12.02.08

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Patents Roundup: From Microsoft’s Trolls to Obama Policies

Posted in America, Asia, Europe, IBM, Microsoft, Patents at 6:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Section sign

“Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source. Making it easier for companies and communities that have patents to make those patents available in a common pool for people to use is one way to try to help developers deal with the threat.”

Linus Torvalds

Microsoft Patent Trolls

Transmeta is known to many F/OSS people because of Linus Torvalds, who used to work there. Well, the company is pretty much kaput, as disclosed roughly a month ago when it put itself up on display. Some of its assets are offered for sale now, so up for grabs are also several imaginary properties that are being grabbed by Microsoft's own patent troll.

IV was apparently there at the bargaining table with Novafora, which makes digital video processors. It’s putting $11.6 million towards the $255.6 million purchase price in exchange for some kind of rights to Transmeta’s low-power silicon patents, perhaps so IV can protect one of its investors.

Interestingly enough, this report comes from a known ‘Microsoft mole’ [1, 2]. Looking a little deeper between the lines, some connections can be drown: “William P. Tai informed the Board [...] of Transmeta [...] that he plans to retire [...] fulfill [...] commitments at Charles River Ventures, a venture capital firm [...]”

“Charles River Venture is connected to Intellectual Ventures, which is in turn connected to Microsoft.”Intellectual Ventures is listed right here under the online identity of Charles River Ventures. Charles River Venture is connected to Intellectual Ventures, which is in turn connected to Microsoft. The company was started by a former Transmeta board member, just after Intellectual Ventures had invested in his company and in Transmeta.

A reader of ours suggests the following chain of relationships: RPX Corporation -> Transmeta -> Intellectual Ventures -> Novafora -> Charles River Ventures.

Another company whose trail of dependencies seems tricky (subsidiaries, funding, and movement of employees) is Acacia. It sued GNU/Linux vendors shortly after inheriting top Microsoft staff and shortly after Microsoft’s CEO had threatened Red Hat, which was among those sued [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

Acacia has acquired some more patents with which to fight and it last raved about it over a week ago.

Acacia Research Corporation (Nasdaq:ACTG) announced today that its subsidiary, Acacia Patent Acquisition LLC, has acquired rights to patents relating to improved lighting technology.

There are some other news to watch out for because this patent troll has ‘Microsoft DNA’ inside. It needs to be watched.

US Patents System Challenged

It has been over a month since Bilski [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33], but discussions have not ended. This important decision continues to jeopardise very many software patents, which would fail the court test.

Worth noting, however, is that Bilski did not claim a computer implementation of the recited method or a software claim. Thus, the “machine” prong of the machine-or-transformation test remains untested by the Federal Circuit as a result of the Bilski decision. However, the Court noted that in order to pass muster under the machine prong, the use of such a machine must “impose meaningful limits on the claim’s scope.” Field of use or insignificant extra-solution activity will not suffice. Moreover, the process claim in issue in Bilski was found to “not … be a software claim.” It therefore also remains open as to how or if a software clam can be written to satisfy the transformation prong of the test.

Over at P2PNet, people are reminded that the term “intellectual property” should be avoided and patents be referred to as “intellectual monopolies” instead. “If thought can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt thought,” said George Orwell.

Instead of speaking of “intellectual property”, which invokes that feel-good idea of property and ownership, we should speak of “intellectual monopolies”. For this is precisely what copyrights and patents are: they are monopolies granted by governments for a limited period as part of a bargain – that, in return, those who are granted those monopolies hand them over to the public domain once the term of the monopoly has lapsed.

The Obama campaign (and administration to be) has summed up its stance/policy on intellectual monopolies as: “The Obama-Biden Transition Project respects the intellectual property of others…”

Reading the remainder of that statement, it reads very much like Biden’s known ties with the MAFIAA are rearing their ugly head. What does this mean for patents? Well, they have established a working group that includes Irving Wladawsky-Berger, but his lifetime employer, IBM, is not against software patents and he even wrote in his blog that “It is ironic that if software patents were disallowed altogether, it might cause legitimate software innovations to then be protected as trade secrets, and thus keep them away from open source projects.”

India and British Imperialism

Microsoft’s patent troll is already bugging India following a series of letdown when it comes to patent law [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. BT, which is still loosely tied to the British government, was previous seen participating in subversion of the law in India and now it’s the British government itself which applies for patents (monopolies) over there.

The UK government is seeking a patent in India for a defence invention called ‘modulation signals for a satellite navigation system’, which can measure satellite signals.

Europe Suffers from Loopholes

The Stop Software Patents push has identified ways in which the EPO seems to be escaping hard questions regarding software patents.

The European Patent Office does not only grant software patents, it also lobbies the legislators to validate them through the creation of a central patent court.

“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway”.”

Marshall Phelps, Microsoft

Further to the action against big pharmaceuticals in Europe, there is also this rant.

These obstacles cost taxpayers money, up to three billion Euro a year, according to the Commission report.

The monopolies will not give up without a fight. They have means for perversion of justice.

Miscellany

A very notorious patent, Amazon’s 1-Click feature, celebrates a birthday of shame.

“Nine years ago Monday, Amazon kicked off the Holiday Season by slapping Barnes and Noble with a court injunction barring BN from using a checkout feature that Amazon said represented illegal copying of its patented 1-Click technology. ‘We’re pleased that Judge Pechman recognized the innovation underlying our 1-Click feature,’ said Jeff Bezos in a press release. But an Appellate Court wasn’t quite as impressed with Amazon’s innovation…”

Moving on to some patents that relate less to software, we also find:

1. InterDigital, Samsung settle 3G patent dispute

InterDigital and Samsung settled two long-standing patent-infringement lawsuits just as the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) was about to make a decision on whether to recommend banning imports of Samsung phones containing 3G phones.

2. Fairchild Semiconductor Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Infineon Technologies – Quick Facts

In the lawsuit, the company stated that it believes certain Infineon CoolMOS and OptiMOS branded products, as well as other Infineon IGBT and CanPAK products, infringe one or more claims of eight Fairchild patents.

3. German firm claims Xilinx, Avnet infringe patents

Pact has been focusing accelerators that plug into the processor socket of dual or quad processor motherboards to run multimedia applications such as video, audio, voice, and image transcoding.

Feel the innovation. The lawyers sure do.

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2 Comments

  1. pcolon said,

    December 2, 2008 at 9:05 am

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    “It is ironic that if software patents were disallowed altogether, it might cause legitimate software innovations to then be protected as trade secrets, and thus keep them away from open source projects.”

    Better to keep it as a “trade secret”, force corporations to do their own “IP monopolies” policing without using public funds and let innovators and developers go about their business. Using the patent club to stifle ideas doesn’t help innovation.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 2, 2008 at 9:55 am

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    We are probably going to write an open letter to him.

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