Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 4th Jun 2013 12:45 UTC
Legal Ah, patents - the never-ending scourge of the technology industry. Whether wielded by companies who don't actually make any products, or large corporations who abuse them because they can't compete in the market place or because they're simply jerks, they do the industry a huge disservice and are simply plain dangerous. According to The Wall Street Journal (circumvention link), president Obama is about to take several executive actions to address patent trolls - which may seem like a good idea, but I am very worried that all this will do is strengthen the positions of notorious patent system abusers such as Apple and Microsoft.
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Exactly correct
by andydread on Tue 4th Jun 2013 12:59 UTC
Member since:

The same exact alarm bells went through my mind. Couldn't have said this any better than Thom has written here. Microsoft and Apple are currently the biggest abusesers of software-patents in the tech industry. Something tells me they will be left unscathed and can continue their campaign to use dubious and flimsy software patents to take ownership of other people's code.

Reply Score: 11

RE: Exactly correct
by hallambaker on Tue 4th Jun 2013 13:47 in reply to "Exactly correct"
hallambaker Member since:

I think he is way off there.

One of the biggest problems with the Patent Office melt down is that their incompetence in the 1990s forced everyone to apply for patents and acquire patent licenses to protect their own positions.

Microsoft did go out and aggressively force anyone who started building their own portfolio of defensive IP to cross license. But their volume is so much larger than everyone else they ended up making net payments in all the cases I have heard of. They are spending several billion dollars a year to protect themselves against the risk that one of those projects craters and they end up with a patent lawsuit or a SCO type situation.

Apple is a different matter. I think the attack on Atari GEM was dreadful, especially as everyone knew that Apple had stolen the ideas from Xerox. The attack on Google is more of the same. But now that Google has the Motorola patents there is a stalemate.

There is a big risk that the big corporations will use the threat of patent litigation to establish a cartel. But so far we haven't seen that realized in the software space.

I certainly can't see how any of the changes proposed put a legitimate patent holder/licensor at a disadvantage.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Exactly correct
by themwagency on Thu 6th Jun 2013 18:38 in reply to "RE: Exactly correct"
themwagency Member since:

>"especially as everyone knew that Apple had stolen the ideas from Xerox"

Apple purchased this from Xerox.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Exactly correct
by butters on Tue 4th Jun 2013 14:54 in reply to "Exactly correct"
butters Member since:

We can't start from the assumption that these measures will benefit big companies over small companies. We can only start with the assumption that they will probably benefit prospective defendants over prospective plaintiffs.

From here, if we want to consider the plight of software startups, we have to investigate whether their vulnerability to infringement outweighs their vulnerability to claims of infringement.

This is not an easy question to answer, but at the front lines of the software industry, I bet that most developers would favor more rigorous standards for claims of patent infringement -- if for no other reason than it's unreasonable to expect developers to avoid infringing patents that aren't embodied in any products which would be familiar to those in their field.

If we believe that the patent system favors big companies, than why would these measures to constrain the patent system also benefit big business?

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Exactly correct
by Valhalla on Wed 5th Jun 2013 01:01 in reply to "RE: Exactly correct"
Valhalla Member since:

If we believe that the patent system favors big companies, than why would these measures to constrain the patent system also benefit big business?

I don't think the proposed changes will make it worse for small companies, but they likely won't make things much better either.

For big companies though, this would eradicate the only real downside with software patents.

These huge companies have amassed large amounts of software patents, they can use them as protection against other companies, or to patent extort them (particularly if they don't fear the patent arsenal the other company posesses, which is usually the case with smaller companies).

So big companies with lots of patents LOVE the software patent system, patents are easily granted no matter how obvious they are, heck you can just add 'on a mobile device' and anything is accepted no matter how much prior art there is, fantastic!

Hence these big companies are issuing software patents by the truckloads, the broader (and hence vaguer) the better, as it makes them harder to circumvent and also harder to predict as an outcome in court.

And then these patent can be wielded against competitors, and if they are small and can't afford to challenge the patents in court (very costly), so much the better.

But there is one caveat, it's those darn companies with only patents and no products (known as patent trolls), because when they are sued by such entities these huge companies can't use their massive patent arsenal to counter-sue.

What to do, what to do?

Solution, lobby the politicians/government and have them legally neuter the 'patent trolls' so that the huge companies can continue to (ab)use their huge amount of patents without the aforementioned threat. Problem solved.

The software patent system is crap, not only are the patents being passed with what is practically zero scrutiny, they then have to be protested through very expensive court proceedings which again favours huge companies as anyone who can't affort going to court against them simply has to fold.

The only thing that could have caused a worthwhile patent reform would be the continued threat that patent trolls pose to these big companies, but as one would expect these companies have no intention of removing the worth of their own patent arsenals, so instead we will see laws tailored to only target 'patent trolls' with the rest of the utterly broken software patent system left intact.

Reply Parent Score: 5