Trollslayers

On 10 April, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key aspects of patent-troll Personal Audio’s “podcasting patent” following a petition for review spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with assistance from the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and other pro bono attorneys. Personal Audio had been using the patent to threaten podcasters with lawsuits unless a settlement was paid out.

ORDERED that Petitioner has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 31–35 of U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504 B2 are unpatentable…

A key aspect of the successful petition was the evidence of “prior art” – podcasts or podcast-like productions that pre-dated the patent – which were researched in part through crowdsourcing.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key claims in the so-called “podcasting patent” today after a petition for review from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)—a decision that significantly curtails the ability of a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small…In petitions filed with Patent Office, EFF showed that Personal Audio did not invent anything new before it filed its patent application, and, in fact, other people were podcasting for years previously.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

A Network of the People’s Comments on Net Neutrality

The FCC received over one million comments on Net Neutrality. You might remember their website crashing and deadlines being extended. NPR reports the results of an analysis of a subset of the comments by data-analysis firm Quid. Their state by state analysis shows that I’m one of the few people in South Carolina that cares about Net Neutrality.

They have produced an even more interesting visual that maps out the diversity of reasons given to support Net Neutrality and how those reasons were linked in the comments.

gr-neutrality-comments-624

Apparently, the few anti-Net Neutrality comments were from form letters and didn’t register on the map.

Although sites like the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) web tool provided a template for letters, those were used to generate only about half of the comments (apparently, 80% is more typical for other regulatory issues).

Templates are not unusual. As we’ve reported previously, when the public is asked to comment on policy, citizens often engage by sending in a templated or form letter that advocates for a certain position help them create. The Quid analysis shows about half the comments received by the FCC were “derived from templates.” That’s actually low compared to analyses of other rule-making — upwards of 80 percent of comments on financial regulation were templates. – Elise Hu at NPR

 

My comment to the FCC, for example, was derived from EFF’s template.

Will this work? Hard to know giving the obstacles faced; but the FCC will clearly be on the record for killing Net Neutrality against the will of the people.

HT: Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing

Saving Net Neutrality

The FCC has extended its deadline for public commentary on proposed new rules regarding Net Neutrality, because their website crashed. Why did it crash? Because it was not prepared to handle the outpouring of support in favor of an open internet and opposition to a system where the few remaining ISPs are able to control what you see and how quickly you can see it.

We’ve got a few more days to make our voices heard. Please join me in voicing your support for Net Neutrality.

Here is one of my comments, dashed off and submitted through the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s web tool (feel free to reuse the last paragraph if you wish). There are other avenues to submitting a comment too. Be aware that your comment will be included in the public record and will be viewable online. So, limit your cursing. If you don’t feel like writing, there is a petition based submission platform from Fight for the Future.

Dear FCC,
I’m Joshua Witten and I live in Hartsville, SC.

Net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data that travels over their networks equally, is important to me because without it users may have fewer options and a less diverse Internet.

A pay-­to-play Internet worries me because new, innovative services that can’t afford expensive fees for better service will be less likely to succeed.

The Internet provides a unique way to broadly connect our society in a way that fosters communication and creativity. A failure to guarantee Net Neutrality sacrifices the benefits to creativity and economics of an open Internet to protect a select few from the natural process of having to adapt to a changing business environment. A loss of Net Neutrality will disadvantage the most innovative segments of our society. It is the responsibility of the FCC to define and protect a communication environment that benefits the country, not a select few interests.

Sincerely,
Joshua Witten

More Bad News for Patent Trolls

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled several software patents invalid because the patents did not cover a detailed process, but an abstract idea. This could place a number of dubious patents in software, technology, and science at risk of being invalidated in the future, too.

It may set a very important precedent for other legal cases involving lawsuits involving “patent trolls”. Currently, the most well-known of these actions has been efforts by Personal Audio to extort money from podcasters by threatening lawsuits based on supposed infringement of patents Personal Audio claims cover podcasting.

A key element of patent trolling is the inherent vagueness of the patent, which allows the concept of infringement to be drawn as widely as possible. The vague patent interpretation that makes patent trolling possible makes them vulnerable to being viewed as too broad, too abstract, or too vague by the courts and the US Patent Office. Indeed, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has reported success with getting the US Patent Office to narrow or invalidate overbroad patents.

This ruling may add another arrow to the quiver of those fighting the abuse of patents to stifle innovation*.

Hat tip to Giles Newton

*And your ability to listen to the WTF Podcast.