09.24.08

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World Day Against Software Patents: Summary and More

Posted in Asia, Europe, Patents, Videos at 7:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It has been an exceptionally busy but productive day to opposers of software patents. Today was the day that software patents were battled around the world and Slashdot covered this in its front page.

“Veteran European anti-software patent campaigners have launched the World Day against Software Patents. They say, ‘The issue of software patents is a global one, and several governments and patent offices around the world continue to grant software & business method patents on a daily basis; they are pushing for legal codification of the practice, such as currently in New Zealand and India.

The following video serves as a good primer to those among us who are new to this debate.

Ogg Theora

India had a raft of articles on this topic, particularly in the Hindu. Here is a key one:

Picture this. Indian mathematicians came up with the concept of the “zero” — often touted as India’s greatest contribution to civilisation — and got a patent for it. By now they would have raked in inestimable amounts in royalty. Seems preposterous? Members of the Free Software community say that patenting every other algorithm would be somewhat in the same league.

While there has been substantial discussion on how patents will affect the pharmaceutical sector, there has been little debate about its implications on the software industry. To the layman, software patenting sounds like an abstract issue applicable to an even more abstract domain. However, with a growing software industry which is trying to spread its indigenous roots, the issue becomes an important one.

Helios invited GNU/Linux users to help the cause of Free software by striking where it matters the most: legal barriers, among several others.

What Can We Do To Help?

[...]

Are you really motivated and good with research? How about researching patents for obviously bad awards? How about supporting patent reform? Is there something you can do to help support the Software Freedom Law Center?

Earlier today in the minor news, the following post, which contains Adobe’s statements, showed that they are still a tad hostile towards Free software, despite their new membership in the Linux Foundation.

Adobe Answers to Linux Development Questions

[...]

That last answer is very interesting. There is some ridicule out on the WWW and on USENET that looks at the LSB Product Directory and scoffs that LSB is no good and thus Linux is no good. This is one of the usual Fear and Uncertainty through Disinformation (FUD) tactics used by those who hate Linux and want you to hate it too. Obviously companies, like Adobe, are using the LSB tests and certifying for themselves. They are not then certifying with The Linux Foundation to be placed in the LSB Product Directory nor are they using the LSB trademark.

In summary, it’s not all bad, but for over a year Adobe had contributed to the perception that it’s hard to cater for GNU/Linux.

Coming from Adobe, a changed attitude towards software patents is not too surprising, either. Just like Microsoft, it resisted these patents vigorously when it was still small. Now that Adobe is a big franchise, it wants to protect its territory using the very same patents it used to protest against as a small business.

Here is the position of Adobe on software patents in 1994 published by James Huggins:

Let me make my position on the patentability of software clear. I believe that software per se should not be allowed patent protection. I take this position as the creator of software and as the beneficiary of the rewards that innovative software can bring in the marketplace. I do not take this position because I or my company are eager to steal the ideas of others in our industry. Adobe has built its business by creating new markets with new software. We take this position because it is the best policy for maintaining a healthy software industry, where innovation can prosper.

The problems inherent in certain aspects of the patent process for software-related inventions are well-known, the difficulties of finding and citing prior art, the problems of obviousness, the difficulties of adequate specifications for software are a few of those problems. However, I argue that software should not be patented, not because it is difficult to do so, but because it is wrong to do so.

Digital Majority has also found this old text which shows Oracle opposing software patents.

Oracle Corporation opposes the patentability of software. The Company believes that existing copyright law and available trade secret protections, as opposed to patent law, are better suited to protecting computer software developments.

[…]

Compared to adequate copyright and trade secret protections, patent protection is excessively broad and enormously expensive.

CHANGING THE PATENT SYSTEM

Oracle has recommended that patent protection not be provided for computer software or computer software algorithms, for the reasons described above.

Oracle is now a member of OIN, so it’s unlikely to become a patent threat to Free/open source software.

Lastly, the BBC published this article which blasts the patent system for some of its more obvious deficiencies.

The traditional view is that strong patent protection stimulates innovation, reassuring companies that it is safe to invest in research without fear of being stung by rivals.

[...]

The full benefits of synthetic biology and nanotechnology will not be realised without urgent reforms to encourage sharing of information, they say.

Tough day for patents. The word is getting out there; spreading it would help further.

Software patents protest against EPO

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