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 Dutch Scandal Leaves Battistelli and His Cronies on the Run

    EPO management is making concessions and issues statements which admit defeat, allowing the staff union to continue its activities



  2. Microsoft Won't Let People Wipe (Off) Windows But Happily Wipes Android, Wipes Android Apps Through Cyanogen and Blackmailed 'Partners'

    Microsoft's obscene double-standards leave Android and Linux between a rock and a hard place



  3. Links 26/3/2015: GNOME 3.16 Officially Released

    Links for the day



  4. Links 25/3/2015: India Moving to Free Software

    Links for the day



  5. Another Reason to Boycott UEFI: Back Doors or Crackers

    UEFI makes computers more prone to infections, according to some security experts



  6. The EPO's Administrative Council is Under Increased Pressure to Rein in and to Finally Stop Benoît Battistelli

    The EPO's Administrative Council (AC) is about to have a meeting, so the Member States' delegations are urged to call for action



  7. IRC Proceedings: February 22nd - March 21st, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  8. The Latest Microsoft Attacks on GNU/Linux and Free/Libre Software

    Microsoft is still hiding behind the façade of 'love' whilst actively attacking GNU/Linux and Free software from many directions



  9. Attempts to Disrupt Android by Pushing Microsoft Software Into It (Using Patent Blackmail and Cyanogen)

    Microsoft's Android coup d'état is succeeding owing to public apathy and poor comprehension of what Microsoft really is up to, partly due to media misdirection



  10. Links 24/3/2015: WebKitGTK+ 2.8.0, Black Lab Linux 6.5

    Links for the day



  11. Concerns Over Željko Topić's Alleged Powerful Links in Croatian Diplomacy

    Rikard Frgačić explains the powerful connections acquired though Ivan Šimonović, who is himself connected to EPO Vice-President Željko Topić



  12. Benoît Battistelli's EPO Comes Under Fire From Prominent Figures Who Are Key EPO Stakeholders, Expect Battistelli to Resign 'in the Longer Term'

    The ‘reign of terror’ which is primarily attributed to Battistelli and his cronies may be about to end; the Luxembourg parliament approves the Unified Patent Court



  13. Benoît Battistelli's EPO is Under Attack From French Politicians Yet Again

    More EPO interventions -- this time from France -- target Benoît Battistelli over his abuses and take it up to Eurocrats for political actions



  14. Bribes and Extortion Help Turn Android (Linux-powered) Into 'Microsoft Android'

    A strategy involving harassment and bribes drives large Android players into Microsoft's arms (PRISM and lock-in), much to Google's (and users') detriment and beyond regulators' range of visibility



  15. Microsoft-connected Black Duck Software Created by Microsoft Marketing Man as an Anti-GPL Operation, Admits the Management

    Black Duck "was founded [on] the idea ... to keep GPL-licensed code out of corporate codebases entirely," according to a new report



  16. Links 23/3/2015: Linux 4.0 RC5, Kubuntu Celebrates Ten Years

    Links for the day



  17. Microsoft Admits Lying (or Deceiving) About the Cost of Vista 10

    After much hype in the press about Windows being 'free' it turns out that Microsoft just lied yet again, leaving that lingering perception that Windows is as inexpensive as GNU/Linux



  18. Politics of Blackmail at the EPO

    Comments serve to highlight the role of bribes (or contrariwise blackmail), as allegedly exercised by the current management of the European Patent Office



  19. Benoît Battistelli's EPO Comes Under Attack From the British

    A British MEP criticises Battistelli and the management of the European Patent Office (EPO) while Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, UK Minister for Intellectual Property, gets closer to Battistelli in a tactless effort to improve relations



  20. The Royal Norwegian Department of Labour on the Right of European Patent Office (EPO) Workers to Strike

    The role of bureaucrats from Norway in defending (or not) the rights of EPO workers -- rights that the EPO's management is actively trying to deny and punish for



  21. Michael Silver Back to Acting as Gartner's Microsoft Agent, Promoting Vista 10 Based on False Promises

    Vista 10 in the headlines as its marketing propaganda zones in on false perceptions around cost, aided in part by longtime foes of GNU/Linux such as Gartner, especially its Microsoft-embedded elements (Michael Silver and co-workers)



  22. Despite Media Propaganda About Security, Microsoft Windows Remains the Least Secure Operating System, by Design

    Amid highly misleading security-centric reports that rely on Microsoft's bogus number of vulnerabilities (Microsoft already admitted hiding many of them) Techrights presents recent news about Windows 'security'



  23. Canonical Goes to Bed With Company That Sues Linux Using Software Patents and Copyrights (Through SCO)

    Despite Microsoft's continued assault on GNU/Linux, Canonical is foolish enough to give Microsoft control over many Ubuntu instances



  24. Links 22/3/2015: GNOME 3.16 Shaping Up, LibrePlanet 2015

    Links for the day



  25. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part VI - Propaganda Wars Against Free Software Facilitated While Media Control is Secured and Abused

    How Microsoft systematically lies to the public, including decision-makers and officials who can be tricked into choosing proprietary software, thinking it is in fact "open"



  26. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part V - Dumping and Surveillance to Counter GNU/Linux Insurgence

    Microsoft makes false claims about future versions of Windows (with more surveillance) becoming 'free' in order to stop migrations to GNU/Linux



  27. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part IV - Deleting, Attacking Android/Linux From Within

    Microsoft 'loves' Linux so much that it is trying to get on top of Linux and then delete Linux



  28. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part III - Abducting the Competition (Android)

    How Microsoft tried to destroy Android using a coup d'état approach, just shortly before getting caught, then retreating and rewriting the public record



  29. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part II - Patent Lawsuits Against Android/Linux Still Going On, New Ones Filed

    Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures are suing Android companies using software patents while some Android vendors settle by becoming slaves of Microsoft



  30. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part I - The UEFI Attack on GNU/Linux

    Microsoft's highly abusive tactics against GNU/Linux live on in UEFI form, dispelling any myths that someone may still cling onto regarding a 'reformed' Microsoft


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