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

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. Cartoon: After Gambling With Workers' Savings the EPO Can Do Real Estate

    New EPO cartoon from EPO insiders (the one on the right certainly looks a lot like António Campinos and the one on the left can be his EUIPO ‘import’ or Benoît Battistelli‘s INPI ‘import’)



  2. Free as in Freedom Should Not be Associated With Cost

    It's important to remind people that so-called 'free' services (Clown Computing, centralised spaces that 'farm' their so-called 'users') aren't really free; we need to advocate freedom or free-as-in-freedom alternatives



  3. [Meme] UPC's Pyrrhic Victory

    Contrary to what Team UPC says, what happened earlier today is hardly a breakthrough



  4. Many Thanks to Free Software, the Demise of Software Patents (in Europe and the US), and So Much More

    On a positive note we're heading into the end of November, one month before Boxing Day; we take stock of patent affairs that impact software developers



  5. Links 26/11/2020: PHP 8.0, Proxmox VE 6.3, UNIGINE 2.13

    Links for the day



  6. 29,000 Blog Posts and Recent Site Improvements

    Over 29,000 blog posts have been posted here, but more importantly we've made the site a lot more robust and resilient, accessible in more formats and protocols (while improving transparency, too)



  7. [Meme] Trump is Out. Now It's Time to Pressure the Biden Administration/Transition Team on Software Freedom Issues.

    The Biden transition is in motion and tentative appointments are underway, based on news reports (see our Daily Links); now is the time to put pressure, e.g. in the form of public backlash, to ensure it's not just another corporate presidency



  8. Boycott ZDNet Unless You Fancy Being Lied to

    ZDNet's Catalin Cimpanu continues to lead the way with misinformation and lies, basically doing whatever he was doing to land that job at ZDNet (after he had done the same elsewhere)



  9. The UPC and Unitary Patent Song

    On goes the UPC symphony, as the Unified Patent Court (UPC) is almost here, always coming "real soon!"



  10. Open Letter to the German Greens on UPC and Software Patents: Don’t Betray Your Voters and Your Promises, or You Will Regret it

    Dear Members of the German Greens in the Bundestag. By Benjamin HENRION.



  11. [Meme] One Step Away From Replacing Patent Examiners With 'Hey Hi' (AI)

    If it's not legal for 'Hey Hi' (AI) to get a patent, why should it be legal for patents to be granted by those who are invisible (and sometimes in de facto house arrest)?



  12. European Patent Office (EPO) Reduced to 'Justice Over the Telephone' and Decree by E-mail

    The EPO is trashing the EPC and everything that the Office was supposed to stand for, as it wrongly assumes demand for monopolies (typically from foreign corporations) comes before the rule of law and Europe's public interest



  13. Making Free Software Work for Users

    The latest reply to a non-developer concerned about software freedom; guest post by figosdev



  14. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, November 25, 2020

    IRC logs for Wednesday, November 25, 2020



  15. Links 26/11/2020: AV Linux 2020.11.23 and Blender 2.91 Release

    Links for the day



  16. Links 25/11/2020: GamerOS and Biden Transition in Motion

    Links for the day



  17. An Orwellian December

    With December around the corner and states tightening the screws on the population (or employers on employees) at least we can look forward to spring



  18. The Non-Technical (or Lesser Technical) Software User That Wants Software Freedom

    Assuming that Free software should care about what users — not only developers — really want (and need) it’s important to understand how they view the current situation (with growing waves of corporate takeover and compromises, even expulsions)



  19. The European Patent Office Should be Run by Patent Examiners (Scientists), Not Politicians

    Europe would be better off (and patent quality much improved) had people with an actual grasp of science and reality were in charge of the EPO, not a money-chasing kakistocracy (which is what we have now)



  20. Member of the EPO's Boards of Appeal Explains Why VICOs (or ViCo/Video Conferences/Virtual 'Hearings') Are Not Suitable for Justice

    It's interesting to hear (or see/read) what people inside the EPO have to say about the "new normal" when they enjoy a certain level of anonymity (to avert retribution)



  21. Open Source Initiative (OSI) Co-founder Bruce Perens: Open Invention Network (OIN) is Protecting the Software Patent System From Reform and OSI Approves Faux 'Open' Licences (Openwashing)

    Richard Stallman was right about the OSI and the fake 'movement' that claims to have 'coined' the term "Open Source" (it wasn't a new term at all; it had been used in another context and the Free software community spoke of things like "Open Hardware" years earlier)



  22. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, November 24, 2020

    IRC logs for Tuesday, November 24, 2020



  23. Making JavaScript Suck Less

    "Other than that, the first rule of JavaScript is: Do not use JavaScript. But this article is for people who break the first rule."



  24. Microsoft 'Moles' Inside WINE Project? WINE Should Bring Windows Users to GNU/Linux, Not the Other Way Around.

    The press release above (link omitted, it was pinned in several sites) is a cause for concern; after Microsoft infiltrated OSI and the Linux Foundation (both are now GitHub boosters, in effect diverting projects to Microsoft’s proprietary monopoly) it’ll be important to watch this space



  25. Links 25/11/2020: Raspberry Pi 400 With Touchscreens, Animation Framework in GTK/GNOME

    Links for the day



  26. [Meme] Things Will Get Amusing When/If EPO Proceedings Are Cancelled Due to Patent Trolls Suing the Platforms Using Software Patents (Granted by the EPO)

    The management of the EPO is so proud to be granting illegal software patents in Europe; this clear abuse of authority can come back to bite it in the rear



  27. Dr. Bausch Questions the Merits and Claims of EPO Management Regarding ViCo ('Skynet' Virtual 'Courts')

    Few courageous attorneys are willing to speak out about (and against) what EPO management is doing right now, in effect exploiting a public health crisis to override the law, spy on lots of people, outsource legal proceedings to the United States and so on



  28. Links 24/11/2020: Linux 5.9.11, Istio 1.6.14 and LibreOffice 7.1 Beta Released

    Links for the day



  29. Lots of Good News Today

    A quick roundup of news and key developments; most of them are positive and they give us hope



  30. Massive Collective Action Begins at the European Patent Office Today, Demanding Change and Forewarning the Management (Litigation)

    The financial "hoax" at the EPO (taking away money from staff to feed a gambling addiction of managers) needs to stop; staff has begun mass-mailing the management, threatening legal action


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