04.18.11

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Losing the Battle Against Software Patents?

Posted in Patents at 1:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Signs that the bullies are gradually getting their way by removing small players from the market, using patent thickets

TO ANYBODY who is a programmer, software patents are a curse. It does not matter if one develops Free software or proprietary software, patents are not for the developers, they are for the managers and their lawyers. They are for corporations and those who wage their wars for them. Just watch what Walker is doing right now [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], suing the entire world like Traul Allen, a billionaire, did. Jim Besse spoke about “the Future of Software Patents” a few days ago:

Yesterday James Bessen spoke at Stanford University on “The Future of Software Patents.” Over a decade has passed since US court decisions opened the way for wholesale patenting of software, including patents on finance and methods of doing business. Mr. Bessen looks at what the effect has been on software innovators. He looks at the empirical evidence on how software startup firms use patents and on why firms now face a much greater risk of software patent lawsuits. Exploring the causes behind these trends, he discusses how recent court decisions and legislative proposals might affect the rapid growth in litigation.

Those software startup firms soon discover that to say software patents are a good thing is simply a myth. It is the type of myth which gets spread by patent lawyers and propaganda from lobbyists of companies like Microsoft. The president of the FFII, one of the most active campaigners against software patents worldwide, warns that “Travaux preperatoires of the EPC published by the EPO, many references to software patents” and he also warns about “New Zealand software patents through the backdoor: EU approach is protecting embedded software” (this comes from this patent lawyers’ hive which we wrote about before). It sometimes seems like we, developers, are outnumbered by vocal lawyers. Not enough developers seem to be taking a stance against software patents; instead there is reliance on volunteers. Large companies like Google are not doing enough — if anything at all — to defend the interests of such developers. Roberto Galoppini claims that “Groklaw gave up with software patents”, which is probably not entirely true. Here is what he wrote the other day:

Few days after my blog post about OSI’s possible future, OSI wrote a second statement on the CPTN transaction, somehow reaffirming my concerns about a maybe too narrowed view on software patents. Now that even Groklaw gave up with software patents – rightly in my opinion – leaving it to IT giants and patent-trolls, will OSI fight software patents as a whole?

Here is another new article about the bid for Nortel’s patent portfolio and some background about CPTN:

Until and unless developers start getting involved in the software patents, bogus ‘IP experts’ and fake ‘developers’ (who only pretend to be that) will steer policy, bamboozle politicians, and continue to make life a lot more miserable for SMBs. This is not just a political and technical issue, it is also a class issue. It is the use of law to distort the market.

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A Single Comment

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    April 18, 2011 at 6:04 am

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    It needs to be said that software patents are about usage and thus a threat to users. Too much of the debate is spent marginalizing and downplaying the threat by focusing only on developers. They are the smallest group affected. The large group consists of the end users.

    Remember the Unysis software patent on parts of GIF. It was the users they went after then. That’s where the money is this time, too.

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