by Ian Dunsmore
IBM plays a winning hand in the patent and copyright game
On the 15th of November, 2015 IBM did not invent a printer that will restrict your freedom. The doctrine of Fair Use and anti-monopolistic practices exists. You can still print something at school or at home that may be under copyright protection. Four IBM software developers in India have come up with an idea. IBM has filed a patent with theUS Patent Office (USPTO).
Media hype over totalitarian printers plays into IBM’s hands
Major tech firms now spend more on patent protection than research and development to combat the Patent Trolls and litigation. IBM has played this game very well. The sensational media headlines have established IBM’s Prior Art according to the America Invents Act of 2011. When the USPTO is asked to perform a search against the IBM idea they will find numerous articles and blogs. The reports will be about IBM’s great idea. Free publicity is worth a lot in this case. And the reader-grabbing sensational headlines just what IBM requires.
The slow grind towards the office of the future continues. The innovative software will be ubiquitous and invisible or may be elective when it proves to be useful to a user or an enterprise. The knowledge of copyright and licensing of printed material or images will be very useful to those who require that knowledge. Technology will fill the information gap between the user and the owner of the material. A niche in any market is always there to be filled.
The Patent – The Technology
“The present invention relates generally to the field of document analysis, and more particularly to preventing unauthorised replication of copyrighted materials.” USPTO
“A method of determining printability of an electronic file….responsive to identifying any text, images, or formatting indicative of potentially copyrighted material…by one or more computer processes.” USPTO
United States Patent Application 20160132897 filed by IBM is for Copyright Infringement Protection. The software can be integrated into to the software of a printer. The software can also reside on a server, or be running in the background on a computer.
According to the USPTO in the IBM patent filing, the internet and the World Wide Web, computer networks, and digital media creates potential for the inadvertent infringement of copyright without the user recognising it.
Copy, or publish a quote or image from a Gartner research paper and you may be receiving their notification of copyright infringement. Many organisations value their intellectual property and monitor its use closely. An organisation that wished to guard against inadvertent printing, distribution or publishing of copyrighted material would find IBM’s proposed tool very useful. It would be up to them if they required the software, nothing Draconian has been suggested by IBM.
Examiners at the USPTO are given rigorous training in how to search for prior art when examining a patent or claim. Increases in patent applications and time restrictions have placed a burden on that office. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 was created to continue innovation by giving more ammunition to everyone; inventors, corporations, and patent trolls. Prior Art is the key; a previous patent, technical paper, lecture, or public knowledge establishes Prior Art. A patent is granted by the USPTO when an invention is classified as useful, novel, and non-obvious. In its First to File Provision (FITF) of March 2013, the AIA has legislated:
Foreign patents and applications, if they contain prior art anticipating the invention will negate a later U.S. Patent.
Unpublished patent applications in the USPTO system for under 18 months negate a later patent if they contain prior art anticipating the invention.
Public use anywhere in the world, on sale, in public use, or publicly disclosed across the entire globe negates a later U.S. Patent. A talk in a foreign country, maybe India, introducing a non-obvious technology, such as a printer that can decide on copyright and licensing will negate a later U.S. Patent.
IBM have not built such a printer. There is no prototype or working model. But thanks to the internet media sensationalism they establish their Prior Art. When they do create such a device they are afforded a level of protection. That is from those who use litigation to stymie innovation or make an unethical Dollar. The USPTO has filed the Patent Application of IBM for the idea of creating working software. The software can if chosen to make judgements and inform over copyright and licensing of written work and images before the distribution or printing process.
“for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” Section 107 Copyright ACT, Title 17 of the United States Code.
Section 107 of the Copyright Act in the USA says Fair Use is a global legal doctrine covering freedom of expression. The doctrine allows the unlicensed use of copyright protected material according to the specific circumstance. IBM’s software idea could not impede this doctrine unless there was a change in the law. Such change would mean the software to be mandatory for every printer everywhere. That is not the stated purpose according to IBM’s Patent filing and the explicit understanding of the USPTO.
There may be certain countries that in the future could use the document analysis features as a form of censorship technology. But as the drone flown air-drops of SD Cards and flash drives into North Korea have shown, censorship is very hard to enforce in the 21st Century.
Apple and Google – More Litigation than Tech
The New York Times reported in 2011 Apple and Google had spent more on patent litigation and purchases than on R&D for new products. They took this news from the public filings. Innovation is still occurring but the attitude is why bother spending millions if we can’t protect the invention. The Nuance patent suit against Vlingo over who invented the Siri voice recognition software was lost by Nuance in court. Yet Nuance became Siri’s partner which was bought by Apple. Vlingo the winner in court destroyed by the cost of defending themselves sold out to Nuance under the pressure. Money that was set aside for R&D. Vlingo’s software was integrated into Siri before it merged into the iPhone.
Major tech players are now suing each other over the smallest innovation or piece of design. IBM needs to protect its ideas as well as any other major tech firm, in this case, it’s taken as a piece of printer gossip and news rather than the ever popular smartphone.
IBM’s idea would be an additional piece of software for print governance. In the right circumstance for users who require it, the software is as legitimate as follow-you printing, safe-key, and other rules based printer functions that offer protection and don’t restrict freedom.