DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Wirelessly Charging Your iPhone Via Wi-Fi Routers (appleinsider.com) 140

According to AppleInsider, "Apple is experimenting with medium- to long-distance wireless charging technologies that could one day allow users to charge up their iPhones with nothing more than a Wi-Fi router." From the report: Detailed in Apple's patent application for "Wireless Charging and Communications Systems With Dual-Frequency Patch Antennas" is a method for transferring power to electronic devices over frequencies normally dedicated to data communications. In its various embodiments, the invention notes power transfer capabilities over any suitable wireless communications link, including cellular between 700 MHz and 2700 MHz, and Wi-Fi operating at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. More specifically, the document's claims apply to millimeter wave 802.11ad spectrum channels currently in use by the WiGig standard, which operates over the 60 GHz frequency band. Theoretically, the proposal opens the door to wire-free charging from in-home Wi-Fi routers to cellular nodes and even satellite signals. Of course, amplitude in a wireless system is normally a function of distance. Like conventional wireless charging techniques, Apple's design requires two devices -- a transmitter and receiver -- to function. Each device contains one or more antennas coupled to wireless circuitry capable of making phase and magnitude adjustments to transmitted and received signals. Such hardware can be employed in dynamic beam steering operations.
Businesses

Qualcomm Collected Partial iPhone Royalties Despite Legal Battle With Apple (fortune.com) 14

From a report: Qualcomm continued to collect some royalties for Apple's use of its wireless technology in iPhones last year despite dueling lawsuits between the two mobile giants, cheering Qualcomm investors who feared that the payments had entirely dried up. Qualcomm said on Wednesday that Apple's contract manufacturers including Foxconn paid royalties, although they withheld around $1 billion from the undisclosed total amount due. The amount withheld equaled the amount Qualcomm withheld from Apple last year under a separate agreement to cooperate on mobile technology that has since expired.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF. EFF Sues Them Back (arstechnica.com) 68

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued an Australian company that it previously dubbed as a 'classic patent troll' in a June 2016 blog post entitled: Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer." An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Last year, that company, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove its post -- but EFF did not comply. In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still did not comply. The new lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, asks that the American court declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the U.S.
GEMSA's attorneys reportedly threatened to have the EFF's post de-indexed from search engine listings -- on the basis of the Australian court order -- so now the EFF "seeks a court order declaring the Australian injunction 'repugnant' to the U.S. Constitution and unenforceable in the United States."

The Register reports that GEMSA has already sued 37 companies, "including big-name tech companies Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Spotify, and eBay. In each case, GEMSA accused the company's website design of somehow trampling on the GUI patent without permission." But things were different after the EFF's article, according to Courthouse News. "GEMSA said the article made it harder to enforce its patents in the United States, citing its legal opponents' 'reduced interest in pursuing pre-trial settlement negotiations.'"
China

The Surprising Rise of China As IP Powerhouse (techcrunch.com) 150

hackingbear quotes a report from TechCrunch: China is not only taking the spotlight in strong defense of global markets and free trade, filling a vacuum left by retreating Western capitalist democracies, China is quickly becoming a (if not the) global leader in intellectual property protection and enforcement. And there too, just as Western democracies (especially the United States) have grown increasingly skeptical of the value of intellectual property and have weakened protection and enforcement, China has been steadily advancing its own intellectual property system and the protected assets of its companies and citizens. In addition to filing twice as many patents as the U.S., China is increasingly being selected as a key venue for patent litigation between non-Chinese companies. Why? Litigants feel they are treated fairly. Reports indicated that in 2015, 65 foreign plaintiffs won all of their cases against other foreign companies before Beijing's IP court. And even foreign plaintiffs suing Chinese companies won about 81 percent of their patent cases, roughly the same as domestic Chinese plaintiffs. China's journey from piracy to protection models the journeys of other Western and Asian countries. While building its industrial economies, the U.S. and major European powers violated IP laws with no consideration. As reported by The Guardian, Doron Ben-Atar, a history professor at Fordham University, has noted that "U.S. and every major European state engaged in technology piracy and industrial espionage in the 18th and 19th century." It took Western economies a hundred or more years to change that behavior. China's mind-whipping change is happening over decades, not centuries.
Google

Google Announces Android Cross-Licensing Program 'PAX' -- But Why? (consortiuminfo.org) 33

"Linux and open-source software have had to contend with intellectual property legal challenges for years," writes ZDNet. "Now, Google has started a new effort to bring peace to potential Android IP sore points: PAX... a royalty-free, community-patent cross-license." PAX is starting with nine members: Google, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, HTC, Foxconn Technology Group, Coolpad, BQ, HMD Global, and Allview. These companies own more than 230,000 global patents. PAX's purpose is to create a "community-driven [patent] clearinghouse, developed together with our Android partners, [that] ensures that innovation and consumer choice -- not patent threats -- will continue to be key drivers of our Android ecosystem. PAX is free to join and open to anyone."
Slashdot reader Andy Updegroved writes: The question is why? The announcement and the related website are extremely brief, and although everyone is invited to get a copy of the cross license, Google reserves the right to decide first whether your motives are pure and you can keep a secret. And so far, the only members of the "PAX Community" listed are existing Google business partners. Is Google aware of some new patent tempest brewing just over the horizon, about to burst into public view? And will any other company names and logos be added to the PAX Community Web page? We'll just have to stay tuned to find out.
Andy Updegrove tells ZDNet it does involve "formal cross-licenses between participants, and therefore enforceable rights, but not an infrastructure to do more (at least insofar as one can tell from the initial announcement)."
Businesses

China Court Orders Samsung Units To Pay $11.6 Million To Huawei Over Patent Case (reuters.com) 42

A Chinese court has ordered Samsung Electronics's mainland subsidiaries to pay 80 million yuan ($11.60 million) to Huawei Technologies for patent infringement, the China firm's first victory against Samsung on its legal challenges over intellectual property. From a report: Three units of Samsung have been ordered by the Quanzhou Intermediary Court to pay the sum for infringing a patent held by Huawei Device Co Limited, the handset unit of Huawei, the Quanzhou Evening News, a government-run newspaper, said on its website on Thursday. The verdict is the first on several lawsuits of Huawei against the South Korean technology giant. Huawei filed lawsuits against Samsung in May in courts in China and the United States -- the first by it against Samsung -- claiming infringements of smartphone patents. Samsung subsequently countersued Huawei in China for IP infringement.
IBM

IBM Technology Creates Smart Wingman For Self-Driving Cars (networkworld.com) 42

coondoggie quotes a report from Network World: IBM said that it has patented a machine learning technology that defines how to shift control of an autonomous vehicle between a human driver and a vehicle control processor in the event of a potential emergency. Basically the patented IBM system employs onboard sensors and artificial intelligence to determine potential safety concerns and control whether self-driving vehicles are operated autonomously or by surrendering control to a human driver. The idea is that if a self-driving vehicle experiences an operational glitch like a faulty braking system, a burned-out headlight, poor visibility, bad road conditions, it could decide whether the on-board self-driving vehicle control processor or a human driver is in a better position to handle that anomaly. If the comparison determines that the vehicle control processor is better able to handle the anomaly, the vehicle is placed in autonomous mode," IBM stated. "The technology would be a smart wingman for both the human and the self-driving vehicle," said James Kozloski, manager, Computational Neuroscience and Multiscale Brain Modeling, IBM Research and co-inventor on the patent.
Businesses

A Lawsuit Over Costco Golf Balls Shows Why We Can't Have Nice Things For Cheap (qz.com) 266

Ephrat Livni, writing for Quartz: Unless you're a golfer, you probably don't think about golf balls. But a new US lawsuit about these little-dimpled spheres has an economics lesson for all shoppers, showing why consumers have cause for concern when companies use court for sport. Costco, the wholesale membership club, rocked the golf world in 2016 when it started selling its Kirkland Signature (KS) golf balls at about $15 per dozen, a quarter to a third the price of popular top-ranked balls. Industry insiders called it a "miracle golf ball" for its great performance and low cost, and Costco sold out immediately. It's planning to release more in April. In response to the bargain ball's reception, however, Acushnet -- which makes the popular Titleist balls -- sent the membership club a threatening letter. It accused Costco of infringing on 11 patents and engaging in false advertising for claiming that KS balls meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.
The Courts

US Top Court Considers Changing Where Patent Cases May Be Filed (reuters.com) 55

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday grappled over whether to upend a quarter-century of practice and limit where patent-infringement lawsuits can be filed. From a report on Reuters: The U.S. Supreme Court struggled over whether to upend nearly 30 years of law governing patent lawsuits that critics say allows often-baseless litigants to sue in friendly courts, giving them the upper hand over high-technology companies such as Apple and Alphabet Google. The justices heard an hour of arguments in an appeal by beverage flavoring company TC Heartland LLC to have a patent infringement suit brought against it by food and beverage company Kraft Heinz moved from federal court in Delaware, where it was filed, to Heartland's home base in Indiana. TC Heartland is challenging a lower court ruling denying a transfer to Indiana. Even though the case did not involve a lawsuit filed in Texas, the arguments involved the peculiar fact that the bulk of patent litigation in the United States is occurring in a single, rural region of East Texas, far from the centers of technology and innovation in the United States. Critics have said the federal court there has rulings and procedures favoring entities that generate revenue by suing over patents instead of making products, sometimes called "patent trolls." The outcome of the TC Heartland case could be profoundly felt in the East Texas courts. The justices could curtail where patent lawsuits may be launched, limiting them to where a defendant company is incorporated and potentially making it harder to get to trial or score lucrative jury verdicts.
Cellphones

Is Microsoft Building A Foldable 'Surface' Phone? (hothardware.com) 100

"This past week, Microsoft received a new patent for a foldable handset, and once again there are rumors that it is related to the long awaited, mythical Surface Phone," writes HardOCP, noting Samsung and LG are also rumored to be working on foldable phones. An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear that he doesn't want to kick out just another run-of-the-mill smartphone that looks and functions like every other device out there, but one that is unique in some aspect... This is not the first time Microsoft has filed a patent for what could be a folding Surface Phone. Just two months ago it was discovered that Microsoft filed a patent for a "Mobile Computing Device Having a Flexible Hinge Structure"...
Microsoft's patents include curved edges "intended to draw light away from the gaps, which would create an optical illusion of one continuous image," according to the article. "In this way, Microsoft could create a folding phone with multiple active displays appearing as a single, continuous image."
Printer

Why You Should Care About the Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges (consumerist.com) 227

rmdingler quotes a report from Consumerist: A corporate squabble over printer toner cartridges doesn't sound particularly glamorous, and the phrase "patent exhaustion" is probably already causing your eyes to glaze over. However, these otherwise boring topics are the crux of a Supreme Court case that will answer a question with far-reaching impact for all consumers: Can a company that sold you something use its patent on that product to control how you choose to use after you buy it? The case in question is Impression Products, Inc v Lexmark International, Inc, came before the nation's highest court on Tuesday. Here's the background: Lexmark makes printers. Printers need toner in order to print, and Lexmark also happens to sell toner. Then there's Impression Products, a third-party company makes and refills toner cartridges for use in printers, including Lexmark's. Lexmark, however, doesn't want that; if you use third-party toner cartridges, that's money that Lexmark doesn't make. So it sued, which brings us to the legal chain that ended up at the Supreme Court. In an effort to keep others from getting a piece of that sweet toner revenue, Lexmark turned to its patents: The company began selling printer cartridges with a notice on the package forbidding reuse or transfer to third parties. Then, when a third-party -- like Impression -- came around reselling or recycling the cartridges, Lexmark could accuse them of patent infringement. So far the courts have sided with Lexmark, ruling that Impression was using Lexmark's patented technology in an unauthorized way. The Supreme Court is Impression's last avenue of appeal. The question before the Supreme Court isn't one of "can Lexmark patent this?" Because Lexmark can, and has. The question is, rather: Can patent exhaustion still be a thing, or does the original manufacturer get to keep having the final say in what you and others can do with the product? Kate Cox notes via Consumerist that the Supreme Court ruling is still likely months away. However, she has provided a link to the transcript of this week's oral arguments (PDF) in her report and has dissected it to see which way the justices are leaning on the issue.
Businesses

South Korea Finds Qualcomm Prevented Samsung From Selling Its Exynos Processors (digitaltrends.com) 13

According to the South Korea Trade Commission (SKTC), Qualcomm prevented Samsung from selling its Exynos processors to various third-party phone manufacturers. "The Commission's report claims that Qualcomm abused its standard-essential patents -- which define technical standards like Wi-Fi and 4G -- to prevent Samsung from selling its modems, integrated processors, and other chips to smartphone makers like LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, and others," reports Digital Trends. "The Commission reportedly threatened to file suit against Samsung, which had agreed to license the patents for an undisclosed sum, if the South Korean electronics maker began competing against it in the mobile market." From the report: That bullying ran afoul of the South Korea Trade Commission's rules, which require that standard-essential patents be licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. "Samsung Electronics has been blocked from selling its modem chips to other smartphone manufacturers due to a license deal it signed with Qualcomm," the commissioners wrote. The report provides legal justification for the $853 million fine the SKTC placed on Qualcomm in December for "anti-competitive practices." Qualcomm intends to appeal. "[We] strongly disagree with the KFTC's announced decision, which Qualcomm believes is inconsistent with the facts and the law, reflects a flawed process, and represents a violation of due process rights owed American companies" under an applicable agreement between the U.S. and South Korea.
Patents

Judge: eBay Can't Be Sued Over Seller Accused of Patent Infringement (arstechnica.com) 35

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: It's game over for an Alabama man who claims his patent on "Carpenter Bee Traps" is being infringed by competing products on eBay. Robert Blazer filed his lawsuit in 2015, saying that his U.S. Patent No. 8,375,624 was being infringed by a variety of products being sold on eBay. Blazer believed the online sales platform should have to pay him damages for infringing his patent. A patent can be infringed when someone sells or "offers to sell" a patented invention. At first, Blazer went through eBay's official channels for reporting infringement, filing a "Notice of Claimed Infringement," or NOCI. At that point, his patent hadn't even been issued yet and was still a pending application, so eBay told him to get back in touch if his patent was granted. On February 19, 2013, Blazer got his patent and ultimately sent multiple NOCI forms to eBay. However, eBay wouldn't take down any items, in keeping with its policy of responding to court orders of infringement and not mere allegations of infringement. In 2015, Blazer sued, saying that eBay had directly infringed his patent and also "induced" others to infringe. That lawsuit can't move forward, following an opinion (PDF) published this week by U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre. The judge found that eBay lacked any knowledge of actual infringement and rejected Blazer's argument that eBay was "willfully blind" to infringement of Blazer's patent. The opinion was first reported yesterday by The Recorder (registration required).
Businesses

The Compulsive Patent Hoarding Disorder (thehindu.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares an article: It takes money to make money. CSIR-Tech, the commercialisation arm of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), realised this the hard way when it had to shut down its operations for lack of funds. CSIR has filed more than 13,000 patents -- 4,500 in India and 8,800 abroad -- at a cost of $7.6 million over the last three years. Across years, that's a lot of taxpayers' money, which in turn means that the closing of CSIR-Tech is a tacit admission that its work has been an expensive mistake -- a mistake that we tax-paying citizens have paid for. Recently, CSIR's Director-General Girish Sahni claimed that most of CSIR's patents were "bio-data patents", filed solely to enhance the value of a scientist's resume and that the extensive expenditure of public funds spent in filing and maintaining patents was unviable. CSIR claims to have licensed a percentage of its patents, but has so far failed to show any revenue earned from the licences. This compulsive hoarding of patents has come at a huge cost. If CSIR-Tech was privately run, it would have been shut down long ago. Acquiring Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) comes out of our blind adherence to the idea of patenting as an index of innovation. The private sector commercializes patents through the licensing of technology and the sale of patented products to recover the money spent in R&D. But when the funds for R&D come from public sources, mimicking the private sector may not be the best option.
Businesses

Patents Are A Big Part Of Why We Can't Own Nice Things (eff.org) 243

An anonymous reader shares an EFF article: Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could allow companies to keep a dead hand of control over their products, even after you buy them. The case, Impression Products v. Lexmark International, is on appeal from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, who last year affirmed its own precedent allowing patent holders to restrict how consumers can use the products they buy. That decision, and the precedent it relied on, departs from long established legal rules that safeguard consumers and enable innovation. When you buy something physical -- a toaster, a book, or a printer, for example -- you expect to be free to use it as you see fit: to adapt it to suit your needs, fix it when it breaks, re-use it, lend it, sell it, or give it away when you're done with it. Your freedom to do those things is a necessary aspect of your ownership of those objects. If you can't do them, because the seller or manufacturer has imposed restrictions or limitations on your use of the product, then you don't really own them. Traditionally, the law safeguards these freedoms by discouraging sellers from imposing certain conditions or restrictions on the sale of goods and property, and limiting the circumstances in which those restrictions may be imposed by contract. But some companies are relentless in their quest to circumvent and undermine these protections. They want to control what end users of their products can do with the stuff they ostensibly own, by attaching restrictions and conditions on purchasers, locking down their products, and locking you (along with competitors and researchers) out. If they can do that through patent law, rather than ordinary contract, it would mean they could evade legal limits on contracts, and that any one using a product in violation of those restrictions (whether a consumer or competitor) could face harsh penalties for patent infringement.
Patents

Maryland Legislator Wants To Keep State University Patents Away From Trolls (eff.org) 52

The EFF's "Reclaim Invention" campaign provided the template for a patent troll-fighting bill recently introduced in the Maryland legislature to guide public universities. An anonymous reader writes: The bill would "void any agreement by the university to license or transfer a patent to a patent assertion entity (or patent troll)," according to the EFF, requiring universities to manage their patent portfolios in the public interest. James Love, the director of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International, argues this would prevent assigning patents to "organizations who are just suing people for infringement," which is especially important for publicly-funded colleges. "You don't want public sector patents to be used in a way that's a weapon against the public." Yarden Katz, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet amd Society, says the Maryland legislation would "set an example for other states by adopting a framework for academic research that puts public interests front and center."
The EFF has created a web page where you can encourage your own legislators to pass similar bills, and to urge universities to pledge "not to knowingly license or sell the rights of inventions, research, or innovation...to patent assertion entities, or patent trolls."
Patents

Sony Patent Could Let You Wirelessly Charge Your Phone From Another Device (digitaltrends.com) 36

One of the biggest downsides to wireless charging is the wire necessary to actually charge your device. You generally need to place your wireless charging-enabled device on a compatible charger, which needs to be plugged into a wall. Well, Sony hopes to make the process of wireless charging a bit easier as it has applied for a patent that will allow you to wirelessly charge your phone straight from someone else's phone. Digital Trends reports: The feature could be very useful. Sure, an ideal situation would be if you had access to a power outlet whenever you needed it, but the fact is we've all experienced being out and about and running out of battery. With Sony's new tech, you could essentially just "steal" power from a friend who might have a slightly more charged up device than you. The patent filling itself was discovered by What Future, and the report notes that the tech may not be limited to phones. Instead, Sony could apply it to things like fridges, microwaves, TVs, computers, and really any kind of electronic device. The idea here is that all of you home devices could eventually become sources of wireless energy -- so your phone will almost always be charging if you're at home, without the need for wires.
Businesses

Tech's Ruling Class Casts a Big Shadow (theverge.com) 74

Veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg believes that Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, or Gang of Five -- as he likes to call them, are casting a big shadow over how today's startups foster, a phenomenon he believes will continue to happen over the years to come. From his column for The Verge: What we have now in consumer tech, in 2017, is an oligopoly, at least superficially similar to the old industrial-era American corporate groups that once dominated key industries. I think that their enduring and growing power casts a shadow over the Silicon Valley legend that there are lots of great new consumer tech innovations being incubated right now in garages or dorm rooms somewhere that will be taken all the way to becoming great companies, the way each of the Gang of Five was. What I fear is more likely to happen to any such startup is that, if they're good, they get acquired by a member of the Gang, or that their idea is turned into a feature for one of the Gang's products. And, even if that never happens and a startup thrives, too often it can only thrive by being successful on a platform controlled by one or more Gang members, with the big guy maybe taking a cut. For instance, Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, which went public last week, famously spurned a $3 billion takeover offer from Gang member Facebook in 2013. But it depends for its very operation on the cloud services of Google and on the mobile app platforms of Apple and Google. And plenty of other companies which either presented threats or opportunities to the Gang have been snapped up by them. Each of the five companies actively scoops up numerous smaller companies every year, in many cases just for their talent and / or patents. In fact, I'd be amazed if there weren't plenty of startups whose main goal is to be purchased by the Gang.
Patents

Sprint Wins $140M Verdict Against Time Warner Cable For Infringing VoIP Patents (arstechnica.com) 18

Sprint "may have just scored its biggest payout yet," reports Ars Technica, pointing out that Sprint's been filing lawsuits over its VoIP patents for more than a decade. An anonymous reader quotes their report: On Friday, a jury in Sprint's home district of Kansas City said that Time Warner Cable, now part of Charter Communications, must pay $139.8 million for infringing several patents related to VoIP technology. The jury found that TWC's infringement was willful, which means that the judge could increase the damage award up to three times its value... Sprint filed the lawsuits that led to Friday's verdict in 2011, when it sued TWC along with Comcast, Cox, and Cable One, saying the competing companies violated 12 different Sprint VoIP patents.
The article points out that Comcast's response was to immediately file a countersuit, which so far has resulted in an early $7.5 million verdict in their favor.

Slashdot Top Deals