11.29.15

East Texas and Its Cautionary Tale: Software Patents Lead to Patent Trolls

Posted in America, Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 5:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Texas

Summary: Lessons from US media, which focuses on the dire situation in Texas courts, and how these relate to the practice of granting patents on software (the patent trolls’ favourite weapon)

OUR primary concern about the EPO has always been the effort to expand the scope of patents to software (so as to make more money and help multinational oligopolies which constantly lobbied Europe for it).

“At the start of the 1980s, federal policy remained so hostile to patent monopolies that it refused even to grant patents for software. But then came a series of Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress that vastly expanded the scope of patents and the monopoly power granted to patent holders.”
      –The Atlantic
It has always been pointed out, on numerous occasions in fact, that patent trolls rely mostly on software patents. These trolls already knock on Europe's door, having been extremely damaging to the economy of the US, where they crushed a lot of small businesses. This new and very long article from The Atlantic recalls how things changed more than three decades ago, with so-called inventors like Martin Goetz. The article speaks of “dramatic changes in the treatment of what, in the 1980s, came to be known as “intellectual property,” combined with the general retreat from antitrust enforcement” (to benefit oligopolies).

The article says this “had the effect of vastly concentrating the geographical distribution of power in the technology sector. At the start of the 1980s, federal policy remained so hostile to patent monopolies that it refused even to grant patents for software. But then came a series of Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress that vastly expanded the scope of patents and the monopoly power granted to patent holders. In 1991, Bill Gates reflected on the change and noted in a memo to his executives at Microsoft that “[i]f people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.””

Well, how ironic it must be that Microsoft is now the world’s biggest patent bully (in some respects) and it even managed to make the EPO more megacorporations-leaning.

“Well, how ironic it must be that Microsoft is now the world’s biggest patent bully (in some respects) and it even managed to make the EPO more megacorporations-leaning.”Public complaints in the US are mostly over patent trolls these days. The complaints rightly focus on East Texas, the trolls' docket. Another new article says: “East Texas is known for its Piney Woods, Caddo Lake, maybe for sweet potatoes. It’s also the patent lawsuit capitol of the country. More patent infringement cases are brought to Eastern District courts than anywhere else. There’s pressure to root out the so-called “patent trolls”.”

Published on the same day, this new article rightly observes that “software technology is becoming a treasure trove for Patent trolls.” To quote in context: “In furtherance to my recent post on Patent trolls or the Non Practicing Entities (NPEs), I would like to discuss here in this post about how software technology is becoming a treasure trove for Patent trolls. Cloud based business products are one of the major business fields today. Software-oriented platforms such as C (SaaS) providers are primary targets for the Patent trolls.”

It is vital to realise the strong correlation between software patents (patents on abstract concepts) and patent trolls in order to ensure that the failings seen in East Texas don’t reach Europe as well.

“Americans learn only from catastrophe and not from experience.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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