In yet more intellectual property news, we heard yesterday that the US Supreme Court has agreed to consider a question arising from the Alice Corporation vs CLS Bank dispute over the patentability of software. The Federal Circuit court, which is known to have a bias towards patent holders, has referred the question to the Supreme court after an en banc hearing resulted in a divided opinion. The matter unresolved concerns agreeing on a foolproof test for whether a patent ought to be valid if it combines a computer and an unpatentable abstract method. Read more in Simon’s InfoWorld summary.
The Innovation Act – a bill to restrain patent trolls – is a step in the right direction on the road to patent reform, despite its flaws. Yesterday the House of Representatives showed massive endorsement for the need to reform the patent system by supporting the bill with an overwhelming majority of 325 to 91. Despite the huge support for change, even from the White House, there remains a core of vested interest voices speaking out in favour of the patent trolls. News of the House’s response to the bill shows that these voices are now very much fighting against the flow of progress. For more detail, here’s Simon’s InfoWorld article on the announcement.
Perhaps you thought that the matter of whether or not API’s can be copyrighted was already closed, after Judge Alsup’s May 2012 decision in favour of Google. Google had been innovating in mobile device programming by building on the dying remains of Java ME. Alsup’s verdict concluded the trial that started out to determine whether Oracle’s patents relating to Android had been infringed and ended on instead on the fundamental matter of the copyrightability of APIs. Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there. Of course Oracle appealed the decision and it seems that Oracles arguments are finding traction with the federal circuit judges panel looking at the case.
Despite the fact that British and European courts have recently confirmed their position against copyrighting API’s in favour of innovation and competitive markets, the American judges appear to be moving in the opposite direction. A decision in favour of Oracle could well give the innovation advantage to European companies at the expense of their American counterparts. No doubt Google would in that scenario continue the fight with an appeal of their own, but the threat this case poses to programmers everywhere is still very real.
To read more about the case and its implications, check out Simon’s InfoWorld column.
‘Strong copyleft’, ‘weak copyleft’, and ‘permissive’ are all terms that can cause confusion when discussing open source licensing. Simon’s been using some different language to help work round the confusion and keep the different licensing options clear for his clients. In his current InfoWorld article he explores some of this terminology and explains why it’s better suited to the task.
To begin with, ‘reciprocal licensing’ is proposed as an alternative way of talking about ‘copyleft’. As clever as the phrase ‘copyleft’ is, the newly suggested terminology better enables the uninitiated to grasp the concept quickly and fully, as it acknowledges the use of ‘copyleft’ to express the community expectation of reciprocal behaviour by participants.
For more examples of clear language for talking about open source licensing, check out the full article.
Public ITC procurement tenders in Europe are subject to a number of laws and procedures designed to avoid discriminatory behaviour favouring specific vendors. A recent OpenForum Europe report shows that in spite of these laws, many tenders do name specific vendors. The naming of vendors in procurement tenders is indicative of vendor lock-in, especially where the same vendor crops up many times across different tenders.
Lock-in is a serious problem. As well as costing governments up to €30 Billion in unnecessary expenditure, the freedom to leave those locked in systems in favour of more open solutions is often ruled out by the high exit costs. Read more analysis of EU procurement lock-in and the OpenForum Europe report in Simon’s ComputerWorldUK article.
Friday saw confirmation of BlackBerry’s near-billion-dollar loss. BlackBerry and Nokia both tried to muscle their way back into the smartphone game, essentially by imitating the closed model used so successfully by Apple and which they themselves had previously done well by. The grip of the established app stores however, ensured that neither of the impostors would be able to win over either customers or developers to their cause. Another closed platform simply holds no appeal to a market very much enthralled by what’s already available. Continue reading