Information/Mental Process Patents

Information/Mental Process Patents can include everything from computer software, business models, and possibly even methods of organizing people (Roberts Rules), parliamentary processes, and acts of parliament/law.

See: NoSoftwarePatents.com (EU), Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (EU), League for Programming Freedom (US).

Microsoft shares trade secrets of Windows, Office

A ComputerWorld Canada article by Shane Schick discusses the recent non-announcement by Microsoft claiming that it would open its specifications to competitors, including FLOSS. This is Microsoft's latest attempt to get off the radar of European regulators for their monopolistic behavior, and is sound and light with no substance.

Tim Lee on technology "stickiness" and patents

Tim Lee has a good post on TLF in which he looks at the "stickiness" of technologies and business models, i.e. how easy they are to duplicate elsewhere.

He concludes that patents on business models and on software are pointless because the thing they're trying to protect is already sticky enough and you don't need patents (which attempt to deliberately make things more sticky).

Ok, I can't do it justice, but it's worth a read anyway.

Three Share Nobel in Economics for Work on Social Mechanisms

It is interesting to note that Eric S. Maskin, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and one of the 3 recipients of a Nobel Prize used the same theory to document in a paper Sequential Innovation, Patents and Imitation that patents on software are harmful innovation. See a BLOG article by Jim Bessen on the Research on Innovation site. Most economists question software patents and it is only patent lawyers and specific company executives that favor the extension of patent law from tangibles to intangibles such as software.

Why Ballmer's Protection FUD Matters

eWeek's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols writes about Steve Ballmer, the Sopranos and the protection racket, discussing why this matters.

Ballmer is sending two other hidden messages though.
...
The first is that there's something unsavory about Linux and open source.
...
that there is no innovation or creation in open source.
...
As for new ideas, open source is the new idea of the 21st century.

The head of the Open Invention Network (OIN) has dismissed Microsoft's claims that Linux violates over 200 of its patents.

An article by
Iain Thomson in ITNews Australia
discusses the Microsoft FUD about alleged patents that are infringed by Linux distributions.

OIN chief executive Jerry Rosenthal said that Microsoft's assertions are simply an attempt to undermine the open source movement.

Rosenthal added that it is time for Microsoft to reveal the patents that are supposedly being infringed, or to drop the claims.

"The FUD is clear. If you have a patent that you are proud of, then disclose it," he said.

Microsoft patents watermark technology that may "lock down" DRM-free music

An article by Elizabeth Montalbano for IDG News Service is not a "DRM" issue as we discuss it as it does not involve any digital locks on eithor content or devices, but a software patent issue. In this case a valuable software technique is being patented by Microsoft, and thus will be unavailable to FLOSS developers. I am a proponent of watermarking content as a way to more easily monitor content distribution (useful for collective licensing schemes, etc), and it is unfortunate whenever any of the practical uses of this math is made unavailable to FLOSS by a deeply flawed patent system.

Note: applying watermarking to content is a positive use of a technical measure to protect the interests of copyright holders, while locking down hardware against the interest of its owner to mandate watermark detection is an offensive use of a technical measure. Hopefully bureaucrats and politicians will eventually be able to tell the difference between uses of TPMs which protect legitimate rights, and those which circumvent legitimate rights.

Microsoft settlement silliness

Whenever I read about the US antitrust case against Microsoft I have to laugh. The focus on Microsoft has always seemed silly to me, with Microsoft simply being the most successful company at utilizing a critically flawed technology law regime which creates an anti-competitive environment. The "Evil Empire" isn't Microsoft, but the US government and governments which follow their "lead".

More cracks in the dam

Now that there have been demonstrations of unlocked iPhones, the technology entrepreneur community in the USoA has begun to question the DMCA. I found it interesting that even more people are trying to define a narrower interpretation of the law:

Microsoft cannot declare itself exempt from the requirements of GPLv3

An August 28, 2007 FSF Press release provides a response to Microsoft's claims that they are somehow exempt from the requirements of GPLv3.

Funny how it seems to always be those companies that lobby for "stronger" copyright, patent, and license agreement protection in the law and courts that are quick to claim that they should be exempt from these same obligations.

Stallman's dream and GPLv3

Jeremy Allison,one of the lead developers on the Samba Team, writes an article for ZDNet explaining his strong support for the GPLv3 and the vision of the founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman. While I personally get more of my inspiration for being part of the Free Software movement from Eben Moglen over Mr. Stallman, I agree with Mr. Allison that Stallman has been a long-term consistent moral compass.

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