Summary: Panasonic signs an exFAT patent deal with Microsoft, Amazon continues to abuse, and Nathan Myhrvold’s abuse of the system is still being discussed
Microsoft has made a second intellectual property (IP) licensing announcement this week. After announcing a cross-licensing deal with Amazon.com (which had lots of NDA stipulations), Microsoft revealed on February 25 it had struck a deal with Panasonic for its exFAT technology.
Maybe Amazon was just licensing exFAT/FAT, some argued. Sure, maybe Amazon licensed those technologies too; it’s impossible to tell, given what Microsoft disclosed and Amazon refused (or was not allowed) to discuss. But as I mentioned to some readers, when Microsoft is simply licensing exFAT/FAT, it calls that out specifically in the release, even if the licensee isn’t talking about how/what they plan to do with the technology.
In Amazon’s case, Microsoft called out the fact Amazon is using open-source technology (Linux, specifically) in the Kindle and on its back-end servers. Some open-source backers said they believed Microsoft did this to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to hurt Linux.
Regarding Amazon’s patent deal with Microsoft [1, 2, 3], there is another new development justifying boycott of Amazon, which is one of the notable abusers of the USPTO (and patent offices in other countries too, Canada for example). Amazon is clearly part of the problem.
How Hard Is It To Realize That One-Click Buying Doesn’t Deserve A Patent?
Amazon and Jeff Bezos (who a decade ago was a founder of a project to bust bogus patents) have aggressively fought to keep the patent alive. And so we’ve now entered the fifth year of the review process, which seems to involve some rather annoyed USPTO patent examiners, who are fed up with what appears to be Amazon simply dumping busywork on the examiners to avoid a final rejection of the patent.
You can imagine my laughter when Microsoft was declared by the courts to have violated a patent in their OOXML file formats. The patent owners, i4i of Canada, asked the courts to have Microsoft remove the features that were found to be in violation of i4i’s patents.
Now, what about all the customers that chose to use Microsoft’s Office product just to get the OOXML feature? If they suffer loss because of this Microsoft compensate them? What about the documents they created with OOXML, will they have to be converted? What about the people that refuse to let Microsoft remove the patent violating code to protect their investments and documents? Could i4i sue them?
Then there is Microsoft's patent troll Nathan Myhrvold, whose extortion racket we explained and shed light on earlier this week [1, 2]. Other people — including patent lawyers — have something to say (well, usually complain) about this patent troll and TechDirt cites a lawyer as follows:
Sawyer also points out that, contrary to claims of the system’s supporters, that “having a patent doesn’t mean that you really invented anything, or that the person you’re suing would actually infringe in a rational world.” Some of you may have seen some of the regular commenters here claim that there the only way to prove you’ve invented something is if you get a patent on it — and that anyone accused of infringing has clearly “stolen” the idea. Neither of those things are true. What Sawyer is pointing out is that getting a patent is just a sign that you were able to convince the USPTO (through a “pseudo-adversarial administrative procedure”) that you deserved such a monopoly privilege. It doesn’t mean you actually invented anything — and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve done anything to promote the progress or innovation in general.
Summarising the above, the president of the FFII adds that “patent trolls are financed by traditional investment banks and hedge funds,” but even some VCs have no faith in software patents, based on another post from TechDirt (published a day beforehand):
VC Explains How Damaging Software Patents Can Be
Despite claims that no VCs would ever invest in companies without patents, we’ve been seeing more and more VCs moving over to the side of recognizing that patents are more often hindering their portfolio companies rather than helping them — and these are some of the most respected VCs around these days. Brad Burnham, who has already called for an independent invention defense for patents has responded to Nathan Myhrvold’s ongoing campaign to legitimize patent shakedowns.
It is worth emphasising that this whole debate started because of Microsoft’s patent troll who was running amok with an extortion racket. This shows just how much of a problem Microsoft has become to scientists and developers. It retards more than just the field of software right now and so does Bill Gates. █
“Software patents have been nothing but trouble for innovation. We the software engineers know this, yet we actually have full-blown posters in our break-room showcasing the individual engineers who came up with something we were able to push through the USPTO. Individually, we pretty much all consider the software-patent showcase poster to be a colossal joke.” —Kelledin, PLI: State Street Overruled… PERIOD