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Samsung and Apple head back to court with new patents starting Monday

Posted by wicked March - 31 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

The tech and mobile world will once again be inundated with back and forth mudslinging as Apple and Samsung once again face each other in the San Jose, California courthouse starting tomorrow. This time, the stakes are higher as Apple is asking for royalty that is more than five times higher than what it asked for in the previous trial.

Although one patent case between Samsung and Apple was just recently concluded, with Apple emerging as the victor, the war is far from over. The two will once again be fighting over a newer set of patents and targeting the other’s more recent, but not the most recent, devices. But while Samsung’s patent claims against Apple revolve more around wireless technology and the hardware side, Apple’s toes are dipped on software patents.

The particular issue of software patents is rather contentious, one that has resulted in calls for reforms in the US patent system, which hasn’t seen much change in decades. And while patents for physical objects or more tangible inventions fit more snugly into the patent system, patenting software has been likened to trying to patent mathematical calculations or patenting recipes or even simply patenting ideas.

In this next round, Apple is only focusing on five patents. One of which is “slide to unlock” which has, admittedly, become a popular gesture. Granted that Samsung’s implementation is more generic, since Apple’s can only slide in one direction, but as one law professor remarked, software patents are intentionally made overly broad so as to block competition. Another patent relates to how tapping on search results can lead to calling a number or putting an address on the map. Perhaps more worrisome for the wider Android community is how these patents may affect not just Samsung but other implementations as well.

Jury selection will start Monday, though that itself might already be problematic, given how close the courthouse is to Apple’s home base. Apple is demanding an unprecedented royalty of $40 per each infringing Samsung device, which could amount to $2 billion, though juries rarely award plaintiffs the full asking price. On the other hand, Apple risks losing $6 million should they lose the case. Included in the case are the Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note, and Galaxy Note II. Samsung is targeting Apple’s iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 4, and iPad mini among others.

SOURCE: Associated Press

AppBucket site owners plead guilty to pirating Android apps

Posted by wicked March - 25 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Two Florida residents have just pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracty to commit copyright infringement, in this case copyrighted Android apps. This conviction is being hailed by the US Department of Justice as a landmark victory in its fight to protect intellectual property in the US.

Aside from fragmentation, one of the oft mentioned reasons why some developers still shy away from the Android platform is the rampant software piracy. Granted, this isn’t confined to Android alone, but it is not as notoriously bad compared to others. The operations behind Android app piracy, however, as considerably smaller than, say, desktop software, making them easier targets for law enforcement.

One such example is the AppBucket web site, which was reported to have been in operation from 2010 to 2012. The site provided access to, according to the FBI’s sting operation, thousands of copies of popular Android apps. The DOJ says that the distribution of the apps would have amounted to more than $700,000. Considering how Android apps cost below $10 on average, that is definitely a substantial number.

AppBucket operators Anthony Narbone, aged 26, and Thomas Allen Dye, aged 21, are scheduled to appear again in court in June and July, respectively, for sentencing. Depending on how it goes, each of them can spend a maximum of five years in prison.

VIA: CNET

Apple permanent injunction against Samsung denied

Posted by wicked March - 7 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Although Apple has claimed victory over Samsung in one its longest patent legal battles, it is not getting everything it wants. US District Court Judge Lucy Koh has just denied Apple’s motion seeking for a permanent injunction against 23 infringing Samsung devices.

One chapter of the legal saga between Samsung and Apple finally came to a close when the jury awarded Apple the final fraction of the damages that the Korean manufacturer will be required to pay for infringing on Apple’s patents. That, however, wasn’t enough for Apple who sought to have 20 of the infringing smartphones banned from sales in the US. This was despite the fact that none of these were being officially sold in the market anymore.

While it might seem strange, Apple’s motion is strategic. A permanent injunction can be used as a legal precedent that Apple can then brandish on future devices as well and not just the 20 it was targeting outright. The court saw through the tactics and denied the motion. According to Judge Koh, a patent holder cannot use a patent as competitive leverage beyond the value of the patent itself. Apple just can’t seek a permanent injunction for things that cant be covered by payment for damages.

That loss might not have much impact on Apple in the long run, especially since Samsung and Apple will be back in court again at the end of the month over another batch of patents. However, Apple might be a bit worried that the court stated that public interest favored Samsung, leading to the denial of the motion for a permanent injunction.

VIA: SlashGear, Apple Insider

California appellate court clears reading maps on phones while driving

Posted by wicked February - 28 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

The 5th District Court of Appeal of California ruled in favor of a driver who was fined for reading a map on his iPhone while behind a wheel. While the verdict is already somewhat surprising, the case itself has more turns than a long winding road.

The case actually started two years ago, on January 2012. The defendant, Steven Spriggs, was fined $165 when a California Highway Patrol officer saw him reading a map from his smartphone while stuck in traffic. While most people caught red-handed with a mobile device behind the wheel would have probably just swallowed their shame, Spriggs challenged the fine and lost, twice, in traffic court and in Fresno County Superior Court. They say third time’s a charm, and so it seems that way when he took the case to the appellate court and won, with a little help from a law firm this time.

Almost ironically, Spriggs would be the last one to fight for the cause of people using cellphones while driving. His son suffered a broken leg precisely because of a driver yapping away on a cellphone. Spriggs’ point, however, was not to really to say that he’s innocent but to say that California’s laws didn’t apply to him and, consequently, should be updated to today’s mobile habits. Luckily for him, the judges agreed.

The 18-page ruling of the appellate court judges said that while the state’s laws prohibited people from talking and listening, and also texting, on a phone while driving, it only did so when not using hands free devices or modes, which Spriggs claims he was. But more importantly, it doesn’t cover the act of looking at a digital representation of a map on the device, leaving the judges no choice but to hand Spriggs his court victory. They, however, also noted that the law should have been written more clearly. The burden now falls on California’s lawmakers to look at this loophole and plug it before other mobile devices, like, say, smartwatches and smart glasses, become common place.

SOURCE: Associated Press

Device unlocking bill narrowly passes House

Posted by wicked February - 26 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Those advocating for the freedom to unlock their carrier provided devices might soon be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, H.R. 1123 has just passed voting in the House, but last minute changes almost caused it to fail.

Thanks to some changes made in October 2012 in the rather controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, more lovingly known as the DMCA, 2013 started by making it illegal for phones to be unlocked for use with carriers other than the one it was purchased from. Naturally, this did not sit well with consumers as well as the new FCC chair, causing back and forth negotiations with carriers who, naturally, would prefer to keep their customers within their walled gardens.

This new bill will practically reinstate something that consumers felt they had a right to in the first place but was practically taken away by the DCMA changes. However, the bill will only legally allow unlocking of devices after the service contract expires, which usually lasts two years on most offerings. It is still illegal to unlock the device during that period, but afterwards, it’s fair game for anyone.

Unfortunately, a last minute change in the bill cause some previous proponents in the House to reluctantly change sides. The change, introduced by the GOP, bans bulk unlocking. Those who reversed their votes felt that the changes were antagonistic to consumers, since it made it difficult for some people to start a phone unlocking business. Despite the slight change in tides, the numbers were still in favor of passing the bill.

SOURCE: The Hill
VIA: SlashGear

US Senators now backing “kill switch” proposal

Posted by wicked February - 14 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

In a rather strange turn of events, lawmakers across the country are now trying to put their weight behind the almost aborted kill switch solution to smartphone theft. This new push came after California lawmakers proposed making it mandatory for smartphones sold in the state of California only.

The kill switch involves remotely wiping a smartphone and rendering it useless in case of a theft. Theoretically, it will serve as a deterrent to the crime if the stolen goods can no longer be used and, therefore, can no longer be sold. Unlike other solutions, like Google’s Android Device Manager, that lets you also remotely wipe personal data from a stolen device, the kill switch, as the name implies, has an image of finality.

Although the proposal has initially failed due to the insistence of major carriers in the US, the state of California proposed a law that will require manufacturers and carriers to include a kill switch in devices sold in the state. If approved, it will most likely force manufacturers to include the feature in all devices regardless. Taking a cue from this rather bold move, senators led by Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are proposing the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act that will make such a law have federal reach.

It will, of course, face tough opposition and lobbying from CTIA-The Wireless Association, the kill switch’s biggest opponent. The CTIA believes that the kill switch is open to hacking and privacy issues and suggests a more subdued solution, that of providing a nationwide database of stolen devices. However, that solution also has its geographical and jurisdictive limits. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also accused the CTIA, particularly US carriers, of being biased by the profits they will gain by keeping things the way they are.

VIA: CNET

In patent deal, HTC will pay Nokia to bury the hatchet

Posted by wicked February - 7 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

htc one vs nokia lumia 928 aa featured

After months of legal battles, HTC and Nokia announced today a “patent and technology collaboration agreement” that will end all their legal conflicts.

As part of the deal, HTC will make payments to Nokia and the two companies will collaborate in technology development; the collaboration will involve HTC’s LTE patent portfolio and will “strengthen Nokia’s licensing offerings”, though it’s not clear for now what these collaboration entails. Moreover, HTC and Nokia said they would “explore future technology collaboration opportunities”.

The two companies have not disclosed the terms of the agreement.

Nokia first sued HTC in 2012 based on dozens of patents covering hardware and software technology related to wireless communication, phone design, and user interfaces. The Finnish company has been fairly successful at litigating against HTC, notably obtaining a ban on HTC’s One family in Germany based on patents related to Bluetooth and NFC communication. Nokia also obtained a ban on the HTC One Mini in the UK, and was close to obtaining import restrictions on the One in the US.

Nokia will soon become part of Microsoft, with whom HTC signed a long-term patent deal back in 2010. The Taiwanese company also struck a 10-year cross-licensing deal with Apple in November 2012.

HTC declared itself pleased with the agreement, which removes a constant threat and allows it to focus on getting through a difficult period.

This latest peace treaty follows several high-profile patent deals signed from the beginning of the year, such as the one between Google and Samsung, Google and Lenovo, and Samsung, Google, and Cisco.

Show Press Release

HTC AND NOKIA SIGNED A PATENT AND TECHNOLOGY COLLABORATION AGREEMENT
All Patent litigation between the companies dismissed

Taipei, Taiwan, February 7, 2014 — Nokia and HTC have settled all pending patent litigation between them, and entered into a patent and technology collaboration agreement. HTC will make payments to Nokia and the collaboration will involve HTC’s LTE patent portfolio, further strengthening Nokia’s licensing offering. The companies will also explore future technology collaboration opportunities. The full terms of the agreement are confidential.

“We are very pleased to have reached a settlement and collaboration agreement with HTC, which is a long standing licensee for Nokia’s standards essential patents,” said Paul Melin, chief intellectual property officer at Nokia. “This agreement validates Nokia’s implementation patents and enables us to focus on further licensing opportunities.“

“Nokia has one of the most preeminent patent portfolios in the industry.” said Grace Lei, General Counsel of HTC. “As an industry pioneer in smartphones with a strong patent portfolio, HTC is pleased to come to this agreement, which will enable us to stay focused on innovation for consumers.”


    







California plans to mandate kill switch anti-theft measure

Posted by wicked February - 7 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

While the proposed kill switch feature has practically failed to be widely implemented, the state of California might be making a rather bold move that would, in effect, make it mandatory. If approved, the proposed law will require phone makers to include a software kill switch in any smartphone sold within the state starting January 1, 2015 or be fined $2,500 for each device sold.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the series of anti-theft measures being brought up across the country, the kill switch is a software feature that will let authorities remotely render a device useless in case of theft. This sounds pretty much like the Android Device Manager and other recent services, except there is no going back, at least not in the current form of the feature. This type of measure got the hot seat last year when it was revealed that the major US carriers blocked attempts of manufacturers to implement such a feature.

The push against the kill switch came primarily from the CTIA, the association made up of many of the players in the wireless industry. They voiced concerns about the safety of such a feature, especially in case a hacker gets hold of the power to remotely kill any smartphone. There is also the matter of not being able to reactivate a killed smartphone in case of retrieval, though that is probably simply an implementation issue. The CTIA proposed, and almost finished, a different solution, a database of stolen smartphones that would make selling them more difficult. Unfortunately, that too has limitations, which is practically within the confines of the US territory.

The bill to be proposed in California, expected to be introduced by Democrat State Senator Mark Leno, is somewhat ingenious. While it does limit the scope of the law to devices sold in the state, it will practically force smartphone makers to put the feature inside all their devices. It will be rather impractical for them, as well as carriers, to maintain a separate version solely for a single US state. Expect, however, that the CTIA will not sit this one down and will pull all stops, not to mention strings, to block this move.

SOURCE: New York Times

Samsung and Apple submit list of patents and devices for March court bout

Posted by wicked February - 5 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Even while scheduled for a mediation session, Samsung and Apple have already notified the San Jose Federal courthouse of both parties’ patents and products for inclusion in an upcoming trial. This third trial in the very same courthouse under the very same judge will cover 5 patents and 10 mobile devices on each side.

It is quite noticeable that Apple’s list of patents mostly cover user interaction or interfaces, such as unified search via Siri or the now common slide to unlock, as well as even auto-complete. On the other hand, the patents that Samsung claims Apple is infringing on lie on the more technical side, particularly those needed to conform to international technical standards, also known as standards-essential patents or SEP. Unfortunately for Samsung, one of its five patents has recently been invalidated.

In terms of products accused of infringing on those patents, both companies have brought out a list of smartphones and tablets dating 2012 and earlier. On Samsung’s side, this includes the Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S II and Galaxy S III, and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. For Apple, the list names, among others, the iPhone 5, iPhone 4 and 4s, the iPad 2, 3, and 4, and iPad Mini. Both were careful not to include the other’s most recent flagships and models.

Apple and Samsung are still set to meet sometime this month in order to try to reach a patent agreement that would put an end to their never ending and undoubtedly costly court battles. There is some speculation that Apple might demand for an anti-cloning provision in any settlement, something that Samsung denies ever being put on the table. Although the mediation might offer a sliver of hope, it could very well be unlikely that the two companies would be able to so easily put behind years’ worth of back and forth lawsuits.

VIA: FOSS Patents

Nokia wins again in patent case against HTC in Germany

Posted by wicked February - 3 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Nokia seems to be raking in legal points in Germany as it scored yet another patent win against HTC. This time, the patent in dispute is quite an essential one that lets devices be compatible even with older network technologies.

HTC is probably feeling the heat as it loses one by one the patent cases levied against it by Nokia across the world. In Germany alone it has already had three strikes, making this newest one its fourth. HTC has also lost cases in the US and the UK and there are still others coming.

The patent in this case is related to how mobile devices adapt their revision levels depending on the network’s own revision level. This practically determines how a device can adjust to the technology being used in a network, which can be crucial to how newer device are able to be backwards compatible with older networks. Unfortunately, while this feature is crucial to complying with certain technical standards, the patent is not included in Nokia’s standards-essential patents, which HTC has already licensed.

While the Mannheim Regional Court has determined HTC to have infringed on Nokia’s patent and is ordering it to pay damages, HTC isn’t throwing in the towel yet. It states that it is fighting to invalidate the patent in Germany and remove its use from its own handsets, believing the patent to be redudant and no longer in use in the country.

VIA: FOSS Patents