08.07.09

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Ubuntu Tweaks Patent Policy, Microsoft Has “Intellectual Property Group”, Twitter Faces Lawsuit, and Google Handles Video Patents

Posted in Courtroom, DRM, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, SCO, Ubuntu at 1:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bald eagle
Intellectual Vultures

Summary: Lots of patent news with direct impact on Free software

IT WAS about a week ago that Canonical said in the mailing lists that it had updated/modified its patent policy. It is only now that a news site found it worthy of coverage. From the summary:

Ubuntu has introduced a new Patent Policy to help developers and rights holders deal with software patent issues.

Of course, it would be most convenient to pretend that Microsoft did not fund SCO, sue TomTom, and sue Melco (all anti-Linux lawsuits). While us at Boycott Novell actually protest against this abusive strategy from Microsoft (akin to racketeering), other Web sites or people (opposers of Freedom fighters [1, 2, 3]) prefer to mock messengers who point this out and try to create or support a coalition against software patents and against Microsoft’s intolerant behaviour.

IDG has this new article about the “Microsoft patent model”.

Microsoft’s Intellectual Property Group is building a financial model designed to value and predict prices for technology patents, allowing the company to better forecast and budget for intellectual property-related costs — all inspired by a best-selling book about baseball.

Yes, Microsoft learns from baseball about extortion cycles. All it needs now is a good baseball bat and a compelling Mafia Don. There is some more analysis of this right here.

Last night we wrote about Twitter — a company which uses Free software as its underlying infrastructure (stack) — getting sued for alleged violation of software patents. For future reference (if any is required), this is also covered in:

Twitter is no stranger to such patent lawsuits and TechRadium is a serial aggressor. Here is the press release and a comment which says:

This is why we should not have software patents. I’ve been sending alerts and messages to a distribution list since I was using email. What’s the difference.

As TechDirt points out, the actions of the USPTO show a certain level of incompetence, including the inability to suppress such junk patents and frivolous lawsuits.

While plenty of people are familiar with the fact that NTP got $612.5 million from RIM in a patent dispute a few years back (which drew tremendous scrutiny into the realm of patents), one of the most interesting details that many people didn’t follow was that at the same time as the lawsuit was going on, the US Patent Office was re-examining those same patents, and issuing rejections of the very same patents. Despite the USPTO even rushing to announce its problems with the patents way ahead of schedule, the judge chose not to wait for the final rejections and pressured RIM into paying up.

The most interesting bit of patent news was probably to do with Google’s On2 acquisition. For background, Groklaw has just highlighted the increasing problem with Web video which remains inaccessible to GNU/Linux users, giving the White House as an example.

I go to the url for the White House meeting going on right now, and nothing I own will do the live streaming. I can get the text running at the bottom, but no video. Can you guys figure out if it is possible? If it’s just me, that’s one thing. But if it is everyone who isn’t using Microsoft products, that is something else.

Matt Asay speculates that Google’s acquisition of On2 may have something to do with patents.

Is Google’s open-source advocacy a patent-busting scheme?

[...]

If true, The Register’s question–”Is Google spending $106.5m to open source a codec?”–calls up a different response than the author of that article gives. Maybe $106 million is cheap compared to the cost of getting hit with video compression patent suits (from Microsoft, Apple, and others), if Google open source’s On2′s video compression codecs.

This links to the following report:

As is typical of Googlespeak, this tells us close to nothing. But if you also consider the company’s so far fruitless efforts to push through a video tag for HTML 5 – the still gestating update to the web’s hypertext markup language – the On2 acquisition looks an awful lot like an effort to solve this browser-maker impasse.

Why doesn’t Google just spread Ogg? According to this bit of news, Chrome is gaining <video> support.

Google has released a new Chrome beta that includes a theming engine, faster JavaScript performance, several usability improvements, and support for HTML5 video.

Sam Dean asks himself whether this is “part of [Google's] open Web video standards effort”, but why doesn’t Google just embrace Ogg rather than spend $106 million buying a company? Perhaps it’s best to wait and see.

“Software patents have been nothing but trouble for innovation. We the software engineers know this, yet we actually have full-blown posters in our break-room showcasing the individual engineers who came up with something we were able to push through the USPTO. Individually, we pretty much all consider the software-patent showcase poster to be a colossal joke.” —Kelledin, PLI: State Street Overruled… PERIOD

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5 Comments

  1. twitter said,

    August 7, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Gravatar

    The math of patent valuation: The value of patents, as Biski is enforced, goes to zero. The State Street decision was a short lived mistake. It’s for people to quit pretending otherwise.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    For the record, In Re Bilski is already killing software patents that are properly challenged in court.

  2. Needs Sunlight said,

    August 7, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Gravatar

    The policy talks about what the Ubuntu Technical Committee might do about possible patents. What will it do about crap, unreliable technology like Mono? The Ubuntu leadership have been asleep at the switch and letting the Mono rot try to displace python, java and others.

  3. aeshna23 said,

    August 7, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Gravatar

    Alone among spectator sports, Major League Baseball has a presumed exception from anti-trust laws. I would be surprised to learn that this exception is not related to why the Microsoft’s Intellectual Property Group was inspired by a book on baseball.

  4. Yuhong Bao said,

    August 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, On2 was the developer of the VP3 codec that Ogg Theora was based on. They have since developed newer codecs such as VP8.

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