Sun is shifting the license that governs OpenOffice from the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) version 2 to LGPLv3 in an effort to give the open-source office suite greater patent protection. I'm not sure it's going to work:By moving from version 2 of the LGPL to version 3, Sun is bringing new language prohibiting the use of software patents to OpenOffice.org. "The most important protection for developers comes from creating mutual patent grants. ... LGPLv3 does this," [Sun's Simon] Crosby noted. In effect, a code issuer using either the plain GPL or LGPL … Read more
In the past I've criticized Miguel de Icaza, Novell's rock star open-source developer, for getting too cozy with Microsoft. Even so, I've never doubted Miguel's commitment to open source.
All the worse for him, therefore, that he has to live with Novell's mistakes. Microsoft convinced Novell to go along with its strategy to create a walled garden of "safe open source" (meaning, all open source that pays Microsoft a fee) versus "risky open source" (meaning, all open source that doesn't pay Microsoft a fee). Red Hat was right to resist … Read more
Maybe you are of a sufficient vintage to remember the game show Let's Make a Deal. But have you ever thought about the similarities between that show and the U.S. patent system?
In the game show, contestants would have to pay a price (a wallet containing $500) to see what was behind door No. 3 (maybe a live goat; maybe a brand new faux wood-paneled station wagon). Similarly, in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the government pays a price (allowing a unique brand of monopoly) to see what is in envelope No. 3 (your invention). The analogy may seem far-fetched, but the basic premise is the same: that is, paying a price to see what is otherwise concealed. And even in the realm of patent law, sometimes the government ends up with...a goat.
Fortunately, unlike the game show, there are several ways the USPTO can get out of the deal even after the envelope is opened and the invention disclosed. To be worthy of a patent, the invention must be new, useful, and non-obvious. While the "new" and "non-obvious" requirements normally get most of the attention, the USPTO and the U.S. Court of Appeals for patent cases (the Federal Circuit) have taken a somewhat surprising approach in the past couple of months to back out of deals with potential patentees--rejecting patent applications on the basis of usefulness. In other words, the Federal Circuit has been deciding that certain classes of inventions just aren't patentable.
What is really creating a buzz in the patent world is that the USPTO and the Federal Circuit have recently addressed an almost decade-old class of patents that has developed a reputation as the runt of the litter as far as patents go--business method patents. Love them or hate them, the Federal Circuit's 1998 decision in the State Street Bank case has been widely interpreted to allow for the patenting of new and novel business methods. Since that case, the USPTO has been inundated with business method patent applications and, more specifically, software applications. The question is, will this trend continue?
Dozens of exhibitors at Europe's largest gadget confab were in for a surprise this week: Suspecting patent violations, German authorities raided 51 booths, carting off cell phones, navigation devices, and other gear that allegedly infringe on patents.
According to an Associated Press report Thursday, more than 180 police and customs officials took part in the bust, which affected 51 exhibitors at CeBit in Hannover, Germany. Of the accused, 24 were from China, 15 were from Taiwan or Hong Kong, nine were from Germany, and the others came from Poland, the Netherlands, and Korea.
The police didn't name which … Read more
The proposed Patent Reform Act of 2007 will be coming up for a vote in the Senate in a few months. A similar version of the bill has already passed in the House.
The bill has certain relatively benign provisions, but let's ignore them since they just cloud the argument and are of little interest to either side in the debate.
Let's instead just cut to the chase. In lay terms, the bill makes it easier to challenge issued patents and harder for patent holders to obtain compensation through the U.S. legal system.
Regardless of how that sounds to you, make no mistake - this debate is between two opposing sides with their own interests at heart.… Read more
Forum selection--or the ability to choose the geographic location of the court where a suit for patent infringement is litigated--is one of many controversial issues related to patents these days.
Generally, the first person to file the lawsuit gets to choose where the suit is brought. This is called the "first-to-file" rule. It works much like the lines you stand in at the grocery store, airport security, or countless other places; it's simply first come, first served.
However, in the context of patent litigation, being first in line is a big deal. Different courts have different procedural … Read more
End Software Patents earlier claimed that the US economy suffers an $11 billion hit each year due to needless software patents. It turns out that End Software Patents was wrong.
The number is actually $30.4 billion.
What's $20 billion between friends? The group revised upward its earlier, more conservative estimates based on the following [PDF]:The U.S. Courts reported 2,830 patent lawsuits (of all kinds) filed in FY2006. Bessen and Meurer estimate that as of 2002, 25% of patent infringement suits are over software; all signs indicate that the current number is much higher, but we … Read more
Microsoft and Visto, which provides mobile e-mail services, said Monday that they have settled a long-running patent dispute.
The companies did not disclose details of the settlement; Visto had alleged that Microsoft violated its mobile e-mail patents. In a press release, Visto said it has entered into a licensing deal with Microsoft that involves "cash and non-cash consideration."
The case was slated to go to trial on March 10.
Still unresolved is a patent … Read more
$11.4 billion is wasted each year on software patent litigation, according to the End Software Patents coalition. How did it get to the $11.4 billion figure?Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation estimates that 55 software patent suits are ﬁled every week. The American Intellectual Property Lawyer's Association states that a single mid-sized patent suit costs $4 million to litigate.
That's a lot of billable hours. However, it's perhaps not surprising given that patent swine like Global Holdings illegitimately attempt to extort patent royalties from unsuspecting enterprises:… Read more
Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:20 p.m. PST to add comments from MercExchange and correct the company's description and number of employees.
It had to climb all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and back again, but a long-running patent dispute between eBay and a three-man e-commerce technology company finally appears to be over.
Since 2001, the Virginia-based MercExchange had been at war with the auction giant. It alleged that the Silicon Valley company's online auction interface--namely, its "Buy It Now" feature, which allows users to purchase items without … Read more