03.06.08

Patents Roundup. Microsoft is Faking it Again

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents, Tivoization at 11:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

For those who are curious enough to keep track of the broken USPTO, here is a quick summary.

Unnecessary, Unproductive Litigation

According to this article from the New York Times, we might — just might — see business method patents come to an end.

The death of business method patents could be felt strongest in Silicon Valley, where a first step of many entrepreneurs is to retreat with lawyers to start patenting defensible business ideas. It could also affect patent acquisition firms such as Intellectual Ventures, a firm funded by major technology companies such Microsoft, Google, Intel, Apple and Nokia, that is aggressively accumulating patent portfolios.

More about this in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Business methods could start an avalanche.

The Qualcomm-Nokia ping-pong game is far from over.

Nokia is celebrating the fact that Qualcomm has, to date, failed to win a single case concerning GSM patents. “This is the second court to conclude that Qualcomm does not have relevant and valid GSM patents,” commented Nokia’s chief financial officer Rick Simonson. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has already declared one of three Qualcomm patents to be invalid and rejected an appeal. Both actions concerned similar patents from the same family, as confirmed by Nokia.

Another bad idea in the making:

Starhome, which provides roaming services and converged solutions, has revealed that it has been granted a patent in the US (No. 7 333 808) for it’s Intelligent Border Roaming technology. The patent is based on Starhome’s service node architecture for controlling and steering border roaming, which prevents home network subscribers from inadvertently registering to cross-border foreign networks with strong coverage.

From Digital Majority

Digital Majority had some good picks, including:

1. Wanted: Prior Art to Bust Firepond/Polaris Patent

To bust this overly broad patent, we need to find prior art that describes a product made before 1997 in this way. Take a look at the description and please forward it to anyone you know who might have special knowledge related to natural language processing. Prior Art can be submitted here.

2. Jim Bessen on “Patent Failure”

Bessen’s presentation is titled “Patent Failure”. Bessen analyzes a broad range of evidence on the economic performance of the patent system. He finds that patents provide strong incentives for firms in a few industries, but for most firms today, patents actually discourage innovation because they fail to perform as well-defined property rights. This analysis provides a guide to policy reform.

3. How TiVo won

And now, at last, there seems to be a path to profitability. A successful courtroom defense of its software patents laid the groundwork for what many analysts believe to be a coming period of exponential growth. In January, a federal appeals court upheld that digital recorders distributed by The Dish Network (owned by EchoStar (SATS)) infringed on several Tivo patents, including one that allows viewers to simultaneously view one show while watching another.

Another good reason to promote GPLv3?

Microsoft is Faking “Open Source”

This is perhaps a little off topic, but consider the warnings we saw in the past about Microsoft hijacking and then redefining open source. This continues to become a reality.

I’m totally tortured with agonizing over Microsoft’s Singularity. See, I have a standing moral obligation with myself as follows: If Microsoft ever released a purely Open-Source or Free Software system – as defined by the Free Software Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, or common conventional wisdom – I have said (and will repeat here) that I would download it, try it out, review it, and possibly adopt it, to be treated no different from software from, for example, Red Hat Inc. or BSD.

But I’m poring over the license, and this seems like it doesn’t qualify. It seems to be proprietary with the extra feature of being able to see the source, and modify and redistribute it only in the interests of academic research, with the stipulation that:

* It allows no “activity which purpose is to procure a commercial gain to you or others.” Does blogging about it on a website with ads count? Does publishing an ebook hacking guide count?
* “That Microsoft is granted back, a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free, and sub-licensable license to, for any purpose, reproduce, publicly perform or display, install, use, modify, distribute, make and have made, sell and transfer modifications to and/or derivative works of the Software source code or data that you provide to Microsoft through the CodePlex tool or otherwise make directly available to Microsoft.”

[...]

Seriously, it could just be the case that Microsoft really wants to do the right thing, but has no idea how to go about it. But common sense is telling me that that’s a thin defense. Microsoft has two licenses approved by the OSI (MS-Pl) and (MS-Rl); and it only takes a minute to research the Free Software Foundation’s philosophy.

Microsoft knows damned good and well what an open source license looks like. And I guess I can’t kid myself about that fact, as hard as I would like to.

“Open source” becomes more diluted than ever, thanks to Microsoft which benefits from this dilution.

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