12.22.07

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Samba to Become More Popular, Time to Think About Patents (Updated)

Posted in Apple, Europe, Microsoft, Novell, Protocol, Samba, Servers, Standard at 4:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IANAL, but those 50 pence are here

A few days ago — and just in time for Christmas — we received some exciting news from the Samba team. From a technical point-of-view, barriers have been pulled thanks to Europe’s involvement and final decision, whose effectiveness was undervalued in the past.

”From what we can gather, what you have here is similar to Microsoft’s ‘promise’ not to sue Novell customers (they still can)“Samba’s milestone will contribute significantly to the adoption of GNU/Linux, not only at the expense of Windows, but also at the expense of some open protocols. Those protocols replaced Microsoft ones and thereby they removed patent issues away from the table.

Let’s put technical issues aside for a moment. There is one one negative thing which comes to mind. From what we can gather, what you have here is similar to Microsoft’s ‘promise’ not to sue Novell customers (they still can). Most journalists, none of whom are lawyers, seem very optimistic nonetheless. It’s great news, but it doesn’t seem so perfect. Ideal scenarios would involve no patents at al. We think about binding contracts rather than promises. Anyway, that’s just a case of pondering a worst case scenarios.

In other breaking patent news (timely reminder of the devil in the details):

1. Nokia, InterDigital claim patent case victory

Nokia filed a complaint in July 2005 asking the High Court to declare that 31 of InterDigital’s European patents were not essential to the UMTS standard, saying the it was proactively defending itself from potential infringement suits in Europe by InterDigital.

2. Vonage and AT&T Finalize Settlement

Vonage and AT&T have entered into a definitive agreement to settle their patent dispute, the companies announced today. The companies had agreed in principle to a settlement on November 7.

3. Apple Applies For Automatic Shutdown and Piracy-Fighting Patents

The US Patent Office has revealed a number of recent patent filings by Apple.

[...]

Apple has thus-far resisted industry trends towards activation of software, and currently only uses such methods in some of its most costly professional software. While it is clear that Apple has been working on methods to combat piracy, it remains to be seen how far Apple will employ the methods in its software. Readers are reminded that only a portion of the applications filed end up making it to shipping products.

It would not be wise to simply ignore patents, including software patents. At this time when OOXML is a hotly-debated issue, consider this:

Free software developers cares about the software they write. They care about licenses and boring legal stuff. Unfortunately Microsoft makes it illegal to make OOXML integration for individual developers. When Sun makes an OOXML converter to ODF, they are a company and got the legal team to handle the licensing issues. I suggest you yourself, since you don’t care of legal risks, tries to implement Suns OOXML->ODF in KOffice based on the work from Sun Microsystems. But it seems that you don’t know about this things in depth to do it your self. If that true, I think you should put your money where your month is. Instead of letting others live with the legal risks implementing OOXML, you should pay any legal cost for the developers who supports MS OOXML as you suggests. Or don’t you care about that either?

Supporting Microsoft formats and protocols is never the ideal route to achieving anything. It promotes reliance and dependability. It often involves legal risks, but then again, pragmatism gets in the way. Balancing the desire for freedom and the embrace of proprietary, patent-encumbered ‘gifts’ remains key.

Microsoft has a bone to pick and a saber to rattle.

Update: having shared some of this information here, it seems clear that “software patents remain largely unaddressed.” This confirms the suspicion raised above.

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