back to article Patch me if you can: Microsoft, Samsung, and Google win appeal over patent on remote updating

Samsung, Microsoft, and Google have prevailed at US Federal Appeal Court [PDF] in a patent battle with Iron Oak Technologies. The trio won the appeal after Iron Oak challenged an earlier Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) ruling on patent 5,699,275, which describes a method for remotely delivering operating system upgrades. …

  1. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

    * trivial patent derived from prior art

    * add in a tiny nuance about host systems "deciding" something (rather than the client device)

    * sit on it for a while and sell it to a patent troll

    * new owner, use that nuance to try and prove the worthiness of the patent

    * sue the bollocks off of every deep pocket that's already (even vaguely) doing this royalty free, shortly before the patent would expire, even (1995 plus ~20 years...)

    * lose court battle (which effectively revokes your patent), and also the appeal

    Yep. I think the court did the right thing, denying a patent troll his bogus claim.

    1. Mage
      Flame

      Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

      Elephant in the room is the Totally Broken (by design) USPTO. Since Edison's time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

        Not totally but close. First, there needs to be an earlier method to challenge the validity of a patent before you're sued. Second, software patents should only be granted to companies that can demonstrate that they have them operating on hardware.

        1. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

          C'mon - any "patent" system that allows patents on things in nature is ipso facto "shite".

          Yes there has been a ruling:

          https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/testing/genepatents/

          which just about covers it. But WAY too many patents have been granted in the US to things which are NOT inventions. Sorry but "discoveries" of things which already exist should NOT be patentable which tends to be the major problem in the US.

          Yes it is also "sort of" covered:

          https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/article-1/section-8/clause-8/patentable-discoveries

          But way too many courts in the US have sided with those filing patents.

        2. Mage

          Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

          Software patents are an obscenity. Copyright covers software.

          1. ITMA Silver badge

            Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

            Particularly problematic when it comes to things like:

            "I patent moving my finger across a screen left to right".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

              I patented right to left.

              1. ITMA Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

                Sorry but I have "prior art" on right to left, top to bottom, bottom to top and several variations on Diagon Ally :)

      2. Rol

        Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

        I think the scientific community and the world as a whole, need to thank whatever deity they might believe in, that Einstein worked in the Swiss patent office, and not America's, where his soul would have been crushed by the banality and sheer pointlessness of it all.

        I'm sure in that alternate reality, the man would have come to be known for his great works in crossword solving, jigsaw completions and staring out of windows wishing for the end to come sooner rather than later.

        1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: So far so good, as far as the court is concerned...

          I laughed much harder at your true post than at the joking ones higher up.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      It expired in 2015

      One would have thought it was a steal in 2014.

  2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    in a mobile unit

    Aaaaaand there it is again.

    How is a "mobile unit" different from a fixed unit? The update server is somewhere on the network and the "unit" needing the update is somewhere else on the network. How the data gets from server to unit isn't relevant. Who's to say that there's not a radio link somewhere in the link between the devices? At the very least, it's entirely possible the end device getting the update is on the users WiFi, therefore it's a "mobile unit" by most definitions, QED.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: in a mobile unit

      The concept 'mobile unit' is a sure sign of a Patent Troll. Updating of the firmware of remote devices is as old as remote devices, its one of the first pieces of code you organize after getting the prototype hardware running. The fact that the patent author neither knows this nor understands that transferring a file to the remote unit is the easy bit (there's lots of gotchas in the actual update process) means its just the product of an opportunist.

    2. Mage
      Facepalm

      Re: in a mobile unit

      You don't need WiFi or Cellular. Computers have been getting updates and data connection by wireless since maybe 1970s. The actual physical location of the Server and Client can be changed.

      Over 1973–76, DARPA created a packet radio network called PRNET in the San Francisco Bay area.

      See also X.25 and ALOHAnet.

      It's irrelevant if IP, token Ring, X.25, per client multicore RS232, RS422/RS485/Appletalk, wireless, coax, twisted pair, station wagon of tapes. sd cards on avians, or fibre is used. Somehow there is a data connection and there is a mechanism to decide if the Client gets an update from a Server. NO version of this was EVER worthy of a patent.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: in a mobile unit

      A "mobile unit" could be updated over a cable connection? I believe the latest iPad Pro can connect via ethernet using a USB-C to Ethernet adapter. There are laptops out there that are lighter than it.

      1. Mage
        Linux

        Re: in a mobile unit

        Gadgets have been connectable to networking via a USB host for maybe more than 15 years. I installed Linux updates via Internet -> router -> WiFi - ancient Sony-Ericsson phone - USB Networking - PC some years ago.

        Generic USB Ethernet adaptors have also worked on Android stuff for years. Most LANs have no security unlike the WiFi you might not know the key. Even small offices now should have security on ethernet LAN.

        1. ITMA Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: in a mobile unit

          So if I put my 20 yr old PC (yes I have some) on a trolley and update it using a floppy disk, do these f******* expect me to pay them a royalty?

          I know what they can do....

        2. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: in a mobile unit

          "Most LANs have no security unlike the WiFi you might not know the key. Even small offices now should have security on ethernet LAN."

          Very true. Easily solved with a base ball bat.

          Plug anything into the lan you've been told not to and the regular rogue device scanning grasses you up, expect your fingers and the wide end of the baseball bat to meet unexpectedly.

          Not practical in most real world situations, but you get the idea. Security it great, but not to be used as an excuse for pathetic company IT policies or senior management that don't take "rules" seriously and treat them like toilet paper when their "company favourites" do what they like.

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: in a mobile unit

      "a timing mechanism described in its patent. This allows the host system to pick the remote device that should be prioritised for patching."

      This shows the age of the patent, a modern patent would obfuscate this by calling it an AI mechanism.

      1. Steve K

        Re: in a mobile unit

        You mean Time-AI, like Crown Sterling?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: in a mobile unit

          Had to look that one up - nice obfuscation!

  3. gnasher729 Silver badge

    My favourite workaround

    Some software used what seemed to me a reasonably clever, but obvious method to improve compression: it compressed data using eight well known methods and picked the best result.

    Company was sued by a patent troll. So they changed the method: They compressed data using eight methods, and reported which of the eight methods worked best. And then they compressed the data using that best method.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: My favourite workaround

      I worked on a 9.6Kb modem that used QAM. QAM using 90 phase offsets starting at 0 degrees was patented. So we started at 45 degrees, Sorted!

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    A patent on updating an OS

    Isn't threre a metric ton of prior art on that ?

    The fact that the OS is "mobile" is neither here nor there.

    Good on the courts for slapping this nonsense down.

    As usual, bad on the USPTO for granting the patent in the first place.

  5. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Remind me when the Voyagers launched, will you?

    Oh yes, it says here "1977"

    And there we go, prior art that's still in operation.

  6. JassMan Silver badge

    Regardless of prior art

    No patch is ever decided by the server to be sent to a remote unit. The remote unit may not be connected to a network or even switched on. Patching is always performed be the remote unit checking to see if the server has a newer version available and if so it requests a pull of the patch.

    Apart from it being inconvenient for a server to randomly update your software when it is vital that you get that last report done before the deadline, it would be illegal under various computer misuse acts around the world.

    Much as I hate lawyers, I really hope the big 3 have racked up enough legal costs to make this troll bankrupt.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Regardless of prior art

      “Hello, I’m an iPhone 5: do you have a new version of my OS?

      “No”

      “Hello, I’m an iPhone 6, do you have a new version of my OS?

      “Yes, here’s 12.5.3”

      “Hello, I’m an iPhone 8, do you have a new version of my OS?

      “Yes, here’s 14.6”

      Microsoft will also decide whether to send the latest 6-monthly update based on various criteria. My virtual machines generally get it first.

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Regardless of prior art

      I think it would be feasible for clients to connect to a server and listen for an update message. It could even be over UDP so it's a more efficient broadcast packet. Perhaps some even do that although it probably doesn't scale to the WAN because of pesky firewalls and port mappers.

      That also happens with things like TV and set top box upgrades - while you're watching some TV channel, the data channel in the stream is sending notifications that your device listens for including updates.

      But more ordinarily clients are going to poll the server, e.g. on an interval and at startup.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Regardless of prior art

      >No patch is ever decided by the server to be sent to a remote unit.

      Forgertting OTA updates such as those used to update Freeview boxes: the server sends out the update and hopes clients/receipients are listening.

      We used a similar system back in the late 80's early 90's to distribute updates and business data to branch networks overnight via satellite and TV transmitter network [In those days TV shutdown overnight so there were hours of transmitter time available for other things.]

      Obviously, the low speed (9600 baud modem) link was used to confirm receipt etc.

      But being pedantic, you are correct, the client only checked for the presence of a complete update (local cache copy) in its own good time.

    4. Mike 16

      It would be illegal

      As the New Orleans madam said about legislation to outlaw prostitution:

      They can make it illegal, but they can't make it unpopular.

      Plenty of well publicized cases of forced updates at the worst time extant. I have no recollection of anybody being arrested.

  7. Sirius Lee

    Judges getting better?

    Maybe as more lawyers who grew up with computing devices become judges, their ability to reason about technology patents is becoming better so the most egregious one get thrown out.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    When I google for "Iron Oak Technologies", most of results are about court cases. Then can we classify Iron Oak Technologies as a patent troll?

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      "Iron Oak"... sounds Nazi.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I found a IronOakIT but could stop laughing when a video started playing with an intro from their chief visionary .... "Randy Dyck"

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        How childish. Snigger!

  9. NetBlackOps

    CAFC

    The next higher court would be the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit which is notorious for letting any sort of patent to stand. That stands until the Supremes bitch-slap them. Again and again.

  10. Rol

    Taken to the cleaners

    What I can't get my head around, is that the registration of a patent in the UK is cheaper than it is in the US of A. Yet way more work is required by the UK office to confirm the patent isn't bogus nonsense.

    I assume what happens in America, is that the janitor rubber stamps everything "ACCEPTED" while on their toilet break, because all the senior staff are on the golf course with their lawyer buddies.

  11. Blackjack Silver badge

    I will eventually get tired of writing it but until then "Patent law in the USA" is insane.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Java- did this back in 1996

    And most systems today from phones to tv’s and other appliances do this exact thing via Java from now defunct Sun microsystems

  13. Christopher 5

    How exactly does this fit in the Java story

    Have was implemented in so many devices to do just this, update the OS safely....

    That was at least back in 1996

    Grrr

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like