The UpStream (Page 88)

Supreme Court Hears Case Claiming that Texas Court is Responsible for Patent Disaster

posted Saturday Apr 1, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Supreme Court Hears Case Claiming that Texas Court is Responsible for Patent Disaster

When it comes to patent law in the US, there are some interesting issues. The biggest issue involves a disastrous change to who can file a patent in the recent past. The next biggest issue involves the fact that one US judge hears about a quarter of all patent cases. Clearly, that is the opposite of how this is supposed to work. Spreading out the cases over various human beings is how we prevent a handful of activist judges from changing the laws of the country.

Thanks to a series of appeals in the case of TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, the issue of patent case venue has made its way to the US Supreme Court. After Kraft sued TC Heartland and a change of venue was denied, TC Heartland lost - twice. They then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that patent venue created a failed scenario for fair suits.

The company has been supported by 32 internet companies (PDF), the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge (PDF). The briefs have been in support of the hearing, saying that the current venue rules allow for "patent trolls" to rule supreme in the patent world.

The court was not particularly interested in hearing about "patent trolls," with even Justice Stephen Breyer, the most critical of the patent system, questioning the relevance of the briefs speaking of trolls. He said,

They're filled with this thing about a Texas district which they think has too many cases. What's that got to do with this? Is there some relevance to it?

While the lawyers spoke a lot about patent trolls (non-practicing entities), Texas and Delaware, none of those issues are the cause of anyone's turmoil. Unfortunately, no one is discussing the fact that the patent office routinely grants patents that are incredibly vague. Those are the patents that NPEs go after, and those are the ones that get tried in Texas, which would move to Delaware if TC Heartland's motion is granted, not solving anything.

Has Hollywood Given Up? The Matrix is About to Reboot.

posted Saturday Mar 18, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Has Hollywood Given Up? The Matrix is About to Reboot.

In recent years, the idea of remakes and "exploration" have overtaken Hollywood. Rather than taking the time to produce exciting new Intellectual Properties, studios are going trolling through successful existing properties. The modern masters of repurposing older content is Disney. Between a constant barrage of Star Wars films and remaking Beauty and the Beast, Disney is constantly reusing content.

Another studio that has explored their existing properties is Warner Bros. They recently worked with Fox Broadcasting to take 40 year old The Exorcist franchise and turn it into a television series on FOX. Their next target is the iconic The Matrix trilogy. According to sources speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio has begun exploring the idea of mining the universe for new content.

The project is in its infancy, and there is no information on what form this project will take. The franchise could experience an entire reboot, with new actors telling an altered version of the story. If the Wachowski siblings were to write a new treatment of the story, they could bring an interesting new view to their own original works. A lot of things have changed since 1999, and the idea of an updated view from the pair could be interesting.

It's also possible that they could take a more Lucas approach to the franchise, exploring the recesses of the universe that have not been explored. Journeying into the past to see a young Neo and what about him attracted Morpheus's attention in the first place. We could also see Morpheus or Trinity before their awakening, and possibly who was responsible for them. What we can be sure of is it will not take the form of a television show. The studio ruled out that idea several months ago.

Could you be excited about a reboot or exploration of The Matrix universe? Let us know why or why not in the comments.

Unpopular Browser Considers Making Controversial Feature Default

posted Saturday Mar 18, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Unpopular Browser Considers Making Controversial Feature Default

Around our offices, the idea The Free Web is an important one. In fact, it is so important we wrote a manifesto. While it is worth a read, the basis is that ad blockers are a false solution to a real problem. Everyone in the equation has responsibilities in maintaining The Free Web, and in the last few years, no one has been holding up their end of the deal.

Last year, Opera, the browser that you forgot existed, introduced a native ad blocker into their browser. Obviously the decision was controversial, but potentially for no reason. As it turns out, a minority of users of the statistically insignificant browser have decided to turn on the feature. The company will not be shaken from its goal, which they claim is a faster web,

We will continue this mission by making our native ad blocking feature even better this year. You can expect to see the first steps in this process this spring. Stay tuned for more speed and a more user-friendly experience.

As for now, we only provide native ad blocking as a preference. This may change, as we are currently evaluating whether we should help people be more active in blocking ads going forward.

Including this feature natively is a bit of an insult to publishers, like ours, that require the advertising revenue to survive. Turning the feature on by default would likely cause a backlash from the big publishers. However, since the browser has less than 1% of the global share, it's also possible that no one will care.

After Huge Sales, Nintendo to Double Switch Production

posted Saturday Mar 18, 2017 by Scott Ertz

After Huge Sales, Nintendo to Double Switch Production

Console launches are usually really big for their manufacturers. For Nintendo, the launch of the Switch was far above expectations. In fact, the console sold out at many retailers before they officially opened on launch day. Initial numbers are in and it looks like they sold over 1.5 million units in the first week.

The top buyers were in the US, with about one third of all consoles sold here, with Japan buying a quarter of the consoles. Almost 90% of all consoles purchased also bought the first-party title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the most anticipated launch title for the console. That works out to about 1.34 million copies of the game, not counting sales for the Wii U.

Clearly these numbers are a positive sign for the recently struggling Nintendo, right? Only if the company can capitalize on the initial excitement of the console. Currently there is a major shortage of consoles. If you didn't already get one, you might have to buy one from a scalper on eBay or Amazon. GameStop is expected to have some in stock this week, but that likely won't solve the stock issue.

Nintendo has a plan for that, however. According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is about to double the planned production of Switch consoles beginning next month. The double means production of a total of 16 million units from April of 2017 through March of 2018. While this change might come as a surprise to some analysts, it is a welcomed change for gamers looking to get their hands on the console.

Google Home Adds Unwanted Ad to Daily Agenda

posted Saturday Mar 18, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Google Home Adds Unwanted Ad to Daily Agenda

Over the past few years, the battle over personal digital assistants has really heated up. With Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Home all vying to help you through your day, there is an important question to be asked: why do any of these companies care?

For Microsoft, Cortana is a way to promote the power of Windows on multiple platforms and the capabilities of Azure. For Amazon, Alexa is a way to make buying products from the company's online store easier. For Apple, Siri was initially a way to set the iPhone apart from Android. But for Google, where does Home fit into the company's plan?

For Google, Home seems to be about encouraging people to use Google's online services, such as Search, Gmail and Calendar, because that is where Google generates the majority of their revenue. But, Google's business model revolves almost entirely around advertising revenue from their web properties. The problem for Google is that Home does not show any of their ads.

This week, Google found a way to introduce the only thing it knows, advertising, into its Google Home product, in the form of information about Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast film that premiered this week. On Thursday, when people asked about their day, they were forced to endure a message about the film,

By the way, Disney's live action Beauty and The Beast opens today. In this version of the story, Belle is the inventor instead of Maurice. That rings truer, if you ask me. For some more movie fun, ask me something about Belle.

After users voiced their complaints Thursday online, the ad mysteriously vanished, with Google issuing two statements claiming that the insert wasn't an ad. There is no explanation how an unsolicited product placement into a daily agenda is different from an ad, and Google has not answered questions about whether or not Disney had paid for the product placement, or if Google was simply testing the idea of product placement.

This could be an indication of things to come for Google's Home products. Based on the reaction from users, however, this move could end similar to the Google Buzz disaster, where people end up boycotting the product over Google's invasion.

If Google begins adding advertisements into Google Home, will it lower your interest in the service? Let us know in the comments.

Spotify to Implement TIDAL's Quality Benefit

posted Saturday Mar 4, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Spotify to Implement TIDAL's Quality Benefit

Over the last few years, streaming music services have kind of taken over the industry. Between services like Groove, Amazon Prime Music, Spotify and more running around $100 per year, it is hard to justify the cost of purchasing music, either on CD or MP3.

The problem with these services is that most of them stream using a fairly lossy format, meaning you're not getting quite the sound quality you may be used to. There have been services that have tried to remedy this scenario, with TIDAL being the most discussed. They have continued to have issues getting people to sign-up for their service, recently selling 33% of the company to Sprint in hopes of gaining traction.

Market leader Spotify may be about to mix things up, however, with a yet-to-be-announced feature that leaked this week. Some people have been invited to join "Spotify Hi-Fi" - Spotify's introduction of "lossless CD quality audio" streaming. Members on Reddit and Twitter have shared images of their invites, with pricing including $5, $7.50 and $10 per month. The variation of prices is likely due to Spotify testing which price tier will attract more customers.

Adding a new, premium feature is a great way for Spotify to increase revenue without having to try and lure customers away from other services. Spotify has not responded positively or negatively to the news, saying only that they test new features often. If the company is working on bringing this feature to market, it is unclear when we might be able to test it out.

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