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11.03.08

Links 03/11/2008: Large Migrations to GNU/Linux, New Linux 2009.0 RC

Posted in News Roundup at 8:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Collaboration

F/OSS

Rights

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Dan Gillmor, creator of the phrase, “Distributed Journalism” 09 (2005)

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

Microsoft Blast from the Past: Compatibility Games

Posted in Microsoft, Novell, OpenDocument, Vista, Windows at 12:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mines
Your application will self-destruct within 2 iterations of Windows

Microsoft has already been seen impeding and harming highly competitive software using Windows Vista. There is a long history there and Novell is a victim too.

Here is a good old story about Microsoft being pressured to play nice with competitors on its desktop platform, which is a monopoly.

Microsoft said in October that its “Troika” project, designed to ensure that competitors’ programs can run on its Windows operating system without glitches, won’t be ready until October 2006, nine months behind schedule.

Later came Vista, destroying compatibility, especially for third-party developers.

One memorable example of such technical sabotage is Microsoft’s action against DR-DOS, although ODF might be another example [1, 2, 3], perhaps even Exchange.

When will there be justice?

“[Bill Gates] is divisive. He is manipulative. He is a user. He has taken much from me and the industry.”

Gary Kildall

Microsoft Lobbyist Jonathan Zuck Infiltrates EU Summit on Intellectual Monopolies

Posted in America, Europe, Microsoft at 11:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Jonathan Zuck finger in nose
Feeling hungry for software patents in the EU?

Here’s a sneaky one.

Remember Jonathan Zuck’s Association for Competitive Technology, which we reported to the FTC? Well, guess who will be a special guest in the continent where ACT does not even belong (although its offices are based where lobbyists and diplomats roam)?

“Didn’t the Commission promise to mitigate the issue of corporate control of governments, through lobbyists in particular?”According to this — a page that has just been torn down (Google cache here) — ACT will participate under a speaker’s position. It is listed under “Industry Representatives” as “Jonathan Zuck, President, ACT \ USA.” Zuck is also listed here as a moderator.

This is supposed to be a European conference, so why involve people who represent (and are funded by) foreign monopolists, who might deserve an embargo? Didn’t the Commission promise to mitigate the issue of corporate control of governments, through lobbyists in particular?

Abraham Lincoln

Presidential Candidates: Deregulation and Lobbying

Posted in Videos at 11:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Did you know that there are more than 34,750 registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., for just 435 representatives and 100 senators? That’s 64 lobbyists for each congressperson.”

CIO.com

Ogg Theora

Direct link

This video is relevant because a lot of the issues we explore here (d)evolve to exploration of issues more political than technical.

“Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.”

Richard Stallman

Microsoft Blast from the Past: Conspiracy and Money Laundering

Posted in Finance, Fraud, Microsoft at 10:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

WHEN a former Microsoft manager was sentenced to prison, memories came of white-collar crime. Here is another old case of former Microsoft employees getting together to engage in “conspiracy and money laundering.”

The ringleader of a group of four former Microsoft employees accused of stealing company software worth $7.1 million pleaded guilty yesterday to federal felony charges of conspiracy and money laundering.

Maybe it’s a collective and characteristic thing (predatory grouping and disregard for the law).

Laundry
Week of dirty laundry

Time for IBM to Take the Lead a ‘Pull a re Bilski’ on Software Patents

Posted in IBM, Law, Patents at 9:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IBM has just issued a formal response to re Bilski, whose outcome was discussed in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. It comes from Research, Development & Intellectual Property:

“IBM welcomes today’s en banc Federal Circuit decision in the In re Bilski case, as it excludes from patent eligibility business method inventions that are not tied to a machine or transformative of an article. The Federal Circuit’s “machine-or-transformation” test was a primary component of the test that IBM advocated in our amicus brief.

“The ruling applies a principled limitation on the scope of processes eligible for patent protection that should curtail the negative effects of the 1998 State Street decision. That ruling has been interpreted to expand patentable subject matter to include inchoate business methods. Patentability of such methods is contrary to the purpose of the patent laws, is not needed to encourage innovation, and results in an imbalance in the patent system.

“IBM commends the Federal Circuit for clarifying that the “useful, concrete, and tangible result” inquiry set forth in dicta in State Street is insufficient to determine whether a claim defines patent eligible subject matter. “

IBM is said to be responsible for this test, but it wants to eliminate business method patents while keeping software patents. IBM remains a pro-software patents company, so it’s time for a rethink. Can IBM become a friend of Free (libre) software?

Capitol building

Does OpenSUSE Board Member Shelter Microsoft’s Patents?

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, Patents at 8:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Lobbying the wrong way

IS the Bilski ruling considered good news or bad news to Novell? Probably a bit of both.

Software patents may be dying, but much like the USPTO, there’s refusal to acknowledge such a thing at Novell. We have not found a formal response or statement from Novell (yet), but one of the key people (the most voted for) in OpenSUSE is not exactly optimistic.

I wouldn’t conclude to Shantanu’s “Microsoft Has A Problem: Software Patents Go Up In Smoke” for several reasons:

  1. software patents aren’t gone yet, not by any means, but the Bilski decision seems to at least discard the most ridiculous and invasive ones
  2. we still have to see how that court decision translates into what the USPTO will grant as patents or not, as the fact that a patent should be granted or not doesn’t really relate to what patent offices actually grant (just think of what the EPO has been doing for years)

Steve Ballmer rides SUSEWhether intended or not, Pascal gives ammunition to those who will object to generalising the decision and fighting software patents.

While Pascal is right about some things, he ought to understand that patent lawyers will attack the decision and software patents are good for Novell, which keeps pursuing them.

Novell is using patents as a competitive tool to capture markets at the expense of companies like Red Hat and markets which require compatibility with Microsoft.

What the Bilski Ruling Might Mean to Software Patents, Microsoft

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 7:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Homeless car plate

IN previous posts about the re Bilski ruling [1, 2, 3], a cursory look at the ruling was all there was to be offered.

Now that people have taken a more careful look, discussion among experts leads to better assessment and understanding of the decision’s impact on both business methods and software patents. Are they doomed altogether? Which ones? Would they hold water in court? Will they still be possible to obtain? What happens to existing such patents which applicants spent enormous amounts of time and money on? What does this mean to companies whose patent portfolio is their main or only business? These are all interesting questions and a subject that will be debated for quite some time.

Courtesy of and thanks to the work of Digital Majority, here are some posts of interest.

Prematurely-announced Victory?

On the subject on software patents:

State Street Overruled… PERIOD

The Federal Circuit has overruled State Street and software patents are no longer available as they have come to be available over the last 10 to 15 years.

Software and business method patents take a hit

Certainly we are not at the end of this, but for the first time in a long time advocates of software patents have been put on the defensive. This is really big.

Effect on Microsoft

Microsoft has for long relied on the last resort which is software patents. It also kept itself occupied trying to expand patentability of software to the many countries which reject them (e.g. India). The ruling regarding Bilski could , but as predicted some weeks ago by Stop Software Patents people, it’s sensible to expect pro-software patents lobbyists to strike back.

Either way, here are some posts or interest:

Microsoft Has A Problem: Software Patents Go Up In Smoke

So, companies like Microsoft would have a lot to rue about as a huge portion of their patent portfolio has become circumspect. This not only would rob them of revenues in terms of royalties but would also open up a lot of space for competition as well. Special thanks to Red Hat to take up the fight and providing crucial data to the court to take this decision.

US court throws out most software patents – Microsoft has a problem

Much of the patent portfolio of some of the world’s biggest software companies has become worthless overnight, thanks to a ruling yesterday by the US patent court.

The Scariest Things in Open Source

Another scary thing for those in Open Source would be patents. Honestly, thanks to the legal work done by so many in the FOSS world (big props to you guys), patents have more or less become a huge paper tiger. They still scare a lot of people, but in the end, all the saber rattling by the big boys (Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Intel, etc, etc) have more or less rendered patents as nothing more than dead trees splattered with ink.

Reality Check

Some more moderate analysis from Mike Masnick:

Is There Still A Big Loophole For Software And Business Method Patents?

It’s not a full rejection of software or business model patents, but I think that’s for the best in the long run. It’s better to create proper overall rules, rather than trying to carve out exemptions and creating a patchwork of rules. However, I’m still worried about the loopholes, and how quickly lawyers with tons of patents seem ready to leap through those loopholes.

As a little bit of background and historical perspective:

Federal Circuit Reins in Business Method Patents

During the 1990s, it handed down its Alappat and State Street decisions, which gave a green light to patents on software and business methods, two categories of innovation that had traditionally been regarded as ineligible for patent protection. Even as the evidence mounted earlier this decade that these patents were hindering, rather than promoting, technological innovation, the Federal Circuit showed no sign of backing down.

The decision (or clarification) which will come from EPO is important too [1, 2, 3, 4]. Suffice to say, as IPKat pointed out last week, this may have an impact on the UK as well (Nokia did some damage there [1, 2, 3]). In addition, re Bilski could affect the judgment of the EPO.

“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway”.”

Marshall Phelps, Microsoft

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