the patent's abstract: A method, including receiving, by a computer executing a non-tactile three dimensional (3D) user interface, a set of multiple 3D coordinates representing a gesture by a hand positioned within a field of view of a sensing device coupled to the computer, the gesture including a first motion in a first direction along a selected axis in space, followed by a second motion in a second direction, opposite to the first direction, along the selected axis. Upon detecting completion of the gesture, the non-tactile 3D user interface is transitioned from a first state to a second state.
Transportation

Toyota Opens Patents On Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology 124

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes that Toyota will share almost 6,000 hydrogen fuel cell patents. "Hoping to speed development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Toyota said Monday that it would offer thousands of patents on related technologies to rival automakers, for free. The announcement, made at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, echoes a similar move by electric car maker Tesla in 2014, when Chief Executive Elon Musk made Tesla patents available to all, hoping to spur innovation in the electric vehicle world (and, perhaps, to draw publicity.) Toyota has similar goals for the fuel-cell car market. 'At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,' Bob Carter, senior vice president at Toyota, said before the announcement. 'The first generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, launched between 2015 and 2020, will be critical, requiring a concerted effort and unconventional collaboration.'"
Android

De-escalating the Android Patent War 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-bilk-the-USPTO-together dept.
In 2011, a consortium formed from Microsoft, Apple, Sony, BlackBerry, and others spent $4.5 billion acquiring Nortel's patent portfolio, which contained a great deal of ammunition that could be used against Android. That threat has now been reduced. Today, 4,000 of the patents were purchased by a corporation called RPX, which has licensing agreements from Google, Cisco, and dozens more companies. [RPX is] a company that collects a bunch of patents with the goal of using those patents for member companies for defensive purposes. Even though RPX has generally been "good," the business model basically lives because of patent trolling. Its very existence is because of all the patent trolling and abuse out there. In this case, though, it's making sure that basically anyone can license these patents under FRAND (fair and reasonable, non-discriminatory) rates. The price being paid is approximately $900 million. While that article points out that this is considerably less than the $4.5 billion Microsoft and Apple paid originally, again, this is only 4,000 of the 6,000 patents, and you have to assume the 2,000 the other companies kept were the really valuable patents. In short, this is basically Google and Cisco (with some help from a few others) licensing these patents to stop the majority of the lawsuits -- while also making sure that others can pay in as well should they feel threatened. Of course, Microsoft, Apple and the others still have control over the really good patents they kept for themselves, rather than give to Rockstar. And the whole thing does nothing for innovation other than shift around some money.
Patents

Uber Pushing For Patent On Surge Pricing 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the efficiently-separating-you-from-your-money dept.
mpicpp sends news that Uber is renewing its push for a patent on "surge pricing," the practice of increasing rider fees when many people are trying to find transportation. The system measures supply (Uber drivers) and demand (passengers hailing rides with smartphones), and prices fares accordingly. It’s one of at least 13 U.S. patent applications filed by Uber or its founders to give it an edge over potential rivals ahead of a potential initial public offering. So far, Uber hasn’t had any luck. Ten applications were initially rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “obviousness” or for covering something not eligible for protection.
Google

Google Strikes Deal With Verizon To Reduce Patent Troll Suits 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the why-can't-we-be-friends? dept.
mpicpp writes Google Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. struck a long-term patent cross-license agreement to reduce the risk of future patent lawsuits, the latest in a string of deals that signal a slowdown after years of aggressive patent wars. The deal effectively bars the companies from suing each other over any of the thousands of patents the companies currently own or acquire in the next five years. It also protects the companies if either sells a patent to another company, and that company attempts a lawsuit. "This cross license allows both companies to focus on delivering great products and services to consumers around the world," said Kirk Dailey, Google's head of patent transactions.
Medicine

Judge Rules Drug Maker Cannot Halt Sales of Alzheimer's Medicine 266

Posted by timothy
from the you-didn't-build-that dept.
HughPickens.com writes Andrew Pollack reports at the NYT that a federal judge has blocked an attempt by the drug company Actavis to halt sales of an older form of its Alzheimer's disease drug Namenda in favor of a newer version with a longer patent life after New York's attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing the drug company of forcing patients to switch to the newer version of the widely used medicine to hinder competition from generic manufacturers. "Today's decision prevents Actavis from pursuing its scheme to block competition and maintain its high drug prices," says Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general. "Our lawsuit against Actavis sends a clear message: Drug companies cannot illegally prioritize profits over patients."

The case involves a practice called product hopping where brand name manufacturers make a slight alteration to their prescription drug (PDF) and engage in marketing efforts to shift consumers from the old version to the new to insulate the drug company from generic competition for several years. For its part Actavis argued that an injunction would be "unprecedented and extraordinary" and would cause the company "great financial harm, including unnecessary manufacturing and marketing costs." Namenda has been a big seller. In the last fiscal year, the drug generated $1.5 billion in sales. The drug costs about $300 a month.
Cellphones

Court Bans Sale of Xiaomi Smartphones In India 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-phone-for-you dept.
hypnosec writes The Delhi High Court has banned Xiaomi and India online retailer Flipkart from selling any handsets that Ericsson claim are violating patents. The court has also asked Xiaomi and its agents to refrain from making, assembling, importing or selling any devices which infringe the patents in question. Xiaomi says: "We haven’t received an official note from the Delhi High Court. However, our legal team is currently evaluating the situation based on the information we have. India is a very important market for Xiaomi and we will respond promptly as needed and in full compliance with India laws. Moreover, we are open to working with Ericsson to resolve this matter amicably."
Businesses

Cisco Slaps Arista Networks With Suit For "Brazen" Patent Infringement 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-your-own-work dept.
alphadogg writes Cisco has filed two lawsuits against data center switch competitor Arista Networks for allegedly violating its intellectual property. One suit is for patent infringement, which charges Arista with violating 14 Cisco patents for 12 features in the Arista EOS operating system. The second suit is for extensive copying of Cisco's user manuals and command line structures, right down to the grammatical errors within them. "This is not an accident but a strategy," says a source familiar with the matter. "It was a deliberate, brazen and blatant intellectual property violation in order to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. Arista's shortcutting to get to market and win share."