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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Legacy of Obama and monopolistic corporate players
Summary: A look at what happened to the US patent office under Obama and under the leadership of IBM’s pro-software patents mole, David Kappos
THE awful USPTO hardly needs discrediting; it discredits itself. This is the office where almost every silly idea that a small child can come up with becomes a patent. It’s not even a joke, it’s factually the case.
Some people are obviously digusted by such Obama appointees like David Kappos and one of our readers called it “revolving door”, noting the following article that unmasked the real rate of acceptance of patent applications (nearly 19 out of 20 get accepted):
Yes, President Obama’s Patent Office Started Approving Basically All Patent Applications Again
Want to know why there are bad patents? Because there’s no such thing as a true “final rejection” of a patent (i.e., you can always keep refiling and try, try, trying again and again until it’s approved) and because the former head of the Patent Office, David Kappos, saw it as his main challenge to get rid of the giant backlog in getting patents approved. And thus, soon after Kappos took over the USPTO, we noted that patent approval rates started shooting upwards. Over the previous six years or so, the approval rate had been in a gradual decline, with it really starting to drop off around 2004, just as the Supreme Court started hitting back on a bunch of bad patent rulings, and making it clearer that, no, not “everything under the sun” should be patentable. However, Kappos never appeared to view patent quality as important, merely patent quantity and ending the backlog — and thus, the patent office started to take an approve anything mentality.
Basically, in 2013, the true allowance rate for patent applications was 92% (much higher than the USPTO’s officially reported number of 54%). The discrepancy is because the USPTO’s number counts “rejections” for patents as if the patent was truly rejected, and doesn’t look at how many patents actually make it through the full process.
People should lose their respect for patents granted by the USPTO. These don’t deserve much serious attention when every silly thing becomes a patent. Software developers should waste not even a minute looking into individual software patents. A system so corruptible will, sooner or later, be defeated. Fairness in competition will be greatly harmed by what companies like Microsoft and IBM made out of the USPTO. █
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Summary: Corporate overloads have successfully shot down any chance of attaining freedom for software developers
HAVING spent about a decade of my life fighting against software patents, it is just too hard to let the cause go. I sometimes revisit relevant news sites and blogs, hoping to find some relevant coverage, parliamentary action, activism, etc. Over the past year or so this has been a depressing exercise because on people’s lips there’s no longer (or rarely) the goal of eliminating software patents. Companies like Google joined the ranks of IBM and are now hiring patent lawyers, acquiring software patents, and so on. I had warned managers at Google about it and their responses to me were largely defeatist. The SCOTUS, which historically is just a plutocrats’ tool for authorising the plutocrat’s will, continues to support the USPTO’s patent maximalism (the USPTO is headed by corporations such as IBM).
There is no substantial bill seeking to truly reform the patent system and those which exist, including corresponding press coverage, are focusing on trolls, costs, and other side issues. The EFF, which once upon a time promised to fight against software patents, recently hired some more lawyers whose articles on the matter tend to be a waste of time (and whose focus is truly bizarre, misguided at best). Here is one new example, the latest of many that we covered last year:
The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in another patent case, Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc. In this case, the Court considers what to do when one party performs some steps of a patented method and another party performs the remaining steps. Specifically, Akamai wants to hold Limelight liable for patent infringement even though its customers perform one of the steps of the patent (i.e. four steps are performed by Limelight, one by the customers). The Federal Circuit had ruled for Akamai and effectively held Limelight responsible for the actions of its customers.
But that’s not the point. The point is, patents like these should be out of scope, it doesn’t matter who performs which action, who pays for litigation, who the plaintiff is, and so forth. Even Red Hat, which takes pride in “Open Source” (not so much in freedom) focuses on “trolls” in this latest post on the topic:
Patent trolling—the aggressive assertion of weak or meritless patent claims by non-practicing entities—is a frequent target of disdain from open source enthusiasts. Thus it may be of some comfort to readers that the highest court in the US has recently decided the issue is worth looking into. Three cases have already been heard, but decisions are, as usual, still a ways off.
When even entities like the EFF and Red Hat waste their efforts (if not hijack the voice of patents opposition) trying to tackle the wrong question it seems clear that activists against software patents (that’s software developers, both free/libre and proprietary) are pretty much alone. We oughtn’t expect corporations, corporate press or even politicians to help our cause. They don’t understand, they don’t care, and if they care, then it’s not because they want to see software patents abolished. IBM is probably one of the worst pretenders; unlike Microsoft, it also tries to convince us that it’s on our side and many people fall for it. █
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Summary: IBM turns out to be using software patents in order to make money at the expense of much smaller companies; the threat of software patents resurfaces in India
IBM, the company which promotes software patents in Europe. is reportedly going after relatively small companies (not Sun) with patent demands. Citing this report, an expert in this area (Mullin) says: “Twitter’s first annual financial results were revealed on Thursday. Buried deep in the document is the price it paid IBM after it was confronted with a patent infringement threat by Big Blue: $36 million. Bloomberg was first to highlight the price tag.
“IBM sent a letter to Twitter in November saying it was infringing at least three IBM patents. That resulted in a negotiation that ended up with Twitter getting a license to IBM’s patents, acquiring about 900 of them for itself, and (we now know) paying $36 million.”
Shame on IBM.
Just as the US begins thinking about getting rid of software patents the #1 patent holder in the US (whose former staff headed the USPTO until recently) takes us back in time, demonstrating that IBM (with OIN) is not much different from those patent trolls we keep hearing about (OIN is powerless against trolls as well). Here is a new report about a troll: “Personal Audio LLC has recently become one of the more well-known “patent trolls” due to its broad claims to owning basic podcasting technology. The company has filed lawsuits in East Texas, claiming that its patents on “episodic content” technology, which stem from founder Jim Logan’s failed “Magazines on Tape” business, entitle it to royalties from podcasters large and small.”
How is that so different from what IBM is doing? iophk says: “Burning through the EFF’s scant resources playing whack-a-mole with patent trolls. That won’t do anything to solve the underlying problem which is that of patenting software. Get rid of software patents and the trolls will be gone.”
There is actually a correlation between software patents and trolls, as demonstrated by Mullin some years ago. Many boosters of software patents are also trolls (Microsoft, IBM and Nokia for example) and many trolls are using software patents in litigation (about 70% of the time).
IBM recently laid off many employees in India (we covered this thoroughly) as it’s moving into more of a surveillance business [1,2] (IBM is already a surveillance giant) and considers offloading more of its hardware business . Meanwhile, suggests this new post. the threat of software patents in India is back. Spicy IP says: “The reason why I am limiting the issue only to the term software per se is because of the recent discussions draft guidelines issued by our Patent Office on the topic, and the subsequent discussions on the same.”
The term “software per se” is similar to the phrase “as such” in Europe or even New Zealand. It is a trick. To quote further: “As we know that the term per se did not come into the act directly. It came in on the recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (“JPC”). The JPC inserted the term to address the patentability of inventions relating to computer programs that may include certain other things that were ‘ancillary thereto’ or ‘developed thereon’. Accordingly, if computer programs per se are not patentable, something that is ancillary thereto or developed thereon is patentable.”
This is bad and it deserves more media attention. Much of the anti-software patents lobby, however, is quiet or defunct now, in part because corporations hijacked the debate and shifted focus to small trolls (not large ones like Microsoft, Nokia, and IBM). █
Related/contextual items from the news:
IBM has acquired a bevy of cloud companies and built a Big Blue cloud stack. Here’s a look at the moving parts and how they fit together as IBM moves from hardware to the cloud.
IBM is considering a sale of its chip manufacturing operations, the Wall Street Journal reported last night. The company would not stop designing its own chips, however. Just as AMD outsources manufacturing of the chips it designs, IBM “is looking for a buyer for its manufacturing operations, but plans to retain its chip-design capability,” according to the Journal’s source.
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Summary: As IBM declines it is worth remembering that GNU/Linux no longer rests on the shoulders of few giants
LAST month we wrote about IBM's not-so-secret NSA relationships causing massive issues for IBM in China (mostly because the NSA’s secrets have leaked), resulting perhaps in some of the latest layoffs, which now include “up to 25 percent of ‘hardware’ division” . IBM recently sold yet more of its hardware business to China (after it had sold some to Lenovo) and it remains one of the most dominant GNU/Linux players. Its commitment is very real  even if self-serving, e.g. for “Watson” PR [3,4] and use of Free/libre/gratis software to sell super-expensive hardware. We oughtn’t treat IBM as an enemy, even if it often lobbies for software patents and spreads proprietary software  while looking for volunteers . Famed journalist Cringely, who wrote many damning posts about IBM around 2012 (a series which predicted much of what’s happening to IBM right now), has just published somewhat of a strong-worded criticism of IBM  in relation to GNU/Linux.
With or without IBM’s support, GNU/Linux is going to do just fine on servers. OpenStack is massive , DigitalOcean (GNU/Linux servers) has just bagged a lot of venture capital money , banks and stock markets around the world depend on GNU/Linux servers , and the Internet as a whole is predominantly GNU/Linux-based  (at all levels, including back-end computational servers ). The fiction that IBM is synonymous with Linux or that Linux depends on IBM is about 14 years old and it’s out of date. IDC claims that the servers business is in decline  (maybe just better use of virtualisation and GNU/Linux efficiency for automation and provisioning ) and the days of UNIX are quickly ebbing away , taking away the lustre from UNIX giants like IBM.
The mobile (phone/tablet) interaction with servers will continue to be a top trend — one that IBM failed to forecast or at least capitalise on. What remains of IBM may not be much a decade down the line (it looks somewhat grim), but that oughtn’t be much of a factor as far as GNU/Linux is concerned. Google and Android (with servers and phones) make much of IBM with its mainframes, laptops and office suites/collaboration tools obsolete. Google is far from the only player using GNU/Linux to that effect.
GNU/Linux is the tool of no single company. It’s the foundation of many platforms and the unifying system that becomes ubiquitous (universal). █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Big Blue confirms it’s commencing workforce cuts, but declines to put a number on the job losses. A source tells CNET the layoffs entail up to 25 percent in the Systems and Technology group.
About a year ago IBM doubled down on its commitment to the open source cloud, announcing that all of its cloud offerings would be built on OpenStack and renewing its investments in KVM, the Linux-based kernel virtual machine. Since then, both projects have undergone major changes, including the move last fall of KVM and the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA) to become a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project.
Free IBM Cloud Platform for developers…yeah, that’s a big deal. That platform being based on the latest IBM POWER7 and POWER7+ processor-based servers running Linux, AIX and IBM i operating systems…very big deal indeed!
Typically with new technologies like this the inventors haven’t thought much about security or they rely on a small installed base to keep the product or service under the radar of the bad guys. But pCell, for all it’s high tech loveliness, is a Software Defined Network proudly running in a data center on plain old Linux servers.
According to an official OpenStack User Survey Ubuntu is the most used Operating System for production deployment of OpenStack. OpenStack is an Open Source project to build a framework for the creation of cloud platforms, predominately Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platforms. The survey found that Ubuntu accounts for 55% of the host Operating Systems used for OpenStack deployments, CentOS accounts for 24% and Red Hat for 10%. These results are not completely surprising as Canonical invests heavily in Ubuntu’s OpenStack development, it was one of the founding members of The OpenStack Foundation and is a Platinum Sponsor of the foundation.
Cut-price virtual-server hosting biz DigitalOcean has banked a whopping $37.2m from Andreessen Horowitz and other valley investors.
The mammoth series-A funding round was announced on Thursday and will give the 50-person company the funds it needs to aggressively hire talented developers and expand globally, while keeping its Linux cloud server prices as low as $5 a month.
Friday evening can be a very busy time in Citibank’s Changi Business Park office in Singapore. Hundreds of mission-critical applications hit the production servers, security patches are applied, hundreds of professionals including developers, systems engineers, Linux gurus, and management professionals spend the whole night on the conference calls ensuring the smooth functioning of servers at this financial giant. The applications that get life over the weekend have monetary value and therefore require robust servers to host them. These servers need to maximize the utilization of the applications and should have the stability to run for a longer period of time without a reboot. These servers should also have the capability to be scaled up as the infrastructure grows. The bottom line: these enterprise level boxes need to be tough.
Linux is the foundational bare-metal operating system on which the stack runs. The Apache web server first came on the scene in 1995 just as global Web use was starting to grow explosively, tracing its roots back to the very first NSCA HTTPd webserver. From April 1996 to the present day, the open-source Apache HTTP Server has held the enviable distinction of being the most widely deployed Web server on the planet.
The rise of big data, cloud computing, mobility and social media — what IDC dubs the ‘third platform’ — represents a big opportunity for Linux and open source more broadly, analyst Sally Parker this morning told the SUSE Open Forum in Sydney.
The server business had a mixed 2013. According to IDC’s fourth quarter 2013 Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, global revenue came in at $14.2 billion, which is a 4.4 percent year-over-year decline. In contrast, analyst firm Gartner reported that fourth quarter server revenues declined by 6.6 percent.
Under the old-fashioned “enterprise computing” infrastructure model, servers were given cutesy names like “Cookie,” “Dakota,” “Reagan,” or “Aardvark.” Each server was procured individually and configured by hand (often by several different people). Because each server was configured manually, no two servers were exactly like. Each machine was like a special snowflake.
If your knowledge of the UNIX operating system is basically the line from the 1993 movie “Jurassic Park” (where Lexie goes, “It’s a UNIX system! I know this!), you might want to brush up a bit more on the subject. Sure, there’s Wikipedia, but if you’re a video fan, you’ll want to check out this film, published today on YouTube by the folks from the AT&T Tech Channel.
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Where innovation comes to get burned
Summary: How software conglomerates continue to hammer on Free software and GNU/Linux, adding even hypocritical attempts an antitrust action
The USPTO is still the same sham is has been over the past decade or two. It is designed to serve large corporations and it is even run by some of them. Like the espionage specialist NSA, it is about protectionism for few large companies (oligarchs) at the expense of people in the nation it purports to be serving. This isn’t only unjust; it’s corrupt.
There is no lack of shocking patent news. There’s depressing news out there, including Slashdot‘s coverage of Apple’s creepy patents. A former Microsoft booster from CNET said that a “freshly published Apple patent application envisions the delivery of targeted ads based on your mood, behavior, and other seemingly intangible characteristics.”
Apple then uses its patents to attack Linux with embargoes and Google is trying to catch up (Lenovo gets part of Motorola) by doing rational things, not extortion using software patents but instead reacting with Motorola and OIN-pooled patents (connections with IBM). The thing about IBM is, despite pretending to be pro-FOSS, it continues to promote software patents , making the USPTO even worse than before  and leaving civil rights groups to clean up the mess . OIN has Oracle as a member and despite that Oracle is suing Google/Android/Linux. Then there are Microsoft-armed proxies/trolls like Vringo and 'Beneficial' 'Innovations' (both suing Google over its core business), which FOSS Force mentioned the other day as follows: “When Beneficial Innovations began taking legal action against websites using Google’s Doubleclick ad technology, the search company took the troll to court for suing their customers. It seems that in 2010 Google had settled with Beneficial and that settlement specifically covered their customers. According to Ars Technica, Google made it easy for the court to find in their favor.”
Microsoft must be really worried about Google because Marissa Mayer threatens to dump Microsoft from search after Microsoft hijacked Yahoo. “Thus the noise about the CEO choices,” wrote iophk. “It buries the real news.” And then there’s this in the news: “A Microsoft-backed lobby group is urging Brussels’ competition chief Joaquin Almunia to open up Google’s latest revised offer of a conciliatory package of tweaks to its search biz to the ad giant’s rivals.
“Earlier this week, it was reported that the European Commission was closing in on a settlement deal with Google that would apparently allow the company to dodge admittance of any wrongdoing and a fine that could be as high as 10 per cent of its annual global turnover.
“Almunia’s office has declined to comment on the claim that it had received a fresh package of concessions from Google to try to end a three-year long antitrust investigation into the multinational’s search business practices in Europe.”
Acually, it was Google that originally complained about Vista diverting users away from Google. Funny how some Microsoft lobbyists and proxies from the most criminal company now attempt to make Google look like the antitrust violator, while adding some patent attacks to Google, both directly and indirectly (through trolls and partners). Microsoft and its proxies also started antitrust complaints against Android, alleging anti-competitive behaviour in operating systems (yes, Microsoft accuses others of that). █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Last fall, we wrote about how the BSA, the Business Software Alliance, famous for being basically a Microsoft-front organization whose main job is to publish absolutely, hilariously misleading “piracy” numbers each year, had been taking on the issue of the so called “covered business method (CBM) patent” program that was being pushed in patent reform. The covered business method patent program is pretty straightforward. It allows certain types of patents — currently financial patents — to undergo a faster review, allowing the USPTO to dump bad patents faster. Senator Chuck Schumer, who had put the original CBM tool into the last round of patent reform, is now championing expanding it to cover software patents as well. While very heavy lobbying from Microsoft (and some from IBM) convinced the House to drop the plan from its patent reform bill, there’s still a battle in the Senate, and Schumer doesn’t show any interest in giving it up.
The number of patents has increased dramatically in the past three decades, as has the number of patent-related lawsuits, particularly in the field of software. Industry and academic experts have expressed concern that many of the patents being issued are of low quality. Writing in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Stuart Graham and Saurabh Vishnubhakat have defended the United States Patent and Trademark Office, arguing that the PTO has acted responsibly in issuing patents that are legally valid and that it is handling problems constructively. We accept some of Graham and Vishnubhakat’s defense of the PTO, but argue that the most important issue is not whether the law is being competently administered but whether patent law, particularly as applied to software, is creating patents that are overly broad and ambiguous. We maintain that it is, and that the results are less innovation and more costly and unproductive litigation.
Personal Audio LLC is a patent-holding company that became famous (or infamous, depending on one’s point of view) by claiming that it owns things like playlists and podcasts (or “episodic content,” in the words of one Personal Audio patent). Its wild claims led the Electronic Frontier Foundation to raise more than $76,000 from donors to fight the patent.
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