As if drawing some diagrams of so-called ‘clouds’ renders an old idea suddenly “innovative”
Summary: IBM, its disturbing software patents advocacy, and the new wave of bogus software patents, which hop and ride the wave of the latest buzzwords (the generation preceding that was “on a computer” or “over the Internet” patents)
EARLIER this year and last year we took note of IBM’s dubiously large pile of patents. Statistics about these showed that many of these were about “AI” or “cloud” — something along the lines of “on a computer” or “over the Internet”. We remind readers that IBM is one of the, if not the, proponent/s of software patents and eradication of Alice-related tests. IBM even took leadership role in task forces to that effect and it employs David Kappos as a lobbyist, after he worked both for IBM and for the USPTO.
“They are ‘cloudwashing’ (our term) old stuff in an effort to make new software patents seem like they have merit or are novel.”According to this, “analysis from Envision IP which found that IBM had sold more than 15,000 patents since 1991, with Google the biggest customer” [sic] (customer is the wrong term).
We kindly remind readers that IBM patents a lot of dubious things that should never be granted a patent at all. They are ‘cloudwashing’ (our term) old stuff in an effort to make new software patents seem like they have merit or are novel. IBM is also ‘openwashing’ its operations whilst attacking large GNU/Linux users. IBM was one of the earliest allies of GNU/Linux, but that is no longer the case. The company now has a strategic partnership with Apple and many of its ‘contributions’ to Linux seem to be antifeatures like Treacherous Computing. We are therefore saddened to let go of the myth of IBM as protector if not flag bearer of GNU/Linux interests.
Incidentally, about software patents on so-called ‘cloud’ (a nebulous concept) there is this new article which takes note of trolls’ role in it. To quote a couple of portions:
NPEs (Non-Practising Entities) are businesses that assert patents through litigation to achieve revenues from alleged infringers without practising or commercialising the technology covered by the patents they hold. NPEs are uniquely well placed to monetise their patents at each stage of the litigation cycle. They have access to capital and all necessary forensic and legal resources; and an NPE doesn’t practise its patents so is immune to a counterclaim that a defendant might otherwise be able to bring against a competitor, or a cross-licence that the defendant could otherwise offer.
Although the number of patent litigation cases filed in the USA has declined from a high point of 6,500 in 2013 to 5,600 in 2015, this is still almost double the 3,000 or so launched in 2009, and correlates fairly steadily over the last few years at around 2% of US patents granted.
The above decline is often attributed to AIA and/or Alice. We should add that, based on recent patent filings from IBM, the company is exploiting the AI hype (not a new thing, but the hype is newer), with silly marketing like “Watson”, in order to hoard yet more software patents. There is this new article titled “Of Patents and Artificial Intelligence” and it totally misses the point that patents on AI are typically if not inherently software patents and should thus be denied. Pay attention to who authored the article though; don’t ask lawyers about it. They say what brings them the most income, disregarding actual cases such as Alice.
“They say what brings them the most income, disregarding actual cases such as Alice.”The bottom line is, forget (at least for a moment) about these notorious “on a computer” or “over the Internet” patents and pay attention to the latest wave of “AI” or “cloud” patents, which represent no expansion of innovation but a more creative way to bypass patent restrictions and fool examiners. █
Send this to a friend
Today’s IBM is not Samuel Palmisano’s IBM but a shameless patent aggressor and legal bully
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
Summary: IBM’s patent gold rush and worldwide lobbying for software patents yield lawsuits but also draw complaints — to the point where IBM resorts to face-saving moves and the Patent Office looks foolish for accepting bogus patent applications
FOR A rather large number of years (nearly a decade) we were mostly supportive and friendly towards IBM. Readers and especially longtime readers can agree. We were never inherently biased against IBM, maybe only the contrary (primarily because IBM supported ODF, GNU/Linux and so on). A lot of this changed, however, when IBM became an active patent bully again (2016), not to mention a vocal lobbyist for software patents (it had done this more covertly in the past). In a sense, IBM has become even an anti-FOSS bully. We cannot tolerate this because it directly and unequivocally betrays our values and principles. What on Earth happened to the 'old' IBM that Samuel Palmisano ran for quite some time with great success? IBM can barely sell its crown jewels anymore (stuff like mainframes), it lays off a lot of staff, and so it tries converting software patents — its last potent ‘asset’ (many of which due to expire soon) — into some kind of Mafia culture led by Ginni Rometty. For shame! What did IBM foresee — if it brothered with any projections/forecasts at all — as the impact to its brand and reputation which it so uniquely relies on? People don’t spent half a million dollars on a single machine unless they have great confidence in the brand (like the old saying, “Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM”).
“What on Earth happened to the ‘old’ IBM that Samuel Palmisano ran for quite some time with great success?”A couple of days ago, prolific sites noticed yet another one of these notorious IBM patents. Slashdot in this case has many comments about it and this is far from the first time that Slashdot nitpicks or criticises IBM patents, resulting in public concessions and/or apologies from IBM. But the whole debate started like this not at the beginning of this month but at the end of February, courtesy of the EFF. It called it “Stupid Patent of the Month” and explained it as follows:
On January 17, 2017, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted IBM a patent on an out-of-office email system. Yes, really.
United States Patent No. 9,547,842 (the ’842 Patent),“Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system,” traces its history to an application filed back in 2010. That means it supposedly represents a new, non-obvious advance over technology from that time. But, as many office workers know, automated out-of-office messages were a “workplace staple” decades before IBM filed its application. The Patent Office is so out of touch that it conducted years of review of this application without ever discussing any real-world software.
“”Watson” is another such marketing stunt — selling that old illusion of IBM being sharp and ahead of the curve.”“IBM Shamed Into Giving Away Awful Patent On Email Out-Of-Office Messages,” TechDirt wrote soon afterwards. TechDirt typically reprints the “Stupid Patent of the Month” series, but it didn’t do it this time around. TechDirt‘s coverage was better than the rest because it emphasised the real reasons for IBM’s ‘generous’ giveaway. To quote: “IBM basically tries to patent everything, no matter how stupid. The company has (no, really) been at the top of the patent recipient list in the United States for an astounding 24 straight years. Really. And, yes, sure, the company has done some innovative things and yes, Watson’s pretty cool, but does anyone actually think IBM is the most innovative company around for the past two and a half decades? It gets tons of patents because IBM has an army of lawyers who just try to patent anything. Earlier this week, the EFF put out its regular Stupid Patent of the Month post, and it was about an incredibly stupid patent from IBM. The patent (US Patent 9,547,842) is for an out-of-office email messaging system.”
IBM is somewhat of a fake innovator, which (as we last explained in January) exploits the illusion of patents as surrogates of innovation to sell the idea that it’s the most clever company out there and thus worth the high cost of hardware and/or services. “Watson” is another such marketing stunt — selling that old illusion of IBM being sharp and ahead of the curve. IBM was a leader in many areas several decades ago, but this has not been the case for a good number of years. All that IBM has to show now is a big pile of patents, many of which are worthless and should never have been granted. It likely helped them when they had one of their own running the Patent Office.
“All that IBM has to show now is a big pile of patents, many of which are worthless and should never have been granted.”The latest patent controversy was covered in many places and sites, and not just in English. There were about a dozen press articles about this ‘Out-Of-Office’ patent in English alone (e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]). It’s only this kind of negative publicity which drove IBM to putting aside one simple patent, simply out of shame.
This is still making headlines/news in some circles, but the story has lost momentum by now, hence we decided to do a media survey of sorts. We believe it’s exhaustive or at least comprehensive. This might help next time IBM does it, as it did the above many times before. Instead of IBM doing the right thing, like Infosys, it keeps pursuing just more and more of these patents, simply adding buzzwords like “cloud” or “AI” to old ideas (to make them appear novel/innovative and thus worthy of a patent grant).
“Victory!” wrote the EFF, “After EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month post, IBM dedicates patent on out-of-office email to the public.”
“It’s like that old (a decade-old) EFF campaign where they went after one patent at a time, striving to squash some high-profile ‘nuisance’ patents rather than the entire class of such patents.”But it would be an even bigger victory if Big Thug IBM (or International Bullying Machine, as Florian Müller once called it) altogether stopped pursuing software patents, gave away all its software patents, surrendered all lawsuits it had initiated over software patents, and ceased lobbying for software patents. Better yet, it would be nice if the EFF compelled the USPTO to stop granting software patents, and not just to IBM. There are many thousands of IBM patents like the above patent; that’s a lot more where that came from and some of these are actively being used to shake down IBM’s smaller competitors. So the key problem isn’t solved. It’s like that old (a decade-old) EFF campaign where they went after one patent at a time, striving to squash some high-profile ‘nuisance’ patents rather than the entire class of such patents. █
“Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.”
Send this to a friend
Summary: The shaming tactics against India, which come from many directions (notably front groups in the West), still try hard to convince Indians to shoot themselves in the foot and allow foreign companies to privatise algorithms
IT HAS barely been two months since IAM last did this and here they go again, pushing for patent maximalism in India as if a bunch of writers in London area (lawyers’ capital) can offer sound advice to Indians who were, for a long time, colonised by the British Empire.
“As a reminder, India does not permit software patenting and it should keep it that way to combat digital colonialism.”The latest approach of this IAM lobbying is already familiar. Microsoft’s ‘puppet’ Tata (TCS) is obsessed with — and lobbies for — software patents [1, 2], so IAM now uses it as a poster child, as if the number of patents assigned to oneself is an indicator of “success” in its own right. The lobbyists (in “writer” or “journalist” clothing) from IAM basically try to shame Indian companies that don’t waste their time and money on software patents. Such is the case with Infosys, so IAM frames it like this in the headline: “It’s clear that Tata gets the importance of IP, but it is one of the few Indian businesses which does” (how loaded a headline, “importance of IP”).
Putting aside the fact that patents and “IP” are not the same thing (trademarks, for example, are entirely separable), watch what they say:
Even more notable, though, is the absence of Indian companies among the lists of big patent filers, not only in key foreign markets, but also at home. Clearly, Tata does see the benefits that patents and other forms of IP bring, but right now it is one of the few Indian entities that does. If the Americans appreciate the resources that India can bring to the table, surely business leaders based in the country – as well as its government and other decision-making authorities – must too. A talent drain may suit Silicon Valley, but it cannot be in India’s best interests. It’s hard to believe that persuading the country’s brightest scientific, engineering and computing stars that they are best off working at home for local businesses will not bear substantial fruit further down the line. Just ask Tata and its CTO.
It means that the patent system in India now exists mostly for foreigners — a fact which we remarked on before. This also mentions IBM, which keeps lobbying for software patents in India in order to better occupy/control/dominate India.
As a reminder, India does not permit software patenting and it should keep it that way to combat digital colonialism. When it comes to software, India can do just fine on its own. It has some of the world’s brightest developers and it employs many millions of software professionals. █
Send this to a friend
OIN has in many ways contributed to the problem rather than or instead of working to tackle it
Summary: An update on patent trolls and the role played by supposed allies of Free/libre software, who in practice do everything to exacerbate the problem rather than resolve it
Trolls are a symptom of a big problem, typically the granting of far too many patents and too lenient a treatment (favouring the claimant) at the courts. This is why the US was so popular among patent trolls and China is now attracting if not giving birth to those same sorts of trolls.
Things are about to change for the better in the US. “Broad patent venue rules allowing corporations to be sued for patent infringement almost anywhere,” as this new article puts it, is a regime which will likely end soon (it’s reminiscent of what UPC proponents envision in Europe — a recipe for patent trolls in the EU and beyond).
“This is why the US was so popular among patent trolls and China is now attracting if not giving birth to those same sorts of trolls.”This new article refers to TC Heartland — a decision we eagerly await — and says this: “Broad patent venue rules allowing corporations to be sued for patent infringement almost anywhere are under siege both in Congress and in the courts. Yet, a non-patent case that was recently granted certiorari by the Supreme Court, although not widely noted in intellectual property law circles, may provide another potential front in this ongoing battle. [...] Based on the cert grant, the U.S. Supreme Court now appears set to decide when a claim sufficiently “arises out of or relates to” a defendant’s contacts with the forum state. Although Bristol-Myers is not a patent case, it involves the same specific jurisdiction criteria that the Federal Circuit has found satisfied in patent cases by product shipments into a forum. Therefore, it is possible that a Supreme Court decision that tightens the nexus between the claims and the defendant’s acts that is required to establish specific personal jurisdiction may curb patent owners’ abilities to bring suit in as wide array of fora as is possible under current Federal Circuit precedent.”
“OIN has become pretty useless and it’s likely that it was always this useless.”Some time later this year, assuming that new Justices grasp the damage caused by patent trolls, the whole business model of trolls is likely to collapse, having already suffered a great deal when Alice made their patents a lot weaker. We cannot rest on the laurels, however, as patent maximalists constantly try to sabotage all this progress and Make Trolls Great Again, as we last noted yesterday. Here, in this new article from Embry-Riddle, a person who makes a living by promoting patents (or patent maximalism) unsurprisingly promotes more and more patents. We see articles like these every day. This other new article, one from Beta News, is very wrong and misguided; it oddly enough calls or paints OIN as anti-trolls, even though OIN openly admits that it’s not (OIN is absolutely incapable of stopping trolls). Here is the key part:
More and more, we’re seeing businesses band together to find creative, efficient solutions to the patent troll problem.
Take OIN (Open Innovation Network) [sic, it's Invention] as an example. This organization operates in the open source community, cross-licensing patents to protect companies against litigation using Linux-related patents. Another example is the LOT Network, the non-profit community that I lead. More than 80 percent of patents litigated by patent trolls are acquired from operating companies through events like bankruptcies, M&A, or when a company is looking for an extra revenue stream. LOT members agree that if one of their patents falls into the hands of a troll, the other members get a free license. This acts as immunization for member companies — rendering a troll lawsuit involving that patent moot. At the same time, LOT Network does not affect the traditional uses of patents — like buying, selling, or even suing other companies.
One could argue that OIN helps weaken trolls by attempting to grab (buy) particular patents which would otherwise be given to trolls, but having seen how it works from the inside (long conversations more than half a decade ago), that just barely ever happens. It happened maybe once before (that we know of). OIN has become pretty useless and it’s likely that it was always this useless. Its stated goals are not its real goals. Recently, OIN pretty much endorsed a lobby for software patents, misleadingly named Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU). OIN often seems to have remained somewhat of an IBM front group, often aligned with IBM’s own agenda and even led by former IBM staff. Speaking of IBM, which is becoming an ally of Apple and a foe of GNU/Linux, its patent chief said the other day: “Patents should promote innovation regardless of inventor size (large co, small co, independent) and regardless of technology” (easy for him to say, coming from the largest patent assignee). Benjamin Henrion’s response to him can be see here; it’s all just mumbo-jumbo from IBM, equating patents with “innovation” — however one defines that thing. IBM uses its patents to bully competitors and extract ‘protection’ money from them. That’s hardly innovation.
“Recently, OIN pretty much endorsed a lobby for software patents, misleadingly named Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU).”Where was OIN when Acacia, a patent troll with connections to Microsoft, attacked GNU/Linux vendors such as Novell and Red Hat? As expected, patent trolls such as Acacia pivot/expand in China after SIPO and the courts had done damage to the country (diluting the patent system with low-quality patents). According to the trolls’ news site the “Texas-based NPE [which the headline calls "Acacia alumni NPE"] Longhorn IP announced this week that it has acquired a patent portfolio, including several China-only patent families, from a major Chinese telecoms company.”
Guess what will happen next… █
Send this to a friend
Backed by IBM, Microsoft, and all the usual suspects…
Summary: An introduction to what the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding [sic] really is, what it is for, and who is behind it
YESTERDAY we wrote about OIN's role in the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), which is the opposite of what its name says (common practice among front groups). Watch the composition: this is a software patents lobby with David Kappos, a clear IBM role, and Microsoft role also.
IAM, the mouthpiece of patent maximalists, says this right now (shielded behind a paywall, so it’s easier for them to evade scrutiny):
As well as being headed by Berman, CIPU includes former IBM and Microsoft IP supremo Marshall Phelps as vice-chairman. A number of other high profile IP figures have helped with getting the Center off the ground. These include Philips CIPO Brian Hinman, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Paul Michel and former USPTO Director David Kappos. Microsoft, Philips and Duke University are among those providing support.
It is too easy to see whose interests are served by this front group. Now watch the sole comment on this blog post, published by Peter Harter of The Farrington Group (friend of IAM): “Glad to see that the FAKE NEWS of the infringer lobby can be countered. Perhaps all ethics reviews for IP professionals, journalists and bloggers should include a literacy evaluation built on the CIPU rubric?”
“They try to strike down Alice, bring back software patents, and extort a lot of companies for many billions of dollars.”We are probably going to hear a lot from this front group in the coming weeks/months. It will also lobby politicians behind closed doors, we are pretty sure about that…
It’s clear what they want as they repeatedly write about it. They try to strike down Alice, bring back software patents, and extort a lot of companies for many billions of dollars.
Christopher Hall, writing for the National Law Review right now, seems to be on that same bandwagon. He seems to have not gotten the memo about death of software patents, or maybe he just conveniently pretends that Alice does not exist. People like him, along with the CIPU backers, have been constructing a bunch of tricks for loopholes that often work in the EPO; they try to pass off algorithms as a “machine” (to quote, “could be a computing machine of some sort, for computer-based algorithms”).
These are technically meaningless terms (Deepak Chopra-style mumbo-jumbo) that may in fact suggest that Hall does not know how computer programs work (Watchtroll evidently has the same problem). Here is the full paragraph, which does cite §101:
Claims written with the above template capture initial values, iterative values and results in the context of an iterative algorithm tied to a machine (which could be a computing machine of some sort, for computer-based algorithms). Variations on this can be written for tangible media and for system claims. This approach should pass muster for arguments and subject matter patent eligibility under 35 USC §101, because the algorithm and presumably tangible result are inextricably tied to the machine that is executing the algorithm, so that a computer is not a mere field of use limitation.
We need to keep track of all these firms and front groups that are trying to spin things and even lie in major newspapers, basically telling people that the potency of software patents is just fine (when clearly that is not the case).
Apple, for example, based on its patent promotion sites (not affiliated with Apple but always pushing Apple agenda on patents), is still gambling its future on Steve Jobs’ “thermonuclear” patent wars against rivals. The same goes for IBM and Microsoft, both of which are attacking companies that use GNU/Linux. If software patents are taken away from them, then they are pretty hopeless. That’s why they lobby so hard against Alice (Apple, IBM and Microsoft pay Kappos through his front group for lobbying on this). █
Send this to a friend
Companies that are using GNU/Linux in their datacentres have become the target of software patent lawsuits from a fake ‘friend’ of GNU/Linux
Summary: IBM’s poisonous policy on patents, which has long been incompatible with Free/Libre software, has gotten even worse and the company now takes the lead in lobbying for patenting of software
The “Open Invention Network,” Florian Müller told me a few hours ago in Twitter, “has co-founded a *pro-patent* advocacy thing,” called “The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding”. The press release reveals the involvement of the man who turned both IBM and Microsoft into massive patent bullies (Marshall Phelps, who is also quoted at the bottom):
“The IP knowledge gap is growing,” said Marshall Phelps, former head of IP at Microsoft and IBM and CIPU’s Vice Chairman. “Many people, including the general public and many in government, haven’t a clue what patents and other IP rights achieve. The incentive for taking IP seriously is at an all-time low. The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding will engage groups like schools, parents and the media about the benefits of respecting new ideas and the impact of failing to.”
It is worth noting that the Open Invention Network (OIN) was founded in part by IBM and was first headed by an IBM employee. The above serves to reinforce our growingly sceptical view of both OIN and IBM, which now engages in a lobbying campaign for software patents in the United States. Adding insult to injury, IBM is once again aligning itself with Watchtroll, which has been attacking people like Michelle Lee (USPTO Director) in an effort to engineer her dismissal [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and make way for a crooked person like Rader. Manny Schecter, IBM’s patent chief, actually contributed to Watchtroll — didn’t just link to it — and the headline was “Congress Needs to Act So Alice Doesn’t Live Here (in the Patent System) Anymore”.
“IBM’s willingness to do it so openly is a slap on the face of anyone who ever supported or praised IBM as some sort of guardian of GNU/Linux.”It doesn’t get any clearer than this. IBM is an enemy of software developers everywhere, and not just Free/Libre software developers. This was published yesterday, February 13th. Once upon a time IBM tried phoning me to control the narrative of my stories (I told them off immediately). They love shaping the media behind closed doors, but Schecter continues to make it abundantly clear that IBM is now just a business ally of Apple, not “Linux” (or GNU/Linux). IBM is actually rapidly becoming an enemy of GNU/Linux and everything that has helped IBM grow over the past 2 decades.
Others are also promoting software patents this week, for example Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP (as expected from patent profiteers). IBM’s willingness to do it so openly is a slap on the face of anyone who ever supported or praised IBM as some sort of guardian of GNU/Linux. IBM is now suing massively all sorts of companies with massive GNU/Linux deployment, using software patents. █
“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.”
–Marshall Phelps, IBM and then Microsoft
Send this to a friend
IBM also stands for International Bullying Machine, says Florian Müller
Summary: IBM’s patent zealots continue to make the company look really ugly and growingly hostile towards software developers, even if they are hiding behind front groups like IPO and David Kappos’ new shell when they lobby for software patenting in the United States
IBM and its former employee David Kappos (still works for them as a lobbyist) have done despicable enough things already — things that are purely and unequivocally detrimental to Free/Open Source software or even software developers in general. How much more foolish are they trying to look? Except when they sue smaller companies using software patents? What happened to Samuel Palmisano's IBM? That was the IBM we could actually support.
“What happened to Samuel Palmisano’s IBM?”“Innovation” is what IBM calls litigation, we must assume, based on tactless tweets like this one. “Innovation fuels economic growth and #patents promote #innovation,” it says.
The other day we showed how IBM is lobbying for software patents along with patent maximalists who conveniently (for their wallets) prop up IPO with its shameless lobbying. The so-called “task” for software patenting is led by IBM staff and attorneys who lobby for software patents are obviously supportive. IBM basically wants to restore software patents (their eligibility) by discrediting the examination process, as in this example that says: “That this question has been asked is itself evidence of how conflated #patent subject matter eligibility and obviousness have become – ugh!”
“IBM basically wants to restore software patents (their eligibility) by discrediting the examination process…”This is also what they pay Kappos to say. They’re pretending there’s some kind of confusion which prevents them from pursuing software patents, which is rather ironic coming from the company that files the lion’s share of application and every year tops the list of USPTO patentees. To IBM, at least as far as patents go, nothing is ever enough!
Here, for example, IBM applauds IBM-led lobbying for software patents, linking to this echo chamber (other sites that are pro-software patents). Manny Schecter (IBM’s patent chief) gives “More applause for IPO’s resolution to amend 35 USC 101 here, though I don’t understand the bit about a cocked hat…”
“To IBM, at least as far as patents go, nothing is ever enough!”He never bothered mentioning that it’s IBM embedded inside IPO doing this. They’re just using it as a front group. IPO, a front group for corporations, tries to write the rules that impact its funders (not the poor, the rich) and Patently-O too dives in with “IPO’s Next Legislative Proposal: 35 U.S.C. 103″. It says: “Following IPO’s recent proposal to effectively eliminate 35 U.S.C. 101, a Patently-O reader (“MM”) proposed the following amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103 for the organization’s consideration” (there’s no stopping IPO, is there?).
Days prior to this, an article by Dennis Crouch helped this lobbying campaign by IBM et al. To quote:
In a newly published whitepaper, the IPO explains its proposed legislative amendment. [PDF: 20170207_ipo-101-tf-proposed-amendments-and-report]
Following an explanation rejected by the Supreme Court in its eligibility doctrine, IPO explains that the traditional subject matter exceptions including abstract ideas and laws of nature were part of the pre-1952 “invention” requirement. That requirement was eliminated in the 1952 Act in a way that, according to the IPO, should have opened the door to broad subject matter jurisprudence. As the organization sees it, the Supreme Court began to go off track in the 1970s – a path revived in recent years.
With this avenue of legal argument rejected by the courts, the IPO sees itself forced to appeal to Congress for a more direct statement of broad subject matter eligibility.
“IPO proposes to rewrite US law in order to make software patents great again,” Benjamin Henrion wrote. Matt Levy wrote a detailed rebuttal to it:
Why IPO Is Wrong About Section 101
It certainly seems that the technology industry is producing better and more exciting products than ever. Virtual reality is becoming, well, a reality; we have drones, self-driving cars, better artificial intelligence, amazing new games, and smarter smartphones. These innovations are all driven by software, even though the landscape for software patents has changed over the last few years due in part to several decisions by the Supreme Court.
This changing landscape has escalated the debate over the role of patents in promoting software innovations. Should we have limits on software patents? Are some “inventions” too abstract to qualify for patent protection? The Supreme Court has answered “yes” to both of those questions.
Bilski v. Kappos, which set the current course for subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101, was decided six years ago. Since then, the Supreme Court has decided two more major cases on patent eligibility, Mayo v. Prometheus and Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank. The U.S. technology sector has, despite a general economic slowdown, done fairly well in that time.
Looking at the IPO’s proposal in more detail, it’s clear that the language is a smoke screen. This amendment would essentially do away with any limits to software patenting. The “exception” that IPO’s proposal leaves open is so narrow as to be non-existent, at least in the technology sector. It excludes from patent-eligibility only those inventions that “exist solely in the human mind.” With the possible exception of patent applications being transmitted telepathically, any invention that’s written down exists outside the human mind. With all seriousness, anything that involves a computer even minimally would fall outside the exception.
The bottom line is that there’s no evidence of an actual decline in innovation due to Mayo and subsequent cases. Creating chaos because a few patent lawyers are unhappy is hardly good policy. The reality is that the Federal Circuit is doing a generally good job of interpreting Alice, and we should let the court keep going.
“150+ years of case law have held that abstract ideas and laws of nature cannot be patented,” United for Patent Reform stressed a few days ago. But what would poor IBM sue over if not software? IBM has made cash cows out of practicing companies that are not IBM. In other words, it has become a patent bully and sometimes (in areas where it doesn’t operate, e.g. social media) patent troll. Litigation great again? Is that what they want? If so, then better make IBM bankrupt. The sooner, the better. They’re already heading in that direction, having outsourced many of the valuable jobs and sold large chunks of the business to China (notably Lenovo). █
Send this to a friend
Because IBM is collapsing and has increasingly resorted to bullying small companies for their ‘lunch money’ (‘protection money’ or ruinous lawsuits over patents)
Photo source (modified slightly): The 10 Most Powerful Women in Technology Today
Summary: IBM reinforces its role as enemy of Free software (and even all small developers of software) by virtue of promoting software patents and attempting to change legislation so as to assist its patent bullying strategy
FANGS may be symbolic, but while IBM tries to frame itself a “friend” of Linux and an “innovator” (e.g. with “Watson”) there is a very ugly side to the company and one that Ginni Rometty’s predecessors would probably not approve of. IBM is not a friend (not anymore, it’s actually close to Apple now) and it’s a big part of the problem we now face in the Free software world. IBM seems to have become a software patents proponent so heavy and loud that it now rivals Microsoft to the ‘title’.
According to this new post, “IPO created a special 101 legislative task force headed by IBM’s Marian Underweiser with Vice-Support from Bob Sachs (Fenwick & the BilskiBlog) whose proposal has now been released and fully adopted by the IPO Board.”
Notice the words “legislative task force”. They mean lobbying — the same thing that David Kappos does for IBM right now. As for Fenwick & West, watch this latest post from them. This patent law firm is trying to bypass the rules in order to patent abstract stuff like software.
The patent microcosm (with people like Sachs and Watchtroll rearing their ugly head on a regular basis), in the form of its front group Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), is trying to destroy Alice and bring back software patents. IBM’s patent chief is even openly and publicly supporting/endorsing Watchtroll, which is currently attacking [1, 2, 3, 4] the reformer, Michelle Lee.
IPO being a front group that is detrimental isn’t news, but IBM playing a considerable role is noteworthy. Here is a portion of the post from Patently-O:
IPO Steps Up: Proposes Statute to Overturn Mayo and Alice
The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) is run primarily by a group of 50 top intellectual property counsel (usually patent-focused) from many of the largest global innovative companies – all deeply involved in the patent system as patent holders and many as accused-infringers as well. Patent attorneys from various law firms serve in a support role for the organization. The IPO created a special 101 legislative task force headed by IBM’s Marian Underweiser with Vice-Support from Bob Sachs (Fenwick & the BilskiBlog) whose proposal has now been released and fully adopted by the IPO Board.
IPO’s proposed a particular statutory amendment that would limit the eligibility question to whether “the claimed invention as a whole, as understood by [PHOSITA], exists in nature independently of and prior to any human activity, or exists solely in the human mind.” The proposal would seemingly flip the outcomes Alice, Mayo, and Bilski, although it is unclear to me how the statute treats a situation where a covered embodiment could exist solely in the human mind, but the invention as a whole also contemplates out-of-mind activities. The proposal specifically states that eligibility “is not impacted by . . . the claimed invention’s inventive concept.” Rather, the focus is solely on whether the claim-as-a-whole (1) “already exists in nature independently of and prior to any human activity” or (2) “exists solely in the human mind.” The proposed amendment further spells out that the entitlement to a patent is subject “only” to the limitations found in the Patent Statute.
According to her LinkedIn page, Marian Underweiser is connected also to IAM (which she takes pride in) and she used to work for Kenyon & Kenyon LLP (last mentioned here a very long time ago). She is the one heading this lobbying effort, on behalf of her employer IBM, so those still disillusioned about IBM can treat this as a wake-up call. █
Send this to a friend
« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »