posted Nov 01, 2000

Suit Turns the Tables on Patent Critic
11/1/2000; 9:59:30 AM

'An outspoken critic of the patent system, Aharonian regularly blasts software patents that he views as overly broad. One such patent holder has struck back.

'TechSearch -- a Chicago-based company that obtains ownership of patents and then seeks to enforce them -- filed a patent infringement suit against Aharonian in July. The company claims he is infringing its so-called "remote query communication system" patent, which covers a method for compressing and decompressing data transmitted from a server to an end user.

'Aharonian had said the patent is so broad that anyone with a Web server could be sued for infringement.

'"That's probably not incorrect," said TechSearch founder and president Anthony Brown.'

Last week, I wrote my essay section on Software Patents, in which I predicted, based on my analysis, that this sort of thing would be happening soon. It did, sooner then I thought it would. To the best of my knowlege, this is the first case where 'patent infringement' is being used to squelch free speech, and for no other reason.

Capsule summary of my essay's argument: Aharonian's "speech" includes (implicitly) the web server software, which has instructions on how to send data across the network. TechSearch has a patent on a specific kind of speech (the web server, which as software is speech as well). Because this means they have a legal monopoly on this speech, they can deny it to everyone else, and thus block speech. With this patent, they can block all speech on the web (or so they believe). This will happen more often if we do not put a stop to it.

I'm smoothing over a lot of stuff here, because it's just a summary. The main point is that patents are not balanced to work in a speech domain. This is another major reason why software patents are wrong. (In some ways, it's the root reason why patents are wrong.) Patents should not give companies the 'right' to squelch speech! is Aharonian's site.


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