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Linux Foundation Lashes Out at Microsoft Over Attacks on GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft, Patents at 7:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Microsoft is slammed publicly by the Linux Foundation for allegedly attempting to have Linux sued by patent trolls; more patent news

AS we last showed a couple of hours ago, Microsoft had degraded its level of civility a little more (if that’s possible at all) and stooped down very low by attacking GNU/Linux in potentially illegal ways, depending on the local laws.

“…[I]t’s a bit like a two-level routine where a patent troll sub-contracts another patent troll to do the dirty laundry.”Yesterday we showed that Microsoft was marketing software patents with which to attack GNU/Linux. This is basically an attack by proxy, which is one level higher than what we find in Microsoft's patent troll, Nathan Myhrvold. With Myhrvold, Microsoft can use the proxy of a proxy (or satellites around a moon) in the sense that Microsoft creates a patent hoarder outside the company (with no products to fall prey to counter-attacks), which in turn passes some of those patents to smaller trolls that can target companies which won’t comply with racketeering; the lawsuits would seem to come not from the real source of extortion, so it’s a bit like a two-level routine where a patent troll sub-contracts another patent troll to do the dirty laundry. It makes Myhrvold the ‘parent troll’ and Microsoft the ‘grandparent troll’. This observation was brought up thanks to a new report from Law.com (already covered in [1, 2, 3]).

The Linux Foundation and OIN are closely-related entities and they are not stupid. In their own questionable way, they act as guardians of Linux (and to a much lesser extent Free software).

Zemlin from the Linux Foundation responds not to the FUD observed in retailers [1, 2, 3, 4] but rather to the almost-simultaneous development on the patent front. From the opening of his blog post:

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Wingfield broke a story on Microsoft selling a group of patents to a third party. The end result of this story is good for Linux, even though it doesn’t placate fears of ongoing attacks by Microsoft. Open Invention Network, working with its members and the Linux Foundation, pulled off a coup, managing to acquire some of the very patents that seem to have been at the heart of recent Microsoft FUD campaigns against Linux. Break out your white hats: the good guys won.

Coming from somewhat of a Microsoft sympathiser, this is significant. It resembles his response to the TomTom lawsuit. Well, this response was also covered by Ars Technica:

Linux Foundation to Microsoft: stop secretly attacking Linux

Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin issued a scathing condemnation of Microsoft’s recent attempts to unload Linux-related patents to patent trolls. He calls for the company to “stop secretly attacking Linux” and compete on the basis of quality rather than FUD.

Only a day ago we wrote about how Gavin Clarke and other Microsoft larks quickly jumped on the story and tried to spin it in Microsoft’s favour. It’s almost like ghostwriting. In the same vein, writes GreyGeek:

Reminds me of the Wired journalist who was “managed” by Microsoft and after he printed the kind of article that Microsoft coached him into printing, a few months later he was inadvertently mailed the file his Microsoft handlers kept on him, which detailed how he was manipulated. Pride kept him from admitting that he was owned by Microsoft, but you could tell from the tone of his mea culpa that he was torqued.

That article links to both sides as they attempt to paint the affair in a light favorable to themselves.

Then there is the case of Maurene O’Gara, who was pegged as a Microsoft sock-puppet masquerading as a journalist by Microsoft internal email revealed in the Combs vs Microsoft lawsuit. She agreed to PLANT a “story” for Microsoft.

I am not sure which kind of journalist this author is.

He sets his tone early:

From the ‘People In Glass Houses…’ files:

and ends with:

So it’s a win-win for both open source and Microsoft.

This article is an obvious attempt to impune Red Hat and put Microsoft in the role of the good guy. The author asserts that Red Hat is “attacking” Microsoft but whitewashes the obvious use of the marketing materials that accompanies the patents:

It also used marketing materials that highlighted offensive uses of the patents against open source software, including a number of the most popular open source packages,” Red Hat blogged.

So Red Hat is “blogging”. What is Microsoft doing by auctioning patents by invitation only to selected buyers and then packaging them with “marketing” materials explaining how to use them to attack popular FOSS projects? Practicing diplomacy?

Chris Anderson, Wired’s Editor in Chief, attempted to explain away the embarrassment of having one of his journalists played like a violin to give Microsoft the kind of “story” it wanted.
He also mentioned that Microsoft has over 3,500 BLOGGERS working for it day and night, what he calls Microsoft’s “Long Tail”. But, it’s somehow dishonest or unethical if Red Hat bloggs about Microsoft sneaky deal? At least Red Hat wrote its own article.

Like I said, October 22nd is getting close. Expect more articles like this, slagging Linux as the Win7 release date gets closer.

We wrote about Microsoft's "planting" of stories and dossiers quite a short while ago. Microsoft’s bribery of reporters for positive Vista 7 publicity is also something that we’ve been covering.

Mike Masnick, who met Horacio Gutierrez last year, argues that OIN is wasting money. One of our most informed readers implicitly agrees by saying that OIN only feeds the very problem it could otherwise try to eliminate. Masnick writes: “All in all, this is a pretty depressing story, showing money being wasted, rather than put to good use doing actual innovation.

Groklaw wrote some more about the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], which demonstrates Microsoft’s abuse of the patent system and LinuxInsider had this coverage of the OIN’s actions. Many other reports on the subject shed light on who is behind OIN.

In an effort to protect open-source operating system, Linux, members of the Open Invention Network, which includes corporate giants such as International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Red Hat Inc. (RHT), and Sony Corp. (SNE), are nearing a deal with Allied Security Trust to buy a group of patents formerly owned by Microsoft (MSFT), according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

From the FFII we have already learned that a massive amount of OIN’s patents are IBM’s, which does lead one to wondering if IBM wants this to become a battle of giants with patent portfolios. IBM’s lobbying to defend software patents using outright lies has now reached the attention of Matt Asay, who argues that:

Patents may not be quite the Great Satan that open-source advocates sometimes suggest, but they haven’t been the foundation upon which open source has been built, either. It’s unclear why IBM makes this point, as few companies could claim to understand and advance open source as much as IBM.

Darryl Taft did a series of posts/articles about the OIN’s move, which is still slightly troubling because it legitimises software patents and puts money in the hands of those who abuse this existing system.

As Microsoft loves whining about being “excluded”, worth quoting is the following portion from Elizabeth Montalbano of IDG News Service:

The AST acquired the patents in a private auction held by Microsoft, one that OIN was not permitted to participate in, Bergelt said.

Later on, when Microsoft talks about “tolerance” and “openness”, sentences like the above are worth quoting. No wonder the likes of Ramji quit the company.

Generally speaking, the US patent system is a sordid mess which even leads to unnecessary deaths. [via]

Ignoring patent and licensing issues has allowed Dr Yusuf Hamied, director of Cipla, to innovate: even though each drug is officially owned by a different company, he could put a common combination of three treatments (Stavudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine) into one simple, single combination pill. This increases treatment compliance — it’s easier to take your medication correctly — and that keeps you alive longer, while reducing the emergence of resistant strains.

Hamied calls his pill Triomune (he also offers “Antiflu”, a copy of Tamiflu for the developing world, and many more). In 2001 he was selling to MSF clinics for $350 per person per year, more than 30 times cheaper than the official versions of these drugs. Triomune is now only $87 a year. This is amazing. Hamied is a hero.

Richard Sykes, head of GlaxoSmithKline (and now retired rector of Imperial College London) disagreed. He called Hamied a “pirate” and described the quality of Indian generic drugs as “iffy”. Hamied says GSK is a “global serial killer” for charging high prices for their medication. So who is right?

We have given many examples of patents that merely monetise life and death [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. There are also patents that help prevent the environment from being fixed/preserved. This is an ethical dilemma, but the USPTO also has a technical dilemma when it is tactless enough to accept this type of application:

Israeli Claims Patent Over Adding .com To The End Of The Address Bar

TechCrunch points us to a story about an Israeli company by the name of Netex who is claiming a patent over “www.addressing.” What’s that? Well, apparently it’s the process of simply adding a “.com” to the end of a word you put in a browser address bar. There are all sorts of questions raised by this, and the reporting at the Israeli site Ynetnews leaves a lot to be desired. First, neither Ynetnews nor TechCrunch point to the actual patent. I’ve been searching on both the supposed inventor’s name (Aviv Refuah) and his company’s name and I can’t find it. If anyone out there can find the actual patent, please post a link in the comments.

Even Dilbert is now ridiculing the patent system [via], having recently criticised Microsoft.

One other company that has become a patent problem is Facebook, whose founder is close to Microsoft staff and even has Microsoft investments in him. Not so long ago he even flirted with Microsoft's patent troll, Intellectual Ventures. But Facebook — like Microsoft — is sometimes getting a taste of its own poison. [via]

Facebook’s legal battle with Leader technologies, has taken a new turn! The Delaware District Court judge ordered Facebook to release their source code by August 21, 2009 .

This is all due to a patent battle.

“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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