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01.20.10

Microsoft Tries to Pollute Standards with Software Patents Where It is Illegal

Posted in Asia, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GPL, Interoperability, Microsoft, Patents, Standard at 6:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: In both Europe and in India, Microsoft is trying to exclude Free software with patent tax inside basic interoperability information

NEELIE KROES said some controversial things last week [1, 2, 3, 4]. She has been criticised recently for allowing Microsoft to embed software patents in interoperability ‘standards’ (these are not real standards), despite software patents being illegal in the EU.

Jan Wildeboer from Red Hat defends Kroes and argues that she is a better position-holder than others in the Commission. He is probably right, but it is important to remind Kroes that what she is doing is harmful to Free software sometimes. Some of the key issues she just fails to grasp as the Microsoft lobbyists fool her.

This comes after her hearing last week. If you take a closer look at what Neelie told us in that hearing, I fail to see why it is wrong. However I fully understand that some other companies and organisations are alarmed. This is what she had to say wrt Open Standards (transcribed from the hearing which is ironically only accessible with non-open Microsoft stuff):

5- Digital society depends upon open standards and interoperability. And with this in mind, public organizations should practice what they promote. If they don’t use open standards, why should citizens? I will pursue this from local authorities up to european institutions. If public data such as maps, weather information and health advise is not interoperable, how can it be exploited in new ways? And for such reasons I want to explore new ways to develop ICT standards in Europe.

So Neelie wants to explore new ways, wants to enforce the use of open standards, wants to free public data. I am not going to tell you who might have a different opinion. But I am sure, my dear Lazyweb, that you know which company I am talking about.

Over in India, a new report suggests that Microsoft is also trying to shove software patents into standards, despite the fact that software patents are illegal in India.

India’s open source software lobbyists allege that the country’s proposed draft recommendations for adopting open technology standards and software for automating different government departments and functions, favours popular software solutions from large companies such as Microsoft.

According to people familiar with the draft recommendations, a meeting of the apex body on Standards for eGovernance was held last week, and the policy is close to being approved. ET was shown a copy of the proposed recommendations by one of the persons who requested anonymity.

[...]

The most contentious point of the policy is that it includes standards which may be royalty free and non discriminatory (RAND) as compared to fair royalty free and non discriminatory (FRAND), which many experts had recommended.

“The entire standard should be royalty-free and not just the “essential” parts of it. In other words, All patent claims necessary to implement the standard should be royaltyfree. Also, royalty free on FRAND/RAND is self-contradictory. If a Standard is Royalty Free (RF) then it cannot be RAND,” says Venkatesh Hariharan, a blogger and expert on open source affairs.

Microsoft previously bullied even Indian professors [1, 2] for daring to stand up for real standards — standards that are neither software patents encumbered nor the ownership of Microsoft.

“I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft.”

Professor Deepak Phatak

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