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04.17.12

Microsoft’s Love/Hate Relationship With Germany

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 6:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Germany's flag

Summary: A collection of patent news involving Microsoft, Motorola, Germany, and also New Zealand

THE EXTORTION racket of Microsoft is being glamourised in a pro-patents site, which agreed to give a platform to Microsoft’s extortions guy Horacio Gutierrez. A German patent lawyer is meanwhile doing what he can to promote software patents in Europe, ignoring all common sense and how the world really works. In a 2007 paper titled “Ignoring Patents” we see quite clearly that patents are not honoured by anyone, not when it comes to other companies’ patents. The EPO uses Siemens for some PR, as usual (Siemens is one of the patent fiends in Europe).

In a patent lawyers’ site, it is revealed that Sweden too makes moves that constitute a threat to a status quo of no software patents. Will a central court be set up in Germany as some officials hope? In Germany there’s some precedence for software patents, probably the strongest one in Europe. To quote patents boosters:

The AmeriKat was again struck by how little we know regarding the negotiation process and the UK Government’s position. Although one cannot expect to know every detail of the substance of the Member States’ negotiations on the unitary patent package the radio silence as to the progress, where they are taking place, who with and/or deadlines is somewhat disconcerting. The only signs of life on this issue seem to have come from the House of Commons and the European patent profession, including signs of disquiet in Sweden by way of a letter sent to the Confederation of Swedish Industries to their Ministry of Trade on 17 February (here) which stated that they and the Swedish negotiating team wished for Articles 6 to 8 to be deleted from the Proposed Regulation. In addition, and somewhat ironically given last year’s push to finalize the unitary patent proposals under the Polish Presidency, there are reports that sections of the patent profession in Poland are also unhappy with the proposals (see report here).

As we will show in the next post, Microsoft too plays a role in promoting software patents in Europe while fearing the status quo of Germany being unfriendly to such patents (compared to the US). As Glyn Moody explains:

It’s striking that Microsoft isn’t such a big fan of patent courts — especially efficient ones that produce their judgments rapidly — when it is on the receiving end of patent lawsuits, rather than the one making the threats.

It’s also pretty rich that Microsoft should complain about the possibility of an injunction being granted against it by another jurisdiction when that is precisely what it is trying to do by filing an action against Motorola in the International Trade Commission as well as in a US District Court. If Microsoft says German courts shouldn’t get involved in its dispute with Motorola, it’s equally ridiculous that an international trade body should be dragged into a domestic dispute between two US companies, as Techdirt has noted before.

Basically, Microsoft is just whining because it thinks it’s going to lose in Germany, and has gone running to the US judge in an attempt to subvert that country’s judicial system. It’s a huge pity that he acceded to this ridiculous request: it creates a terrible precedent that’s likely to lead to more such interference in the legal systems of other countries — including foreign courts ordering companies not to obey US rulings — and a general weakening of respect for the rule of law around the world.

Microsoft is also sending some paid lobbyists from Germany — ones who lie about their intentions (business model). Moody will be mentioned also in the next post and a few days ago he drew attention to an article from New Zealand (NZ). Written by Stephen Bell (as usual), the article shows how American lobbyists interfere with NZ’s decision to ban software patents:

NZRise president Don Christie says he is disappointed with delays to the passing of the Patents Bill and questions some of the explanation given by Commerce Minister Craig Foss.

“We keep hearing that this Bill is important for the knowledge economy,” Christie said. “What the minister is saying now is different from what his predecessor, Simon Power was telling us; he was writing letters [to NZRise] last year, telling us the government was pushing the Bill through.”

Despite having been in the Parliamentary process since 2008, the Patents Bill still languishes well down in the Order Paper (No 47 as at Monday April 2), and is awaiting Parliament’s consideration of the Commerce select committee’s report, followed by the Bill’s second reading.

The committee’s report contained a contentious clause barring patents on software. Though there has been some attempt at qualifying this to admit patents on software-controlled machinery and the like, the core clause states “a computer program is not a patentable invention.”

Not only Microsoft is behind it; Intel too is among the multinationals that seek to harm NZ.

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