Swaroop C H

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What about software patents in India

10 Jul 2005

The open source community is rejoicing ever since Europe rejected software patents ... which leads me to the question, what's the situation in India?

I came across the following pages:

So, India does not have software patents (as of now), but is under pressure from WTO and other organizations.

Well, as long as we have sensible people like Manmohan Singh and Abdul Kalam at the helm the Left supporting the Centre, we're safe.

Comments

Ankit Malik says:

Well, India is slowly tilting towards the US and I did read somewhere about India accepting TRIPS or about to accept...So that sounds dangerous enough. Anywayz the political system and the oppn-party system will ensure it is outlawed...this is the better half of being a democracy. It sure slows down progress a bit but then it ensures we dont take in stupid laws... ;-)

deepak says:

Don't know if Singh is really sensible when it comes to software patents; from what I understand/heard, it was the Leftist parties which caused the bill to be rejected and not the Congress.

Correct me if I am wrong!

Anand says:

Yes, you are correct. If not for lobbying by the left and
FSF, the patent reforms bill would have been presented with support for software patents.

Dr.Singh is more known for his pro-U.S and pro-World bank/IMF tilts rather than as a socialist. I won't trust him on taking the right stand on the software patents issue. But as long as the left is supporting UPA, software patents won't cross the Himalayas to India.

Btw Swaroop, thanks for adding this to your blog.

-Anand

Gavri Fernandez says:

Not just the open-source community.

All the small ISVs should be really happy too. They're just not that vocal about it, I guess.
Or maybe they're thinking: "What the heck! If this bill passes through, I'll just sell the damn company and get a job at Microsoft or IBM" :)

Sriram says:

Swaroop - I'm going to play devil's advocate here for a second. I don't support patents in their current form - but I worry about not having patents too.

It's like in State of Fear - the whole thing is so complex that no one knows what 'corrective action' will lead to. So far, we don't know for a fact that a patent-less world will do well.

Ankit Malik says:

"It’s like in State of Fear - the whole thing is so complex that no one knows what ‘corrective action’ will lead to. So far, we don’t know for a fact that a patent-less world will do well."

Typical M$..Spread FUD/Confusion, don't let anyone come to a solution, maintain the status quo and then continue to loot or be a threat to others....

Sriram says:

Can't resist the temptation to flame back :-)

First of all, I don't talk for Microsoft just like Swaroop doesn't talk for Yahoo. Whatever I comment here is my own personal opinion and *not* Microsoft's.

Ankit - you should go see http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,1995,1775136,00.asp?kc=MWRSS02129TX1K0000535 and the associated /. story as well.

I don't want to name other companies but off the top of my head, I can think of more than 1 'non-evil' company just collecting patents and keeping mum on any reform.

Just to refresh your memory, we were at the receiving end of the Eolas lawsuit. And doing a Google search for 'Microsoft patent lawsuit' only shows instances where Microsoft has been sued.

Ankit Malik says:

"Can’t resist the temptation to flame back :-)"
Yeah! Right, flame war ;-)

"First of all, I don’t talk for Microsoft just like Swaroop doesn’t talk for Yahoo. Whatever I comment here is my own personal opinion and not Microsoft’s."

Definitely. I know the comments are your own, but just as I was reading it, I was reminded of the way Microsoft works. [Of course I have a bit of a biased opinion although I try my best to be neutral but the temptation was too much to resist]. As I read the comment, it sounded so much like something from MS, and then when I glanced at the name, I couldn't say anything but 'Typical M$'. And as I said, the temptation was too hard to not write it in the form of a post ;-)

I am not saying you posted as an MS Employee ;-) Your comments are yours-truly; but you cant deny you spoke that from an MS POV.

Oh yes, I will read the links you provided.

And I hope MS didn't patent double click because they feared being sued on that... :P.
http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/04/06/02/2222258.shtml?tid=109&tid=155&tid=187&tid=99

Patenting Double Click is akin to patenting walking!!! Now does this make sense???

Sriram says:

Ankit - You might want to see http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/06/09/0040210&tid=155&tid=109 to see one of the reasons why Microsoft goes after 'seemingly trivial' patents so aggressively.

deepak says:

OT:
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Ankit Malik says:

@ Sriram : Ok...so that means, if you dont have a patent, others might screw you; so get a patent before the other party gets it and then screw them ;-)

So it boils down to a rat race among companies and then this whole system of infringement and court cases and royalties...

I dont know what the patent less world will be like [Patents as in Software] but It will definitely be better than the patented world. ;-)

Sriram says:

No - it means that you make sure you don't get screwed in the future by someone. Most patents from big companies today are defensive patents. This is unlike IP-only companies who use them as offense

deepak says:

Sriram, if most software patents filed by big companies are defensive patents, it would be logical to think that big companies would rather that there be no software patents at all.. it would save them the hassle of filing for and procuring patents.

But that's hardly the case with big cos being the most active proponents of software patents.

Ankit Malik says:

No - it means that you make sure you don’t get screwed in the future by someone. Most patents from big companies today are defensive patents. This is unlike IP-only companies who use them as offense

Then why did Stevey Boy go nutters the other day and accused the Linux Kernel for infringing on so many patents and scared the living daylights out of folks who were contemplating to switch to Linux???

Microsoft Corp. warned Asian governments on Thursday they could face patent lawsuits for using the Linux operating system instead of its Windows software. The growing popularity of Linux -- an open-code software that is freely available on the Internet and easily modified by users -- is a threat to the global dominance of Microsoft's Windows.

Linux violates more than 228 patents, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said at the company's Asian Government Leaders Forum in Singapore. He did not provide any details on the alleged violations, which the Linux community disputes.


That's Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer doing his level best to scare the bejesus out of corporate buyers who might think Linux looks good.


http://www.linuxlookup.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=2801

So this probably means
a) Your statement is false OR
b) Microsoft doesn't fall into the 'most' category which you mentioned in the above statement OR
c) Attack Attack and Screw is just another way of Self Defense!!! :P OR


And as Deepak says it, if companies did that just for self defence; they would then just try to end this patents imbroglio rather than encourage it. And they would have also helped in championing the cause of the 'Say No to Patents in EU Campaign' which was run by various OSS websites and ORGS like the Gimp Community to name one ; but nowhere in sight could I see M$

Sriram says:

I'm not sure I agree - look at http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,1995,1775136,00.asp?kc=MWRSS02129TX1K0000535. Or look at IBM or Sun opening up their patent portfolio.

Sriram says:

Well Ankit, I would love to see you dig up examples of 'Stevie Boy' going and suing a company over a patent.

Linux patent thing - can you guarantee that a company using Linux is protected from any patent lawsuit? Is there any indemnification?

Working with others: Gee..and you never wondered why no one from the OSS community stepped up to offer support to Microsoft's patent reforms?

deepak says:

Sriram,
The only reason Linux and patent threats go together is because Linux is open source - patent owners can go look at the code and because of the 'method patentability' nightmare, can claim that Linux codebase infringes on their patents and/or copyright.

Who's to say which closed-source product infringes on which patent? Hence, Linux vendors offering indemnification and Microsoft (or other closed source software vendors) offering indemnification is an apples/oranges comparison.

Nevertheless, ask Novell: http://www.novell.com/licensing/indemnity/

Sriram says:

Deepak:
Well - I believe the point SteveB was trying to make (and I do not speak for him/MSFT) is that Linux is vulnerable to patent lawsuits for the exact reason you spoke of. Now, whether you/customers agree or not is a different story.

My interpretation of what he's saying is "Hey..people can look at your code and sue you over patents they have. We don't necessarily agree with it or support it or patents - but that's a risk you need to be aware of"

However, equating SteveB's statement to Microsoft supporting all kinds of patents is nonsensical.

Microsoft does believe in intellectual property - but that's a different story altogether.

deepak says:

I don't see any comment here equating SteveB’s statement to Microsoft supporting all kinds of patents

SteveB's statement is FUD, pure and simple. And not FUD in an evil sense.. just FUD in the sense you've suggested: "Watch out people (fear), there might be patent litigations when you use Linux (uncertainty). Think about it before you commit to Linux (doubt)"

Sriram says:

Hmm...let's take this one step at a time

Linux infringing patents - see http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1630082,00.asp

That's not uncertainty - that's a fact - and the FSF admits over half would stand up in court. Whether you think those are valid threats - or whether the patent will stand up in court is a judgement call. 283 is a concrete number- argue with that.


Now,let's talk about FUD for a second,shall we?

Scroll up in this thread. You'll see repeated references about Microsoft and patents and more than one insinuation about Microsoft using patents offensively. However, *despite* my having asked for any incident of Microsoft suing anyone over a patent, there has been no response. How's that for FUD?

Let me give you more examples of FUD. Since you linked to Novell's website, I'll take an example from there

http://www.novell.com/industries/retail/top_reasons.html

Does even one point on the list have a study backing it up? People accuse Microsoft all the time of funding studies and twisting results - but gee..why are there are no sponsored studies from Novell?

They speak of higher reliability - where are the numbers to back up their statement?

Quote "For many retailers, Microsoft's security issues are a serious concern.". Now, isn't that FUD? Which retailers? Did they do a survey?

I could go on and on. I picked on Novell as an example - I can point you to similar FUD from any of the other usual suspects in the OSS community.

Ankit Malik says:

Suing is just part of the job. MS possessing a number of patents is just like a Damocles [Damocles????] sword over Linux' head. It can fall on it anytime MS sees it to be a threat.

And it must be your wishful thinking that Steve Ballmer was educating people, all he was doing was scaring them off from linux as he knows Linux is a competitor. This is just one of the examples how Steve Ballmer and Co. exercise their Patent Power.

For many retailers, Microsoft’s security issues are a serious concern.�

Isn't that obvious. You sound like you havent heard of viruses on windows! There are companies like Norton which survive just because MS isn't secure!!! And I hope you are aware of it!!! :P

Does even one point on the list have a study backing it up? People accuse Microsoft all the time of funding studies and twisting results - but gee..why are there are no sponsored studies from Novell?

Better to quote no references (and reflect general opinion( rather than quote figures from companies you just paid millions to bark!!! :) Anywayz I am not supporting Novell here; there are also a company like M$ but probably they wont be using Patent Power like Stevey Intends to :P

They speak of higher reliability - where are the numbers to back up their statement?

Again, no numbers are better than paid figures. I would prefer an OS that works rather than OS which merely advertises well!!!

I could go on and on. I picked on Novell as an example - I can point you to similar FUD from any of the other usual suspects in the OSS community.

I agree. There is surely FUD on both sides but both are manifested in different ways. One is where the community speaks; the other is where MONEY SPEAKS!!! And MS has probably more dollar bills than the community has Linux Zealots. Of course this is a stupid comparison but I just wanted to put an analogy to show which side makes up 'more-influental-FUD'!!!

Sriram says:

'generally known'? 'Isn't that obvious'?

Those are very weak. And of course, you don't have any stats/studies/surveys/reports to back you up.

Anyway, last post on this thread for me.

Sorry Swaroop! :-)

Ankit Malik says:

‘generally known’? ‘Isn’t that obvious’?

Those are very weak. And of course, you don’t have any stats/studies/surveys/reports to back you up.


You mean something like paid reports??? Kewl! ;-)

And I when I said 'Isn’t that obvious. You sound like you havent heard of viruses on windows!' I DID REALLY MEAN TO SAY that it is obvious and then I did quote an example to back it up...That Norton wouldn't have been there if Windows had been so secure!!!

Anywayz I am tired of this too. :D So last post on this thread until something really dramatic happens.

Thanks Swaroop for being a patient audience to our [heated?] discussion.

Swaroop says:

I still don't understand why a discussion of patents ended up with talking about Windows not being secure.

Anyway, back to topic ... patents in the current form is dangerous and we all agree on that. But who will take up the gauntlet and make reforms? There is no real answer.

Aarthi says:

Ankit, I have tons of things to disagree with your entire series of comments. But like Swaroop questioned, I have no idea why the discussion turned out to focus on security issues.
If we didn't have patents in the first place, would there really be a drive to innovate? How can one be sure? Let's take a non-software environment, like a pharmaceutical company(inspired from http://atulchitnis.net/diary/showentry/311). Why would I spend half my life figuring out something in my lab only to realize that I can't patent it and every competitor can use the same formula, package it and sell it away? What happens to the millions I spent on actually determining the formula? Is it even a fair deal that I don't have any kind of claim over something I created?

From what I see, the question is not to patent or not to - the question really is what to patent and what not to.

deepak says:

Aarthi, and others

the issue is not whether patents are good or bad. the issue is whether methods, concepts, etc in software are patentable. that's what the EU issue was all about too.

read this for an interesting analogy: Why can't I patent my movie?

deepak says:

Swaroop, as I commented above, please fix subscriptions on your blog. I don't want to keep up with this flame war ;-)

Ankit Malik says:

I had wished I would steer clear and wont comment further. But I have to answer Aarthi's comment.

If we didn't have patents in the first place, would there really be a drive to innovate? How can one be sure? Let's take a non-software environment, like a pharmaceutical company(inspired from http://atulchitnis.net/diary/showentry/311). Why would I spend half my life figuring out something in my lab only to realize that I can't patent it and every competitor can use the same formula, package it and sell it away? What happens to the millions I spent on actually determining the formula? Is it even a fair deal that I don't have any kind of claim over something I created?

In all the above comments, I have been talking about software patents not patents of any other category and stuff. Sorry for not making it clear.

BTW your statement that patents is the cause for innovation is absurd. There are no patents in the Maths World...so does that mean there is no innovation in Maths???? And Coding is more similar to maths than it is to pharmaceuticals.

I am not in a position to comment on pharmaceuticals patents and their implications and I so I cant comment much on them.

Ankit Malik says:

And also sorry for drifting from patents to security issues. But it wasnt me who started talking about security issues...

"Quote “For many retailers, Microsoft’s security issues are a serious concern.�. Now, isn’t that FUD? Which retailers? Did they do a survey?"

Of course I hold myself responsible for initiating the flame war...

Aarthi says:

BTW your statement that patents is the cause for innovation is absurd.
There are no patents in the Maths World...so does that mean there is no
innovation in Maths???? And Coding is more similar to maths than it is to
pharmaceuticals.


Let me make myself clear here. "Patents are the cause for innovation" is
such a sweeping statement. All I meant to say was that I wouldn't want to
give away the fruits of my effort just because I didn't have it patented. No
one knows what is the right thing to do, so how would you simply glorify a
patent-less world without even knowing the pros and cons?

I am not in a position to comment on pharmaceuticals patents and their
implications and I so I cant comment much on them.


Lol, and what, to the best of your knowledge, are the implications of not
having patents in *software industry*? Please don't tell me "it would lead
to better standards within the system" and such FUD. As you see, no one
really knows.

And what do you mean by "Maths world"? Algebra, calculus and the dozen
theorems associated? Or shapes, distances and number theory? What is the
"Maths world"? Mathematics does not deal with products. Maths provides a
foundation on the basis of which you build your system - be it a whole new
paradigm of computing or a new method of measuring areas. Your code leads to
a well defined product which people are meant to use. Same goes with pharma
drugs.

This discussion is going haywire and I shall stop right here.

Ankit Malik says:

Let me make myself clear here. “Patents are the cause for innovation� is
such a sweeping statement. All I meant to say was that I wouldn’t want to
give away the fruits of my effort just because I didn’t have it patented. No
one knows what is the right thing to do, so how would you simply glorify a
patent-less world without even knowing the pros and cons?


But it surely sounds better than the rat race we currently are in...As we discussed above...

And also if you have been following software patents implementation in the EU, I have yet to come across a single person who is unhappy that the EU didnt implement software patents!

With software patents, ultimately public suffers... And the patents that are granted these days for software- some of them are really absurd!!!

[http://www.osnews.com/story.php?news_id=11112]

"Lol, and what, to the best of your knowledge, are the implications of not having patents in software industry? Please don’t tell me “it would lead to better standards within the system� and such FUD. As you see, no one really knows."

In India we dont have s/w patents. In EU we dont have them now... Aren't people happier. Cant companies be a bit more relaxed here that they may include a feature in their software without gettint threats of patent infringement. So how can you say we dont know what a software patent less situation will be like???? :P

"And what do you mean by “Maths world�? Algebra, calculus and the dozen theorems associated? Or shapes, distances and number theory? What is the “Maths world�? Mathematics does not deal with products. Maths provides a foundation on the basis of which you build your system - be it a whole new paradigm of computing or a new method of measuring areas. Your code leads to
a well defined product which people are meant to use. Same goes with pharma"

That is basically your interpration of Coding... But I feel Coding is a bit more like Maths that it is like drugs or medicines.

This discussion is going haywire and I shall stop right here.

As you wish but you may like to read this...

http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index.html

And more of India's concern
http://theage.com.au/articles/2005/02/17/1108609336187.html?oneclick=true

Sriram says:

Ankit - a more balanced debate is at

Swaroop C H says:

@Deepak: I've updated the comments plugin.

Anand says:

I did not know this comment thread has grown
so big since I posted.

Sriram, I have a lot of comments on your arguments.

First of all you are arguing against your own arguments.
In one comment you say that

"Linux patent thing - can you guarantee that a company using Linux is protected from any patent lawsuit? Is there any indemnification?"

Well, the link you posted later on OSRM says and I quote,

"For those who are seriously concerned about the risks, OSRM (Open Source Risk Management)will be offering a litigation insurance policy starting in 2005."

This is at http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1630082,00.asp in case you don't get the link.

Again, it is not yet proved anywhere that Linux kernel *actually* (stress on this word) violates 283 patents. OTOH, the study conducted by OSRM found that Linux *may* infringe on 283 patents, but this is yet to be proved in court. As long as it is not proved, it is not a fact.

But SteveB is trying to spread FUD talking as if this *is* a proven fact already. I quote from Steve B.

"Linux violates more than 228 patents, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said at the company’s Asian Government Leaders Forum in Singapore."

Hey Steve, from where did you get that information? I definitely did not know that Linux did violate so many patents.

Microsoft is a company that lacks business ethics and morals and is willing to stoop to any level including playing dirty politics, strong-arming and spreading FUD to win its wars. I can point you out to at least a 1000 such instances.

In case you did not know, Microsoft is running scared from the popularity of OSS/Linux and the fact the the chances of widespread adoption of Longhorn is very less.
They have not shipped an OS since 2001 and is trying to win the propaganda wars by spreading FUD and supposed "facts" about Vaporware (read Longhorn).

A few famous M$ out-of-court settlements, mostly
for anticompetitive practices and outright IP
infringements.

o Microsoft copied DEC VMS and created a "new" product
called Windows NT. They somehow got David Cutler
from DEC and developed a VMS like system on top
of Win 95. Later DEC sued M$ and they settled out
of court for IP infringement (and M$ agreed to
port NT to DEC alpha).

o M$ settled out of court with Sun, for trying to
steal Java specs and create a M$ version of Java
(Remember Visual J++?).

o M$ settled out of court with IBM recently for
trying to scuttle OS/2 for as much as 775 million $.

o M$ settled out of court with Novell for
ant-competitive practices where they purposefully
withhold NT specs from Novell so that Netware
could not fully interoperate with NT on server
environments.

Apart from these there are numerous other settlements, too much to mention in one post.

I would think twice or thrice before working for
a company with such a seedy history as Microsoft.

Btw Microsoft history on I.P infringement and
anticompetitive pratices is one of my hobbies, so I
would be very interested to carry on this discussion outside this blog, via email. I have a wealth of
information, I would like to share with you.

-Anand

Ankit Malik says:

Well Said, Anand.

And Student ambassadors of MS, please note!

Ankit Malik says:

And Mr. Anand, can you also email me the stuff you have about MS??? It would be great having facts to support my views...

Thnks.

ankitmalik on Gmail

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