04.08.07

Patent Pains Begin — Microsoft Disables Novell SUSE Code

Posted in Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, Patents at 7:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

So, the ugly consequences of the deal did not take long to emerge. According to a mailing list discussion, Novell’s Linux is losing features which supposedly infringe on Microsoft software patents.

James Ots noticed that Sub-pixel Antialiasing in openSUSE 10.2 seems to be broken, so he recompiled the package from sources, with sub-pixel antialiasing turned on.

Two comments pointed to an openSUSE ML message: [Bug 259718] Sub-pixel antialising does not work when set from KDE Control Center, which quoted comments from the sources to explain the reason and the WONTFIX decision:

Uncomment the line below if you want to activate sub-pixel rendering (a.k.a. LCD rendering, or ClearType) in this build of the library.
Note that this feature is covered by several Microsoft patents and should not be activated in any default build of the library.

Is this the direction taken? Will it expand? Will features be stripped in order to cripple GNU/Linux? In any event, Novell does nobody any favours here, except Microsoft of course, which can now intimidate other distributors. I am aware of the fact that other distributions, such as Ubuntu, take a similar route, but the owner of patents appears to be Apple. We’ll soon find out what exactly is going on here.

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17 Comments

  1. gpl1 said,

    April 8, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Gravatar

    very good catch. At first thought I believed it was just the Apple-Freetype thing that every distro seems to disable, but this goes farther than that.

  2. shane said,

    April 8, 2007 at 8:35 am

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    Um, software patents aren’t valid. So, did Microsoft patent the PC, or is it the monitor they patented? What is the device?

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    April 8, 2007 at 10:11 am

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    Have a look at this brand-new article from law.com:


    Inside the Microsoft War Room

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | Help wanted: Anyone want a job as a patent litigator at the world’s
    | biggest software company?
    |
    | [...]
    |
    | Microsoft became a patent powerhouse only after the Supreme Court’s
    | 1998 State Street decision legitimized patents on software. The
    | company revamped its patenting regime and went from a portfolio of
    | less than a dozen patents to more than 5,000 today.
    `—-

    http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1175850243704

    Then, I urge you to see this piece of evidence that suggest Redmond ‘troopers’ are nothing but lawyers and marketers.

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | Asked about these problems, Arno Edelmann, Microsoft’s European business
    | security product manager, told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the code itself
    | has pieces missing… “Usually Microsoft doesn’t develop products, we buy
    | products. It’s not a bad product, but bits and pieces are missing,” said
    | Edelmann.
    `—-

    http://news.zdnet.co.uk/security/0,1000000189,39286351,00.htm

  4. shane said,

    April 8, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Gravatar

    Ah yes, State Street – that friggin decision really is the lynchpin of this entire patent problem, isn’t it. That’s why all software patents begin with the words "A method"…

    Here’s the thing though, for patents I thought the basic premise is you have to show how you did it and receive a monopoly on that implementation (balancing public benefit vs inventor profit) – none of these patent apps show the code (because it’s a trade secret), so are they even valid?

    Code gets copyrighted, then you can hide it as a trade secret, but patents don’t apply.

  5. Simon Redding said,

    April 10, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Gravatar

    Well, software patents aren’t valid over here in the UK…
    Tough for you guys over there – I’d get lobbying…

  6. shane said,

    April 10, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Gravatar

    They’re actually invalid here, too. Microsoft’s own lawyer made that argument to the Supreme Court of the United States just recently:

    MR. OLSON [For Microsoft]: The ‘580 patent is a program, as I understand it, that’s married to a computer, has to be married to a computer in order to be patented.
    JUSTICE SCALIA: You can’t patent, you know, on-off, on-off code in the abstract, can you?
    MR. OLSON: That’s correct, Justice Scalia.
    JUSTICE SCALIA: There needs to be a device.
    MR. OLSON: An idea or a principle, two plus two equals four can’t be patented. It has to be put together with a machine and made into a usable device.

  7. shane said,

    April 10, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Gravatar

    Since Microsoft is now a distributor of GPLv2 code, this should no longer be an issue for anyone – right?

    “So, Microsoft is actively participating in distribution of the GPL2 software today, and must have assented to GPL 2 to do that, because any distribution without assent to GPL2 would be infringement. Under GPL 2, they have already given away the rights to use Microsoft patents that are applied in the Novell distribution, for any use in any GPL software, by anyone, forever,” Perens said.

  8. Mike said,

    April 10, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Gravatar

    FWIW, this isn’t something Novell did, this was done by the FreeTyp developer well before the Novell/Microsoft partnership:
    http://www.mail-archive.com/freetype@nongnu.org/msg00972.html

  9. IC said,

    April 10, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Gravatar

    This was disabled before the Novell/MS deal. And by the DEVELOPER, not Novell… And even with the deal they have to be worried about the patent.

    Other distro’s should be worried too.. All the goof balls mouthing that this distro has it and Opensuse is in bed with MS need to be worried they dont ruin it for their distro.

    ARE ALL YOU GOING TO RETRACT THE STATEMENTS YOU MAKE WHEN YOU ARE PROVEN WRONG?

  10. shane said,

    April 10, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Gravatar

    Bruce Lowry has updated the Novell PR blog with a similar explanation:

    In this specific case, the ClearType font is supplied as part of the freetype2 package; last summer the upstream maintainer changed the package’s default settings to disable Clear Type and thereby avoid possibly relevant Microsoft patents. So, consistent with Novell’s preexisting practices and current policy, Novell is using the default settings established by the upstream maintainer. Distributions such as Fedora made the same choice. This issue only came up in the summer of 2006 and therefore older distributions are using the previous default (enabled ClearType).

  11. Distant Observer said,

    April 11, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Gravatar

    Sub-pixel anti-aliasing has prior art written all over it. In fact, when Acorn’s introduced the market to the RiscOS operating system c1989, it had sub-pixel anti-aliasing built in. Implemented by Roger (later Sophie) Wilson.

    Sounds like time the EFF jumped on board and got these patents nullified.

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    April 11, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Gravatar

    I may be the exception here, but I think that all software patents and business methods (e.g. Amazon’s infamous one-click purchase) should be nullified. These are illegal in the whole world for a reason. You can’t own mathematical/analytical processes. Now they try to patent things which relate to human tissue. It’s madness. I see no reason why Linux users should receive poor features because the distributor is now located in the States.

  13. Paul Giannaros said,

    April 12, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Gravatar

    Roy: The sensationalist article here was _proven_ to be completely incorrect. Will you please either post a new article stating as such, or amend the original article with a note?
    Thank you very much.

  14. shane said,

    April 12, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Gravatar

    Try this posting

  15. loopy said,

    June 28, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Gravatar

    u r cool

  16. wooooooooooooooooo go me!!! said,

    June 28, 2007 at 3:24 am

    Gravatar

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO U R GAY HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

  17. loopy said,

    June 28, 2007 at 3:25 am

    Gravatar

    loser u f******* w*****

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