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10.30.08

Reader’s Proposal for Combating Free Software-hostile Patents

Posted in Free/Libre Software, IBM, Law, Microsoft, Mono, OIN, Patents at 5:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Slashdot seems to have broken the news about CueCat being patented. For those who are not familiar with it, here is the Wikipedia article, which tells an unfortunate story. There is also this bit of analysis that compares patent trolling to car rentals.

I was at an event this morning where the subject of so-called “patent trolls” came up (see also an earlier posting). Trolls are creatures who live under bridges and demand payment from travelers who wish to cross the bridge. Patent trolls are companies and/or individuals who buy patents for the purpose of making money off of infringement claims (rather than for the purpose of marketing/developing the invention). As such, trolls are a subcategory of (and take the organizational form of) the patent holding company. A good example of a patent holding company is Royalty Pharma, which makes its money off of the royalty stream. However, defining a troll, and differentiating it from a holding company, is sometimes tricky.

This brings us to the main subject of this post, which is an idea that our reader Jose has had for defending Free software from patents in general, not just patent trolls (which would be hard). Here it goes.


What about a license/terms of use/etc where people work on a project or simply contribute to a project (and keep copyrights) under the following condition:

  • Anyone can draw up a patent on your contributions (shared authorship probably).
  • Such patents will automatically be used so that full rights are granted for X type of project. X might be “all FOSS projects” or “all FOSS projects when used on all-FOSS platforms or all FOSH hardware, etc”.

Basically, I want to try and harvest patent law (the monopolies it provides) for our benefit, perhaps along the lines of something like the GPL.

If we can’t beat patent law, at least leverage it for good cause. The issue is that patents aren’t granted automatically as are copyrights. You have to write them up. If we add *lubrication* as suggested above, we can have legal and patent-minded individuals contribute to the community while those that simply want to code things up and not deal with patents, also go forward.

[Note, US laws gives you one year from time of publishing implementation or whatever... to submit the patent.]

“If we can’t beat patent law, at least leverage it for good cause.”As things are, if we make an “invention” (and don’t patent it), we open it up to the world to use (like BSD), but if Microsoft creates one (and patents it), we can’t use theirs. In both cases, a person stood on shoulders of giants, but only one of these “inventors” allowed others to stand even higher… and it was the nice inventors (FOSS) that ended up with the short end of the stick! That is bad way to reward innovation — a fundamental screw-up of patent law.

Of course, I am all against patents. They go too far (assuming copyrights are just fine themselves), but if we can find a practical way to leverage those PUKE laws, we increase the chances of patents not becoming an obstacle to FOSS.

As an example result, mono could “prove” themselves (or not) based on the patents they draw up. Similarly, patent-controversial projects can pay for themselves (redeem themselves) through patents. The coders don’t even have to be the ones drawing them up.

[Note, for the purposes of this mono example, I'll pretend the patent issue is the only issue.]

troll dollOf course, this all stinks — patents do — but might this approach just described have some legs?

The GPLv3 already helps.

The GPL is a compromise. I’d actually like something stronger — like FOSS platforms required in order to use GPL apps.

I am conscience that if the GPLv3 was held back from having more teeth, that maybe what I am suggesting above will also not garner enough support. In fact, maybe what I am suggesting would be but a clause to the GPL.

And to attack patent trolls, say that if you enforce a patent against project X (maybe X needs to be of wide scope… like “any FOSS project”), then that person loses protection from that patent… so if they use any software that could violate one of these FOSSy patents, then they are in trouble (that might be a weakness of trolls today as well except that we FOSS crowd don’t have many patents). In short, something like the OIN protections would be implicit in this sort of FOSS contribution contract but perhaps apply automatically to all FOSS (and not just to Linux).

In short, we can work to accelerate MAD.. we can also make sure we own a bigger stake, to decrease chances of a change in patent laws leaving us behind.

Maybe we don’t need anything beyond what IBM and others contribute. Maybe patents won’t be a real problem for FOSS/business in practice.

Thoughts?

Business Methods Patents Die, Are Software Patents Next? (Bilski Full Text as HTML)

Posted in America, Courtroom, Law, Patents at 3:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

AN anticipated turning point has finally come. It’s about Bilski, which we wrote about many times before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27].

The ruling is in and it is an arrival of wonderful news. Here is the full document [PDF] (original here [PDF]). Here it is as HTML (it’s a large document) and here it is as more complex HTML with thumbnails.

The Stop Software Patents campaign has already commented on the ruling.

The decision on the Bilski case has been published by the specialized patent court in the US (CAFC – Court of Appeal of the Federal Circuit). The judges says that the Bilski case is not helpful to draw the line between what is patentable and what is not in the case of software patents.

A few more notes can be found in Groklaw.

MR. OLSON [For Microsoft]: The ’580 patent is a program, as I understand it, that’s married to a computer, has to be married to a computer in order to be patented.

JUSTICE SCALIA: You can’t patent, you know, on-off, on-off code in the abstract, can you?

MR. OLSON [For Microsoft]: That’s correct, Justice Scalia.

JUSTICE SCALIA: There needs to be a device.

MR. OLSON [For Microsoft]: An idea or a principle, two plus two equals four can’t be patented. It has to be put together with a machine and made into a usable device.

Microsoft Invites Dutch Free Software or GNU/Linux Evangelists

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 2:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“They may shove it,” say the activists

BACK in August we mentioned how Microsoft spammed registered GNU/Linux users in Austria. It may have been part of the love-buying campaign, which continues to this date.

As many readers are probably aware, Holland has already waved goodbye to proprietary software (including Microsoft’s) in a growing number of regions of the country. Microsoft, in response, threatened to sue. It’s almost as though it believes to be privileged and deserving of business no matter what the competition has to offer. This angered a lot Dutch people because it drips arrogance.

According to one of our readers: “Some cities in the Netherlands did [a migration to Free software] before and now that Amsterdam made this wise move, I expect many cities and other public services in NL to follow.

“Probably Theo Rinsema (CEO of Microsoft the Netherlands) will cry like a little baby again in the media, like he did before.

“The Microsoft Imperial is dying because they’ve lost their credibility.”“Unfortunately for Rinsema, his whining will probably be ignored by the vast majority. The Vole has screwed up. More and more companies, public services and end users are becoming aware of the fact that the Vole’s products are riddled with spyware and other flaws, out of the box.

“The Vole NL invited Free Software Activists – in public – for “Foot on the table (Voeten op tafel) sessions. Meaning a brainwash and probably free drinks and food to shut Free Software Activist’s mouth.

“I even received a personal invitation from a Microsoft employee, describing himself as a Microsoft something Evangelist something. So at least he was earnest.

“I declined and AFAIK all Free Software Activists did.

“They may shove their free drinks and food up their [.. wherever they prefer ..]

“The Microsoft Imperial is dying because they’ve lost their credibility. If they don’t remove their vicious spyware, they will be doomed to death.”

Coffee heart

Free as in “free coffee”

Quick Mention: When Mono Messes Up Your Server…

Posted in GNU/Linux, Java, Mono, Novell, Servers, Ubuntu at 2:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Some people never learn. They play with the monkey (Mono) and they get burned. [via pointer from reader "Needs Sunlight"]

“The best solution is to avoid Mono and go back to Java Server Pages,” writes the reader. Will Ubuntu follow suit?

Just say no to Mono

Failing SCO, Microsoft Eyes EU and Software Patents

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, SCO at 1:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Languishing case dragged on for half a decade

“[Emerson, Microsoft senior vice president for strategy] stated that Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux.”

Larry Goldfarb (of BayStar)

Readers might be wondering what all those SCO-related quotes are about. We’ve posted many of them so far today in order to symbolise and draw attention to the Halloween Documents, which intersect with today’s special day. As stated in Wikipedia, there was an “e-mail from consultant Mike Anderer to SCO’s Chris Sontag revealing Microsoft’s channeling of US$ 86 million to SCO.”

“It’s worth remembering that Novell approached Microsoft for this deal, not the other way around.”Failing copyrights libel, as implicitly suggested inside the Halloween Documents, Microsoft has already resorted to unbacked patents libel. It’s the next logical step and a last option too. That resistance phase was ignited a year and a half ago and it was empowered by the patent deal Microsoft had signed with Novell. It’s worth remembering that Novell approached Microsoft for this deal, not the other way around.

Software patents are ‘softer’ than copyrights and their legitimacy is constantly being questioned; their very existence is challenged. Software patents are still illegal in the large majority of the world, so Microsoft has reasons for concern about its unfounded claims and threats. After all, SCO was fined in Germany for such slander. Can Microsoft too be fined? Either way, there is an endless pursuit for software patents in Europe, courtesy of Microsoft, a few other companies, and the pressure groups they employ [1, 2].

In reality, owing to existing confusion and lack of clarify, “they [EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway,” says Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps.

Europe’s assignment of the infamous software patent situation to the enlarged board was mentioned here earlier [1, 2, 3]. The following report from IDG suggests that Pieter Hintjens, former head of FFII welcomes this decision.

In an interview at the beginning of this year, shortly after she took over the top job in Munich, Brimelow said she wasn’t ready to refer the software patents question to the EBoA, perhaps out of respect for her predecessor.

Now that she is ready, the reaction has been positive.

“It will be a landmark case with a sizeable effect on the interpretation of patent law even beyond Europe,” said Thomas Vinje, an intellectual property expert and partner at the law firm Clifford Chance.

Pieter Hintjens, a prominent campaigner against software patents during the political debate in 2005 and founder of software company Imatix, welcomed Brimelow’s decision.

“The (EPO) has resisted doing this for many years. In the past it didn’t want to clamp down on software patent applications for economic reasons: The EPO makes money from patent applications and renewals. Brimelow at last is taking a healthier approach, prioritizing the long-term interests of society ahead of the short-term financial ones,” Hintjens said.

There is some more background reading to this in The Register.

The European Patent Office (EPO) has asked its ultimate legal authority to look at the European Patent Convention (EPC) and issue advice on the patentability of software. The EPO said that such advice was necessary to ensure the uniform application of the EPC.

We have been writing quite extensively about what Symbian (Nokia) has done in the UK. It harmed the country’s treatment of software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]; however, according to this, the situation in the UK can be impacted by the conclusions reached in continental Europe.

The thorny issue of software patents in the EU was again in the news last week. Regular readers will recall the ongoing row between the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) and the courts over the former’s application of both UK and EU case law on the extent to which computer software can be patented. The most recent round a couple of weeks back saw the Court of Appeal find the UK IPO was wrong to deny a patent to Symbian’s PC performance enhancing software. Now the European Patent Office (EPO) has sought clarification by way of a reference to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (which hears appeals against EPO decisions) seeking to clear up some of the finer points of the application of European patent law. Those clever kitties at the IP Kat reckon the referral should end some of the uncertainty over computer software at the EPO level and (indirectly) aid the UK IPO as well. Let’s hope so.

These are interesting times and an important test for the European patent system. Brimelow does not want another riot.

Software patents protest against EPO

Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference and Novell

Posted in Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, OpenOffice, Patents at 12:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Group of monkeys
¿Mono? Mono. No!

Microsoft’s PDC has already featured a variety of starring exhibits like Vista 7 [sic], Azure (Hailstorm reborn), a Web-based version of Office (that’s not new) and… Novell. Yes, Mono and Novell are so much of an asset to Microsoft, in contrary to what Miguel de Icaza wants critical crowds to believe. Might it be because of software patents? Or dominance of APIs? Either way, for everyone’s eyes:

What a difference a few years — and a Novell-Microsoft alliance — can make. The partnership struck between Microsoft and Novell has resulted in much friendlier relations and regular communications between the two companies. Mono also has come out with an open-source implementation of Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, dubbed Moonlight. And de Icaza will finally get to lead a PDC session about Mono at 4:45 p.m. later this afternoon here at the conference.

He happens to present in quite a few Microsoft conferences.

Based on another new article, this one from eWeek, Microsoft has no interest in Free software and royalty-free (as in libre) standards. The “interoperability” buzzword is all over the place. It often contradicts Freedom. The only cooperation Microsoft is interested in is to be based on Novell-type patent deals [1, 2, 3]. Horacio Gutierrez made it very clear that all the sweet talk may just be fluff and bluff for press. Behind the scenes, it’s a foreplay for extortion which they already engage in rather secretly.

Microsoft OpenOffice.Nov

“For Microsoft to get more closely involved in OpenOffice, it can passively operate through Novell and its fork.”The previous post talked about Apache and how Microsoft wants it to work better (or more widely) on Windows. For Microsoft to get more closely involved in OpenOffice, it can passively operate through Novell and its fork [1, 2, 3]. With OOXML, Mono and Windows integration (e.g. fonts and macros), Microsoft might already be using Novell as its vassal to achieve exactly that.

Novell already prioritises Windows as a platform for OpenOffice while it’s leaving other platforms like GNU/Linux out in the cold. But there appears to be a belated arrival. A few hours ago, Petr Mladek (of Novell/SUSE) announced:


[opensuse-announce] OpenOffice_org 3.0 final available


Hi,

I’m happy to announce that the build 3.0.0.3.5 passed testing and 
OpenOffice.org 3.0 final packages are available in the Build Service 
OpenOffice:org:STABLE project.

Note that OOo is very complex application. We are sure that some annoying bugs 
will be found within the following weeks. Please report bugs into bugzilla. 
See also known bugs below. I would like to update the package once again 
within next two weeks with some important fixes that will be available in the 
meantime.

Note that openSUSE-11.1-betaX and FACTORY include totally reworked packages 
where the build is split into many source packages. It is a bit broken right 
now. We would like to put it into the Build Service as soon as possible but 
it will take some time to fix the build on older distributions again. Please 
be patient.


Where to get it:
----------------
The list of installation repositories can be found at

http://en.opensuse.org/Additional_YaST_Package_Repositories#OpenOffice.org_STABLE

Installation problems:
----------------------
There are some problems with the version update on older distributions. You 
might need to select the right version by hand, see 

http://en.opensuse.org/OpenOffice#Dependencies_During_Update

IMPORTANT

The packages with localizations are renamed from OpenOffice_org-<lang> to 
OpenOffice_org-l10n-<lang>. Also the localized help content is split into the 
optional OpenOffice_org-help-<lang> packages. Finally, the American 
localization is split into extra packages OpenOffice_org-l10n-en-US and 
OpenOffice_org-help-en-US.

We are sorry, the 64-bit packages are not available for SLED10 and 
openSUSE-10.2. You could install the 32-bit (i586) packages there.


Bug reports:
------------
Please report the bugs into https://bugzilla.novell.com/ for the 
product "OpenOffice_org 2.0". Do not forget to mention enough information 
about the problem, see http://en.opensuse.org/Bugs:OOo.


Known bugs:
-----------
    	* TOC with hyperlinks is corrupted when exporting to MS Word file format
          (bnc#438525)
    	* can’t change text size in merged cells (bnc#437137)


Changes in this version:
------------------------

The GO-OO project changes are listed at

http://svn.gnome.org/svn/ooo-build/tags/OOO_BUILD_3_0_0_3_5/NEWS

General information about the build:
------------------------------------

The build is based on the GO-OO project. It includes lots bug fixes, features 
and optimizations in compare with the regular OpenOffice.org build:

	* improved VBA interoperability
	* improved import filters (OOXML, WordPerfect)
	* additional import filters (SVG, WordPerfect Graphics, Microsoft Works, ...)
        * native KDE Open/Save dialog
	* WebDAV locking
	* new 3D slide transitions
	* multimedia in Impress via GStreamer
	* multiple formula syntax (Calc A1, Excel A1 and Excel R1C1)
	* ...

, see also http://go-oo.org/discover/


Notice the inclusion of GO-OO. Novell is trying to take the lead and steal Sun’s thunder. Will users trust a company that puts Microsoft’s ‘protected’ technology (which only Novell customers are permitted to use) inside an office suite? A company that discriminates against GNU/Linux in a variety of ways? Well, that’s Novell.

We don’t know yet if Novell is “the next SCO.” As we stated over a year ago, it's a lot more likely that Microsoft takes the leading role as SCO’s successor. Groklaw opines similarly. But Novell is just a tool. Novell is the next BayStar, merely fueling litigation prospects.

“On the same day that CA blasted SCO, Open Source evangelist Eric Raymond revealed a leaked email from SCO’s strategic consultant Mike Anderer to their management. The email details how, surprise surprise, Microsoft has arranged virtually all of SCO’s financing, hiding behind intermediaries like Baystar Capital.”

Bruce Perens

Does Apache Show That Money Talks?

Posted in Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 11:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Apache helicopter

APACHE continues to gain at the expense of Microsoft IIS. Yesterday’s figures from Netcraft confirmed this.

“Whether Apache (or its userbase) cares about GNU/Linux is a separate question…”Microsoft really wants to be part of this success and if IIS cannot beat Apache, then Microsoft is determined to ensure that GNU/Linux can at least be replaced by Microsoft Windows Server on servers running Apache. Whether Apache (or its userbase) cares about GNU/Linux is a separate question, but as we strongly stressed yesterday, it should care. Microsoft’s vigorous insistence that its software should receive precedence on its own platform goes a long way back. Consider Java, for example. Remember Netscape too.

Apache seems to be setting itself for more Microsoft influence. We wrote about this before [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17] and now arrives another early sign.

Apache’s annual conference was announced yesterday and a lot of it harps about Microsoft, which is still losing to Apache. Microsoft, which became one of the sponsors, is mentioned 8 times in the press release, including the headline. It will also keynote the event. Have a look at the press release.

ApacheCon US 2008 Keynotes to Focus on Central Issues of Open Source Standards, Microsoft, and Technology’s Role in Rebuilding Communities

Open Source notables from Microsoft and the Open Web Foundation highlight ApacheCon US 2008 conference in New Orleans

[...]

2008 keynote speakers include Sam Ramji, Senior Director of Platform Strategy Microsoft’s Open Source division…

And that’s just a portion of it. The motives are not hard to see. Microsoft’s wants to have Apache (or its users) divorce from GNU/Linux, but it will disguise this using messages like “playing nice”, “we’ve changed”, and “it’s goodwill.”

“It’s part of a continuing behavior pattern by Microsoft that I think it’s fair to call “dirty fighting.” GoDaddy was using Apache (I assume on Linux) because it was a great technical solution. They didn’t switch to IIS on Windows Server 2003 for any technical reason. The switch was accompanied by a press release by GoDaddy, containing Microsoft promotional language. Now, I’ve changed many servers from one thing to another, but I’ve never made a press release about it. GoDaddy wouldn’t be doing that unless Microsoft had offered them something valuable in return. There has been talk in the domain business that Microsoft has been offering the large domain registries a wad of cash to switch their parked sites. There is no other reason to do this than to influence the Netcraft figures.”

Bruce Perens

Microsoft is Doing it Again… to Yahoo and Google

Posted in Antitrust, Google, Law, Microsoft, Search, Videos at 10:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Never make room for bullies in the cloud

“Mr. Emerson and I discussed a variety of investment structures wherein Microsoft would ‘backstop,’ or guarantee in some way, BayStar’s investment…. Microsoft assured me that it would in some way guarantee BayStar’s investment in SCO.”

Larry Goldfarb testimony

SEVERAL months ago we showed how Microsoft had been making decisions 'on behalf' of the government, essentially determining who is allowed and who is denied a landmark deal or an acquisition. Political influence plays a considerable role here [1, 2, 3] because it sometimes boils down to biases, greed, or gut instincts. With this recent summary of Microsoft's action against Yahoo/Google in mind, it’s worth watching the following video:

The freezing (or blocking) of the deal has nothing to do with technical considerations. It’s Microsoft’s intervention that single-handedly suffocates Yahoo, preventing it from making sound strategic moves. Even if inevitable, the more it’s delayed for, the more Yahoo! crumbles and the cheaper it is to acquire. Microsoft knows what it’s doing, and it’s truly despicable.

Based on today’s news reports, Yahoo! is again being pressured to approach Microsoft, which denies wooing the Internet giant despite very recent and contradictory comments from Microsoft’s CEO.

Related to this are also the following videos, which have just landed in YouTube. And by the way, “Eight Years Later, Microsoft is Still a Monopoly.“ An abusive one, no less.

USvMicrosoft: 10 Years Later – Roundtable

USvMicrosoft: 10 Years Later – Phil Malone

It is almost funny how quickly people forget what Microsoft has done over the years, labeling critics of Microsoft “intolerant” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] rather then pursue the source of intolerance.

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”

Andre Gide

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