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04.19.09

Software Patents Roundup: Protests in the EU, OLPC Suffers, Microsoft Seeds More Patent FUD

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, OLPC at 4:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source. Making it easier for companies and communities that have patents to make those patents available in a common pool for people to use is one way to try to help developers deal with the threat.”

Linus Torvalds

The protests in Germany may over, but the photos remain and so does some press coverage.

What should be duly noticed is that high-profile representatives of centre-right political parties are openly lobbying against patentability of biotechnological inventions, for example Mr Söder (CSU), Minister for Healthcare & Ecological Affairs of Bavaria. One prominent reason for this surely is of populist nature: There are general elections for the European Parliament and for the German Parliament (“Bundestag”) later this year. As utilisation of genetically modified organisms in food chains is hopeless unpopular in Germany and angrily attacked in particular by conservative farmers in Bavaria, there is a big incentive for politicians to go exactly that way as demonstrated yesterday.

[...]

While most of the media coverage was directed to the EP 1651777 B1 patent, FFII had attempted to jump on the bandwagon by joining the rally, pointing towards patents on CIIs or, vulgo software patents. To this end they had invited a well-known heavyweight, namely Mr Richard M. Stallman himself.

Spiegel concentrated only on the Greenpeace side of these protests, but Georg Greve, who comes from Germany, keeps pressing hard on WIPO in his latest good essay.

The disconnect between what Member States preach at WIPO and what they practice at home can to some extent be traced back to tactical considerations, but not be explained by tactics alone. There is an obvious disconnect within governmental departments, and a lack of engagement from industry, in particular, which has not briefed its government sufficiently on the benefits that local industry of developed countries can reap from a WIPO that can offer the full range of Free Software, Open Standards and Open Innovation Model competency alongside its traditional arsenal of exclusive rights.

Digital Majority has just found this new page from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. Watch how software patents are hurting even charities (not-for-profits).

rproxy codebase is now a bit dated, and its reliance on the rsync protocol is problematic, as the rsync protocol is encumbered by software patents. To resolve this Rusty Russell has been working on a new implementation based on a rolling CRC algorythm, called crcsync, and there are efforts underway to integrate into the appropriate modules of Apache 2.2.x, as Apache is an excellent and modular http proxy.

This would not be the first time that OLPC gets stung by patents. How does that help the children, literally? It’s only taking away from the world’s least privileged children. Let’s not forget how Microsoft got into this.

Speaking of which, Microsoft’s patent propaganda textbooks has reached the hands of a writer from Linux Journal. It must be one among the several complimentary copies sent to FOSS people in advance. Here is how this book review ends:

At times it reads like a combination of Microsoft marketing, and occasionally the evil Microsoft raises its head in the tone, especially in the last chapter. As we have seen with TomTom and the Linux Foundation’s suggestions that File Access Table (FAT) be abandoned, Microsoft, despite some of the protestations in this book, is not shy about asserting its patents and other IP. If nothing else, having read this book gives you a slim glimpse into what might be on the near horizon for software development and a nice history of where it has been.

Moving on a bit, the secret ACTA, which includes bits with considerable impact on patent law, gets analysed further over at TechDirt.

This is a key point that plenty of folks have made clear over the years: assuming that every shared file would have been a lost sale is absolutely false. Putting that into the law and suggesting judges use that false concept as a basis for calculating damages is quite troubling. In the meantime, we’re still trying to figure out why ACTA is even necessary? And… on top of that, no one has yet explained why industry lobbyists have been integral to the negotiations, but the public and public interest groups are being blocked from any information based on bogus national security claims.

TechDirt had another good post that caught Amazon obtaining a patent on ‘reliable ratings’. The description from theodp was short and sweet:

theodp writes “Do bad patents bring bad karma? Less than 24 hours after a hacker identified as ‘Weev’ claimed he exploited a feature for reporting inappropriate content to wreak havoc on Amazon’s product ratings (Amazon blamed a “glitch”), the USPTO issued Amazon.com a patent for the Automatic Identification of Unreliable User Ratings, an ‘invention’ which – you guessed it – purportedly prevents Amazon’s product ratings from being gamed by providing a feature for reporting inappropriate content (‘Section 244 also contains a link 254 to a display (not shown) where customer CCC can report that item review 222 contains scandalous or inappropriate material’).”

A third relevant post from TechDirt shames the proposition of some automated way for assessing patent applications. It sure sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo because of the complexity of the task.

[I]t sounds like gibberish trying to sound intelligent. But, back on point, it’s hard to see how any “automated” system would actually help in the process of approving patents. Considering how many mistakes are made and bad patents allowed through, I’d worry that automating the process is only likely to create significantly more problems.

Patently-O has just published this essay which challenges the existing attitude towards patent applications, which lowers the barrier to acceptance and makes a mockery of the whole system.

One of the next major legal challenges to patent rights will be against the strong presumption of validity associated with the patent grant. Section 282 of the patent act says only that a patent and its claims “shall be presumed valid.” Under longstanding doctrine, this presumption can only be overcome with clear and convincing evidence of invalidity. The challenge to this presumption is most likely on two fronts: (1) expanded post-grant review and (2) court challenges to the weight of the presumption.

Witness the burden incurred due to the presence of patents out there (with or without a lawsuit).

Time Warner Inc’s AOL has asked a federal court to rule that it is not infringing patents held by Yahoo Inc.

The request, in the form of a complaint seeking declaratory relief, cites an ongoing intellectual property dispute between Yahoo and Quigo, an online advertising company that AOL acquired for $340 million in 2007.

Sit back and enjoy the patent comedy. Bad things like this can’t (and won’t) last forever.

Guy Claims His Patent Covers Everyone Making Computers, Cell Phones, Hard Drives, DVD Players, HDTV & MRIs

Joe Mullin has been digging into the saga of Gregory Bender — a guy no one seems to know anything about, but who just a few weeks ago started suing some big name companies, such as Broadcom, Freescale, AMD and National Semiconductor for patent infringement. A week later, he had also sued IBM, Agilent, Cirrus Logic, Siemens, Nokia, Sony, Motorola, and ST Microelectronics. Apparently that wasn’t enough, as a week later, he filed new lawsuits against AT&T, AT&T Mobility, Sony-Ericsson, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi, Seagate and Western Digital. At latest count, in the last month or so, he’s filed 22 lawsuits against 28 different companies.

Wonderful. Smell the innovation. That’s a very large pig at the bottom, in case it’s not clear enough.

EPO sign

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