Patent Systems Under Fire
It’s already known that the American industry, just like the rest of the world, is growing wary of the US patent system. An article has just been published to explain this backlash and outline the problem, but not without a solution (also to be found here).
Some of the biggest players in the technology industry complain that the U.S. patent system is broken — putting too many patents of dubious merit in the hands of people who can use them to drag companies and other inventors to court.
And Blaise Mouttet, a small inventor in Alexandria, Virginia, thinks he knows why. The problem, he said, is that “there are too many lawyers and not enough inventors involved with the patent system.”
So Mouttet is taking part in an experimental program launched in June 2007 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and backed by the technology industry that is intended to give the public — including inventors — more of a voice in the system.
In Europe, there is a protest coming and not just activists will participate. Actual staff of the patent office will protest against their own employer, which says plenty about the severity of their crisis. They will be joined by the Stop Software Patents protesters.
The Stop Software Patents website carries a copy of a press release put out by SUEPO – the union representing European Patent Office examiners – to coincide with the one day strike of EPO staff and a protest to be held in Brussels, both of which are scheduled for this Thursday, 18th September.
According to this release: “The confidence of the workforce in the EPO President, Alison Brimelow, and her Vice-Presidents is very low. According to internal staff survey conducted in June 2008, only 6% of the workforce have confidence in the management qualities of this body. And only 9% of the patent examiners believe that Brimelow and the Vice-Presidents actively promote patent quality.”
To those who live nearby and can attend the protest, T-shirts will be available.
100 T-shirts with the Red Dove and the Stop Software Patents slogan arrive tomorrow at the Brussels office, so pre-order yours! The previous yellow one is a collector now.
Microsoft, Patent Trolls, and GPLv3
Microsoft’s good friend Acacia [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] has just been crowned top-of-the-league patent troll. This ought to show just what type of company is now being run by former Microsoft executives in its higher ranks.
Acacia Technologies is the most litigious non-practising entity/troll (delete according to preference) in the United States. According to research done by PatentFreedom, which is featured in an article to be published in the next issue of IAM, Acacia has been involved in a total of 308 cases in the US courts, 239 of which have been filed since 2003. In second place is Rates Technology Inc, which has been involved in 130 cases – although just 38 have been over the last six years.
The licence which defangs patent trolls is continues to be adopted pretty well. GPLv3 has just crossed the 3,000-projects milestone, according to Palamida’s count.
After over a year of tracking GPL3 adoption, we would like to announce that 3000 projects have adopted version 3 of the GNU GPL License. The strong adoption rate represented by this milestone shows the continued acceptance of this license by the Open Source and Free Software communities. We’d like to thank everyone that has been involved with this project. Without your hard work, none of this would’ve been possible.
In order to resolve this problem completely, software patents will need to be dropped altogether. █
“Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.”
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Buy Ubuntu, pay Microsoft
This was probably inevitable. I first brought it up here and Mark Shuttleworth soon replied, refusing the refute the speculation. So, Canonical will be paying Microsoft indirectly (for codecs). We’ll explain the source of this problem in a moment.
It was Shuttleworth himself who said that it’s important to keep the price of GNU/Linux low (preferably zero), so it’s ironic that he permits it to change now. Ubuntu PCs from Dell still have Microsoft paid and there’s no choice to opt out. Claims of this have been somewhat fuzzy , but the latest claim is based on this report from IDG.
Inexpensive add-on applications that will provide audio codecs and a DVD player to expand the multimedia capabilities of the four-year-old Linux operating system are now available for purchase in the Ubuntu online store.
Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, said today that it has reached deals with two software vendors, Cyberlink and Fluendo, to sell their DVD player and audio codec applications directly to consumers through the online store. The products are already installed under previous licensing agreements for many laptop and desktop computers that are sold preloaded with Ubuntu Linux from hardware vendors, according to Ubuntu.
Just to clarify, we have written literally hundreds of posts denouncing software patents and we continue to do so. We don’t write this to provoke and it’s important that to understand where GNU/Linux is moving. Payments to Microsoft for codecs is perhaps only a beginning and, either way, it elevates the price of Free software and legitimises software patents. These don’t belong in industry and especially not inside data formats which were made prevalent using the Web.
Microsoft actively encourages (through default file formats) the proliferation of such digital poison, which has already come under antitrust probes. Licensing this technology as Canonical does is a step backwards because it’s a sign of acceptance, not rejection. Here is another new example of patents inside standards. [via Digital Majority]
InterDigital develops advanced mobile broadband technologies and products, is a leading contributor to the global wireless standards, and has patent license agreements with many leading mobile device manufacturers.
Free software simply cannot play this game. It ceases to be Free under such an ecosystem.
More people have begun questioning patents in general, not just software patents. It’s important to support these people, as opposed to supporting WMV and WMA.
In the last Venture Capital Journal, Thomas Klein from Wilson Sonsini wrote a great article (Actually link doesn’t work – this article requires subscription) about the diminishing value of patents for early stage technology companies. In the short article he quoted 5 recent court decisions that have created limited the value of patents. I will not repeat all the 5 cases that he quotes, but his overall verdict is clear: Leveraging patents in the courtroom is becoming harder and harder.
Patents are typically about selfishness (personal gain) and the key problem is that once they are widely accepted, other people’s selfishness saturates and floods the industrial atmosphere. It stifles development. It’s like advocating the possession of a gun by everyone as means of enhancing security. It’s only the ruthless loose cannons (trolls) and graveyards/funeral services (lawyers) who win the most. They thrive in increased ‘business’. █
Image from Wikimedia
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Want a job at Novell? Then learn some Microsoft.
Novell is not only giving up on tools which compete against Microsoft’s [1, 2, 3, 4]. It actively embraces Microsoft's vision of technology and helps Microsoft in a variety of different ways. Those craving for a job at Novell (whose workforce is shrinking by the way) need to sharpen their .NET skills.
We are looking for people with experience in Linux, with experience building software from source code and good C# or Java skills. Experience with ASP.NET and ADO.NET is a plus.
It seems probable that Novell will recruit a Microsoft-sympathetic crowd, which will then change the social fabric and strategic inclinations of the company. Many of the GNU/Linux-faithful have already left Novell because of the deal with Microsoft. Those who are left are more willing to take orders — so to speak — from Redmond.
SJVN has just published an article where he rightly argues that Novell serves Microsoft better when it’s isolated and therefore can approach Free software projects and communities. He concurs with our idea that Novell is becoming to Microsoft what Citrix already is (and no, we never suggested that Microsoft might buy Novell, but we referenced some "what if" Op-Eds).
Given a choice in the matter, Microsoft would happily bury Linux and open source in the IT trash-heap, but buying Novell wouldn’t get them one whit closer to that goal. That’s one of the reasons why Microsoft finds Linux so annoying. Unlike proprietary software companies, they can’t simply crush or buy it out of existence. As soon as they smashed one open-source company, another would pop up with the exact same software.
So, for now, they’ll work grudgingly with Novell, but buy Novell? It’s just not going to happen. Now, if Microsoft 7, or Vista Mark Two as I’m beginning to think of it, flops as badly as Vista, then maybe Microsoft will start considering changing its way. So, talk to me again about Microsoft buying Novell, or here’s a scary thought, Red Hat, in two years time and I might have a different answer. For now, though, Microsoft is getting what it wants from both Citrix and Novell without buying either one and that’s more than good enough for the boys from Redmond.
What might happen at the end is still unknown, but one comment at Linux Today raises a likely possibility.
MS is just sitting back waiting until Novell relies on them to supply the bulk of their business…then they
will extinguish them.
Until then, Novell’s value (and thus market impact) will continue to diminish. As Joe Panettieri wrote yesterday: “Lack of integration — perceived or real — is costing NOVL business. A prime example: The VAR Guy knows of at least one major US broadband provider that is moving away from GroupWise and other NOVL offerings because the GroupWise releases have more features on Windows Server and fewer features on Novell’s own SUSE Linux.
“The broadband provider has decided to standardize on a complete Microsoft .Net environment with Exchange instead.
“In short, Novell has to become its own best ISV for SUSE Linux — fast.”
Emphasis needs to be put on the word “own“. Novell positioned itself for excessive reliance on Microsoft. █
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