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07.29.09

Patents Roundup: Another Attack on Free Software, Blackboard Loses Again, Yellow Beans Patented

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 5:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Assorted patent news of interest to the Free software community

McKool Smith, which looks like a classic patent troll, has just sued a one-man free/open source project — a decision which is backfiring.

Except, it appears that the lawyers for the patent holder (McKool Smith — a favorite among the patent hoarders) didn’t do much research on at least one of those “companies,” named CitiWare. Slashdot alerts us to the fact that CitiWare was basically just a small open source project from one guy, who hoped to turn it into a business, but couldn’t find any customers and shut it down. That guy has now turned the CitiWare.com website into an angry open letter to the patent holder and to its lawyers, demanding that they drop the case against him.

Some months ago we saw something similar happening to a GIMP plug-in.

Moodle, which has been under similar threats from the Microsoft-backed patent aggressor known as Blackboard [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] (never mind Microsoft's new attempt to exploit Moodle) can finally breathe out and sigh in relief. Blackboard’s junk patent is still declared invalid based on the following report.

A federal appeals court has found all 38 of Blackboard Inc.’s contested patent claims to be invalid in ongoing litigation between the D.C.-based education software company and its Canadian competitor, Desire2Learn Inc.

This is the second time in the course of the three-year lawsuit that courts have poked major holes in Blackboard’s patent.

There are echoes of this in Patently-O and also in TechDirt.

Even as the Patent Office realized it needed to rethink the patent, the lawsuit moved forward, with Blackboard scoring a win. Of course, just weeks later, the USPTO gave an initial rejection of the patent. The original court ruling was (of course) appealed (separate from the USPTO ruling), and the good news is that the appeals court has dumped the entire patent.

TechDirt also writes about a most ludicrous patent attempt:

This one’s a bit old, but Boing Boing just pointed us to the incredible story of a guy named Larry Proctor who was able to get the USPTO to patent some yellow beans he picked up in Mexico.

Here it is from BoingBoing and here is the key page about this sham. See the subheadline:

Controversial Court patent case for simple yellow legume has become rallying point for “biopiracy” concerns

This is amazing. “Biopiracy”. The growing of crops is now compared to raping and murdering innocent people. The Wired Magazine Web site has meanwhile published this report about real piracy that still exists and thrives near Somali shores.

All these propaganda terms need to be dropped. They daemonise people who do perfectly ethical things. “Intellectual monopoly” is still being described as “intellectual property” and there are even many Web sites that use this term in their name. The UK-IPO is an example of an entire establishment that bases itself on a name that’s a propaganda term. From “Intellectual Property Watch” now comes this report about hypocrisy in Europe and also TRIPS, which is related to ACTA provisions that we mentioned before [1, 2, 3].

The European Commission on Monday released a report finding fault with a number of United States practices related to intellectual property rights policy, on copyright, geographical indications, trademarks and patents. The report is an answer, one might say, to the annual US Special 301 report that criticises US trading partners it deems unilaterally to be insufficiently protecting its companies’ IP rights.

[...]

And on patents, the US government frequently fails to comply with Article 31 of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which requires governments that use patents to promptly inform the patent right holders, the EU said. This means the right holders are likely to miss the opportunity to initiate an administrative claim process.

These disputes revolve around limitation and inconveniencing of scientists, who are usually far less interested in all this mess than lawyers and managers. As Barracuda’s CEO put it last year, “I would much rather spend my time and money and energy finding ways to make the Internet safer and better than bickering over patents.”

ACTA

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2 Comments

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    July 30, 2009 at 1:39 am

    Gravatar

    “All these propaganda terms need to be dropped.”
    Many of these are listed in FSF’s list of words to avoid:
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html
    ““Intellectual monopoly” is still being described as “intellectual property” and there are even many Web sites that use this term in their name.”
    Yep, that term and the ideas associated with it is loaded with problems:
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080306/003240458.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080219/014250290.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090719/0108125588.shtml
    There was even a video added to beginning of DVDs comparing piracy to shoplifting and other things. The developer of the Windows-only VirtualDub complained about it:
    http://www.virtualdub.org/blog/pivot/entry.php?id=204

  2. Yuhong Bao said,

    July 30, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Gravatar

    And I forgot to add a link to a slashdot comment about the propaganda words:
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1299791&cid=28666659

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