Summary: Association of Competitive Technologies (ACT) is rearing its ugly head in Europe, just as the United States gives hope of software patents being eradicated
The PR/propaganda industry is one of the least ethical out there (Microsoft has many PR agencies working for it). One common technique in this industry is “controlled opposition”, where a company pretends to be its own opposition and therefore it can control how this opposition behaves. Misrepresentation essentially gives the malicious company a straw man to rebut. Let’s take an example from last week’s news. PR Watch cites the Washington Post, which has uncovered a “Fake ‘Consumer’ Group” created by big banks.
According to a story in the Washington Post by Mike Konczal, the Big Banks have just created an astroturf or cashroots group called the “Consumers Against Retail Discrimination Alliance” to fight a provision of the financial reform bill: This nominal “consumers” group is constituted of really, really big “consumers,” according to Konczal, including “Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Citi” and almost every banking association that is part of the more accurately named “Electronic Payments Coalition.” They have attempted to label this a corporate “civil rights” issue by talking about “discrimination” — or “retail discrimination,” that is.
Microsoft is a US-based monopolist and over in Europe it wishes to promote its agenda not only under the disguise of “small businesses” but also “European”. ACT is Microsoft’s tool of choice (it sort of nymshifted some years ago), along with others like CompTIA and BSA.
For those who are not familiar with ACT, this Wiki page ought to help. ACT is a front group that promotes Microsoft’s interests in Washington and in Brussels. Well, here it is in the news again, boasting another one of its so-called 'studies'.
The cost of a European patent is almost five times that in the US and three times the cost in Japan, according to figures from a study by the Association of Competitive Technologies.
The US and Japan are the key countries where software patents are legal for the time being. ACT idolises them.
Glyn Moody says they are “completely misled by ACT”. They always are [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft’s money is well spent on ACT, which is taking away European rights, acting merely as a dishonest proxy. ACT was also behind subversion of Europe’s digital policy [1, 2], promoting software patents in standards that Europe will use. To quote from the Digital Agenda
Europe’s standard-setting framework must catch up with fast-moving technology markets because standards are vital for interoperability. The Commission will continue the review of European standardisation policy by following up on its White Paper “Modernising ICT standardisation in the EU”18 and the related public consultation. Reflecting the rise and growing importance of ICT standards developed by certain global fora and consortia, one important aim is to allow their use in legislation and public procurement.
Moreover, guidance on transparent ex-ante disclosure rules for essential intellectual property rights and licensing terms and conditions in the context of standardsetting, to be provided in particular in the forthcoming reform of EU standardisation policy as well as in updated antitrust rules on horizontal co-operation agreements, could contribute to lower royalty demands for the use of standards and thus to lower market entry costs.
ACT did something similar when it penetrated meetings that discuss Free/open source software. We covered this in:
- European Open Source Software Workgroup a Total Scam: Hijacked and Subverted by Microsoft et al
- Microsoft’s AstroTurfing, Twitter, Waggener Edstrom, and Jonathan Zuck
- Does the European Commission Harbour a Destruction of Free/Open Source Software Workgroup?
- The Illusion of Transparency at the European Parliament/Commission (on Microsoft)
- 2 Months and No Disclosure from the European Parliament
- After 3 Months, Europe Lets Microsoft-Influenced EU Panel be Seen
- Formal Complaint Against European Commission for Harbouring Microsoft Lobbyists
- ‘European’ Software Strategy Published, Written by Lobbyists and Multinationals
- Microsoft Uses Inside Influence to Grab Control, Redefine “Open Source”
- With Friends Like These, Who Needs Microsoft?
Over in the United States, things might improve sooner or later. According to Patently-O, the Bilski decision will definitely come some time this month.
The chart below is based on Prof. Miller’s data and reports the number of days elapsed from the oral argument to the release of the decision for each case. The average delay is about 90 days (median of 77 days). As seen in the chart, Bilski has the longest delay (and that delay continues to grow). A decision in Bilski is expected by June 28, 2010.
Until we discover whether software patents are invalidated or not (it’s unlikely to happen or at least be a matter of certainty) Apple will continue to patent its algorithms rather shamelessly and publicly.
In this particular software patent filing, Apple describes the ability to create a shopping list on the iPhone OS and the software permitting the user to check out electronically.
One-click shopping may come to mind here. █