FOSS News – May 2015

Patent Lawyers Fight Hard for the Future of Software Patents

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“People naively say to me, “If your program is innovative, then won’t you get the patent?” This question assumes that one product goes with one patent.” —Richard Stallman

THE USPTO is a sordid mess. As the previous article served to show, it attracts many opportunists and trolls. However, recent amendment of guidelines used inside the USPTO examination pipeline stopped many software patents, rendering them invalid while citing Alice (a relatively recent SCOTUS ruling). Both the court system and the patent system are now far less favourable or tolerant towards software patents.

“The San Francisco based company had submitted a patent request to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on February 4th last year, a document of which was published yesterday, on April 30th 2015. The document reveals BitGo’s application in which it is seeking a patent for a network device that is “configured to receive public keys, over an electronic network, of two or more second public-private keys,” something that is reportedly identical to the multisig functionality.”

They are patenting cryptological methods now. This is like patenting mathematics. It has got to stop at the examination level, not just at the courts (legal fees are obscenely high)


Cyanogen, an open-source mobile OS developer, to open its India office

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PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA: US-based Cyanogen, the developer of an open-source mobile operating system, will open an office in India within the next three months, and plans to acquire startups, according to a senior company executive.

“India is very attractive. It is one of the hyper-growth markets for mobile today,” said Vikram Natarajan, senior vice-president of global partnerships and distribution at Cyanogen, the latest in a list of companies wanting more skin in the Indian mobile phone story. According to research firm eMarketer, India is poised to overtake US as the fastest-growing smartphone market in 2016 with 204 million mobile phones.

Cyanogen’s India team, which is expected to be 50-member strong in about a year’s time, will represent a third of the company’s current employee base, Natarajan said. CyanogenMod started off as an open source project that be tinkered with the Android in 2009. It now has about 9,000 contributing members. The founders – Kirt McMaster and Steve Kondik – spun out a commercial entity, Cyanogen, in 2013. The company is headquartered in Palo Alto.

Cyanogen said it will invest a part of the latest $80 million financing it received from Premji Invest, Twitter Ventures, Qualcomm and others, into acquiring smaller companies and teams, mostly for talent in India. “Premji Invest is a big investor…and that was a deliberate decision,” said Natarajan, ex-employee of chipset maker Mediatek.

The Indian team, which will be based either in Bengaluru or Delhi, will work on products, he said.


The best Linux distributions you can install right now

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Linux. The third of the holy triumvirate of PC operating systems, along with Windows and Mac OS. Each have their own pros and cons, and each has their own identity. Linux could probably be best described as the most rebellious of the three; it’s malleable and customizable (as long as you have a strong understanding of computers and Linux), with dozens of different distros created by unique communities for different uses. Plus, the Linux kernel and most distros are completely free, which is a major selling point for the OS when compared to Mac OS and Windows.


Government says open source software use not made mandatory

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The government, reacting to the software industry’s concerns on the open source policy, has said the order does not make it mandatory for all services to be designed using such software. Ram Sewak Sharma, secretary, department of electronics and information technology (Deity), said: “It is clarified that the policy does not make it mandatory for all future applications and services to be designed using the open source software (OSS). The compliance part of the policy clearly states that the solution suppliers should consider OSS along with closed-source software (CSS) while proposing solutions.

In CSS or proprietary software, the copyright holder has exclusive legal rights and the source code is usually not shared. An open source model typically does not have such limitations. On the demand that the government be technology neutral, Sharma said this policy neither favours any particular technology nor does it restrict any technology. “The policy aims to facilitate faster implementation of e-governance in the country and help in achieving the vision and objectives of the Digital India programme,” he added.


Can’t kill off the patent trolls yet

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The number of patent litigation cases filed in U.S. courts dropped in 2014, the first decrease in five years. That’s according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“It’s a sea change from the past, especially the last four years,” said Chris Barry, a partner with PwC’s forensic services practice and the lead author of the report. After patent lawsuits doubled since 2009 to more than 6,000, they dropped by 12 percent in 2014. The courts have become busy as the number of patent lawsuits clogged up the system over the past decade and it now takes an average of 2.4 years to reach that point. Still, only 3 percent of cases actually make it that far, Barry said. Most are settled and don’t see the inside of a courtroom.

The report should be welcome news for those critics who say patent trolls are stifling American innovation and bemoan Congress’ inactivity on patent reform. “There’s still a lot of action around protecting intellectual property,” Barry said. “However I think a lot of the more specious cases are being driven out of the system.”

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