02.03.08

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Patents: The Less, the Merrier; Software Patents: The None Means Merry

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 11:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Digital Majority has amassed some pretty good links, the first of which shows some of the roots of the patent dilemma.

Another practice that I find abhorrent is the BigCo “pay for patent application” approach where BigCo pays engineers a bonus (typical $1,000 to $5,000) for each patent filing. Not for the patents, but for the patent filing. This obviously encourages engineers to waste a bunch of their time not innovating but instead cranking out a bunch of stupid patent filings that clog the system.

“Blackboard promised it would not sue FOSS projects such as Moodle (an open pledge was made), but the company seems very willing to use its arsenal of junk patents offensively.”As pointed out last month, you have to be rich just to own a patent. This gets pretty horrible once you permit junk patents and software patents to pass because there is a seemingly infinite number of patents you can collect once you find the time and the money.

Several months ago, Blackboard made a lot of noise with its heap of junk patents, which put at risk various free content management systems (CMSs). The ‘bright’ idea of having different roles with different privileges on the system is supposedly Bloackboard’s invention (or so they wish you to believe anyway). Blackboard promised it would not sue FOSS projects such as Moodle (an open pledge was made), but the company seems very willing to use its arsenal of junk patents offensively. From the news:

The Blackboard patent infringement case against Desire2Learn goes to trial on February 11, 2008 in Lufkin, Texas. The trial is expected to last two weeks. Both sides will have no more than 18 hours to present their case.

[...]

By all accounts Blackboard’s patent is a stupid one and never should have been issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Here is Apple scooping another patent on user interfaces — a very questionable thing to do even in the area of software patents.

On January 31, the US Patent & Trademark Office published eleven of Apple’s patent applications in total. This particular report centers on Apple’s patent application titled User interface elements for hierarchical selection of items while listing several continuation patents. Apple’s current patent generally relates to user interface elements.

Surely yet quietly, Apple likes software patents, despite the fact that it suffers from them at times [1, 2, 3, 4].

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