MediaFile

Apple’s patent victory is a victory for competition

Apple’s resounding patent victory over Samsung in a California courtroom last Friday is a blow to the competition, which now won’t be able copy Apple’s technology. But it is a win for competition. It will force everyone to think harder about turning the unimaginable into the normal.

And that’s what technology innovation is all about.

I am all for intellectual property (it’s how writers make a living) and no particular fan of software patents, which can be vague and overly broad. It’s a very tangled area of IP that in the modern-day tech industry has been a life-support system (think Kodak) and a means of protecting oneself against patent trolls (like that guy who tried to sue the World Wide Web). Patent troves, in the astute description of technologist Andy Baio, have also been weaponized in perverted campaigns to stifle innovation.

Apple and Samsung are duking it out all over the world — some 50 lawsuits in about 10 countries, by one reckoning — in a sort of forever war. Samsung got a favorable ruling just days before in a South Korean court. But the marquee case was the one in San Jose, California, where a jury found that Samsung had violated six of the seven patents Apple sought to defend – three software and three design – and awarded the company $1.05 billion.

The conventional wisdom is that a victory like this for a company like Apple is bad for consumers because it gives a virtual monopoly even more marketplace power.

Dan Gimor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication — and nobody’s fool — presents this case as clearly as I have seen:

Top Patch editor’s “bittersweet” exit

In case you haven’t had your fill of AOL news this week: Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham surprised employees today by declaring he will be out the door May 4.

The once-mighty Internet corporation stunned Silicon Valley just days ago by announcing it was unloading the majority of its patents to Microsoft for more than $1 billion. Now, Farnham’s imminent departure raised questions about the future of a once highly touted hyper-local news and community site that reportedly lost $160 million in 2011 alone.

AOL’s media business now also spans TechCrunch, Engadget, and the Huffington Post — all under the auspices of Arianna Huffington.

Tech’s forbidden touch

“You can look, but you can’t touch” – great advice in most museums, and every strip club. But it makes no sense when it comes to our computers. We are getting very touchy-feely with our smartphones and tablets, and this is how it should be. Even BlackBerry and Amazon’s Kindle, which launched with hardware keyboards to differentiate it from the competition, have abandoned them.

It’s no accident. We touch instinctively. We are born touching everything, and only learn where the boundaries are later in life. Our handheld devices are reconnecting us with the primary technique we used to learn about the world we had just entered. The metaphor extends. Now it’s the mobile computers that we use to learn about the world around us, and we control them with our fingers, by touching a screen. How do you place a price on that?

Many are trying, thanks to software patents. Patents have become a bane to the very essence of innovation. They are arsenals, ostensibly meant to defend but more often used to offend. Yahoo’s lawsuit against Facebook over 10 patents further proves that weaponizing software patents is the last gasp of a dying business.

Chipmakers most creative, drugmakers least?

Chipmakers including Intel and Qualcomm make up the world’s most innovative industry, according to a new analysis of patents by Thomson Reuters that is equally notable for some of the companies it does not include.

Thomson Reuters has just released its “Top 100 Global Innovators” list, which it compiled by scrutinizing patent data around the world using a peer-review methodology it developed.

“We tried to take an objective look at technology innovation and apply a composite measure not just of volumes, but also of influence in terms of citations of later published patents, in terms of globalization of patenting,” says Bob Stembridge, the lead analyst behind the study.

UPDATE: Microsoft to Google: Bring it on

Everyone loves a good catfight, and it appears two of technology’s biggest names this week might just have obliged.

Google –stung by its failure to get in on several thousand Nortel patents scooped up by its biggest rivals in the smartphone industry – cast the first stone by accusing Apple, Microsoft, Oracle – and presumably almost everyone else — of ganging up against Android and using “bogus patents” to reign in the runaway success of the mobile operating system it gives away for free.

In a very long, very public rant on its official blog, top lawyer David Drummond in particular called out Microsoft, which is also a rival in its search business, of trying to hurt Google by forging an unholy alliance with historical arch-foe Apple.

Spotify gets warm US welcome with a lawsuit

European digital music service Spotify has re-ignited the U.S. music business since it opened up shop on these shores two weeks ago. Hype and Twitter-based excitement have gone into over-drive as users have sought out valuable Spotify invites for the partly free on-demand music service.

It’s not been an easy ride getting here for Spotify and founder Daniel Ek (pictured, right). For one thing, there had been two years of testy, and presumably expensive, music licensing negotiations with the major record labels. Still, they got here, only to now find that one of the other common distractions of US technology business is threatening to spoil the party: A patent lawsuit.

Spotify was sued by PacketVideo Corp for patent infringement for of its United States Patent No. 5,636,276 entitled “Device for the Distribution of Music in Digital Form”. The suit was filed at the US  District Court, Southern District of California on Wednesday (Case No: ’11CV1659 IEG)

Tech wrap: Netflix jacks prices, adds DVD-only option

Netflix subscribers could see their monthly bill increase starting this fall. The company announced it is doing away with a combo plan that lets customers watch unlimited movies and TV shows online and get DVDs by mail for $9.99 a month. Starting in September, current subscribers who want both services will have to pay $7.99 per month to rent one DVD plus an added $7.99 for unlimited streaming, for a total of $15.98 a month. That’s an increase of 60 percent. The new pricing begins immediately for new customers. Old-fashioned types who just want DVDs now have the option of an unlimited DVD-only plan that costs $7.99 for one at a time or $9.99 for two at a time. Good or bad news, depending on how you use Netflix.

Changes are afoot in Apple’s legal department. The tech giant’s chief patent lawyer Richard “Chip” Lutton Jr. plans to leave the company soon, sources close to the matter told Reuters. So who will Apple tap to oversee the many legal battles it’s fighting against rival smartphone makers around the world? Apple is mum on the matter, but BJ Watrous, a former deputy general counsel with Hewlett-Packard, is now listed as Apple’s chief intellectual property counsel on Watrous’s LinkedIn Web page.

Would Research in Motion be better off as two companies? That’s an idea that was floated on Tuesday by an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, who argued that the BlackBerry maker could spur innovation by splitting itself up into separate network and handset businesses. The Waterloo, Ontario-based firm has fallen behind rivals in recent months, leaving investors hungry for news about how the company intends to reverse its lackluster performance.

Tech wrap: Apple vs HTC, round two

Apple has kicked its intellectual property dispute with Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC up a notch. The company filed a new complaint against HTC with a U.S. trade panel over some of its portable electronic devices and software, according to the panel’s website.  Apple filed a similar action against the company last year and could be trying to strengthen the case against its rival by adding new patents to its claim this time around, notes AllThingD’s John Paczkowski. “It’s another broad warning to the industry,” he writes.“If you’re bringing a new smartphone to market, you had better make damn sure it doesn’t infringe on Apple’s IP.”

The first e-reader to fully integrate Google’s eBooks platform into its design goes on sale exclusively at Target stores across the U.S. next weekend, Google said in a blog post.  The iRiver Story HD lets users buy and read e-books from the service over Wi-Fi and store their personal collections in the cloud. Google offers more than 3 million free titles for download through its eBooks service, with hundreds of thousands more for sale.

LinkedIn, the online networking website aimed at professionals, surpassed Myspace in June to become the second-most popular social network in the United States, according to a new survey from comScore. Just how much more popular is LinkedIn now? According to the figures, LinkedIn had 33.9 million unique visitors in June, a jump of about a half a million from May. Myspace, on the other hand, saw its traffic decline to 33.5 million American visitors, a drop of about 1.4 million users from the previous month.