Posts tagged Loses

Aereo Loses At The Supreme Court In Landmark Tech Copyright Case

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling against Aereo, a video startup founded in 2012 that streams both live and delayed television broadcasts to paying subscribers. 

In 2013, ABC and a coalition of other broadcast companies filed against Aereo with the Supreme Court (American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo), claiming that the Aereo’s business model violated copyright by disseminating content without permission.

Aereo subscribers pay a fee starting at $8 per month to both watch and record television, the latter employing Aereo’s “Cloud DVR” technology. Aereo’s argued that it functions more as an equipment provider than a content or cable provider, though the court ruled against that line of reasoning. Aereo’s CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia responded to the ruling on the company’s blog:

Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer. We’ve said all along that we worked diligently to create a technology that complies with the law, but today’s decision clearly states that how the technology works does not matter.

This sends a chilling message to the technology industry. It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, “to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.” (Majority, page 17) That begs the question: Are we moving towards a permission-based system for technology innovation?

The ruling indeed seems to set a precedent for streaming technologies that charge users for content that they do not pay to license from the copyright holder. For many companies—including otherwise successful ones—paying out those fees to broadcast and recording conglomerates can prove crippling, even as they scale up.

While it’s understandable that any startup would want to avoid cutting that “deal” with TV executives by any means necessary, it’s not yet clear how the ruling will affect other companies that employ a similar business model. The ruling did note that its limited scope doesn’t intend to restrict future streaming innovations:

We agree that Congress, while intending the Transmit Clause to apply broadly to cable companies and their equivalents, did not intend to discourage or to control the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies. But we do not believe that our limited holding today will have that effect. 

We’ll likely see soon enough how and if that bit of the ruling will play out in future cases pitting disruptive tech companies against copyright holders. 

Lead image courtesy of Aereo

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The Supreme Court Kills Abstract Software Patents: Who Wins And Who Loses

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, you cannot legally patent laws of nature, natural phenomena or abstract ideas. Especially if those abstract ideas are a generic implementation of doing something “on a computer.”

In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court invalidated a class of software patents that cover what it considers “abstract concepts.” The case, Alice Corporation PTY. LTD. v. CLS Bank International et al., concerned the patenting of a generic concept—a means of enforcing the settlement of debts in a multi-party financial transaction—to be performed on a computer by Alice Corporation. CLS Bank International argued that the patent was invalid because the underlying concept has long been part of finance and economics, and that the only thing new was that Alice performed its settlements using a computer.

Essentially, the Supreme Court ruled that no such abstract concept can be turned into a patentable invention simply because someone programs it into a computer. That’s going to have some important consequences for many existing patents, although reform advocates had hoped the high court might use the case to invalidate all software patents.

What Types Of Software The Case Affects

The ruling is fairly narrow in terms of its application but still a giant step in the long-standing campaign for patent reform. But if you think the ruling will stop the patent trolls in their tracks, you have another think coming. 

It might be easier to think of it in terms of what the Supreme Court didn’t do. It didn’t invalidate another common class of patents that cover “business methods”—i.e., supposed “inventions” that support new ways of doing business. Three justices believe that business method patents should be invalidated and filed opinions to that effect in the Alice case. In the 2010 case Bilski vs. Kappos, the court ruled 5-4 to leave business method patents untouched.

The Alice decision leaves the open the possibility that more patents covering more complex software that can’t easily be boiled down to simple “abstract” ideas will remain valid.

Who Will Be Affected By Alice Vs. CLS Bank?

There’s a clear set of winners from this decision, at least until the high court issues future rulings on software patents:

Large Technology Companies: Like, say, IBM and Microsoft. Both companies filed briefs supporting the Alice patents because of their own investment in thousands of software patents. Many of those remain untouched by today’s ruling.

Software Patent Defendants: One of the tangential benefits of today’s ruling is that it forces software patents to meet patent-eligibility restrictions described in Section 101 (35 U. S. C. §101) of U.S. patent law. That doesn’t fundamentally change much for patents in general, but it does allow defendants to rely on established legal defenses that can sometimes result in quicker dismissal of patent lawsuits.

Individual Developers: Individual software developers often say that they are against software patents. And that’s easy for most of them to say, as few indie devs have ever filed a patent. Still, the ruling should provide smaller companies and independent developers protection from patent trolls using abstract patents designed to force them to settle out of court or accept licensing terms.

Questions Remaining After Alice vs. CLS Bank

Given that the Supreme Court keeps taking half-measures in patent reform, this will likely not be last time it rules on patent-reform issues. 

The court’s opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, declined to define what an abstract patent actually entails. “We need not labor to delimit the precise contours of the ‘abstract ideas’ category in this case,” the opinion stated. So the definition of “abstract” goes back to the lower courts. 

Overall volume of patent suits may decline, particularly if patent assertion entities—i.e., trolls—find it harder to clear the “abstract” bar. But that doesn’t mean that these patent troll entities won’t still try to scare smaller companies into settling for smaller claims. 

Lead image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey, CC 2.0

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Google’s Matt Cutts Loses His Body To Stress Importance Of Body Content To Search Engines

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, posted a fun video where fellow Googler, Michael Wyszomierski, cropped out his body in the video to make a point. The statement Matt made was that there is importance of content in the body of a page and not just the header, such as the title tag. If…



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Google Loses Big in German Reputation Lawsuit by @jeanmariedion

Typically, when I’m asked to describe what Google does, I launch into a description that goes something like this: “A search engine like Google is designed to crawl through the web, picking up information about each page that’s out there and putting that information into some sort of database. Then, when a user types in […]

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Jean Dion

Jean Dion
Senior Journalist at InternetReputation.com

Jean Dion is a writer, editor, avid blogger and obsessed pet owner. She’s a senior journalist with InternetReputation.com, and writes frequently on the intersection of private indiscretion and public embarrassment. Follow her on Google+ or Twitter.

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Google Loses Again In AdWords Patent Infringement Case

A judge has determined patent-holding company Vringo is entitled to additional royalties from Google in a patent infringement case involving Google AdWords. The order stems from a case brought by Vringo subsidiary I/P Engine in 2011 that claimed filtering technology used in Google AdWords violated…



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