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Google Asks USPTO To Reexamine Four Oracle Patents

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the seriously-your-honor?-seriously? dept.

Google 122

An anonymous reader writes "Google leaves no stone unturned in its defense against Oracle's patent and copyright infringement allegations. eWEEK reports on the latest development: Google has asked the USPTO to reexamine four of the seven patents asserted by Oracle. Patent watcher and skeptic Florian Mueller believes 'the world would be a better place without those virtual machine patents,' which he considers excessively broad and not really technical inventions. He also reports on a Google letter to the court, asking for permission to file a motion to throw out Oracle's copyright infringement allegations as soon as possible, without further discovery."

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122 comments

Obvious things (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35235702)

like computer code, etc, shouldn't be able to be patented. Period! It would be better for Google to ask USPTO to re-evaluate more than just those 4 and throw them out and deny all the new coming.

Re:Obvious things (3, Informative)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35235736)

Especially since the computer code has copyright protection anyway.

Re:Obvious things (1)

ToasterMonkey (467067) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237930)

Especially since the computer code has copyright protection anyway.

Why, lacking patent protection would someone feel encouraged to give you the source to a valuable algorithm? The natural response from those losing wanted patent protection is going to be increased secrecy.

Sure, you can eventually reverse engineer most things, but I fail to see how that advances the state of the art more than full disclosure. I can see how the patent systems needs some reforms, but not protecting software at all is going to evolve valuable software into "hardware", appliances and such.

And uhh, sorry, but the impedance of patents is not holding free software back enough for it to spring up and supplant these black boxes once they come.

Re:Obvious things (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35238974)

>valuable algorithm

Algorithms are unpatentable in the entire world.

>more than full disclosure.

Have you read some "computer-implemented method" loophole patents? They usually don't even include a reference implementation.

As for secrecy, there's no way for algorithms to be kept secret. If it's important (and most are not), someone will "reverse-engineer" (i.e. read) it, or just rediscover the same algorithm by himself. It's just mathematics.

And nowadays reverse compilers get you almost the original code back, automatically.

As for putting stuff into hardware, fine, vote with your wallet (also, it's still in there and can be read).

Patent protection for computer-implemented inventions are worse than useless. There's copyright already and the pace of the computer industry is so fast you don't need patents (which is why we don't have them, I guess). If your competitors want to copy something, let them. In the time they take to copy it you are at version 93953539 and they are at version 0.1. How does this even become an issue?

On the other hand, some weirdos who think they invented fourier transform (only a few hundred years late) would be making signal processing a minefield.

And don't forget that pure software shops are the minority of all programming jobs, why have special protection for 0.1% of the programmers (and of these, they would mostly block each other with trivialities), blocking the other 99.9% from doing their work (since everything would be a patent minefield)?

I really wonder where this damn elitism comes from, it's not that there's a lot of missing stuff in computer science anyhow. We've figured out how to program computers, now we program computers.

Re:Obvious things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241892)

Almost everything you said is factually incorrect.

Algorithms are unpatentable in the entire world.

Wrong. Learn some history.

or just rediscover the same algorithm by himself. It's just mathematics.

Nice way to not only be wrong but to way over trivialize much of what happens. After all, rockets are just physics. Idiot.

And nowadays reverse compilers get you almost the original code back, automatically.

Depends on the language but largely you're full of shit.

Now then, I'm not asserting any opinion on the merits of the debate but just the same, the merits of YOUR debate are completely without.

Re:Obvious things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35239738)

GP observes that computer code enjoys copyright protection, so it doesn't NEED patent protection. Then you seem to conclude that without patent protection, software would have no protections at all.

Finally, you wander off into a totally unrelated topic, with a statement about patents holding back the development of free software?

Logic is not your strong suit, is it?

captcha: acolyte

get a clue, grasshopper

Re:Obvious things (3, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241170)

I agree with you.

People getting software patents should publish their source code, and not get copyright on it. After 15 years it's public domain. A very good point.

Re:Obvious things (0)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35235990)

Also copyright. Google shouldn't be allowed to hoard all its search code, since it's the commercialisation of an open academic effort and its systems build on so many millennia of scientific progress.

Re:Obvious things (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236048)

No, copyright shouldn't be enforceable simply because it is silly to claim that something is property without having the entire reason we created property laws which is that two people can't do what they wish with the property simultaneously.

Google should certainly be able to not release the code and keep it a secret, but Google shouldn't be able to take legal action if someone reverse-engineers code, decompiles the code, if Google releases it themselves, or if someone else releases the code (Google should however, if it was an employee to sue them for breach of contract).

Get rid of copyright and patents, after all, the company who created them is most likely going to be better at understanding how to practically apply that code and would have the inbuilt competitive advantage.

Re:Obvious things (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236190)

No employee at "bring information to everyone" Google has decided that freedom of information is more important than the risk of being sued. IOW, none has simply released Google source, knowing full well that no amount of legal force would reverse the effect on the marketplace. This says so much about the homogeneity of the working environment at Google.

Re:Obvious things (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236368)

Um... so in other words, you are saying that if you were a (high ranking) employee at a profitable company like Google you would risk being sued, losing your job and all other job offers, simply because you think that releasing code increases "freedom of information"? Look, I can admire the people who leaked information about abuses to Wikileaks because people deserve to know where their tax dollars are going and that is the only way they can make informed choices. On the other hand though, releasing something like Google's code does really no good while putting you/your family in financial ruin.

Re:Obvious things (1, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236428)

The world is full of martyrs. I fear most the institutions which lack them.

Re:Obvious things (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236812)

You aren't a martyr for any worthwhile cause then. If you want to look at a martyr, look a Bradley Manning.

Explain how releasing Google's source code benefits the world as a whole. It doesn't. Sure, it might be -neat- and sure, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the rest of them want the information but it doesn't benefit the world as a whole. This isn't some lifesaving cancer drug, this isn't stopping a war, this isn't deposing of a dictator. This is a search algorithm. The most it would do if released would benefit Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask, etc.

He wouldn't be a martyr because this isn't a cause to make someone a martyr because releasing this isn't benefiting the world.

Re:Obvious things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35237128)

Amazon too. They're one of the only companies with the infrastructure to create a competitive search engine. I'm sure they'd *love* to enter that business with a head start.

Re:Obvious things (2)

tcr (39109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35238514)

Except it's search code would be worthless if publically available. It would be trivial to game it.

Re:Obvious things (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35238698)

Nope, SEO outfits are doing a fine job of that already - mostly because PageRank is (imho) a fucking awful and easily exploitable way of judging usefulness.

Re:Obvious things (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35238872)

I think tcr was trying to make a more general point. Even if it is possible to currently game PageRank, the world will not benefit if it becomes easier to do so, and it certainly won't benefit if Google fixes those shortcomings and then the code is released. Any way you put it, it's a lose–lose situation for us and Google.

Re:Obvious things (1, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236130)

This is always dumb. A computer implementation of existing inventions should never be patentable, for example most of the code that goes into graphing calculators is just mathematics. However, a new encoding algorithm is a novel invention. Specific new methods in MP3 and AAC were new inventions when created: new methods of doing things. A patent is a set of instructions: make this bore, bend this sheet, combine these materials, bolt here, and you have an engine. If you designed a novel mechanical process (i.e. otto cycle instead of diesel cycle, rotary instead of reciprocating), you just invented a whole new class of engines.

I see no good reason why the inventor of Spectral Band Replication, for example, couldn't patent his work and license it for use in AAC. And if the inventor worked at a software company that happened to create AAC, then why not? If they don't patent it, then Ogg Vorbis v2 gets much higher quality at lower bitrates (Xiph has, in fact, lusted after SBR for a while, but the patent hasn't expired); that indicates that they did indeed just create a new, non-obvious invention.

Most of all patents are crap. Software patents especially. Still, I don't see how software can't be an invention.

Re:Obvious things (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236178)

No it does not indicate that it was new and non-obvious. Only that it was new. Maybe lots of people had come up with the idea and just not had time to set pen to paper. The fact that they are waiting until the patent expires only means they do not want to be sued.

Re:Obvious things (5, Insightful)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236396)

Software or an algorithm shouldn't be patentable because they aren't inventions, they are ideas or mathematics. Inventions are patentable, ideas are not.

Re:Obvious things (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236702)

Of course, doing something USEFUL with the mathematics is what is patented, not the math itself. You may as well say that all mechanical or electronic devices are 'just physics', drugs are 'just chemistry', etc.

Re:Obvious things (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237682)

That's exactly right. The idea of a laser is not patentable. An actual design of a laser is.

It all comes down to whether or not you think an algorithm is a device. Reasonable people can disagree about this.

Re:Obvious things (2)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237822)

Algorithms patents usually are written as device patents, usually starting with "A System and Method to ...". The disctinction is a bit arbitrary to begin with.

Is "a computer programmed to do X" a device? If I have a cool new algorithm for the shift plan for an automatic transmission, is a non-computerized implementation fundamentally different than a computerized one?

Re:Obvious things (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241350)

I don't see the fundamental difference between the arrangement of cogs, springs and rods (say), and the arrangement of conditionals and loops.

Re:Obvious things (3, Insightful)

bit01 (644603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241894)

I don't see the fundamental difference between the arrangement of cogs, springs and rods (say), and the arrangement of conditionals and loops.

Artificial scarcity anyone? One is copyable/usable by 6,900,000,000+ [census.gov] people at little or no cost. The other isn't.

The onus is on any patent proponent to show why billions of people should be blocked from using an idea, their free speech, to give a small number of people additional profit, for every single area of technology. Not for anybody else to prove that patents are not applicable.

Patents are a damaging, unnatural monopoly and by default should not exist unless there is compelling, scientific evidence, not anecdotes, that patents actually help rather than hinder in every single area of technology where they may be applied.

Particularly since there are vast swathes of ideas that have no patent protection and those areas of technology work just fine. Everything from cooking recipes to math to locating businesses to business organization to artistic ideas to political ideas to ...

The whole patent edifice is based on handwaving about what it means to say two ideas are the same or different (fundamental to deciding whether something is original or not). They can't even cope with the difference between inventing new words and inventing new ideas. The PTO's depth of thinking is atrocious.

---

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

Re:Obvious things (3, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236470)

Much of the patented work on MP3 and related psycho-acoustic modeling technology were well predated by work on signal processing for cochlear implants. If the USPTO had vaguely qualified examiners with enough time ti actually examine the patents, they would have realized that.

Re:Obvious things (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237466)

Much of the patented work on MP3 and related psycho-acoustic modeling technology were well predated by work on signal processing for cochlear implants.

As I understand it, it is possible to patent a really new application of known principles. For example, if you invent a new machine that includes a rotating axle, it is not a problem that axles are a known technology.

Some of the principles behind MP3 were known since the 1940s and even earlier. But nobody had ever applied them to the problem of reducing the bit rate of recorded music.

Not only was MP3 a novel invention, it was so novel it was an uphill battle to get MPEG to standardize it. It barely made it in, as the third and least of three audio coders; the "experts" figured everyone would use layer 1 or layer 2, because layer 3 was "too complicated". Those "experts" pointed out that the signal to noise ratio of layer 3 was worse than the other layers; that's actually true, but useless (MP3 was designed to exploit quirks in how the human auditory system works, so it can save space by chopping out parts of the signal that humans can't hear anyway). History has shown that the psychoacoustic approach was the correct one for a reduced bitrate coder, but it was far from "obvious" at the time.

I think the patents related to MP3 and AAC were examples of the patent system working, not the patent system being broken.

Disclaimer: I am not a patent lawyer, but I am working in the area of audio signal processing and I'm somewhat exposed to these issues (so I'm not just making stuff up, here).

steveha

Re:Obvious things (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35240916)

I'm not claiming that there was no innovation at all in MP3, it was some nice work but that it was hardly so non-obvious and novel that it deserved a 20 year legal monopoly plus the thicket of follow on patents extending the monopoly. The very same techniques were already in use for years at the time in an even more extreme form.

The objective of the processor in the cochlear implant was to take the entire human auditory range in and drop it down to a signal in 8 to 16 frequency bands (later 32) such that it would be usable for understanding speech or even appreciating music. The big difference between that and MP3 was that the bandwidth was far more restricted and instead of writing the bits out to a file they were translated into voltages on the implanted electrodes.

Patents are supposed to cover new inventions, not new uses for old inventions. The new inventions may contain old inventions within (really that's inevitable) but that's quite different.

There was NO question that lossy compression based on a transform to the frequency domain and dropping information that a listener couldn't perceive would work. The only question was if the reconstructed audio would be good enough for a listener with normal hearing to accept in trade for the compression. A secondary question was if the amount of compression could beat simple lossless compression.

Re:Obvious things (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241380)

There was NO question that lossy compression based on a transform to the frequency domain and dropping information that a listener couldn't perceive would work.

But isn't MP3, essentially, a specific method of determining "information that a listener couldn't perceive"? I'm not familiar with details, so excuse my ignorance, but doesn't Vorbis also does what you describe, without touching MP3 patents? If so, the latter would seem to be pretty specific, as a good patent should be.

Re:Obvious things (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241632)

Actually, it's a huge mess [wikipedia.org]. Many entities have made many claims on pretty much anything that conforms to the standard file structure and plays audio. Every possible abuse of patents has been tried in some form or another in the area of MP3.

Re:Obvious things (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236748)

That something was useful and desirable doesn't mean it's non-obvious. Some obvious ideas are useful. Inherently, somebody is going to be the first party to do something, whether it is obvious or non-obvious.

Re:Obvious things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35237062)

WTF is an 'obvious idea'? Obvious means 'readily apparent, plain to see'. Idea means 'imaginary, vague, hazy, fanciful notion'. They are complete opposites. If something is obvious, it requires no thought at all. If something is an idea, it is nothing but thought. It seems a great many slashdotters have difficulty understanding this. 'Obvious' does not mean 'given sufficient time, someone else could have thought of this'. It means 'given NO time, someone else can do this RIGHT NOW'.

Re:Obvious things (4, Insightful)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35238368)

i suspect they chose the 4 weakest patents that they know are bunk and have the highest chance of being overturned.

this will set a very good example for all those other pesky patents they're being sued over.

TFA misses a very important point of strategy - Google aren't filing patents like mad because that's not a game they are playing. they are massive innovators, but their business model is not technology so much as advertising. the patents aren't as valuable to them as they are to Oracle, and if Google lose 576 patents it'll be nothing to the many thousands that other companies stand to lose if they are ever challenged.

Google can afford many lawyers, and these 4 patents might just be the tip of the wedge that they plan to drive into ALL software patents.

here's hoping. the MPEG-LA are already shitting bricks at Google's VP8 e-penis.

Re:Obvious things (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 3 years ago | (#35238542)

TFA misses a very important point of strategy - Google aren't filing patents like mad because that's not a game they are playing. they are massive innovators, but their business model is not technology so much as advertising. the patents aren't as valuable to them as they are to Oracle, and if Google lose 576 patents it'll be nothing to the many thousands that other companies stand to lose if they are ever challenged.

You might want to check the date of Google's patents. More than half of them are less than a year old. Google is filing patents like mad, to try to catch up with its competitors that already have an armoury of them.

Patently Mad Re:Obvious things (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35240444)

Is 250 patents per year really filing like mad? IBM received over 5000 patents in 2010 [ibm.com]. It took them more than 50 years to get their first 5000...

So if they got 5000, how many did they file (actually the way the USPTO works it was probably close to the same). Still, I suspect that the GP was closer to right than the parent. They both raise valid points. Certainly Google is smart to get some patents as armour. Still, I suspect their primary tactic is going to remain simply out innovating the competition so fast that the patents are meaningless. And if they can kill two birds with one stone (scrapping software patents and winning java freedom) all the better.

Re:Patently Mad Re:Obvious things (2)

Permutation Citizen (1306083) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241778)

Anyone working in software R&D for a big company knows that such patent filling numbers are absurd. Sure great research is done at IBM, but 5000 patents... This becomes just another metric for management. Employees have objectives and rewards to fill maximum number of patent idea.

Off course quality of these patents is really low. I have seen patent on stuff everybody already do for years.

I've even seen someone patenting a design failure. We had to cope with his faulty software, because to save time for him he used a ugly trick that cause plenty of issues for other system parts. Then we heard he was given a reward for patenting his bug.

Re:Obvious things (2)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#35240414)

I think skippy has it right [skippyslist.com]:

Patent Reform:

Patents Are For Inventors Act

You can only file a patent on a physical object. You must have a working prototype, or a set of schematics that can be followed to build a working prototype. Specifically illegal to attempt to patent anything that was not created yourself, or by an authorized representative of you. Attempting to patent something that you did not invent will now be a felony.

No more patenting software, game mechanics, or ideas on how to accomplish things.

Patent Trolling will result in Federal Prison.

Quoting Florian (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35235754)

Dangerous business, that. Bad for an author's reputation. He's just another Enderle, O'Gara, or DiDio now. A shame, that. He did good work once upon a time.

Re:Quoting Florian (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35235790)

Who?

[citation needed]

Re:Quoting Florian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236000)

Florian quoting Florian, no-one else will.

Re:Quoting Florian (1)

omb (759389) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237288)

Seconded, and He certainly dosn't understand how irritating and anoying are his intervention in blogs eg "lwn.net" which are technical and we do not care for one who must have the political LAST WORD, again and again and ...

Google stole technology (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35235780)

Sun did not have the financial strength to take them to task. Larry will sqeeze them where it really hurts now! I'd think they should pay close to $20B considering MSFT paid Sun $2.2B 10 year ago.

Re:Google stole technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236824)

The problem with the U.S. is people like you who judge based on the "apparent facts" without taking any time to actually analyze them in detail.

Re:Google stole technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35238634)

The problem with the U.S. is people like you who judge based on the "apparent facts" without taking any time to actually analyze them in detail.

I must say how impressed I am with the sheer quantity of detailed analysis in this post...

Not going to happen. (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35235832)

I'm pretty sure if they granted them the first time around, they're not changing their mind. It's not like there's been some kind of change to the patent laws between now and then, and changing the decision would really amount to admitting they screwed up the first time.

Re:Not going to happen. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35235866)

It's lobbying game now, actually. The one who pulls the right strings wins.

Re:Not going to happen. (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236052)

Why, yes, there has been changes to patent laws since then.

Several court rules, including a couple from SCOTUS have changed the rules. You might think these don't apply retroactively, but a review is not strictly a retroactive action. They would have to apply the current standards for any review.

Things like Prior Art, Obviousness, overly broad patents have all had reviews in the courts, as any google search will reveal.

Patents are challenged almost weekly, and a significant number of these are invalidated.

Re:Not going to happen. (1)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236196)

I'm pretty sure if they granted them the first time around, they're not changing their mind. It's not like there's been some kind of change to the patent laws between now and then, and changing the decision would really amount to admitting they screwed up the first time.

Don't bet on that - the USPTO does grant reexaminations, but regularly changes or invalidates patents based on reexaminations.

In the case of 3rd party requests for reexamination such as this, if the reexam is granted, there's a very good chance the patent will either be invalidated, or some of the claims will be removed or changed (about 71% according to this (somewhat old) report [sonnabendlaw.com]).

Re:Not going to happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236476)

Actually, patent law changes all the time - specifically, case law. The most significant cases in recent times have been KSR (2007) and Bilski (which caused a lot of buzz last year). Patents get invalidated on re-exam all the time. KSR, specifically, raised the bar on non-obviousness quite a lot. That would have a huge influence on the outcome of the re-exam. What the USPTO considered non-obvious back then may be patently obvious post-KSR.

Unfortunately, I'd guess that those patents would get their claims narrowed, but not completely invalidated, and they would be even more difficult to overcome as a result. Google's hope may be that they get narrowed in ways that make their implementation non-infringing.

I'm not so optimistic: Sun invented the first *widely-used*, practical, application VM, and I'm sure they gained a lot of insight during the process. These insights (in other words, bits of non-obviousness) would probably be covered somewhere in those claims - mostly in the narrower dependent claims rather than the broad independent claims. And so many years later, what was novel and non-obvious then would be standard practice today. It would be difficult to avoid infringing those bits. I'm sure Oracle chose those patents with care.

Re:Not going to happen. (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#35238186)

Eh? The courts most certainly have invalidated patents before...

A lot of granted patents probably wouldn't stand up to the higher level of scrutiny given by a court.

Re:Not going to happen. (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241320)

The key is that a re-exam is granted when the requestor presents evidence (i.e., prior art) indicating a "substantial new question of patentability". Usually, this means prior art that the PTO didn't have ready access to, such as something not published online.

Patent examination is not a perfect process. It's essentially an attempt to prove a negative (i.e., the prior art in question doesn't exist). The examiner can search for an increasingly long period of time, but the return on that increased time diminishes rapidly. Maybe there's one item of prior art out there somewhere, but if the examiner can't find it within the time allotted, it might as well not exist.

That's not cricket grommit (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35235874)

I was under the distinct impression that the way this game is played is that they make a backroom deal, then cross license their "technologies," and then threaten and intimidate all the "little people." Actually fighting back and going after the patents themselves seems very unfair and not very nice. Shame on google for not playing nice and thinking different. This can only be bad for business.

Re:That's not cricket grommit (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236790)

Doesn't work with GPL code.

Unless they only allow distribution in areas that the patents are invalid (there is an exception in the GPL allowing that restriction to be placed on redistribution).

Re:That's not cricket grommit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242264)

Google might be one of the "little people" in this case.
Google seems to be less active in the patent space than Sony, IBM, Oracle, and other traditionally threatening giants.

Oracle, Microsoft, Sony, IBM, and so on have a well known army of well used battle experienced attackers and bullies.

Cool article keep up the good work. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35235900)

Cool article keep up the good work. This site I will keep my eyes on in the future.
Kim
Denmark

http://www.cueshop.dk

Hoping for a world without patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35235906)

What he should have said was, "The world would be a better place without *ANY* patents."

This could be interesting... (2, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#35235936)

...because if any of the patents are found to be unenforceable, because of either prior art or obviousness, then Oracle's suit falls apart. Take a look at RE38,104 [google.com]. This appears to be prior art.

Interesting times lie ahead.

Disclaimer:

I am rooting for Google.

Re:This could be interesting... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236040)

Take a look at RE38,104 [google.com]. This appears to be prior art.

I looked at it and it appears to be owned by Oracle. Was there something else we were supposed to look at?

Re:This could be interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236086)

I looked at it, It was odd that it sounded like they were describing the level editor to Doom. lol

Re:This could be interesting... (1)

The Moof (859402) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236726)

Not only is it owned by Oracle, it's even listed at one of the patents being infringed upon in the original complaint.

Re:This could be interesting... (1)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236192)

...because if any of the patents are found to be unenforceable, because of either prior art or obviousness, then Oracle's suit falls apart.

It's important to understand that in reevaluation, Oracle's patents would not be considered unenforceable, but simply not patentable as being anticipated or obvious. In reexamination, there is no patent

Re:This could be interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236614)

Google's biggest concern right now should be the plan in Congress to remove DCMA safe harbor provisions this year.

Re:This could be interesting... (4, Informative)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236616)

...because if any of the patents are found to be unenforceable, because of either prior art or obviousness, then Oracle's suit falls apart. Take a look at RE38,104. This appears to be prior art.

Interesting times lie ahead.

How did this get modded "Insightful?"

Here's a quote from the original lawsuit filing from August last year:

Android (including without limitation the Dalvik VM and the Android software development kit) and devices that operate Android infringe one or more claims of each of United States Patents Nos. 6,125,447; 6,192,476; 5,966,702; 7,426,720; RE38,104; 6,910,205; and 6,061,520."

(emphasis added)

In other words, this "prior art" you posted is one of the patents that Oracle is suing Google over, that Oracle acquired when they bought Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Re:This could be interesting... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35240322)

Um, so? Who owns the patent that's prior art doesn't exclude it from being prior art, does it?

Of course, it can't be considered prior art for itself, but it can very well invalidate the other patents by the same patent holder.

If I patent "generic drinking vessel made from glass", I can't very well patent "generic vessel for drinking made from crystallized silicates" a couple of years later, because my own prior art would exempt it. Else one could abuse the system to prolong a patent ad infinitum.

How can this farce go on...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236014)

Most people working in the software industry knows that most software patents are not actual inventions. This would be comical if it wasn't for the disaster it causes.

The courts are supposed to PROTECT HONEST people and companies from criminals not HELP CRIMINALS extort money from honest people and companies.

A better source... (3, Informative)

messagelost (1989296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236016)

Here's a better dissection of Google's letter: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20110216210828960 [groklaw.net]

Some choice parts excluded from the OP's articles:

> materials identified by Oracle as infringing in fact created by a third party and released into the public domain

> the only two files allegedly containing "copied" code were created by Google and provided to Oracle for use in open source releases of Java

Good strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35236064)

I've always thought reexamination was a good litigation strategy. There is no presumption of validity, the cost to Google is quite small, and if you believe the Patent Office is reliable in making anticipation/obviousness determinations, then this gives them a more complete body of prior art upon which to make those decisions. Moreover, if Google requested inter partes reexamination, they can still play a role in the examination process and explain an alternative view to the examiner.

Good strategy (0)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236140)

I've always thought reexamination was a good litigation strategy. There is no presumption of validity, the cost to Google is quite small, and if you believe the Patent Office is reliable in making anticipation/obviousness determinations, then this gives them a more complete body of prior art upon which to make those decisions. Moreover, if Google requested inter partes reexamination, they can still play a role in the examination process and explain an alternative view to the examiner.

Hypocrisy (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236334)

I am one to agree that software patents should not exist (and non software ones should be only for exceptional inventions, not for tiny progress in a field) but I hate hypocrisy even more.

Google, go for revision requests the day you stop requesting patents left and right, and volunteer your own collection to be invalidated.

It won't be until some of the big patent holders themselves complain to the government about the horrible use of patents that things may change.

As long as they try to play the patent game, though, they should suck it up and play by the rules of the game they support when it's convenient for them.

This holds true for Apple too, won't bother bringing Microsoft since they are beyond hope.

Re:Hypocrisy (2)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236432)

I don't see how Google's actions are hypocritical. What is the link between four patents owned by Oracle and Google's entire patent portfolio? If Google's patents are a: invalid and/or b: standing in the way of progress, rest assured Google's competitors will contest their validity, much the same as Google has done here.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236574)

All patents are in the way of progress, Google patents included.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236618)

While that's true to a certain extent, one cannot overlook the value of patents in rewarding innovation by preventing intellectual theft.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236764)

In the world of software, that is addressed by copyrights. Patents simply monopolize progress, and the worst part is very often is a monopoly only used to lock a door, not even to actually implement said progress.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236836)

Copyrights and patents function very differently. One difference is the so-called independent creation, where if two people write the same code, neither having seen the others, they both have rights to use that code and obtain copyright in it. This protection is very different from the monopoly granted by a patent, which prevents all second-comers, regardless whether they knew of the patent, from practicing the invention. So when comparing copyright and patent law, one does not supplant the other, and frequently they address different issues. Boiling that down, patents protect the idea/function achieved by the code (performed by a machine, of course), while copyright protects the expression of that idea/function (the individual lines of code).

Patents simply monopolize progress, and the worst part is very often is a monopoly only used to lock a door, not even to actually implement said progress.

What are you relying on when you say this? Oh, and as a patent agent, I can tell you that patents do nothing simply :)

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237396)

Patents simply monopolize progress, and the worst part is very often is a monopoly only used to lock a door, not even to actually implement said progress.

What are you relying on when you say this?

What you yourself said (bolded)

Copyrights and patents function very differently. One difference is the so-called independent creation, where if two people write the same code, neither having seen the others, they both have rights to use that code and obtain copyright in it. This protection is very different from the monopoly granted by a patent , which prevents all second-comers, regardless whether they knew of the patent, from practicing the invention. So when comparing copyright and patent law, one does not supplant the other, and frequently they address different issues. Boiling that down, patents protect the idea/function achieved by the code (performed by a machine, of course), while copyright protects the expression of that idea/function (the individual lines of code).

If you refer to the "door lock" part, I refer to the flood of patent trolls that do just that.

That paragraph also happens to very clearly state some of the reasons I dislike patents (for one it is becoming more expensive to research if whatever you are doing is already patented than it is to develop anything in the software world.) I should not be able to redistribute some one else's code, I should not be able to clone some one else's software to the T, but I should have the freedom to come up with things on my own that happen to work the same way some other guy somewhere thought off first.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237490)

but I should have the freedom to come up with things on my own that happen to work the same way some other guy somewhere thought off first.

I know this goes against everything Slashdot discussion board stands for, I disagree with your position, but understand and respect it.

My only question is where does this line of reasoning end? Does it only apply to software? If so, why? Does it have to do with the generally lower cost of development when compared to other industries? Or is it something else? I've never been quite sure why. Another reason I have heard is that an invention patented in a "software patent" is usually obvious. If so, should the PHOSITA for software be higher? Or should software have a different test for obviousness? I am pretty comfortable in saying the SCOTUS won't go for that.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35240800)

If I understand his statement, his line of reasoning ends when there is no patients, to which i agree. If you have an invention (you spent thousands developing let say) but you struggle to make money off it because competitors are doing it cheaper, is that a fault of "the system" or just the inventors bad business sense. if a competitor is able to copy your design / idea before you can re-coup your losses then its not a very ingenious invention is it?

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236838)

Intellectual theft does not exist, so we can ignore that part, and the point of the patent system is not to reward innovation, but to encourage it. If the patent system is getting in the way of innovation more than it is encouraging it, then the social value of the patents is negative.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237042)

Intellectual theft does not exist, so we can ignore that part

To me, that suggests you do not believe there is any such thing as intellectual property, since the wrongful taking of property is usually regarded as theft. With how easily you summarily dismiss the notion of intellectual theft, I don't think I will bother to point out the folly in your position.

and the point of the patent system is not to reward innovation, but to encourage it

While I recognize and appreciate the distinction you have pointed out, I think that the method in which innovation is encouraged in the U.S. and the rest of the world could fairly be characterized as a reward. Patent systems only give inventors beginning their inventive work the promise that, if the invention is sufficiently creative and different from the prior art, they will be able to prevent others from copying their invention. This ex post facto system, to me, is equally a reward as well as an encouragement.

If the patent system is getting in the way of innovation more than it is encouraging it, then the social value of the patents is negative.

This is an extremely difficult determination to make. I suggest that if you make it based on those instances where there is litigation around a given patent, and more to the point the media picks up on it, then your judgment might be skewed. The value of the patent system goes far beyond what the media reports.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35238284)

To me, that suggests you do not believe there is any such thing as intellectual property, since the wrongful taking of property is usually regarded as theft. With how easily you summarily dismiss the notion of intellectual theft, I don't think I will bother to point out the folly in your position.

I acknowledge that patents and copyrights exist, but even if one compares copyright and patents to physical property, what happens is infringement, not theft. It's actually much more like trespassing (use without permission) and even vandalism (harming value) than theft (taking), but a comparison to any of these is a poor choice. Theft is the absolute worst choice for a description.

This ex post facto system, to me, is equally a reward as well as an encouragement.

The point is that the reward is the means to an end, not an end unto itself. We reward inventors because we think that rewarding them will cause them to be more likely to invest in research, and that the social benefits of the reward will outweigh the social costs. If we conclude that what we thought happens doesn't, than patents are malicious, and we should rid ourselves of them.

This is an extremely difficult determination to make. I suggest that if you make it based on those instances where there is litigation around a given patent, and more to the point the media picks up on it, then your judgment might be skewed. The value of the patent system goes far beyond what the media reports.

I'm not basing this just upon media reports, although they often report some disturbing flaws within our system. It can be difficult to determine, but analyzing evidence with a proper methodology can give us some kind of idea. Most of the data I've seen suggests that it's not an effective mechanism, typically resulting in roughly the same or lower levels of productivity. Perhaps especially worrisome is the cultural imperialism we've engaged in, using trade policy to pressure developing nations into adopting laws on par with our own, and the ratchet-like mechanism of 'harmonization' that keeps saving Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236870)

Unfortunately, the patent system is being abused and the USPTO appears ill-equipped to evaluate the patent worthiness of software.

If word processing was patented then Wang would have prevented most of home and small business computing in the 80's. It could've happened.

I'm not commenting on the validity of Oracle's patents that they purchased from Sun.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

thunderdanp (1481263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237098)

Then let us be thankful we have the judicial system to address those instances where the PTO issued a patent they might not ought to have. No system is perfect.

Re:Hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241010)

Google only has patents because it's the game you have to play given the current legal situation--they would be perfectly happy if all software patents were declared invalid tomorrow, but they can't count on that.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236608)

What Google is doing is pretty standard practice. When you get sued for patent infringement, you do your best to invalidate the patents in question because if you can, then the lawsuit becomes meaningless. Google is about the only big player that hasn't started any high profile lawsuits, so I don't really see it as hypocritical. I would love for Google to vocally stand against software patents, though.

Re:Hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35238290)

Agreed, in a perfect world they would be able to invalidate all patents, but the fact is even Google sees that as an winnable battle. Google isn't known for running out and suing every little guy that does something in the general direction of one of their patents, right now a patent portfolio is flat out needed as a defensive measure to protect ones self from patent trolls. While something is secretly in development, and Joe patent troll passes a broad patent that covers it, under the current law, Joe six-pack has the prior art, unless Google patents it as soon as development starts. There is a difference between supporting something, and playing by it's rules to avoid getting crushed by it.

Patent-trolling (3, Insightful)

sageres (561626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236492)

As a Sun admin I have found that ever since Oracle bought Sun, they have dropped support and development for number of products, and asserted their "big brother" control over others. Oracle has since bullied many (including Google) for the patent code. I keep wondering... Is Oracle becoming a patent-trolling company? It is obvious that only Google at this time can go head-to-head with Microsoft in every area of the Market... why can't Oracle do what it did best... continue working on the databases? Otherwise, I do not think the computer industry can afford another SCO to hinder innovation and development being threatened by the patent-holders.

Re:Patent-trolling (1)

lakeland (218447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237626)

Nah, not patent trolling. Oracle cares about control, and they'll get control any way they can. If they can leverage patents to get control they will.

Re:Patent-trolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35238046)

Is Oracle becoming a patent-trolling company?

No need to keep wondering; a patent troll is defined as someone (a company) that does not actually produce anything and instead just uses patents it bought up or otherwise acquired to extract money from third parties. In other words, a parasite in the truest sense of the word.

Oracle produces things, so by definition, they're not a patent troll.

Summary Time (4, Informative)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35236674)

Article summary from this and Groklaw:

Court: You're slamming us with paperwork so if you want to load our asses up with any more you have to summarize it first and give the other guy a chance to write a short summary of why you're full of it.

Google: Summary time then. You can't patent byte code and virtual machines. We're asking the US Patent office to take a second look at these dumb patents, and we're also asking that we put the whole trial on hold till we get an answer.

Court: You're still on the hook because Oracle says you have bunch of copied source files in Android. That's copyrights not patents.

Google: All but 12 of those source files are interfaces and we've got 3 previous cases that show that you can copy interfaces because they're interfaces and don't contain any actual code.

Google: Also two of the 12 files that they're suing us for were written by Google employees and given to Sun under an open source license.

Google: The remaining 10 files that we're totally not admitting that we straight stole from Java comprises less than one percent of the Android code base so we can get away with it because of "de minimus", which basically means we legally get to copy your crap so long as we don't do it too much.

Google: So basically Oracle copyright claim is full of crap and we should dismiss this whole case till the USPTO gets a chance to look at the patents.

Oracle: We've got two days to come up with reasons that you're full of crap, so expect a formal response soon.

Re:Summary Time (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 3 years ago | (#35237902)

As I understand it, the 10 files aren't even part of Android - just a test suite. Sure, they should've been more careful, but this is perhaps the least significant part of the code base - a small and unnecessary (could be replaced with custom code) part of a *test suite*.

And as soon as it was brought to their attention, they deleted the files. Of course, it's source control, but the files are already available as part of the Java testing kit - their source is available, but it's not open-source.

I think the patent allegations are flabbergastingly more important than this. I'm astonished they're even trying to make a case for copyright - or I would be surprised if it wasn't Oracle.

Florian Mueller should not be trusted at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241058)

I think Florian Mueller should not be trusted at all. He is not a lawyer and seems to have been acting as proxy por Microsoft, doing a FUD campaign against Android smartphones.

http://androidcommunity.com/android-code-not-copied-florian-mueller-story-found-bunk-20110122/
http://techrights.org/2010/04/11/florian-mueller-and-erika-mann/
http://madhatter.ca/2011/01/26/the-provenance-of-florian-muller/
http://lxnews.org/2011/01/24/florian-mueller-anti-android-fud/
http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1939165/mueller-forced-android-copyright-infringement-claims
http://techrights.org/wiki/index.php/Florian_M%C3%BCller

Anyone publishing anything comming from Mueller shouyld read first the links above before writing an article.

Brought to You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241988)

by anonymous reader Florian Mueller. C'mon :D

Anybody remembers Sun vs Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242008)

I sympathise with Google on technical choice - Java is one of great languages, and neither J2ME or J2SE fit Google's need at the time. In a typical case of complete disregard for legalese, Google went on with sound technical solution.

Unsurprisingly, that disregard has come back to bite. Now, challenging the whole patent system, flawed though it may be, won't help. It's the law of the land.

In a curious case of collective amnesia, nobody is mentioning Sun vs Microsoft suit about Java that went on for years and resulted in 10 digit settlement paid by Microsoft. What Microsoft did was wrong and . In comparison, what Google has done with Dalvik is plain criminal. Oracle now has an arsenal of broken license terms, blatant copyright infringement and have thrown in a few patents for good measure.

Google lawyers have their work cut out, but IMHO, this is damage limitation and Google will have to pay. The real question is how much.

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