Soverain isn't in the e-commerce business; it's in the higher-margin business of filing patent lawsuits against e-commerce companies. And it has been quite successful until now. The company's plan to extract a patent tax of about one percent of revenue from a huge swath of online retailers was snuffed out last week by Newegg and its lawyers, who won an appeal ruling [PDF] that invalidates the three patents Soverain used to spark a vast patent war.

The ruling effectively shuts down dozens of the lawsuits Soverain filed last year against Nordstrom's, Macy's, Home Depot, RadioShack, Kohl's, and many others (see our chart on page 2). All of them did nothing more than provide shoppers with basic online checkout technology. Soverain used two patents, numbers 5,715,314 and 5,909,492, to claim ownership of the "shopping carts" commonly used in online stores. In some cases, it wielded a third patent, No. 7,272,639.

Innovation may slow at public companies because IPOs trigger “brain drain” as employees cash in their holdings, the study suggests. By tracking about 13,000 of the inventors named in patent filings, Bernstein found that they were 18% more likely to leave after a company went public. Meanwhile, those who stayed behind produced inventions that were less valuable than before, receiving on average 48% fewer citations per patent.

Coining the useful term "patent monetization entity" (as a replacement for "patent troll," "nonpracticing entity," and "patent assertion entity" -- all terms with either social or technical issues), the scholars have concluded that "lawsuits filed by patent monetizers have increased significantly over the five-year period." Not only has the number of cases increased, but so has the proportion of these non-product-related litigants, from 22 percent to 40 percent of cases filed. They found that four of the top five patent litigants in America exist solely to file lawsuits.

A new study has shown that Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung has actually helped spike sales for the South Korean firm.

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The report argues that the press coverage not only helped Samsung become a recognisable name but the constant comparisons between the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S III suggested that the devices were rather similar thus making them a decent option for consumers to consider. A key point to be remembered is that after the verdict in early September, the Galaxy S III outsold the iPhone 4S for the first time ever in the US.

The volunteer activists drifted away, thinking the battle won, but the corporate lobbyists for software patents were paid to stay on the job. Now they have contrived another sneaky method: the "unitary patent" system proposed for the EU. Under this system, if the European Patent Office issues a patent, it will automatically be valid in every participating country, which in this case means all of the EU except for Spain and Italy.

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In fact, the EPO's decision about software patents has already been made, and can be seen in action. The EPO has issued tens of thousands of software patents, in contempt for the treaty that established it. (See http://webshop.ffii.org/, "Your web shop is patented".) At present, though, each state decides whether those patents are valid. If the unitary patent system is adopted and the EPO gets unchecked power to decide, Europe will get US-style patent wars.

This latest trend to devise and deploy legal strategies against open source seems to me to represent an admission on Microsoft's part that it can no longer compete on technology. Instead, the dinosaurs have decided that it's time to play really dirty – and nothing is dirtier than enforcing bad monopolies using worse laws.

As 3D scanners and 3D printers plunge in cost, designers and manufacturers are going to get worried. Once they get worried, they go either to courts or to Congress. When this happened in the 1990s with digital media, the result was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and those on the cutting edge of home three-dimensional fabrication want to make sure that they're ready this time when a similar full-court press tries to convince Congress to increase intellectual property protection in the US.

“Just as with the printing press, the copy machine, and the personal computer before it, some people will see 3D printing as a disruptive threat,” says a new report (PDF) out today from the group Public Knowledge. “Similarly, just as with the printing press, the copy machine, and the personal computer, some people will see 3D printing is a groundbreaking tool to spread creativity and knowledge. It is critical that those who fear not stop those who are inspired.”

Of course, the unfortunate reality is that this won't actually solve the backlog problem at all. You would think, with all the engineering/operations brains at the Patent Office, that they would understand that this will only make the backlog worse. Approving junk patents only makes it more lucrative to file ever more ridiculous patent applications, which only increases the backlog. In rushing through more patents, it only encourages a bigger and bigger backlog. In treating the symptoms, rather than the actual disease, we're making the disease much, much worse.

In a nutshell:

* After a landmark court ruling, the German perspective on the validity of software patents is now closer than ever to that of the US. * Basically, Germany has now had its own Bilski case -- with the worst possible outcome for the opponents of software patents. * Recently, the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office upheld that approach to software patents as well, effectively accepting that a computer program stored on a medium must be patentable in principle. * Defense strategies such as the Defensive Patent License are needed now more than ever.

Clause 15 of the draft Bill, as reported back from the Commerce Select Committee, lists a number of classes of invention which should not be patentable and includes the sub-clause “a computer program is not a patentable invention.”

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