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Patents Roundup: Patent Applications Fall, Patent System Criticised, In Re Bilski Returns

Americana



Summary: The screws of the patent system are loosening, as new evidence shows

AS we noted before, countries in the West hope to exploit Africa and other less developed areas of the world, almost literally stealing their minerals, flora, and fauna in exchange for patents, i.e. using their so-called "IP" to extort these poor countries (land-grab, neo-colonisation, or whatever else it can be compared to). There is more of that going on in general, with quite a lot at stake now that Microsoft participates in the looting. As we noted a month ago, Glyn Moody wishes to call these intellectual monopolies "a neo-colonialist plot to ensure the continuing dominance of Western nations."



USPTOA lot of the exploited populations (as opposed to countries) just don't realise this yet, or those who are privileged enough to know this and gain access to the mainstream media are basically conspiring with other, foreign nations which do the looting and share their gains. Moreover, ordinary citizens are unable to do much, as they have not much power, influence, let alone the ability/permission to organise, especially in suppressed/suppressive countries. This is a class issue as much as it is a geographical issue. WIPO, for example, was established by the powerful to protect those in power.

Moody warns that attempts to patent life are back. He spoke about this last month.

DNA barcoding is such a powerful idea that the parasites have moved in, and started trying to *patent* bits of the idea:

Systematic and phylogenetics, indeed much of evolutionary science, has long and great tradition of making resources and knowledge freely available to other resources. Instead of cash, all an author asks for is a citation or a credit. Therefore, it sounded incredulous to me that one researcher was trying to patent a DNA barcode snippet for a plant gene that was being worked on over several years by a large group of researchers.


It's a classic situation: not only are scientific techniques being patented, they are techniques that are well established and have been used for years - something that is explicitly excluded even in the most deranged patent regimes. And people say the system is working just fine...


Well, the system is not working fine based on his observation that patent applications are declining sharply.

I have just heard from Ciaran McGinley, the Controller of the European Patent Office, that the number of applications it has received so far this year is down 8%. [...] Internationally, PCT filings are down by 5%. Ouch!


Is it possible that businesses have come to realise that patents are a dying breed?

New Papers Against Patents



Dissent or resentment against patenting seems to be on the rise. We have just found several new papers that are critical of software patents, and of patents in general. We have:

i. Software Patent and its Impact on Software Innovation in Japan

In Japan, the software patent system has been reformed and now software has become a patentable subject matter. In this paper, this pro-patent shift on software is surveyed and its impact on software innovation is analyzed. Before the 1990's, inventions related to software could not be patented by themselves, but they could be applied when combined with hardware related inventions. Therefore, integrated electronics firms used to be the major software patent applicants. However, during the period from the late 1990's to the early 2000's, when software patent reforms were introduced, innovative activities (measuring patent applications) by independent software development firms began.


ii. Patents and the Regress of Useful Arts

Patent systems are often justified by an assumption that innovation will be spurred by the prospect of patent protection, leading to the accrual of greater societal benefits than would be possible under non-patent systems. However, little empirical evidence exists to support this assumption. One way to test the hypothesis that a patent system promotes innovation is to simulate the behavior of inventors and competitors experimentally under conditions approximating patent and non-patent systems. Employing a multi-user interactive simulation of patent and non-patent (commons and open source) systems (―PatentSim‖), this study compares rates of innovation, productivity, and societal utility. PatentSim uses an abstracted and cumulative model of the invention process, a database of potential innovations, an interactive interface that allows users to invent, patent, or open source these innovations, and a network over which users may interact with one another to license, assign, buy, infringe, and enforce patents. Data generated thus far using PatentSim suggest that a system combining patent and open source protection for inventions (that is, similar to modern patent systems) generates significantly lower rates of innovation (p<0.05), productivity (p<0.001), and societal utility (p<0.002) than does a commons system. These data also indicate that there is no statistical difference in innovation, productivity, or societal utility between a pure patent system and a system combining patent and open source protection. The results of this study are inconsistent with the orthodox justification for patent systems. However, they do accord well with evidence from the increasingly important field of user and open innovation. Simulation games of the patent system could even provide a more effective means of fulfilling the Constitutional mandate “to promote the Progress of . . . useful Arts” than does the orthodox assumption that technological innovation can be encouraged through the prospect of patent protection.


iii. Tender: study on the quality of the patent system in Europe [via Digital Majority]

The European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market and Services has published a call for tenders for a study on the quality of the patent system in Europe.

The aim is to conduct an economic analysis of the quality of patent rights in order to propose effective policy solutions for the optimal functioning of the future patent system in Europe, considering its objectives to encourage innovation and the diffusion of new technology and knowledge.

This should take into account the co-existence of national and European patents, as well as a future Community patent, which is currently being negotiated between Member States.


That last one need not be seen as critical. It may be seeking to justify exacerbation of the European patent system, so as to benefit lawyers at the expense of scientists.

In Re Bilski Amici (Briefs)



It's up to the Supreme Court to decide what to do about business method patents. Regardless of the outcome, which seems unlikely to be a reversal, In Re Bilski already eliminates software patents.

Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw have their say on the subject:

Petitioners Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw filed their Brief For Petitioners last week in what could be this decade's watershed patent ruling. The patent at issue relates to a method for managing risk when buying or selling energy commodities. The law at issue is whether a process must be tied to: 1) a machine or 2) a transformation of a particular article into a different state to be patentable (the “machine-or-transformation”/“MOT” test). The Brief breaks the case down into five issues...


ABA files an amicus brief in opposition to sanity:

It's the most important patent case to be taken up by the high court in 50 years, said Rob Lindefjeld, secretary of the ABA's Intellectual Property Law Section.

"We're really worried that the Supreme Court will do considerable damage to patents in the area of methods of doing business that should be entitled to protection and swing the pendulum way too far and hurt the patent system for a long time," Lindefjeld said in an interview.


Microsoft relies on software patents for its attacks on Linux (with words and predatory actions), but as one person in Linux Today puts it, "No amount of patents can save that company from the death befitting it. It won't be long now."

“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today."

--Bill Gates (when Microsoft was smaller)



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