EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.13.08

Patent News: The Big Myth, Microsoft vs. Avistar, Trolls, and Urgent Reform

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 9:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patents as a tool that protects the ‘small inventor’ may be a Big Myth. They only protect monopolies and feed patent trolls that are not the ‘small inventor’ but are rather the ‘vicious lawyer’. It’s about the investor, not the inventor, but that’s not what many people were led to believe. Investors further monetary agenda, whereas inventors create new work and thus further science.

Here is the Big Myth again, from the latest issue (August) of IEEE Spectrum.

Patent attorneys charge between US $7000 and $15 000 to prepare and file a ­patent application. If only there were a cheaper way, a kind of poor man’s patent. But it just doesn’t exist.

Some people think they can protect their ­invention by writing a ­patentlike description of it and ­mailing the ­document to ­themselves, but this is no substitute for patent ­pending. At best, the letter shows that you ­conceived an ­invention by a certain date, but you’ll ­probably be able to prove that with ­engineering notebooks, e‑mails, dated PowerPoint presentations, and the like. Moreover, ­evidence of an ­invention’s conception date is ­useful only in a limited set of ­circumstances, most of which involve actually ­filing for a patent at some point in time. So save yourself the paper and the postage stamp.

[...]

Patents are expensive, no doubt about it, and the requirements are fairly strict. But as my grandmother used to say, you get what you pay for.

This ending says a lot about insidious attitudes against Free software and pro patents. But there’s a perfect example right from the news to squash this tired myth.

Microsoft-Avistar

Avistar is a rather small business. Can its patents protect it from Microsoft? Haha, of course not. It’s just how Richard Stallman put in it his good talks on this subject. His prose aside, you can’t beat a Beast in ‘Mexican shootouts’.

Earlier this year, Avistar Communications Corp. was in talks to license some patents to Microsoft Corp. when Microsoft threw it a curveball. The software giant asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine all 29 of Avistar’s patents.

[...]

Indeed, about a month after it disclosed Microsoft’s challenge, Avistar, a San Mateo, Calif., maker of videoconferencing and collaboration software, cited the potential impact on its financial outlook as it announced plans to cut 25% of its work force, or 27 employees.

Needless to stress, this pretty much defeats the whole purpose of this system, which clearly does not protect the ‘little guy’. It’s just draining his/her money while making solicitors a helluva lot richer. Avistar, by the way, has just been awarded a couple of more stones US patents. They are junk, as usual, and they probably won’t serve it well in this David-versus-Goliath duel. Here’s the description:

The two new patents cover systems and methods for login-based routing of real-time communications (such as text instant messaging, VoIP and two-way video conferencing) between users employing a quick-dial panel (such as a buddy list) or a screen-displayed list or rolodex. Users can flexibly login at any number of devices or locations and can choose from a number of real-time communications options, including text-based real-time messaging.

Trolls

Trolls and small businesses are totally different creatures. The latter is developing, whereas the former is only ever litigating. Making money using infringements alone makes one a ‘toxic leech’ that’s clung onto the patent system. The patent trolls to the USPTO are like ECMA to ISO. They are self-serving parasites that suck out money using loopholes and room for manipulation that exists.

Here is a good example of a company that turned from a developer into a leech, just like SCO. It gets its way, too.

RIM Pays Off Wi-LAN To Get Rid Of Another Patent Suit

[...]

Wi-LAN is a Canadian company that did some early work in the wireless field, but was unable to actually make much of a business out of its work, so it took the loser’s route: it started suing lots of companies for patent infringement. It’s the same old story: winners innovate, losers litigate — and litigate seems to be about all that Wi-LAN does these days.

Guess where they are suing?

Wi-Lan filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division — a court that is favored by patent-license companies seeking big judgments.

Watch the description of this company.

Wi-LAN, founded in 1992, is a leading technology innovation and licensing company.

Hold on to that thought. “Innovation and licensing company.”

Time for Change

Digital Majority has found this good explanation of why it’s time to call it quits.

Patent Weakness #1: The patent office is filled with lawyers not scientists/engineers.

The patent office has, for the past decade or so, been giving out patents for genes and software like Amazon’s One Click.

Pharma companies didn’t invent DNA or genes. They simply discovered the gene for a disease and thereby a possible path to cure. Why should anyone have to pay royalties for studying said gene or discovering a cure independent of the pharma that identified the gene.

In my opinion Amazon’s One Click patent was the epitomy of the stupidity of the patent office. The patent clerks kept arguing for prior artwork deomonstrating that someone else had already developed a One Click feature. This is ludicrous. The point of software is automate mundane tasks with a minimal amount of information and work by the user. So what does One Click do fundamentally different than any other button on any other piece of software?

Mike Masnick has explained why there should not be such thing as “intellectual property” simply because abstract intellect is not a property. It’s ideas, which are not concrete, except for in the La-La land where monopolists desperately try to establish more monopolies that transcend implementation (already protected by copyrights) and brands (protected by trademark law). Masnick’s assertion is backed by others:

We’ve pointed out in the past why it doesn’t make much sense to treat “intellectual property” as “regular property,” since it ignores some very important differences between the two. James Bessen and Michael Meurer, who wrote the recent book Patent Failure have always taken a slightly different approach.

Over at the European patent system. Dr. Berthold Rutz argues that collaboration pretty much renders the notion of patents moot. But here are his exact words [PDF]:

The powerful paradigm of open and collaborative innovation is no longer limited to the area of software development but has found proponents in other technical fields such as consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and automotive. Are traditional forms of intellectual property protection such as patents, copyrights or design rights still appropriate in a world where knowledge is increasingly shared and innovation becomes a collaborative process? What role will IP rights play in the future and what challenges will they face?

Also worrisome is the ACTA, which is a great risk to Free software. Glyn Moody explains once again
why it must be shot down.

Basically, it is an attempt to bring in yet more punitive measures against alleged infringements of intellectual monopolies, with less judicial oversight and no pesky European privacy protection.

But the trouble with these kinds of crude instruments, cooked up in haste without much deep consideration of their knock-on effects, is that they can backfire.

Here, for example, is a letter to the US Trade Representative from a bunch of big names, including Amazon, eBay and Yahoo. They have noticed a few tiny probs with ACTA:

We appreciate your objective of protecting the intellectual property of American rightsholders from infringement overseas. However, in light of these European decisions, there is a very real possibility that an agreement that would require signatories to increase penalties for “counterfeiting” and “piracy” could be used to challenge American companies engaging in online practices that are entirely legal in the U.S., that bring enormous benefit to U.S. consumers, and that increase U.S. Exports.

Is this rich, or what? Here we have a trade agreement that is essentially trying to export the insanely aggressive US system for dealing with alleged infringements to the rest off the world, but when it works the other way – with European norms exported to the US – suddenly, that’s a problem.

The DHS, realising that people are unhappy with the idea of laptop confiscation or warrantless probes, has just issued this ‘damage control’ page [via Simon Phipps]. The comments are more interesting than this face-saving post.

For more information about the ACTA and its impact, consider reading the articles below.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

5 Comments

  1. twitter said,

    August 13, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Gravatar

    Richard Stallman has an excellent essay on the origins and use of the propaganda term “intellectual property”. It’s a phrase that was designed to confuse very different government granted exclusions with each other and with physical property. Stallman points out that it is better to talk about Trademark, Copyright and Patents on their own terms and never generally because they are so different. The only similarity they have is exclusivity, a violation of more important natural rights that must constantly be justified by specific social benefits. When the issues are confused you get laws which conflate the powers of these different laws into abominations like ACTA, DMCA, and perpetual copyright. Even judges can be tricked into creating business method patents, the only kind that software can have. When you understand the purpose and demand justification for each of these exclusive franchises, you quickly understand how flawed things like software patents and trade secret law are.

  2. goomboom said,

    August 13, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Gravatar

    Hey Roy , a

    A gplv3 program which uses a Gplv2 trapped framework

    http://smuxi.meebey.net

    Thanks

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 13, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Gravatar

    Well, that’s Mono. Miguel mentioned this program a few weeks ago, IIRC.

  4. goomboom said,

    August 13, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Gravatar

    I’m little worried about this

    http://lwn.net/Articles/290425/

    Icaza discuss about gnome.

    Mono hell in the way?

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 13, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Gravatar

    I don’t think it’s so much about Mono, but regardless of the version bump (2.3->3.0), Mono becomes more pervasive.

What Else is New


  1. The Quality of Patents is Connected to the Quality of Life of Patent Examiners

    EPO staff is not happy (a new President has not changed things) and the problems associated with low quality of patents become more visible in courtrooms



  2. American Patent Courts Keep Narrowing Patent Scope, No Matter What Few Politicians Are Doing on Behalf of Litigation Firms and Patent Trolls

    Acts of desperation in the patent microcosm of the United States, where judges now overwhelmingly reject software patents at all levels (tribunals, lower courts, higher courts)



  3. Links 25/4/2019: Rancher Labs Releases Slim OS, OpenBSD 6.5 is Ready

    Links for the day



  4. Links 24/4/2019: Chrome 74, QEMU 4.0 Released

    Links for the day



  5. Supreme Court of the UK, Which Habitually Throws Out European Patents, May Overturn Troublesome Unwired Planet v Huawei Decision

    A lot of European Patents are facing growing scrutiny from courts (Team UPC, including Bristows, publicly complains about it this month) and "greenwashing" of the Office won't be enough to paint/frame these patents as "ethical"



  6. German Federal Patent Court Curbs the Patent Maximalism of the EPO, Which Promotes Patents on Nature and/or Maths Every Single Day

    European courts are restraining the EPO, which has been trying to bypass or replace such courts (with the UPC); it certainly seems as though European Patents rapidly lose their legitimacy or much-needed presumption of validity



  7. Any 'Linux' Foundation Needs to Be Managed by Geeks, Not Politicians and PR People

    Linux bureaucracy has put profits way ahead of technical merits and this poses a growing threat or constitutes risk to the direction of the project, not to mention its ownership



  8. Links 23/4/2019: Kodi 'Leia' 18.2 and DeX Everywhere

    Links for the day



  9. Code of Coercion

    Entryism is visible for all to see, but pointing it out is becoming a risky gambit because of the "be nice!" (or "be polite!") crowd, which shields the perpetrators of a slow and gradual corporate takeover



  10. António Campinos Would Not Refer to the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal If He Did Not Control the Outcomes

    António Campinos and his ilk aren’t interested in patent quality because his former ‘boss’, who publicly denied there were issues and vainly rejected patent quality concerns as illegitimate, is now controlled by him (reversal of roles) and many new appointees at the top are "yes men" (or women) of Campinos, former colleagues whom he bossed at EUIPO (as expected)



  11. Links 22/4/2019: Linux 5.1 RC6, New Release of Netrunner and End of Scientific Linux

    Links for the day



  12. USPTO and EPO Both Slammed for Abandoning Patent Quality and Violating the Law/Caselaw in Order to Grant Illegitimate Patents on Life/Nature and Mathematics

    Mr. Iancu, the ‘American Battistelli’ (appointed owing to nepotism), mirrors the ‘Battistelli operandi’, which boils down to treating judges like they’re stooges and justices like an ignorable nuisance — all this in the name of litigation profits, which necessitate constant wars over illegitimate patents (it is expensive to prove their illegitimacy)



  13. IRC Proceedings: January 27th, 2019 – March 24th, 2019

    Many IRC logs



  14. IRC Proceedings: December 2nd, 2018 – January 26th, 2019

    Many IRC logs



  15. Links 21/4/2019: SuperTuxKart's 1.0 Release, Sam Hartman Is Debian’s Newest Project Leader (DPL)

    Links for the day



  16. The EPO's Use of Phrases Like “High-Quality Patent Services” Means They Know High-Quality European Patents Are 'Bygones'

    The EPO does a really poor job hiding the fact that its last remaining objective is to grant as many European Patents as possible (and as fast as possible), conveniently conflating quality with pace



  17. A Reader's Suggestion: Directions for Techrights

    Guest post by figosdev



  18. Links 20/4/2019: Weblate 3.6 and Pop!_OS 19.04

    Links for the day



  19. The Likes of Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), Team Campinos and Team UPC Don't Represent Europe But Hurt Europe

    The abject disinterest in patent quality and patent validity (as judged by courts) threatens Europe but not to the detriment of those who are in the 'business' of suing and printing lots of worthless patents



  20. The Linux Foundation Needs to Change Course Before GNU/Linux (as a Free Operating System) is Dead

    The issues associated with the Linux Foundation are not entirely new; but Linux now incorporates so many restrictions and contains so many binary blobs that one begins to wonder what "Linux" even means



  21. Largest Patent Offices Try to Leave Courts in a State of Disarray to Enable the Granting of Fake Patents in the US and Europe

    Like a monarchy that effectively runs all branches of government the management of the EPO is trying to work around the judiciary; the same is increasingly happening (or at least attempted) in the United States



  22. Links 19/4/2019: PyPy 7.1.1, LabPlot 2.6, Kipi Plugins 5.9.1 Released

    Links for the day



  23. Links 18/4/2019: Ubuntu and Derivatives Have Releases, digiKam 6.1.0, OpenSSH 8.0 and LibreOffice 6.2.3

    Links for the day



  24. Freedom is Not a Business and Those Who Make 'Business' by Giving it Away Deserve Naming

    Free software is being parceled and sold to private monopolisers; those who facilitate the process enrich themselves and pose a growing threat to freedom in general — a subject we intend to tackle in the near future



  25. Concluding the Linux Foundation (LF) “Putting the CON in Conference!” (Part 3)

    Conferences constructed or put together based on payments rather than merit pose a risk to the freedom of free software; we conclude our series about events set up by the largest of culprits, which profits from this erosion of freedom



  26. “Mention the War” (of Microsoft Against GNU/Linux)

    The GNU/Linux desktop (or laptops) seems to be languishing or deteriorating, making way for proprietary takeover in the form of Vista 10 and Chrome OS and “web apps” (surveillance); nobody seems too bothered — certainly not the Linux Foundation — by the fact that GNU/Linux itself is being relegated or demoted to a mere “app” on these surveillance platforms (WSL, Croûton and so on)



  27. The European Patent Office Does Not Care About the Law, Today's Management Constantly Attempts to Bypass the Law

    Many EPs (European Patents) are actually "IPs" (invalid patents); the EPO doesn't seem to care and it is again paying for corrupt scholars to toe the party line



  28. The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Once Again Pours Cold Water on Patent Maximalists

    Any hopes of a rebound or turnaround have just been shattered because a bizarre attack on the appeal process (misusing tribal immunity) fell on deaf ears and software patents definitely don't interest the highest court, which already deemed them invalid half a decade ago



  29. Links 17/4/2019: Qt 5.12.3 Released, Ola Bini Arrested (Political Stunts)

    Links for the day



  30. Links 16/4/2019: CentOS Turns 15, Qt Creator 4.9.0 Released

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts