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 21/9/2014: Fedora 21 Alpha

    Links for the day



  2. 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



  3. 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



  4. 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



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

    Links for the day



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

    Links for the day



  7. 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



  8. 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



  9. 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



  10. 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



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

    Links for the day



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

    Links for the day



  13. 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



  14. 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



  15. 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



  16. More Microsoft Layoffs

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



  17. ODF on the Rise

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



  18. Links 17/9/2014: CoreOS, ChromeOS, and systemd

    Links for the day



  19. Italy is Cracking Down on Microsoft's Monopoly Abuse While Gradually Moving to GNU/Linux

    Italy is not only moving to Free/Open Source software but also to GNU/Linux while at the same time barring Microsoft from forcibly tying Windows to new PCs



  20. OpenSUSE's 'Assurances' Are Classic MBA School Hogwash

    OpenSUSE is not part of any commitment, except for SUSE's; the impact of the Novell/SUSE acquisition casts uncertainty on the project's future



  21. Links 16/9/2014: Firefox OS Smartphones in Bangladesh, “Treasure Map” of the Internet

    Links for the day



  22. The United Kingdom Should Dump Microsoft For the Sake of National Security

    The UK has issues of Microsoft dependency and Windows viruses; its migration to Free software and GNU/Linux is not fast enough to guard its autonomy in the age of digital imperialism



  23. CBS Hires Even More Microsoft Staff to Cover Microsoft Matters

    CBS continues to be infested with Microsoft staff past and present (this time Dave Johnson) and the bias in output is quite revealing



  24. Microsoft Has Just Killed Minecraft for GNU/Linux and the Possibility of Free/Open Source Releases

    Persson sells out to Microsoft and lets the abusive monopolist destroy the popular cross-platform game that a community has been built around



  25. Another Reason to Boycott Intel UEFI

    More anti-competitive aspects are revealed inside UEFI, which helps merginalise GNU/Linux



  26. Quick Mention: Novell and SUSE Passed to Microsoft's 'Partner of the Year', Microsoft Focus

    Novell is changing hands again, and falling into the hands of even more Microsoft-friendly actors



  27. Links 16/9/2014: Linux 3.17 RC5, KDE Frameworks 5.2.0

    Links for the day



  28. Željko Topić, Benoît Battistelli, and the European Patent Office (EPO): Part II

    Part II of our look into the EPO appointment of Željko Topić and other matters showing the dubious integrity of the EPO



  29. Links 14/9/2014: Android-based Watches Earn Optimism

    Links for the day



  30. Links 14/9/2014: Eucalyptus Devoured

    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