11.03.10

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With the Patent Office, State Serves Corporations, Not People

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 12:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Statue of liberty and NYC skyline

Summary: How the USPTO helps support monopolies rather than the interests of individual people

THE OIN has just grown a little bigger while Microsoft, which OIN strives to defend Linux from [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], is attacking through the court system and more Web sites are complaining about it:

Synchronising email between different devices seems like a great idea, but don’t think of synching it between the web and a mobile device. Why not? Because, thanks to software patents, Microsoft owns that idea.

Apple too is attacking Linux and OIN has hardly said anything on this matter. Here is the updated lawsuits chart which includes Apple’s new lawsuit:

…we’ve updated to put Apple’s (AAPL) countersuit against Motorola (MOT) late Friday into context.

What enables those lawsuits is software patents and in particular the USPTO, which was taken over by interests of lawyers and monopolists that employ them. Corporations have no rights, people do. But in a distorted system where lobbyists set the rules (see the previous post), it is all upside down sometimes. The USPTO, for example, is being operated like a business whose goal is to sell (grant) as many patents as possible rather than function as a filter like it’s supposed to and Groklaw links to an “Independent Inventors Conference” from the USPTO, which only helps show this blatant fascination with monopolies, perfumed to some degree with words like “independent” or “inventors” rather than “monopoly” and “barriers”.

It is not just the USPTO which gets it wrong. NASA turns out to be pursuing patents rather than better technology (not the same thing) and it is auctioning software patents right now. A lot of the press treats this as interesting or somewhat banal, but a much better headline says that “NASA Auctions off Federally Funded Patents”, as we pointed out days ago. What is NASA thinking?

In a patent trolls haven some days ago we found out that even the Supreme Court does a poor job by using entertainment/fantasy as a source:

Then, if you jump down to Footnote 21, you get:

See STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount Pictures 1982). The film references several works of classic literature, none more prominently than A Tale of Two Cities. Spock gives Admiral Kirk an antique copy as a birthday present, and the film itself is bookended with the book’s opening and closing passages. Most memorable, of course, is Spock’s famous line from his moment of sacrifice: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh . . .” to which Kirk replies, “the needs of the few.”

These laws may be written by film enthusiasts and amateurs, who are at least honest enough to acknowledge that mythical extraterrestrial have a clue about those who the system is supposed to serve.

Over in India, software patents has been a serious issue for years and The Hindu has this new article about business method patents (which are somewhat related to software patents). It says:

Computer programs or software is stated explicitly as non-patentable subject matter within the Indian patent office, unless the invention is implemented along with appropriate hardware. In most cases, implementations of software are not independent of the hardware that they run on (I have not seen a program run in vacuum thus far, vacuum tubes are different) and one way of interpreting the law in this case (which is why India has granted several software patents, yet, this subject remains wrapped in many urban myths) is that anything except a pure API is patentable. That patents are a gross overarching right over what is essentially a copyright in the case of software is correct for purposes of argument but seldom hold during defence in any court of law. Thus, we have introduced two separate elements, business methods (which by themselves stand un-patentable) and the software that implements them (which when coupled with a machine, is patentable).

Microsoft et al. would love to legitimise software patents everywhere in the world. It matters a lot now that racketeering [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] gets used to prevent large companies from selling products with GNU and Linux.

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