Bitcoin has been in the news a lot over the last few weeks. It’s astronomical rise, then the crash after the Peoples Bank of China took cautionary moves to avoid it destabilising the Chinese domestic currency and finally the recovery of Bitcoin’s price over last few days.
The attention that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are getting should come as no surprise. The internet is creating a meshed society in which each of us is able to start businesses, trade goods, conduct relationships, publish, editorialise, and conduct politics, all without needing an intermediary to empower us. An alternative currency that is managed not by a bank but by the consensus of its users, becomes increasingly necessary as this meshed society matures.
For more detail and commentary check out this weeks InfoWorld article from Meshed Insight’s Simon Phipps.
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.