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10.01.09

Microsoft Dodges Patent Law Again, Moblin and Patents Revisited

Posted in Australia, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 6:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Emergency exit

Summary: Microsoft shows that patent law continues to be a single-edged sword hurting the small inventor; what software patents mean to Intel and Moblin

AS we found out some weeks ago, software patents do not apply to Microsoft. The monopolist has so many strings to pull, even in the Australian government as we showed an hour ago. So, it was hardly surprising to see this Australian chap having his verdict against Microsoft overturned.

An Australian inventor, who was set to reap the lion’s share of a mammoth $US388 million ($445 million) damages award from Microsoft, is now set to get nothing after the US judge hearing the case decided to ignore the jury’s decision and hand victory to Microsoft.

What Microsoft wants Microsoft gets.

This is covered in other places which like Microsoft and Lora Bentley’s roundup connects it to the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10].

A few days ago we wrote about the Obama administration filing an amicus brief regarding Bilski. This administration is generally favourable towards intellectual monopolies and secrecy [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13], but here is Patently-O’s short analysis of the impact — if any — on software patentability:

Bilski Briefing: Government Argues that Section 101 ‘Processes’ are limited to ‘technological and industrial processes.

[...]

Although Bilski’s claim does not relate directly to software, the machine-or-transformation could be seen to limit the patentability of software processes acting on a general purpose computer (as opposed to a “particular machine”).

It brings us to the next item in this roundup. Earlier on we tried to discover whether Moblin is submissive to Microsoft’s software patents routine [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. We’ve looked around to unravel Intel’s stance on software patents and found only this:

Intel Statement on Software Patents

[..]

Now, to protect and encourage this kind of vast U.S. investment, and I’m referring to both the technical as well as the financial aspects, and, to promote the development of new and improved products, we at Intel believe that software-related technology should continue to be afforded the opportunity to obtain patent protection.

So Intel was in favour of software patents.

When it comes to Moblin, our reader Oiaohm insists that “Intel does not want anything with patent questions. Intel does not want anything disrupting their sales of hardware. Software patents could block their sales… So [this a]ffects Intel’s bottom line. Remember Intel does not produce software, so software patents are no advantage to Intel.”

The above statement from Intel is very old. “Time has moved a lot for Intel since 1994,” writes Oiaohm. “[In] 1993-1994 Intel had a profitable complier business. icc is Intel’s [and] Intel is slowly fusing the tech from their complier into gcc. Intel still sells it, but it’s not a major profit arm. Basically, if Microsoft provides Silverlight and .NET for Linux in a patent-safe way, Intel would not get in [the] way. Now, the stuff Novell has Intel is not going to touch with a 10-foot pole. Intel is not stupid, they don’t want the headaches.”

But the main issue remains one of proprietary media, not patents. From the comments in another piece of coverage comes this:

Does Silverlight on Linux matter?

[...]

Are you seriously saying, that when Microsoft is making the field of on-line video more fragmented with one more proprietary format that is aimed at nothing else but give more control to Microsoft, we should applaud the company for doing this? This has nothing to do with choice for the users. If the use of Silverlight spreads wider in the future, the users are guaranteed not to have more choice and control of their computing experience.

Silverlight/Moonlight — like .NET/Mono — are not just patent issues, they are issues of control over developers, broadcasters, and users.

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