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

11.27.10

IBM and Tandberg Abuse Software Patents by Using Them to Rip Off Real Innovators

Posted in Free/Libre Software, IBM, Patents at 8:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IBM Netvista

Summary: Slashdot provides two new examples of why software patents are unjust and ripe for abuse

BIG BLUE (IBM), one of the causes of the software patents problem, is being accused of patenting some other developer’s work. As Slashdot puts it:

“Back in 2001, I coded HeapCheck, a GPL library for Windows (inspired by ElectricFence) that detected invalid read/write accesses on any heap allocations at runtime — thus greatly helping my debugging sessions. I published it on my site, and got a few users who were kind enough to thank me — a Serbian programmer even sent me 250$ as a thank you (I still have his mails). After a few years, Microsoft included very similar technology in the operating system itself, calling it PageHeap. I had more or less forgotten these stuff, since for the last 7 years I’ve been coding for UNIX/Linux, where valgrind superseded Efence/dmalloc/etc. Imagine my surprise, when yesterday, Googling for references to my site, I found out that the technology I implemented, of runtime detection of invalid heap accesses, has been patented in the States, and to add insult to injury, even mentions my site (via a non-working link to an old version of my page) in the patent references! After the necessary ‘WTFs’ and ‘bloody hells’ I thought this merits (a) a Slashdotting, and (b) a set of honest questions: what should I do about this? I am not an American citizen, but the ‘inventors’ of this technology (see their names in the top of the patent) have apparently succeeded in passing this ludicrous patent in the States. If my code doesn’t count as prior art, Bruce Perens’s Efence (which I clearly state my code was inspired from) is at least 12 years prior! Suggestions/cursing patent trolls most welcome.”

There are many comments in there. Glyn Moody asks, “so, IBM, which side are you on?” This is not the first such PR disaster for IBM and they probably deserve it. How long will it take for someone like Bob Sutor to do some damage control?

Our reader gnufreex told us about another Slashdot gem and remarked: “Companies are spying on mailing lists of Free Software projects and filing for patents”

Tandberg Attempts To Patent Open Source Code

“As if the current situation with software patents wasn’t bad enough, it appears a new phenomenon is emerging: companies are watching the commit logs of open source projects for ideas to patent. In this case, Tandberg filed a patent that was step-by-step identical to an algorithm developed by the x264 project — a mere two months after the original commit. The particular algorithm is a useful performance optimization in a wide variety of video encoders, including Theora.”

The Slashdot ‘mob’ has made this a major story and gave Tandberg lots of flak (there is also a big discussion in LWN). This got so serious that the original storyteller (the victim) felt compelled to post this update:

Update: Tandberg claims they came up with the identical algorithm independently: to be fair, I can actually believe this to some extent, as I think the algorithm is way too obvious to be patented. Of course, they also claim that the algorithm isn’t identical, since they don’t want to lose their patent application.

Also, stop harassing the guy whose name is on the patent: he’s just a programmer, not the management or lawyers responsible for filing the patent.

There’s been a lot of very obnoxious misuse of software patents in recent years. This ranges from patent trolls wielding submarine patents to overly-generic patents being used to scare everyone else out of a business. But at least in most of the cases, the patents were an original idea of some sort, even if that idea was far too general to be patented.

Jan Wildeboer from Red Hat wrote about it: “#EvilTrolling: Read Open Source commit logs, patent the commits, wait, PROFIT. How low can you go, Tandberg? http://is.gd/hOlF5 #swpat” (common shorthand for software patents). He later composed this blog post:

So according to the published information we have right now, it seems that Mr. Endresen filed a patent on something he didn’t create nor implemented. This could result in the true inventor being forced to remove his own code from his own software to avoid patent infringement. How weird is that?

This is patent business as usual. Unfortunately. While the politicians all across this planet are discussing stricter regulations on so-called plagiarism, infringement etc (think ACTA) this specific form of taking someone elses work and claiming to be its inventor is perfectly legal.

The Inquirer is more blunt, as usual. “Tandberg rips off an open source project” is the headline and the opening says:

PATENT TROLL Tandberg has ripped off an algorithm developed by the open source X264 project for encoding video streams by registering a patent application for the same code.

Companies that exist for the sole purpose of firing off lawsuits for patent infringement are bad enough, but it looks like Tandberg has gone a step further by pilfering patent claims from an open source project commit log.

Patents turn out to be not just an impediment to Free software development; patents are also being used to rip people off — especially people who are honest enough to share their ideas. Petition for an end of software patents to stop this abusive madness.

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 29/9/2014: OpenDaylight Helium Release

    Links for the day



  2. European Patent Office Disorganisation: Problems With the Audit Mechanisms - Part IV

    A prelude to a long article about a thug called Topić, his controversial Battistelli-sponsored appointment, and the removal of auditory functions by Battistelli



  3. More Good News About Demise of Software Patents and Along With Them, Consequently, Patent Trolls

    A weekly roundup of news about patents in the United States and elsewhere, with special focus on software patents



  4. IRC Proceedings: June 22nd, 2014 – September 13th, 2014

    Many IRC logs



  5. Links 28/9/2014: Moto X, End of OpenSUSE 11.4

    Links for the day



  6. CBS Continues to Get Heavily Occupied by Microsoft Staff to Spread Microsoft Propaganda

    The CBS-owned ZDNet continues to hire people who have worked or are currently working for Microsoft and unsurprisingly enough they use their newly-acquired positions to praise Microsoft and bash Microsoft's competition, usually with no disclosure of their conflict of interest



  7. Links 27/9/2014: Linux (Almost) Everywhere, Features Of Linux 3.17

    Links for the day



  8. Microsoft Fakes 'Charity' and Uses Religious Groups to Acquire Lock-in in the Public Sector

    Microsoft's involvements with NGOs and with governments lead to more distrust, more surveillance, less freedom, and ultimately systemic corruption



  9. Bill Gates' Privatisation Crusade

    Mr. Gates, seeking to increase his huge profits and political power, reaches out to Catholic leaders and David Christian



  10. Tux Machines Under DDOS Attack

    Most of Tux Machines continues to work as usual, but some parts are temporarily restricted to keep the server running



  11. Links 26/9/2014: LibreOffice Celebrations, Betas of *buntu

    Links for the day



  12. Links 25/9/2014: KDE Roadmap, Bash Bug, GNOME 3.14 in Next Fedora

    Links for the day



  13. Links 24/9/2014: GNOME 3.14 Released, Bash Has a Bug

    Links for the day



  14. Links 21/9/2014: Fedora 21 Alpha

    Links for the day



  15. More of Bill Gates' Investments in GMO and Mass Indoctrination Under the Disguise of 'Donations'

    Microsoft's arrogant and famously corrupt co-founder is taken to task by those whom he is trying to bamboozle for monopoly, unlimited cross-generational power, and never-ending profit without risk



  16. Home Depot Confirmed a Victim of Microsoft's Bad Security, Microsoft Lays Off Security-Related Staff

    News reports circulate showing that Home Depot was knowingly careless with its Windows dependency while Microsoft lays off staff focused on security



  17. European Patent Office/Organisation - Suspicion of Improper Collusion Between EPO President and Chairman of the Administrative Council: Part III

    A preliminary look at Battistelli's reign and how regulatory powers got abolished, leaving the EPO reckless and largely unaccountable



  18. Links 21/9/2014: xorg-server 1.16.1, Linux Kernel 3.16.3

    Links for the day



  19. Links 20/9/2014: GNOME 3.13.92, Android L

    Links for the day



  20. Scanning Patent Troll Implodes; Is the Podcasting Patent Troll Next?

    MPHJ loses and Personal Audio LLC perhaps wins for the last time since software patents are quickly losing legitimacy in the United States



  21. If CAFC is Not Above the Law, Then it Should be Shut Down Now

    A long series of abuses in CAFC may as well suggest that this court has become broken beyond repair



  22. The Latest From Microsoft Patent Trolls and Patent Partners

    Microsoft-linked and Linux-hostile trolls continue their relentless attacks (albeit with little or no success) while patents as a weapon lose their teeth owing to a Supreme Court ruling



  23. Microsoft Proves That Its Massive Layoffs Are Not About Nokia

    Microsoft is laying off a lot of employees who have nothing at all to do with Nokia



  24. Links 19/9/2014: Another Red Hat Acquisition, Netflix Dumps Microsoft Silverlight and Brings DRM to WWW

    Links for the day



  25. Links 18/9/2014: Windows Copying GNU/Linux, Germany Moves to Security

    Links for the day



  26. Web Site 'Patent Progress' Now Officially 'Powered by CCIA' (FRAND Proponent, Microsoft Front)

    After talking a job at CCIA, "Patent Progress" and its chief author should be treated as dubious on real patent progress



  27. Articles About the Death of Software Patents in the United States

    Recent coverage of software patents and their demise in their country of origin, where even proponents of software patents are giving up



  28. The Death of Software Patents is Already Killing Some Major Patent Trolls

    VirnetX seems to be the latest victim of the demise of software patents in the United States



  29. More Microsoft Layoffs

    More Microsoft layoffs go ahead as the company is unable to compete



  30. ODF on the Rise

    Milestones for OpenDocument Format (ODF) and the launch of FixMyDocuments


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