04.23.08

Microsoft’s Software Patents Bill, Mozilla Brain-Picking, More Patents in Standards

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Hardware, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 9:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Say No to Novell


No Patents in Linux

Yesterday as well as the day before that, some of the press reopened a jar of worms and spoke about Microsoft's software patents minefield, but bloggers did not pay any attention to Novell's fight against the free in "Free software". Novell is just about as guilty as Microsoft because without its participation and pasive endorsement Microsoft’s efforts would hold no water. These efforts would be a non-starter. Novell actually benefits from these selfish acts, owing to which it hopes to thrive.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has just composed a detailed post which sheds some light on these software patent traps.

You see while Microsoft put the boilerplate “this may contain IP” on every document, it didn’t say what IP (intellectual property) might be covered in any given protocol or API. For a flat 10,000 Euro fee, you can steer clear of any copyright problems. This is how Samba handled it. A patent license is likely to run afoul of the open-source GPL3 requirements, not to mention perhaps involving prohibitive fees. Besides, how can you know if you’re required to pay for a patent in the first place?

Some self-appointed commentators have already claimed that Microsoft does not actually have many patents to cover what’s in the document, but Microsoft is believed to be filing very busily nowadays. In that regard, it is probably the most active company at the moment, building barriers and securing an arsenal of software patents.

It was interesting to find that the Vice President and General Counsel of Mozilla has just set up a new blog and his first post deals with prior art and software patents.

We’ve just begun a new project at Mozilla to create a tool that can help defend against invalid software patents. The project is currently sponsored by Mozilla and Emily Berger of the EFF. The problem is that when patents are asserted or enforced, it’s difficult, expensive, and time consuming to find the references (documents or other software/systems) that contain the elements of the asserted patent claims, also known as prior art.

What is Mozilla preparing for and why? Additionally, mind this new example of nasty software patents inside a standard, which prevent cautious engineers from supporting that standard.

You can never have enough money or a fast-enough wireless connection. We can’t help with the money part, but for Wi-Fi users, IEEE 802.11n—with its up to 300Mbps (megabits per second) burst speeds—is the answer.

[..]

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), an Australian government research group, has not signed off on 802.11n. Denis Redfern, CSIRO’s vice president of licensing, is reported to have said that the research body is “happy to confirm that CSIRO continues to be willing to license these patents on a worldwide basis to manufacturers of notebook computers, access points and other wireless-enabled products that would otherwise infringe the patents.” But Redfern also said that Wi-Fi vendors haven’t been willing to reach licensing agreements.

This is of course a case against the hardware/networking equivalent of FOSS, which is incompatible with such conditions. Might we continue to see discriminatory and exclusionary standards like these? We saw some yesterday.

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