Linux proponents unite against proprietary aggressors
Summary: A roundup of patent news about Android/Linux and some of the latest events that relate to it
“Windows Phone reaps what it sows” says one journalist who explains it as follows:
Misunderstood, mocked by its competitors, blocked from the market, and little used by the average user.
Ten years ago, this would have been a harsh but fair description of Linux. Today, however, it’s seems perfectly apt to use these labels to describe a completely different bit of technology: the Windows Phone operating system.
Even Nokia cannot save Windows (on mobile phones), so all that Microsoft can do now is become a leech through patents, e.g. via MOSAID and its patent extortion operations (notably Android “licensing”). In this age of many lawsuits that we find in the news all the time we realise that this problem is systemic too. After all, Apple too uses a similar strategy.
Looking at the USPTO for a moment, Matt Asay notes that:
2011: new record in patent grants, tied to Obama’s PTO chief not increased filings zite.to/y1nABx <Cue Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere”
Glyn Moody’s remark on the same report is sarcastic:
because what the world needs is lots more intellectual monopolies
James Love (of KEI) says:
During patent reform legislation, WH claimed low quality patents are problems. But USPTO just issued a record number.
The FFII asks James: “How do they measure patent quality in the US?”
The USPTO issued more utility patents in calendar year 2011 than in any year in history. The 2011 total – just shy of 225,000 issued patents – is only a small increase over 2010, but towers above all other historic figures. The previous record was set in 2006 with about 173,000 issued utility patents. The dramatic rise in issuance rate is not tied directly to an increase in filings (although there has been a small increase in new application filings). Rather, the two-year increase appears to be the result of regime changes instituted by USPTO Director David Kappos who took office mid-year 2009 after being nominated by President Barack Obama.
the USPTO is a bubble and a sham. The sooner people realise this, the sooner it will be toppled. It serves a conspiracy of monopolies, parasites, and patent lawyers who drive up the price of everything and deny the entry of new competition into the market.
When in the news we see searching as a patent and even business methods as a monopoly we cannot help feeling that one productive response would be to expose the system, not just pertinent companies that exploit it to the extremes and harm Free software more than anything else. The USPTO is very dangerous at all levels because there are lobbyists who use the “USPTO model” to expand this same model to other countries. This include the UK-IPO that we have here in England. As one person puts it, “All in the American mind? US and UK take different approaches to assessing mental act exclusions”; if the unitary patent is passed through, the US may have the whole EU (EPO) assimilate to the USPTO. Already, some software patents are being approved in the UK. This is a new example from the news:
Image processing software not excluded from patentability, IPO rules
An IPO examiner had previously ruled that the invention was excluded from patentability on the grounds that the invention consisted solely of a computer program. Hewlett Packard, the company trying to patent the invention, appealed against the examiner’s ruling and the hearing officer has now upheld that appeal on the basis that the invention uses mathematical techniques that are sufficiently technical in nature to avoid being excluded from patentability.
Under the UK’s Patents Act inventions must be new, take an inventive step that is not obvious and be useful to industry in order to qualify for patent protection. An invention cannot be patented, according to the Act, if it is “a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer … as such”.
Henrion from the FFII writes that:
The problem with the patent system at the moment is that it’s being applied to intangibles: software and user interfaces
Here is one new example of it:
Lakeside Software, a leader in business intelligence solutions for IT professionals, today announced that the company has expanded its patent portfolio with the granting of a patent for the management of data across multiple computer systems.
Data too has patents on it now? How far will this go? And how abstract a computation is going to be deemed patentable? Oracle pushed copyrights and patents to the edge when it suggested that APIs too can be patented, which they probably can in the US.
We already know that the age of bankruptcy is an age of patent wars and Sun’s sale to Oracle had its “defensive” parents turn into hostile. Novell’s patents were sold to Microsoft and Apple, too (both companies are FOSS-hostile and litigate against Linux/Android). Here is the new story of another company that ran to the courtroom amid its demise: “The newspaper quoted unidentified people as saing Kodak could seek protection in the next few weeks if an effort to sell a collection of digital-imaging patents falls through.
“Kodak has sold patents valued at millions of dollars over the last several years in a bid to shore up its ailing finances.”
It’s actually a strong case against patents because companies become just a pile of orphaned patents (Novell included), and in turn this fuels wars, not sparking any innovation at all. Disregard the pro-patents propaganda from lawyers’ Web sites and instead watch why they like patents (starting 2012 with patent lawsuits). As one columnist in IDG put it:
When Netscape went public in the fall of 1995, few of us understood that we were entering an era of constant and accelerating change. Since then, 16 years of Moore’s Law has given us powerful and cheap hardware. The open-source software movement has made software that’s worth millions of dollars freely available to anyone who can click a mouse. As one can see, reducing these natural barriers to entry has made it easier to start a Web services business. These same trends have had an interesting effect on intellectual property strategy.
Open hostility toward patents from the open-source community and 10 years of judicial infighting over the patentability of “business methods” and other Web 2.0 technologies didn’t help matters. Many Web 2.0 companies underinvested in patents, when they should have increased their efforts to secure legal barriers to entry to offset the reduction in natural barriers to entry.
Actually, patents do not work for small players. That’s just the lie sold to us by the 1% (or less) who benefit from patents. Here is some more London-based propaganda dressed up as a press release:
The Decision Model is revolutionising Enterprise Decision Management by modeling the business logic (rules) behind key operational and strategic business decisions (http://www.azinta.com/Services/the-decision-model-solutions.html). The recent award of a US patent for The Decision Model to Knowledge Partners International (KPI) triggered an intense debate resulting in some commentators claiming that The Decision Model patent is an IP trap. Suleiman Shehu, the CEO of Azinta Systems – a KPI Consulting Partner, analyses the reasons for this debate and presents the evidence why The Decision Model patent is not an IP trap.
Decision-making as a patent. How about that, ladies and gents?
Moving back to the impact on FOSS, although Apple gets sued for patent violations, the company persists with its support for that same rotten system. “Last week,” says one article, “Apple applied to the US patent office to register facial recognition software…”
This affects me personally and professionally, too. “So instead of sliding to unlock the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, one could simply point it at one’s face,” notes this article, among others that we mentioned in December. The point they are missing is that Apple gets a monopoly here. It is not good for anyone. Microsoft’s identity change to “patent aggressor” is on route as well [1, 2] (software patents). They are goodwill-washing it through gullible Web sites. With phrases like “patent helps”, there is clearly not a realistic expectation. And in the face of infographic propaganda from taxmen of technology (lawyers) we fortunately see some infographic sanity and we are able to see to what degree Android is the victim here (victim of Microsoft, Apple, and some of their allies). Google does not get patents anymore; in fact, “Google stopped submitting patents to the USPTO” because it’s pointless. To quote: “Software patent wars have always existed: companies fought them (or paid up), sometimes quietly, sometimes making a big fuss. However, something has changed over the last year or so: people started getting directly affected by software patents (ask anybody wanting a Samsung Galaxy Tab in Australia for Christmas 2011…). Lately, two things came to my attention: Google acquired 200 patents from IBM. But, more interestingly: Google hasn’t filed any patents over the last several months.”
Last year, IBM sold Google 2,000 or so patents ranging from mobile software to computer hardware and processors.
Google’s quest to build a strong patent portfolio continues with IBM assigning a further 222 patents to the search and advertising company. Details of the transaction have not been disclosed by either party, but the USPTO database shows the patents being transferred on 30 December 2011. This is not the first time Google has acquired IBM patents; over one thousand IBM patents were transferred to Google in both July and September 2011.
Some say that IBM is trying to defend Linux/Android in this case. “A trial date has been set in Oracle v. Google, or more accurately, an earliest trial date has been set,” writes Mark Webbink, who remarks on this bit of news:
SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)–Google Inc. (GOOG) and Oracle Corp. (ORCL) have been scheduled to go to trial over an intellectual-property dispute related to Google’s mobile phone software in March, a development that could start to draw the lengthy spat between technology giants to a close.
There is a theory that Google’s new patents from IBM are capable of helping in this case (IBM is an Oracle competitor), but as the FFII points out, “Arms trading is a sustainable business but still mere economic efficiency waste.”
We shall assume that IBM’s interests in this case are in alignment with Linux interests. As we explained some days ago, there is apparently also an Android lawsuit (if not several) brewing against Microsoft and Apple. It’s getting rather interesting. █