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07.09.10

Landmark Digital Services is an Aggressive Patent Troll, Attacks Amateur Programmer in Europe

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Landmark Digital Services the troll

Summary: A Dutch developer’s hobby comes under attack by software patents from the Nashville-based patent troll

ABOUT A day ago a reader sent us a pointer to this experience of a European programmer who met software patents:

Roy van Rijn writes “A couple of weeks ago, in a spare weekend, I wrote software that could recognise music through listening to the microphone, much like SoundHound and Shazam. After populair demand I was just about to release the code into the open source community when I got an email from Landmark Digital Services LLC. They claim my hobby project is infringing their patents. This took me on a journey to find out more about software patents and the validity of the requests I got from the company.”

Based on its Web site, Landmark Digital Services has no products. It’s a front.

From the original letter:

I am Darren Briggs, the Chief Technical Officer of Landmark Digital Services, LLC. Landmark Digital Services owns the patents that cover the algorithm used as the basis for your recently posted “Creating Shazam In Java”. While it is not Landmark’s intention to alienate those in the Open Source and Music Information Retrieval community, Landmark must request that you do not ship, deploy or post the code presented in your post. Landmark also requests that in the future you do not ship, deploy or post any portions or versions of this code in its current state or in any modified state.

This is similar to the story we saw leading to the destruction of a GIMP plugin and death of an Android application.

“Redcode software developer threatened by a software patent in NL…”
      –FFII president
“This is why patents are ****ing evil,” said one of our European readers. “We are being ripped off of our free time creativity!” The president of the FFII writes: “Redcode software developer threatened by a software patent in NL, risk that Landmark Digital Services files a lawsuit”

Glyn Moody, a Brit, summarises the story by saying: “Free Software Coder Bullied over *Algorithm*”

As long-suffering readers of this blog will know, one of the many reasons I am against software patents is that software consists of algorithms, and algorithms are just maths, so a software patent is a patent on knowledge – the purest knowledge there is (a mathematician writes).

Sometimes defenders of software patents deny that software is just algorithms (don’t ask me how, but some do). So I was particularly interested to read about this poor hacker being sued over – you guessed it – algorithms, pure and simple:

Landmark Digital Services owns the patents that cover the algorithm used as the basis for your recently posted “Creating Shazam In Java”. While it is not Landmark’s intention to alienate those in the Open Source and Music Information Retrieval community, Landmark must request that you do not ship, deploy or post the code presented in your post. Landmark also requests that in the future you do not ship, deploy or post any portions or versions of this code in its current state or in any modified state.

As you can see, there is no way of disguising the fact that this claims to be a patent on an *algorithm* – that is, on maths, which is knowledge and therefore unpatentable.

[...]

At every level, then, this is an obvious, algorithmic, mathematical approach. And yet someone in Holland – a country that doesn’t recognise software patents at all – finds himself threatened in this manner for some code he wrote independently implementing that general, algorithmic mathematical idea.

Now explain to me how patents promote innovation, please…

BoingBoing has covered this too:

Roy van Rijn is a Dutch open source/free software developer who wrote a blog-post explaining some audio-fingerprinting algorithms he was experimenting with, along with a few code-fragments, and a promise to release all the source code. Unwisely, he called his post Creating Shazam in Java (Shazam is a commercial audio fingerprinting tool), and this attracted a notice from Darren Briggs, the Chief Technical Officer of Landmark Digital Services, LLC, which holds the patents used in Shazam.

Briggs said that van Rijn’s post violated Landmark’s patents (though Briggs had only seen the code fragments) He requested that van Rijn not “ship, deploy or post the code presented in your post. Landmark also requests that in the future you do not ship, deploy or post any portions or versions of this code in its current state or in any modified state.”

Let’s hope that Joaquín Almunia will change his mind and keep software patents out of Europe at all costs.

“Staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money.

“One of the ways that the EPO has done this is by issuing software patents in defiance of the treaty that set it up.”

Richard Stallman

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