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02.10.09

Microsoft & Acacia’s Extortions Roadshow

Posted in Deals, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 7:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Brother’s patent deal with Microsoft is a subject that we’ve already covered in:

  1. Microsoft Distorts the Linux and Virtualisation Markets
  2. Boycott Brother Industries
  3. Microsoft: Deal with Brother Similar to Novell’s
  4. Patents Roundup: Apple, Microsoft Trolls, and Linux

In the last among these posts we mentioned Epson, whose printers apparently required patent cross-licensing with Microsoft. But it turns out that Epson became a victim of Acacia’s extortion (Acacia has former Microsoft employees within its top ranks [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]) and in response to this, Epson has just joined the silly thing called RPX, which is a pricey patent repository. What an utter waste of time and a total waste of money that is [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. How does any of it empower developers? Ars Technica takes a harsh stance against this pattern in a “let’s kill all the lawyers” edition.

Software patents have been a fantastic source of innovation… among patent attorneys. Their value to the software industry as a whole is rather more dubious. But are they even legitimate? The Supreme Court hasn’t directly addressed the question in decades, but in a thorough analysis for Ars, Tim Lee finds reason to think they’re the legal equivalent of vaporware.

There is also the following essay, “The Hoax of Invention History.”

This chapter makes me sad for all the great innovators whose names are not in the history books, and even sadder for all of us who have been denied great innovations because some fool managed to make it to the patent office first only to use that privilege to kill his competition the next day. Far from encouraging innovation, patent and copyright have managed to kill off so many wonderful works of art and technologies that it boggles the mind. In order to understand this, you have to look beyond the patent records. You have to train yourself to look at the unseen costs of government regulation.

Acacia went after some other printer makers, from which it extorted money very successfully. Dell and Lexmark are the most recent victims and the lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Texas, as usual.

Acacia Research Corporation announced today that its subsidiary, International Printer Corporation, has entered into a settlement and license agreement with Dell Inc. covering a patent portfolio that relates to networkable multifunction printer technology. This agreement resolves patent litigation that was pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Dell. International Printer Corporation has also entered into a license agreement with Lexmark International, Inc. covering the same technology portfolio.

Going back to the posts about Brother, Matt Asay has published this commentary on the subject.

Slowly, behind the scenes, Microsoft continues to try to portray Linux as risky and Microsoft’s patent coverage as insurance. Given that the company selling the insurance is also the one threatening a lawsuit, however, Microsoft needs to step very carefully to avoid the “extortionist” label. I personally believe that it has already crossed the line and needs to get back to competition between products, not lawyers.

Microsoft Windows competes well against Linux. The company doesn’t need patent trickery. It has a compelling, valuable ecosystem that it can use against Linux. Why does it continue these Linux kidney punches, of which Microsoft claims it has closed more than 500 deals?

[...]

Perhaps Microsoft is the company with something to hide? The last time I checked, Linux was open source, with everything available for public inspection. In the Brother patent deal, as in all the others, Microsoft has made absolutely nothing available for public inspection to test the veracity of its claims. That’s a sign of weakness, not of strength.

In other patent news:

i. Patent Bounty Paid in Garmin Patent Dispute

Article One Partners announced earlier today that two winners will share the $50,000 prize for discovering prior art in Article One’s Garmin/SP Technologies Patent Study. The Study related to a graphical interface providing a touch screen keyboard display that may not be minimized, maximized, closed or deleted. In a 2008 complaint filed in federal court in Chicago, SP Technologies, LLC (SPT) accused Garmin Limited and Garmin International, Inc. of infringing SPT’s patent. Garmin is a market leader in the portable navigation devices market. This litigation follows prior industry action from SPT involving this patent including infringement actions that have settled against Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch (settled May, 2008) and Magellan Navigation products (settled January, 2009), in addition to ongoing cases against Samsung Group, HTC Corporation and TomTom products.

ii. Kaspersky files image-based spam busting patent

Kaspersky Lab has patented a statistics-based method for detecting image-based spam that is used to bypass traditional text-based filters.

The technology analyses whether text is contained in images based on the graphic pattern of words and lines, said developer Eugene Smirnov.

The one thing we know is that Microsoft not only intends to use patents against Linux; It’s already doing this and Novell conveniently ignores the problem because it has an exclusive not-to-sue promise from Microsoft. Novell receives a lot of money to do this.

Novell money

“”[...] we know that Microsoft is getting patents on some features of C#. So I think it’s dangerous to use C#, and it may be dangerous to use Mono.”

Richard Stallman

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