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11.25.09

Patents Roundup: More Ridiculous Patents, Qualcomm Permitted to Abuse, Human Rights Step in as Overhaul Debated

Posted in Apple, Europe, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 8:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“[Y]ou’re creating a new 20-year monopoly for no good reason.”

David Kappos (currently head of the USPTO) speaking about patents

Tired USPTO eagle

USPTOSummary: News from the US patent office seems to suggest that no substantial improvements have been made to this system

T

HE US patent system is a mess. There, it’s said and done. The way to fix it is to change the application/review process and also to remove many old patents that should have never been granted in the first place. It is almost infeasible given the existing backlog which has already turned the USPTO into a laughing stock in some people’s minds.

Dissatisfaction with this patent system is not just a pet peeve of Free software supporters. President of the FFII, for instance, has just shared what he calls “The sad patent story of Lexra processors.” An Apple patent which we mentioned here before is another good example of this. Even a vocal software patents fan (Gene Quinn) hates this patent and Slashdot reveals that Google has just patented displaying patents.

“Google has actually managed to patent displaying patents. The USPTO issued US Patent No. D603,866 to six Google inventors for their ‘graphical user interface for display screen of a communications terminal.’ Among the six inventors is the guy who introduced Google Patents. Ironically, Google Patents can’t seem to find the new Google patent for Google Patents.”

Amazing, eh? Two days ago we wrote about Amazon and its patent on online gift delivery. As Mike Masnick puts it, “USPTO [Is] Convinced By Amazon That Online Gift Giving Patent Is Legit”

Amazon continues to aggressively pursue variations on its “one-click” patent, even as it is repeatedly held up as an example of how screwed up the patent system has become. In the latest story, found on Slashdot, a patent application for method of buying gifts online was originally rejected under the CAFC’s recent Bilski rules because the invention “may be performed largely within the human mind.”

Where does this insanity end? According to reports from the European technology press (Britain), the EU Commission has just dropped its investigation into Qualcomm’s abuse with patents. How come?

THE EU HAS DROPPED its four year investigation into Qualcomm after companies that had been moaning about the chipmaker charged excessive royalties on its technology patents withdrew their complaints.

The Commission said that since all complainants have now withdrawn their complaints, it was not worth wasting more time and money on the investigation.

Was Qualcomm punished at all? This should also be probed by a US-based (and maybe Asia-based) agency. Qualcomm is based in San Diego, California. This happens to resemble the patent ambush from Rambus [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].

IP Watch has this new article about a culture of sharing that once existed.

Dining on fresh fish beneath a golden sunset overlooking the Mediterranean beneath which lie the remains of the ancient Library of Alexandria, the conversation turns to the invention of written language. A light-hearted debate breaks out between an Egyptian and a Syrian over the origins of the first alphabet several thousand years ago, but is left for the time being when the Syrian asserts, “We invented the alphabet, you invented writing.”

Records show Egypt’s primary role in the development of written language as a way to disseminate ideas, and it is still advancing knowledge access, as evidenced by its world-class Library of Alexandria and several recent activities and publications. In some cases, library officials are out front on international policy issues related to access to knowledge.

Also from IP Watch we have this good article bearing the headline “Time For Human Rights To Enter Into IP Policy Dialogue, Panel Says” (“but they’re still only *talking* about it,” argues Glyn Moody).

Ensuring the right to development should become more integral to debates over intellectual property policy, said members of a panel last week. The World Intellectual Property Organization Development Agenda will play a crucial role in ensuring this integration if it happens, they added.

Moody also wrote about a new comparison between software copyright and software patents.

What’s interesting here is that this position – preferring copyright rather than patent protection – comes from small to medium-sized software companies, but aligns with that of the free software world, which depends on copyright for the efficacy of its licences, but cannot accommodate patents, because they act as a brake on sharing.

There are alternative routes to offering developers “protection” that some of them crave. A “20-year monopoly” on some mere ideas (to borrow the words of the man in charge of the USPTO) is not the way forward, it’s a farce. It’s an impediment to science and economics, according to many studies.

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3 Comments

  1. saulgoode said,

    November 25, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Gravatar

    The US patent system is a mess. There, it’s said and done. The way to fix it is to change the application/review process and also to remove many old patents that should have never been granted in the first place.

    The way to fix the patent system, with regards to software patents at least, is for the courts (or the legislature, if necessary) to assert that it is not illegal to write computer programs which simulate patented devices and processes. You want to write a simulator for that new ceramic internal combustion engine with microwave ignition? Go right ahead. How about a program that simulates a new manufacturing process for liquid microprocessors? Again, there should be no problem with that — after all, the purported reason for providing patents is so that the general public can learn from the invention and share their understanding of it with others.

    Now consider how this would apply to a spuriously granted software patent on, say, converting inputted numeric data representing an audio wave into the frequency domain, removing some of those frequencies, and outputting the result (i.e., MP3 audio compression). If the courts pronounced that “simulating” this algorithm within a computer program was to be consider fair and legal use, no one could be penalized for actually “implementing” the software patent (software is always either simulation or pure mathematics). Existing software patents could be left to languish until they expire, and no new software patents would be sought because the “inventor” would never be able to profit from his patent.

    Problem solved!

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, but:

    1. In Re Bilski may already have the necessary effect
    2. Unless challenged or invalidated, patents can still be used for extortion or intimidation (without a test in court), especially when bundled in large numbers
    3. Smart lawyers know how to blur the gap between hardware and software

    “[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway”, —Marshall Phelps, IAM: Microsoft to have 50,000 patents within two years, Phelps reveals

  2. uberVU - social comments said,

    November 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Identica by schestowitz: More Ridiculous #Patents , Qualcomm Permitted to Abuse, Human Rights Step in as Overhaul Debated *http://ur1.ca/gid5…

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