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01/16/2005 Archived Entry: "a bit of good news on patents"

Another small helping of schadenfreude today. It seems that Sir Bill, during his traditional keynote presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show, suffered not one but three crashes during demos ...including one on the much-touted Microsoft Media Center, and the famous Blue Screen of Death on an Xbox. Now that's what I call truth in advertising.

Not to get too complacent, though: some vulnerabilities have been found in the Mozilla and Firefox browsers, allowing the URL to be "spoofed" in downloads. Secunia says, "Do not follow download links from untrusted sources." See also this Secunia advisory. (And if you're still using Internet Explorer, check Secunia yourself regularly...I can't keep up.)

Interesting developments on the patent front...

IBM has astonished and delighted the Open Source community by giving them free access to 500 of its patents. IBM will retain ownership of the patents -- well, you can't have everything -- but Open Source developers can use them royalty-free. So much for Open Source being anti-business or "communist"; no one thinks that IBM makes decisions for anything but hard-nosed business reasons. IBM is betting -- correctly, in my opinion -- that this will pay off in the long run. Once again, bravo to IBM!

This is a lovely response to Microsoft's IP saber-rattling towards Linux. Meanwhile, Sir Bill of the Blue Screen is busy whingeing about Digital Rights Management, patent protection, and "incentive systems" for software development. He'd apparently like to see a "somewhat improved patent system." I guess he feels he hasn't been able to make enough money under the current system. (Not, I should add, that Microsoft has shown any reluctance to use Open Source software in its own products...as long as it's under the BSD license, and not the GPL.)

Groklaw also reports a study that found 30% of U.S. patents are invalid due to duplicate claims. I can't add much to PJ's commentary. She also quotes the Economist article:

Indeed, there are good reasons for believing that today's system of granting patents is stifling innovation, not encouraging it. Patent offices around the world have never been busier. This is partly because of increasing amounts of work in the fields of the internet, genomes and nanotechnology. But it is also because patent offices are being too lax in granting licences, encouraging firms to rush to register as many (often dubious) ideas as possible in an effort to erect legal barriers against their competitors.

Those wacky communists at the Economist....what will they say next?

Meanwhile, at the EU, the software patent locomotive might be knocked off the rails. As Groklaw reports,

61 EU members of parliament from 13 countries, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, led by the Polish ex-prime minister Jerzy Buzek and including a former European Commissioner and three vice-presidents of the European Parliament, are asking that the entire legislative process that led to the software patents directive be *begun from scratch*.

It could go either way. But if they succeed, it will prevent this noxious directive from being rubber-stamped by Ag & Fish or whatever committee the lobbyists can slide this through. There might -- gasp! -- be a real debate over the proposal.


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