Summary: The latest analyses and moves from Microsoft, which increasingly relies on software patents in its eternal battle against Free software
CARLO Piana, who represents Samba on a legal basis in Europe [1, 2], has just published this long post which explains how Microsoft continues to use software patents and other nefarious means to suppress adoption of Free software. This is particularly important right now because Microsoft has an opportunity to do to the Commission what it did to the US Department of Justice, namely putting its friends in charge (Charlie McCreevy may leave, but the FFII shows that a likely replacement is also a supporter of software patents).
The point is that the current Commission is going to step down in a few weeks, and Commissioner Kroes – who has an incredibly good track record on the Microsoft case – might feel the urgency to close everything behind her, leaving the office empty and her case teams without a case. But at which conditions?
The single biggest issue is patents. The current WSPP agreement does not contain any meaningful provision or license or promise or non-assertion pledge or anything that is useful to Free Software projects. Without that clearance, once everything is over, who is going to stop the patents to be asserted or, worse, merely threatened (call it FUD, patent rattling, whatever)? Microsoft has been very clear to reserve this right. If it is home free with a broad undertaking, there will not be any real pressure against the assertion of the patents, apart the reaction of some friendlier companies and of the OIN. We have seen just a small preview with the TomTom case.
And the future will bring Silverlight. And the future will bring OOXML mandated by public authorities as if it was an open standard. And by the way, I am still awaiting the first attempted implementation of ISO/IEC IS 29500 (what the standard is called) because Microsoft Office’s file format is not even close to be that, and it is not even ECMA 376. It is a proprietary, undisclosed file format. To add insult to the damage, I start hearing that even those corrections that were hurried in during the Ballot Resolution Meeting to pass the standard like a square pin into a round hole are now rolled back very quietly in JTC1 SC34 – hijacked by Microsoft – because of lack of interoperability with MS Office. Which incidentally confirms my assessment that the implementation is the standard and the standard is the implementation. The process we underwent to approve or disapprove an international standard was merely a sham.
The Commission falsely promised that it would investigate this, but the complexity of such an investigation (requiring a lot of travel all around the world) is the reason it backed off, leaving Microsoft unpunished for criminal activity such as blackmail and bribery.
We recently showed that Microsoft had attempted to have GNU/Linux vendors sued by patent trolls [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. That was the allegation made by Red Hat and others, including the OIN, which is now releasing details of the patents in question (there are about 20 software patents in total, so this list is not complete). It’s exclusive to The H (London-based apparently) — part of Heise, which is in Germany where software patents are not valid anyway.
What was in this lot of 22 patents that would specifically worry the Linux community? The OIN supplied The H with a list of the patents:
* Encoding a URL into the playback of a media file (5987509, 6499057, 5774666, 6963906)
* Broadcasting video over distributed networks (6005600, 6792468, 7448062)
* Launching a browser and sending it to a URL by clicking an icon (5737560, 5877767, 6072491, 7032185)
* Launching applications through a movie (5745713)
* Colour space conversions (5946113, 6147772)
* Web page annotations (6081829, 6571295)
* Web publishing hypertext (5890170)
* Web publishing and editing with templates (6026433)
* A Method for painting on a computer (5182548)
* Virtual Address Translation (6205531)
* Dynamically generating graphics for the web on the server (6098092)
* Dynamic information clipping service (5649186)
Going back to Samba in Europe, there is absolutely no reason to assume that Microsoft will accept an exclusion of software patents. According to this post, Microsoft may still be working on it. [the emphasis in red is ours]
Basically, the IM mob are desperately trying to con unions into doing their dirty work by pushing out propaganda on intellectual monopolies. I just love the line “The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and IIPA (International Intellectual Property Association) were both very enthusiastic about this proposal”: you bet they are. Their own ham-fisted efforts have backfired so spectacularly that they are desperate for someone else not tainted by their inept approach of punishing consumers to try.
The following is also significant:
The discussion on future work mostly focus on climate change. General Electric and Microsoft were particularly outspoken in highlighting their fear that some current negotiations over green technology and IPR would weaken IPR. They also denounced the inclusion of proposals that limit patentable subject matter and recommend compulsory licenses or licenses of rights.
As well as Microsoft’s usual bleating about not being allowed to patent software in some jurisdictions, it’s interesting to note that both it and General Electric seem to rate the preservation of intellectual monopolies rather higher than the preservation of our planet. Pure evil.
MS and GE are both in MSNBC delivering their own angle on the news and they also cooperate on legalising software patents in Europe, never mind their realisation that the patent system is inherently broken (GE complains about patent trolls, whereas Microsoft deals with embargo threats due to the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]). Here are some more thoughts about i4i and patents:
Canadian Law Professors Insist Banning The Sale Of Word Is Good For Society & Innovation
Again, beyond common sense, the historical evidence suggests that these law professors are simply wrong. Countries with no or weak patent protection have seen tremendous innovation over time. And it’s because it’s competition that’s the mother of innovation, not a lack of competition.
In other interesting news, the arguably-unconstitutional ACTA [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] is now being criticised even by the UK-IPO, which is surprising. But it’s not ACTA itself which gets the criticism; it’s the secrecy. Glyn Moody writes:
Cracks in the ACTA Wall of Secrecy
Hitherto, there’s been no suggestion of any dissension within the ACTA ranks; so this comment in a blog post from Jamie Love about a lunch meeting of civil society NGOs held by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office during the WIPO meeting is intriguing:
The UK IP office said it had complained frequently of the secrecy of the ACTA negotiations.
Perhaps if we can get a few more of the insiders moaning about this unnecessary lack of transparency, things will finally start moving.
As pointed out a few months ago, Facebook is flirting with Microsoft's patent troll, Nathan Myhrvold. Now that Facebook is sued for patent infringement (yes, again), one might wonder if Facebook wants the patent troll to act as a shield or an arsenal for counter lawsuits that annul (settle) the originals. It’s only speculation.
Facebook has been sued by a software company in Baltimore that claims the social-networking site is violating a two-year-old patent.
WhoGlue Inc., a Canton company with fewer than five employees, filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for Delaware, where Facebook is incorporated.
It’s unclear whether the patent infringement case that WhoGlue is trying to make against Facebook can be applied to a host of similar social networking sites that use similar technologies for helping their users manage online interactions.