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Microsoft Becomes Software “IP Thief” and Hardware “IP Cop”

Here is a roundup of patent-related news that may or may not be relevant to GNU/Linux.

Avistar



Microsoft is said to be "losing grip in [the] patent spat" which involves Avistar [1, 2, 3, 4]. You will find some more details about it here.

Avistar Communications Corporation reported today that the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected Microsoft's requests for re-examination of 29 of Avistar's US patents pertaining to audio, video and collaboration technologies.


Also here.

Avistar Communications Corp. said Monday the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office rejected requests by Microsoft Corp. to re-examine 14 of the company's patents, but will look at nine of them.


As a result of this, shares of Avistar rose sharply.

Infosys



Microsoft's close partners (and OOXML 'zombie voters' [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]) are applying for software patents in the United States, which is interesting because they strive to obtain what they probably cannot in their home country. To whose benefit would such a portfolio be?

Infosys awarded 2 patents by USPTO



[...]

Actual 3D dimensional imaging, which includes a representation of depth information along with amplitude of information is not being used in these cases. This patent addresses the issue of 3D in mobile communication.


Alcatel-Lucent



The legal battle between Alcatel-Lucent and Microsoft has gone on for quite some time [1, 2, 3, 4]. Claims and accusations varied as the two sides were firing shots in both directions. Yes, software patents can be 'fun' because they are typically about mutual destruction, not reconciliation and peace (often characterised by sharing). We'll see more of this shortly when we come to consider Sun and NetApp.

Here is the latest about this case that involves Alcatel-Lucent and Microsoft.

The jury also upheld four Microsoft patents, but found that Alcatel-Lucent didn't infringe them, and found one Microsoft patent invalid. Microsoft had been seeking damages of $9.5 million on five patent claims.

Alcatel-Lucent judged that ruling as a victory. "We believed from the beginning that Microsoft patent infringement allegations against Alcatel-Lucent were without merit and we presented a strong defensive argument. We are pleased that the jury agreed with us on this, and we appreciate the jury's time and the careful and thoughtful analysis they gave to this case," the company said in a statement.


The Seattle P-I published its short take as well.

In the latest twist in the Microsoft/Alcatel-Lucent legal saga, a federal jury in San Diego today found that Microsoft's Xbox 360 didn't violate an Alcatel-Lucent patent for video-encoding technology.


Apple



When it comes to software patents, Apple is definitely no friend of open source or GNU/Linux. It ruthlessly files away (never mind quality), some say for defense and vanity purposes only. Here comes another mobile-related patent, just like the ones from Infosys.

Filed last September, the application describes "Touch Screen Device, Method, and Graphical User Interface for Determining Commands by Applying Heuristics" - more simply, the gesture-based user interface found on the iPhone and iPod touch.


Artificial intelligence patents are the equivalent of patenting thought. Bilski and the curve ball patent (hypothetical example) spring to mind.

Sun



Sun's view on patents is rather ambivalent, but in the face of a patent assault it has been fighting to defend itself and its open source portfolio for quite a while. Groklaw has accumulated many of the relevant documents and it brings readers up to date.

The Order tells us that Sun was able to persuade the USPTO to agree to reexaminations on some of NetApp's asserted patents, three of them (there are four more), but this one, Order Granting Request for Inter Party Reexamination [PDF] on the '001 patent, is the biggie. Sun asked for inter partes reexamination of the '001 patent, based on prior art, and the USPTO issued the order granting reexamination of all 63 claims of the patent, finding that a "substantial new question of patentability (SNQ) affecting claims 1-63" of the '001 patent exists.


Fashion



Going a tad astray here, mainly for the purpose of showing patent absurdity applies not only to software, watch again this huge problem which is fashion IPR. [via Glyn Moody]

For the fashion industry intellectual property is a complicated web of legislation and cultural norms. The industry practice of "taking inspiration" from other designers is very common. Equally,

[...]

But even if the work is under copyright, a copy of it may not be a breach of copyright. You see, the design or pattern is an artistic work, but since 17 June 2004, the scope of that protection is limited by the operation of the Designs Act 2003 (Cth). Where someone "reverse engineers" the original you can't sue for copyright infringement. Rather you would move into the scope of the Designs Act.


How long before people 'own' drum beats? The possibilities are endless, so limit on scope is a must.

Hardware



For many years, Microsoft has worked to ensure that hardware works better with Windows. It was more about the hardware than about software. Intel played similar games to coerce partners and gain an unfair advantage (Intel has just been convicted of separate charges, according to Tracy at the IRC channel).

There is a new development here because Microsoft once against enlists intellectual monopolies. Just brought to your by Microsoft and unveiled at Computex: The Licensed Contract Manufacturers Marketplace

The Redmond company announced the Licensed Contract Manufacturers Marketplace at Computex Taipei 2008 in Taiwan, an online hotspot aimed to feature its intellectual property licensing program for hardware.


It's probably self explanatory. Microsoft is trying to taint everything with intellectual monopolies. It's crucial to its battle against freedom. The last bit is yet another cornerstone.

"One Free Software Foundation-backed group--aptly called the End Software Patents Project--is using the [Bilski] case as a platform to argue that no form of software should ever qualify for a patent. Red Hat also argued that the "exclusionary objectives" of software patents conflict with the nature of the open-source system and open up coders to myriad legal hazards."

--Court case could redefine business method, software patents

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