09.03.09

Microsoft Takes Software Patents Agenda Up a Notch

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 8:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Global map in red shades

Summary: Microsoft’s very own patent troll rakes in billions in extortion money while Microsoft’s patent bully calls for software patents everywhere

FOR TWO CONSECUTIVE quarters Microsoft’s earnings have fallen by a third [1, 2], so the company scrambles to find new ways of making money. The most obvious way for Microsoft to do so is not by creating new cash cows but by milking someone else’s cow. Microsoft is primarily a marketing/legal software company, so software patents have usually been viewed by it as favourable to monopolists in their professional area (there are exceptions, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]).

The history of Microsoft’s software patent strategy is a subject that we covered last year and it includes patent trolling using entities external to Microsoft. Benjamin from the FFII describes Intellectual Ventures as “a monster troll with 27.000 patents and 362 satellite companies.” It is Microsoft's patent troll, created by Nathan Myhrvold with the support of Bill Gates. It is now extorting Microsoft's rivals and here is a little summary:

Intellectual Ventures (IV) has insisted for a long while that its accumulation of patents has nothing to do with patent litigation. In fact, the company has prided itself on not filing any lawsuits, despite the claim that its patent portfolio, comprising 27,000 patents, has brought in over $1B in licensing revenue. Recently, IV was rumored to have struck a $120M patent deal with Intuit Inc., and also struck deals with companies like Cisco and Verizon for between $200M and $400M apiece.

Here is a long report about Intellectual Ventures. It is a leech which produces nothing and taxes everything.

vancept LLC created the Intellectual Ventures Report in 2007, the first publicly available report of its kind. Prior to Avancept’s report, the public perception of the Intellectual Ventures’ portfolio was that it was simply unknown and unknowable, even though patent ownership is publicly available information. Avancept applied skills and techniques mastered through more than 30 years experience in law, business, technology, and journalism to uncover a tremendous amount of information about Intellectual Ventures. We are now pleased to offer a 655-page report detailing our findings.

For quite some time now, Microsoft has been lobbying for the Community patent, which virtually makes a Europe-wide patent system. Microsoft’s lobbying blog is now calling for a global patent system. Behind this call we find Microsoft’s main patent bully, Horacio Gutierrez (whom Microsoft promoted as a symbolic gesture to its new strategic focus). CNET and ZDNet have some coverage:

A senior lawyer at Microsoft is calling for the creation of a global patent system to make it easier and faster for corporations to enforce their intellectual property rights around the world.

In a blog posting on Tuesday, Microsoft’s Deputy General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez said that a backlog of patent applications internationally was needed to tackle the 3.5 million pending patent applications around the world — including around 750,000 in the US.

Benjamin (FFII President) actually thinks that “It is a good idea, especially to get rid of their infringing products.”

He adds: “A global patent court now! Otherwise there is too much forum shopping between Texas and Dusseldorf! We need legal certainty.”

Intel — Like Microsoft — Uses Heavy Lobbying to Permit Own Crimes

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 2:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Intel: criminal inside

Summary: Intel’s response to convictions seems to be lobbying (aka “legalised bribery”) and Moblin absorbs Mono

INTEL’s lobbying is not a secret, but nobody in computing spends on lobbyists as much as Microsoft, which has loads of them. Amid many crimes it turns out that whilst Intel is cutting down its workforce it is also increasing the level of lobbying. The Inquirer summarises it as follows:

WHILE INTEL LAID OFF employees and slashed costs to ride out the recession, it increased what it shelled out for political lobbying to more than $877,000 in the last quarter.

Capitalist tool Forbes went through the fine print in Intel’s financial reports and found a huge blowout in the chipmaking giant’s lobbying budget.

A reader wrote to remind us not only that Intel and Microsoft show their love in public but also that the acquisition of Wind River is bad news for all. Regarding the lobbying he wrote:

At that rate, Intel could burn through 3.508 million per year. That’s assuming the lobbying budget does not grow. It probably will grow, since Intel’s chips aren’t getting better and the x86 legacy is not getting left behind by Intel.

3.5 million would cover a lot of salaries, were technology a priority over political activism.

Also, Nick’s gotten so used to the x86 architecture that he hasn’t noticed the false dichotomy he’s presenting. The question is not Intel or AMD. No matter how you slice it, at the end of the day both are out-dated x86 architectures left over from the 1980′s. To be relevant today, it’s a matter of finding the right architecture for the job: Freescale, SPARC, MIPS, or ARM to name the big ones.

I do hope that the EU regulators grow a pair and place a 18 – 24 month moratorium on import or sale of Wintel products inside the EU.

Intel and Microsoft/Gates also did some joint lobbying for Abramoff visas. Further, argues the reader:

Neither component in Wintel advance technology. Microsoft competes by price dumping, illegal tying, extortion and lobbying. Intel tends to compete only by crushing. Intel is chained to Microsoft, for life or death. So, when Microsoft loses steam, which it has done except for lobbying, Intel joins in the lobbying, but will increase stomping going after more or larger targets.

Intel’s recent Wind River stomp will have some very far reaching negative effects in the embedded systems world. Shoehorning systems into an x86 ‘solution’ will only result in harm, even if one only looks at the power consumption when multiplied by the sheer number of devices.

Apple screwed up big time by moving to the outdated x86 architecture instead of MIPS or Freescale or a cluster of ARMs. Now Apple is beholden to Wintel for the hardware and again for the data formats. If Apple wants to prove that it’s not going to get pulled down, it needs to push harder in open standards.

Yahoo screwed up big time by allowing Microsoft to place three political activists on the board. That cut FreeBSD badly.

That leaves Linux and Solaris which are doing well, but for the fact that the few remaining news sources are nearly entirely beholden to Microsoft or Microsoft partners for income directly or indirectly. There are the advertising fees directly, but remember Microsoft made a move to grab many ad servers. So it’s not unusual for FOSS sites to have difficulty in collecting ad revenue due them.

Last week we wrote about the issue of Intel's Moblin being encumbered by Microsoft tax on the face of it. According to this, even Mono packages that are not covered by Microsoft's useless MCP (Banshee for example) are being put in Moblin|Goblin.

6.) Media, this is a combined Video/Audio/Photo application. It works OK, but I prefer the tools I’ve used for a long time – Banshee and F-Spot ;-) They are included by default in Goblin :-)

As Novell continues bringing Linux closer to Microsoft (joint conference now), we foresee more signs of convergence between Novell and Microsoft. It is a victory to Microsoft whose .NET framework wins an enodrsement thanks to the efforts of Miguel de Icaza et al. Needless to say, such prizes are silly and given how much coverage Mono received from IDG, this prize should not be surprising. Ziff Davis is currently covering Microsoft/Mono stuff (Mono project created by former Microsoft employees), but that too should not be particularly surprising [1, 2, 3, 4].

Daniel Eran Dilger writes about the failure of Microsoft’s latest search/marketing push (under a new name). He ends by reminding readers that there too, Microsoft chooses lobbying over technology [1, 2].

Now, ill equipped to catch up, Microsoft is using its well equipped lobbyists to attack Google using government interference in lieu of competing against it in the marketplace. Ten years ago, Microsoft was defending its own monopoly to the government, although Microsoft’s monopoly was not legitimately won in the market as Google’s, but was instead massed together through shady business practices and competition suppression.

The question this time around will be: has the “center right” American government become saturated enough with corporate socialism for the rich that the very success of liberal spending on basic research will be attacked and handed over to loser parties such as Microsoft in new bailouts that reward failure and punish legitimate success, after twenty years of doing the opposite, ignoring Microsoft’s monopolistic lock on markets while rewarding conservative corporate profiteering with more government grants and overseas political support?

Because that would be devastating to US recovery.

Lobbying is nothing short of “legalised bribery”, but people are taught to become accustomed to it. There is a better way.

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