09.01.10

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Apple’s Co-founder Steve Wozniak a Patent Trolls’ Apologist, Apple is Patenting DRM Ideas

Posted in Apple, DRM, Microsoft, Patents at 3:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Monopolists championing proprietary software (proprietary giants) go hand in hand with patent monopolies and patent trolling

Steve Wozniak

Summary: Wozniak helps prove that also departing co-establishers of proprietary predators defend patent trolling

APPLE and Microsoft are both patent aggressors and both have sued Linux (vendors) using software patents. Paul Allen is the latest patent troll to join the club and as Microsoft’s co-founder he helps demonstrate Microsoft’s continued legacy as a agitator that fights against software development. It turns out that Apple’s co-founder too complements his Free software-hostile rhetoric and now defends patent trolling:

Say It Ain’t So, Woz: Steve Wozniak Says Patent Trolls Are Okay

Via Joe Mullin, we learn the rather unfortunate news that, when asked about Paul Allen’s decision to sue lots of big tech companies over questionable patents, Wozniak comes out in favor of “patent trolls” and patent holders suing companies who actually innovate. For someone so beloved by the tech community, these statements seem really unfortunate. He starts out by repeating the myth that patents somehow help out the small guy (ignoring that we’re talking about Paul Allen, one of the richest guys on the planet):

I think this lawsuit represents the idea that hey, patents, individual inventors, they don’t have the funds to go up against big companies. So he’s sorta representing some original investors. And I’m not at all against the idea of patent trolls.

The interviewer, from Bloomberg TV, pushes back pretty quickly, pointing out that Paul Allen is not the inventor and there’s no indication that the inventors on these patents would actually get any of the money should Allen succeed.

The FSF has just launched a campaign against “Apple’s latest DRM patent”. It’s doubly malicious because it combines an attack on the user with a patent monopoly. From the FSF’s page:

Apple has a long history of imposing innovative restrictions on its users. The Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) used in the iPhone to prevent users from installing what they want or tinkering with their devices are well-known examples.

Yet not so many people expected their latest move in that direction — Apple’s recent patent application on a new spying technology revealed their plan to dedicate users’ devices to their unlimited control.

They say that they want to protect the devices from “unauthorized usage” (i.e. theft). For that reason, your device will take a photo of the person who uses it and the surrounding place, it will record his or her voice and it will record his or her heartbeats. Once it suspects something, it will send the information to Apple which will talk to the “responsible party.”

Going back to Allen’s frivolous lawsuit, some label is “an enigma”.

Paul Allen: When a Patent Troll is an Enigma

[...]

But given the notoriety of the case and the scope of its claims (the Journal, or at least its headline writer, has declared an all-out “patent war”), it seems like a good opportunity to dispel some common myths about the patent system and its discontents.

And then I want to offer one completely unfounded theory about what is really going on that no one yet has suggested. Which is: Paul Allen is out to become the greatest champion that patent reform will ever know.

Brad Feld then asks: “Have We Reached The Software Patent Tipping Point?”

As I was reading through some of the Paul Allen commentary this morning, it occurred to me that this might finally be a tipping point. Last week, Microsoft asked the supreme court to hear their appeal of the I4i patent suit. I hope Google steps up and really takes a stand here given that they are on the receiving end of both the Oracle and Allen suits.

There is increased consensus in the technology press that software patents need to go away

Software patent wars are killing innovation

The software industry is rapidly tying itself up in red tape as claim meets counterclaim in patent suits blossoming all over the US.

The latest example is Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen, who has launched into litigation against Apple, Google, eBay, Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube and five other companies. Apple has already had more than its fair share of court actions especially with Nokia and HTC. Oracle is gunning for Google. Every day brings some new accusation.

In almost every case, it is software nuances at the root of the problem. In some of the Apple cases, it seems that hand gestures are involved.

Oracle’s lawsuit is not forgotten either and Glyn Moody compares Ellison and Allen (yacht enthusiasts).

Amazon is actually the best counterexample to all of Interval’s claims. It was provably doing all the things that Interval claims it “invented”, and long before patents were even applied for. Against that background, suing Amazon would, of course, have been suicidal from a legal point of view.

But that still raises the larger question of why on earth Allen is doing this to anyone? As is well known, he is not short of a bob or two, so it can’t simply be for the money. Similarly, why did he wait for over a decade before blasting away at most of the top Internet players?

This is where I think the Ellison connection comes in. Allen’s action is part of the collective insanity which has gripped senior management at most computer companies. As more and more of these crazy software patent actions are announced and wind their way through the courts (or are quietly settled after much public tub-thumping), so the pressure on managers to join the feeding frenzy grows. It’s that old feeling that many of us get when some new fad takes off – that we might be missing out on something big, and that whether we think it’s really a good idea or not, we had better pile in now before it’s too late.

it’s considered “puzzling” too:

The 15-page document, filed Friday in United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, lists the four patents and their titles, and accuses each of the 11 defendants of infringing on one or more of them. But it doesn’t point to specific programs, products, or websites that violate Interval’s intellectual property.

Groklaw has that whole thing as text and it adds that “Microsoft is asking the US Supreme Court to overturn the huge loss it sustained in i4i v. Microsoft. It’s the largest patent infringement verdict ever to be sustained on appeal.”

we wrote about this case earlier this week, noting that involvement from SCOTUS may give it another go at eliminating software patents. Here is some more coverage:

Can i4i contribute to backlash against sofwtare patents?

The courts are ignoring what everyone knows about software patents harming the Commons. Here is another new example of dangerous patents:

Thursday TWX, a member of our forums, brought to our attention a patent that was filed back on June 19th, 2008 and owned by XM Satellite Radio. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the basis of this patent is as follows:

“The present invention relates to a system and method for providing a broadcast radio service listener with the ability to generate a personalized radio channel play-list on a radio receiver from broadcast content as it is received. More specifically, the present invention relates to a system and method for buffering content from a set of channels selected from among the broadcast channels of a source stream(s) as they are received, and for generating a playback stream using the buffered content that provides a multichannel listening experience to the user with preview, reverse, fast forward and other navigation functions for the buffered content.”

– United States Patent Application #20090320075

Here is some background information from a lawyers’ source. It helps show how software patents came about and how they relate to business methods.

Even ten years ago, software patents were highly controversial. They were hotly debated in such forums as the U.S. Patent Office’s software patent public hearings of 1994. A number of courts, including the United States Supreme Court, struggled with whether software innovations could be protected and whether the proper mechanism should be patent or copyright law. Ultimately, the courts defined enough guidelines to judge what types of software innovations could be the subject of a patent.

The jurisprudence that developed through the software patent controversy paved the way for the ultimate acceptance of patenting innovations in business methods. As a result of the software patent controversy, courts assessed whether an invention could be the subject of a patent in a more abstract and general way. With courts growing more comfortable with software patents and their inherently abstract nature, the stage was set to apply that higher level of thinking in the context of a business method patent.

Both business methods and software patents are a area of dispute.

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