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Introducing the Non-Lawyers’ Pages

While this site presents issues mainly of interest to other lawyers, those issues are vitally important to the non-lawyers who work in the information technology industry.   Therefore, I am introducing The SWIP Report’s “Non-lawyers” pages.  Here you will find basic information relating to protecting and transferring intellectual property related to software.  I have started with some of the basics on software copyrights and patents, as well as the fundamentals of licensing.  I plan to add more soon.  And feel free to e-mail me with any questions you would like to see addressed (although, as always, do not e-mail me with any confidential information and understand we do not have an attorney-client relationship).

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Will the Supreme Court Revisit Software Patents?

Last fall, in Ultramercial, LLC v. Hulu, LLC [1], the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals surprised many people by upholding a patent claim, reproduced in footnote [2], directed to a “method for distribution of products over the Internet via a facilitator.”  One of the defendants in that case, game provider WildTangent, recently asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.  Specifically, WildTangent asks the Supreme Court to consider: Whether, or in what circumstances, a patent’s general and indeterminate references to “over the Internet” or “at an Internet website” are sufficient to transform an unpatentable abstract idea into a patentable process for purposes of 35 USC § 101. [3] I am not an expert Supreme Court watcher, so I will (mostly) refrain from prognosticating on what the Court will do.  WildTangent argues that, under the Ultramercial decision, “all the patent holder in Bilski had to do was add a step…

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Software Patents, Copyrights, Morality, and Pragmatism

Regardless of your philosophical leanings on the issue of software patents, if you’re in the software business, you need to worry about them.  A lot of people, such as the inventor of modern e-mail, are opposed to software patents.  I have certainly written patent applications with many software engineers who did not like the idea.  V. A. Shiva, the e-mail inventor, sums up the point of view in this video clip: if you want to protect software intellectual property, use the copyright laws. This is a legitimate point of view.  Indeed, can even proponents of software patents deny with a straight face that the law surrounding the patentability of software is, at best, uncertain, and, at worst, deeply troubled?  I hope to tackle policy prescriptions as this blog evolves, but for now, let’s accept the facts and move on to consider practical implications. Regardless of your philosophical leanings on the…

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More on Google and Privacy

Google’s new privacy policy and terms of use are, as I have commented, scary stuff.  Two authors at Slate magazine, coming at the issue from the “open technology” perspective, recently explained why they agree that Google’s simplification of some sixty disparate policies into one is not so benign.  As the authors note, “while the new policy does not expand the personal information it collects, it introduces new ways for Google to combine and share data across its own services.”  The problem is that Google does not in turn plan to provide users with granular control of privacy settings within different services, opting instead for a global Google account profile.  As a lawyer, I worry about the legal implications of Google’s global tracking.  But beyond the law, individuals and business alike really need to think about the ground they are ceding to the World Wide Web.

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Internet Patent Claims Invalidated by Texas Jury

In a case that has been widely publicized, a Texas jury has invalidated claims of two patents that cover much of today’s World Wide Web.  I won’t duplicate the detailed treatment that others have already provided, but this case deserves attention for a lot of reasons. What are they?  Well, to start, Texas judges and juries have a reputation of being friendly to patent owners, including so-called “non-practicing entities” such as Eolas.  Not so much this time.  Moreover, the patent claims at issue, which essentially cover displaying and interacting with images in a browser, truly are quite broad.  Eolas hasn’t been afraid to litigate, and a lot of companies you’ve heard of had paid Eolas a lot of money to license their patents.  The huge verdict in Eolas’ favor from an Illinois court, and Eolas’ subsequent settlement with Microsoft, even after the verdict was (sort of) overturned on appeal, made…

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