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07.30.08

Snapshot of the Software Patents Situation in the US, India, EU

Posted in America, Asia, EFF, Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 1:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

United States

There may be some changes on their way. There’s no telling when/if they’ll be coming to the USPTO, but in the mean time there’s chaos, as well illustrated by today’s picks over at Digital Majority. Here is one such example, which is a junk patent (never supposed to have been granted in the first place) being put up for auction, surely for someone to use it offensively.

Investors will have the opportunity to acquire the patent on a revolutionary personalization system that is set to go to auction in September. The patented system will change the face of targeted marketing and research by offering more accuracy than anything else available today.

The EFF with its patent-busting efforts carry on trying to squash some of the more notorious patents, but as Stallman once said about such strategies, “fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.” Here is the description of another bad patent.

So just what is this wonderful sales method? In a nutshell, the patent claims ownership over the idea of finding out what a customer wants, electronically finding out what you have that matches that customer’s needs, electronically collecting information about the stuff you have to offer the customer, and putting that information into a pitch to the customer.

Recall those dreadful wish list patents [1, 2]. It’s the verge of granting ownership to ideas that can be implemented in elementary school (while ignoring prior art).

India

The renewed threat of software patents in India was mentioned over the weekend and help is now being sought.

Interestingly, Infosys and TCS are in favor of software patents. Those who followed the OOXML fight on this blog would know that both these organizations had voted in favor of Microsoft’s OOXML proposal. If there are articulate FOSS developers in the Mumbai LUG, I would request them to be present at the 7th August 2008 meeting and explain to the group why software patents are against the interest of the developer community.

There’s some more dissection of this here. [via Digital Majority]

Business aptly seems to drive law; finally, the Murthys and Ramadorais of Bengalooru have spoken up. According to an article in the Financial Express, IT majors Infosys and TCS have reacted strongly to a call made by the open source community, particularly Red Hat India and All India Peoples Sciences Network, for dropping a clause in the draft patent examination manual which according to the latter gives a backdoor entry for software patents.

The fight never ends. When critics fall asleep, monopolies will try to grab control.

Europe

A few days ago, the EPO was praised for its stance on software patents, but Digital Majority is more pedantic. It’s claiming that the EPO uses tautologies and it’s showing some examples of nasty patents.

Maybe the European Patent Office has a different dictionary than I have.

[...]

Nevertheless, their high quality propaganda falls down once you start to mention some trivial software patents, such as the progress bar:

[...]

or the contextual menu granted to Philips:

Here is another nice find from Digital Majority:

Write patents, get tax cuts

As of 1 January 2008, the Belgian government introduced a tax deduction of 80 % with unlimited carry forward under the corporate income tax for income derived from patents licensed by a company based in Belgium.

Now, who said patents are bad? They make you save 80% on taxes. How on earth can it be bad?

Perhaps most significant, however, is the following new development that yet again involves Commissioner McCreevy, the man who loves monopolies. This seems to be another back door to software patents and poor-quality patents in Europe.

The European Commission has proposed creating a single strategy for the protection of industrial property rights in Europe. The Commission wants to integrate its strategy for industrial property rights and encourage smaller businesses to protect rights.

What ever compelled to pass and push for such changes? Is it the endless lobbying in Europe from Microsoft's ACT, whose recent activity in Europe was carefully documented here?

Fresh in the news: watch a State Senator that apparently got bribed to fight ‘the little people’.

US Department of Justice prosecutors have alleged that Stevens received more than $250,000 worth of gifts and services from VECO and its executives, including an extensive renovation of his home in Girdwood, Alaska. That work included a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, and new plumbing and electrical wiring. They also said he was given a new Land Rover in exchange for an old Ford Mustang, as well as a professional gas barbeque grill, assorted furniture and a complete set of mechanics tools.

It’s rather clear that money needn’t necessarily exchanged hands. Sometimes it can be favours and gifts, such as those that Microsoft showers crtitics with. ‘Soft briberies’ were mentioned here before, as well.

Someone should take a closer look at what’s happening in Europe, especially amid very aggressive lobbying and complaints about it from some [1, 2].

More information on McCreevy and other cronies can be found in:

Since when are Commissioners representing Intellectual Monopolies?

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7 Comments

  1. self_liar said,

    July 30, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Gravatar

    Hi Roy

    I know this is not a place for this but look this:

    http://go-oo.org/discover/

    A OO fork with a lot of M$ capabilities

    Look the authors ; )

    Novell is a bad company.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Gravatar

    Novell is a bad company.

    s/bad/mcrosoft/

    This was predictable. Thanks for the headsup.

  3. maerklin said,

    July 30, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Gravatar

    > A OO fork with a lot of M$ capabilities

    The go-oo.org builds are used in Debian, Gentoo and Ubuntu; also the Mac OS NeoOffice is based on it.

    You, too, are probably using it but that doesn’t stop you from bad-mouthing the company behind it, eh?

  4. Sebastiaan Veld said,

    July 31, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Gravatar

    > A OO fork with a lot of M$ capabilities

    Old news. It’s not a fork, it a OO build with patches that are not yet accepted upstream (since accepting patches by Sun seems to be sooo slow).

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 31, 2008 at 3:24 am

    Gravatar

    Do you know why they are not accepted?

  6. David Gerard said,

    July 31, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Gravatar

    Because Sun run OOo like a cathedral, even while talking up the advantages of the bazaar.

    1. Sun are ridiculously slow taking in the patches of others. This is why the Novell fork existed – it started as the Ximian fork, many years ago.
    2. Sun refuse to accept contributions to OOo where you have not signed the copyright over to Sun in such a way that they can proprietise it. I realise this is what Novell do with Mono, but that doesn’t make it a good idea either.

    It’s open source – when a project is being badly hampered by being run as a cathedral, a fork run as a bazaar is just the thing.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Gravatar

    Yes, and based on what I’ve read, there’s danger that Novell’s buggier fork will incorporate various features that Microsoft wants in it, too.

    With Novell, there’s Microsoft money on the table (Sun is another story). Trust erodes because OOo is a “biggest competitor” to Microsoft (it says so explicitly). I wrote some more bits about it this morning. They shelter Windows, OOXML, .NET/VBA, etc.

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