EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.03.08

The Software Patents Situation and How It Affects Free Software

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 2:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Free Open Source Software

In this latest summary of reports, we concentrate mainly on the effect of the current patent terrain on FOSS. One of the bigger developments last week was Mozilla’s decision to add native Ogg Vorbis and Theora support to the build of Firefox 3.1, which is still buggy at this early alpha stage. Watch what they heroically said on the issue of patents.

[T]here is a risk to bundling even an open source codec like Theora because of the possibility of submarine patents -patents nobody knows about until a product that unknowingly infringes it, succeeds, becoming a target for the patent owner who will seek monetary compensation and a good licensing agreement. This is why the HTML 5 spec doesn’t recommend any encoder so vendors don’t have to choose between taking this kind of risk or not complying with the standard.

During today’s announcement at the Products and Technology Roadmap Mozilla Summit session, Mitchell Baker commented that Mozilla would be a bad target as it is a project with a product a lot of people cares about.

Mike Shaver, interim Mozilla’s VP of Engineering, also commented “Somebody had to do it. It’s good it was us”.

Prior to this, Opera was probably the main pusher towards it. In the case of Firefox, there’s good reach (penetration) into many PCs, so it’s truly a turning point. Other Web browsers might follow suit.

GNU/Linux

Proprietary media codecs are one ugly beast because each company tries to spread its own codecs to gain control. Standards that are patents-free are insufficient in this area, and regardless, with the attempt to pass files through the Web or among peers, there’s a need to get quite a pile of non-free codecs. There are ways of addressing this problem. Digital Majority diverts attention to the explanation from Medibuntu:

Medibuntu is a packaging project dedicated to distributing software that cannot be included in Ubuntu for various reasons, related to geographical variations in legislation regarding intellectual property, security and other issues:

* patentability of software, algorithms, formats and other abstract creation
* legal restrictions on freedom of speech or communication
* restrictions on the use of certain types of technical solution, such as cryptography
* legal restrictions on imports of software technology, requiring for example specific permissions
* etc.

The sad reality is that codecs are one of the main issues and barriers to FOSS (this goes back to an older discussion). In order to limit their damage, software patents must be abolished and not spread to more countries.

Patent Trolls

Those with nothing to lose and those who haven’t assets to defend are some of the more dangerous creatures out there. Ray Niro was mentioned here before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] and he wants the world to know, just like Nathan Myhrvold, that he wishes to abuse the industry peacefully, without being denounced or criticised.

Ray Niro doesn’t like the term “patent troll,” and has taken umbrage when that pejorative is used against his clients. It’s not unusual for patent enforcers to ask judges to ban that term from court (as Rambus did recently.) Indeed, it’s increasingly common for courts to police the use of “hot button” words generally.

Now we learn Niro doesn’t care for the term “shell entities” either; court documents filed last month lay out his novel attempt to re-align the patent patois.

If policing “JPEG on a Website” [1, 2] seems acceptable, why not wish lists?

Europe’s Back Door

The ‘wish list’ plague has already reached Europe, demonstrating the fact that software patents can be described in a way that makes them patentable in Europe. It’s a loophole which ‘artistic’ patent solicitors can get away with it. [via Digital Majority]

During the impassioned debate over a proposed European directive on software patents, opponents of software patents mounted a graphic demonstration of the problem, entitled the Patented European Webshop. The website showed that despite official proscription of patents on “computer programs as such” in Europe, patents were nonetheless granted for common website functions. This propaganda coup elicited anxiety among small businesses and played an important in defeating the directive, which would have legitimized those patents.

These poor software patents need to be destroyed before they are put up for auction and then abused by the likes of Sheldon Goldberg. It seems like another patent troll.

In the late 1990s, few would have predicted the internet would become the giant artery we use today for our commerce, entertainment and daily activities. However, back in the late 1990s, there were patents floating around for many of the tools we use on the internet…and someone bought them.

Over the last 10 months the patent buyer, Sheldon Goldberg, has filed suit against some of the largest websites out there: Careerbuilder, Blockdot, CNet, Jabez Networks, The Washington Post, The Weather Channel, The New York Times and Rochester-based eBaum’s World. Goldberg himself is based on the west coast and is known for buying patents on a variety of inventions.

Microsoft

We now know that Microsoft uses its patents offensively and it’s not reluctant to get aggressive.

Some months ago, Mark Shuttleworth told us that he was not worried about Microsoft going litigious. He was more worried about patent trolls. What Pamela Jones said in response to this was: “What Shuttleworth may not understand is that a patent troll can be a proxy for someone else who does have something to lose.

Microsoft may already be using some patent trolls against GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], but nobody knows for sure because there is no solid evidence. At the same time, based on the news, Microsoft is likely to continue to suffer from them.

Tucson-based Research Corporation Technologies said today it has won a reversal of a federal court decision that denied the local company’s charges of patent infringement against computer giant Microsoft Corp.

In what RCT called a “stunning decision” Friday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona which had held that six patents held by RCT for digital imaging technology were unenforceable due to inequitable conduct.

Even if the patent trolls had vanished overnight, this would not prevent Microsoft from funding the likes of SCO.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

4 Comments

  1. Meh said,

    August 3, 2008 at 3:36 am

    Gravatar

    http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=englishvoiceover

  2. Chris Lees said,

    August 4, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Gravatar

    >

    I was delighted to read this statement, because it gives me hope that BoycottNovell.com has taken off its aluminium foil hat and is ready to start printing news that is properly backed up by demonstratable facts. Good work.

  3. Jose_X said,

    August 5, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Gravatar

    [Chris Lees] >> I was delighted to read this statement, because it gives me hope that BoycottNovell.com has taken off its aluminium foil hat and is ready to start printing news that is properly backed up by demonstratable facts.

    Could you be a little more specific?

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 5, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Gravatar

    Jose_X,

    Chris has repeatedly insulted this site.

What Else is New


  1. Links 4/7/2015: Mostly (Geo)Political Catchup

    Links for the day



  2. Links 3/7/2015: KDE Applications 15.04.3, Ubuntu-Flavored Compute Stick

    Links for the day



  3. Patent Lawyers and Their Firms, Still Desperate to Protect the Status Quo, Manipulate the Media

    Patent lawyers are besieged by gradual tightening of patent scope and recklessly fight back (e.g. by saturating the media) to secure their revenue sources, derived from (and at the expense of) actual scientists and true market producers



  4. Amid Controversy, Political Scrutiny and Increased Media Pressure Željko Topić and Benoît Battistelli Allegedly Cancel Today's Trip to Zagreb (Croatia) Where Topić Faces Many Criminal Charges

    The Croatian press comments on the recent declaration from the Council of Europe and Topić's not-so-sterling status in his home country, where he is wanted for alleged crimes



  5. Microsoft Gradually Embraces, Extends, Extinguishes Linux Foundation as a Foundation of GNU/Linux

    By liaising with (or hijacking) existing members of the Linux Foundation, as well as by paying the Linux Foundation, Microsoft turns the Linux Foundation into somewhat of a Windows advocacy group



  6. Microsoft India Still Lobbies and Lies About Free Software in Order to Knock Down Policy That Favours Free Software

    Microsoft continues to bully Indian politicians who merely 'dare' to prefer software that India can modify, maintain, extend, audit, etc.



  7. Patent Lawyers and Corporate Media Nervous About New Patents Barrier/Reality (Less Patents on Software and Business Methods)

    The rich and the powerful, as well as their lawyers (whose job is to protect their money and power by means of government-enforced monopoly), carry on whining after the Alice case, in which many abstract patents were essentially ruled -- by extension -- invalid



  8. Translation of Pierre-Yves Le Borgn' Speech Against EPO Management and New Parliamentarian Interventions

    More political fire targeting the EPO's management, adding up to over 100 parliamentarians by now



  9. Links 2/7/2015: KDE Plasma 5.3.2, antiX 15

    Links for the day



  10. Links 1/7/2015: OpenDaylight Lithium, OpenMandriva Lx 2014.2

    Links for the day



  11. Munich Press, Münchner Merkur, Slams the Munich-based EPO

    Pressure on Benoît Battistelli to leave (or be fired) grows as the cronies whom he filled his office with have become a huge public embarrassment to the decades-old European Patent Office



  12. The Shameless Campaign to Paint/Portray Free Software as Inherently Insecure, Using Brands, Logos, and Excessive, Selective Press Coverage

    Some more FUD from firms such as Sonatype, which hope to make money by making people scared of Free/libre software



  13. National Insecurity and Blackmail, Courtesy of Microsoft

    British members of parliament (MPs) outsourced their communication to the number one PRISM company and they are paying the price for it; The US Navy's systems continue to be unbelievably insecure (Windows XP), despite access to the world's biggest nuclear arsenal



  14. Microsoft Keeps Shrinking

    As the era of shrink-wrapped software comes to an end so does Microsoft, whose effort to become a 'cloud' company with online operations has been miserable at best



  15. They 'R' Coming: More Microsoft Money for the Linux Foundation

    The problem with having Microsoft in a Linux Foundation initiative, the R Consortium



  16. Speculations About the EPO's Possible Role in DDOS Attacks

    Readers' views on who might be behind the attacks on this site amid confirmation that it's on the 'targets' list of the EPO



  17. Links 30/6/2015: Linux Mint 17.2, OpenMandriva

    Links for the day



  18. Techrights Confirmed as a Target of EPO Surveillance, With Help From Control Risks Group (CRG)

    Unveiling the cloak of secrecy from long-term surveillance by the European Patent Office (EPO) and a London-based mercenary it hired, bypassing the law



  19. Google's Fight to Keep APIs Free is Lost, Let's Hope Google Continues Fighting

    SCOTUS refuses to rule that APIs cannot be considered copyright-'protected', despite common sense and despite Java (which the case is about) being Free/libre software



  20. Patent Trolls in the Post-Alice World

    A round-up of news about patent trolls in the United States, some of whom are are doing well and some of them not as well



  21. DDOS Attacks Against Techrights

    Information about some of the most recent DDOS attacks against this Web site and the steps to be taken next



  22. The Patent System Not What it Used to be, Large Corporations and Patent Lawyers the Principal Beneficiaries

    A look at some recent patent stories and what can be deduced from them, based on statistics and trends



  23. After Intervention by the Council of Europe Comes a Detailed Summary of the Situation in the European Patent Office (EPO)





  24. IRC Proceedings: May 31st - June 27th, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  25. Links 28/6/2015: Manjaro Linux Cinnamon 0.8.13, VectorLinux 7.1

    Links for the day



  26. Williamson v. Citrix Online (at CAFC) Reinforces Alice v. CLS Bank (at SCOTUS) in Crushing Software Patents

    More patent news from the United States, again serving to indicate that software patents over there are getting weak (harder to defend in court or acquire from the patent office)



  27. Proskauer Rose LLP is Cherry-Picking Cases to Make Software Patents Seem Eligible Despite Alice v. CLS Bank

    Naming and shaming those who are trying to reshape the consensus despite a rather consistent pattern of software patents being rejected



  28. IAM Biased: How IAM 'Magazine' Glorifies Patent Stockpiling

    A look at the bias of one of the most overzealous sites for and by patent lawyers



  29. PATENT Act No Longer in the News... and That's Just Fine

    Putting the PATENT Act aside for the time being, for it has little or no impact on the really problematic patents



  30. The Latest Lies From Microsoft's PR Apparatus/Public Face, Mr. Nadella

    Having spread the outrageous lie that “Microsoft loves Linux” (whilst obviously attacking it in many ways), Microsoft's CEO (essentially Bill Gates' right-hand man) says Microsoft is “one of the biggest contributors to Linux kernel” (because of proprietary software it tries to contaminate it with while violating the terms of the GPL)


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts