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02.08.08

What Legalised Bribery Means to Software Patents

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 11:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

[Thanks to Digital Majority for the links]

As we continue our journey which explores the source of the issues at hand, we often find that the issues boils down to political manipulation, sometimes managed by lobbyists acting as proxies (with high salaries) for large corporations [1, 2]. In general, there are many activities that do not cross people’s minds as often as they should, e.g. kickbacks, which are a form of bribery, just like heavy political influence that rewrites laws.

In this week’s news we have another story about lobbying. RIM spends some big cash on it.

$890,000 seems like quite a bit of money until your remember that RIM paid out $612.5 Million to NTP to settle their patent infringement lawsuit in 2006.

RIM sees itself as a victim, but at the same time it's putting junk patents in the USPTO (example from last week), which makes it part of the problem, rather than a party which brings a solution.

It is still very much a political questions hinged on the gut feeling of a few who are being lobbied. Here is another new dismissal of EPO critics.

Brimelow’s predecessor, Alain Pompidou, turned down requests for a referral to the enlarged board last year. She appears more willing to address the issue of software patentability. While there are no concrete plans for a referral at present, Brimelow said she would not rule one out one in future. Rainer Osterwalder, the EPO’s director of communications, said after the interview that there could be a referral in the coming weeks or months but he declined to be more specific. Brimelow is bothered by the way the EPO has been portrayed as partisan on the side of patent owners in the debate over software patentability. It’s “unhelpful”, she said, and went on to demonstrate that she does see where many of the EPO’s critics are coming from.

We blogged about this just a couple of days ago. The EPO seems to be taking a stance which is “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” There are variants of this phrase which describe an approach where one does not listen to opposition and simply dismisses it as irrelevant.

What we end up with is simply a situation where lobbyists (for wealthy companies, e.g. the BSA) have a lot of impact while small businesses and independent individuals get ignored. Later on, software is seen as patentable in the UK, with equally useless clarifications on this matter.

In his judgment, Kitchin J has now clarified the law in this area, and decided that patents should, as a result of applying the test formulated in Aerotel/Macrossan, be allowed to protect a computer program if, but only if, the program implements a patentable invention.

What remains very clear is that money speaks louder than simple logic. Just look at the global warming debate. To resolve this issue, one must look not only at arguments that are made, but also the people who are involved and the money which is at play.

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