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Patents Roundup: Microsoft's Own Patent Trolls Subjugate Indians; New Evidence of Ill Systems

Nathan Myhrvold



Microsoft Subverts and Patents While Its Trolls Exploit India



IT IS already known, as confirmed by Microsoft itself, that Microsoft is investing in the world's largest patent troll, which is also its own creation. This patent troll recently invaded and subdued India while Microsoft was working to subvert the law and breaking it by attempting to sneak in software patents.



There was a good deal of responses and angry reactions to this development amongst Indian bloggers who are able to understand what Microsoft and the likes of it are attempting to do. Here is some more new information about it. [via Digital Majority]

So it was interesting to read a report that the biggest ands scariest one of them all, Intellectual Ventures, founded by the redoubtable Nathan Myhrvold, had come to India. Intellectual Ventures, according to the Wall Street Journal, has more than 20,000 patents and patent applications “related to everything from lasers to computer chips”. Myhrvold was the chief strategist and chief technology officer of Microsoft before he sent up Intellectual Ventures, an idea that he owes to Bill Gates. Microsoft had a huge patent liability problem with a seemingly endless line of people suing the company for infringement of their patents. It was then that Myhrvold came up with the idea of accumulating patents under one roof to manage them better. His rationale: it is more efficient for companies to deal with him than thousands of patent holders. The transaction costs alone make it worthwhile for companies to pay Intellectual Ventures its steep fees.

[...]

Intellectual Ventures debut here [in India] coincides with the news that CSIR is considering a move to transfer its patent lode to an independent holding company that will manage it professionally. The patents would be monetised in various ways, licensing being one option.


Indians have already taken it to the streets (photograph below) after persistent attempts by American companies to monopolise knowledge along with their close Indian allies [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

Software patents protest in India



Slashdot reports that Microsoft has just patented something it never invented. The 'inventors' there appear to have no sense of shame.

On Tuesday, the USPTO awarded Microsoft a patent for the Automatic Censorship of Audio Data for Broadcast, an invention that addresses 'producing censored speech that has been altered so that undesired words or phrases are either unintelligible or inaudible.'


This is what we once called "Innovation by Publicity."

Corruption



Software patents protest against EPO



Richard Stallman recently referred to EPO "corruption" which had led to street protests (pictured above), claiming that the system had been deliberately broken by those who seek only to maximalise profits. Corruption is just probably inherent in the patent system if the following new comment is correct.

Some judges of the CAFC are even patent attorneys. It is sure that those "specialized" judges have a serious biais in favour of patents. Some critics says that they even lowered the barriers of novelty, making easier to get patents.

This is also what a spanish expert said recently about the introduction of specialized patent courts in Spain.

So those patent judges have a bias towards the patentee, against the interests of the defendant.


Just like with the RIAA (alluded to in this post), there is appointment of judges that essentially constitute a puppet state. They serve their own interests, as well as -- potentially -- the interests of those who surround (or fund) them.

Historical Excavation of Knowledge



Software patents are no 'fun'. They can truly waste one's precious time, potentially years. To quote a tidbit from a recent confrontation:

"I would much rather spend my time and money and energy finding ways to make the Internet safer and better than bickering over patents."

--Dean Drako, Barracuda's CEO



Here is a situation where digging up a 14-year-old newspaper column was necessary to trash a patent which was never supposed to be granted in the first place.

14-year-old newspaper column becomes prior art in patent litigation



[...]

GraniteGeek of the Nashua Telegraph illustrates how a newspaper article can become prior art in a patent litigation. It also illustrates (as does the Ciba-Geigy v. Alza case) that enablement standards for prior art can be looser than for patent applications.


How much money and labour was unnecessarily wasted here? Is this the best production model? This is innovation?? This is research and development???

The prior art maze must be immense. In light of Microsoft's slog against VMware [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], it is interesting to find out just for how long VMware has been accumulating patents.

VMware and Patent #6397242 Go Back About 10 Years



[...]

Nice catch by Andrew Dugdell: it’s about 10 years ago that Scott Devine, Edouard Bugnion and Mendel Rosenblum filed patent #6397242, “Virtualization system including a virtual machine monitor for a Computer with segmented Architecture”.


Now that Microsoft has an 'insider' as VMware's chief, it's unlikely that there will be retaliation in court. The company was sort of hijacked away from its founding fathers

Europe



The patents-, copyrights- and monopolies-obsessed Charlie McCreevy [1, 2, 3] is seen bringing up the subject of the Community patent again. It's a back door to software patents, so caution is required.

The French EU Presidency will close by December 31, 2008, and if no deal is struck until that day, most probably there will be no Community Patent for a long time to come. According to McCreevy, the stumbling blocks are the linguistic and translation requirements, and the setting and distribution of annual fees to maintain the patent. In his speech he stresses that significant progress has been made since April 2007, and then comes to his belief in technical solutions.


Benjamin Henrion, one of the activists from FFII, writes the following comment in response to what seems like a lawyers-dominated system, which decides 'on behalf' of software developers.

Dear Mr Horns, As I said to a pro-swpat guy at the recent patent conference organised by the French Presidency, I am still waiting for your clarifications or proposals for drawing a line from the patent community. FFII has proposed that the contribution to the knowledge has to be in the physical field (forces of nature), I heard patent guys laughing about it, but I am still waiting for their critics on paper because laughing is not convincing anybody.


This truly seems like a system dominated by goons who exploit its self-inflicted fragile state in order to make money. They essentially 'tax' scientists, for personal gain. Did the world not learn anything from the ongoing financial collapse?

Stop Software Patents



What is the logic behind possessing mathematics anyway? Or cheaply-transferable knowledge if not freely-transferable information? We saw some good reception of the talks from Eben Moglen (over the weekend at least), so here is another insightful one, for which we have produced an Ogg Theora version.



Ogg Theora



There are always those who strive to mix sand and water. They are determined to make it stick. Such is the nature of O'Reilly-type literature, which produces textbooks on intellectual monopolies and Free software (yes, actually combining these two almost-contradictory notions). Here is the latest review of this book where there's a reference only to "open source".

The topic of Intellectual Property and Open Source does have a wide ranging audience for itself. With the seeming explosion of software engineering applications driven by web and e-commerce, this maybe a good book for grasping the finer legal details. The primary focus of the legal terms in this book are with respect to the U.S. Legal framework and sometime with European variants.


The Bilski ruling is due pretty soon. IAM magazine, which is worried about the renewed backlash against intellectual monopolies, is trying to remain optimistic on behalf of unnecessary solicitors. But it's hard.

And talking of business method patents, it struck me last night that one consequence of the current turmoil in the financial markets is that we will see far fewer of them in the future, whatever happens with Bilski. After all, financial institutions have been among the major players in the business method patent field as they seek to protect innovative investing strategies, risk models and the like. However, there are not as many of these institutions as there were a few months ago, while those that are left are much less likely to be looking for new and exciting ways to make money. Instead, they will be going back to basics. If this is the case, patenting is going to be the last thing on their minds.


The motion against software patents is still going strong and there are some new "Stop Software Patents" videos that are voluntarily produced by concerned YouTube users. Here are just a few among the many new additions:



Patent Trolls



A few days ago we wrote about Azure Networks, which is a classic patent troll. Here is some more information that reminds us of the fact that they file the lawsuits in he most typical of venues: Texas. They probably hope for a quick settlement, i.e. money for nothing (but extortion).

Azure Networks LLC vs. Nokia Inc.

Plaintiff Azure is a Texas limited liability company with its principal place of business in Longview.

Azure claims it owns the rights to U.S. Patent No. 6,981,158 entitled "Methods and Apparatus for Tracing Packets" issued on Dec. 27, 2005.

Also, Azure claims it is the owner by assignment of U.S. Patent No. 7,302,704 entitled "Excising Compromised Routers From an Ad-Hoc Network" issued on Nov. 27, 2007.


the more encouraging news comes from Law.com, which indicates relocation of lawsuits may now be possible, thus mitigating the troll problem somewhat.

Companies being sued for patent infringement just got a get-out-of-the-Eastern-District-of-Texas-rocket-docket-for-free card, thanks to an en banc ruling from the 5th Circuit.

In a split 10-7 decision, the panel on Friday issued a writ of mandamus ordering Eastern District Judge John Ward to transfer a product liability case against Volkswagen to Dallas, where the car crash in the underlying case took place.

The majority wrote that "the district court clearly abused its discretion and reached a patently erroneous result," when it denied Volkswagen's efforts to have the case moved. The car company argued that the proper venue should be the district where the crash took place.

Although the case -- a family suing over design defects in the Volkswagen Golf after a fatal accident on a Dallas freeway -- has nothing to do with patent law, the circuit's decision will have big implications for the flood of patent infringement lawsuits regularly filed in what has come to be known as the country's most plaintiff-friendly venue.


All in all, a lot is still happening. This whole debate is about removal of patent hurdles and legal obstacles. Keeping a close eye on software patents news is important these days, even to those who do not give a damn about legal stuff. Paying attention to the big picture is the only way to resolve this puzzle. If it gets political, so be it.

"Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone."

--Richard Stallman

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