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MIT/BU SW Patent Talks Online and Schedule for SJ Hearings in SCO v IBM
Friday, December 01 2006 @ 12:51 PM EST

The MIT/Boston University conference on software patents that I mentioned earlier, Software Patents: A Time for Change? has now posted PDFs of the talks and accompanying slides. Now that it appears patents are in our future, you might like to take a look. I'm told there will be audio and video of most of the talks soon. Red Hat's Mark Webbink has an interesting title, "Software Patents and Reality." [PDF] And James Besson and Michael Meuer are writing a book, "Do Patents Work?", and they have a draft chapter, "Abstract Patents and Software" [PDF] that explains, among other things, what is different about software patents compared to patents in other tech fields.

Also Pacer has the schedule posted for the hearings on the various summary judgment motions in SCO v IBM. These should be fun, so synchronize your watches and make whatever arrangements you can. As you can see, there will be three days of hearings, 3/1/2007 03:00 PM, 3/5/2007 02:30 PM, and 3/7/2007 02:30 PM all in Room 220 before Judge Dale Kimball.

One thing that is different about software patents, the chapter explains, is the almost universal opposition to them by software programmers, and there are other important differences as well:

Moreover, in US history, no other technology has experienced anything like the broad industry opposition to software patents that arose beginning during the 1960s. Major computer companies opposed patents on software in their input to a report by a presidential commission in 1966 and in amici briefs to the Supreme Court in Gottschalk v. Benson in 1972. 3 Major software firms opposed software patents through the mid-1990s (for example in USPTO hearings in 1994). Perhaps more surprising, software inventors themselves have mostly been opposed to patents on software. Surveys of software developers in 1992 and 1996 reported that most were opposed to patents (Oz 1998). Although other countries have witnessed general opposition to patents in the past (for example, some European countries abandoned the patent system during the 19 th century) and although some countries have opposed patents on certain technologies in the past (for example, some countries permitted patents on manufacturing processes for pharmaceuticals, but not patents on the chemical structures themselves), such broad opposition from within the effected industry and among the effected inventors seems to be unprecedented in the U.S....

Patents on software are not just like other patents. The evidence shows that software patents are particularly prone to litigation and to disputes over patent boundaries, a concern that has been raised about them since the 1960s. We attribute these problems to the abstract nature of software technology; too many software patents claim all technologies with similar form or all means of achieving a result, when the actual invention is much more limited and often trivial.

Patent law has developed a number of doctrines to circumscribe abstract patent claims. Unfortunately, the Federal Circuit has set software-specific precedents that essentially remove most restrictions on abstract claims in software. Perhaps the court acted out of a desire to promote patents in this field of technology that has historically not used patents. However, the result has been both a proliferation of software patents and a proliferation of lawsuits. Software patents are, in fact, responsible for a major share of patent lawsuits. They thus play a central part in the failure of the patent system as a whole. Any serious effort at patent reform must address these problems and failure to deal with the problems of software patentsóeither with softwarespecific measures or general reformsówill likely doom any reform effort.

Here's the info from Pacer on the IBM summary judgment motion schedule:

11/29/2006 - 885 - NOTICE OF HEARING ON MOTION re: 777 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Counterclaims, 775 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Third Cause of Action, For Breach of Contract, 784 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Eighth Counterclaim, 782 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Unfair Competition Claim, 783 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Interference Claims, 780 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Contract Claims, 776 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Counterclaims, 785 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Tenth Counterclaim, 781 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Copyright Claim: Motion Hearing set for 3/1/2007 03:00 PM in Room 220 before Judge Dale A. Kimball. (blk, ) (Entered: 11/29/2006)

11/29/2006 - 886 - NOTICE OF HEARING ON MOTION re: 777 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Counterclaims, 775 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Third Cause of Action, For Breach of Contract, 784 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Eighth Counterclaim, 782 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Unfair Competition Claim, 783 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Interference Claims, 780 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Contract Claims, 776 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Counterclaims, 785 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Tenth Counterclaim, 781 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Copyright Claim: Motion Hearing set for 3/5/2007 02:30 PM in Room 220 before Judge Dale A. Kimball. (blk, ) (Entered: 11/29/2006)

11/29/2006 887 NOTICE OF HEARING ON MOTION re: 777 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Counterclaims, 775 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Third Cause of Action, For Breach of Contract, 784 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Eighth Counterclaim, 782 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Unfair Competition Claim, 783 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Interference Claims, 780 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Contract Claims, 776 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Counterclaims, 785 MOTION for Summary Judgment on IBM's Tenth Counterclaim, 781 MOTION for Summary Judgment on SCO's Copyright Claim: Motion Hearing set for 3/7/2007 02:30 PM in Room 220 before Judge Dale A. Kimball. (blk, ) (Entered: 11/29/2006)

They list all the motions on all three days, but in reality they will be taken sequentially, and Judge Kimball's recent order told us that it will be made clearer shortly:

The pending dispositive motions will be heard on the following dates: Thursday, March 1, 2007 (3:00pm-5:00pm); Monday, March 5, 2007 (2:30pm-5:00pm); and Wednesday, March 7, 2007 (2:30pm-5:00pm). The parties are directed to submit a proposal by no later than January 12, 2007, setting forth the most efficient sequence for hearing the motions, with both parties having equal time on each motion.

So, after January 12, we'll have a clearer picture of the sequence. That way, if there is a particular motion you are most interested in, you'll have an idea of when it will be heard. You can find all the motions, and the memoranda in support, on Groklaw's IBM Timeline page. Just match up the numbers.


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