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04.10.08

Patents Roundup: EPO Patent Numbers Decrease; Bilski Revisited

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents, Red Hat at 11:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

For those with great interest in the “software patents death watch” (wishful thinking perhaps), here is a summary of relevant reports.

Less is More

In Europe, there are encouraging signs indicated by a fall in the number of patents. [via Digital Majority]

While computing remains one of the most active fields, the proportion of computer patent filings fell by 0.8 per cent last year. Meanwhile, the related field of information storage, which has seen a flood of applications in recent years, saw its share of total filings drop by a staggering 18 per cent last year.

Rise in the quality of patents and a less permissive (i.e. less receptive of abuse) system can lead to this.

Bilski Roundup

We have covered the Bilski case on several occasions over the past few days [1, 2, 3]. It’s an high-impact development. A tsunami of articles that we have not yet mentioned is listed below for future reference (or for your reading pleasure).

In a statement, ESP Executive Director Ben Klemens said, “This is an historic opportunity to fix the U.S. patent system, as the Bilski rehearing will directly address the boundaries of the subject matter of patents. In our brief, the End Software Patents project supports the Supreme Court’s long-held position that computer software should not be patentable, and has highlighted to the Court the real economic harm software patents cause the U.S. economy.”

End Software Patents (ESP) has filed an amicus curiae brief in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (CAFC) rehearing of the In re Bilski case.

Some more comments on this press release you can find here.

In re Bilski is an appellate court case that provides an opportunity to eliminate business method patents and curtail efforts to claim monopolies on basic human skills, behaviors, and interactions. Bilski is challenging the rejection of his application for a patent on a method of managing the risk of bad weather through commodities trading.

In light of Red Hat joining this attack (unlike Novell):

The algorithm in Benson, Red Hat says, was and is “useful”, but the Supreme Court said it wasn’t patentable, so being useful, as State Street put it, clearly can’t be sufficient alone. The two cases clash, and the Supreme Court trumps. In short, it’s an educational task here, to help the court to understand the tech sufficiently to draw a line in the right place. The way to get a court to reverse itself isn’t to tell it that it’s wrong. You have to show why, using cases that are binding upon the court, which is what this brief is doing.

This week Red Hat filed with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to carefully examine the state of software patents in the country. According to Red Hat, a company ripe with support for open source software, software patents are being issued at an alarming rate, and many of them are obvious ideas that should not have passed the patent desk to begin with.

There is hope for improvement. Never say never.

HarmonISOsation After OOXML Protests in Norway?

Posted in Europe, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 10:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protests in Norway (OOXML)

The protests in Norway we have covered quite extensively by providing many pointers and for plenty of material you can start in this page. More interesting, however, is the effect of the pressure on ISO, which according to CNET is now considering harmonisation.

ISO takes up Open XML-ODF ‘harmonization’ as Norwegians protest

The ISO has taken over control of the Open XML specification and started a committee to consider harmonization with the OpenDocument Format (ODF).

Steep technical barriers aside, what would such a move mean to licensing? OOXML is inherently (maybe also deliberately) incompatible with the GPL and as the following short article reminds us, software patents remain an obstacle whose removal is hinged on political brunt.

With ISO/IEC 26300, Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0., the ISO did address business software interoperability in 2006. This requires all office documents to be able to be sent from one software system to a competing software system without having to be re-formatted.
In the U.S., it has been hard to stop software vendors from filing or expanding software patents that lack integrity and bankrupting OSS startups with lawsuits. U.S. “lawmakers are so in thrall to big-media lobbyists that they do not even realize that counterarguments to copyright extensions exist,” said Professor at Stanford Law School and founder of the Center for Internet and Society Lawrence Lessig.

It seems like the buzzword in the coming days will be “harmonization”. It’s not entirely clear how feasible, realistic or pro-competition that would be. Rob Wier proposed this over two months ago but it never materialised.

Agents of Monopoly Abuse: Elżbieta Andrukiewicz, Jan van den Beld

Posted in ECMA, Europe, ISO, Open XML, Videos at 10:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Microsoft is GO[O|L| ]D”

The incompetent decision at ISO is far from a done deal and the next post will deal with some major developments. In this post, we wish only to expose a few individuals whose roles are sometimes referred to as "agents of monopolisation", or as a recent comment from PolishLinux puts it — “corporate zombies”.

Polishing the Vote

The first report is an update from PolishLinux, which has been keeping an eye on the fiasco in Poland [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It turns out that Elżbieta Andrukiewicz, the lady who is claimed to have spread “Microsoft propaganda” and broken the rules, comes under scrutiny.

Tomasz Bednarski (Mandriva Poland) wrote a letter to PKN president, Tomasz Schweitzer, in which he expressed his concerns about the Polish OOXML ratification process which Bednarski took part of, as a member of the technical committee 182. We publish the translation of his letter and the response from Schweitzer.

[...]

So, it seems that the OOXML saga in Poland is far from over and there will be more proceedings in the nearest future, which we will pass to you as soon as we hear about them. Thank you for now.

Remember that in addition to the above, the European Commission is investigating this fiasco, even in Poland specifically. This was confirmed just over a week ago. This type of fiasco happened the second time around after a similar outrage broke loose back in September.

Polishing the Penny

The last time we wrote about Jan van den Beld was yesterday. A reader has just shared a pointer to a post containing the full video where Jan van den Beld is seen talking about the harms of multiple standards and also talks about his views on financial benefit. We covered this before, but the video (requires Flash by the way) makes a nice addition.

What does Jan van den Beld – former Secretary General of ECMA – have to say about multiple standards? He seems to be puzzled himself!

Quote from his presentation:

Q: Why do you want to have 5 [DVD related] formats? Do you still call that standardization?
A: You are well paid. Shut up

It becomes safer to conclude that a lot of people are talking for their wallet. The more evidence of this which we gather, the better. Marbux has sent us this pointer and while it lacks very concrete proof, it still makes an interesting read.

Private deal to approve OOXML? More evidence surfaces

Circumstantial evidence is mounting of one or more private deals having been struck to approve DIS-29500 Office Open XML (“OOXML”) as an international standard, a deal that may have played a role in several key national standardization bodies changing their voting position to approve OOXML.

Remember the last-minute involvement of even presidents of large countries? The decisions made were clearly motivated by politics and finance, not technical characteristics. In other words, the integrity of the process was subjected to corruption.

Microsoft is on the Ropes in Europe

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Open XML at 9:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A few days ago we wrote about European nations that rejected OOXML. We later showed how Microsoft/CompTIA lobbyist Jan van den Beld made implicit threats against governments that ‘dare’ to refuse and ignore OOXML.

The European Union has never been quite so tolerant of aggressive behaviour. In fact, in a new document which has just been published it deals another big blow to Microsoft. The European Parliament has begun evaluating a migration to GNU/Linux on the desktop, joining the French and Italian cabinets which already did so.

The European Parliament’s IT department is testing the use of GNU/Linux distribution Ubuntu, OpenOffice, Firefox and other Open Source applications, the British MEP James Nicholson explained last week in a letter to Italian MEP Marco Cappato.

It’s not the end of this story. At the same time, reports are circulating about what seems like an embargo proposal.

Member of EU Parliament asks if Microsoft should be excluded from public procurement

[...]

Of course, if the EU Commission wants to find a way to avoid such a penalty, no doubt it can do so. We saw how creative rule-bending/creating can be in the ISO. But the very fact that this question is being placed on the table is remarkable in itself, don’t you think? Something significant has shifted in Microsoft’s universe. And if they are afraid to make such a move, due to the ubiquity of Microsoft software and their dependence upon it, might that alone not inspire some deep thoughts about the wisdom of doing something about that vulnerability?

There are many other reports about it. You can see it summarised here:

The next few posts will bring newer stories about misconduct that is related to OOXML.

Links 10/04/2008: New Low-cost Laptop Runs GNU/Linux; Vista Slammed by Analysts

Posted in News Roundup at 10:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

“Novell/Microsoft” in the Press: When Two Become One

Posted in Interoperability, Microsoft, NetWare, Novell, SLES/SLED, Windows at 9:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft Novell

Novell and Microsoft may stubbornly insist that they are separate entities while openly describing themselves as "partners". As we pointed out several times before, those two companies seem to be getting only nearer as time goes by and here is an illuminating new bit.

In the following press release, Novell and Microsoft are mentioned tightly as though they are one. Watch this:

BtoB’s March issue names the top business-to-business agencies in the U.S. PJA is included along with large agency winner BBDO and mid-sized agency Doremus, both in New York. The magazine recognized PJA’s creative work for clients Novell/Microsoft, Trend Micro and TriZetto.

Also on the same day, the following announcement of Interop 2008 did not neglect to mention those two, albeit separately.

Attendees can demo future products and exhibitors include: Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, Motorola, Novell, APC, McAfee, WebEx, Dell and more.

In reality, Microsoft continue to grab decent market portions from Novell’s aging cash cows. The following new announcement is just yet another example.

IT Services is also planning the removal of the Novell login, moving to Microsoft Active Directory and a new network authentication login that will help keep the university’s network safe.

[...]

Landry said in his broadcast that those departments, such as organizations on campus that share specific Novell drives, will be transferred over to a new Microsoft file system by the beginning of summer.

To put things in perspective, when Novell wins a SUSE deal, Microsoft gets paid for it. In the example above, Microsoft hurts Novell’s profits. It’s truly a one-way relationship. How can Novell be pleased?

Meanwhile, Novell’s new press booster, namely Zonker, continues to do some legwork. It turns out that he’s a publisher at OStatic now. It’s worth keeping an eye on this because of the Om Malik relationship (he AstroTurfed for Microsoft in exchange for payments).

Erik Huggers (Formerly of Microsoft) Demotes GNU/Linux, Elevates Wii

Posted in Antitrust, Apple, Fraud, Microsoft, Novell at 8:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Just the type of thing that happens when you put Microsoft
in charge of the taxpayers-funded BBC…

The systematic abuse at the BBC is absolutely clear to see. For those who are new to this story, check out these two recent posts. Long story put short — the BBC signed a deal with Microsoft and has since then become somewhat of its vassal, also guided or headed by former Microsoft employees. It’s about as bad as the British Library, which is another rather distracting story.

In any event, in order to understand the effect of Novell hiring many .NET developers — most likely with Microsoft/Windows background — while at the same time sacking plenty of its engineers, one needs only look at the BBC, whose media division is headed by a former Microsoft employee who reportedly attended the antitrust trials in Europe to defend Microsoft’s abuses, for which it got severely punished. He’s at it again.

Naturally, Erik will choose to ignore Microsoft’s #1 rival (by Microsoft’s own admission). Having brought iPlayer support to Macs, to the iPhones and now even to the Wii, the BBC continues to ignore GNU/Linux. It ignores many complaints, some of which are formal.

Eric Huggers, the BBC’s future media and technology group controller, said today’s launch underlines the corporation’s commitment to bring the iPlayer to as many devices as possible.

Readers ought to look at our old postings on this topic in order to gain understanding and better awareness of the context. This is a classic case of monopolisation using corporate or government control, by proxy. There are several other examples of this which come to mind, but that’s a topic to be addressed on a different day.

The ‘Maureen O’Gara’ of the Hollywood Hills

Posted in Microsoft, SCO at 7:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Smear campaigns are very commonplace in politics, since one candidate needs to discredit opponents using whatever ammunition is available, even if it is made up or not verifiable.

Although Maureen O’Gara was mentioned on several occasions in the past year, e.g. in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], we try hard now to draw attention to her. For those who do not know the background to this, O’Gara was caught spying on a Microsoft and SCO critic and then publishing libelous slime to be used as a baseless weapon, for purposes of dismissal the ad hominem way.

We have recently witnessed other similar examples, some of which we summarised last week and we know all too well about the slime and the libel, which escaped all rational proportions.

Those who are familiar with the O’Gara story might find the following news article rather interesting if not eerily familiar.

The onetime super-agent says he asked the private eye to get information on two reporters. One of them testifies tearfully about intimidation and her fear she was going to be killed.

Opening a rare window on the inner angst of Hollywood, onetime uber-agent Michael Ovitz testified Wednesday that he hired private eye Anthony Pellicano to get embarrassing information on two entertainment reporters who were writing negative stories about him.

[...]

Prosecutors allege that Pellicano wiretapped, harassed and obtained confidential information about one of the reporters, and her complaint to authorities became the flash point of a five-year scandal that has fascinated Hollywood, culminating in his federal trial….

[...]

Ovitz was followed to the stand — and nearly crossed paths in the court hallway with — former journalist Anita Busch, the co-author of the stories Ovitz testified were making it “more than difficult” to sell his beleaguered Artists Management Group. Busch, in tears, testified that she was intimidated and nearly run down by a speeding car after those stories appeared.

This one goes a little too far, but the rest makes a chilling deja vu.

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