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04.22.09

Patents Roundup: Oracle, Backlash Against Software Patents, and In Re Bilski (Again)

Posted in Europe, OIN, Oracle, Patents, SUN, TomTom at 4:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stallman at protest

Summary: The latest collection of news about software patents, including Oracle’s role

Oracle

Oracle is buying Sun Microsystems and the press discusses this a lot, but to repeat an issue raised by one of our readers, the question that’s scarcely answered is, “what about Oracle’s patent policy?”

“Will Oracle give money to FFII, like MySQL was doing in the past?”

MySQL’s strong policy against software patents already vanished when Sun acquired it, but Oracle — unlike Sun — is inside the OIN.

“OIN does not work,” told us the president of the FFII. OIN said it would retaliate against Microsoft to defend the use of FAT; its CEO said counter-action would come within weeks* and it has already been 3 weeks and we are still waiting.

Speaking of the OIN, yesterday they unleashed this press release.

Open Invention Network (OIN), a collaborative enterprise that enables innovation in open source and an increasingly vibrant ecosystem around Linux, today announced that it has been named one of Gartner’s “Cool Vendors in Intellectual Property 2009.”

It’s worth repeating that Oracle is inside the OIN, but it’s rather disturbing to find the corrupt Gartner Group treated as though it’s an authority. Gartner sells itself to Microsoft on a regular basis and of course it likes software patents, which are OIN’s spiel. Speaking of Oracle (and IBM, which was going to buy Sun but got cold feet), the company have just been sued over database patents.

Oracle, IBM sued over database patents

Redwood Shores (CA) – Giant computer corporations IBM and Oracle have been dragged into a Texas district court over an allegation that their database software breaches existing patents.

What sort of patent protection will MySQL users receive under Oracle’s wing? Here we have yet another lawsuit taking place in a haven to many patent trolls, namely Texas districts. Oracle is based in the US and it possesses tremendous wealth. That matters to patent sharks.

Broken Patent System

The EE Times has this article which urges engineers to revolt against the patent system because it mostly favours patent lawyers (parasites) at this stage. As Richard Stallman put it in last week’s protests [1, 2, 3], if this “corrupt, malicious” organisation stands in our way, we should “get rid of it too.”

Opinion: Engineers should stage a patent strike

[...]

Corporate legal departments tell engineers which patents they can and can’t read. Sometimes engineers are told not to read patents at all, lest they be accused of deliberately infringing someone’s IP.

Meanwhile, businesspeople of all stripes pressure engineers to file patent applications for every idea. That has spawned a business of litigation and licensing that charges for portfolios by the pound. Companies now wield patents strategically to charge others for the freedom to innovate. In this sick world, patents don’t spark innovation, they inhibit it.

Patents are not there for engineers; they are there for patent lawyers, monopolists (patent aggressors), and patent trolls. They are, however, being marketed to engineers as though they defend small inventors and make people rich at no-one’s expense. This is a way to appease critics and enable this massive closed circulation of money to carry on.

There is a large thread in LWN.net, whose headline is “This isn’t validation – but it may be corruption.” It’s about the EPO, which many people — including Stallman and the FFII — protested against last week.

This surprises me somewhat, since the unaccountability of the EPO has been exploited quite effectively by advocates of extended patentability, but maybe most patent attorneys don’t really care about increasing the scope of what can be patented, or maybe they care more about only settling such matters once in a single place. If so, they need to employ more credible spokespeople who actually represent the interests of the majority of their profession’s members.

Look at this article in Hungarian. Apple claims to have just ‘innovated’ videophone (filed initially in 2007). This is absurd. No wonder emerging global powers like China turn their backs on this system and compromise interoperability by creating their own codecs and codec standards/patents. They are evading western patents and the consumer benefits in no way from this.

Over in Techdirt, a discussion continues about how to battle this failed system (citing a decent proposal from Freedom to Tinker).

…Wallach, over at Freedom To Tinker, takes this idea a step further to ask why no one talks about requiring juries in patent trials to be made up of PHOSITAs.

In Re Bilski and Beyond

Matt Asay claims to have composed an outline of the patent problem (particularly for software).

Of course, post-Bilski, we may be entering a period of court-ordered disarmament, which would be fantastic. The Bilski decision puts software patents on the defensive, and it hopefully will help to clear the minefield that currently helps only incumbents–and arguably hurts even them more than it helps them.

Here is an interesting new report [via Digital Majority] about how lawyers avoid complying with rules and manage to patent software anyway (and business methods also).

You may have heard some types of technology are not ‘patentable’. In fact, this is in a fairly limited set of circumstances. For example, you may think software is not ‘patentable’ but it is possible to obtain software patents. We’ll be looking at this in more detail in future. However, to obtain meaningful protection for any invention, it can be crucial that the patent specification is well-written by a skilled patent draftsman and this is especially true for software/computer-related inventions.

You may also think it’s not possible to obtain patents for business methods, another area we’ll look at in future. It may be possible to obtain a patent for a business method depending on the technology implemented and the country you’re trying to obtain the patent in. For instance, patents for ‘business methods’ are alive and well in Singapore today.

Et tu, Singapore? Guess who wrote this? “Michael McLaughlin is a patent attorney with at McLaughlin IP in Singapore.”
_____
* Keith told this to ZDNet’s Paula Rooney, for future reference.

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