10.01.08

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Patents and Evil… Evil that Ruins Economies

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Google, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 11:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents protest in India

Google: Do Know Evil?

A reader from India sent us a pointer to this headsup on a Google patent application. Google seems to be breaking the law in India by filing an application for a software patent. Microsoft has violated these rules for quite a while, even in South Africa.

NEW DELHI: World’s most visited Internet search site Google has filed a patent application in the country for its recently developed social network site based on user preferences and format performance data.

CNET drew attention to this soft patent from Google. Here is the abstract.

A method of initiating a telecommunication session for a communication device include submitting to one or more telecommunication carriers a proposal for a telecommunication session, receiving from at least one of the one or more of telecommunication carriers a bid to carry the telecommunications session, and automatically selecting one of the telecommunications carriers from the carriers submitting a bid, and initiating the telecommunication session through the selected telecommunication carrier.

For what it’s worth, IBM is part of this problem and it refuses to remark on the need for a real solution. It also has a history of using its patents aggressively, just like Microsoft. Its targets do not include Free software projects though.

Microsoft: Do Evil

Earlier this year, Bruce Perens explained the role of Novell in Microsoft’s very latest (and very predatory, being a last resort) strategy against GNU/Linux. It revolves around software patents, so here are the interesting portions of what Perens wrote:

Microsoft remains a problem, as the bastion of the old way of thinking about software, and as the epitome of the old school of dirty corporate fighting. Their current strategy seems to be to poison us with money, most recently by making patent agreements with a number of Linux distributions. These agreements go against the spirit of the software licenses used by our developers, and were perhaps intended to dissuade developers from contributing their work. To this end, Microsoft poured more money into Novell last year than Novell’s annual profit – indeed Novell would have had no annual profit without Microsoft.

But Microsoft’s continuing attempts at patent-based FUD, for all they cost, don’t seem to be effective. They’ve not caught the big fish with their agreements, but only the third-ranking Novell and a handful of also-ran distributions that few knew were still in business. These companies have offended their own enterprise customers, who hate the idea of patent FUD directed at their own operations. They are viewed with suspicion by many Open Source developers, although some have been too quick to forgive.

It’s already known that Microsoft has company/ies to carry out its controversial tasks. This leads to a broader issue and The Huffington Post called it a growing bubble, so it’s bound to explode at some stage, just like those subprime mortgages.

The brainchild of former Microsoft CTO, Nathan Myrhvold, Intellectual Ventures has reportedly amassed $5 billion in capital and a portfolio of over 20,000 acquired patents — and it’s looking for more. From the perspective of the tech sector, Intellectual Ventures combines two questionable business models, the patent troll and the pyramid scheme, in a form that evokes Wall St.’s cleverness in designing glitzy vehicles for esoteric assets.

IV does not create or market products, so it is invulnerable to the patents of others. It looks like a patent troll, because it makes money from “being infringed.” But IV has a new twist: The companies that settle not only pay license fees but are induced to invest in IV, thereby providing the capital to acquire more patents, set up new licensing funds, and pursue other companies.

[...]

There you have it: Arbitrage in exotic assets. A system that values legal instruments over real products. And a context-dependent and uncertain value for the legal instrument itself. No better than mortgage-backed derivatives. And maybe a lot worse.

Glyn Moody has pinned an article in Linux Journal. He suggests a comparison between the mortgage-caused crisis and the patent crisis which has been brewing when he writes:

The solution to the subprime patents problem is get rid of them, and to move from a business model based on code contamination and lawsuits (hello SCO) to one of code sharing and collaboration. There’s no halfway house, because open source and software patents are inherently incompatible. But what’s really interesting in this is that just as there are close similarities between the problems of subprime patents and subprime mortgages, so there may be important parallels between how we should deal with them.

Open Source: Do No Evil

Here is another review (among several others that were mentioned here before) of the book Intellectual Property and Open Source. It’s like writing a book about water and sand getting wed, but the perspective (lwn.net) makes it noteworthy.

Free software inevitably runs into the body of law known collectively as “intellectual property.” Many developers do their best to avoid the legal side of things whenever possible; others seem to like nothing better than extended debates on the topic. Regardless of one’s own feelings in the matter, the fact remains that the legal system exists, it affects our lives, and that we can only be better off if we understand it. To that end, O’Reilly has published Intellectual Property and Open Source by Van Lindberg.

Congress: The Evil Within

As long as the congress is pressured to pass the very same “Intellectual property bill” that the Department of Justice criticised the other day, there’s little hope for change until the system implodes or explodes. Then, it’ll be time for an emergency “rescue plan”, which will surely be rejected by many and cost everyone dearly.

Intellectual property bill passes in the House

The bipartisan legislation passed in the House 341-41, with dissenters on both sides of the aisle. The measure has received wide support from the business community, including from groups like the Recording Industry Association of America and the AFL-CIO, but it is opposed by public interest groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge.

This is a government that’s ‘on sale’. It’s corporcracy, not a democracy, and it’s facilitated by a twisted legal system that was made to favour large monopolies. For shame.

“Did you know that there are more than 34,750 registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., for just 435 representatives and 100 senators? That’s 64 lobbyists for each congressperson.”

CIO.com

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