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

09.07.09

Patents Roundup: Microsoft. Apple, TiVo, IBM, and Lots More

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, IBM, Microsoft, Patents, Tivoization at 3:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Keyboard_1

Summary: A lot of patent news from the past few days

QUITE A LOT has happened since the last Patents Roundup and plenty of news relates to Microsoft as a threat to Free software.

An article from Law.com has rejuvenated [1, 2] interest in the real purpose of the world's largest patent troll, headed by Microsoft’s former chief, Nahtan Myhrvold. Mike Masnick calls this troll, Intellectual Ventures (IV), a “pyramid scheme”. He explains why:

Intellectual Ventures, of course, is the Nathan Myhrvold company that has been building up a huge portfolio of patents with which to get big tech companies to pay many millions of dollars to not get sued — and, according to many, to get a cut of future deals as well, making the whole thing sound suspiciously like a pyramid scheme.

[...]

But, a year ago, we noted that the company appeared to be getting antsy. While it was bringing in some hefty fees from a small group of companies who bought into the equity pyramid (which neatly lets the world outside be confused over what’s “investment” and what’s “revenue”), there was concern that investors were getting impatient. Pouring billions of dollars into a company that isn’t doing much can make some investors a little anxious. And while we still don’t know of any direct lawsuits, Zusha Elinson has noticed that Intellectual Ventures’ former patents are starting to show up in court, often involving some of the most well known names normally associated with “patent trolling.”

One reader of ours calls it “Mafia blues”, explaining that Intellectual Ventures “Make[s] the dirt job by others.” It’s an arsenal for hire. They use attack dogs to do their dirty deeds and friends/investors are ‘protected’ from this. Who are those friends/investors? Good question. Facebook seems like one that's a recent addition.

Bill Gates himself is an investor in Intellectual Ventures (private investment), which got Intellectual Ventures about $5 billion to get the ball rolling, i.e. harvesting patents. Microsoft itself turns out to be an investor and so is Apple (which occasionally uses patents against Linux contenders), according to this bit of information found in the corner of the article mentioned some days ago.

Both Apple and Microsoft have been reported to be IV investors.

It is interesting to find Apple investing in such “pyramid schemes” of patents. When it comes to patents, Apple and Microsoft enjoy a special peace (if not affinity). They cross-license. And as we pointed out some days ago, Google contributes its own share of problems, but at least it is a member of the OIN.

Another part of this problem is IBM, whose policy on software patents is unfriendly to Free software not because it’s suing but because it allows others to do so, to an extent. An IBM person currently runs the USPTO, so this is important. IBM’s view of the patent system impacts the policy on technology patents.There are finally some Slashdot comments about it (this has made the front page) and also an updated summary.

In its Amicus Brief to the US Supreme Court on the Bilski case, IBM is arguing that “patent protection has promoted the free sharing of source code [...] which has fueled the explosive growth of open source software development.”

[...]

Read also page 42 of the IBM letter:

In addition, disclosure of software inventions promotes collaboration among software developers (such as open source development)

Insane.

IBM tends to be seen as an eternal friend of Free software because of its pledges and sincere contributions, but by choosing to continue to accumulate software patents, IBM opens the door for others like Microsoft to pose a real threat. Another company which tends to be associated with Linux is TiVo , but as we regularly show, TiVo is a patent aggressor as well. Watch how one company is forced to pay TiVo $200 million just for patents.

Dish Network and its sister company EchoStar must cough up an extra $200 million to TiVo for continuing to offer DVR functionality in their set-top boxes after being slapped with a court injunction.

A few days ago we also saw the BBC spreading patent propaganda where criminalisation of patent infringement gets justified as a severe action. In relation to that article (one among two) from the BBC, Pamela Jones from Groklaw writes: “Hmm. Let’s see. Could we put Steve Ballmer in jail, then, for the i4i patent? Wait. Uh oh. Look at the picture of Mr. Baylis. I think he might be combing his hair in violation of patent No. 4,022,227, Method of Concealing Partial Baldness. Officers, put Mr. Baylis in the clink while we sort this out, will you? And since the CATO Institute recently announced that most companies infringe patents, I believe we could shut down the entire world economy in no time flat by following Mr. Baylis’ suggestion.”

Glyn Moody had this to say:

Which is the old confusion between theft and infringement. Indeed, it’s probably impossible to nick a patent, since it’s a government-granted monopoly, and they’re pretty hard to steal.

And it’s foolish on a practical level: imagine the current insanity of patent law cases turned into even higher-stake criminal cases, and the burden they would imposed on an already stretched legal system.

So, Trevor, do stick to inventing clever things, and leave stupid intellectual monopolies alone.

Regarding Microsoft's call for harmonisation of patent systems across the world, Moody wrote:

Riiight: “bold” as in “infect the rest of the world with the insanity that is the US patent system” bold, I imagine – not forgetting software as “patentable subject matter” while we’re at it.

Danke, aber nein, danke, Horacio.

Pamela Jones wrote this: “Microsoft suggests an international patent system. That way, it can kill off its competition, most particularly FOSS, everywhere at once. If you are reckless, you’ll go along with them.”

Peter Glaskowsky at CNET calls it a “premature patent proposal,” further arguing:

I really have no problem with harmonization if it is properly done, but I think it would be tremendously difficult to achieve good results. The reality of patent protection is radically different from that of copyrights because patents are allowed based on the merits of the application; someone has to make a judgment call.

In other news that we mentioned before (regarding the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]), here are some articles about the latest development:

Here is a very interesting insight about this case.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, i4i’s chairman, Loudon Owen called Microsoft’s brief an “extraordinary document” that “captures the hostile attitude of Microsoft toward inventors who dare to enforce patents against them.” But with friends like Dell and Hewlett-Packard each filing amicus curiae briefs in support of Microsoft’s motion to stay the injunction, i4i is looking to have to fight more software and computer giants than just Microsoft. The AmeriKat predicts that with the addition of Dell and Hewlett-Packard’s briefs and in applying the third and fourth factors in the test for an injunction as set out in eBay Inc v MercExchange she would be surprised if the Court of Appeals does not lift or in someway amend the injunction given the far-reaching effect on third parties like Dell and HP.

Isn’t it enlightening that Microsoft and its allies pretend that the sky will be falling if Word gets banned? As PC World rightly points out, many alternatives to Word exist and they are a lot cheaper (or free).

First, there are plenty of alternative word processors out there, most of which read Word files perfectly well. Sure, there might be a few formatting glitches, but that’s to be expected during any file conversion. Microsoft Office users, particularly those who rely heavily on the well-honed integration between Excel, Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint, would experience the most problems. But, again, the ban would affect new sales of Word, not existing copies. So users would have time to develop workarounds.

Plus, there’d be one big silver lining to a Microsoft Word ban: A true universal document format could take hold, one that replaces today’s defacto standard — Microsoft’s doc/docx — that’s tied too closely to the whims of one software vendor.

Word ban? Sure, why not?

GCN has a similar new article, but the list of proposed alternatives is very limited and disputable.

In other interesting news, Microsoft has quietly settled yet another patent lawsuit where the scale of damages claimed was hundreds of millions of dollars. Only one publication (that we could find) actually covered it, twice even:

i. Microsoft settles Tucson firm’s patent lawsuit on imaging technology

Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, settled a patent-infringement lawsuit filed by Tucson-based Research Corporation Technologies Inc. that sought hundreds of millions of dollars over a process to improve images on computer screens.

ii. Microsoft settles with local company

Microsoft Corp. reached a settlement with a Tucson firm that accused the software giant of infringing on patented digital-imaging technology, heading off a jury trial.

Check out this rant about the USPTO. It comes from a reputable source.

The U.S. patent office gets nearly 500,000 applications every year. Figuring out who owns what, typically in court, has morphed into a business worth $10-billion (U.S.) a year in the United States, where the global patent war is mainly being waged.

The ITC is revisiting bans in an important case where patent laws are seemingly being violated. So, there is at least a new sign that recognition of the problem remains poor and another embargo may be on its way.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has voted to investigate technology-related patent complaints brought by two companies, with the vendors asking the agency to ban the import of a wide range of products using flash memory.

In one case, Samsung Electronics of South Korea filed a complaint, and in the second, Samsung is among the targets in the investigation. The two cases involve different types of flash memory.

A Samsung representative didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the two cases.

If this is what “innovation” is all about, then perhaps we need less of it.

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

What Else is New


  1. Rebranding Malware and Spyware as 'Linux' to Dilute the Brand (and the News)

    Signal-to-noise ratio continues to be reduced, as a lot of "Linux" news has nothing to do with GNU/Linux or even with Free software



  2. Understanding Thierry Breton: In the Beginning...

    Career roundup of Thierry Breton, possibly the next EU Commissioner



  3. Startpage Has Been Delisted, But it Ought to be Blacklisted

    Startpage has just warned its fans (I am a former fan) of what Startpage itself covertly became months back



  4. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, November 12, 2019

    IRC logs for Tuesday, November 12, 2019



  5. Links 12/11/2019: Plasma 5.17.3, More Intel Defects, Bytecode Alliance

    Links for the day



  6. You've Gotta Go When You've Gotta Go

    How most staff of the European Patent Office (EPO) feels these days



  7. Teaser: Thierry Breton and His Disquieting Past

    "The company attracted notoriety and loathing in the UK for its role in assessing disability benefit eligibility."



  8. EPO and EU: People Behind the Faces

    It’s no secret that the EPO breaks the law and European officials have taken no concrete steps to intervene; to make matters worse, potentially new EPO allies may soon be put in charge of the EU Commission



  9. Maintaining the 'Delete Github' page

    "This list really is a starting point, which can hopefully increase awareness about the issue of concern."



  10. Linux Foundation Picking Money

    The dating standards of the Linux Foundation



  11. Microsoft 'Borrows' the Linux Brand

    With help from the likes of the Linux Foundation Microsoft continues to misuse and ‘dilute’ the Linux brand (and registered trademark)



  12. EPO Corruption Compared to Cocaine Scandals in Antwerp

    Days after the Dutch protest discussion is sort of 'uncorked' regarding EPO corruption (published, as usual, in the form of anonymous comments)



  13. SUEPO Showed That the Media Won't Cover EPO Corruption Until Half the Workers March in the Streets

    What ought to have been a central (if not 'the' central) issue of debate in Europe is still being treated as borderline irrelevant or marginal



  14. Meanwhile in California

    News from California is being spun by Microsoft this week, owing to weak journalism that's more like PR than journalism



  15. Privacy-Centric Services and Even Drupal/Acquia Defect to the Camp of Mass Surveillance

    In search of money [pun intended] companies and services that are supposed to respect their customers and users turn out to be doing the opposite; this merits research and public discussions



  16. IRC Proceedings: Monday, November 11, 2019

    IRC logs for Monday, November 11, 2019



  17. Links 12/11/2019: Sparky 2019.11 Special Editions and Twisted 19.10.0 Released

    Links for the day



  18. Microsoft's Abduction of the Voice of Its Opposition Highlights the Urgency of the Movement/Campaign to Delete GitHub

    Microsoft understands that by entrapping FOSS and GNU/Linux inside proprietary software platforms like GitHub and Azure it can utilise the false perception that it somehow speaks on behalf of both (whilst attacking both)



  19. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, November 10, 2019

    IRC logs for Sunday, November 10, 2019



  20. SUEPO Protests Against Management of the European Patent Office Brought Back Discussions About Corruption

    The atmosphere at the second-largest institution in Europe has long been toxic; now it is becoming a lot more visible again and comments highlight the reasons for the cover-up (gross misuse of billions of euros)



  21. Links 11/11/2019: Linux 5.4 RC7, HandBrake 1.3.0 and Analysis of XFCE

    Links for the day



  22. Links 10/11/2019: digiKam 6.4.0, OpenMandriva Lx 4.1 Alpha and OpenZFS Plans

    Links for the day



  23. Video: Dutch Media on EPO Protest

    The new video added by SUEPO on Saturday in order to show Dutch media coverage of last week's protest in The Hague



  24. Politics in the Workplace Are Not Paradoxical and Outside the Workplace They Are Free Speech

    The safest space is one in which no other human (or creature) exists, but in reality we must make compromises and accept that not everyone will agree with us 100% of the time (so we must learn to live with that)



  25. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, November 09, 2019

    IRC logs for Saturday, November 09, 2019



  26. Thick Skin Makes Strong Communities

    Learning to coexist with people who don't agree on everything is a strength and successful societies encourage that (the alternative is blind conformity on all matters)



  27. Training (Proprietary Software) Versus Teaching (Free Software)

    Education necessitates software freedom — a fact that companies like Adobe, Apple and Microsoft try hard to distract from



  28. The Linux Foundation Brought as Keynote Speakers People Vastly Worse Than Those Whom It Now 'Cancels' for Purely Political Reasons

    A lot of people are very upset about the Linux Foundation's alleged 'witch-hunt' and even press coverage has caught up with the outrage; but our position is that it distracts from vastly bigger Linux Foundation scandals



  29. An Open Letter to Richard Stallman

    "It's past the time for the official cornerstones of the Free software movement to return to their full operational capacity, and to take the gear out of neutral."



  30. Links 9/11/2019: Linux Journal Goes Dark (Offline), KStars 3.3.7, OpenSUSE Name Change Aborted

    Links for the day


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

Recent Posts