Aug 162011
 

If you’ve watched any Discovery Channel at all, you’re familiar with the “Serengeti takedown” at the end of a chase. The large cat has its jaws locked around the throat of the antelope as it thrashes wildly before the darkness closes in. HTC should be able to identify strongly with that image.

It’s been a pretty bad week for the Taiwanese company. They’re fresh from the news that their BFFs at Google just played them – and the rest of the suckers locked into Android as their shartphones OS – by purchasing Motorola for $12.5 billion. Apple has a shitload of patents hung on them and two of them have already been upheld by the ITC.  But HTC is not done thrashing, as a thorough search of their sock drawers has yielded yet more patents to throw at Apple. If you want to burn your eyes out through the combined effects of patent language and appaling diction, the USPTO links at MacRumors will certainly accommodate you.

Thrash all you want, HTC. It’s not going to change the ending. It never does.

Aug 122011
 

When Steve Jobs proclaimed of the iPhone during its introduction in 2007 “we patented the hell out of it”, he officially ushered in Apple’s new intellectual property worldview. Gone were the days of letting Microsoft abscond with your company’s UI. With iOS, things were going to be different.

The first shot across the bow was fired in March of last year when Apple filed suit against HTC claiming infringements on patents covering the iPhone’s interface and hardware. Then, in April, Apple filed against Samsung and their Galaxy devices, a suit that recently banned the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from being sold in Australia and the European Union. Samsung’s response to the EU preliminary injunction was an interesting variation of the “that’s not fair!” bellyaching popularized by Mountain View: they claimed they didn’t know anything about the suit and therefore did not have the chance to defend themselves. For anyone in possession of 2 firing neurons, Samsung’s protestation was suspect. Either the injunction was served without the company involved knowing anything about it or Samsung as a company was so incompetent as to not know they were the targets of an impending injunction that would ban the sale of a flagship device in 26 countries (the Netherlands has it own suit pending).

Thanks to the legwork of patent bloodhound Florian Mueller, we know that Samsung is not dumb, just dishonest. According to his FOSS Patent blog, Samsung filed a pre-emptive opposition to the preliminary injunction a week before it was issued, an action that obviously failed to persuade the court.

Samsung vows that 2 damning injunctions on the Tab aren’t that big of a deal and that they’ll continue to defend their innovation… blah blah…something about competing in the marketplace: the standard quote you get from Android manufacturers when they get pantsed.  Now that their product is banned on 2 continents, a smart company would use that as an excuse to stop embarrassing itself in the market with these turds.

Jun 232011
 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Trade Commission is preparing to serve subpoenas as the first step in a formal investigation designed to reveal the extent to which Google’s use of its market power in the search business constitutes anticompetitive behavior. The probe joins the European Commission’s investigation launched in November that is looking into how the search giant may have violated European competition laws. Many pundits speculate that the results of the investigation may constitute a “Microsoft moment” for the Mountain View company the same way the Department of Justice actions against Microsoft in the 90’s forced changes in the ways the company was able to leverage its competitive advantages. Unfortunately for Microsoft, “bullying competitors with monopoly power” was a far more core competency than “creating things people want to use in a free market”, so the company has been stagnating ever since.

I have to wonder how spectacularly Eric Schmidt’s political career is going to flame out once he’s deposed. Man, that’s going to be great.

Jun 102011
 

In an encouraging move for the small-shop developers being targeted by scumbag patent troll Lodsys, Apple has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of its developers. Apple is claiming that the license it currently holds should extend to the developers on its platform and it looks like they’re putting their legal muscle where their mouth is.

Developers for the Android platform, some of whom were also the target of scumbag patent troll Lodsys, have yet to hear from Google.

May 312011
 

It always restores my faith in humanity a little when I see the entirety of the tech press aligned against an entity so unquestionably malignant. Like the patent trolls at Lodsys who are trying to squeeze iOS and Android developers for the intellectual property equivalent of “the thing that lets this other thing happen”.

Not ones to let overwhelming contempt for their existence deter them, Lodsys decided to ignore the 21 day window it gave developers to respond to the original claims and filed suit against 7 developers today. “Lodsys chose to move its litigation timing to an earlier date than originally planned, in response to Apple’s threat, in order to preserve its legal options.” Translation: because Apple told us to go fuck ourselves, we’re going to try to scare individuals into settling before Apple can form a more cohesive legal strategy. Desperation is indeed a stinky cologne.

More humorously, Lodsys offered $1,000 to every developer that is the target of these suits “if it turns out that the scope of Apple’s existing license rights apply to fully license you with respect to our claim relating to your App on Apple iOS”. So that’s like, what, an hour and a half of legal counsel? And you know they’re good for it because they’d never back out of something they promised – like sticking to the 21 day response window they originally gave developers.

Tell you what guys: with present company now including a Cupertino company with $43 billion cash on hand, you’d have a better chance of hitting the lottery if you took a cup of McDonald’s coffee and dumped it in your lap. And there’s that off chance that you’ll sterilize yourselves, which we’d all feel horribly about.

And Google: anytime you want to stick your neck out for your developers, I’m sure they’d all feel a lot better about working on your platform.

May 272011
 

Not everyone was super-stoked about the announcement of Google Wallet, an NFC-based payment system that will (someday) replace everything currently in your wallet with your Android shartphone (kind of like how Wave replaced email). eBay immediately fired a lawsuit (pdf) at Google, former PayPal employee and current Wallet head Osama (I guess we’re over it) Bedier and former eBay-employee-turned-Google VP Stephanie Tilenius.

According to the lawsuit, Google was in the midst of making a deal with PayPal to make it a payment option for Android’s Market, with Bedier representing PayPal. During that time, Tilenius was actively recruiting Bedier to work for Google. Right before Bedier jumped ship, “Bedier transferred up-to-date versions of documents outlining PayPal’s mobile payment and point of sale strategies to his non-PayPal computer just days before leaving PayPal for Google on Jan 24, 2011.” Oh – and that Android Market/PayPal deal mysteriously dried up once Bedier flew the coop even though a term sheet had already been agreed upon.

Poaching employees is as commonplace in Silicon Valley as executive tossing at Microsoft, but you rarely have companies go after each other this openly over personnel. Then again, If you ask Oracle or MPEG-LA, Google’s not exactly ashamed of using “gray area” IP in its own offerings. Information wants to be free anyway.

May 232011
 

According to Jim Dalrymple at The Loop, Apple has sent a letter to patent troll legitimate businessmen Lodsys stating that it believes its developers are covered by the license Apple has (and Lodsys confirmed) relating to in-app purchases.

My objective advice would be for Lodsys to change their recently-soiled underwear and resume their post under their bridge, but I’d really love to see Lodsys persist and have Apple nuke the site from orbit.

It’s the only way to be sure.

Apr 262011
 

Remember that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the French begin to arbitrarily fire livestock at King Arthur’s knights instead of actual ammunition? On the face of it, that’s what Samsung is attempting to do to Apple.

After Apple busted out 16 claims spanning patents, trade dress, and trademark infringements, Samsung said that they would “…respond actively to the legal action taken against us in order to protect our intellectual property…”. Instead of “responding”, Samsung grabbed a bunch of patents they had lying around and said “we have those too!” claiming that Apple is infringing on 5 patents that have nothing to do with Cupertino’s claims.

I’m not an intellectual property litigator, but doesn’t it look a little hokey when you’re called to the carpet by a company for infringement and you counter by producing patents that have nothing to do with the claim?  I hope Samsung defended the IP it’s claiming Apple violated against other manufacturers or has some kind of licensing agreement with them. It’d be nice to have something that would explain why these claims are being made now, especially when the tech press keeps calling it a “response” to Apple’s action. Unless “respond” means “caught dead in the act”. Then it makes perfect sense.

Apr 202011
 

A lot of people roll their eyes when they catch wind that Apple is suing someone over “look and feel”.  And when TMA says “roll their eyes”, he means “holler soprano through knotted panties”. To wit:

“This just in.. Ford sues the whole motor industry for copying the Model T. 4 wheels.. Check! Steering wheel.. Check! Combustion engine.. Check! I know.. Crazy huh?”   –Some Engadget douchebag

“Clearly subjective. The “user interface” is nothing like IOS outside of the square app options. This suit is rediculous and I hope Steve Jobs dies already.”   –Classy Gizmodo commenter (currently “unstarred”, but with SJ comment and rediculous spelling, it’s only a matter of time)

So why does Apple continue to fire lawsuit salvos from behind its “walled garden”?

Because you didn’t design the iPhone. Neither did Samsung (LOL@the Samsung fantards, BTW). Apple did. And the way the intellectual property protection system works in technology, if you invest in something, you patent it. It could be highly technical and difficult to reverse-engineer or not so technical and trivially easy to rip off. Sometimes, the “easy to rip off” stuff is harder to get right than the components that support it. The particularly uninformed have a hard time grasping this. Someone had to do more than think of this stuff. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t you. That’s why you’re not bringing products to market and “trade dress” is a part of what’s protectable.

*ahem*

Like any system designed to protect, the trademark and patent system in this country can be abused. TMA isn’t claiming to agree with the specifics of every Apple claim with regard to “look and feel”, but the overarching rationale behind them is hard to knock. This isn’t about Apple trying to extort annuities in the form of licensing agreements from companies, a strategy that dying whales like Microsoft and Nokia are clinging to. This is about protecting the enormous investment Apple made in developing a product that was unlike anything before it, but is serving as the copy-glass original for everything since.

Mar 292011
 

There’s a popular analogy in consumer technology that maintaining intellectual property (IP) is like maintaining a nuclear arsenal: sometimes having an impressive portfolio is enough to act as a deterrent. Then there’s the companies that like to whip their IP like some sort of gold-shitting donkey. These are usually companies whose days innovating have passed them by. Companies like Nokia.

In October, Nokia called Apple to the carpet over patents ranging from power management to the conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen via photosynthesis. OK, I made one of those up. Those claims were filed with the ITC, an international organization that possesses the unique ability to actually stop devices from shipping to a country if a claim is found to have merit, which is why most idea-bankrupt companies choose to cry to them. In a typical IP piss-war countermove, Apple subsequently filed a suit against Nokia over 13 of its patents. Yesterday, the ITC dismissed the five Nokia claims. What does any self-respecting technology company do after tasting the humiliating sting of ITC’s backhand? File more claims, of course! This morning, Nokia filed another claim with the ITC claiming infringement on seven more of their patents. Apparently they found some patents under the area rug in the executive cafeteria that they forgot they had.

According to Paul Melin, Nokia’s VP of Intellectual Property “Our latest ITC filing means we now employ more lawyers than engineers have 46 Nokia patents in suit against Apple, many filed more than 10 years before Apple made its first iPhone.” He added “Nokia is a leading innovator in technologies needed to build great mobile products and Apple must stop building its products using Nokia’s proprietary innovation”, a line that, according to bystanders, was delivered deadpan. Investors should take note that regardless of the venue – consumer product market or courtroom – Nokia is absolutely fearless when faced with the prospect of thoroughly embarrassing itself. That’s gotta have some value.

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