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03.06.08

Patents Roundup. Microsoft is Faking it Again

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents, Tivoization at 11:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

For those who are curious enough to keep track of the broken USPTO, here is a quick summary.

Unnecessary, Unproductive Litigation

According to this article from the New York Times, we might — just might — see business method patents come to an end.

The death of business method patents could be felt strongest in Silicon Valley, where a first step of many entrepreneurs is to retreat with lawyers to start patenting defensible business ideas. It could also affect patent acquisition firms such as Intellectual Ventures, a firm funded by major technology companies such Microsoft, Google, Intel, Apple and Nokia, that is aggressively accumulating patent portfolios.

More about this in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Business methods could start an avalanche.

The Qualcomm-Nokia ping-pong game is far from over.

Nokia is celebrating the fact that Qualcomm has, to date, failed to win a single case concerning GSM patents. “This is the second court to conclude that Qualcomm does not have relevant and valid GSM patents,” commented Nokia’s chief financial officer Rick Simonson. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has already declared one of three Qualcomm patents to be invalid and rejected an appeal. Both actions concerned similar patents from the same family, as confirmed by Nokia.

Another bad idea in the making:

Starhome, which provides roaming services and converged solutions, has revealed that it has been granted a patent in the US (No. 7 333 808) for it’s Intelligent Border Roaming technology. The patent is based on Starhome’s service node architecture for controlling and steering border roaming, which prevents home network subscribers from inadvertently registering to cross-border foreign networks with strong coverage.

From Digital Majority

Digital Majority had some good picks, including:

1. Wanted: Prior Art to Bust Firepond/Polaris Patent

To bust this overly broad patent, we need to find prior art that describes a product made before 1997 in this way. Take a look at the description and please forward it to anyone you know who might have special knowledge related to natural language processing. Prior Art can be submitted here.

2. Jim Bessen on “Patent Failure”

Bessen’s presentation is titled “Patent Failure”. Bessen analyzes a broad range of evidence on the economic performance of the patent system. He finds that patents provide strong incentives for firms in a few industries, but for most firms today, patents actually discourage innovation because they fail to perform as well-defined property rights. This analysis provides a guide to policy reform.

3. How TiVo won

And now, at last, there seems to be a path to profitability. A successful courtroom defense of its software patents laid the groundwork for what many analysts believe to be a coming period of exponential growth. In January, a federal appeals court upheld that digital recorders distributed by The Dish Network (owned by EchoStar (SATS)) infringed on several Tivo patents, including one that allows viewers to simultaneously view one show while watching another.

Another good reason to promote GPLv3?

Microsoft is Faking “Open Source”

This is perhaps a little off topic, but consider the warnings we saw in the past about Microsoft hijacking and then redefining open source. This continues to become a reality.

I’m totally tortured with agonizing over Microsoft’s Singularity. See, I have a standing moral obligation with myself as follows: If Microsoft ever released a purely Open-Source or Free Software system – as defined by the Free Software Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, or common conventional wisdom – I have said (and will repeat here) that I would download it, try it out, review it, and possibly adopt it, to be treated no different from software from, for example, Red Hat Inc. or BSD.

But I’m poring over the license, and this seems like it doesn’t qualify. It seems to be proprietary with the extra feature of being able to see the source, and modify and redistribute it only in the interests of academic research, with the stipulation that:

* It allows no “activity which purpose is to procure a commercial gain to you or others.” Does blogging about it on a website with ads count? Does publishing an ebook hacking guide count?
* “That Microsoft is granted back, a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free, and sub-licensable license to, for any purpose, reproduce, publicly perform or display, install, use, modify, distribute, make and have made, sell and transfer modifications to and/or derivative works of the Software source code or data that you provide to Microsoft through the CodePlex tool or otherwise make directly available to Microsoft.”

[...]

Seriously, it could just be the case that Microsoft really wants to do the right thing, but has no idea how to go about it. But common sense is telling me that that’s a thin defense. Microsoft has two licenses approved by the OSI (MS-Pl) and (MS-Rl); and it only takes a minute to research the Free Software Foundation’s philosophy.

Microsoft knows damned good and well what an open source license looks like. And I guess I can’t kid myself about that fact, as hard as I would like to.

“Open source” becomes more diluted than ever, thanks to Microsoft which benefits from this dilution.

Assorted New Reactions to the OOXML BRM, March Vote

Posted in Asia, Deception, ECMA, Europe, IBM, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 11:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“There won’t be anything we won’t say to people to try and convince them that our way is the way to go.”

Bill Gates (Microsoft’s CEO at the time)

Brown has unleashed some BRM documents which are being studied at the moment. Here are some early reactions.

One of the documents Brown has provided is an edited version of the notes from the meeting [PDF]. Obviously, that isn’t sufficient, since one has no way to know all that was edited out. The other is a list of the resolutions. Apart from wanting to see unexpurgated notes, and to listen to the audio reportedly made of the meeting, what is the most interesting from the documents, as Groklaw member PolR emailed me, is that even the edited notes confirm some details we’ve been reading. I think they also raise some procedural questions.

And speaking of “procedural questions”, ask someone who was there.

To resort to “counting votes” on the vast majority of the technical issues of DIS 29500, without discussion or opportunity for objection, this is a failure of the JTC1 process. But if we are to have a vote at all, it must be done in accordance with the rules.

Jan van den Beld, who is partly responsible for this fiasco, had the following said about him.

BTW, Ecma held a cocktail event on Thursday evening (28th) and I had an opportunity to chat with Mr Jan van den Beld. He was the head of Ecma and instrumental in seeing OOXML through the process. He re-justified the case for OOXML to us delegates, and yes, he did reiterate his favourite phrase, and Ecma’s unofficial motto “Better a good standard today than a perfect one tomorrow”… I guess different people have different definitions of “good”!

He did, with good humour, apologize for being the one responsible for bringing all of us here. That was nice of him ;-)

Maybe I’m too much of an idealist, and he being in the standards business for so long, and having seen so much rubbish (^H^H^H^H vendor specifications) pushed through over the years, has lower expectations for international standards. I dunno. Hey, maybe I AM cynical, too!

This actually comes from Malaysia, which has been very frank (consider the harsh press release) whilst other nations kept a low profile and maintained more secrecy. Remember the Microsoft lobbyists in Geneva? Well, The Financial Times gave that some coverage thanks to this Malaysian blogger.

Anyway, what is interesting about this, is that a substantial amount of information is based on my “Geneva, Day x” series, and the funny one on “Geneva, Day Zero” blog entry. Yeah, FT even featured the walkin’ talkin’ stalkin’ Microsoft Malaysia Rep! Maija followed up on it, and it seems Microsoft’s official reason for his attendance was “to provide technical assistance”. Heh.

IBM’s Sutor is already trying to convince those ‘puppet nations’ (never mind puppet committees), which blindly voted on OOXML, to change their decision. It’s not too late and the sheer failure of the BRM [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13] ought to have them publicly embarrassed for failing to do so.

Jonathan assured me that national bodies can, indeed, change their votes to NO from YES or ABSTAIN.

More details here.

For those who thought that ODF adoption had slown down, consider the fact that a county in Germany has just begun adopting OpenOffice.org, which is one among the many programs that use ODF, the international standard.

According to this German article, the German county “Friesland” is adoption open source including OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice.org will be installed on the majority of the client systems.

To conclude, it’s looking very bad for those who continue to defend OOXML and looking good for the existing international standard.

GPLv3: Sun’s and Red Hat’s New Armament Against Software Patents

Posted in FSF, GPL, Law, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, OpenOffice, Patents, Red Hat, SUN, Turbolinux, Xandros at 11:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It is worth congratulating Sun for upgrading the licence of OpenOffice.org to version 3 of the GNU LGPL. This ought to affect many GNU/Linux distributions that comes with OpenOffice.org preinstalled. Remember Sun's and Red Hat's response to Microsoft’s accusative claims that OpenOffice.org and GNU/Linux infringe on its patents.

Further on this news from Simon Phipps:

You may recall that a team from Sun devoted a great deal of time to the process of drafting the GPLv3. Our engagement was not just the monitoring exercise that I suspect it was for many of the corporate participants. It was always my hope that Sun would use the license for significant software projects.

FSF GNU GPLv3Lawyers might also be able to already tell what this means to Linspire, Turbolinux, Xandros and Novell, all of whom are Microsoft sellouts, to whom the GPLv3 is a punisher. It’s complicated, but it resolves issues.

Meanwhile, over at Red Hat, the legal team gets a reinforcement. With a new appointment it now appears likely that Red Hat will adopt GPLv3 more than before.

With Fontana’s extensive experience with GPLv3, his hiring might signal a desire by Red Hat to adopt GPLv3 broadly.

Do remember that the GPLv3′s relevance in this case is to do with patents and not with Tivoization or any of the other modifications that some consider “controversial”.

In the following new special issue of CTLR, Perens and Red Hat make an appearance. Red Hat addresses the issue of software patents.

* “Innovation goes public”, by Bruce Perens, a powerful speaker, a naturally creative thinker and a man who is so synonymous with the open source movement that he has all but trade marked it;

[...]

* “Commercial licensing models” by Jan Wildeboer (Solution Architect at Red Hat and a well known enemy of software patents);

Here is a lecture about the GPLv3.

Steve Ballmer scared of GPLv3
Patent strategy gradually goes sour

Microsoft Pretends to Obey Web Standards While Novell+Microsoft Phase Web Standards Out

Posted in Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Standard at 10:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Moving goalposts

“We’re disheartened because Microsoft helped W3C develop the very standards that they’ve failed to implement in their browser. We’re also dismayed to see Microsoft continue adding proprietary extensions to these standards when support for the essentials remains unfinished.”

George Olsen, Web Standards Project

The press continues to be deceived by what was rightly called "shameless propaganda" earlier this week. Microsoft wishes to have people believe that it has begun playing nice with the Web after more than a decade of stubbornly abusing it. The skepticism persists.

Based on Microsoft’s past behavior, the answer would be to control Web standards. But maybe Microsoft can change. Maybe it’s so-called “Interoperability Principles” are sincere. If so, Microsoft would be more likely be sincere about adhering to Web standards.

Given Microsoft’s past behavior, I’m struggling to believe the extent of sincerity. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ infamous May 1995 Internet Tidal Wave memo articulated the importance of controlling Internet file formats and a strategy for doing so.

The Internet Tidal Wave memo is the blueprint for Microsoft’s product strategy from 1995 to present day. The strategy articulated by Gates nearly 13 years ago is still forefront, or was, if Microsoft’s Interoperability Principles are a sincere change.

Firstly, consider the fact that IE8 will try to leverage a desktop monopoly. Early previews of the beta confirm this.

More importantly, however, here we have a case of becoming more (X)HTML-compliant while trying to phase (X)HTML out and give way to XAML (Silverlight) and other proprietary technologies such as ActiveX. It is a war against LAMP, Ajax and crawlers (the likes of Google), which rely on open standards.

The EU is already looking into this abuse, which is to be more properly realised and understood in years to come. Novell, which now refers to Microsoft as its "partner", helps Microsoft. It’s more than just GNOME which is affected by this.

It is worth adding that while Microsoft claims compliance with Web standards (in their existing form), the road ahead looks grim.

The Web Standards Project (WaSP) has released its latest browser standards compliance test – Acid 3 – and every browser that WaSP tested failed. IE 8 is, of course, not available for test yet. But given the abysmal performance of IE 7, Microsoft developers have a lot of work to do.

Konqueror with Webkit is the most complaint Web browser among the stable ones.

Looking ahead, watch the ‘tagline’ of this new article, “Microsoft architecture chief ‘clarifies’ online formula”.

Silverlight + Yahoo! = $$$$

Wasn’t that predictable?

Silverlight stack

Replacing universal standards with a Microsoft stack

Image from the public domain

Off-topic: The Personal Assault Continues…

Posted in Site News at 10:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The pseudonymous/anonymous Munchkins (or whatever they are), posting from proxies as usual, are now spreading libelous material about my Web host/sites launching DDOS attacks. They are trying to get those sites of mine blacklisted. The vulgar language is just normal and it’s intended to repel and drive away readers of the forum.

“The corporate bullying must end, or at least be brought to people’s attention.”Those old tricks show no signed of abatement and they were attempted before, unsuccessfully.

For details you can see this new thread (along with all the slander), in case you are curious.

Just days ago there were the DDOS attacks against my personal site, but it’s probably unrelated. As my last message in the thread above shows, these gagging attempts are evolving and they have gone on for years (the list of examples is far from complete). The corporate bullying must end, or at least be brought to people’s attention.

Links 06/03/2008: GNU/Linux and FOSS in Europe, Bill Gates Wealth Declines

Posted in News Roundup at 11:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Links 06/03/2008: GNU/Linux Laptops, New Kernel RC, OLPC in the US, High Server Growth

Posted in News Roundup at 2:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

USPTO As Broken as Always, Proof Herein

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Hardware, Patents at 2:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Repeating the same mistakes of the drug industry

Whenever you find comfort in the belief that you have seen enough, here comes another disturbance. This one is from RIM.

What do you get if you mesh a dual-orientation handset together with a slide-out keyboard and a tracker ball? Potentially, the next BlackBerry from Research in Motion (RIM), if its latest patent application is anything to go by.

USPTOWhat RIM patents here has plenty of prior art and we recently saw an incident where RIM actually sued unnecessarily, attacking a weaker company like Motorola using weak patents applicable to wireless communication standards. The Nokia N810 and the Mylo from Sony seem rather similar to the design in this patent application, but this does not seem to bother or deter RIM. Remember what these people think: More Patents = More Innovation. But not so fast!

It seems like a patents blog has just shown up (or been born) in C|Net and it now speaks about the “first-to-file” rule, which renders the whole system utterly pointless and prone to error.

Generally, the first person to file the lawsuit gets to choose where the suit is brought. This is called the “first-to-file” rule. It works much like the lines you stand in at the grocery store, airport security, or countless other places; it’s simply first come, first served.

However, in the context of patent litigation, being first in line is a big deal. Different courts have different procedural rules that can affect the way a case is litigated and the speed at which the case goes to trial. Moreover, there is a perception that courts in certain areas are more plaintiff-friendly than others.

The term “first-to-file” is used in numerous other circumstances which equally well demonstrate the weakness of the whole approach. The pharmaceutical industry is already learning its lessons, so why can’t others?

Below we’re appending some relevant and recent stories about conclusions arrived by drug companies and biologists. They are sorted reverse-chronologically (roughly).


1. Open Lab

The open source wave could soon power drug discovery initiatives in the country. A decentralised, web-based initiative is emerging that would enable scientists from laboratories, universities, institutes, and drug Companies to work together in discovering new drugs for diseases like tuberculosis (TB), malaria, various types of cancer, AIDS, Chikungunya, Kala-azar, dengue fever, etc.

2. Open-source model for drug discovery?

Significant public funding along with the ability for private enterprise to benefit from the open source approach will result in a strong public-private partnership and ensure success of the open source approach.

3. Open source drug discovery

The idea, taking off from successful open source models such as the human genome sequencing initiative, is very simple. All the relevant data and accumulated intelligence on a particular disease, tuberculosis to begin with, would be hosted online.

4. ‘Open source’ urged for TB drug design effort

One of India’s top genetics researchers has called for a global, collaborative effort to design a new tuberculosis (TB) drug using an ‘open source’ approach.

5. Open Source Pharmaceuticals – New Business Model

Software is not the only field affected by open source; many fields of study and social and political views have been affected by the growth of the concept of open source. Advocates in one field will often support the expansion of open source in other fields, including Linus Torvalds who is quoted as saying, “the future is open source everything.”

6. Open source synthetic biology

Not everyone within synthetic biology takes the open-source approach, Andrew Hessel, an iGEM consultant who recruits teams from Canadian universities, told me, but the driving force behind it is iGEM and MIT (Rettberg works with renowned hacker-turned-synthetic biologist Tom Knight). Hessel likened the atmosphere to the time when computers were first becoming cheap enough to be affordable by anyone who wanted one, and young, bright kids began to play around with code.

7. Biology Goes Open Source

Some of the world’s biggest drug companies are finding that their genetic research is worth more to them if they give it away.

8. Pharmac publishes directly with open source

The team used Python, libxml/libxslt and TeX, running on Debian GNU/Linux, and the open document standards TeX, XML, MathML, XHTML, and Xlink, says Geering.

9. Open Source Research — the Power of Us

Open source methods have delivered tangible benefits in the computer science community. We describe here efforts to extend these principles to science generally, and in particular biomedical research. Open source research holds great promise for solving complex problems in areas where profit-driven research is seen to have failed. We illustrate this with a specific problem in organic chemistry that we think will be solved substantially faster with an open source approach.

10. Our Biotech Future [is Open Source]

Open Source biology could be a powerful tool, giving us access to cheap and abundant solar energy.

11. Open-Source Drug Safety?

More than a million Americans take Avandia every year; the risk Glaxo had found would mean thousands of extra heart attacks. But the company argued that the risk only occurred in patients who already had serious heart problems, and that it didn’t show up in long-term clinical trials. The FDA made no decision, and no public statement.

[...]

It’s an open source approach to drug safety.

12. Open Source Pharmaceuticals – New Business Model

“Open source” as applied to culture defines a culture in which intellectual property is made generally available. Participants in such a culture are able to improve and modify those products and redistribute them back into the community.

13. Thailand fed up with high drug prices – minister

“We have thought about this for more than five years. It’s long enough,” said Mongkol na Songkhla, who is leading one of the biggest challenges to Big Pharma’s patent rights in years.

In relation to this:

“Collaboration reduces development costs and subsequent high prices, and therefore precludes the need for patents. Took them long enough to figure that out, didn’t it?”

Slated, March 4th 2008

Time for change. Software patents do more harm than good.

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