12.14.09

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Patents Roundup: Apple and Microsoft Extremely Busy with Patents as the Patent Bubble Finally Bursts

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 10:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Soap bubble

Summary: Foes of software freedom accumulate patents and get sued; the USPTO sees considerable decline in business

GNU/Linux users should definitely care about patent law because it is a threat to Free software. The president of the FFII points out that OpenBTS is now explicitly saying: “If you hold GSM patent licenses, you cannot redistribute OpenBTS under GPLv3.”

There is nothing wrong with the GPLv3. It merely defends users from software patents, which are a form of monopoly.

According to TechDirt, when Apple is not fighting with patents, it is actually acquiring more of them.

Apple Trying To Patent Anti-Tamper Tape

[...]

Apparently, Apple is trying to patent anti-tamper tape. The patent application, for a “tamper resistant label for detecting device openings,” describes some adhesive tape that could be placed inside devices, which would get torn or damaged if someone opened the device. It seems like there’s a ton of prior art here.

More wood thrown into the fire.

Watch what Microsoft is patenting. From the summary in Slashdot:

Microsoft Invents Price-Gouging the Least Influential

“In the world envisioned by Microsoft’s just-published patent application for Social Marketing, monopolists will maximize revenue by charging prices inversely related to the perceived influence an individual has on others. Microsoft gives an example of a pricing model that charges different people $0, $5, $10, $20, or $25 for the identical item based on the influence the purchaser wields. A presentation describing the revenue optimization scheme earned one of the three inventors applause (MS-Research video), and the so-called ‘influence and exploit’ strategies were also featured at WWW 2008 (PDF). The invention jibes nicely with Bill Gates’s pending patents for identifying influencers. Welcome to the brave new world of analytics.”

Here is Microsoft talking about “Licensing Secrets” in this new press release.

Success in Microsoft licensing demands extraordinary attention to detail and the fine print.

Well, they don’t say.

This morning we wrote about Monsanto and Bill Gates. Glyn Moody gets around to addressing the subject too. It’s about patents on life of animals and plants. In summary, Moody writes:

Amazingly, David Boies, the lawyer that led the attack on Microsoft during that investigation, is also invovled: he is representing Du Pont, one of Monsanto’s rivals concerned about the latter’s monopoly power.

Let’s just hope that Monsanto becomes the subject of a full anti-trust action, and that the result is more effective than that applied to Microsoft. After all, we’re not talking about software here, but the world’s food supply, and monopolies – both intellectual and otherwise – are simply morally indefensible when billions of lives are stake.

For Microsoft, the affair with patents is a mixed bag. It is also being sued, this one being a new example.

Microsoft, Nokia, Amazon, others sued over hardware acceleration

[...]

A company called Nazomi Communications has sued a number of large companies for breaching patents it owns on hardware acceleration.

There is also this one:

A Massachusetts company that last week sued Microsoft Corp., alleging patent infringement, appears to be something akin to a homeless orphan.

NetView Technologies Inc. has no permanent address, and no full-time management. Regulatory filings, legal filings and the company’s Web site list three different addresses, two of which are residences registered to former executives. A third is a Waltham address that the company no longer occupies.

Apple is being sued too. From the news:

i. Apple sued for alleged infringement over iPhone camera

ii. Apple loses $21.7 million in patent suit, appeal in progress (mentioned here before)

iii. Apple getting sued again by patent profiteers

It must be hard to be as popular as Apple. You’re always fighting the competition, who sometimes come late to the dance with a wannabee product, then deliver snarky punches into the kidneys with their TV ads. Even worse are the lawyers, who circle the company like a flock of vultures, picking away at whatever juicy bits of meat they can get.

But the true bottom feeders are the “patent trolls,” a specific species of law firm that has picked up patents from companies that usually never brought a product to market.

Groklaw shares this comical post about the ill patent system and also shares the story of an infamous dilemma:

The Patent Reform Act of 2009 would replace the current “first-to-invent” (FTI) system with a new “first-inventor-to-file” (FITF) system. While touted as a way to harmonize the US system with “first-to-file” (FTF) systems used in other countries, an experimental investigation of a matrix of two hundred typical fact patterns for two competing inventors was analyzed under all three systems (FTI, FITF and FTF) to test this assumption. Based on the matrix analysis, it appears that if FITF is adopted there likely will be changes in applicant behavior and significant extra costs for at least several years as a result of the transition to a new system; and, it is unclear whether FITF really gets the US any closer to patent harmonization.

With this chart in mind, Groklaw also shares information about the decline of patents.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s fiscal year 2009 annual report indicates declining revenue and patent filings. Notably, there was both a dip in the backlog of patent applications and an increase in the time it takes for the agency to issue a patent. Some lawyers believe the former can be attributed in part to applicants abandoning applications because of the economic downturn.

The report, which the agency recently released without fanfare, detailed the agency’s $135.9 million budget shortfall, or 6.8 percent of its $2.01 billion forecasted revenue. Fee collections totaled $1.87 billion.

Lastly, Groklaw shares this article about Ralph Nader calling for people to challenge the law rather than accept it blindly.

Lawyer and long-time activist says U.S. law schools don’t spend enough time encouraging students to think critically about the law

People must challenge software patents and maybe patents as a whole. The legal profession is unlikely to initiate this because the legal profession (lawyers) is profiteering at the expense of scientists while these antiquated rules prevail.

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