02.25.11

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When Microsoft and IBM Met Intellectual Protectionism

Posted in IBM, Microsoft, Patents at 6:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.” —Bertrand Russell

Lou Gerstner

Summary: How Microsoft tries to replicate IBM’s patent hoard (but for offensive purposes) while the USPTO continues assisting

Microsoft and IBM are poster children to a system which thrives in fostering giants and crushing everyone else. The USPTO, for example, enables former superpowers like IBM (and then Microsoft) to maintain monopolies without offering a lot in terms of value (advancement, innovation, competitive prices). Google, for example of contrast, is too young for ‘patent welfare’, so unlike Microsoft and IBM it does question the unjust patent system. “The Troll In The Basement” is the title of this silly new article which says things like: “Falling prey to patent trolls (firms that use the nebulous world of software patents) is commonplace for even big names.

“One of the methods of combating the trolls is to turn into a patent mill. IBM and Microsoft are issued several dozen patents ever so often just to combat legal battles waged by patent trolls.”

“The USPTO, for example, enables former superpowers like IBM (and then Microsoft) to maintain monopolies without offering a lot in terms of value (advancement, innovation, competitive prices).”That’s utter BS (pardon the language). Microsoft uses these patents offensively and cannot use them back against patent trolls as they have no products that can potentially infringe anything. It makes the argument total BS, but this type of BS gets repeated so many times by patent lawyers and the monopolies which they represent. Let us remember that the USPTO is guarded and headed by an IBM veteran (pro-patents person) and just like in the Gates Foundation, Big Pharma bigwigs run things and ensure that monopolies are protected by the USPTO. Mike Masnick reports “Revolving Door Between Gov’t And Industry Continues: Pharma Lawyer Goes To USPTO As Gov’t Financial Regulator Goes To Wall St.”

The level of regulatory capture between the government and industry is really quite sickening these days. There’s a revolving door where government officials go work for industry and vice versa, with plenty of back-scratching in both directions. Two separate stories crossed my desk at about the same time, highlighting this in both directions. First up, it’s really no surprise that one of the pharma industry’s favorite lawyers has just become deputy director of the US Patent Office. Of course, the pharma industry is one of the more aggressive ones when it comes to expanding the power of patents, and abusing them to block innovation in healthcare. Now they have another person on the inside to help.

This is just so typical. Those who run the USPTO are exactly the same people who arrive from companies which are USPTO beneficiaries. The fox guards the hen house, declaring poultry to be a national dietary priority.

The whole situation with regards to intellectual monopolies is truly concerning and it is going further out of control, harming both small contenders and free software. Dr. Glyn Moody has just submitted lengthy feedback to the UK independent review of so-called ‘IP’ (also inclusive of copyrights, which are related to it). From the summary:

The possibility that non-commercial sharing of digital content actually promotes growth, as reflected in the healthy increase of content sales in recent years, rather than damaging sales as frequently claimed by the content industries in their partial and one-sided reports, is a central issue here. If this dynamic is at work, it would dramatically affect views on whether non-commercial file-sharing should be permitted or not, and have major implications for the implementation of the Digital Economy Act. This suggests that large-scale and fully independent research into this area should be an urgent priority before further decisions and actions are taken.

If such research confirms the preliminary results reported above, one of the best ways of supporting growth and innovation in the UK would then obviously be to allow the free non-commercial sharing of digital content.

Patents and copyrights are both monopolies and to some degree they are exclusionary (although modernising the law can mitigate the issue). People need to decide whether they want to live in a world with supposedly benevolent monopolies or in a world with a lot of competition and many contenders. It is clear what the USPTO’s role is.

‘“Other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio” —Marshall Phelps (the man who built patent walls for IBM and then for Microsoft)

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