Microsoft And IBM: If Patent Office Can Do A Quick Review Of Our Crappy Patents, You'll All Die In A Car Crash

from the scared-of-something? dept

Last fall, we wrote about how the BSA, the Business Software Alliance, famous for being basically a Microsoft-front organization whose main job is to publish absolutely, hilariously misleading “piracy” numbers each year, had been taking on the issue of the so called “covered business method (CBM) patent” program that was being pushed in patent reform. The covered business method patent program is pretty straightforward. It allows certain types of patents — currently financial patents — to undergo a faster review, allowing the USPTO to dump bad patents faster. Senator Chuck Schumer, who had put the original CBM tool into the last round of patent reform, is now championing expanding it to cover software patents as well. While very heavy lobbying from Microsoft (and some from IBM) convinced the House to drop the plan from its patent reform bill, there’s still a battle in the Senate, and Schumer doesn’t show any interest in giving it up.

And there’s no reason for him to do so. As he’s noted, the use of the CBM program has already shown that this works. It has helped dump some bad patents and hasn’t created any massive damaging consequences anywhere else. But you wouldn’t know that to read the latest laughable BSA letter on this program, as they kick off their attempt to get the Senate to drop the CBM program as well. According to the BSA, since the original CBM program was just a test, it must always remain that way:

During Congressional consideration of the AIA, proponents of Section 18 argued that it was a necessary and temporary measure to review a very narrow class of financial-services-related patents. However, recently-introduced legislation proposes to make the transitional proceedings of Section 18 permanent and expand the definition of “covered business method patent” to include data processing patents used in any “enterprise, product, or service.” This means that any party sued for or charged with infringement can always challenge an extremely broad range of patents at the USPTO. The request for a proceeding need not be related to financial products or services and can be submitted any time over the life of the patent. This proposal would eviscerate the delicate balance that was struck with the other new post grant review programs in the AIA to ensure that patents would not be devalued by limiting serial challenges during the patent’s life.

Got that? The BSA (really: Microsoft pulling the puppet strings) is claiming that because Schumer agreed to use the CBM program as a test in the last round of patent reform (the AIA), that going beyond that would “eviscerate the delicate balance.” Uh, no. The purpose of the test was to see if this program worked. And now that we see it has worked, it should absolutely be expanded. But, no, no, no says the BSA letter. If patents could be challenged, companies wouldn’t make software any more and that would destroy pretty much the entire economy. And put us all in danger.

This would have far-reaching implications, because data processing is integral to everything from cutting-edge cancer therapies to safety systems that allow cars to respond to road conditions in real time to prevent crashes. Subjecting data processing patents to the CBM program would thus create uncertainty and risk that discourage investment in any number of fields where we should be trying to spur continued innovation.

Got that? If you actually review our patents to make sure they’re not shit, you might die in a car crash. This is the most asinine argument I’ve seen from patent lovers in a long time — and I’ve seen an awful lot of asinine arguments. First off, the idea that someone won’t invest in writing a piece of software because of the possibility that (1) they might get a patent and (2) at a later date that patent might be challenged and (3) if that patent is crappy, that it might get thrown out, is so stupid that it doesn’t pass the most basic laugh test.

And, of course, this leaves out the most important point: if the patents are valid, the CBM program will quickly find them to be valid and they’re no worse for wear. The only time CBM will have a serious negative impact on a company is if that company has a ton of really, really shitty patents that they want to use to shake down innovators. So, go ahead and take a look at the list of companies who signed onto this letter, and you’ve got a list of companies looking to abuse the patent system to shake down innovators with their own crappy patents. And they’re basically admitting that their patents are so bad that they can’t survive a basic review by the Patent Office.

Then we move on to historical revisionism:

The US patent system for more than 200 years has succeeded spectacularly in promoting “the progress of science and useful arts,” as the Founders intended, in part because it has always provided the same incentives for all types of inventions. To expand and make permanent the CBM program would be to turn ill-advisedly and irrevocably in a new direction — discriminating against an entire class of technology innovation.

This is hilarious. First of all, anyone who is intellectually honest (note: the BSA has never been even remotely intellectually honest) has to admit the nature of the patent system has changed drastically in the past few decades, in particular with how it deals with software. And if there’s a “discrimination against an entire class of technology innovation” it’s clearly with the current patent system that has pretty much guaranteed that no company can innovate successfully without facing threats from patent holders demanding cash over bogus patents.

Frankly this whole letter is pretty disgusting. It’s clearly the work of Microsoft, via the BSA as its sock puppet, and the argument makes absolutely no sense except if you have a ton of crappy patents. Hopefully the Senate won’t give in the way the House folded.

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Companies: bsa, ibm, microsoft

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Comments on “Microsoft And IBM: If Patent Office Can Do A Quick Review Of Our Crappy Patents, You'll All Die In A Car Crash”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Back when I was in high school, there was this joke going around: if GM built cars the way Microsoft builds software, today we’d all be driving a $100 car that gets 1000 MPG, but it would crash twice a day.

And now today I drive a Ford, with Sync built in, a useful collection of electronics and car-related “apps” (GPS, phone synchronization, climate control, etc) powered by a touchscreen and developed at… Microsoft.

How times have changed!

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: @ Naw.....[out_of_the_blue] will contort it to the point of defying the laws of physics to reflect on the EVIL EMPIRE of Google.

Not true, but THANKS for letting me know how large I loom in your tiny imagination, and how little else than me is in your mind, not even a wisp to say on topic.

Where the fanboys LIE about me in advance! (63 of 193)


out_of_the_blue says:

Re: @ "inb4 ootb shoots his mouth off about Microsoft being evil because it's rich."

Thanks for helping me! — Though, Microsoft was evil BEFORE it got rich TOO. Basically ripped off a small company that had a CPM-86 clone already written, changed a few text strings, and that’s the extent of Bill’s “innovation”. To get filthy stinking RICH off so little effort is indeed evil.

The Microsoft Multiplier: Infect one computer with crap and charge to remove it, you’re hunted as a criminal; infect a billion computers with crap that automatically installs malware and you’re lauded on Wall Street. (163 of 193)


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: @ "inb4 ootb shoots his mouth off about Microsoft being evil because it's rich."

Microsoft didn’t rip off CPM. They PAID someone $50,000 to do it for them. And no that wasn’t the extent of Bill’s innovation either. They wrote the machine language themselves. They needed an OS or the deal they were trying to make with IBM would fall through. They first had referred IBM to the people who made CPM but he didn’t take them seriously and turned them away. blue, your really need to learn a little more about the subjects you comment on before you open your mouth.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Shut down software innovation? Just the opposite.

It’s funny — the companies the BSA represents are almost entirely of the Microsoft sort — major software firms. The thing is that major software firms don’t actually do much innovation at all. Their role is entirely different — their major skill is the ability to serve very large markets.

All of the real innovation, with very, very few exceptions (of which Microsoft is not one), is done by small outfits ranging from one-man shops to those with just a handful of employees. And it’s exactly these companies that are harmed by software patents right now.

If the goal is to actually encourage innovation, then you need to remove that serious obstacle — which is exactly what the CBM program is trying to do.

The BSA is straight-up lying here. What they want is maintain the status quo and to suppress innovation (innovation harms their business model). But that doesn’t make a compelling argument, so they pretend the opposite.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Shut down software innovation? Just the opposite.

crade (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 9:11am

Re: Shut down software innovation? Just the opposite.
All those big software firms are good at is leveraging their past success and using licensing schemes, protected proprietary formats and other lock ins to ensure that their customers have no choice but to continue to pay them.

And buying up smaller organizations that can still innovate and adding them to their portfolio.

sorrykb (profile) says:

In a logical world...

Microsoft should be in favor of quicker review. It would encourage real innovation by more quickly validating good patents and thus removing the lingering uncertainty of a strong challenge to the patent. Or am I misreading this?

And regardless…

This proposal would eviscerate the delicate balance…

That sentence is painful. Can a balance have bowels, even metaphorically?

Anonymous Coward says:

If patents spur so much innovation, I wonder why Free Open Source Software is giving Microsoft such a run for their money. I hear Linux is now used in more cars than Windows.

Which is probably a good thing, because the last thing you want to happen during a car crash, is for your car to ‘blue screen of death’, on you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Patent Trap

That’s apparently because, as Microsoft alleges, Linux infringes on 235 unnamed patents. They won’t tell you what they are but insist you need a licensing agreement. Boogey boogey boogey!

Interesting to note that in 1990 Microsoft had revenues of $1.2b with just 5 patents filed.

The problem with the system of software patents is that armament (to ensure mutual destruction should “war” break out) is very expensive and, once armed, there’s a multi-billion dollar incentive to maintain the effectiveness of your arsenal (through lobbying) to use against those pesky innovative game-changer startups.

out_of_the_blue says:

Mike relapsed back to vulgarisms.

Vulgarisms don’t promote your case with either professionals or even your fanboys, who surely expect you to be better than them, else why read you? — And I think it certain that serious people object to egregious and unnecessary vulgarism. It’s just plain offensive on sight and greatly distracts without ANY benefit. So drop the potty mouth, frat boy.

Anyhoo, my take is that this shows the weakness of the “But, innovation will be lowered!” level of argument that Mike is so fond of elsewhere when suits his purposes. It’s just trivial and vague assertion, any baboon can use it.

The real weakness here is “same incentives for all types of inventions” — as that relies on definition of “invention”: my position is that software is specific solution of operations to achieve a goal, much like any writing, but an actual “invention” in this context requires working physical model, so particularly after invoking the times of the “Founders”, the rest is hooey.

Mike just dismisses the paragraph in three words: “This is hilarious.” Not all that incisive or illuminating, just something any baboon could say. I’d like to expect more from someone who claim and Ivy League degree, but…

Microsoft sticks to its bad ideas only because can’t come up with worse. (92 of 193)


Anonymous Coward says:

People don’t write software to get patents. People write software to solve problems. If the software is good and effective at solving those problems then they can market it and make money off of it. That is how it works. Patents have nothing to do with that. Software was being written long before software patents existed. To say that good software won’t be written without the protection of a software patent is ridiculous beyond belief. In fact if software patents had existed when Microsoft first started they likely would have been sued out of existence over the way they reverse engineered CPM to make DOS and thus would not be around today.

Anonymous Coward says:

why is it that when any company or industry could be subjected to change, either legally, technologically or both, apart from anything else, the change(s) will ‘put us all in danger’? there is never anything said about the true reason(s), that it may mean a little more work to ensure things are as they should be or that the ‘income may fall a little’!
but then, as usual, i supposed bullshit will baffle brains. it normally does!

Imaginary says:

“to ensure that patents would not be devalued by limiting serial challenges during the patent?s life.”

First I have not read the law so I might be wrong on the details but I think BSA have a small point here.

If the proposal does not limit the number of times a patent can be challenged, then they would be stuck defending a patent over and over again (assuming it is found valid). What is the use of a valid patent if the cost of defending it is unlimited.

Without fixing that issue we may as well ban data processing patents completely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Except that with every unsuccessful challenge to a valid patent, the decision entered makes it easier and easier to dump cases future cases challenging it’s validity on various grounds due to the legal precedents set for it. If you try to challenge the validity of a patent with the same argument that had already been rejected by the courts in a prior attempt, it’s pretty easy for the company to get the case dismissed early on by simply pointing to the prior judgement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If the proposal does not limit the number of times a patent owner can sue over an invalid patent (presuming it would be found invalid if it was reviewed), then many unsuspecting litigants would be stuck defending against an invalid patent over and over again. What is the use of an invalid patent if the company owning it can’t extract excessive resources from the multitude of companies being persecuted.


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

we may as well ban data processing patents completely

This is a notion I advocate and believe in 100%. Software patents are bad news, period.

Further, by my reading of patent law, it’s really hard to explain why they’re allowed in the first place. All of the software patents I’ve seen are actually patenting algorithms, and algorithms are specifically named as one of the things you can’t patent.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the proposal does not limit the number of times a patent owner can merely THREATEN to sue over an invalid patent (presuming it would be found invalid if it was reviewed), then many unsuspecting litigants would be stuck defending against an invalid patent over and over again. What is the use of an invalid patent if the company owning it can’t extract excessive resources from the multitude of companies being persecuted.


Sheogorath (profile) says:

Okay, fine

If Patent Office Can Do A Quick Review Of Our Crappy Patents, You’ll All Die In A Car Crash
If it means less children die of undernutrition as they try to survive on foodbank handouts after their parents lost their jobs because their companies went bankrupt after fighting ‘patents’ that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, then I will happily die in a car crash. At least it will be a quicker death than if I die in hospital after the crash.

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