Summary: Bits of patent news (international scope) which software freedom supporters should keep abreast of
PATENTS ARE, in our humble assessment, the most important subject when it comes to Free software*, especially since the Microsoft-Novell deal, which only months after its signing resulted in Microsoft’s extortion of Linux vendors and users. Software patents in Europe continue to be a subject of discussion because the European Parliament is doing foolish things, embellishing them and casting them as “cooperation”:
The European Parliament gave its consent on Tuesday for a common EU patent system to be created using the enhanced cooperation procedure. In December 2010, twelve Member States made a request to launch such a procedure, after it was concluded that not all the Member States could agree on an EU-wide patent system.
Patents are not about cooperation, they are about exclusion, separation, and hostility.
Looking over at the United States, professor Eben Moglen and Microsoft are also mentioned by SCOTUS Blog (via Against Monopoly), which says that the court will “consider standard for secondary patent liability”. To quote: “Other noteworthy filings include one by Tom Hungar at Gibson, Dunn (on behalf of Comcast, Microsoft and several other large IT companies). Hungar’s brief provides an excellent summary of the cases that were codified in Section 271(b), designed to show that the Federal Circuit’s reading of the statute is inconsistent with Congressional intent. Given the importance of the early cases to the Court’s decision in Bilski, this brief is likely to be important to at least some of the Justices. And finally, there is a filing with typical verve from Eben Moglen on behalf of the Software Freedom Law Center, pointing out the risk to independent software developers of a standard that exposes them to liability for patents of which they have no reason to be aware.”
The Microsoft-tied Traul Allen and Intellectual Ventures (IV) are allegedly or reportedly extorting Linux already (HTC and Samsung). John Cook from the Microsoft-boosting TechFlash spoke about the perpetrator of IV and mentioned the strong connection to Microsoft. The title speaks about “penguin poo” and there’s this part too:
On why he sometimes gets labeled a patent troll: “It is threatening to the old order.”
“People say that because they believe it to be true,” Groklaw remarks. It is delusional. To justify greed, the greedy always find some ridiculous justifications, then mass-market the delusion using PR campaigns. There are famous lines that they recycle and use.
Patents are generally a hindrance, not a facilitator of progress. A new case of collusion in patent monopolies helps show what patents can bring us sometimes:
Genentech Inc allegedly colluded with Celltech R&D Ltd to fraudulently extend the life of a disputed patent and reaped more than a $1 billion in royalties, according to a lawsuit by rival drugmaker Human Genome Sciences Inc.
The lawsuit takes aim at what is known as the Cabilly patent that protects a technology that uses recombinant DNA which is critical to the manufacture of many biotech drugs.
“Genentech has engaged in a massive, years-long conspiracy to monopolize and restrain trade in the market and commit fraud,” said the complaint.
If that’s what patents lead to, who needs them if not those who exploit or abuse the system? Many academic (and independent) studies have repeatedly shown that software patents — and sometimes patents as a whole — are economically unsound. █
* Free software Web sites which do not cover the subject possibly do not understand it.