08.17.08

Protest in India Against Software Patents

Posted in Asia, Microsoft, OpenOffice, Patents at 10:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We saw this coming a few days ago. Later there was a protest being organised in Bangalore to resist the work of Microsoft and its cronies, who wish to sneak in software patents by the back door [1, 2, 3, 4].

Here is the main page of relevance. The protest planning meeting took place yesterday morning. The protest will take place next week and photos will probably arrive later. Here is the Facebook page for the event. [Ed: we made some corrections here]

In other software patent news, there’s some strong opposition coming from FII, which has just unleashed this long article that compared patents to subprime mortgages.

Many patents work in the same way that subprime mortgages and all its derivatives. They create false assets and so false economies that finally develop in important economical crisis. But in the case of patents it is worse indeed, because every patent is potentially a monopoly and a block to the free market.

An article from the Indian press proves that innovation requires no patents (intellectual monopolies). The author uses Linux as an example of this.

Another example of innovation is the Linux operating system, which runs on almost everything, from the Mars Rover, to giant supercomputers to the tiniest embedded computers. This innovation has been powered by the open source model, based on collaboration, community and the shared ownership of knowledge. Thousands of volunteers and private enterprises like Red Hat, IBM and others have contributed source code to Linux under the general public license (GPL) that gives users the freedom to modify the source code and share the resulting improvements with others.

It is estimated that the Linux kernel now has around 10 million lines of source code (the instructions that make a software program work). The commercial value of the source code in an average Linux distribution is estimated at around $8 billion. This represents an enormous wealth of knowledge that is freely available to everyone. The success of open source is clear proof that patents are not necessary for innovation in the software industry and that profit motives are not the only spur for innovation.

Also on the subject of patents and Linux, mind this thread in Groklaw. One person claims that he has found a dependency in OpenOffice upon Mono. This may be accidental, but nonetheless, it is worth keeping track of. We wrote about this recently.

Last but not least, Microsoft was caught violating copyright law quite a few times recently. Examples include:

Now, now… Watch Microsoft enforcing its rights, which may or may not seem a little hypocritical considering the incidents above. From the news:

A federal court in Connecticut has ordered a certification test help-site to stop publishing Microsoft-related materials after the software maker sued the company, claiming that it was selling actual certification exam questions.

[...]

The company did not return messages seeking comment for this story. Microsoft declined to comment on this story.

Hypocrisy is one the richest characteristics of Microsoft. We will return to this subject one day because it has a lot to do with patents.

Microsoft sang a very different tune in 1991. In a memo to his senior executives, Bill Gates wrote, “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” Mr. Gates worried that “some large company will patent some obvious thing” and use the patent to “take as much of our profits as they want.”

More here.

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