6 things to know about patents, the short form.

Basic Patent Knowledge #0: The patent system has a long history. It’s fundamental task is to incentivize sharing of knowledge. Not protection of the innovator as many people assume. It is a deal with society. In exchange for full disclosure of your invention, you get a limited monopoly (20 years typically) to exploit your invention commercially. After the 20 years your knowledge enters the public domain.

Basic Patent Knowledge #1: A patent does NOT protect the innovator. It protects the one that filed the patent. It’s called the first-to-file doctrine and is used almost everywhere on this planet now.

Basic Patent Knowledge #2: A patent is a regional right. Typically limited by country borders. So to patent something globally you need to file a lot of patents at a lot patent offices in a lot of countries. That can become quite expensive.

Basic Patent Knowledge #3: A patent is presumed to be valid without a doubt. Even if you can prove that the patented thing existed before the patent was filed (in US 12 monthe before it was filed) you still need to go for an all-out invalidation process to overcome the presumed validity. This can take a long time and again is very expensive.

Basic Patent Knowledge #4: In some jusridictions (Europe as an example) the non-commercial use of patented technology is perfectly OK. Only infringement on a commercial scale causes damage.

Basic patent knowledge #5: A patent is an exclusive right. There is no rule that you must license it to others. There’s also no rule that you actually must produce something that uses the patented technology. Thus you can file a patent, sue anyone that infringes and refuse to license it at all.

Bettina Wulff schmeckt lecker nach Hähnchen -For the Lulz

This is a blog entry that you can safely ignore. The background story is quite interesting. Wife of former german Bundespräsident sues Google for adding keywords to the search bar when typing her name. There were (wrong) rumours of her having been an escort girl etc.

Long story short – we now try to Googlebomb her name to auto-add “tastes like chicken” when you type her name.

Shoutout to Senad Palic for bringing this to my attention!

Slic3r on RHEL6, 64 bit – HOWTO

As one of my hobbies is 3D printing, I have built an eMaker Huxley 3D printer last year. It is fun, teaches me a lot and I try to keep the setup up2date. So recently I upgraded the Sanguinololu to use a 1284P CPU and put Marlin on it. I added a LCD Display and a rotary encoder so it now runs completely standalone.

To create the files to print, you need to slcie/skein 3D models to GCODE. I started with Skeinforge for that but have switched to Slic3r recently.

I am a big fan of Slic3r and like to keep up with the latest devlopments. So I typically build it myself. In order to do that, you need to have quite some requirements satisfied. Here the short form for building Slic3r on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, 64bit – the OS on my current laptop:

First some RPM packages that are needed:

sudo yum install git wxBase wxGTK wxGTK-devel wxGTK-gl dbus-devel expat-devel cpan

As Slic3r is a perl program, we need quite some CPAN stuff:

sudo cpan Boost::Geometry::Utils Math::Clipper Math::ConvexHull Math::Geometry::Voronoi Math::PlanePath parent Moo Module::Build::WithXSpp dbus-1 XML::Twig

Now let’s fetch Slic3r:

git clone https://github.com/alexrj/Slic3r.git

And now we should be able to build Slic3r:

perl Build.PL

Future updates should be a simple

git pull; perl Build.PL

Time to slice some files from thingiverse.com!

TNP/IP and TNP/ISP – Braindump of a solution #needhelp

A candidate plan for a decentralized, distributed network that can complement and eventually replace a lot of proprietary stuff we use nowadays.

This is a braindump. I am hoping to find people that understand what I am talking about and are willing to get this started and participate in the discussion and implementation. Will offer beer and pizza in Munich.

My weird plan is called (since 5 minutes 😉 TNP/IP – The Transnational Protocol running on the Internet.

The short form:

  • Everything is pure JavaScript
  • Everything is Free Software, AGPLv3
  • It is modular
  • It is liberal in both input and output.

It can run on a raspberry pi or similar cheap hardware. It implements the needed standards (TBD, but for sure Jabber, SMTP, IMAP, Statusnet and RemoteStorage AKA unhosted)

Rationale: Using a single language approach we can avoid the need for expensive hardware requirements. Speed is not the big problem, freedom is.

By using webID or a similar approach this becomes your personal data engine.

The other part of the solurtion is TNP/ISP – the hosting service open standard. The only thing it does is run DNS servers (and possibly offer a caching service when your box is on limited bandwidth).

The DNS config of your domain is for free. The caching service would come at a cheap rate.

You will be free to chose whatever ISP you trust, as long as they implement the TNP/ISP standard.

European Court decision. Oracle and Google should note.

This case (SAS v WPL) has a lot in common with the Oracle v Google case in the US.

The very short form: WPL created a re-implementation of the SAS Language, using the original documentation of SAS and a freebie version for personal and educational use. SAS claimed they thus infringed on copyright etc.

Seems SAS lost big time.

Now you can almost directly compare this case with Oracle v Google. Simply replace SAS Language with JAVA and watch this drama unfold. Note: IANAL but it seems Oracle wouldn’t have a chance in the EU with the current set of arguments used in the US case.

I am sure some people will downplay this decision, but IMHO this is truly important for API and the freedom to use and even reimplement them.

From the court decision:

WPL perceived that there was a market demand for alternative software capable of executing application programs written in the SAS Language.

Sounds familiar? Think Android (Dalvik) and JAVA.

Its [SAS] principal claims are that WPL:

– copied the manuals for the SAS System published by SAS Institute when creating the ‘World Programming System’, thereby infringing SAS Institute’s copyright in those manuals;

– in so doing, indirectly copied the computer programs comprising the SAS components, thereby infringing its copyright in those components;

– used a version of the SAS system known as the ‘Learning Edition’, in breach of the terms of the licence relating to that version and of the commitments made under that licence, and in breach of SAS Institute’s copyright in that version; and

– infringed the copyright in the manuals for the SAS System by creating its own manual.

Agains, sounds familiar? Oracle claims almost identical things wrt Android and JAVA.


1. Article 1(2) of Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression of that program and, as such, are not protected by copyright in computer programs for the purposes of that directive.

2. Article 5(3) of Directive 91/250 must be interpreted as meaning that a person who has obtained a copy of a computer program under a licence is entitled, without the authorisation of the owner of the copyright, to observe, study or test the functioning of that program so as to determine the ideas and principles which underlie any element of the program, in the case where that person carries out acts covered by that licence and acts of loading and running necessary for the use of the computer program, and on condition that that person does not infringe the exclusive rights of the owner of the copyright in that program.

3. Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the reproduction, in a computer program or a user manual for that program, of certain elements described in the user manual for another computer program protected by copyright is capable of constituting an infringement of the copyright in the latter manual if – this being a matter for the national court to ascertain – that reproduction constitutes the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the user manual for the computer program protected by copyright.

Not much needs to be added here. IMHO this is a very important decision and Oracle and Google should take note.


Awesome official press release of EU court at http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2012-05/cp120053en.pdf is awesome:

“The functionality of a computer program and the programming language cannot be protected by copyright ”

“On the basis of those considerations, the Court holds that neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression. Accordingly, they do not enjoy copyright protection.

To accept that the functionality of a computer program can be protected by copyright would amount to making it possible to monopolise ideas, to the detriment of technological progress andindustrial development.”

“In this respect, the Court takes the view that, in the present case, the keywords, syntax, commands and combinations of commands, options, defaults and iterations consist of words, figures or mathematical concepts, considered in isolation, are not, as such, an intellectual creation of the
author of that program.”

Generation @ – inspired by @smarimc

I think Smári McCarthy, a fellow transnational citizen, Uberhacker and admired activist, touched a special nerve when he recently twittered:

Ours is a world where @ is replacing ©. Attribution, not restrictions.

Spot on. Hence I propose we start calling ourselves Generation @ to indicate that we prefer decentralised attribution over monopolistic, old-school and restrictive, centralised systems like Copyright, patents.

It makes a lot of sense. But it lacks the most fundamental element at this moment – a decentralised, secure, reliable and open system of identity. How can we make sure we put attribution to the right person or entity? See the whole pinterest discussions and the realname policies at Google and Facebook.

Hence we need an open, decentralised, neutral identity layer on the net and in the real life – #freedentity. Let’s start working on that.

Closing remarks on FOSSpatents

Florian Müller (or Mueller when he is quoted in english articles), a self-acclaimed “expert” on software patents and nowadays quite a mouthpiece for FRAND licensing, has always been someone I had a love-hate relationship with. We fought together against software patents in the 2003-2005 years. And while he lost interest and left the stage with a loud announcement that he will never ever work on software patents again, decided to switch to soccer lobbying etc, I was hired by Red Hat, which was (and is) a dream come true and I continued my fight against “IP”-extremism.

Out of the blue Florian came back to the spotlight a few years ago, fighting appartently for David against Goliath in the Turbohercules case (which later turned out to be a company that was funded at least partly by Microsoft), fought for (former) MySQL’s Monty Widenius to stop the SUN/Oracle merger (where Monty later supposedly admitted that Florian was the wrong guy for the job), admitted that he did some “strategic” consulting for Microsoft, shouted about billions and billions at stake when Oracle sued Google, admitted he worked on a research paper for Microsoft to explain that FRAND is somehow compatible with Free Software and Open standards – or in short: He came back with a flurry of stuff that seemed unrelated but not exactly on the same side as my fights.

I accused him at various times that a lot of what he claimed is FUD, blown out of proportion etc. But who am I to criticise Europe’s biggest expert? 😉

Now the court case in Oracle v Google has started. And after all the shouting about billions and billions at stake I was sure that Florian would either be in the court room or at least report the hell out of that case. As, after all, it was him who reported on it for a long, long time. But what did I see? Nothing.

But I give him credits for finally explaining it all himself here:

“Oracle has very recently become a consulting client of mine. We intend to work together for the long haul on mostly competition-related topics including, for one example, FRAND licensing terms.”


Where is my surpised face again? Ah, there it is!

This information puts his reporting of the past months in a new light IMHO. He clearly says that

“When Oracle and I started talking about areas in which I could provide analysis, we thought that the Google litigation was going to be over by the time we would work together.”

So it is safe to assume it wasn’t last week. I have always said that in my personal opinion Florians “analysis” is biased. Seems I wasn’t that wrong 😉 All journalists that have used his public and non-public information should take note that they are talking to someone that works (and/or has worked) for both Microsoft and Oracle and thus is not exactly an independent source or expert.

That’s all.

Patent reform ideas, braindump version

#1: “All proceedings from infringement MUST go to the original inventor.”

#2: “Ownership of a patent is bound to the inventor named in it and this is a non-transferrable right.”

#3 “Only the original inventor as named in the patent can decide on the licensing terms and royalty rates and must state these a priori as part of the filing process.”

Whereas the original inventor MUST be a natural person.

Think about that for a second. There is a whole market of selling and reselling patents between trolls and other NPE (Non Practicing Entities) based on income from supposed infringement. To stop this madness we can either hope for a reform in the patent system that leads to superior quality (has been tried for quite some years, has not worked so far) or, and this is the beter approach IMHO, we start to change the fundamentals by making patents inalienable and thus dry up the troll market completely.

The a priori licensing should be on a scale from limited, royalty bearing to royalty free at the other end. And changes to the licensing after the patent has been granted should only be in the direction of less restrictions, not the other way round. This is to make sure that a patent can be made more free over time but never more restricted.

Also by forcing an a priori licensing model that becomes part of the patent itself we could make sure that we return the patent system to its original goal – make knowledge available in exchange for a limited monopoly.

Discuss. Either here in the comments section or at Google+

The Patent System – why it fails. (loooong)

What started as a post on Googleplus turned into quite a nice braindump of my struggle with the current patent system. Hence I decided to also turn it into a blog entry. Please do read the comments on googleplus as they contain a lot of additional insight and counterarguments.


The fundamental concept of the patent system (similar to the fundamental concept of the copyright system as both date back to queen Anne) is sound. A limited monopoly in exchange for a full disclosure of the invention. This concept was created to give an incentive to sharing knowledge and avoid knowledge disappearing with the death of the inventor by him/her keeping hsi/her secret.


The perversion ATM is that both sides of the equation fail. The limited monopoly of max 20 years (note many patents don’t even make it that long as the fees are quite hefty) is extremely problematic as it allows the patent holder to not license at all, especially if he/she isn’t doing anything with the patented technology, thus using the patent system in a fundamentally wrong way, and – FAR more important – the full disclosure to anyone “skilled in the art” fundamentally fails.

I have read many patents. And I have not learnt much from them. The patent language “a method comprising of a computer readable medium doing SomeWeirdLanguage” etc does not teach me anything.


So when both sides of the equation fail in society (not the market, patents are a deal between society and creators, not a deal in the market, a mistake many people make) the patent system is NOT doing what it is meant to do.

Now can we get back to the original deal? I doubt it. Reforms will not suffice for that.


OTOH, especially with Open Standards and Open Source/Free Software we have an alternative system that delivers on the fundamental promise that once created the patent system.

Open Standards and FOSS promote science and the useful arts by offering full disclosure (source code, specifications) to anyone. And even for free. The limited monopoly is not needed anymore. Someone skilled in the art will find a job and can promote his solutions without the need for a monopoly.


Why is that? Because in the old days the investments needed to get from an idea to a product one could offer in the market were very high. So the monopoly was needed to at least give the inventor a way to recoup these costs – thereby accepting the possible abuse as we have seen over many years. But the fact that the patented knowledge became public domain after 20 years was outweighing that risk in the eyes of the governments making the laws.

Nowadays the investments are low, close to none in the case of pure software patents and the distribution costs of software are effectively zero – so the need for a limited monopoly becomes harder to justify. See the record/movie industry for a perfect example of this fundamental change working its way through society.

FRAND fairy tales: Google, Motorola, Microsoft and numbers.

First read this:

CNN: Google Wants Huge Royalties Every Time Apple Sells An iPhone

Now let’s ignore for the moment the obvious wrongness wrt Android copying iOS etc and instead focus on the claim that 2.25% is not FRANDish enough according to the self-acclaimed expert in thsi field, Mr. Florian Mueller.

This same Mr. Mueller is working on a “research project” to find out how FRAND is the best way for the IT world etc. Hint: that research is payed by Microsoft 😉

Hm. A simple search and replace gives me:

“Microsoft wants huge royalties every time {HTC, SAMSUNG, Motorola, Huawei, … } sells an Android Phone.”


MSFT wants between 5-15US$ per device according to various sources. With a unit price of, say, 200 US$ this means a range between 2.5% and 7.5%. Which AFAICS is a bit more (up to 3x) as what Motorola asks for. Now do the math with a more realistic unit price between 80-150 US$ to see who is the bully here.

That’s why I would even go as far as saying that 2.25% ratio is more fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory compared to a fix sum regardless of the unit price. 😉