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 19/4/2014: Slow Easter News Day

    Links for the day



  2. Links 18/4/2014: New KDE, Kubuntu, and More

    Links for the day



  3. Some Perspective on Heartbleed®

    Our views on the whole Heartbleed® bonanza, which seems like partly a PR stunt (for multiple stakeholders)



  4. Microsoft is Leaving Windows -- Including Vista 8.1 -- Vulnerable to Non-Government Crackers, Not Only to NSA

    Microsoft makes it ever more evident that securing users of Windows is not at all a priority, and perhaps not even a desire



  5. Links 17/4/2014: Android RDP, New Ubuntu, RHEL 7 Milestone

    Links for the day



  6. Racing to 1984: Mass Surveillance, Cracking, 'Targeted' Assassinations, and Illegal Torture

    Links for the day



  7. More Microsoft Subsidies to Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures

    Microsoft hands money to Bill Gates' close friend who is the world's largest patent troll



  8. Aiding Microsoft Under the Disguise of 'Pro-FOSS'

    Not everything which is FOSS necessary becomes, by virtue of existence, a positive contribution, as we are constantly reminded by projects that help proprietary software and/or restrictions get a strong grip on FOSS



  9. Links 16/4/2014: Red Hat PR, Ubuntu LTS Imminent

    Links for the day



  10. Links 15/4/2014: Lots of PCLinuxOS Releases, Ukraine Updates

    Links for the day



  11. Apple and Microsoft Actively Lobbying Against Patent Reform in the US

    Apple and Microsoft are reportedly intervening/interfering with US law in order to ensure that the law is Free/libre software-hostile



  12. Lawsuit by Microsoft Shareholder Targets Fine for Crimes Rather Than the Crimes Themselves

    A new lawsuit by a Microsoft shareholder shows everything that's wrong with today's model of accountability, where those who are responsible for crimes are accused of not avoiding fines rather than committing the crimes



  13. Public Institutions Must Dump PRISM-Associated Software

    Another reminder that taxpayers-subsidised services should refuse, as a matter of principle, to pay anything for -- let alone deploy -- proprietary software with back doors



  14. GNU/Linux News: The Opportunities Amid XP EOL

    Links for the day



  15. Microsoft Gets Its Money's Worth From Xamarin: PlayStation 4 Now Polluted by Microsoft

    The Trojan horse of Microsoft, Xamarin, is pushing .NET into Microsoft's console competitor



  16. After Brendan Eich Comes Chris Beard

    Having removed Brendan Eich using bullying and blackmail tactics, his foes inside Mozilla achieved too little as we have yet another man (coming from inside Mozilla) acting as CEO



  17. Healthcare News: Free Software in Health, Humanitarian Causes

    Links for the day



  18. Links 14/4/2014: MakuluLinux, Many Games, More Privacy News and Pulitzer Prize for NSA Revelations

    Links for the day



  19. TechBytes Episode 87: Catching up With Surveillance (NSA, GCHQ et al.)

    The first audio episode in a very long time covers some of the latest happenings when it comes to privacy and, contrariwise, mass surveillance



  20. Server News: KVM, ElasticHosts, Other GNU/Linux Items, and Open Network Linux

    Links for the day



  21. Hardware News: Freedom, Modding, Hackability on the Rise

    Links for the day



  22. Distributions News: GNU/Linux Distros

    Links for the day



  23. GNOME News: Financial Issues, Mutter-Wayland, West Coast Summit, Community Participation

    Links for the day



  24. KDE News: Kubuntu at the Centre Again KDE Applications Updated

    Links for the day



  25. Techrights Rising

    Effective immediately, Techrights will do what it takes to bring back old volume and pace of publishing



  26. Links: Surveillance, Intervention, Torture and Drones

    Links for the day



  27. Mobile Linux Not Just Android: Jolla, WebOS, and Firefox OS News

    Links for the day



  28. Google's Linux Revolution: New Gains for Android, Chrome OS (GNU/Linux)

    Links for the day



  29. Free/Libre Databases News: MongoDB, NoSQL, and MySQL Branches/Forks

    Links for the day



  30. Open Access on the Rise: Textbooks, Journals, Etc.

    Links for the day


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