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Microsoft Software Linux

Ubuntu Founder Says Microsoft Not A Big Threat 128

Posted by Zonk
from the my-buddy-and-me dept.
Golygydd Max writes "Who says that Microsoft and open source developers are enemies? It's not Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. He says that Microsoft is not the patent threat Linux and open source developers should be worried about, and that the software giant will itself be fighting against the software patents system within a few years. 'He said the most dangerous litigants are companies not themselves in the software business, small ventures or holding companies that get their principal revenue from patent licensing. He singled out former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold and his company Intellectual Ventures, which is stockpiling patents at a rate that alarms large companies such as IBM and HP, as an example of such a potentially dangerous company.'"
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Ubuntu Founder Says Microsoft Not A Big Threat

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  • by teknopurge (199509) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:08PM (#19240193) Homepage
    Why not just (common sense)reform the patent system, thus crushing this holding companies?
    • by lixee (863589) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:11PM (#19240281)
      Because your governemnt would prioritize the interests of corporations over those of regular blokes.
      • Re:Reform the System (Score:4, Interesting)

        by superpulpsicle (533373) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:22PM (#19240555)
        If they took all software and computer related patents out into a "separate" system, they will be fine. The existing system is clearly not flexible enough to deal with todays technology.
        • Re:Reform the System (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Kadin2048 (468275) * <.slashdot.kadin. .at. .xoxy.net.> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:42PM (#19240997) Homepage Journal
          I'm not convinced that any sort of software algorithm should be patentable, but if we are going to allow patents on some narrowly-defined "implementations," which might involve software at some point in them (but not being wholly comprised of software), I think it's pretty clear that the term of the patents needs to be substantially reduced.

          The term of our patents was set in an era when sending a message from one city to another took days, or if it was separated by an ocean, weeks (potentially months). The flow of information moved at a completely different pace. Ten years then would have been a very brief time in which to bring a product to market. In today's world, I think it would be about 12-18 months: just enough to give the patentee a slight advantage over the rest of the marketplace, but not enough for them to amass an arsenal of patents with which to destroy all competition.

          Now, perhaps there's something to be said for somewhat longer patents on pharmaceuticals, because of the long government-mandated review process that they have to go through, before they can become profitable (and which mandate disclosure of the ingredients, meaning that keeping it a trade secret isn't an option). However, I think this should clearly be the exception rather than the rule.

          A patent length of a year -- five or at most ten for pharmaceuticals -- non-renewable, would do wonders towards improving competition and the production of new ideas in the technology sector. (While we're at it, lets have a 20-year copyright span, too.) Unfortunately I think by the time the major players come around to realizing that the system is hurting more than it's helping, the U.S. will be increasingly irrelevant.
          • Re:Reform the System (Score:5, Interesting)

            by TemporalBeing (803363) <bm_witness@NOSpAM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:03PM (#19241487) Homepage Journal

            I'm not convinced that any sort of software algorithm should be patentable, but if we are going to allow patents on some narrowly-defined "implementations," which might involve software at some point in them (but not being wholly comprised of software), I think it's pretty clear that the term of the patents needs to be substantially reduced.
            Yes - we do need to have terms that match the industries the patents are for. And perhaps we need to even break patents down to be more like Trademarks, i.e. you can get a patent for use in one industry (e.g. Telephone Switch Networks) that does not affect another industry (e.g. Internet Routers).

            The best way I can think to do this is to require a business plan to be filed with the patent, and the two go hand in hand. The business plan then determines the basic term granted for that specific patent, and is limited by allowing the patentee to recoup costs and some percentage of profit above and beyond that (e.g. you spend $100K to develop the patent, and then you get to make $150K guaranteed by the granting of the patent). Additionally, by putting a review board in (comprised of members from SEC and IRS) to review the business plans on a periodic basis (e.g. annually, ever other year, etc.) the term can then be lengthened or shortened to meet the industry based on the performance of the patent.

            This would allow high cost patents (e.g. drugs) to be around for a long time, while low cost patents (e.g. software patents) would go away quickly. Additionally, if the cost was low enough the patent would not be granted as it would be recouped before the patent was granted.

            Patent trolls would also go out of business as they would not be able to submit business plans that would qualify, and be exposed for what they are.

            So this is a real win-win if adopted. (BTW, I would get rid of the USPTO and replace it with a new organization that had arms in the IRS and SEC to do the job. A lot of the information required is already filed with the IRS and SEC, and if anything would only require a little more documentation in the files as some stuff might have to be further broken down. Point is, it's already there.)
            • Re:Reform the System (Score:5, Interesting)

              by nschubach (922175) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:27PM (#19243021) Journal
              Why not have Software patents "time out" after a preset time span if nothing was developed by the patent holder using that technology. If the patent holder doesn't take the patent to production in that time span, they forfeit the patent. It's kind of along your lines, but if the patent holder can't prove they used the technology in that time span, then they dissolve all rights to it.
              • When our nation was young, corporations were on a much shorter leash. A corporation was given a charter for a specific enterprise. That charter could expire, or be revoked. When the charter term was over the owners would have to justify re-issuing the charter. I'm not suggesting we go back that far, but...

                If we got a lot more strict about corporate charters we could solve all sorts of societal ills. If UnaCal is participating in the enslavement of Burmese to build it's pipeline, revoke the charter a
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jas_public (1049030)

              The business plan then determines the basic term granted for that specific patent, and is limited by allowing the patentee to recoup costs and some percentage of profit above and beyond that (e.g. you spend $100K to develop the patent, and then you get to make $150K guaranteed by the granting of the patent).
              Then if my company is a patent troll, then I'll pay myself $100M in deferred compensation and company stock options, to be recovered later.
            • Although I like the idea of having different patent terms for different industries (which we kind of have already in the distinction between patent and copyright), I disagree with the business plan approach. That model would involve a substantially increased degree of government control over industry, with many opportunities for trollish lobbying. Once you have the IRS and SEC reviewing a plan from year to year to decide how much profit is "enough," others will want a seat on the review board. Just imagine
              • Although I like the idea of having different patent terms for different industries (which we kind of have already in the distinction between patent and copyright), I disagree with the business plan approach. That model would involve a substantially increased degree of government control over industry, with many opportunities for trollish lobbying. Once you have the IRS and SEC reviewing a plan from year to year to decide how much profit is "enough," others will want a seat on the review board. Just imagine

                • Why a cost plus percentage formula, though? If someone comes up with something that cost little to invent but that's worth a fortune to society, the current system would reward them greatly, while this proposal would give more to a guy who invented a slightly better toothbrush but spent a lot of money doing it. I've heard traditional aerospace companies (the kind SpaceX is gunning for) criticized for getting "cost-plus" payments that encourage wasteful management, and the same criticism would apply here.

                  O
                  • Why a cost plus percentage formula, though?

                    It's easy to measure a business plan against. That's not to say it would necessarily encourage wasteful management, as the business plan itself would be under scrutiny and the cost part would have to be justified. Could you justify 5 engineers, and 10 people in management for designing a new toothbrush? Not likely. (And yes, I am familiar with how some of that goes.)

                    True - the proposed system does, as you say, give little weight and little RIO on inventions tha

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mcrbids (148650)
            I'm not convinced that any sort of software algorithm should be patentable, but if we are going to allow patents on some narrowly-defined "implementations," which might involve software at some point in them (but not being wholly comprised of software), I think it's pretty clear that the term of the patents needs to be substantially reduced.

            What's perhaps funny about this (very long run-on) sentence is that, at its heart, EVERYTHING IS SOFTWARE. Listen to particle physicists nowadays - they all talk about "
            • Software is for all intents and purposes reproducible at will.

              Normal matter isn't.

              When we get device that reorganize matter in any way we want in order to copy physical objects, then you may have a point, but for the time being, we will take you as a raving lunatic.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            I'm in biotech in the Seattle area, and I know a local biotech business guy who visited Myhrvold's company. Basically its a bunch of PhD's sitting around and filling patents on whatever they can think of with no intention of implementing any of them, just waiting for someone to sue down the road. He said he would never go near them again and he thinks that Myhrvold is the biggest threat in the city to our relatively small biotech community.

            As for patent length in pharmaceuticals, it takes 10 years and 80
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Kadin2048 (468275) *
              As for patent length in pharmaceuticals, it takes 10 years and 80 million dollars to get a drug from inception through the FDA approval process, so a 5 or 10 year patent length is simply too short. The clock starts ticking when the patent is filed, not when the drug is approved. There has to be some ability for the companies to get a return on their investment otherwise there will be no new drugs.

              Since the major source of delays in the pharmaceutical industry seem directly tied to the FDA approval process,
            • by compro01 (777531)
              The clock starts ticking when the patent is filed, not when the drug is approved.

              then perhaps that should be changed.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Cyberax (705495)
            There ARE 'patentable' algorithms (i.e. algorithms which DESERVE to be patented).

            For example, we've licensed a scheduler-planner algorithm (it's a trade secret and not patented), it's VERY hard (reference implementation is about 500kb of C++ code) and it took several years for the company to develop. It certainly is not one-click-buy type of algorithm.

            Unfortunately, such algorithms are exceedingly rare.
            • by Knuckles (8964)
              it's VERY hard

              So? Coming up with all kinds of math was hard too, should it be patented?
              • by Cyberax (705495)
                I don't know. Pure math (like Fermat theorem proof) definitely should not be patented.

                But some areas of applied math may be eligible for patents. For example, mathematicians are not very interested in these scheduling algorithms. Basically, scheduling algorithms consist of a large number of heuristics and pattern recognition. There's nothing interesting and exciting in them - and not much incentive to develop them as a result.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Znork (31774)
          "The existing system is clearly not flexible enough to deal with todays technology."

          More like it's not flexible enough to deal with todays rate of communications, and the development of mankinds knowledge turning into a million small, trivial, and disclosed steps.

          What makes the software sector special is the extremely low barrier of entry into the market, the massively componentized approach to development and the prevalence of use of modern communications and collaboration methods. This, however, does not
        • by Touvan (868256)

          I actually think the fix is kinda simple. Simply ban "trade secret" patents (patents where you don't have to demonstrate an implementation). Since software is implemented in the form of source code, you should have to show the source code (implementation) in order to get a patent on it. This would protect specifically written software as if it were an invention, but would not be so broad that it could stop someone from implementing the basic idea (algorithm - I suppose we need a legal definition for that to

    • Re:Reform the System (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:44PM (#19241033)
      Why not just (common sense)reform the patent system, thus crushing this holding companies?

      I've explained this before. I used to work for the US government many years ago. Look at it from Uncle Sam's perspective.

      1) The patent office makes money. A lot of it. Unlike other government agencies who consume tax dollars, the patent office makes a profit. Profit = good. Why would you "reform" an agency who is making you a ton of money and thus make less money?
      2) Businesses have yet to scream en masse that patent reform = a good thing. Until Microsoft and IBM and Cisco and Intel and lots of Fortune 500 companies say "The system is hurting us and costing us more money than you are making under the current system. A reform would actually bring you more money." then it will never happen.
      3) Government bureaucrats are outstandingly good at protecting their own turf. Expect patent office mangement to fight tooth and nail against reforms.
      4) The government is convinced that this is win-win for everyone because it's like Mutual Assured Destruction. Everyone has patents, so nobody will use them unfairly. Unfortunately, the reality is that Shuttlesworth is right. The company everyone should fear is the company that has nothing but patents, like the guys who went after BlackBerry.
      5) Most people in Congress are lawyers. Most lawyers like patents. It provides easy work for other lawyers on both the "infringing" companies and the IP holders doing the suing. If everybody is being sued, lawyers have lots of work and earn lots of money. Win-win!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I recently go out of a career in patent law. The biggest driver for expanding patent rights from my experience is patent attorneys. Before KSR vs Teleflex, several major bar associations drafted responses to the decision, every one of them shouting out vehemently against any reversal of the obviousness standard. Why? Less work for them. That's all that matters, not innovation or any of that BS.

        On the other hand, the PTO was pushing hard for some sort of change, as the obviousness standard is a major swamp o
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          >Less Work for them.

          Then the following will give them even less work:
          Prior to qualifying for the Bar, one has to demonstrate that one has memorized the following texts, in their _original_ language, by reciting them to an audience:
          * The Q'ran;
          * The Mahabharata;
          * The Tanakh;
          * The YiJing;
          * The Dao De Jing;

          Then the audience gets to select a text for the person to translate into the original language of another text that the audience also gets to select. That translation is to be done in front of the audienc
      • Re:Reform the System (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TemporalBeing (803363) <bm_witness@NOSpAM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:40PM (#19243217) Homepage Journal

        A reform would actually bring you more money." then it will never happen.
        My reform mentioned in this post [slashdot.org] would make the gov't more money than they are making now. It would also (a) make lawyers a lot more money, and create a whole new class of gov't workers that deal with business plans, so people with MBA's will make more money too. How about we propose it up? That should take then, no?

        Reality is that it is business and patent trolls that are fighting against patent reform. Even the USPTO has recognized a problem and been trying to reform some, and even Congress has been doing work towards that too. That's how we got the public peer reviews of patents going. So, yes, it is all about money, but it is more about whose money. Patents make a lot of money for a lot of people, gov't and business included; and until businsses get in line and say we need reform (which is starting to happen), then only have the stakeholders involved are for it, and the other half are against it and pay for the elections of the other half.
      • Exactly, one must look at it from the government's perspective, patent offices make money.

        And remember that almost everything in government is influenced substantially by money that came from somewhere, be it taxes, political contributions, or even patent fees.

        I'm not saying that the way patents are registered shouldn't be changed--it should--but this money factor makes it difficult to change, at least from the perspective of the government officials in charge.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        It makes the Government zero dollars. Like all government agencies that have a revenue, they must make 0 dollars.

        Yes, they have screamed it, unfortunately who do you think their reform would be good for?
        BTW, enough tax payers will get them to reform.
        Which brings me to a minor nitpick. It is NOT the patent offices job to reform. They do what they are mandated by congress to do. You know, they people you vote for?

        Sorry, I know to many agency that have sought change. The problem is the person from outside has
        • Hey, geekoid, I know that stuff gets done in government. My uncle lives in Delhi, India and works for the US Embassy...he gets a lot done. But I also know that this is not always the case. The more power you have, the more that money from friends plays a big role (with this administration it seems, at least)

          It's nice to see someone who works for the government who also has passion in what he does. Props, and I mean that. : )
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by !eopard (981784)

      Why not just (common sense)reform the patent system, thus crushing this holding companies?

      The US appears to be dependant on Intellectual Property superseeding actual goods in it's balance of payments with other countries. Have a look at how standardisation of laws between the US and other countries regarding IP is a high priority now. Reforming the patent system would lessen the ability to do this - why do you think there is so much action around DRM and IP for music/movies right now? ;)

  • Lobbyists (Score:5, Informative)

    by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:09PM (#19240203)
    Nah, once big software companies feel threatened rather than empowered by patents, lobbyists will make sure that laws gets passed to protect them. One onerous requirement might be for a patent holder to maintain a credible product in commercial production in order to sue others for royalties. This will be phrased to stop patent-only law firms that skim companies without innovation themselves, but will take care of open source authors quite nicely.
    • Re:Lobbyists (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ronadams (987516) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:11PM (#19240271) Homepage
      One onerous requirement might be for a patent holder to maintain a credible product in commercial production in order to sue others for royalties. Add "or be able to substantially prove ready plans in development to do so" to that, and you've got my vote. This idea of patents being some repository to hold ideas hostage is really detrimental to the technology market. Kudos to Shuttlesworth for pointing out our common enemy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rahga (13479)
      I agreed with you up to the end of your first sentence... "... lobbyists will make sure that laws gets passed to protect them."

      Those new laws or whatever legistlation won't be protecting us. Rather, I suspect that the government will keep Microsoft out of court in exchange for agreements not to leverage their own patent portfolio against other American companies, leading to an eventual federalization of the patent system. American companies will be able to use american technologies however they wish, and i
    • Re:Lobbyists (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SydShamino (547793) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:41PM (#19240977)
      One onerous requirement might be for a patent holder to maintain a credible product in commercial production in order to sue others for royalties.

      Really Bad Idea. This breaks the basic premise that a non-obvious improvement to an existing design may itself be patentable, even if the existing design is patented by someone else. You may be able to patent it, sure, but you would never profit from it.

      Take the old example of the automobile. It's a good idea, and was at one point patentable. Then, someone else invests the automatic transmission. It's a non-obvious improvement to the design, and is separately patentable. But the guy who invented the automatic transmission cannot build cars, because that would violate the patent held by the car inventor. The guy could try to sell the automatic transmission alone, but he would probably go out of business unless the car inventor chose to buy those transmissions. Why would the car inventor do that? If he just waits a few years, the automatic transmission inventor will go out of business, and, using your proposal, the car inventor could exploit the patent without fear of repercussion.

      The basic premise for patents is not just to grant a monopoly in exchange for publishing your data eventually. The data is published up front in part to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.

      Your proposal breaks that incentive, because, until your patent expires, no one else can build on your design without forfeiting their improvements to you.
      • Re:Lobbyists (Score:5, Interesting)

        by vtcodger (957785) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:24PM (#19242971)
        It's not entirely relevant, but it seems not to be as well known as it ought to be. There actually was was a patent on the automobile -- the Selden Patent -- US Patent 549,160. It was issued in 1895 and was used to extort substantial royalty payments from early automobile makers. Henry Ford refused to go along and Selden -- a patent attorney -- not only sued Ford but threatened to sue Ford's customers. The case, of course dragged on forever with a lot of the antics that we are only too familiar with today. eventually, the courts narrowed the scope of Seldon's patent so much that it no longer applied to any vehicle made in the US.

        This is only one of the numerous examples of how the patent system has impeded innovation and has mostly made a mess of things. Another shining example was the airplane. Most of the basic patents in the US were held by either the Wright Brothers or Glen Curtiss. The Wrights and Curtiss despised one another and engaged in a decade of pointless and expensive legal wrangling. Aircraft makers were unsure what to license from whom and often couldn't negotiate terms. The result was that when World War I came along, the US was far behind Europe in aircraft technology even though the airplane was invented in the US. In order to get the US back into the aircraft business before the huns or turks or whoever started bombing New York, a patent pool was established and litigation was put on hold. Thankfully it was not reinstated after the war.

        Y'know what. We got along just fine without software patents for 20 years. I think we could do so again. I'd go further than that, and (carefully) dismantle the entire damn Patent system. It's pointless, doesn't -- so far as I can see -- encourage innovation, and doesn't even work very well. We've got enough problems with global warming, overpopulation, incompetent and mendacious leaders, corporations run amock, etc, etc, etc. Why go out of our way to create more?

        • by geekoid (135745)
          But there are thousands of example of people who legitimatly made money from patent, as well as many, many examples of progress made with patents.

          What, they shouldn't have patented airplane technology? oh I get it, flight was just so damn obvious.

          The patent system is fine except for 2 things:
          Software patents, business method patents.
          • by Bert64 (520050)
            Plenty of things flew before airplanes...
            You have balloons, birds, insects etc... it was fairly obvious to try and replicate existing behaviour with a machine... People have been trying to fly for centuries.
          • by vtcodger (957785)
            ***But there are thousands of example of people who legitimatly made money from patent, as well as many, many examples of progress made with patents.***

            Both true. BUT There are too many patents that are based on (often known) prior art, are incomprehensbible, overreach, or are obvious. I personally don't think the occasional case where the system works as intended is enough to offset its flaws. Neither does the system seem to be fixable.

            If it were fixed, I wouldn't object to it.

            ***The patent system

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          Y'know what. We got along just fine without software patents for 20 years. I think we could do so again. I'd go further than that, and (carefully) dismantle the entire damn Patent system. It's pointless, doesn't -- so far as I can see -- encourage innovation, and doesn't even work very well. We've got enough problems with global warming, overpopulation, incompetent and mendacious leaders, corporations run amock, etc, etc, etc. Why go out of our way to create more?

          Terrorist!

          • by vtcodger (957785)
            ***Terrorist!***

            Yup! Goes to show what happens when you let Godless athiests establish the curriculum in schools.

      • But the guy who invented the automatic transmission cannot build cars, because that would violate the patent held by the car inventor.
        Until the patent on cars expires, which will happen before the transmission patent expires. The inventor of the automatic transmission will then have a brief window to exploit his patent before everyone else joins in. How brief the window should be (ideally) is debatable.
    • One onerous requirement might be for a patent holder to maintain a credible product in commercial production in order to sue others for royalties.

      This will remove the original purpose of patents, to allow individual inventors to try and get funding for their inventions.

      But if we look at many of the curent elements of business we see that this isn't working, too many market segments have monopolies or oligopolies that don't look outside the company to individual inventors. They may liscense it from oth
  • stockpiling patents at a rate that alarms large companies such as IBM and HP

      if patents were issued based on good standards it shouldnt worry them but they're not. they're used as weapons to destroy any competition that could reduce their profits rather than actually innovating anything. in short, patents are doing the exact opposite that they were originally supposed to do.
    • by gilesjuk (604902)
      That's the whole purpose of patents, to stop or hinder a competitor from seeing your idea and copying it.

      They were originally intended to help the little guy protect his idea and stop the big companies copying it. But it's now about the big companies attacking each other or smaller competition. Usually followed by the inevitable deal to work together, cross-licencing etc.
  • Chances of Microsoft using other's patents are much bigger then linux infringements Microsoft's patents.
    In-fact, if Microsoft really had a points in-which Linux kernel infringements Microsoft's patents, they would have show the exact spots in which the code were using Microsoft's patents.
    but, Microsoft's code is closed, and more then probably they are using IBM's or any other standard OS thinking patents and that will be disclosured in the near - future in which Microsoft will have to pay explanations to
  • Patent Copyright (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:24PM (#19240587)
    I still think patents should apply only to tangible inventions or objects (i.e. say a new motherboard system bus design) and copyright should apply to software.
    • by vthokie69 (549779)
      That's the obvious solution. You'd better patent it.
    • But...but...if copyright were applied to software, then there'd be so many ways to work around it!

      Just think, $i++; would be seperate from $i = $i + 1; which would be seperate from $a = 1; $i = $i + $a; Think of the poor coders who have to come up with every variation in every language!

      Cuts down on a lot of repeditive paperwork to just hold a patent on "A method for incrimenting the value of a variable by a single unit."
      • by Phaldor (1106237)
        Here's the kicker on this. What is to stop someone from copyrighting the conceptual method using psuedo code? This would allow for anyone to conceptually design a software program and copyright it using an arbitrary language. This could get really messy, which is why the lawyers out there stay in business. To take the example from above, someone could copyright, as a part of a program, "A method for incrementing the value of a variable by a single unit." and if it was found that anyone used this in thei
  • Doesn't this just reiterate why software patents are such a retarded idea in the first place? Once these patent trolls start bleeding the big companies dry, then maybe something will actually get done to address this ridiculousness? Or am I just being naive?
  • nothing will be done with patent reform until they represent a direct threat to those that can afford to buy lobbyists and grease palms. Once that happens rest assured there will be provisions provided to protect the interests of big business.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:31PM (#19240737)
    I believe OSDL has a patent pool. Can we expand it?

    There are lots and lots of creative folks that work with GNU, Linux, *BSD, and who read Slashdot. It would be great if there was an open invention process whereby one could take an idea, do the basic stuff, then submit it to the OSDL (or another reputable group) who would get the patent in your name, but assigned to them.

    Such a process would reduce the barrier to entry for getting patents on truly new ideas. (I would have a dozen or more if my employers had filed for patents on some of my ideas.) It would also allow you to have your name on a patent which looks great on a resume (finally something that is actually worth something to the inventor). But, most importantly it would expand the pool of patents available for open source and remove additional ideas, concepts, and inventions further out of the reaches of the patent-only law firms.

    This should be a call to action!
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by hxnwix (652290)

      But, most importantly it would expand the pool of patents available for open source and remove additional ideas, concepts, and inventions further out of the reaches of the patent-only law firms.

      The evildoers only need one essential patent on, say, using electronic memory .... with a computer *.

      Or, using non-electronic memory without a computer. Wait, that will not fly. OK, how about: using non-electronic memory ... with a computer*?? Ding ding ding! It doesn't matter if you are an antisocial greedhead with no friends and no brain, because you too invent old and once-original technology and bend the world over a barrel for already using it! And it doesn't matter how many patents others may h

  • Not (Score:3, Funny)

    by zr-rifle (677585) <zedr@[ ]r.com ['zed' in gap]> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:32PM (#19240771) Homepage
    > "Microsoft is not the patent threat Linux and open source developers should be worried about"

    Of course! SCO is the REAL threat!

    Those godless, marauding mancubi will feel no remorse prying your $699 from your cold, dead, chips/pretzel/pizza/popcorn/nacho/cheetos/Neal mix stained hands...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by StringBlade (557322)

      Those godless, marauding mancubi will feel no remorse prying your $699 from your cold, dead, chips/pretzel/pizza/popcorn/nacho/cheetos/Neal mix stained hands...

      "Neal mix"?

      *shudder*

      I don't think I what to know what goes into that, but I'm sure a very large blender must be involved.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mark has simply fallen for all the "Microsoft is dead" press that seems to be all over the place lately. Microsoft is far from dead, and they are a powerful foe. The latest round of posturing we have seen from them conclusively proves that they are gearing up for a huge fight, and what a fight it will be: those on the side of freedom vs those who choose to oppress the creativity of others. Mark my words, by this time next year Mark will either have had to retract his naive words or he will have been push
  • Patent Trolls (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kiaser Zohsay (20134) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:55PM (#19241297)
    More than once the analogy has been made between the "Mutual Assured Destruction" scenario of the Cold War days and the strategy of building "defensive" patents portfolios under the current system. Then along come these so-called investment firms that buy up "offensive" patents for no other purpose than to sue other companies and collect licensing revenue. In the Cold War analogy, these guy have their own nukes (patents) and they can threaten you with them, but they have no country of their own (original R&D work) so you can't threaten to bomb them back.

    These guys are the Osama Bin Laden of the patent system.

    Shuttleworth is right. Companies with this business model are a far more serious patent threat than Microsoft.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:56PM (#19241333) Homepage
    Each form of intellectual property is claimed and purported to be created in order to benefit the creator, designer or author of whatever intellectual property item may exist. (Trademarks may be a mild exception when a trademarked word, phrase or icon when it is sold to an entity by a creator, designer or author though it can only be sold once.) So if reform were to occur with focus on the fact that the concept of IP was created to benefit the author, designer or creator, then it makes no sense that anyone or any entity should be allowed to sell or re-sell said IP as that is removed from the [original] intent of IP's concept. (I don't think it should be necessary that I recite the intent of patents and copyrights... that they are created to allow the creator benefit of said works and to inspire them to create more, etc...)

    This means, that IP should be useless to those who do not create or otherwise use their inventions. IP should be useless to those who do not benefit from the arts created. If this sort of reform were to happen, we'd see an end to patent trolls because they would have to actually MAKE something that uses the patents in question, not simply license or sell the patents to other parties. (Licensing is okay, but the ownership of a patent should never be salable.) Song writers and musicians should never be allowed to sell their copyrights, but instead force the recording and media companies to bargain with them for each item they wish to distribute. This would force fair prices and values to be paid to the artists out there and prevent them from essentially being enslaved by the labels out there.

    IP should have its value, but it should never be salable. And because it's salable, we have this ridiculous, abusive and litigious condition we have today. All of humanity would be the better if we could get rid of the salability of IP. The benefits of everything from life-saving drugs to works of art would eventually fall upon humanity and would give direct and arguably more bountiful benefit to the ACTUAL creators of IP.

    Oh yeah... and reduce the limits on IP back to their original terms or less... This lifetime+70 years and 100 years for a corporation is simply ridiculous.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What if patents weren't transferable? They protect the original inventor and perhaps they company they work for. If you get bought out, the patent goes in the public domain.

    That solves the original problem of "protect the little guy" while simultaneously preventing these patent-hoarding entities from causing any damage. If they want to buy a patent they have to hire the owner. That'll make patent-hoarding pretty expensive.

  • It's going to be annoying to have to move
    to Uzbekistan to continue coding...

          - no insult intended to Uzbeks - it's the Kazakhs I can't stand ;-)

    but move there I will if I have to to get these patent retards off my
    back.

    Coding is basically the application of math and logic to the world,
    and those who tell me I'm not free to do that can go f**k themselves.

     
  • patent troll in question? I wouldn't be surprised if they use a sock puppet to achieve their nasty goals.
  • by a1mint (1021941) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:43PM (#19242313)
    An absolute *MUST* read by anyone talking about patents and freedom of speech in software.

    Too bad the guy is dead now, he could have helped us all out a great deal !

    http://www.philsalin.com/patents.html [philsalin.com]
  • by pieterh (196118) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:31PM (#19243083) Homepage
    We (the FFII) are organising a series of conferences [eupaco.org] to discuss the European patent system, and Mark Shuttleworth was our keynote speaker last week. (The conference had over thirty speakers and panelists, including Bill Kovacic, the US Federal Trade Commissioner...)

    Mark spoke for 30 minutes, and his keynote is available here [eupaco.blip.tv]. He provided this very elegant argument against patents on business methods and most software: patents are society's gift to inventors in exchange for disclosure. When an invention is self-disclosing, i.e. you understand it when you use it, society has no interest in granting a patent for it, indeed is penalised by doing so, and therefore should not grant it.

    More on the conference here [digitalmajority.org].
    • by Kjella (173770)
      He provided this very elegant argument against patents on business methods and most software: patents are society's gift to inventors in exchange for disclosure. When an invention is self-disclosing, i.e. you understand it when you use it, society has no interest in granting a patent for it, indeed is penalised by doing so, and therefore should not grant it.

      Just because it is trivial to understand (read: the inner workings are very visible) doesn't mean it was trivial to create. Patents are society's gift t
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pieterh (196118)
        Strange. So how did society invent and produce before there were patents? What about the internet, produced when software was not patentable...?

        Your argument that people invent to secure patents is completely bogus. People invent because it's the only way to create market advantage, and that's the only way to make money. There are a few exceptions, cases where patents have stopped the small inventor from being crushed by big competitors. These exceptions are so rare, and so proportionally unimportant t
  • Software, and algorithms are just like knowledge. Imagine a world where every piece of knowledge (scientific for example) is patented. For example, someone had patented the linear regression algorithm. You need to use it on your research, then you would need to pay to use it. Extend this to all known science, you wouldn't be able to progress. It's true that some part of science is patented, but it's not usually the actual knowledge part, it's instead the precess that uses that knowledge. Software is the sam
    • by nexuspal (720736)
      Software == Algorithms. And algorithms (being mathmatical expressions of scientific truths), should not be patentable. Copyrightable yes, but patentable, no...

      This whole mess came about because of rulings by the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit court allowing both algorithms (mathmatical proofs if you will), and business method patents (the scarier patent from a business persons perspective) to exist. The business method patents hinder innovation in a way never before dreamed. Imagine you owned a bus
  • by phalse phace (454635) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @04:15PM (#19243799)
    Not a big threat? Billg responds, "That's the dumbest fucking idea I've heard since I've been at Microsoft."
  • by itsdapead (734413) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:15PM (#19244815)

    the most dangerous litigants are companies not themselves in the software business

    The difference is that certain large traditional software companies have a motive to burn some of their spare cash - or risk or having a few patents invalidated - in order to cripple the pesky open source industry. Patent trolls - sock-puppet shenanigans aside - are only in it for the direct profit.

    At worst, trolls are an equal threat to the whole software industry, not just open source. At best, the open source industry should be less attractive to them - attack an open source company with a plausible patent case and there is a risk that they'll go titsup.com before you get your damages. You certainly won't see any continuing royalties. Worse, lots of big players who would just sit back and eat peanuts while you went after a commercial competitor, have a vested interest in the same bits of FOSS and might gang up on you while every geek on the internet searches for prior art. Best stick to closed-soruce companies who have a budget for patent extortion.

    The real glass-half-full aspect is that these clowns are helping discredit the patent system, and upsetting the Mutually Assured Destruction status quo that keeps the big players on the pro-patent side.

  • One thing I'll never understand is why patent laws weren't changed the minute people started acquiring patents and not using them. The whole point is to feed innovation, so why not add a clause saying any patent that is held but not being developed against is void after X period of time? This way people still get to claim patents, but we don't have to worry about dipshits like Intellectual Ventures hoarding patents they have no intention of ever using.

  • Let the patent holders pay for their state granted monopoly they enjoy. When someone files a patent, he should state how much it is worth for him, and then pay a certain percentage of this (say 2%) per year to keep his claim. Whenever someone pays up the sum (adjusted for the remaining period, so 70% after 3 years for a 10-year patent), the patent goes into the public domain. The sum can be adjusted yearly by the holder in a +/- 10% range.

    So any patent would come with a price tag and it would cost something
  • The Prime Example (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@@@keirstead...org> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:51PM (#19245243) Homepage
    So.. I was curious as to what this company "Intellectual Ventures" had patented thus far, so I did a search on a href="http://www.google.com/patents>"Google Patents.

    p>What is the #2 result? A patent on how to find and protect intellectual property [google.com] (aka patents).

    So, this company already has a patent on patenting patents. So all you slashdotters with the Step 1, Step2, .... Profit jokes owe them money.

  • Q.
    Can I patent the idea of making cereal at a restaurant and serving it to guests?

    A.
    Yes you may! It is a business method patent and will readily be accepted by the US Patent Office.

    Imagine you owned a business wanted to serve cereal (simplified business problem). To your horror, somebody else has already patented the business method of serving cereal in a restaurant! You are now in a lawsuit and unable to serve CEREAL to your guests! You are screwed, and the economy takes another dive... cereal
  • the great thing about being a patent holding company is that you aren't making anything and therefore not violating anyone else's patents.
    The software patent war won't be a war, but an extermination.
    Where those companies that make things will be crushed by those that don't.

  • Software patents - or any untested region of patents, for that matter - are a bit like printing your own money; you can have as much as you like, all it takes is a little bit of work, and the outside world *might* believe it, but if they don't - if they suddenly find out that it is indeed worthless self-printed money, then - oops, the whole house of cards comes down.
  • Software is a special kind of product, it should not be patented. Software is mathematics, and mathematical theorems can not be patented.
  • [Microsoft] signed a Linux deal with Novell that indemnifies the company against Microsoft patent claims over Linux. Two weeks ago Dell joined the deal, becoming the first hardware vendor to do so.

    /me scratches off the Dell Inspiron 9400 from my shortlist of notebooks I'm looking into.

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