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[News] Software Patents Under Fire for Their Harm to Software Freedom, Developers

  • Subject: [News] Software Patents Under Fire for Their Harm to Software Freedom, Developers
  • From: Roy Schestowitz <newsgroups@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 11 May 2010 07:38:27 +0100
  • Followup-to: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • User-agent: KNode/4.4.2
Hash: SHA1

The Problem with Software Patents

,----[ Quote ]
| When we give broad protection like patents 
| to software (or potentially music and 
| books), we wall off via monopoly very large 
| amounts of IP territory.  This includes 
| territory that the innovator never needed 
| or perhaps intended to protect.  Territory 
| that doesnât matter in the least to 
| extracting the value of the invention as it 
| was originally conceived.  Such accidental 
| monopolies are not good for innovation and 
| are just legal lottery tickets equivalent 
| to ambulance chasing.  This kind of 
| protection should be eliminated as there is 
| little evidence software patents are 
| stimulating any kind of innovation 
| whatsoever and lots of evidence it hinders 
| innovation.


Patents and Software

,----[ Quote ]
| For the first two decades that computers 
| and software were being developed one could 
| not obtain a patent on software.  That 
| began to change with a series of court 
| cases in the 1980's.  Among others, I do 
| not consider those court decisions to have 
| helped the software industry.  Rather they 
| have only served to slow down innovation.  
| On this page I provide some of the content 
| that has brought me to the conclusion that 
| software patents are problematic. 


Are Ubuntu users covered by H.264 license? It depends

,----[ Quote ]
| So, the situation that those purchasing 
| Ubuntu-based machines find themselves in is 
| that unless the system comes shipped with 
| H.264 support, then itâs unlikely that the 
| system is licensed, which technically means 
| that adding that support later would be 
| unlicensed.
| Itâs unlikely that the MPEG LA would come 
| kicking your door down as a home user, but 
| as a business user this puts you in an 
| awkward position.
| Basically, the licensing is a mess.


Microsoftâs Got Nothinâ â The Patent âWarâ Against Linux

,----[ Quote ]
| In the last three years, Microsoft claims 
| to have entered into over 600 licensing 
| agreements with companies small and large 
| over alleged patent violations in "Linux". 
| One consistent feature of all these 
| agreements is that their contents are 
| unknown. No one, other than Microsoft and 
| the relevant "licensee", knows which parts 
| of "Linux" violate which patents. Another 
| consistent feature is that most of the 
| "licensees" are small companies without the 
| resources to take on Microsoft in a patent 
| claim. However, there are a number of 
| larger or more high profile companies that 
| have also entered into such agreements, 
| including Amazon, Novell, Xandros, 
| Turbolinux, TomTom and most recently HTC. 
| The whole situation is clouded in mystery 
| under a veil of PR speak and mumbo jumbo. 
| So what the hell is going on? What can we 
| deduce from what we know so far?
| [...]
| Because all of the licensing deals are 
| confidential, no one knows "what" in 
| "Linux" infringes on Microsoftâs patents. 
| By keeping the "what" confidential, 
| Microsoft does not need to identify the 
| patents it claims are infringed. This means 
| that Linux users cannot investigate these 
| patents and analyse their potential 
| validity if challenged.
| [...]
| Obviously, this whole article is based on 
| conjecture and speculation, however, it is 
| an interesting analysis, which may point to 
| a number of conclusions in relation to 
| Microsoftâs recent patent enforcement 
| activity. First, Microsoft is worried â not 
| specifically about Linux per se, but about 
| the shift of the computing world to new 
| appliance-like devices and the cloud. Linux 
| being just one player in this space. 
| Secondly, the patent claims against âLinuxâ 
| are in fact based on the vfat file system, 
| and attacking âLinuxâ vendors and 
| distributors is a convenient way to hit 
| both embedded device manufacturers and 
| Linux distributors at the same time. 
| Thirdly, the patents that Microsoft claims 
| to be infringed by Linux are probably not 
| particularly robust, and/or where they are 
| robust, they can be easily coded around.


Microsoft vs. Standards



Are Apple's Open Source Theora Claims Patent FUD?

,----[ Quote ]
| Maxwell's comments aside, I know that I
| personally contacted Theora's handlers
| (Xiph.org) at multiple points on Friday
| about the alleged patent issue and did not
| receive the courtesy of any response from
| them. If Apple or other patent holder had a
| similiar experience, perhaps they have been
| contacted and Maxwell just doesn't know
| about it (yet).
| Frankly I'm not surprised that a patent pool
| is being assembled against Theora at this
| time. As a Theora user myself (Firefox 3.6
| !!) I've seen how good the codec is which
| makes it a potential threat to the patent
| holders. Good technology unfortunately
| always seems to be at risk from those who
| think that their intellectual property is
| being infringed upon.
| That said, I would hope that one of the
| various open source patent commons can step
| up and help out Theora with some defensive
| patents and/or legal assistance. The great
| thing about open source is that the code is
| open, so if someone does come forward and
| show a patent claim (legitimate or
| otherwise), there is always an opportunity
| to code around it.

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