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02.16.09

Patents Roundup: Red Hat, Acacia, Microsoft, Apple, and the European Commission

Posted in Apple, Courtroom, Europe, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 4:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

RED HAT is calling for participation in the discovery of prior art to be used against Acacia’s trolling [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. From the blog of Fedora’s current leader:

Back in 2007, IP Innovation filed a lawsuit against Red Hat and Novell. IP Innovation is a subsidiary of Acacia Technologies. You may have heard of them — they’re reported to be the most litigious patent troll in the USA, meaning they produce nothing of value other than money from those whom they sue (or threaten to sue) over patent issues. They’re alleging infringement of patents on a user interface that has multiple workspaces. Hard to say just what they mean (which is often a problem in software patents), but it sounds a lot like functionality that pretty much all programmers and consumers use.

That patent was filed back on March 25, 1987 by some folks at Xerox/PARC, which means that prior art dated before that date is helpful — and art dated before March 25, 1986 is the most useful. (That means any examples from Linux aren’t really going to help, seeing as how Linus Torvalds first began the Linux kernel in 1991.

According to this new essay, patent trolls are merely a “tax on innovation” and it is important never to forget the intersection between Acacia and Microsoft, in addition to interesting timing.

Many years ago, wrote Bill Gates: “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” Things have changed since then because Microsoft is spending a lot of time filing patents rather than developing actual products and this gets criticised in CNET. Other points are raised too:

Microsoft earlier this week celebrated its 10,000th patent. Implicit in that announcement is the supposition that “patents = innovation.” However, a quick look at Microsoft’s last five years demonstrate a company that is struggling to copycat the best the industry has to offer, rather than innovate.

[...]

In this way it’s much like the criticism it has of open source: Microsoft claims that open source steals others’ intellectual property and doesn’t innovate. Pot calling kettle black?

Here is an indicator of Microsoft’s newly-discovered obsession with patents and here is a new article bearing the headline “Microsoft: We won’t sacrifice original IP.”

But Microsoft has no intention of sacrificing its “focus on exciting IP” and will continue to invest in innovation in order to emerge from any ongoing recession in a “healthy” state.

This is an obnoxious little article. It’s filled with buzzwords like “innovative” and “IP” despite the company’s true (and original) understanding that patents are weapons to very large companies. They are monopoly enablers.

Microsoft’s obsession with patents is not unique because, according to this report, China may be following a similar route.

Patent applications submitted to China’s State Intellectual Property Office totalled 828,328 during 2008, according to statistics just made availableon the office’s website. That’s up over 130,000 on the figure for 2007. But before anyone chokes on their lunchtme sandwich or afternoon tea, just remember that the vast majority of this number would have been for unexamined utility and design rights. That said, examined invention patent applications grew by over 50,000 – with domestic companies accounting for most of the rise from 245,161 in 2007 to 289,838 at the end of last year. This makes SIPO the third biggest patent office in the world after the USPTO and the JPO.

Why is it that every single thought (or idea) needs to be “owned” by someone regardless of the origin of this thought? That is the point being raised thusly:

A patent is not the ownership of a pre-existing thing that needs an owner. Rather, the things over which the patent system gives people ownership are the creations of patent law. And in many cases, it makes little sense to talk about them as “things” at all.

Apple’s case against Linux-powered devices was mentioned the other day, but over in Europe it turns out that two — not one — companies are suing Apple for patent infringement, doing to Apple almost exactly what Apple is doing to others.

A pair of small Scottish companies have filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. (AAPL), claiming two of the computer maker’s best- selling products include technology that infringes on their patents.

Meanwhile, and also in Europe, it turns out that Commissioner Viviane Reding does not understand the problem and she’s being misinformed.

The problem is those kind of numbers is that they seems to be calculated in function of software vendors, which represents only 15% of the whole software industry. The other large part of the industry is pure services. And this does not seems to be taken in account. Does Mrs Commissioner Reding have the wrong numbers? Or she does not know the european software industry?

It’s quite likely that lobbyists will have commissioners bamboozled. That’s just what they’re there to do.

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2 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    February 16, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Gravatar

    What are the best links for the latest word on Europe’s pursuit of antitrust action against WMA and WMV? And what is Europe doing to steer *back* to MPEG and Quicktime or move forward to Ogg Theora?

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Gravatar

    Antitrust action?? Some of their streams use those formats.

    The commission is deeply disguised when it comes to Free software (patent policy, doing as you preach, and even Samba).

    Given Viviane Reding’s stance on DRM, I’m beginning to think that she’s as bad as Charlie McCreevy. Also remember the Microsoft dinnertime story.

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