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Patents Roundup: OIN Calls for Patent Reform, Microsoft's 'Sudo' Revisited

Sudo on Ubuntu



Summary: OIN joins the Bilski debate; some sources claim misinterpretation of new Microsoft patent

DESPITE a questionable strategy, the Open Invention Network (OIN) has been helpful to Free software and its CEO published an article in CNBC just a few days ago, titled "The Case for Market Based Patent Reform"

In the wake of the financial crisis and its attendant repercussions across the global economy, the U.S. Congress stands poised to address the issue of patent reform. Much debated and long anticipated, patent reform legislation is back under consideration with the bill possibly coming up for vote, prior to the end of 2009. Under the stewardship of a set of legislators well sensitized to the salient issues and with the thoughtful counsel of David Kappos, President Obama’s business savvy head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the stars are aligning to usher in legislation that promises to offer significant advances in an arena that has been overdue for reform.

[...]

OIN has created a model that can be replicated across many industries. OIN, a defensive patent pool established by IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony to keep the Linux Community free of patent-related issues and ensure freedom of action, launched Linux Defenders in December 2008. The program and associated website (www.linuxdefenders.org) enables the contribution of prior art through its portal. For already granted patents, Linux Defenders’ Post Issue Peer to Patent program solicits prior art that can be used to support requests for patent reexam. The third element of the Linux Defenders platform highlights the difference between patents and defensive publications and leads inventors through a process that allows inventions to be codified and made accessible to patent examiners as an effective form of prior art.

[...]

The foregoing dynamics underscore the need for legislative, regulatory and judicial patent reform coupled with market-led patent reform. Absent a joint market, industry and government effort that is comprehensive and seeks to resolve all of the challenges posed by today’s patent system, the result of legislative reform will be suboptimal.


The above was published around the same time that Bilski hearings commenced [1, 2, 3]. Among the latest coverage (from patent opponent Timothy B. Lee it ought to be said), we have this article at Ars Technica:

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Bilski case on Monday. The wide-ranging discussion included significant discussion about the patentability of software and also touched on the patentability of horse-training and speed-dating methods.


A Groklaw member has just published this introduction to computation theory for lawyers. The need for such a document is explained by Pamela Jones as follows:

If I had to describe the fairly universal geek reaction to the oral argument at the US Supreme Court on Monday in In Re Bilski, I would have to say it's a worry that some of the participants didn't seem to understand computers or the tech behind software very well.


A couple of days ago Groklaw claimed that Microsoft had patented sudo but Heise does not agree with Groklaw and neither does The Register, which adds:

Microsoft's patent comes as the US Supreme Court wrestles with the issue of business methods, such as those included in software, and whether they qualify for patent protection. Critics contend only physical inventions should be eligible, while a large swath of technology companies maintain that software-driven features such as Amazon's one-click checkout and Priceline's reverse auctions are fair game.


Here is a summary of posts on the subject and also interpretation from Microsoft boosters. It is being claimed that Microsoft patented the equivalent of PolicyKit, not sudo.

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