07.05.11

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Patents Providing Protectionism, Not Beneficial Protection

Posted in America, Asia, Patents at 11:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

More patents, decreased liberty

Statue of liberty

Summary: In these special days in which independence is celebrated, we emphasise the relevance of patent monopolies when it comes to the small and oppressed

LONG weekend in the States (Independence Day) cannot provide an escape from bad laws, which continue to make citizens of the US dependent on corporations with monopolies at the USPTO (respected by the government but less so by voters, who are constantly bombarded by brainwash about patent ‘protection’ and promises of “innovation”). TechCrunch deserves some credit for being sceptical of software patents, despite being based in the US and now being owned by America Online. In this new article it has the following to say about patents, spoiling a lot of the previous opinion pieces by implying a correlation between patents and innovation where patents have mostly been used for trade barriers from the West (keeping the East back and away from Western knowledge). It says:

The central question of our time is whether this will be China’s century or India’s. (Assuming that the notion of nation-states survives, which seems likely, there aren’t really any other contenders; China and India contain nearly half of humanity, and both are well on their way to economic superpower.) I admit that right now it might not seem much of a contest. China is more populous, already a decade ahead of India in terms of economic development, growing faster, and—measured by patents—far more innovative. In China, achievements are accomplished at the behest of the government; in India, things somehow manage to get done despite the government.

China has mostly ignored some copyrights from the West, at least when it comes to enforcement. This is changing. Also, as we started explaining some years ago, the attitude towards patents over there is changing and China can conceivably threaten the West with its homegrown patents one day. It is all just a matter of whose patents these are and the whole game is just a matter of mutually-assured destruction. A large country like China, where the number of Internet users already exceeds that of the States, building a mountain of patents might make sense. It helps eliminate the USPTO deterrence , just like the USSR in the days of the Cold War. For small countries — just like small companies — patents make no sense because they can easily be crushed by the large companies/countries.

Understandably, in the small nation of New Zealand, there is a strong fight from NZ business to repel and turn away software patents. NZOSS (our heroes) makes a statement to rebut the propaganda from companies like Intel and Microsoft: [via Glyn Moody]

The Ministry of Economic Development has published the submissions in relation to the draft guidelines on for the Examination of Patent Applications Involving Computer Programs discussion document. The call for submissions was clear that this was not an opportunity to revisit the decision to exclude software patents, saying “”In releasing the draft guidelines for comment, it is not intended to re-open the debate regarding the patentability of computer programs, or whether an amendment should be made to clause 15(3A). This consultation exercise is intended to ensure that IPONZ gives proper effect to the provisions of the legislation, taking into account of the intentions of the Commerce Select Committee, in a manner that is likely to find support from a New Zealand court.”

There were in excess of thirty submissions, primarily by the legal community, including patent lawyers and legal societies. There were also a few manufacturers and international business lobby groups. While the majority of these submissions were critical of the proposed exclusion of software what was notable by it’s absence was a single submission by a New Zealand owned commercial software development company.

By far the largest number of submissions were received from patent lawyers who may see the exclusion hurt their practises. An exclusion of software patents would in a single stroke eliminate the risk of patent infringement for New Zealand software development companies. It is understandable that those earning a living from patent litigation would be opposed. While it may be understandable it is not desirable to follow a path leading to increased litigation like experienced in the United States.

Here is a new article which puts this problem in perspective by stating:

The wireless industry has experienced a wave of legal patent battles in recent years as long-established incumbents try to protect their position against newcomers.

Sadly, this article quotes a lobbyist as though he is an independent voice without clients. It’s tilted against Linux to an extent because companies other than Google are also affected. In this case, Microsoft for example wants to use patents to extort Android because Windows Phone 7 gets no more than 1 in a hundred sales, which is laughable (in its home country, too). To quote:

SOFTWARE DEVELOPER Microsoft has managed to get just one per cent of the US smartphone market in the quarter ended May 2011 with its Windows Phone 7 (WP7) operating system.

Nielsen has published its US smartphone sales figures that show Apple’s IOS continues to grow, Google’s Android, albeit having an overall market share lead, remaining stagnant, and Microsoft’s WP7 operating system managing just one per cent of handset sales. Microsoft’s dead Windows Mobile operating system still has nine per cent market share, however that is unlikely to comfort Microsoft as it wants consumers to move to WP7.

Nowadays, Microsoft is busy trying to tax those who do sell phones. How can software patents be defended in light of this? It takes a paid lobbyist to defend this.

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A Single Comment

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 5, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Gravatar

    The advantage India has is the use of the English language as the least common denominator when communicating either in writing or verbally. That gives it a big leg up when adopting technology. Not only was the Internet documented in English, the main big money markets are using English, even if it’s a second or third language.

    China’s big, but English is not known at all in much of the population. That means that time has to be spent either translating or re-inventing the wheel again and again. It would take a decade or two after deciding to require English for China to get near to the position that India has now.

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