Tag Archive for Sony

Top Troll Reloads

Top Troll ReloadsIt’s been a good year for patent trolls, and now the biggest troll of them all wants to keep the party going reports Jeff John Roberts at GigaOM. He points to a report reveals that Intellectual Ventures has acquired more than 200 new patents, which will help IV extend its legal tentacles in fields like wireless infrastructure and cloud computing.

Patent troll aquires more patentsGigaOM explains that IV’s peculiar brand of innovation involves acquiring old patents and using them to arm thousands of shell companies, whose sole business is to extract licensing fees from productive businesses.

News of IV’s restocked war chest, which Reuters says is partially funded by Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) comes after earlier reports that initial investors, including Apple (AAPL) and Intel (INTC) declined to take part in IV’s newest trolling fund. According to the report, by law firm Richardson Oliver and spotted by IAM, the fund is on track since IV purchased 16 percent of all available patent packages in the first half of 2014. A chart by the firm suggests it paid $1-$2 million in most cases; here’s a partial look:

Patent Troll may target cloud computing next

Rampant  mobile phone patent trollingThe chart shows six patents related to the cloud computing industry, which has so far escaped the rampant patent trolling that has plagued mobile phone and app developers. The author speculates cloud computing could now be prime picking for IV in the coming year.

IV is well-positioned to exploit the patents thanks to Senate Democrats, who in May killed a bipartisan Patent reform bill that would have undercut many of the economic incentives for patent trolling according to Mr. Roberts. IV has also been active on the lobbying front, filing to start a PAC this year and donating sums of money to Senator Dick Durbin (D-Il), who is closely allied to the trial lawyer lobby that reportedly helped to derail reform.

Corrupt politcanGigaOM believes darker clouds could be looming for IV. They cite growing public skepticism towards patent trolls, who now account for 67 percent of all new lawsuits. The trolls have received harsh treatment from the likes of NPR and the New York Times, while the Supreme Court’s repeated criticism of slip-shod patents may finally be making it harder for companies to abuse them.

Meanwhile, respected tech figures like Marco Arment have lashed out at IV’s business model as “cowardly” while inventors like Tesla’s Elon Musk have questioned the value of patents to begin with.

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Uh oh, the world’s biggest patent troll has restocked its weapons chest — and it looks like their next target will be cloud computing.

Rockstars Team Up Against Google

Rockstars Team Up Against GoogleTo usurp Mark Twain, the reports of Nortel‘s demise are greatly exaggerated. GigaOm reports that the defunct Canadian telco giant has found an afterlife as part of a patent trolling operation that struck Android phone makers and is now targeting network and cable operators with lawsuits in Texas and Delaware.

Nortel Zombie IPJeff John Roberts writes that Nortel’s second act as the walking dead is taking place thanks to “Rockstar Consortium,” a group formed by Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL), Blackberry (BBRY), Sony (SNE), Ericsson AB (ERIC)EMC (EMC) and other Google (GOOG) rivals, which bought bankrupt Nortel’s patent portfolio in 2011 for $4.5 billion. (rb- I covered the sale of Nortel’s IP here)

“Nortel was the source of many of the most important innovations in history in the field of telecommunications and networking,” says a new Rockstar lawsuit filed in the seemingly pro-troll U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas that accuses Time Warner Cable (TWC) of violating six patents, including US Patent 6128649, which was issued in the year 2000 and describes a method to show multiple screens in a video conference the article summarizes.

RockstarThe complaint doesn’t say how exactly Time Warner Cable is infringing the old Nortel patents, but only notes that “TWC operates, sells and offers to sell video, high-speed data and voice services over its broadband cable systems throughout the United States.” The author says Rockstar, which is suing through a subsidiary called Constellation, also complains that the cable company walked away from its licensing demands in 2012.

GigaOm notes a second lawsuit, filed in Delaware by Rockstar under the alias “Bockstar” makes a series of broad-based allegations against Cisco (CSCO) that claim the company is violating six other old Nortel patents, including this one from 1998, related to routers and switches.

Patent trollingLike all patent trolling, the author says that has nothing to do with innovation, but it certainly will lead to higher cable bills as Time Warner will have to spend millions on lawyers to fight the suit or else pay expensive license fees for old patents from a dead company; either way, the costs are passed on to customers.

Joe Mullin of Ars Technica noted when Rockstar sued the phone companies, “it’s patent trolling gone corporate.” And there’s no indication of where this will stop. Apple and Microsoft are sitting on thousands of patents that date from an era when the Patent Office would grant a patent on nearly anything, and it looks like they’re going to use them to sue every industry they can think of.

Greedy politicanThe totally dysfunctional US Congress tried to take on patent trolling but caved into lobbyists. Microsoft has already succeeded in stripping out a part of the law that would have made it easier to challenge bad patents. This means the best hope for a return to patent sanity may lie with the Supreme Court, which agreed to consider what type of software patents should be granted in the first place.

GigaOm cites CBC reports that Ottawa, Nortel’s hometown has been transformed from a one-time innovation hotbed into a tech necropolis where once-proud engineers are paid to pick apart other people’s inventions in search of new patent violations that they can pass on their American masters.

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I have covered the patent trolling mayhem in the mobile market for a while and this seems to be more of the same. Innovation is dead in the mobile market and they only way these firms can compete is in the court-house.

In addition to their choice of venue in the pro-troll Texas court, further evidence that Microsoft and Apple have created a patent troll can be found in the fact that Rockstar has filed suit against the leading Android phone producers:

  1. Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) (#1 Android OEM in U.S. sales),
  2. LG Electronics (LGLD) (#2),
  3. ZTE (763) (#4),
  4. Huawei (002502) (#6) and
  5. HTC (2498) (#7).

In addition DailyTech notes that Rockstar member Sony is a minor Android OEM.  If somehow Microsoft and Apple are able to troll other Android OEMs to death, Sony could see gains in market share, as the only OEM who doesn’t have to pay direct licensing fees to Microsoft/Apple (Sony also notably has preexisting licensing deals with Microsoft and Apple).

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Are There Holes in Your Cyber-Liability Coverage?

Are There Holes in Your Cyber-Liability Coverage?In the aftermath of the many Sony data breaches, the firm faces 58 class action lawsuits. In addition to the lawsuits, Sony (SNE) has a cyber-liability coverage problem. Help Net Security writes that an unexpected development could throw a wrench in Sony’s plans to reduce their losses. The article explains that  Zurich American Insurance Company, one of Sony’s insurers, has petitioned the Supreme Court of New York to exonerate it from compensating Sony for the losses that it might incur if it looses any of the many lawsuits being filed against it due to the recent breaches.

Cyber risksAccording to Computerworld, this situation has highlighted, in cases of cyber attacks and data breaches insurance has become a separate coverage not included in the General Liability policy.  Also, the companies need to look carefully at what a cyber-liability insurance policy includes, since it often covers the cost of recreating lost data but rarely the costs that stem from the breach, such as legal expenses and data notification costs.

According to Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, there are very few insurance companies whose cyber-liability insurance policy includes those costs. And Chubb Cyber-riskswith those who do, the high premiums and limited payouts – not to mention that the onus to prove that they have made an adequate effort to keep intruders out rests with the company – make many businesses decide against it.

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I covered this wrinkle in cyber-insurance back in 2011, here. Proper risk management includes planning for events and how to mitigate those events. Does your firm have cyber liability coverage? Does it even know its general from its cyber liability coverages? 

Mobile Patent Troll Sues Everyone

Mobile Patent Troll Sues EveryoneSurprise, surprise there’s another mobile-related patent lawsuit. at GigaOM says this time the plaintiff is an obscure Delaware-registered limited liability non-practicing entity called Steelhead. The patent in question covers ‘mobile radio handover initiation determination’ – in other words, choosing which cellular base station has the best signal as the handset moves from one place to another.

Cell phonesThe defendants are a who’s who of the mobile world: Apple (AAPL), AT&T (T), Google (GOOG), HTCKyocera (KYO), LG (LGLD), MetroPCS (PCS), Motorola Mobility, NEC Corporation (6701), Pantech, Research In Motion (RIMM), Sony (SNE), Sprint (S), T-Mobile, Verizon (VZ) and ZTE (763). The article says these firms committed the mortal sin of allowing their mobile phones to act as mobile phones. But the interesting thing about this particular suit is the origin of the suit – or, more precisely, the reporting around that origin.

Mr. Meyer reports that U.S. Patent No. 5,491,834 comes from BT (BT) was filed in 1993 and granted in 1996, the patent is still listed by the USPTO as belonging to BT. In its court filings provided by the author, (the Motorola/Google example is here), Steelhead notes that it “owns all rights of recovery under the ‘834 Patent, including the exclusive right to recover for past infringement”.

The author suggests that this case may not BT “aggressively monetizing” its patent portfolio. BT told Mr. Meyer, “BT sold all of its rights to the patents last year. We have no involvement in Steelhead Licensing LLC’s litigation activity.”

BT claims the troll is not a shell front for the firm. A spokesperson for the telecom giant told GigaOM,  “BT doesn’t share in Steelhead’s licensing income”.

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I have covered the mobile patent wars many times here. I don’t know why I find patent trolling so interesting to follow. Maybe its the same reason I watch NASCAR highlights, for the crashes, or the buy a few Powerball tickets, just in case.

Maybe someday all the money spent on lawyers will actually go back to making things and creating jobs.

Patent warsShame on BT if this is a legit patent and they were not smart enough to enforce their claim when they had it. I’m no lawyer, it seems to me that mobiles that can’t find a cell tower to connect to don’t work.

 

Tech Labor Day

Tech Labor DayToday is Labor Day in the US. The US Department of Labor says Labor day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas summed up the social and economic achievements of American tech workers recently. Their report stated that in the first half of 2012, layoffs in the technology sector hit their highest levels since 2009. There were more than 51,000 planned cuts announced by the end of June.

According to CRN, most of the layoffs came from the biggest firms. (rb- I kept a butchers toll of tech layoffs in 2009. The first half of 2012 seems just as grim.)

HPHP – Leads the body count in 2012 with its plan to layoff 27,000-plus layoffs. HP (HPQ) made the announcement in May, saying it would cut about 8 percent of its workforce over the next two years.

Nokia – The downward spiral continues for Nokia (NOK) with the announcement that it will slash 10,000 jobs, estimated to be around 19% of its worldwide workforce, by the end of 2013 according to a June 2012 report from theNew York Times.

Sony In April Sony (SNE) said it would slash about 6 percent of its global workforce, about 10,000 employees, in an effort called “One Sony,” to refocus the company around its digital imaging, gaming and mobile businesses. Also the firm announced that Sony Mobile Communications its mobile handset division would be laying out 15% of its workforce or about 1,000 people. According to TechCrunch the process is due to complete by March 2014.

Google logoGoogle – In a long-expected move, Google (GOOG) earlier this month confirmed it would axe about 4,000 jobs from its Motorola Mobility subsidiary representing about 20 percent of Motorola’s 20,000-employee headcount. Google said that some 90 former Motorola facilities would be closed down.

Panasonic - In May, Panasonic (PC) announced it would cut another 7,000 staff after announcing in April 2011 plans to cut 17,000 jobs over two years.

Research In Motion – Former king of smartphones, Research In Motion (RIMM) has suffered setback after setback in the face of Apple and Android competition. RIM early this year warned of workforce reductions, and in mid-June, several reports held that those reductions had already begun, in small batches of 10-or-so employees. New reports in August stated that RIM will eliminate some 3,000 other jobs this month.

Olympus -  CNET reports that Olympus (OCPNY) will cut 2,700 employees from its global workforce between now and March 31, 2014.

Yahoo logoYahoo – Back in April Yahoo (YHOO) cut about 2,000 employees across all the major units of the company. CRN speculates that Yahoo’s job cutting will grow as new CEO Marissa Mayer gets her feet wet.

Lexmark - Lexmark (LXK), the printer maker is jettisoning its inkjet printers and laying off 1,700 workers as paper becomes increasingly passe in an age of online photo albums on Internet hangouts like Facebook and Pinterest according to the MercuryNews.com.

Cisco - In mid-July, Cisco (CSCO) confirmed 1,300 more job cuts, about 2 percent of its global workforce.

Activision - Activision (ATVI) subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment, maker of World of Warcraft announced that it will cut its global workforce by 600 employees Gamespot reported in February.

Best BuyBest Buy - CNET reports that the retail giant has decided to cut 650 Geek Squad workers. Best Buy (BBY) confirmed to Minneapolis-St. Paul news station KARE 11 the nationwide layoffs were effective August 1.

Logitech - the $2.3 billion peripherals king has had Logitech’s financial struggles. In June, Logitech (LOGI) said it would cut about 450 jobs, roughly 13 percent of its global workforce.