10.04.09

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Patents Roundup: Uniloc Appeals Microsoft’s Dodge, OpenGL 3 Patent Issues Rear Ugly Head, Apple Innovates Crippleware

Posted in Apple, Google, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 10:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: As the title suggests, this is a mishmash of software patent news

THIS is just a quick overview of patent news we haven’t sufficient time to cover thoroughly.

Uniloc-Microsoft

The Uniloc case was previously mentioned here in [1, 2, 3, 4]. The press marks the overturn of a ruling against Microsoft like it did with Alcatel-Lucent about a fortnight ago, but although Uniloc suffers this setback [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], the situation may be temporary because an appeal from the plaintiff is coming. The story is not over yet and it helps in exposing Microsoft's hypocrisy on the patent issue. To quote this finding from Groklaw:

“A simple comparison of MD5 as a whole to the algorithm Uniloc’s patent discloses clearly reveals non-equivalence,” Judge Smith ruled. “While the existence of additional components or different steps does not per se preclude a structure from being considered substantially the same as another structure, the various non-additive mathematical operations in MD5 demonstrate significant (and undisputed) differences between MD5 and the summation algorithm in the ’216 patent [for Uniloc], which cannot be overstated. For example, the compressive, circular shifting and mixing functions fundamentally create a more secure result compared to an algorithm based in summation as the specification discloses. Indeed, the unchallenged evidence was that MD5′s hallmark is the variety of its logical and mathematical steps to obtain a more secure result. This complexity highlights the advantage of an irreversible one-way function with a fixed output, instead of an algorithm that uses a single type of reversible operation (with no fixed output), such as that disclosed in the patent.”

Will we see software patents as a whole invalidated any time soon? All eyes on In Re Bilski.

OpenGL 3

The FSF has warned about it for quite some time. As Heise and Phoronix put it, the patent issues in OpenGL 3 already affect Mesa.

While work on OpenGL 3.x support in Mesa has been very slow, many have been looking forward to the day when Gallium3D hardware drivers provide fast acceleration and a OpenGL 3 state tracker to provide this support to all Gallium3D users. Intel though has also been wanting to bring some OpenGL 3 support to the classic Mesa stack. However, at XDC2009, Intel’s Ian Romanick has expressed some issues with patents that could inhibit the support.

Not to worry though. A solution is currently being worked out in the mailing lists.

[I]t looks like the Linux Foundation could get involved along with the Open Invention Network (OIN) to hopefully reach a proper agreement with the patent/IP holders. Greg Kroah-Hartman brought this 3D patent issue up with the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board to see what can be done. At this time they are still setting up a meeting.

Misc.

In other patent news, Apple gets caught patenting yet another customer-hostile idea. Microsoft does this too.

Evil is in the eye of the beholder, but there’s certainly not much to like in the newly-disclosed Apple patent applications for Systems and Methods for Provisioning Computing Devices. Provisioning, says Apple, allows carriers to ‘specify access limitations to certain device resources which may otherwise be available to users of the device.’ So what problem are we trying to solve here? ‘Mobile devices often have capabilities that the carriers do not want utilized on their networks,’ explains Apple. ‘Various applications on these devices may also need to be restricted.’

Here is another new example of a customer-hostile patent.

That Whole Watch An Ad To Get Content Thing? Patented… And The Patent Holder Has Been Suing

[...]

So we were just talking about some new company called Free All Music, which has a plan to let people download free mp3s if they agree to watch a video ad first. I have my doubts about how well it would work… but apparently the company may also need to watch out for another issue: a bogus patent.

Speaking of bogus patents, Patently-O has this post about use of patent reexaminations to remove barriers.

Most patents currently being reexamined at the PTO are also being litigated in parallel proceedings in district court. This rise in importance of parallel reexaminations leads directly to both Constitutional controversies and practical problems. Although the Federal Circuit has nimbly attempted to avoid the problem, the truth is that both the PTO (an Article II executive agency) and the Article III Courts focus on the same question of validity of patent claims. These races to conclusion raise questions of both separation of powers and res judicata.

Google and Adobe get sued by a company called Textscape. It’s a software patent, but not a patent troll.

It looks like at least a few of Google’s lawyers who specialize in patent law are about to get some work to do. Google – along with Adobe – has been sued by a company named Textscape because the search giant allegedly violated a patent Textscape was granted in 1998.

Will this lawsuit be beneficial to anyone other than patent lawyers? Probably not. In its latest essay on the subject, TechDirt insists that patents only ever harm innovation.

There are plenty of reasons why people might believe patents increase innovation — but they’re the same theories of the mercantilists in the 18th century, who believed that monopolies on other products spurred more development in those businesses. That theory was debunked and is considered laughable by pretty much any economist today. And yet, when it comes to patents, why do people automatically reject what economists realized two hundred years ago? Monopolies may temporarily benefit the monopolist, but at the expense of society as a whole.

Also see:

Patents do harm innovation if respectable economists and engineers are asked about it; lawyers and monopolies, on the other hand, are self serving, so the more intellectual monopolies, the more business the former receives and the more protection the latter receives.

“IP is often compared to physical property rights but knowledge is fundamentally different.”

IP Watch on Professor Joseph Stiglitz

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