EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

10.26.08

Patent System Status in the United States, European Union

Posted in America, Europe, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 11:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patent on rise

North America (United States)

THE problems spawned by software patents affect not only Free software developers. They harm developers as a whole, but Free software is subjected to other (mis)treatment because of the way the software is distributed. Red Hat’s legal team has just published a post to explain the severity of this issue. [via Digital Majority]

There are now more than 200,000 software patents, and there is no practical way to be sure that a new program does not infringe one or more of them. A patent lawsuit can cost several million dollars in attorneys’ fees. The risk of patent litigation is one that the FOSS community has learned to live with. But it hardly seems likely that the risk is doing anything other than inhibiting software innovation.

This number, two hundred thousand at the least, is exceptionally high. It boils down to a human capacity issue and there is clearly a lot of overlap, i.e. duplicates. It’s not only problematic to developers but also to examiners who work at the patent office.

USPTOIs any developer bold enough to internalise all of that reading material and then engage in a task as simple as typing away on a computer keyboard, as opposed to a process more complicated such as designing and manufacturing a machine to perform a particular function? Software is not unsophisticated, but the barriers to entry are very different and the amount of software out there is vast. This imperils studies of prior art and planning of development that’s safe from patent violations.

“Software is not unsophisticated, but the barriers to entry are very different and the amount of software out there is vast.”The simplest fact is that barriers in the face of trivial tasks and creations only discourage more such creations. This was not the goal of the patent system, was it? This issue must be faced and recognised. Only then can it be properly addressed.

Microsoft is meanwhile obtaining some very trivial patents in order to brag about numbers (quantity over quality). In reality, the poorer the patent, the easier it is to invalidate, but at the same time, the poorer (broader and more trivial) the patent, the more companies and products it jeopardises. It causes unrest and Amazon’s one-click shopping is a good example of this.

The ‘bleeping patent’, which was previously summarised here, is making its appearance in The Times.

Microsoft patents web moderator robots

[...]

There’s a danger, though, that it could go too far. Who’s to say that an overzealous Microsoft employee might not accidentally on purpose blacklist the names of rivals such as Apple and Linux?

Worse, there are governments around the world that would probably go further still, suppressing dissent not with guns and clubs but by preventing people from even discussing concepts such as “protest” or “freedom”. And that, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a freaking scary idea.

Ethical issues aside, there is little merit to be found in this so-called ‘invention’. The PgUp/PgDn patent, which was previously mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], raised similar questions.

To show how trivial some of Microsoft’s patents can be, here is a slightly older one:

theodp writes “Microsoft was just granted U.S. Patent No. 7,392,326 for Text Entry in an Electronic Device. From the patent: ‘the invention may automatically add a ‘www.’ and a ‘.com’ to the text the user is entering and display this combined text’. To get the point across, Microsoft included an illustration showing the ‘invention’ in action, transforming ‘foo’ into ‘www.foo.com’. Sure it’s not sorcery we’re dealing with?”

How about…

  1. Transaction-safe FAT file system
  2. Method of swinging on a swing

This is innovation???

Europe

Alison Brimelow

A few days ago we wrote about the latest important development in Europe — an appeal regarding software patents. There are already some unhappy people who deserve to be heard.

[T]he questions seem like a school book example of avoiding clarifications by asking the wrong questions. Are the EPO just cowards, creating straw men or obstructing the clarity of law?

This was also covered in the EPO’s Web site and in some other patents-focused legal Web sites, whose bias is in their favour (more lawsuits and more patents help lawyers makes a living at developers’ expense):

Lastly, here is a quick word about OIN. In response to Roberto’s claim (covered some days ago) that “Keith Bergelt [...] won’t collaborate with FFII or similar organizations to fight against software patents in Europe,” PL Hayes wrote:

Then (assuming he is not a patent system economics illiterate) he certainly does not “care about Linux” – and innovation in general – and I assume OIN is some kind of risibly effete poor man’s version of Intellectual Ventures?

Software patents protest against EPO

In a follow-up post from Roberto, more details are given.

Keith says that in OIN’s vision there are “good” patents and “bad” patents, and they won’t take part in the European software patents debate. All in all OIN cares just about Linux, and middleware or application levels are not in OIN’s agenda for the time being. Google is proud to participate in OIN’s mission, as Di Bona made clear through the official google blog, and that is probably good for all (big) Linux end-users.

Will ever OIN go up in the open source software stack?

PL Hayes again replies by saying:

Right… so it’s just a patent pool with a misleadingly grandiose name (Open Invention Network), set up for the benefit of companies using “the Linux operating system or certain Linux-related applications”.

Some of those companies lobbied for codification of the EPO’s software patent granting practices so it’s not surprising OIN won’t take part in the debate and it is clearly no friend of FOSS and innovation in general, contrary to the impression it sometimes gives.

OIN is not the solution. It’s not harmful, but it’s not the solution.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 31/10/2014: Rubin Leaves Google, Neelie Kroes Ends EU Career

    Links for the day



  2. The EPO Is More Corrupt Under Battistelli Than Under Alison Brimelow: Part VIII

    After Brimelow, with all her flaws and her scandals, an even worse President is installed who then abolishes oversight and seemingly brings his old friends to the EPO, creating a sort of subculture that is impenetrable to outsiders



  3. Claiming That Microsoft 'Loves' Linux While Windows Update Bricks Devices With Linux

    The sheer absurdity of claims that Microsoft -- which not only attacks those who distribute Linux and GNU but also blackmails them, takes them to court, or bricks their products without any liability -- 'loves' Linux



  4. Protectionist Reign: Corporations in Complete Control of Everything With Domination Over Patent Law

    How multinational corporations, joined by the corporate press that they are funding, promote a corporations- but not people-friendly patent policy in north America



  5. Links 30/10/2014: GNOME 3.15.1, Red Hat Software Collections 1.2

    Links for the day



  6. Links 29/10/2014: Ubuntu Touch Tablet, Puppy Linux 6.0

    Links for the day



  7. Links 28/10/2014: SUSE Linux Enterprise 12, Canonical OpenStack Distro

    Links for the day



  8. Links 28/10/2014: PiFxOS, The Document Foundation in OSBA

    Links for the day



  9. Microsoft is Bricking Devices With Linux (Yet Again!), So a Microsoft Booster Spins/Paints Linux Devices as 'Fakes'

    Microsoft delivers rogue drivers through Windows Update and they brick Arduino microcontrollers



  10. How Bill Gates Continues to Pass Wealth From the Public to His Own Bank Account

    Having put a universal tax on many things (not just computers) and evaded tax using the classic 'charity' trick, Gates is now buying the media, the schools, politicians etc. and earns as much as 10 billion dollars per year while the public is taught that Gates is a giver, not a hoarder of the worst kind



  11. Links 27/10/2014: Lenovo Unbundling, Linux 3.18 RC2

    Links for the day



  12. IRC Proceedings: September 14th, 2014 – October 25th, 2014

    Many IRC logs



  13. Links 25/10/2014: KDE Mockups, Update on GNOME Outreach Program for Women

    Links for the day



  14. After Infecting Unity -- Successfully -- Microsoft's Partner Xamarin Wants to Infect Unreal Engine With .NET

    Xamarin continues to spread dependence on Microsoft to more gaming frameworks, not just platforms such as GNU/Linux, Android, and even permanent-state devices



  15. Taking Microsoft Windows Off the Grid for Damage to Businesses, the Internet, and Banking Systems

    Microsoft's insecure-by-design software is causing massive damages ([cref 27802 possibly trillions] of [cref 13992 dollars in damages to date]) and yet the corporate press does not ask the right questions, let alone suggest a ban on Microsoft software



  16. City of Berlin Does Not Abandon Free Software, It's Only Tax Authorities

    A Softpedia report that says the City of Berlin is moving to Microsoft Office is flawed and may be based on a poor translation



  17. Nadella a Liar in Chief at Microsoft, Pretending That His Anti-Competitive Practices Are Unfortunately Imposed on Microsoft

    The nastiness of Microsoft knows no bounds as even its assault on GNU/Linux and dirty tricks against Free software adoption are characterised as the fault of 'pirates'



  18. Reuters Writes About the Demise of Software Patents, But Focuses on 'Trolls' and Quotes Lawyers

    How the corporate media chooses to cover the invalidity of many software patents and the effect of that



  19. Links 24/10/2014: Microsoft Tax Axed in Italy, Google's Linux (ChromeOS/Android) Leader Promoted

    Links for the day



  20. Links 24/10/2014: GNU/Linux History, Fedora Delay

    Links for the day



  21. Links 23/10/2014: New *buntu, Benchmarks

    Links for the day



  22. Links 22/10/2014: Chromebooks Surge, NSA Android Endorsement

    Links for the day



  23. Links 21/10/2014: Debian Fork Debate, New GNU IceCat

    Links for the day



  24. Criminal Microsoft is Censoring the Web and Breaks Laws to Do So; the Web Should Censor (Remove) Microsoft

    Microsoft is still breaking the Internet using completely bogus takedown requests (an abuse of DMCA) and why Microsoft Windows, which contains weaponised back doors (shared with the NSA), should be banned from the Internet, not just from the Web



  25. Microsoft 'Loving' GNU/Linux and Other Corporate Media Fiction

    Microsoft has bullied or cleverly bribed enough technology-centric media sites to have them characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) that also "loves Linux"



  26. India May be Taking Bill Gates to Court for Misusing His So-called 'Charity' to Conduct Clinical Trials Without Consent on Behalf of Companies He Invests in

    Bill Gates may finally be pulled into the courtroom again, having been identified for large-scale abuses that he commits in the name of profit (not "charity")



  27. The Problems With Legal Workarounds, Patent Scope, and Expansion of Patent Trolls to the East

    Patent trolls are in the news again and it's rather important, albeit for various different reasons, more relevant than the ones covered here in the past



  28. Links 20/10/2014: Cloudera and Red Hat, Debian 7.7, and Vivid Vervet

    Links for the day



  29. Links 20/10/2014: 10 Years Since First Ubuntu Release

    Links for the day



  30. How Patent Lawyers Analyze Alice v. CLS Bank

    Breaking down a patent lawyer's analysis of a Supreme Court's decision that seemingly invalidated hundreds of thousands of software patents


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts