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02.08.09

Patents Roundup: Apple, Microsoft Trolls, and Linux

Posted in Apple, Deals, GNU/Linux, HP, Kyocera Mita, Microsoft, Patents, Samsung at 12:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Apple

ACCORDING TO the following BNet report, companies need not fear junk patents like Apple’s, but who has the money or the means to invalidate patents? It’s notoriously hard and expensive.

When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent number 7,479,949 for a “touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics,” eyebrows shot up throughout the industry. On first glance, it seemed that Apple had locked down the concept of a multi-touch interface, posing problems for Palm and anyone else who might want to compete with the iPhone, iTouch, and future products. But some more careful consideration suggests that the patent may not be as broad as it seems — and Apple may have missed including some seminal prior art, at least some of which was known to the inventors. That could cause spell problems in trying to enforce the patent.

BNet has published some more news picks about Microsoft and Apple patents.

Microsoft Trolls

This was mentioned a few days ago because Nathan Myhrvold is still on a racketeering warpath. Currently, he wants to justify what he’s doing by paying for a ‘study’ which defends the practice.

Former Microsoft Exec to Release Patent Troll Study

[...]

The funny part is that this former executive’s company makes its money by, you guessed it, collecting patents. The firm has yet to assert any of its rights in court, however.

What is he striving to be, “king of the trolls” (a representative)?

To defend against such Microsoft-bred trolls, there is already a drive called “Linux Defenders” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], but it’s not a permanent solution. Nonetheless, it continues receiving some coverage, this time from Heise Online:

Linux Defenders expand initiative against patent trolls

[...]

The Peer to Patent project, an initiative by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, USPTO, is aimed at making the US patenting system more transparent and open to the public. An internet portal is to be jointly created by the USPTO and Linux Defenders to enable the community to provide information to the Patent Office about pending patents that will help clarify whether a patent should actually be granted.

Linux Defenders still gives some validity to these patents. It accepts the broken law and the consequence is unfortunate, as detailed below.

Linux and Big Brother

Microsoft continues to bask in patent deals with companies that use Linux and don’t mind paying Microsoft for nothing of substance. Brother is the latest sellout [1, 2, 3] and the ‘protection’ it bought from Microsoft is allegedly for printers only. Microsoft argues that is has “similar” agreements with other printer or MFP makers and the ones it named are HP, Samsung, Fuji Xerox, Seiko Epson, and Kyocera Mita.

We do not know about Epson and Linux. What about H-P? Are they paying ‘Linux tax’ to Microsoft? It is known that Dell sold out when it “joined” the Novell/Microsoft agreement — whatever this actually mean. According to this article, it’s likely that H-P and Epson did not sign a deal which directly covers Linux.

Since launching its Intellectual Property Licensing program in December 2003, Microsoft has been aggressive about engaging in such deals. Redmond has entered into 500 licensing agreements in a little more than five years. Other licensing deals involving printing technologies include those with Hewlett-Packard, Kyocera Mita, Samsung, and Seiko Epson. Most of these agreements have involved embedded Linux technology.

Microsoft officials believe such agreements will prove to be an integral ingredient in ultimately offering IT shops greater innovation in tying together multiple environments, most notably Linux.

[...]

Many of these companies offer printers based on embedded Linux technology. Microsoft officials say they’ve been active in pursuing licensing agreements with these companies because of the growing popularity of Linux for networked, high-speed office printers.

How can Microsoft charge money for something it does not develop? Does Microsoft not have debt to Linux companies for all those ideas which it copied? Bill Gates once joked about his company’s behaviour when he said: “Hey, Steve, just because you broke into Xerox’s store before I did and took the TV doesn’t mean I can’t go in later and steal the stereo.” Microsoft actually began business with ‘theft’ of many ideas and dumpster-diving for other people’s discarded code. That’s the true story which Microsoft prefers to bury.

Dumpster

Anyway, for future use, this latest development was also covered in:

The patents will cover such subjects as Microsoft Office integration and embedded Linux systems. Financial terms of the deal were not released, but Microsoft said that it would be receiving compensation from Brother.

Why is the Linux Foundation not stepping in to fight this? Can it be that IBM is a pro-software patents lobbyist, so it simply doesn’t care?

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