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. Links 22/9/2019: KMyMoney 5.0.7, Lennart's Latest Plan

    Links for the day



  2. Summits of Open Bear Traps: The Open Core Summit and Other 'Open' Events That Actually Attack Software Freedom

    Conferences that call themselves "open" something are sometimes nothing but an attack on openness (not to mention freedom) and promotion of FUD about Free/Open Source software (FOSS); there's an ample set of examples to that effect



  3. Openwashing Report: 'Open Source' Without Any or Most of the Benefits

    The cheapening of the term "Open Source" continues; sooner or later everything out there will be called "open" irrespective of what it really is



  4. Patent Extremism is Not Normal and Not an Innocent Mindset

    Reflection upon the sad state of the European patent system and how media turns a blind eye to it; worldwide, in general, the discussion about patents is being warped by the litigation giants, whose sole goal is to maximise the number of lawsuits/shakedowns (personal gain)



  5. Links 22/9/2019: LLVM 9.0.0 and FreeBSD 12.1 Beta

    Links for the day



  6. Links 21/9/2019: Plasma 5.17 Beta in Kubuntu, Cockpit 203

    Links for the day



  7. IBM Cannot Become a True Friend of Free Software Because of Its Current Patent Policy

    IBM needs to quit bullying people/companies with software patents; that would help towards appeasement of IBM critics and sceptics



  8. When Patent 'Professionals' Sound Like Children Who Learned to Parrot Some Intentionally-Misleading Buzzwords, Myths and Lies

    With buzzwords like "AI" and misleading terms like "IP" the litigation zealots are trying to convince themselves (and the public) that software is a physical thing and a "property" which needs "protecting" from "theft"; it doesn't seem to bother these people that copyright law already covers software<



  9. The European Parliament Needs to Become More Outspoken About EPO Abuses

    There are few encouraging signs in Europe right now because the EPO's disregard for patent law (striving to just grant as many patents as possible) earned it much-needed backlash from the European Parliament



  10. Links 19/9/2019: German Federal Ministry of the Interior Wants FOSS, Top Snaps Named

    Links for the day



  11. Buying the Voices of 'Linux' People to Repeat Microsoft's Talking Points While Removing Our Icons and Leaders (Calling Them Sexist)

    The dirty games leveraged by several companies including Microsoft target charismatic people who are essential for morale and leadership; these tactics aren't particularly novel



  12. When the EPO Sees Itself as Above European Law, Grants Patents in Defiance of the EPC (Its Founding Document) and Violates Staff's Labour Rights/Protections (International Law)

    The absurd state of affairs at the EPO has reached the point where laws at every level are being violated and even judges are being threatened or vainly ignored; the EU is belatedly trying to tackle these issues, which have actually cost its credibility a great deal and threaten the perception of Rule of Law at multiple levels



  13. Links 19/9/2019: Samba 4.11.0 and Kubernetes 1.16

    Links for the day



  14. Update on Koch v EPO: Internal Appeals Committee (IAC) Composition Still Likely Illegal

    An important EPO case, concerning a dismissed staff representative, shows what ILO-AT and the EPO's Internal Appeals Committee boil down to



  15. Links 18/9/2019: Fedora Linux 31 Beta, PCLinuxOS 2019.09 Update

    Links for the day



  16. Links 17/9/2019: CentOS 7.7 and Funtoo Linux 1.4 Released

    Links for the day



  17. EPO is Not European

    Internationalists and patent trolls are those who stand to benefit from the 'globalisation' of low-quality and law-breaking patents such as patents on algorithms, nature and life itself; the EPO isn't equipped to serve its original goals anymore



  18. The EPO's Central Staff Committee and SUEPO (Staff Union) Respond to “Fascist Bills” Supported by EPO President António Campinos

    Raw material pertaining to the latest Campinos "scandal"; what Campinos said, what the Central Staff Committee (CSC) said, and what SUEPO said



  19. Storm Brewing in the European Patent Office After a Hot Summer

    Things aren't rosy in EPOnia (to say the least); in fact, things have been getting a lot worse lately, but the public wouldn't know judging by what media tells the public (almost nothing)



  20. Why I Once Called for Richard Stallman to Step Down

    Guest post from the developer who recently authored "Getting Stallman Wrong Means Getting The 21st Century Wrong"



  21. As Richard Stallman Resigns Let's Consider Why GNU/Linux Without Stallman and Torvalds Would be a Victory to Microsoft

    Stallman has been ejected after a lot of intentionally misleading press coverage; this is a dark day for Software Freedom



  22. Links 16/9/2019: GNU Linux-libre 5.3, GNU World Order 13×38, Vista 10 Breaks Itself Again

    Links for the day



  23. Links 16/9/2019: Qt Quick on Vulkan, Metal, and Direct3D; BlackWeb 1.2 Reviewed

    Links for the day



  24. Richard Stallman's Controversial Views Are Nothing New and They Distract From Bill Gates' Vastly Worse Role

    It's easier to attack Richard Stallman (RMS) using politics (than using his views on software) and media focus on Stallman's personal views on sexuality bears some resemblance to the push against Linus Torvalds, which leans largely on the false perception that he is sexist, rude and intolerant



  25. Links 16/9/2019: Linux 5.3, EasyOS Releases, Media Backlash Against RMS

    Links for the day



  26. Openwashing Report on Open Networking Foundation (ONF): When Open Source Means Collaboration Among Giant Spying Companies

    Massive telecommunications oligopolies (telecoms) are being described as ethical and responsible by means of openwashing; they even have their own front groups for that obscene mischaracterisation and ONF is one of those



  27. 'Open Source' You Cannot Run Without Renting or 'Licensing' Windows From Microsoft

    When so-called ‘open source’ programs strictly require Vista 10 (or similar) to run, how open are they really and does that not redefine the nature of Open Source while betraying everything Free/libre software stands for?



  28. All About Control: Microsoft is Not Open Source But an Open Source Censor/Spy and GitHub/LinkedIn/Skype Are Its Proprietary Censorship/Surveillance Tools

    All the big companies which Microsoft bought in recent years are proprietary software and all of the company’s big products remain proprietary software; all that “Open Source” is to Microsoft is “something to control and censor“



  29. The Sad State of GNU/Linux News Sites

    The ‘media coup’ of corporate giants (that claim to be 'friends') means that history of GNU/Linux is being distorted and lied about; it also explains prevalent lies such as "Microsoft loves Linux" and denial of GNU/Free software



  30. EPO President Along With Bristows, Managing IP and Other Team UPC Boosters Are Lobbying for Software Patents in Clear and Direct Violation of the EPC

    A calm interpretation of the latest wave of lobbying from litigation professionals, i.e. people who profit when there are lots of patent disputes and even expensive lawsuits which may be totally frivolous (for example, based upon fake patents that aren't EPC-compliant)


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