Bonum Certa Men Certa

Patents Roundup: Patent Backlash, Microsoft DRM Patents in USPTO, Software Patents in Israel Revisited

"DRM is the future."

--Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO





Summary: Signs of patent unrest and new pushes from Apple, Microsoft, including a lobby for software patents in Israel

THERE IS a lot of news about patents to go through today, but it's probably worthwhile starting with analysis. Here is a new paper which is titled "Are Patents Impeding Medical Care and Innovation?"



From the abstract: [via Glyn Moody]

Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers argue that the current patent system is crucial for stimulating research and development (R&D), leading to new products that improve medical care. The financial return on their investments that is afforded by patent protection, they claim, is an incentive toward innovation and reinvestment into further R&D. But this view has been challenged in recent years. Many commentators argue that patents are stifling biomedical research, for example by preventing researchers from accessing patented materials or methods they need for their studies. Patents have also been blamed for impeding medical care by raising prices of essential medicines, such as antiretroviral drugs, in poor countries. This debate examines whether and how patents are impeding health care and innovation.


Last month we wrote about "The Great Pharmaceutical Patent Hoax" following another analysis. The Against Monopoly Web site has just published an essay on "The 'Productivity' of Patent Brainstorming" and in conclusion:

This abomination is what pro-patent libertarians thing is just? They think this is compatible with rights and liberty? They think this is productive, innovative behavior? Give me a break.


Someone from Identi.ca shows or at least claims that patents may be responsible for "no multitouch for US nexus one." There is also this later addition:

Update: According to a Google employee on a Google Mobile help page, the phone shipping to European markets will be no different than the one here in the US. We're not sure we entirely buy that, but we'll get to the bottom of this before long.


Here is Apple obtaining another hardware-related patent:

Today, touch-sensing components sit atop the layers that form a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen. In effect, Apple's invention aims to make the LCD pixels "touch sensitive" by eliminating the additional layers. By doing so, the screen becomes thinner, somewhat lighter, and brighter.


O'Reilly's Andy Oram, a vocal proponent of software patents, sums up the impact of patents, which mostly punish the developing nations and harm the less wealthy societies, as usual.

As I understand the argument, the institutions responsible for passing new rules respond to the most powerful countries. The US and Europe are on the decline in these organizations. All the countries that benefit from looser IP regimes--China, India, Brazil--are growing in economic strength and are finding themselves in more and more seats at the tables of the world's closed economic institutions. For just one concrete example, look at the shift of responsibility in recent years from the G-7 to the G-20. The G-7 is a familiar set of countries that were powerful from the 1950s through the 1970s. The G-20 is truly diverse, bringing in strong economies from around the world (but still just the ones with some international economic clout).


Other proponents of software patents are self-serving and rude about it. It's hard to imagine anyone other than a lawyer or a monopolist actually defending these. Programmers certainly do not want software patents, they already have copyright law (polls and studies show this perceptual tendency very repeatedly and consistently).

This brings us to Microsoft, which is now making torrents evil (with DRM) and demands a monopoly on the idea. From Slashdot:

Anonymous Crobar writes "Microsoft has received a patent for a 'digital rights management scheme for an on-demand distributed streaming system,' or using a P2P network to distribute commercial media content. The patent, #7,639,805, covers a method of individually encrypting each packet with a separate key and allowing users to decrypt differing levels of quality depending on the license that has been purchased."


Original article here:

Microsoft has patented a method to employ P2P networks to distribute commercial media. The system has the advantages of 1) shifting distribution costs to users, 2) encrypting digital content and 3) allowing efficient asynchronous playback (known as “fast-forward” and “reverse” to the VHS generation).

The system works like a standard torrent network: content is split into thousands of little packets and stored on the computers of each peer. When a user wants the content, his machine grabs a list of the nearest peers and what parts of the content they have. The user downloads the individual pieces and the file is reassembled on his computer.


Microsoft itself does not obey patent law and here is another update on the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10].

Microsoft on Tuesday lost an appeal against a $290m patent infringement case in its biggest legal setback in an intellectual property case this year. In spite of the upholding of an injunction barring it from using the infringing code in its widely used Word program, Microsoft said it did not expect the decision to disrupt sales of its Office suite of applications, of which Word is part. in favour of i4i, a Canadian software company that had claimed Microsoft’s Word 2007 infringed a software patent it was awarded more than 10 years ago, the FT reports.


"Governments stifle hi-tech innovation, says trade group" - that's the headline from the BBC, which would be correct assuming only that the stifling is caused by patents. They retard innovation.

Government needs to do more to encourage innovation, America's first chief technology officer has been told.


Here is Western Digital suffering from a monopoly on encryption, which is a security mechanism. Yes, even securing one's product is becoming a violation of someone's imaginary property. This puts people at risk, all for the glory of patents.

Western Digital is being sued by Taiwan's Enova Technology for alleged unauthorised use of its encryption technology in My Book and My Passport external drive products.

[...]

It refers to two US patents; 7,136,995, issued in 2006, and 7,386,734, filed in 2008. The '995 patent describes a cryptographic device and, with the '734 patent, refers to real time data encryption/decryption by devices such as disk drives without materially compromising their operational speed.


Last month we showed that software patents try to sneak their way into Israel. Here is an update on this, courtesy of EndSoftwarePatents.org.

I need help contacting groups in Israel. With a February deadline, the Israeli patent office is asking if it should grant software patents. To help, join this mailing list: israel-public-discuss@endsoftwarepatents.org. As usual, the small businesses, individual programmers, and software user groups don’t seem to have noticed this consultation. This is common in public consultations – but you can bet the lawyers groups and the multinationals are aware and working on their submissions. So I need help with informing people in Israel now so they have some time to get prepare submissions.


Progress on this is already being made (see comment/s).

Comments

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