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10.15.07

Patent (In)Sanity – Recent Links

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat, Ubuntu at 8:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

To those who have missed the recent events (myself included), here are some highlights.

Mark Webbink has joined the SFLC.

This is good news, that Mark Webbink has joined the board of the Software Freedom Law Center. Good news for the FOSS community. For him, I think the idea of a laid back, restful retirement is now just a dream.

Just hours ago he also published an article, Patent Sanity, in Linux Magazine. Subscription is needed for access to the full text, but you could forge HTTP headers and appear like a search engine, which then permits entry.

For years, many in the software industry have expressed concern over software and business method patents and the patent system.

Earlier this week, Mark Webbink’s home base, better known to us as Red Hat, was among those hit by a software patent lawsuit.

Intellectual property licensing firms IP Innovation and Technology Licensing Corporation have filed a lawsuit against Red Hat and Novell for alleged patent infringements in their Linux distributions.

The Groklaw community was prepared for such developments. It jumped all over this one with a sea of comments. Result? This whole case seems to be virtually over before it even began. It’s DoA based on at least one criterion. And there’s another:

It’s a 2005 case, so a lot has happened in the meantime. Oh, and if you are looking for prior art, the patent to look at first would be the oldest one of the ones IP Innovation has claimed in the Red Hat litigation. That is the one that I think needs to be knocked out either by prior art or by obviousness.

Then comes the Microsoft threat, which was implicit. It also had the Microsoft spinners (yet again) trying to do damage control after Steve Ballmer. It’s a “good cop, bad cop” routine.

Those who were worried that the FUD would have a negative effect on adoption should worry no more. Linux isn’t just unaffected, but it’s actually gaining momentum, according to Dell.

The PC manufacturer says that Microsoft’s patent-infringement claims have not affected sales of its Linux servers.

Some more analysis at eWeek says that this case is nothing out of the ordinary.

“Any impact would largely depend on who was the first mover. One likely impact of such a lawsuit, regardless of who sues, is that software companies may pay closer attention to patents,” he said.

Red Hat points its finger in the same direction that it did back in May — the “Deploy with Confidence” page.

The Linux Foundation dismisses Ballmer’s threat as another “FUD attack.”

More about this here.

Red Hat is taking a business-as-usual stance in the face of renewed rumblings from Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer over the need for Red Hat Linux users to pay up.

As usual, Mark Shuttleworth comes out swinging.

For starters, Shuttleworth said, Ballmer is implying that open-source developers don’t take IP seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth, he said.

SJVN does the Sopranos analogy.

Steve Ballmer, the Sopranos and the protection racket.

[...]

“Because they don’t, Tony. Er, I mean, Steve. What you’re doing is trying to set up an extortion racket.”

“Oh, yeah? Who knows more about extortion, me or you?”

In this case, I think it’s me.

There is still some extortion going on in Fortune 500 companies, according to Brad Smith, but companies don’t want to admit this because of the wrath of developers.

There’s also some activity in other patent harassment cases that occupied a lot of paper space recently, e.g.:

Vonage agrees settlement on Sprint lawsuit

Vonage Holdings, the internet phone company, agreed on Monday to pay $80m to settle a patent suit filed by Sprint Nextel, the third largest US mobile carrier.

Lawyers face sanctions in Qualcomm suit

Chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. dueled Friday in federal court with its hired attorneys over who shoulders the blame for what a judge called “gross misconduct on a massive scale” at a past trial.

Qualcomm Firms Meet a Stern Judge

It didn’t take long Friday for a courtroom packed with grim-faced attorneys to sense where a magistrate judge stands on sanctioning attorneys involved in a huge discovery failure by Qualcomm Inc.

Southern District of California U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major came out swinging.

The cases above have helped illustrate the need for a patent reform. This is why they remain relevant, just like previous key rulings that were usually in favour of change and against a weak patent system.

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