01.21.08

Fixing the Problem at Its Core — USPTO and Lobbying

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, Standard at 10:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s impossible to ignore more political aspects

As much as many of us hate politics, it is impossible to escape and ignore the impact corporations have on legislation. On the verge and at risk of approaching touchy subjects, it’s worth clarifying that the Administration is partly responsible for what we have come to know as “patent trolling” and taxation of Free software (through the legitimacy of software patents).

Going against Linux vendors — or any corporation for that matter — is practically difficult. It’s mentally hard to tolerate the very systematic attacks on me across the Web. These don’t help or motivate. Speaking for myself, I was an avid SUSE user and even occasional contributer both at home and at work (no dual/multi-booting, either) just before the Novell deal. So, I never ever had any vendetta against Novell. Au contraire — I was a fan.

“Increasing filtering on the Web might permit Microsoft to intercept ‘illegitimate’ downloads of GNU/Linux.”Over time, it became more clear that if we don’t start speaking with our wallets, then this racketeering scheme we’re seeing will expand until we cannot escape the ‘tax’. Increasing filtering on the Web might permit Microsoft to intercept ‘illegitimate’ downloads of GNU/Linux. One step at a time. Never say never. That’s the worst-case scenario anyway.

I happen to be a developer. My co-editor, Shane, is a distromaster and maintainer. As developers, it is rather obvious that we have to fight hard to tell Microsoft that it’s our code. We wrote it. Microsoft contributed nothing but slurs to it, so why should it be paid for code we wrote for no profit? This underpins the severity of the issue at hand.

If we can still fight against software patents, we should. The USPTO, along those who legislate for it, are simply too corrupted by the money already. There are attempts to rewrite the law in such as way so that neo-guilds will thrive as they did back in the 19th century. Some call it “oligarchy” or a state of monopolies (which isn’t quite the same thing as globalisation).

No Patents in Linux

By changing laws, Free software, Creative Commons-licensed material and political blogs can be verboten, suffocated to death or marginalised until they remain a distant and scarcely-reachable niche. Why else would Lawrence Lessig so abruptly quit his existing efforts and decide to fight corruption instead? He claims this to be at the heart of copyrights madness that assassinates our culture. He intends to spends the next 10 years studying and combating this disease.

The copyrights battle parallels that of Free software. Software development is about creating better tools. The financial side of the business must not hinder further development of better products. But that’s just what you get with software patents. As yesterday’s update about Acacia demonstrates, an entire industry of programmers is nowadays giving room to lawyers who wish to share the profit.

Ware and Financial Systems Innovation, LLC (a subsidiary of Acacia, formerly a subsidiary of TechSearch, the company now known as Global Patent Holdings) have filed 10 patent litigations in the last four years, against 144 defendants. Friedman, Suder & Cooke is representing Ware and Acacia in all of the litigation, most of which are pending either in the Northern District of Georgia or Northern District of Texas. The big filing was one last June against 106 defendants, which I reported on here. While 3 of Ware’s cases were settled, the rest were stayed pending the first reexamination. There are motions in each of those cases to lift the stay. Some are being granted, but in other cases, more trouble brews.

It remains important to consider factors that go beyond the deals which we criticise relentlessly. Everyone is fighting to make the system more favourable in one direction or another and this is a game where money makes the rules. In other words, the wealthy can ensure that laws and amendment are constantly made which maintain and increase the same wealth balance. Linux and open standards are usually fought against not by superior products and formats, but through backroom deals and lobbying of politicians. As such, the slightly political slant will continue to remain relevant. It won’t be overlooked.

“Gates met Noorda briefly in San Francisco to discuss the merger […] before the merger could go forward, he said Novell had to drop its plans to buy Digital Research. […] when Noorda raised the possibility that the Justice Department might try to block a merger between the first and third biggest software companies on the planet, Gates responded, “Don’t worry, we know how to handle the federal government.” […] Gates denied every saying such a thing”

BILL GATES and the Race to Control Cyberspace

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