Analysis Suggests More Than Half Of Google & Microsoft's Patents Likely Invalid Thanks To The Supreme Court

from the good-news dept

Over the last few months, since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank, we’ve been noting the good news that the courts seem to be interpreting the ruling to invalidate a ton of software patents. Even some trolls have decided to just give up after seeing how the Alice ruling is being interpreted.

A new analytical study of patents held by big tech companies, done by ktMINE, suggests that more than half of Google and Microsoft’s patents are invalid under Alice. The biggest loser of all, however, may be Oracle, with an astounding 76% of all of its patents vulnerable to the ruling. Twenty five companies are listed — and there are some interesting ones. Rockstar — which is a patent troll “privateer” set up by Microsoft and Apple has 31% of patents at risk. Intellectual Ventures has 24% of its patents at risk (I would have expected more). IBM — which has a tremendous patent portfolio — has 49% at risk.

The article suggests that this may have a major impact as these companies lose “vitally important strategic assets,” but that’s generally almost entirely bogus. Other than for the trolls, where these patents are their only “asset” (if you can call them that), for operating companies, patents have always been much more of a hindrance than a benefit. Many of the companies in the list have a huge patent portfolio mainly for defensive, rather than offensive reasons, and the patents have little to do with day to day operations. They have almost no impact on how the company is actually innovating or growing. In fact, as we’ve seen, patents are generally only useful for companies that are on the downswing, as they lash out at innovators who are on the upswing. If there were a real concern here, it’s likely that we would have seen it in the stock prices of these tech companies — but most of the companies on the list shrugged off the decision (or are even happy about it) because they can just focus on innovating, rather than bogus, wasteful lawsuits.

In fact, it might make for an interesting study to look at the impact of the Alice decision on the stock prices of these companies, and note how little the patent portfolios they hold are really worth, given the likelihood that so many are invalid.

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Companies: alice, cls bank, google, ibm, intellgectual ventures, microsoft, oracle, rockstar

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Comments on “Analysis Suggests More Than Half Of Google & Microsoft's Patents Likely Invalid Thanks To The Supreme Court”

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21 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Yup

As a consumer, real businesses spending less money fending off lawsuits from trolls who own ideas like “rectangle with rounded edges” means they can spend more money improving their products, or just charge less for them, so the stuff I buy is either better or cheaper.

I’d say that everyone benefits but the patent trolls, but come to think of it, when they go out of business they’ll probably find newer, more fulfilling work and end up feeling better about themselves, so they’ll be better off too. It’s a win for absolutely everybody.

Anonymous Coward says:

Having taken a look at the referenced materials, I must wonder if the links provided are correct given that what I read in no way resembles what it being asserted in this article. The link mentions that patents in certain art units for certain large patent holders were tabulated, and from that total it was postulated that the Alice case might have some degree of impact on some unspecified number of them. Since no specific patents were studied for subject matter, there is simply no way for anyone to determine from the material if in fact there will be an impact and the degree of such an impact.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The link mentions that patents in certain art units for certain large patent holders were tabulated, and from that total it was postulated that the Alice case might have some degree of impact on some unspecified number of them.

Actually the numbers were specified.

Since no specific patents were studied for subject matter, there is simply no way for anyone to determine from the material if in fact there will be an impact and the degree of such an impact.

That’s the strange part – how did they even arrive at these numbers without examining individual patents?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not strange at all. They did a search by patent class, and then winnowed down the results via assignee searches. All they really accomplished was coming up with raw numbers, which can easily be done without looking at any of the patents underlying the total. If you go to the linked article and there select a link to the search results, you will find a JPEG of as table listing the various patent classes searched and the number of patents found. Importantly, take a close look at the patent classes and you will quickly realize that most of the classes and patents likely have nothing to do with “software”, so the likelihood Alice may have an impact on such patents is virtually nil.

Whatever (profile) says:

In fact, it might make for an interesting study to look at the impact of the Alice decision on the stock prices of these companies, and note how little the patent portfolios they hold are really worth, given the likelihood that so many are invalid.

It probably won’t make that much of a change, for the same reasons that arms reduction didn’t really change the threat of nuclear war. Just like the warheads, patents at this level are more a question of mutually assured destruction, and not of scale.

The net effect in taking some patents out is that the destruction level goes from 1000 times over to 600 times or or whatever. Unless there is actual loss to the point where they lose control of key technology points, the effects are negligible.

The other key point here is that making each patent invalid would require legal action on each and every patent. It still means that each case is brought, and the process beings anew to consider the validity of the patent in the case itself. Even given 1 day per patent, it would take way longer than the lifespan of the patent to invalidate even a small percentage of the portfolios. Each invalidation could be appealed, and the process dragged through the courts for years.

The patents will expire long before Alice means much to existing patents. It may change in some ways how certain patents are granted or not in the future, but that is a different situation.

Andyroo says:

real innovators

Sadly a lot of these big players use others innovative ideas that actually are worth something and they use their might to overpower a person that has made a breakthrough in engineering or software.

Most software patents are just a waste but the idea behind the patent is that someone came up with a business plan and instigated it and monetise it, when a big Microsoft or apple comes along and uses that idea they can push the small person out of the market, thus not giving him a chance to make a little money off of his innovative ideas.

I think the only way to overcome this is to have only individuals allowed to have software patents and then only under strict guidelines. No business should be allowed to own any patents, so if they want to use a feature someone has come up with like NFC communication protocols that make transfer of data 10 x faster.

If only individuals own patents and then are restricted to the innovative ones most of these crazy thefts by big business will hopefully stop.

A single person using a patent Microsoft has created is not going to bankrupt them and if done correctly in an innovative manner might just be of benefit to all including Microsoft.

As for Apple, we all know they just take others ideas and package them nicely, this is not innovative and should not be allowed to be patented in any way, and Apple should be paying a small fee per phone they build to the innovators.I wonder how much of each iphone is paid to the people who developed and refined ideas they had, i doubt very much of apples billions has ever gone to the people that did the work outside of Apple, yet i hear many cases where Microsoft has paid for patents or bought out innovators for nice profits for innovators.

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