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

03.29.09

Red Hat, Microsoft, EU Lobbyists, and Software Patents

Posted in EFF, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 8:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Ballmer license

Image from Wikimedia

Summary: A roundup summarising important developments pertaining to software patents

A LOT has happened since the last post regarding software patents. Here are some reports and developments to be aware of.

Red Hat Revisited

For some background, see the posts which criticise Red Hat’s attitude towards software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. The short story is that Red Hat is not telling the whole truth and it doesn’t do as it preaches. Glyn Moody addresses incognitos at Red Hat, asking for answers to very important questions which, as far as we know, Red Hat has not formally answered yet.

I’d like to direct your attention to a long and interesting piece that has appeared on the Digital Majority site asking a very important question: “Did Red Hat lobby for, or against software patents in Europe?”

The piece is dense and closely argued, drawing on Red Hat’s statements down the years to support its case. The central question it tries to address is whether Red Hat is truly helping to fight software patents in Europe, or whether it simply wants the patent system reformed to something more convenient for its own purposes as a big software house, while retaining the good graces of the free software movement.

Red Hat’s response would be very important at this stage. The former head of the FFII names this “The Conspiracy of Silence” and he rightly lumps in some other companies like Sun Microsystems and IBM. He writes:

For me, the greatest threat to the Abolitionist movement is not the “bad guys” who wear black hats and do stupid things like suing RIM, or TomTom. It is the “good guys”, who silently collect patents, allow the Community to be scared into accepting that these “defensive” patents are necessary, and who keep a blanket of silence over the public discussion of software patent abolition.

And those who allow this, from the best motives, are part of the conspiracy. Those who invest in projects like Peer-to-Patent are part of the conspiracy. Those who write how OIN is a great achievement, how various “promises not to sue” are sufficient to waive all concern… it is these good willed people who are the problem.

Novell’s so-called ‘hackers’ as well are obtaining software patents rather than abolishing them. If they do so at the behest of their employer or shareholders, this is hardly an excuse. Moreover, promises not to sue are useless because they are not legal contracts and thus unexpected takeovers render them obsolete.

Speaking of Red Hat, in spite of the Microsoft connections at Lenovo, this OEM will stock Red Hat Enterprise Linux and no longer just SLES. We spotted this news about the ThinkStations the other day:

ThinkStations are certified from third parties to ensure compatibility with major applications, and the systems are preloaded with Windows Vista with support for RedHat Linux Enterprise 5.2.

Microsoft Attacks Linux with Patents

There are many articles, posts, and good comments about Microsoft’s attempt to befriend open source whilst attacking it viciously in court (moreover targeting the feeble, which is already on the verge of bankruptcy).

Here is yet another article on this subject, which combines Microsoft’s attack on Linux with Red Hat’s unnecessary armament that damages the work of abolitionists.

‘Patents Are FUD’

“It’s sad that Red Hat thinks they need those patents,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider.

“The fix is still patent reform, since these patents will only protect Red Hat from companies that actually produce projects, and not patent trolls,” Mack added.

“I hope 2009 will see the death of software patents before the U.S. Supreme Court,” blogger Robert Pogson added. “We need that because the TomTom matter may take years to sort out.

“A decisive victory for freedom of software should reduce the threat of patents to a whisper,” Pogson told LinuxInsider. “Until that day, patents are FUD that delays adoption of GNU/Linux and increases the cost of having to maintain a defense against these evil spirits

A formal document titled “Microsoft Launches Patent Offensive Against Linux” [PDF] was released. Any legal document with the headline “Microsoft Launches Patent Offensive Against Linux” can be seen as directly contradicting Microsoft’s claims that this had nothing to do with Linux. Microsoft wants to sue and to scare without ever being scrutinised. How cheeky. SCO said the same thing when it sued IBM (that it was only a case against IBM and not against Linux).

Sean from Jupitermedia wonders if “Microsoft [is] feeling TomTom Linux patent chill.”

That said, last year at OSCON, Ramji was quite literally mobbed by the audience after his presentation by attendees that were ‘curious’ about Microsoft’s patent stance. The TomTom case potentially represents Microsoft’s first real patent legal attack against Linux and as such, somehow I suspect that eventually that will trigger a chill of some sort.

Microsoft intentionally does not send out its ‘Ballmers’ and 'Horacios'. Instead, it is sending inexperienced people who will be painted as victims and make Microsoft’s real victims looks like “zealots”, like the bad guys.

Last week we wrote about BackWeb's lawsuit against Microsoft. It is an interesting situation because of the nature of the patents and many articles about the case have been published. For future use and reference, here are some more resources about this case against Microsoft.

In an article that IDG has spread all over the place (many of its domains), “open-source” firms are being encouraged to handle a bizarre strategy that only legitimises software patents.

Open-source software companies are missing out on a relatively inexpensive way to fight concerns about patent liability, according to an attorney who spoke at an open-source conference in San Francisco this week.

More open-source companies should be asking the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to re-examine patents that may pose a threat to them, as a cheaper, sometimes more suitable alternative to waging a patent lawsuit, said Van Lindberg, an attorney with Haynes and Boone LLP, who spoke at Infoworld’s Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco.

Wrong approach, sorry. It’s better to eliminate software patents altogether, not pull another EFF. This article was also mentioned in The Inquirer.

LEGAL EAGLES working for Open Sauce collectives have discovered that there is a cheap way of fighting concerns about patent liability.

Those “LEGAL EAGLES” are probably just looking for business. To them, abolishment of software patents — especially globally — would mean financial bankruptcy or immediate career change.

Microsoft for Software Patents in Europe

We are utterly appalled by what Microsoft is doing with its lobbying guns in Europe. Yesterday we wrote about ACT/Jonathan Zuck, to give just one example. He is determined to illegalise and eradicate Free software. It’s not just about patents and Free software by the way. “ACT was also defending Microsoft in the EU antitrust case,” says an informant. “There are video recordings of him on the Audiovisual website of the Commission. Those are hidden on the EC website. You have to obtain a login and search in there.”

“…Microsoft-sponsored presidencies and those which Microsoft helps install are pushing for obstructive change relentlessly.”We provided some evidence of this before. We did collect some press which shows Zuck et al AstroTurfing in defence of Microsoft, as an ‘independent’ body. That’s just their spiel and they stir up trouble in Brussels every week.

According to this report (in German), the EU Parliament has thrown out another attempt to introduce software patents. It figures. But whilst many attempts to change these law are failing, Microsoft-sponsored presidencies and those which Microsoft helps install are pushing for obstructive change relentlessly.

Digital Majority does a spectacular job stalking the so-called “Community” — as in “anti-Free software community” — patent. Here are reports to watch out for:

1. Patent litigation reform to cut costs for SMEs

The European Commission is seeking powers from EU member states to conclude an agreement on a Unified Patent Litigation System (UPLS), which would establish a court with jurisdiction for existing European patents and the future Community patent system.

[...]

Under the UPLS, the ECJ would rule on preliminary questions raised by patent courts regarding the interpretation of EC law and regarding the validity and interpretation of acts from the Community institutions. The Commission will have to ensure that the rules of any draft agreement are consistent with the creation of a Community patentexternal.

2. Patents: EUROCHAMBRES welcomes negotiation mandate for the European Commission

Today, the European Commission requested from the Council a negotiation mandate on the European and Community Patent Court.

3. Patents: Commission sets out next steps for creation of unified patent litigation system

The European Commission has adopted a Recommendation to the Council that would provide the Commission with negotiating directives for the conclusion of an agreement creating a Unified Patent Litigation System (UPLS). The UPLS would increase legal certainty, reduce costs and improve access to patent litigation for businesses, in particular SMEs. The court structure to be established in the framework of the UPLS would have jurisdiction both for existing European patents and for future Community patents. This constitutes a further significant step in the pursuit of the EU’s patent reform agenda.

No attempt to ban Free software is complete without some McCreevyism, either. This is just appalling, yet predictable.

IPJur.com wrote this good article where the unified patent litigation system is labeled “Another Secret Project Of The EU Commission.” Has ACTA taught us nothing?

It looks as if this might well be something different than the European Patent Judiciary envisaged as counterpart to the EU Community Patent, the chances of which to come into life have further deteriorated since Mr Topolanek’s forced demission. In the absence of further facts, the title might be understood as if there has happened some high-level decision to put aside or even abolish the well-known project of a European Patent Judiciary but to launch negotiations aiming at a more radical approach, e.g. merging all national patent courts (also for EP bundle patents and even for national patent?) into a single institution (“Unified” Patent Litigation System). Otherwise, it might also just be merely a technical turn to include EPC Member States not forming part of the EU (e.g. Turkey) into said European Patent Judiciary. I don’t know if any of the readers of this Blog have a particular idea about the meaning of this new EU project.

Digital Majority has also netted a couple of new PDFs, from which it extracted text of interest to those who target the bad system through abolishment, not elimination of one patent or one lawsuit at a time.

Regarding Bilski:

According to the majority of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in Re Bilski, inventions directed to so-called `business methods’ and software-implemented inventions may still be patentable but must now overcome an arguably greater obstacle before issuing to patent in the US. In setting out the `machine or transformation test’ in its judgment of 31 October 2008, the CAFC, sitting en banc, appears to be moving towards a more European approach to patentability, and away from the broader tests of previous US decisions such as the well known State Street authority. Bilski could have significant implications for European businesses active in Europe as well as the US, at a time when the European Patent Office (EPO) and other national European patent offices are also reviewing this area. It remains to be seen whether the decision in Bilski will have an impact on these future deliberations.

Here is a submission to the EPO [PDF] (regarding the referral to the Enlarged Board of Appeal). We liked this part:

The sequence of execution of a program is the same regardless of whether the program runs on a physical machine, a virtual machine or in the minds of people.

Software patents must be stopped without exceptions. Microsoft will be there to encourage more of them, so Red Hat must join the fight against them. Deeds can be louder than words. Red Hat may be the second-largest open source company (or largest bar Sun, if Sun’s posturing is anything to be believed) and since Sun is a lost cause (Novell likewise), we need Red Hat.

Silence is no good and neither are promises, either written or verbal.

“Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.”

Richard Stallman

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

9 Comments

  1. Dan O'Brian said,

    March 29, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Gravatar

    Good lord, so now you consider Red Hat to be “evil”?

    My guess is that when the guys and gals at Red Hat read this they’ll be laughing their asses off and likely saying the same thing that Bruce Byfield says.

    pcolon Reply:

    Must have missed the Red Hat is evil part.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    There was no such part. Storm in a teacup.

  2. Zac said,

    March 29, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Gravatar

    Dan O’Brian, I hope Red Hat’s management are not laughing at us at keeping us deceived?

    Just remember that Red Hat is a public company whose obligation is to its shareholders. Red Hat has been riding a wave of increasing share price, conducive rumours and good publicity, which they, as one would do, are taking advantage of. Red Hat (its management) knows that it is seen as being the ‘good guy’ for Linux and knows Novell is seen as the ‘bad guy’. It is important for Red Hat to keep thinking in the Linux community because its revenue and profits depend on the community’s efforts. I see Red Hat trying to keep this outward image as much as possible. After all, we would do the same. For example- Red Hat’s deal with Microsoft: what is really in the confidential deal? ; Red Hat’s patents ;
    Lenovo ThinkStation pre-loaded with Windows now support REHL. That is good but why does it have to be pre-loaded with Windows? Microsoft still gets the sale. Why does Red Hat work with Lenovo to pre-load REHL?

    Maybe it’s nothing, I hope so. Just keeping a watchful eye on developments.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Don’t be too surprised by this. Dan O’Brian is always here to defame the Web site and defend Novell.

    Ian Reply:

    Where did he mention Novell?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    In other threads (and it was implied in this case too).

    Dan O'Brian Reply:

    Maybe you missed it, but I’m defending Red Hat here.

    Am I now a Red Hat shill?

  3. David Gerard said,

    March 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Gravatar

    This is important – in the corporate world, “Linux” means Red Hat, nothing else.

What Else is New


  1. Links 27/5/2016: Android for Raspberry Pi, Google Beats Oracle in Court

    Links for the day



  2. Warning: EPO Surveillance May Have Just Gotten Even More Intrusive

    BlueCoat, which the EPO uses to enable oppression inside its European premises, has just gotten even nastier and staff may be at risk



  3. Victim Card Ends up in Another Blunder for Battistelli and His Six Bodyguards

    Battistelli is wrecking what's left of the EPO's reputation (after decades it took the Office to earn it) as the media continues to scrutinise his appalling regime



  4. Italian Report About EPO Now Available in English

    An English translation of a TV program which earlier this month documented some of the glaring problems at the EPO



  5. The EPO is Doing Great, Says EPO-Connected 'News' Site

    IAM 'magazine', a longtime ally of the EPO, gives people the impression that all is fine and dandy at the EPO even though that's clearly not the case



  6. Microsoft Has Killed Nokia (and Its Own Mobile Ambitions), But Watch What it Does With Patents

    Microsoft announces many more layoffs, having already caused tremendous damage to the Finnish economy, and patents are left astray for Microsoft's favourite patent trolls to pick



  7. EPO Management Under Growing Stress From Croatian Law Enforcement Authorities, German Politicians, Italian Media

    Things are not as rosy as the relative calm may suggest, and in the coming weeks we expect some major events other than the protest at all EPO sites across Europe



  8. Microsoft, a Dead Company Walking, Resorts to Malware Tactics, Now Truly Indistinguishable From Crackers

    Microsoft is essentially taking over people's PCs and installing on them a large piece of malware, complete with keyloggers, against the will of these PCs' owners



  9. Links 26/5/2016: CentOS Linux 6.8, Ansible 2.1

    Links for the day



  10. The Latest EPO Victim Card (Played by Željko Topić) Should be Treated as Seriously as Those Bogus Claims of Violence by a Judge (Updatedx3)

    In its desperate pursuit of a narrative wherein the staff of the EPO is violent and aggressive the management of the EPO, renowned for institutional aggression, finds (or claims to have found) a little tampering with a bicycle



  11. Links 25/5/2016: Nginx 1.11, F1 2015 Coming to GNU/Linux Tomorrow

    Links for the day



  12. The Media Starts Informing the European Public About the Downsides of UPC While EPO Accelerates Its Lobbying for Ratification

    The EPO's shameless UPC promotion takes another step forward as the European press outlets (even television channels) begin to explore the secret deal that's negotiated by patent lawyers (with corporate clients) and patent offices, not the public or any public interest groups



  13. Some Details About How the EPO's President is Rumoured to be 'Buying' Votes and Why It's Grounds/Basis for “Immediate Dismissal”

    Some background information and a detailed explanation of the systemic financial dependency, created by Battistelli at the cost of €13 million or more, which prevents effective oversight of Battistelli



  14. How the Patent Lawyers' Microcosm Continues to Boost Software Patents Filth by Misdirecting Readers, Relying on Highly Selective Coverage

    Under the guise of reporting/analysis/advice the community of patent lawyers is effectively lobbying to make software patents popular and widely-accepted again, based on one single case which they wish to make 'the' precedent



  15. Documents Show Zagreb Police Department in Investigation of Vice-President of the European Patent Office

    Željko Topić's troubles in Croatia, where he faces many criminal charges, may soon become an extraordinary burden for the EPO, which distances itself from it all mostly by attacking staff that 'dares' to bring up the subject



  16. [ES] Interrumpiendo la Propagánda Distractante de Battistelli: los Empleados de la EPO Protestará de Nuevo en una Quincena

    La exágerada extravagancia (desperdicio de dinero) en la Ceremonia de Premiación al Inventor Europeo de la EPO tendrá que competir por atención de los medios con miles de empleados de la EPO (en todaslas sedes de la EPO) marchándo en las calles para protestar por los abusos de la EPO



  17. Windows and Microsoft's Other 'Burning Platforms'

    It's not just Windows for phones that's reaching minuscule market share levels but also Windows, but Microsoft is skilled at hiding this (cannibalising Windows using something people do not even want, then counting that cannibal, Vista 10)



  18. Links 24/5/2016: CRYENGINE Source Code is Out on GitHub, Jono Bacon Leaves GitHub

    Links for the day



  19. Links 23/5/2016: GNOME 3.22, Calculate Linux 15.17

    Links for the day



  20. 'Celebrity' Patent Trolls and the Elusive Battle Against Patent Trolls (or Eastern District of Texas Courts) Rather Than Software Patents

    Some of last week's more important reports, which serve to demonstrate how the system is attempting to tackle a side-effect of software patents rather than the patents themselves (their irrational scope)



  21. The Circus of Patent 'Reporting' (by Omission) on the Subject of Software Patents in the US and USPTO Bias

    look at some of the latest oddities in the US patent system and much of the reporting about software patenting (more or less monopolised by those who profit from it, not harmed by it)



  22. IP3 Demonstrates That Today's Patent Systems Devolve Into a Conglomerates' Game, Won't Protect the Mythical Small Inventor

    Multinational corporations bring together their shared interests and steer the increasingly-inseparable patent systems according to their needs and goals, but has anyone even noticed?



  23. Disrupting Battistelli's Distracting Propaganda: EPO Staff to Protest Again in About a Fortnight

    The overly extravagant (waste of money) EPO European Inventor Award will have to compete for media attention with thousands of EPO staff (in all EPO sites) marching in the streets to protest against the EPO's abuses



  24. Corrupting Democracy? Growing Frequency of Rumours That the EPO's President Battistelli is 'Buying' Votes of Small Member States

    Several sources suggest that rather than appease the Administrative Council by taking corrective action Battistelli and his notorious 'circle' now work hard to remove opposition from the Administrative Council, especially where this is easier a task to accomplish (politically or economically)



  25. [ES] Los Mitos de la EPO ‘Calidad’ de Patentes y de ‘Creación’ de Patentes: Basados en Ventas de Cafe y Trauma

    La carrera hacia el fondo, o la ridícula asumpción de Battistelli de que otorgar más y más patentenes más rápidamente (e.g. usando PACE) sería beneficióso a largo término, puede guíar al final colapse del valor de la EPO y la pérdida de su lárgamente ganada reputación a nivel mundial



  26. Links 22/5/2016: Systemd 230, Debian Installer Alpha 6

    Links for the day



  27. EPO Patent 'Quality' and 'Patent Creation' Myth: Capsule-Based Coffee Sales and Trauma

    The race to the bottom, or Battistelli's ludicrous assumption that granting more and more patents faster (e.g. using PACE) would be beneficial in the long run, may lead to the ultimate collapse of the EPO's value and demise of its long-earned reputation worldwide



  28. Guest Post: How Vista 10 Imposes Itself on Users of Windows

    A reader's experience being nagged by Microsoft, as documented and explained by this reader



  29. [ES] El Notorio Tirano de la EPO, Benoît Battistelli, Se Reune Con Otros Tiranos, Reportes de Que ‘Limpia’ el Consejo Administrativo

    El régimen de Battistelli, talvez la fuente de verguénza más grande, alegadamente está “cortejándo países pequeños/corruptos para asegurárse de que los delegados que votarón contra él serán remplazados”



  30. [ES] Comentadores Anónimos Debaten Si la EPO de Battistelli Puede Revocar las Pensiones de Empleados Que Se Atreveen — GASP — a Buscar Empleo Alternativo

    Una mirada a las causas de desesperación e imensa presión en la EPO, donde las pensiónes pueden ser cortadas como medio de represália y la gente puede ser negada empleo aún después de dejar la Oficina Europea de Patentes (EPO)


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