Patents Roundup: Both Apple and Microsoft Use Software Patents Against GNU/Linux, Get Sued for Violation Along With Google and Facebook; Amazon-USPTO Comedy Resumes
Summary: This week’s latest patent news which has impact on the Free software world
Apple and Microsoft Patent Extortion Against Free Software Goes Almost a Decade Back
PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE companies think alike. Apple’s attack on GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] turns out to be many years old [1, 2]. At Microsoft too, Bill Gates had spoken about a “Jihad” (his word) against Linux at Intel almost a decade ago. They managed to keep it secret for many years. These CEOs are control freaks who let nothing in their way stop them. Schwartz, the former CEO of Sun, says that “for a technology company, going on offense with software patents seems like an act of desperation, relying on the courts instead of the marketplace….[S]uing a competitor typically makes them more relevant, not less. Developers I know aren’t getting less interested in Google’s Android platform, they’re getting more interested.”
Here is an interesting pick from the news:
The concern is that Microsoft’s Windows 7 mobile operating system has the iPhone’s market in its sights and that Microsoft has a deep background in software patents to back it up.
One worry for Google is that Apple’s legal battle with HTC may weaken the momentum of Android-powered phones.
Apple and Microsoft both share an affinity for software patents and they also cross-license. This means that Apple’s bullying of GNU/Linux with software patents is very beneficial to Microsoft, which pools the same patents as Apple’s. In the news we now have (references not listed before):
Schwartz tells the story of Steve Jobs calling him and threatening Sun with a patent infringement lawsuit, to which Schwartz quickly warned Jobs that going down that path would lead to a patent nuclear war, as he pointed out how recent Apple products likely infringed on Sun patents. He then tells another story about a visit from Bill Gates, with a similar threat over patents — and a similar response, pointing out that Microsoft clearly copied certain Sun technology. In both cases, the counterweight made the threats go away. This is the whole “nuclear stockpiling” scenario — and, as such, it creates a ton of waste. You have to keep building up those stockpiles just to make sure the other side is too scared to sue you.
Sometime between 2003 and 2006, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer and Co-founder and chairman Bill Gates visited Sun Microsystems. It wasn’t a courtesy visit, according to Jonathan Ian Schwartz, Former CEO of Sun Microsystems. The Microsoft duo were on a mission to convince Scott McNealy, Sun’s then CEO, to enter into a patent licensing agreement with the Redmond company. Moreover, Gates wanted compensation for the patents that Sun Microsystems was allegedly violating with OpenOffice, a rival product of Microsoft’s own Office productivity suite. Sun resisted.
This ought to make GNU/Linux users who defend Microsoft or Apple think twice.
More Apple and Microsoft
The i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] is not quite over yet. Microsoft’s defense of software patents is costing it dearly; its cash cow is at stake and it’s still trying to exhaust the plaintiff, as usual [1, 2]. The legal system is built in such a way that it favours those who can endure (afford) more motions, which is why Microsoft manages to get away with many real offences and have charges dismissed. It’s a brute force game.
Two days ago we found out that Apple is getting sued for patent infringement again:
Apple, Research in Motion, and a gaggle of other deep-pocket firms have been slapped with a wide-ranging patent infringment suit by an obscure Texas firm.
The suit alleges that Apple and RIM – plus AT&T, Insight Enterprises, LG Electronics, Motorola, Pantech Wireless, Samsung and Sanyo – are in violation of one or more of seven mobile phone–related patents. The allegedly infringed-upon patents include ones for Bluetooth connectivity, syncing, background processing and other mobile matters.
More than 100,000 app developers have reportedly signed the iPhone Development Program License Agreement allowing them write software for the iPhone, however few people outside the inner circle of developers have ever seen the documents thanks to a non-disclosure clause included in the agreement.When NASA released the NASA App for iPhone, The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) seized the opportunity to get a copy from the federal government under the Freedom of Information Act.
Google and Facebook Get What They Deserve
Google and Facebook have been sued in New York by a company claiming to own software patents that put social networks on mobile phones.
Wireless Ink Corp., which runs the Winksite service, claims that Facebook Mobile and Google Buzz are infringing a patent issued in October. In a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan, the company is seeking cash compensation and a court order to prevent further use of its invention.
Let them get sued. Maybe they will eventually learn that software patents are not worth the trouble. They makes this patent system a wasteful farce that does not promote science like it was originally supposed to.
Amazon a Mockery to the USPTO
Amazon’s patent deal with Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4] showed us that Amazon is not an opponent of software patents, but we already knew that. One of the most infamous examples of Amazon’s shameful patent policy is the 1-click patent, which the USPTO is still unable to bin. Here is the latest development. From Slashdot’s summary/description:
Zordak writes “Amazon’s infamous ’1-click’ patent has been in reexamination at the USPTO for almost four years. Patently-O now reports that ‘the USPTO confirmed the patentability of original claims 6-10 and amended claims 1-5 and 11-26. The approved-of amendment adds the seeming trivial limitation that the one-click system operates as part of a ‘shopping cart model.’ Thus, to infringe the new version of the patent, an eCommerce retailer must use a shopping cart model (presumably non-1-click) alongside of the 1-click version. Because most retail eCommerce sites still use the shopping cart model, the added limitation appears to have no practical impact on the patent scope.’”
This is also covered in:
The failure here is the USPTO’s and the greed is Amazon’s. █