11.10.10

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Microsoft Lobbyists ‘Inject’ Pro-Software Patents Agenda Into News About Europe

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 1:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ACT Microsoft

Summary: Microsoft’s lobbyists are pushing for software patents to enter Europe at the moment, via the European Patent

MICROSOFT JUST cannot leave Europe alone. If not directly then indirectly it is trying to render software freedom “illegal”, using software patents of course. Working to expand a US-style system to Europe Microsoft created or recruited the ACT lobbyists, whose member Mr. Sax [1, 2, 3, 4] is now quoted in Murdoch’s press and his bosses are pleased about that:

ACT’s @mikesax quoted in WSJ advocating for European Patent, http://on.wsj.com/bclLeU

That’s just lobbying and anyone who knows anything about ACT is aware of the relationship with Microsoft. It is rogue group of lobbyists whom almost nobody pays attention to except those that they lobby (to inject the paymasters’ point of view), just like with mobbyists who mass-mail journalists. It is intended for people like Quickenborne [1, 2, 3] to be influenced by it now that they have a “special meeting”. Watch some more new patent propaganda of this type from Murdoch’s press, serving the American monopolies. It’s very strongly pro-software patents in Europe. “EU: Software patents will come in whether you want them or not,” summarises the president of the FFII in reference to this article. Glyn Moody has responded in the article “A Patent No-brainer, Mr Willetts”, adding separately that “US system of software patents is the last thing you want to copy” (of course! It’s an advantage for the UK over the US when there are no software patents, for reasons Richard Stallman explained).

The last thing Europe needs to inherit from the United States is the patent law. There are truly wonderful things about the United States, but the patent system is not one of them. Here is a legal type, Patrick Anderson, telling a disaster tale that’s not at all fiction: [via]

The $80,000 “Reasonable” Website Modification

[...]

So, what I’m NOT going to do is discuss the relative value of combining electronic “pointing” methods, with information hierarchies for rapid navigation of content ca. 1990. Not only is this high speculative, not to mention well outside my expertise, but it is also overly complicated and (for the most part) entirely irrelevant. As with any other price tag, a company like Webvention will likely try and get as much as its “customers” are willing to pay. Truthfully, the $80,000 price tag is entirely reasonable for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the technical merit of the invention.The difference here is how patent licenses are “sold.”

When I go to buy a pair of jeans, I’m mainly thinking about what quality jeans I am getting, and whether I can get a comparable, or better, pair from someone else, for less money. The inherent costs in making a purchase (e.g. my time and the amount gas I use driving to the store) are largely irrelevant, or at best dwarfed by the cost of the product itself. In the case of patent licensing, what a given company is “willing to pay” is governed by as much (in some cases more by) the cost of making the purchase in the first place. There is a default negotiation process, called litigation, that brings with it certain, unavoidable costs (primarily in the form of lawyers).

The reasonableness of the $80,000 pricetag is exemplified by the actions of Five Star Quality Care, Novartis, Tenneco, Instinet and TriMas. Each of these companies have apparently received similar letters from Webventions, with similar demands for a license fee. Given this demand, the company has two basic options: respond or ignore. Those that ignore the demand will, in all likelihood, end up a party to a lawsuit at some indefinite point in the future, similar to Webvention v. Adidas, and Webvention v Abercrombie & Fitch, where about a dozen companies each stand accused of ignoring Webvention’s claims and continuing to infringe Webvention’s patent.

This is the last thing that Europe needs. And as Ciaran warns (as he did in the FSFE), the USPTO is getting worse right now rather than better. Dana Blankenhorn responds to it:

In addition to being obvious, the One-Click Patent (and many others) fail my mousetrap test. You should be able to patent a mousetrap design, just not the idea of catching mice.

Some patent attorneys think this weakening of obviousness obviously means it’s going to be easier to sneak obvious ideas through the patent office. That’s Slashdot’s fear as well.

I don’t think it’s quite that obvious.

This time for a change Blankenhorn does not add quotes and talking points from Microsoft Florian (as he has been doing a lot in recent months, maybe in order to start a hits-attracting controversy).

Here is one last item that we caught in the news. It’s about a famous (also controversial) distributor of Linux in a box:

TiVo (NSDQ: TIVO) is probably the most famous name in the consumer digital video recorder market, but its market share—estimated to be around 8 percent of the DVR market last year—hardly reflects that anymore. Since cable and satellite companies started getting into the DVR business, TiVo has been steadily edged out. A court case being argued Tuesday could determine whether the company gains some much-needed leverage against its cable and satellite rivals, or instead gets another push toward obscurity.

“Court Hearing On TiVo’s Patent May Be Company’s Last Stand” says the sensationalistic headline. Well, TiVo just can’t compete well, so it has turned to patents.

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