Summary: Bits and pieces of news from the United States and what it helps teach us about the dangers of US-style patent law spreading to other countries
THE state of Texas has become known for its harbouring of patent trolls. There are other parasitical occupations forming there, such as this one:
iRunway, a technology research firm specializing in litigation support and patent portfolio analysis, has reported increased demand for source code analysis as software and Internet patent infringement cases and awards grow at a dramatic pace.
This seems more like a generator of lawsuits. Here is one who “oversees the electronics and software patent practice at Kilpatrick Townsend’s Palo Alto office.” And here is Facebook buying a patent aggressor:
Two years after suing Facebook for patent infringement, Baltimore-based WhoGlue, a small developer of software for membership organizations, has now been acquired by the social networking giant, according to multiple reports.Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Facebook reportedly plans to incorporate the company’s technology, which allows membership organizations to form private social networks.
A patent-infringement lawsuit ended up leading to an acquisition, as relationship-management-software developer WhoGlue announced that it was acquired by Facebook.
WhoGlue filed suit against Facebook in September 2009, claiming that the social network “violated a patent awarded to WhoGlue in 2007 for an “information management system’ to control personal information as human networks and technology increasingly mesh.”
What does that really tell us about the patent system? This certainly is not an example of entrepreneurship.
In the United States, where software patents are not a dirty word, the litigation frequency has gone through the roof (with some causal relationship wrt software patents) and a software parents competition is being launched by the USPTO to celebrate this chaos. How about this from the news? What we are trying to show is, these are mostly troublesome situations that a system with software patents is permitting. Outside the US there are still debates on the subject and the FFII managed to make it into ZDNet Asia. To quote the relevant portions:
The current intellectual property (IP) rights and patent system is flawed and some markets are already in the midst of reforming the system, but authorities need to avoid making minor tweaks and look at how changes can better spur innovation and boost the economy, observers pointed out.
Foundation for a Free Information Structure’s (FFII) general secretary Andre Rebentisch, for one, said the current mobile patents war waged by various companies such as Apple, HTC, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft, is an example of how “things only got worse” with the existing IP regime. The FFII is a not-for-profit organization registered in 20 European countries dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition and open standards, according to its Web site.
Right now in Europe we are struggling to keep out the interests of multinationals and their lawyers. It is clear what would be better for local businesses, but there are front groups/lobbyists that hijack their voice very maliciously.
In the US, states might think that more patents are the answer, but this is just that same old propaganda. Monopolies do not have economic value for the whole system. To quote the dumb statement of the day:
The State Auditor says California needs to do a better job at protecting intellectual property rights.
In a new report this week, State Auditor Elaine Howle says California needs to create guidelines to make sure it gets fully compensated when others use inventions and software developed by state workers.
What utter nonsense and a misuse of the word “invention”, which has nothing to do with royalties and patents. Next week will be interesting because of the crazy idea of bringing Europe’s patent law into closer alignment with the chaos above. A global patent system would not be kinder; it would be orders of magnitude worse. Which in a was is good for wealthy companies (deep pockets) and lawyers; chaos is then profitable and it is also a framework for driving away entrants. █
Broken and dead
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Summary: Apple — the best money can buy?
APPLE was hoping to magically embargo its competition (Linux-based) in one fell swoop. Apple followers who think with their ego and not with their mind might think this is just, but it is a total abuse of everything we know about due process and adherence to law. According to reports, Apple is still trying hard to ban, ban, ban. Apple is a disgraceful company, a sore loser. To quote:
Apple is now seeking yet another ban on Samsung’s modified Galaxy Tablet in Germany. The iPad maker earlier succeeded in getting a ban on Samsung’s Galaxy tab in Germany in a ‘moronic’ ruling by the Düsseldorf court.
Meanwhile in Australia, Apple loses the case, which might make one wonder if Apple fraudulently files a lawsuit to just take the competition off the shelves (like false DMCA claims). Apple targets trolls-friendly courts and presents fake evidence. For that too Apple should probably have legal action (maybe antitrust) invoked. Apple is just out of control. Here is one report about Apple’s case falling apart:
Chalk one up for Samsung in the great patent rumble of 2011; the company has had Apple’s sales ban on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 overturned in Australia.
Federal Court Justice Lindsay Foster has reversed the sales ban, as was predicted late last week, although it’s still in place until Friday this week.
There are British reports on this and they put things in context:
Samsung has been handed a rare win in its patent battle with Apple, with Australia’s Federal Court deciding to overturn the injunction that prevents it from selling its Galaxy 10.1 tablet in Australia.
Originally, a single judge of the court, Justice Annabelle Bennett, had granted Apple’s request for an injunction against the sale of the fondleslab, triggering a complaint from Samsung that it would miss the opportunity for Christmas sales of the product.
However, in a full bench sitting, Justices Dowser, Foster and Yates have decided the device can hit the stores after all – although it’s not known to The Register how long Samsung will need to get shipments into the country and in front of punters. The only hint is earlier evidence that devices could land here within seven days.
Apple and Samsung are involved in an increasingly-bitter – and spreading – battle over fondleslab patents, with each accusing the other of patent violations. Apple says the Galaxy 10.1 is a slavish copy of the iPad, while Samsung is focussing on the internals, dragging in patents covering wireless technologies that are part of the 3G standard.
It is Apple that started this. It showed its inability to catch up with Android/Linux.
Take a look at Apple land for a day. The battery issues are widely reported even in Apple forums and phones go on fire. It’s defective, overpriced junk with an Apple logo on it. Quality control is MIA. To quote:
Where there’s smoke, there’s…if not exactly fire, how about a glowing red iPhone on an airplane? No really, someone’s iPhone apparently turned the color of molten rock (aka “lava”) and began venting “dense smoke” on an Australian regional airline last week, prompting a flight attendant to break out the cabin’s fire extinguisher.
Apple — the best money can buy? █
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Summary: European Advocate General and a UK government report get involved in the debate
FOLLOWING the embarrassing news about the EU Patent, sane lawyers such as Carlo Piana point out that the “Advocate General @ ECJ says that monopolize an idea is detrimental to technological progress and industrial development. #swpats torpedoed”
It is too premature to say that they are torpedoed because patent lawyers work hard to change practices in Europe, along with their clients and their lobbyists. Here is more about that and some thoughts from Dr. Glyn Moody, who writes: “One of the many hopeful signs that the Hargreaves team knew what they were talking about was the recognition that patent thickets were an increasing danger in many fields, notably that of mobile technology. One of the actions flowing from the report was to investigate this area further, and now the UK government has released its report”
Here is a good summary from Slashdot:
bhagwad writes “The EU continues to ooze common sense as a court insists that software functions themselves cannot be copyrighted. Drawing a box or moving cursor are examples. To quote: ‘If it were accepted that a functionality of a computer program can be protected as such, that would amount to making it possible to monopolize ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development.’” Note that this is a “non-binding opinion by Yves Bot, an advocate-general at the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice,” and that the court “will rule on the case next year.”
Over at Reuters, it is stated that “[t]he case is seen as crucial for the European computer industry and could determine how companies create products that can work with rival services without breaching copyright rules.
“The non-binding opinion by Yves Bot, an advocate-general at the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ), is in line with a verdict reached by the High Court of England and Wales in July last year. ECJ judges will rule on the case next year.”
The remark from the FFII is that:
Copyright puts software authors in the driving seat. Why do others drop bricks on the highway?
Here are some remarks on the reports [1, 2]. █
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Summary: Despite seemingly democratic structures, the EPO and its ilk manage to sneak in a restructuring of the patent systems in Europe
Early in the week we found some troubling news about software patents in Europe. Gérald Sédrati-Dinet says about the unitary patent that “approval is planed for Dec 5, Dec 22 is the ceremony”
“Even worse,” Ben jamin responds. He thought it was something more benign in comparison:
Unitary Patent to be approved by the Council next 22 December with a signature ceremony.
He carried on arguing [1, 2, 3, 4] while patent lawyers from Germany got baffled: “Why does the #EU webpage showing the time schedule for agreement on Unified Patent Court not work any more?”
There is a discussion about software standards inside patents [1, 2] and the lawyers’ powwow [1, 2, 3, 4] gravitates towards the position that within a few days we may have a rather troubling presentation:
EPO presentation about the Unitary Patent, the patent system designed outside Europe and its institutions ur1.ca/66vqa
December 5th is named as the big day and it is the same day that I fly away for a week (for vacation). Hopefully there are many European activists out there who will inform others and do something to stop this. █
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Millions of Linux devices will be sold this Christmas
Summary: How Google leads the way with a Linux-powered operating system and what this will mean for Microsoft and its alter-ego Facebook
IN THIS day and age when people can use phones and tablets to replace laptops and desktops for some tasks, it has become increasingly clear that the boundary between PC and non-PC is becoming harder to define. Since Android is growing rapidly in phones and tablets we also know that claims about Linux being “dead” (or “dying”) are at best a joke. Nobody can take such claims seriously anymore.
According to my co-host Tim, Facebook’s attempts to capitalise on the trends (with Facebook phones) might meet the same lukewarm response that KIN received. Android is owned by Google, which is probably Facebook’s #1 rival right now. To quote:
Whilst Microsoft struggles to get interest in WP7, its often forgot that the ailing firm from Redmond have already been here before courtesy of the doomed Kin, even proclamations by Microsoft MVPs as it being the “greatest social networking phone ever” didn’t save it from failure, with the lifespan of the device lasting only 60 or so days. I would like the Microsoft advocates who came to Openbytes when I predicted the failure of the Kin to maybe retract their protestations that they voiced at my views at the time. That won’t happen, there’s a new Microsoft phone to make claims about and sell, I would think they have forgotten all about the Kin which not only serves as an uncomfortable reminder of failure but maybe also a reminder in general about Microsoft’s doomed mobile strategy.
It is not too clear what Facebook is thinking. People can use Facebook even without a specialised phone. We are no friends of Facebook, but seriously, they would be better off advised not to ‘pull a KIN’ of their own. No matter what Facebook does in this case, there is trouble ahead because the dominant OS is Google’s and Microsoft, Facebook’s big shareholder, is a non-starter in this area. The new these days says that Windows will fail in tablets just like it failed in phones. To quote a pro-Microsoft source:
Just a couple months after one study claimed the majority of tabet-buying users wanted a device based on Windows, another research outfit is reporting that consumers are sick of waiting for a true iPad competitor from Microsoft.
Consumers’ interest in buying a Windows tablet has plummeted in the past six months, according to a new Forrester Research report on November 29.
Forrester is a friend of Microsoft in general and the article is from from Mary Jo Foley., the company’s longtime booster (specially in recent years).
Vista 8 seems more like a dangerous experiment and some news sites report a decrease in interest, not an increase in interest:
Punters appear to be turning away from the Windows 8 tablets Microsoft hopes will get it back into the fondleslab game.
Back in January, Forrester Research, a market watcher, asked consumers which tablets they favoured. Some 46 per cent said they’d prefer a Windows device.
Asking the same question afresh later in the year, Forrester found that only 25 per cent of punters picked out Windows tablets in Q3.
The bottom line is, Google, Android and Linux are in a wonderful position to gain even more. Apple, Microsoft and Facebook have many reasons to worry.
We ought to stress that Techrights is not a Linux advocacy site but a site primarily dedicated to the patent issue at its very core, since the genesis 5 years ago (Microsoft/Novell patent deal). We promote reason and truth; as for Linux, it has already reigned the market, starting with servers and right now devices. It is does not require advocacy because it’s unstoppable now. Advocacy is for underdogs. █
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Money buys ‘facts’
Summary: The Gates PR machine is still warping coverage in public media outlets in order to advance its agenda
BILL Gates borrows the best press money can buy. There are many skeletons he needs to hide in his closet, so PR is crucial.
Over the past few years we have named countless stations/papers/channels which were paid by Gates to promote his agenda. It was most outrageous when public radio and even the BBC repeatedly took money from Gates in exchange for a different agenda. He simply buys the publicity he needs for his investments. He is like a lobbyist. Here is another recent example of Gates dipping his finger in yet another pie:
Will WNYC’s On the Media include more global health segments in the near future? It certainly seems like it might if you listen to recent sponsorship messages acknowledging support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
But neither WNYC nor the Gates Foundation has acknowledged that the show has actually received a grant.
Several recent episodes of On the Media credit the Gates Foundation, among other groups, with supporting the show. You can hear the message on the July 22 show at around 11 minutes. “Support for On the Media also comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live healthy productive lives,” the announcer states.
When I first heard the sponsorship message a few weeks ago, I searched On the Media’s website to learn more about the Gates Foundation funding. But I didn’t find information or acknowledgement of it anywhere. The show does not appear to put all its sponsorship information on the website. Apart from a sentence in the footer, I could not find mentions of other sponsors mentioned in the same podcast, such as Reputation.com and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
To the common man (or woman), Gates might seem like a marvellous person, but then again, doesn’t the corporate press tend to glorify everyone who is super rich? Check to see who owns the media companies. There is no hidden conspiracy there. The death of Steve Jobs was a recent reminder of this. █
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Summary: The PR operation of monopolist and lobbyist Bill Gates is being chastised by figures of authority, whereupon “communication problems” are blamed and money gets pumped into churching out this message
IT is becoming clear that tax evaders and so-called “job creators” are sometimes the same thing. The latter is a euphemism used for removing tax on the super-rich. The excuse is that they need to be kept happy (not taxed) to take care of the rest.
One instrument for dodging tax is a foundation. It is also a PR trick and an investment loophole. People need to speak about these issues because lack of criticism of self-labelled “philanthropist” foundations lets them escape bad things unaccountable.
Nowadays it is easy to see the Gates Foundation people (some of whom come from industry to serve that industry through the foundation) called out for their motives and then blaming “communication problems” for revelation of the truth. If it operates like a business, then it usually is one. Euphemisms and self-funded ‘studies’ for PR and lobbying purposes are yet more of what this foundation is doing. As one critic put it: “The Gates Foundation funded this study on listening to feedback. Sounds like a technical fix to what the Foundation is choosing to label a communication problem. If they are all so smart, why can’t they just apply this technical fix to their chronic communication problem? Is it possible that it is not a communication problem they have?”
To quote more of the same source, even authorities in the field are complaining about the Gates Foundation for interfering with research and taking away the voice of competing ideas:
In particular, we are disturbed by reports that key donors to WHO including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may have unduly influenced the decision to halt publication of these completed guidelines, fundamentally undermining the legitimate guidelines development process. We believe this is inappropriate—and is resulting in a failure to implement proven life-saving, disease-preventing practice.
We wrote about this before because it is quite disturbing.
Monopoly is still the name of the game for Gates and his business partners, which include some big pharmaceutical companies and GMO giants like Monsanto. On the GMO side, mind complaints about Gates from a professor in Seattle:
Even absent the furor that surrounds genetic engineering, biofortification’s focus on single crops and Western-style agriculture is at odds with several expert panels that concluded a more sustainable solution for African poverty would use less water and chemicals and incorporate varied crops, said University of Washington professor emeritus Phil Bereano. He now leads Seattle-based AGRA Watch, which monitors Gates’ multibillion-dollar push for a new “Green Revolution” in Africa.
Gates does not need to worry about it so much. He already spends about $1 million per day just buying the press. He can just ‘plant’ some articles, buy some more newspapers and bribe the right people in the PR industry to buy himself the public image he craves. A lot of plutocrats do this. Why can’t Microsoft, the most hated software vendor? Reputation laundering is easier for a person than for a company that still operates. Abramoff is out of jail and he already rebrands himself as “against corruption”, just like Gates — formerly known as a major crook — buys himself a name as modern-age Mother Teresa. █
“Microsoft has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Microsoft’s core products.” –Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in the Microsoft antitrust trial
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Summary: Statistical survey shows that based on public opinion Microsoft is the worst bar none
“Microsoft Ranks No. 1 in ‘Most-Hated’ Software Vendor Survey” says the headline from the ‘Microsoft press’. Bear this in mind for the many future occasions where Microsoft apologists are seen labelling Microsoft critics “haters” or "irrational haters". To dislike Microsoft is to almost be statistically normal. Microsoft did a lot to deserve this, so it is not irrational to feel this way. The scope of the reason was covered here before. Maybe Microsoft will carry on blaming this on “communication problems” or “misunderstandings”. █
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