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November 14, 2009

All Red Hat and No Cattle

The open source software crowd have had their knickers in a twist for some time about patented processes via software, being fervently against them, and having more generally quaint notions about intellectual property, including copyright. Patrick Anderson provides an incisive analysis of this week's tempest in a teapot in his blog entry: "Free" Sells, But Who's Buying?

There doesn't appear to be much innovation in open source software crowd, otherwise, those kids would be pounding on the PTO's door with patent applications. Seems to me that Linux is basically a copycat software environment, so of course its developers are against patents. One of the more recent controversies with the Linux folk is whether they should hold their nose and copy Microsoft's recent toolbar technology, which looks to be a step forward for tool-rich applications, but, drat, it came from arch-nemesis Microsoft.

If you want to argue that the patent system is broken, take a systemic view. Objectively, from a standpoint of practicality, there's a lot wrong with the U.S. patent system. But to argue that a particular technology area fertile with innovative potential should be exempt from patenting is nothing more than naked self-interest.

Posted by Patent Hawk at November 14, 2009 7:22 PM | Patents In Business

Comments

"Seems to me that Linux is basically a copycat software environment, so of course its developers are against patents."

Copycat of what in particular, may I ask? Try to be specific as to the nature of the "copying" and as to the impact on "innovation". Would you, for instance find a potential for the Kicker panels of KDE1 et. seq. to be derived in part from your innovative work on "tool groups" as "enabled" in the seminal 09/707,194 specification of alleged invention?

"One of the more recent controversies with the Linux folk is whether they should hold their nose and copy Microsoft's recent toolbar technology, which looks to be a step forward for tool-rich applications, but, drat, it came from arch-nemesis Microsoft."

You're much too modest. Aren't you about to prove that it is actually the brilliant G. Odom who provided the world with the benefits of that "technology" in some courtroom in the Eastern District of Texas?

We all eagerly await the release of the Odom Operating System. In the meantime I'll hold my nose and read your lame excuse for snark. It's in general better than your patent claims.

Posted by: Mud at November 15, 2009 6:45 AM

Mud,

Thanks for being obnoxious.

Why bother reading this blog, let alone commenting, when it just irritates you so?

The Microsoft Ribbon, which is actually much better implemented by Autodesk, has multiple nice features for tool-rich applications, beginning with easily accessed tabbed stacked toolbars, and ending with contextual toolbars. Yes, I do happen to have a patent on one feature, functional tool groups, but that wasn't the point of my comment. What I was surprised to find was how controversial the Ribbon was to Linux developers, only because it seemed to emanate from Microsoft, without any regard to technical/design merit.

KDE Kicker has nothing to do with my tool groups patent. One aspect of awareness is discrimination of qualities, which, by your comment about Kicker, you appear to lack.

Why don’t you tell me where Linux has been innovative. I haven’t seen it. I’d like to think better of the OS, particularly its user interface. But it just seems derivative, and sometimes clumsy, by comparison to Apple (particularly) or Microsoft. Of course, Microsoft copied Apple, which copied Xerox, but they have polished features nicely through the decades.

As to an operating system, if only I could find someone to take me up on my still-advanced design, which I did implement a goodly chunk of, and have had on the shelf for over 20 years.

Posted by: Patent Hawk at November 15, 2009 3:40 PM

Do basic research before you snark. If you search for assignee Red Hat, Inc. on the PTO's site you get 390 results. That's not in Microsoft's ballpark, but it's certainly an indication that they are interested in protecting their innovations.

Posted by: T at November 15, 2009 10:32 PM

T,

Wrong. Red Hat has 33 granted patents, for mostly narrow claims relating to memory or file management, encoding and compression. A few do look clever, yes.

The conundrum remains: why are Linuxites against patents, particularly since Red Hat itself appears to be pursuing a reasonable patenting strategy? More significantly, if Red Hat is patenting, while its general counsel if bad-mouthing patents, how is that anything but hypocrisy?

Posted by: Patent Hawk at November 16, 2009 12:22 AM

Even people that may not agree with the law can still play the game.

After being a slashdot reader for a very long time, I think that the anti-patent stance is more a result of bad patents than real desire to do away with all patents, in general. I tend to think that the anti-software patent folks, in general, tend to see only the worst examples of patents, e.g., modest changes to user interfaces. They view these as requiring only a basic level of skill in the art that adds nothing but landmines for even the most diligent of searchers.

There's also something to be said for the lack of quality. The prosecution of most software patents does not usually involve the best art for a lot of reasons: no uniformity of language between patents and references, poor or weak disclosure on the back end elements in many non-patent references (allowance obtained over a data structure where are all the other elements are found), claims being allowed over what amounts to a designers choice of lots of techniques, unclear, difficulty of interpreting means-plus-function elements, etc. There's also the issue that many ideas come and go very quickly leaving only the slightest whiff of their existence.

So between press focusing on the worst-of-the-worst and quality problems, there is a lot of anger towards a system they view as contributing little to actual invention or innovation.

Posted by: Mike at November 16, 2009 9:07 AM