Amazon is reportedly a front runner among multiple companies currently in talks with Hewlett-Packard to purchase its struggling webOS business. VentureBeat cites an anonymous “well-placed source” in reporting the HP is looking to dump what’s lef…
Monthly Archives: September 2011
We’ve had numerous stories of Monsanto’s rather aggressive patent enforcement efforts, and unfortunately it appears the company has chalked up another victory in the courts. Glyn Moody points us to the story of CAFC (the nation’s patent appeals court) siding with Monsanto against yet another farmer.
The details of this story are really quite incredible. The farmer, Vernan Bowman, bought official Monsanto seeds and planted his crops. Yet, Monsanto has rules that say you can’t re-use “Roundup Ready” seeds, but you can apparently sell “second-generation” seeds to grain elevators for use as “commodity seeds,” and doesn’t require that there be any restriction on the sale. Bowman later bought a bunch of such “commodity seeds,” which included some Roundup Ready seeds, and some that weren’t. Bowman was able to determine which of the plants came from Roundup Ready seeds… and then saved those seeds for replanting. Monsanto claimed this was infringement, even though the seeds were legally sold to the grain elevator and then from the elevator to Bowman without restrictions. On top of that, while Bowman had signed an agreement for his original seeds, he did not with this batch (and, indeed, even Monsanto admits he didn’t break the user agreement — just patent infringement for using the seeds).
It’s difficult to see how this is possibly infringement. In common patent law terms, the patent issue should be “exhausted.” Setting aside the insanity of using patents to tell farmers they can’t re-use their own seeds, once Monsanto has given farmers the rights to sell second-generation seeds to the grain elevators for resale with no restrictions, it’s hard to see how Monsanto should have any subsequent patent claim on any further use of those seeds or their progeny. In fact, Bowman was so sure that he was doing absolutely nothing wrong, that he freely shared the details of what he did with people from Monsanto. But the court, as it seems to do with alarming frequency, seems to see no trouble with granting a patent holder significantly extended control.
Patent exhaustion is supposed to cover these situations. A few years ago, the Supreme Court, in the Quanta case, made it clear (or so we thought) that a legal sale of a licensed component “exhausts” the patent holder’s rights to go after later buyers in the supply chain for infringement. Bowman correctly pointed out that if this isn’t a clear cut case of patent exhaustion, then the concept is pretty useless.
Monsanto’s bizarre argument is that while it agrees to let farmers sell the seeds as a commodity without restriction, it still doesn’t want anyone to plant with them, so anyone who does so did not make an authorized purchase, and thus no exhaustion has occurred. I can’t see how that makes any sense at all. First of all, no restrictions were placed on the sale, so later claiming restrictions makes no sense. Furthermore, retroactively declaring a sale by two separate independent parties “unauthorized,” after the fact, based on what the buyer does, is flat out crazy.
The court here says that exhaustion is meaningless, because the seeds Bowman planted are new seeds, and thus newly infringing — yes, despite the legal purchase:
Patent exhaustion does not bar an infringement action. Even if Monsanto’s patent rights in the commodity seeds are exhausted, such a conclusion would be of no consequence because once a grower, like Bowman, plants the commodity seeds containing Monsanto’s Roundup Ready technology and the next generation of seed develops, the grower has created a newly infringing article.
It’s hard to read decisions like this and not realize how horribly broken the patent system is, aided by courts like CAFC and a Congress that fails to fix such clear abuses.
UPDATE: So, let’s be clear here – I wasn’t at YCNYC. I read most of this on a variety of posts and tweets. I thought that there was enough context around that to feel righteously defensive of my city. I’ve heard now that in person, his talk came off as positive about the city. So, [...]
So in the throws of some IEification of our app and what rolls by my twitter stream but the Royal Pingdom post on how we’re never to be done with IE8. Essentially, by removing XP support for IE9 (where XP has near 50% of the windows market), they’re putting a cap on its adoption. IE10 [...]
One of the politicians instrumental in creating the TSA, Rep. John Mica, who wrote the legislation that established the TSA, has apparently decided that the whole thing has been a failure and should be dismantled. He notes that “the whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats.”
“It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said. “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.”
As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”
“Everything they have done has been reactive. They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said.
“It’s an agency that is always one step out of step,” Mica said.
It cost $1 billion just to train workers, which now number more than 62,000, and “they actually trained more workers than they have on the job,” Mica said.
“The whole thing is a complete fiasco,” Mica said.
There’s a lot more at that link. Now, one could (and perhaps should) note that when Mica wrote the legislation, his particular political party was in power, and now it’s not. So the cynical voice might say that his words are somewhat politically motivated. And one can (and probably should) ask how it was that Mica didn’t expect this kind of result. This is what the government does. It creates agencies that are then “hijacked by bureaucrats.” While it’s nice to see him realizing this now, it’s too bad he didn’t see it back then.
There’s been a forged Google certificate out in the wild for the past month and a half. Whoever has it — evidence points to the Iranian government — can, if they’re in the right place, launch man-in-the-middle attacks against Gmail users and read their mail. This isn’t Google’s mistake; the certificate was issued by a Dutch CA that has nothing to do with Google.
This attack illustrates one of the many security problems with SSL: there are too many single points of trust.
EDITED TO ADD (9/1): It seems that 200 forged certificates were generated, not just for Google.