There may be some changes on their way. There’s no telling when/if they’ll be coming to the USPTO, but in the mean time there’s chaos, as well illustrated by today’s picks over at Digital Majority. Here is one such example, which is a junk patent (never supposed to have been granted in the first place) being put up for auction, surely for someone to use it offensively.
Investors will have the opportunity to acquire the patent on a revolutionary personalization system that is set to go to auction in September. The patented system will change the face of targeted marketing and research by offering more accuracy than anything else available today.
The EFF with its patent-busting efforts carry on trying to squash some of the more notorious patents, but as Stallman once said about such strategies, “fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.” Here is the description of another bad patent.
So just what is this wonderful sales method? In a nutshell, the patent claims ownership over the idea of finding out what a customer wants, electronically finding out what you have that matches that customer’s needs, electronically collecting information about the stuff you have to offer the customer, and putting that information into a pitch to the customer.
Recall those dreadful wish list patents [1, 2]. It’s the verge of granting ownership to ideas that can be implemented in elementary school (while ignoring prior art).
The renewed threat of software patents in India was mentioned over the weekend and help is now being sought.
Interestingly, Infosys and TCS are in favor of software patents. Those who followed the OOXML fight on this blog would know that both these organizations had voted in favor of Microsoft’s OOXML proposal. If there are articulate FOSS developers in the Mumbai LUG, I would request them to be present at the 7th August 2008 meeting and explain to the group why software patents are against the interest of the developer community.
There’s some more dissection of this here. [via Digital Majority]
Business aptly seems to drive law; finally, the Murthys and Ramadorais of Bengalooru have spoken up. According to an article in the Financial Express, IT majors Infosys and TCS have reacted strongly to a call made by the open source community, particularly Red Hat India and All India Peoples Sciences Network, for dropping a clause in the draft patent examination manual which according to the latter gives a backdoor entry for software patents.
The fight never ends. When critics fall asleep, monopolies will try to grab control.
A few days ago, the EPO was praised for its stance on software patents, but Digital Majority is more pedantic. It’s claiming that the EPO uses tautologies and it’s showing some examples of nasty patents.
Maybe the European Patent Office has a different dictionary than I have.
Nevertheless, their high quality propaganda falls down once you start to mention some trivial software patents, such as the progress bar:
or the contextual menu granted to Philips:
Here is another nice find from Digital Majority:
Write patents, get tax cuts
As of 1 January 2008, the Belgian government introduced a tax deduction of 80 % with unlimited carry forward under the corporate income tax for income derived from patents licensed by a company based in Belgium.
Now, who said patents are bad? They make you save 80% on taxes. How on earth can it be bad?
Perhaps most significant, however, is the following new development that yet again involves Commissioner McCreevy, the man who loves monopolies. This seems to be another back door to software patents and poor-quality patents in Europe.
The European Commission has proposed creating a single strategy for the protection of industrial property rights in Europe. The Commission wants to integrate its strategy for industrial property rights and encourage smaller businesses to protect rights.
What ever compelled to pass and push for such changes? Is it the endless lobbying in Europe from Microsoft's ACT, whose recent activity in Europe was carefully documented here?
Fresh in the news: watch a State Senator that apparently got bribed to fight ‘the little people’.
US Department of Justice prosecutors have alleged that Stevens received more than $250,000 worth of gifts and services from VECO and its executives, including an extensive renovation of his home in Girdwood, Alaska. That work included a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, and new plumbing and electrical wiring. They also said he was given a new Land Rover in exchange for an old Ford Mustang, as well as a professional gas barbeque grill, assorted furniture and a complete set of mechanics tools.
It’s rather clear that money needn’t necessarily exchanged hands. Sometimes it can be favours and gifts, such as those that Microsoft showers crtitics with. ‘Soft briberies’ were mentioned here before, as well.
Someone should take a closer look at what’s happening in Europe, especially amid very aggressive lobbying and complaints about it from some [1, 2].
More information on McCreevy and other cronies can be found in:
Since when are Commissioners representing Intellectual Monopolies? █
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“Fumigate GNU/Linux, offer Windows haven” tactic
As further evidence of the tactic mentioned in the context of Apache and South Africa, consider the following. It shows how Microsoft is trying to tie up a variety of Free software projects with Windows while at the same time throwing slime at GNU/Linux.
At this point in the game, Microsoft should really come clean with a statement that rescinds its Linux/patent/suing threat altogether. Granted, Microsoft put itself in a hard spot with this one, since it had its channel singing the same tune for those murky months after the threat.
But more telling of how Microsoft is trying to change its attitude (and its image) is how it has begun to openly contribute to popular projects. It is one of the contributors to Zend Framework (albeit, so are 400 others, including Google). It intends to support Zend on Microsoft’s identity platform, CardSpace.
Microsoft’s collaboration with Zend has been focused on improving the performance of PHP on Windows Server. As shown above, all sorts of proprietary addons (embrace and extend) become part of this too.
“They try to buy themselves an advantage and see who sells out.”It’s more than just Zend though. It’s Apache, Python, PHP, Ruby and even virtualisation companies. They try to buy themselves an advantage and see who sells out.
Part of the plan is to call Linux illegal and scare people about lawsuits and “nasty things”, then inviting them to use Windows for their FOSS output.
“Come to Windows. It’s safer,” they whisper. Remember SCO? Well, the Microsoft-SCO story is back. Check out the following new article.
The obvious thought came to me while writing last week’s column (“SCO Group: Its future is all used up”) that about the only folk (other than the deluded and amoral management of the SCO Group) that want the SCO Group effort attacking Linux and other open source initiatives to succeed is Microsoft. So I decided to explore that side in this follow-up column, but a bit of reading led me to the conclusion that things are not as simple as they appear.
For years Microsoft has been claiming that Linux has been stealing its intellectual property rights (IPR, i.e., patented technology).
The obvious, and sometimes stated, intent of this was to make corporate IT buyers decide that Microsoft technology was the legally safe way to go since there might be lawsuits in the wings. This Microsoft effort has seemingly attempted to exceed the effort by The SCO Group in the sleazy department.
Microsoft claimed that the Linux development community was knowingly stealing Microsoft IPR and broadly implied that Microsoft might come after Linux users some day. However, Microsoft did not spell out what the technology was so that the Linux community could stop “violating” Microsoft’s rights. (See “Microsoft: Delaying product, spewing FUD.”)
This is not competing. This is cheating. In some countries, it’s also a violation of the law. █
“Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.”
–Microsoft, internal document
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Guest post by Mark Kent
I find the lack of morals displayed by the trolls and by so many “business” people to be deeply disturbing. The willingness to lie in order to make money is appalling. Who doesn’t despise disingenuous people?
One interesting thing I’ve found in my career when coming across such people is that they assume that everyone else is as crooked as they are, so that anyone taking any position on anything must, by definition, be pushing an convenient viewpoint rather than a well-researched and understood assessment of the facts as they are presently understood.
A particular upshot of this is that ignorance of facts begins to become an advantage, at least to the spinners and liars, since they have yet less reason to apply any value system against their dishonest spiel.
“We rely very much on journalists to help us sift through the muddier waters of the river of truth, and Joe Barr was one of the best.”The “mad scientist” as an amoral and dangerous character has often been the focus of daemonisation in literature and the popular press, yet it is the genuine scientist who is typically best-placed to assess facts in a rational and dispassionate way. Why don’t politicians like this? Well, because it means that the scientists will not necessarily uphold the position the politicians are taking. Why is this bad? Well, probably, because lots of companies have spent large sums of money securing the support of politicians for their wares in some way or other, and politicians fear scientists more than almost anyone, because they are clearly learned and are considered to be fiercely independent of political influence. Should a scientist stand up in public and say, for example, that global warming is a problem, and it’s likely that burning oil is contributing to that problem, then politicians and companies need to think fast indeed in order to address the distinct possibility that the scientist will be listened to.
Much the same applies in this technology and computing world. If an apparently learned person speaks out to say that, for example, Windows is not very secure, and Linux is more secure, then it’s highly likely that the learned person might just be listened to. Particularly if there be a lot of evidence to support that position, for example, counts of the number of viable viruses and exploits in the wild for each system, or the number of each system currently compromised in some way.
One way of reducing the impact of that learned person is to invent other knowledgeable folk (Bartko et al) and use them to pollute the river of information with suitable disinformation. If enough people contribute enough pollution to the river of truth, then the impact of the learned people will surely be diluted in the minds of the interested by not so knowledgeable observers. We rely very much on journalists to help us sift through the muddier waters of the river of truth, and Joe Barr was one of the best.
In the linux advocacy HOWTO, it suggests that good advocates will avoid hyperbolae in discussions, and ideally avoid any kind of unsupported opinion, and stick only to facts. Whilst this is an admirable goal, it suffers a singular drawback, which is that there is no real definition of a “fact”. There is, however, scientific method, which aims to establish provable models by trying to disprove them. Any model which withstands such testing gains credence amongst the scientific community, and will be adopted, at least until a better model is found. The whole approach is dependent on some key pre-conditions, however. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, in order to attempt to disprove a “current” theory, it’s usually necessary to have a good grasp on all of its antecendants, and how they were disproven. The upshot here is that it can take many years of learning before an averagely competent scientist can begin to criticise the models of others, let alone propose one of their own. Thus, there is an ever widening gap between these day to day practitioners of scientific thinking, and the normal, non-scientifically trained public.
“Joe did an excellent job of this, both through his “dweebspeak” primer, and by exercising his very broad knowledge of computing languages and machines.”That gap, the one between the scientific thinkers and the non-scientific general public, is the one which is occupied by marketing and sales activities, by propaganda machines, by trolls and by liars. Is the propagation of arguments by scientific method ever going to be able to clean the polluted river of truth? Without educating the public in general, it seems unlikely. The tactic of out and out lying is hard to deal with. Unless you’ve sworn some kind of oath, like in a court of law, say, then being dishonest is not generally considered to be illegal, even when it’s being done deliberately in order to relieve people of money. By ensuring that the dishonesty is hard to track back to the originators, by, say, employing “advocates” in different geographies, or using Usenet in order to plant anonymous insults, then the usual laws against dishonest trading can be avoided. The gap, however, can also be filled by good journalism. For every press release and marketing or sales pitch, we can have a good journalist or commentator, explaining the issues in a form which is valid and yet more accessible to those without the detailed training. Joe did an excellent job of this, both through his “dweebspeak” primer, and by exercising his very broad knowledge of computing languages and machines. His CLI for Noobies book is another excellent example of how he was able to bridge the gap.
It’s rather sad to reflect that the laws being enacted as a part of the current round of globalisation seem to be almost 100% aimed at furthering the financial gain of existing global players, with almost no consideration for the rights of small businesses, consumers, citizens, education, charity, poverty and so on. Patent laws are being reviewed, but only in order to extend the number of things which can be patented, and the scope of those patents in terms of objects, time periods and so on. The push by “media” companies to force ISPs to police the activities of internet users is an interesting first step towards making the ISPs some kind of semi-independent state, but without any kind of independent or quasi-independent legal system, political system, police force, advocates and so on. To date, I think such states only exist within aircraft and ships which sail or fly through international waters or air-space, where the captain of the vessel in question is the undisputed authority in all respects.
We don’t expect expert witnesses to be necessarily available on ships or aircraft, however, we do very much expect them to be available in our normal judicial process. There is no room at all for expert witnesses, however, in the proposals from the ISPs. The judge, jury and executioner is the media company. If that company decides that they suspect a user of doing something illegal, then that, in their view, is enough to start a process which in fairly short order can result in an ISP disconnecting a paying customer who may have done nothing wrong at all.
Why does this relate to trolling on usenet? Quite simply because both are based around assertions being made for pure financial gain, with no expectation of or requirement for supporting evidence. Whilst I do not condone copyright violation, I equally do not condone media companies being given control by proxy of ISP accounts of the general public, nor do I condone the establishment of ISP’s networks as jurisdictionally independent entities, like ships or aircraft. There is a clear and strong moral requirement for time and effort to be expended in the search of the truth, in terms of the scientific establishment of a series of statements which best fit the available evidence, through the debate by independent parties and assessed by an independent audience.
When all that has failed, then our final recourse is for an independent press. For journalists to seek out the failings in the system and to expose those failings to the public at large, combining their knowledge of technology, scientific method, legal debate and the practicalities of marketing. This is precisely what Joe Barr did, many many times over, in between his perhaps more mundane but more idealistic work of editing the learned debates and articles about the linux community and its works. His best known was the Barkto affair, and he will always be remembered for that work.
He will be missed by all of us.
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There was a bit of a slashvertisement [1, 2] in you-know-where yesterday. It was for Microsoft in automobiles. Given the state of SourceForge, it’s hard not to think about money trails. One of the reasons Jimmy Wales refused to accept advertising in Wikipedia (despite an estimated value of $100 million) is that trust then erodes. With SourceForge, such loss of trust has already occurred and it affects sister sites, too. There was money on the table.
Responding to this latest issue, a reader had this to say: “What we have here is a global wave of white collar crime with Microsoft as the vector, symptom and instigator.
“In regards to the car, BMW and now Ford have been experiencing failure. I don’t follow cars or have any interest so I can’t point to the right discussions, but the recent model BMW’s are considered crap by those that bought them.
“Here’s a high profile older failure.
“Apparently Ford is having similar problems. Since the “software” is sold as-is with disclaimers out the wazoo, the fault and liability lies with those who insist on using Microsoft instead of viable embedded or RTOS. Failure to do due diligence or gross negligence or even criminal mischief come to mind.”
Intel and Wind River are currently working on a Linux equivalent, but it may take some time to materialise and reach automobiles.
“Can’t people tell the difference between advertisements and actual stories/reports?”Lastly, adds our reader: “Linux and the others are ahead and, as usual, it is Microsoft that is the poor immitation. From what I gather GM and VW use linux and VW even contributes to kernel development, at least at the device driver level.”
Another example of paid-for Microsoft PR that journalists foolishly spread for free is that “Mojave” story. Can’t people tell the difference between advertisements and actual stories/reports? This sometimes boils down to interests, and the money which sits there on the table. █
“The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.”
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