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07.20.08

Microsoft Sued Over Patents Again, Linus Complains, USPTO Welcomes P2P[atent]

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Interview, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 4:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft and Software Patents

There have been some interesting developments in the past day or so. First and foremost, Microsoft is being sued again and this time it’s due to encryption.

Microsoft Corp. is being sued by a closely held company for allegedly infringing two encryption patents in the Windows operating system.

Maz Technologies, based in Wilmington, Del., “suffered damages as a result of the infringing,” according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Tyler, Texas. Maz seeks an injunction against Microsoft and unspecified damages.

It is a Texan court, as usual. That’s where all the patent trolls go. This suit goes on top of a pile that includes the recently-disclosed lawsuit over the competition- and Web-hostile Silverlight (mentioned previously in [1, 2]).

GNU/Linux and Software Patents

Mark Radcliffe finally explains the Red Hat settlement, which is important because he is a top gun for the OSI. This settlement was previously discussed in [1, 2, 3, 4].

Some months ago, Torvalds expressed his concern about patents and he is doing it again in this fragment from a new interview.

RM ‘Do you think software patents are a good idea?’

LT [Linus Torvalds]: ‘Heh – definitely not. They’re a disaster. The whole point (and the original idea) behind patents in the US legal sense was to encourage innovation. If you actually look at the state of patents in the US today, they do no such thing. Certainly not in software, and very arguably not in many other areas either.

Quite the reverse – patents are very much used to stop competition, which is undeniably the most powerful way to encourage innovation. Anybody who argues for patents is basically arguing against open markets and competition, but they never put it in those terms.

So the very original basis for the patents is certainly not being fulfilled today, which should already tell you something. And that’s probably true in pretty much any area.

But the reason patents are especially bad for software is that software isn’t some single invention where you can point to a single new idea. Not at all. All relevant software is a hugely complex set of very detailed rules, and there are millions of small and mostly trivial ideas rather than some single clever idea that can be patented. The worth of the software is not in any of those single small decisions, but in the whole. It’s also distressing to see that people patent ‘ideas’. It’s not even a working “thing”; it’s just a small way of doing things that you try to patent, just to have a weapon in an economic fight. Sad. Patents have lost all redeeming value, if they ever had any. ‘

By the way, be cautious when it comes to Linus forgers. There are people out there on the Web pretending to be him and I received an E-mail from Linus a few days ago confirming that his identity is being stolen. The legitimacy of comments in particular must always be questioned. Linus hardly ever comments in blogs.

Patent Riot in the Making?

Peer-to-Patent was mentioned here a couple of days ago and the day before that. It has just received some recognition from the USPTO, which published the press release that’s appended at the bottom. Also, mind this bit about the Wall Street Journal pushing for a patent reform for years. [via Digital Majority]

Ironically, and humorously, the post is in the department titled we-could-have-told-you-and-did dept.. One of the many issues in patent reform has arisen from the unwillingness of some in the IT area to write down what they have done, and, more importantly, to read what others have written down. The kdawson post seriously neglects the PAST positions of the WSJ on patent reform, and thus becomes another piece of evidence of the unwillingness of some in the IT community to understand what has already happened.

The Fight Against RAND

IP-Watch has a couple of new articles that discuss the issue of RAND (in standards in particular) and how it is — ironically enough given its name — used to discriminate against competitors. Here is the first article.

The inclusion of intellectual property rights in standards also is creating an anti-competitive effect, said panellists at the 30 June seminar in Geneva, hosted by the South Centre.

Recall the BSA's role in lobbying. The BSA is funded by Microsoft. Along with IDC, ACT and other servants of Microsoft, they pretend to be assisting small businesses (the ‘little guy’) rather than the monopolies.

The Commission promised to consider how the EU patent fee structure could be designed for easier access by small and mid-sized firms, and to try to provide IPR support services for small companies in their countries.

Nothing in intellectual monopolies can support “small and mid-sized firms.” Their goal should be the elimination of such a system. For details on how patents affect the small ‘inventor’, patiently watch this good talk from Richard Stallman. The story about the ‘small guy’ in need of ‘protection’ is little more than just a fairly tail that’s used to protect a pyramid scheme of human knowledge.


USPTO Extends and Expands Peer Review Pilot
Initiative to test impact of public input on improving patent quality opens to automated business
data processing technologies (business methods)

Washington, D.C. – The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced it will extend the duration, increase the maximum number of applications, and expand the scope of applications eligible to participate in the Peer Review Pilot. The pilot, launched in June 2007, encourages the public to review volunteered published patent applications and submit technical references and comments on what they believe to be the best prior art to consider during the examination. The expansion and extension of the pilot is effective today.

The pilot was initially restricted to patent applications in the computer-related arts (those classified in Technology Center 2100). The scope of the program is now expanded to include applications in the automated business data processing technologies, or business methods, class 705. Technical experts in the computer and business methods-related arts registering with the peertopatent.org Web site will review and submit information for up to 400 published patent applications, up from 250 as originally announced. No more than 25 separate applications will be allowed from any one person or organization, up from 15 in the original announcement.

“The USPTO continues to support the Peer Review Pilot to help it fulfill its promise as a way to help get the best prior art expeditiously before the examiner,” noted Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Jon Dudas. “Extending and expanding the pilot to include business method patent applications will add more participants to the pilot and help us and the public better assess the effectiveness of Peer Review.”

The pilot is being conducted in cooperation with the Peer-to-Patent Project, organized by the New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law and Policy. The pilot is extended for an additional 12 months and will end on June 15, 2009.

To date, companies participating in the Peer Review Pilot have included IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Intel, GE, Red Hat, Cisco, Yahoo!, and others. With the expansion of the pilot, Goldman Sachs has volunteered to join as a participant.

“We support the Peer Review Pilot and commend the USPTO’s decision to expand the program to include financial sector innovation, which has been one of the most difficult areas to locate relevant prior art.” remarked John Squires, chief intellectual property counsel at Goldman Sachs. “Expansion of the pilot into class 705 will allow the Office to access considerable industry expertise and holds promise for improving patent quality and the shortening of long pendency times.”

Existing law allows the USPTO to accept prior art from the public, but it doesn’t allow the public to submit any commentary related to the art without the approval of the applicant. Thus, consent will be obtained from all applicants whose applications are volunteered and selected for the pilot. Applicants agree to have their patent applications posted for up to four months (but no less than three months) on the www.peertopatent.org Web site. Expert volunteers from the public then discuss the applications and submit prior art they think might be relevant to determining if an invention is new and non-obvious. The prior art submission is limited to 10 references.

So far, the pilot’s first 31 applications have been examined. More than half of the examiners who examined an application in the Peer Review Pilot so far thought the prior art submitted by the peers was helpful during examination. More than one-third of the examiners used peer-supplied prior art in the first action on the merits. Nearly 75 percent of the participating examiners said they believed the program would be useful if it were incorporated into regular Office practice.

For this pilot, applications are assigned to an examiner for examination as soon as a submission is received from the peertopatent.org Web site. This shortens considerably the time it normally takes from filing an application to a first action on the merits in the areas where the pilot is occurring.

For further information on the program and to review the Official Gazette notice, visit http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/peerpriorartpilot/.

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