02.04.10

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Patents Roundup: Bill Gates, Acacia, and Other Patent Trolls in the Headlines

Posted in Bill Gates, Courtroom, Patents at 12:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Patent news especially from the United States and with emphasis on software

OpenSim developers warn against patents (FFII’s President: “Swpats are designed to stifle innovation and prevent competition by startups through increasing risk and costs for them”)

There’s some academic support for this position (though Microsoft itself has filed thousands of software patents since Gates wrote his memo). According to a study published last year in Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, a patent system such as one that we have now “generates significantly lower rates of innovation” than one where such parents are not allowed. According to the authors, current patent systems actually deter innovation instead of spurring it, contradicting the common belief that investors wouldn’t invent unless they were able to protect their work with patents.

Shughart’s Defense of IP

While it is true that copyright and patent are constitutional, this does not make these laws just. What the artificial law-writing coup-leaders wrote a document designed to help the state seize more power is simply not relevant to the normative question of whether there should be IP.

Pro-patent law arguments rest on the assumption that the patent system generates overall wealth–that its benefits are greater than its costs–without ever making this case. Instead, they point to ways that the patent system benefits some people, and never bother to even try to tally up the costs to make sure it’s a net positive. In other words, they don’t even take their own justifications seriously.

Patent infringement lawsuits raking in the big bucks (mentioned two days ago)

It’s a good time to be in the patent litigation business, it seems, as “non-practicing entities” are regularly receiving higher damages in patent cases than companies that are actually selling products and services. That’s according to a new report on patent litigation from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which examined 1,400 patent cases in order to get a feel for the current landscape. Even though patent reform is a big talking point in government right now, it’s clear that the upper hand currently belongs to those who aren’t making products.

Obama’s Director Of Citizen Participation Patents Displaying News With Financial Info (almost all companies start with “defensive” patents before they turn hostile)

To be fair, Google has only been a defensive, rather than offensive, patenter, so I wouldn’t read too much into this. However, it does seem a little ridiculous to patent the process of displaying news with financial information. It’s a neat UI concept — but deserving of monopoly protection for decades?

Gates, Ozzie, Microsoft execs patent ‘personal data mining’ (patented under Microsoft Corp., but the ‘retiring’ Gates has his own patent troll/harvester where he files patents)

Bill Gates, Ray Ozzie and a bunch of other heavy-hitters from Microsoft are named as inventors on a newly issued patent for a “personal data mining” system that would analyze information and make recommendations with the goal of aiding a person’s decisions and improving quality of life.

Yahoo Loses Patent Infringement Case, $12.4 Million (see background on Acacia’s attacks against GNU/Linux just weeks after picking staff from Microsoft)

IMVironments – the little background themes for Yahoo Messenger – have gotten Yahoo in a lot of trouble. The company’s lost a patent infringement case that concerns them, and as a result, is supposed to pay a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation $12.4 million.

“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”

Bill Gates (when Microsoft was smaller)

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