01.27.10

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Patents Roundup: A Week’s Worth, Links and Snippets Only

Posted in IBM, Law, Patents at 8:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A quick assemblage of patent news of interest (patents being the #1 barrier to Free software)

Save the Whales! Abolish Patents! The Case of Green Technology

Abolishing so-called intellectual “property” (IP) won’t solve all social ills — yet perhaps it will save the whales. In a series of posts based on research with my co-author Michele Boldrin, we are tackling one issue at a time. Our first post looked at health care. Here we examine green technology, specifically technologies designed to mitigate global warming.

There are many solutions to the problem of global warming — ignoring it is popular with the extreme right, and moving back to the stone age is of equal interest to the extreme left. For the rest of us improving technology seems like a good place to start. Even if dumping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere turns out not to lead to global warming, the ill-health effects of pollution aren’t controversial.

Note: old pattern of articles warning against patents that prevent fixing of the environment. We’ll see a lot more of these.

Update On Bilski

Editor: Clearly this case has drawn significant interest, with nearly 70 amicus briefs having been filed. How big are the stakes here?

Bauer: The stakes are very high. Depending on what the court does, this could be a transforming event. Over the last 30 to 40 years, the patent system has evolved essentially to allow nearly anything to be patented. This case has brought the issue of business method patents into question, specifically a process that could make energy costs more predictable. Based on the justices’ comments during oral arguments, the Supreme Court appears poised to scale back what should be considered patentable – the question is how far they’ll go.

Groklaw News Picks about Gene Quinn from IP Watchdog:

[PJ: Nice to know this patent attorney doesn't respect even the Supreme Court, and expressed that he and other patent attorneys intend to overrule the Supreme Court's decision if they don't agree with it. And I know Mr. Quinn knows that the objections to software patents are not based on a desire to copy, because he and I have had conversations. I think there is no point in answering him in his comments section, therefore. Once folks start saying things like this, it's probably time to exit the scene, because it's no longer a rational conversation.]

Note: IP Watchdog sometimes seems like IP Watchtroll. Gene Quinn is a troll; “Troll” in the Internet sense anyway, as he’s seemingly provoking for the sake of it, not just for his pocket.

IBM leads list of US patents granted in 2009

Obama’s Man at the USPTO Seeks to Rehab the Agency

ID: Interesting. We need to talk about first-to-file. But before we get to that, to what extent is your lengthy tenure at IBM influencing you at the USPTO? Are you running it more like a Fortune 500 company?

David Kappos: That’s another great question and I would answer it with yes and no. Yes in the sense that I am trying to bring business discipline. I have a lot of experience in managing and leading in running businesses and running P and Ls – profits and losses, right – in management processes, in setting cadence, in developing and running a pipeline. These are all disciplines that you learn when you spend your career in the business world.

[...]

I spent a lot of time with Richard. I’m here to make the Richards of the world successful. I’m here to make the pharmaceutical industry successful. I’m here to make specialty chemicals successful. I’m here to make medium-sized businesses in California successful.

Talking tough on censorship (from the comments)

Actually, if you look at the world of software patents, the entire system is corrupt and a ghastly, horrible mess. There are entire industries of software patent squatters, who never – for a moment – desire to make hardware or software, they just go through the motions filing as many conceivable patents as they can, and when a company goes and makes a product they sue them looking for money. The system was intended so people who performed original and innovative research did not have their plans stolen and reproduced. That desire is not happening.

Patents are not the same as copyright rights, though they are related. Of course, this is not to defend Chinese state hacking or piracy, but don’t cry about the Patent system too much – it is indefensible.

Libertarian Patent Lawyer Defends Patent Law

I see here a libertarian patent lawyer who is taking it for granted that patents are legitimate property rights–presumably because he believes the law should grant a monopoly license to provide “the exclusivity needed to encourage investment in new technology.” Patents are not legitimate property rights. They are mercantalist, monopolistic abominations. Libertarians, including libertarian patent attorneys, should oppose the patent system.

Patent Lawyer Mostly Agrees With Me

For years I have been wondering what the EPO, JPO, and KIPO are doing right that the USPTO is not and why can’t the USPTO look and see what the EPO, JPO, and KIPO are doing to figure it out and then adopt it. It reminds me of the time that Bush’s first crony appointment to head the PTO came to our PIPLA meeting and told us “We’ve got the best patent office in the world.” In reality, we wouldn’t even get the bronze metal. Our typical American chauvinism prevents us from looking elsewhere for improvement.

Motorola seeks ban on US BlackBerries (embargo attempt, mentioned before)

ArcelorMittal, IPCom, Bimbo: Intellectual Property (Update1)

An affiliate of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, sued some of its biggest rivals alleging infringement of a U.S. patent for hot- and cold-rolled metal sheeting used for car bodies.

ArcelorMittal France contends AK Steel Corp. of West Chester, Ohio; Severstal Dearborn Inc. of Dearborn, Michigan; and Wheeling-Nisshin Inc. of Follansbee, West Virginia, should pay damages and stop using the invention for aluminum-coated boron steel products and a thermal treatment process used to strengthen auto parts.

Is IP another bubble about to burst? A view from another civilization.

As a child growing up in India, one of the first things I learned is a hymn to Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, which says that:

Wonderful is your gift of knowledge
the more we share, the more it grows
the more we hoard it, the more it diminishes

As a grown-up living in a globalized world, I am constantly bombarded by the the term, “intellectual property.” Policy makers keep saying that India should create more IP. Countless seminars extol the virtues of IP even as patents are granted for “Method for swinging on a swing,” “Method for Concealing Partial Baldness.” In the computer industry, patents are routinely granted for things that are obvious and have been known for years. Things have come to such a pass that even an industry veteran like Andy Grove was forced to say that, “The true value of an invention is its usefulness to the public. Patents themselves have become products. They’re instruments of investment traded on a separate market, often by speculators motivated by the highest financial return on their investment….

[...]

When we look back on our times, we may find that the term, “Intellectual Property” has taken its place along side another archaic term, “Horseless Carriage.” Both were attempts to impose metaphors of the past on the future. And the folly of our times is that we treat inexhaustible resources like knowledge as finite resource and treat finite resources like oil and forests as infinite resources. The sooner we turn these attitudes around, the better it will be for the future of mankind.

Software patents petition pushed

A PETITION opposing software patents has been launched in Europe with the hope of preventing costly legal battles and restrictive policies.

It has long been thought that patenting software was counter-productive to innovation in the industry, and the adoption of software patents in the UK and Europe has long been debated. This latest online petition looks to be gathering broad support in light of some recent disputes.

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