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).

'When all else fails, litigate for patent infringement'

An article by Heide B. Malhotra in the Epoch Times talks about the absurdity of information/mental process patents, focusing on patents on tax minimization schemes which are being considered business model patents.

You should be careful how you fill in your tax forms, as you might be infringing someone's patent. And given the confusion surrounding "Intellectual Property" there might be some people who will think there is something wrong with that.

I wonder if this will also lead to threats of NAFTA Chapter 11 ("Investment") lawsuits against governments who seek to change tax law to remove loopholes that were considered patented business models by tax lawyers.

Open Letter: Questions about Microsoft Corp. "Intellectual Property"

(Also carried by p2pnet)
People will have read by now that Microsoft is alleging that Linux is infringing some undisclosed "intellectual property" from Microsoft. This is part of their larger rhetoric against FLOSS, and it is important for people to realize that there is little substance to what Microsoft is claiming. This is based entirely on Microsoft's ideological belief in marginal-cost based business models for knowledge.

LXer, a Linux news site, sent an Open Letter to Microsoft. In it there were a number of questions.

I believe the community already knows the answers, and I am publishing my own.

The Samba Team disapproves strongly of the actions taken by Novell on November 2nd

The Samba Team disapproves strongly of the actions taken by Novell on November 2nd.

One of the fundamental differences between the proprietary software world and the free software world is that the proprietary software world divides users by forcing them to agree to coercive licensing agreements which restrict their rights to share with each other, whereas the free software world encourages users to unite and share the benefits of the software.

The patent agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft is a divisive agreement. It deals with users and creators of free software differently depending on their "commercial" versus "non-commercial" status, and deals with them differently depending on whether they obtained their free software directly from Novell or from someone else.

Red Hat: We will be here in one year, Novell will not

A SearchOpenSource article by Jack Loftus offers some positive thoughts from Red Hat general counsel Mark Webbink on what he calls 'Microvell', the partnership between Microsoft and Novell which is spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about patent based lawsuits against Linux and other FLOSS.

This is not about IP. This is about the freedom to meet customer needs and to create competition. That problem is, you can be either for freedom and collaboration, or you can take a different approach. These companies are trying to do both. I can at least respect Microsoft, because they don't pretend to be an open source company.

More discussion in CLUE's general forum.

When someone pays protection money, we all become more vulnerable.

While some people are looking at the deal between Novell and Microsoft as possibly being positive for Linux and Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS), I see this as a very strategic move by Microsoft to use Novell as a seemingly willing pawn in their game to try to snuff out their greatest competitive threat. Their major competative threat isn't any company or group of companies, but an alternative method of production, distribution and funding of software that includes participants from all sectors of the economy.

There are many ways to look at FLOSS. From the definition, being Free Software means that you can "run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software" without any additional permission or payment. From an economic point of view, new business models are made possible by taking software development costs and making them one-time fixed costs, allowing the marginal costs to license the software to always be zero. Support contracts may be per-desktop or any other model that this service company may choose, but the marginal cost to license the software is always zero.

GIF is NOW finally free - for real, with a final Unisys joke

This Free Software Magazine article by Tony Mobily included an article that documented the October 1, 2006 expiry of a patent that encumbered the GIF image format.

To make the short story shorter, the PNG file was invented as a reaction to Unisys' move; although it was never wildly successful, PNG did manage to make Unisys's threat very much irrelevant. Unisys took their time, but eventually realised that if they had seriously sued people over the GIF patent, the days of the GIF format would be over.

In the pre-SCO era, people were outraged and wondered if Unisys's CEO had gone insane (to me, he just looked like he had a very, very low IQ and a very big problem managing his company's finance and marketing). In our post-SCO era, we are just glad it didn't sue IBM in the hope that the Goliath company would get annoyed enough to buy out the moody David.

OSDL Patent Project could backfire

An eWeek article by Peter Galli talks about an initiative by the Open Source Development Labs, known as Open Source as Prior Art, which is designed to improve the quality of software patents and thereby reduce the number of patents that can be used to threaten open-source software developers and users.

My personal opinion is that this initiative will be helpful in the long term. Not only will it reduce the number of poor quality patents that infest the patent system, but it will also expose more policy people to software that is produced, distributed and funded under models which not only don't need patent protection, but that are incompatible with patent protection. If policy makers recognize the benefits of FLOSS we may as a minimum get a fair use exemption for FLOSS implementations (which is consistent with patent policy generally), even if we can't abolish information/mental process patents entirely.

No Education Patents: the BlackBoard patent debate

I have been reading various articles (Including one by Michael Geist), but am wanting to find out if anyone has a summary about what is happening in Canada. I read on the NoEducation Patents WIKI that BlackBoard has filed for a patent in Canada.

Are there people in the education community able to fight this patent application and/or any resulting patent? This patent, if it is granted, will be based on the new Manual of Patent Office Practises (MOPOP) that CIPO unilaterally changed to allow for information/mental process patents. The only Canadian precedent essentially says that software is not patentable, and it is well past due time to have an additional case to test the validity of CIPO's MOPOP.

German patent case to watch: MP3 decoding

The BBC has an article indicating that SanDisk faces MP3 licence dispute. The claim is that Sandisk is infringing patents for decoding MP3 files, in one of those oddball countries (like USA and Canada) that honour information/mental process patents. It has been my understanding that the patents only apply to the encoding of MP3 files, not the decoding, and thus would not apply to the use that SanDisk is putting MP3 to. This case may clarify this situation once and for all.

FLOSS is to software what patents were to historical tangible inventions

I wrote the following as a reply to an article written by Shane Schick titled Truth, justice and the open source way which discussed FLOSS and the patent system.

I believe that FLOSS is to software what the patent system was for tangible inventions of physical things in the past.

Historically we had limited communications technologies and mobility slowing down collaboration. Inventions of tangible things took a lot of time and energy to move from design to prototype to distributable product. Within this context patents solved important problems. Without governments granting a temporary monopoly to the first inventor there would be too much risk to trying to develop ideas, and too much of an incentive to keep the ideas secret. Far too many inventions were kept secret and lost with the death of the inventor. A patent filing required a full disclosure of the invention such that someone skilled in the art could study, replicate and improve upon it, with the 20 year monopoly representing the slower realities of the day.

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