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

04.06.09

Patents Roundup: Microsoft Likes Patent Deform, OIN to Strike Back, EU Still Besieged for Software Patents

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, OIN, Patents, TomTom at 1:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Money

FOR the benefit of Free software supporters and activists, we are keeping a close eye on software patent issues. Here is the latest summary, which would not have been possible without Digital Majority.

Microsoft Loves Patent Deform

The USPTO is in a very bad shape. Just how bad? Well, over at USENET, Richard Rasker showed this patent on a stick. Here is the abstract:

An apparatus for use as a toy by an animal, for example a dog, to either fetch carry or chew includes a main section with at least one protrusion extending therefrom that resembles a branch in appearance. The toy is formed of any of a number of materials including rubber, plastic, or wood including wood composites and is solid. It is either rigid or flexible. A flavoring (scent) is added, if desired. The toy is adapted to float by including a material therein that is lighter than water or it is adapted to glow in the dark, as desired, by the addition of a fluorescent material that is either included in the material from which the toy is made or the flourescent material is applied thereto as a coating. The toy may be segmented (i.e., notched) so as to break off into smaller segments, as is useful for smaller animals or, alternatively, to extend the life of the toy. Various textured surfaces including camouflage colorings are anticipated as are straight or curved main sections. The toy may be formed of any desired material, as described, so as to be edible by the animal.

With silly patents like this one, no wonder companies are constantly being injured, despite making no attempts to imitate. The only ones to gain here are lawyers.

The largest IT company in the world, Hewlett-Packard, has been humbled by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and agreed to settle for an undisclosed sum over a long running Wi-Fi patent infringement suit. The win against the Silicon Valley colossus has given CSIRO ammunition to continue pursuing 13 other technology giants for millions of dollars in licensing fees.

Forth comes a so-called ‘change’. Welcome the patent deform[sic], which is a farce. IP Watch Dog, who has always been hostile towards Free software*, still keeps track of it.

Although the agreements were discussed, the specific language has not been announced as yet, but will be forthcoming. Senator Leahy explained that the Senators and their staff are still working over the exact language that will be put in place prior to the next meeting, which will take place on Thursday, April 2, 2009. The language is apparently going to be circulated prior to the next Executive Meeting on Thursday, April 2, 2009, so that the stakeholders can have an opportunity to be heard regarding the changes.

Guess who else likes this deform? Microsoft goes on the record applauding it publicly.

Even though it suggested that there was additional room for improvement, Microsoft applauded action taken by the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Patent Reform Act of 2009. The US Senate Judiciary members managed to reach an agreement at the start of April 2009 on U.S. patent legislation, and the markup will now move to the next stage in the Senate.

More information about this bill, which a Senate panel approved, can be found in CNET.

A Senate panel on Thursday approved a patent reform bill that brings opposing parties from the technology, pharmaceutical, and other industries closer to a compromise on the contentious issue.

This bill does nothing to eliminate software patents. As such, OIN intends to use its patent portfolio to clear FAT.

OIN: TomTom settlement is no win for Microsoft, expect challenge

[...]

Open Invention Network CEO Keith Bergelt said the settlement announced yesterday was anticipated and expected and he is “nonplussed” with the result. He said Microsoft’s effort to build a series of tiny “totem” patent cases to create fear, uncertainty and doubt about using Linux is futile.

Information about the TomTom settlement can be found here. Microsoft has resorted to intimidation tactics and as Patently-O puts it, this raises antitrust concerns.

Patents Blocking Antitrust Action: Carrier suggests that the existence of IP rights should not grant a company a free-pass to take otherwise anticompetitive actions. In his post, Prof. Phil Weiser (Colorado) agrees “IPRs should not displace antitrust oversight.” Weiser argues that this is especially true in the area of software patents: “Given that software patents are controversial to begin with, awarding the recipient of a patent on an application programming interface or communications protocol a get-out-jail free card is hard to justify.”

A Linux discussion about software patents took place in lwn.net and it’s concluded as follows.

There was a brief discussion of the practice of not researching patents at all with the hope of avoiding triple damages for “willful infringement.” The participants agreed that this was a dangerous approach which could backfire on its practitioners; convincing a judge of one’s ignorance can be a challenge. But it was also acknowledged that there is no way to do a full search for patents which might be infringed by a given program in any case.

All told, it was a more interesting afternoon than one might expect. The discussion of software patents in the free software community tends to follow familiar lines; the people at this event see the issue differently. For better or worse, their view likely has a lot of relevance to how things will go. There will be some tweaking of the system to try to avoid the worst abuses – at least as seen by some parts of the industry – but wholesale patent reform is not on the agenda. Software patents will be with us (in the US) for the foreseeable future, and they will continue to loom over the rest of the world. We would be well advised to have our defenses in place.

Europe and Software Patents

To Microsoft, it is not enough for just one country to honour its software patents. It still yearns for the day when software patents are universally accepted and it hires lobbying guns for the job. On the face of it, the EPO is selling out and here is the explanation provided by one person a fortnight ago:

Sadly, the questions posed to the EBA are mined with typical EPO philosophy including their definitions of “technical effect”, “further technical effect”, “technical character”, “technical considerations” and other terminology they have used over the years. In that way they justified black being white, or more specifically the applicability of software patents (but, naturally, not “as such”).

Seeing how the specific questions to the EBA are phrased (quite some traps in there), and what is not asked, it seems clear to me that any set of answers with just “yes” or “no” is unable to speak against software patents in any meaningful way. Furthermore, if only one was to accept the premises of the questions, I submit that seemingly innocent arguments could be twisted in a number of ways to justify software patents. Nice job!

This is not the first such criticism and Microsoft’s pressure groups [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] are raving about EPO incompetence in their blogs right now. They are trying to force software patents on Europe through the latest back door which is unification. On April Fool’s Day, IP Watch published a joke about it (some people easily fell for it) and also a British workshop on software patents was announced on April 1st, but it’s no joke.

On the bright side of things, the German juridical system has just canned a controversial software patent which was never supposed to be granted in the first place.

The German Federal Patent Court ruled to rescind Vistaprint’s controversial software patent, subject to paragraphs 99(1) PatG [Patent Act] and 709 ZPO [Code of Civil Procedure]. The verdict is now official and the judgment in question was published by the Court on March 25, 2009.

The spokesperson from unitedprint.com SE, Andrea Fleischer stated: “The software sector can now breathe a sigh
of relief.

If — and only if — there is truth in the statement from Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps that The EPO “can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway,” then this court ruling means that their back doors won’t impress the courts (presuming defendants would take it there). The German court has already rejected Microsoft's FAT patent.
____
*Gene Quinn is a proponent of software patents and he seemingly trolls FOSS even at this very moment by suggesting that FOSS ruins the software industry.

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