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11.19.11

Big Figures for Big Impact: Academics Versus Lobbyists

Posted in Patents at 9:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Education

Patent lawyers’ propaganda does not stack up

Summary: New numbers from Bessen et al. and the latest propaganda from a UK-based front group for ‘IP’

FOLLOWING the newest study from Bessen and his co-workers, there is press coverage estimating the cost of patent trolls at about half a trillion dollars. The figure as it appears in headlines might not be accurate, but it does have an impact and it can help squash patent trolls. We are quite used to seeing the Business Software Alliance commissioning the likes of IDC (at the behest of Microsoft et al.) to put out there some bogus figures which have the very opposite effect, so maybe this is a case of using scholarly work to battle lobbying. “Federation Against Software Theft” is another new body we saw emerging in a press release a couple of days ago. It says: “The new small claims service being introduced at the Patents County Court (PCC) in 2012 will help small and medium sized software businesses protect their copyright, trademarks and designs, reports the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST).”

Sounds like lobbying for patents on someone else’s behalf. At the bottom it says that “The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) was formed in 1984. FAST is a not-for-profit organisation limited by guarantee and wholly owned by its members. It was the first organisation to protect software publishers’ rights and advances its mission through education, enforcement and policy initiatives, together with promoting standards and best practice in the professional management of software. FAST advocates IP for growth. www.fast.org.uk ”

IP growth, eh? It’s funny that they have a .org.uk domain while they probably just serve as a front group of multinationals like Warner or Microsoft. Historically, we are less used to seeing this body fronting for patents and more used to seeing it involved in copyrights maximalism.

In other news, there is this continued push to put patents on just about anything, which leads to a stunning debate that ought to have been trivial. Some companies wish to patent life itself. To quote: “Oral arguments begin today on two separate cases, which don’t involve biotech firms but will affect the industry.”

It also says: “Both Akamai and McKesson have found support from two biopharma groups and one company in amicus curiae filings. Myriad Genetics offered insight into industry thinking: Since the Human Genome Project, the company noted, companies cannot obtain patents for fundamental composition of matter, since almost all of the human genome, all its encoded proteins, and analyses of those molecular markers, are deemed prior art.”

They actually wanted a patent on life and the Genome Project famously stopped them (to a degree). How did things get so bad to begin with? Not every piece of knowledge should be treated as “property” that can be sold of leased. It’s an outrageous suggestion to do so. Here is some news about patents being sold. It says that “Cryptocard has acquired the patents and intellectual property of GrIDsure, a UK pattern-based authentication start-up that became insolvent earlier this month. Term of the deal, announced Friday, were undisclosed.”

So basically this company was just a bunch of patents and it failed. Who would have guessed? Based on this news, there are predators out there looking just for patent monopolies to pick from defunct (or up for sale) companies so that they can extract fees without really doing anything. And as noted before, Doom 3 too is now suffering from patents, so despite goodwill from Carmack, we have no source code yet. “Games programming icon John Carmack,” says one article, “has been advised to rewrite some of the Doom 3 code to pave the way for its open-source release.” There is more about it here. The patent system does not encourage innovation, it is just an expensive nuisance as it stands. Software developers do not want that.

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