08.31.10

Gemini version available ♊︎

Patents Roundup: OIN, Patent Attorney Ignorance, “Ultimate Patent Troll”, the Rambus Submarine Patent, Death Patents, MPEG-LA, and i4i/Microsoft

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Law, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 5:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Submarine (patents)

Summary: An overview of patent news from the past few days, ranging from issues that directly affect GNU/Linux to issues that simply show how amoral and dysfunctional the patent systems have become

IT HAS BEEN a long time since the last “Patents Roundup” per se. This post is intended to keep readers abreast of the developments in the spooky world of patents, so no single topic is covered here exclusively.

We wish to begin with Linux, which has OIN protecting it in somewhat controversial ways (fighting software patents with software patents), which is effective only in particular circumstances, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

“Our community—including all developers, distributors and users—owes Keith Bergelt of OIN, and the companies on his board of directors, a round of serious thanks…”
      –Eben Moglen
Groklaw's most recent take on OIN is a good source of information for OIN sceptics. OIN is not the “bad guy” here; not at all. Keith Bergelt of OIN is genuinely interested in protecting Linux from patent litigation by accumulating (hoarding) patents and killing weak ones rather than eliminating the foundations of this whole category which is known as computer-implemented inventions (CII, or software patents). Bergelt says he is in favour of “good” patents. It’s not ideal of course, but the FSF/SFLC accepts the OIN and appreciates its work. Professor Eben Moglen wrote last year that “[o]ur community—including all developers, distributors and users—owes Keith Bergelt of OIN, and the companies on his board of directors, a round of serious thanks for interrupting this arms trade, and calling attention to a bad business practice.”

With that in mind we can approach a new post which says that “OIN seeks to overturn weak patents”:

The tech news industry is buzzing with stories about companies suing each other over patent infringement. Most of the supposed patent infringements come closer to patents representing a concept then an actual invention. As I have said before the conduct of many patent holders is the equivalent of patenting the color blue and suing anyone who wears a blue t-shirt.

This is where the Open Invention Network comes in to play. They have invited the public to review patents, especially patents that are being used to attempt to block open source development. The Open Invention Network is asking for its readers to submit examples of prior art. This is where a company has patented a product or concept that had already been developed by previous companies or individuals. Once evidence is in place of prior art in connection with a patent, that patent can be invalidated.

The Open Invention Network and its sibling projects are not as good as abolishing software patents a la FFII, but an analogy to them would be “pragmatism” in the Free vs. proprietary software sense. The OIN is a temporary fix, a Band-Aid® of sorts.

On we move to an important observation from Patently-O, a popular Web site which mostly attracts American patent lawyers and even — allegedly — SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) appointees. Patently-O points out that not enough computer scientists occupy the USPTO, which implies insufficient knowledge about software patents.

Professors Ralph Clifford, Tom Field, and Jon Cavicchi have published an interesting study on the technical backgrounds of patent attorneys and agents. After the trio submitted a FOIA request, the PTO handed-over 50,000 pages of patent bar registration applications. Using that information, the trio created a database of registered patent attorneys and their associated degrees/schools.

The paper makes the legitimate argument that the PTO should allow folks with a computer science degree to register — especially with the rise in the number of inventions related to computer science. “[A]n institutional bias exists within the PTO that prevents software-savvy individuals from registering with the Office.”

This is a serious problem. A lot of patent lawyers who are proponents of CII simply don’t understand how computational machines work; some ignorantly deny that computer programs (algorithms) can be encoded as mathematical formulae. That patent clerks at the USPTO fail to perceive it is a true travesty, not to mention similar problems among policy-makers, including Justices at SCOTUS.

Law Pundit has published this new post about a patent troll called George Selden. He is a patent lawyer who claimed a monopoly on the automobile. This sounds like some story out of science fiction, but it’s not.

The fix in which modern technology finds itself today as the result of our ill-conceived and smothering patent laws is unfortunately nothing new, but was a battle fought more than a century ago over patent rights to the invention of the automobile.

Thankfully for the future development of the automobile industry, legal common sense only prevailed due to the tenacity of Henry Ford, who prevailed over “virtual” inventor George B. Selden upon appeal, in a story in which the otherwise unknown Selden is the main character.

Rambus, which is a shameful aggressor (greatly loathed by many of its peers in industry), keeps ramming the bus [pun] into just about every technology company in the area, using submarine patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. How destructive. It is now targeting Big Blue again:

Chip designer Rambus Inc (RMBS.O) has sued International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N), seeking to reverse a federal agency finding that its patent for a memory system was not infringed.

Pubpat.org (Public Patent Foundation or PUBPAT for short) offers a glimpse at the fact that, once we depart from the field of technology, patents may also deal with life and death very directly. We call these death patents and HIV/AIDS drugs are invaluable examples of that:

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) announced today that it has formally asked the United States Patent and Trademark Office to reexamine eight patents held by Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) relating to the critical HIV/AIDS drug ritonavir, which is marketed by the Chicago, Illinois pharmaceutical giant under the name brand Norvir.

In its requests, PUBPAT submitted previously unforeseen prior art proving that the patents should not have been granted. PUBPAT also cited recent Federal Circuit case law that supports its detailed arguments for nullification of the eight patents.

MPEG-LA, which is spearheaded by a patent troll, has not only a codec monopoly; it has begun forming an equally-despicable strategy in areas such as the above (which makes it a huge threat to life, not just to culture).

Simon Phipps, who recently said that “MPEG-LA is a parasite using standards bodies as its host, whether they want it or not,” addresses the latest stunt from this parasite [1, 2] and heralds that “H.264 Is Not The Sort Of Free That Matters” (same as the argument we made last week). Simon says:

The statement actually takes a lot of unpacking, probably intentionally so. H.264 is the widely-used “MP4″ video format created many years ago by the Motion Picture Experts Group, MPEG. Those “experts” were mostly associated with various corporations and research labs, and the international standard they created was heavily encumbered with patents.

Realising that no-one much would use the standard if each user had to go negotiate patent licensing terms with a large number of separate parties, the patent-holders wisely decided to get together outside the scope of MPEG and create the “MPEG Licensing Authority”, MPEG-LA.

Despite the name, MPEG-LA is nothing to do with the standards group itself. It’s a for-profit company devoted to making the patent problem worse in the name of making it “easier to handle” by creating patent pools for all sorts of other technology areas, beyond the media formats they already police. Go looking for the exact terms under which they are offering “free use” in this case and you’ll find they are not keen for you to know. The best available are summaries that are sketchy about the exact definitions of terms.

Last but not least, yesterday we wrote about the i4i case, noting that Microsoft decided to appeal (again). As Masnick correctly points out in his long and informative headline, “Microsoft, Who Supports Software Patents, Now Asks Supreme Court To Help It Against Patent Holder” (great news if this is indeed going to SCOTUS).

Microsoft, who has become a strongly pro-software patent company (despite Bill Gates’ old claim that patents would have harmed the software industry in the early days), is finding out (yet again) that such a stance can come back to bite you. We’ve already covered the somewhat ridiculous lawsuit that Microsoft faced from a small Canadian company, i4i, who claimed a patent (5,787,449) on an XML editing feature. Microsoft lost the lawsuit, and the court issued an injunction against Microsoft and claimed that the feature was worth an astounding $98 per copy where the feature was used.

Well, it’s even more interesting than that because Microsoft’s infringement was deliberate and it involved stabbing a ‘partner’ in the back. Can Microsoft help abolish software patents right now? Highly doubtful, but this case against Microsoft might contribute towards this goal.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

Decor ᶃ Gemini Space

Below is a Web proxy. We recommend getting a Gemini client/browser.

Black/white/grey bullet button This post is also available in Gemini over at this address (requires a Gemini client/browser to open).

Decor ✐ Cross-references

Black/white/grey bullet button Pages that cross-reference this one, if any exist, are listed below or will be listed below over time.

Decor ▢ Respond and Discuss

Black/white/grey bullet button If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

DecorWhat Else is New


  1. Links 3/12/2021: GNU Poke 1.4 and KDDockWidgets 1.5.0

    Links for the day



  2. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, December 02, 2021

    IRC logs for Thursday, December 02, 2021



  3. Links 3/12/2021: Nitrux 1.7.1 and Xen 4.16 Released

    Links for the day



  4. Links 2/12/2021: OpenSUSE Leap 15.4 Alpha, Qt Creator 6

    Links for the day



  5. The EPO's “Gender Awareness Report”

    There’s a new document with remarks by the EPO’s staff representatives and it concerns opportunities for women at the EPO — a longstanding issue



  6. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, December 01, 2021

    IRC logs for Wednesday, December 01, 2021



  7. EPO Staff Committee Compares the Tactics of António Campinos to Benoît Battistelli's

    The Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO talks about EPO President António Campinos, arguing that “he seems to subscribe to the Manichean view, introduced by Mr Battistelli…”



  8. Prof. Thomas Jaeger in GRUR: Unified Patent Court (UPC) “Incompatible With EU Law“

    The truth remains unquestionable and the law remains unchanged; Team UPC is living in another universe, unable to accept that what it is scheming will inevitably face high-level legal challenges (shall that become necessary) and it will lose because the facts are all still the same



  9. Links 1/12/2021: LibrePlanet CFS Extended to December 15th and DB Comparer for PostgreSQL Reaches 5.0

    Links for the day



  10. EPO Cannot and Will Not Self-Regulate

    The term financialisation helps describe some of the activities of the EPO in recent years; see Wikipedia on financialisation below



  11. [Meme] Germany's Licence to Break the Law

    Remember that the young Campinos asked dad for his immunity after he had gotten drunk and crashed the car; maybe the EPO should stop giving diplomatic immunity to people, seeing what criminals (e.g. Benoît Battistelli) this attracts; the German government is destroying its image (and the EU’s) by fostering such corruption, wrongly believing that it’s worth it because of Eurozone domination for patents/litigation



  12. EPO Dislikes Science and Scientists

    The EPO's management has become like a corrupt political party with blind faith in money and monopolies (or monopoly money); it has lost sight of its original goals and at this moment it serves to exacerbate an awful pandemic, as the video above explains



  13. Links 1/12/2021: LibreOffice 7.3 Beta, Krita 5.0, Julia 1.7

    Links for the day



  14. Links 1/12/2021: NixOS 21.11 Released

    Links for the day



  15. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, November 30, 2021

    IRC logs for Tuesday, November 30, 2021



  16. Links 1/12/2021: Tux Paint 0.9.27 and WordPress 5.9 Beta

    Links for the day



  17. [Meme] EPO Administrative Council Believing EPO-Bribed 'Media' (IAM Still Shilling and Lying for Cash)

    IAM continues to do what brings money from EPO management and Team UPC, never mind if it is being disputed by the patent examiners themselves



  18. The EPO's Mythical “Gap” Has Been Found and It's Bonuses for People Who Use Pure Fiction to Steal From Patent Examiners

    The phony president who has the audacity to claim there's a budget gap is issuing millions of euros for his enablers to enjoy; weeks ahead of the next meeting of national delegates the Central Staff Committee (CSC) tells them: "Events show that the delegations’ concerns about functional allowances have materialised. The lack of transparency and inflation of the budget envelope gives rise to the suspicion that high management is pursuing a policy of self-service at the expense of EPO staff, which is difficult to reconcile with the Office’s claimed cost-saving policy, and to the detriment of the whole Organisation."



  19. Video: Making the Internet a Better Place for People, Not Megacorporations

    Following that earlier list of suggested improvements for a freedom-respecting Internet, here's a video and outline



  20. Links 30/11/2021: KDE Plasma 5.23.4, 4MLinux 38.0, Long GitHub Downtime, and Microsoft's CEO Selling Away Shares

    Links for the day



  21. A Concise Manifesto For Freedom-Respecting Internet

    An informal list of considerations to make when reshaping the Internet to better serve people, not a few corporations that are mostly military contractors subsidised by the American taxpayers



  22. Freenode.net Becomes a 'Reddit Clone' and Freenode IRC is Back to Old Configurations After Flushing Down Decades' Worth of User/Channel Data and Locking/Shutting Out Longtime Users

    Freenode is having another go; after “chits” and “jobs” (among many other ideas) have clearly failed, and following the change of daemon (resulting in massive loss of data and even security issues associated with impersonation) as well as pointless rebrand as “Joseon”, the domain Freenode.net becomes something completely different and the IRC network reopens to all



  23. Jack Dorsey's Decision is a Wake-up Call: Social Control Media is Just a Toxic Bubble

    The state of the World Wide Web (reliability, preservation, accessibility, compatibility etc.) was worsened a lot more than a decade ago; with social control media that’s nowadays just a pile of JavaScript programs we’re basically seeing the Web gradually turning into another Adobe Flash (but this time they tell us it’s a “standard”), exacerbating an already-oversized ‘bubble economy’ where companies operate at a loss while claiming to be worth hundreds of billions (USD) and generally serve imperialistic objectives by means of manipulation like surveillance, selective curation, and censorship



  24. IRC Proceedings: Monday, November 29, 2021

    IRC logs for Monday, November 29, 2021



  25. Links 29/11/2021: NuTyX 21.10.5 and CrossOver 21.1.0

    Links for the day



  26. This Apt Has Super Dumbass Powers. Linus Sebastian and Pop_OS!

    Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission



  27. [Meme] Trying to Appease Provocateurs and Borderline Trolls

    GNU/Linux isn’t just a clone of Microsoft Windows and it oughtn’t be a clone of Microsoft Windows, either; some people set themselves up for failure, maybe by intention



  28. Centralised Git Hosting Has a Business Model Which is Hostile Towards Developers' Interests (in Microsoft's Case, It's an Attack on Reciprocal Licensing and Persistent Manipulation)

    Spying, censoring, and abusing projects/developers/users are among the perks Microsoft found in GitHub; the E.E.E.-styled takeover is being misused for perception manipulation and even racism, so projects really need to take control of their hosting (outsourcing is risky and very expensive in the long run)



  29. Links 29/11/2021: FWUPD's 'Best Known Configuration' and Glimpse at OpenZFS 3.0

    Links for the day



  30. President Biden Wants to Put Microsofter in Charge of the Patent Office, Soon to Penalise Patent Applicants Who Don't Use Microsoft's Proprietary Formats

    The tradition of GAFAM or GIAFAM inside the USPTO carries on (e.g. Kappos and Lee; Kappos lobbies for Microsoft and IBM, whereas Lee now works for Amazon/Bezos after a career at Google); it's hard to believe anymore that the USPTO exists to serve innovators rather than aggressive monopolists, shielding their territory by patent threats (lawsuits or worse aggression) and cross-licensing that's akin to a cartel


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts