Patents Roundup: Patent Propaganda from the BBC, IBM in the Shadows, and Early Mistakes from David Kappos
Summary: The BBC serves a familiar agenda, Microsoft hype observed, USPTO heads the wrong way, and IBM lurks inside the Linux Foundation
THERE is a lot to go through today because Microsoft is stepping up efforts to spread software patents. We shall start by pointing out that Microsoft’s darling [1, 2, 3, 4], the BBC, is spreading patent propaganda with words like “inventor” and the classic example of a “poor” victim (not the monopolies which actually leverage patents to block small companies).
Yesterday alone, the BBC published not one but two articles that glamourise and encourage stronger patent enforcement and broader scope. The first such article states:
Intellectual property rights are both a good thing and a potential obstacle. Imagine you’ve got a great idea, but part of the idea conflicts with someone’s patent. You can propose a licence, but in a lot of cases it can be very difficult to secure the rights for a long period and at a reasonable rate.
The second article is almost worse because it refers to “stealing” of ideas, which obviously cannot be stolen, by definition. It states:
A major British inventor is calling for a change in the law to strengthen protection against those who try to steal ideas.
The Register (also UK-based) has already highlighted this propaganda from the BBC:
The inventor of the wind-up radio is calling on the UK government to toughen its stance on patent law, by making intellectual property theft a criminal offence.
A reader of ours from the UK states that “Patent law and criminal law are two (IMO) completely different things, as is copyright theft. In respect of the latter, the term theft IMO does not apply since [...] According to Sec(1) Theft Act – “To dishonestly appropriate property belonging to the other with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.” Since there is no permanent deprivation of “property” (in this case data), there is no theft….IMO [...] the copyright theft act deals with the “sharing” of the work and the deprivation would be loss of income, that’s why the separate offence was created…. the point I was making was Copyright “Theft” is a bad choice of words since theft as outlined in Sec(1) does not IMO apply as per definition….in the case of copyright theft. It is worth noting, that file sharing is what makes the offence complete and the mere act of downloading would (IMO) have a civil remedy not a criminal one if no sharing was taking place although this is all open to argument and interpretation and is merely my interpretation of the criminal side of the copyright laws….”
There is actually a lot more Microsoft advertising in the BBC this week, as is the case most of the time. Maggie Shiels [1, 2] is at it again, advertising Vista 7 and citing other Microsoft shills for corroboration:
Ina Fried of CNET, who has covered Microsoft for over five years, said this issue has, in the past, been something of a hurdle for Microsoft and Intel.
Shiels and Fried make a good pair that seems like Microsoft PR masqueraded as reporters. This is based on a pattern observed long ago — a pattern that endlessly persists. Sarcastically, says one of our British readers, “maybe the clue is in her name, Maggie Shills…..yep, she does. Names aside, yeah it’s pretty blatant again — links to the windows 7 pre sales, like the other Windows 7 slog posts they do. The keywords are a thing too, in pro-Microsoft posts, there’s LOTS of Microsoft keywords, the post is littered with them, which makes them great consumption for the spiders, yet when it’s stories which are negative, Microsoft keywords are hardly mentioned, except at the end of the peice as the knight in silver armour coming in to offer customers advice on how to fix the issue under their terms. It’d be funny if it was a normal slog site. What it does do is make a mockery of the BBC’s claims of “independent high-quality journalism”.”
Speaking of Microsoft hype in the press, there is more sentimental blackmail [1, 2] from this company right now and Apple too is hyping things up (unrelated to this, it has connections with AstroTurf agencies). According to the following review from Ars Technica, Snow Leopard represents a development stagnation at Apple. Here’s the part which says:
Many of these same developers applauded the “150+ new features” in Tiger and the “300 new features” in Leopard at past WWDCs. Now they were applauding zero new features for Snow Leopard? What explains this?
There is even a photo.
After being angered by yet another Comcast f**kup that led to me being W.O.I. (With Out Internet) for over nine hours one day last week, I noticed that within the next day, a Comcast “representative” under the pseudonym of “Melissa Mendoza” had commented on the post with links to their “support” email address.
As I’ve written about before, Microsoft and other large companies often use the services of large astroturfing agencies. Microsoft uses one called Visible Technologies and apparently Comcast uses one called Radian6.
Moving on to important patent issues, this report suggests that China’s patent system is imploding, just as people predicted. It was a volcano of lawsuits waiting to erupt.
When France’s Schneider Electric faced a patent battle in a Chinese court recently it had reason to feel confident. It thought it had a solid prior art case for invalidating the patent being used against it by Chinese firm Chint, and foreign companies win 95% of patent cases in the Chinese courts.
As Masnick puts it, “Careful What You Ask For: China’s Patent System Causing Trouble.”
All those foreign nations who kept pushing China to build up its own patent system and learn to “respect intellectual property” may soon be regretting that, as they’re suddenly blocked out of the Chinese market by Chinese firms who fast-tracked cheap utility patents themselves with little to no review. Be careful what you wish for.
The USPTO is not better off, but the approach taken to resolving the issue is totally misguided. A reader from Germany gave us a pointer to this document
[PDF} ("fresh from Heise," as he put it). It is "only [the] interim rules," he stressed, "but still a good sign. See p. 3, section I.1 Step 1."
The USPTO is being harshly criticised elsewhere. David Kappos [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] uses the wrong yardstick to measure the success (or lack thereof) of this system and major delays are indicators of too wide a scope for patenting.
The other day we wrote about medical barriers caused by patents and Masnick appears to agree, adding that Kappos is "Suggesting They Want More Patents, Approved Faster." More patents?
Two separate stories concerning statements from those in charge of the patent system suggest that the new administration isn't about to help fix the problems in the patent system, but is eagerly looking to make them worse. It starts with new USPTO Director David Kappos, who some thought would recognize problems with the patent system from his years dealing with those problems at IBM. While IBM is a massive patent stockpiler, over the past few years it's at least indicated some recognition that the system is broken.
The real problem, which becomes evident in reading the article is that since the USPTO is funded based on patent application fees, it has every incentive in the world, as an institution, to approve more patents. The more patents it approves, the more applications it gets, which means more money as well.
Indeed, this sounds too greed-motivated. The EPO was accused of similar behaviour. To quote Richard Stallman, “Staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money."
In the original piece, Tim also points out how software patents (contrary to the claims of some defenders of the system) unfairly tilt the balance of power to big companies -- the ones who can stockpile tons of patents to use as a weapon against infringement suits. It's the small companies who are left exposed.
It is worth repeating over and over again that experience suggests small companies are mostly victimised by the patent system. IBM's considerable role in OIN and the Linux Foundation is proof of this because IBM wants software patents and it wants to use them to increase its dominance/control in the area. According to this new exchange of ideas, IBM is partly behind the Linux Foundation's patent policy.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Manny W Schecter <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 12:12 AM
Subject: Re: [priorart-discuss] No more software-patents in the us?
To: OSS and USPTO prior art discussions
Not exactly. You are citing interim guidelines from the USPTO which
are not binding law by their own admission. The USPTO has invited
public comment on the guidelines, and there will be plenty I'm sure.
The Bilski decision pending before the Supreme Court is what you
should be watching. A decision is expected 1H10.
Jan Kechel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: OSS and USPTO prior art discussions <email@example.com>
Date: 09/02/2009 06:09 PM
Subject: [priorart-discuss] No more software-patents in the us?
Sent by: firstname.lastname@example.org
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I just found a nice article about changes in the USPTO, seems that there
are no more software patents until some other court stuff will be finished:
(see page 15)
My source (german:)
claims that this is based on the following decision:
What do you people think about that?
publictimestamp.org/ptb/PTB-7047 ripemd128 2009-09-02 21:00:05
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Version: GnuPG v1.4.9 (GNU/Linux)
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The above shows the involvement of IBM staff. As we have shown before, IBM is part of this problem because it lies when arguing that software patents have been beneficial to Free software [1, 2]. They take away basic rights and then "donate" or sell them back to us. A lot of people are being fooled, but they don't have to. █
"According to Software Magazine, last year we were the 92nd largest software company in the US. My perspective on software patents is simple: stop issuing software patents. Software patents should not exist." —Jerry Fiddler, Wind River Systems