03.31.09

Patents Roundup: Red Hat, Former USPTO Commissioner on Patent Demise, and WIPO Notes

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, IBM, Law, Oracle, Patents, Red Hat at 10:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Red Hat Revisited

AMIDST AND DESPITE some AMQP controversy [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], Red Hat is inviting people to join an AMQP Conference at the University of California. AMQP made the headlines recently because of software patents that Red Hat obtained in this area.

Regarding the question “did Red Hat lobby for, or against software patents in Europe?” says Simon Phipps from Sun:

Against. I was there & saw it.

“Correct,” says one person from the FFII, “RedHat was always the most supportive company. Sun itself was more in a transition but they were able to defend the Article 6a.”

This is not a resolved issue yet, but Red Hat’s competitors have reasons for skepticism. It makes sense to weigh both sides of this debate.

Bruce Lehman Predicts the Demise of Patents?

A very interesting article that Groklaw has just found states that “Lehman predicts IP will be sidelined under Obama.”

“The age of IP rights being at the forefront of American trade policy is over”, according to former USPTO commissioner Bruce Lehman

What does this mean (the full article requires a subscription)? That things would remain unchanged? That patents would be abolished? The latter is improbable given the source of this tidbit, but then again, he is the former commissioner, not the existing one, so perhaps he saw some ugliness inside and foresaw bad things to come. More here:

As the news about ACTA gets nastier and publishers push to recapture publically funded research, there’s some fresh air from former USPTO Commissioner, Bruce Lehman regarding “intellectual property” and US trade policy:

[During Lehman's tenure at the USPTO] TRIPs Agreement was finalised, the DMCA passed into law and WIPOs two copyright treaties were developed. Lehman said that there was a widespread perception among Democrats that the US lowered its trade barriers in 1994 in the expectation that it would be able to switch to exporting high-tech products but, because IP protection remains poor in many countries, it hasnt been able to do this. “The bargain we thought we made in 1994 hasnt worked out as we expected,” he said [and predicted IP would be sidelined by the Obama administration].

The UK-IPO is meanwhile teaching children not to share, which is an utterly poor strategy for development because only in collaboration will development thrive. Just watch how Wikipedia crushed Microsoft this month.

The Intellectual Property Office-backed exhibit will also feature some of the first ever patented inventions from the Science Museum’s own collection.

Unsurprisingly, the IPO is heavily pushing for youngsters to appreciate ownership, creativity and innovation as well as highlighting what “financial rewards” inventors can expect to receive.

Microsoft actually plays a big role in brainwashing British children in favour of intellectual monopolies. Similar moves are spotted elsewhere in the world and Microsoft told its investors in a quarterly filing that it intends to carry on doing this. It’s about mind control and changing of rules. Microsoft is trying to turn back the clock and restore dying revenue paradigms with imaginary property in an age of broadband.

The farce which is the patent reform (in its current form) is facing resistance based on this report from Reuters while Glyn Moody revisits the “Patent Failure” meme.

Leading senators in the battle over patent reform urged stakeholders on Thursday to reach some sort of compromise that would allow a balanced overhaul of the patent system to win approval.

Why not just scrap it?

The net effect is that patents take away from the knowledge commons, without giving back even the paltry payment they owe. Add it to the (long) list of why patents fail.

Our list here in Boycott Novell is very long and we shall organise this in a Wiki one day.

Novell plate

WIPO

FSFE was seen addressing WIPO's problems the other day. Georg Greve made it into a lot of press in the patents-oriented Web sites. His own notes contain some good conclusions.

As also highlighted in FSFE’s interventions, these criteria allow for an assessment of the usefulness of the patent system for each individual area. It follows that areas in which these benefits do not materialise lack an economic rationale for patenting. An example for such an area is software, which had no innovative market failure prior to the introduction of patents, in which patents are useless for disclosure of new ideas, and in which legal counsels suggest that developers do not study patents in order to avoid claims of intentional infringement. So this study provides an analytical rationale behind statements such as the one by Bill Gates in 1991, which voices concern about the anti-innovative effect of patents in the field of software:

“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.”

Application of this rationale in the policy setting process would allow to assess which areas can benefit from patents, and where more innovation can be had by excluding an area from the patent system. In parallel to the “Berne three-step test” we have dubbed this the “three step test for inclusion in the patent system” in our oral intervention.

Here is a videocast of Greve.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on the Law of Patents discussed exceptions and limitations to patentability on 24 March. Intellectual Property Watch spoke with Georg Greve of the Free Software Foundation Europe about exceptions on patents and software.

More coverage can be found mostly in IP Watch’s special coverage of the event:

i. Videocast: Georg Greve on Software Patents

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on the Law of Patents discussed exceptions and limitations to patentability on 24 March. Intellectual Property Watch spoke with Georg Greve of the Free Software Foundation Europe about exceptions on patents and software.

ii. Concerns Voiced At WIPO Over Potential Conflicts Between IP And Standards

Government procurement could preference open or interoperable standards, said Latif. Binding obligations to disclose all relevant IP information on standards, as well as the involvement of competition authorities in work on standards to ensure anti-competitive practices are not used, could also help.

Ultimately, said Greve, increasing the transparency of the system is useful.

iii. WIPO Patent Committee To Consider Four New Reports, Global Challenges

iv. Concerns Voiced At WIPO Over Potential Conflicts Between IP And Standards

“Both patents and standards are instruments from the toolbox of innovation policy, but they are different instruments,” said Georg Greve of the Free Software Foundation Europe. “Patents,” he said, “are intended for private, personal use [while] standards are intended for public use.”

“They are diametrically opposed in practice… maximising one instrument invalidates the other,” he added.

v. Statement by the United States on patents and standards at WIPO patent committee

In the United States, antitrust enforcers seek to ensure that our markets are competitive by preventing agreements or mergers that create or increase market power, or unilateral actions that use existing market power to protect or expand a monopoly. Our focus is on preventing harm to the competitive process, not on ensuring competitors treat each other fairly. Therefore, we would strike the use of “fair” wherever it appears before “functioning of the market” and when it modifies “competition” or “market”.

Patently Bound to Fail

Here are a couple of patents one should definitely watch out for: [via Digital Majority]

i. Smith Micro Receives Patent For JPEG Compression Technology

Smith Micro Software, Inc. (Nasdaq: SMSI) today announced that it was issued U.S. Patent No. 7,502,514 “System and Method for Lossless Compression of Already Compressed Files” by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. The new ’514 patent extends to a system and method for losslessly compressing already compressed files including, but not limited to, archive files like ZIP, and media formats such as MP3 and JPEGs.

ii. IBM tries to patent offshoring

Two years ago, red-faced IBM executives ordered a patent application on offshoring jobs to be withdrawn. Last week it returned, more sophisticated than ever. The latest application, describes how to weigh various constraints, such as lack of a skilled workforce, against incentives such as tax breaks.

IBM is not much of a friend when it comes to software patents. IBM breeds them.

Disputes

There are a couple of new patent disputes which are worth attention. The first involves a monopoly abuser that bribes, colludes, and obstructs justice by destruction of evidence. That company is Intel and Nvidia retaliates with a counter suit against Intel, which attacked first.

Nvidia’s very own Queen of hearts, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, pouted and said, “Nvidia did not initiate this legal dispute,” but added the firm had to defend itself and the rights it had negotiated for, “when we provided Intel access to our valuable patents.”

This is also covered in:

The second case shows Oracle messing about with software patents, but none these relate to Unbreakable Linux (RHEL ripoff).

Oracle and telecom Alcatel-Lucent have settled a patent-related dispute, according to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“We reached an agreement that is satisfactory to both parties,” Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman Mary Ward said Monday. Terms of the agreement are confidential, she said.

[...]

The software vendor’s suit centered on a number of Alcatel-Lucent products, including the OmniTouch My Messaging system and the 5350 XML Document Management Server, according to Oracle’s original complaint.

This is also covered here. Alcatel-Lucent is just one example of a dying company that relies mostly on intellectual monopolies for survival. It has harassed Microsoft too [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

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