03.18.09

Patents Roundup: Backlash, Pseudo Reform, Patent Trolls and Microsoft

Posted in Courtroom, FSF, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Patents, TomTom at 5:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rainbow troll

THE problem with the patent system — and software patents in particular — continues to be discussed around the Web. Lora Bentley from IT Business Edge spoke to the SFLC and came up with the following two posts:

i. SFLC Says Software Patents Impede Technology

The writers then go on to argue that software is not patentable subject matter because “it does nothing more than execute mathematical algorithms.” And the Supreme Court has held that algorithms, abstract concepts and the like, on their own, are not patentable. (There is more to the argument, of course, but that’s the main point.)

ii. Software Patents from Another Angle

However, if you ask why the patent system is bad for software as opposed to other things, she agrees you may have a point. As Kuhn also noted, software is subject to both copyright protection and patent protection at the same time. And it makes no sense to apply both schemes at once — especially when they work so differently. Copyright covers expression. Patents cover functionality. Patents are used to exclude people from doing things. Copyright is more enabling.

Over at IPJur, readers are being reminded that not just the FSF — but major economists too — are opposed to this patents extravaganza.

From time to time, prominent scholars inhabiting the top floors of the ivory tower like to publish their musings about the usefulness or evilness of the current system of IP law. For example, even Nobel laureate Mr Eric Maskin (LinkedIn) was involved in developing certain theories based on mathematical models of economy according to which the patent system plays a rather detrimental role. Have a look at the formulas of the Bessen/Maskin mathematical model. Where is the evidence that reality in economy can be mapped by such models? Should such work really be taken as a basis for any actual political decisions? I am in doubt.

In the United States, a word with a positive connotation, namely “reform” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], is being used to describe a move that curbs patent trolls to an extent but is not terribly helpful, all things considered. The New Scientist echoes some of the backlash this so-called ‘reform’ has brought.

US patent bill a ‘chill on innovation’

[...]

One aim is to slash incentives for “trolls” who patent ideas with the intention of suing companies with a similar technology. Such a case cost the BlackBerry maker Research In Motion $612 million in 2006. However, the inventors’ group Innovation Alliance says that all inventors will suffer from reduced damages as a result.

Mercury News addresses the same wrong question that focuses on “innovation” rather than “competition”.

Opinion: Patent reform will remove the brakes from innovation

[...]

But in other sectors, the present system functions as a tax on innovation. In IT, resources have been expended to build up huge portfolios of patents, most of which have little value in themselves but which collectively hold out some promise of defensive use or licensing potential. Patents are not ordinary assets; they are options to litigate. While patent lawyers and other intermediaries benefit directly from the scope and scale of IT patents, that volume represents potential liability for companies that market useful products. Most patents belong to others, and the sheer volume obscures the patent landscape, limits the ability to evaluate patents and inevitably leads to inadvertent infringement.

By impeding competition software patents merely obstruct innovation and in Europe we might see the EPO selling out as things are headed the wrong way.

Commission repeats call for single EU patent

The European Commission has reiterated its demand for the creation of a single European patent. It said the absence of such a protection is hindering the growth of technology companies in the European Union.

This is not a good thing.

Over in India, which resists software patents quite strongly (with the exception of Microsoft and some business partners [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]), the opposition party which supports FOSS also expresses its clear views against software patents. This is good.

“The Left, specially the Communist Party of India-Marxists, have also been supportive in taking stand against software patents in India, and are in favour of open standards,” Venkatesh Hariharan of Red Hat India and a FOSS lobbyist told IANS.

IDG has this new article which reviews some Microsoft patents for readers to assess their quality (or lack thereof). It provides as examples: “Proxy engine for custom handling of Web content”, “Electronic program guide displayed simultaneously with television programming”, “Multiple paradigms within a single application”, “Test results management”, “Secure network location awareness”, “Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)”, “Techniques to allocate virtual network addresses”, “Managing navigation history for intra-page state transitions”, “Online advertising relevance verification”, and “Updating contents of asynchronously refreshable Web pages.”

If Microsoft wants a case against Linux, then it will have to be specific, but surely it realises that patents like the above may be trivial to challenge and circumvent. In the case of Microsoft vs. TomTom, the aggressor is naming patent numbers, but when it comes to the core kernel (Linux), it just is just throwing out number of patents (not patent numbers) without anything specific. According to this report about a new ruling, the latter strategy is bound to fail badly.

A U.S. judge has dismissed a patent lawsuit brought by chip maker Broadcom against rival Qualcomm, saying the company didn’t identify specific patents it was suing over.

Sounds familiar?

The Inquirer has some more coverage of this.

Broadcom had argued that Qualcomm was unfairly limiting competition by putting excessive conditions in its patent licensing terms.

In other news, a patent lawsuit against Microsoft has just been lost.

A judge in the U.S. state of Texas has thrown out a lawsuit filed against Nintendo and Microsoft that alleged the two companies infringed on a patent covering an interface for joysticks.

The suit was filed in 2007 by Texas-based Fenner Investments and a jury trial was due to begin on Tuesday but on Monday Judge Leonard Davis of the U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, dismissed the case.

This is also covered here and we wrote about it on Monday.

To close off, here is a seminar on “Maximizing Intellectual Property Value in Tough Economic Times.” Pamela Jones offers one highlight: “Predictably, in a downturn, more companies are suing others in hope of generating income. ‘A harsh market spurs more litigation,’ Rugg said. Litigation is expensive. To make sure it’s worth it, first conduct a litigation analysis that considers the overall business model, costs and benefits. ‘Don’t become enamored with enforcement as a shortcut for innovation,’ Rugg cautioned.”

Microsoft falls under this category of companies which sue proactively over patents, even against GNU/Linux (volunteers). What does that say about Microsoft’s financial condition? This is a subject that we covered before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

“Small enterprises generally adopt a rather negative position towards the current increasing granting of patents for software and algorithms because they fear that these will hamper or eventually even impede their work (more than 85%).” —German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Study of the Innovation Performance of German Software Companies, 2006, p. 86 [PDF]

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

This post is also available in Gemini over at:

gemini://gemini.techrights.org/2009/03/18/pats-backlash-pseudo-reform/

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Hardly Shocking and Not At All Surprising That Thugs Who Run the EPO Hired External Thugs to Help Them Oppress Aggrieved Staff

    With the EPO's management flooding the bank accounts of aggressive law firms (at our expense) we need to ask serious questions about how such a "Mafia" (what EPO staff calls the management) managed to metastasise inside Europe's second-largest institution and how to remove this "Mafia" as soon as possible (some arrests too are well overdue)



  2. [Meme] There Are No Elections in Mafia-Type Regimes; It's About Family and Friends...

    With no real concept or notion of "elections" (the so-called 'mafia' members choose their successors and colleagues) the EPO's patent examiners clearly need outside intervention, e.g. inquest by the EU authorities (the EPC died and maybe the EPO too; it's unregulated and it grants false patents that harm Europe because the courts don't function, either)



  3. Today's Linux Standing for the Opposite of What Linux Users Stand for

    The so-called 'Linux' Foundation or the "Corporate Linux Foundation" is alienating many of the original users of GNU/Linux and it still insults their intelligence; it's rewriting history, it still distorts the objectives, and before we know Linux will perish and lose momentum because all the excitement associated with the brand will fizzle away



  4. Links 14/6/2021: Kdenlive 21.04.2 and Raspberry Pi 400 Support in Linux

    Links for the day



  5. [Meme] EPO 'Lawfulness' as Crude Budget Wars

    A war of attrition against EPO staff won’t ensure justice is done; it’ll only increase the number of casualties and accomplish nothing good



  6. A Parade of 'Yes Men': EPO's Budget and Finance Committee as Rubber-stamper of the Dictatorship That Pays the Salary

    The lack of oversight at the EPO has long been apparent and it is becoming ever more problematic now that huge sums of money are passed by the EPO's management to law firms whose sole role is to fight against aggrieved EPO staff



  7. Links 14/6/2021: Linux 5.13 RC6, Psychonauts 2 for GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  8. Conveniently Conflating Vaccination With the Surveillance Business of IBM/Linux Foundation

    The way some media handles COVID-19 can be described as self-serving, especially Microsoft-connected sites looking to make “Linux” sound bad (or like property of Microsoft); the video above discusses this past weekend’s media coverage about “Linux”



  9. [Meme] Microsoft Stooping Down Low in Search of Vapourware With a Superficial Version Bump

    Instead of trying to actually fix its broken (and self-breaking) operating system Microsoft has decided to sell mythology and false promises, as usual



  10. [Meme] Illegal Location, Illegal Methods (Haar ViCo)

    EPC denial is more lethal than anything which the the EPO says may merit 'urgency' (as if having discussions about patents will save lives)



  11. The 'Fixer' of António Campinos Taints G1/21 (ViCo Hearing)

    The meeting which is set to resume at the start of next month includes the 'Fixer' of António Campinos; what sense of impartiality might one expect?



  12. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, June 13, 2021

    IRC logs for Sunday, June 13, 2021



  13. Virtual Injustice -- Part 6: Best Buddies With António

    Benoît Battistelli, António Campinos, and the Hungarian link of the EPO



  14. Classic: Old EPO Strike

    2008 EPO video, predating the Benoît Battistelli EPO regime



  15. Links 13/6/2021: Linux 5.14 Work, Lots of Patent News

    Links for the day



  16. Update on Gemini, IPFS, and IRC

    "The video which was supposed to be a few minutes long ended up taking a lot longer, but it does cover a broad range of topics that are relevant and very recent (based on recent developments)."



  17. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, June 12, 2021

    IRC logs for Saturday, June 12, 2021



  18. Virtual Injustice -- Part 5: Benoît's “Friends” in Budapest

    "Battistelli went to considerable lengths to secure the support of the Hungarian delegation."



  19. Links 13/6/2021: KDE Frameworks 5.83.0 and helloSystem 0.5

    Links for the day



  20. The Story of Techrights, in Banners...

    A look back at site banners from 2006-2021; they help illuminate or show our changing focus over the years



  21. With KDE Plasma 5.22 Having Just Been Released It's Time to Give KDE a Try (or Move to GNU/Linux, Leveraging the Best Features of Any Operating System Out There)

    A quick recommendation of KDE based on a reasonably recent (but not latest) build; there's this myth about KDE being difficult and flaky, but for a number of decades it has been the most advanced desktop (on any operating system) and its developers managed to hide the complexity while offering users all the power they may want/need



  22. Open Letter to the FSF About Taking Control of the FSF's (and GNU's) IRC Channels

    The FSF should have seized the opportunity, in light of self-harming IRC infighting (instability and unpredictability), to create its own IRC network and then help this new (or "GNU") network flourish



  23. EU Already Captured by -- and Lying for -- Corrupt EPO Officials, Team UPC, and Lobbyists of Multinational Corporations

    12 pages of lies; is the European Parliament reduced to a mere marionette of corrupt officials who run the EPO into the ground?



  24. [Meme] Virtual Code of Conduct (ViCoC)

    Cheapening of basic concepts and principles like "right to be heard" or "access to justice" is an international trend; we need to push back in the direction of justice, not fake 'innovation' or 'tech' (where it clearly does not belong)



  25. IRC Proceedings: Friday, June 11, 2021

    IRC logs for Friday, June 11, 2021



  26. Virtual Injustice -- Part 4: Mihály Ficsor, the EPO's Hungarian “Fixer”

    One key operative of António Campinos, who is fiercely in favour of software patents, has quite a colourful past and background



  27. Conversation With Richard Stallman in Brazil, May 31st 2021

    At the end of last month Richard Stallman had a 2-hour (and beyond, considering some of the afterthoughts) conversation, which is now available online



  28. Links 11/6/2021: Nginx Rising and SteamPal Rumours

    Links for the day



  29. New Introduction at Gemini

    As part of ongoing improvements to our capsule we have a new introductory text, reproduced below



  30. Links 11/6/2021: A Torvalds COVID Rant and RISC-V Risk of Takeover

    Links for the day


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts