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06.03.07

Xandros? Patents? What is Going On? (Updated)

Posted in Deals, Microsoft, Rumour at 10:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Moments ago I spotted a shocking item in my feeds reader. It suggests that Xandros and Microsoft got together to establish a ‘protection racket’ deal. The link, however, is broken, indicating that the article was probably retracted. A quick search reveals another such observation. What is going on? GPLv3 is already resolving these problems. Are Microsoft on a last-minute shopping spree? We are relieved that Linspire didn’t cave, but what is the truth about Xandros? It seems too early to tell, but a Novell-type deal seems like a possibility, unless the article was retracted due to inaccuracy (or fabrication) of information.

Article headline: Microsoft Gives Xandros Linux Users Patent Protection

Excerpt: Redmond has signed a set of broad collaboration agreements with Linux provider Xandros that include an intellectual property assurance.

Update: whether this is true or not, I was finally able to find one site that had grabbed a portion of the text before it was removed.

Redmond has signed a set of broad collaboration agreements with Linux provider Xandros that include an intellectual property assurance.

Microsoft, shrugging off licensing moves to prevent it from repeating its controversial patent deal with Novell, has signed a set of broad collaboration agreements with Linux provider Xandros that include an intellectual property assurance under which Microsoft will provide patent covenants for Xandros customers.

These covenants, which are almost identical to the patent agreement and covenant not to sue that Microsoft signed with Novell last November, will ensure that the Xandros Linux technologies customers use are compliant with Microsoft’s IP, David Kaefer, Microsoft’s General Manager for IP and Licensing, told eWeek

The collaboration agreements between Microsoft and Xandros, which are valid for five-years and will be announced June 4, also cover a set of technical, business and marketing commitments designed to give customers enhanced interoperability and more effective systems management solutions, he said.

Under the agreement, Microsoft and Xandros will focus on five primary areas over the next five years: systems management interoperability, server interoperability, office document compatibility, sales and marketing support, and IP assurance.

This looks eerily similar to Novell’s deal, sans the exchange of money and patents. Also worth mentioning is the following educated guess:

Based on eWEEK’s now-disappeared headline, it sure looks like Xandros may have gone the Novell route and signed a patent-protection deal with Microsoft. (The other possibility is eWEEK believed Xandros was ready to sign on the dotted line, but didn’t. My educated guess is there is a deal and eWEEK jumped the gun in publishing the “exclusive” story. Guess we’ll find out for sure in a few more hours.)

Why Are We Waiting for Microsoft to Sue?

Posted in Action, Antitrust, Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, IBM, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, SUN at 7:43 am by Shane Coyle

Let’s Sue Each Other…

For the last few years, more so in the passing months it seems, much of the focus and energy of the Free Software community has been allocated towards discussions and preparations for Microsoft’s coming legal offensive against GNU/Linux and Open Source. Of course, many observers have some legitimate questions about the quality, or even legitimacy, of Microsoft’s patent portfolio.

With each passing week, and unfilfilled threat, it becomes more and more apparent that Microsoft’s intention is to keep the community focused on collective sandbag-piling and allow Microsoft to catch-up technologically, rather than risk testing their spurious software patents in a court of law.

I contend that we should not wait for Microsoft to (finally) file a software patent infringement case against a Free Software developer or user, I believe that one of us should sue a Free Software developer or user. No, I haven’t been drinking.

I have said before that I believe that software patents are invalid and that companies such as Microsoft, Novell, AT&T, IBM and Sun have a vested interest in the perpetuation of the software patent myth. I have also stated that I believe allowing the continued stockpiling and cross-licensing of these illegitimate patents is leading to the cartelization of the software industry.

In the few occasions where companies have been unable to reach amicable licensing terms (or, avoid court, at least), and tech industry giants do find themselves in court bickering over their software patents, they are usually very very careful to present the court with a very narrowly construed legal question rather than risk a ruling on the overall legality of software patents.

For instance, in MS v ATT the parties simply wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the applicability of U.S. patents abroad, and stipulated that such activity would be infringing if within the U.S. to avoid the software patent legitimacy question – or, more accurately, the answer.

Despite this very narrow question before the Supreme Court, it seemed apparent that Justice Scalia was telegraphing to all interested parties just how things would go if he were ever to have the question of software patents before him…

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.

So, my idea is simple – a Free Software developer or company with at least one software patent covered by the EDU-Nix Dual Mode CD sues me (be gentle, I’m broke), and we will pose the question directly to the court:

Are Software Patents Legal?

I, unlike Microsoft et al, am looking forward to the answer.

Tivoization Misconceptions and the Real Purpose of GPLv3

Posted in FSF, GPL, Interview, Law, LGPL, Videos at 6:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It did not take long for TiVo to express its concerns and share its pain in public. However, Richard Stallman is quick to rebut and dispel the myths about GPLv3 and its effect on Tivoization:

“GPLv3 ensures you are free to remove the handcuffs. It doesn’t forbid DRM, or any kind of feature. It places no limits on the substantive functionality you can add to a program, or remove from it. Rather, it makes sure that you are just as free to remove nasty features as the distributor of your copy was to add them,” he continued.

“Tivoization is the way they deny you that freedom; to protect your freedom, GPLv3 forbids tivoization,” wrote Stallman, who is known for his uncompromising views favoring free software.

Professor Moglen says more on the purpose of GPLv3 in the following short segment of his recent interview with

These points are very important because Microsoft and Novell are likely to argue that GPLv3 is nothing but a well-targetted vendetta. They could call it a nasty sting rather than an evolutionary step that protects developers who embrace an upgraded licence.

Microsoft’s Point of View: Selling GNU/Linux Through Novell, Defending Software Patents

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Novell, SCO, SLES/SLED, Videos at 6:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From the Microsoft-affiliated press comes the following short article, which simply cannot escape one’s attention. Here is the punch:

Why is Microsoft cranking the rudder hard over? They aren’t talking, but I’m guessing it comes down to General Public License (GPL) version 3. GPLv3 is still in the formative stages, but it could prohibit mixed marriages like the one between Microsoft and Novell. If GPLv3 happens, Microsoft’s lever into the corporate Linux market could get frozen. Novell (and by extension, Microsoft) will have to comply with its terms to take advantage of component technologies developed under the license. Unable to do that, Microsoft will be left with an aging (and ultimately incompatible) flavor of Linux.

The article makes it clear that Microsoft had plans which involve making big money out of software which volunteers are building. This is not new; and neither is the fact that Microsoft hates GPLv3 with passion. In fact, only yesterday, John Carroll who is a Microsoft employee that blogs at ZDNet had his own punch at the GPLv3 sandbag. The usual suspects take turns.

The same old story about exploiting and punishing ‘free labour’ is very resminiscent the story told by Groklaw today. It’s focused on a smaller company which you may know as SCO.

But the SCO dream as I see it is simply this: they’d like those volunteer Linux programmers, who didn’t charge one thin dime for their wonderful code, to, in effect, support SCO for life, based on alleged, but not specified, “infringement” that no one is allowed to fix. Does it get lower than that?

PJ’s article goes far beyond this and it is definitely worth reading. But the ‘take home’ message is that by following and reinforcing some elements of guilt, be it plagiarism or software patents, both Microsoft and SCO were hoping to get partial ownership of Linux and use it to cash in. Eben’s video interview, which we mentioned last week, is finally available on the Tube. It is worth embedding here because it is a perfect fit in this context.

Again , this isn’t anything new. Microsoft wants to control Linux (and yes, it already makes a lot of money out of SUSE Linux). GPLv3 will ends that.

Another new article does some maths and tells us some disturbing finanical figures.

In the two quarters since its hackles-raising deal with Microsoft was signed in November, some 49,000 SUSE certificates have been activated. They are worth $91 million. That’s 38% of the five-year $240 million agreement, which has no cap. Microsoft could buy more.

Unless of course the GPLv3 intervenes and the tentative grandfather clause currently protecting the deal gets dropped.

As a side note, pardon my poor writing style and the many errors. I imagine that my focus on pace (at the expense of quality) is sometimes easy to see and I can only beg you to correct me or expand where possible. This way we can make the most out of this (hopefully informative) Web site, which strives to keep abreast of all the events and glue them together through hyperlinks, shallow analysis, and a pinch of speculation.

Having defeated some concerns about comment spam, we have just opened all the items for feedback. Help us make this a good resource for those who do some research. Site traffic is at an all-time high.

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