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12.21.07

A Patent Reform, Acacia’s Greatest Hits, and the Risk to GNU/Linux

Posted in America, GNU/Linux, Novell, Patents, Ubuntu at 12:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pubpat.org has just come out in favour of a reform and against the abuse that we find in the U.S. patent system. Here is a small portion from their statement.

A coalition of consumer advocacy and public interest groups today filed legal papers supporting new U.S. Patent Office (USPTO) rules that would curtail abusive behavior by patent applicants and improve patent quality.

Our old ‘friend’ Acacia [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] has just snatched the #3 spot in Patent TrollTracker’s list of top trolls

3. Acacia. I didn’t start tracking Acacia carefully until the summer. But still, on my blog I have reported on over two dozen lawsuits brought by Acacia this year, against more than 235 defendants. That’s in addition to the over 200 lawsuits Acacia filed in previous years against hundreds and hundreds of defendants. And that’s not including the two lawsuits (at least) Acacia has filed in December against 20 more defendants (yes, Acacia, I’m watching you). Acacia’s business model, as a publicly traded company, is to accumulate patents and sue as many companies as possible in order to extract licenses. They have a market cap of over 275 million – that pays for a lot of lawsuits. Unlike other trolls, Acacia tends to not focus on one court in particular, although they have sampled the Eastern District of Texas more this year than in the past.

Matt Asay speaks about the danger software patents are posing, especially when it come to Free software. He makes some sharp statements and uses the comparison to a notorious music industry.

As Mark Shuttleworth once noted, the difference between $0.00 and $0.01 for Microsoft is huge. Microsoft is particularly susceptible to open source’s business-model innovation, given its heavy reliance on license fees.

Again, does the music industry’s strangling of its young cousins portend Microsoft’s own future with open source? It’s very possible. It could be that Microsoft is just trying to get a fair return on its patent portfolio. But it remains an oddity in threatening open source. IBM, Oracle, and others also have huge patent portfolios – some much larger than Microsoft’s – and yet they haven’t staged a patent offensive against open source.

True, they have much to gain from open source. But then, so does Microsoft.

To quote what Richard Stallman told me in the recent interview, “A patent is an artificial government-imposed monopoly on implementing a certain method or technique. If the method or technique can be implemented by software, so that the patent prohibits the distribution and use of certain programs, we call it a software patent.

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