06.08.09

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Patents Roundup: OASIS Takes Stance Against Software Patents, Microsoft Loses Again

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, OpenDocument, Patents, Red Hat, SUN at 2:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novel party

Summary: OASIS takes an important step, Microsoft surrenders to Paltalk, and McCreevy gets a substitute crony

THE PREVIOUS post, which was about ODF, did not reference posts about Microsoft’s patent threat to ODF [1, 2, 3, 4]. There is more to Microsoft’s damage than just harm to interoperability [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. According to the following short report from Simon Phipps (Sun/Oracle), OASIS, which is practically in possession of ODF for the most part, takes new steps against software patents.

Some of you may remember a fuss that was made a few years ago by some open source people over the copyright and patent policy used by OASIS, the computer protocols standards body. OASIS seems to have taken it to heart, because it has today announced what looks to me like the perfect basis for technology standards in an open source world.

Their new rules include a new “mode” which standards projects can opt into using. In this new mode, all contributors promise that they will not assert any patents they may own related to the standard the project is defining.

Microsoft has meanwhile found out (not for the first time) that software patents are a double-ended (or edged) sword. In its case against Paltalk, Microsoft falls on its sword and pays for patents, thus admitting infringement.

GROUP MESSAGING outfit Paltalk says it has settled its patent dispute with Microsoft.

This is also covered in:

The press release from Paltalk resembles familiar templates of patent trolls (including the headline). They rave about litigation — not products — to their investors.

Microsoft’s unofficial PR people (masquerading as journalists) cover the story in:

That second post comes from a new Microsoft booster in the Seattle P-I, Nick Eaton. He replaces Joe, who replaced Todd last year. His new job — evidently enough based on the short history — is to relentlessly praise the monopolising company. There are also Microsoft employees writing for the Seattle P-I now [1, 2]. How convenient a marketing platform.

In other patent news, the president of the FFII says that patent trolls are meeting at CIPForum and he also warns that Charlie McCreevy, who promoted software patents in Europe [1, 2, 3], may get replaced by a potentially much worse person.

Cox is favourite to replace McCreevy in EU Commission

The former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox has emerged as the new favourite to replace Charlie McCreevy as EU Commissioner this autumn.

Mr Cox is probably the only Irish figure that could command an influential portfolio ­ and appointing him would avoid a by-election that the government couldn’t win.

“Pat Cox is a software patent campaigner,” we are told.

Moving on a bit, Groklaw takes a close look at the G3/08 amicus brief from Red Hat, the leader in GNU/Linux. Red Hat clearly opposes software patents, whereas another company that uses Linux — a company whose shady practices had the term “Tivoization” coined — carries on abusing such patents to extort for extra cash. TiVo is a large player in its market and it is suing companies using software patents.

Are patents ever defending small businesses? Not by a long shot, claims the guru behind TechDirt.

How Patents Are Harming Small Companies Too

[...]

One of the more annoying things about the whole debate on patent reform is that some have tried to position it as “small companies” vs. “big companies.” That’s not even close to true. While there have been plenty of high profile fights between patent holders vs. big companies, that’s only a small part of the issue. And, in fact, it’s often smaller, more innovative companies that are the most harmed by patents. Joe Mullin has a great post looking at how small mom-and-pop photo sharing sites are being hit with a bunch of patent infringement lawsuits.

[...]

What about the guy who can put a bunch of different ideas together to make a much better product, but is unable to because multiple patent holders all want a huge % of his earnings? Time and time again we hear stories of small businesses who feel the patent system is holding them back in significant ways — and it’s a true shame.

Even research patents are coming under scrutiny now.

In any case, I’m not buying David’s assertion that “most universities”, or most hospitals or research institutes for that matter, rely heavily on licensing income. And that being so, I am also somewhat skeptical about the number of researchers’ families being supported by patents.

What’s the Open Science connection? Well, if you’re interested in patenting the results of your research, there are a lot of restrictions on how you can disseminate your results. You can’t keep an Open Notebook, or upload unprotected work to a preprint server or publicly-searchable repository, or even in many cases talk about the IP-related parts of your work at conferences. It seems from the data above that most universities would not be losing much if they gave up chasing patents entirely; nor would they be risking much future income, since so few seem to get significant funds from licensing.

What a waste of labour, which could otherwise be used to emphasise further scientific progress, not paperwork. Research is inherently based on the model of sharing ideas and reusing them. That, for example, is what conferences and journals are about.

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