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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Shmerl, 30 Sep 2014 @ 2:31pm

    Sounds good

    The less software patents there are, the better for everyone.

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

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 3:04pm

    Yup

    Winners compete, losers sue.

    As an investor, anything that reallocates capital from lawsuits to innovation is a win for me.

    As an entrepreneur, engineer and inventor (with a half-dozen issued patents), less patents means less roadblocks - and way less legal risk - when introducing new products.

    This is a big win.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 3:46pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 30 Sep 2014 @ 4:08pm

    Culture Destroyed

    what a terrible ruling the Supreme Court did all of that culture in creativity and innovation done by those corporations completely wiped out all in one dayit is a sad sad day for humanity and I don't know how we will surviveplease excuse all the no commas and periods as Google speech to text does not work great

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 4:25pm

    Open source trolling

    Hopefully manufacturers of devices with Android or Linux installed will be empowered to fight back against MS when threatened with lawsuits against the open source software they install.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 4:36pm

    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.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 1 Oct 2014 @ 2:22pm

      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?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2014 @ 5:26pm

        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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 5:36pm

    Half of Google's patents likely invalid?

    Obviously this means Masnick is a shill for Big Google and Big Search. Big!

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 30 Sep 2014 @ 7:15pm

    Woohoo! 50% more legal copying for me! I'm going to get rich.

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

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 9:47pm

    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.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 1 Oct 2014 @ 2:28pm

      Re:


      The other key point here is that making each patent invalid would require legal action on each and every patent.


      Yes, but it makes it much harder to troll with a patent that everyone knows can be invalidated. Not impossible, but harder.

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

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 30 Sep 2014 @ 11:45pm

    Where Is OOTB?

    To tell us that Pirate Mike hates it when patents are enforced?

    Or is it OOTB who hates it this time?

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

  • identicon
    Andyroo, 1 Oct 2014 @ 12:47am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2014 @ 10:16am

      Re: real innovators

      Please share what you consider to be examples of good software patents.

      Thanks

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 1 Oct 2014 @ 1:34pm

        Re: Re: real innovators

        I'd be very interested in the answer to this as well.

        Also, patents are only worth what you can afford to pay to lawyers to assert or defend them. For the majority of individuals who aren't patent trolls, patents are of little value outside of what you can sell them to a bigger player for.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 1 Oct 2014 @ 3:28am

    Now we can quantify the waste of money somewhat here. How much did Google pay for Motorola's patents again?

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

    • identicon
      Reality Cop, 2 Oct 2014 @ 5:18pm

      Re:

      You must be a hungry zombie, because you haven't had brains recently. Motorola had a heck of a lot of patents on actual methods. DSP hardware designs are not software patents.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.