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09.26.11

Obama Can Determine If Software Patents Go Away or Go Global

Posted in America, Patents at 10:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Coburn and Obama discuss S. 2590

Summary: Why the patent reform (or lack thereof) is a matter of international importance amid Wikileaks revelations

THE PATENT SYSTEM penalises software developers who do not play by its rules and waste money (and time) on paperwork instead of code. The “[p]atent system is patently uneven,” even according to Microsoft apologists who inevitably realise that patents are not beneficial to software developers. They already have copyrights and that ought to be more than enough.

“The global patent system has been debated behind closed doors and colonialist nations have been working hard, e.g. using lists of shame and sanctions, to pressure every nation to move into the fold.”According to selected Cablegate cables that we have amassed (many more to come at a later date), the fake reform we saw at the USPTO is very much in alignment with the plan to just tweak everything internationally so as to make fusion easier when the time comes for globalisation of the patent offices (led by the trilateral members). The global patent system has been debated behind closed doors and colonialist nations have been working hard, e.g. using lists of shame and sanctions, to pressure every nation to move into the fold. According to IP Watch, an investigative Web site sceptical of intellectual monopolies, the “US Patent Law [Is] Seen Opening Door To Global Harmonisation At WIPO”:

Just a week after US patent reform was signed into law, the Symposium of Intellectual Property Authorities opened with an air of celebration on 22 September at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). During the opening session, several keynote speakers congratulated United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos for the long-awaited legislation helping to harmonise the American patent process with the rest of the world.

This is just colonialism. It is a mechanism for asserting that whatever the developing world (euphemism for under-developed) achieves is the ‘property’ of the developed world. And as the President of the FFII puts it:

US patent reform to drive WIPO substantive harmonisation, and software patents at the global level?

This subject may be grossly under-covered, but we are really at the crossroad where software patents can either fall (there is a petition for Obama right now) or go universal. Here is an update regarding the petition:

At this moment, on the White House’s official website for petitioning the government, the only thing as popular as legalizing marijuana and separating church from state is a petition to “Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents.”

There are lots of good reasons to end the practice of patenting software, including the fact that software patents are primarily a vehicle for transferring wealth from the innovators who create it to patent trolls whose sole “product” is litigation. (Software patents are also sometimes used by big companies to take their rivals down a peg or two, in what seems like an effort to pile up so many cross-licensing fees that they all cancel each other out.)

We really need “Change” in patent law. The ‘reform’ everyone talks about isn’t it. As Gamasutra put it the other day, “don’t expect “patent trolls” who plague the video game industry to go hiding under the bridge just yet, or other burdens on innovation and ingenuity to vanish into thin air.”

The reform needs to go much further and the court system too needs to improve its clarity following decisions like this one, leading to allegations that “Appeals Court Arbitrarily Deciding What Is And What’s Not Patentable” (according to Masnick).

“There is a very strong push to make a global patent system — a push that Cablegate/Wikileaks make very visible.”Quoting further from the article:”As James Bessen has said repeatedly, a working patent system would lead to clear boundaries. A broken patent system is one with ridiculously vague boundaries, because all that does is increase litigation. The Supreme Court really should have made a clear ruling in Bilski. Instead, in many ways, the confusion and uncertainty is making the system worse, and just encouraging greater litigation.”

What is happening right now is troubling because the ‘patent’ courts — not just the patent system — are being further perturbed to the point where Europe is debating a centralised court for patent matters. It is that sort of move which can establish a no-escape policy for developers who are alleged to have infringed something by some company across the Pacific or the Atlantic. The reform in the US (or lack thereof) affects each and every one of us who buys or develops software products. There is a very strong push to make a global patent system — a push that Cablegate/Wikileaks make very visible.

American (US) citizens: please sign this petition in President Obama’s Drupal/Linux-powered site. 5,000 signatures were required to reach the milestone and get his attention, but there are already more than 10,000. This also helps generate press coverage and revive the debate.

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18 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    September 26, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Gravatar

    The petition could use a position of a little more prominence:

    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/#!/petition/direct-patent-office-cease-issuing-software-patents/vvNslSTq

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    The link seems to have stopped working. Here is the active link to the petition:

    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/direct-patent-office-cease-issuing-software-patents/vvNslSTq

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Thanks for making it more easily accessible. If my relatives in the States knew what patents were all about, I’d ask them too to sign it (they’re not techies, all ~20 of them).

  2. Michael said,

    September 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Gravatar

    How well does copyright protect the basic innovate ideas that companies produce? It protects code, I know… but the innovative ideas?

    Still, the current system clearly sucks.

    saulgoode Reply:

    Prohibiting someone from implementing what they conceive based merely on someone else having previously had a similar idea is not a concept in need of any government protection. It is a misguided notion of the role of governance in a civilized society.

    The forbiddance of knowledge is an anachronism from the Medieval Ages that can no longer be tolerated, let alone encouraged by government fiat. The problems facing mankind no longer afford the luxury of wasting its resources upon arbitrary monopolies on knowledge and ideas.

    Michael Reply:

    If I spend X million dollars researching the best way to make a widget, why should you be able to take my ideas the minute I market them? What gives you the right?

    saulgoode Reply:

    First, I would point out the dichotomy between my initial proposition and your own hypothetical. My premise concerned independent creation with no insinuation of “copying” another’s ideas. This distinction also arises between copyrights and patents — if you were to independently, through happenstance or otherwise, create the exact same music, artwork, software, or literature as something I had previously copyrighted, there would be no infringement. Not so with patent law; independence of invention is not a defense. Shouldn’t it be?

    If instead of by “copying” something which you spent millions of dollars discovering, I (being the brilliant engineer that I am) devise the exact same thing using twenty cents worth of duct tape and dental floss, and having no knowledge whatsoever of your prodigal research (for which you’ve already been subsidized under taxation statutes), by what right do you presuppose to prohibit me from benefiting from my discovery?

    Michael Reply:

    You dodged my question. Let’s take a real-world example:

    http://maypalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Samsung-Products-vs-Apple-products.jpg or http://goo.gl/S2AJR

    If that image is true (I have no verified), then we have a clear example of copying. What rights does Apple have to deal with such unfair business practices?

    Jose_X Reply:

    Why don’t those pictures show Apples products before?

    It seems Apple copied the idea of a small compact phone running on a full OS and GUI and using apps and many many many many other features which did not exist 20 years ago. They go from no product to copying all the key features of existing phones developed within the last 20 years.

    Of course, for the third time on this thread, let’s point out again that it is rather antisocial and stifling to allow someone who comes up with something to block someone else who also comes up with it essentially independently.

    Jose_X Reply:

    >> to block someone else who also comes up with it essentially independently.

    ..not that Apple came up with most of their features independently, of course.

    Michael Reply:

    http://maypalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Samsung-Products-vs-Apple-products.jpg

    Can anyone show Apple copying to that level? If they did then they are in the wrong.

    The idea Samsung came up with that “independently” is absurd… at least based on the data given. But if you want to make that argument I would love to hear it.

    Jose_X Reply:

    The independence failure is one of numerous strikes against our current patent system and against software patents more so (more so because, among other reasons, sw is more easily seen as a form of speech in contrast to most other inventions and is also much more easily modified and created).

    That aside, Samsung has made many phones. Apple has not. Apple “copied” a lot more from society as they jumped into that market than did Samsung when they upgraded to their more recent editions.

    And I don’t see the point with the tablets. Are you penalizing Samsung for trimming down in size as has been the pattern by electronic manufacturers for ages?

    Until Apple accounts for all of their copying in going from nothing to what they have, I don’t think Samsung or anyone body else needs to explain why they would trim down their hardware.

    Again, independent invention is a reason to reject our current patent and legal system. This has nothing to do with Samsung or Apple, although if we were going to judge by “copying” quantities, it does seem Apple has copied a lot more. For that reason, I am a little surprised a patent supporter wouldn’t be backing Samsung here over Apple.

  3. saulgoode said,

    September 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Gravatar

    You dodged my question.

    As you did mine.

    There IS NO inherent, natural right to possession of thoughts and ideas. There is not even an inherent right to “property” per se; beyond the brute force mentality of “try to take this from me”. A civilized society creates laws of “property” based upon what is beneficial to that society as a whole (disregarding the rather uncivilized, equally brute-force governances based upon heredity or dictatorship).

    The government protection of “real” property can typically be justified under such rules of societal beneficence when the property under consideration can not feasibly be possessed by more than one individual at a time. Such is not the case with “intellectual” property — there is no natural impediment posed to what you would do with the knowledge you possess by the fact that I also might come into possession of that same knowledge.

    Patents have nothing to do with you protecting your rights (outside of democratic adjudication, you have none); they are about your encroachment upon everybody else’s rights — and the onus is upon you to justify how everybody else benefits from such encroachment.

    Michael Reply:

    You dodged my question by asking others… and you are right, I am not going to be side-tracked by your questions.

    But you have said you do not really believe in the right to property unless it benefits society. That shows we have such different views of rights as to make agreement impossible.

    I do believe in ownership. My stuff is *mine*, even if it does not benefit you. And your stuff is yours, even if it does not benefit me.

    But thank you for explaining where our views differ.

    saulgoode Reply:

    I do believe in ownership. My stuff is *mine*, even if it does not benefit you.

    Correction. Your stuff is yours until you share it with others. At that point, your only recourse to retention of any degree of ownership is a plea to the masses that it is in their best interests for you to retain some of the rights of ownership to that which you’ve already shared (again disregarding the unethical concept of appeals to divine, or “might makes”, right). I do not see you making that case. Why is that?

    Jose_X Reply:

    Wait, since Apple is giving away all of their phones, perhaps we should be a little nice to them and let them have **something** like a super powerful and stifling monopoly over our independent thoughts and actions for 20 years.

    They must be losing billions of dollars every quarter being so generous to us for having put a few picture squares next to each other and otherwise copying the essence of a whole bunch of existing products and software (even going back decades to movie ideas).

    Anyway, don’t get me wrong. I have not voluntarily signed an agreement with Apple to yield ANY rights whatsoever to them to create whatever comes out of my head BUT since Apple has lost billions every quarter giving away these phones, maybe we should give them **something** even if it is forced from us and no one has yielded any such human rights. Eh?

    Michael Reply:

    saulgoode: ever rented a place?

    Michael Reply:

    Jose_X

    “Wait, since Apple is giving away all of their phones, perhaps we should be a little nice to them and let them have **something** like a super powerful and stifling monopoly over our independent thoughts and actions for 20 years.”

    I am *sure* you think you are making a point. Really. Maybe you think you are making some point about how since Apple already makes money it is fair to rip them off?

    http://maypalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Samsung-Products-vs-Apple-products.jpg or http://goo.gl/S2AJR

    Can you clarify?

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