Tag Archives: technology

Defensive Publications: Shedding Light on Innovation


The patent system is broken. The point of patents is to encourage innovation and inventiveness. Instead of promoting innovation, patent offices have awarded overly broad, vague, and unoriginal patents that draw unclear lines allowing bad actors to profit and threaten costly lawsuits. Patent examiners have a strong sense of the technology that is patented, but they’re missing an understanding of what has been and is currently being developed in the open source world. As shocking as it may seem, the result is the examiner formulating an inaccurate sense of what is innovative. As the final arbiter of a very significant monopoly grant, they are often grossly uninformed in terms of what lies beyond their narrowly scoped search. This is not wholly their fault as they have limited resources and time. However, it is a strong indication of a faulty system that is so entrenched in the archaic methods under which patent offices have been operating.

We have faced and continue to cope with the effects of bad patents on multiple fronts. The most widely known are being displayed on the large stage where huge companies battle in the courts, resulting in large money settlements or high stakes jury verdicts (i.e. Apple v. Samsung). This leads to higher costs to consumers and users, uncertainty amongst innovators about what is patented, a veritable arms race to secure patents to corner the market, and limited competition. These ‘wars’ cost companies money and that cost trickles down to the consumer.

On another stage, we also see the threat of trolls exponentially increase as more patents are acquired and used against small companies, nonprofits, and independent developers. The fear of costly litigation forces licensing agreements with the result of stifling innovation by suffocating independent inventors. On all fronts, more money is being spent on co-existing with undeserving patents rather than developing new ideas. We are losing out on breakthroughs and advancement in technology because of the environment of fear and uncertainty that has been created.

The answer has to be more than abolition of the patent system, as from a pragmatic point of view, it won’t happen. It does us little service to ignore patents and abandon the system. Rather, we need to address and combat the threats to innovation so that we can begin to bring an end to the age of fear and litigation. We can continue to deal with patents as they are issued, identify those that abuse the system, then spend the money and invest time to work to invalidate these. Taking this one step further, we can also proactively prevent these obstacles to innovation from even existing by directly communicating to the examiner what is being and has been developed. The tools to do so are available through the use of defensive publications.

A defensive publication essentially describes what is known or currently being developed. For those who are developing software, these documents are regularly created in the form of blog posts, community updates or releases. However, examiner constraints prevent these sources from being found. The last step is formalizing this and ensuring that the patent examiner has access to an open source database of these documents.

With increasing amounts of low quality patents being issued worldwide and a lack of clear boundaries, patent examiners are losing a sense of what is indeed inventive. Those who patent are getting a voice. Every free software release, solved issue or innovative development process can be turned into a defensive publication. References to current or older releases can also be demonstrated to help illustrate how the community of developers resolves obstacles. By writing these disclosures, free software can demonstrate how to be proactive. In turn, a patent application is rejected and a potential lawsuit is avoided.

Through the Linux Defenders program, Open Invention Network works  with open source developer communities to create defensive publications. We will be working closely with Linux kernel and Qt  developers, because we think that these represent major driving innovative forces in the Open Source spectrum. Important innovations in Linux and Qt should be documented in defensive publications following the releases of the software. We invite interested individuals and companies to contribute to this, and will support the authors in getting their publications out. If you are interested in writing Qt related defensive publications, or will be able to help identifying topics that should be documented, consider joining the mailing list to follow the discussion: http://lists.qt-project.org/mailman/listinfo/defpubs

[Image by Nick Kocharhook, thanks: http://www.flickr.com/photos/k9/35010906/%5D

KDE e.V. General Assembly 2013

tl;dr: If you are a committed KDE contributor and not a KDE e.V. member, you are doing it wrong. If you are a KDE user, consider helping the KDE User Working Group. Read KDE e.V.’s quarterly reports.

Voting at the KDE e.V. general assembly

The test vote before the assembly officially started.

Akademy 2013 is still on its way, and as usual the KDE e.V. General Assembly was held as a part of it. KDE e.V. is the representation and governance body of the KDE community. Membership in this not-for-profit association registered in Berlin, Germany is open to all KDE contributors . Members usually assemble once a year to coordinate, to vote on issues important to the community and to elect representatives and board members as needed. The highlights this year where the discussion of the role of the Community Working Group, the report on the first activities of the newly established Financial Working Group, and the election of one new board member. I was the chairperson of the assembly, and this is my inofficial report. 

Continue reading

Qt Project and Defensive Publications

Open Source communities are amazingly innovative. Linux Defenders encourages them to document their ideas in the form of defensive publications, so that this body of knowledge becomes relevant prior art for later patent applications and patent invalidations. The Qt community is especially relevant for defensive publications for two reasons – it is highly innovative, and Qt’s functionality covers pretty much all topics that are relevant in software engineering today. At the Qt Contributor Summit that is currently on its way in Bilbao, Spain, Armijn Hemel and me started a process to make defensive publications a routine part of the Qt release process.Akademy 2013 and Qt Contributor Summit poster

Continue reading

Petition: Hollyweb, W3C und Lobbyisten für “Digital Rights Management” im HTML5-Standard

[Ursprünglich auf netzpolitik.org]


Der fast fertige HTML5-Standard für Webseiten soll technische Möglichkeiten zur Inhalte-Kontrolle erhalten. Mit dem gefährlichen “Digital Rights Management” (DRM) ist aber schon die Musikindustrie gescheitert. Netzpolitische Organisationen rufen dazu auf, eine Petition dagegen zu unterzeichnen – macht mit!

Das HTML-Protokoll ist für das Internet zentral wie die Luft zum Atmen. Es beschreibt, wie Inhalte im Webbrowser dargestellt werden. Kein Wunder, dass die Neutralität, Unabhängigkeit und Offenheit dieses Protokolls nahezu allen Usern ausgesprochen wichtig sind. Genau diese Grundsätze sind jetzt in Gefahr, weil die Medienindustrie ihre Lobbyisten auf das World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) angesetzt hat, um eine standardisierte Schnittstelle für DRM-Mechanismen direkt in das HTML-Protokoll zu integrieren.

Bisher gibt es keine solche Schnittstelle im Protokoll, was zu Auswüchsen wie dem Flash-Plugin geführt hatte. Unter dem Vorwand, einen Ersatz für Flash zu schaffen, sollen nun Schnittstellen für proprietäre Erweiterungen in HTML in den Standard integriert werden. Damit entstehen mindestens zwei schwerwiegende Einschränkungen für User: Sie können nicht mehr jederzeit alle Inhalte empfangen, und die Implementierung der proprietären Erweiterungen ist nicht mehr vollständig in freien Webbrowsern wie Firefox möglich. Gerade diese Freiheiten sind Hollywood ein Dorn im Auge, so dass es mit Sicherheit keine Vorteile für Anwender gibt, mit denen sich diese Erweiterungen begründen lassen. Es soll die Einführung und Verbreitung von DRM-Technologie erleichtert werden, weil auf diese Weise jeder standardkonforme Browser als DRM-Schnittstelle dienen kann. Mehr nicht.

Die gründlichste Erklärung zu diesem komplexen Thema hat bis jetzt die Electronic Frontier Foundation geliefert. Ihr Artikel ruft zur Mitzeichnung einer Petition gegen die geplante “Encrypted Media Extension” auf:

Tell the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and its member organizations not to embrace a proposal that undermines the very purpose of the HTML standard upon which the Web is built – freedom.

Mitte März wandte sich Autor und Netzaktivist Cory Doctorow in einem Guardian-Blogeintrag mit dem Titel “What I wish Tim Berners-Lee understood about DRM” direkt an den HTML-Pionier Tim Berners-Lee. Darin äußert Doctorow seine Besorgnis darüber, dass im Rahmen des W3C über eine Erweiterung des HTML5-Standards um eine standardisierte Schnittstelle für Kopierschutztechnologien (Digital Rights/Restrictions Management, DRM) diskutiert wird:

Adding DRM to the HTML standard will have far-reaching effects that are incompatible with the W3C’s most important policies, and with Berners-Lee’s deeply held principles.

Das W3C hat bis jetzt großartige Arbeit beim Erstellen und Verwalten Offener Standards geleistet. Dieses fundamentale Prinzip ist unabdingbar für die Rolle, die das Internet inzwischen als öffentlicher und politischer Raum gewonnen hat. Man opfert kein Prinzip den Verwertungsinteressen der Industrie. Wir fordern unsere Leser auf, sich zu informieren und die Petition zu unterstützen.


Defensive Publications at Embedded World 2013

Embedded World has started today in Nürnberg, Germany. I am here with Open Invention Network to spread the idea of defensive publications and OIN’s non-aggression community of companies in the Open Source sphere. Highly innovative companies present here, and many of them face the same dilemma — if the innovators decide not to patent their inventions, they run the risk that another party applies for a patent of the same invention later. The decision not to patent could be for ethical reasons because they understand that software patents are harmful, or for business or many other reasons. The problem stays the same, there is a threat that patents are awarded even though similar solutions already existed.

There are many software patents out there that experts consider obvious, not inventive or trivial. All of those three are reasons that the patent should have been rejected. Especially important for complex but non-inventive ones, the patent examiner did not discover relevant prior art when scrutinising the patent application. The state of the art was not documented and accessible in a way that supported a good decision. Defensive publications are one answer to this problem. They offer a cheap and fast way to document inventions. Also, defensive publications are available for areas that legally should not be patentable, like software as such.

Through linuxdefenders.org, companies and research institutions, but also individual developers can submit defensive publications relevant to Linux and Open Source in general. Linux Defenders is backed by Open Invention Network on it’s mission to prevent bad software patents. We want to support developers and inventors to document their ideas as explicit prior art. Our goal is to ensure freedom to operate for the innovators in Open Source. If you are interested, worried about your invention or have any questions, you can find Armijn Hemel and me in hall 5, booth 341. Or ping me on Twitter @mirkoboehm.

Mirko Boehm