08.02.12

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The Horizon is Clearer as Software Patents Take a Blow in the United States

Posted in OIN, Patents at 11:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: News about steps that are taken or may be taken to weaken software patents in the largest market

SO APPLE is still trying to ban Linux-powered devices, using software patents of course. There are signs that unless we get rid of them, software patents will continue to harm Linux growth.

Meanwhile, a patent reform bill with some potential is making its debut:

New Patent Reform Bill Defines Software Patents; Targets Trolls

We’ve discussed the “America Invents Act,” a patent reform bill that passed last year after years of Congressional fighting. As we (and plenty of others) noted at the time, for all the hyperbole around the bill, it completely ignored nearly every problem with the patent system today, and seemed almost entirely useless. Our worry, then, was that this would kill off any appetite for Congress to take on the real problems of patents today. So it’s good to see that a new patent bill has been introduced — by Reps. Peter DeFazio and Jason Chaffetz, with a very, very minor change to patent law: it would allow those sued for hardware or software patents the ability to recover litigation costs if it’s determined that the suing patent holder “did not have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding.”

The new bill helps define software patents, which will in turn make it possible to treat them differently. Richard Stallman recently explained to us why it's an important first stage towards elimination or defanging of such patents.

In other patent news, a case with software patents at its core is being appealed:

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived patent infringement claims brought by 01 Communique Laboratory Inc against LogMeIn Inc, sending LogMeIn shares down 16 percent.

According to another report, software patents are at risk from another direction:

The US court responsible for hearing patent appeals is showing fresh signs of disarray over the question of when software-based “inventions” can be patented. We recently covered a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that upheld a patent on the idea of using a computer to perform a particular kind of financial transaction. Now, just a couple of weeks later, the same court has reached the opposite conclusion about a patent on using a computer to manage a particular type of life insurance policy.

The patent in question dates to the late 1990s and is held by a firm called Bancorp Services. Because the courts have traditionally been skeptical of “business method” patents that merely claim a sequence of financial transactions—the Supreme Court invalidated one such patent in 2010, for example—Bancorp’s patent also claims a “system” for carrying out the necessary steps using a computer. It consists of a “policy generator,” a “fee calculator,” a “credit calculator,” and so forth.

The pro-Linux patent group claims to be growing, but it is not an opposer of software patents. To quote: “Open Invention Network (OIN) announced today significant growth in the size of its community of licensees year to date. Licensees continue to benefit from the value of OIN association and the freedom of action enabled by OIN’s licensing program. During the period, OIN had over 50 companies join its community of licensees, so that the community currently numbers over 460 open source supporters. OIN licensees, which include founding members and associate members, benefit from the leverage provided by a patent portfolio dedicated to the protection of Linux and access to enabling technologies through OIN and shared intellectual property resources.”

While we appreciate what the OIN is doing to protect Linux, it is far from a solution; it helps keep software patents in tact.

“Writing non-free software is not an ethically legitimate activity, so if people who do this run into trouble, that’s good! All businesses based on non-free software ought to fail, and the sooner the better.”

Richard Stallman

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A Single Comment

  1. mcinsand said,

    August 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

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    US readers that value patent reform and patent troll punishments need to write their respective senators and congressmen NOW! We won’t be the only voices that they hear; you can bet that the US’ two biggest patent trolls, Microsoft and Apple, will be doing all that they can to buy legislative votes!

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