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Patents Roundup: Microsoft Patents Deactivation, Lisbon Treaty in Midst of Scandal, Eolas Shows Why Software Patents Are Bad

Posted in America, Courtroom, Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 12:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Roundup of news, as indicated above

Customer-hostile patents are a recurring theme that we find at Apple and Microsoft. Here is Microsoft’s latest monopoly on limitation mechanisms.

Microsoft patent looks to put a time limit on software licenses


That raises the possibility of Microsoft charging by the hour, day or month. That’s already a component of many software-as-as-service business models. But the Microsoft patent — dubbed “Time-Based Licenses” — provides more detail on where things may be headed when it comes to the future of software purchasing.

USPTOThis is the type of behaviour that Free software is trying to prevent. But meanwhile, in Europe, Microsoft not only advances anti-Free software laws in the form of software patents; recently we saw Microsoft lobbying in Ireland for the Lisbon treaty [1, 2].

Oh well, there’s a timely little gem in the news, which puts at great doubt the integrity of the authorities over there. From EurActiv:

Irish government on brink of collapse


The Irish government led by Brian Cowen, which last week succeeded in ratifying the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum, could collapse in the coming days following an expenses scandal which has rocked the beleaguered ruling coalition.

Just days after receiving warm congratulations from European leaders for ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, Taoiseach Brian Cowen could find himself facing a general election should his coalition partners, the Irish Greens, this weekend decide to abandon Cowen’s Fianna Fáil.

“[B]ecause of an expenses scandal,” claims Glyn Moody. Sounds like a good atmosphere for gentle bribes, too. Microsoft’s relationship with the Irish government is a subject that we covered here before [1, 2].

Glyn Moody also wrote about the latest Eolas development, namely a patent case which initially targeted just Microsoft [1, 2]. From 2003, Moody extracts grounds for invalidation and proceeds to claiming that the case further justifies abolishment of software patents.

Thanks, Eolas, For Making the Flaws So Patent


There are two huge problems with the patent system – especially the US patent system. The first is patent trolls – those who patent ideas without any intention of turning them into products, but purely with an eye to extracting money from companies that do make stuff. The second concerns companies that might well intend to create a product, but which are granted patents for ideas inappropriately – because they are not new or are blindingly obvious.

This ought to add weight to the already-growing opposition to software patents in the United States [1, 2]. Simon Phipps from Sun Microsystems writes:

Another “friend of the court” filing in the US Supreme Court in the reconsideration of the case law that makes software patents viable in the US. In this filing, the Free Software Foundation argues that “The Country Needs and Relies on FOSS”. Let’s hope the good sense in these filing together with a very recent “visual aid” of the harm software patents can do sways the court to uphold the rejection of the finding in re Bilski.

Here is TechDirt’s take on the Eolas case and here is a rant from SJVN:

Opinion: Eolas might just sue every last, lousy company in creation


Eolas, like other patent trolls, has taken an obvious idea, somehow managed to con the U.S. PTO (Patent and Trademark Office) into giving it a patent, and is now suing Adobe Systems, Google, Yahoo, Apple, eBay and Amazon.com. Oh, and it’s also suing Blockbuster, Frito-Lay, Office Depot, Sun, Playboy. (Playboy!?) and 10 other companies.

This hopefully shows how silly the patent system has become. with genome monopolies and monopolies on human life [1, 2] (see some crazy patent comedy), it is disappointing to see Nobel prizes being awarded to the culprits. Even Skype was recently under threat of survival due to software patents. They can breathe out in relief now.

Skype is claiming a victory in one of the many IP suits that are plaguing the P2P phone company at the moment.

Robert Miller, Skype’s general counsel, said in a blog post the other day that the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had ruled in favour of Skype and sort-of-ex-parent eBay, over a brace of patents asserted by Peer Communications Group.

If this is “innovation”, then it is not a positive thing.

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  1. David Gerard said,

    October 9, 2009 at 1:03 pm


    I will be most pleased if proprietary software companies enforce such customer-hostile patents to the hilt and keep anyone else from using them. Anyone who thinks making your customers hate you is a business model deserves to.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    These patents can be a Good Thing if they act as an implementational deterrent.

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