November 2012

November 26, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – US Patent and Trademark Director Dave Kappos defended the patent system against critics, such as Google, who have been claiming the system is broken.

Google and other technology giants have long criticized the patent system, particularly when it comes to the handling of software patents.  Many issues in the debate were summed up in an opinion piece written by Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel for Google, which was posted yesterday on Wired.

Walker claimed that patent trolls are taking advantage of holes in the patent system, costing technology giants billions of dollars each year.  He called the government to action, claiming they need to get rid of bad software patents that have been issued, prevent bad software patents from being issued in the future, and provide “clearer rules for damages and awarding costs.”  Walker claimed that bad software patents include overly broad patents and business method patents.

The patent trolls are not only bad for businesses, Walker claims they are bad for consumers as well.  He claimed that fighting abusive litigation takes time and resources away from research and development in large companies and completely devastates small companies and start-ups, resulting in quashed competition and suppressed creativity.

These views are shared among many critics of the software patent system, but Kappos claimed in a speech this morning at the Center for American Progress that the software patent system is functioning the way it should be.

The patent office conducted a study of many different software patent lawsuits and found that the courts had found 80 percent of the patents in question valid, according to Kappos, thus getting rid of bad software patents would make little difference in the amount of software patent litigation.  He stated that the software patent wars are not a sign that the patent system is broken, but rather a sign that the patent system is working.

Kappos also claimed that the America Invents Act will take care of many of the issues critics are complaining about, but they have not yet given the AIA time to take effect. Among other things, Kappos said the AIA will help weed out business method patents and bad software patents.

His last major claim against his critics was that technology continues to develop very quickly, so he claims that critics who say development is being harmed by the litigation have no standing.

Regardless of whether the software patent system will end up being reformed or not, it appears that software patents will continue to be a hot topic.

November 1, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Though it was only launched a week ago, Microsoft is already being sued for patent infringement over its Windows 8 Live Tiles.  The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by SurfCast in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.  In its court documents, the Portland, Maine based company claims it owns the intellectual property for Live Tiles, the most popular feature of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system.  The lawsuit further alleges that the dynamic tiles system used in Windows 8 infringes on SurfCast’s patent for a “System and Method for Simultaneous Display of Multiple Information Sources.”

SurfCast patent number 6,724,403 was issued in 2004, and specifically includes a unique tile grid format and a process by which the grid refreshes to show the most updated information.  “We developed the concept of Tiles in the 1990′s, which was ahead of its time,” SurfCast CEO Ovid Santoro said in a statement on the company’s Website.  As such, SurfCast insists that Microsoft’s Live Tiles, the centerpiece of Microsoft’s new operating systems, are a deliberate copy of the SurfCast patent.  In its court documents, SurfCast claims that Microsoft lists its patent as prior art and yet continues to instruct its developers to make apps that infringe its patent.   SurfCast is asking for monetary damages related to contributory infringement and the “direct willful infringement” by Microsoft of its patented functionality.

Despite SurfCast’s claims, Microsoft states that it has its own patent that covers the Live Tile technology.  Microsoft’s patent number 7,933,632, covers “tile space user interfaces for mobile devices”.  According to the USPTO, Microsoft’s patent includes “tiles that provide a snapshot of the current state of content available through the mobile device without requiring any interaction by the user.”  The tiles and display space are customizable and can be dynamically updated to display content to a user.  A statement released by Microsoft this week stated, “we are confident we will prove to the court that these claims are without merit and that Microsoft has created a unique user experience”.