03.02.08

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Patents Roundup: From [A]pple to [O]OXML (and Undercover Lobbyi$T$)

Posted in Apple, Google, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 3:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Since Novell’s deal with Microsoft is mainly about software patents, it is important to look around and become familiar with this terrain. The outrageous war over territories in telecom, in handsets and in ‘commodity software’ have gone too far and here we are presenting more proof of it.

Apple Stung

An ‘invention’ with prior art going decades back has just gotten Apple sued.

Figa’s patent, describes an “an automatic incoming telephone call number display system for detecting an incoming call and identifying the party associated with the incoming call number”.

Like the iPhone, the system “includes a directory of telephone numbers and parties associated with those numbers,” and it’s equipped with “circuitry detects the origin telephone number of an incoming telephone call and compares that number with numbers in the directory for identifying the calling party.”

This is just the basic idea of Caller ID. Remember that Apple can also be an aggressor, not just a victim.

Microsoft OOXML and Patents

Thomas Vinje is a smart man and he understands fully what Microsoft is trying to accomplish with GPL exclusion in its OOXML ‘promises’.

Where standards can run into trouble, Thomas Vinje of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems told the event, is when patents are needed in order to implement them, allowing patent holders to set high prices or to exclude certain users from a needed technology.

This type of GPL poison can of course be found elsewhere in Microsoft's promises, not just in OOXML.

Innovation is Cheap

So argues Google’s engineer, Kevin Marks: Innovation comes cheap

On Friday, amid a frenzy of chatter about open this and open that at FOWA, Marks took some time to chat with CNET News.com about OpenSocial on MySpace, that wacky Silicon Valley exuberance, and his view that a tough economy won’t hurt innovation–because the cost of innovation has gone down.

Remember just how much pro-patents lobbyists stress the word "innovation" as rationale. And speaking of lobbyists, look who we find in this new article from Associated Press.

Software Group Lobbied on Patents

[...]

The Business Software Alliance, whose members include Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc., paid Emery Simon $260,000 in 2007 to lobby the federal government.

We wrote about the Business Software Alliance on several occasions recently (more minor observations in [1, 2, 3, 4]). It’s a Microsoft front in many way.

Miscellaneous Picks of Interest from Digital Majority

The good folks from FFII have identified another report about massive lobbying activities and disclosures.

Vonage spent more than $601,000 in the second half of the year lobbying on those issues, according to its most recent filing.

For lobbying (aka “legalised bribery“), that is quite a lot of money, especially for a single company to spend.

The End Software Patents (ESP) initiative, which was mentioned here twice before, has announced (via PR) and unlashed the following report [PDF]. Here is the abstract.

The current state of software and business method patents: 2008 edition

On the economic front, there continue to be billions of dollars in litigation over software patents every year, and such suits are increasingly against companies in the general economy who have software patent liability simply because they have a web site. Several pro-software patent academics have searched the existing data for evidence that software patents foster innovation, and failed to find any.

On the legal front, the courts have begun to take notice, and from the Patent Office to the Supreme Court, judges have begun to indicate a desire to revise the current policy that everything is patentable subject matter. Expect to see the restoration of many important limits on what may be patented.

Change is expected, according to this blog item that analyses IAM’s very recent take.

Joff Wild of IAM Magazine predicts that the Federal Circuit’s en banc rehearing of the In re Bilsk case signals a move to restrict the patentability of software and business methods.

Sadly, IAM takes somewhat of a swing at ESP, which fights against software patents. Overinflated figures are claimed (MPAA-style).

Clearly, what the authors have done is take 55, multiply it by 52 and then multiply that figure (2860) to get the $11.4 billion. In other words, they have assumed that every single case filed in the US ends up going to a final decision at the first instance. However, the truth is that the vast majority of patent suits are settled well before they get to court and so the litigation costs incurred are significantly less. Any patent attorney that End Software Patents had cared to ask could have pointed out this simple truth. But maybe it is just a litte too inconvenient.

Lastly, have a look at this new readers survey.

Should software be patented?

# No (54%)
# Why not copyright it instead? (22%)
# Only in rare cases when the software is truly innovative (16%)
# Yes (6%)
# Abolish the Patent office. Let the free market decide (3%)

Those participating in the poll are likely to be involved in technology. This ought to include programmers, who are most familiar with and most affected by the question. Is anyone listening to the real demands of so-called investors at all (programmers in this case)?

Software patent on rise

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