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09.06.08

Patents News: Philips Pirates, Candidates Wants Reform, Trolls Still on the Loose

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 9:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nathan Myhrvold

With Patent Pirates Like Philips, Who Needs WIPO?

Patent Pirates shall be a term which refers to large companies that attack smaller ones with the help of armed “pirates”; this is not to confused with patent sharks, also sometimes referred to as patent trolls. If big companies are allowed to daemonise sharing of knowledge or information using words like “pirates”, why can’t we?

The racketeers from Sisvel [1, 2, 3] may soon be served some justice for taking the law into their own hands. This blow-your-kneecaps-or-pay-for-patents firm may have its proprietor, Philips, be taken to court for its illegal (never mind excessively aggressive) raids on potentially-legitimate products.

Electronics giant Philips is being threatened with legal action following raids at a major German trade fair sparked by Sisvel, the Italian licensing company. Sisvel. which administers patents related to MP3 technology on behalf of a number of companies including Philips, asked German customs authorities to take action against a group of exhibitors at the fair, claiming that products they had on show were infringing.

If a lesson is worth learning here, it is the lesson that large companies like Philips do their ‘dirty work’ via proxies that have no products and hardly even a public face. Recall Microsoft and those Microsoft-occupied shell companies like Acacia [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] and Intellectual Ventures [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

Crisis of Intellectual Monopolies

Whereas McCain seems likely to encourage more of the same [1, 2], the following post suggests that both presidential candidates want a patent reform.

Intellectual property advisors to both US presidential candidates have said that the US patent system is in need of reform. The advisors told a meeting at last week’s Democratic Conference that patent quality must be improved.

Perhaps it’s true that there will be a reform. Maybe a reform for the worse (a deform), assuming AT&T’s desires are eventually fulfilled.

It’s interesting that AT&T is bragging about its pursuit of “more patents” rather than, say, more R&D spending or more innovation. AT&T isn’t exactly known for its record of high-tech innovation, so it’s a little surprising to see it hold itself out as a poster child for the patent system—particularly when we remember that AT&T and other telco incumbents have used the patent system to extort tens of millions of dollars from companies like Vonage that are actually innovating.

AT&T for patents

Free Software Magazine has this good new article about the adversities at play.

Intellectual freedom versus intellectual property

The liberation of information has been going on for a long time: one might say for all of human history, as history itself is one of the oldest forms of information sharing. There are several major landmarks dotting that course, which I might point to: the invention of spoken language, of writing, of ink and paper, of block printing, movable type printing, digital typesetting, electronic distribution, and most recently, the internet.

Each of these steps has produced an opening up in the exchange of information, resulting in more efficient technological progress, followed by additional steps in increasing our communications abilities. These steps have been associated closely with massive and rapid improvements in science, health, and standard of living, for most of human history. And, despite post-modernist angst, the reality is that there aren’t many of us who would genuinely trade our present lifestyle for that of our ancestors: especially if we consider the additional pressures imposed by population growth.

Bad, Bad Software Patents

Watch how the TiVo patents saga unfolds. With its software patents used offensively, TiVo is clearly no friend of Free software, despite its adoption of the Linux kernel. [via Digital Majority]

Another change is that TiVo won a key lawsuit against Dish Networks. In that lawsuit, a federal court ruled that Dish’s recording devices infringe TiVo software patents. In fact, a hearing begins Thursday in federal district court in the Eastern District of Texas on how the penalties against Dish will be enforced.

Another integral part of this problem is Amazon, which has been awarded a patent on a bunch of nonsense. Tech Dirt has the dirt on Amazon:

theodp writes “Amazon was awarded a patent Tuesday for its Interactive Time-Limited Merchandising Program and Method for Improved Online Cross-Selling, which appears to be lawyer-speak for presenting customers with one limited-time offer after another until they finally bite on one or decline them all. So be careful – the next time you offer folks 10% off on a garden rake if they purchase it within sixty minutes after declining to buy a saucepan, you could be guilty of patent infringement!”

At a lower scale, the Sheldon Goldberg troll [1, 2, 3] is still keeping busy.

Patent Troll Strikes Again! Targets: AOL, Digg, Google, and Yahoo!

They’re all targets in a lawsuit filed by a Mr Sheldon Goldberg, a patent-bearer who’s infamy as a conniving troll stretches back to 2004, when he began to go after companies for purportedly infringing on a couple of his holdings. His aim: to seek legal (and financial) restitution for all things solitaire related. Or most all things, anyway.

Yes, you read it right. Solitaire. The still-phenomenally-popular card game. That’s his beef.

More patent troll ammunition is up for sale. It’s funny to see how it’s being marketed.

“In addition to the pay-per-call application, our click-to-call
patented technology has many other applications, including but not limited
to search-engine-results, online directories, websites, advertising
banners, auction-site postings, branded desktop buttons, and any
communication delivered via email such as newsletters, statements, order
confirmations, opt-in email campaigns, all part of the online advertising
world. Our patent protection goes back to May 1999. Our portfolio of
patents claims the front end to any ‘click-to-call’ transaction, no matter
where the ‘click-to-call’ technology is utilized,” says Liebster.

So here they are. Thriving in a broken system that nobody really wants, yet nobody wants to repair, either; promises alone don’t repair a system. Is implosion the only way out of this?

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