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. Why Authorities in the Netherlands Need to Strip the EPO of Immunity and Investigate Fire Safety Violations

    How intimidation and crackdown on the staff representatives at the EPO may have led to lack of awareness (and action) about lack of compliance with fire safety standards



  2. Insensitivity at the EPO’s Management – Part IX: Testament to the Fear of an Autocratic Regime

    A return to the crucial observation and a reminder of the fact that at the EPO it takes great courage to say the truth nowadays



  3. For the Fordham Echo Chamber (Patent Maximalism), Judges From the EPO Boards of Appeal Are Not Worth Entertaining

    In an event steered if not stuffed by patent radicals such as Bristows and Microsoft (abusive, serial litigators) there are no balanced panels or even reasonable discussions



  4. EPO Staff Representatives Fired Using “Disciplinary Committee That Was Improperly Composed” as Per ILO's Decision

    The Board of the Administrative Council at European Patent Organisation is being informed of the union-busting activities of Battistelli -- activities that are both illegal (as per national and international standards) and are detrimental to the Organisation



  5. Links 23/4/2017: End of arkOS, Collabora Office 5.3 Released

    Links for the day



  6. Intellectual Discovery and Microsoft Feed Patent Trolls Like Intellectual Ventures Which Then Strategically Attack Rivals

    Like a swarm of blood-sucking bats, patent trolls prey on affluent companies that derive their wealth from GNU/Linux and freedom-respecting software (Free/libre software)



  7. The European Patent Office Has Just Killed a Cat (or Skinned a 'Kat')

    The EPO’s attack on the media, including us, resulted in a stream of misinformation and puff pieces about the EPO and UPC, putting at risk not just European democracy but also corrupting the European press



  8. Yann Ménière Resorts to Buzzwords to Recklessly Promote Floods of Patents, Dooming the EPO Amid Decline in Patent Applications

    Battistelli's French Chief Economist is not much of an economist but a patent maximalist toeing the party line of Monsieur Battistelli (lots of easy grants and litigation galore, for UPC hopefuls)



  9. Even Patent Bullies Like Microsoft and Facebook Find the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Useful

    Not just companies accused of patent infringement need the PTAB but also frequent accusers with deep pockets need the PTAB, based on some new figures and new developments



  10. Links 21/4/2017: Qt Creator 4.2.2, ROSA Desktop Fresh R9

    Links for the day



  11. At the EPO, Seeding of Puff Piece in the Press/Academia Sometimes Transparent Enough to View

    The EPO‘s PR team likes to 'spam' journalists and others (for PR) and sometimes does this publicly, as the tweets below show — a desperate recruitment and reputation laundering drive



  12. Affordable and Sophisticated Mobile Devices Are Kept Away by Patent Trolls and Aggressors That Tax Everything

    The war against commoditisation of mobile computing has turned a potentially thriving market with fast innovation rates into a war zone full of patent trolls (sometimes suing at the behest of large companies that hand them patents for this purpose)



  13. In Spite of Lobbying and Endless Attempts by the Patent Microcosm, US Supreme Court Won't Consider Any Software Patent Cases Anymore (in the Foreseeable Future)

    Lobbyists of software patents, i.e. proponents of endless litigation and patent trolls, are attempting to convince the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to have another look at abstract patents and reconsider its position on cases like Alice Corp. v CLS Bank International



  14. Expect Team UPC to Remain in Deep Denial About the Unitary Patent/Unified Court (UPC) Having No Prospects

    The prevailing denial that the UPC is effectively dead, courtesy of sites and blogs whose writers stood to profit from the UPC



  15. EPO in 2017: Erroneously Grant a Lot of Patents in Bulk or Get Sacked

    Quality of patent examination is being abandoned at the EPO and those who disobey or refuse to play along are being fired (or asked to resign to avoid forced resignations which would stain their record)



  16. Links 21/4/2017: System76 Entering Phase Three, KDE Applications 17.04, Elive 2.9.0 Beta

    Links for the day



  17. Bristows-Run IP Kat Continues to Spread Lies to Promote the Unitary Patent (UPC) and Advance the EPO Management's Agenda

    An eclectic response to some of the misleading if not villainous responses to the UPC's death knell in the UK, as well as other noteworthy observations about think tanks and misinformation whose purpose is to warp the patent system so that it serves law firms, for the most part at the expense of science and technology



  18. Links 20/4/2017: Tor Browser 6.5.2, PacketFence 7.0, New Firefox and Chrome

    Links for the day



  19. Patents on Business Methods and Software Are Collapsing, But the Patent Microcosm is Working Hard to Change That

    The never-ending battle over patent law, where those who are in the business of patents push for endless patenting, is still ongoing and resistance/opposition is needed from those who actually produce things (other than litigation) or else they will be perpetually taxed by parasites



  20. IAM, the Patent Trolls' Voice, is Trying to Deny There is a Growing Trolling Problem in Europe

    IAM Media (the EPO's and trolls' mouthpiece) continues a rather disturbing pattern of propaganda dressed up as "news", promoting the agenda of parasites who drain the economy by extortion of legitimate (producing) companies



  21. The Patent Microcosm Keeps Attacking Every Patent Office/System That is Doing the Right Thing

    Patent 'radicals' and 'extremists' -- those to whom patents are needed solely for the purpose of profit from bureaucracy -- fight hard against patent quality and in the process they harm everyone, including individual customers



  22. Another Final Nail in the UPC Coffin: UK General Election

    Ratification of the UPC in the UK can drag on for several more years and never be done thereafter, throwing into uncertainty the whole UPC (EU-wide) as we know it



  23. Links 19/4/2017: DockerCon Coverage, Ubuntu Switching to Wayland

    Links for the day



  24. Links 18/4/2017: Mesa 17.0.4, FFmpeg 3.3

    Links for the day



  25. Patents Roundup: Microsoft, Embargo, Tax Evasion, Surveillance, and Censorship

    An excess of patents and their overutilisation for purposes other than innovation (or dissemination of knowledge) means that society has much to lose, sometimes more than there is to gain



  26. How I Learned that Skype is a Spy Campaign (My Personal Story) -- by Yuval Levental

    Skype is now tracking serial numbers, too



  27. Links 17/4/2017: Devil Linux 1.8.0, GNU IceCat 52.0.2

    Links for the day



  28. EPO Patent Quality and Quality of Service Have Become a Disaster, Say EPO Stakeholders

    Stakeholders of the EPO, in various sites that attract them, are complaining about the service of the EPO, the declining quality of patents (and the rushed processes), including the fact that Battistelli's blind obsession with so-called 'production' dooms the already-up-in-flames EPO and makes it uncompetitive



  29. IAM is a Think Tank for Patent Trolls, Software Patents, the EPO, Microsoft, and Whoever Else is Willing to Pay

    The site where you get what you pay for continues to promote highly damaging agenda, which threatens to disrupt operations at a lot of legitimate companies that employ technical people



  30. An Australian Patent Troll, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty Ltd (GEMSA), is a Bully Not Just in the Patent Sense, Explains the EFF

    The mischievous troll GEMSA, which doesn't seem to get enough out of bullying real companies, is now attacking a civil rights group's free speech rights


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