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Archive for the ‘ffii’ Category

Another patent video

Samsung has built an ice skating rink next to a USA court house.

It’s outdoors.

It’s in Texas.

All of 25,000 people live in that town.

Why is it there? It might have something to do with patents, as John Oliver explains.

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Doug Mahugh of Microsoft writes1 on Twitter:

XPS will be submitted to Ecma within three weeks, likely to be approved at the Ecma GA in June. Have decided not to submit to ISO.”

No ISO submission? Interesting. Note: XPS, Microsoft’s alternative to PDF, depends on their own “HD Photo” (see slide 14) Also known as “JPEG XR”, it is about to be processed through ISO this year.

1 Someone found this piece. As for myself, I believe I’m “too old” to use things like Twitter.

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Software patents, ah… It’s like the seemingly never ending saga of SCO. Can’t they just leave us in peace?

Soon, the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) at the European Patent Office (EPO) will decide on several questions about software patents, asked by the President of the same organization. We’ll soon find out what kind of independence might or might not exist among the various layers of the EPO… (Interesting setup, for that matter.)

The questions, and some responses from the global community, can be found on the EPO page. Notably, replies from Jacob Hallén (FFII) and Philips are available there. URLs seem to be dynamic so please look these up on the page, right now under “23.10.2008 Case G3/08”. (My organization has no official submission as of yet, the deadline is the end of April.)

Sadly, the questions posed to the EBA are mined with typical EPO philosophy including their definitions of “technical effect”, “further technical effect”, “technical character”, “technical considerations” and other terminology they have used over the years. In that way they justified black being white, or more specifically the applicability of software patents (but, naturally, not “as such”).

Seeing how the specific questions to the EBA are phrased (quite some traps in there), and what is not asked, it seems clear to me that any set of answers with just “yes” or “no” is unable to speak against software patents in any meaningful way. Furthermore, if only one was to accept the premises of the questions, I submit that seemingly innocent arguments could be twisted in a number of ways to justify software patents. Nice job!

In their reply, Philips seems to have got the general idea: (page 4)

“[…] the claims define the invention in terms of the technical features […] is a technical feature if it has a technical effect. Whether this technical effect is on the computer or on the outside world, is irrelevant.”

Rough translation: “if it’s a new thing that required some thinking to come up with, and it runs on a computer, you can patent it”.

Considering how this opinion seems all too easy to find in certain circles, we have a pessimistic press release on this subject.

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Eric Brechner of Microsoft says in his blog: (emphasis added)

“When using existing libraries, services, tools, and methods from outside Microsoft, we must be respectful of licenses, copyrights, and patents. Generally, you want to carefully research licenses and copyrights (your contact in Legal and Corporate Affairs can help), and never search, view, or speculate about patents. I was confused by this guidance till I wrote and reviewed one of my own patents. The legal claims section—the only section that counts—was indecipherable by anyone but a patent attorney. Ignorance is bliss and strongly recommended when it comes to patents.”

I applaud the admission here of one of the core problems of today’s patent system; patents simply don’t serve their purpose if they don’t ensure the distribution of knowledge. Now, if software patents would at least be readable, the other problems with that concept would be even more visible…

Software patents is like patenting an element. Putting arbitrary limits on this beast won’t help, and it would be a start to reach this level of debate in wider circles when we talk about patent reform.

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American Civil Liberties Union has filed a brief about free speech issues of an application for an abstract patent. FFII says hi; it’s great to see a major civil rights organization to bring this up in the patents sphere. With enough exposure, hopefully the insanity of business and software patents may come to an end some day…

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I was kept rather busy this weekend, preparing and helping to execute the annual meeting of the FFII. Our President was re-elected, there are some new colleagues in the board, and so on. Software patents, watch out!

Where was I? Oh right, 30 geeks came to Brussels from all over Europe. Like at any good annual meeting, there was some flaming. And yes, they did try to ignore the schedule limitations I had set out in the agenda. Next time, there’ll be no mercy… 😉

While I just got tons of new work in my hands (we also had a long board meeting on Sunday), in the end I think it was a very stimulating (but exhausting) experience. We also had many speeches and other events. (I couldn’t participate in most of Friday’s events though, but at least I was in time for the beer… :-))

On Monday, I for once had some time to look around in the city (well, at least to see what to eat and drink near The Bourse, including some well-hid stuff along Beenhouwersstraat), and make a short stop to talk to some members. Then I went home again. Now just to catch up with all the paperwork…

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Dear Microsoft,

I’d like to present my own invitation to you, on an informal note: my association, the FFII, has just announced the winner of a 2,488 Euro award for lobbying against OOXML.

Given that several nominees did not wish for money, and considering the energy you (as the original author) have spent to discredit the proposal internationally, we thought it only fair to offer the price for your collection!

(Maybe this would pay for at least 5% of your partners’ bills in Sweden. No – my mistake – you “retracted” the promise; now, we did consider more suitable means of gratification – chairs for instance – to various parties, but unfortunately we could only do so much at a time.)

Details on the award ceremony will be available shortly; meanwhile, should you choose to accept the offer, you’re welcome to contact me or the board for some preliminary info.

Granted, it may seem like a small effort of ours in the light of your fines of 500 million Euro, or – say – your investments in the sue-happy SCO (a company which, incidentally, is about to collapse).

But: it’s the thought that counts, right?

Sincerely,
A good friend

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