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Company Aims To Patent Security Patches 182

Posted by kdawson
from the winner-of-the-race-to-the-bottom dept.
Jonas Maebe writes "Someone thought up another way to profiteer from the software patent system: when a security hole is discovered, they'll try to patent the fix in order to collect money when the affected vendors close the hole in their product. The company in question is not shy about its intentions: Intellectual Weapons will only consider vulnerabilities in high-profile products from vendors with deep pockets. Let's be thankful for yet another way software patents are used to promote science and the useful arts."
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Company Aims To Patent Security Patches

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  • Re:Idiots (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Don_dumb (927108) on Friday June 08, 2007 @08:25AM (#19435719)
    No software patents and you dont have this nonsense. I hope the EU sticks to its guns on software patents. . . . we still no have software patents, don't we?
  • by VE3OGG (1034632) <[ac.car] [ta] [GGO3EV]> on Friday June 08, 2007 @08:44AM (#19435853)
    I know there are a lot of you out there saying: this is the kind of action that will spur congress to get off their deriere, but frankly, I can only see this as YANITC (yet another nail in the coffin).

    We looked on in horror when the thought of software patents came up, and we said that surely no one would be dumb enough (or greedy enough) to do it. We were wrong...

    Then there was Bezo's one-click patent and we shielded our eyes saying: the fireworks are going to start any time now... Again, however, the sky was clear and there we no signs of change on the horizon.

    Then you had all the spurrious patents from SCO, Microsoft and IBM, and we thought, well maybe this time! However, as was before, so was then...

    Then Microsoft threatened Linux and we said "they are running scarred!" and "no one would be dumb enough to..." They were, and they are. Not only that, but mere weeks later, you have several major contributors signing licensing deals to patent infringements that were never released. My God, that costs the companies money and they do nothing but bend over...

    Today we got word of Bezo's expansion of the one-click patent, and on top of that the willingness of the USPTO to accept the patent with little to no effort. The USPTO, after all, has employees they have to pay...

    And now you have this, and again we here individuals decrying the "end times" for software patents. No, that isn't going to happen. They are here to stay, because the system is working for its citizens in a very efficient way. It is just that we think that we are the citizens. Much like TV viewers or magazine subscribers think that they are the clients of the company. They aren't, they are the product.

    We are the product and the consumer, but not the client of the government. The government is there to protect the interests of its citizens, it's just that its citizens have trademarked names. We have gone form Micro to Macro folks.
  • by VE3OGG (1034632) <[ac.car] [ta] [GGO3EV]> on Friday June 08, 2007 @08:58AM (#19435973)
    Has anyone noticed that patents may well be the farming and agriculture of the 21st century? Allow me to explain.

    During the shift to urbanization, it was common for individuals to keep cattle, chickens, pigs and sheep in the city. The animals would be allowed to roam free and would then be captured and slaughter/sheered as was necessary. It was subsistence living in an urban environment where barter was VERY common.

    However, as time went on, factories and other places of employment found that they couldn't get enough workers for the lower level jobs. Why would the poor go work there in a crappy environment, when they could breed their cattle and chickens for rent and food?

    So these companies petitioned the government to disallow animals, citing disease and the cause (and to some degree, this was true, especially with large amounts of fecal matter in the city -- but then not everyone had plumbing either). This in turn caused people to starve and move to these companies to be paid in "money".

    Now, however, we have patents. Patents force the little guy out of the market (let's face it, no individual can afford to beat MS, IBM, Monsanto, et al in a court where lawyers form 99.9% of your chances) Small companies are forced out of business and big companies get to take over. The small companies are the only real thorn in the side of the bigger ones as they might offer a product that revolutionizes the field, but ends up costing a major conglomerate billions to redevelop their products). So patents force them out of business, causing the owners to work for the mega-corp and thus give the mega-corp control.

    Perhaps in a few years, everyone will be working for a mega-corp and that will define our identities. We are theirs after all...

  • Re:A great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday June 08, 2007 @09:12AM (#19436097)
    At this point, I don't think ANYTHING can fix the U.S. patent system. The U.S. patent office simply wasn't designed to handle the modern influx of very complex patents and patent claims. It simply can't scale to the size that it needs to be to actually review and police so many patents that are so complex in nature. So they've basically just thrown up their hands and said "Let the courts work it out."

    The problem with "Let the courts work it out" is that it effectively stifles the "little guy," the small company or inventor without the significant financial resources to defend his inventions in court. Any given invention or innovation today might step on dozens of vague existing patents. This has the very real effect of stifling the very innovation and invention that the patent system was designed to PROTECT, and of restricting what innovation and invention there *is* to large mega-corps that can afford to defend against multiple patent lawsuits.

    Don't believe it? Just take Linux as an example. MS can afford to essentially outlaw Linux if they wanted to (only the public backlash is holding them back). And, even if every one of their patent claims against Linux is bogus, who's going to step up to the plate and put up the millions of $ needed to defend it against an avalanche of MS patent lawsuits?

  • Re:Idiots (Score:3, Insightful)

    by *weasel (174362) on Friday June 08, 2007 @09:14AM (#19436113)
    Beyond that, it'd really only work with architectural security faults.
    You can't go out and patent "IE, but without these four buffer overflows". So 'patches' aren't at risk.

    Further, the concept of boxing in a software vendor with patents on architectural security improvements implies that these guys can cover a sufficiently wide range of improved architectural security implementations - which is far trickier and more expensive than the summary makes it sound. Particularly when you're trying to pin large corporations.

    These stated targets (huge corporations) are exactly the ones who would easily sidestep these patents. (They're already doing similar things on a daily basis) Smaller companies who unknowingly invest in potentially infringing upgrades and simply can't afford to start over are really the only ones at risk from being pressured into a licensing agreement this way.

    In the end, it's too late to sue and win with a patent covering "Software running in a sandbox". (I'd say it's too late to get that patent in the first place, but who knows anymore). So the ability of this to actually impact big business, even pursued malevolently with near-infinite resources, isn't that great.
  • by asliarun (636603) on Friday June 08, 2007 @09:14AM (#19436117)
    I agree with you wholeheartedly, but from the slightly different perspective. Things like the patent system (or DRM or privacy issues) have become so illogical that there's no way an average person can fight against the system by sane and normal means such as lawsuits, petitions, or elections. The most effective way to get rid of these stupid laws, IMHO, is by making sure that they self-destruct, i.e. become utterly ridiculous in the eyes of the media and the public. So, rejoice when people start filing patents for their navel lint or nasal hair structure. Chuckle gleefully when DRM softwares start taking people's system and create massive security holes. Cackle manically if some wiseguy sues McD for kaching-illion dollars because their "Happy Meal" didn't exactly make him happy. For remember, the candle burneth brightest before it dies out, to rehash a hoary saw. Or at least, we hope.
  • by palladiate (1018086) <palladiate@gmai l . com> on Friday June 08, 2007 @09:17AM (#19436149)

    I frequently post about Intellectual Property in threads like this. Usually I get some responses saying that I'm full of it, and companies wouldn't slash our throats and bleed us dry. I have four words for you:

    Are you convinced yet?

    There are too many market pressures on monopolizing ideas. A monopoly on an idea gives you an excellent competitive advantage. For some goods, say a book, a copyright is neccessary for you to take a risk and publish the book. For others, it lets you invent things like a cotton gin and make money off of it while being a good citizen and showing the world how it works, and what new technologies you have invented. On the whole, these are to the public's advantage when used wisely.

    But a monopoly is always a competitive advantage, even when it isn't in the public's advantage. And currently, business lobbies are pushing to allow more and more kinds of monopolies because they make business sense. Granted, plot patents, business patents, process patents, software patents, copyright on 3 note sequences, etc, etc, etc are not in the public's interest, as we don't carry massive IP portfolios to cross-license or lawyers to fight with. But they do allow large companies to create a massive barrier to entry that only certain industries or monopolies enjoyed before.

    There is money to be made in massively expanding the definition of IP to include all ideas. There is more money in eternally owning ideas than in all of the property rights or mineral rights in the solar system. This fight will not be over in our lifetimes.

  • Re:Stunning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Friday June 08, 2007 @09:39AM (#19436331) Journal

    Even if the USPTO does, it won't matter:

    "... the system takes, on average, seven years to churn out a new patent. The vendor has to have deep pockets so it can pay damages, and your solution has to be simple enough to be explained to a jury."

    So,not to be TOO obvious, but ...

    1. by the time they patent it, it will be obsolete;
    2. if its simple enough to explain to a jury, it may be too simple to patent (patents have to be for non-obvious inventions);
    3. looks like free/libre software gets a free ride (target must have deep pockets).

    Isn't it funny how one of the biggest patent trolls [microsoft.com] sounds custom-made as the target.

  • I like it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Friday June 08, 2007 @10:16AM (#19436701)
    I think the patent system is absurd, but this strikes me as a good use for it. Right now, vendors absolve themselves of any responsibility and think they have a right to get free reports and bug fixes from users. In fact, they have even created the impression that it is blackmail when bug reporters ask for money for their discoveries.

    As I see it, if this company gets away with it, either, big companies will improve the quality of their software so that they have fewer vulnerabilities in the first place, or they will start to push for weakening software patents. Either way, everybody wins.
  • Re:A great idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Friday June 08, 2007 @05:32PM (#19444641)
    MS can afford to essentially outlaw Linux if they wanted to. . . in the US.
     
    There is a whole big world out there beyond the borders of the USA, where a lot of smart people live and work, and a lot of technology and innovation is happening. If the US wants to (for whatever reason) shoot their technology industry down, that will just create a larger market and demand for the rest of the world to meet.
     
    If you're in the US, it's probably a bad thing to hear about this sort of thing, but in the rest of the world you may be rejoicing. More opportunity!

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