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. The EFF Back to Tackling Software Patents, Not Just Patent Trolls

    Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyers start targeting large companies that exploit patents for intimidation and extortion, not just patent trolling



  2. Microsoft Wants to Devour the Competition (Linux), Devour People's Data

    Refuting the "new Microsoft" propaganda and some ludicrous concept that Microsoft is now "playing nice"



  3. Benoît Battistelli Thinks 'President' is Above the Law, Decides to Ignore the Court's Ruling

    Staff of the EPO is given yet more reasons to protest tomorrow at the British Consulate, for the so-called 'President' of the EPO reminds everyone of the very raison d'être for the protest -- a vain disregard for the rule of law



  4. Links 24/2/2015: Xfce 4.12 a Week Away, GNOME 3.16 Previewed

    Links for the day



  5. Links 23/2/2015: Ubuntu Kylin 14.04.2 LTS, Cinnamon 2.6 Previews

    Links for the day



  6. IRC Proceedings: February 8th - February 21st, 2015





  7. The EPO's Sham 'Internal Investigation' of EPO Vice-President Željko Topić's Affairs

    The EPO never investigated the Željko Topić affair, it only pretends to have investigated (one small aspect, i.e. cherry-picking) using a Benoît Battistelli-controlled group



  8. Links 21/2/2015: GNOME 3.15.90, Google Wins Android Lawsuit

    Links for the day



  9. Microsoft AstroTurfing War on GNU/Linux is Still Going On, But Hidden Better, Uses API as Instrument of Lock-in

    The corruptible press continues to describe blatant attacks (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish) against GNU/Linux and Free software as Microsoft 'embracing' Open Source



  10. Lenovo's Superfish Scandal is Spyware on Top of Spyware (Microsoft Windows), the Problem is Inherently Proprietary Software

    Shifting focus to the root problem, which is neither Lenovo nor its laptops but the non-free programs installed on hardware



  11. Benoît Battistelli Once Again Threatens EPO Staff That 'Dares' to Protest, Battistelli Exploits Terror Attacks to Pretend to Respect Free Speech

    The European Patent Office (EPO) President, Benoît Battistelli, reportedly started threatening -- as before -- staff that decides to exercise the right to assemble and protest against abuses, including the abuses of President Battistelli himself



  12. Links 20/2/2015: Android Studio v1.1, GDB 7.9

    Links for the day



  13. Links 20/2/2015: Bloomberg Joins Linux Foundation, ClearOS Community 6.6.0

    Links for the day



  14. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys Slams the European Patent Office for Structural Failings

    An important letter which we overlooked while writing yesterday's 4 articles about the European Patent Office (EPO); yet another key stakeholder complains



  15. Links 19/2/2015: Hewlett-Packard on Cumulus Linux, Previews of GNOME 3.16 Beta

    Links for the day



  16. Techrights Under Attack Again, Shortly After Important EPO Articles

    Techrights highlights a pattern that is months old; Site faces availability issues shortly after reports about the European Patent Office and its abuses



  17. EPO Staff Protests Against Benoît Battistelli’s Lowering of Patents Quality (Scope Expansion and Software Patents for Profit)

    A protest in Munich in less than 6 days will target Mr. Sean Dennehey, who has helped Battistelli cover up his abuses and crush legitimate critics, whom he deemed illegal opposition as if the EPO is an authoritarian regime as opposed to a public service which taxpayers are reluctantly (but forcibly) funding



  18. Breaking: European Patent Office Sued by Its Own Staff in The Hague, Must Unblock Staff's Voices

    The crooked management of the European Patent Office (EPO) gets in legal trouble after repeated attempts to cover up abuses and suppress criticism



  19. Željko Topić's History in SIPO Leaves a Legacy of Alleged DZIV Vehicles (Bribes), Authorship Abuses, and Intimidation Against Reporters

    Another deep look at Željko Topić's background in Croatia, preceding his very notorious appointment to the EPO where he now serves as Benoît Battistelli's most controversial attack dog



  20. The Old Obsession With Patent Trolls Continues to Distract From Debate About Software Patenting

    A roundup of recent coverage about monopolies on algorithms in the United States



  21. Links 19/2/2015: 64-bit ARM Linux, Chinese New Year

    Links for the day



  22. Links 18/2/2015: Linux Report, FlightGear 3.4

    Links for the day



  23. EPO Scandals: The Story So Far

    An overview of articles about mischief, misconduct and breach of laws at the EPO



  24. Links 17/2/2015: TripleO, Pivotal

    Links for the day



  25. Links 17/2/2015: SystemD 219, Frugalware 2.0 (Rigel) Released

    Links for the day



  26. Željko Peratović Slammed for Whitewashing Željko Topić After Publishing Important Piece on Behalf of Key Sources

    Response from Ivan Kabalin to Zeljko Peratovic's so-called "apology" which is both mysterious and seemingly inadequate as it does nothing to actually explain what was wrong (if anything)



  27. Benoît Battistelli Has Made Oversight of European Patent Office Absolutely Impossible





  28. Microsoft Already Killed Nokia, Don't Let It Kill Android Players Too

    Microsoft's strategy against Android mirrors the company's evil strategy that derailed MeeGo and Nokia



  29. Intel Continues to Attack Software Freedom Through UEFI

    The Trojan horse that Microsoft uses to cement its monopoly on desktops and laptops (making it hard or impossible to install and run GNU/Linux) is also being misused to block Coreboot



  30. Links 16/2/2015: Netrunner 15, Bridge Linux

    Links for the day


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