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05.16.08

Patents Roundup: From the Fight Against EU Sanity to Novell, Microsoft, and Moonblight [sic]

Posted in America, DRM, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, Vista at 1:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME trashAt this current pace, the USPTO will be falling down the wastebasket pretty soon (Grand Implosion™), so it remains important to ensure it does not take the EPO down along with it [1, 2]. Here are some highlights from the news.

All Your Typos Are [sic] Belong to Us

VeriSign got criticised out of this planet for profiteering from typos. Now it get the nerve to get a software patent on it.

VeriSign wins patent for Internet typo redirection

[...]

If VeriSign tries to demand licensing fees from others, patent lawyers could claim that similar services existed before Verisign’s was patented. In fact, VeriSign had cited those pre-existing services in justifying Site Finder.

All Your Curve Balls Are [sic] Belong to Use

Will you have a look at this one? It relates to Bilski [1, 2, 3, 4].

So is a curve ball patentable? No one really seemed to want to answer Judge Bryson’s question, and when they did answer the question there was not a lot of intellectual honesty. The answer, of course, should be that a “curve ball” is not patentable because it is still a baseball. There has been no transformation of the baseball in a physical way, so there is nothing new and/or nonobvious.

Microsoft’s Crusade for Intellectual Monopoly

It’s always rather amusing to find articles which speak of “export” when referring to imaginary things that they try very hard to characterise as “property”. All it deserves to be called is a “monopoly”, which in this case applies not to a complex process or a physical product but to human thought — imagination even. The other day we mentioned and commented on Microsoft's latest patent deal. A day later, Microsoft lovers take their shot at it as well, seemingly trying to create some fear (just what Microsoft needs). Here comes CNET to market some more patent deals:

With Microsoft’s announcement of yet another patent cross-licensing deal this week, it would seem nearly everyone has a deal with Redmond.

CNET has just been acquired, but it also has some promotional arrangements with Microsoft and you must be careful when reading anything from Ina Fried because it’s filled with bias. The reporter is apparently (almost evidently) close to Steve Ballmer. Mary Jo Foley, by contrast, can’t get anywhere near him because she occasionally ‘dares’ to criticise Microsoft (she told me so). Microsoft plays ‘reward and punishment’ with journalists, thereby encouraging them to say positive things, i.e. have more of that existing Microsoft bias. It’s just something to bear in mind, making it a rule of thumb. If you thought that press control in Russia was bad…

Hypocrisy at its finest, yet again.

From Digital Majority

Gratitude goes to Benjamin who has accumulated some good new finds. Here we have what seems like software patent troll du jour.

# May 12

# Fotomedia Technologies LLC vs. American Greetings Corp. et al
# Fotomedia Technologies LLC vs. Fujifilm USA Inc. et al

Plaintiff Fotomedia has filed two separate complaints for patent infringement against 50 different defendants.

According to the original complaints, Fotomedia owns the rights to three patents:

U.S. Patent No. 6,018,774 for a Method and System for Creating Messages Including Image Formation, issued Jan. 25, 2000.

U.S. Patent No. 6,542,936 B1 for a System for Creating Messages Including Image Information, issued April 1, 2003.

U.S. Patent No. 6,871,231 B1 for a Role-Based Access to Image Metadata issued March 22, 2005.

The first complaint names two dozen defendants that offer photo sharing Web sites which the plaintiff alleges infringe the patents, including American Greetings, DotPhoto, Phanfare, PictureTrail, BetterPhoto.com, Kaboose, BubbleShare, Printroom, Scripps Networks, Photogra, Fotki and Zazzle.

Reading further you’ll also find continued attempts to change patent laws in Europe. Typically, reappointments play a role and Sarkozy comes to mind as an example [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. The OOXML scandal was filled with such examples, as was last mentioned yesterday. At the moment in fact, Microsoft appears to be playing a similar card in a proxy fight against Yahoo’s board. But anyway, watch this from the news: (our highlights are in red)

Despite the hard work put into reforming the intellectual property landscape during its presidency of the EU in the first half of this year, Slovenia has admitted there won’t be a breakthrough under its stewardship.

[...]

The only country to oppose this idea is Spain, which has fought hardest against plans to simplify the linguistic requirements of the patent system. The country argues that Spanish is a more important language than both French and German, two of the official languages of the European patent system (the other being English), because of its use in Latin America. It fears that if patents aren’t available in Spanish, then Spain will become an economic backwater.

Spain to the rescue?

But the arrival last month of a new Spanish minister in charge of science and innovation, molecular biologist Cristina Garmendia, gives reason to hope for a change in the Spanish position, Konteas said.

“The Spanish government seems ready to change the focus of the economy from tourism and construction towards innovation-led pursuits. They seem to be going in the right direction.”

Talk about ‘agents for change’. The term is typically used with a positive connotation, unlike “crusader”, which is more imperialistic.

Lastly, have another look at these recent moves in the UK [PDF]. It’s not news, but it’s summarised thusly:

The Intellectual Property Office has revised its guidance on claims relating to computer programs, reflecting the more permissive stance taken by the High Court in the recent Astron Clinica case. The High Court has made a further pro-patentee ruling, this time in the case of Symbian’s application for an improved method of accessing a dynamic link library.

As reported in our last technology update, the practice of the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) of flatly rejecting patent claims to computer program products has recently been overruled. The case law in the area, formulated in the 2006 Aerotel and Macrossan decisions (see our Internet & E-Commerce Update of November 2006) was clarified in January 2008 by the decision of the High Court in Astron Clinica & Ors (see coverage in our last Updated dated February 2008).

It is without doubt that the United States will relentlessly continue trying to ruin the European system until it’s ‘equally ruined’, which passes US disadvantage onto competing economies. To use the hypothetical analogy Peter Gutmann made up to explain DRM in Windows Vista, it’s like cutting off the legs or Olympic athletes and seeing who hobbles best on crutches. Still, better than having the Olympic games delivered via the DRM-crippled Silverblight/Silverbullet/Silverfish, right?

Need it be mentioned that Microsoft has many software patents on this technology? And if Mono’s patron and Microsoft partner Novell likes it, should everyone else accept it also? You ought to see the ‘warm’ welcome Moonlight receives at Digg (mind the comments in particular).

“One Free Software Foundation-backed group–aptly called the End Software Patents Project–is using the [Bilski] case as a platform to argue that no form of software should ever qualify for a patent. Red Hat also argued that the “exclusionary objectives” of software patents conflict with the nature of the open-source system and open up coders to myriad legal hazards.”

Court case could redefine business method, software patents

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