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08.25.10

Response to Judith Wilcox and Axel H. Horns Regarding Patents to Software Developers

Posted in EFF, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 2:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Baroness Wilcox
Credit: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)

Summary: Monopoly proponents from Europe rebutted; Lexmark sues 24 companies for patent infringement; EFF kills another ludicrous patent

Horns is an informative blogger (not just a European patent attorney from Germany) who often sheds light on important issues such as UPLS [1, 2, 3]. But there is one point that he overlooked a little while ago when he debated the patentability of software (an important subject in Germany due to Microsoft and Siemens [1, 2]).

Here is where Horns gets it wrong: [via FFII]

He says that there is a “myth” of software patents being used as a tool of dispossession against the copyright programmers earned by writing something. This is a “myth”, in his view, since programmers need to check for patents, just as someone who wants to build somewhere needs to check the property status of the real estate in question.

He then goes on, however, to explain that it is actually impossible for most software authors to do the patent check. That means he is refuting his own point.

Being a patent lawyer, he sure wants more patents. It’s business to him. The same goes for the British Intellectual Monopoly Minister, Judith Wilcox. The president of the FFII highlights this new bit of patent propaganda from Incisive Media/Bizmedia:

The Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox has unveiled a research programme into intellectual property and its value to the British economy

[...]

Wilcox said: “Intellectual property has a key role to play in rebalancing the British economy. The highly-skilled industries where the UK can excel are driven by innovation.

“Britain must have an intellectual property system that encourages innovation and is internationally competitive.

Wilcox wants the public to believe that a patent system “encourages innovation” (“internationally competitive” is euphemism for “imperialistic”), but what happens when it’s used to actually suppress competition? Just watch this new lawsuit:

Lexmark sues importers of laser cartridges for patent infringement

Lexmark International, Inc. (NYSE: LXK) announced today that it has filed a patent infringement complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) against 24 companies engaged in the manufacture, importation and sale of replacement cartridges for various Lexmark laser printers and multifunction devices.

The complaint alleges that these replacement cartridges infringe at least 15 U.S. patents owned by Lexmark. Lexmark is requesting that the ITC issue a general exclusion order banning the importation and sale of patent infringing laser cartridges by any entity.

ITC means embargo [1, 2, 3, 4]. How does that encourage innovation? It encourages litigation and limits competition.

In other noteworthy news, the EFF has just squashed another bad patent. It’s hardly the solution though because as Richard Stallman once put it, “Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.” Regardless, the following is good news at least for symbolic reasons:

Good news in the fight against bad software patents: a jury in the Eastern District of Texas recently found the Firepond/Polaris patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,411,947) invalid. This patent was on EFF’s “Most Wanted” list, targeted because it claimed nothing more than a system using natural language processing to respond to customers’ online inquires by email.

EFF was not involved in this case, in which Bright Response, LLC — the technical owner of the patent — sued Google, Inc., Yahoo!, Inc. and eight other companies, alleging that Google’s AdWords and Yahoo!’s Sponsored Search infringes the Firepond/Polaris patent. The jury found three of the patent’s claims invalid based on the public use bar, obviousness, and for lacking written description. The jury also found that neither Google nor Yahoo! infringed those claims. Finally, the jury found the entire patent invalid due to improper inventorship.

Mike Masnick has just covered this too.

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