Google has announced a new initiative today that might, if we're lucky, slowly lead to some meaningful changes in how patent litigation is approached. Or, alternatively, make it easier to highlight the jerks who are ruining it for everyone. The Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge gives would-be inventors a pool of patents that Google promises to never sue anyone over, "unless first attacked." That last part is where eyebrows go up, though.
A French image processing company by the name of DxO Labs has filed a DMCA takedown request targeting 12 GitHub repositories containing device-specific code for ROMs, most of them maintained by CyanogenMod team members. The notice is vague, only citing:
 I have a good faith belief that the file downloads identified below (by URL) are unlawful under these copyright laws because among other things, the files circumvent effective access controls and/or copyright protection measures;
Content Type: "Custom Firmware" files
Violation(s): Trafficking a device that circumvents effective access controls and/or trafficking a device that circumvents effective copyright protection measures.
Most of the time, major corporations like to cushion their words so that, in the event of a PR disaster, it's easier to walk back its statements. Today, an AT&T exec in charge of public policy decided to throw that caution to the wind and announce in no uncertain terms 'the Librarian’s ruling will not negatively impact any of AT&T’s customers.' Well. That sure is blunt.
We're not apt to take any AT&T rep at their word, and there are certainly some things to raise eyebrows over.
Two days ago, the White House announced its support for carrier unlocking handsets. The administration promised an FCC/NTIA investigation as well as a willingness to "work with Congress" on legislation to fix the problem. So, we can probably count on the President's support of the new Wireless Device Independence Act, introduced last night by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill, which is only three pages long, has a simple goal: amend the DMCA such that it explicitly allows the unlocking of cell phones, obviating the need for a tri-yearly exemption.
Last year, Apple won what was perhaps the largest legal victory in its war on Android when a court ruled that Samsung infringed its patents on a significant number of devices and owed the Cupertino company in excess of a billion dollars. Today, however, that same judge is vacating $450m from that total until a second damages trial with a new jury can commence.
That amount won't be stripped away entirely, mind you.
Finally ruling on a hearing held in early December, Judge Koh decided that Apple's billion-dollar verdict won't be getting any bigger - having formally ruled that Samsung did not infringe Apple's patents willfully. Willful infringement is a concept in patent law that is largely self-explanatory (at least in a non-technical sense): did the defendant purposefully or with wanton disregard for obvious risk infringe the plaintiff's patents?
The jury in this trial held that Samsung did willfully infringe.
According to Bloomberg, the US Department of Justice has just announced that it will submit a deferment request for the Sprint / Softbank merger to the FCC. Telecom acquisitions in the United States require approval from both the DoJ and the FCC, with the former agency focusing largely on potential anti-trust issues. Softbank officially announced the buyout in October.
It's not exactly a big surprise that the DoJ is looking at this deal cautiously.
If you were wondering if this is the sort of legal story you should pay attention to on Android Police, let me make it easy: it is. This is probably the biggest legal story in the mobile sphere since Apple's victory over Samsung last August. Yeah, that important.
This morning, the FTC announced at a press conference that Google had settled its antitrust claims with the agency, and that Google agreed to two very important stipulations as part of that settlement relating to mobile.
It seems Apple isn't making many friends over at the patent examiner's office lately - yet another high-profile patent used by the company in litigation has been deemed wholly invalid on a preliminary basis.
The patent in question is often called the "pinch-to-zoom" patent, because that's basically what it patents - a pinch gesture to zoom in on content on a display. This patent had been used successfully by Apple during the first Samsung lawsuit, with numerous (all but two) Samsung devices found to infringe it.
Samsung has officially sought to end all of its claims requesting bans of Apple products in Europe, according to a company official. The decision comes on continued probing by the European Union's anti-trust body, on allegations that Samsung is abusing its standards-essential patents by seeking product bans for their infringement. Note that this does not mean Samsung has dropped its lawsuits - merely the injunction demands involved in them.
Standards-essential patents have played a pretty important role in the mobile patent wars to date, though that role has been one which is increasingly under question.