There are many new articles at a moment (e.g. these earlier ones) which talk about Microsoft increasing its patent-filing pace. You are encouraged to keep in mind that Microsoft’s latest strategy against GNU/Linux revolves around software patents. The Halloween Documents considered this an option as an attack plan (among others like SCO other-type action, i.e. copyrights). It is therefore important to keep track of companies that sign patent deals with Microsoft. This includes JVC which, despite the fact that its Microsoft cross-licensing deal mentions nothing about Linux, is helping fuel fear and acknowledge patents. JVC and Funai have just teamed up and that’s worth keeping in mind for future reference.
Japanese consumer electronics makers Victor Co. of Japan and Funai Electric will jointly develop and supply LCD television sets, an industry source said on Tuesday.
Patent TrollTracker has been receiving a lot of attention recently (including hacking attempts) and s/he keeps good track of Acacia and other patent trolls in the United States. There’s little — albeit some — hope on the horizon.
On another note, Michael Martin has a post on the pending patent reform in the Senate. He explains why the proposed reforms could help solve the problem of patent thickets. He even backs off his earlier conclusion that damages apportionment may be disastrous for the emerging market for ideas.
In other patent news (via Digital Majority):
Business Standard: Infosys to increase patent filings
Infosys Technologies Limited, the country’s second largest IT company, expects patent filings to increase with its primary R&D centre, Software Engineering and Technology Labs (SETLabs), expanding the scope of research to new areas.
The patent Armageddon in telecommunications continues: Sprint sues for VoIP patent infringements
Sprint has also gone to court, claiming 15 infringements of their patented VoIP technology by several small providers, Nuvox Communications, BroadVOX Holdings, Big River Telephone and Paetec Communications.
What is the point of these mutual lawsuits (other than lawyers' welfare? Should there not be peace, or the system be trashed for encouraging nothing but mutual destruction? The small guys are being sued also: Sprint sues little guys over VoIP patents
Following up on its $80 million settlement from its Vonage lawsuit last year, Sprint is milking its 115 VoIP patents by suing NuVox Communications, Broadvox Holdings, Big River Telephone and Paetec Communications.
Welcome to the 21st century — the age where own-able knowledge is so organic that everything and everyone can be sued. █
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It comes as a bit of a surprise after extreme levels of manipulation and ignorance, but Microsoft did not escape federal oversight.
Microsoft Corp. lost a bid to limit restrictions on its business conduct as a federal judge ruled the company failed to provide technical details that it was required to disclose to competitors.
Web Services Abuses Carry On
Remember that only a week ago we said that Microsoft appeared to be begging for the attention of regulators with further abuses in the Web services domain. It is actually interesting to find that Joe Wilcox has just published further evidence of this in another related area.
Little problem for Microsoft: As part of a previous $1 billion
bribe marketing agreement, Dell computers ship with Google Desktop software and other goodies. No problem, Microsoft representative Brandon LeBlanc has instructions for fixing up that (RED) PC, and in the process axing that dreaded Google software. He posted them yesterday on Microsoft’s Windows Vista Blog. Heck, there’s even a video.
And here you have another case of a supposedly ‘charitable’ effort being used as an excuse not only to sell Windows Vista, but also as means of unfairly excluding Google. This is indeed a case of prebundling that eliminates competition. Google has already complained about similar abuses to the DoJ, but Microsoft has insiders in the DoJ (among other government departments). We mentioned this again very recently.
The OEM Abuses Carry On
Have a look at this conviction. It’s pretty damning and it comes from the UK.
But to get back to the main thread of this. Just two companies here in the UK that could offer me a laptop which I could choose to have supplied without an Operating System. That is bloody scandalous. EVERY other laptop (apart from the 2 Dell machines and some Asus EEe PCs [Update: I was a bit brief here. There are few other vendors who supply Linux pre-installed. But they do not offer the choice of “no operating system”]) would be supplied with a Microsoft Operating System. I had little or no choice; I could always have bought a Mac but that’s a somewhat similar issue.
Also found today is this nugget of information about Dell in Europe. Mind this bit:
Dell has announced that it has started shipping Ubuntu Linux 7.10 as an option for the XPS M1330 laptop in various European countries. U.S. availability will follow soon.
Dell has recently revealed a prime choice for hardware when it comes to Linux users and offers like this one will help continue that trend.
The problem is that Dell might eventually report they’re not getting enough demand. In that situation I wouldn’t be surprised – I don’t think people will be stupid enough to the point of paying £100 more just to get Ubuntu installed – it’s not something hard to do.
So, people are in fact being penalised now for wanting something other than Windows. They are required to pay a lot extra just to get Free software. Dell’s mysterious deal with Microsoft and Novell springs to mind, but there might be a different explanation to this. Dell has a long history of being manipulated (almost tamed) by Microsoft. █
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Glyn truly stands out from the crowd as far as patent issues are concerned [1, 2, 3. Here in the UK, patent laws and volume of lawsuits seem not to have gone as bad as they already are in the States, but there is concern that this may change if a US-style law is adopted here. Here is Glyn’s latest writeup about what he consistently calls “intellectual monopoly”, in line with Richard Stallman’s own perspective.
Many – including myself – believe that a better description of copyright and patents is to call them “intellectual monopolies”, since they are just that: state-granted monopolies that give the power to exclude others from using certain kinds of ideas.
Once you move away from the loaded “intellectual property”, you can examine objectively whether such intellectual monopolies are, in fact, beneficial for society – both in terms of those holding them, and those who must operate with them.
A few days ago we referred to the appalling news from over here in the UK where software patents received validity. Relevant parts of the press are flooded with this news at the moment. Here’s one example:
It looks like the UK is about to make the same dangerous mistake that US courts made a while back. A decision there has now stated that the Patent Office shouldn’t automatically reject patent apps on software.
The only encouraging aspect of the news is that there is still opportunity to appeal this decision, so it might not be quite so final and irreversible. The best one can do at this stage is raise this issue to make opposition more loud. █
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A FFII representative, Benjamin Henrion, had a little chat that happens to cover some of the issues associated with Microsoft’s OOXML (starts around 5mins 40secs), but it’s focused on patents, which are themselves an OOXML issue (direct link to video)
Jan and me had the chance to talk to André and Benjamin Henrion from the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) at the 24c3 Chaos Communication Congress. Besides some general talk about the activities of the FFII in Brussels we get a few insights into the current campaign against the Microsoft standard ooxml.
From Australia comes another reminder of the Microsoft Office lock-in. ODF is needed to restore competition, not only to have a real standards mandated for objects that we all use extensively.
IT managers considering the future of their organization’s desktops need to be wary of the amount of dependence workers have on Microsoft Office documents — which cause the most lock-in, according to one consultant.
Hence the need for ODF. Another barrier is the perversion in Web standards, courtesy of Internet Explorer. █
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There have been many deals, partnerships, patent licensing agreements and acquisitions recently. One of those moves, which we described here before, is an anti-VMWare move backed by acquisition of competitors (XenSource) and special deals (Citrix) that help undermine the competition. VMWare is not the only sufferer, but it appears to be affected the most.
Last week Microsoft announced a company-wide strategy to accelerate broad adoption of virtualization by its customers. As part of its new approach, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant unveiled a suite of services aimed at reducing the number of servers businesses need to use, separating applications from operating systems, reducing costs, and lowering carbon emissions.
At the same time, operating systems providers such as Novell began providing virtualization in their operating systems.
Mind Novell's role in the fight against VMWare. Also be aware of the scale of VMware’s sad news.
The honeymoon for VMware Inc. on Wall Street appears to be over.
The stock plummeted almost 34% because of high expectations. There is clearly a lot of pressure not just on VMWare, but also on other companies that will accordingly be affected (ripple effect). This includes Red Hat. After the MySQL and Trolltech acquisition comes another smaller one, but it’s not hostile. SpringSource devours Covalent. The acquisition is actually quite a natural and symbiotic one.
Obviously, 2008 is off to a roaring start for open soure M&A. Amid all of the deals and our usual discussions with open source software vendors, we’re hearing more and more executives talk about the long-term potential of business based on open code. The SpringSource acquisition of Covalent is a perfect example.
It’s reassuring to see that despite all these signs of “consolidation” (nice word for decreasing choice), one Open-Source (ish) company can acquire another, so at least none gets snatched by a giant seeking to hurt another. █
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We recently highlighted one of the main reasons for gradual legalisation of software patents. It is, among other factors (e.g. Nokia), a question of political corruption. Digital Majority has published a large number of links in the past few days. Here is one of them:
Europe’s World: Regulating Brussels’ legion of lobbyists
The Commission believes that this sort of financial disclosure will indicate the level of influence that a lobby group can be expected to have.
There is clearly quite a lot going on behind the scenes. In politics, there is little or no transparency. One has to remember the bullying which Dell, for example, received (and possibly still received) from Microsoft when it offered GNU/Linux options. It all happened behind the scenes. Antitrust documents show this in details with Microsoft E-mails that speak about “whacking” Dell, “knifing the baby”, making the OEMs “do the delicate dance” and so forth. We covered some other examples in the past.
On the other side in Europe, there exists a very transparent movement. The Free Software Foundation Europe has just vowed to work against software patents. From a recent announcement:
A new antitrust case may be undertaken after complaints by Opera Software that Microsoft has willfully distorted the web browser marketplace. It’s also important to note that this does not in any way solve the problem with patents on software. Such patents are still being granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) in violation of current law, and the FSFE is encouraging the European Commission to take actions to permanently abolish patents on software, both in theory and practice.
There is some other rather discouraging news from Europe, such as this development: (all links found in Digital Majority by the way)
Slovenian Minister of Economy Andrej Vizjak has said that Slovenia will work towards a European patent litigation system and community patent during its Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2008, a press release by the European Patent Office (EPO) stated.
Speaking to the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs earlier this week, Vizjak said a “strengthened and improved European patent system” was crucial for “competitiveness and growth of the European economy”.
In other patent news:
Vonage chief stays sunny about the future
Vonage’s survival didn’t seem so certain in 2007. Vonage spent the year battling a patent-infringement lawsuit filed by Verizon. The telecom giant accused Vonage of violating several of its patents that set out methods and protocols for passing calls between the Web and conventional phone networks.
Gemstar EPG patent strategy, sue first then talk
Last week Gemstar sued Virgin Media for patent infringement before a UK court. Gemstar holds IP rights to a number of “interactive television”, or, more precisely, EPG (Electronic Programming Guide) patents, in the US also known as “interactive programme guides” or IPGs.
Some of the stories above clearly justify the need for immediate change. █
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ODF is not OpenOffice, but OpenOffice helps ODF adoption
We duly apologise for delivering so much annoying news, but as we say time and time again, ignoring or escaping the problem won’t just make it go away. It’s awareness that can help us make a problem — rather than ourselves — finally escape out of this world. Here is some more encouraging news which is a sign of greater adoption of ODF.
The first is a report from Asia which shows that the educational IT curriculum is less likely to sustain its nature as a “Windows/Microsoft Office training course”. Many nations still serve as trainers of Microsoft’s own technologies — the agents of monopolisation if you like. This may be starting to change.
A well-acknowledged global trend is that most school children and first-time computer users get their basic computer lesson by learning to use Microsoft Office and Windows Operating System.
This raises the hackles of many Open Source advocates who rue the fact that most schools and governments do not promote the use of Open Source software such as Sun Microsystems-sponsored OpenOffice. While Microsoft Office enjoys over 90 per cent of the market, OpenOffice.org and StarOffice are slowly making inroads into enterprises, government and education sectors. Localization efforts by contributors are enabling OpenOffice to reach more countries in multiple languages. Jim Parkinson, vice president, Collaborative Engineering, Sun Microsystems spoke to Priya Padmanabhan of CyberMedia News OpenOffice and Sun’s commitment to promote developer efforts on the program.
According to this new posting from a marketing blog, in addition to those one million downloads of OpenOffice.org per week, Italy alone counts a surge which peaked at almost 2 million downloads last year.
According to Davide Dozza, Chairman of Associazione PLIO: “The numbers are exactly the same. If it’s just a coincidence, it’s a very strange one. Downloads of the Italian version of OpenOffice.org were 800.000 in 2006 and 1.800.000 in 2007: the difference is exactly in the million of Italians that – according to Microsoft – have downloaded the trial version of Office 2007. We think that these users have decided to switch to OpenOffice.org as soon as they have realized that the effort to get used to the new ribbon interface is higher than the effort to migrate to the open source suite. In 2007, the majority of information requests has been about the compatibility with Windows Vista, and the trend stays unchanged in 2008″.
Those who claim that OpenOffice.org is not adopted are clearly forgetting that such software is distributed, not sold. It is quite common to alter definitions for bragging rights [1, 2]. Speaking of which, Microsoft is channel-stuffing Office 2007 to create an illusion of adoption. █
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Our previous post talked about patents versus Free software and the following new article describes Mono as a case of “Embracing the .Beast” (.NET, which has patents). And yes, it’s all about Mono again. Mono is a Novell project that gets its tentacles around many other GNU/Linux distributions. With Silverlight out there, it might even be impossible to avoid (Mono-based Moonlight is the only workaround).
Mono allows programmers to program in Visual Basic on Linux and run their applications on Windows, or develop in C# on Windows and run their applications on Linux, but remains a controversial addition to the Linux developers’ arsenal.
We last wrote about the Mono problem just a couple of days ago. █
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