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05.15.18

A Google-Centric and Google-Led Patent Pool Won’t Protect GNU/Linux But Merely ‘Normalise’ Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, OIN, Patents, Red Hat at 8:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LOT Network: A WHOLE LOT OF SOFTWARE PATENTS

Summary: Patent pools, which are basically the wrong solution to a very clear problem, continue to expand and promote themselves; the real solution, however, is elimination of abstract patents, notably software patents

OIN is no longer the only ‘game’ in town. IBM is the foremost player in OIN and OIN is not against software patents (same as IBM). A key staff from OIN recently left to join the Conservancy, which is strongly against software patents.

“…perhaps, to use OIN’s explanation, it’s trying to prevent such patents from ending on the laps of patent trolls. Just perhaps… in which case, wouldn’t it be better to work toward these patents’ elimination (using Section 101)?”The Google-led, Red Hat-backed LOT Network is in some headlines these days. It’s described as “defensive”, as usual. It’s not new, it’s just making another ‘charm offensive’, this time with Lenovo in the mix. Engine recommends LOT Network, which was mentioned in the puff piece from Bloomberg (copied a lot by Indian media) the other day. Some more Indian media has licensed and published it since. What was it all about? Did the author liaise with LOT Network for a puff piece, knowing that she would soon see further coverage like this? We now see two sites that habitually write about EPO scandals perpetuating the myth of “free patents and membership”. There’s no such thing as “free” patents because patents are something being taken away to begin with, it’s not a “charity” to give it ‘back’. It’s a PR stunt of large firms with many patents which they refuse to bury. To quote WIPR:

Non-profit LOT Network has announced two new programmes to “enrich and protect the global start-up community”, in efforts to incentivise innovation and encourage responsible patent use.

LOT, which lists Google, Canon, and Dropbox as its members, announced its new programmes on Thursday, May 10.

Mike Lee, head of patents at Google, said: “We think the protections afforded by LOT should be available to established and start-up companies alike, and do not want cost to be a barrier to participation.”

The first scheme is the Patent Transfer Program, which will allow qualifying start-ups to receive three free patents from LOT. The second is the organisation’s plan to expand free membership to LOT to any operating company which has up to $25 million in annual revenue.

Here’s the other new article about it:

The LOT Network, a Google-led patent initiative that aims to combat so-called ‘patent trolls’, has announced a new extended free membership, available to any company having up to $25 million in annual revenue.

Alongside the new membership, the LOT Network is granting qualifying startups three free patents, provided they have a membership in the LOT Network.

The group said it believes that “startups fuel innovation” and has “committed to share patents provided by its members with startups to promote and fuel further innovation and encourage these startups to join the LOT Network.

The first 200 operating companies in the LOT Network with $500,000 to $25 million in annual revenue or $500,000 to $25 million in financing over the past 18 months are eligible to receive patent assets at no cost.

The problem is that rather than work towards elimination of software patents they sort of ‘normalise’ them. Meanwhile, as IAM noted yesterday, RPX hoards more such patents:

RPX has acquired a small portfolio of patents from former search behemoth Lycos, according to an assignment recorded late last week with the USPTO. In total, the defensive aggregator picked up 24 assets from the tech company which grew rapidly during the 1990s dotcom bubble before quickly being eclipsed by the likes of Google and seeing a massive fall in value. The deal assignment was executed last November but has only just shown up on the PTO assignment database.

Those Lycos patents are likely software patents which are about to expire (almost 20 years since the dotcom bubble burst). What will RPX do with these? It did not buy these just for vanity; perhaps, to use OIN’s explanation, it’s trying to prevent such patents from ending on the laps of patent trolls. Just perhaps… in which case, wouldn’t it be better to work toward these patents’ elimination (using Section 101)?

Companies like Red Hat and Google try to “add value” by compiling a patent “portfolio”; if or when they die or get sold to another company those patents can be used offensively; see Sun and Oracle. Patents are never defensive; that’s just not how patents work. To call them “defensive” is part of the PR stunt, which IBM did a lot of a decade or more ago.

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