back to article Proof that Surface devices are not a niche product obsessed over by Microsoft fans: A patent lawsuit from Caltech

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has followed up its attempts to double a billion-dollar award from Apple and Broadcom for patent infringement by turning its sights on Microsoft. Keeping itself busy during the inevitable appeals process, Caltech on Friday filed amended complaints against HP Inc [PDF] and Dell [ …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So now we can make a pretty good guess about Broadcom, Linux, and non-open "blobs"........

    Yup.....it's irritated me for a while....and I avoid Broadcom embedded in my (many) Linux boxes....

    .....now I know what's REALLY going on........ BLOB == "something to hide"

    .....so how did CalTech find out?

    1. User McUser

      Re: So now we can make a pretty good guess about Broadcom, Linux, and non-open "blobs"........

      If they really did invent the thing then they probably could have just bought a chip, plugged it into some sort of testing rig and compared its function to their original experimental findings.

      Plus Broadcom probably publishes a lot of the technical information already. After all, you gotta know what the chip does in order to use it in the laptops and gaming consoles you're building.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: So now we can make a pretty good guess about Broadcom, Linux, and non-open "blobs"........

      >.....so how did CalTech find out?

      The HP, Dell & MS complaints seem to be identical from a technical viewpoint.

      I suspect from the detail they were able to measure the differences and compare, both with the Std. and with other WiFi chipsets. However, they do not reveal any of this, limiting their claim to "On information and belief". Which would seem to imply they couldn't be bothered to take a proper look and thus are taking a punt.

  2. Roland6 Silver badge

    Nice patents...

    Upon information and belief, the Accused Products comply with the 802.11n,

    802.11ac, and/or 802.11ax standards and the 12 LDPC error correction codes defined in those

    standards. In addition, upon information and belief, the Accused Products are implemented in a

    manner that not only complies with the 802.11n, 802.11ac, and/or 802.11ax standards, but also

    infringesthe ’710 patent. This is because implementations of the 802.11n, 802.11ac, and/or 802.11ax

    standards that infringe the ’710 patent perform substantially fewer computations, have substantially

    more efficient circuitry, use less memory, consume less semiconductor die area, consume less power,

    and are otherwise more efficient and cost effective than implementations that do infringe the ’710

    patent.

    [para 33. of Microsoft complaint]

    Putting to one side the question of obviousness [Aside: it is obvious that the approach on which the Std's are based is inefficient, but whether the solution CalTech arrived at is or isn't obvious is open to debate.]

    What is interesting here is that effectively CalTech have improved the performance of the Std effectively making their patent 'essential' to anyone who wishes to implement a "more efficient and cost effective " version of the Std. However, they have avoided having their patent classed as "Std essential" and thus are not constrained by FRAND...

    A question is if HP/Dell/MS are using the infringing Broadcom WiFi chips, do CalTech get a second bite of the cherry ie. double-dip royalties.

    1. DS999

      Re: Nice patents...

      A question is if HP/Dell/MS are using the infringing Broadcom WiFi chips, do CalTech get a second bite of the cherry ie. double-dip royalties.

      They are with Apple who uses the same Broadcom wifi chips. Considering that Qualcomm will not only sell you chips but then require you to license the cellular patents they implement, it seems pretty obvious the same would be true for Broadcom & wifi.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re:Qualcomm will not only sell you chips

        Yes, and Qualcomm's behaviour should be illegal. They've bought companies and kill the products simply to own the IP. They are a patent troll that supports it by making chips.

        Also ONLY copyright should apply to software and mathematics shouldn't be patentable.

        1. bpfh

          Re: Re:Qualcomm will not only sell you chips

          Where do you draw the line between software and mathematics? Or mathematics in software? It’s a long slippery road that one...

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Re:Qualcomm will not only sell you chips

            >Where do you draw the line between software and mathematics?

            It is (to me) obvious that whilst the formula used to create RA/IRA codes aren't patentable, likewise the method to use LDPC error correction codes. The specific usage and implementation of their application to enhancing the efficacy of 802.11 beamforming is however patentable, because to make it work, you've had to do more than simply transcribe some formula into software functions. A good parallel is Marconi's radio - his inspiration/idea was putting the known components together in just the right way to produce a working radio.

            What gets 'fun' is the consideration as to whether a maths library function is or isn't patentable. In some respects, it isn't, but then the implementation of the library function can involve some innovative thinking...

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Nice patents...

        My impression of it is that Caltech claims they're owed by one or the bother, do they're suing both for a fair deal. Either could conceivably settle separately if the feel like it.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Nice patents...

          Plus, they will have effectively covered all the major WiFi SoC and PC vendors.

          Once they have (successfully) sought redress from the US vendors, expect them to approach non-US manufacturers (eg. Lenovo) who sell into the US and/or regions that respect US utility patents.

          The only question in my mind is whether Qualcomm and/or other WiFi chipsets also infringe the Caltech patents.

  3. MiguelC Silver badge

    This still bugs me

    What I find troubling in cases like this one is that the patent holder doesn't only go after the developer of the infringing HW or SW, but after its licensed clients who, we must presume, acquired or licensed the product in good faith (in this case it isn't clear if HP, Dell and Microso~1 directly implemented the technologies at stake or only used Broadcom chippery, but HP and Dell don't usually design the comms chips they use).

    Under this principle, they can even go after the infringing party's customers

    Patent litigation should be limited to not go further than the implementer of the product in violation.

    1. Adam Azarchs

      Re: This still bugs me

      Generally when you license something like a chip, part of what you're paying for us for the manufacturer to indemnify you against such patent claims. Which is so say that while Microsoft is the one getting sued, it's Broadcom who will actually be paying. If that's not the case then Microsoft should be a lot more careful with their licensing contacts.

      "Good faith" doesn't mean you aren't liable to pay royalties. If you know you're infringing, that makes it willful, which makes you liable for a lot more.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: This still bugs me

      >Patent litigation should be limited to not go further than the implementer of the product in violation.

      The 'net' needs to be drawn much tighter than this. Given the example of the 3D printer used in the linked ipwatchdog article, 'implementer' would still include the consumer end-user who had simply printed out something.

      I suspect you have to limit it to commercial entities who engage "persons skilled in the art" covered by the patent and who's job it is to design and implement technologies (and methods) that may infringe the patent.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: This still bugs me

        If as a consumer I take my Beatles music CD and put MP3 downloads of it on my personal web site, it's me they'll come after. Why wouldn't it be?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: This still bugs me

          >If as a consumer I take my Beatles music CD and put MP3 downloads of it on my personal web site

          That's (music) copyright infringement, not (utility) patent infringement.

          The trouble is that it is very easy to determine copyright infringement and for joe public to know that they are infringing ie. it is okay for me to copy my CDs to MP3 for personal usage, but not to publish them on my website.

          In contrast, it is practically impossible for joe public to determine (utility) patent infringement. I suspect many practitioners have no idea whether what they implement may or may not infringe some broadly worded utility patent, unless they are using a patent to guide their design. I also suspect that many have used the idea's included in a published article and included them in their designs without worrying about whether the article is describing a patented method/invention.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: This still bugs me

            " it is okay for me to copy my CDs to MP3 for personal usage,"

            in many countries it's not even legal to do that

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "also wants the cost of its attorneys' fees covered"

    Why is that not automatic ?

    If you win your court case, I would find it more than logical that the loser pays for everything.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Why is that not automatic ?

      You have to ask the courts what you would like, and it's decided upon. Judges typically don't preempt or assume a plaintiff or defendant's wishes.

      In short: don't ask, don't get.

      C.

  5. Daedalus Silver badge

    Talk to the organ grinder

    If I were Microsoft I'd suggest to somebody in Congress that paying federal money to an institution that indulges in this kind of patent trolling is maybe not such a good idea. If CaltTech wants to be a business then maybe it shouldn't have all those nice NASA bits attached anymore. I wonder how much they get paid for managing JPL.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Talk to the organ grinder

      Well that will fall on deaf ears, given the Caltech patents include this clause:

      GOVERNMENT LICENSE RIGHTS

      The U.S. Government has a paid-up license in this invention and the right in limited circumstances to require the patent owner to license others on reasonable terms as provided for by the terms of Grant No. CCR-9804793 awarded by the National Science Foundation.

      I therefore suggest an approach that might result in a beneficial outcome, would be to encourage the US government to exercise its right.

  6. J27 Silver badge

    I don't understand why the system integrators are being sued if Broadcom is the one who infringed on the patents. It seems like they're trying to go at everyone even tangentially related to this.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >I don't understand why the system integrators are being sued if Broadcom is the one who infringed on the patents.

      Most probably for similar reasons MS decided a few years back to put pressure on large Linux using organizations on the basis it infringed MS patents...

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