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 in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Slashdot

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. I Would Have Supported the Coup (Under Very Different Circumstances)

    Richard Stallman's (rms) ordeals are showing us how not to deal with a founder; this is how power transition could be done instead, according to figosdev



  2. It Looks Like Red Hat's (IBM) Fedora Project May be 'Outsourced' to Amazon's Datacentres

    In "seeking a more modern and cost effective location" for Fedora Infrastructure it seems to have been decided, privately, that Amazon (AWS) would be the new home of this project; but there's sufficient obfuscation surrounding the matter and many people seem to be totally unaware



  3. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, August 08, 2020

    IRC logs for Saturday, August 08, 2020



  4. Fearmongering Was Originally an IBM Thing, Not a Microsoft Thing

    Microsoft made FUD famous, but it was actually IBM’s practice that made it commonplace in the first place (the term or acronym was coined before Microsoft even mattered and on the same year Microsoft was founded)



  5. [Meme] People Get Fired for Being Bought by IBM (With a Crummy Severance Package)

    IBM used to proudly provide job security and one could have a job there for decades (career ladders and worker benefits of all sorts are what some people assess this when looking for an employer, e.g. whether they can progress, get promoted, stay onboard); by today’s standards only a month’s salary is exceptionally bad, especially when one gets fired without warning, but this is what IBM did to some Red Hat employees



  6. New FSF Video Makes the Case Against Microsoft GitHub (and Similar), So Why is the FSF's Board Being Filled Up With Active GitHub Users?

    The FSF makes a good point about “important values like autonomy, sharing, social responsibility, and collaboration” — the very things that are under attack by Microsoft’s GitHub, which is all about coercion and monopolistic control over developers



  7. Techrights is Not Against Microsoft

    It may be a suitable time to explain why Microsoft is mentioned so much and why it's not a fixation but a reactionary priority



  8. The THRIVE Guidelines

    "Nobody is perfect, and it's obvious that people already hold some to a more unreasonable interpretation of their standards than others."



  9. Links 8/8/2020: Mageia 8 Hits Beta and FSF Has New Video

    Links for the day



  10. [Meme/History] OpenPOWER or Just White POWER?

    Antiwar and anti-nukes activists cannot support those causes and support IBM at the same time, as the founder’s son (father received a medal from the Nazi Party) flew “an American heavy bomber” and enjoyed a track record of nepotism, propelling him to the top both in the military and at IBM



  11. Rebuilding Communities

    "First, we should talk about how our communities have regressed."



  12. [Meme] Microsoft in 2020: Liaising With Criminals to Make Crime the New Normal

    As the TikTok situation serves to show, Microsoft is little but a criminal cult that relies on other criminals to do Microsoft's biddings



  13. The Computer Anybody Can Edit

    "Without rebuilding and recompiling all of the packages on a large distribution, it is possible to "remaster" an ISO and get a different system -- even before you install it."



  14. Former Microsoft Employee on So-called 'Journalists' Being Blackmailed by Microsoft

    Mitchel Lewis, a former Microsoft employee, remarks on Mary Jo Foley being 'punished' by Microsoft for not mindlessly publishing Microsoft propaganda (we remarked on this before as she had spoken to me about this over a decade ago)



  15. IRC Proceedings: Friday, August 07, 2020

    IRC logs for Friday, August 07, 2020



  16. For the Want of a Pixel

    "It is still possible to win, but the FSF has practically left the field."



  17. Ubuntu and Fedora Project Serving Microsoft

    The Ubuntu 'community' as well as the 'community' component of Red Hat (IBM) don't view Microsoft as a rival; over a decade ago Mark Shuttleworth accused Microsoft of "extortion" and "racketeering" (his words), but now he's paid to change his tune



  18. (Don't Let's) Throw Caution to the Wind

    "As it will become crucial to explain, the effect of all this dancing around truth and reality was to transform a volunteer force primed to bring freedom to users into cheap labour for an industry that exploits everyone in it -- all the way to the very top of Open Source itself."



  19. Links 7/8/2020: Mesa 20.2 RC, Radeon Software for Linux 20.30

    Links for the day



  20. Computing Fundamentals

    "A graphical interface is better, for some things -- sometimes. But it will also put a lot more on our plates."



  21. IBM and the Bomb: Series Index (on 75th Anniversary of Atomic Bombs Being Dropped on Civilians)

    Today seems an apt time to remind readers that IBM participated in the creation of the only bombs ever to be dropped in a war (not tests) and this tradition carries on because IBM is still profiting from it, to this very day (countless billions made by IBM during the Cold War too)



  22. Freedom is Personal

    "Before I say anything else, note that there are literally hundreds of GNU/Linux distros, and I put in a lot of work to rate which were the least encumbered by corporate politics — directly or indirectly."



  23. Links 7/8/2020: Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS and GNU C Library 2.32 Released

    Links for the day



  24. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, August 06, 2020

    IRC logs for Thursday, August 06, 2020



  25. Our Collective Privacy is Under Unprecedented Attacks and Privacy is Now Conflated With Bad Hygiene, Not Just Criminality

    At warp speed the "War on cash" or "War on anonymous transactions" is moving ahead; now that COVID-19 infects a lot of people we're led to assume that mass surveillance saves lives not because of counter-terrorism but because of contact-tracing or whatever (in practice it's hardly effective, but it's conditioning people to give up any remnants of their privacy)



  26. The Psychology of Developers

    "It turns out, there are ways around a free license -- you can make software "less free" or more imposing, without changing the license at all."



  27. Social Justice is Fine... When It is Not Just a Shallow Marketing Ploy

    Don't let well-meaning concepts such as "Social Justice" become mere buzzwords or tools of corporate propaganda (greedy people's objectives disguised as populism)



  28. Site Upgrades Likely Coming Soon

    After more than 28,000 posts are published it might be time to move from the WordPress x.9.x LTS to something newer (5.5 is about to be released); we explain why it’s not as simple as it might first seem



  29. Focus on the Big Issues, Not the Words

    The pattern that is emerging in recent months if not years is that words hurt and therefore contributors to code must shut up about injustices, including corporate misbehaviour



  30. Computing vs. Marketing

    “The important lesson here is that Windows is NOT a computer — it is actually a horrible thing that people DO to a computer, and to themselves.”


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