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09.22.08

Patents Roundup: India Fights Software Patents, BSA Intervention, Trolls League

Posted in Action, Asia, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 11:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents protest in India

The good folks from India are said to be “conducting a National Public meeting on software Patents on October 4th.” There is already a draft and an announcement might come tomorrow, Boycott Novell was informed. A lot of organisations are likely to be joining with an initial list here. By name:

1. Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore
2. Free Software Users Group, Bangalore
3. Free Software Foundation of India, Mumbai
4. Society For Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment, Trivandrum
5. IT for Change, Bangalore
6. Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore
7. Delhi Science Forum, Delhi
8. Movingrepublic, Kerala
9. OpenSpace, Bangalore
10. Swathanthra Malayalam Computing, Kerala
11. Servelots – Janastu, Bangalore
12. Mahiti, Bangalore
13. DeepRoot Linux, Bangalore
14. Wiki Ocean, Pune [TBC]
15. Turtle Linux Lab, Bangalore
16. Zyxware Technologies, Trivandrum
17. INSAF(Indian Social Action Forum)
18. Aneka, Bangalore

There is also an article in the Indian press which discusses the problem. It comes from a “Special Correspondent”:

The patenting regime was dominated by a form of lifelong royalty levy in which software was equated with any other artifact—one could patent just about anything: from a single-click buying business method to drop-boxes on a website. “India should avoid the mistakes of the U.S.”

In this coverage of a talk from Richard Stallman, the problem is being acknowledged again.

He [Richard Stallman] pointed out many of the problems with software patents and the difficulties with being able to develop software independently. If you have any sort of success, you might easily run afoul of someone that claims a patent on your idea. He games examples of the gzip/pkzip fiasco and a few others. He showed how hard it is to find a patent, decipher the filings, and even the problems with patents that are under consideration. All pose problems and Mr. Stallman is right, we need to do something.

For those who have not seen Richard Stallman talking about patents, here’s a bundle.

Watch what the BSA, which serves Microsoft’s software patents agenda in Europe [1, 2, 3], is reported to have just done.

I was arguing at the recent Knowright2008 conference in Krakow (Poland) why software authors lost their rights with software patents. I was explaining why the Berne Convention which protects software under a copyright regime (for source code and binary code) does not give space for software patents.

Here is the presentation:
Sorry, no match for the embedded content.

After my presentation, the BSA representative mentioned his disagreement with my argumentation, saying that there is the “idea” and the “implementation”.

Maybe there are Americans in the room to cite the First Amendment?

As pointed out the other day, one key point is that hardware takes money to reproduce. It would be insane to limit development of something which can be produce by anyone very quickly and then spread infinitely. That would be an artificial obstruction of free-flowing trade. In particular, as this new post emphasises, patents harm small businesses (not to be confused with small patent trolls) the most.

This post on software patents and copyrights and everything else in between is a means of letting off steam caused by reading news that Apple is taking ideas from commercial softwares being actively sold and trying to get patents for those ideas posing as concepts of their own. Yes: Ideas and concepts Apple has not conceived themselves but would like to legally call their own and demand, if and whenever they like, a royalty from anyone building on those ideas — or, in the worst case scenario, sever competition. Patents are considered evil and bad, and there are good reasons why.

Apple is not the only company who is doing it. Most big companies do it; have done it in the past. It has almost become a trend: big companies openly filching ideas from commercial softwares not their own, and attempting to patent those ideas as their own. For example, here we see Microsoft finally being granted a patent on “Page Up” and “Page Down” keystrokes. As another example, Microsoft owns a patent on the “Tree-View” mode we have come to love in many file-system applications. These are merely examples, and Microsoft and Apple are not the only big companies indulging in such practices.

Some days ago we mentioned Aruba Networks because it’s a company which makes extensive use of GNU/Linux and Microsoft is rumoured to be seeking a takeover. Well, all that side, Aruba has just resorted to using its patents as well. It’s a cross-fire. [via Digital Majority]

Aruba Networks says that it has filed a patent infringement countersuit against Motorola, Symbol, and Wireless Valley. The countersuit concerns Motorola’s (and its subsidiaries’) claimed infringement of two Aruba patents related to managing wireless computer networks and network security.

A league of patent trolls is being established over in IAM and there is now an overview.

Joff Wild over at the IAM Blog recently chatted with Dan McCurdy, chairman of PatentFreedom and CEO of Allied Security Trust, who is issuing a list of the most litigious non-practicing entities (aka “patent trolls”) for the next issue of IAM Magazine.

Acacia tops the list with several ex-Microsoft executives among its ranks.

As GNU/Linux gains greater acceptance, the last (and someone new) barrier will be software patents, which are worth fighting even at the expense of Free software advocacy. Software patents are an artificial barrier and a case of moving goalposts. Having removed this barrier, advocacy of Free software will be a breeze.

One penguin

Can a person ever obtain a
patent on a Penguin? How about DNA?

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