More voices join the chorus for patent reform

patent reform

Patent reform is hot! The momentum seems to be building in Congress for patent reform to address the problem of nefarious patent exploiters (also known as non-practicing entities, patent assertion entities, and, less politely, trolls). As previously noted here, there are a number of serious legislative proposals circulating, and the President is pressing for new legislation.

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The Fantec decision: German court holds distributor responsible for FOSS compliance

foss lawyers

Co-authors: Thomas Jansen and Hannes Meyle

The GPLv2 continues to be the most widely used FOSS license, but has been rarely interpreted by courts. Most of these decisions have come from Germany as a result of the enforcement actions of Harold Welte. The recent Fantec decision in Germany is the latest such decision and provides guidance on the requirements for companies to manage their use of FOSS and the lack of ability to rely on statements from their suppliers.

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QUIZ: What do EFF, movie studios, automobiles, and your local grocery store have in common?

patent reform

If you guessed that they are all big in California—well, you're kinda right.

But the more significant answer is that they are part of a growing broad array of the US economy that have united together to strongly encourage Congress to address abuses of the legal system by Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs).

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Everything you need to know about licensing in 2 minutes

open source and copyright law
  • Software is protected by copyright law in the U.S. and many other countries.
  • Anyone that wrote the software, owns the copyright and can say how it is used. [NOT saying how it can be used does NOT remove your responsibility as the owner, even if you don't care.]
  • People sometimes give up their copyright ownership to the software they write in their employment agreements.
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A banner year for patent litigation in 2012

patent litigation

Open source community members and most everyone else involved in software are concerned about patent lawsuits and the activities of non-practicing entities (NPEs). While we all have a sense from personal experience or by reading the news that patent litigation and NPEs are a large and growing concern, at times it's hard to see the forest for the trees. A new report from a respected accounting firm gives a bird's eye view of the forest.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) 2013 Patent Litigation Study, 2012 was a "banner year for patent infringement litigation." Patent actions continued their dramatic rise in 2012 with 5,189 filings—the highest number ever recorded, and a 29% rise over last year, primarily resulting from the impact of the anti-joinder provision of the America Invents Act. Meanwhile, the 2012 median damages award, boosted by several unusually large damages awards, rose to nearly $10 million, which is double the average award seen over the previous six years.

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The FTC roadmap on patent litigation aggressors

patent litigation aggressors

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appears to be ramping up for an investigation of Patent Assertion Entity (PAE) practices.

In a noteworthy, welcome development, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently gave a significant policy speech outlining a roadmap for possible FTC action. Chairwoman Ramirez’s remarks are some of the most direct and specific to date from a senior US Government official regarding "harmful PAE activities," and follow on in more detail the concerns laid out by President Obama last February.

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Congress looking to act on patent assertion entities

government and patent law

Congress is beginning to focus on the abusive use of patents by Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) with new legislative proposals.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and a wide variety of witnesses highlighted the PAE problem in hearings last winter. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is working with Chairman Goodlatte and committed to working in a bicameral and bipartisan way to counter what they term 'patent trolling,' which "casts a pall on the system because it hinders innovation."

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German Parliament tells government to strictly limit patents on software

patent reform

On Friday June 7, the German Parliament decided upon a joint motion to limit software patents (see English translation by BIKT). The Parliament urges the German Government to take steps to limit the granting of patents on computer programs. Software should exclusively be covered by copyright, and the rights of the copyright holders should not be devalued by third parties' software patents. The only exception where patents should be allowed are computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component. In addition the Parliament made clear that governmental actions related to patents must never interfere with the legality of distributing Free Software.

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White House takes executive action to curb patent abuse

Patent reform

The White House on Tuesday announced a broad set of legislative recommendations for Congress and executive actions aimed at thwarting abusive patent infringement lawsuits.

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Judges split on software patents and computer transubstantiation

Software patents: a note on the new CLS Bank case

The law of software patents took an interesting, and ultimately encouraging, turn a little more than a week ago. In the CLS Bank case, ten judges of the Federal Circuit issued five separate opinions, without any single legal theory gaining a majority. Their debate showed that the scope of the subject matter requirement for patenting software is far from settled. It also makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will speak to the issue, and get it right.

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