A very dangerous proposal from Microsoft:
“In today’s world of universal connectivity, global business and collaborative innovation, it is time for a world patent that is derived from a single patent application, examined and prosecuted by a single examining authority and litigated before a single judicial body,” said Guiterrez. “A harmonized, global patent system would resolve many of the criticisms leveled at national patent systems over unmanageable backlogs and interminable pendency periods.”
Guiterrez went on to praise efforts to harmonize international patent systems through projects such ad the Patent Prosecution Highway and the “IP5” partnership but said more needed to be done to allow corporations to protect their intellectual property
Of course when they say “more is needed to be done to allow corporations to protect their intellectual property” they really mean “more to be done to erect high barriers to entry, so no one can legally compete with us.” Microsoft is just against any company smaller than they are (meaning, for those who are not paying attention, everyone else)
My evidence? Here’s Microsoft’s own Bill Gates, speaking out against software patents in 1991, as covered in the NYT:
In a memo to his senior executives, Bill Gates wrote, “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” Mr. Gates worried that “some large company will patent some obvious thing” and use the patent to “take as much of our profits as they want.”
Mr. Gates wrote his 1991 memo shortly after the courts began allowing patents on software in the 1980s. At the time Microsoft was a growing company challenging entrenched incumbents like I.B.M. and Novell. It had only eight patents to its name. Recognizing the threat to his company, Mr. Gates initiated an aggressive patenting program. Today Microsoft holds more than 6,000 patents.
It’s not surprising that Microsoft — now an entrenched incumbent — has had a change of heart. But Mr. Gates was right in 1991: patents are bad for the software industry. Nothing illustrates that better than the conflict between Verizon and Vonage.
So, under Microsoft’s present proposal of a unified patent system, some large company could patent some obvious thing and enforce it everywhere. Could this be what the ACTA is about?
What Microsoft is proposing is a patent monoculture. There will be only one system of so called “intellectual property.” Why is that so important to Microsoft? Because they know that if national systems are allowed to diverge (for example if democratic processes are allowed to play a role in policy making) there will exist, somewhere, a system that is friendly to free software. And they also know that free software will out compete the stuff they are making.* It is already starting to happen. Microsoft’s move is one of desperation–they have just seen their profits take a nosedive and have no credible basis for future growth, other than the impostion of a monolithic IP system, unbeholden to democratic processes or social norms, which they abhor and are striving to erase, whereever those processes or norms would impact laws concerning copyrights, trademarks, or most especially, patents. Oppose the ACTA now.
*A side note: Re-reading the Halloween document I noticed on page 6, what must be nearly the ugliest chart I have ever seen. It is possibly the most dificult to read chart that has ever been created. Check it for yourself, and if there is actually another uglier or more poorly laid out chart I’d be very interested in seeing that!