02.29.08

The Fight Against Software Patents and Intellectual Monopolies

Posted in GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Kernel, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 3:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There is a fair bit of news on the subject of what the press wrongly calls "intellectual property". For starters, you are strongly encouraged to read this new article from the Guardian. It explains why “‘Intellectual property’ is a silly euphemism.”

And now, come to consider the fact that many companies fight to end software patents. This is major, if accurately described herein.

The End Software Patents Web site, here, highlights a long list of diverse businesses that have been sued for allegedly infringing software patents, including the Green Bay Packers, OfficeMax, Caterpillar, Kraft Foods , ADT Security Services, AutoNation, Wal-Mart , Walgreen , Barnes & Noble, Circuit City Stores , Ford Motor , E I du Pont de Nemours and Co. , and so on. In most cases, the companies have been sued because of certain basic, routine functions performed on their Web sites — the way images are displayed, the way data is gathered or transmitted — which are said to infringe software patents.

With so many spurious patents, it should hardly be surprising that a huge backlog gets reported by the USPTO, which very recently received an unnecessary funding boost.

Even with its increased hiring estimates of 1,200 patent examiners each year for the next 5 years, the US Patent and Trademark Office patent application backlog is expected to increase to over 1.3 million at the end of fiscal year 2011 the Government Accounting Office reported today.

With these astonishing numbers in mind, watch the following chart again.

Software patent on rise

Mind the following news article from Associated Press:

More than 60 companies and trade associations, including Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc., are members of Coalition for Patent Fairness. The coalition paid Patton Boggs to lobby Congress in support of patent legislation that passed the House last year but has stalled in the Senate.

Using the power of the lobbyist (political intervention), at least some of them want to abolish elements in the USPTO that harm their revenue while keeping some of the elements that are harmful to Free software (i.e. their rivals). This was argued elsewhere in the past and even pointed out by Digital Majority editors.

The worry here is that various ‘peripheral’ (Linus Torvalds calls them "external") issues exist that people like ourselves and others are still studying. Have a look at ways in which Microsoft intends to replace the cash cows' cashflow. It seems safe to suspect Microsoft still operates at a loss, overall. A change of strategy is crucial to Microsoft’s survival.

Remember what’s in Microsoft mind: patents. Watch the recent news about Blackboard, which was funded by Microsoft. For all we can tell, Microsoft views this as its newer strategy. Its latest SEC filing supports this assertion, to an extent. Then again, Microsoft is also a sufferer, as we were last reminded only 3 days ago.

Microsoft Corp. has challenged 24 of Avistar Communications Corp.’s 29 U.S. patents, the company said.

San Mateo-based Avistar said the challenge follows six months of unsuccessful business discussions.

Software patents and legislation might have greater effect on the success of GNU/Linux than only its technical merits. Those who refuse to acknowledge this do so at their own peril.

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