11.02.09

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Microsoft Patent Traps and the Possible Looming End of Software Patents

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Protocol at 6:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: How Microsoft uses ActiveSync to shut out Free software with software patents; OOXML patents and other issues revisited; Bilski to be revisited by the Supremes, who can axe software patents in the United States

Microsoft’s plan for fighting Free software involves software patents that essentially impose a tax on use. One example of a software patents vector is ActiveSync, which we last wrote about right here, with other examples in [1, 2]. Now there is another Microsoft patent deal (ActiveSync), which serves the same agenda of imposing a tax on access to protocols. What will the European Commission say about that? Is it familiar with this issue already?

It happens to be a similar case with OOXML, which Microsoft knew all along had patent issues but kept them secret and lied to the public about them. Microsoft Nick is now showing that OOXML has other issues too; even users of Microsoft Office are unnecessarily facing barriers because Microsoft changed its proprietary formats.

Microsoft is optimizing its upcoming Office Web Apps for .docx, .pptx, and .xslx, which will boost the online accessibility of documents uploaded from users’ desktops—but in the process, perhaps making life more difficult for those using older versions of Office. During testing of the Web Apps technical preview, eWEEK found that documents with .xls and .ppt file extensions could not be edited through the browser, although they could still be viewed and downloaded.

Meet the OOXML upgrade treadmill. Many say that OOXML is about forced upgrades along with other tricks like breaking compatibility with rival office suites, all while pretending to have gone “open”. And again, what about the patents? OOXML remains a patent trap. Groklaw has just published an article that challenges Microsoft’s Bilski amicus brief, which is in favour of software patents of course.

I have noticed something about PDF the amicus brief from Microsoft, Philips and Symantec submitted to the US Supreme Court in the In re Bilski case. This amicus brief relies on a particular interpretation of the history of computing and on its own description of the inner workings of a computer to argue that software should be patentable subject matter. I argue that both the history and the description of the actual working of a computer is inaccurate.

The Supreme Court’s decision could put an end to software patenting in the United States and the hearing is very near. It’s only a week away.

The United States Supreme Court will hear a patent case on Nov. 9 that has implications for both method and software patents, and it has gained widespread attention from industry groups, professors and businesses looking to influence the high court’s thinking.

But at least one lawyer expects that the decision made in this case will not fix anything at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Interestingly enough, the previous ruling on the Bilski case already kills software patents.

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