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07.29.13

In Debating Patents, Avoiding the Excessive Focus on Patent Trolls

Posted in Patents at 6:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A matter of focus

Lab

Summary: The scapegoat of an inherently broken patent system becomes almost the only element to be criticised, leaving the biggest issues unaddressed

The point about US patent debate (or USPTO policies) being distorted cannot be stressed too strongly. It is becoming a major issue. Evidently, given the increased coverage of the wrong issues, we can’t risk repeating the point about lost focus. Not much is said about software patents and cartels these days. The corporate press and the corporations-funded government warp the debate to remove criticism of large corporations’ misuse of patent monopolies [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. Several people are starting to notice this. The problem with the Eolas patent is that it’s a software patent, not that it’s being used by a troll (see “Eolas Doesn’t Own Internet” from FOSS Force).

In his joint blog, Judge Posner writes about patent trolls, saying that a dubious “court has long played a promotional role in the patent system, having been created at a time (the early 1980s) when there were fears that the United States was being overtaken on the technological front by Japan. Those fears of course proved groundless. But the idea that American inventors needed more encouragement and therefore that the standard of patentability should be relaxed persisted. The result today is a vast number of patents in force—some 2 million—providing a rich source of inputs for the patent troll industry.”

“Not much is said about software patents and cartels these days.”Posner also opposes software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], so he knows that trolls are not the only problem. The head (President) of the OSI responds to Darrel Issa, a politician who like many others in his field does not recognise the broader issue. Simon Phipps explains that it’s not just trolls when he tells Issa that “corporations are also using patent law to chill valid competition. Remember to deal with them too.”

The White House is serving big corporations by going only after trolls, and hardly even targeting entities like Intellectual Ventures (IV). The other day Steph said: “What’s frightening is how long IV sat on their stash and claimed they were just “helping innovators” and “furthering the field of science” by amassing all those patents. No one believed you, IV.”

Here are some of the latest numbers: “Intellectual Ventures (“IV”), a patent-holding company founded by the former chief technology officer of Microsoft Corporation, recently began a patent enforcement campaign against the financial services industry. IV purports to have 70,000 patents, $6 billion in committed capital, and more than $3 billion in licensing revenue to date. IV has a history of aggregating a significant number of patents relating to a particular industry and then initiating aggressive litigation and licensing efforts against companies in that industry. IV has sufficient size and substantial resources to pursue its enforcement campaign and poses a considerable economic threat to its target industries, including financial services.”

What will the White House do about it? This is a racketeering operation. Mark Bohannon, a sort of lobbyist from from Red Hat, acknowledges that trolls are an issue but does almost nothing to highlight issues relating to patent scope.

Giving its platform not to a lawyer for a change (this series is stuffed with them), Wired now features Patrick Hall, who explains how patent law harms innovation:

Patent Law Broken, Abused to Stifle Innovation

[...]

Software patents should last no longer than five years from the application date. Currently, patents last for twenty years, which is an outdated timeframe given the pace of software innovation. Patent lengths should reflect the speed of innovation within individual industries.

He does not focus only on patent trolls and his closing words are: “So long as malicious companies and opportunistic patent assertion entities can cannibalize the productivity and ingenuity of America’s tech community, advancements will stall, great ideas will crash before they ever take off, and the global community will miss out on opportunities to improve the human condition.”

Given the way CPTN members like Oracle are conspiring to kill Android using patents, it is clear that not only trolls are a problem. Copyrights too are being used. Here is the latest from Oracle. As Pamela Jones put it, “Oracle is making a big fuss over trivialities. Normally, nobody sues over this kind of trivial copying. But since Oracle has, Google says it was supposed to demonstrate why such copying was *not* de minimis, which it has failed to do. Like, who could? It’s stupidly teensy weensy stuff. Why Oracle can’t see that it’s making itself look petty and small is the only mystery.” Notice the spin there from Oracle lobbyist Florian Müller.

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