Summary: The bureaucracy facilitated by corporations causes tremendous damage to the economy, still
While I’ve never thought John Lennon’s Imagine offered a particularly useful prescription for peace, I am starting to wonder if it might not suggest something better than free and open-source software.
When Lennon sings that if we can just “imagine no possessions” we’ll end up with “all the people sharing all the world,” he’s almost certainly wrong, humankind being humankind. Maybe he never read Animal Farm. But given the outsized success free and open-source software have had, perhaps it’s time to take them a step further.
What we found antithetical to sharing was the USPTO, which is the institutional source of so many problems. We will increasingly target this institution, which is run by large companies for these companies.The USPTO was run by an IBM veteran, to whom software patents are acceptable. And as covered here many times before, OIN, a creation of an IBM veteran, has no way to defend against trolls. It makes it anything but ideal, but patents are passed from the cartel of IBM to companies like Google and HTC which defend Android from litigation. Here is a new report about the OIN:
The expanding reach of the IBM-supported Open Invention Network reflects the pervasiveness of the Linux operating system.
Open Invention Network is not the solution. It does nothing to stop patent trolls.
Innovatio IP Ventures is one of the most controversial patent trolls to emerge in the past few years. Like the oft-condemned Lodsys, Innovatio is asking for relatively small payouts from a large number of targets. But Innovatio’s campaign is even broader than other hated trolls like Lodsys: the company claims nothing less than a patent claim on using Wi-Fi.
In 2011, Innovatio started suing chain hotels and even local coffee shops, saying they infringed 17 patents that cover the use of Wi-Fi. Innovatio sued hundreds of businesses and has reportedly sent out more than 8,000 letters demanding license fees, generally ranging from $2,300 to $5,000. Instead of going after companies that make routers like Cisco, Innovatio targeted small businesses that simply use Wi-Fi, an increasingly common pattern.
Microsoft Facebook is being sued by a troll again. The British press says: “The claim for unspecified royalties, issued in federal court in Virginia by a holding company called Rembrandt Social Media, alleges that Facebook used technology developed by Jos Van Der Meer over a decade ago.” The MSBBC covered it too
Patent trolls — companies that assert patents as a business model instead of creating products — have been in the news lately. This is hardly surprising, given that troll lawsuits now make up the majority of new patent cases. And the litigation is only the tip of the iceberg: patent trolls send out hundreds of demand letters for each suit filed in court. At EFF, we have been following this issue closely and are working hard to bring reform to fix the patent mess.
The recent news is not all bad. Just last month, for instance, online retailer Newegg won a long and hard-fought battle against a particularly egregious troll. To its credit, Newegg has a policy of never settling with patent trolls. So, after Soverain Software LLC, a company that sells no products but claims to own online “shopping cart” technology filed suit, Newegg took the case all the way to trial in the Eastern District of Texas. It lost that trial — but it lost for a strange reason: the judge refused to let Newegg argue to the jury that the patent was obvious (if a party can prove that a patent was obvious at the time it was granted, a court should invalidate the patent).
All those trolls are a sure way to drive innovation out of the country. Let’s hope that US politicians will recognise this and take progressive action. █