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07.15.08

Free Software and Patent Settlements: It’s All Wrong

Posted in Courtroom, KDE, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Red Hat, SUN at 4:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Thou shalt not know

Y

esterday it was shown that Red Hat had paid in vain for software patents that would not be valid anyway. At the time, Red Hat was seen as a courageous patent swatter, but not everyone is happy. Here is quite a legitimate new criticism. (strong language warning)

It’s not that Sun has better lawyers than Red Hat. It’s that Sun has better top management than Red Hat! The #1 Linux company gave the wrong message to the community, going for petty deals and thinking “wow, we’re great because we did better than Novell!”. Red Hat is a shame, period. They were simply feeding the trolls — it’s the same as when you simply pay the protection tax to the Mafia instead of calling the police and trying to fight with the evildoers.

Here is another software patent that potentially goes on death row, which only comes to prove that such patents are pointless and spineless once properly challenged.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agreed to re-examine online-gaming patent 6,264,560 after the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenged it on the grounds that the technology covered by the patent had been used extensively before it was issued.

Looking back, Stallman’s claim that “fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria” still makes perfect sense.

An important thing to keep in mind is not where patents exist, but also who holds them and is willing to litigate without success only to create fear (think along the lines of SCO). That’s why we constantly warn about Mono (last done so yesterday).

We mentioned Mono bindings in KDE about a year ago and now comes this about Plasma (KDE4) applets in C# and Ruby (thanks to Al Roberts for the tip).

The Ruby and C# ScriptEngines application apis are pretty much identical to the C++ one, and both bindings have that wrapped too in case you need to use it. For instance, you can’t write Plasma containments in ScriptEngine based applets, but for 95% of use cases it should be just fine. In the C++ based apis the main class is Plasma.Applet for C# or Plasma::Applet for Ruby, whereas the main classes in the ScriptEngine bindings are PlasmaScripting.Applet and PlasmaScripting::Applet respectively. So you just make your applet a subclass of one of those, add some slightly different entries in it .desktop file and use the standard directory structure for Plasmoids for where you put the source code, C# .dll and other resources. Everything else is the same.

It’s hugely important to keep Microsoft’s intellectual monopolies away from the Free Desktop. An ‘intellectual’ dependency is just what Novell and Microsoft want to achieve in order to increase their power and ownership of it.

Other New Items of Interest

Digital Majority has collected a bunch of new stories.

The first one is a complaint about the patent system as a whole. It comes from none other than the Wall Street Journal and it concludes with:

Our patent system for most innovations has become patently absurd. It’s a disincentive at a time when we expect software and other technology companies to be the growth engine of the economy. Imagine how much more productive our information-driven economy would be if the patent system lived up to the intention of the Founders, by encouraging progress instead of suppressing it.

The issue of software patents is soon to be discussed because it is so controversial.

Over the last several years, the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit have taken a number of steps suggesting that the law governing software patents is still very much in flux.

Somewhat of an odd sibling of software patents, BM patents, are still hinged on the question about patentability of non-physical (amorous or perceptual) things. Can thought alone be a violation? Can you force someone to ‘unknow’ a part of science or demand payment for it? Can patents be violated using pen and paper? It’s an interesting debate that can help defeat software patents.

This claim is interesting because like Wasynczuk, it involves a system claim that is not patentable subject matter.

Only in a world with Gates and Windows can people be forbidden from peering outside, looking for simple ideas. It’s a world where research and exploration — let alone thought — can be a crime.

At the end of the day, the only criminals are those pushing for such laws.

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