Wyncomm LLC Update

It seems Wyncomm LLC’s barrage of ‘866 suits is ramping up this week with a total of at least 52 companies served in Delaware. Big name additions to the their hit-list include:

As it is currently difficult to obtain attorney’s fees with a winning judgment, the risk v. reward for Wyncomm is clear to see and as the ‘866 patent expires in in November this year they appear to be intent on making their swansong as loud as possible.
None the less they are displaying an extremely aggressive approach to litigation as we have started to see from other non practicing entities this year so far. Perhaps this is do to the SHIELD Act recently introduced to congress; if passed 2013 may in fact be a swansong for patent trolling in general, not just Wincomm LLC.
One notable absence from the list is Microsoft, however with Skype’s functionality perhaps most closely matching the process/method depicted in the lawsuit perhaps they opted to settle – one must wonder how many suits Wynncom settled in addition to how many more there are to come.

Canadian Guide To Patents

The website of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has a great guide to patents on their website [HTML] [PDF]. Although containing information specific to the Canadian patent application process it includes a lot of universally relevant information as well such as clear definitions of forms of Intellectual Property:

  • patents cover new inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter), or any new and useful improvement of an existing invention;
  • trade-mark is a word, symbol or design (or any combination of these) used to distinguish the wares or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace;
  • copyrights provide protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs), and three other subject matter known as: performance, sound recording and communication signal;
  • industrial designs are the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these) applied to a finished manufactured article; and
  • integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional arrangement of the electronic circuits in integrated circuit products or layout designs.

There is also an examples/discussion on the standards of novelty, utility and ingenuity plus much more making this a good read for anyone interested in IP in general.

European Mobile Anti-Trust Update

  • Despite potentially resolving their EU antitrust case on fishy search results with formal concessions to the way it present search results, Google are perhaps out of the frying pan and into the fire with the FairSearch group (which counts Microsoft and Nokia amongst others as members) formally accusing of new antitrust violations relating to their Android mobile OS. The fact that manufacturers of ‘droid handsets are forced to include Google applications such as youtube/maps can certainly be compared to the situation in the EU MS antitrust case that took most of last decade. The EU Commission’s eventual decision on the matter may affect opensource software to some extent as Android is given to phone makers for free.
  • Apple is under investigation for possible antitrust abuse rising from it’s dealings with European mobile phone carriers. Apple previously drew EU fire in 2008 when as a result of a formal complaint to the European Commission it lowered the price of iTunes store songs to UK users as they were paying more than customers living elsewhere in the European Union
  • Samsung will have to deal with antitrust ramifications in the EU sometime this year, this time not from being a member of a price fixing cartel but rather from it’s patent-trolling of Apple in the region (which it has subsequently stopped). The European Commission seems to have a very fair and balanced outlook on patent usage, as demonstrated in their press release on the subject which included this statement from the Commission Vice in charge of competition policy:

“Intellectual property rights are an important cornerstone of the single market. However, such rights should not be misused when they are essential to implement industry standards, which bring huge benefits to businesses and consumers alike. When companies have contributed their patents to an industry standard and have made a commitment to license the patents in return for fair remuneration, then the use of injunctions against willing licensees can be anti-competitive.”

Wyncomm Going Out With A Bang

Apple Patent-Trolled Over 1996 Patent

On Friday Apple Insider posted news that Apple has been sued by a non-practising patent assertion entity Wyncomm LLC for infringing on a 1996 patent covering “side channel communications in simultaneous voice and data transmission”. The title of the article bears reference to it being related to use of Wi-Fi technology. Before taking a look at the patent in question it should be noted Wyncomm is taking action against numerous other companies as well, 6 in total (including Apple) filed on the 11th of April and one on the 12th, all in the Delaware District. Links to court filings:

Docket Text for the Cyberpower and Casio cases notes the same US Patent Number that Apple Insider reported has been deployed against Apple , US Patent No. 5,506,866. Current docket information is not available for other cases at this time but it could be assumed they are probably ‘866 related as well. Continue reading

Common Password Patents

Xato.net has an excellent overview of patents dealing with checking for weak passwords. As the summary notes there are multiple patents covering every single aspect of password management, authentication, recovery – anything you can think of to do with passwords. The posted list of weak/common password checking alone is startling:

Although as noted some/most of these patents may have been obtained defensively with the state of patent trolling at the moment it would not be surprising if some form of assertion with accompanying litigation eventually appears.


Rackspace/Red Hat V. Uniloc Summary

From Red Hat’s press release:

Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT) and Rackspace Hosting, Inc. (NYSE: RAX) announced today that they have won a federal court decision granting early dismissal of all claims in a lawsuit brought by the patent assertion entity Uniloc USA, Inc.

Before going into the details of the case there are three extremely relevant court decisions to be aware of: Gottschalk v. Benson (1972), Diamond v. Diehr (1981) and In re Alappat (1994). Continue reading

Lodsys Gets Slap-Happy With Lawsuits

According to their website the Marshall, Texas company Lodsys seeks to:

Embrace and empower invention by supporting an Innovative Economy

Apparently they do this by licencing the four patents they own to over 200 companies and launching legal action against those who don’t. As listed by Ars, this year alone they are up to dozens of lawsuits already Continue reading

Interview With A Patent Troll

earlier this week Arstechnica posted an excellent summary and review of the practices of MPHJ Technologies, their associated shell companies and the law companies around the USA that represent them them in their trolling.

In the call, the confused Mr. Smith starts out by telling Rust he can scarcely believe what is happening. “Just to reiterate, my home printer—if I scan to e-mail, it’s an option on my Hewlett-Packard printer—I do that, I owe you money?” asks Smith.

“If you said you hooked it up to the Internet, and in one button, you can scan and e-mail directly out—yes, you have violated the patent that we own,” says Rust.

That means millions of Americans owe Rust’s anonymous client money

Continue reading

USPTO Relents A Little On Apple’s ‘mini’

The USPTO has recently given Apple a little breathing space on it’s application for trademark on it’s popular iPad Mini tablet, withdrawing previous refusals with a small caveat:

Applicant should submit a disclaimer in the following standardized format:

No claim is made to the exclusive right to use “MINI” apart from the mark as shown

With many existing products bearing the Mini title including numerous that could be considered direct competitors to Apple’s smaller format tablet the the USPTO has been treading carefully around it. The mandated disclaimer however makes it pretty clear the Cupertino company does not have carte blanche trademark on the descriptive small-size moniker

Sources, Further Reading:

Macrumors.com Coverage

USPTO Office Action Letter