04.21.10

Patents Roundup: ACTA Affects Patents, Philips Upset With the Patent System, NZOSS Responds to the Software Patents Lobby

Posted in America, Apple, Europe, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 2:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

David and Goliath ACTA
Famous depiction of David vs. Goliath (in the public domain)

Summary: As indicated in the title, this is a grouping of many patent news stories

Here in a nutshell are some of the latest developments regarding software patents.

Bad Apple

Apple is part of the software patents problem because it is already using them against GNU/Linux. Apple goes way too far, with trivial human actions written as software, then monopolised with aid from the USPTO (and ITC for enforcement). Here is the latest example. How far will the USPTO be willing to go? It has already gone way too far. Just consider copyrights on clothing, which gives a whole new meaning to ‘stealing’ of clothes.

ACTA

The release of ACTA for public viewing is hardly news. People have seen it for well over a year [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] through many leaks that also showed how it changed over time. ACTA does affect patent law, as we have known and noted all along [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Now this can be shown using a formal and authentic document rather than a leak. Glyn Moody quotes Hammerstein (former European member of parliament) as writing: “ACTA text: includes copyright and patents of Sections 1 through 7 of Part II TRIPS. not “counterfeit” treaty”

Hammerstein has had many other valuable things to share recently [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], so power to him.

Europe

EurActiv, a Web site that routinely covers activities such as lobbying in Europe, states that the “EU [will] convene [a] subgroup of ‘innovation commissioners’” and begins as follows:

The European Commission will formally establish a subgroup of at least eight EU commissioners with a stake in innovation policy when it meets this week.

Glyn Moody responds to it by asking: “what’s the betting they’ll want more intellectual monopolies?”

The last thing that the Commission needs is yet more ACTA proponents like Luc Pierre Devigne or even Pedro Velasco-Martins. “But the ministers also make it explicit that Open Standards and interoperability are the way to go for the European public sector in general,” says this separate new report from the FSFE. It looks rather encouraging:

The EU’s member states have just thrown their weight behind the principles of Open Standards and interoperability. At a meeting of the ministers for telecommunication and information society in Granada, Spain, the ministers of the 27 EU member states yesterday issued the Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda [pdf].

[...]

FSFE is part of the IGF and has taken part in WSIS while it lasted. A lot of good work was done there, and we’re glad to see that the European member states value the principles of those fora.

Again, this is not the European Commission speaking, but the member states. The Commission itself has been sending mixed messages. In her parliamentary hearing, Neelie Kroes emphasised the importance of Open Standards. On the other hand, the department in charge of the Commission’s IT infrastructre, DIGIT, has been doing all it can to purge Open Standards (not to mention Free Software) from the revised European Interoperability Framework. There are also indications that Neelie Kroes is being pressured to remove references to Open Standards from theDigital Agenda policy paper which she is about to issue.

Philips, which is a software patents lobbyist based in Europe [1, 2, 3], is doing something similar to General Electric (GE), which is also a software patents lobbyist in Europe (lobbying alongside Microsoft). Philips complains about the patent system after GE sounded the alarm too and made similar complaints. From China Daily:

Noted for its international products and innovation, electronics giant Philips is also a pioneer in patent protection in China, ranking third among foreign companies for its more than 1,600 filings last year alone.

Such large numbers don’t surprise industry insiders, as they reflect a worldwide trend – what Ruud Peters, company vice-president and CEO of Philips Intellectual Property and Standards, calls “global patent warming”.

In fact overheated patent activity threatens to overwhelm the entire system, he said.

[...]

We have too many patents today and the patent system is facing the risk of being overwhelmed,” Peters said.

“Most patent offices have been unable to cope with the steep increase in patent filings and a huge backlog of unexamined applications is building,” Peters said. “For a time it was easier to get a patent granted, so the patent quality has decreased.”

[...]

Outlandish or bad patents, frivolous lawsuits and high damage awards have triggered a public debate about the functioning of the entire system.

Philips is a European company, but its complaints refer also to American nations.

United States

Over in the United States, gene patents may have just been declared void [1, 2, 3]. Patents on life may be the latest form of patents to die and Wired Magazine looks back at the root of this issue exactly 23 years ago (April 21st, 1987).

1987: The U.S. Patent and Trademark office announces it will begin accepting patent applications for animals.

Justice Stevens is leaving as we’ve mentioned about 5 times by now and here is a long summary of things he has accomplished throughout his career (one of which is the Bilski decision).

Justice John Paul Stevens, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1975, announced on April 9, 2010, that he will retire when the Court completes its current term this summer. This article reviews his contributions to technology related areas of law.

New Zealand

Earlier today we wrote about software patents in New Zealand, noting yet again that it’s mostly lawyers and multinationals who are fighting to make these patents legal. Here is the latest response from NZOSS:

In the letter Mr Matthews concludes that “NZCS represents a broad church of ICT professionals and no doubt some of our members have different views on software patents (as with all things). However in the same way that Section 92a of the Copyright Act was harmful, albeit with the best intentions, the evidence certainly appears clear that software patents are simply too potentially harmful to our sector, and in fact innovation in New Zealand, to support.”

New Zealand is probably the hottest battleground at the moment when it comes to software patents. Whatever happens in New Zealand may impact other countries. To Microsoft, abolition of software patents must be like the “Red Threat” (Soviet communism) at the moment. So, it sends out the B-52s (lobbyists and partners) to help carry out the coup, as we have shown before.

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