02.05.10

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Patents Roundup: ACTA Inevitability Claimed, USPTO Patently Failing, China Against Patents in Standards, Monsanto in Court

Posted in America, Asia, Free/Libre Software, Patents, Standard at 11:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Patent news from across the world with limited emphasis on software patents and greater focus on patent globalisation

“ACTA will go through the European Parliament,” says President of the FFII (Benjamin) based on this report which quotes Martin Koehler, whom Benjamin describes as “advisor on International Trade for the Greens”.

But Koehler added that the Parliament will be expected to endorse ACTA as it would be a sign of mistrust in the European Commission if it did not.

“It is crystal clear that ACTA will go through,” Koehler said.

This is the imminent closing of society using intellectual monopolies. The judge behind the EBoA [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] seems to have already made up his mind about software patents in Europe and David Kappos, who we hoped would do better than his predecessor at the USPTO, is already giving signs of endorsement for software patents.

The goal of the Peer-to-Patent Project, which ended its second pilot period in December, is to allow the public to cite prior art to invalidate potential software patents, and in doing so, bring an end to the patent approval gridlock.

David Kappos, co-creator of the project and current under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the UPSTO, said his agency will evaluate all aspects of the project to determine what can be improved upon. Kappos said the agency has not made any decisions, but that he is “disposed” to look for ways to continue working on the project.

David Kappos came from IBM. The USPTO works well for IBM, but since when do IBM et al run the United States? The USPTO is supposed to be a federal body that governs and acts in the interest of citizens but instead it became property of monopolists that use it to block competition. That is utterly shameful and Benjamin from the FFII writes: “Kappos supporting swpats [software patents]“. He quotes the part where Kappos says that non-patent literature “is important in software, where so often it’s not patented prior art.”

“David Kappos came from IBM.”IBM, his former employer, is pro-software patents. Another IBMer, a ‘heavyweight’ manager (now retired), supports software patents and he is advising Obama on the subject. Ironically, that would be the same guy (Irving) who brought GNU/Linux to IBM.

Adding to the embarrassments (or the vanity) of the USPTO, here is a new story that sounds like a hoax or an urban myth: “USPTO Won’t Accept Upside Down Faxes; Demands Resends”

I know, the headline seems like a joke. After all, what do you do if someone inadvertently fed a page upside down into the fax machine? You simply turn the page over or, if you get an electronic version, use the reader software to rotate it. Apparently this is not within the standard operating procedures of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. No, if your fax comes in upside down, they send you a message in return saying that they can’t accept it and to re-fax. Here’s a copy of the letter that a source, who regularly deals with the USPTO, passed along to me…

The USPTO has gone patently insane. As for the Chinese system, it actually seems better in comparison, at least as far as standards are concerned. In China, patents and standards will not go hand in hand. It is mentioned in this Web site called “Talk Standards”, which may as well be called “Talk Patents” or “Talk Monopolies” ("Talk Standards" was cited yesterday in relation to a Microsoft lobby). Benjamin writes that “China [is] pushing for Royalty-Free Standards, [so] it makes the patent guys angry.” To quote those “patent guys”:

The draft regulation includes several interesting proposals that are bound to have substantial consequences. The negative impact on innovators could be severe. This proposal fuels the conflicts of interests between China, on the one hand, and the European Union and the USA, on the other. This development is worrying and could easily spill-over to trade- and investment policy.

[...]

The draft regulation will effectively force IPR holders to accept licensing terms deemed fair by the National Administrative Department of Standardization. This may result in patentees receiving licensing fees significantly lower than market level (i.e. “nominal fees”).

Consequently this implies that the Chinese are attempting to reduce the rewards to foreign IPR holders.

As opposed to ACTA, which is trying to achieve exactly the opposite. Going back to the USPTO, there is a discussion about the criminal company called Monsanto [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] and its patents on life forms. From a new article: [via Richard Stallman]

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a first-time case about the risks of genetically engineered crops. Named Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475, the case before the high court will be yet another step in an ongoing battle waged by the Center for Food Safety to protect consumers and the environment from potentially harmful effects of genetically engineered (GE) crops.

The modified alfalfa seed at the heart of the dispute has been engineered to be immune to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup. Monsanto intervened in a 2007 federal district court ruling that the Department of Agriculture’s approval of GE alfalfa was illegal. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a 2006 lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of non-profits and farmers who wished to retain the choice to plant non-GE alfalfa. CFS was victorious in this case – in addition CFS has won two appeals by Monsanto in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: in 2008 and again in 2009. Now, upon Monsanto’s insistence, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

As it turns out, the biggest benefactors right now are patent trolls and litigators:

Profit from patents: sue, don’t produce

[...]

No surprises: the trolls make more from suing than performing entities (manufacturers) do from suing (shorter time to trial, higher success rate, higher damages).

Microsoft is part of the problem because it resorted to racketeering using patents. In 2007 we saw the beginning of such extortion being directed against GNU/Linux, but some companies that are using GNU/Linux are also part of the problem (not just IBM). Here is an example from this week’s news:

Rugged UMPC wins patent for FPGA-centric design

Black Diamond announced it has been awarded a patent for FPGA-related technology found in its rugged, Linux-ready SwitchBack UMPC (ultra mobile PC). In the patented SwitchBack architecture, a Xilinx Virtex 5 FPGA controls the Celeron CPU via a PCI-Express channel, enabling the device to be easily reprogrammed, says the company.

Patents are fences, they are tools for preventing progress by others. To assume that any company that uses Free software is against software patents would be wrong (there are Free software parasites like ACCESS or Black Duck, which we mentioned earlier). In fact, one infamous patent aggressor that we wrote a lot about is TiVo [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Microsoft also sued TiVo.

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