Off Topic - patent discussion


Arno: moved here from MessagesToPeopleCurrentlyPresentInTheLibrary.

I am guilty as charged for introducing politics to SL.

2004 May 10th

Arno: Added new partner link + logo at the bottom left (in the hope that this is less offending or vandalizing than using the frontpage). For my reasons see discussion below. I will remove the link in two weeks. For a nice example see [ext]

2003 September 5

Deebster: For those that think the courts will use common sense against stupid patents:

Microsoft Meets Patent Law

A judge ruled that Microsoft's Internet Explorer uses "[ext] Eolas-patented technology" such as plug-ins, applets and scriptlets.

As such, Microsoft was ordered to pay the company $520.6 million for IP infringment.

[ext] More info

2003 August 26

SL Vandalizes Self

Arno, you gave me a scare! ;-) I sympathize with what you did, but I also got the impression that SL had been hacked. Given the recent history of vandalism, that was disquieting.

Also, the automatic redirection is offensive to me, as a web surfer. Too many people are trying to tell my computer what to do. I want to make my own decisions, thank you, and not other people, even if they are my friends.

How about a kinder, gentler way to get your message across? Thanks. :-)

-- Bill

Arno: ok, I have removed the automatic redirect. I'm not really a friend of those myself. However, the whole point of a rally/demo is making noise. So I keep SL "vandalized" for this week. You're welcome to discuss or get angry at me in email. I don't think it is of general interest for SL deshis at large. As I said, I feel strongly about this. I wouldn't be able to look into the mirror, if I didn't do something about it.

Bill: Thanks, Arno, for removing the redirect. :-) As for current intellectual property laws, I think we agree that they are oppressive.

Hu: I am in favor of the concept of patents for software in the same way that I am in favor of patents for machinery and copyrights for music and writing. I am not in favor of the broadness with which the US Patents and Trademark Office (PTO) grants them, or with the expensive machinery of the legal system that enforces them or makes it impractical to enforce them in many cases. Further, I would like to see a way that owners could be forced to issue licenses to patented technology for "reasonable fees" (thought that is a can of worms itself), instead of locking them away. I like the idea that patents encourage the exposure of the technology and thereby help develop the state of the art, as opposed to locking it up in trade secrets. I also like the way that patents encourage investment of time, money, and energy into developing the state of the art by holding out the reward of compensation for effort.

I am not in favor of using Sensei's Library's front page to advocate the "owners'" political point of view, even if the issue may tangentially affect the operation of the Web. Perhaps to be fair, should we give Tamsin control of the front page for a week to conduct a language rant, or chatouille a week to conduct a rant about the absurdity of wikis? -- Hu.

Tamsin: That was RUDE, Hu. Firstly, I think that I contribute a lot more reasonably good and original go-related stuff than rants. Secondly, I don't like being likened to a vandal such as Chatouille. If you've got issues with me, please take them up with me privately instead of having little digs at me here. I await your apology.

Hu: I'm sorry if I offended you, Tamsin, it was not my intention. I agree without reservation that you contribute a lot more reasonably good and original Go-related stuff than rants. Equally clearly, you are not the issue here, the issue is rants and the ownership of the site. I don't have issues with you, Tamsin, I have issues with the owner of this wiki using the front page for a personal rant. Further, I will not place a demand on you to accept my apology.

We have a rant on the front page of the site. The owner of the site has taken it back from us deshis to use it for a personal rant that is unrelated to Go. As the owner of the site, that is his right. But if Sensei's Library is truly a collaborative site, the owner would not exercise his ownership rights in such a blatant way (and without any prior discussion).

I used your language rant as an example of a (good) rant, and chatouille as a (bad) rant. I equated you with a ranter (Arno). I like a good rant, in an appropriate place (I contributed to two of your rant pages). I did not equate you with chatouille, and I think you are overly sensitive to make such a connection and demand an apology in the loudest terms (bold font the entire paragraph and indented). If anything, the main thrust was that I advocated that potentially you should have as many rights as Arno. I can apologize as well for elevating you to that level, if you like. -- Hu.

Tamsin: Okay, thanks very much for that, Hu. I agree that I can be overly sensitive, but there have been some serious problems in my personal life recently, but anyway, enough said. Here's to the future!

Arno: Hu, I'm not going to discuss the pros and cons of patents here - if you like, please send me an email. About advocating my views on the (or in front of the) FrontPage: I did not take this step light heartedly, because I knew that many of you might be opposed. On the other hand, I feel personally threatend by those proposed new laws. Services like Sensei's Library could be shut down or might have never been started in the first place. I'm sure that if one looked carefully enough, SL's code violates at least a dozen patents. Are you going to pay my laywers once I get sued for running SL? Are you paying the fines which I may have to pay in course of a settlement over a over-broad patent? If you answer yes to both questions, I remove the page now.

Tim Brent: I feel the whole idea is bull. I mean,the whole "I did this and must own it and profit from it FOREVER" attitude. There has to be some limits,or else he Web itself dies. I couldn't afford to pay for even 1% of thes ervices i get from here and other sites.

PatrickB: Arno - a dozen patents? I'll only ask you to cite three that you think might apply, because I'm such a nice guy. There are lots of problems with the patent offices and patent terms and such, but software patents are also misrepresented because of a few terrible ones that have been granted. Off the top of my head, I can't see any of those affecting wiki. Tim - perhaps you're confusing patents and copyrights. Patents do have a limited term - approximately 15 years, though you could persuasively argue that these should be shorter. Copyrights are the ones with the real problems of lasting forever. In other news, I'm putting my blog on hold here as long as the front page can and is being hijacked for non-Go-related political purposes.

kritz: Arno - you mean "may" infringe a dozen patents... Never say it "does" infringe... says the Patent attorney from Detroit. They may not be as easy to "infringe" as you think. I'd love to see the list of patents if you are concerned. (please no rants -- I just live in the system)

Hu: There are many limits to patents. It is only 17 years, not 75 like copyrights, and not forever. Patents are on embodiments, not concepts. Patents expose technology and do not hide it in trade secrets. Prior art is not patentable. It seems unfortunately that Tim's comment was made in haste with more emotion than reason, given the number of typos. Regarding Arno's rebuttal, an attack on SL code would have to prove economic deprivation. Fines would only result from a willful failure to comply with proper legal notification. I think that neither legal notification or failure to comply are in the future. No I am not going to pay your lawyers, nor do I think SL is in danger from legal attack. In reply to both Arno and Tim, I think there is ample room for free services like SL to co-exist with pay services in a diverse web ecology.

Finally, in reply to Arno's disinclination to discuss, it seems to be a rather one-sided expression of ownership and speech rights to make a disruptive takeover of the main entry point rather than debate within the pages themselves. -- Hu.

Evand: Let me just say that I am fully in support of Arno's using the fron page to protest. I'll admit that that is largely because I agree with what he is using it to say, but it is also partly because I support people being willing to stand up and make some noise in support of what they believe in, in a public and visible manner.

And to reply to Hu: I think your arguments are all very valid, in a context where the patent system is working as originally designed and as most of current patent law as I understand it dictates. However, when the quality of patents being granted is so atrocious, when there is no apparent need for originality (things obvious to those skilled in the art are being patented), when you can be sued for using an infringing prouct rather than just selling it, and when there is no reasonable way to overturn a patent without the ability to infringe it and then defend yourself in court, I think the system has serious flaws. It is important to note that even if SL itself does not infringe on anything, Arno could be equally liable if, say, Apache or the Linux kernel is infringing (assuming that's what SL is running on). I also don't think this is really the place for this debate, so I'll avoid going into more detail for now.

UlrichGoertz: Just to add one more opinion: Of course, SL should not used for non-related political purposes, but in this case I do share Arno's worries that software patents might have a serious impact on SL and/or related projects. Of course, patents in principle make sense; but the question is what kind of things should be patentable. Hu, you say that no patents are granted on concepts - I think that this is something which certain people try to change, and this is very dangerous in my opinion. Would you say that Amazon's One-click is an embodiment rather than a concept, for example? (This was regarded as patentable even under the current European laws, with stricter requirements for a patent than the ones which are possibly to come.)

kritz Under the current situation, I think it would be highly unlikely anyone would sue sensei for patent infringement. First question ... who to sue, second for what damages, third question where? I see misinterpretations of laws on patents and copyrights all the time on boards like these. For one thing, many issues are not clear even for the courts! One great example of moving law is "fair use." I was only offering to put in my 2 cents (for free - ask Adum...) (remember most patent lawyers are just engineers with law degrees - not lawyers with engineering degrees) -(shameless pitch for the profession) For the record, I think of myself as a bit of a black hat having read 2600 for well over a decade now.

Zarlan: Copyright exists. Why allow software patent? "Patents are on embodiments, not concepts" Well isn't that what copyright does? Name one thing that should be patentable that is out of reach for copyright.

kritz A copyright will protect an author of a piece of code from an EXACT knockoff. Software patents generally are directed to methods (steps) of doing something. A patent also gives rights to "equivalent" steps within the series of steps. (Think Do loops vs. While loops) - There is a huge amount of info/interpretation below the surface.

Deebster: Thank you Arno for bringing this issue to my attention. I suppose I should also thank those whinging about it, as since my bookmark takes me straight to RecentChanges, I would otherwise still be ignorant.

Well done for having the courage of your convictions to risk the ire of those who don't understand that while this isn't Go realated, it is SL related. People complain, but at least they are aware of it now - mission accomplished I guess.

Arno: for those wondering which patents SL might violate: I did not do a look and I don't want to wake sleeping dogs. But while looking for possible SL related patents I found e.g. USPTO 6611835 which basically patents that if a search engine encounters a 404 HTTP error code in course of its spidering it deletes the page from its index, or if it encounters a redirect (302) it updates its metadata accordingly too. Now that's what I call an invention! (apart from the horror gallery at [ext]

That being said, I am torn apart of not using SL for my "political views" and the new proposed laws in Europe. For me this is analogous to monopolizing the bricks and mortar if I were a builder. It might as well drive me out of the field of computer engineering and doing Sensei's etc. alltogether.

I think that many people underestimate what risk a service provider like myself is exposed to. I can be sued for someone posting libelous material or for infringing copyright etc. I bear the risk.

To sum it up: I felt I had to do somthing. Although I will not likely repeat such an action.

PS: this is not me alone, but a concentrated effort of some thousand site owners.

pps: for what I am afraid of, see e.g. [ext]

DougRidgway: I took a look at the '835 patent. I'm no lawyer, and I only skimmed it (kind of dangerous with patents, which often say more or less than it first appears), but SL looks like it's in the clear: SL hosts content, not a search engine. I don't see anything for SL to worry about there. Same for the PanIP patents on youmaybenext, which are commerce related.

What people don't realize about software patents is that most of them are worthless. Not worthless in the sense that they are indefensible in court (although a lot of them are that too) but worthless in the economic sense. The value of a patent equals the value of the income stream that it protects times the number of years it's protected for. A valuable patent is defensible (preferably already tested in court), protects a big revenue stream, and does it for a long time. If the patent gets invalidated, can be worked around, if the technology becomes obsolete, or if the patent expires, the money stops. Software technologies, by their nature, often have hidden prior art (which gets discovered as soon as there's real money on the line), become obsolete quickly, and are very often easy to work around. You'll notice that most companies (real companies, the IBMs and AT&Ts) with lots of software patents don't license them out for big bucks: they just threaten each other with them before arranging cozy cross-licensing deals. If they were actually worth anything, you'd read about big dollar cash licensing deals, or mergers driven by IP. This never happens in software, but it happens all the time in fields with valuable IP, like pharma and hardware.

The real problem, though, is that by introducing politics into SL, people end up discussing the politics, instead of go. I guess I'm guilty too, by participating. My apologies.

UlrichGoertz: I agree with kritz that it is highly unlikely anyone would sue SL for patent infringement. However, there still remains a remote chance that it happens. Would you -the patent lawyer- guarantee that it will not happen?

Clearly, the PanIP story is not directly related to SL. On the other hand, I find this story kind of scary. I haven't checked this very thoroughly, but apparently PanIP sued small businesses just because they had an online shop on their web site. As it seems, in the end their patents will not be defensible, but to carry this to court certainly meant a major effort for the people fighting against it. Others just settled with PanIP and paid 5000$, since it seemed the easier way. Now what should SL do if they were confronted with something similar?

In any case, as I said, I'm not in principle opposed to having patents. But could somebody please provide an example where less restrictive (i.e. allowing to patent "things" which are not patentable under current European laws) laws are needed? I think that the main purpose for having patents is to protect investments (of time and/or money). If a company invests a huge amount of money in order to develop some kind of pharamaceutical, granting them a patent makes perfect sense. But to give patents on 'common sense concepts' like online shops or the notorious One-Click-Buy is dangerous.

Arno: @Doug: neither the patent I mentioned nor the PanIP story has a direct effect on SL - I didn't mean to imply that. What I was trying to say was that trivial patents like the search engine patent are used by bad guys like "PanIP" to extract moneys out of small guys. SL is a "small guy". I am not afraid of Microsoft, IBM etc. suing me. I am afraid of such weirdos. There have been similar cases (not patents) about trademarks in e.g. Germany (the SL server resides there): for example the infamous "Explorer" trademark - many individuals merely providing on their homepage a link to a shareware program called "FTP Explorer" have been sued by that company. (No the company was not Microsoft). Should I be happy that no one has linked the Go program "Explorer" from SL yet? Or should I live in constant fear that someone will? Or should I try to fight such ridiculous laws? I decided to make other people aware of that. Quote:

Doug: The real problem, though, is that by introducing politics into SL, people end up discussing the politics, instead of go. I guess I'm guilty too, by participating. My apologies.

I apologize as well.

kritz UlrichGoertz: of course we can not guarantee that it will not happen... I can't guarantee any of us will be here to post tommorrow either. This is an analysis of odds... as is much of life. Nothing would stop moving the server to Borneo (or Tanzania)... I don't think many have spent the money to get software patents there.

Hu: This page is mis-labelled. It is an on-topic discussion about the use of the SL main page by the owner for an off-topic rant.

Arno: Hu, I know that you and others are offended by my actions. This I regret. I equally know that others approve my actions. Suffice to say that I may (in your eyes without a doubt) have violated the spirit of the wiki. I have taken this action as service provider and not as wiki participant. And no, I don't feel like I am the owner of this site. This site is made up by the content it contains and not by the scripts that make it look nice. I did not even create 1% of the content and I certainly don't own any of it. As I don't think that further words can convince one side or the other I suggest you judge me by my actions present, past and future.

Scryer: I sympathize with your desire to help right this wrong. I agree that software patents are a blight, and I've argued this point at length in appropriate venues in my own field, cryptography, when it clearly affects the ability of researchers in that field to do their thing. However, if it's _not_ clearly related, as in the case at hand, where can you draw the line? For example, many people would agree that terrorism by religious fundamentalists is a more lethal threat to more people on this Wiki than software patents, and they could argue about whether Islamic or Christian fundamentalists are bigger threats. Wouldn't this make a good topic for next week's screed? If not, why not? What about starving children? Don't they deserve more bit space on every Wiki in the world than software patents?

dnerra: Patents are a threat to SL itself, so I don't see you analogy, Scryer.

JanvanRongen: Arno I am just glad you brought this to my attention. I didnt know how bad it was until now.

Froese: Did everybody already forgot the gif-patent? Only two months ago the gif file format was patented. Decoders were permitted but encoders needed a license. sgf2misc was illegal! If Arno had chosen gif instead of png for the diagrams he would have required a license.

Anybody using Many Faces? Yesterday I saw that it has a progress bar. That's patented! I doubt that the author got a license. How would you feel if the patent holder would ask all users of Many Faces for license fees?

The European Patent Office has already granted 30000 "software" patents. How should I or Arno or any programmer verify that the software he's written does not use any of these patents? Even trying to read and understand a single one is a nightmare. Checking all 30000 is impossible - if only because in the meantime another 30000 would have been filed.

Fighting this craziness is a Good Thing!

TimBrent: It IS insanity,as like with Napster,WinMX,etc. that genie is so far out fo the bottle it can't be shoved back in without in effect closing every website,etc. down. What should be understood by the legislatures,etc. is that 99% of Web sites do not make and are not intended to make money, but like SL are a labour of love. The problem is as always that even though none of these patents are defensible, they can drag out appeals,etc. to a point where the person suing them is bankrupted by it. Like I said in haste earlier, stuff like this will kill the Web off altogether, and IMO since so many people have already used these patents it make stopping the use impossible.

dnerra: Let me just add my support of Arno's actions.

Tderz: [ext] is PA Axel H Horns' Blog on Intellectual Property Law. It reads: "Plenary Vote of the European Parliament: An earthquake in the patent landscape.

In principle, the Official results of today's plenary vote [2003-24-09; TD] of the European Parliament are available to everyone equipped with an Internet access: The "Minutes of proceedings - Result of roll-call votes - Annex 2" have been put into the web. The lists of various amendments are also available on-line (A5-0232/2003: amendments, A5- 0299/2003: amendments, A5-0259/2003: amendments, A5-0238/2003: amendments, A5-0302/2003: amendments, A5-0306/2003: amendments).

The tedious task of producing an Official consolidated version has, of course, not been completed yet, and only with some caution it is possible to assess the facts that have been set by the European Parliament.

[...]". I have not read these documents myself TD, hence I do not comment on their content. Neither do I know whether it might have a future impact on SL. Nor have I read much of this "Off-topic patent"-discussion. Yet I got the impression, that much what has been said on SL (comprising both right and wrong data) derived from the subliminal imputation that the US is the center of the world and the sun circles around it.

It is true that in the US you cannot avoid getting a patent - unless you fail to file it. It is true that some companies threaten with swamps (many) of individually quite un-examined patents (hence individually not strong, not very valid), comparably to minefields in a warzone endangering playing children. Or they crosslicense them, swap them or similar with other, comparable big companies. The crosslicense fees are (might be) hidden costs by otherwise forbidden trusts if the constellation is right and the companies are collaborating. These are special cases. (In-)validating a relatively badly examined {search for prior art and pruning the application for its real contribution to the world in exchange for its temporarily exclusive rights} US-patent will cost & risk very much capital. PCT and TRIPS might favour big companies (multinationals) in big countries. They were favoured right from the start, because of their bigger market for even one national patent (application).

There are other patent systems and offices in the world, where granted patents are stronger patents, their post-grant (in)validation procedures are cheaper and more profound. Yet, the percentages of the outcome (refused, maintained or maintained in part) are quite similar!. This is sometimes (by some, guess who - or in latin: who profits?) used as a reason that the patents in the other patent systems need not be so strong. In my personal opinion, the certainty, contributed by stronger, valid patents benefits all: the applicant, their competitors and the general public.

However we are playing in a prisoners dilemma (trilemma, multi- ...) here, because few of the involved parties can revert: after all the others are doing the same! (You can see the same development with Markush formula and other complex applications; it is very difficult to push back such developments).

And that is a reason why quite un-innovative business method patent applications are waiving over to other patent systems, which previously held up stricter criteria for what technicality business methods and software should imply: now you blend an apparatus to it and (can) go for it.

BTW, I do not share the simple viewpoint that 'patents are bad', rather, if the patent system is right, everyone should benefit AND, YES you always must stay vigilant against excesses, outgrowth and abberations! ("method to earn money", "method to sell loans")

Now back to Arno's original worries: don't worry to much over unspilled milk. Until "letters of cease and desist", injunctions and other infringement issues against Senseis, a lot of water will flow down the river.

Off Topic - patent discussion last edited by Isildur on January 20, 2008 - 07:44
RecentChanges · StartingPoints · About
Edit page ·Search · Related · Page info · Latest diff
[Welcome to Sensei's Library!]
Search position
Page history
Latest page diff
Partner sites:
Go Teaching Ladder
Login / Prefs
Sensei's Library