EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

03.25.09

How Red Hat Dodged a Novell-Like Microsoft Deal Despite Lobbying for Software Patents

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, Red Hat, SUN at 6:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar

Summary: Microsoft releases — via CNET — information about its secret patent “projects”

WE HAVE BEEN AWARE for a couple of years now that Red Hat too was discussing patents with Microsoft but no deal was ever signed other than the recent virtualisation collaboration. It involves no patents at all. This issue is entirely off the table, so what came to fruition is inherently different.

Microsoft now boasts a sort of PR placement. This was seeded in CNET, which has just broken the news about Microsoft unleashing its story about patent deals and their secret history.

The story has a lot to do with Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps, who wrote a book on his patent strategy. He was not fired but instead he took some time aside to write this book, apparently. It’s a book on how to burn GNU/Linux, but it’s titled “burning the ships” — a phrase that Matt Asay recited very frequently (he said “boats” though, also in a separate context).

Here is an interesting portion of the new article:

The Novell deal, though, is the most interesting tale and the one to which Phelps and co-author David Kline go into the most detail. It began as “Project Summer”–an effort to get at least one major Linux vendor to sign a pact with Microsoft by the summer of 2004. It began with a well-regarded salesperson, Susan Hauser, being tapped to confidentially meet with customers and see how much support there was for some sort of Microsoft-Linux partnership.

The customers were game, Phelps and Kline write, but unwilling to become a party in the negotiations themselves. As the effort took longer than Microsoft wanted it became “project next summer,” the authors quip. The company met with Red Hat, starting in the fall of 2004, as part of “Project Bridge Builder,” though talks broke down after a year and a half. Just as those talks were collapsing, in June 2006, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner got a call from Novell’s then-president, Ron Hovsepian. A few days after that, Brad Smith called Hovsepian back and a new effort, “Project Blue,” was born.

The sides first met face to face two weeks later at a Hyatt near the Chicago airport. That meeting took place amid a convention of female bodybuilders. Another meeting took place in September, this time at Microsoft’s outside counsel’s office–in the same conference room where several months earlier Microsoft had hammered out an agreement with Sun Microsystems.

“Given the challenges of coming together with Novell,” Smith says in the book, “I thought it made sense to meet in the same conference room… Plus, since the room had been lucky for us once before, I figured that couldn’t hurt either.”

Talks progressed, but had not reached a conclusion. Smith suggested the two sides set an October 31 deadline for reaching a deal. Novell agreed that the deal would be “done or dead by Halloween.” After the last-minute end-run around the GPL, the two sides got the deal done and announced it to the world on November 2, 2006.

Pamela Jones added (in reference to that last sentence): “So it was a deliberate end run around the GPL, with a Microsoft goal of getting paid for each copy of Linux sold — just like SCO — but thanks to GPLv3, it was an end run that led straight into a brick wall.”

The story about Red Hat agrees with something that we already knew, but Red Hat was given a lot of flak recently because of its attitude or at least its approach towards software patents [1, 2, 3, 4]. Heise offers a very detailed analysis that we recommend reading.

The disclosure that Red Hat have applied for a patent on what might strike some as an obscure corner of the software ecosystem has caused others to re-evaluate how open and collaborative Red Hat actually are. As the AMQP 1.0 standard entered into its final phase, a 2007 Red Hat patent application, the company now refers to as a “defensive” patent, on an obvious extension of AMQP, was automatically disclosed and caused quite stir. What is AMQP, why is it important, what has Red Hat done to cause a ruckus within the AMQP community, and what does it mean to open source in general.

Red Hat could probably do a lot more to help the fight against software patents in Europe because now is a crucial time.

WMGarrison has just told us that he had “been studying Red Hat’s position on software patents [...] basically, they seem to be in favour of software patents, against business methods, and mainly for interoperability protection.”

The summary of Garrison’s long article goes like this:

In this article we revisit the historical 2005 Software Patent Directive, the most heavily lobbied European law ever, and look at Red Hat’s public policy statements regarding this law. Our conclusion: Red Hat Instead, they endorsed the propaganda term “Computer Implemented Invention” and they lobbied for amendments that would legislate for, not against, software patents across Europe where the letter of the law still forbade them.

As we respect and very much value the opinion of the FFII, giving the benefit of the doubt to Red Hat would be hard in this case. Can Red Hat make a formal clarification about its stance on software parents? Uncertainty helps not at all and it’s beneficial neither to Red Hat nor to Free software; it’s beneficial to Microsoft.

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

Marshall Phelps, Microsoft

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

A Single Comment

  1. Pieter Hintjens said,

    March 25, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    Nice article. It’s seemed to many of us in the FOSS community that the patents were the ultimate way for larger firms to control and profit from the FOSS economy. This is why, IMO, IBM can enthusiastically collect patents while also investing in open source.

    I see William has submitted his article to Slashdot, it’s here in the firehose: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=3892567&art_pos=2

What Else is New


  1. Links 24/10/2014: Microsoft Tax Axed in Italy, Google's Linux (ChromeOS/Android) Leader Promoted

    Links for the day



  2. Links 24/10/2014: GNU/Linux History, Fedora Delay

    Links for the day



  3. Links 23/10/2014: New *buntu, Benchmarks

    Links for the day



  4. Links 22/10/2014: Chromebooks Surge, NSA Android Endorsement

    Links for the day



  5. Links 21/10/2014: Debian Fork Debate, New GNU IceCat

    Links for the day



  6. Criminal Microsoft is Censoring the Web and Breaks Laws to Do So; the Web Should Censor (Remove) Microsoft

    Microsoft is still breaking the Internet using completely bogus takedown requests (an abuse of DMCA) and why Microsoft Windows, which contains weaponised back doors (shared with the NSA), should be banned from the Internet, not just from the Web



  7. Microsoft 'Loving' GNU/Linux and Other Corporate Media Fiction

    Microsoft has bullied or cleverly bribed enough technology-centric media sites to have them characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) that also "loves Linux"



  8. India May be Taking Bill Gates to Court for Misusing His So-called 'Charity' to Conduct Clinical Trials Without Consent on Behalf of Companies He Invests in

    Bill Gates may finally be pulled into the courtroom again, having been identified for large-scale abuses that he commits in the name of profit (not "charity")



  9. The Problems With Legal Workarounds, Patent Scope, and Expansion of Patent Trolls to the East

    Patent trolls are in the news again and it's rather important, albeit for various different reasons, more relevant than the ones covered here in the past



  10. Links 20/10/2014: Cloudera and Red Hat, Debian 7.7, and Vivid Vervet

    Links for the day



  11. Links 20/10/2014: 10 Years Since First Ubuntu Release

    Links for the day



  12. How Patent Lawyers Analyze Alice v. CLS Bank

    Breaking down a patent lawyer's analysis of a Supreme Court's decision that seemingly invalidated hundreds of thousands of software patents



  13. Is It Google's Turn to Head the USPTO Corporation?

    The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests



  14. The EPO's Public Relations Disaster Amid Distrust From Within (and EPO Communications Chief Leaves): Part VII

    Amid unrest and suspicion of misconduct in the EPO's management (ongoing for months if not years), Transparency International steps in, but the EPO's management completely ignores Transparency International, refusing to collaborate; the PR chief of the EPO is apparently being pushed out in the mean time



  15. Links 18/10/2014: Debian Plans for Init Systems, Tails 1.2

    Links for the day



  16. Links 18/10/2014: New ELive, Android Expansion

    Links for the day



  17. Another Fresh Blow to Software Patents (and With Them Patent Trolls)

    Another new development shows that more burden of proof is to be put on the litigant, thus discouraging the most infamous serial patent aggressors and reducing the incentive to settle with a payment out of court



  18. Links 16/10/2014: New Android, SSL 3.0 Flaw

    Links for the day



  19. How the Corporate Press Deceives and Sells Microsoft Agenda

    Various new examples of media propaganda that distorts or makes up the facts (bias/lies by omission/selection) and where this is all coming from



  20. Vista 10 is Still Vapourware, But We Already Know It Will Increase Surveillance on Its Users and Contain Malicious Back Doors

    The villainous company which makes insecure-by-design operating systems will continue to do so, but in the mean time the corporate press covers only bugs in FOSS, not back doors in proprietary software



  21. Links 15/10/2014: KDE Plasma 5.1 is Out, GOG Reaches 100-Title Mark

    Links for the day



  22. With .NET Foundation Affiliation Xamarin is Another Step Closer to Being Absorbed by Microsoft

    Xamarin is not even trying to pretend that separation exists between Microsoft and its work; yet another collaboration is announced



  23. The EPO's Protection Triangle of Battistelli, Kongstad, and Topić: Part VI

    Jesper Kongstad, Benoît Battistelli, and Zeljko Topić are uncomfortably close personally and professionally, so suspicions arise that nepotism and protectionism play a negative role that negatively affects the European public



  24. Corporate Media Confirms the Demise of Software Patents in the United States; Will India and Europe Follow?

    It has become increasingly official that software patents are being weakened in the United States' USPTO as well as the courts; will software leaders such as India and Europe stop trying to imitate the old USPTO?



  25. Links 14/10/2014: CAINE 6, New RHEL, Dronecode

    Links for the day



  26. Microsoft's Disdain for Women Steals the Show at a Women's Event

    Steve Ballmer's successor, Satya Nadella, is still too tactless to lie to the audience, having been given --through subversive means -- a platform at a conference that should have shunned Microsoft, a famously misogynistic company



  27. SCOTUS May Soon Put an End to the 'Copyrights on APIs' Question While Proprietary Giants Continue to Harass Android/Linux in Every Way Conceivable

    Google takes its fight over API freedom to the Supreme Court in the Unites States and it also takes that longstanding patent harassment from the Microsoft- and Apple-backed troll (Rockstar) out of East Texas



  28. Patent Lawsuits Almost Halved After SCOTUS Ruling on 'Abstract' Software Patents

    The barrier for acceptance of software patent applications is raised in the United States and patent lawsuits, many of which involve software these days, are down very sharply, based on new figures from Lex Machina



  29. Links 13/10/2014: ChromeOS and EXT, Debian Resists Systemd Domination

    Links for the day



  30. Links 12/10/2014: Blackphone Tablet, Sony's Firefox OS Port

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts