There is some sad (or outrageous) news about what has happened in the UK. As scandalous as it may seem, software patents were pushed a step further into enforceability in the UK. Glyn Moody, a mathematician, explained why this is utterly ridiculous.
…[A]llowing physicists to patent the laws they discover, or the theorems that mathematicians prove. The point is, software is not “closer to a mathematical method”, it *is* a mathematical method, or rather a concatenation of them.
All this juridical “on the one hand” and “on the other” in the interests of “balance” does not change this. The current decision is seriously bad news, because it opens the door to even more weaselly patent applications that contort themselves into the magic position to gain the favour of whichever Jesuit is on duty that day.
There is a lot more coverage of this, including:
Times Online: Court ruling strengthens patent protection for UK software
Technology companies will find it easier to safeguard their innovations in the UK after a court ruled that software should receive wider patent protection.
The Court of Appeal said today that complex software such as programmes designed to make mobile phones and computers work faster can be patented in the UK.
Previously, manufacturers could claim commercial exclusivity for their products under copyright laws but had less legal protection for underlying technical processes.
As a result of the ruling, developers are likely to find it easier to secure approval from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which has traditionally been reluctant to grant patents to cover software.
IAM: Court of Appeal delivers a software patent boost in the UK
Companies looking to obtain and enforce software patents in the UK received a boost today when the Court of Appeal ruled against the UK IP Office in its appeal against a decision of the High Court in the Symbian case. The High Court had overturned a UKIPO decision not to grant a patent to Symbian for an accelerator relating to iPods, mobile phones and computers.
Here is what a legal firm said:
Today’s Court of Appeal decision on the Symbian case has affirmed that the UK and European approaches to software patentability are fundamentally compatible. This upholds a High Court decision which had overturned the rejection by the UK-IPO of an application to patent “Mapping dynamic link libraries in a computing device”.
The prolonged mission to ruin more patent systems makes gradual progress. These laws are incompatible with Free software and Nokia should be ashamed of itself for doing what it does (not for the first time).
We recently summarised the developments in India and showed how Microsoft's potential trolls had invaded India and signed some patent deals there. Microsoft has shown that it is determined to break the Indian law by applying for software patents while at the same time lobbying to change the law to permit this. Here is an unnerving update.
Arguments on why section 4.11 of the Patents Manual needs to be modified.
3. There are now attempts being made in India to bring in software patents using either the EPO or the USPTO practice. This attempt is being supported by a small number of large international software companies, who had earlier benefited from software being free from patents and are now trying to obstruct others who are entering the field. It is not in the interest of India’s software industry to have restrictive patent regime, particularly as they switch from being service providers to product developers.
There is some more information here, under the very same Web site.
After introductions by Sunil Abraham of CIS, the discussions were kicked off by Sudhir Krishnaswamy (an Assistant Professor at National Law School), who spoke about typology of laws; principle-based arguments for excluding software from patenting; policy-based arguments for the same; and lastly, strategies for combating the patent manual. About the rationale behind excepting software (“computer programmes per se”) from patentability, he theorised that given the location of “computer programmes per se” in section 3(k) of the Act, surrounded as it is by “mathematical or business method” and “algorithms”, the exception seems to be a principle-based one and not a policy-based one. He also talked about what he saw as the practical realities of the Patent Office, and questioned the role the Draft Manual would actually play in the decisions of Patent Examiners.
He listed out economic arguments as:
1. Inapplicability of the incentive arguments. The software industry does not need patents since copyright covers software, and even if incentives are required, that is incentive enough;
2. Return on investment. Short shelf-life, and hence 17-year patent terms are irrelevant when the shelf-life is so small;
3. New intermediaries are created, who are neither producers nor consumers of software. These intermediaries who help in price-discovery. They discover value in patents which were previously thought neglected by the process known as patent trolling.
BT turns out to be among the culprits there as well.
UK-based telecom major British Telecom has filed a patent application in India for its invention computer telephony system, which could make a phone call through internet more secure, a development particularly more useful for call centres.
The following article presents another summary of the recent events. [via Digital Majority]
In August this year, the US Patents and Trademarks Office granted Microsoft ownership of “page up” and “page down”. So in theory, no other company can scroll without permission and acknowledgement to Microsoft in monetary terms.
A number of seemingly ubiquitous software ideas have been patented: the use of tabs to shift from one hyperlink to another on a web page, the “Add to Shopping Cart” function that appears on every online store, automated online loan requests, and even reducing image size to make a webpage load faster.
“Most companies register defensive patents to protect themselves, not offensive ones,” said Sunil Abraham of Centre for Internet and Society. “Not many actively pursue patent infringement, but it is still very scary for a small-time entrepreneur.”
At a time when the Indian Patent Office is in the process of putting together a new Manual of Patent Practice and Procedure, the Centre for Internet and Society is holding a one-day consultation on the issue of software patenting in the city. Participants include the Delhi Science Forum, RedHat, IT for Change, Open Space, as well as the Alternative Law Forum.
Signs That “Intellectual Property” Has Gone Patently Absurd
How broad should Intellectual Monopolies be? Is American society a sensible place to be in when just sketching something becomes a crime? [via Glyn Moody]
Keene Valley resident Jerilea Zempel was detained at the U.S. border this summer because she had a drawing of a sport-utility vehicle in her sketchbook.
In some cases, photography is forbidden too. It’s due to “Intellectual Property”.
One problem that is not going away is the trolling, which according to Rick Frenkel, is increasing. Here is Facebook being hit.
PA Advisors, LLC is an arm of Erich Spangenberg’s patent-holding empire. Its job is to assert U.S. Patent No. 6,199,067, which claims the use of user profiles in Internet search; it was used to sue Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and several other smaller players in November 2007.
Yesterday we complained the poor coverage of software patents in ECT. Well, here is their very latest about patent trolls.
Matsuura describes modern-day patent trolls as companies that primarily own a portfolio of patents but manufacture or market nothing. They exist primarily to seek out financial compensation from firms that infringe upon their patents.
The guy whom they cite, Jeff Matsuura, has an iffy name in some circles.
Hope for change comes from campaigning. In contrary to this, wealthy companies use money and lobbyists to make the laws more perverse. The Zen Partners Web site has mentioned the World Day against Software Patents.
A global petition designed to raise awareness of software patents has been launched September 24 as part of the World Day against Software Patents. Currently in draft format, the petition includes information about how software patents can affect business, research and development.
Here is another interesting one.
Software Patents: A Time for Change?
Over the years, nearly all limits to patentable subject matter in the U.S. have been removed by the specialized patent court without input from Congress, empirical evidence to justify its decisions, or consideration of values and principles outside of the patent system. Problems related to software patents have sparked calls for patent reform here in the U.S. and have driven efforts to reject legislation authorizing US-style software patents in Europe.
The EFF also continues its patent-busting project with this new target.
he Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging a bogus patent on Internet music files that could stifle new innovations in online music distribution. Seer Systems was awarded this illegitimate patent for a system and method for joining different musical data types together in a file, distributing them over the Internet, and then playing that file.
Good insights from a reader are probably worth including at end this quick digest.
Here is part of an old judgment: “it would be somewhat arbitrary and unfair to discriminate against people who invent programs which improve the performance of computers against those who invent programs which improve the performance of other machines. However, as against that, what goes on inside a computer can be said to be closer to a mathematical method (which is, of course, not patentable by virtue of art 52(2)(a)) than what goes on inside other machines.”
“I don’t understand the difference between “computers” and “other machines”,” says the reader. “And people do not “invent programs,” they “write programs.”
“Freedom of expression cannot be limited by patent law but freedom of expression is not enough because the patent guys will say “fine, you can have your freedom of publication.” But there is still patent infringement when you run it into a piece of hardware: “Any problems caused in the context of patents in the field of IT, in particular in conjunction with OSS, might be solved by carefully redesigning the effects of granted patents, preserving freedom of expression when software code is exchanged over the internet as long as the computer program code isn’t matched with the desired processor for production operation.”” █
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ACT is one among many Microsoft pressure groups, some of which change identities to avoid being exposed. We wrote about ACT before. It’s means for Microsoft to hijack the public voices of small businesses.
ACT is a front for no small businesses. Its funds come from very large corporations and its past, as well as its members, say a lot about the goals. ACT is based only where lobbyists reside, being the political manipulator which it is.
We decided to write an E-mail complaint the FTC, urging for at least an investigation. ACT lobbyists are paid by Microsoft to claim to represent the ‘small guys’. We don't believe in the integrity of the FTC, which is influenced by Microsoft. The same goes for the US Department of Justice, but the least one can do is raise awareness of this abuse. Failing that, we may have to try the more official procedure.
Subject: Abuse by firm “Association for Competitive Technology (ACT)”
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
I hereby wish to file a complaint about the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), lodged at address:
1401 K ST, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 331-2130
This firm is pretending to serve the interests of small businesses although, as a matter of fact, it is funded only by very large corporations it is lobbying for new laws — both in Europe and the United States — that are hostile towards “small businesses” they purport to be representing.
I believe ACT to be a true danger not only to the business landscape but also to the integrity of lobbies that genuinely represent the interests of small businesses. I will happily provided proof of the claims, as I already have some produced. Termination of their activity should be a matter of priority to the FTC in order to restore free market sanity and ethics.
With kind regards,
According to one reader, “the whole Bush administration is Microsoft-corrupted and that’s why they stopped the anti-trust action.” We are also being informed that “ACT is now publishing anti-Google material in their blog, which means that they are probably paid by Microsoft to do so.”
It is a good opportunity to bring up the following new article, which shows that the Microsoft-owned Slate (maybe not anymore) is potentially being used to attack the Yahoo/Google deal. Microsoft buys a lot of press outlets to shape or reshape public perception and poison minds against rivals like Google.
On a related note, Slate looks at the pros and cons of the Google-Yahoo deal — with an emphasis on the cons. The article quotes Microsoft attorney Brad Smith, who shared his company’s objections…
We recently discussed other involvements in Slate and also showed that Microsoft uses a lobbying/marketing group called LawMedia to attack Google through the World Wide Web and politicians. They hire AstroTurfers. █
“Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy’s, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. “Independent” analyst’s report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent” consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). “Independent” courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage.”
–Microsoft, internal document
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“Other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio.”
The following information is claimed to have originally come from a Red Hat employee. It suggests that Marshall Phelps was fired, at least as a daytime employee, because he did not manage to get Red Hat as a software patent licensee like Novell. Can anyone confirm this?
We are aware of some prior discussions between the two companies, but believe it won't ever materialise unless Red Hat changes hands and sinks into the hands of a prolific patent holder. Microsoft and Novell actively (and jointly) attack Red Hat. █
“If seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work. Maybe there is no way Io avoid this problem but it does bother me. Maybe we can define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open. Or maybe we could patent something related to this.”
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Readers or users who don’t trust Mono should ask for a patent licence from Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft does, for a verifiable fact, have a department dedicated specifically to that type of stuff. We made a start by asking for our protection as we might wish to install the GNOME desktop environment in the future and it’s already extremely hard to get it preinstalled without Mono these days. Here is the message we sent last night.
From: Roy Schestowitz
To: iplg at microsoft.com
Date: Wed, Oct 8, 2008
Subject: Request for a written license for ECMA 376 implementation
Dear Microsoft Licensing,
I would be interested to receive a licence for commercial distribution
of Mono, in accordance with your terms presented by Bob Muglia:
“There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an
implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by
Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell
is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to
According to several legal analyses, Mono is not safe for those who are
not Novell customers to use. I would therefore like to purchase a licence.
Microsoft replied to the request very promptly. Here is the reply:
This is the Postfix program at host mail175-wa4-R.bigfish.com.
I’m sorry to have to inform you that your message could not
be delivered to one or more recipients. It’s attached below.
For further assistance, please send mail to <postmaster>
If you do so, please include this problem report. You can
delete your own text from the attached returned message.
The Postfix program
winse-6216-mail1.customer.frontbridge.com[188.8.131.52] said: 550 5.7.1
<Your e-mail was rejected by an anti-spam content filter on gateway
(184.108.40.206). Reasons for rejection may be: obscene language, graphics,
or spam-like characteristics. Removing these may let the e-mail through the
filter.> (in reply to end of DATA command)
That’s some great service. Very helpful.
We’ve resent it from a different PC and a separate account to get past those dodgy filters. It has not bounced this time time around and we shall report back soon.
We have fallbacks too.
- If we do not receive an answer within 10 days, we shall resend the E-mail.
- If no news arrives after 30 days, we shall send or recommend a letter to Microsoft UK.
- If no news from Microsoft is coming after 60 days, we shall send them a polite letter saying that we are going to complain in court.
Threats are cheap. Microsoft knows this.
Additionally, we have direct access to a Microsoft licensing guy, so we will pursue this as far as necessary.
For those who have missed it, ComputerWorld finally explains why Mono is a patent risk and a potential trap. Specifically, it distinguishes between Mono and a project like Samba — a favourite example that Mono enthusiasts like to use in their defence.
Samba grew out of a classic hacker’s itch. Its creator, Andrew Tridgell, wanted to connect his PC to a departmental Sun machine, and knocked up a bit of server code for the latter to make that possible. It was only later that he discovered – to his amazement – that his program also worked with PCs running Windows.
This meant that Samba, running on GNU/Linux, could function as a file and printer server for Windows users, which was why it became one of the first free software programs to find its way into enterprises, since it was effectively a drop-in replacement for more expensive Windows-based solutions. In other words, Samba is a free implementation of some protocols used by Windows, and was created so that free code could be used instead of Microsoft’s.
Now consider Mono. Like Samba, it aims to reproduce functionality available on the Windows platform, so that people can use free software instead: a laudable goal in itself. But the end-result, which depends on Microsoft’s work, is something that encourages developers to write *yet more* code that uses Microsoft’s approach. In benighted countries where software can be patented, this means that any patents that Microsoft has in the .NET framework are like to apply to any code developed with Mono. Like an infectious disease, the intellectual monopoly is spread wider.
This is what makes Mono so dangerous: developers that use this framework are, in fact, helping to disperse the poison of Microsoft’s intellectual monopolies across the free software ecosystem. I’m sure that’s not the aim of the Mono developers, who doubtless have the best of intentions, but sadly it is the inevitable result. And that is why developers and users need to be warned off Mono in a way that is not necessary for Samba.
Mono advocates (who are sometimes Novell employees) just ‘perfume’ it to themselves that all is well while attacking those who say the truth. We’ve seen prompt attacks on anyone who ‘dares’ to question Novell’s Mono. Some of these attacks seem to come from Microsoft employees, who are also seen openly lobbying for Mono in the mainstream press. Don’t believe the lies about Microsoft feeling concerned about Mono. Miguel de Icaza is singing this fairly tale, but evidence actually contradicts it. It’s posturing.
Mono is not a threat to Microsoft. It helps Microsoft. By association, it harms GNU/Linux, which Microsoft calls its #1 rival and actively attacks all the time (usually it’s less visible). So, Novell has people still adopt Microsoft technologies? Not bad for a company that openly threatens and says that it wants to claim money from Free software projects for patents it won’t disclose. Where does the trust come from?
Only a Microsoft enthusiast can refuse so stubbornly to see the problem with Mono and never admit that it’s selfish — for him, for Novell, and for .NET (Windows) developers who want to go cross-platform. Here is another new interview with Miguel de Icaza.
Q4. After Mono 2.0 was announced on Monday, I saw speculation in several Linux discussion sites that Mono is somehow a ‘trojan horse’ that, along with Novell’s alliance with Microsoft, will somehow give Microsoft patent leverage over the Linux desktop. Would you care to respond?
A4.[Pauses] I’m surprised people were able to figure out our evil plot.
(Attendant Novell press relations rep interjects: “He’s kidding! He’s kidding!!”)
The position of the Mono project has always been that we believe .Net includes a lot of innovation along with a good mix of well-known technology. So, if people found a patent infringement, we would take it out. If there’s prior art, though, the patent is invalid. This is the way it is done in the open source world. A good example is Freetype. They discovered that they could not use a byte code interpreter for fonts, so they invented a different approach.
If there is no known in infringement, why is Novell buying a licence (‘protection’) for its paying customers? They always dance around this question.
In a new interview with another Mono person (Joseph Hill), the following question comes up.
Sean: There is a certain amount of skepticism about Microsoft in the open source community; people are always wondering what they are “really up to.” I would imagine that people must ask you fairly frequently why they would develop under Mono for Linux, instead of using Java or Python or PHP.
It must not be neglected that Joseph Hill is — you’ve guessed it — also a Novell employee, just like Jeff Steadfast
and other seemingly-independent fans of Mono [Correction: according to the discussion at the bottom, the affiliations are all obvious and publicly known, so this claim is challenged and we remove it with apologies to Jeff]. It often traces back to Novell. There is also the suspicion that they may be using fake accounts to promote this technology and dissolve resistance to it.
“In due course, we may wish to identify (and preferably also list) some patents that Mono violates and show them to Miguel, advising removal.”It must be mentioned that a lot of Novell’s revenue comes from Microsoft, so many Novell employees are essentially funded by Microsoft.
In due course, we may wish to identify (and preferably also list) some patents that Mono violates and show them to Miguel, advising removal. Would that be evil? Well, if he removes his code, then he might as well realise what position he willingly put himself in.
The same goes for Silverlight. Next up we will seek a patent licence also for Moonlight (at least to find out the cost) and all the codecs that goes with it. Let’s find out what sort of trap Novell is leading to before, not after, it becomes another bit of ammunition for Microsoft to intimidate with and to successfully use in secret extortions.
There is a timely lesson about this type of thing in today’s news about AMD. Companies are forced to pay their abusive, monopolistic and even criminal competitors for patents, simply because the system is pathetic but also because re-engineering of existing architectures of one’s rival is a bad idea from the get-go.
Intel’s lawyers launch probe into AMD’s spinoff plans
Intel’s lawyers are evaluating whether a new manufacturing business spun out of Advanced Micro Devices could end a long-standing cross-licensing agreement between the firms.
“Innovate, don’t imitate,” says an old mantra. What’s Mono really about? It begs for trouble from its fiercest rival, which has quite a history. █
“At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very interested in it inmediately [sic].”
–Miguel de Icaza
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