Using Patents (and Bribery) to Kill a Child’s Dream
The title expresses anger and frustration. This has nothing to do with Novell, but a little bit to do with the screwed up patent system. A story that I’ve been following for the past couple of years has just taken a very bizarre turn of events. On the face of it, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is being sued by a patent troll.
After reading that story I went to look for the Nigerian Patent Office’s website, unfortunately according to the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) directory there’s no such thing. Probing further I found that the Nigerian Industrial Property Offices use a @yahoo.com e-mail address. That was the point where I stopped my search for an online-version of Patent # RD8489 even though I would really liked to take a look at it!
Here is the press release that started the whole mess.
Lagos Analysis Corporation, a United States-based Nigerian-owned company with a subsidiary called LANCOR Management Limited, in Nigeria (LANCOR) announces today that it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division holding at Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria against Nicholas Negroponte, One Laptop Per Child Association (OLPC) and its enablers in Nigeria.
The closer you look, the more trivial this ‘invention’ looks (prior art). It almost seems like a joke (not the filer’s joke, but a joke that is the irresponsible patent system).
It was only yesterday that we found one good article which highlights the purpose of software patent and shatters to pieces the idea. It’s a case of monopolies against the people.
Patent advocates, large successful businesses, and politicians are so enthusiastic about the patenting of software that it’s hard to accept arguments from people like the FFII and Free Software Foundation who claim that the software industry simply does not need software patents and would be far better off without them. In this article I’ll try to explain why software patents are necessary, and in the sake of fairness I’ll look at the other side of each argument. Here is the “defense of Software Patents”. I report, you decide.
TrollTracker has also just published a good short article from a patent lawyer. It says a lot about the sad state of the US patent system.
Patents cranked out by the millions [with tens of millions of claims] by the USPTO necessarily include a large percentage of clearly invalid or over-broadly-claimed patents, because almost all patents are allowed by a single, young, limited-experience, patent examiner after an average of only 17.9 total patent application examiner processing hours, with only a very limited search of the huge present body of prior art. Thus, many patents simply do not deserve a several million dollar hurdle to even challenge their validity or valid claim scope.
So, what have we here? A broken patent system has not only turned against small and innocent businesses. At the moment, the system is actually used against non-profits. And if you thought the patent system was so bad that it gave trolls the courage to attack humanitarian efforts, you may have not seen anything yet.
In light of the recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the world has begun talking again about the corporate fight against OLPC. There are various facts that the media will not tell you however, so wish to present them here.
How bad were Intel’s and Microsoft’s abuses? Here’s the most recent report:
Intel’s agreement with the OLPC Foundation included a ‘non disparagement’ clause, under which Intel and One Laptop promised not to criticize each other, according to Nicholas Negroponte in the latest article in the Wall Street Journal.
Still Intel tactics have violated that repeatedly to kill OLPC efforts in Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan, India, China and Intel is also still trying to pull those tactics in Mexico, Brazil.
This is simply disgracefull of Intel, scandalous.
But Negroponte has signed an agreement saying that he is not allowed to criticize Intel, so he is not allowed to talk about these shameless tactics even though Intel is the one violating the agreement.
So only independant voices on the Internet can get those messages of truth out about Intels tactics.
In Nigeria, Intel came and donated 3000 laptops to counter OLPC efforts, then sells 17 thousand Classmates to Nigeria at a loss.
Then Microsoft corrupted Nigerian officials with 400 thousand dollars to install Windows XP on those instead of Mandriva Linux.
OLPC will be a very successful project regardless of the outcome. It has exposed some serious problems in the political system (fear of change and liability) and it has taught us a lot more about a couple of vicious monopolies.
The remainder of this post you are urged to read if you are still under the impression that Intel is any better than Microsoft. It seems to be keeping its card closer to its chest, and it’s also destroying criminal evidence (according to repeated claims).
Here is what Bill Gates said about OLPC before he pretended to be fond of the project (he wanted to put Windows on the OLPC).
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates earlier this year told the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum, “Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you?re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type” (see Bill Gates Mocks $100 Laptop).
Mind the fact that he criticised the novelty of the hardware, not the software, so even if he put Windows on it, the words above must always be remembered. Here is another old word about the impact of Intel and Microsoft (mentioned jointly):
One Laptop Per Child – Production Delays Caused By Microsoft, Intel?
I sincerely hope that no matter what the people who are running the OLPC project decide, that their project will continue and not get bogged down in a play of corporate greed and ambitions.
This actually comes from a Microsoft MVP.
Here is what Negroponte said about Intel before he signed the deal which forced him to shut up (see references above):
He is furious that Intel’s CEO Craig Barrett called the One Laptop a gadget. The Negroponte initiative is caught in the middle of a vicious fight between AMD and Intel, he said.
Here’s the take of Intel’s CEO on GNU/Linux (the context being UMPCs):
That software effort does not have the support of Mr. Otellini, who is concerned about incurring Microsoft’s wrath, the executive said The two companies have a long history of tension over who control the hardware and software direction of the “Wintel standard.”
Sam Hiser, displeased with all of this, puts it all quite nicely:
The Gates | Otellini axis directly hurts us deeply. To me, it is a particularly American shame.
Moving on (or back) to Microsoft again, remind yourself of the Mandriva/Nigeria incident:
Wow! I’m impressed, Steve! What have you done for these guys to change their mind like this? It’s pretty clear to me, and it will be clear to everyone. How do you call what you just did Steve, in the place where you live? In my place, they give it various names, I’m sure you know them.
Hey Steve, how do you feel looking at yourself in the mirror in the morning?
Of course, I will keep fighting this one and the next one, and the next one. You have the money, the power, and maybe we have a different sense of ethics you and I, but I believe that hard work, good technology and ethics can win too.
The plot was resolved later on and Mandriva was victorious.
So, even as Microsoft claims superior quality over Linux, they act as if they don’t even buy their own FUD. If they really believed that Windows was superior to Linux, they wouldn’t have to bribe people with “marketing help” to get them to choose Windows.
Intel’s abuses go far beyond the OLPC. AMD carries on complaining, and quite frankly, who can blame it? Consider some of the following articles:
In 2005, after the Japan Fair Trade Commission found Intel guilty of offering illegal rebates to Japanese PC makers, AMD filed an anti-trust suit against its competitor in the U.S. District Court in Delaware. The case has not been decided.
The third type of allegation, however, was new, and sounded like a variety of predatory pricing. “In the context of bids against AMD-based products for strategic customers in the server segment of the market,” the commission press release said, “Intel has offered CPUs on average below cost.”
[AMD's Henri Richard:] “I am sick and tired of being pushed around by a competitor that doesn’t respect the rules of fair and open competition.”
Henri Richard left the company a couple of months. Hee must have been upset about things like the following kickbacks Intel was caught engaging in (and apparently never punished for). With Dell:
An investor lawsuit seeking class-action status accuses Dell Inc. of improper accounting in its relationship with chip giant Intel, according to a media report published Thursday evening.
The suit alleges that Dell received at times as much as $1 billion a year in “secret and likely illegal” kickbacks in the form of “e-Cap” or “exception to corporate average pricing” payments” from Intel to ensure that Dell used no other chip supplier according to The Journal.
Potentially with Lenovo as well:
Journalists on the title said Lenovo is being paid a “pretty penny” from Intel to use its chips.
Some of these things might be hard to prove because Intel has apparently eliminated some evidence (Microsoft is said to be doing the same thing).
Chairman Craig Barrett, CEO Paul Otellini and sales chief Sean Maloney have appeared on a list of Intel employees thought to have deleted e-mails possibly relevant to AMD’s anti-trust lawsuit against its larger rival. The missing e-mails have thrust a livid state of mind onto AMD’s lawyers who have very serious problems with Intel’s rather lax document retention policy.
CEO Otellini appears to have been one of these troublesome employees.
Here is the word from AMD:
In an unpublished statement to the U.S. District Court of Delaware, AMD alleges Intel allowed the destruction of evidence in pending antitrust litigation.
Know what companies you buy your hardware and software from. They will always hide behind and defend their ‘precious’ PR image. The truth tends to escape the mainstream press, which is afraid of writing about large advertisers critically. As we saw in the case of the OLPC, deals can be made to gag people ensure they don’t utter the truth, either. █