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

08.16.11

Despite Google’s Validation of Patents, the Fight Against Software Patents Carries On

Posted in Google, Patents at 9:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sword fight

Summary: The argument against patent monopolies continues even though Google is buying its way into the patents club

WHAT Google did by buying a part of Motorola is far from ideal. Suddenly Google can be perceived as part of the problem, which is gigantic companies that amass many patents or need to pay a lot of money to join the racket that excludes small players. Regardless of Google’s decision, it is recognised by some big sites that =”The Patent System Is The World’s Biggest Threat To Innovation Today” and to quote the opening:

At the risk of stating the obvious, I’ll say this right up front: The patent system in both Europe and the United States is the biggest threat to innovation in the world today.

Rather than competing with each other on price and features, the biggest tech companies want to fight it out in court where some Luddite judge—rather than the market—can decide who wins and loses. By claiming that another company has violated some vague patent, one vendor can use the legal system to either block rival products from the market or demand hefty kickbacks (a.k.a. licensing fees) from their makers.

Glyn Moody says, “speaking as a mathematician, I certainly concur with the view that everything is “just maths” in a certain deep sense: that is, we believe that we can, *in theory*, use maths to describe anything that exists. But in practice, some bits are trickier than others.”

Here is a ket line: “This fundamental distinction between software patents and the other kinds is reflected in all the problems that are cited with the former: the fact that they are patents on knowledge, and the fact that you often can’t invent around such patents, because that’s like trying to invent around logic.”

Exactly.

What Google does quite correctly is that it tries to squash Lodsys’ software patents [1, 2, 3], but why did it not make an attempt to squash software patents as a whole? The third link there is the coverage from Groklaw, which is likely to be most accurate. It also speaks of reexamination of Paul Allen’s patents (another patent troll who also attacks Android using software patents).

Brian Kahin has this new piece which remarks on the patent situation in relation to Android. He begins thusly:

I recently wrote about the $4.5 billion auction for Nortel’s portfolio of 6,000 patents that went to a consortium that included Apple, Microsoft, and RIM (Blackberry) — three of four smartphone platforms. In the wake of this sale, Interdigital has contemplated monetizing its portfolio of 8,500 patents, perhaps even putting the company up for sale. Google announced that it has bought over 1,000 patents from IBM for defensive purposes. Perennial investor Carl Icahn suggested that Motorola cash in on some of its immense portfolio of 18000 patents. Analysts have noted that Kodak’s patents may be worth more than Kodak itself.

The value of these patents is not in the technology. These prices are being paid for the power to block others from using technology they have developed independently. Or for the power to block others from blocking you by threatening to block them from using their technology — “assertion” and “counter-assertion.”

The IT sector has learned to live with these practices at some cost, but the patent mania and litigation around smartphones is unprecedented. Nothing like this happened as the personal computer came of age. In Silicon Valley, suing for patent infringement was not part of the culture. Knowledge spread quickly and informally. Employees of rival firms socialized and exchanged ideas — and moved from company to company. The Valley’s unique form of social capital beat out the culture of control along Boston’s Route 128 and made Silicon Valley world famous.

Julian Sanchez also has this thoughtful piece titled, “When Are Patents Obvious?”

The more highly specialized professionals are in rapid communication with each other, the more likely it becomes that you’ll see innovations that are “obvious” because they involve combining various disparate kinds of incremental prior innovative steps, but which don’t have “prior art”—meaning nobody has taken that exact step before, because it required a bunch of other pieces to be in place before it was viable. So searching for “prior art”—if that means exactly the same preexisting invention—becomes a less reliable guide to what is “obvious” in the relevant sense. But as specialization increases, it also becomes vastly more difficult for a patent examiner with broadly relevant training (engineering and electronics, say) to use his own understanding and expertise as a guide to what is truly “obvious” to someone trained in the specifically relevant domain (say, engineering mobile cellular data networks). It’s increasingly unreasonable to expect even the smartest and most diligent examiner—even assuming away all the bureaucratic and institutional incentives to err on the side of granting patents—to judge the “obviousness” of innovations across an ever-proliferating array of subspecialties.

Timothy B. Lee goes even further by asking, ‘Are software patents the “scaffolding of the tech industry”?’

Quoting Lee’s conclusions: “Of course, it’s possible that the bankrupt company failed because its more successful competitors simply ripped off its technology and undersold it. But at least in software, this is not the common case. More often, many companies independently come up with similar ideas. The company that prevails is the one that executes best, not the one who came up with the idea first. Which means that the patent system simply transfers wealth from those who are good at building useful products to those who are good at navigating the patent system.

“Mace’s post is based on a similar fallacy. He argues that patents are good because they allow a small company like his to prevent a large company like Google or Apple from copying him. Obviously that’s valuable to him, but it’s not clear that it’s good for the economy as a whole.

“Companies have other ways to protect their innovations. They can use copyrights, trade secrets, and the head start that any inventor has over copycats. Mace objects that these protections aren’t adequate to guarantee that the original inventor will win in the marketplace. But that’s the point: consumers benefit from the robust competition that results when inventors have only a limited advantage over competitors. The first company to enter some market shouldn’t be able to simply rest on its laurels. Remember, Facebook was a “me-too competitor” in the social networking space; it’s a good thing that Friendster and MySpace weren’t able to stop Mark Zuckerberg from entering its market.

“The function of the patent system isn’t to maximize the profits of inventors. Rather, it’s to provide inventors with sufficient incentives to ensure they continue innovating. In software, the protections offered by copyrights and trade secrets are already more than adequate to produce a huge amount of innovation. As a bonus, these regimes are less cumbersome and less prone to frivolous litigation than patents.”

We rest assured that Google’s move might provide a short-term fix that assures the growth of Linux in mobile phones. In the long term, Google’s newly-acquired patents too need to be eliminated, along with all the rest. It’s the only way to serve justice that’s inclusive (includes small players and new entrants).

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

3 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    August 16, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Gravatar

    Getting rid of software patents would help large players like Google, not just the small players. Seriously, it would probably cost Google less to lobby and get the laws changed than it would to continue to play the game as it is now. Anyway, these massive patent portfolios don’t work against patent trolls because they produce nothing so there is nothing to counter assert claims against.

  2. Agent_Smith said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Gravatar

    And expect the real Trolls to attack by proxy, like IV, in several occasions.
    Then, they would still attack, but would not get the back lash.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, precisely.

What Else is New


  1. The EPO's Media Partners Like Les Echos Already Produce EPO Puff Pieces (Marketing/Stenography)

    EPO promotion disguised as reporting or journalism, as seen in the media partners of the EPO well before these partnerships even begin



  2. Unitary Microsoft: EPO Excludes People Who Are Not Microsoft Customers From UPC Participation

    The EPO just can't help providing special treatment to Microsoft, not only when it comes to patent applications but also when it comes to rejecting stakeholders/applicants who dare not become Microsoft customers



  3. Links 30/5/2016: Linux 4.7 RC1, Best Linux Distros

    Links for the day



  4. Make Nothing, Sue Everybody: The Reality of Patent Trolls Increasingly Understood by the 'Mainstream'

    New patent stories and even extensive coverage at PBS, which dedicated a whole program to these matters but failed to address the core issue, which is software patenting



  5. [ES] Advertencia: La Vigilancia de la EPO Surveillance Puede Haberse Convertido en Más Intrusiva

    BlueCoat, que la EPO usa para oprimir a sus empleados en sus premisas Europeas, acaba de ajustar más y hacerse más intrusiva y los empleados pueden estar en riesgo



  6. [ES] Tarjeta de Victima Termina en Otra Torpeza para Battistelli Seis de su Guardia Pretoriana

    Battistelli esta destruyéndo lo que queda de la reputación de la EPO (después de las décadas que le costó a ella construírla) mientras los medios continúan escrutinando su desastroso régimen



  7. [ES] La EPO esta Excelente, Dice Sitio de ‘Noticias’ Conectado a Ella

    Los caraduras de la ‘revista’ IAM, viejo aliado de la EPO, da la impresión a la gente de que en la EPO todo esta bien y dandy aunque claramente ese no es el caso



  8. New EPO Caricature: Nouveaux Garde-Vélo (New Bicycle Guards)

    A new cartoon poking fun at Battistelli's bicycles and the perceived threat these are under



  9. Battistelli's 'Special Relationship' With Portugal and the 'Inventor of the Year' Charade

    What makes Portugal rather unique when it comes to Mr. Battistelli, who is allegedly desperate for support from smaller countries whose vote is easier to 'win'



  10. Patent Lawyers' Marketing Dominates and Marginalises Meaningful Analyses of Software Patenting in the US

    In an effort to create demand for software patents again, patent lawyers produce a huge heap of so-called 'analyses' which piggyback just one single decision (the exception, not the norm)



  11. A Mix of Patent Aggression and Sanctions/Raids (Using Controversial Patents) Against East Asian Companies

    New stories that demonstrate patent protectionism and show how Western industry, which barely makes anything anymore, relies on patents (software and design patents included) and this self-serving patent regime perpetuates itself even in Asia, where almost everything is actually being manufactured (and often/increasingly designed/developed too)



  12. Rumour: Battistelli Wants to Extend the Term of Topić's EPO Appointment in Spite of Criminal Charges Against Him

    The EPO's 'ringleader', Mr. Battistelli, is trying to keep his confidants (like Mr. Minnoye and Željko Topić) together for several more years to come, even defying rules regarding retirement age



  13. Links 29/5/2016: NetBSD 7.0.1, Genode OS 16.05

    Links for the day



  14. [ES] La Gerencia de la EPO Bajo Creciénte Estres por las Autoridades Legales Croatas, Políticas Alemanas, y los Medios Italianos

    Las cosas no son color rosa como la calma relativa sugiere, y esperamos en las próximas semanas mayores eventos otros que la protesta en todas las sedes de la EPO a través de Europa



  15. [ES] Los Medios de Comunicación Comienzan a Informar al Público Europeo Acercas de las Desventájas de la UPC Mientras que la EPO Acelera su Cabildeo por Ratificación

    La vergonzósa promoción de la UPC por parte de la EPO da otro paso adelánte mientras que venues de la prensa Europea (incluso canales de televisión) comienzan a explorar el arreglo secreto que es negociado por los abogados de patentes (con clientes corpórativos) y las oficinas de patentes, no el público o cualquier grupo que represente los intereses del público en general



  16. [ES] Algunos Detalles Acerca de ¿Cómo el Presidente de la EPO Es Rumoreado Estar Comprando Votos, y el Porqué es Suficientemente Base Para un Despido Inmediato?

    Algo de información tras las cortinas y una detallada explicación de la dependencia finánciera sistemática, creada por Battistelli a un costode €13 millónes o más, la cuál evita una efectiva supervisión de Battistelli



  17. Mishi Choudhary and Mike Masnick Explain Why India Should Reject Software Patents

    Both an Indian activist-lawyer and a widely-recognised author from the US explain to Indians why over-reliance on patents -- and acceptance of patents on software in particular -- is a very bad idea



  18. Microsoft Boosters Pretend Microsoft Fights for Privacy While the Company Uses Malware Tactics to Put Keyloggers on Everyone's Computers

    In spite of malware-inspired tactics that should land Microsoft in courts of law all around the world (as a defendant), Microsoft-friendly circles pretend that the company fights for people's rights like privacy -- all this when Microsoft installs keyloggers on people's PCs without their consent and obviously against their will



  19. Battistelli's Assault on EPO Staff's Right to Strike in Relation to French Politics and That 'Bicycle' Pretext for Crackdowns

    The latest bicycle 'gossip' and how it's being used, based on expectations from EPO staff, to introduce further crackdowns on human/labour rights



  20. Vice-President of the EPO Under Investigation: Treason, Abuse, Violations, Giving and Receiving Bribes

    An English translation of documents involving the Organised Crime Section of the Criminal Police Department in Zagreb, where the Vice-President of the EPO faces criminal charges



  21. EPO Management Warns People About Scams When the EPO's Management is Itself Falling for Scams

    Jesper Kongstad, the Chairman of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation, helps demonstrate that not even the EPO is intelligent enough to spot an obvious scam



  22. Links 28/5/2016: Wine 1.9.11, New Gentoo

    Links for the day



  23. Links 27/5/2016: Android for Raspberry Pi, Google Beats Oracle in Court

    Links for the day



  24. Warning: EPO Surveillance May Have Just Gotten Even More Intrusive

    BlueCoat, which the EPO uses to enable oppression inside its European premises, has just gotten even nastier and staff may be at risk



  25. Victim Card Ends up in Another Blunder for Battistelli and His Six Bodyguards

    Battistelli is wrecking what's left of the EPO's reputation (after decades it took the Office to earn it) as the media continues to scrutinise his appalling regime



  26. Italian Report About EPO Now Available in English

    An English translation of a TV program which earlier this month documented some of the glaring problems at the EPO



  27. The EPO is Doing Great, Says EPO-Connected 'News' Site

    IAM 'magazine', a longtime ally of the EPO, gives people the impression that all is fine and dandy at the EPO even though that's clearly not the case



  28. Microsoft Has Killed Nokia (and Its Own Mobile Ambitions), But Watch What it Does With Patents

    Microsoft announces many more layoffs, having already caused tremendous damage to the Finnish economy, and patents are left astray for Microsoft's favourite patent trolls to pick



  29. EPO Management Under Growing Stress From Croatian Law Enforcement Authorities, German Politicians, Italian Media

    Things are not as rosy as the relative calm may suggest, and in the coming weeks we expect some major events other than the protest at all EPO sites across Europe



  30. Microsoft, a Dead Company Walking, Resorts to Malware Tactics, Now Truly Indistinguishable From Crackers

    Microsoft is essentially taking over people's PCs and installing on them a large piece of malware, complete with keyloggers, against the will of these PCs' owners


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