Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I am totally opposed to Kappos being appointed as the next PTO Director, for his involvement in multiple IBM efforts over the last ten years to undermine any attempts to improve patent quality. It would be a horrible message to send to inventors to have a lawyer from the most abusive patent playing company, IBM, as head of the PTO. One reason the PTO's backlog is so great is that companies such as IBM flood the PTO with tons of crappy patent applications, to jam up the system making it hard for competitors to get patents that could challenge IBM's markets. Anyone forget IBM's airplane-bathroom-reservation patent? I also post this classic 1997 article from Business Week that pretty much describes how IBM invented trollism (shaking down companies by asserting lots of crappy patents, and some good ones, from their massive portfolio). IBM was a major player in the Software Patent Institute scam (a 1990s effort to deflect any resources from a serious attempt to improve prior art handling at the PTO), and is a major player in the SPI's child, the 2000s scam otherwise known as the Public Patent Peer Review project. For many of these undermining efforts, Kappos was involved. He should not be awarded Directorship of the PTO. Slashdot this week has a summary of criticisms of IBM's attempts to get U.S. bailout money so it can fire U.S. workers and move more of its jobs overseas. "As his company was striving to hide the bodies of its laid off North American workers, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano stood beside president Obama and waxed patriotic: 'We need to reignite growth in our country.', Palmisano said. 'We need to undertake projects that actually will create jobs." While Sam positions IBM to get a slice of the $825 billion stimulus pie, IBM is quietly cutting thousands of jobs and refusing to release the numbers or locations." The country deserves someone coming from some other company to be the next PTO Director, if the next choice is a corporate one. Kappos is a much smarter version of Jon Dudas, and will be as effective, if not more, in overseeing the further degradation of PTO capabilities with regards to patent examination (which again, is in IBM's interests). So everyone, make copies of the BusinessWeek article below, and send it to your Congressional representatives, asking them to not allow any lawyers from IBM to become the next Director of the PTO.


Found in BUSINESSWEEK 17 MAR 1997: BIG BLUE IS OUT TO COLLAR SOFTWARE SCOFFLAWS by Ira Sager, Business Week, 17 March 1997, page 34 Big blue holds more software patents than any other company in the world. That's great for bragging rights, but it does little for the bottom line. Now, however, IBM sees money in that trove of intellectual property - and its efforts to collect are making software companies hoping mad. Note: might as well call this date the formal birth at IBM of trollism Lawyers for Big Blue are searching for software companies that it says should be paying royalties but aren't. Over the past several months, IBM has been quietly pursuing patent claims against such well-known software companies as Oracle, Computer Associates, Adobe Systems, Autodesk, Intuit and Informix. IBM is also pressing a software claim against computer maker Sequent Computer Systems. Note: a lesson well learned by many trolls to follow in the years to come. All thanks to IBM. So far, no lawsuits have been filed, but software companies aren't waiting. Several of them are launching a pre-emptive strike, hiring Silicon Valley's star litigator, Gary Reback, a partner at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, Rosati. Two years ago, Reback took on Bill Gates. Representing a handful of Silicon Valley companies, he unsuccessfully tried to get the Justice Department to broaden an antitrust investigation of Microsoft. Now, Reback is hurling charges against IBM similar to those he leveled at Microsoft. "IBM shows up the same way someone might might demand protection money.", he says. Officials at the companies confirm that IBM has contacted them, but most refuse to talk publicly. Note: Peter D. - instead of "troll", you should have suggested "goodfellas" Collecting the patent royalties could add millions to IBM's net profits. In 1995 - the last year IBM released figures - the company took in $500 million from royalties on all patents Note: yet it cannot afford to pay for prior art searches for its patent applications software and hardware alike. Insiders say that senior managers Note: this include Kappos? believe that IBM could collect $1 billion a year from its patents. The software makers that have been contacted by IBM aren't yet willing to help Big Blue reach that goal. They maintain that lot of software patents - IBM's included - are too broad and never should have been issued. IBM's pursuit of royalties, they argue, is an abuse of a patent system that is too lax and does not require an applicant to really prove that the software application is unique. Note: of course, while complaining, these companies did nothing to help organize prior art resources and tools to donate to the PTO. IBM contends it's just trying to protect its intellectual property and get a fair return on the $5 billion yearly tab it runs up on research and development. "What Gary Reback is asking us to do is provide an R&D subsidy to our competitors, and we won't do that.", says Marshall Phelps, IBM's attorney in charge of intellectual property and licensing. Note: Phelps moved over to Microsoft, which is now flooding the PTO with its crappy patent applications, while his groomed successor is Kappos. Some companies are afraid that paying now will set a precedent, making it harder to say no later. "If we sign up with IBM today, then what happens in three or five years, when the patent agreement expires?", asks Oracle patent attorney Allen Wagner. With all the skirmishing that lies ahead, this dispute is still in Version 1.0.

The rest of the story on the Microsoft espionage lawsuit

We are frequently (almost always justifiably) outraged about IBM's antics in the patent procurement and/quality debate. While they don't make your rants nearly as often, I place Microsoft in almost the same company as IBM. An interesting case was reported last week based on a lawsuit filed by Microsoft against an ex-employee (who they fired) who had filed a patent infringement suit against a number of Microsoft customers, alleging he had violated his duty to Microsoft by downloading confidential Microsoft documents while a Microsoft employee that he then used in his lawsuits against their customers. Well, as Paul Harvey used to say, here's "the rest of the story". As is almost always the case, when IBM or Microsoft say anything about patents or patent-related litigation, one should receive it with a somewhat jaundiced eye. A useful note: a candidate to be the next PTO Director, Dave Kappos, is a head patent lawyer at IBM. From the Seattle PI, Feb.2, 2009 here is Miki Mullor's reply to the Microsoft lawsuit against him. His statement does not substantively address Microsoft's allegation that he stole Microsoft's confidential and proprietary information for use against the computer manufacturers:
I am the inventor of U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941 relating to software anti-piracy technology, and Ancora is my company. I applied for my patent in 1998. In 2002, the patent issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 2003, I approached Microsoft and had several talks with a Microsoft lawyer and employees of Microsoft's AntiPiracy group about my invention and the benefits Microsoft could realize by using it. Microsoft declined and said they had no interest in my invention. We ceased business operations at Ancora in 2005, and Microsoft was the first company to extend me an employment offer. I accepted. When I joined Microsoft, I notified them in writing of Ancora and my patent in both my resume and in my employment agreement. In its complaint against me, Microsoft withheld the portions of these key documents that show this. At the same time I was employed at Microsoft, but unknown to me, Microsoft was developing what is now known as "OEM Activation." OEM Activation is installed on computers made by HP, Dell, Toshiba and others ... to prevent piracy of Microsoft's Windows Vista software installed on those computers. This work was being done in a different department at Microsoft. OEM Activation is a blatant copy of my invention. In June 2008, my company Ancora filed a patent infringement lawsuit against HP, Dell and Toshiba in the federal court in Los Angeles. Microsoft fired me for trying to protect my own invention --- an invention I told them about before they ever hired me. Recently, Microsoft filed a retaliation suit against me personally in Seattle. Microsoft accuses me of lying, deceit, fraud and misappropriation. These are shameful, dishonest attacks on my character by Microsoft - the company that stole my idea in the first place. Their attacks are untrue, and they hurt me and my family. Microsoft basically admits stealing my idea in the complaint they filed because they are asking for a license to my patent. Microsoft would only need a license to my patent if they were infringing it in the first place. My patent case in Los Angeles has been going on for several months now with substantial progress. Clearly, Microsoft and the PC OEMs realized that they have no defense on the merits of the patent case.