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07.01.09

Report: Microsoft’s Patent Racketeering Comes from Myhrvold

Posted in Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 5:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft rarely assaults directly

“…Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux.”

Larry Goldfarb, Baystar, key investor in SCO

Nathan Myhrvold

Summary: Microsoft extorts $120 Million out of rival Intuit, using the patent troll it is grooming

ACCORDING TO Glyn Moody, the world’s biggest patent troll — an anti-competitive man [1, 2] who originates in Microsoft — makes his move to make some more money through patent racketeering. Others at Microsoft are still behind him [1, 2], so his firm (essentially a shell) should not be treated an an entity separate from Microsoft. Moody calls it “the Super-Troll” (we called it Übertroll).

As with all patent trolls, the danger is that the more companies accept these proffered licensing deals, the stronger the trolls become. I imagine we’ll see many more such stories leaking out as Intellectual Ventures gains in confidence and ambition.

The big problem is not only that Myhrvold’s an ex-Microsoftie, but that Microsoft is also an investor in the company; this means that we are not going to see Microsoft on the receiving end of Intellectual Venture’s “offers”. But there is a very real danger that at some point the larger supporters of open source will be.

[...]

Expect, then, Mr Myhrvold to emerge as public enemy number one for the free software community; it’s just a matter of time now that the super-troll has awoken from its deep slumbers and started to feed on those that foolishly fail to defend themselves.

Moody links to this article which is titled “Intuit Taxed $120 Million by Intellectual Ventures.” It says: “Its latest deal is a licensing agreement with financial software company Intuit Inc. that will bring in $120 million, according to people who have been told about the transaction.” It is worth reminding that it is not possible to cross-license with a patent troll because it hasn’t actual products which may constitute an infringement.

TechDirt complains that the press does not scrutinise such people for the huge damage they cause to the industry.

Aaron Martin-Colby points us to Good Magazine’s softball interview with Erich Spangenberg, considered by many to be one of the more successful “patent trolls” or “non-practicing entities” out there.

In other news of interest, Novell has just earned yet another software patent.

Network content in dictionary-based (de)compression , patent No. 7,554,467, invented by Kasman E. Thomas of Wilton, Conn., assigned to Novell, Inc. of Provo.

Yes, Novell is part of the problem. Its exclusive deal with Microsoft is hinged on software patents and it legitimises them.

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14 Comments

  1. Chips_B_Malroy said,

    July 2, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Gravatar

    Ubuntu and Debian both think they are immune to the effects of a MS Patent threat from Microsoft by including Mono in their repo’s. Ubuntu and Debian both live in a world of denial, when the facts are all around them that they are wrong. MS secret agreement with Novell, according to Novell, only protects Suse users, for a certain length of time from MS patents, think Mono and Moonlight. While it could be argued that the main target of the patent threat was Red Hat, why would not MS want to try to destroy, hinder, or tarnish other distro’s as well with “ip infringement?”

    Debian thinks they are immune because they are non-profit, donation based. What could MS sue them for? Ubuntu thinks they are immune, because they are located outside of the USA. Both are wrong. MS continues to promote software patents outside the USA, in the EU. Also, a quick review of the MS vs Tomboy case, notice that MS went after Tomboy right away with a stay to stop Tomboy from selling anything in the USA. Now Ubuntu wants to become a force in Server OS, commercial, while MS maybe cannot sue them for patents outside the USA, they can ask for an injunction against Ubuntu to sell “software or server OS software” inside the USA. Furthermore, MS could ask that distros that infringe on their patents, are injunction against using servers within the USA to spread their software, or their repo’s. Further, just because they are non-profit, does not mean that whatever assets they have within the USA, cannot be sieged at some point in the litigation should MS win the court case on infringement.

    It would just seem to me for these distro’s, to remove Mono and Moonlight as default installs, and to completely remove Mono and Moonlight from their repo’s entirely. Treat Mono and Moonlight like CSS decryption is treated, (a patent threat) that someone can add in a repo from some foriegn country, that is not connected itself with the distro, that is the proper way to give Mono and Moonlight and protect the distro.

    Sabayon User Reply:

    Yes, Roy and his friends are smarter and better informed than the Debian Legal team, Mark Shuttleworth the billionaire and the lawyers employed by Canonical. That totally makes sense, and does not indicate that there’s an ulterior motive in attacking free software like Mono. Nope, not at all.

    sUSE User Reply:

    Since when is an opinion fact? Opinions are neither right nor wrong – smart or stupid.

    Chip’s just saying the same thing FSF & SFLC, “Better safe than sorry”

    bored Reply:

    here’s a tip, then: Leave the talking to FSF and SFLC, because if you let people like Chip and Roy get a hold of a microphone, you all look like major idiots. I appreciate that you have guys have a common point of view, but insofar as I’ve seen, your *delivery* is doing more to hurt your viewpoint than any opinion or worse, “fact”, that comes out of this website.

    The MS vs. Tomboy case? perhaps you’re getting your note taking software mixed up with your gps hardware?

    And there’s a handy acronym for “Better safe than sorry”: FUD.

    David "Lefty" Schlesinger Reply:

    Completely agreed. Folks like Chip and Roy are creating, in my opinion, just as much damage to the “free software community” as they seem to feel that Microsoft would like to.

    Roy has no issues, apparently, with gross misstatements of fact, nor with the kind of play with words your Mom wouldn’t let you get away with in fifth grade (“I didn’t break that vase”, meaning “I did knock it over, but the floor broke it”), nor with completely over-the-top invective and character assassination (see the Jimmi Hugh article, the claims of tech writers being “bribed” by Microsoft, etc.)

    This sort of thing can only damage and divide the community. It’s especially heinous, in my view, in that folks like Roy (and his “advocate” minions) don’t actually contribute to the community, either in terms of code or anything else. Perhaps we can’t all be programmers, but there are lots of ways to support the community that don’t involve falsehoods and defamation.

    Maybe you folks should look into some of those. Is anyone associated with this site going to GUADEC? Did anyone go to FOSDEM? To LinuxTag?

    That’s the community, friends. Not disrupting mailing lists. Not slandering people who hold different opinions than you do. Not attempting to interfere with people’s employment.

  2. SubSonica said,

    July 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Gravatar

    Chips: You say MS vs Tomboy: I think you meant MSFT vsTomtom….
    For the rest of your post, I totally agree with you. It is OK for me to have the *possibility* of installing mono if somenone feels like it, but having it installed *by default* and making two of the most popular and -to date- Microsoft’s FUD-resilient distros dependent on an encumbered platform (.Net-mono) that no one in the Free Software community controls, is foolish at best and endangers these distro’s and its users’ freedom, and, what is more, I think those who, inside Debian advocate inclusion of mono because “developers just know better than users” are plainly infringin Debian’s DFSG, whose focus is the user and not the developer. Then, again, in the Free Software world, there is no such false distinction/divide betwwen developers and users that is so convenient for proprietary software companies, since every user of free software can become a developer/bug fixer/contributor at any given time…

  3. PatentSleuth said,

    July 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Gravatar

    I have stated a project to track which patents Linux infringes today to highlight the problem that the patent world has today.

    This will be an effort to identify patents that Microsoft has, and to find workarounds for those.

    The introduction is here:

    http://linuxpatents.blogspot.com/2009/07/introduction-post-patent-day-project.html

    This is an effort to highlight “one day, one patent”. Please join me in finding these elusive patents. I have an inaugural patent listed, so we can all get started on working on finding prior-art or removing the functionality:

    http://linuxpatents.blogspot.com/2009/07/patent-5892904-code-certification-for.html

    bored Reply:

    @PatentSleuth: That is a horrible, horrible idea. Willful patent infringement carries triple damages, so if someone looks at your page and then *doesn’t* fix the problems, they/we are screwed.

    The only time to publicly deal with patents is when the patent holder brings a suit. *then* you look for prior art to dispute their claim.

    If you want to start the project analyzing patents which might infringe and then looking for prior art, more power to you. If you find prior art, address the individual patents through non-blog, non-public channels. Whatever you do, don’t make the information (especially “Linux infringes on patent xxxxxxx”) public. You’d be doing *nobody* a service in that case.

    Jose_X Reply:

    >> so if someone looks at your page and then *doesn’t* fix the problems, they/we are screwed.

    Most people have no idea of how these software work at the time they read the patent (assuming they made sense of the patent) to be able to verify a patent applies.

    PatentSleuth wants to pretend that mono is less of a risk to patents than are most other FOSS software.

    Look at what else PatentSleuth said: “Since XPIs did not exist in 1996 this is a clear cut infringement.”

    Apparently PatentSleuth is not familiar with the concept of prior art. To show a “clear cut infringement” you’d have to prove no prior art by anyone existed. Instead we should be talking about likelihood of infringement.

    And let’s not mention that PatentSleuth did not take the requirements of any of the alleged violated patent claims and show clearly that each such requirement is violated by, eg, the Mozilla XPI framework. To avoid potential infringement, Mozilla would just have to avoid any one of these requirements (eg, of patent claim 1).

    bored Reply:

    I really can’t believe you’re condoning (and in your next message actually helping) cataloging publicly the patents which might be problematic for other FOSS projects.

    Boggles the mind, to put it mildly.

    This is actively damaging, not only to existing, established products, but also to unreleased ones.

    Jose_X Reply:

    bored, it makes no sense to create a website that biases against safer technology and then ignores that the alternative is likely worse. That would be a worse situation for FOSS devs and users.

    The website is not at the actual project. This means those that want to see if something is violating can do so (go through the code, reason out the patent, etc) and try to create a patch to help stave future problems. Those others that are not affected by patents or disagree that a particular or any patent might be violated can rather easily ignore such a website (as being one more website among many that make allegations).

    bored Reply:

    @Jose_X:

    “…can rather easily ignore such a website (as being one more website among many that make allegations).”

    name another website that makes allegations about specific patents that a variety of open source projects might infringe on.

    I mean give me a break. given the rabid nature of many of the people who frequent this site (and those who commented initially on the other one), think about how long it’ll be before you see a post on the ubuntu/fedora lists about a program they’re shipping which infringes, and about how the sky is falling and “M$”, or Intel, or IBM will sue the pants off everyone and linux will die a horrible death. Hyperbole aside, once this happens there’s no claiming that “oh i didn’t know about that website.”

    the entire reason developers are able to get ANYTHING done is that they don’t know (and can’t know) about the patents that are out there. This site will essentially become a list of patents that the open source community knows about. So yeah, it’s great we know about them. Now try and design software that doesn’t infringe on them. Look at the recommendations on the site: “Remove functionality”? really? that’s quite the recommendation.

    I’m all for people working on finding prior art as a means of challenging patents, and I’m all for people researching patents as a means for reworking existing code such that it no longer infringes. but this should done be in PRIVATE. The only time anything should be done publicly is after a suite has been initiated.

    Jose_X Reply:

    I am concerned over API and technology whose mere use can lead to patent infringements. It’s difficult to tell to what extent any set of interfaces is poisoned, but devious companies can make any given API they create problematic.

    So I think it is very important for anyone that tracks Microsoft technology and then encourages its spread and use to replace other safer tools to be called on it.

    I did not start such a website, but with what that website was offering, it needed (or needs.. haven’t checked) balance.

    Software patents are likely unconstitutional and make no sense. Wasting time digging through them doesn’t help me make a better product and would consume a lot of personal time. However, let me repeat, it is great harm to suggest that one of the riskiest technologies appear to be safer or simply as bad as the rest.

    See some of the comments I wrote here http://www.linuxtoday.com/developer/2009070602635OSMSLL if you want an explanation over API traps.

    Jose_X Reply:

    That is very time-consuming work that would not even be an issue except for broken patent laws.

    One reason perhaps why Microsoft names their technology within the patents (even though it could potentially apply beyond their technology) is because using their names might increases the chances of them protecting at least some of their technology should more general prior art be found (also, different legal environments treat patents a little differently). Also, when protecting inventions based off what they have created (eg, dotnet and derivatives) there is a special psychological effect in Microsoft’s favor by those being threatened if these recognize names used in the patents.

    Since the technology most closely related to Microsoft offers the greatest threats, here are two patents you can add to your list http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7017162.html
    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7165239.html

    I don’t know if those patents you mentioned affect Mozilla XPI, etc actually do or would hold up in court; however, knowing little else, it’s very reasonable to expect all dotnet patents to have a greater chance of avoiding prior art and of applying specifically to a clone of dotnet.

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