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Linux Defenders organize to fight patent trolls

Linux group tries to head off abuse of patents

Security Strategies Alert By M. E. Kabay, Network World
February 03, 2009 12:06 AM ET
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In December, General Patent Corp. announced it was working on behalf of Worlds.com to enforce its patents on "Scalable Virtual World Chat Client-Server System" and "System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space," which date back to 1995.

Attorney Sean Kane, writing in his "Virtual Judgment" blog, commented:

"Therefore, it would seem that General Patent Corporation and Worlds.com are taking the position that the above-referenced patents cover the idea of the computer architecture for a three-dimensional graphical multi-user interactive virtual world system. If so, this announcement is arguably a very thinly veiled notice to the virtual world industry that infringement suits are forthcoming for those companies who do not enter into a licensing deal with General Patent Corporation and Worlds.com."

Are you tired of hearing of patents granted for obvious innovations? Are you weary of hearing about old patents that are purchased by firms like Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro which "concentrates its practice in intellectual property law" and became notorious as a hugely successful "patent troll"? Do you think that the people suing Google, Apple and Microsoft for infringement of a patent ludicrously granted for "a system and method for iconic software environment management" that they claim covers thumbnail images should be granted their day in court? 

If you think that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) desperately needs help to clean the earwax out of its cerebral sulci, there’s an excellent example from the world of Linux that would bear watching and emulating in other fields.

The Open Invention Network, the Software Freedom Law Center and The Linux Foundation are sponsoring an organization called the Linux Defenders, which has three key projects (quoting from their Web page):

Peer to Patent

Peer-to-Patent is a historic initiative by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. Peer-to-Patent is an online system that aims to improve the quality of issued patents by enabling the public to supply the USPTO with information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications. Peer-to-Patent provides an opportunity to open up the closed patent review process to more information and enable better decision making and improve the patent system by avoiding the issuance of overly broad patents. Linux Defenders is working in cooperation with the established Peer-to-Patent program to create a portal for the Linux and open source community to participate in the program and provide parallel initiatives with the same common goal of improving patent quality and enabling freedom of action/freedom to operate.

Post-Issue Peer to Patent

Post-Issue Peer-to-Patent takes a community-based approach to peer review for issued patents. In recent years the USPTO has at times been overwhelmed by the number of patent applications being filed in areas of new technology, such as software and business methods. Lacking access to comprehensive prior art in these subject matter areas, the USPTO had little choice but to grant patents that would otherwise have failed the test of patentability had relevant prior art been before the examiner. The rigor is provided by the community of peer reviewers who elect to participate in the review of issued patents and support the invalidation of poor quality patents and the patent office’s goal of improving the quality of future issued patents.

M. E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP-ISSMP, specializes in security and operations management consulting services and teaching. He is Chief Technical Officer of Adaptive Cyber Security Instruments, Inc. and Associate Professor of Information Assurance in the School of Business and Management at Norwich University. Visit his Web site for white papers and course materials.

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