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Patents Roundup: OSI and Patents, Demise of Patents, Microsoft and the BSA

Summary: A quick look at stories that may impact Free software at a lesser technical level

GLYN Moody and the OSI spoke about patents very recently. A context in which their arguments ought to be seen is this post from Carlo Piana. The short story is that the OSI needs to develop principles of strong resistance to software patents, or else it might accommodate open source licences that are poisonous and mutually hostile.

Fortunately, as other news is suggesting, patent filings decline.

The first chart below shows a time series for the percentage of continuation applications and RCE filings as compared to the total UPR filings (Utility, Plant, and Re-Issue applications). Remember here, that for most PTO statistics, RCE filings are counted as a utility application. According to this data, 27.6% of all of the UPR filings thus far in FY09 are RCEs - continuing a steady trend of of rising RCE filings. (Note - the RCE data also includes historical data for CPA and R129 filings).

[...]

In the title of this post, I link the economic downturn with the downturn in patent filings. Some may also link the drop in patent filings with other recent events that may drop the allure of a patent application - namely, KSR v. Teleflex; eBay v. MercExchange; Bilski; Seagate; the prospect of further patent reform; the Second Pair of Eyes review; 750,000 backlog of unexamined patents; and the 26 month average pendency before the first OA.


A decline in the acquisition of patents does not necessarily mean decline in litigation and patent trolls.

Even Microsoft may manage to escape the wrath of software patents in the Alcatel-Lucent case [1, 2, 3, 4], but it's hardly hesitant to sue other companies using software patents (including Linux). Here is one new report.

Microsoft scored a win in its long-running patent dispute with Alcatel-Lucent on Monday, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that Alcatel-Lucent’s claims on a disputed patent were invalid. A year ago, a jury awarded Alcatel-Lucent $358 million on the finding that Microsoft had infringed the patent, which deals with touch-screen form entry. Microsoft appealed.


Todd Bishop covered this as well. On a somewhat related note, as we showed before, the BSA has some personal roots (maybe genesis) in Bill Gates' dad, at least in part, in terms of connections. Watch this latest private outrage caused by the BSA, which is hostile towards Free software [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]:

[C]onsider this email with the subject line “BSA Launches Faces of Piracy Campaign” (BSA = Business Software Alliance), reproduced on this blog post:

We've all been following the events of the past week of the pirates off the Horn of Africa. Piracy takes many forms, some more violent than others. I wanted to let you know that the Business Software Alliance is launching a new campaign today "Faces of Internet Piracy" that shows the real-life impact of software piracy--from hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to jail time.

This callous linking of life-threatening events off the coast of Africa, with digital copyright infringement, which doesn't even involve the loss of material objects, since perfect copies can be produced without affecting the original, is cynical in the extreme. It shows to what depths the BSA has sunk if it is able to equate the two.


It was also covered by Mike Masnick.

SA Tries To Exploit Somali Piracy News In PR Campaign Against Software Sharing



[...]

We already wrote about how ridiculous it is to compare Somali high seas pirates with music, movie and software fans downloading an unauthorized copy of something off the internet -- and even the press is starting to question the wisdom of calling unauthorized file sharing "piracy." Yet, that hasn't stopped the BSA, masters of misleading through questionable stats from ramping up a marketing campaign that purposely tries to compare software file sharers with Somali pirates.


This is said in reference to Somalia, but over in Kenya, Microsoft seems to be calling GNU/Linux "piracy".

Pirate

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