Microsoft and friends fight software patent trolls

By Richi Jennings. September 30, 2010.

Supreme Court (dbking@Flickr)
Microsoft has circled the wagons in its bid to emasculate software patents. Delivering a pile of "friend of the court" briefs, it's demanding that the Supreme Court stop all this nonsense that's wasting U.S. companies "millions of dollars a year." In IT Blogwatch, bloggers mostly cheer them on.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention TBA...


Nick Eaton gathers the news:

Today's amicus curiae ... briefs -- filed by the likes of Google, Apple, Intel, Yahoo, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Walmart, Toyota and more -- support Microsoft's effort to make [cases] more defendant-friendly and ward off patent trolls.


Courts apply the "clear and convincing evidence" standard ... a high bar to prove a patent is invalid. ... Microsoft, and other companies ... would like to see the standard changed to "preponderance of evidence." ...  It potentially would save such companies millions of dollars a year ... and would cut down on the number of frivolous lawsuits. ... But it also would give less protection to holders of legitimate patents.

  Joe Mullin mulls it over:

Microsoft lined up some major reinforcements—11 amicus briefs filed in support of its bid to have the Supreme Court ... fundamentally alter the patent litigation landscape. ... Microsoft argues there's no basis for that high evidentiary standard.


The less-onerous "preponderance of the evidence" ... [is] the same standard that is required for a ... plaintiff to prove that defendant has infringed the patent. Microsoft ... [wants to] "level the playing field." ... Microsoft [also] argues that before 1982 ... courts universally instructed juries to apply the “preponderance” standard.

Lawrence Latif likes the idea:

The move came after ... Microsoft ... lost a lawsuit to i4i for $290 million last year. The lawsuit ... had threatened to stop the firm from selling ... Word, and ... Office. Microsoft then went on the campaign trail for patents to be more 'defendant friendly'.


In truth ... [this] is far from a charitable act. Not only does the move come after losing a lawsuit ... it and the other firms stand to gain financial security should the burden of proof be moved.

Ryan Paul links it to In Re Bilski:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ... has invited the public to submit comments to help it establish new guidance on patentability in the post-Bilski world.


The issue ... has profound relevance for the open source software ecosystem.

Julie Bort seeks the source:

Improving the situation -- if not outright fixing it -- would be a good thing for the USPTO to do. ... There are hundreds of thousands of software patents, with tens of thousand more ... each year. Many are so vague that it's impossible to ensure that a new piece of code doesn't infringe on one of them, somehow.


Infringement lawsuits cost millions to defend, let alone actual damages. ... Patents are meant to encourage innovation, but software patents have become weapons that discourage it. ... Congress still needs to pass patent reform. But there's reason to hope that the USPTO will ... stop the crazy business-as-usual.


And Finally...

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Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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