Software Patent Supporter Tries To Pretend Google Harmed Without Software Patents

from the nice-try,-but...-no. dept

There’s a somewhat bizarre and ethically questionable post up on the usually excellent Patently-O blog, hyping up the fact that Google may lose its patent on PageRank (which Google only holds a license to, since Stanford actually owns it). First off, this isn’t new or particularly surprising. It’s talking about the upcoming decision on the Bilski case, which we’ve discussed at length. The decision could impact all software patents, and the author is merely using the Google name to get extra attention.

Even worse, it’s misguided attention. Google is hardly a massive patent shop. It does get patents, but has rarely (if ever?) enforced them. And the idea that Google’s success is somehow predicated on its patents is pretty ludicrous. Independent studies have shown, repeatedly, that Yahoo and Microsoft’s search technology is just as good, if not better than Google’s. But people use Google because they trust Google and are comfortable using it. Google has built up a reputation — and that has nothing to do with its patents. If Google lost all of its patents today, it would have little to no impact on Google’s position in the market. If anything, it might help Google, as it would also probably end a bunch of the silly patent lawsuits that have been filed against Google.

Finally, the post is ethically questionable, as its author, John Duffy, was hired by a software company, RDC, to write an amicus brief in the Bilski case pushing for the position that software should remain patentable. This is not disclosed in the post. In other words, he’s clearly biased in favor of making sure that the end result of Bilski is that software patents remain in tact, and a little publicity campaign, stirred up by misleading claims that everyone’s beloved Google will somehow be harmed could help push public sentiment towards allowing software patents.

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Companies: google, rdc

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Comments on “Software Patent Supporter Tries To Pretend Google Harmed Without Software Patents”

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64 Comments
Willton says:

Is everyone biased?

Must everyone that works in patent law be biased? Duffy is one of the most authoritative voices in patent law. The fact that a software company asked him to write an amicus brief that’s in conformity with his own opinion should not unduly color his authority on the subject of patent law.

If Duffy is biased, then so are you, as you appear to be regularly employed by folks who do not like the patent system.

dorpass says:

Re: Is everyone biased?

Willton, it’s not “if Duffy is biased,” he is actually biased. In case that amicus brief was hard to read for you. And yes, if he writes an article that supports a case in which he is involved in anyway, he should disclose it. That’s called ethics, not commonly used, but still nice to see from time to time.

Bringing Mike’s bias into the discussion is idiotic, he didn’t file an amicus brief in an ongoing case. If you have trouble figuring out a difference between business research and a lawsuit, you should step away from the keyboard.

Wilton-Son says:

Re: Is everyone biased?

No, not everybody is biased, however, if a software company hires somebody to write a blog on whether software should or shouldn’t be patentable, you best believe that the blog post will most likely contain many biased opinions leaning in favor of the company that paid for that opinion.

Give your head a shake

Joe Smith says:

Re: Is everyone biased?

No, but you have to remember that PatentlyO (run by Dennis Crouch) is primarily by and for patent lawyers and whichever side of the patent street they work it is in their personal financial interest to have expansive rules on patentability and draconian rules on patent enforcement. Its like criminal defense lawyers profiting from stricter law enforcement.

Some of the PatentlyO posters are blinded by self interest and some are not but no one should read the blog (which is a good blog and well run) expecting the posts to be unsullied by personal interest. Some posters may be altruistic or idealistic but most will have a more mundane motivation. My observation is that Dennis Crouch himself (for whom I have great respect and I wish him well in his new role as father) when he moved from private practice to the academic world became more open to the possibility that the patent system might benefit from reform.

Willton says:

PatentlyO on Mike's ethical criticism

A couple comments from PatentlyO on this blog’s criticism of Duffy’s ethics:

I just read the techdirt blog and commentary. I don’t get it. Some people seem to be confused by the concepts of having an opinion and “conflict of interest,” as a number of the commenters accused Duffy of having the latter. I don’t see any conflict at all – he wrote an article that presumably reflects his opinions, which are in apparent conformity with his amicus brief. Where’s the conflict? Who suffers from this supposed conflict?

The original blogger seemed to be saying that Duffy violated some “journalistic” code of ethics by not disclosing his participation in the Bilski case. My understanding is that Duffy has no personal interest in the case – he just participated in an amicus brief. So the problem is that somehow the reader of the present piece is deceived by not knowing that Duffy participated in drafing a brief that is consistent with the present piece? That makes no sense. He’s unethical because he doesn’t disclose that he’s published other writings promoting the same viewpoint?

If the supposed ethical lapse is that Duffy is trying to impermissibly influence the CAFC opinion, then that’s even more absurd. The CAFC knows very well who he is. If the CAFC is influenced by public outrage aroused by Duffy’s post in Patently-O, then we have bigger problems.

This looks like nothing more than a not terribly sophisticated ad hominem attack, where the strategy appears to be to divert attention from the substance of a writing by attacking the author.

http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2008/07/the-death-of-go.html#comment-123445132

In the world of potential lapses in journalistic ethics, I’m not sure that it would be possible to find a less trivial and meaningless example than a blog article on an obscure patent case.

http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2008/07/the-death-of-go.html#comment-123441730

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: PatentlyO on Mike's ethical criticism

It does seem that you and MLS have a similar notion of ethics and morality which isn’t rooted in much other than what you want them both to mean.

A small disclosure statement, one line at the end of the post, would have satisfied what is, in the end something of a breach of ethical journalistic and ACADEMIC standards.

All that said which is simply my way of saying both you and MLS are missing the point, as usual, is that it’s you two who are making a mountain of of a mole hill here.

OK, he didn’t disclose. Now it’s disclosed.

Whether or not I agree with his article has nothing to do with it. Professor Duffy is coming from a position of bias in this particular issue and that was clear about half way through the piece. What was not clear was his active participation in a case critical to what he’s commenting on.

I’m sorry if you don’t like things to be repetitive, in your mind, but I, for one, understand his position better because of the disclosure.

I neither agree or disagree more with the content of his piece I simply understand the author a bit more now.

Actually, I think he’s out to lunch in a couple of his observations and spot on in others, given his obvious, from the content, bias that software patents are a “good thing”.

My bias is, quite frankly, that they are a “bad thing”.

Nor do I care any more about what comments appear on PatentlyO than they are likely to care about mine here. Or should.

Good luck finding the moutain while slaving away at the mole hill.

ttfn

John

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