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09.05.07

More Proof That the Patent System Shot Down Innovation and Shot Self in Foot

Posted in Apple, Dell, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 8:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“when the patent quality bar is so low, everyone loses”Ever since the aggressive saber-rattling of May 2007, one of our goals here has been to show that patents are not to be dreaded. Many of them deserve to be mocked and their potential impact dismissed. How so? For starters, some of the companies that have a history of patent abuse have themselves asked for a reform. With proper reform, FUD surrounding Linux will most likely just vanish.

Here are some of the latest examples of patent abuse, harassment, and trolling.

From ‘Innovation’ to Banning of Products

The very latest abuser appears to have painted Sun Microsystems as its victim. NetApp targets ZFS. It strives to shoot down one of Sun’s break-and-butter products.

NetApp files suit against Sun over ZFS

[...]

The patents in question include methods and techniques for error correction, software RAID and, according to the NetApp complaint, the method for maintaining consistent states of a file system and for creating user accessible read-only copies of a file system. “We want them to stop developing ZFS, stop distributing [it] and stop doing derivative works with it in particular,” Warmenhoven said.

A classic case that has been mentioned here for quite a while is the Broadcom/Qualcomm dispute. There was an embargo. Here is the latest:

Broadcom wins antitrust appeal against Qualcomm

[...]

Broadcom’s lawsuit accused Qualcomm of breaking a pledge to the standards board to be fair when licensing patents for technology it owned. That technology has been adopted as an industry standard to promote interoperability among handsets and carriers.

Here is another ludicrous case where Apple, Acer, Dell, Gateway are targeted.

The firm alleges the companies have breached patent 7,009,655B2 – catchily titled “method and system for direct recording of video information onto a disk medium”.

Re-innovating the Wheel

How about this sophisticated patent?

The present invention relates to an information system, comprising an input device, a presentation device, a processing unit and a database with an address register for storing address information, such as name, address, telephone and telefax numbers, for legal and/or natural persons, said system providing structured access to said address information.

Sounds like a digital address book. Where is the invention? How about this one from Microsoft?

“Last week, the USPTO published a rather odd Microsoft patent application for Content Ratings and Recommendations, which describes how religious-based communities and other ‘subcultures’ can use the patent-pending process to prevent their members from viewing undesirable television programs and movies.”

“Prior art,” says anyone who wasn’t born yesterday. Amazon wanted to patent the idea of book recommendation, which is equally sad.

Here’s a new one from Google.

Google owes its success to putting advertising into parts of our lives where no one has ever put adverts before. Now a new patent illustrates the extent of its ambitions.

Hope is Not Lost

The only good news is that, later this week, the Congress will vote on the need for a patent system reform.

“We’ve spent three Congresses on this,” said Steve Elmendorf, a lobbyist for the Coalition for Patent Fairness, a group of technology companies, such as Microsoft, Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc., that favor the legislation.

Ironically (or not), Microsoft will stand in the way.

Microsoft Corp.’s success in reversing a $1.52 billion trial loss was the latest in a series of court victories that may undermine its chance for broad changes in U.S. patent law this year.

Groklaw continues its bug squashing effort and it also sets its eye on Microsoft patents that are good candidates for dismissal.

For sure I don’t want any patents getting approved that might be used against FOSS someday because I wasn’t paying attention. My worry is that because we have been busy elsewhere, the Microsoft patent submission might slide by, get approved by default despite there being prior art we neglected to mention, and then the FUD machine can start up about how it’s now a super strong patent that made it through a FOSS community examination.

In relation to OOXML, Matt Aslett said that nobody wins when the standards are low. Let’s borrow this nice phrase and say that when the patent quality bar is so low, everyone loses. Science loses. Technology is stalled. Only lawyers win.

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