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 in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Slashdot

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. 'President Bill Gates' Wants to Punish Not Only Google After Using “Extensions” to the Web to Reinforce Microsoft's Monopoly (Antitrust Violations Are a Microsoft Thing)

    In gross distortion of facts and of history and in a rather incredible fashion (very shameless and insulting) the corporate media tries to paint Bill Gates as an antitrust hero that will save the world from monopolies



  2. Donald Trump Helped Bill Gates Increase His Wealth by More Than 50%, Especially During the Pandemic

    Contrary to ridiculous narratives disseminated by nutty accounts all around the Web, Gates and Trump are no foes but 'partners in crime'



  3. Our 14th Birthday is Coming

    We're turning 14 shortly and we need ideas from readers (things that can be done to mark the event and celebrate 'on-line')



  4. In Spite of IBM's Difficult Past and Particularly Dark History, Under Arvind Krishna’s Leadership It Has Only Shown Signs of Improving

    This winter, 6 months after Arvind Krishna’s tenure as CEO began, we can generally say that things seem to have improved and we look forward to further improvements



  5. Links 25/10/2020: GNU Taler's IETF Milestone, RISC OS 5.28 and New Ubuntu Community Council

    Links for the day



  6. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, October 24, 2020

    IRC logs for Saturday, October 24, 2020



  7. Links 24/10/2020: GDB 10.1, Kodachi 7.4, Wine 5.20

    Links for the day



  8. Celebrating Code of Conduct Violations

    Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock



  9. The Militarised Elephant in the Room Still Commands a Lot of Free Software Development

    We take a difficult (albeit in-depth and perfectly factual) look at IBM's past and present; considering this is the company that controls Red Hat (which in turn controls many key projects in GNU/Linux) we need a better understanding of the real context, not PR fluff and marketing



  10. Juve Patent's Love of Patent Trolls and Their Misinformation

    The press 'gutter' known as Juve (basically propaganda disguised as 'news' since years ago) has gotten to the point where the publisher is just an extension of lawyers and liars



  11. IRC Proceedings: Friday, October 23, 2020

    IRC logs for Friday, October 23, 2020



  12. Look How Many Tux I Give!

    "Long live rms, long live (Hyperbola) GNU/BSD, and happy hacking."



  13. Embrace, Extend, and Extensions: Two New Reasons to Delete GitHub, Which Microsoft Ruined for Everyone (Except the Copyright Cartel and Other Censors)

    GitHub is being turned into a garbage dump with malicious masters (or monsters, or mobsters); many people are denied access for using the 'wrong' browser and developers/projects are being censored (not for doing anything wrong or illegal, either)



  14. [Meme] When EPO Staff Claims to be 'Ill' or 'Sick'... During a Pandemic's European Peak

    Gotta check and verify that those 'lazy' EPO examiners aren't just faking being ill (in order to not meet "production" targets)



  15. The EPO Has Relegated or Lowered Itself to Extremely Poor Standards

    Today's EPO continues to reaffirm the image of global weakness; having failed to improve the working conditions and quality of the work (its actions did the exact opposite), it's nowadays begging China to send over lots of workload irrespective of quality or merit and it is outsourcing the functions of the Office to the United States



  16. Links 23/10/2020: Turing Pi 2, GNU Parallel 20201022

    Links for the day



  17. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, October 22, 2020

    IRC logs for Thursday, October 22, 2020



  18. Links 23/10/2020: 'Groovy Gorilla' Everywhere in the News

    Links for the day



  19. For Better 'Tech Rights' in the United States (and the World at Large) the 'Orange Man' Needs to Go

    With less than a fortnight before election day we explain our stance from a purely tech-related rationale



  20. [Meme] Microsoft Never 'Brought' Skype to GNU/Linux (It Just Bought Skype) and It Never 'Brought' Edge to GNU/Linux Either (Google Did)

    Foolish media or gullible 'journalists' are giving Microsoft credit for other people's work; this isn't the first time either, but it helps perpetuate lies such as "Microsoft loves Linux" (so who cares about facts anyway?)



  21. It's Going to be a Long, Long Winter

    Today we revert back to lock-down mode; we're reflecting and pondering what comes next



  22. TechRadar is an Irresponsible Clickbait and Misinformation Site Disguised as 'News'

    TechRadar is no tech and no radar, either. It's just an opportunistic click-harvesting machine, disguised as a source of "news"; today we deal with the latest example (among many).



  23. Links 22/10/2020: LibreOffice 6.4.7, Septor 2020.5, Ubuntu 20.10 Released, FreeBSD Quarterly Status Report

    Links for the day



  24. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, October 21, 2020

    IRC logs for Wednesday, October 21, 2020



  25. Living Humbly (With Older Technology or None) is More Compatible With Privacy- and Freedom-Respecting Technological Lifestyle

    Simplicity sometimes trumps so-called 'novelty', especially when it comes to human rights and users' freedom



  26. Reasons Why You (and Everybody Else) Should Join the Fight for Software Freedom

    Society is being closely watched and controlled (more so during/after the latest pandemic) and people must carefully consider the true importance of resisting proprietary technology (controlled remotely by state actors)



  27. Ways and Means to Reduce One's Dependency on Google's Various Monopolies and Near-Monopolies

    Getting rid of Google means a lot more than embracing DumbDumbGo (DDG) or some other sites that spy just like Google; we're taking stock of some options



  28. The European Commission is Still M.I.A. Regarding EPO Corruption (and the EPO's Management Plays Dirty, as Always)

    There's no change in the EU; the EUIPO and EPO enjoy complete and total immunity/impunity, with the Commission being manned by those who are deeply complicit



  29. 10 Reasons Why All This 'Edge for Linux' Coverage is a Total Farce

    The fake hype surrounding "Edge" is an inauthentic hype/buzz campaign made to coincide with anti-Google sentiments spread by Microsoft front/pressure groups



  30. Microsoft's IIS Has Collapsed Again This Past Month (and IIS Will Not and Cannot Survive This Way)

    Netcraft shows that Microsoft's decline further accelerates in the Web servers space; IIS is becoming financially unviable


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

Recent Posts