[thelist] it's intellectual, but is it property? (was RE: GNU / GPL)

Brent Eades beades at almonte.com
Tue Oct 30 13:45:50 CDT 2007

Stephen Rider wrote:

> P.S. -- Seriously, that site is pretty outrageous.  Sounds like the  
> patent committee doesn't have a single tech-savvy person on it:   
> "Hey, a patent on writing information as ones and zeroes?  Sure, why  
> not!  I've never heard of it before!"

While I tend to agree in principle with the point that ffii.org is 
trying to make, I find their "webshop" example page somewhat misleading.

I'm quite interested in patents and IP issues generally, I guess because 
my dad was a patent attorney for almost fifty years. So I decided to 
actually read through all of the patents documents listed on ffii.org's 
webshop page.

Of the 23 patents listed, 18 were granted in 1997 or earlier; four of 
those were granted in the 1980's. So one could argue that at least some 
of the processes or systems were in fact novel and unique, *at the 
time*. (Whether they were deserving of an actual patent is of course 
open to (loud and lively) debate.) But these aren't necessarily cases of 
someone taking existing technology and trying to cash in by obtaining a 
patent on it.

As well, 15 of the 23 patents have either lapsed, expired or been 
revoked (in Europe at least.)

Finally, many of the patents don't claim rights to the entire *concept* 
of, say, "audio and video distribution" -- they propose very specific 
technical approaches to achieving the concept. Approaches which may or 
may not actually be employed in 2007.

In summary: yes, there have been many instances of organizations trying 
to obtain and/or enforce patents on web-related technology which is not, 
in the view of any sensible expert, patentable. I just don't find 
ffii.org's 'webshop' patent examples to be very persuasive.

Brent Eades	
Almonte, Ontario

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