04.11.10

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Patents Roundup: David Hammerstein on Microsoft Lobbying in Europe; Harrison Targets Lobbying on Software Patents in New Zealand, Justice Stevens Leaves SCOTUS

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 3:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

David Hammerstein
Photo by Mara

Summary: News from three continents about patent policy: Microsoft’s “revolving door” European Commission officials; New Zealand’s AJ Park looking for tax on software; Algebraix Data brags about its software patents

EVERY ONCE in a while we highlight developments that impact patent policy. In this roundup, Microsoft is involved too (it typically uses front groups to hide its role) and Free software is directly impacted.

Europe

We have written quite a lot about David Hammerstein in recent months [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. As a former member of parliament, he helps expose Microsoft’s maneuvers behind closed doors in Brussels. Here is his latest: [via André]

Open Standards under siege in the European Union

[...]

Nevertheless, openness still seems to be considered a dirty word in a number of official corridors of Brussels that are probably under the well-organized lobbying efforts of the Microsoft empire (according to some malicious rumours difficult to believe the campaign is being promoted by “revolving door” European Commission officials who returned to public service after a number of years of “leave” on the Microsoft payroll). According to many observers this US IT giant is trying to counter-attack after taking heavy blows and fines precisely from the new Digital Commissioner Nelly Kroes who previously held the post of the EU’s competition czar.

[...]

If this EU programme was put into practice a number of major IT companies would have a harder time at locking out new innovative competitors and millions of internet users would have a much easier time at communicating without technical barriers. EU citizens would for the first time be able to participate in European democratic institutions without being forced to purchase one particular closed brand of software in order to exchange information with their elected representatives.
The final “EU Digital Agenda” will be presented at the end of April and the latest news is that the openness agenda is losing the battle within the European Commission while a few narrow business interests are taking the upper hand. If it were published today the term “open standards” would be totally erased from the whole document. In this important fight the positions of the general public interest have hardly been taken into account. Voices in favour of open standards and interoperability urgently need to be heard in Brussels.

For information about EIFv2, see:

  1. European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Corrupted by Microsoft et al, Its Lobbyists
  2. Orwellian EIF, Fake Open Source, and Security Implications
  3. No Sense of Shame Left at Microsoft
  4. Lobbying Leads to Protest — the FFII and the FSFE Rise in Opposition to Subverted EIF
  5. IBM and Open Forum Europe Address European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Fiasco
  6. EIF Scrutinised, ODF Evolves, and Microsoft’s OOXML “Lies” Lead to Backlash from Danish Standards Committee
  7. Complaints About Perverted EIF Continue to Pile Up
  8. More Complaints About EIFv2 Abuse and Free Software FUD from General Electric (GE)
  9. Patents Roundup: Copyrighted SQL Queries, Microsoft Alliance with Company That Attacks F/OSS with Software Patents, Peer-to-Patent in Australia
  10. Microsoft Under Fire: Open Source Software Thematic Group Complains About EIFv2 Subversion, NHS Software Supplier Under Criminal Investigation
  11. British MEP Responds to Microsoft Lobby Against EIFv2; Microsoft’s Visible Technologies Infiltrates/Derails Forums Too
  12. Patents Roundup: Escalations in Europe, SAP Pretense, CCIA Goes Wrong, and IETF Opens Up
  13. Patents Roundup: Several Defeats for Bad Types of Patents, Apple Risks Embargo, and Microsoft Lobbies Europe Intensely
  14. Europeans Asked to Stop Microsoft’s Subversion of EIFv2 (European Interoperability Framework Version 2)
  15. Former Member of European Parliament Describes Microsoft “Coup in Process” in the European Commission
  16. Microsoft’s Battle to Consume — Not Obliterate — Open Source

New Zealand

Over in New Zealand, leeches of the software development community are fighting to allow software patenting [1, 2, 3] and the following short new report continues to name Peter Harrison as instrumental in opposition to all of this.

New Zealand Open Source Society is seeking powerful interests for pressurizing the government to turn around its plans of excluding software from patent protection reforms in the country.

Posting his views on NZOSS website, yesterday, Vice President Peter Harrison appreciated the Commerce Select Committee’s advice of exclusion of software from patent protection, thereby countering the views of the critics.

[...]

He pointed out the criticism made by Ken Moon of intellectual property specialist AJ Park, arguing that the requirements for resourcefulness in the functionality of patent law are the same as for any other innovation.

We wrote about AJ Park yesterday. It’s just a law firm trying to take money away from actual producers. The “patents industry” is even less useful than the “marketing industry”; it contributes next to nothing. Issues like the “penal industry” clearly show that industries can grow where they shouldn’t.

As the article above correctly adds, even proprietary software companies would support the exclusion of software patents, unless they are monopolies. Patents harm small businesses, so it’s not just an issue affecting Free software (contrary to common belief).

United States

Justice Stevens is leaving the Supreme Court of the United States and as Timothy B. Lee (who has just been hired by Google) puts it, Stevens was an opponent of software patents.

Patents: The explosion of software patents is one of the biggest threats to innovation in the software industry, and Justice Stevens saw this threat coming almost three decades ago. Stevens wrote the majority decision in the 1978 case of Parker v. Flook, which clearly disallowed patents in the software industry. Three years later, Stevens dissented in the 1981 case of Diamond v. Diehr, which allowed a patent on a software-controlled rubber-curing machine. Although the majority decision didn’t explicitly permit patents on software, Stevens warned that the majority’s muddled decision would effectively open the door to software patents. And he has been proven right. In the three decades that followed, the patent-friendly U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has effectively dismantled limits on software patents. And the result has been a disaster, with high-tech firms being forced to spend large sums on litigation rather than innovation.

From ZDNet we learn that a San Diego-based company called Algebraix Data is patenting maths (data manipulation, i.e. strings, matrices, and hashing) in the form of algorithms.

I met with Charles Silver, the CEO of Algebraix Data, a startup based in San Diego. He was telling me about his company’s approach to querying large databases, very quickly, and with no need for prior indexing, or construction of data models.

It all sounded too good to be true, I told him.

If Algebraix can do what it says it can, it is a very hot startup.

Here are some notes from our conversation:

[...]

- We have four patents on the technology. Getting software patents is not as easy as it once used to be.

Well, apparently it’s not difficult enough. What is the physical invention here?

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