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

The Patent Puzzle and why it isn't possible for Microsoft to get what they want.

An eWeek article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols attempts to make sense of the software patent problem that Microsoft has found itself in with respect to the FLOSS sector, concluding that, "Microsoft might best be served by letting its vague patent claims lapse into silence.".

It is interesting to look at this at a higher level.

In order for this to move forward, Microsoft must disclose the exact patents it believes are infringed and how. Until this point, no reasonable person can do anything about their claims.

Linux Foundation Fires Back at Microsoft

A Business Week article by Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, includes:

What most people don't realize is that the story really isn't about patents at all—it's about a rational actor trying to protect its privileged position.

In the time it will likely take you to read this article, Microsoft will have made $500,000 in net profit. It's instructive to note that the majority of that profit comes from its Windows operating system and Office suite of business software. Not coincidentally, those are the two product lines most threatened by Linux operating systems and Open Office.

Hat tip: Dana Blankenhorn

Mark Shuttleworth : Microsoft is not the real threat

Mark Shuttleworth posts a BLOG article where he offers his opinion that Microsoft is not the real threat (to Linux and FLOSS), but that a broken patent system is. I agree and disagree with him. I agree that the patent system is the problem, but to blame governments alone and claim the lobbiest (IBM, Microsoft, etc) who pushed for software patentability are innocent misses the point. Governments can only react to information that they are given, and extremists from the legal community and BSA members are why software is patentable. Yes, we need to get political, but need to realize that the legal departments of companies like IBM and Microsoft are our political opponents, not the government.

CIO Magazine: Microsoft Patents: The New McCarthyism

An article by Bernard Golden for CIO Magazine draws a parallel between McCarthy's bullying charges and Microsoft's latest claim that they have evidence that there are 235 patent violations against them in certain open source products.

Moglen goes all Democratic on Microsoft

While I don't buy the partisan suggestions of this article by Dana Blankenhorn (The DMCA was passed under the Democrats), I do believe that the software patent and digital copyright debate between Microsoft/BSA and the larger software sector is getting more and more political.

Moglen put his answer in terms of a theoretical, a company with patents "of uncertain validity, but in large numbers, which it could conceivably use to scare developers and users." He described Microsoft's strategy as a "Be Very Afraid" tour, making it sound like Bush Administration officials engaged in broadcasting terror alerts.

Is it the Software Freedom Law Center's (SFLC) controlling the US software patent debate?

Some BLOG articles have been wondering what happened recently to make Microsoft re-re-re-announce their claim that various FLOSS projects infringe on their patents. A few ideas have come to my mind about a plausible explanation. Beyond the obvious problem that Microsoft has of the massive growth in the FLOSS marketplace, and the inability of incumbent vendors to compete against a marketplace that harnesses far more software developers, there have been some key article and legal activities.

In the United States, it was a lower court that expanded patent law to allow software patents to be granted. It will take either another court case to overturn this bad precedent or action by the US government to change this. Maybe a software patent lawsuit against FLOSS projects is exactly what is needed to eradicate software patents entirely.

'You don't scare us', free software proponents tell Microsoft

An ITWorldCanada article by Nestor E. Arellano quotes me talking about how Microsoft's claims about FLOSS projects infringing their patents are unlikely to amount to anything in the long term.

Why Microsoft hasn’t sued (yet) : Patent spat is political...

There have been some good BLOG postings on this topic, including one by Dana Blankenhorn that clearly states that the current rhetoric from Microsoft is entirely political in nature.

Since courts are the source of this right Microsoft claims to have, it is very tenuous. It can be taken away by a court, or it can be overriden by a Congressional rewrite of patent law.

So in the end this is a political struggle. Microsoft knows this and is fighting it in a political way.

The question will be: Will Microsoft be successful in their politics, silencing companies like Novell who would otherwise be political opponents if it were not for the patent "deals" (and accompanying cash layout to Novell) they are making? Will any other company take the short-term cash bait, allowing Microsoft to abuse flaws in current technology law to destroy the long-term viability of much of the software sector?

See also: eWeek: Microsoft vs. Open Source: Setting the Battle Lines

Microsoft patent threat: U.N. resolution violations by the ‘Axis of Good’.

A BLOG posting by Pramit Singh has an interesting spin. While listing the regular reasons why the threat isn't very credable, he starts with the following.

Microsoft says that the Linux kernel violates 42 Microsoft patents, followed by Linux GUIs which violate 65 patents, Open Office suite violates 45 patents, E-mail programs violate 5, the remaining 68 violations being done by other popular FOSS programs, for a grand total of 255 violations.

Sob...poor company

Sure it reads like a list of U.N. resolution violations by the ‘Axis of Good’.


If the issue comes out in the open, the tireless open source programmers would soon get their hands on all the alleged infringements and hack around them.

So, will Microsoft win against the ‘Axis of Good’?
I think not.

Talking points: Microsoft demands royalties for open-source software

A few media outlets (Computerworld, Fortune) are reporting about Microsoft's latest claims from Microsoft that various FLOSS projects infringe their software patents, and that FLOSS distributors should be paying royalties. While likely the best summary of why this is a non-event is the article on GrokLaw, I wanted to post a few talking points for those who want to think about this.

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