This is patently absurd. According to a New York Times article, a “video on demand” company called Intertainer is suing Apple, Google and Napster for patent infringement. At issue apparently is Intertainer’s patent #6,925,469, filed in 2001 and granted in 2005, for a “digital entertainment service platform”.
Despite initial backing from Microsoft and Intel, Mr. Taplin said the two companies were not involved in the decision to bring the Apple, Google and Napster lawsuit. He said that decision was made by Intertainer’s board and that none of his original corporate backers have board seats. Several of the company’s original investors have taken patent licenses, he said, but he would not name the companies.
Despite the company’s decision to file the case in a federal district court in Texas that has traditionally looked favorably on plaintiffs in patent lawsuits, several digital media experts said that Intertainer might have a difficult time enforcing its patent because of its relatively recent filing date of 2001.
By that time, for example, Real Networks, the Seattle-based pioneer in streaming digital media, had begun an Internet subscription service for digital content.
Here is the abstract from Intertainer’s patent, the Times article mentioned they hold eight others, I will probably Google them as well and have a look, but this one has serious questions about patent quality.
The present invention is directed to an open business platform that provides an end-to-end solution for managing, distributing, and/or retailing digital media assets from various content suppliers. In one or more embodiments, the present invention provides an integrated system that permits media content suppliers to deposit their media assets with the system where they are prepared by a content management system for distribution to consumers via a secure distribution system. The media content suppliers may then track and-control the use of their media assets through a subscriber management system for managing consumer accounts, a licensing server for issuing licenses restricting the use of media content, and a royalty reporter for determining and reporting royalties to the various content suppliers.
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Lobby4Linux has a very long writeup which protests Novell’s rushed deal. For BoycottNovell skeptics, I decided to quote a fragment which can hopefully prove that Shane and I are not the only ‘nutters’ out there who glance below the surface of this deal.
Some of us are still asking the question: “Is Linux Ready For The Desktop?”
I don’t care who you are…that’s funny.
And yet, this announcement was not heralded by one News site or blog…none that I could find at any rate, and don’t get me wrong. I am proudly affiliated with one of the best Linux News websites in existance…I missed it just like you did. The “announcement” was eclipsed by a controversy that still rages in the community and so immersed in this discussion did we become…we let it get completely by us. No, Linus did not come down from the mountain with disks in hand to make the proclamation, nor did RMS or any other noted Linux Guru perform the coronation.
Microsoft decided the issue for us.
Personally, those are the most disturbing 6 words I have ever typed.
Microsoft has physically picked up and placed Linux anywhere on the Great Chessboard they wish…no different than the other Pawns they push around. Novell should be seen as nothing more than the drunken sentry who opened the gate to let the Trojan Horse in. For those of you who have challenged me on MS having too much strength and leverage, as it is said often in over-dramatic fashion; I rest my case.
Sounds familiar? As Jeremy Allison put it:
I’m sad because I don’t think we needed to do this. We were gaining a lot of traction with SuSE Linux desktop, and from my perspective (admittedly not high up in the company hierarchy with views on revenue) we were winning. We had a good product, I was always extremely busy with new customer requirements, and was personally involved in winning new customers for SLED and SLES. It just feels to me like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
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Consider this a speculative discussion on the future of the ‘formats war’. Some of us are still somewhat astounded (if not shocked) by Novell’s support for that so-called ECMA ‘standard’ which is Open XML. We have already covered this through an extensive selection of articles which explain why it was a poor and worrisome move, especially to those that Novell competes with. Some would say it was selfish as it does not honour community spirit and it also sabotages the industry’s effort to establish one unified format that leads to parity, simplicity, interoperability, vendor-independence, security, freedom (in execution and cost), and backward compatibility.
We have also explained some negative effects of the deal on Samba and—in particular—on the ongoing interoperability accusations taking place in the EU and managed by the EC. The bottom line is that Microsoft’s grip on Novell enables it to boast multi-vendor support and so-called ‘openness’. Perhaps there are two sides being served here, at the expense of all others—those who are not part of the pact. In a sense, the two companies mutually reward one another while assisting and sustaining a monopoly. I envision and perceive the two as conjoined twins, one of which is bound to be deceased due to ‘complications’. A quick look at recent history reveals quotes such as this one from Jim Allchin: “We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger… If you’re going to kill someone, there isn’t much reason to get all worked up about it and angry. You just pull the trigger. Any discussions beforehand are a waste of time. We need to smile at Novell while we pull the trigger.”
This brings me to the main focus of this ramble. I am reminded of an old story (one among several) which, at least at the time, alluded to a relationship between RealNetworks and Novell. Real Player’s battle with Microsoft led to a settlement and Novell seemed to hit the high note amidst these developments. The gist of it all was that proprietary formats such as WMA and WMV would be supported by SuSE Linux. Would this not encourage more widespread use of these formats?
This could not be mentined at a more appropriate time. We finally witness a long-overdue angry petition emerging in the EU and hitting the spotlights. For those of have not heard, over 7,000 people have so far signed this petition, which protests against the Council’s claims that it “cannot support Linux in a legal way” in streaming. One must buy commercial software to follow politics. It could lead the way to many more complaints worldwide, yet a customer’s point-of-view differs from that of a citizen with demands from a tax-collecting authority.
One might worry that the ‘mixed source’ company will yet again give ‘ammunition’ to Microsoft’s argument that its proprietary (and often patented) technologies do not exclude competitors. Need we ever revise speculations about Novell DRM support in its operating system and software? It is, based on some recent events, being used as a tool for compliance and head-nodding. Some would say it has been someone of an industry ‘sockpuppet’ whose presence and stance empowers that of Microsoft.
I worry that the impact on media formats could prove to be rather damaging. There is a big “if” here. We are yet to see if ‘proprietarisation’ of GNU/Linux becomes a reality in Novell’s hands. This could go beyond the inclusion of proprietary drivers, championed by distributers such as SabayonLinux, Linspire and maybe even Ubuntu (yet undecided).
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Red Herring has also spoken to Jeremy Allison, who recently left Novell in protest over the Microsoft deal, in case you were unaware ;^ )
The interview covers much of the same areas as previous articles, with perhaps the most notable quotes being "If you want to sell out, you should ask for more." and "I said to them: I’m not leaving Novell, you guys left me. If I would have stayed, I would have broken my principles."
Interestingly, it seems that Jeremy also has concerns regarding the patent covenant and Novell’s compliance with Section 6 of the GPLv2 as well:
Q: How long did you consider it before resigning?
A: I found out about the deal about five days before it happened. I feel like this whole thing is a personal failure. When I first heard I was excited, it was groundbreaking and [I thought] Microsoft was taking open source seriously. The more I looked at the patent provision, the less comfortable I got. I really, really want to like this deal. [I told them] ‘tell me why isn’t a GPL section violation’—meaning you have to pass on the same rights to the software that you received. You cannot say that my customer and I are exempt and anyone that they pass the software to is not exempt. [They] got more and more technical about it but it looked like a patent license without actually using the hideous words, it was just legal sophistry. It was playing with words to go around the intent of the license.
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