Friday, April 29, 2005

I-Behavior Gets Co-op Database Software Patent

I-Behavior was awarded a patent this month for its co-operative database software, Dynamic Data Link, the Harrison, NY, company said yesterday.

The program integrates online and offline buyer records to give an overview of each consumer's buying behavior. Database updates are automated through the software. It also incorporates e-mail addresses as a key match element and can group multiple consumer e-mail addresses by comparing common elements from multiple sources.

More at

Thursday, April 28, 2005

European Commission Sparks Software Patent Debate

European legislators wanted to clarify the law; instead, they began a hot debate that threatens software patents' existence
If there's one thing that Tim Frain, the director of intellectual property at Nokia Corp., doesn't need to hear, it's that folksy old saying, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'
One of the most active lobbyists in Europe's increasingly heated debate over software patents, Frain knows all about ill-fated fixes.
More at

MySQL CEO pans software patents, touts open source

MySQL has become perhaps the most visible player in the open source database market. With revenues now at $20 million annually, the company is eyeing a greater enterprise presence with its upcoming MySQL 5.0 database, which will add features such as triggers to the product. Marten Mickos, of Finnish descent, is the CEO of the company, which began in neighboring Sweden. InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill spoke with Mickos during the MySQL Users Conference 2005 in Santa Clara, Calif., last week, asking Mickos about topics ranging from MySQL's place in the database market to the volatile issue of software patents.

More at InfoWorld

Software patent directive back in motion

The European Parliament re-opened the debate on the future of the EU's directive on software patents, last week. Arguments for and against the bill took the lines we have come to expect from each side: the pro-patent lobby arguing that the directive merely formalises the status quo, and the anti-patent contingent arguing that patenting software is like trying to patent music or mathematics.

According to Florian Muller, ex-head of anti-patent group No Software Patents, told us: 'The first debate in the Legal Affairs Committee on Thursday showed that the official rapporteur on this directive, Michel Rocard MEP (a former prime minister of France), and various other MEPs really want to help and restrict the scope of patentability but they face stiff opposition.'

More at The Register

Patently Fair

Opinion by Frank Hayes

At long last, the U.S. Congress has taken up the controversial issue of software patents. Last week, a draft of new legislation was publicly circulated, and a congressional subcommittee held the first hearings on the proposed law, whose primary purpose appears to be -- wait, you may want to sit down for this. Its primary purpose seems to be to save Microsoft a half-billion dollars.

Is that unfair? Well, maybe. Let's say that one of the proposed law's purposes is to overturn Eolas v. Microsoft, the lawsuit in which a jury in 2003 awarded $521 million to a company that said Microsoft infringed on its software patents.

More at Computerworld

Monday, April 25, 2005

India rejects software patents

India is an emerging technology powerhouse, and the country's brave rejection of a much-maligned portion of the West's IP regime is a big win for India and ultimately for the entire software industry. I hope that India's example emboldens others in the two-thirds world to stand up to the WIPO on a whole range of IP issues, from pharmaceuticals to software to digital entertainment.

More at Ars Technica

Sunday, April 24, 2005

FSF - India Hails Dropping of Software Patents

Free Software Foundation - India

Press Release

The Free Software Foundation of India hails the decision to drop the Amendments to the Indian Patents Act, 1970, with regard to computer programs. We specially thank the Left Parties for their conscious effort to get this draconian amendment removed, and all the Members of Parliament for avoiding this dangerous pitfall. The amendment would have seriously affected the freedom of software users and developers.

Free Software freedom has enabled us to provide localisation in Indic-languages, for a wide range of software applications, widely extending the reach of computers to the masses. Free software is not just about development of robust, secure and sturdy software but it addresses the larger issues pertaining to the society such as digital divide by increasing free access to technology. In a situation where India is emerging strong in the field of Information technology, such a law should have been disastrous, leading to monopolisation by mega corporations leading to closure of many software units, leaving many jobless.

We are very happy to register our gratitude for restoring the status quo, in line with our international obligations under TRIPS, and for giving considerable peace of mind to the computing community.

But unfortunately, we have come to know that the Indian Patent Office has issued a few patents relating to computer programs, in contravention of the provisions of Section 3 of the Patents Act, 1970, that should be revoked and cancelled. We request that necessary action and steps may be taken in this regard to avoid any issues under such patents.

On behalf of FSF India
Y. Kiran Chandra
Member All India Work Group
Free Software Foundation of India.

Copyright (C) 2005 Free Software Foundation of India.

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Editor's note: Normally I just reprint a paragraph or so and a pointer to the original document. I've deviated from that this time as the release is currently on the front page of the FSF - India web site and I have been unable to locate a permanent link. Luckily the FSF permits verbatim reprinting, so I've decided to do this for once.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Forgent software patent litigators strike again.

HTML says "Forgent is one company that makes me wonder if my dislike of Microsoft’s business tactics could have been better directed at them. Forgent has been handed around 100 million dollars for the compression patent that they claim is used in the Jpeg image compression standard. Apparently that is not enough as they’ve just added Microsoft to their list of targets. This comes in the same month that they have started targeting DVR companies, no doubt expecting the same hand outs they’ve been getting from the likes of Sony and Adobe. Microsoft has asked that the court declare them non infringing and invalidate the patent in question"


Friday, April 22, 2005

Rapporteur's preview of EU Parliment's Position on Software Patent Directive

Michel Rocard MEP, economist and former French prime minister, has published a report on the European Software Patents Directive.

His views should be taken seriously as he is the European Parliament's draftsperson or "rapporteur" on the directive.

Hartmut Pilch of the FFII comments:

"Rocard's outline contains all the necessary ingredients for a directive that achieves what most member state governments say they want to achieve: to exclude computer programs from patentability while allowing computer-controlled technical inventions to be patented. Already in the title of his paper, Rocard proposes to replace the misleading term "computer-implemented inventions" by "computer-controlled inventions", and the report itself goes to the heart of the matter.

Rocard explains the difference between applied natural science and data processing, and, from there solves the legislative problem in a consistent and adequate manner, delivering what programmers, economists and the vast majority of companies in software and related industries want to see. It is unusual for an economist and former French prime minister to take up a fairly special, difficult-to-communicate problem with such seriousness and moral courage.

There is a Slashdot discussion on this report.

More at

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Red Hat exec criticizes software patents

A Red Hat executive speaking at the MySQL Users Conference 2005 event in Santa Clara, California, on Tuesday heaped scorn on the issuance of software patents, saying they stifle innovation.

Panning patents, Tiemann described them as a challenge to enabling massive change.

'Every time a software patent blooms, it's a promise to cease innovation in that space for 20 years,' Tiemann said.

More at Computerworld

The argument against software patents

We today face the risk of software patents being approved in the EU because not enough parliamentary members will be showing up to vote. Due to this it is important for those of us who oppose software patents to make sure EU parliament members see the damage software patents cause, so they realize it is important to be there to vote providing the needed absolute majority. But sending out a clear message is also important for the process of patent reform in the US and other places who have fallen into the trap of introducing them.

More at

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Software patent: 2.5 cent trade tax to Chicago software firm.

Trading Technologies, a company based in Chicago has a few software based patents for their trading system and have just filed suit against a UK firm by the name of Man group (a hedge fund company) in the hopes of getting a 2.5 cent contribution per trade on the Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Eurex US and Euronext.liffe exchanges. Trading Technologies have stated that their software saves much more then would be provided by the 2.5 cent per trade tax would return.


Don't stifle innovation

WE REFER to the article entitled Slow patenting process threatens innovation by M. Krishnamoorthy. The article gives the impression that the primary indicator of a country's competitiveness and technology prowess is the number of patents that it can garner.

This is misleading and what is even more worrying is the inclusion of comments which seem to indicate that the information and communications technology (ICT) industry should also be actively pursuing patents.

More at The Star

Monday, April 18, 2005

European Software Patents Pending

The European Parliament appears set to introduce U.S.-style software patents, which critics have denounced as too broad and business-friendly.

Software patents continue to be one of the most hotly contested legislative initiatives in Europe. On Feb. 28, the European Commission declined the European Parliament's request to restart the legislative process from scratch.

If the bill passes, all EU member states will be required to pass supportive national legislation.

More at Wired News

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Futures traders accused of software patent breach

A leading US trading software firm has filed a lawsuit against UK hedge-fund company Man Group in the row over claims that a patent awarded last year entitles it to a share of trading revenue on futures exchanges.

Chicago-based Trading Technologies (TT) was awarded two UK patents on its MD Trader product, which it claims is used for half of all global electronic futures trading.

Full story -

IBM Accused of pro-patent extremism

In an article dated December 2004, Russell McOrmond reported that when he recently did an Access to Information request of the Canadian Government to find out how Canada went from denying software patents to granting them, the expected extremists showed up, but the only major technology company that shows up in this "pro-software-patent extremism" is IBM.

Full article at Digital Copyright Canada.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Patent directive slammed at UKPO workshop

Lawyers and developers attending a UK Patent Office workshop were united in their condemnation of the definition of 'technical contribution' in the software patent directive

A group of software developers and patent lawyers agreed on Thursday at a UK Patent Office (UKPO) workshop that the definition of technical contribution in the proposed European software patent directive is wrong.

More at ZDNet UK

Monday, April 11, 2005

IBM to profit by making patents available free?

I.B.M. is renowned for its rich storehouse of patented inventions. It once again led the research sweepstakes in America last year, collecting 3,248 patents, more than any other company. And it earned more than $1 billion last year from licensing and selling its ideas.

So why has I.B.M. shifted course recently, giving away some of the fruits of its research instead of charging others to use it? The answer is self-interest.

Diverging from conventional wisdom, the company has calculated that sharing technology can sometimes be more profitable than jealously guarding its property rights on patents, copyrights and trade secrets. The moves by I.B.M., the world's largest supplier of information technology services and computers, are being closely watched throughout the business world

More at

Friday, April 08, 2005

ABC News: Software Patents: Microsoft's Fatal Error

Microsoft's reputation as a company that steals other people's ideas puts it in the worst possible position in a litigious environment.

The debate over software patents is coming to a head as the European Union goes the way of the United States and knuckles under the pressure brought by large patent-holding interests led by Microsoft. The open-source folks are moaning about this as—on the surface—it looks like the software patent decision in favor of large corporations is ruining any hopes that small fry will succeed in the business. In fact, the opposite may be true, and Microsoft will eventually learn that software patents are going to ruin the company

More ...

John C. Dvorak - PC Magazine

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

FSF Europe to EICTIA: Drop support for software patents

"Georg Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, has written a letter to Rudy Provoost, president of the European Information & Communications Technology Industry Association, to explain why software patents are a bad idea. Quoting Bill Gates own observations about the nature of software patents, and presenting an interesting hypothetical about the the state of science today if Pythagoras had developed his theorem under a system where ideas are patented, Grev shreds the duplicitous claims of those who back the legalization of monopoly power to seize and steal ideas through the device of software patents. [...]

"Note: The European Information & Communications Technology Industry Association (EICTA) combines 32 national ICT/CE associations from 24 European countries with 48 direct company members. EICTA altogether represents more than 10.000 enterprises in Europe with more than 2 million employees and revenues of over 200 billion. The Association supports the monopolisation of software ideas heavily. Mr Provoost is president of Eicta and represents Philips Consumer Electronics as Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer."

More ...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Examples of Software Patents

Gordon Irlam has assembled a list with a sampling of software patents chosen more or less at random, and a number of famous software patents.

He covers

  • Operating Systems
  • File Systems
  • Graphics and Windowing Systems
  • Compilers and Simulators
  • Cryptography and Data Compression
  • Multimedia
  • Word Processors
  • Spreadsheets
  • Miscellaneous

2nd Reading for European Patent Directive?

"The European Parliament has dropped its objections to the way the "common position" of the EU Council on the planned Directive on the Patentability of "Computer-implemented Inventions" was adopted. The Legal Committee of the European Parliament had initially insisted on examining the protocols of the decisive meeting of the Council of Ministers at the beginning of March. A number of parliamentarians along with a number of software patent critics had entertained the suspicion that the Luxembourgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, a.k.a the Council of Ministers, had neglected the objections raised by representatives from a number of member states to the highly controversial position, thereby committing a breach of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. According to a parliamentary spokesman the Legal Committee had now decided, however, no longer to take into account the "small irrelevant errors" committed.

"We are now embarking on the 2nd reading," [said] Eva Lichtenberger, a prominent opponent in the Legal Committee."

More ...

From heise online

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Electronic patent databases invent difficulties

It is a startling idea for a new machine, one that could revolutionise transportation. Take a circular frame of strong lightweight composite material, reinforce it with radial spokes and make a hole in the centre that can accommodate a shaft or axle. Then patent the concept before some other bright inventor steals it.

If reinventing the wheel is ridiculous, being able to patent such a device is even more so. Yet that is what happened in 2001 when patent attorney John Keogh won a patent for a circular transportation facilitation device from the patent office in Australia. He did this to flag up deficiencies in the country's new patenting system. But the problem is an international one and as patent offices are moving from paper records to digital storage it is getting worse, not better.

Striking deficiencies in the way patent offices around the world are digitising their information means that patents could be wrongly granted on thousands of inventions, says Willem Geert Lagemaat, president ofPatCom, the European association of patent information providers.


10:30 03 April 2005 news service Paul Marks

Friday, April 01, 2005

What if the alphabet was patented?

From CNet Asia Eileen Yu Reports:
"Imagine if the Egyptians had patented the alphabet and decided to make it a licensable entity. And imagine if they charged, say, $1 for the use of each letter and $2 each for vowels because, well, even vowels cost more in the game show Wheel of Fortune."
Nice analogy. Unfortunately with the way that software patents are constantly being issued for prior art, it's worse than that. If the alphabet were patented by the Egyptians with prices like that, writing would never have caught on. Imagine instead if suddenly in 2005 someone patented the idea of using the alphabet in emails? Sure we've been using the alphabet in emails since the 1980s, but somehow this gets overlooked in the issuing of patents. Yu quotes Sunil Abraham
"He referred to a Microsoft-owned patent that describes the navigation of hyperlinks via the tab key. The software giant applied for the patent in 1997 and was granted ownership to it in 2004. However, he said, these same functions can be found in some Linux-based applications since 1994"