Microsoft Takes a Hit at Linux with More FAT Patents; John Ward, John Olivo, and McKool Assist Some More Patent Trolling
Summary: Microsoft’s software patent war on Linux carries on, albeit very quietly; a patent troll represented by McKool Smith and Ward & Olivo strikes (quite massively too)
UBUNTU has been mostly apathetic when it comes to Mono and Moonlight problems, so it is good to see that Canonical’s technical chief gets a lecturing from Dr. Tridgell, whose warnings about software patents we have already mentioned (right after his talk at LCA 2010).
Matt Zimmerman writes
Andrew Tridgell: Patent defence for free software
I missed the start of this talk, but when I arrived, Andrew was explaining how to read and interpret patent claims. This is even less obvious than one might suppose. He offered advice on which parts to read first, and which could be disregarded or referred to only as needed.
Invalidating a patent entirely is difficult, but because patents are interpreted very narrowly, inventions can often be shown to be “different enough” from the patented one.
Where “workarounds” are found, which enable free software to interoperate or solve a problem in a different way than described in a patent, Andrew says it is important to publish them far and wide. This helps to discourage patent holders from attacking free software, because the discovery and publication of a workaround could lead to them losing all of their revenue from the patent (as their licensees could adopt that instead and stop paying for licenses).
Tridgell’s colleague, Jeremy Allison, has just warned about this as well (also at LCA 2010). He previously advised Ubuntu to move Mono and Mono-based applications to the ‘restricted’ repositories [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. His take on OOXML was seen as noteworthy and some would say prophetic.
Dana Blankenhorn wrote about Allison’s talk as follows:
Open source evangelist Jeremy Allison was in New Zealand yesterday, where he issued dire warnings of Microsoft launching a patent attack against open source to win back mobile market share. (Picture from Wikipedia.)
Allison, who famously quit Novell after it announced its patent pact with Microsoft, told a Linux conference in Wellington that Microsoft has to go to court or Windows Mobile is dead. He called a patent fight its “nuclear option.”
Allison is in the business of having no choice but to mimic or comply with a Microsoft protocol. The European Commission is on his side thanks to an exclusive resolution which came after a decade of fighting against Microsoft (which must now comply with the law or heavy pay fines, so it’s not a case of playing nice with Samba).
Let’s remind ourselves that Microsoft sued TomTom over filesystems in Linux. Andrew Tridgell personally suffered from this (he eventually posted a patch enabling Linux to work around the VFAT patents) and the FAT crusade continues as Microsoft signed a patent deal with Funai (for exFAT) a few days ago. Novell’s deal with Microsoft is mentioned in this new article about Funai:
Microsoft inks patent deal with LCD builder
Microsoft has a long history of signing high-profile patent sharing deals. The company’s landmark 2006 deal with Novell sent shockwaves through the open source industry, and the firm has signed similar deals with Brother, Kyocera and Nikon.
See our posts about Tuxera in order to understand Microsoft’s plan to tax GNU/Linux through filesystems (to begin with). It all started with Novell, which came to Microsoft looking for a deal.
As Red Hat evangelist Jan Wildeboer suggests,
The 6,008,803 patent…looks very broad. Might affect all kinds of media center [software]. So also Linux apps. The real question is, “Which Linux media center app infringes on Tivo patents?
In other words, we’re not out of the woods yet, though it does appear that Microsoft’s interest is in supporting the largest customer of its Mediaroom software, not in undermining Linux. Not this time, anyway.
Microsoft appears to have lied about its interests though. Moreover, as we explained the other day, any attack on TiVo — whether it targets Linux or not — can lessen the usage of Linux by weakening TiVo.
From the comments on this: “More reason to detest Microsoft, just wonderful…. Microsoft needs to be dismantled.”
In other patent news, watch what McKool and Ward are up to:
McKool’s promotional material doesn’t emphasize its work for FotoMedia, a patent-holding company whose only apparent business is filing infringement lawsuits. As part of its litigation campaign, FotoMedia has been demanding royalty payments from more than 60 companies with photo-sharing websites. The McKool lawyer in charge of the FotoMedia cases was not available for interviews on Friday, and FotoMedia has not responded to TPA interview requests in the past. FotoMedia is also represented by John Ward & Olivo, a firm out of New York that frequently represents patent-holding companies.
FotoMedia is a patent-holding company that claims just about every photo-sharing website you can imagine infringes its three patents. Its lawsuits, covered by TPA last May and June, are notable not just for the audacity of the claims they make, but also because they target dozens of small- and medium-sized software companies that provide various types of photo-sharing services over the Internet.
Disgusting. Patent trolls and parasites, including FotoMedia which we mentioned here before. Their site lists not a single product and their job openings are just “for an experienced candidate to join the licensing team of FotoMedia’s parent company, Scenera Research, as a Patent Analyst/Engineer.”
Got that? It says “licensing team… Patent Analyst/Engineer.”
We wrote about McKool Smith in [1, 2, 3]. As for Ward, he is working for patent trolls and suing critics (and their employers [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]). According to this, he’s also pumping money into politics (assuming it’s him). These people should not be allowed in this business if innovation is the real goal. They are leeches and Ray Niro is probably the nastiest of all of them [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. █