03.13.12

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Update on Patents Versus Android/Linux, New Rants Against Software Patents

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 4:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: A news roundup about patents and legal battles affecting software which respects some freedoms

THE PATENT BUBBLE is hurting Linux and Groklaw‘s Pamela Jones asks: “Remember I told you that Oracle wasn’t giving up? Here’s the proof. They have filed a motion saying that if, by any chance, there is no spring trial, or if the USPTO appeal goes its way in time, it asks the court to allow it to amend its infringement contentions regarding patent ’205.”

So it is too early to expect Oracle to just back off. Google is meanwhile shown to be making progress with those Motorola patents that can be used as a deterrent against further litigation. The reactionary armament not as problematic as Apple and Microsoft would have people believe; it’s problematic to the duopolists, not to Google or Motorola.

“The reactionary armament not as problematic as Apple and Microsoft would have people believe; it’s problematic to the duopolists, not to Google or Motorola.”The truth is, this patent armament locks smaller players outside. NASA, which is funded by the US public, feeds trolls and British newspapers take note [1, 2]. Microsoft pays trolls yet again, whereas Nintendo defends against trolls who attack. There are new patents from allies of Microsoft: “As noticed by Data Center Knowledge, the technology is laid out in a Facebook patent application recently released to the world at large.”

Facebook, which is partly owned by Microsoft, is a patent aggressor, too. Google does apply for patents, but unlike Facebook it does not sue companies using patents. Not yet anyway. It is a matter of policy.

Not so long ago we wrote about how MOSAID got fed by Microsoft and then got Apple sued. These stories too help show the insanity of the patent system, wherein shell companies (or proxies) can be used to wage battles at the behest of monopolists.

Here is a new perspective on the “broken system for software patents”:

In Slate’s Farhad Manjoo: Use Crowdsourcing to Improve Patents and Kill Patent Trolls, I explained why the focus on patent trolls is misguided; and why using crowdsourcing and incentives to increase the quality of prior art brought to the patent office’s attention, to improve patent “quality” by weeding out “bad patents”–is also misguided. And that improving patent quality will address the patent troll problem. And that improving patent “quality” is not a desired solution since the low quality of patents and the patent examination process has little to do with the threat patents pose to innovation and the economy.

Derrick Harris’s Gigaom post, Can big data fix a broken system for software patents?, is also on the wrong track. The post explores various proposals to use “data analytics” to improve prior art searches for fields like software patents.

The problem is not prior art search; the problem is government-granted monopolies on algorithms.

This whole idea that stuff encoded or delivered over the Web basically becomes patentable must stop. As TechDirt put it the other day:

Why Does An Unpatentable ‘Abstract Idea’ Become Patentable If You Add ‘On The Internet’?

Back in 2009, we wrote about a case involving a company called Ultramercial, which held a broad and ridiculous patent (7,346,545) that effectively covered the process of watching an ad before you could download content (seriously). Ultramercial sued Hulu, YouTube and WildTangent over this. The case went back and forth with an initial ruling that rejected the patent, by noting that it was just an ‘abstract idea’ and abstract ideas are not patentable.

[...]

Along with the petition, there were also two interesting filings in support, urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. One from Redhat, CCIA and EFF, which goes into great detail about how such broad patentability would seriously harm the open source world, and a strongly worded brief from Google and Verizon (yes, together) about how such a ruling would do serious harm to innovation by allowing all sorts of abstract ideas to be locked up via patent. Hopefully the Supreme Court is willing to listen — and will push back (yet again) on a bad CAFC ruling.

In the news we continue to find software patents like this new one on an “algorithm”, another one here, and a patent-pending nonsense for Apple-targeted junk. Here is another new rant about software patents:

Why Hayek Would Have Hated Software Patents

In his famous essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” Friedrich Hayek argued that the socialists of his day falsely assumed that knowledge about economy could be taken as “given” to central planners. In reality, information about the economy—about what products are needed and where the necessary resources can be found—is dispersed among a society’s population. Economic policies that implicitly depend on omniscient decision-makers are doomed to failure, because the decision-makers won’t have the information they need to make good decisions.

By now, it is generally agreed among journalists (and the public) that software patents need to go. But lobbyists and policy-makers do not represent public interests. That ought to change. The crisis of democracy cannot be separated from technology. What we see here is an element of class warfare — one where those in power leverage protectionism as matter of law.

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