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

06.05.09

Patents Roundup: What Bilski Means to IBM, Microsoft; Patent Trolls Still Win

Posted in America, Europe, IBM, Law, Microsoft at 8:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bill ski

Summary: The latest news about software patents which pose a threat to the freedom of software

AS WE POINTED out a couple of days ago, In Re Bilski goes all the way to the top, potentially to invalidate software patents in the United States. Groklaw has some very extensive text and the software patents-hostile wiki has a new page asking, “should the whole patent system be axed?”

There is clearly a lot of unrest because this bubble is waiting to explode. Reuters published a report about the Microsoft/Lucent dispute a few days ago:

Microsoft, Lucent battle in huge patent case

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) argued before an appeals court on Tuesday that its Outlook calendar date-picker tool did not infringe an Alcatel-Lucent (ALUA.PA) patent and asked for a $358 million jury verdict to be overturned.

The lawsuit is the last remaining after Alcatel-Lucent and Microsoft settled other patent fights in December. The case was appealed from a district court in San Diego, where a jury ruled that Microsoft did infringe and ordered it to pay $358 million, or $511 million including interest.

Microsoft too is suffering from software patents, so this is hardly sustainable even for monopolists. As stated over at BusinessWeek the other day, “Businesses come down on both sides of the issue. IBM (IBM), which has obtained a slew of business-method patents, filed an amicus brief in what is known as the Bilski case, stating that the company is now opposed to them. IBM maintains that the patents are not needed to promote innovation; businesses would come up with the products even without patent protection. “You’re creating a new 20-year monopoly for no good reason,” IBM’s top in-house patent attorney, David Kappos, told BusinessWeek last year.”

As someone points out privately, “What is curious is that IBM in Europe filed [PDF] recently an Amicus Curiae Brief to the EPO EBoA defending the approval of software patents.

“Who holds the real IBM position on the matter: IBM US or IBM Europe?”

IBM’s position on software patents is definitely very troublesome [1, 2]. However, “IBM was talking about business method patents here,” points out a person with knowledge in this area. “I read somewhere on the net that IBM was behind the Bilski “machine transformation” test.”

Looking at BNA.com, there is mere speculation about what In Re Bilski might do to software patenting.

Bilski was up for discussion yesterday at the Supreme Court’s private cert-consideration conference, so we could know as early as Monday if Judge Sotomayor will have that one facing her in the fall. I have no idea what Judge Sotomayor’s views are on the patentability of software-implemented business method patents, and I don’t think anyone else does either.

The pro-Microsoft Richard Waters weighs in on the subject and The Prior Art blog quotes some judges of relevance.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I may not be a software developer, but as I read the invention, it’s displaying pictures of your wares on a computer network and, you know, picking which ones you want and buying them. I — I might have been able to do that.

[....]

In the patent bar and at the Federal Circuit, software patents are the law of the land. But during oral arguments in the 2007 AT&T v. Microsoft case, which regarded damages for infringing copies of software distributed overseas, it became clear that the at least a few Supreme Court justices haven’t made up their minds about whether software should be patentable.

During oral arguments in that case, Justice Breyer went out of his way to make it clear that despite the fact that software patents were issued widely following the Federal Circuit’s 1998 State Street Bank decision, he had never gotten the opportunity to weigh in, and as far as he was concerned, it’s not a settled issue:

JUSTICE BREYER: “I take it that we are operating on an assumption that software is patentable? We have never held that in this Court, have we?”

Later, Justice Stevens also asked a government lawyer point-blank whether software is patentable. The answer: “Standing alone in and of itself, no.”

He likely said that because as it stands, software has to be tied to a machine to get a patent—not hard to do. But it shows that for Stevens, like Breyer, software patents are up for debate.

The nature of software patents is very troubling because to avoid an infringement (willful or not willful) is virtually impossible. Software is written very quickly, without a rigorous manufacturing process. As are result, the patent trolls and aggressors are still having a field day.

Store Payment Info In Your Online Store? Watch Out For Patent Infringement Lawsuits

[...]

As for the patents in question, they’re all a variation on a “method and apparatus for conducting electronic commerce transactions using electronic tokens.” The specific patents are 7,376,621, 7,249,099, 7,328,189 and 7,177,838. Reading through the claims, this seems like an incredibly typical online system for storing payment info and seeing if the person can actually pay. Since the patent system defenders among our readers get quite upset whenever I say something seems “obvious” to me, let’s flip this around. Can anyone explain how these concepts were not obvious at the time of filing?

More patent trolls in the news:

Patent trolls live under the bridge

Dell, HP, Fujitsu and IBM have been hit by a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas Marshall Division – famously known for its ability to expedite patent (chapter 830) disputes. The article linked to points out that it is unfair to describe anyone bringing patent suits to court as “patent trolls” – they have to have a sound case and deserve their time in court. So who exactly are the trolls?

Here is another mighty innovator in the news:

Actus goes patent lawsuit crazy

[...]

The outfit clams that more than 15 companies, including Apple, Amazonmdocs, American Express, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Cabela’s, Citigroup, Ebay, Firstview, Marketing Technology Concepts, Netspend, Officemax, US Bancorp, and Vivotech have nicked its technology.

It’s clearly time to change this system or abolish parts of it. This is not working. It does not increase capacity to innovate, it just makes a welfare system for lawyers.

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

2 Comments

  1. The Mad Hatter said,

    June 6, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Gravatar

    Actually it’s time to abolish all of it. The US PTO and the EU PTO are issuing patents for things like:

    1) Optimized location of a switch.
    2) Reactionless Space Ship Drive
    3) Location of a Grease Fitting to prevent water ingress (mount if facing down)
    4) Installing an engine in a machine
    5) Installing a fuel system on an engine (well duh!)
    6) Measuring the level of fluid in a tank

    They literally will issue patents for anything. Some of these things have been done for years (but not documented – who knew that location of a grease fitting needs to be documented) or are scientifically impossible (check the “Dean Drive” entry on Wikipedia).

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I was once taught it would be more constructive to obstruct intellectual monopolies one step at a time.

What Else is New


  1. Links 30/1/2015: CERN Adopts 64-bit GNU/Linux, Inkscape 0.91 Released

    Links for the day



  2. Apple- and Microsoft-Friendly Media Continues Attacking Android/Linux

    Some of the latest examples where corporate media (funded and run by large corporation) distorts facts, selectively covers facts, and generally serves to protect the Apple-Microsoft duopolist world view



  3. Qualys Admits That Its Scare Campaign (So-called 'GHOST') Somewhat Baseless

    Even the company that bombarded the media with its "GHOST" nonsense admits that this bug, which was fixed two years ago, does not pose much of a threat



  4. European Unitary Patent and Court System in Trouble

    New resistance to the Unitary Patent amid allegations of misconduct in the European patent authorities



  5. Text of Ruling/Decision Against Željko Topić (Regarding Audi as a Bribe)

    The legal loss of Željko Topić laid bear for the public to see even outside Croatia



  6. Media Coverage of Demonstration Against Jesper Kongstad of the Administrative Council (EPO)

    Last week's EPO demonstration has been covered by Danish media, raising awareness of the "banana republic" state of the EPO



  7. Links 29/1/2015: Android Shipments in 2014 Exceed 1,000,000,000, LibreOffice 4.4 is Out

    Links for the day



  8. Corporate Media, Led Astray by Patent Lawyers, Continues to Distort the Reality of Software Patents Post-Alice

    The press of the rich and the powerful continues its attempt to preserve software patents, despite the US Supreme Court's decision to abolish a lot of them on the basis of abstraction



  9. An Estimated 1,000 EPO Employees-Strong Legion Engulfs Danish Consulate to Protest Jesper Kongstad's (of Administrative Council) Protection of Benoît Battistelli

    A large protest waged by staff of the EPO targets one of the key facilitators of Battistelli's terrifying tyranny



  10. Links 28/1/2015: Ubuntu Touch Windowed Mode, NVIDIA Linux Legacy Drivers Updated

    Links for the day



  11. Breaking: EPO Vice-President Željko Topić Loses Defamation Case in Croatia

    The EPO's notorious Vice-President, whose appointment at the EPO is still raising some alarming questions, has just lost his case in Croatia (one of many cases), motivating us to accelerate coverage about the persona known as Željko Topić



  12. Qualys Starts Self-Promotional FUD Campaign, Naming a Bug That Was Already Fixed 2 Years Ago and Distros Have Covered With Patches

    Responding to the media blitz which paints GNU/Linux as insecure despite the fact that bugs were evidently found and fixed



  13. The Openwashing of Microsoft is Now Threatening to Eliminate the Identity of Free Software

    More openwashing of Microsoft, including in the corporate media, shows just to what great an extent and how quickly the old "Microsoft Open Source" Big Lie grows feet



  14. Links 27/1/2015: Plasma 5.2, Dell Precision With GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  15. Microsoft's Media Attack on Free Software and GNU/Linux

    Brainwash war is still being waged by Microsoft and its friends to convince people that Windows is universally dominant and that Microsoft is now part of the Free software world



  16. Microsoft Accounting Practices After Fire Again, After Previous Abuses and Book-Cooking

    After the infamous IRS brawl comes another confrontation between Microsoft and the SEC, which is unhappy with Microsoft for seemingly cooking the books again



  17. Links 26/1/2015: Debian 8.0 “Jessie” RC1, Linux Kernel 3.19 RC6

    Links for the day



  18. Links 25/1/2015: Android Wear 5.0, Tizen in Bangladesh

    Links for the day



  19. IRC Proceedings: January 11th, 2015 – January 24th, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  20. Links 24/1/2015: Zenwalk Linux Reviewed, Netrunner 14.1 Released

    Links for the day



  21. The Latest 'Microsoft is Open Source' Propaganda a Parade of Lies

    Microsoft myth makers continue their assault on what is objectively true and try to tell the public that Microsoft is a friend of "Open Source"



  22. Apple -- Like Microsoft -- Not Interested in the Security of Its Operating Systems

    Apple neglected to patch known security flaws in Mac OS X for no less than three months and only did something about that vector of intrusion when the public found out about it



  23. As Battistelli Breaks the Rules and Topić Silences Staff, New European Parliament Petition for Tackling the EPO's Abuses is Needed

    The neglected (by EPO) Article 4a of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the European Parliament petition/complaint against the EPO's crooked management



  24. Links 23/1/2015: Red Hat on IBM Power, Meizu Leaks With Ubuntu

    Links for the day



  25. Links 23/1/2015: Plasma 5.2, Manjaro 0.9-pre1

    Links for the day



  26. Microsoft is Dying Due to Free Software, Tries to Infect GNU/Linux With .NET and to Infect Moodle in Schools With Microsoft Office and OOXML Lock-in

    'Free' drugs (a proprietary software analogy) the new strategy of Microsoft in its latest battle against Free software, especially in schools where choice is a rarity (if not an impossibility), with the premeditated intention of forming dependency/addiction among young people



  27. Microsoft Symptoms of a Dying Company: More Boosters Depart, Back Doors Revealed, Microsoft's Outlook Cracked

    Bad news for Microsoft shortly before the marketing extravaganza served to cover much of it up



  28. The Collapse of European Patent Office Management Culminates With Resignations

    No blood is spilled, but even the management of the EPO is falling apart as the Director of Internal Communication is said to have just resigned



  29. New LCA Talk: Open Invention Network's Deb Nicholson on Software Patents and Patent Trolls

    Deb Nicholson's LCA talk is now publicly accessible



  30. Links 22/1/2015: GNU/Linux Sysadmin Opportunities, TraceFS Introduced

    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