A conspiracy of silence over harmful software patenting
Summary: The Open Invention Network (OIN) commissions or helps produce puff pieces in the corporate media because it has an anniversary and corporate interests to push forth (including the idea that software patents can coexist with Linux)
“OIN is a waste of time and money,” wrote the FFII’s President this week, “it was created by IBM [...] and collective shields don’t work against trolls” (we have explained this important point for nearly a decade).
Patent pools are not going to protect GNU and Linux, especially not from patent trolls. In private conversations between myself, the OIN and a potential patent trolls half a decade ago I was reminded of that. There is this press release titled “Open Invention Network Celebrates Its 10 Year Anniversary”, which even made it into Linux sites like LWN. OIN appears to have contacted journalists, as they did me on several occasions in the past. Katherine Noyes, who had worked for the Linux Foundation, was probably approached by OIN based on ‘exclusive’ (with quotations) coverage from IDG, which promoted OIN by throwing their stuff all over the place, in dozens of sites, to push their point of view [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12].
What we basically have here is a sort of front group for IBM, a proponent of (and lobbyist for) software patents, celebrating a massive software patents pact (not as effective as cross-licensing). Remember where the first person to head OIN came from…
OIN generally generated puff pieces in some other places, including mouthpiece of the plutocrats (like those who head large corporations, including IBM).
“Launched back in 2005,” Noyes wrote, “the OIN was formed by IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony to create a protected zone of patents around core Linux and open source software technologies — functionality that’s essential for open source projects and companies like OpenStack, Linux, Red Hat, SUSE, Android and Apache.”
The only surprising name above might be Red Hat, but Red Hat's weird stance on software patents these days is a subject we tackled many times before (over half a decade ago).
There is no room in this world for software patents, not even with the excessively glorified OIN. There is no way to reconcile and to coexist with software patents because small independent developers don’t have a war chest of patents. Companies like IBM and Microsoft have enormous leverage over them. OIN helps perpetuate an injustice. Is there an alternative to OIN? Yes. Just get rid of software patents altogether. █
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The United Kingdom — and by extension Europe — now a platform of choice for some major patent trolls
Summary: Worst-case scenarios are becoming a reality as Android backers officially attacked by patent trolls using standard-essential patents in London, England
SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS across Europe hate software patents. Ask them. Seriously, just ask them. Programmers in general (with rare exceptions) don’t want software patents; they already have copyright law (or copyleft for Free software). It helps protect them and assert that their own work cannot be exploited/ripped off. That’s just the nature of software, which is a lot like poetry or musical compositions.
The Danish creator of Ruby on Rails (RoR), David Heinemeier Hansson, wrote the other day: “Software patents are a racket used by trolls/BigCos to shake down/stifle competition. If you file for patents, you’re arming the racketeers.”
“Programmers in general (with rare exceptions) don’t want software patents; they already have copyright law (or copyleft for Free software).”As we have shown here before, no software patents are “good”, hence there is no such thing as “bad patents” or “bad software patents” (a term often used by apologists of them, such as IBM). Patents in the hands of “good” companies are not secure either; they can be sold and fall into hostile hands. See Sun and Oracle for example (Sun patents are now being used against Linux/Android). See Novell’s patents, which fell into Microsoft’s hands through CPTN. There are many more examples like that.
“Software patents are a racket used by trolls/BigCos to shake down/stifle competition. If you file for patents, you’re arming the racketeers.”
–David Heinemeier HanssonRoR’s creator, a hugely popular developer (not just in Europe), said a couple of days ago: “Shame on Ericsson for arming a patent troll with a large stockpile of outdated yet weaponized patents for a cut” (he spoke about Unwired Planet).
For those who are not familiar with Ericsson and Unwired Planet, here is an article from 3 days ago. It makes everything quite easy to follow: “Unwired Planet Inc. has 16 employees and no products. What it does have is a portfolio of more than 2,000 patents, mostly acquired from Ericsson AB, which it says on its website are “considered foundational to mobile communications.” The Nevada-based firm wants more than just recognition.”
So a European company, Ericsson, is now the motor of patent trolls, much like Nokia after Microsoft took over. How did this happen? Well, we covered this over the past few years and we warned that this was going to happen, despite software not (officially) being patentable in Europe.
London is now serving as the venue for patent trolls, attracting the litigation ‘business’ just like Eastern Texas. Huge damages are at stake and the target is Free software, not some proprietary software, hence free distribution itself is being threatened. Believe it or not, this may have the same impact on Free software on phones in Europe as the FCC on Free software on routers/hubs in the US. The Ericsson-backed troll is now attacking Android (Free software and Linux-powered). Making it impossible to dodge the lawsuit, we are dealing with standard-essential patents (SEP) here, meaning that in order to conform with standards one must infringe. The patents boosters say that Huawei, Google and Samsung are the target of the lawsuit. To quote: “Tomorrow Unwired Planet is scheduled to begin a series of face-offs against Huawei, Samsung and Google at the Patents Court in London. At issue are alleged infringements of five standard essential patents (SEPs) owned by the NPE that were transferred to it as the result of a deal done with Ericsson back in 2013.
“London is now serving as the venue for patent trolls, attracting the litigation ‘business’ just like Eastern Texas.”“Over on the ARS Technica website, Joe Mullin talks about coming to a UK court being “a high-cost, high-risk scenario that’s unappealing to trolls”. He’s right. And that’s why trolls – whose business model is based on asserting poor-quality patents to leverage the high cost of US patent litigation to extract relatively low-cost, pre-trial, licensing-based settlements from alleged infringers – would never take a case as far as a courtroom in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter).
“Unwired Planet, though, is not a troll. It is a patent licensing business looking to secure a global agreement from entities it believes are infringing high-quality SEPs. It may not like trials (who does?), but it is not afraid of them because it feels it has a good chance of winning and is willing to pay to find out if it is right, especially as the ultimate prize is potentially a collection of eight or even nine figure global licensing deals. Seen in such a light, its choice of the Patents Court in London makes a fair bit of sense.”
The proponents of software patents, people such as IAM's biased (for their own financial gain) writers, helped patent trolls come to Europe. IAM said that “Unwired Planet patent suit in London against Huawei, Google & Samsung again shows Europe is now NPE venue of choice”. Patent Buddy, a more moderate voice, noted the importance of this: “Unwired Planet Will Fight SEP Suit Against Huawei, Google and Samsung in London, Not a US Court” (where this typically takes place).
It’s easy to see what patent lawyers find desirable here. They can make money from the legal aftermath and the proceedings themselves, irrespective of the outcome (who wins). Now that there are some software patents in Europe, authorised by the corrupt EPO, large companies are using loopholes and cheats to get more of them and then sue. As Patently German clarified the other day, “the German court essentially follows the EPO, the language even being a bit more generous” (but it’s the EPO that led to it, even back in Brimelow’s days).
“It’s easy to see what patent lawyers find desirable here. They can make money from the legal aftermath and the proceedings themselves, irrespective of the outcome (who wins).”Germany’s exceptional lenience on software patents granting was mentioned here this morning and it is likely to be a topic we will revisit in the near future. Jonas Bosson (FFII Sweden) wrote that “#TPPA is “all fields of technology” a trick force patents on abstract matters, such as math and data processing? http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Trans-Pacific_Partnership_Agreement …”
These terrible ‘treaties’ play a growing role in corporate takeover of Europe and based on this latest update, “The UK has joined the Unified Patent Court (UPC) protocol agreement, representing a ‘milestone’ for the country.”
Yes, a ‘milestone’ for corporations taking over the country and most of the continent it’s technically a part of.
The FFII’s President expressed his concerns earlier today by stating: “FSF, despite its 30 years, still spending too few of its resources on fighting software patents and the unitary patent court #FSF30″
Australia Dubs It “Innovation Patent System”
This whole software patents and ‘treaties’ chaos (laws rewritten in bulk) is becoming a growing problem not just in Europe but also in Australia, where activists like Sturmfels (mentioned before in [1, 2, 3]) oppose a push for software patents. The patent maximalists ridicule the likes of him with insulting weasel phrases and belittling words. To quote a new blog post titled “‘Free Software’ Advocates Aside, Submissions to IP Australia Overwhelmingly Support Innovation Patent System”:
Needless to say, such comments lack anything resembling either evidence or detailed reasoning. They also fail to address the fact that abolition of innovation patents would affect all industries, and not just the ‘software industry’ (whatever that may be), including those represented by other submissions in support of innovation patents. In any event, these near-identical submissions are so clearly the result of an orchestrated campaign that they can hardly be regarded as constituting independent contributions to the consultation process. Furthermore, they are at odds with the submission made by BSA | The Software Alliance as noted above.
Other parties making submissions in favour of abolition of the innovation system include Melbourne-based free-software advocate Ben Sturmfels, on behalf of a group of nine like-minded individuals, and Open Source Industry Australia Ltd, which argues that ‘abolition of the innovation patent system will be an important first step towards delivering a more efficient, effective and equitable patent regime for Australia’.
Even Microsoft front groups like the Business Software Alliance (BSA) play a role in the lobbying. To quote:
“BSA | The Software Alliance, which represents the global commercial software industry (counting among its members Adobe, Altium, ANSYS, Apple, ARM, Autodesk, AVEVA, Bentley Systems, CA Technologies, Cisco, CNC/Mastercam, DataStax, Dell, Intel, Intuit, Minitab, Oracle, PTC, salesforce.com, Siemens PLM Software, Symantec, Tekla, The MathWorks, and Trend Micro), and which argues that the innovation patent system should be retained, and improved in line with a number of the recommendations in ACIP’s original report”
The above are all proprietary software giants, hardly small businesses. It’s clear whose interests are served by monopolies on algorithms.
IAM Not Speaking for India
IAM is meanwhile returning to the situation in India, claiming that India’s small businesses want software patents (citing this article which doesn’t really focus on patents) and saying in Twitter: “Limited scope of patent protection, rather than cost, is what is driving high-tech Indian SMEs out of the country” (total nonsense).
“Microsoft reportedly lobbies regarding the UPC in Europe, despite being a foreign company with no personal affection for Europe.”The patent lawyers (like the people who operate IAM) want patent trolls and large corporations that hire them to just carry on with patent chaos because patent lawyers profit from it. This is true not only in Europe but also in the US. Watch how IBM is lobbying for software patents in just about every country, India included. The same goes for Microsoft and other patent aggressors. Microsoft reportedly lobbies regarding the UPC in Europe, despite being a foreign company with no personal affection for Europe. Microsoft is not a person. It is also treated like a V.I.P. by the increasingly corruptible (up for sale to corporations) EPO. █
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Summary: A snapshot of recent developments and upcoming developments in Europe, regarding software patents in particular
EARLIER this week we chastised IBM for implicitly promoting software patents in India, just as it had done to promote software patents in Europe. Multinationals generally want to have these patents everywhere, especially if these multinationals are vast monopolies that deal with software. They want to crush competition using patents.
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and a front group of IBM et al want to make software patents and Linux co-exist using so-called “non-aggression” pacts, which in practice barely work at all, not just because they cannot retaliate against patent trolls (see how Oracle sued Google over Android, despite their role in OIN). To quote their statement: “The Free Software Foundation Europe and Open Invention Network, with the participation of the Legal Network and the Asian Legal Network, are presenting two round table events with presentations and panel discussion of industry and community speakers, titled “Open Source and Software Patent Non-Aggression, European Context”. The events will be held in Berlin, Germany on October 21 and in Warsaw, Poland on October 22.”
This was also mentioned here and the FFII’s President reacted much like we did, stating: “Probably those 2 associations are doing nothing to prevent swpatv3, or the unitary patent” (more on that in our next post).
“Someone should tell Battistelli, who is a Frenchman, that the EPO must obey the laws of France and many other countries where software patents are not legal.”Some people seem to have grasped the important role which software patents play in the field of operating systems like Android. Free software is probably harmed the most because software patents are a stab at the heart of free distribution. See this new article titled “Apple, Samsung, Phones and Software Patents” for example. It is gratifying to see that more people now attribute the problem and lay the blame on software patents.
Recently, thankfully enough, April wrote about a decision that was widely overlooked in Europe. 6 days ago it stated that “[o]n June 18th, 2015, the Paris High Court (tribunal de grande instance — TGI) issued a ruling in the Orange versus Free case [fr] (both French ISPs); this ruling was published [fr] on September 1st, 2015. On this occasion, the court reaffirmed that software patents are illegal in Europe under the European Patent Convention (EPC). While this reaffirmation is good news, it nevertheless testifies to the possibility of filing software patent applications today in Europe.”
Someone should tell Battistelli, who is a Frenchman, that the EPO must obey the laws of France and many other countries where software patents are not legal. As we shall show in our next post, the EPO is helping member nations and corporations that operate in them bypass the law and patent software, using for the most part a secretive and undemocratic transition into the UPC. █
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IBM’s infamous love of patents outweighs the company’s publicly-professed love for Linux
Summary: A timely reminder that Big Blue is no true friend of GNU/Linux and other Free software projects, just an opportunist that uses the Linux brand and wants to make the platform a commodity (for servers that run IBM’s proprietary software and use IBM-branded hardware)
Manny Schecter, the Chief Patent Counsel from IBM, is lobbying for software patents in India, based on statements like this one. IBM wants software patents everywhere (not just the US), quite frankly as usual. It also did this in Europe and in New Zealand. The evil side of IBM is clearly Free software-hostile, as it lobbies for laws that are inherently ruling out Free software, or make it incredibly hard to adopt. The article that Schecter linked to says that “Srikant Sreenivasan, co-founder at Mumbai-based cloud technology company CloudLeap Computing Pvt. Ltd, spent four months re-engineering something his company had already built after realizing that they had unknowingly infringed on a patent filed by a multinational company.”
Well, like IBM…
“CloudLeap had to reinvent the wheel since it was catering to clients in the US, where the patent law protects all software, unlike in India, where software was so far patented only if it was used in conjunction with an embedded chip or system.”
Again, like IBM…
We have been writing a great deal about the ugly side of IBM for nearly a decade. The above just serves to remind us that IBM has not changed its ways.
To say that IBM is a “big company” and that its patent policy does not reflect or extend to technical staff is akin to the same apologetic gestures offered by Microsoft boosters when it’s pointed out Microsoft sues GNU/Linux with patents (still). █
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Fueling patent lawyers’ propaganda mill, antagonising scientists
“Along with many other computer scientists, I would like to ask you to reconsider the current policy of giving patents for computational processes.
“There are far better ways to protect the intellectual property rights of software developers than to take away their right to use fundamental building blocks.
“I find a considerable anxiety throughout the community of practicing computer scientists that decisions by the patent courts and the Patent and Trademark Office are making life much more difficult for programmers. ”
–Professor Donald Knuth, world renowned algorithms researcher
Summary: The infamous attorney from IBM, who later worked for the ‘Intellectual Property’ [sic] establishment and became Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), promotes the fiction that software patents are good for the US, despite them helping patent trolls and monopolies/oligopolies (like IBM)
THERE has been somewhat of a stir and a reaction to this paper in favour of software patents
[PDF]. It has, as expected, been promoted by pro-software patents sites (and suffice to say, that practically means patent lawyers’ media). There is pushback from people who actually deal with software, including software developers.
“Kappos apparently knows better than the courts what’s good for the country.”Calls to counter the author, who despite courts’ rulings still wants to guard software patents, could be found online, including in IP Watch. Hugo Roy (FSFE) reacts with: “Arguing that the US software market is thriving *because* software is patentable there.”
This makes no sense at all, but then again, consider who the author is. It’s the former head of the USPTO, who repeatedly pushed for software patents, defended them, arguably expanded their scope, and collectively belittled their critics, just like his former employer (IBM). He is not a scientist but a lawyer or “an attorney” (putting aside a bachelor’s degree from over three decades ago). He is current Partner at Cravath, Swaine and Moore, i.e. a law firm. David Kappos is a proponent of software patents, which are falling, failing, burning and crashing after the SCOTUS ruling on Alice. Kappos apparently knows better than the courts what’s good for the country. Here is what IP Watch wrote last week:
In a clarion call to policymakers, former United States Patent and Trademark Director David Kappos said recently that this year’s unprovoked drop in patent filings in the United States is unprecedented and signals a shift toward more secrecy by inventors trying to protect their ideas. Meanwhile, the US trend toward antitrust actions at home is having deleterious effects for US businesses overseas, he said.
The paper from Kappos is long, so we have not read it yet (only took a glance). It’s too long to rebut on a point-by-point basis, unless we spend a day or so embarking on the task (it’s a resources issue, not a feasibility issue). Based on the above, Kappos tried to excuse the fall of patents by blaming it on “secrecy by inventors” (no pursuit of monopolies with a negative connotation like secrecy, as if they’re doing something suspect or suspicious). To be fair, it’s not a direct quote from Kappos, but if that’s a point which he actually made, then his argument is extremely weak. Pretty much all arguments in favour of software patents (weighing the downsides too) are ludicrous at best, especially when viewed from the angle of software developers. Kappos’ message was only promoted by pro-software patents sites and patent lawyers’ media, as one might expect. We are talking about sites like ManagingIP, which are now organising “European Patent Reform Forum in Munich” (almost definitely stuffed with patent lawyers and no scientists on the panel/s).
IAM, another site of patent lawyers, has been repeatedly arguing with me over at Twitter (for 3 days in recent days) about its biases and views on patents. They are so easy to beat in a debate that they end up admitting that the “vast majority of patents” have no value and “do nothing”. Yes, they actually said that, contradicting their own marketing pitch. These people even tried to oppose the characterisation of patents as a monopoly, even though David Kappos was quoted as calling them a “20-year monopoly”.
Here is IAM showing us that the “worldwide head of IP strategy at IBM” is now moving on, just like Mr. Kappos. Here is where he is heading: “European licensing powerhouse Technicolor has made a major new appointment. Arvin Patel – previously senior VP of IP and licensing at Rovi, and before that worldwide head of IP strategy at IBM – has joined the French company as its chief IP officer.”
He is joining somewhat of a patent troll, or a patent aggressor at the very least.
Recall the time when IBM’s patent chief/strategist (Marshall Phelps) defected to Microsoft and established the company’s patent war against GNU/Linux and Free software, which IBM pretends to be ever so supportive of (despite IBM being a predominantly proprietary software company that lobbies for software patents all around the world and uses them aggressively for income).
TangibleIP (patents booster) said the other day to another patents booster that “companies such as IBM have a “Troll Division”..IP industry allowing anti-Troll agenda to propagate is not our finest hour” (well, the term “IP industry” is laughable because it cannot be an industry when it’s non-producing; it cannot be an industry at all. Imagine saying “copyright industry” or “trademark industry”).
“Recall the time when IBM’s patent chief/strategist (Marshall Phelps) defected to Microsoft and established the company’s patent war against GNU/Linux and Free software, which IBM pretends to be ever so supportive of…”Going back to the argument of Kappos (formerly IBM) in favour of software patents, he would have us believe that software patents — not military might and international lobbying power for example — give the US its advantage. Watch Japan enforcing a patent monopoly against China, as reported by IAM the other day. One thing that we noted the other day about China is that it allows people to patent software. It probably grants more patents on software than the US does. As Patent Buddy put it the other day: “It is now easier to obtain a software patent in China than in the United States.”
And yet, China does not dominate the field software, does it? Yes? No? Far from it! And Japan can still bully China using patents. There is basically nothing to be gained from such a strategy, unless patents are only to be treated as ‘trophies’ (assuming the perception that they’re analogous to innovation can be perpetuated for much longer).
Recall India’s policy on algorithm-related monopolies. India is making a terrible, suicidal move right now by deciding to allow software patents (this can still be stopped. Even without software patents Indian software developers have been doing pretty well, so why the sudden change? It’s probably designed to stop them (the ‘threat’ of commoditisation to multinationals). As one site of Indian patent lawyers put it a couple of weeks ago: “Last week was a busy week at our patent office!! The Controller General issued clarifications under the Designs Act / Rules, and these examination guidelines under the Patent Act / Rules. I will not do an analysis of the guidelines but simply extract out some relevant parts for our readers. For more our readers can refer to our previous posts on Section 3(k) here, here, here, here, and here, and others. These guidelines are extremely detailed and would definitely be helpful to practitioners, and patentees.”
Well, they are truly unhelpful to India itself, not just to its developers but also to local software companies. These patents would help multinational companies like Microsoft and IBM, not Indian companies, which makes one wonder who the Indian patent office actually works for. Software patents would help the likes of Microsoft and IBM crush low-cost competitors from India.
The US patent system, currently the ‘leader’ in software patents (and their birthplace), is an utter mess. “United 4 Patent Reform” demonstrates the extent of litigation by patent trolls and non-practising parasites. It says that “East Texas accounts for 44% of all patent case filings in 2015.” One even shows the following chart:
Is this what Kappos deems the success of the US system? Bear in mind that the large majority of these lawsuits involve software patents. Some estimate that as many as 70% of troll lawsuits would be eliminated if software patents were deemed invalid and no longer granted by the USPTO. Speaking of the USPTO, Kyle Bass, who was mentioned here as recently as last week (he had been manipulating stocks using patents), calls it a “Kangaroo Court”. To quote the Wikipedia definition of this term, “A kangaroo court is a judicial tribunal or assembly that blatantly disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. Merriam-Webster defines it as a “mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted”. The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority who intentionally disregards the court’s legal or ethical obligations.
“ARM sent patent threat letters trying to remove nnARM from the net”
–President of the FFII“A kangaroo court is often held to give the appearance of a fair and just trial, even though the verdict has in reality already been decided before the trial has begun.”
In the above case we have Kappos, who used to head the USPTO, trying to overrule the rulings of many US courts, including (initially) the US Supreme Court. Who do these people think they are? Just like software patents themselves, Kappos makes a mockery of the US courts system and the US as whole.
Last but not least, let’s recall what IBM really is and where it stands on this subject. In reference to an ARM-IBM surveillance alliance (centred around ‘IoT’ hype), IAM wrote: “Absurdly, according to definitions used by many proponents of US patent reform, ARM should be regarded as a “troll”. ”
Well, ask no-one other than the President of the FFII (prominent opponent of software patents) what ARM has done to him. “ARM sent patent threat letters trying to remove nnARM from the net,” he wrote. ARM is not quite what it seems on the surface, It’s actually a British company, not a US company, but misuse of patents for (anti-)competitive purposes is something that Intel does too (it does even worse things).
Attributing the ‘success’ of US software companies to software patents is simply ignoring the facts and disregarding all software companies other than very few giants (except when they themselves were still small). █
“The Company believes that existing copyright law and available trade secret protections, as opposed to patent law, are better suited to protecting computer software developments.” —Oracle Corporation, IBiblio: Oracle Corporation’s position paper on software patents (when Oracle was still small)
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Summary: Once a hardware giant, IBM moves on to becoming a patents giant, and even software is on the menu
SOME time less than a decade ago the buzzword “cloud” started to creep in. What it meant back then was not what it means right now because the term is so vague that it became almost meaningless. Depending on who one asks, now it means just about anything to do with a server, even if it’s a local server storing something on your desk. In a sense, everything is “cloud” now. Everything (well, almost everything) can be framed as such.
“Cloud Patents” became a new and misleading term in the media some days ago [1, 2, 3, 4]. It’s because of IBM, a longtime promoter of software patents (although IBM usually hides this tendency or resorts to openwashing with some pledges, OIN, et cetera).
“IBM is moving into cloud patents, but that’s not necessarily going to upset established providers.”
–Charles BabcockDays have passed since IBM’s charm offensive and Charles Babcock now says that “IBM Locks Up Cloud Processes With Patents”. “IBM has received 1,200 patents on cloud computing over the last 18 months,” he wrote. “Here’s a sample of what Big Blue is patenting and why it’s a concern.” Charles Babcock later published “IBM Wields Cloud Patents For Defense, Profit”. He said that “IBM is moving into cloud patents, but that’s not necessarily going to upset established providers. In a pinch, they could end up as partners.”
Another new report (the latest we could find) says that “Just like Goldfinger attempted to corner the supply of Gold, it seems that Big Blue is attempting the same thing with cloud patents.”
Whatever IBM is doing here (or trying to achieve hereafter), it’s a huge disservice to the fight against software patents. Yes, many of these (probably most) are software patents and this exercise in futility does nothing but saturate the algorithmic space with yet more monopolies, complicating everyone’s work on software. IBM makes it possible to virtually sue (or countersue) almost every software company on this planet. Should anyone celebrate this? █
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Patent hoarders crowned as champions of innovation
Summary: Distortion of history and fabricated reports about patents in the corporate media leave many people confused and ultimately unable to make rational judgment
PATENT news may not have been the top news as of late. There weren’t many articles about the subject. Instead it was Oracle's copyright case escalated closer to the SCOTUS that made the news and dominated this theme of news. Oracle’s attack on Android depends on it and Android is now the world’s dominant operating system, so it’s a big deal. The subject was very recently covered here, so we won’t elaborate on it; instead we’ll point out one of the earliest reports about it. The news is pretty much everywhere, not only in the West’s Establishment media but also in the East.
“Those who claim that an innovation was made possible because of patents usually rewrite history (revisionism) about cases where there was innovation despite patents.”In addition to the above there was also some media hype about patent statistics from the USPTO, perhaps the world’s most lenient (as in low standards) patent office. Matt Levy took the opportunity to debunk mythology which favours and glorifies patents, even some of the most famous of them (like sewing machines, cars, and other industrial revolution items). Levy said that “with patent reform again on the horizon, we’ll be seeing a lot of articles like this one (promoted by this blog post). The article in question claims that there was no big patent holdup in the early aviation industry, that it’s all just a myth put forth by the U.S. government. As a consequence, you shouldn’t listen to anyone claiming that there are problems in the U.S. patent system.”
We already tackled this piece of propaganda some weeks ago. Those who claim that an innovation was made possible because of patents usually rewrite history (revisionism) about cases where there was innovation despite patents. That’s true when it comes to sewing machines and means of transportation. There’s a history there that’s full of disputes, retardation of innovation and suppression of small players using patents. Edison, one of the myth makers, is not an innovator but a person who used patents to abuse and exploit — at times bankrupt — real innovators. Big business like Edison’s GE love to pretend that patents exist to serve the small people, providing them protection from large corporations. In reality, the very opposite holds true, almost universally.
Last week IBM made the headlines for being the ‘leading’ big corporation when it comes to amassing patents. IBM has a history of bullying other (smaller) companies using patents, so this is worth paying attention to. There were a lot of articles about it and they hail IBM as some kind of a heroic national enterprise because it is pushing pieces of papers, requesting that the government gives them patent monopolies, including software patents, as usual (the USPTO was headed by a man from IBM until not so long ago and he promoted software patents). Protectionism is not the same as innovation and since more than 9 out of 10 applications to the USPTO now end up enshrined as a patent, the total count of patents means little more than eagerness to do paperwork. When one single company can receive up to 10,000 patents in one single year it says quite a lot about how easy it is to obtain a patent in the United States’ USPTO.
Bloomberg was quick to cover this [1, 2] (Bloomberg and IBM are not far apart) and the seminal report said that “IBM Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty is still looking to newer areas like cloud computing and data analytics to reverse falling revenue and a projected decline in annual profit this year, the first drop since 2002. Last year, 40 percent of the company’s patents were issued for work relating to the company’s growth initiatives, IBM said in the statement.”
This simply means that IBM is making fewer products but yielding more paperwork. What an utter waste of workforce. Well, later on it was News Corp. and CBS covering that too [1, 2] (we believe they covered it the earliest, except perhaps Bloomberg) and then came the noise. Microsoft spin came from Microsoft propaganda sites and larer came the Korean angle which favours Samsung.
We should also mention some disgraced reports (like this one from Bloomberg) which say that Samsung wants to get BlackBerry’s patents. These patents have been decoupled from the other parts of the company (thus facilitating purchase like that of Motorola’s mobility business). Not much was achieve except bumping a stock (maybe gaming the market for someone’s quick fortune). We looked at these reports and found that they mostly lacked credibility and merit. Samsung already has wonderful hardware (cutting-edge, best bar none in some areas), a lot of patents, and at least 2 Linux-powered platforms. Samsung also hires FOSS and Linux professional these days, so why would it want anything from BlackBerry? Well, BlackBerry denies the rumour (denial not about the patents but about buying the company as a whole). Samsung also denies it, so we have not really covered it ourselves and we don’t intend to; unsubstantiated rumour is what it looked like and given how quickly it received a lot of coverage (even trending in Twitter at one point) before denials it seems possible that someone in Wall Street pulled a profitable stunt at the expense of many other people. Opportunists exist not only where patents grow. █
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Photo from Asian Pacific Fund
Summary: The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests
IT IS no longer just rumour or suspicion that USPTO nominates Lee as new director. This is possibly going to result in an appointment, showing us yet again that corporate stewards are truly in charge of the government, not just in the United States. Industrial bodies are full of “revolving door”-type scenarios and altercations.
This probably is not as bad as nominating Philip Johnson (it didn't go down well) or David Kappos from IBM (both big and vocal proponents of software patents), but it’s still not a good thing, either. As we showed in past years, Google had hired many patent lawyers rather than fight software patents; Michelle Lee may therefore be part of the problem. Not much is known about her to Wikipedia. He career at Google was very short (going back to when Google hired patent lawyers) and her career before this is not even mentioned. We wrote about her when she was appointed and even in 2012 when sources said she might lead a Silicon Valley patent office (hence software patents). According to a USPTO press releases, “Lee worked as a computer scientist at Hewlett-Packard” (a proponent of software patents). But much of the private sector stuff is usually omitted. To quote this press release: “Prior to becoming Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, Lee served two terms on the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the U.S. Commerce Secretary and serve to advise the USPTO on its policies, goals, performance, budget and user fees.”
A site that acts as a CCIA front (as well as CCIA itself) and which wrote about her before has worked with Google and for Google, so no wonder it endorses Michelle Lee. CCIA is more concerned about patent trolls but not about abuse by its members (such as Microsoft), so it continues to treat only small abusive companies as the problem, e.g. for lack of evidence. Here is what the CCIA front said:
The White House announced yesterday that it’s nominating current Deputy Director Michelle Lee to be Director of the USPTO. By all accounts, she’s done a good job during a difficult time at the USPTO. This is definitely a smart move by the Administration.
How about appointing someone who is not supporting software patents and has not come from companies that accumulate software patents? Well, that might be too “revolutionary” for the USPTO and for the White House to do. █
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