EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.31.10

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 this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 25/10/2014: KDE Mockups, Update on GNOME Outreach Program for Women

    Links for the day



  2. After Infecting Unity -- Successfully -- Microsoft's Partner Xamarin Wants to Infect Unreal Engine With .NET

    Xamarin continues to spread dependence on Microsoft to more gaming frameworks, not just platforms such as GNU/Linux, Android, and even permanent-state devices



  3. Taking Microsoft Windows Off the Grid for Damage to Businesses, the Internet, and Banking Systems

    Microsoft's insecure-by-design software is causing massive damages ([cref 27802 possibly trillions] of [cref 13992 dollars in damages to date]) and yet the corporate press does not ask the right questions, let alone suggest a ban on Microsoft software



  4. City of Berlin Does Not Abandon Free Software, It's Only Tax Authorities

    A Softpedia report that says the City of Berlin is moving to Microsoft Office is flawed and may be based on a poor translation



  5. Nadella a Liar in Chief at Microsoft, Pretending That His Anti-Competitive Practices Are Unfortunately Imposed on Microsoft

    The nastiness of Microsoft knows no bounds as even its assault on GNU/Linux and dirty tricks against Free software adoption are characterised as the fault of 'pirates'



  6. Reuters Writes About the Demise of Software Patents, But Focuses on 'Trolls' and Quotes Lawyers

    How the corporate media chooses to cover the invalidity of many software patents and the effect of that



  7. Links 24/10/2014: Microsoft Tax Axed in Italy, Google's Linux (ChromeOS/Android) Leader Promoted

    Links for the day



  8. Links 24/10/2014: GNU/Linux History, Fedora Delay

    Links for the day



  9. Links 23/10/2014: New *buntu, Benchmarks

    Links for the day



  10. Links 22/10/2014: Chromebooks Surge, NSA Android Endorsement

    Links for the day



  11. Links 21/10/2014: Debian Fork Debate, New GNU IceCat

    Links for the day



  12. Criminal Microsoft is Censoring the Web and Breaks Laws to Do So; the Web Should Censor (Remove) Microsoft

    Microsoft is still breaking the Internet using completely bogus takedown requests (an abuse of DMCA) and why Microsoft Windows, which contains weaponised back doors (shared with the NSA), should be banned from the Internet, not just from the Web



  13. Microsoft 'Loving' GNU/Linux and Other Corporate Media Fiction

    Microsoft has bullied or cleverly bribed enough technology-centric media sites to have them characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) that also "loves Linux"



  14. India May be Taking Bill Gates to Court for Misusing His So-called 'Charity' to Conduct Clinical Trials Without Consent on Behalf of Companies He Invests in

    Bill Gates may finally be pulled into the courtroom again, having been identified for large-scale abuses that he commits in the name of profit (not "charity")



  15. The Problems With Legal Workarounds, Patent Scope, and Expansion of Patent Trolls to the East

    Patent trolls are in the news again and it's rather important, albeit for various different reasons, more relevant than the ones covered here in the past



  16. Links 20/10/2014: Cloudera and Red Hat, Debian 7.7, and Vivid Vervet

    Links for the day



  17. Links 20/10/2014: 10 Years Since First Ubuntu Release

    Links for the day



  18. How Patent Lawyers Analyze Alice v. CLS Bank

    Breaking down a patent lawyer's analysis of a Supreme Court's decision that seemingly invalidated hundreds of thousands of software patents



  19. Is It Google's Turn to Head the USPTO Corporation?

    The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests



  20. The EPO's Public Relations Disaster Amid Distrust From Within (and EPO Communications Chief Leaves): Part VII

    Amid unrest and suspicion of misconduct in the EPO's management (ongoing for months if not years), Transparency International steps in, but the EPO's management completely ignores Transparency International, refusing to collaborate; the PR chief of the EPO is apparently being pushed out in the mean time



  21. Links 18/10/2014: Debian Plans for Init Systems, Tails 1.2

    Links for the day



  22. Links 18/10/2014: New ELive, Android Expansion

    Links for the day



  23. Another Fresh Blow to Software Patents (and With Them Patent Trolls)

    Another new development shows that more burden of proof is to be put on the litigant, thus discouraging the most infamous serial patent aggressors and reducing the incentive to settle with a payment out of court



  24. Links 16/10/2014: New Android, SSL 3.0 Flaw

    Links for the day



  25. How the Corporate Press Deceives and Sells Microsoft Agenda

    Various new examples of media propaganda that distorts or makes up the facts (bias/lies by omission/selection) and where this is all coming from



  26. Vista 10 is Still Vapourware, But We Already Know It Will Increase Surveillance on Its Users and Contain Malicious Back Doors

    The villainous company which makes insecure-by-design operating systems will continue to do so, but in the mean time the corporate press covers only bugs in FOSS, not back doors in proprietary software



  27. Links 15/10/2014: KDE Plasma 5.1 is Out, GOG Reaches 100-Title Mark

    Links for the day



  28. With .NET Foundation Affiliation Xamarin is Another Step Closer to Being Absorbed by Microsoft

    Xamarin is not even trying to pretend that separation exists between Microsoft and its work; yet another collaboration is announced



  29. The EPO's Protection Triangle of Battistelli, Kongstad, and Topić: Part VI

    Jesper Kongstad, Benoît Battistelli, and Zeljko Topić are uncomfortably close personally and professionally, so suspicions arise that nepotism and protectionism play a negative role that negatively affects the European public



  30. Corporate Media Confirms the Demise of Software Patents in the United States; Will India and Europe Follow?

    It has become increasingly official that software patents are being weakened in the United States' USPTO as well as the courts; will software leaders such as India and Europe stop trying to imitate the old USPTO?


CoPilotCo

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

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts