Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Patent Ruling in eBay Case Has Bearing on Nonprofit Tech Cos.

BY Kate Kaye | Sunday, March 20 2005

A few weeks ago we published a piece on how business method patents have prompted debate within the nonprofit-serving software tech industry. (Caution: I wrote it.) A recent ruling in an ongoing case filed against eBay by MercExchange, a company that develops technologies for various business applications, including Internet auctions, apparently "sets the stage for a permanent injunction against eBay," according to patent attorney and blogger extraordinaire, Dennis Crouch.

This stuff is pretty complex for my pea brain to handle -- especially on a Sunday following an evening of whiskey drinking and heavy metal debauchery -- so I won't delve into the details which you can read on AuctionBytes.com and elsewhere. Although this may seem to have no bearing on nonprofits or political campaigns, it certainly does on the technology firms that serve them, some of which have taken a stand against business method patents and others which have filed for such patents.

The fact that MercExchange, a stakeholder in online auction underdog uBid, has won a battle in its war on Web auction goliath eBay, might provide a little perspective on the business method patent debate. Essentially, from what I can tell, MercExchange wants to spur competition in a space that's dominated by one company. At least in part, it appears that business method patents are providing some incentive for the company to pursue this. According to the AuctionBytes.com story, uBid has a "5 percent market share in the industry." I may be totally wrong, but this doesn't look to me like the big bad predatory patent wolf hunting for licensing fees from its weaker or slower prey. It looks like a company that wants some protection in the form of patents to give it the incentive to put time and money into R&D to create something better than the the standard fare.

In the AuctionBytes.com story, Tom Woolston, president of MercExchange and the inventor of the four business method patents held by the company listed on the US Patent and Trademark Office site, declared "It's a great day for a small company and a great day for uBid.com." He added, "I'm a director of a subsidiary at uBid and we're focused on building a better community."

Sure, patents on processes as opposed to tangible contraptions are controversial, but the fact is that the more our world becomes digitized, the more inventions will be taking the form of ones and zeros.

Just a little food for thought.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

More