03.05.10

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Patents Roundup: USPTO Grants Patents on Hotdogs and Harbours Pyramid Schemes, EPO in Transition, and Apple Turns Nasty

Posted in Antitrust, Apple, Europe, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 7:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hotdog

Summary: Signs of weakness or dis-servitude at the US patent office, Alison Brimelow is leaving, and Apple wants to be paid for a Linux platform it does not develop

THIS post assembles some key news about the patent systems and how they affects Free software.

USPTO

The USPTO shoots itself in the foot by going beyond the making of hamburgers and sandwiches as patents. Now there is a patent on hotdogs:

So when he heard about this new pediatric warning, he went looking to see if any of the hotdog makers were offering pre-hollowed dogs — and instead discovered that in 2006 someone had applied for a patent on hollow hot dogs. Seriously.

According to this, things are bound to get worse, not better, because the US wants ACTA to cover patents as well.

Furthermore, the response confirms what became clear in the most recent leak, that the US sees ACTA as covering not just copyrights and trademarks — but patents as well (though, some of the other participants are against including patents).

Then there are those who hacked the system, such as Ray Niro (inventor of patent trolling, who also bullies critics [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]) and Microsoft’s Nathan Myhrvold, the world's biggest patent troll.

“I’ve always treated Myhrvold’s company with the greatest scepticism (I call them “Intellectual Vultures”) and this report is extremely believable,” says Simon Phipps, who caught up with the latest news (exposé) about Intellectual Ventures. “It fits in with the use of patents,” he adds, “especially software patents – by companies like IBM, who hide their patent shake-downs behind confidentiality, out-of-court settlement and fine language about their community credentials.”

EPO

André Rebentisch has this new post about “trade elitism”.

Still you may wonder if EU trade policy always adheres to Free Trade objectives. In the field of IPR, in particular geographical indications, common policies are incompatible with a classic Free Trade agenda.

The head of the EPO is leaving after her mistakes. “Defining the limits of patentable subject-matter in “new” areas (life, software, business methods) is a source of unease,” writes or quotes the president of the FFII, Benjamin Henrion. Based on IPJur, there is already a succession plan.

Earlier in May 2009 I had reported that Ms Brimelow is not going to apply for a second term in Office as President of the European Patent Office beyond her term ending in June 2010. After considerable woes, the Administrative Council (AC) of the European Patent Organisation (EPOrg) eventually managed to elect her successor by a 3/4 majority of votes on March 01, 2010.

This long paper [PDF] had Henrion write: “European and European Union Patents Court, a somewhat uninspired label abbreviated as the troglodyte-sounding acronym EEUPC”

A “Union” patents court is an indication of an attempt to mix or rather to negatively contaminate existing patent laws that protected Free software developers. It’s policy laundering, just like ACTA.

Apple

Apple has decided to be a spoiled brat and attack Linux with software patents [1, 2, 3, 4]. According to this, Apple is aiming specifically at the Linux-based platform.

Commentators suggest that this action by Apple is actually targeted at Google’s open source Android operating system, rather than relating just to HTC’s smartphones. HTC is one of the most prominent handset manufacturers globally to have developed products based on the Android operating system, using it in its Hero and Nexus One phones.

Microsoft did something similar against TomTom. It’s usually an indication that the plaintiff/aggressor is losing. “Popularity is killing Android,” says the headline at The Inquirer.

AS ANDROID SWEEPS across the smartphone market like a wave of locusts over a land that is strewn with Windows Mobile devices cast by the wayside, Google’s idealistic open source, embrace all attitude is starting to look naive.

TechDirt has written about Apple’s sheer hypocrisy and dishonesty.

…Steve Jobs noted how Apple was “shameless about stealing great ideas.” But in the announcement about the HTC lawsuit, he has a different perspective: “competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

TechDirt also believes that Apple might face antitrust action for other reasons.

Apple’s iTunes store has always dictated the terms of its dealings with record labels. As such, the largest U.S. music retailer has never censured the labels over marketing or promotion strategies.

Apple is not a nice company; it’s probably not as bad to GNU/Linux as Microsoft is. Alas, it’s important to avoid Apple products in order to sustain Free software and help it thrive.

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