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02.13.20

Free Software is Being Abandoned by Opponents of Software Patents and It’s Being Attacked by Patent Trolls

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Patents, Red Hat at 4:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…then, companies that are arming those trolls suddenly pretend to come to our 'rescue'

Manny Schecter: (But I make  IBM's policies and decisions on these issues
Daily lobbying for software patents continues; IBM’s Manny Schecter still cites patent trolls as credible allies and recent management changes haven’t put an end to that, so Red Hat’s 12-year chief is now president of an aggressive proponent of software patents.

Summary: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is rotting away as an advocate against software patents; Patents on algorithms are still being granted (even when courts repeatedly reject these) and Red Hat’s Chief Patent Counsel remains Manny Schecter, one of the loudest proponents of such patents (citing the likes of Adam Mossoff this week, in effect Koch operatives); this is a very big problem because Free software projects come under a barrage of lawsuits, using patents like those IBM lobbies ferociously to legitimise

THE NEXT batch of Daily Links will contain what we believe to be the first report [1] regarding Mycroft getting sued by a patent troll, using two software patents (relatively) recently granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It’s about patent numbers 9,794,348 and 10,491,679. The Register says that covers handling of “voice commands from a mobile device to remotely access and control a computer.” We have not examined these closely, but certainly that sounds like software patents with ample prior art. Mycroft is not so well funded and therefore it might be perceived as vulnerable (easy shakedown), but it will fight back nonetheless. At what cost?

The whole thing comes only a few months after the GNOME/Shotwell lawsuit, demonstrating that we in the Free software world cannot ignore bad patent law, invalid patents being granted and endless corruption at the European Patent Office (EPO), where António Campinos openly promotes illegal software patents in Europe (the EPO did that as recently as yesterday in Twitter).

The EFF likes to speak about 35 U.S.C. § 101 (albeit not much lately), but it never ever speaks about EPO corruption and rarely does it protect Free software specifically. For those reasons, among others (for example, some key staff of theirs leaving), we cannot rely on the EFF. The same goes for CCIA, whose blog which deals with the subject (“Patent Progress”) has not been particularly actively lately. We watch these things closely, over RSS feeds and beyond. Since the beginning of the year the EFF has written only a single blog post on the subject and it concerned design patents, not software patents.

We really need to speak out more loudly about these issues; sadly, almost everyone is ignoring the toxic role played by IBM (fear of ‘offending’ IBM?) and nobody in the Free software world speaks about EPO corruption. How come? Come on, people, those are the biggest issues or barriers. Ignored at one’s own peril.

If Mycroft ‘goes under’ due to this lawsuit, which can cost like a million bucks (appeals cost a fortune), all we’ll have left are listening devices.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Startup Mycroft AI declares it will fight ‘patent troll’ tooth and nail after its Linux voice-assistant attracts lawsuit

    An AI startup is battling a patent-infringement lawsuit filed against it for building an open-source Linux-based voice-controlled assistant.

    Mycroft AI first learned trouble was brewing when it was contacted by a lawyer at Tumey LLP, a Texas law firm focused on intellectual property, in December. In an email to the startup’s CEO Joshua Montgomery, the legal eagle claimed Mycroft AI’s technology infringed two US patents – 9,794,348 and 10,491,679 – belonging to Tumey’s client, Voice Tech Corp.

    Voice Tech’s patents described a system for handling “voice commands from a mobile device to remotely access and control a computer.” Mycroft AI develops voice-assistant software that runs on Linux systems, including Raspberry Pis and its own standalone Mark I and II gadgets, and responds to spoken requests, such as setting alarms and reminders, searching the web, and so on. You can add more features by installing add-ons called skills.

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A Single Comment

  1. cjcox said,

    February 13, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    Gravatar

    First, I don’t always agree with Dr. Schestowitz. However, as a former IBMer, a lot more real information needs to get out about “IBM’s FOSS friendliness”. If you haven’t guessed already, they are not friendly to FOSS. Are they users/abusers of FOSS (like most)? Yes.

    IBM is proud of being the largest annual patent producer (or at least being in the top 3) every year. They use these patent to ensure success in “business dealings”. Usually for acquisitions. Smaller players who might want to decline and IBM bid for whatever reason, will soon discover that you shouldn’t provoke a war that you simply cannot win.

    This is one of the reasons I would like to see a full revamp of the patent system. Right now, they benefit only big companies. You see, a (small) inventor might create a patent, but if deemed ultra valuable, IBM will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Their primary interest… your patent(s). And sadly, like most cases, they own patents for which there is no “real” implementation or deliverable. And sadly, these are allowed to live on as valid patents used as leverage in “business dealings”.

    Personally, because of the existing system, I’m very anti-patent. And while I’m not promising to become pro-patent, there are some changes that might help the existing very very very broken system. We need to apply a bit of poison to patents acquired by companies of some specified size. The idea of the ideal patent policy was to protect inventors from big companies. A little guy simply cannot bring their idea to market like a big company can. This allows the little guy time to figure out how they want to handle things. Do they do things more or less on their own? Do they sell their idea to a big company?

    But right now, instead, patents are used as leverage to force the little guy to accepting a deal. Granted, sometimes these deals are large, but the problem is the word “force”. The control has been effectively taken away from the patent inventor.

    So, the “poison” would come in the shortening of valid term of the patent. Allow the patent to expire much much much earlier based on the size of the acquring company. If you do this, btw, you’ll find many, if not all, of the top patent producers will disappear off that list.

    If you’re pro-patent or anti-patent, IMHO, you need to understand just how evil awful patents are being used right now. While some inventors will retire on their “deal”, the fact is, even so, they are being exploited. And inventors as a whole are being hurt.

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