Microsoft Eolas Patent Dispute Ended by Settlement

Nate Anderson at artechnica writes today that Microsoft and Eolas settle, ending patent battle over plug-ins, ActiveX, citing to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (see Todd Bishop’s Microsoft Blog). To quote Anderson:

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer broke the story after obtaining a copy of the Eolas letter. The companies have yet to issue any official statements, but the settlement agreement closes the long-running court case between them over an Eolas patent that was said to apply to Microsoft’s method of handling ActiveX controls on web pages.

Read arstechnica for more, and here for a bit of background.

KSR (LawPundit in this regard is cited at BlogRunner and see also the WSJ.com Law Blog)
and the US Supreme Court’s new common sense approach to patents
surely were among the main patent “climate” factors leading to this settlement.

See in this regard O’Reilly Radar and “Microsoft Reaches Settlement on EOLAS Patent“, which already anticipated this development in a July 31, 2007 posting.

See also our posting about New York Times agrees with us ….

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Issues of the 2008 Presidential Election : National Health Insurance (Public Health Care Insurance)

The World Health Organization (WHO) in its much criticized 2000 report (.pdf of full report) on the health systems of the countries of the world ranked the United States in 37th place, one spot ahead of Slovenia and one spot behind Costa Rica. Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2003 turned out a new list, in which the USA fares somewhat better in 16th place, but America still lags behind almost all countries having national health insurance programs:

1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Australia
4. Canada
5. France
6. Germany
7. Spain
8. Finland
9. Italy
10. Denmark
11. Netherlands
12. Greece
13. Japan
14. Austria
15. New Zealand
16. United States
17. Ireland
18. United Kingdom
19. Portugal

Due to American reliance on local solutions rather than on a more uniform federal system of health insurance, health care throughout the United States also varies greatly from state to state, as shown by the United Health Foundation in providing the 2006 America’s Health Rankings.

National Health Insurance (Public Health Care Insurance) is not a New Issue

The debate about national health care and national health insurance has been around for a long time.

The NDT National Debate Tournament for collegians in 1960-1961 had as its topic: “That the United States should adopt a program of compulsory health insurance for all citizens.”

The national high school debate topic in 1963-1964 was Medicare. I remember this well, having debated that topic for my high school in my senior year.

In 1977-78 the National High School Debate focused on “How Can the Health Care of United States Citizens Best Be Improved?

National Health Care was the national debate topic for high schools in 1993-1994.

National Health Insurance is not an issue about collectivism, socialism or communism but about HEALTH CARE

The first thing that must be dispensed with is the antiquated argument that national health insurance is somehow collectivistic, socialistic or communistic.

I recently talked to someone from the US military who confided that the military, judged by the benefits it provides, was about the most “socialistic” organization around, if one wanted to use that term. The medical benefits that the US military provides through TRICARE are as follows:

Health benefits are available for all seven branches of the Uniformed Services: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration….

TRICARE provides benefits for Active Duty personnel, Retirees, Reservists & Guard members called to Active Duty, and certain family members….

Active Duty personnel are automatically enrolled in TRICARE Prime. Others may choose from several options.

Civilian inpatient and outpatient care is provided for the following three general categories of recipients:

1. Family members of Active Duty uniformed service members.
2. Family members of uniformed service retirees and family members of uniformed service members who died while on active duty or during retirement.
3. Certain individuals who were either voluntarily or involuntarily separated from a uniformed service member (for example, by divorce).

As written at About.com:

Depending upon their status, active duty members, retired members, members of the Guard/Reserves, family members, and certain veterans receive free or government subsidized medical and dental care. For the most part, this care falls under an overall program known as “Tricare.” While the Tricare system may appear to be complicated at first glance, it’s really not all that hard to understand.

Nobody seems to find great “socialistic” fault with this universal system of taking care of military personnel and their civilian families through a comprehensive government tax-payer funded medical care program, even though nothing would prohibit using a system of private medical care insurance. TRICARE is preferred, because it works better.

It is then foolish – and logically inconsistent – to argue that providing this same kind of national care to the rest of the US population is some kind of a contradiction of American principles. To put it mildly, anyone who argues that way is just talking corn-fed hogwash.

National Health Insurance is a Question of Form, Costs and Financing

The legitimate problems with providing any type of system of national health insurance or universal health care relate to form, costs and financing. The USA has many successful models to learn from.

Wikipedia has a nice article titled Universal Health Care which discusses those three aspects. The data provided show that health care in national health care systems in Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan is better than that in the USA – and it also costs less. Per capita expenditure for health in the USA is about twice that of countries with national health care plans – and yet, the countries with national health insurance have better health statistics then America does.

Those who argue that one can not compare Europe with the USA should then look to Canada, which instituted a universal health care plan some years ago and now beats the USA in every health category listed.

Canada also provides a model for meshing public and private systems, a solution definitely required in the USA as well.

As the Supreme Court of Quebec ruled in Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General), [2005] 1 S.C.R. 791, 2005 SCC 35, private services must be allowed to compete with the public program, citing to the fact that many countries with national health insurance systems mesh those with private enterprise and capitalism (English version of the reasons delivered by DESCHAMPS J):

In a number of European countries, there is no insurance paid for directly out of public funds. In Austria, services are funded through decentralized agencies that collect the necessary funds from salaries. People who want to obtain health care in the private sector in addition to the services covered by the mandatory social insurance are free to do so, but private insurance may cover no more than 80 percent of the cost billed by professionals practising in the public sector. The same type of plan exists in Germany and the Netherlands, but people who opt for private insurance are not required to pay for the public plan. Only nine percent of Germans opt for private insurance.

Australia’s public system is funded in a manner similar to the Quebec system. However, Australia’s system is different in that the private and public sectors coexist, and insurance covering private sector health care is not prohibited. The government attempts to balance access to the two sectors by allowing taxpayers to deduct 30 percent of the cost of private insurance. Insurance rates are regulated to prevent insurers from charging higher premiums for higher‑risk individuals (C. H. Tuohy, C. M. Flood and M. Stabile, How Does Private Finance Affect Public Health Care Systems? Marshaling the Evidence from OECD Nations(2004), 29 J. Health Pol. 359). [Link added by LawPundit]

The United Kingdom does not restrict access to private insurance for health care (The Health of Canadians — The Federal Role, vol. 3, Health Care Systems in Other Countries, Interim Report (2002), at p. 38). Nor does the United Kingdom limit a physician’s ability to withdraw from the public plan. However, physicians working full‑time in public hospitals are limited in the amounts that they may bill in the private sector to supplement income earned in the public sector (p. 40). Only 11.5 percent of Britons had taken out private insurance in 1998 (Tuohy, Flood and Stabile, at p. 374), and only 8 percent of hospital beds in the United Kingdom are private (Quebec and France, Health Indicators: International Comparisons: 15 years of Evolution: Canada, France, Germany, Québec, United Kingdom, United States (1998), at p. 55). New Zealand has a plan similar to that of the United Kingdom with the difference that 40 percent of New Zealanders have private insurance (Tuohy, Flood and Stabile, at p. 363). [Link added by LawPundit]

Sweden does not prohibit private insurance, and the state does not refund the cost of health care paid for in the private sector. Private insurance accounts for only two percent of total health care expenditures and there are only nine private hospitals (The Health of Canadians — The Federal Role, at pp. 31‑33).

Obviously, the USA will have to design a public health care insurance system suited to the particular needs of America, but there is no doubt that such a system is definitely needed and would be beneficial to the health care system in the United States.

Law and the Preservation of Ancient Sites in Action — Rotherwas Ribbon – UK

The Campaign to save the ancient Rotherwas Ribbon (Rotherwas Serpent) in the United Kingdom appears to be moving along successfully.

I received the following letter from the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport

RANSON GERRY <GERRY.RANSON@Culture.gsi.gov.uk>
Sent : Tuesday, August 7, 2007 4:09 PM
To : <kaulinsandis@msn.com>
Subject : CMS 75510 Rotherwas Ribbon

Dear Mr Kaulins,

Thank you for your email of 9 July about the preservation of the ‘Rotherwas Ribbon’ site. I have been asked to reply.

Under current legislation, adding a site to the Schedule of Monuments is the only legal protection specifically for archaeological sites, although there are alternatives to scheduling such as using the system of local authority control over planning applications to ensure that any development proposals take archaeology fully into account. Scheduling is applied only to sites of national importance, and even then only if it is the best means of protection. Decisions on national importance are guided by criteria laid down by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and cover the basic characteristics of monuments. These are:

    • extent of survival
    • current condition
    • rarity
    • representivity, either through diversity or because of one important attribute
    • importance of the period to which the monument dates
    • fragility
    • connection to other monuments, or group value
    • potential to contribute to our information, understanding and appreciation
    • extent of documentation enhancing the monument’s significance

As expert advisors to the DCMS, English Heritage takes the lead in identifying sites in England which should be placed on the schedule by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. DCMS has asked English Heritage to consider and advise the Secretary of State about whether the site of the ‘Rotherwas Ribbon’ should be placed on the schedule. English Heritage Inspectors visited the site on the afternoon of 9 July. A decision on scheduling will be taken in due course and will be informed by further analysis and interpretation of the site.

In the meantime, the remains are very fragile, and while English Heritage agrees with Herefordshire Council that controlled public access should be afforded, they will ensure the local authority covers the remains to protect them from bad weather. In the long term, English Heritage considers that this is a significant find worthy of being fully recorded for future research and protected in-situ. Each part of the find is very fragile and by keeping the remains in their context they can help us understand how people used to live in this landscape setting. English Heritage will make sure the local authority has access to its expertise in this process.

Yours sincerely,
Gerry Ranson

Gerry Ranson

Central Information & Briefing Unit
Department of Culture, Media & Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH

0207 211 6179
http://www.culture.gov.uk

DCMS aims to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, to support the pursuit of excellence and to champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries.

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Patent Sanity Slowly Returning to the USA: Judge Rudi Brewster Throws Out Absurd MP3 Jury Verdict in Microsoft Battle against Alcatel-Lucent

As we already noted in discussing the impact of the Supreme Court’s KSR decision:

There is no question that KSR will become one of the most cited decisions in law generally and that it will have a tremendous impact on patent law and litigation.

In KSR (KSR International Co. vs. Teleflex, Inc. (No. 04-1350, slip opinion)), the Supreme Court in its unanimous decision clearly indicated to the legal community that the pendulum of patent law had begun to swing in the direction of common sense and away from the outrageous awards being granted to undeserving patent trolls.

The changed direction of the swing of the patent pendulum is shown by Judge Rudi Brewster’s reversal of a record $1.5 billion jury award in an MP3 patent dispute between Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent.

We posted vociferously about that case in February under the title Patent Insanity in the USA Continues as Jury Awards Record MP3 Verdict. We were one of the few voices on the internet or elsewhere to correctly raise the loud sound of alarm and we express our continued surprise that the legal community in general did not, often being seemingly preoccupied with banalities rather than with the most important cases of our day, such as this case is.

For the details, see:

CNET News Blog at News.com, Tom Krazit, Microsoft wins reversal of MP3 patent decision

Bloomberg News, Jeff St.Onge and Crayton Harrison, Microsoft Judge Negates Alcatel-Lucent MP3 Patent Win (Update3)

Although this case does not involve the KSR obviousness issue, KSR is nevertheless starting to throw its long shadow over patent law generally. The US Supreme Court, by its decision in KSR, has sent off the long-needed signal to the legal community that sanity must return to US patent law application and interpretaton, and this sanity IS returning. Judge Rudi Brewster’s decision is strong evidence of that.