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. Patent Trolls on Their Way Out in the United States and Their Way Into China, No Thanks to the Open Invention Network (OIN)

    An update on patent trolls and the role played by supposed allies of Free/libre software, who in practice do everything to exacerbate the problem rather than resolve it



  2. Insensitivity at the EPO’s Management – Part VIII: When Governed by Criminals, Truth-Tellers Are Cast as Criminals and Criminals as Justice Deliverers

    The bizarre state of affairs at the European Patent Office, where being an honest and transparent person makes one incredibly vulnerable and subjected to constant harassment from the management



  3. The Sickness of the EPO – Part V: Shedding Light on Institutional Abuse Against Ill and/or Disabled Individuals

    The seriousness of the situation at the EPO and a call for action, which requires greater transparency, even if imposed transparency



  4. The EPO's Race to the Bottom in Recruitment and Early Retirements Explained by an Insider

    The European Patent Office under Battistelli is failing to attract -- and certainly failing to retain -- talented examiners



  5. Wouter Pors and Other UPC Boosters Believe That Repeating the Lies Will Potentially Make Them Truths

    The lobbying campaign for UPC, or hopeful lies (sometimes mere rumours) disguised as "news", continues to rely on false perceptions that the UPC is just a matter of time and may actually materialise this year



  6. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is Utilised in Fixing the US Patent System and the Patent Microcosm Loses Its Mind

    A roundup of PTAB news, ranging from attacks on the legitimacy of PTAB to progress which is made by PTAB, undoing decades of overpatenting



  7. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Take on Patents Pertaining to Business Methods

    Patents on tasks that can be performed using pen and paper (so-called 'business methods', just like algorithms) and oughtn't be patent-eligible may be the next casualty of the America Invents Act (AIA)



  8. Google's Stewardship of GNU/Linux (Android, Chromebooks and More) in Doubt After Company Resorts to Patent 'First Strikes'

    Google has just turned a little more evil, by essentially using patents as a weapon against the competition (by no means a defensive move)



  9. Links 24/2/2017: Ubuntu 17.04 Beta, OpenBSD Foundation Nets $573,000 in Donations

    Links for the day



  10. IAM, Greased up by the EPO, Continues Lobbying by Shaming Tactics for the UPC, Under the Guise of 'News'

    The shrill and well-paid writers of IAM are still at it, promoting the Unitary Patent (UPC) at every opportunity and every turn



  11. Patent Scope Gone Awry: European Vegetable Patents Office?

    In its misguided race to raise so-called 'production', the EPO lost sight of its original goals and now facilitates patent royalty payments/taxation for naturally-recurring items of nature



  12. Yes, There is Definitely Brain Drain (Experience Deficit) at the European Patent Office and Stakeholders Feel It

    The direction that the European Patent Office has taken under Battistelli undoes many decades (almost half a century) of reputation-building and progress and naturally this repels existing staff, not to mention hampers recruitment efforts



  13. The Sickness of the EPO – Part IV: Cruel Management That Deliberately Attacks the Sick and the Weak

    The dysphoric reality at the European Patent Office, which is becoming like a large cell (with bolted-down windows) where people are controlled by fear and scapegoats are selected to perpetuate this atmosphere of terror and maintain demand (or workload) for the Investigative Stasi



  14. Links 23/2/2017: Qt 5.9 Alpha, First SHA1 Collision

    Links for the day



  15. UPC Roundup: War on the Appeal Boards, British Motion Against the UPC, Fröhlinger Recalled, and Fake News About Spain

    Taking stock of some of the latest attempts to shove the Unitary Patent (UPC) down Europe's throat, courtesy of Team Battistelli and Team UPC



  16. The Sickness of the EPO – Part III: Invalidity and Suicides

    An explanation of what drives a lot of EPO veterans to depression and sometimes even suicide



  17. The Appeal Board (PTAB) and Federal Circuit (CAFC) Maintain Good Pace of Patent Elimination Where Scope Was Exceeded

    The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) continues to accept about 4 out of 5 decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) refuses to intervene



  18. Software Patents Are Ebbing Away, But the “Swamp” Fights Back and Hijacks the Word “Fix”

    The club of patent maximalists, or those who profit from excess prosecution and legal chaos, isn't liking what has happened in the United States and it wants everything reversed



  19. Report From Yesterday's Debate About the European Patent Office (EPO) at the Bavarian Landtag

    A report of the EPO debate which took place at the Bavarian Landtag yesterday (21/2/2017)



  20. Links 22/2/2017: Wine-Staging 2.2, Nautilus 3.24

    Links for the day



  21. French Politician Richard Yung Tells the Government About Abuses at the European Patent Office (EPO)

    The subject of EPO scandals has once again landed in French politics, just a couple of months since it last happened



  22. The Sickness of the EPO – Part II: Background Information and Insights

    With a privatised, in-house (sometimes outsourced and for-profit) force for surveillance, policing, justice, public relations and now medical assessment (mere vassals or marionettes of the management) the EPO serves to show that it has become indistinguishable from North Korea, where the Supreme Leader gets to control every single aspect (absolutely no separation of powers)



  23. EPO Cartoon/Caricature by KrewinkelKrijst

    A new rendition by Dutch cartoonist and illustrator KrewinkelKrijst



  24. Inverting Narratives: IAM 'Magazine' Paints Massive Patent Bully Microsoft (Preying on the Weak) as a Defender of the Powerless

    Selective coverage and deliberate misinterpretation of Microsoft's tactics (patent settlement under threat, disguised as "pre-installation of some of the US company’s software products") as seen in IAM almost every week these days



  25. The Sickness of the EPO – Part I: Motivation for New Series of Articles

    An introduction or prelude to a long series of upcoming posts, whose purpose is to show governance by coercion, pressure, retribution and tribalism rather than professional relationship between human beings at the European Patent Office (EPO)



  26. Insensitivity at the EPO’s Management – Part VII: EPO Hypocrisy on Cancer and Lack of Feedback to and From ECPC

    The European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC), which calls itself "the largest European cancer patients' umbrella organisation," fails to fulfill its duties, says a source of ours, and the EPO makes things even worse



  27. Links 21/2/2017: KDE Plasma 5.9.2 in Chakra GNU/Linux, pfSense 2.3.3

    Links for the day



  28. EPO Caricature: Battistelli's Wall

    Battistelli's solution to everything at the EPO is exclusion and barriers



  29. The 'New' Microsoft is Still Acting Like a Dangerous Cult in an Effort to Hijack and/or Undermine All Free/Open Source Software

    In an effort to combat any large deployment of non-Microsoft software, the company goes personal and attempts to overthrow even management that is not receptive to Microsoft's agenda



  30. PTAB Petitioned to Help Against Patent Troll InfoGation Corp., Which Goes After Linux/Android OEMs in China

    A new example of software patents against Free software, or trolls against companies that are distributing freedom-respecting software from a country where these patents are not even potent (they don't exist there)


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