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

01.28.11

Patents Roundup: Coverage From the United States, China, Vietnam, South Pacific, and Europe

Posted in America, Australia, Europe, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 3:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

World Map patents

Summary: Reports on the continued attempts by Microsoft et al. to spread software patents to every corner of this planet

“Patents Roundup”-themed posts have become rather extinct recently, but since we view software patents as by far the greatest threat to software freedom (and over time more people agree with us), this post will provide a quick summary of news of relevance. Special gratitude goes to the likes of the FFII and Digital Majority, who help collect reports and research of interest.

United States

Let us start with the United States because this is the country where software patents are bred and spread to other countries.

“NYTECH.org Examines Software and Financial Patents” says this new report. Here are some scary numbers, especially if one assumes that an inventor must be aware of existing patents, as well as be familiar with academic publications in his/her field (this is a problem I personally face):

In 2009, out of a total of 295,219 patents granted, only a small number were for software, databases and financial methods. This is because patenting software or a business process is open to more variables than a new invention for a machine or physical manufacturing process. At last week’s New York Technology Council panel on technology patents, speakers tried to ascertain why these types of inventions have come under question since the advent of the computer, and why obtaining a patent for them is so costly, complicated and uncertain. Their reasoning was that that in general, it’s not totally clear what the exact difference is between a concrete idea and an abstract idea.

That’s why lines are being drawn, but how? And who does it serve? A limitless patent system is exceptionally good for patent lawyers, who thrive in a landscape that invites litigation and rewards applications.

Asia

The new article “China: A Country of Imitation to Innovation?” helps remind us that decreasingly will the US maintain its dominance over rising China using all sorts of intellectual monopolies, so what’s the point of them? It’s a huge, colossal, massive bubble.

The enforcement system in China is still new and developing, but the country is dramatically increasing the number of patent filings it wants to receive (up from 300,000 in 2009 to an estimated 2 million in 2015) and adding patent examiners at an astounding pace. China will enforce intellectual property rights as soon as doing so is in its national interest. That day will come sooner than most people expect.

For American companies, they must grasp the reality that patents are local—there is no worldwide patent. Companies that view the Chinese market as important must build intellectual property portfolios in China, not just the U.S., because Chinese companies are dramatically increasing their domestic (Chinese) patent filings at a rate far outpacing the patent filings of U.S. companies.

Compare China’s 300,000 patent filings to 295,219 patents granted in the US in 2009. It’s very revealing what goes on here.

Over in Vietnam, Doan Hong Son (from IPMAX Law Firm, i.e. lawyers) writes about all sorts of issues like TRIPS [1, 2, 3, 4] and the patent system in the EU. Doan Hong Son — like most lawyers in this position — is trying to promote the idea of software patenting in Vietnam. The title is telling because the phrase “patent protection” gets used (“protectionism” or “monopoly” would be better terms). From the article:

For instance, the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organisation, provides that “computer programs, whether in source or object code, shall be protected as literary works under the Berne Convention”, which is the convention for copyright protection.

TRIPS does not, however, specifically exclude software from the allowable subject matter of patents.

A patent grants a limited monopoly, usually a term of 20 years, to the patent holder on an invention or idea, e.g., a new device or process that involves an inventive step that is not obvious to others skilled in the same field. While copyright protects the original expression of an idea (such as the source code or object code), patent protects the embodiment of the idea, the functional aspect of the software, independent of the form in which it is expressed. In this context, patent offers stronger protection than copyright because it may prevent others from using software embodying the same concepts, even if the software is independently developed and there is no copying of code.

[...]

In the European Union, meanwhile the European Patent Convention excludes computer software “as such” from patentable subject matters. However, that does not mean that patent protection is not available to computer software that meets the conditions of an invention, i.e., being new, having a potential industrial application, and involving an inventive step.

[...]A reading of Viet Nam’s Law on Intellectual Property would suggest that only copyright protection is available to software. Article 14 includes “computer software” as one of the “forms of copyright-protected works”, while Article 59 specifically excludes “computer software” from “subject matters” eligible for patent protection.

However, similar to other countries, some computer-related patent applications may still be granted so long as they are presented as a process (implemented via computer software); the process includes a machine, computer or other equipment; and a physical transformation takes place or some tangible/visible results are obtained. In fact, the National Office of Intellectual Property has granted a number of software-related patents, including a patent for “a system for payment by electronic means” and a patent for a software-related system for generating and facilitating the display of high-quality images in a web browser.

Europe has just loopholes, but on paper at least, software patents still have a mountain to climb.

New Zealand and Australia

It is the same in New Zealand (as in Europe) and over in Australia people are setting up new initiatives to drive software patents away. From the latest such effort: [via Dr. Glyn Moody]

Following on from the success of the letter to Kim Carr, signatures are now being collected on a paper petition to the Australian House of Representatives. This petition formalises our request to the parliament. Parliamentary rules require original signatures on paper.

Please sign the petition at an event such as Richard Stallman’s speeches in Australia or Software Freedom Day. Please download and print a copy of the petition and help collect signatures at your workplace or other local events.

Europe

The loopholes which exist in New Zealand and in Europe need to be closed, but there has been something rather rotten (general distrust) in the Commission recently. The Establishment press in the US rightly gives the Commission some scrutiny over the issue while the EPO keeps celebrating a sharp rise in patent applications (which may mean very much the opposite of innovation and rise of protectionists instead). This class partisanship in no way can be viewed as beneficial to the market at large. The European Parliament is meanwhile “fast-track[ing] vote on EU patent” according to a report which echoes what we wrote earlier this month:

The European Parliament will tomorrow (27 January) give its first green light to 23-country enhanced cooperation for the European patent, confirming a fast-track approach chosen by the European Commission despite a number of unresolved controversial issues.

The FFII cheerfully states:

Euractiv quotes #FFII procedural objections to the Unitary Patent http://bit.ly/i0E1DY

For those who are interested, the full text of FFII’s press release is available in their site, starting with:

The European Union advances on a super-fast track on the “enhanced cooperation” for unitary patent protection among a coalition of the willing after an envisaged Community Patent has once again failed to reach consensus in the Council, attributed to the linguistic divide.

Miscellany

The FFII’s president shares some more news links, such as “Secretive Company Sues The Cable Industry, Claiming It Owns Patents On VOD”; “Patents: Nokia GmbH and Others v IPCom GmbH & Co. [2011] EWCA Civ 6 (20 Jan 2011)” and “Judge says Apple, RIM not violating Kodak patent”. “Kodak loses initial patent battle against Apple and RIM,” says one report on this latter subject, which is not so much about software patents but is relevant for other reasons.

CAMERA MANUFACTURER Kodak has lost the first round in a patent infringement complaint it lodged against Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) almost a year ago.

Way back in February of last year the US International Trade Commission (ITC) launched an investigation into mobile phone digital camera components from Apple and RIM that bear a striking resemblance to Kodak’s. But after nearly a year’s deliberation the ITC has ruled against Kodak’s patent violation case.

Kodak is the classic example of a company that chose patent litigation over innovation. We covered this a month ago and generally watched the company in [1, 2, 3, 4].

The bottom line is, patents are a protectionist’s tool for ever-demising companies to extort their competitors when they win. Lawyers are just the cost of doing ‘business’ like that (Microsoft is choosing such a strategy right now) and when anti-patents companies/startups like Twitter get “sued over ‘community’ patent”, it is clear that software patents are not for the ‘small inventor’, they are for the software oligarchs (IBM, Apple, Microsoft, and so on). Software patents are not just a nuisance, they are one of the biggest threats to software development in general, be it free/libre or proprietary.

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 19/12/2014: Robolinux 7.7.1 LXDE, Red Hat Thriving

    Links for the day



  2. Another Microsoft Partner Markets Linux FUD Using Logo, Name, and Lies

    Microsoft's partner Alert Logic is trying to label a feature of Linux a security flaw and even makes marketing buzz for it



  3. Redmonk is Spreading Black Duck's Anti-GPL Talking Points After Payments From Black Duck, Microsoft

    CBS' ZDNet spreads the GNU-hostile narrative which comes from Redmonk, funded by Microsoft and Black Duck, citing Black Duck, which also comes from Microsoft and is a partner of Microsoft



  4. 'Good' Software Patents From EA Show Cases Where DRM is a Patent Infringement

    Where two evils collide the public benefits, or how some software patents discourage the use of DRM



  5. Richard Stallman: What Does It Mean for Your Computer to Be Loyal?

    New article from Richard Stallman



  6. Links 18/12/2014: LinuxQuestions.org Polls, Fedora for POWER

    Links for the day



  7. Links 16/12/2014: Google and ODF, Civilization: Beyond Earth Comes to GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  8. Bill Gates' Pet Troll Intellectual Ventures is Collapsing as Founder Quits

    Intellectual Ventures founder leaves after an exceptionally large round of layoffs, despite [cref 77299 recent subsidies from Sony and Microsoft]



  9. Keeping Software Patents Out of Europe Following the Demise of Software Patents in the US

    Instability in the EPO seemingly prevents further expansion of patent scope, which is the subject of scrutiny of EPO staff



  10. Links 15/12/2014: OSI 2014 Annual Report, GPLv2 Court Test

    Links for the day



  11. Links 14/12/2014: Calligra 2.9 Beta, Krita 2.9 Beta

    Links for the day



  12. Software Patents Are Dying in the US, But Patent Lawyers Refuse to Admit It

    Patent lawyers continue to distort the reality of software patents' demise in the United States



  13. Links 13/12/2014: Android Wear “Lollipop”, European Commission and FOSS

    Links for the day



  14. Time to Take Microsoft Out of British Aviation Before Planes Crash Into Buildings

    London's mighty Heathrow Airport among those affected by a Microsoft-reliant air traffic control system which is not being able to properly recover from an outage, and not for the first time either



  15. News From France and Germany: Battistelli Under Fire, But Not Fired Yet, Just Firing His Opposition

    The régime headed by Benoît Battistelli and his criminal deputy continues to overthrow or pressure out everyone who is not 'loyal' to the régime



  16. Links 12/12/2014: Linux++, KDE Frameworks 5.5.0, Calligra 2.8.7

    Links for the day



  17. The USPTO is Broken: New Evidence Presented

    The scope of patents, as evidenced by some statistical figures and individual patents, shows that the USPTO is broken and must be reformed or dismantled



  18. US Patent Reform (on Trolls Only) More or Less Buried or Ineffective

    An update on efforts to reform the patent system in the United States, including the possibly imminent appointment of Michelle Lee to USPTO leadership role



  19. Software Patents in Canada Not Dead Yet

    Canada's patent status quo increasingly like that of the United States and Canadian giants like BlackBerry now pose a threat to software developers



  20. Dreaming of a Just Christmas: When a Third of EPO Walks Out to Revolt and European Judges Attack the EPO Over Abuses

    Information about the abuses of Battistelli et al. at the EPO are finally receiving wider coverage and increasing the strain on Battistelli's authoritarian reign



  21. Links 11/12/2014: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1 Beta, Firefox 35 Plans

    Links for the day



  22. Ubuntu Core Announcement is Not About Microsoft and Hosting Ubuntu on Azure is Worse Than Stupid

    The power of media spin makes the idea of hosting Free software under the control of an NSA PRISM and back doors partner seem alluring



  23. France Gets Involved in Battistelli's Abuses in the EPO - Part XII (Updated)

    The EPO scandal has officially spilled over to France, where a French Senator got involved and starts asking serious questions



  24. Rolling of Heads Likely Imminent at EPO

    The European patent system is shaking as management breaks the rules, staff is protesting against the management every week, and charges of corruption resurface



  25. Links 11/12/2014: systemd 218, Empire Total War

    Links for the day



  26. Links 10/12/2014: Fedora 21, Ubuntu Core

    Links for the day



  27. Links 9/12/2014: Fedora 21 and Torture Report Are Out

    Links for the day



  28. Exclusive: The Enlarged Board of Appeal Complains About Battistelli's Corrupt Management to the Administrative Council (Updated)

    Text of the complaint from the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA) reaches Techrights, demonstrating just how rampant the abuse in Battistelli's EPO has become



  29. Protests Against EPO Corruption Approach 1,000 in Attendance

    EPO staff at all levels is revolting against the management of the EPO, whose dismissal seems to be only a matter of time



  30. Links 9/12/2014: Greg Kroah-Hartman Interview, Fedora 21 Imminent

    Links for the day


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