I continue the struggle to stay abreast of the web conferencing patent suits brought by ITUS (previously CopyTele and more specifically its subsidiary Secure Web Conference Corp). When last we visited the plaintiff, it had settled out of court on earlier suits against Logitech and Citrix. Suits against Microsoft (Skype) and Apple (FaceTime) are proceeding, with many more suits against web conferencing companies promised/threatened by ITUS in earlier public statements.
Today I saw an article on www.law360.com (free registration required), where Ryan Davis reported that Microsoft lost a bid to throw out the suit on first principles. Apparently this is a fairly standard gambit to see if a patent defendant can get the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to rule up front that the disputed patent was "anticipated or obvious" based on earlier patents and therefore should not be protected as a new creative invention. Now that the easy route is gone, the real wrangling can begin.
But it turns out there is another monkey wrench in the works that I hadn't been aware of. Mike Masnick at www.techdirt.com has been following developments in a US Supreme Court case known as Alice v. CLS Bank. I won't link to all his past columns on the subject, but today he added opinions from an interesting new study performed by ktMINE. Masnick says the report suggests that more than half of Google and Microsoft's patents are invalid under the Supreme Court's "Alice ruling." Oracle may have up to 76% of its patents nullified. IBM could have 49% of its massive patent portfolio at risk.
That may sound like a bad thing, but Masnick points out that it could be a blessing rather than a curse. For one thing, patent troll companies stand to lose the validity and legal/financial value of their libraries of purchased patents. And the patents owned by the giant vendors (and litigiously targeted by patent trolls) are often purely defensive in nature. With fewer court cases brought for purposes of financial harassment, real innovation can proceed in a simpler and less paranoid environment.
CopyTele/ITUS was not one of the patent companies listed on ktMINE's impact list, but if their patents are purely software related, this could slow down their campaign against web conferencing vendors.
As the TV news anchors always say, "Time will tell."