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Defender of your Digital Freedom

All Posts | Apr 30,2019

Our executive Director meeting with AC3

SFLC.in's Executive Director Sundar Krishnan and Ex-executive Director Biju K. Nair have met students and volunteers from Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3) on April 26th 2019.

SFLC.in's Executive Director Visits AC3

 

All Posts | Apr 12,2019

A ‘Digital Rights Reform Agenda’ for India – What Have Political Parties Missed Out this Election Season?

Yesterday, India entered 7-phases of national elections spanning a little over a month. This election season, we bring to you a ‘Digital Rights Reform Agenda’ which is missing from most political parties’ promises and manifestos. We believe that these topics should be on the agenda list of all political outfits in India claiming a stake on parliament seats. A list of key digital rights issues worthy of political importance are (more…)

All Posts | Jan 03,2018

SFLC.in at Swatantra ’17

Dates: 20 and 21 December 2017
Venue: Mascot Hotel, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
People in attendance: ~400

Panel Discussion

SFLC.in was a part of the closing session titled “Software Freedom – Challenges Ahead”. Panelists included:

  1. Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director, SFLC.in
  2. Praveen Arimbrathodiyil, Pirate Party of India
  3. Benjamin Maco Hill, Assistant Professor in Communication, University of Washington
  4. Abhas Abhinav, Founder, DeepRoot Linux
  5. Juan Carlos Gentile, Founder & President , Hipatia.

The panel was moderated by Arun M, Programme Head, ICFOSS.

Prasanth Sugathan mentioned that the free software community forms the basis of the entire Internet freedom movement. He spoke about the need to have an ability to tinker with our devices and the effects of losing such a freedom. He mentioned that recent times have seen a gradual shift from the use of copyleft licences to permissive licences - including the harmful effect that this has on the free software movement, and the adoption of proprietary solutions by the government despite a national policy on preferring open source solutions. He also announced SFLC.in's upcoming Women In Tech project to ensure increased participation of women in technology-related fields.

SFLC.in’s Booth

Approximately 250 people visited our booth at the conference. We talked to the conference attendees about digital rights including rights of FOSS projects, our free legal support for FOSS projects, how FOSS projects can protect themselves, software patents, and our other projects to protect and promote internet freedoms and digital rights including internet shutdowns, net neutrality, freedom of speech and cyber security.

We conducted two quiz competitions in which about 40 students participated. We also conducted two raffles for students in which about 70-80 people participated. Prizes for the raffles and quiz competitions included a set of SFLC.in goodies for the winners.

23 people became digital defenders by joining SFLC.in.

All Posts | Dec 23,2017

SFLC.in at Internet Governance Forum 2017

The twelfth annual meeting of Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was held in Geneva, Switzerland at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) from 18 to 21 December, 2017. The theme for the meeting this year was ‘Shape Your Digital Future!’

IGF is a global multi-stakeholder platform to facilitate inclusive, productive discussions on Internet related public policy issues from a general perspective. The purpose of IGF is to maximize the opportunity for open and inclusive dialogue and the exchange of ideas on Internet governance related issues; create opportunities to share best practices and experiences; identify emerging issues and bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public; contribute to capacity building for Internet governance.

SFLC.in was represented by Mishi Choudhary, President and Founding Director at the annual forum. She participated as a speaker at the following sessions:

  • WS 129: Making artificial intelligence (AI) work for equity and social justice (20th December, 15:00-16:30):
    This session was organised by Just Net Coalition in collaboration with Social Watch. This workshop discussed various pertinent issues such as what humans can expect from AI systems and how to control them, the ethical and regulatory commands that can be inculcated into upcoming technology, amongst others.
    The official transcript of the session can be accessed here.
  • WS 8: Open Source: Defending Freedoms in the Digital Future (20th December, 11:50-13:20):
    This session was co-organised by ISOC-TRV and FOSS Foundation for Africa. The session had detailed discussions in three breakout groups on following topics: (1) tools and technologies provided by FOSS; (2) methodologies, processes and best practices in dealing with the processes of content generation, validation and distribution; and (3) policy initiatives. The session comprised of following speakers:  Mishi Choudhary, Glenn Mcknight, Sarah Kiden, Olivier Crepin-Leblond, Panayotis Antoniadis, Oktavia Hrund and Nicolás Echániz.
    The official transcript of this session is available here.
  • WS 154: The Distributed Denial of Democracy: Threats to Democratic Processes Online (21st December, 10:40 - 11:40)
    Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) in collaboration with National Democratic Institute (NDI) organised this session.  This panel highlighted a number of threats to online democracy and effective solutions for addressing those threats. The panelists for this session included Hanane Boujemi, Martha Roldos, Chris Doten, Jehan Ara, Mishi Choudhary and Matt Chessen.
    The official transcript of this session is available here.

All Posts | Nov 22,2017

Seminar on IPR for Start Ups and Entrepreneurs in Software & IT Enabled Industries

The Technology Centre of Confederation of Indian Industry(CII) in association with Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is organizing a Seminar on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for Start Ups & Entrepreneurs in Software & IT Enabled Industries on November 22, 2017 at Hotel Holiday Inn, Kochi. The Program aims to provide a platform for Startups to discuss on range of perspectives pertaining to IP; the opportunities, challenges, and the role of IP for Startups in the rapidly evolving marketplace. The following topics will be discussed during the technical session:
  • Fundamentals of IPR for start-ups & entrepreneurs
  • IP journey for start ups - why, when, how and where to start.
  • Software licensing: proprietary software and open source software –  opportunities & challenges
  • IP transactions: practical tips to manage IP for start ups & entrepreneurs in ICT sector; understanding types of documents and contracts  in IPR
Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director at SFLC.in will speak on the topic "Software Licensing: Proprietary Software and Open Source Software - Opportunities and Challenges" at 2:00 PM.

All Posts | Sep 22,2017

Workshop on Secure Communication

SFLC.in is organising a workshop on “Secure Communication ” in association with Sukhbir Singh, TOR Developer, on Saturday, September 23, 2017, from 11:00AM-:1:30 PM at the SFLC.in premises at K-9, Second Floor, Birbal Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi -110014 near Jangpura Metro station – Gate no 2.

We live in an era of unprecedented surveillance. The technical capabilities of law enforcement and intelligence agencies are rapidly expanding, and even the best attempts at law reform can’t keep up with these new powers. Over and over again, we’ve seen these capabilities used against protected free speech activities, especially against the speech of marginalized people.

Compounding the problem of government surveillance is that of corporate surveillance; we rely on a small handful of data-driven private companies for all of our computing needs, and many of these services are “free” because we are the product. These corporate entities regularly collude with law enforcement to share our private communications, searches, contacts, and more — quite often without our knowledge. By fighting against surveillance, we can reject an internet controlled by a handful of powerful corporate entities and intelligence agencies, and take back our rights in the digital sphere.

The workshop will cover crypto tools which will make it easy for you to:

* protect your privacy online
* anonymize your online activity
* encrypt your chat and emails that no one can break!

Date : September 23, 2017
Time : 11am – 1.30pm
Venue : SFLC.in premises at K-9, Second Floor, Birbal Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi -110014
Includes : Drinks, Food & Fun

As we have limited seating available for this discussion, we would request you to please RSVP here.

In case of any query and/or clarification, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We look forward to seeing you at the event!

All Posts | Jul 06,2017

Revised CRI Guidelines – Ambiguity replaces certainty

The Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks has published the modified Guidelines for Examination of Computer Related Inventions (CRIs) by office order dated 30-6-2017. The revised Guidelines have done away with the three-stage test to determine patentability of CRIs. This section was intended to provide the examiners a clear method to examine patent applications. The Guidelines have also removed a set of fifteen illustrative examples of non-patentable claims – a move that could lead to more ambiguity, grant of irregular patents and ensuing litigations. There aren’t many other substantive changes, save for the section on mathematical methods, where language has been added to dilute the Patent Act’s blanket exclusion of mathematical methods from patentable subject matter.

The new Guidelines seem to be a compromise intended to please the interests of patent lawyers and firms that thrive on uncertainty. However, it is heartening nonetheless to note that the patent office has withstood the onslaught of these vested interests and has refrained from making major changes in the guidelines that would have resulted in opening the floodgates for irregular software patents.

 The table below summarises the notable changes in the Guidelines.

2017 Revised Guidelines 2016 Guidelines
4.3. Industrial Applicability 

 

In patent law, industrial applicability or industrial application is a patentability requirement according to which a patent can only be granted for an invention which is capable of industrial application, i.e. for an invention which can be made or used in some kind of industry.It has been defined in section 2(1)(ac) of Indian Patents Act, 1970 as follows:

“capable of industrial application”, in relation to an invention, means that the invention is capable of being made or used in an industry;

The requirement of workability and usefulness are both connected to the requirement of industrial applicability. If an invention is not workable, it means that it is also not industrially applicable. The patent specification must disclose a practical application and industrial use for the claimed invention wherein a concrete benefit must be derivable directly from the description coupled with common general knowledge. Mere speculative use or vague and speculative indication of possible objective will not suffice.

4.3. Industrial Applicability

 

In patent law, industrial applicability or industrial application is a patentability requirement according to which a patent can only be granted for an invention which is capable of industrial application, i.e. for an invention which can be made or used in some kind of industry.It has been defined in section 2(1)(ac) of Indian Patents Act, 1970 as follows:

“capable of industrial application”, in relation to an invention, means that the invention is capable of being made or used in an industry;

Industry herein is to be understood broadly having any useful and practical activity while excluding intellectual or aesthetic activity.

Claims relating to “Method of playing games” and “computer programming languages” are not considered to be industrially applicable. A method for effecting introductions with a view to making friends is not industrially applicable even though it could be carried out by a commercial enterprise.

The requirement of workability and usefulness are both connected to the requirement of industrial applicability. If an invention is not workable, it means that it is also not industrially applicable. The patent specification must disclose a practical application and industrial use for the claimed invention wherein a concrete benefit must be derivable directly from the description coupled with common general knowledge. Mere speculative use or vague and speculative indication of possible objective will not suffice.

The determination of industrial applicability in case of CRIs is very crucial since applications relating to CRIs may contain only abstract theories, lacking in industrial application.

 

[Highlighted portions have been removed from the Revised Guidelines.]

4.4. Sufficiency of Disclosure:

 

4.4.1. Fully and particularly (What):

  1. If the patent application relates to apparatus/system/device i.e. hardware based inventions, each and every feature of the invention shall be described with suitable illustrative drawings. If the invention relates to ‘method’, the necessary sequence of steps shall clearly be described so as to distinguish the invention from the prior art with the help of the flowcharts and other information required to perform the invention together with their modes/means of implementation.
  2. The working relationship of different components together with connectivity shall be described.
  3. The desired result/output or the outcome of the invention as envisaged in the specification and of any intermediate applicable components/steps shall be clearly described.
4.4. Sufficiency of Disclosure:

 

4.4.1. Fully and particularly (What):

  1. If the patent application relates to apparatus/system/device i.e hardware based inventions, each and every feature of the invention shall be described with suitable illustrative drawings.If these system/device/apparatus claims are worded in such a way that they merely and only comprise of a memory which stores instructions to execute the previously claimed method and a processor to execute these instructions, then this set of claims claiming a system/device/apparatus may be deemed as conventional and may not fulfil the eligibility criteria of patentability. If, however, the invention relates to ‘method’, the necessary sequence of steps should clearly be described so as to distinguish the invention from the prior art with the help of the flowcharts and other information required to perform the invention together with their modes/means of implementation.
  2. The working relationship of different components together with connectivity shall be described.
  3. The desired result/output or the outcome of the invention as envisaged in the specification and of any intermediate applicable components/steps shall be clearly described.

 

[Highlighted portions have been removed from the Revised Guidelines.]

4.4.4. Form and substance:

The sub-section 3(k) excludes a mathematical or business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms from patentability. While the judgment of mathematical methods or business methods is comparatively easier, it is the computer programme per se or algorithms related inventions that require careful consideration of the examiner. Computer programmes are often claimed in the form of method claims or system claims with some ‘means’ indicating the functions of flow charts or process steps. The algorithm related claims are even wider than the computer programmes claimed by themselves as a single algorithm can be implemented through different programmes in different computer languages. If, in substance, claims in any form such as method/process, apparatus/system/device, computer program product/ computer readable medium belong to the said excluded categories, they would not be patentable.

Even when the issue is related to hardware/software relation, the expression of the functionality as a ‘method’ is to be judged on its substance. It is well-established that, in patentability cases, the focus should be on the underlying substance of the invention, not the particular form in which it is claimed. The Patents Act clearly excludes computer programmes per se and the exclusion should not be allowed to be avoided merely by camouflaging the substance of the claim by its wording.

4.4.4. Form and substance:

 

The sub-section 3(k) excludes a mathematical or business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms from patentability. While the judgment of mathematical methods or business methods is comparatively easier, it is the computer programme per se or algorithms related inventions that require careful consideration of the examiner. Computer programmes are often claimed in the form of algorithms asmethod claims or system claims with some ‘means’ indicating the functions of flow charts or process steps. The algorithm related claims are even wider than the computer programmes claimed by themselves as a single algorithm can be implemented through different programmes in different computer languages. If, in substance, claims in any form such as method/process, apparatus/system/device, computer program product/ computer readable medium belong to the said excluded categories, they would not be patentable.

Even when the issue is related to hardware/software relation, (e.g., when the claims recite ‘processor is programmed to… or ‘apparatus comprising a processor and configured / programmed to…..) the expression of the functionality as a ‘method’, is judged on its substance. It is well- established that, in patentability cases, the focus should be on the underlying substance of the invention, not the particular form in which it is claimed. The Patents Act clearly excludes computer programmes per se and the exclusion should not be allowed to be avoided merely by camouflaging the substance of the claim by wording (e.g. different sub-routines are performed in different physical locations such as processors will not suffice).

 

[Highlighted portions have been removed from the Revised Guidelines.]

4.5. Determination of excluded subject matter relating to CRIs:

 

4.5.1. Claims directed as “Mathematical Method”:

Mathematical methods are a particular example of the principle that purely abstract or intellectual methods are not patentable. Mathematical methods like method of calculation, formulation of equations, finding square roots, cube roots and all other similar acts of mental skill are therefore, not patentable. Similarly mere manipulations of abstract idea or solving purely mathematical problem/equations without specifying a practical application also attract the exclusion under this category.

However, mere presence of a mathematical formula in a claim, to clearly specify the scope of protection being sought in an invention, may not necessarily render it to be a “mathematical method” claim. Also, such exclusions may not apply to inventions that include mathematical formulae and resulting in systems for encoding, reducing noise in communications/electrical/electronic systems or encrypting/ decrypting electronic communications.

 

 

 

[Highlighted portions have been inserted into the Revised Guidelines. The added examples could cause patent applications on mathematical methods to be allowed if the applications describe a practical application. This is against the statutory provision that provides a complete exclusion in the case of mathematical methods.]

4.5. Determination of excluded subject matter relating to CRIs:

 

4.5.1. Claims directed as “Mathematical Method”:

Mathematical methods are a particular example of the principle that purely abstract or intellectual methods are not patentable. Mathematical methods like method of calculation, formulation of equations, finding square roots, cube roots and all other similar methods are therefore not patentable. However, mere presence of a mathematical formula in a claim, to clearly specify the scope of protection being sought in an invention, may not necessarily render it to be a “mathematical method” claim.

Some examples which will attract exclusion:

  • acts of mental skill. e.g. A method of calculation, formulation of equations, finding square roots, cube roots and all other methods directly involving mathematical methods like solving advanced equations of mathematics.
  • merely manipulates abstract idea or solves a purely mathematical problem without specifying a practical application.

 

 

 

 

[Highlighted portions have been removed from the Revised Guidelines.]

5. Replacement of Provisions of Manual

 

Chapter 08.03.05.10 of the Manual, containing provisions pertaining to section 3(k) of the Patents Act, 1970 shall stand deleted with coming into force of these Guidelines for examination of CRIs.

 

 

 

 

 

[The three-stage test for determining patent eligibility has been removed from the Revised Guidelines, and replaced with the above statement deleting Chapter 08.03.05.10 of the Manual of Patent Office Practice and Procedure.]

5. Tests/Indicators to determine Patentability of CRIs:

 

Examiners may rely on the following three stage test in examining CRI applications:

  1. Properly construe the claim and identify the actual contribution;
  2. If the contribution lies only in mathematical method, business method or algorithm, deny the claim;
  3. If the contribution lies in the field of computer programme, check whether it is claimed in conjunction with a novel hardware and proceed to other steps to determine patentability with respect to the invention. The computer programme in itself is never patentable. If the contribution lies solely in the computer programme, deny the claim. If the contribution lies in both the computer programme as well as hardware, proceed to other steps of patentability.
6. Applicability of Guidelines

 

These Guidelines shall be applicable with immediate effect.

[Examples of claims that are not patentable, which would have been helpful for the examiners as well as the applicants, have been removed from the Revised Guidelines, and replaced with the above statement on immediate applicability of the Revised Guidelines.]

6. Illustrative examples of Claims which are not patentable

 

**This section contained 15 illustrative examples of claims which are not patentable**

Our previous blog-posts on the CRI Guidelines are available at these links:

All Posts | Apr 20,2017

Inauguration of Library – Donation from SFLC.in

Volunteers and Students of AC3 want to inculcate the habit of reading among themselves and also the people of Sudharshan Layout, where the center is located. They have started a Library at the AC3 center inaugurating it on April 14th, 2017.
SFLC.in has donated 50,000 INR for this library. (more…)

All Posts | Jan 25,2017

4Ccon – Second National Conference on Free Software

We are partnering with FSMI in organizing 4Ccon, FSMI’s second national conference on free software. We will be there to talk and discuss about the state of the affairs in the fight against Software Patents, our ongoing work on Internet Shutdowns and of course, free software. The conference will be held from 26th to 29th of January 2017 in Chennai. Our session is on 27th January 2017 between 2pm and 3:30pm in Hall 5.

4Ccon represents Collaboration, Contribution, Communities and Commons. There will be workshops, seminars and discussions on a wide range of topics that reflect the key issues around technology and its impact on India. The themes of the conference converge on aim to develop new understanding of what technology means in the rapidly evolving global and national contexts.