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'Defensive' Software Patents Useless Against Patent Trolls

Paperwork cannot and will not stop patent trolls

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Summary: Reminder of a universal truism that falsifies common talking points of software patents apologists like Twitter, Google, and Red Hat

The quickly-declining technology company known as Twitter (it very rapidly loses traffic, i.e. its lifeblood, this year, or ~20% in the past 3 months alone based on Alexa, which says roughly the same thing about Facebook) had announced patent de-weaponisation efforts [1, 2] before getting some software patents. It recently put to practice its promise, as was covered here last week. Here is how a good news site explained it: "Twitter has put its previously announced defensive patent plan into action, applying its Innovators Patent Agreement (IPA) to US patent 8,448,084. The IPA was introduced by Twitter in early 2012 as a way to keep companies from using patents assigned to them offensively by agreeing with the creators of the patented technology to only use them defensively. Under the agreement a company wishing to use a patent offensively would have to get the written permission of the creator to do so. These provisions also hold if the patent is sold on to another company."

What Twitter does here is misguided. It loses focus on technology and instead focuses on wasteful activities that would not even defend the company. It's what declining companies such as Microsoft do when they lose momentum and are unable to strategise a comeback. Trolls would not be deterred by any patent portfolio. Twitter helps legitimise software patents in the same way Red Hat and Google do (IBM, by contrast, openly promotes software patenting, too), never mind the openwashing of these patents.

Since Red Hat paid trolls (potentially a proxy of Microsoft) some days ago and trolls cannot be counter-sued using patents, what good are Red Hat's patents? I am still waiting to hear from Red Hat's lawyers about it, but I am not holding my breath. They are secretive, the very opposite of open.

Meanwhile, reveals a rant about MPEG-LA, trolls continue to harm everyone using software patents. These trolls are a proxy (no secret about it, this is stated in their official Web sites) for companies like Microsoft and Apple. Steve Pociask, President of the American Consumer Institute, publishes "Consumer tech rip-off from patent pools" and it says: "That is right. Some manufactures and inventors must pay a license fee per device for the MPEG-2 patent pool that represents a collection of over 1,000 patents related to audio and video compression technology.

"These patents are required by manufactures to make such common household devices as personal computers, digital set-top boxes, DVD players, digital television sets, digital cameras video game systems and digital video recorders.

"Most of the MPEG-2 patents have expired, but they still remain bundled with the other essential patents.

"Instead of manufacturers being able to freely to use these expired patents without paying any royalty associated with them, Denver Colorado-based MPEG LA, the MPEG-2 administrator, continues to collect the full licensing fees from manufacturers who pass these fees along to – you guessed it – you, in the form of higher prices on these tech goods.

"The patent pool was started, with the early nod from the Department of Justice (DOJ), when the number of patents stood at 1,048. By the middle of June 2013, the number will have fallen to 416."

Remember that these are all software patents, which therefore are not even legitimate in most of the world. This is worse than a ripoff; it is extortion. Behind MPEG-LA there are companies like Microsoft and Apple. This is a loophole. MPEG-LA cannot be sued, as it simply has no products to sue over.

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