If news about software patents is of interest to you, then you are encouraged to visit digitalmajority.org, which regularly picks excellent stories. Here are some of the latest which are relevant to our Web site.
Microsoft is accused of patenting somebody else’s business software.
“Indeed, this raises some serious issues for Microsoft. I feel that they should do the right thing, play fair and withdraw these patent applications”.
It’s far from the first time. This is just like BlueJ [1, 2]. Microsoft stole and patented somebody else’s idea and only when accusations started flying it let those patents go.
The following sums up the purpose of the existing system fairly well. As we pointed out a few days ago, the system protects the rich and it’s also constructed by the rich.
The post-grant review process is seen as just another way for the big boys to string out the process and force the little guy out of the game by raising the costs.
Recall this oldie (and goodie):
A report published by an EU task force on intellectual property claims that small businesses benefit from a patent system, despite lacking almost any participation by the small business community.
Instead, the report, titled IPR (intellectual property rights) for competitiveness and innovation, was written up almost entirely by large corporations and the patent industry.
The report does note objections from the likes of patentfrei.de and Sun Microsystems, which were recorded at some length in the report. But this does not appear to have impacted the conclusion of the report in any way
Jean-Pierre Laisne, of ObjectWeb, an open source software community, said that he found the report useless: participants were told that all their contributions would be recorded but at the end only those of Business Software Alliance and Microsoft were used.
The emphasis (using bold fonts) was added by us.
Look again at the sort of stuff which is being patented at the moment, e.g.:
WordLogic Corp. announced that European Patent No. 1356368 has been granted by the European Patent Office for the invention Data Entry Method And System For Personal Computer…
Even tax planning is seen as patentable. That’s just business methods.
While the Senate’s proposed “Patent Reform Act of 2007” (S.1145) will likely wait until the early months of 2008 for further consideration, lawmakers have introduced an additional proposal that may be offered as an additional amendment to S. 1145.
Things get worse before they get any better, but this isn’t particularly surprising.
…the patent total represents an increase of 31 percent over patents awarded to Xerox in 2005.
So there. You’ll find many more depressing news like this in digitalmajority.org. Looking away from the problem won’t help it go away. █
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“Other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio.”
“If seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work. Maybe there is no way Io avoid this problem but it does bother me. Maybe we can define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open. Or maybe we could patent something related to this.”
A somewhat notorious blogger from the Wall Street Journal (Ben Worthen) has taken a break from his endless Microsoft praises and turned his attention to IBM.
This isn’t necessarily a sign that innovation is slowing. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced recently that it has a backlog of 1,112,517 patent applications. To put that number in perspective, the USPTO approved a total of 157,284 patents in 2007.
Now, that’s a lot. But wait! Look who is among the biggest customers.
Microsoft, which once was only a modest customer of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has been one of its biggest customers in recent years.
If you have not read the quotes at the top of this post, you are advised to do so now.
The latest cross-licensing deal with JVC does not mention Linux. Paul McDougal is just trying to scare you at the moment, so you are encouraged not to listen to him. That’s just what InformationWeek does -- it spreads Linux FUD.
Let’s quickly look again at Microsoft’s plan for handling of Linux — its biggest of threats for about a decade:
- Impose a tax on Linux distribution so that the price of Linux is elevated, Linux is made less attractive (hello, Windows) and Microsoft enjoys a revenue stream from products that it never developed.
- Brag about patents and repeatedly claim that Linux infringes on a set of unspecified patents. This scares potential Linux takers who think about long-term “obligations”. It’s just another SCO, to put it in simple terms.
- And then there are other factors to consider such as OOXML, Silverlight and other patent-protected technologies which Microsoft strives to make widespread and unavoidable.
The only way to combat Microsoft’s attempt to penalise or ‘illegalise’ Linux is to understand what it Microsoft trying to achieve and how so. █
Image from Wikimedia
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…but not necessarily to GNU and Free software
Last month we wrote about various risks MySQL was facing. The company is relevant to this Web site for a variety of reasons (not just because it’s powered by MySQL) and as you have probably heard by now, there was a major acquisition by Sun Microsystems. Here are some of the impacts of this acquisition, as explained by a group of separate sources. The impact of software patents is a tad alarming.
MySQL AB, a company outspoken in its criticisms of software patents, will become part of Sun Microsystems, which tolerates such patents, presumably as a kind of necessary evil. This will leave the anti-software patent leadership in the hands of the EFF, Richard Stallman, and the like, while we wait to see if a new corporate champion emerges.
It was made very clear some months ago that Linux kernel developers were unhappy about OpenSolaris. Here is one possible interpretation:
By buying MySQL, Sun clearly wants to buy into that stack and success – and push out GNU/Linux, either with OpenSolaris (for those startups that Schwartz mentions), or with the full-fig Solaris for the “traditional” (= boring and conservative) enterprises.
It’s a clever plan that makes sense on paper, but it remains to be seen whether LAMP will get junked in favour of SAMP. I doubt it, personally, because despite all the excellent work Sun has done in the field of open source, there remain lingering suspicions, fuelled by its insistence on retaining significant control over both Java and OpenOffice.org.
Don Marti has this to add:
MySQL and Solaris are both using an advanced tracing tool to smoke out performance problems, and Linux doesn’t have anything like it.
On the brighter side of things, MySQL has a larger cushion of cash to find comfort in. Additionally, Sun has already adopted the GPLv3 (in places) — a licence which at least one prominent Linux kernel hacker detests. █
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Litigation as a business strategy
Last month we showed how Microsoft attacks Google by proxy in the courtroom. Microsoft makes this very visible and there are other similar examples where there is just speculation and guessing. We happen to have also mentioned IBM in this context and from such seemingly-far-fetched speculation comes more certainty.
Over on IT Jungle, I just read an interesting story about how Microsoft is (by proxy) cleverly using the same law that was just smacked over its head for Windows market dominance against IBM’s mainframe base in Europe.
The story, by Hesh Wiener, is a fascinating look into the world of litigation-as-business-strategy, and details the complaint filed by Platform Solutions (PSI) against IBM for violating Article 82 of the European Commission (EC) Treaty. The complaint was filed, according to a Dec. 18 Reuters story, way back on Oct. 19.
That would be another SCO. Microsoft may be attacking IBM using other smaller companies. This is pretty major and we will certainly explore and cover this in the future. Do remember that IBM is gradually moving to GNU/Linux on the mainframe (I published an article about this just a fortnight ago) and that is just what’s being fought against in Europe.
Speaking of proxies, the OOXML/ODF report which journalists talk about at the moment was apparently put together by a Microsoft proxy. We continue to gather evidence. There is also a good rebuttal
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Novell’s little sisters still making baby steps
Mandriva has already made it very clear that it would not sign a patent deal with Microsoft. It is curious to find though that Mandriva has just joined forces with Turbolinux, which had sold out and showed off its loveaffrair with Microsoft a couple of months ago.
The deal has no troublesome bits contained in the press release. It is a purely technical collaboration that has nothing at all to do with Microsoft technologies, so unlike Scalix, there should be no effect by association.
Turbolinux Noriko Otake, firstname.lastname@example.org or International Business Division, +81-3-5766-1142 email@example.com or Mandriva Vanessa Wall, +33-(0)1-40-41-97-29 firstname.lastname@example.org Mandriva and Turbolinux announce a partnership by creating a lab named: Manbo-Labs. This Lab is the result of an agreement between Mandriva and Turbolinux to share resources and technology to release a common base system on each
of the Linux distributions.
Also in the news, the ‘bread and butter’ of Linspire, namely CNR, has progress to report.
Since the launch of CNR.com beta last month, over 20,000 new CNR users
have downloaded and installed the beta CNR Client. In addition, over
250,000 software programs, packages and libraries were downloaded and
installed at an 89.9% successful installation rate.
This seems like slow progress. The success of Linspire is still pretty much hinged on its ability to distinguish itself or even getting others dependent on its software. CNR is the company’s only real asset. As we were told by someone who knows the company pretty well, it is unlikely that Linspire will survive. Kevin Carmony made a horrible mistake before leaving the company, more latterly hopping on some dating Web site business while boasting and marketing himself as a “Linux CEO”. He seems to be flipping jobs nowadays, not only distros (he tried to become part of Ubuntu). █
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“It’s a Simple Matter of [Microsoft’s] Commercial Interests!”
–Microsoft’s Doug Mahugh about OOXML in Malaysia
In Malaysia, ODF has already won after careful and prolonged consideration (they didn’t like OOXML). Microsoft, however, continues its manipulation in Malaysia, despite and because of increased adoption of ODF and Free software in the country.
Now, try to imagine Microsoft approaching the authorities in question with a new bogus study from the Burton Group, a set of carefully-doctored lies (hiding evidence) and seemingly-independent lobbying arms such as CompTIA (Microsoft uses them as a proxy in the Philippines right now). Then, be aware that Microsoft will be kind to those who make decisions. It would grease them up, take them out to dinner and make empty promises. It’s all about money and sometimes subtle forms of bribery. We have seen it all before.
A lot of this was expected and what we recently called the "Month of the Dirty OOXML Tricks" has truly begun. Owing to overwhelming pressure and disinformation, Microsoft seems close to flipping some votes and reversing inertia through pragmatic support.
While the battle between proponents of OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Office Open XML (OOXML) rages on, Microsoft is making some headway persuading several strategic organizations in Malaysia to adopt OpenXML.
The guys at OpenMalaysia will hopefully take a careful look at this. It is unlikely that Microsoft plays fair based on what we’ve witnessed so far. There are not many reports that provide inside information and sufficient insight. █
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The part which is worth paying careful attention to is this: “the parties said that Microsoft is receiving compensation from JVC.”
Here is the full (yet surprisingly short) press release:
Microsoft, JVC Agree To Patent Cross-Licensing Pact
January 15, 2008: 08:23 PM EST
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Victor Company of Japan Ltd. agreed to a patent cross-licensing deal for the further development of each company’s current and future product lines.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the parties said that Microsoft is receiving compensation from JVC.
Microsoft, a Redmond, Wash., software company, said the agreement strengthens the long-term collaborative relationship between the two companies.
Shares in Microsoft continued to slide after hours, recently trading down $ 1.09 after closing down 1.1%, or 39 cents, at $34 in active trading.
-Adam O. Manzor; 201-938-5400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
Order free Annual Report for Microsoft Corporation
Visit http://djnewswires.ar.wilink.com/?link=MSFT or call 1-888-301-0513
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Update: In case you require some context and further information, Paul Krill has it. If you try Web search queries of interest, you will probably fail to see much evidence that JVC builds products with Linux.
Update #2: A more comprehensive press release can be found here.
Update #3: A source that it not so credible adds: “Among other things, JVC uses Linux in its streaming video networking gear.”
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To say that Microsoft tries to turn people against one another is not a bold statement. This was done before. Here is one example:
Andy Tanenbaum – Linus Torvalds
Among various examples that are provided here, you will find that Microsoft tried to incite Andy Tanenbaum, creator of MINIX, against Linus Torvalds, who created the derivative we know as Linux. Microsoft wanted to see a civil wars in the courts. It wanted two seemingly friendly parties to fight and destroy one another.
Linus Torvalds – Richard Stallman
There is no evidence which shows that Microsoft is involved here, but there are clearly some tensions between the FSF and Linus Torvalds. The mainstream media seems to be interested in adding wood to the fire before it dies out. Drama drama drama! As you may have noticed, many newspapers talk loudly about the fact that Torvalds rejects GPLv3. Well, February 2007 called and it wants its news back. Why do journalists keep kicking this dead horse? Unsurprisingly, this includes Peter Galli, whose Microsoft FUD had him lose credibility. How much more GPLv3 FUD will one see?
Linus likes GPLv2 better. He puts emphasis on preference, not dislike. Nothing has changed. Over 1,000 projects have decided to move to GPLv3 so far. Some people still try to create ‘civil wars’ between Linus and Richard Stallman, especially by bringing up the GPLv3 story up again.
Theo de Raadt – Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman
There are reports we’ve been receiving by E-mail that Richard Stallman is under constant attacks. There is also recent evidence that shows Theo de Raadt refuting or attacking people from the ‘GPL world’. One source, which you may believe or not, says that Microsoft might be using Theo de Raadt. This is just a rumour and speculation though. The former (about Stallman) is factual.
SCO – Linux
What really can one add? It was mentioned so many times before, including here. The financial relationships between SCO and Microsoft seem compelling. SCO was driven into bankruptcy and clouds of uncertainty loomed over Linux for years. Therein lies the value of a dog-eat-dog ‘civil war’. Who would be the person (or party) that benefits the most?
Sun – Linux
There is nothing but speculation and a hint from Jonathan Schwartz, but the possibility of Microsoft offering money for Sun to sue Linux is interesting. See what Jonathan Schwartz had to say.
“In the case of Google, there’s no suspicion. It’s a fact. Microsoft openly encourages publishers to sue Google.”See this post which covers Apple and also see this one. There’s suspicion that Microsoft is using proxies to attack IBM and Apple in Europe. In the case of Google, there’s no suspicion. It’s a fact. Microsoft openly encourages publishers to sue Google.
Linspire – Linux
Remember how Linspire’s CEO, Kevin Carmony, actually attacked Linux vendors who didn't join hands with Microsoft? This includes Ubuntu, whose work Kevin’s company is essentially mooching (repackaging and putting a price tag on).
Novell – Linux
Did you know that Novell uses Microsoft FUD to market itself?
Acacia and Intellectual Ventures – Linux
Intellectual Ventures seems to have a little quiet vendetta against Linux and Acacia has already attacked Linux (Red Hat and Novell). Acacia has links with BayStar, as well as former Microsoft employees. The latter actually applies to Intellectual Ventures too, so this is worth keeping an eye on.
Someone has been faking messages from me in order to anger Bruce Byfield, apparently. This is not the first time that pseudonymous people try to incite crowds in this way. It happens every day. Below is an example from yesterday.
Mary Lou Jepsen/OLPCNews
Here is another new example of attempts to make wars. Almost all the posters in this thread are believed to be Microsoft shills taking turns. They have been doing this for many years (going as far back as the OS/2 days). It’s appalling. And here’s another new quote for you:
“…The issue was on the sales side, and the disparagement we were still getting from Intel. Peru was one really extreme example. Oscar Becerra Tresierra, the vice minister of education, said to me that Intel was coming to him almost every day and saying, “Look, we are on the OLPC’s board, and we know that the laptop will never work.””
–Mary Lou Jepsen
Let’s just leave this one hanging, for one’s wild imagination. Remember Microsoft’s supportive letters from dead people? Or Microsoft’s fake confessions, namely:
Then in 2002, Microsoft’s Web site featured a testimonial called “Confessions of a Mac to PC Convert,” a first-person account by an attractive brunette “freelance writer” about how she had fallen in love with Windows XP.
Unfortunately, a Slashdot member discovered that the identical photo was available for rent from the stock-photo libraries of GettyImages.com. Sure enough: Microsoft had hired a PR firm to write the testimonial. The “switcher” did not actually exist.
Nice job, Microsoft. █
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