Microsoft Front Group Struggles To Find App Developers To Sign Letter Against Ditching Bad Patents

from the nice-try,-act dept

A few months back, we wrote about how two different groups had sent letters concerning a key part of Rep. Bob Goodlatte's proposed patent reform bill: the "covered business methods" program (CBM), which allows for a much faster process for challenging and rejecting bad patents. A very narrow version of this program was introduced in the 2011 America Invents Act, but only for financial services patents. One of the ideas that many people support is expanding this program to software and other business method patents. It's difficult to think of a reason to be against this unless you have a ton of really bad patents. As we noted in that original article, the App Developer's Alliance -- a trade group representing an awful lot of app developers (and, it should be noted, a sponsor of our site), sent a letter signed by hundreds of app developers asking Congress to expand this program. On the flip side, there was a bunch of old stodgy companies that have seen their innovative days disappear into the past: Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm. Companies that have become reliant on abusing the patent system to keep out competition, rather than continuing to innovate.

That letter was actually put together by the BSA (the "Business Software Alliance"), a trade group that pretends it represents "the business software industry," but which everyone knows takes its marching orders from Microsoft. In a recent interview with a BSA official, Tim Lee at the Washington Post pointed out that Microsoft seems very opposed to the expansion of CBM, and suggests that Microsoft is driving the BSA's position against this. He also points out that there's an obvious reason for this: Microsoft has a ton of low-quality patents that it doesn't want to lose. The BSA official tries to tap dance around the whole thing, but doesn't make much sense. Basically, they don't like CBM because there are other ways to deal with bad patents -- even though those aren't working.

Of course, Microsoft is not exactly known for attacking on a single front. Another well-known Microsoft front group is a group called ACT, the Association for Competitive Technology, which calls itself a "grassroots advocacy organization" representing "small and mid-size app developers," despite the fact that the organization only seems to reflect Microsoft's interests. ACT has also set up a related organization specifically for app developers, called "ACT 4 APPS" which looks like it's trying to be what the App Developer's Alliance actually is, but without actually caring what actual app developers want. For example, last week, it sent a letter to Goodlatte arguing against CBM, just like the BSA, but in complete contrast to the App Developer's Alliance. The App Developer's Alliance has hundreds of names signed onto their letter in favor of expanding CBM and being able to knock out bad patents quickly.

In contrast, ACT 4 APPS' letter could only turn up 14 signatures. And almost all of them appear to have some sort of close connection to... (you guessed it)... Microsoft. One of the signatures is from a former ACT employee, who appears to have just left a few months ago. And with at least ten of the other signatures, they appear to be Microsoft partners. Hell, the CEO of District Computers is involved in so many Microsoft efforts it's tough to keep track of them all:
Steve is currently is one of Microsoft's 21 Worldwide SMB Partner Area Leads (PAL); one of the three in the North American Region, representing the United States. He sits on the Microsoft US Small Business Specialist Community Partner Advisory Council (PAC). Also Steve is active on the U.S. Board of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), while maintainting the role of the president of the DC Chapter of the same organization.
Also, most of the companies on the list appear to be IT shops, helping companies set up (of course) Microsoft software and systems, rather than what most people think of as actual "app developers." And many of them are based in DC, rather than around the country. Real "grassroots."

When you look at the letters from the BSA and from ACT, it seems pretty clear that Microsoft is deathly afraid of this accelerated review of crappy patents, and it's getting various groups to "front" that effort with letters to Congress. But when you dig deeper into those letters and look, it's pretty clear this is just Microsoft knowing that an awful lot of its patents are likely to be of very low quality, and easily challenged under such a program. Next time, perhaps Microsoft should focus on actually innovating, rather than betting so much of its strategy on shaking down companies with weak patents.


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  1.  
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    Shmerl, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 4:11pm

    They must be deathly afraid of losing their patent on ones and zeros.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 4:30pm

    Not sure what comprises a "bad" patent. Is it one that misbehaves?

    Seriously, patents are either valid or invalid. They are not "good", "bad", "indifferent", etc.

    Noting this distinction only because using the word "bad" conveys no useful information.

     

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    Drew, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 4:43pm

    More like the Bull Shit Alliance.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 4:50pm

    "Microsoft should focus on actually innovating" -- HA! NEVER HAVE!

    Microsoft did not write but bought its first DOS for the PC, and that was a copy of CPM-86. -- I can't give its whole despicable and illegal history, but anyone who can even imply that Microsoft is now or was ever innovative, oy, what a NOOB. Microsoft, like all established corporations, and that includes Google as now seen occurring, has as main goal to crush all innovation in order to maximally monetize existing market without further expense or risk. Corporations are all Money Maximalists, nothing to do with innovation.

    Libertarians never grasp that civilization isn't about market efficiency; it's keeping the few from controlling all.

    12:50:04[n-501-4]

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 4:50pm

    Re:

    Software should not be patentable.
    Allowing patents upon software is bad.
    Therefore software patents are bad.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 5:04pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Nov 12th, 2013 @ 4:30pm

    patents that stifle innovation without incentivizing anything that would not exist if not granted are bad patents

     

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  7.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 6:09pm

    Re:

    Not sure what comprises a "bad" patent. Is it one that misbehaves?


    Then you know nothing about patents.

    Bad patents are patents that never should have issued. They're patents on obvious things. Patents that are too broad. And there are lots and lots and lots of them.

    I'm kind of amazed: even your buddies on the patent bar who support the patent system seem to admit there are bad patents. Claiming there's no such thing? Really?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Re:

    IOW, they are "invalid" for any number or reasons. Notice how this conveys more useful information that begins to direct focus on reasons (anticipation, obviousness, etc.) why a patent may be problematic than a meaningless word like "bad".

    BTW, many attorneys who bandy around the word "bad" are not members of the patent bar. This is particularly true of most in academia.

     

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  9.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 8:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    IOW, they are "invalid" for any number or reasons. Notice how this conveys more useful information that begins to direct focus on reasons (anticipation, obviousness, etc.) why a patent may be problematic than a meaningless word like "bad".

    I'm honestly sorry that your elementary education did not teach you what rather basic words like "bad" mean. My 3 year old son knows what it means.

    BTW, many attorneys who bandy around the word "bad" are not members of the patent bar. This is particularly true of most in academia.

    Do you honestly not see how obnoxious and pedantic you come off when you make obviously bullshit statements like that?

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 8:36pm

    So am I getting this right? Based on the article, any group that Microsoft is a member of is a "front group" for Microsoft? Any patent Microsoft has is a "bad" patent?

    Sorry, but when you completely come across as just another Microsoft hater you lose lots of credibility.

    Microsoft is a public corporation with shareholders (and yes, I'm one of them). They have an obligation to those shareholders to protect their intellectual property. If they didn't they would be getting sued for not doing so.

    Oh, and I happen to agree that the patent system is messed up.

    Ps - Note that BSA includes many other large members, some of whom are rivals to Microsoft, including Adobe, Apple, CA, Dell, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Oracle, etc.

    I didn't go look at the members of ACT, but I know that many of the same companies are members of ACT as well.

    If you are going to bash, at least attempt to do so fairly and call out all the members rather than the one you rather obviously despise.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 8:57pm

    You say patents are "bad", which is plainly silly since bad typically connotes conduct, and I have yet to see any piece of paper acting inappropriately. There are, of course, other possible uses of the adjective, but not once in any court pleading, deposition, affidavit, motion, opinion, etc. have I ever seen words to the effect "Judge, this is a really, really bad patent, and for that reason alone my client deserves a judgment, either as a summary judgment or as a judgment following a trial on the merits. Anything less and you are a really bad judge." That will surely score you beaucoup compliments and "right on's" as are ever present here in most comments. Glad you young son is learning words and their meanings. Hopefully he will one day help you do the same.

    As for your reference to "bullshit statements", you are not the only person who performs research before opining on a subject. The statement is correct, as I have noted time and time and time again when conducting, inter alia, Martindale Hubble, state bar, and USPTO admission status, as well as participation in professional organizations such as the ABA, the AIPLA, the LES, the USTA, the ACPC, as well as industry associations such as the IEEE, the AIA, etc., etc. Next time you might want to consider delving deeper before resorting to bovine-related retorts.

    I can easily understand how some of my comments may be perceived as obnoxious and pedantic, but universally this is transpires when engaged in a discussion with someone who hasn't a clue what he/she is talking about, in which case they argue (yes, and cast aspersions) with passion completely ignorant of the fact they do not know that of which they speak.

    With age comes a bit of wisdom borne of experience, and perhaps the best I can offer is that the older one gets the clearer it becomes that what used to be so obvious perhaps even a short while ago is not so obvious today.

     

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    naka, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 9:30pm

    invalid

    I would assume that the phrase 'invalid patent' refers to a patent that has been invalidated by the courts or the patent office. A patent can be bad and still legally valid, as is seen too often.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 9:38pm

    If a patent is "valid", it does not follow that it can also be bad. Far too often I see the term bad associated with a patent, when in fact it should in appropriate circumstances be associated with the person(s) attempting to assert it against a third party.

     

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    naka, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 9:55pm

    invalid

    Unfortunately, just because a patent ought to be invalid on the merits, doesnt mean that it is legally invalid. Plenty of court cases involving bad patents have gone the wrong way.

    Bad is a nice catch-all for the various problems with patents. I'm all for finding a better word, but 'invalid' isn't it.

     

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    CK20XX (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 10:22pm

    Re:

    I don't think arguing the technicalities here really matters. That's how you miss the forest for the trees.

     

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    techflaws (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 10:31pm

    Re:

    Sorry, but when you completely come across as just another Microsoft hater you lose lots of credibility.

    Actually, you don't as it's always completeley justified.

    What I can't wrap my head around is the fact that major cellphone manufacturers just can't be bothered to team up and reveal Micros~ patents they use to extort money with, for the invalid crap they are (FAT anyone?).

     

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  17.  
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    techflaws (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 10:39pm

    Re:

    Funny that all you pro-patent morons have left to argue about is technicalities like bad vs invalid.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:18pm

    Re: "Microsoft should focus on actually innovating" -- HA! NEVER HAVE!

    Hate to burst your bubble blue but Google actually regularly support independent and open innovation, just google GSOC.

    But I agree that Microsoft have never innovated, however they did market their OS and bring the modern PC to everyone's homes at a reasonable price. So they did something good and maybe that can be seen as an innovation?

     

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  19.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:03am

    Re:

    So am I getting this right? Based on the article, any group that Microsoft is a member of is a "front group" for Microsoft? Any patent Microsoft has is a "bad" patent?

    Nope. Nor did I make either of those arguments. Nice strawmen!

    In these cases, Microsoft has long been seen as pulling the strings of both the BSA and ACT. The post here presents additional evidence to support this claim.

    As for the patents, I never said, nor implied, nor meant that any patent Microsoft has is a bad patent. Not sure why you'd make that up.

    Microsoft is a public corporation with shareholders (and yes, I'm one of them). They have an obligation to those shareholders to protect their intellectual property. If they didn't they would be getting sued for not doing so.

    That's a bogus excuse. Twitter has many shareholders too, yet they've pledged to not use their patents offensively. Where are the lawsuits?

    Ps - Note that BSA includes many other large members, some of whom are rivals to Microsoft, including Adobe, Apple, CA, Dell, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Oracle, etc.

    Yes. What does that have to do with anything.

    I didn't go look at the members of ACT, but I know that many of the same companies are members of ACT as well.

    Yes. What does that have to do with anything.

    In both cases, I noted that Microsoft has strong influence over both of these organizations, and they often seem to act as a front for Microsoft. In fact, the very point of this post was to show that the only companies that they could get to sign on this letter were very very closely associated with Microsoft. If all of those other companies are so deeply involved, why aren't we seeing any of their partners signing onto these letters too? Hmm?

    If you are going to bash, at least attempt to do so fairly and call out all the members rather than the one you rather obviously despise.

    I don't despise Microsoft. I actually rather like them and use their products. I dislike them trying to stifle important patent reform, however, solely to protect their ability to abuse the patent system.

     

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  20.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:11am

    Re:

    You say patents are "bad", which is plainly silly since bad typically connotes conduct, and I have yet to see any piece of paper acting inappropriately.

    Seriously. Everyone understands what "bad" means except you.

    There are, of course, other possible uses of the adjective, but not once in any court pleading, deposition, affidavit, motion, opinion, etc. have I ever seen words to the effect "Judge, this is a really, really bad patent, and for that reason alone my client deserves a judgment, either as a summary judgment or as a judgment following a trial on the merits. Anything less and you are a really bad judge."

    Who said anything about using that claim in court? A bad patent is a bad patent. The more you insist that you don't understand what a bad patent is, the worse you look. No wonder you refuse to sign in any more.

    The statement is correct, as I have noted time and time and time again when conducting, inter alia, Martindale Hubble, state bar, and USPTO admission status, as well as participation in professional organizations such as the ABA, the AIPLA, the LES, the USTA, the ACPC, as well as industry associations such as the IEEE, the AIA, etc., etc.

    https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/appeal-to-authority

    I know plenty of members of the patent bar who know exactly what a bad patent is. That you apparently are the one person in the world who does not says much about your ability to comprehend basic words, not whether or not others in the patent bar as clueless as you are.

    I can easily understand how some of my comments may be perceived as obnoxious and pedantic

    Because they are, almost without fail. Usually spoken from a position of near complete ignorance. Must we go through the Bret Easton Ellis example yet again? I love that one because you made a statement so completely wrong, in which you talked down the mere possibility that he might have fans, and when we flat out proved you wrong, you have continued -- to this day -- to insist that you did not make a totally false statement in your standard pedantic and obnoxious tone.

    universally this is transpires when engaged in a discussion with someone who hasn't a clue what he/she is talking about, in which case they argue (yes, and cast aspersions) with passion completely ignorant of the fact they do not know that of which they speak.

    Look in a mirror, sparky. That's you you're describing.

    With age comes a bit of wisdom borne of experience, and perhaps the best I can offer is that the older one gets the clearer it becomes that what used to be so obvious perhaps even a short while ago is not so obvious today.

    Good. When you reach the age of three, perhaps you can learn what the word bad means. Until then, please leave the discussion to the adults.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 1:34am

    Microsoft, the patent troll, is against getting rid of bad patents?! Who knew!

     

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  22.  
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    naka, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 2:05am

    Sorry for derailing a bit there :-/

    Microsoft's stockpile of patents is going to be a huge problem if they ever look like going bankrupt and turning to litigation-as-revenue. They've already weaponised a few through selling them to 'third parties', but we are yet to witness the power of this fully armed and operational battle station.

    Also, ACT4APPS either sounds like a charity for endangered app species, or the fun new smartphone charades game the whole family can play.

     

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  23.  
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    azank, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 2:27am

    Business Methods Patents

    Business methods patents average 19.6 claims while utility patents average 16.5. And the numbers are growing. So far this year there are over 5,000 patents in Class 705 (straight up business methods.) At 20 claims per patent that's 100,000 inventions. More broad business methods patents hit 19,430 this week. At 19 claims per patent that's 269,170 inventions. Many of these Still Life With Flowchart patents with their very broad claims will be around for a very long time.

    Maybe USPTO should start hiring patent examiners who are app developers rather than moving electrical engineers over to examine this stuff. Oops, never mind. Have you ever looked at uspto.gov.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 4:48am

    "bad typically connotes conduct"

    Clearly not the case as the word is used to mean many things having nothing to do with conduct. (ex: bad apple)

    Etymology is not your strong suit.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 5:08am

    The BSA are thugs, liars and spammers

    They're just running a shakedown racket, extorting money and issuing threats when they don't get paid. One of the first thing I do when setting up any email system is to permanently blacklist them -- I recommend the same for everyone else.

     

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  26.  
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    Pragmatic, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 5:53am

    Re: "Microsoft should focus on actually innovating" -- HA! NEVER HAVE!

    Libertarians I've tangled with tend to promote policies that enable the few to control all by making statements like "Taxation is theft," etc.

    A market-first society doesn't enable the individual, but breeds contempt for him or her by encouraging the kind of group think we're seeing now. This results in a series of this-or-that debates where the choices are limited to the ones offered us. That's because it's run by the people controlling the market, not by "we the people." While voting with your wallet is offered as an option if you're not happy with the results, the truth is "take it or leave it" was never much of a choice.

    I prefer to think for myself and make my own choices.

    Want to keep the few from controlling all? Put the Constitution back at the heart of our society and stop being afraid of "teh soshulists." They're a part of the solution, though not the whole of it. The truth is, we need a bit of everything, including liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, to have a healthy society. Extremes of any kind cause more problems than they solve.

     

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  27.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 7:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Technically, they are not invalid patents because they haven't been invalidated. They're just bad.

     

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  28. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    staff, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 7:19am

    more dissembling by Masnick

    'allows for a much faster process for challenging and rejecting bad patents'

    infringers definition of 'bad patents': those used to sue us

    Masnick and his monkeys have an unreported conflict of interest-
    https://www.insightcommunity.com/cases.php?n=10&pg=1

    They sell blog filler and "insights" to major corporations including MS, HP, IBM etc. who just happen to be some of the world’s most frequent patent suit defendants. Obviously, he has failed to report his conflicts as any reputable reporter would. But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters. They are hacks representing themselves as legitimate journalists receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they don’t have any.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 7:19am

    Re: invalid

    Yes, valid/invalid is a legal finding that comes at the conclusion of a contested hearing. It is, however, important to keep in mind that patents usually contain several claims, so it is not at all unusual for some of the claims to be deemed valid and others invalid. The recent Myriad case ultimately decided by the Supreme Court is one example where some claims were struck down and others left intact.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re:

    "https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/appeal-to-authority"

    A definition having no relationship whatsoever to a statement of fact. I perform copious amounts of research precisely because legal practice inculcates this on the very first day on commences such a practice.

    Look in the mirror? Your knowledge of the law, while at times generally correct, is woefully inadequate to the point that comments you proffer are simply wrong. In this regard I do feel that your comment is in part a backhanded compliment. I am quite pleased to look in a mirror while standing next to those in the federal judiciary who label with alacrity as (if I may take the liberty of expressing the gist of such labels) "dumber than stumps legal luminaries who would not recognize the correct legal analysis if it stared them in the face."

    I do engage in very lively, respectful, thoughtful, and informative discussions with adults...but typically at other sites where they prefer to reside.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Errata:

    Third para., line 2, insert "many" between "that" and "comments".

    Third para., line 3, insert "you" between "who" and "label".

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re: invalid

    Let me clarify the above. It is not unusual for some claims of a patent to be deemed "invalid" and the others to be deemed "not invalid". "Not invalid" simply reflects that there may exist somewhere in the known universe prior art that could bear upon the validity of such claims.

     

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  33.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 10:54am

    Re:

    If a patent is "valid", it does not follow that it can also be bad


    With the state of the patent world right now, yes, a patent can be both legally valid and bad. A bad patent is a patent that accomplishes the opposite of what patents are supposed to do.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re:

    Patents are, as we all well know, inanimate objects that do nothing in and of themselves [I have tried in vain for decades to teach them to shake hands...;)]. It is what people may do with these inanimate objects for which the term "bad" may at times apply.

     

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  35.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Bad" is not solely a verb. Inanimate objects can be "bad" even when they're not being manipulated by an actor. Bad potato salad is still bad even when nobody has eaten it.

     

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  36.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    Re: more dissembling by troll

    infringers definition of 'bad patents': those used to sue us


    Perhaps, but I can think of quite a few bad patents that I don't infringe on. They're still bad.

     

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  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Re: "Microsoft should focus on actually innovating" -- HA! NEVER HAVE!

    however they did market their OS and bring the modern PC to everyone's homes at a reasonable price


    They didn't bring PCs anywhere. They just made an OS. At the time of MS-DOS, there were several other equally good or better (and cheaper/free) OSes available, too.

    If Microsoft didn't exist, the trajectory of the PC industry would probably not have been much different. The PC revolution made Microsoft, not the other way around.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:31pm

    Re: more dissembling by Masnick

    They cannot be trusted and have no credibility.



    That's pretty funny coming from you, Mr. Riley.

    Karl has a pretty good summary of YOUR trustworthiness and credibility in this comment and you come off lacking in both of those departments:

    http://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20130412/09091522689/heres-another-inve ntor-who-willingly-gave-his-greatest-idea-away-order-to-establish-it-as-global-standard.shtml#c406

     

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    BernardoVerda (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 5:02pm

    Re: Re: "Microsoft should focus on actually innovating" -- HA! NEVER HAVE!

    Of course Microsoft has innovated -- just look at their licensing practices.

     

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  40.  
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    BernardoVerda (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 5:09pm

    Re: The BSA are thugs, liars and spammers

    How much more is Microsoft earning from bogus (a.k.a. "bad") patents on Android phones? Last I heard, it's still several times more than they're earning from Windows phones. It's telling that OEMs are willing to pay to Microsoft, for the privilege of using [i]non-MS[/i] software.

    Bye-the-bye, how much is Microsoft still "earning" for it's now invalidated FAT/vfat related patents?

     

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  41.  
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    Niall (profile), Nov 14th, 2013 @ 5:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So you would never call a rotten apple 'bad'? The word has more than one meaning...

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2013 @ 5:26am

    Re: more dissembling by Masnick

    Ronald J. Riley just hates it when due process is enforced.

    Go back to trolling Ars Technica. Or does logging into a site to post there violate another of your patents?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Give him a break. Englishing is hard!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2013 @ 1:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What, a bunch of sycophants that simper that you're right and offer to suck you off? Yeesh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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