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10.26.13

Latest Leaks Show That Nobody Can Rely on Government/Authority for Privacy, Free Software the Real Remedy

Posted in America, Europe at 3:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Revealing one’s true face (former KGB Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Putin with Merkel)

Vladimir Putin and Merkel
Photo from the Presidential Press and Information Office

Summary: Europe is compromising the privacy of citizens (in secret, using cross-national loopholes), Canada does the same, and why we are left dependent on ourselves and on Free software is we pursue privacy

YESTERDAY’S main newspapers (here in the UK) dared to scrutinise what they called “US spying”, showing their hypocrisy as the UK is the right-man hand in all this. The UK has several NSA bases/offshoots (at least one in Yorkshire and one in Gloucestershire) which help the US spy on Europe and also spy on Americans (bypassing US law).

In Canada, Canadian citizens are suing their government [1] for colluding with the NSA or for spying on Canadian citizens (the collusion enables ECHELON-type loophole exploitation). Here in Europe, Merkel finds herself in a major scandal for selling out 80 million or so Germans [2]. Glenn Greenwald has more leaks coming [3] while the White House and US State Department turn out to have gotten involved in national security leaks [4]. There is a lot of dirty business there and it’s about big money [5].

“The UK has several NSA bases/offshoots (at least one in Yorkshire and one in Gloucestershire) which help the US spy on Europe and also spy on Americans (bypassing US law).”According to French watchdog La Quadrature du Net [6-9], Europe only pretends to care for citizens’ privacy, so it seems like we can depend on no government in the world. Governments loathe citizens’ privacy because without surveillance it is harder for a government to defend itself from citizens, who are clearly perceived as an enemy rather than a kind of client.

What we end up having to do is rely on privacy-preserving software, which is mostly Free software like Mozilla Firefox [10] and underlying platforms such as Linux [11]. Never believe that the government will protect your privacy. The only entity that can protect your privacy is yourself, and having Free software that you and others can control in true transparency is essential for guaranteeing privacy.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Canadians sue their own government over domestic spying

    American privacy advocates aren’t the only ones taking their own government to court over domestic spying programs. On Tuesday, Canadian activists announced they were suing Canada’s equivalent of the National Security Agency.

    A coalition of Internet and privacy groups represented by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union filed suit Tuesday against the Communications Security Establishment Canada.

  2. Merkel spying claim: with allies like these, who needs enemies?

    Is the negotiating edge that secret eavesdropping gives the US worth the immense reputational damage it is now suffering?

  3. Glenn Greenwald and the Future of Leaks

    Glenn Greenwald, the lawyer-turned-journalist-turned-global headline for his reporting on leaked NSA documents, says there is about to be a revolution that will radically change how news organizations cover governments and other big institutions.

    The change, he insists, is inevitable because of the pervasiveness of digital content, which has already remade the global economy by allowing instant access to vast troves of information. “Government and businesses cannot function without enormous amounts of data, and many people have to have access to that data,” Greenwald says, adding that it only takes one person with access and an assaulted conscience to leak, no matter what controls are in place.

    Information that governments, companies, and associations would rather keep private, especially when it contradicts what they tell the public, can be quickly downloaded and spirited away, as shown by the Edward Snowden National Security Agency files and the diplomatic and military files leaked by Army Private Chelsea Manning.

  4. Emails: White House, State Department coordinated with journalist on national security leaks

    White House and State Department officials cooperated extensively on background with a New York Times journalist during the period that he broke confidential national security information in a series of leaks that prompted outrage from lawmakers, according to unearthed 2011 and 2012 emails.

  5. Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State

    Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in the national surveillance state, right along with Republicans.

  6. Reclaim Control Over Your Data!

    Few days before a crucial vote on the protection of our privacy, citizens supported by La Quadrature du Net start a campaign and information website: reclaimyourdata.eu. This site clearly shows the issues of this Regulation and proposes solutions to allow citizens to reclaim control over their personal data.

  7. The European Parliament Must Protect Our Right to Privacy
  8. Data Protection Regulation: La Quadrature’s Voting Recommendations to LIBE
  9. Major Loopholes in Privacy Regulation – EU Parliament Must Stand For Citizens

    The “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) Committee has just voted its report on Data Protection, led by Jan Philipp Albrecht. Despite some improvements, major loopholes – especially on “legitimate interest” and “pseudonymous” data – and the adoption of the secrete tripartite negotiation mandate (trilogue) could make the final text totally ineffective at protecting citizens. During these forthcoming negotiations, representatives of the Parliament should secure strong safeguards for citizens fundamental right to privacy.

  10. Mozilla’s Lightbeam tool will expose who is looking over your shoulder on the web
  11. Firefox OS: What it is – and what it means for you and your union

    Back in 1993 I was asked to look into how unions were using computer networks and email.

    The result was my 1996 book on the labour movement and the internet — and after that, LabourStart.

    Twenty years on and I’ve been looking into how we in the trade union movement use the new communications tools — smartphones and tablets — and the result is a new book I’ve just co-authored with Jeremy Green, “Firefox OS for Activists“.

10.23.13

Risky Energy and the Crushing of Protests

Posted in Action, America at 3:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Police Chief Blair

Photo by John Steven Fernandez

Summary: Tar sands profit drives political agenda and Canada is crushing protests again, bringing back memories of Toronto under Police Chief Blair (above)

JAPAN is learning the hard way that energy cannot be acquired so quickly and yet cheaply. There is a price to pay when you’re looking for shortcuts [1] and many people are likely to die from cancer as a result.

According to some reports [2], one family alone is poised to earn an outrageous amount of money by just destroying nature in Canada (and parts of the US). “Koch Brothers Could Earn $100 Billion in Tar Sands Profit if Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved,” Alternet says.

“Many protests cannot happen without some level of privacy and policemen are increasingly turning to on-the-scene surveillance, taking videos of people’s faces at protests.”Meanwhile, reveals another report from the corporate press in Canada [3] (comments closed), Americans are protesting against fracking in their precious land and police vehicles are set ablaze, which may or may not be the action of the Americans. Past events suggest that sometimes the cars are set ablaze by the victim in order to demonise and crush the protests, as allegedly happened in Toronto due to overzealous ‘policing’ several years ago (Richard Stallman also alluded to this strategy a few days ago). A quick search for “shale-gas project canada police cars” reveals many more press articles, all of which suggest that the protests turned violent (tear gas and rubber bullets are said to have started this violence) and none refute the dramatic event which is police cars on fire by Americans.

The bottom line is, protest is increasingly being crushed, even using weapons and unjust arrests that are supposed to intimidate and imperil protests. Many protests cannot happen without some level of privacy and policemen are increasingly turning to on-the-scene surveillance, taking videos of people’s faces at protests. If that’s not enough to stress the importance of privacy, maybe the victims of environmental pollution (dirty energy) will. Dissent is gagged when people are no longer able to express themselves without fear of retribution.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Radioactivity level spikes 6,500 times at Fukushima well
  2. Koch Brothers Could Earn $100 Billion in Tar Sands Profit if Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved
  3. Violence erupts in N.B. as RCMP move in on anti-fracking protest

    Police cars were set ablaze near a reserve north of Moncton, N.B., on Thursday as the RCMP clashed with native protesters who are trying to prevent seismic testing at a proposed shale gas development near their community.

    [...]

    The protesters refused the demands to disperse, and the confrontation devolved into a melee of tear gas and rubber bullets. In the end, at least 40 people, including Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock and several council members, had been arrested and five police cruisers had been set ablaze. The situation had calmed by early evening with news that Mr. Sock and some of the other protesters had been released.

    [...]

    Native leaders say it was the police who sparked the confrontation. They say police arrived with guns drawn and targeted elders with pepper spray. Ms. Levi-Peters said the police cars were set on fire after natives learned about the arrests.

10.07.13

Debt and Fraud Economies

Posted in America, Europe, Finance at 3:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Credit Suisse

Summary: A few remarks regarding so-called “successful” (rich) countries and what can be said about the source of affluence (if any, i.e. if not made up or stolen but derived from natural resources like oil)

The Swiss authorities are said to be cracking down on (or at least trying to put an end to) the large-scale financial fraud that many of us call “success” when in fact it’s gaming and manipulation, or in other words systematic looting [1]. At the same time, Switzerland considers introducing the concept of basic income [2,3] as a reality in this high-GDP country (one of the wealthiest in the world, as measured per capita). Europe is trying to mimic US success when it comes to startups [4], but it must realise that careless lending is what made a lot of US corporations grow and even sustain themselves as giants, operating at a loss or running on government subsidies (taxpayers’ money and/or collective/national debt). What we have right now is a massive US debt economy with pretense of recovery [5], corporate deregulation masquerading as “liberalism” [6], and sheer poverty that’s the side-effect of huge economic disparity, leading to sheer desperation for the masses [7]. If a nation seeks to enjoy long-term dominance without constant wars (some countries would rather start a war every once in a few years to send a warning sign regarding conformity and obedience) and without running massive deficits (e.g. subsidising massive corporations that engage in large-scale surveillance and imperialism), then a model nation would be hard to find. Switzerland thrives in financial crimes; it harbours many rich people’s savings in what’s essentially tax havens. Just ask Elmer. In that sense, Switzerland enjoys great wealth for complicity in crimes. Whether it shares the loot with all the citizens in the form of basic wage (like Dubai does by incentivising citizens to stay atop the oil) does not matter. Whether it pretends (to save face) that it is cracking down on the financial crimes that many of its bankers engage in may not matter either. What matters is not a country’s total wealth but the value of its morality. Sadly, by the standards many tend to embrace, all that counts is the “bottom line”, which by convention means money.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Swiss authorities investigate potential manipulation of £3tn currency markets

    Switzerland’s market regulator launches foreign exchange investigation involving ‘multiple banks around the world’

  2. Swiss to vote on 2,500 franc basic income for every adult

    Switzerland will hold a vote on whether to introduce a basic income for all adults, in a further sign of growing public activism over pay inequality since the financial crisis.

  3. Swiss vote for sweet minimum monthly wage: $2,800

    Some 120,000 Swiss signatories have put their names to a petition demanding a monthly minimum wage of $2,800 (2,500 Swiss francs) for every single member of the working adult population. Enough names have been collected for a government vote.

    Anything less than the proposed amount would be deemed illegal, even for people working in the lowest paid jobs. A typical fast-food worker in the US earns roughly $1,500 per month.

  4. 4,000 have signed to support a Startup Europe – have you?

    Today, I’m delighted to announce we reached the milestone of 4,000 signatures. 4,000 people committed and ready to make a change, benefiting Europe’s entrepreneurial spirit and our digital future.

  5. Recovery hype: American Capitalism’s weapon of mass distraction

    From President Obama on down, defenders of the status quo insist that the US economy has “recovered” or “is recovering”. Some actually see the world that way. They inhabit, imagine they inhabit, or plan to soon inhabit the world of the infamous top 1%. Others simply seek security in life by loyally repeating whatever that 1% is saying.

  6. Neoliberalism’s unintended consequences

    One of the oldest rhetorical tricks of free-marketeers has been the appeal to unintended consequences; state interventions, they claim – often reasonably – don’t work out as intended. But it’s not just statist policies that are vulnerable to unintended consequences. So too is neoliberalism, as Ed Miliband’s speech yesterday made clear.

  7. Suicide and the Economy

    “We never spoke of them. Why would we?” Learning the the truth about my great-grandfather, and 40,000 Americans during the Great Depression

09.17.13

New Zealand Shows the United States How to Deal With Software Patents

Posted in America, Patents at 9:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Czech landscape

Summary: The world is trying to tackle patents on algorithms, whereas the US, which is unique on that matter, mostly focuses on trolls (scale of plaintiff) and not patent scope

In our latest update from NZ (see some recent history) we mentioned the reversal of a move which nearly brought software patents to the island, a former British colony which nowadays seems to be getting its commands from the United States (this includes national policies and surveillance). As the British Pirate Party put it:

Its not often that we see positive reforms of copyright or patent systems, in fact the vast majority of changes that we see are tightening of regulations, a tightening that is too often driven by corporate lobby groups over the objections of innovators, developers and creators. It seems like an ever rising tide of restrictions, covering more and more areas, limiting what any of us can do, reuse or build upon.

Well that tide seems to be on the verge of turning. Not in the UK yet perhaps, but certainly in New Zealand. The long awaited Patents Bill, amending legislation from 1953, has been passed in New Zealand. It is a bill has been a long time coming, first proposed in July 2008, it was met with intense lobbying from multinationals and spurred almost 5 years of debate and controversy.

Meanwhile in the United States, following the GAO’s already-distorted report which calls for the end of software patents we find Red Hat’s lobbyist Mark Bohannon (officially “Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Global Public Policy at Red Hat”) shifting attention to patent trolls:

During the August Congressional recess, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its long-awaited study on Non-Practicing Entities (NPEs), required under the America Invents Act (AIA).

The report paints a rather grim picture of the current patent system. It reinforces the call by key leaders in Congress for legislative reforms that address abusive patent litigation as well as action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the courts, and the US PTO.

The truly interesting point of this report is the issue of patent scope, not trolls. As Mr. Pogson, a Canadian, put it, this reports represents what he called the “Death-Spiral Of Software Patents”. To quote his short analysis:

The US GAO has studied the matter and software-patents stick out like a sore thumb. They just don’t make any sense in the modern world. They are sand in the gears of progress. They are knee-deep syrup on the race track. Their report does not ensure elimination of software-patents but I expect something clarifying SCOTUS and GAO findings will emerge and bring US R&D back onto a firmer footing.

The continued obsession with patent trolls in the US (this does not happen in Europe and NZ, where focus remains on software patents) will be further tackled in the next post.

06.29.13

Debate About Software Patents in New Zealand Dominated by the United States’ Voices

Posted in America, Deception, Patents at 2:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NZICT logo

Summary: US press, US companies and US lobbyists dominate the debate over software patents in the large island that is scarcely populated (sheep outnumber humans)

A nation of sheep New Zealand (NZ) is certainly not, as I know many clever people from there, including former colleagues. The problem NZ has got is that it is too small to stand up to the US, as the whole Kim Dotcom saga proves. It’s more of a poodle of the US than the Blair-led UK ever was.

Stephen Bell, a New Zealand-based writer for IDG (US company with obvious bias), writes about software patents in NZ and frames it like this in his essay “Long running software patent debate looks close to resolution”:

In writing about the computer industry, particularly in a seat of government (and I’ve worked in London and Wellington) one of the most persistent themes is the law and how it deals with the new concepts, new artefacts or new ways of doing familiar things that technology frequently creates.

Among the many instances of this to emerge in recent years is the application of intellectual property laws. The knotty problems of copyright and new forms of copying is one issue, but an equally prominent debate has centred on the patentability of software.

Patent used to be a comparatively straightforward matter; it applied to inventions — ideas that had material expression in the form of a new machine or device that affected physical things.

If, on the other hand, you wrote or drew something original – a literary or artistic work or a textbook — protecting it was the province of copyright, which prevented others from imitating only the precise mode of expression of the idea – or something so close to it that it had obviously been produced by adaptation from the protected original.

Patent, by contrast, protects the idea itself.

Then computer technology produced software – which became an increasingly important component of any computer system. Here was essentially an idea expressed as a piece of text, but which could behave – or rather induce the computer to behave – as though it were a new kind of machine.

He takes note of NZICT, which actually is a lobbyist for non-NZ interests (large US corporations):

US alignment
A persistent background to the patent debate, as it is with the copyright/file-sharing question, has been the merit of aligning with US law and the possible role of such an accommodation as a bargaining chip in free-trade agreement negotiations.

Meanwhile in NZ, software patents lobbyist Martin Goetz is having a go, also hosted by IDG. The problem is, this man is from the US, not NZ. Why give them coverage in US-controlled (IDG) NZ-flavoured press? Sadly, this is the only coverage on this topic this month. US press is covering it ‘on behalf’ of NZ, apparently. The local press cannot keep up.

One may generally hold the belied that the corporate press exists not to generate money but to serve the agenda of large owners of the media or hidden subsidiarity who benefit from controlling and manipulating public perceptions. Even leading papers like the New York Times are heavily reliant and debt-saddled. They operate in a vacuum, serving agenda like promoting wars, corporate interests, and nationalism. Can the population of NZ give IDG the boot? Imagine an Iranian company running a US-centric TV channel or NZ getting its own aerial spot for covering local news in Manchester. This expansionism helps show where empires are based and who calls the shots.

06.28.13

Corporate Debates About Patent Trolls Versus Debates About Patents (or Software Patents in Isolation)

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 5:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The issues most often overlooked by American corporate media

OpenSecrets slide
Image from OpenSecrets

Summary: A roundup of coverage about the menace which is patent litigation and the different angles chosen for tackling it

There is a perpetual disconnect and a considerable difference between what people want and what large corporations, which virtually if not practically control the US government, actually want. The large corporations want to see small companies/firms crushed, whereas the public in general wants to reduce spurious added costs, incurred by litigation and cross-licensing (shrewdly-disguised price-fixing by large corporations). The patent lawyers at some firm called “Armstrong Teasdale LLP” join the club of whiners over PTAB [1, 2]. They need to accept the rulings which crush software patents in the US, but they are in denial. Generally speaking, patents do not necessarily benefit the US, unless one considers in isolation smaller compartments of US commerce (patent lawyers or CEOs of large corporations). As a new paper’s abstract puts it:

We use a detailed data set to estimate the costs and benefits of United States patents. To estimate costs, we combine data from Derwent Litalert with a proprietary dataset of non-practicing entity (NPE) lawsuits collected by Patent Freedom, and use an event study approach to estimate losses suffered by alleged infringers during 1984-2009. To estimate benefits, we combine patent data from the USPTO and EPO with financial data from CRSP and COMPUSTAT, and use market-value regressions to estimate the value of patent rents for publicly-traded US firms during 1979-2002. We find that costs exceed benefits overall and that the gap between costs and benefits has grown across time. Surges in the number of NPE lawsuits, lawsuits filed over Computers/Communications patents, and lawsuits brought against non-manufacturing, software and telecommunications firms contribute to the increase in the gap. Growth in costs outstrips growth in lawsuits, in part, because events in these fast-growing categories have higher-than-
average per-event dollar costs.

There are leeches or non-producing players, which hurt customers a lot. According to this article, the “[p]olicy under President Obama is moving against aggressive assertion of software patents, posing significant long-term risk to the profitability of entertainment technology patent holder Rovi (ROVI).”

Whatever destroys trolls is good for the economy — that is — the collective economy which includes customers. Profit for businesses is the wrong yardstick to use if the businesses are ones of extortion, such as Intellectual Ventures. As Troll Tracker put it: “What’s going on is, as the issue of patent trolling attracts more and more attention in the mainstream media, the message is getting diluted and the waters are getting muddied.” There is also this observation about Lodsys:

Intellectual Ventures (Might Be) Tied To Lodsys: Wait, What?

[...]

It’s a proxy fight, and if Lodsys is successful in getting Mhyrvold to testify, something to that effect will surely come out. No wonder he’s fighting it so hard, he’s trying to avoid exposure. Trolls? This is what happens when you garner FTC attention.

We covered this earlier this week. We also covered the issue in prior years. Lodsys had received patents from Intellectual Ventures, which we know to be using about 2,000 pseudo-companies as litigation proxies. This is a pyramid scheme and part of an extortion racket, wrapped in a riddle and a whole legion of lobbyists.

“Lodsys had received patents from Intellectual Ventures, which we know to be using about 2,000 pseudo-companies as litigation proxies.”Mark Bohannon, the Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Global Public Policy at Red Hat (in other words, a chief lobbyist), ought the know the pain caused by trolls like Acacia (it got money from Red Hat several times). Bohannon says that the “House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and a wide variety of witnesses highlighted the PAE problem in hearings last winter. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is working with Chairman Goodlatte and committed to working in a bicameral and bipartisan way to counter what they term ‘patent trolling,’ which “casts a pall on the system because it hinders innovation.””

He also says: “A number of key issues “left on the cutting room floor” during consideration of the AIA—including the current unreliable, uncertain, and speculative method of calculating damages, correcting the standard for finding willful infringement, and venue—remain important elements of our broken patent system that play to the hands of PAEs and encourage abusive patent litigation.

“While action in these areas remains important, they are absent from the current legislative agenda. Given the widening attacks by PAEs, it is essential that Congress work to produce meaningful legislation on at least the issues identified above in order to begin to stem the tide.

“With many of the key players in Congress—joined by the Executive Branch—rowing in the same direction, let’s look for an updated draft of the House Judiciary bill that enhances its ‘first step’ proposal. And the Senate Judiciary Committee is well positioned to put forward a robust measure that builds on (and incorporates) the bills introduced by Senators Cornyn and Schumer.”

“Get rid of the patents to resolve the issue.”The problem is, the White House is still tackling the symptom, not the disease [1, 2, 3, 4]. Those bills are hardly the solution, they tackle a symptom really, one among several symptoms which they mostly fail to address. Todd Bishop, a Microsoft booster, shows Google acquiring more privacy-infringing ideas, which is a problem in itself.

MariaDB, which recently joined OIN and OSI, will remain vulnerable to trolls and as the Oracle case against Google taught us, OIN membership is not enough to dodge litigation from giants, either. Get rid of the patents to resolve the issue. The large corporations are definitely part of the problem, but the White House is literally funded by many of those companies, so don’t expect reform in that domain. Expect the White House to go after smaller players, those that opportunistically sue many large companies. This one new example says that “ArrivalStar sued more than 200 companies and cities over bus-tracking patents.” Patent trolls like ArrivalStar are a problem, but they are not the only problem and when one looks at the actual patent, then it becomes clear that patent scope is the issue, not the plaintiff per se. As we saw many times before (e.g. Oracle, Apple, Microsoft), large corporations use equally ridiculous patents to extort other companies. According to this post, a troll we wrote about before is still busy in Texas, suing large corporations’ clients, so those large corporations get involved:

Earlier this week, we provided an update on the multitude of WiFi-related infringement lawsuits brought by non-practicing entity Innovative Wireless Solutions LLC against various hotels and restaurants in Texas, noting that IWS had dismissed these suits (albeit without prejudice). We had discussed that this was a decidedly “un-Innovatio-like” turn in the cases — but yesterday brought a development that makes this series of disputes much more like the ones in the Northern District of Illinois involving Innovatio: Cisco Systems Inc., a supplier of WiFi equipment for many of the hotels accused of infringement, got involved. And Just like it did with Innovatio, Cisco here filed a declaratory judgment action against IWS, seeking declarations of invalidity and non-infringement as to IWS’s three asserted patents.

It is not easy to kill patent trolls, as Gene Quinn’s recent piece indicates. Trolls cannot be sued, so it takes collective effort. The chairwoman of the FTC speaks about predatory tactics of patent trolls. To quote: “At an event co-sponsored by CCIA, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez announced that she would be asking the Commission to institute a Section 6(b) investigation of the patent troll business model. Senator Leahy also sent Chairwoman Ramirez a letter today, encouraging the FTC use its powers “to prevent unfair and deceptive trade practices in patent infringement allegations.”

“It is those large corporations which probably do far more damage than the trolls and the remedy lies within patent scope.”Edith Ramirez should ask her colleagues to look at patent scope rather than the nature of firms that sue large corporations. It is those large corporations which probably do far more damage than the trolls and the remedy lies within patent scope. Don’t expect any real reform in a nation where large corporations have politicians and government agencies in their pockets. Both political parties (including members of Congress) are controlled and bankrolled by the same large corporations, some more than the other. Always ask yourself when the White House debates trolls or some Congressperson brings up the subject, who are those people funded by? Also, notice who is backing all these pushes against trolls in the corporate sector. As always, money makes the world go round and large corporations are still writing everyone’s policies. The public deserves better than that. The corporations-controlled and corporations-run USPTO will continue to grant more patents than ever before (i.e. more profit), it’s just that those capitalising on those patents (monopolies) will be fewer and larger. Those patents are not there to encourage innovation, they are there to justify increases in prices, eternally-forbidding commoditisation, e.g. generics in medicine.

06.13.13

A Big Blow to Patents on Software and Genetics in the United States, But Hardly the End

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 4:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There are still patents on the progress bar…

A progress bar

Summary: Little progress made with policy moving in the right direction, but by no means the right and absolute solution to USPTO incompetence

THERE ARE interesting rulings out this week. A very vocal proponent of software patents asks about the Versata case [1, 2, 3], “Did the PTAB Just Kill Software Patents?” Well, yes. And it matters. “On Tuesday, June 11,” he writes, “the Patent Trial and Appeals Board issued a ruling in SAP America, Inc. v. Versata Development Group, Inc., which is the result of a Covered Business Method challenge to U.S. Patent No. 6,553,350 filed by SAP on September 16, 2012. The PTAB, per Administrative Patent Judge Michael Tierney, determined that “Versata’s ’350 claims 17, and 26-29 are unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101.” Looking more closely at the ruling, however, makes it clear just how significant this ruling will be. The breadth of the 101 determination is shocking and virtually guarantees that 101 will be used by patent examiners to effectively prevent software patents from issuing altogether.”

“The ruling was limited, so it is too early to celebrate.”Here is a news report about it (AOL). This gets somewhat overshadowed by news about a SCOTUS ruling. An inaccurate report from Rupert Murdoch’s press says “The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that human genes isolated from the body can’t be patented, a victory for doctors and patients who argued that such patents interfere with scientific research and the practice of medicine.”

This is only part of the story, as we’ll explain in days to come. Kevin Granade told me “they affirmed that isolated, unmodified DNA is unpatentable, but ruled the *transcription* of the same as cDNA patentable [...] the reporting has it wrong, the ruling regards all unmodified DNA, not just human DNA. Effectively a key lying on the ground is unpatentable, but if you make an impression you can patent the mold. Very unfortunate.”

The Guardian botched it too. The ruling was limited, so it is too early to celebrate. It’s like celebrating patent trolls getting the attention of Brand Obama. There is no action yet from the White House (just words [1, 2, 3, 4]) and it would not be the resolution of the problems, either. As this new post put it, this is not enough. To quote just the opening:

Patents may have once seemed like a good idea. At least it seemed that way to the Venetians, who in 1474 declared the publication and protection of the “works and devices” of “men of great genius” would encourage others to apply their genius and ultimately benefit their society as a whole.

This noble idea may have had a place in the Italian Renaissance, but wind forward 539 years and we have a patent system infested with “patent trolls” and seemingly endless disputes between software and technology companies expending billions of dollars over ideas that involve neither genius nor benefit to society.

The problem is scope being expanded to things which did not exist when the patent system was conceived. It predates understanding of germs, let alone genetics. It also predates software, let alone computing machines (equivalent of pen and paper).

05.28.13

US Congress Should Stop Targeting Symptoms and Instead Tackle the Real Problem, Patent Scope

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 3:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

And Schumer Should Focus on the Correct Target (Software Patents), Not Trolls

Scope

Summary: Alluding to the fact that politicians pursue a corporate ‘reform’ (benefiting large companies) rather than the obvious reform which the USPTO needs

Somebody called Steph Kennedy contacted me a few days ago. I had an amicable exchange with this person who runs the IP Troll Tracker site — a site which like us seems to realise that the Schumer 'reform' once again got derailed. He now speaks primarily about trolls rather than software patents/scope, which he focused on before. As Steph put it in her unique style, “I suppose on the one hand this is good news…all those software patents people don’t want issued? Well, they’ll languish forever now with the patent office reviewing cases for a living. It’s kind of like when Congress gets deadlocked: that’s a good thing because if they can’t agree? They can’t make more stupid laws.

“Throwing crazy-stupid legislation together so that you can tell your corporate constituents that you are trying to solve their problem? That’s what politicians do.”

“Motorola is a defence mechanism, not an offence mechanism to Google, but EU regulators are too misguided to see this.”She is throwing a wobbly Schumer’s way. He no longer proposes a good reform. Here is another misdirected reform coming from the US government. And another. Why the sudden focus only on trolls? As Masnick’s site puts it: “Of course, even before the law was officially on the books, it looks like Vermont’s Attorney General has already sued a patent troll under existing consumer protection laws (raising questions as to why the new law is necessary). In this case, the troll is one we’ve written about a few times. Remember the series of rotating shell companies that had
claimed that businesses who had a networked scanner need to pay $1,000 per employee? Yeah, that one.”

Here is another report about Congress targeting trolls in isolation. Politicians serve corporate interests, only going after trolls, the side effect of a rogue system. Trolls are, on occasions, a proxy for large corporations, but this is the exception rather than the norm. Microsoft seems to be doing it, Apple hardly ever does (there are a few examples where Apple does this, e.g. MPEG-LA). Google won’t use proxies like Microsoft and Apple do and it states this clearly, upfront.

Motorola is a defence mechanism, not an offence mechanism to Google, but EU regulators are too misguided to see this. completely missing the source of this issue and instead going after the victim which is trying to defend itself by expensive deterrence plan.

It is worth noting that Steph misunderstood some of the points I had made prior to the post in question, based on her response to me (posted some hours ago). Patent Troll Tracker was a lawyer, not her. The point I was making is that refocusing on trolls is often something that lawyers, politicians and lobbyists do, whereas bloggers often fall right into the same trap and lose sight of patent scope as the principal issue. The one point I disagree with Steph is that she says some companies are “actually selling off some of their patents to the trolls themselves (possibly and potentially Google and definitely Ericsson).”

Actually, while Ericsson is a good example which we covered before [1, 2, 3], she should mention Apple and Microsoft, not Google. Name even one troll which was fed by Google. None, right?

“Throwing crazy-stupid legislation together so that you can tell your corporate constituents that you are trying to solve their problem? That’s what politicians do.”
      –Steph Kennedy
A good example of an Apple- and Microsoft-backed patent troll is Intellectual Ventures, the world’s biggest patent troll. How come Congress does not tackle this extortion operation? Too big to jail or even address. As Steph put it a few weeks ago, this troll makes nothing except propaganda. She wrote: “What long-term positive PR that IV thought they were going to accomplish with this survey is anybody’s guess.”

As long as the USPTO is controlled by giants like software patents booster IBM, nothing will change for the better without a real fight.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, an IBM veteran who endorses software patents, continues to post his pro-patents dross. These are the people who, sadly enough, control the politicians. A politicians who works for common interests is not a politicia but an activist. Strong action is needed to fix patent scope; Congress just isn’t doing it,

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