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08.29.08

State of the Intellectual Bully: Patent Raids, Trolls, and Microsoft

Posted in Asia, FSF, Hardware, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 6:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Here is another quick roundup of patent news.

FSF

The Free Software Foundation is joining the good fight against software patents.

In addition, the FSF is planning to hire a new manager for its End Software Patents campaign.

India

The FSF is also active in Chennai (Madras), where the existing problems [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] are being discussed and will hopefully be tackled.

With FSF and ILUGC friends, also representing our LoCo Community attended the Patent Manual – Stake Holder’s Meet held at Intellectual Property Office, Guindy, Chennai.

The Manual has provisions for bringing in Software Patents in cases what it claims to be “Software combined with Hardware”. We expressed our concerns on it and the ambiguity over the term used.

Here is another long article about software patents and India. It was published just a couple of days ago.

India for its part seems to have adopted the more conservative approach of the European patenting norms for software. But the Ordinance definitely has its use and relevance in today’s India, particularly for our growing domestic semi- conductor industry. This, along with judicial tempering might definitely ensure a judicious use of patent protection while allowing the industry to grow through innovations and inventions, thereby, mitigating the risks of trivial patents chocking the life out of real innovations and inventions. This is the reason a patent should always be treated as a “double edged sword”, to be wielded with caution and sensitivity. Now whether, in reality this will be implemented on a rigid basis or will become broad in scope through application (as in the U.S.), and, more importantly, whether the Ordinance would, in fact, result in increased innovation and inventions in the software industry, remains to be seen.

Extremity Kills the System

There is still a certain state of unrest as the world fights back. An expert of the subject was quoted in The Register saying that a lenient and careless patent system can have devastating effects on the economy. Software patents are a good example of going too far.

Intellectual property laws which were designed to protect inventors are actually stifling innovation, according to a leading US law academic.

Michael Heller, an academic at Columbia University in New York, told technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio that intellectual property laws are being used to stop new products and services being made.

More can be found here and this paper is strongly recommended.

Here is what happens when patents turn violent.

Armed agents search for patent infringers

[...]

A spokesman for German Customs told us: “We’ve raided 69 companies today. We have seized equipment including flatscreen TVs, CD players, set-top boxes and MP3 players.”

Yes! This is innovation. Feel the excitement.

This also happened 6 months ago and was mentioned here. Also 2 years ago.

There have been long discussion about this in the IRC channel today. Doug quotes a new press release: “Effective August 26th, 2008, licenses under those DVB-T essential patents will be available from SISVEL as an alternative to negotiate separate licenses with the individual patent owners.” Zoobab says that Sisvel is a Philips proxy using the same extorsion tactics as Philips and Doug believes that it’s one way of getting a choke hold on the Media. He also adds this pointer [PDF], then saying: “This is a HUGE story. Why isn’t the main stream press covering it?”

Elsewhere in the news, the fight between Qualcomm and Broadcom continues.

The legal drama between wireless chipmakers Qualcomm and Broadcom continues this week.

On Thursday, the companies said a federal judge has ruled that Qualcomm is in contempt of an injunction that bans the use of patented wireless technology owned by Broadcom.

Patent Trolls

Watch this from news:

Patent-licensing and enforcement company General Patent Corp International has reached a settlement with Motorola over a disputed patent belonging to one of GPCI’s clients, Digital Technology Licensing.

Mind the names: “General Patent Corp International” and “Digital Technology Licensing”. Are these classic names for patent trolls or what?

Software patents monster Blackboard [1, 2, 3], which is associated with and funded by Microsoft, is still fighting for its abusive business strategy, which revolves around intimidating rivals with ludicrous software patents. Here are some of the latest developements. [via Digital Majority]

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a request by Blackboard Inc. for a temporary halt in the office’s review of a software patent the company holds concerning course-management systems.

This year Blackboard won a lawsuit in federal court against a rival software company, Desire2Learn, for violating the patent, though Desire2Learn has appealed the decision. Meanwhile, Desire2Learn had formally challenged the validity of the patent with the patent office, arguing that it is overly broad and covers technology that other companies had developed before Blackboard filed its patent. The patent office issued an initial verdict in March that rejected all 44 of the claims that make up Blackboard’s patent. But that review is “nonfinal,” meaning that the review is still underway.

Microsoft

A patents lover called Microsoft is aiming for embargoes again. We first saw such behaviour a month ago and it seems to be the beginning of a pattern. Microsoft has turned offensive with its patents. From the news:

1. Gov’t grants Microsoft’s request for imports probe

Horacio Gutierrez, a Microsoft vice president, said the company filed its request with the ITC last month after trying unsuccessfully for several years to reach a patent licensing agreement with Primax.

The ITC performs economic research on trade agreements and investigates unfair trade practices. The agency has the authority to bar imports that infringe U.S. patents and trademarks.

2. “ITC Will Hear Microsoft Complaint Against Taiwanese Co.

The U.S. International Trade Commission will investigate a patent infringement complaint filed by Microsoft against a Taiwanese company.

In the complaint filed July 30, Microsoft alleges that Primax Electronics infringes the software giant’s patents used in peripherals including keyboards and mice. Microsoft is asking the ITC to ban the importation of the products.

3. Microsoft achieves U.S. review of mouse complaint

At the end of the day, Microsoft pretends to be just a poor and innocent victim in a messy system. That’s not the case. Also noteworthy is the fact that Microsoft targets a Taiwanese company only a week and half after Taiwan had filed a formal complaint against Microsoft.

The ‘Page Up’/’Page Down’ patent from Microsoft was mentioned in [1, 2, 3]. This is so utterly ridiculous that the press is still paying attention to it.

Microsoft has been granted a patent on ‘Page Up’ and ‘Page Down’ keystrokes.

[...]

Microsoft has a long history of applying for, and being granted patents for, inventions that many argue — and can sometimes demonstrate — were based on earlier work carried out by others, or based on a common, self-evident idea.

More in John Dvorak’s blog.

Microsoft has a new business model, and it ain’t about fixing Vista or just marketing it aggressively. It’s likely to do with litigation, either directly or by proxy.

Nathan Myhrvold

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