12.28.22

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The Only Solution Would be Abolition of All Software Patents

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Patents at 11:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 17c30d5b36ce3d46e81e5ebc015f63fb
Patents Likely the Biggest Barrier
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: The goals of software freedom still heavily depend on our collective ability to eternally demolish all software patents, contrary to what OIN and LOT are trying to do along with the Linux Foundation

SOFTWARE patents are a big problem. They remain a massive barrier to software freedom, including GNU/Linux distributions. At risk of repeating ourselves, it is important to constantly highlight the problem with software patents because many people misframe the issue, as we recently saw when Google removed an image format from Chrome, retracting it due solely to software patents.

Back in October we wrote about Fedora's conflict/dilemma with software patents and this issue returns due to other distros facing similar problems/fears. When someone says that “debian doesn’t care” one misses the point that Debian actually does care but takes certain scenarios into account. As an associate put it today, software “patents [are] misunderstood, there is no hurry to sue until the codecs are widespread enough to make it profitable to do so; they can wait until the last day of the patent to do so” (like ‘submarine patents’).

“At risk of repeating ourselves, it is important to constantly highlight the problem with software patents because many people misframe the issue, as we recently saw when Google removed an image format from Chrome, retracting it due solely to software patents.”The associate asserted that people who post online about this issues are “totally confusing patents with copyright and vice versa”. The “Manjaro link,” for example, “shows some persistent misunderstandings, misinformation about the very nature of sodrware patents. Same for the latest Brodie video in the [above]. Submarine patents are a threat for their entire life cycle and unlike trademarks don’t have to be enforced to be kept valid. Like with GIF / LZW a standards-essential patent can be allowed and even encouraged to spread far and wide so as to maximize the amount of money harvested in the shakedown when the patent is enforced for the first time.”

The associate wanted to revisit the issue, asserting that misconceptions are spreading “and RMS is right about “IPR” being not only a misnomer but intentionally confusing people on the separate topics…”

Psydruid has meanwhile asked, “how do these (Western) patents hold up in countries like India, China and Russia?”

“We’ve not been covering software patents lately and neither did most sites that used to cover the topic.”I told him that Western monopolists are lobbying and shaming those countries, forcing them to assimilate using IAM and other rags that shame those countries into “compliance”.

“I would declare those companies “compania non grata“,” Psydruid said, as “they don’t do anything for India, but obey their US masters instead.”

We’ve not been covering software patents lately and neither did most sites that used to cover the topic. The EFF has been mostly silent on that front. Recently someone complained online that Microsoft-sponsored media was celebrating and promoting software patents, remarking on one particular example as follows:

The summary and the article are missing the link to the actual patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) lists “US 20220362677 A1″, which was published recently on 2022-11-17. Outrageously the USPTO does not have a viable search interface and even for known items where one has the patent number it is only possible to find a rendering of the document in their web “app” after a lot of time and effort. Even then it is not possible to link to the actual patent either let alone bookmark it. That is reprehensible.

Anyway, that rant aside, it is important to rant about the apparent fraud being perpetrated by EA there and by the parties reporting on the patent, or more specifically on the pretend patent

That is because software is no longer eligible for patenting in the US and has never been eligible in Europe. In fact, there was only a relatively short period when it was sort of allowed. Nowadays, in the US, protection from patents has been restored to software just as it had been back during the period of exponential growth. This change is the result of the court case “Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International” aka “Alice”. See also the case “In re Bernard L. Bilski and Rand A. Warsaw” aka “Bilski”.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) sometimes grants invalid patents. It has also in the past rubber stamped many software patents. Win or lose software patents means a drawn out, protracted fight in the courts and the accompanying legal fees, so it’s rare to find a lawyer who doesn’t promote them even though they are invalid. If I recall correctly each such case costs the defending company an average of $4M USD. East Texas is a jurisdiction infamous for such activities. The traditional defense of cross-licensing is completely ineffective against NPEs in jurisdictions where software patents are used. The only defense is to operate in jurisdictions where they are not allowed. The way it works is that non-practicing entities (NPEs) create shell companies with no assets and sue companies over software patents in such jurisdictions: With an empty shell there are no assets to confiscate should, after great expense of both time and money, a company win in court against one. Instead of collecting in the case of a win, the NPE and the money both disappear in a greasy cloud of smoke while at the same instant, in the same East Texas suite, at the same East Texas PO Box, a new non-practicing entity spins up with an analog patent.

There is a lot of money riding on this from a small herd of lawyers, including Microsoft’s own lawyers and many apparently corrupt politicians on both sides of the pond. However, those with the largest stake and the most money to lose, computer users, are in the dark.

Microsoft has extensive history arming/weaponising trolls against GNU/Linux. Don’t ever forget that.

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