Microsoft Brings Native HEIF Support to Windows 10 ( 145

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is bringing support for the new HEIF image format to Windows 10. First popularized by Apple with iOS 11, HEIF is a new image format that uses less storage space while preserving image quality. The new image format is used by default on Apple's iPhone X and other devices running iOS 11. While Microsoft's online services like OneDrive already supported HEIF since the release of iOS 11, Windows 10 didn't natively support the new format as of yet. But with the upcoming Redstone 4 update -- possibly called the Spring Creators Update -- the Microsoft Photos app in Windows 10 will support HEIF by default. Further reading: CNET.

Apple Files Patent For a Crumb-Resistant MacBook Keyboard ( 91

According to a patent application made public on Thursday, March 8, Apple could be developing a new MacBook keyboard designed to prevent crumbs and dust from getting those super-shallow MacBook keys stuck. "Liquid ingress around the keys into the keyboard can damage electronics. Residues from such liquids may corrode or block electrical contacts, getting in the way of key movement and so on," the patent application reads. Digital Trends reports: The application goes on to describe how those problems might be remedied: With the careful application of gaskets, brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps beneath keycaps. One solution would include a membrane beneath each key, effectively insulating the interior of the keyboard from the exterior, while another describes using each keypress as a "bellows" to force contaminants out of the keyboard. "A keyboard assembly [could include] a substrate, a key cap, and a guard structure extending from the key cap that funnels contaminants away from the movement mechanism," the patent application reads.

BlackBerry Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram ( 87

BlackBerry on Tuesday filed patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram in Los Angeles Federal court. In a statement, BlackBerry said: We have a lot of respect for Facebook and the value they've placed on messaging capabilities, some of which were invented by BlackBerry. As a cybersecurity and embedded software leader, BlackBerry's view is that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp could make great partners in our drive toward a securely connected future, and we continue to hold this door open to them. However, we have a strong claim that Facebook has infringed on our intellectual property, and after several years of dialogue, we also have an obligation to our shareholders to pursue appropriate legal remedies.

'Nobody Cares Who Was First, and Nobody Cares Who Copied Who': Marco Arment on Defending Your App From Copies and Clones ( 169

Marco Arment: App developers sometimes ask me what they should do when their features, designs, or entire apps are copied by competitors. Legally, there's not a lot you can do about it: Copyright protects your icon, images, other creative resources, and source code. You automatically have copyright protection, but it's easy to evade with minor variations. App stores don't enforce it easily unless resources have been copied exactly. Trademarks protect names, logos, and slogans. They cover minor variations as well, and app stores enforce trademarks more easily, but they're costly to register and only apply in narrow areas.

Only assholes get patents. They can be a huge PR mistake, and they're a fool's errand: even if you get one ($20,000+ later), you can't afford to use it against any adversary big enough to matter. Don't be an asshole or a fool. Don't get software patents. If someone literally copied your assets or got too close to your trademarked name, you need to file takedowns or legal complaints, but that's rarely done by anyone big enough to matter. If a competitor just adds a feature or design similar to one of yours, you usually can't do anything. You can publicly call out a copy, but you won't come out of it looking good. [...] Nobody else will care as much as you do. Nobody cares who was first, and nobody cares who copied who. The public won't defend you.


'Troll' Loses Cloudflare Lawsuit, Has Weaponized Patent Invalidated ( 49

A federal judge in San Francisco has unequivocally ruled against a non-practicing entity that had sued Cloudflare for patent infringement. From a report: The judicial order effectively ends the case that Blackbird -- which Cloudflare had dubbed a "patent troll" -- had brought against the well-known security firm and content delivery network. "Abstract ideas are not patentable," US District Judge Vincent Chhabria wrote in a Monday order. The case revolved around US Patent No. 6,453,335, which describes providing a "third party data channel" online. When the case was filed in May 2017, the invention claims it can incorporate third-party data into an existing Internet connection "in a convenient and flexible way."

Amazon Patents Wristbands Designed To Track and Steer Employees' Movements ( 96

New submitter hyperclocker shares a report from NY Daily News: Amazon workplace employees may soon be guided by their wrists. The tech company this week received two patents for a wristband designed to guide warehouse workers' movements with the use of vibrations. The concept relies on ultrasonic sound pulses or radio transmissions to detect the position of an employee's hand in relation to a series of inventory bins, GeekWire reported. Upon receiving product orders, warehouse workers are required to retrieve the requested item from such bins or shelves and pack it in a delivery box before moving on to the next order. If a worker's hands begin to move toward the wrong direction, the proposed "haptic feedback system" would cause the wristband to buzz and direct their hand in the correct direction. The wristbands, according to the patent documents, were designed as a means to keep track of products within Amazon warehouses as well as up day-to-day productivity. The proposed tech, however, could also provide Amazon management with a new means of workplace surveillance that would alert them to staffers who are wasting time or breaking for too long.

Ford Patents Driverless Police Car That Ambushes Lawbreakers Using AI ( 126

Ford has developed a patent for a police car that issues tickets without even pulling you over. The same car could also use artificial intelligence to find good hiding spots to catch traffic violators (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) and identify drivers by scanning license plates, tapping into surveillance cameras and wirelessly accessing government records. The Washington Post reports: The details may sound far-fetched, as if they belong in the science-fiction action flick "Demolition Man" or a new dystopian novel inspired by Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," but these scenarios are grounded in a potential reality. They come from a patent developed by Ford and being reviewed by the U.S. government to create autonomous police cars. Ford's patent application was published this month. Although experts claim autonomous vehicles will make driving safer and more rule-bound, Ford argues in its application that in the future, traffic violations will never disappear entirely. "While autonomous vehicles can and will be programmed to obey traffic laws, a human driver can override that programming to control and operate the vehicle at any time," the patent's application says. "When a vehicle is under the control of a human driver there is a possibility of violation of traffic laws. Thus, there will still be a need to police traffic."

The patent application says that autonomous police vehicles don't necessarily replace the need for human police officers for catching traffic scofflaws. Some "routine tasks," such as issuing tickets for failure to stop at a stop sign, can be automated, the patent says, but other tasks that can't be automated will be left to people. The application, which was filed in July 2016 and includes elaborate diagrams depicting the autonomous police car interacting with its environment, says officers could be inside the vehicle at all times and reclaim control of the car when necessary. But the application also shows how an autonomous police vehicle could be able to carry out many tasks we associate with human officers.


MPEG Founder Says the MPEG Business Model Is Broken ( 159

theweatherelectric writes: Leonardo Chiariglione, the founder and chairman of MPEG, argues on his blog that the current MPEG business model is broken. He writes, "Thanks to [MPEG's] 'business model' that can be simply described as: produce standards having the best performance as a goal, irrespective of the IPR involved. Because MPEG standards are the best in the market and have an international standard status, manufacturers/service providers get a global market of digital media products, services and applications, and end users can seamless communicate with billions of people and access millions of services. Patent holders who allow use of their patents get hefty royalties with which they can develop new technologies for the next generation of MPEG standards. A virtuous cycle everybody benefits from." But, he argues, the MPEG model is now in crisis because the forthcoming AV1 video format from the Alliance for Open Media means that "everybody realizes that the old MPEG business model is broke, all the investments (collectively hundreds of millions USD) made by the industry for the new video codec [HEVC] will go up in smoke and AOM's royalty free model will spread to other business segments as well." Chiariglione goes on to explain what can be done: "The first action is to introduce what I call 'fractional options.' ISO envisages two forms of licensing: Option 1, i.e. royalty free and Option 2, i.e. FRAND, which is taken to mean 'with undetermined license.' We could introduce fractional options in the sense that a proposer could indicate that the technology be assigned to a specifically identified profile with an 'industry license' (defined outside MPEG) that does not contain monetary values. For instance, one such license could be 'no charge' (i.e. Option 1), another could be targeted to the OTT market etc."

"The second action, not meant to be alternative to the first, is to streamline the MPEG standard development process. Within this a first goal is to develop coding tools with 'clear ownership,' unlike today's tools which are often the result of contributions with possibly very different weights. A second goal is not to define profiles in MPEG. A third goal could be to embed in the standard the capability to switch coding tools on and off."

Ford Has An Idea For An Autonomous Police Car That Could Find A Hiding Spot ( 115

Ford has submitted a patent application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for an autonomous police car that could function "in lieu of or in addition to human police officers." From a report: Now, companies always file patents for technology that may never get made, but an autonomous police cruiser seems like the logical conclusion to the development self-driving cars. But damn is it weird to read about. The patent, describes how the hypothetical car would rely on artificial intelligence and use "on-board speed detection equipment, cameras, and [it would] communicate with other devices in the area such as stationary speed cameras."

Tax Change Aims to Lure Intellectual Property Back to the US ( 186

U.S. companies rich in intellectual property are looking at a new tax-friendly regime: the U.S (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). From a report: A provision in the newly revised U.S. tax code slashes the income tax companies pay on royalties from the overseas use of intellectual property or so-called intangible assets, such as licenses and patents. The new tax break, for what is dubbed foreign-derived intangible income, effectively reduces tax on foreign income from goods and services produced in the U.S. using patents and other intellectual property to 13.125% until the end of 2025, after which the rate rises to 16.4%. Previously, royalties paid to a unit in the U.S. would have been taxed similarly to other U.S. income, for which the top corporate tax rate was 35%. The new headline corporate rate is 21%. The deduction is meant to induce companies with large U.S. operations and significant foreign income from patent royalties to base more of those assets in the U.S. Such companies, especially in technology and pharmaceutical sectors, often hold foreign rights for their IP in a company based in a low-tax country.
United States

The US Drops Out of the Top 10 In Innovation Ranking ( 364

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. South Korea and Sweden retained their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings. The index scores countries using seven criteria, including research and development spending and concentration of high-tech public companies. The U.S. fell to 11th place from ninth mainly because of an eight-spot slump in the post-secondary, or tertiary, education-efficiency category, which includes the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force. Value-added manufacturing also declined. Improvement in the productivity score couldn't make up for the lost ground.

South Korea remained the global-innovation gold medalist for the fifth consecutive year. China moved up two spots to 19th, buoyed by its high proportion of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force and increasing number of patents by innovators such as Huawei Technologies Co. Japan, one of three Asian nations in the top 10, rose one slot to No. 6. France moved up to ninth from 11th, joining five other European economies in the top tier. Israel rounded out this group and was the only country to beat South Korea in the R&D category. South Africa and Iran moved back into the top 50; the last time both were included was 2014. Turkey was one of the biggest gainers, jumping four spots to 33rd because of improvements in tertiary efficiency, productivity and two other categories. The biggest losers were New Zealand and Ukraine, which each dropped four places. The productivity measure influenced New Zealand's shift, while Ukraine was hurt by a lower tertiary-efficiency ranking.


Can A New Open Photo File Format Replace JPEGs? ( 271

Got lossless compression? An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Google, Mozilla and others in a group called the Alliance for Open Media are working on a rival photo technology. In testing so far, the images are 15 percent smaller than Apple's HEIC photo format, said Tim Terriberry, a Mozilla principal research engineer working on the project. But smaller sizes are just the beginning... it's got a strong list of allies, an affinity for web publishing and modern features that could make it the best contender yet for overcoming JPEG's 1990s-era shortcomings... JPEG isn't just limited by needlessly large file sizes. It's also weak when it comes to supporting a wider range of bright and dark tones, a broader spectrum of colors, and graphic elements like text and logos...

The HEIC's new rival is from the Alliance for Open Media, a group whose top priority is a video compression technology called AV1 that's free of patent licensing requirements. It's got heavy hitters on board, including top browser makers Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and the most recent new member, Apple -- though Apple's plans haven't been made public. And it's got major streaming-video companies, too: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Facebook, videoconferencing powerhouse Intel and Google's YouTube. And with the support of chip designers Intel, Nvidia and Arm, AV1 should get the hardware acceleration that's crucial to making video easy on our laptop and phone batteries.

To use Apple's HEIC, "makers of software, processors and phones must jump through a lot of hoops to license patents," which CNET predicts "means HEIC will have trouble succeeding on the web: patent barriers are antithetical to the web's open nature."

Bank of America Tops IBM, Payments Firms With Most Blockchain Patents ( 45

Bank of America may not be willing to help customers invest in Bitcoin, but that doesn't mean it isn't plowing into the technology underlying the cryptocurrency. From a report: The Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender has applied for or received at least 43 patents for blockchain, the ledger technology used for verifying and recording transactions that's at the heart of virtual currencies. It is the largest number among major banks and technology companies, according to a study by EnvisionIP, a New York-based law firm that specializes in analyses of intellectual property. "Based on what's publicly out there, the technology sector hasn't embraced blockchain as much as the financial-services industry," Maulin Shah, managing attorney for EnvisionIP, said in an interview. International Business Machines Corp., which has targeted blockchain and artificial intelligence for future growth, tied with Mastercard Inc. for second on the list, with 27 each.

TiVo Sues Comcast Again, Alleging Operator's X1 Infringes Eight Patents ( 58

TiVo's Rovi subsidiary on Wednesday filed two lawsuits in federal district courts, alleging Comcast's X1 platform infringes eight TiVo-owned patents. "That includes technology covering pausing and resuming shows on different devices; restarting live programming in progress; certain advanced DVR recording features; and advanced search and voice functionality," reports Variety. From the report: A Comcast spokeswoman said the company will "aggressively defend" itself. "Comcast engineers independently created our X1 products and services, and through its litigation campaign against Comcast, Rovi seeks to charge Comcast and its customers for technology Rovi didn't create," the Comcast rep said in a statement. "Rovi's attempt to extract these unfounded payments for its aging and increasingly obsolete patent portfolio has failed to date."

TiVo's legal action comes after entertainment-tech vendor Rovi (which acquired the DVR company in 2016 and adopted the TiVo name) sued Comcast and its set-top suppliers in April 2016, alleging infringement of 14 patents. In November 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Comcast infringed two Rovi patents -- with the cable operator prevailing on most of the patents at issue. However, because one of the TiVo patents Comcast was found to have violated covered cloud-based DVR functions, the cable operator disabled that feature for X1 customers. Comcast is appealing the ITC ruling.


Empirical Research Reveals Three Big Problems With How Patents Are Vetted ( 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If you've read our coverage of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Stupid Patent of the Month" series, you know America has a patent quality problem. People apply for patents on ideas that are obvious, vague, or were invented years earlier. Too often, applications get approved and low-quality patents fall into the hands of patent trolls, creating headaches for real innovators. Why don't more low-quality patents get rejected? A recent paper published by the Brookings Institution offers fascinating insights into this question. Written by legal scholars Michael Frakes and Melissa Wasserman, the paper identifies three ways the patent process encourages approval of low-quality patents:

-The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is funded by fees -- and the agency gets more fees if it approves an application.
-Unlimited opportunities to refile rejected applications means sometimes granting a patent is the only way to get rid of a persistent applicant.
-Patent examiners are given less time to review patent applications as they gain seniority, leading to less thorough reviews.

None of these observations is entirely new. But what sets Frakes and Wasserman's work apart is that they have convincing empirical evidence for all three theories. They have data showing that these features of the patent system systematically bias it in the direction of granting more patents. Which means that if we reformed the patent process in the ways they advocate, we'd likely wind up with fewer bogus patents floating around.


Bank of America Wins Patent For Crypto Exchange System ( 52

New submitter psnyder shares a report from CoinDesk: [The patent] outlined a potential cryptocurrency exchange system that would convert one digital currency into another. Further, this system would be automated, establishing the exchange rate between the two currencies based on external data feeds. The patent describes a potential three-part system, where the first part would be a customer's account and the other two would be accounts owned by the business running the system. The user would store their chosen cryptocurrency through the customer account. The second account, referred to as a "float account," would act as a holding area for the cryptocurrency the customer is selling, while the third account, also a float account, would contain the equivalent amount of the cryptocurrency the customer is converting their funds to. That third account would then deposit the converted funds back into the original customer account for withdrawal. The proposed system would collect data from external information sources on cryptocurrency exchange rates, and use this data to establish its own optimal rate. The patent notes this service would be for enterprise-level customers, meaning that if the bank pursues this project, it would be offered to businesses.

Apple Accuses Qualcomm of Patent Infringement in Countersuit ( 34

From a report: Apple on Wednesday filed a countersuit against Qualcomm, alleging that Qualcomm's Snapdragon mobile phone chips that power a wide variety of Android-based devices infringe on Apple's patents, the latest development in a long-running dispute. Qualcomm in July accused Apple of infringing several patents related to helping mobile phones get better battery life. Apple has denied the claims that it violated Qualcomm's battery life patents and alleged that Qualcomm's patents were invalid, a common move in such cases. But on Wednesday, in a filing in U.S. District Court in San Diego, Apple revised its answer to Qualcomm's complaint with accusations of its own. Apple alleges it owns at least eight battery life patents that Qualcomm has violated.

'Break Up Google and Facebook If You Ever Want Innovation Again' ( 268

Hal_Porter shares a report from The Register: If the tech industry wants another wave of innovation to match the PC or the internet, Google and Facebook must be broken up, journalist and film producer Jonathan Taplin told an audience at University College London's Faculty of Law this week. He was speaking at an event titled Crisis in Copyright Policy: How the digital monopolies have cornered culture and what it means for all of us, where he credited the clampers put on Bell then IBM for helping to create the PC industry and the internet. Taplin told his audience that he'd been moved by the fate of his friend Levon Helm, The Band's drummer, who was forced to go back on the road in his sixties, after radiation therapy for cancer. Helm died broke. Today, Taplin points out, YouTube accounts for 57 per cent of all songs streamed over the internet, but thanks to a loophole returns just 13.5 per cent of revenue. "That's not a willing buyer-seller relationship," he said, referring to the UGC loophole that Google enjoys, one not available to Spotify or Apple Music. But it isn't just songwriters and musicians who are poorly paid. The average person "works for two hours a day for Mark Zuckerberg" generating a data profile. Taplin pointed out that Bell held patents on many technologies including the transistor, the laser and the solar cell, that it agreed to license, royalty free, as part of a 1956 consent decree.

Taplin saw history repeated with IBM. Under the 1956 (again) consent decree IBM was obliged to unbundle software from hardware in the 1960s. But competition authorities again opened up an investigation in 1969 which ran for 13 years. Caution made IBM ensure its first microcomputer, the IBM PC, launched in 1981, was an open platform. IBM chose three operating systems to run on the first PC but clearly favoured an outsider, from a tiny Seattle outfit originally called "Micro-Soft." Then Microsoft got the treatment. "Every 20 years we have this fight -- and we're about to have it again," Taplin told the audience. Antitrust was necessary "not because they're too big, but because there's no market solution" to Google and Facebook. The barriers to entry are now so high nobody is going bust open the ad duopoly. Taplin cited Snapchat an example of a company that tried to innovate, but refused to take Facebook's buyout offer. Facebook has simply copied its features.


Patent Trolls Are Losing More. Will America's Supreme Court Change That? ( 127

jespada writes: New York Times has an article warning that the Patent Appeal and Trial Board is being challenged on the basis that patents represent real property and that a government agency is not empowered to take real property.
Here's a quotes from the Times article. (Non-paywalled version here): In the five years since it began its work -- a result of the America Invents Act of 2011 -- the Patent Trial and Appeal Board has saved companies more than $2 billion in legal fees alone, according to Joshua Landau, patent counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, offering an expeditious and relatively cheap avenue to challenge patents of doubtful validity. The benefits of stopping bad patents from snaking their way through the economy have been even greater. Companies no longer have to pay ransom so the threat of lawsuits over dubious royalty payments -- filed by aggressive litigants known as trolls -- will go away... But for all the benefits of culling faulty intellectual-property rights, the board is under existential threat. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge that the patent office's new procedure is unconstitutional...

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