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12.12.09

Patents Roundup: Nokia and Apple Cross Swords, British Patent System Becomes Form of Tax, Israel Besieged by Software Patents

Posted in Apple, Asia, Law, Microsoft, Mono, Patents, TomTom at 6:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nokia logo with Apple

Summary: Patent news from the United States, Europe, and a middle-eastern nation

Nokia and Apple are two patent monsters that we have warned about for years. They are now clashing with one another, so it’s mutual and counter-productive.

Responding to a lawsuit brought against the company by Nokia, Apple® today filed a countersuit claiming that Nokia is infringing 13 Apple patents.

Apple’s response is covered in many news sites [1, 2, 3] and even the Web site of Miguel de Icaza, who refused the see the writings on the wall when Microsoft sued TomTom (and before the FSF made its famous statement regarding Mono).

Over in the UK, the government is doing something rather bizarre with patents:

On the assumption that this is not a practical joke, it now seems that the British government is set to tax the fruits of research and development in order to fund … research and development. What a wonderful incentive to invest, particularly when other countries are encouraging R&D by doing the exact opposite. Merpel says, don’t worry: Britain’s best tax brains will soon find ways of showing that the income in question isn’t derived from patents at all, and the government’s coffers will be none the fuller.

See the comment from Sun’s Simon Phipps (a Brit).

Another Brit, Glyn Moody, has found even more bizarre stuff:

Objectivists: ‘All Property is Intellectual Property’

[...]

In other words, if you take a principled approach to IP, you endorse a system that condemns society to stagnation and death. So most proponents, like Rand, realizing this, start making ad hoc, unprincipled, utilitarian exceptions to avoid the most obvious, harsh consequences of a principled implementation of their confused IP ideas.

“Greed knows no bounds,” claimed Microsoft some years ago. It was referring to lawyer fees.

Over in Israel too, the threat of software patents is now looming.

As I have explained in this blog in earlier articles, I consider the copyright double protection idea is problematic since copyright protects the embodiment of the idea and not the idea itself. Why shouldn’t a software invention be protectable against reengineering? Is a 70 year protection against copying of any value in a field where a generation is usually 2 years? Considering software not technical is ridiculous. software is rightly considered an engineering discipline. Since algorithms can be hard-wired into chips or by a machine with valves, the concept of software being different from hardware is somewhat arbitrary. Nevertheless, Lord Justice Jacobs has presented powerful arguments as to why software patents are not in the interest of promoting progress and there is a large open-source community.

Abolishers of software patents (led by the FSF’s Ciarán O’Riordan) have already built this resource page about the subject.

The Israeli Patent Office (IPO) has launched a consultation on whether or not to allow software patents, with a February 2010 deadline. I’ve put the details at the end of this post, but first some background.

* The IPO consistently rejects software patents and business method patents. Examples:
o The 2005 rejection of the 142049 website patent
o The September 2006 rejection of the 131733 sales coupons patent
* Patent Attorney Ehud Hausman, with the support of international pro-swpat lobby group AIPPI, has been trying since 2007 to change this.
* He claimed in May 2008 to have partly convinced the IPO to grant software patents (but no change on business method patents). I’ve no third-party confirmation of this.

Who is funding these lobbyists? They are working for their own wallets.

“Plager said he regretted the unintended consequences of the decisions in State Street Bank and AT&T. Those rulings led to a flood of applications for software and business method patents, he noted. If we “rethink the breadth of patentable subject matter,” he said, we should ask whether these categories should be excluded from patent protection.” —US. Senior Judge S. Jay Plager, speaking at a symposium at George Mason University

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