EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

02.09.10

Patents Roundup: EFF Defends VoIP; Google, Apple, and Black Duck Stifle Progress; Microsoft Joins RPX

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Patents at 5:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.”

Richard Stallman

Summary: A quick look at some patent news from the past week, ranging from defence to offence

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

THE EFF still fights one patent at a time. According to this new page, it is going after VoIP monopolies right now.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won reexamination of an illegitimate patent on voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) that could cripple the adoption of new VoIP technologies.

IDG wrote about this too:

The patent, held by a small company called C2 Communications Technologies, is one of 10 that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been trying to strike down for several years through its Patent Busting Project. On Friday, the patent office granted the EFF’s request for a re-examination, the EFF said. The digital civil-liberties organization argued that another applicant had submitted basically some of the same technology to the patent office before C2 did.

The EFF means well, but a better solution would be abolition of software patents as a whole. The problem is that companies like IBM, Google, Novell, and fronts like OIN are proponents of software patents, which makes them far from defenders of Free software.

Do Know Evil?

Google is acquiring/obtaining some more software patents. Here is the original report:

Google has filed at least four patent applications for technology it’s building into its Chrome browser to try to make the Web a more powerful foundation for applications.

Google is part of the software patents problem, just like IBM. Sometimes it gets sued.

Apple

A few weeks ago we explained why Apple too is part of the software patents problem. Here is Apple applying for some more patents and blocking developers’ use of their associated ideas/functions.

Apple this week notified iPhone developers that they cannot use the device’s GPS data to serve location-aware advertisements to users of App Store software.

[..]

One patent application described a dynamic home screen that would display specific applications automatically populated based on factors like the current location of the phone. For example, when traveling in San Francisco, a specific “San Francisco” icon could appear on the screen, and give users easy access to local weather, time, maps and contacts.

More information here and here:

Apple doesn’t appear to be opposed to location-based targeted advertising in principle. It has filed patents for location-based targeted advertising, especially in relation to offering currently playing songs or videos at a particular location for purchase via iTunes.

 

Is Apple’s banning iPhone applications that would use location data for displaying advertising not as onerous as anything Microsoft tried–and mostly didn’t get away with?

What about banning the word “Android” from the App Store? Like Apple thinks it can control the flow of information its customers receive? Give me a break.

This new article brings back memories of Apple’s patent fight with Microsoft. Well, Microsoft ripped off a lot of companies, Apple included.

Back in the dark ages, around 1991, Apple had some pretty cool Macs while PC users were still mired in DOS. Apple was making good money. Meanwhile, on the PC side, just marrying a mouse with DOS was the big thing. However, over time, Microsoft was able to copy what Apple was doing with the WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointing device).

That was due in part to poor IP protections and a strategic error made by John Sculley who opened the door, contractually, to a GUI for Microsoft back in the 1980s. That resulted in a lawsuit by Apple against Microsoft in 1988, one that Apple eventually lost. (The fascinating saga has been documented at Low End Mac.) Once that GUI door was opened, Microsoft was eventually able to mimic the Mac OS look and feel. Today, many non-technical users are not able to differentiate between Windows 7 and Snow Leopard, and that has to irk Apple.

Black Parasite Software

Black Duck’s new patent (mentioned in [1, 2]) is still receiving some press coverage. Confrontation with the SFLC too gets it some attention:

Bradley Kuhn, the technology director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) expressed dismay this week after learning that Black Duck Software was granted a patent that covers software methods for detecting and resolving open source software licensing conflicts. Kuhn, who plays a major role in the SFLC’s GPL enforcement efforts, contends that Black Duck’s patent is far from novel and describes techniques that he has been using for licensing compliance analysis for over a decade.

Black Duck was founded in 2002 with the aim of providing automated solutions for tracking the provenance of source code in applications. The company’s first product, called Protex, reached the market at a time when the software industry was being confronted by emerging legislation and high-profile litigation that raised concerns about software licensing practices. At the time, the ill-fated SCO trial was just starting to heat up and there were still unanswered questions about whether the newly-passed Sarbanes-Oxley Act would require more rigorous internal audits of software licensing. Black Duck turned the industry’s fear over these issues into a marketing tool and became one of the leading vendors in the compliance management market.

Black Duck ought to withdraw the patent or be perceived as even more of a parasite to the Free software community. With a Microsoft-tied genesis, Black Duck was always difficult to trust. This brings us to Microsoft.

Microsoft

Microsoft has signed a new patent deal, this time with Webmap Technologies.

Webmap Technologies, LLC has entered into a license agreement with Microsoft Corporation, a developer and licensor of software solutions. Webmap Technologies is a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation, through its operating subsidiaries, acquires, develops, licenses and enforces patented technologies. All the companies are based in the US.

Here is another new article about Microsoft’s patent deal with Funai — a deal which we previously wrote about in [1, 2, 3].

Software major Microsoft and Japanese home technology firm Funai have struck an IP cross-licensing deal, granting each other access to agreed areas of their patent portfolios. Set to bolster the companies’ mutual research and development (R&D) efforts in integrated media, the deal reflects the growing popularity of cross-licensing and patent pools in the technology field as key players aim to avoid IP disputes.

The most significant news though is probably to do with RPX [1, 2, 3], a patent pool/racket which Microsoft is entering. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Microsoft signed a deal with Acacia and now it joins RPX with the excuse that it needs protection from “patent trolls.”

Microsoft Corp., a technology giant that wins thousands of patents every year, has joined RPX Corp., a start-up network aimed at aggregating intellectual property to shield its members from what are known as “patent trolls.”

Here is a funny headline (“Tech Giants’ New Plan To Fight Patent Trolls”). It is funny given that Microsoft itself created the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures. For Microsoft to complain about “patent trolls” would be nonsensical and hyporitical.

Microsoft has signed up for “patent insurance” with a startup called RPX, which buys up patents that could be used against its clients. Microsoft says this approach can save the industry billions of dollars by thwarting the industry’s controversial “patent trolls” and their litigation. But how much can a firm like RPX do to prevent litigation?

This is also covered at Law.com, requiring subscription though. Here is an article everyone can read at the site, as well as a few others:

Frustrated by litigation costs, Microsoft, Sony, and Nokia are paying third-party patent acquirers such as RPX to fend off patent lawsuits

Dallas News has this story to tell:

That’s what Melsheimer of Fish & Richardson PC’s Dallas office found in getting a $511.6 million verdict against Microsoft reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Plaintiff Alcatel-Lucent initially sought $50 billion in damages.

The ruling ended a seven-year odyssey featuring seven different cases and three jury trials. One case hinged on the value of a particular feature of Microsoft’s Outlook electronic mail program. Melsheimer and his team convinced the appeals court that the feature wasn’t part of Outlook’s appeal to customers, hence no damages.

We wrote about Fish & Richardson a couple of months ago.

Patents as Barriers

Against Monopoly has something to say about “Common Sense” and the Economist has published an article against patents (essentially monopolies).

DO PATENTS help or hinder innovation? Instinctively, they would seem a blessing, especially for backroom tinkerers. Patenting an idea gives its inventor a 20-year monopoly to exploit the fruit of his labour in the marketplace, in exchange for publishing a full account of how the new product, process or material works for all and sundry to see. For the inventor, that may be a reasonable trade-off. For society, however, the loss of competition through the granting sole rights to an individual or organisation is justified only if it stimulates the economy and delivers goods that change people’s lives for the better.

[...]

If truth be told, few inventions are really worth patenting. Time and again, surveys show that in both America and Europe companies rate superior sales and service, lead time and secrecy as far more important than patents when it comes to profiting from innovation. And, although applying for patents is relatively cheap, the cost of maintaining them can be horrendous. If the idea behind a patent has any commercial merit, it will attract imitators—and the inventor must be prepared to defend it in the courts. In a majority of cases, the cost of litigation will far exceed any revenue the inventor may subsequently earn from royalties or licensing.

By and large, the inventions and discoveries worth patenting are those in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields, where the pay-off for blockbuster drugs can amount to billions of dollars a year. Also, because the vast majority of inventions in such areas depend on unique molecular architectures, patents for new products are easier to defend in the courts. A me-too drug that is believed to violate a firm’s patent is either based on the same molecule or not.

[...]

An end to frivolous patents for business processes will be a blessing to online commerce. Meanwhile, the loss of patent protection for software could make programmers realise at last that they have more in common with authors, artists, publishers and musicians than they ever had with molecular architects and chip designers. In short, they produce expressions of ideas that are eminently copyrightable.

That could be good news for innovation. After all, who in his right mind would seek a lousy old patent offering a mere 20 years of protection when copyright can provide monopoly rights for up to 70 years after the author’s death? That one fact alone could spur more innovation than all the tinkering attempted so far.

A new study (already mentioned here) shows that patent trolls are taking over the system.

“Adobe pays patent royalties for the h264 codec so that video plays reliably worldwide, across browsers and OS’s,” says the president of the FFII, pointing to this from Adobe:

But in follow the comments from our CTO’s posting “Open access to Content and Apps”, I noticed that there are comments about Flash not being an “open” technology and questions about why we don’t open source the Player, so I thought I’d jump in and provide some details to help clear up some misconceptions and explain how open we are with the Flash Platform.

Another new article shows that one researcher has decided that sharing is better than not sharing (“open-source research”), which probably means that patents too will be affected.

One medical researcher applies generosity of spirit with his open-source research project designed to fight a tropical disease for which medical treatment is expensive and tough to come by.

[..]

Now, Scientific American reports that Australian chemist and entrepreneur Matthew Todd is initiating a totally open-source research project geared to the fight against the tropical disease schistosomiasis.

Sharing is better than not sharing. Scientists understand that. Investors don’t care.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

2 Comments

  1. NotZed said,

    February 9, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Gravatar

    “chemist and entrepreneur Matthew Todd is initiating a totally open-source research project ”

    How silly is that. That isn’t ‘open source’. It’s called science. It’s a model free software mimics, not the other way around. As opposed to ‘business’, which is what science has turned into.

    I replied to the Adobe blog with this:

    “”Adobe pays for that codec so video plays reliably worldwide, across browsers and OS’s. So we make it as open as we can – by releasing the specifications.”

    Do you pay patent licenses for copies that go to countries where patents do not apply?

    Anyway it was a choice to choose a codec that required per-copy licensing fees. It is not a choice that had to be made – `industry standard’ or not. There are alternative codecs that do not require licensing fess, and Adobe is probably big enough to sponsor the development of it’s own (now there’s a challenge).

    Flash without video isn’t really flash, so it is hard to consider it anything other than a proprietary platform.”

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, they can use DIRAC or OGG. Bear in mind that Adobe does not like software patents.

    “Let me make my position on the patentability of software clear. I believe that software per se should not be allowed patent protection. […] We take this position because it is the best policy for maintaining a healthy software industry, where innovation can prosper.” —Douglas Brotz, Adobe Systems, Inc.

    “Software patents harm the industry, with no corresponding benefit” —Adobe, Douglas Brotz, JamessHuggins: Adobe Systems Statement on Software Patents

What Else is New


  1. Links 18/9/2014: Windows Copying GNU/Linux, Germany Moves to Security

    Links for the day



  2. Web Site 'Patent Progress' Now Officially 'Powered by CCIA' (FRAND Proponent, Microsoft Front)

    After talking a job at CCIA, "Patent Progress" and its chief author should be treated as dubious on real patent progress



  3. Articles About the Death of Software Patents in the United States

    Recent coverage of software patents and their demise in their country of origin, where even proponents of software patents are giving up



  4. The Death of Software Patents is Already Killing Some Major Patent Trolls

    VirnetX seems to be the latest victim of the demise of software patents in the United States



  5. More Microsoft Layoffs

    More Microsoft layoffs go ahead as the company is unable to compete



  6. ODF on the Rise

    Milestones for OpenDocument Format (ODF) and the launch of FixMyDocuments



  7. Links 17/9/2014: CoreOS, ChromeOS, and systemd

    Links for the day



  8. Italy is Cracking Down on Microsoft's Monopoly Abuse While Gradually Moving to GNU/Linux

    Italy is not only moving to Free/Open Source software but also to GNU/Linux while at the same time barring Microsoft from forcibly tying Windows to new PCs



  9. OpenSUSE's 'Assurances' Are Classic MBA School Hogwash

    OpenSUSE is not part of any commitment, except for SUSE's; the impact of the Novell/SUSE acquisition casts uncertainty on the project's future



  10. Links 16/9/2014: Firefox OS Smartphones in Bangladesh, “Treasure Map” of the Internet

    Links for the day



  11. The United Kingdom Should Dump Microsoft For the Sake of National Security

    The UK has issues of Microsoft dependency and Windows viruses; its migration to Free software and GNU/Linux is not fast enough to guard its autonomy in the age of digital imperialism



  12. CBS Hires Even More Microsoft Staff to Cover Microsoft Matters

    CBS continues to be infested with Microsoft staff past and present (this time Dave Johnson) and the bias in output is quite revealing



  13. Microsoft Has Just Killed Minecraft for GNU/Linux and the Possibility of Free/Open Source Releases

    Persson sells out to Microsoft and lets the abusive monopolist destroy the popular cross-platform game that a community has been built around



  14. Another Reason to Boycott Intel UEFI

    More anti-competitive aspects are revealed inside UEFI, which helps merginalise GNU/Linux



  15. Quick Mention: Novell and SUSE Passed to Microsoft's 'Partner of the Year', Microsoft Focus

    Novell is changing hands again, and falling into the hands of even more Microsoft-friendly actors



  16. Links 16/9/2014: Linux 3.17 RC5, KDE Frameworks 5.2.0

    Links for the day



  17. Željko Topić, Benoît Battistelli, and the European Patent Office (EPO): Part II

    Part II of our look into the EPO appointment of Željko Topić and other matters showing the dubious integrity of the EPO



  18. Links 14/9/2014: Android-based Watches Earn Optimism

    Links for the day



  19. Links 14/9/2014: Eucalyptus Devoured

    Links for the day



  20. Links 11/9/2014: Linux Toilet Project, Linux-Based Wheelchair Project

    Links for the day



  21. Links 10/9/2014: Brian Stevens in Google, Ubuntu 14.10 Expectations

    Links for the day



  22. Links 9/9/2014: Hating/Loving Linux, Android Aplenty

    Links for the day



  23. Links 8/9/2014: Linux 3.17 RC 4, Switzerland Welcoming Snowden

    Links for the day



  24. Suspicion of High-Level Corruption at the European Patent Office (EPO): Part I

    The European Patent Office (EPO) Vice-President has a background of corruption and his appointment to the EPO too is believed to be reliant on systemic corruption



  25. Links 6/9/2014: Core OS at DigitalOcean, Women in Xorg

    Links for the day



  26. Software Patents 'Quality' Debated in Courts, Microsoft's Biggest Patent Troll Still a Chronic Liar

    Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft's and Bill Gates' largest patent proxy, continues to spread lies about its motivations, claiming that patent assessment is among the goals when in fact only the courts and patent offices do this



  27. New Article Explains How Bill Gates Prevents Schools From Moving to GNU/Linux and Free Software

    A new article from Al Jazeera provides details about the role of so-called 'charities' of billionaires inside school systems



  28. Microsoft Sued for Large-scale Copyright Abuses

    Microsoft reveals its disregard for copyright law which it loves so much to wield as a weapon against its competition and clients



  29. Links 5/9/2014: New WordPress, Systemd Debate Continues

    Links for the day



  30. 'Embrace and Extend' at Microsoft: The New Generation

    Some of the latest examples of Microsoft's predatory acts against Free software and against competition in general, disguised as acts of friendliness


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts