Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Bullies Over Software Patents, Takes a Hit Also

Ammunition for more crocodile tears

Yesterday we published somewhat a complaint against rcpmag.com for being part of Microsoft's mighty media powerhouse, which is self serving of course. Referring to the Avistar situation which we mentioned here before [1, 2, 3], that very same magazine now criticises Microsoft for a change.

Avistar's Tale: Microsoft Shows Its Dark Side



[...]

Whatever. Sorry, Microsoft, but you're not looking too good in this scenario. This is the dark side of Microsoft, the side we've told you about in the magazine, the side that brings out the critics and the haters and the antitrust hounds. This is Microsoft trying to prey on a struggling company that happens to have some attractive IP and litigate that company into oblivion before draining its lifeblood.

There's free-market capitalism, and then there's predatory business practices. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, but this falls into the latter category, as far as we can tell. And while we know that Microsoft (along with lots of other big vendors -- most others, really) is no stranger to that sort of thing, it doesn't make it any less disturbing.

Moss said that some of the anti-Microsoft brigade has come to his aid, but mostly with moral support. "We're in a bar; some guy's hitting us with a baseball bat, and they're all going, 'Come on, Simon! Hit him back!'" Moss said of some of his company's well-meaning allies. "That's about it. I've got nothing but an ice cream cone."


But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Microsoft's unpleasant encounters with software patents. Just watch what is coming in Microsoft's direction.

After a jury verdict that z4’s patent was infringed and not invalid, the Eastern District of Texas district court ordered Microsoft to pay over $100M in damages to the patentee (a small Michigan company) The award was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).


And watch what happened the day beforehand. This was anticipated.

Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software maker, was told to pay $368 million after a jury found it infringed two patents owned by Alcatel-Lucent SA for touch- screen form entry and use of a stylus on computers.


The development is also covered in this short bit of text, so in case you want to explore the case further, you can. It will certainly return to the headlines in the near future because the impact is high.

Fortunately enough, the rules in the Eastern District of Texas do not apply to the rest of the world. This district does, however, manage to pull a multi-national Germany company like SAP and give it hell, as we reported only a couple of days back. Meanwhile, over in Germany, the very opposite type of action is taken, as just reported by Heise Online.

The European Patent Office (EPO) has revoked patent number EP1040428 for a procedure for computerised prepress. According to printing news site Beyond Print the verdict is binding, but not yet legally enforceable. The reasoning behind the verdict has not yet been released.

[...]

The three companies took action against VistaPrint because they viewed data exchange as being of vital significance for the printing industry. The EPO started examining the case in January.


The EPO has truly been maintaining some sanity here, but across the Atlantic you now find this report about the Bush Administration antagonising the patent reform. Who pays those people???

Bush Administration Speaks Against Patent Overhaul



U.S. Senate negotiators are getting closer to hammering out disagreements that are holding up a patent system overhaul, but President George Bush's administration still has concerns about the bill, an administration official said Friday.

[...]

In order for the USPTO to improve the quality of patents granted, "the system must focus on the quality of applications," Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said in a letter to senators dated Thursday. "Stated simply, our innovation system can no longer afford the time and the cost of heavily subsidizing poor quality patent applications, which crowd out our most important innovations."

Each applicant applications costs the USPTO US$4,200, while basic filing fees are under $1,000, Dudas added. "It's very easy to apply for something while doing only minimal work," he said.


The decision on patents is probably doomed to remain political. Remember the golden rule: those who have the gold make the rules. It leaves the system in a chicken-and-egg situation, so serious toppling may be needed. Maybe it's even coming soon.

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