Bonum Certa Men Certa

Freedom Defenders Look at the Glass Half Full in the Bilski Aftermath

John Paul Stevens, SCOTUS photo - portrait
John Paul Stevens retires at the age of 90 as the Bilski decision comes out



Summary: A look at the (mostly) positive analyses resulting from the ruling where Stevens was unable to convince a majority of his peers to pull the plug on software patents

THIS is probably our last post that summarises responses to the decision from SCOTUS.



Our goal is to inform readers of interpretations that relevant groups have shared regarding the Bilski case, so it's more of an overview that encourages to read further into the references. As I started before, IANAL (I am not a lawyer), so I will make no attempt to interpret the document myself and insinuate that my verdict is an informed one. Others who are not lawyers/paralegal researchers do attempt to do just that and they drown out the signal.

“The explanations and reasoning from the SCOTUS can be interpreted in all sorts of ways because there is a lot of ambiguity and not all judges subscribe to the same portions of the ruling.”Major publications like the New York Times and Washington Post have both covered this ruling [1, 2], which threw out the patent of Bernard Bilski (that is probably the only fact we know for sure).

The explanations and reasoning from the SCOTUS can be interpreted in all sorts of ways because there is a lot of ambiguity and not all judges subscribe to the same portions of the ruling. In fact, the decision was a very close one and there was a 4-to-5 vote at end.

Pogson offers some reflections on Bilski. He is a Free software proponent and not a lawyer but a teacher and engineer.

The only way this issue can be settled promptly now is by legislation. M$ and its buddies will be lobbying fiercely to have the patent laws explicitly accept software. Unfortunately for them, all software, except perhaps in a controller where the software cannot possibly have multiple uses, is abstract. That is to say, programmes written in a high-level language do not even deal with bits let alone reality. They deal in variables and data-structures, abstractions in themselves. If the legislators allow software patents, they will have to allow patents on abstractions, something they will not do or cannot. That would throw our thoughts and all freedom under the bus. Indeed, one brief they did not reference was about freedom of speech as software. Patents cannot be allowed to restrict freedom of speech.


Michael Barclay, a lawyer, wrote for the EFF that "The Supreme Court Declines to Prohibit Business Method Patents" (his chosen headline). APRIL, a French advocacy group for Free software wrote about this too and here is the summary from its statement which it titled "Bilski case: the United States starts to clean the software patents minefield"

The US Supreme Court has issued on Monday a ruling that many people had been waiting for in the so-called "Bilski" case1, regarding a patent on a business method. This decision, even though it does not exclude every software from patentability, invalidates a majority of them, including those patents on computer implemented intellectual methods. It is now time for European lawmakers to halt software patents' proliferation in Europe.


The FSF's Peter Brown looks at/accentuates the positives:

Bilski gave us a wonderful opportunity to increase awareness to the harm caused by software patents. More scholars, more developers, more journalists, more politicians, and more patent attorneys than ever before have heard from our community on this issue. What's next?


So again we see an example of the FSF being positive, not negative. It is mostly constructive in its approach, contrary to claims from those who wish to daemonise the FSF. Yesterday we summarised some opinions from the SFLC's Professor Dan Ravicher. There is also a new summary at Groklaw, focusing on Stevens (whose role Ravicher did not particularly like because of cynicism). Pamela Jones argued about Stevens:

He's actually read and absorbed James Bessen's book Patent Failure and he comprehends the dangers and the costs that such patents present. Thank you, Jim Bessen (and co-authors Mike Meurer, Eric Maskin and Bob Hunt), for all your careful and helpful work, educating judges and lawyers to the dangers of software patents. Significantly, Stevens is joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor. Even Justice Scalia, in a separate concurring opinion written by Justice Breyer, agreed that business methods should not be granted patents. That's five Supreme Court judges. As Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog points out in his analysis of the Bilski opinion, that means that business methods patents survived by a single vote. And even at that, the opinion stated that few such methods should be granted a patent.


Here is another decent analysis from a legal blog. It's outlined as follows: [via Digital Majority]

Sifting through the clues to patentability: Four take-home points from Bilski’s mixed bag



[...]

1) State Street Bank’s “useful, concrete, and tangible result” test is dead.

[...]

2) Abstract ideas likely include “basic concepts” and methods that can be reduced to a mathematical formula.

[...]

3) Parker v. Flook’s “field of use” and “postsolution activity” limitations are alive and well.

[...]

4) Expect more Section 101 challenges, especially at the early stages of patent litigation.


Rob Tiller from Red Hat (he too is a lawyer) wrote about this decision in a rush (Red Hat worked vigourously to eliminate software patents, unlike IBM).

Dana Blankenhorn correctly points out that Florian Müller is unfairly singling out IBM, as though IBM was the sole proponent of software patents.

Given the failure of the Bilski case to change the status quo regarding software and business method patents, the search is on for scapegoats, for weak sisters in the anti-patent fight who can be made open to criticism.

It is similar to what happens after a losing political campaign. Those most committed to the cause argue that it’s weak supporters, those willing to do business under the given circumstances, who are responsible for their political failure.

So it is that Florian Mueller of Fosspatents has seized upon IBM.


We have grown increasingly suspicious of Müller. He keeps trying to find 'enemies' other than Microsoft and then incite the "FOSS" crowd (as in "FOSSPatents" @ Blogspot) against that imaginary boogeyman. IBM is a favoured choice for a scapegoat due to its size, regardless of its many contributions to "FOSS", which are very much appreciated. As one commenter puts it in Blankenhorn's blog, "Now, I understand what Free Software is (as in Richard Stallman's stance), and I understand what Open Source is (as in Eric Raymond's stance). And isn't the definition of FOSS is the union of Free Software and Open Source Software - i.e., F/OSS.

"Dana - what do you mean by FOSS? Are you confusing FOSS with Open Source?"

Florian defended proprietary software in Techrights comments; he is not a proponent of the "F" in FOSS, as even his lobby with MySQL helped to show. In many new posts about "interoperability" as the theme in the headlines (the word "interoperability" is used to dodge open standards), Müller continues to sing the same tune this week. About an hour ago he mailed me to incite against Apple at Microsoft's expense. Typical. In his blog he currently promotes action and regulation against Microsoft adversaries.

As the old saying goes, Müller "has got some 'splaining to do". Only a mule would not change its stance when new information arrives and given what we have shown him about Microsoft, he continues to ignore Microsoft's negative effects on "FOSS" (especially the "F", which means freedom).

As the Bilski hype draws to a close, some go further and ask themselves about the impact as far as biotech patents are concerned (think Monsanto).

A Supreme Court ruling June 28 on idea patents disappointed those hoping for an overhaul of intellectual property claims for software, but it may inspire new patent tests aimed at the legally troublesome biotechnology field.

According to the court, the widely followed “machine-or-transformation” test — which limits patents to machines designed for a specific purpose, or processes that physically transform an object — is outdated. This test is also at the heart of at least two other legal cases currently being contested that could shape the future of the biotech business.


Patents on life? Why not? It's good for lawyers. Apparently life counts as an "invention" now (if genes are perturbed in scarcely or totally misunderstood ways) to yield seemingly-desirable traits. Just ignore the side effects, much like in the patent system.

Glass filled



Recent Techrights' Posts

[Meme] Debian's 'Cannon Fodder' Economics
Conflicts of interest don't matter
According to Microsoft, It's Not a Code of Conduct Violation to Troll Your Victims Whose Files You Are Purging
The group of vandals from Microsoft think it's "funny" (and for a "nominal fee") to troll Microsoft critics
Microsoft Inside Debian is Sabotaging Debian and Its Many Hundreds of Derivatives With SystemD (Microsoft/GitHub Slopware With Catastrophic Bugs is Hardly a New Problem)
What is the moral of the story about The Scorpion and the Frog?
 
Links 23/06/2024: More Microsoft Cancellations, Growing Repression Worldwide
Links for the day
Gemini Links 23/06/2024: The Magician and the Hacker, tmux Tips
Links for the day
Links 23/06/2024: Twitter/X Wants Your Money, Google Reports a Billion DMCA Takedowns in Four Months
Links for the day
Digital Restrictions (Like DRM) Don't Have Brands, We Need to Teach People to Hate the Underlying Restrictions, Not Companies That Typically Come and Go
Conceptually, the hens should fear humans, not the farmer who cages them
Going Above 4% Again
Maybe 4% (or above) by month's end?
Conviction, jail for Hinduja family, Debian exploitation comparison
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Links 23/06/2024: Hey Hi (AI) Scrapers Gone Very Rogue, Software Patents Squashed at EPO
Links for the day
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Saturday, June 22, 2024
IRC logs for Saturday, June 22, 2024
Gemini Links 23/06/2024: LoRaWAN and Gemini Plugin for KOReade
Links for the day
Links 22/06/2024: Chat Control Vote Postponed, More Economic Perils
Links for the day
[Meme/Photography] Photos From the Tux Machines Parties
took nearly a fortnight
Uzbekistan: GNU/Linux Ascent
Uzbekistan is almost the same size as France
SLAPP as an Own Goal
We have better things to with our limited time
Independence From Monopolies
"They were ethnically GAFAM anyway..."
GNU/Linux at New Highs (Again) in Taiwan
latest numbers
Links 22/06/2024: More Layoffs and Health Scares
Links for the day
Rwanda: Windows Falls Below 30%
For the first time since 2020 Windows is measured below 30%
[Meme] IBM Lost the Case Over "Dinobabies" (and People Died)
IBM agreed to pay to keep the details (and embarrassing evidence) secret; people never forgot what IBM called its staff that wasn't young, this keeps coming up in forums
Exactly One Year Ago RHEL Became Proprietary Operating System
Oh, you want the source code of RHEL? You need to pay me money and promise not to share with anyone
Dr. John Campbell on Gates Foundation
Published two days ago
Melinda Gates Did Not Trust Bill Gates, So Why Should You?
She left him because of his ties to child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein
How Much IBM Really Cares About Software Freedom (Exactly One Year Ago IBM Turned RHEL Into Proprietary Software)
RHEL became proprietary software
Fedora Week of Diversity 2024 Was Powered by Proprietary Software
If instead of opening up to women and minorities we might open up to proprietary software, i.e. become less open
18 Countries in Europe Where Windows Fell Below 30% "Market Share"
Many people still use laptops with Windows, but they're outnumbered by mobile users on Android
[Meme] EPO Pensions in the UK
pensioners: looks like another EPO 'reform'
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Friday, June 21, 2024
IRC logs for Friday, June 21, 2024
During Fedora Week of Diversity (FWD) 2024 IBM and Its Subsidiaries Dragged to Court Over Discrimination at the Corporate Level
IBM is a deplorable, racist company
Workers of the European Patent Office Take the Office to Court Over Pension
pensions still precarious
Gemini Links 22/06/2024: FreeBSD vs XFCE and Gemini Bookmarks Syncing Solution
Links for the day
Links 21/06/2024: Matrimony Perils and US-Sponsored COVID-19 Misinformation
Links for the day
"A coming cybersecurity schism" by Dr. Andy Farnell
new from Dr. Andy Farnell
Links 21/06/2024: Overpopulation, Censorship, and Conflicts
Links for the day
IBM and Subsidiaries Sued for Ageism (Not Just for Racism)
This is already being discussed
UEFI is Against Computer Security, Its True Goal is to Curtail Adoption of GNU/Linux and BSDs on Existing or New PCs
the world is moving away from Windows
[Meme] Chat Control (EU) is All About Social Control
It won't even protect children
The Persistent Nature of Freedom Isn't About Easy Routes
Resistance to oppression takes effort and sometimes money
EFF Not Only Lobbies for TikTok (CPC) But for All Social Control Media, Irrespective of Known Harms as Explained by the US Government
The EFF's own "free speech" people reject free speech
Microsoft's Search (Bing) Fell From 3.3% to 1% in Turkey Just Since the LLM Hype Began
Bing fell sharply in many other countries
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Thursday, June 20, 2024
IRC logs for Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Real FSF Lost Well Over a Million Dollars Since the Defamation Attacks on Its Founder
2020-2023 income: -$659,756, -$349,927, -$227,857, and -$686,366, respectively
The Fake FSF ('FSF Europe') Connected to Novell Via SUSE, Not Just Via Microsoft (Repeated 'Donations')
'FSF Europe' is an imposter organisation
Just Less Than 3 Hours After Article on Debian Suicide Cluster Debian's Donald Norwood Recycles a Fortnight-Old 'Hit Piece'
The fall of Debian is its attack on its very own volunteers