06.10.08

Microsoft Still Insists Free Software Tax in Europe

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, RAND, Red Hat, Samba at 2:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Turn competitor into own cash cow, make it more expensive and thus less desirable

We haven’t sufficient time to write about this in great depth at the moment, but there are various developments in Europe which readers ought to know about. These affect handling of software patents, Free software, and open standards.

Over in the IRC channel, we were told a little while earlier: “ECIS confirmed this morning that Microsoft appeals to the ECJ on patents. this is big news because all the press says they appeal on the “fine”, but in fact they just want certainty to tax Samba and Redhat.” This information is based on private talks with ECIS.

Further to this, consider the fact that the Commission is testing a migration to GNU/Linux and has an embargo proposal on its desk. As it turns out, based on a press release, it spends far too much money on software from the very same company it endlessly reprimands.

Microsoft sucks 8,136,000 EUR each year out of the European Commission

Commission pays Microsoft each year 226EUR for its office infrastructure. Commission has approx 36,000 users. Make the math. Commission makes also “open” tenders which prefers Microsoft products.

In the news you are also likely to find some coverage of the talk from Neelie Kroes. The New York Times, which is biased, picks a rather strong headline: E.U. Snubs Microsoft on Office Systems

Ms. Kroes has fought bitterly with Microsoft over the past four years, accusing the U.S. software giant of defying her orders and fining the company nearly $2.68 billion for violating European competition rules. But the speech was her strongest recommendation yet to jettison Microsoft products, which are based on proprietary standards, and to use rival operating systems to run computers.

“I know a smart business decision when I see one — choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed,” Ms. Kroes told a conference in Brussels. “No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one.”

You can find the speech here and you can also find a less critical (or moderate) article here.

The EU’s top antitrust official on Tuesday called for governments to favor open-source software for their own use, taking aim at Microsoft Corp. for ‘locking in’ customers to their proprietary technology.

In other news from Europe, recall the Nokia-Ogg disaster and watch the following curious new appointment.

EICTA, the industry body representing the information and communications technology and consumer electronics industries in the European Union announces that Erkki Ormala has been elected as President and Chairman of the Executive Board. Dr. Ormala is Vice President, Technology and Trade Policy of Nokia Corporation where his responsibilities cover political, regulatory, economic, market access and other business environment related issues. The main Eicta policy issues are in his area of responsibility at Nokia. He takes over from Rudy Provoost, who led the organization for the past four years.

Another change in the European patent system was published or at least highlighted by Digital Majority yesterday.

The council of ministers in Belgium has decided last 23rd of May to proceed with the ratification of the London Agreement, in order to scrap the requirement for translations of patents granted in Belgium in Flemish.

In other patent news, you may find of interest the following end of a patent dispute between Acer and H-P.

A patent war erupted between the two companies last year after HP filed patent suits against Acer accusing the Taiwanese PC vendor of infringing on at least 10 HP patents and sought to block Acer PC imports to the U.S.

Also of interest is this case of patent royalty madness.

The justices unanimously said LG could not enforce its memory-technology patents against both Intel and the computer makers that install Intel’s chips in their machines. The judges said LG’s power to extract royalties was “exhausted” by its licensing agreement with Intel, of the United States.

It was covered here as well. [via Groklaw]

Justice Thomas delivered the Supreme Court’s 19–page unanimous decision that provides some new life to the doctrine of patent exhaustion. The opinion reverses the Federal Circuit and holds that under the exhaustion doctrine applies to the authorized sale of components that “substantially embody” a process patent. Here, Intel’s authorized sale of chip components to Quanta exhausted LGE’s patent rights.

Lastly, there’s the WiMAX patent pool, which made a lot of headlines. What would be the impact on Free software?

Six big technology companies are spearheading a plan to jointly license patents that cover the wireless technology called WiMAX hoping to limit royalty rates that could deter customers from using it.

The participants are Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Sprint Nextel Corp., Alcatel-Lucent and Clearwire Corp., according to people familiar with the situation and a document outlining the group’s plans.

They have scheduled a conference call Monday to announce an organization, the Open Patent Alliance, to gather rights to WiMAX-related patents and license them to makers of computers, networking devices and other products, these people said.

Software patents may not be going away so fast. It is very important to ensure that they stay (or get eliminated) in the very few places where these are seen as valid at the moment.

Software patent on rise

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