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03.15.10

Apple’s and Microsoft’s Patent Attacks and Why the Linux Foundation’s Response Disappoints

Posted in Apple, Bill Gates, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 3:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Why so angry, Steve?!

Steve Ballmer

Steve Jobs
Original photo by Matthew Yohe, modified by Boycott Novell

Summary: A great number of new articles about the effects of Apple, Microsoft, and Intellectual Ventures (funded by Apple, Microsoft, and Bill Gates) on Free software

Apple’s attack on GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] has led Dana Blankenhorn to suggesting that Apple could be the next SCO.

Apple’s suit against HTC could end one of two ways.

Either Apple becomes the next SCO, which ran itself aground claiming rights to Linux, or it becomes the next Microsoft, which is prospering while claiming to own Linux.

The answer depends on how hard Apple presses its case.

According to this new article from the New York Times, Steve Jobs is being anti-competitive.

“We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business,” Mr. Jobs told Apple employees during an all-hands meeting shortly after the public introduction of the iPad in January, according to two employees who were there and heard the presentation. “Make no mistake: Google wants to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”

“Why Apple is paranoid about Android,” wonders an IDG blogger, who plays with words of a Radiohead track.

What was surprising was that the theme that Business Insider chose to talk about – RIM holding on to its dominance from the Apple iPhone – was not what caught my eye. What struck me was the Google Android share and the sharp recent increase, suggesting that it’s heading ever upwards. In fact, when I go back to the original figure from ComScore, the market share is 7.1 percent – a whopping increase from the 2.8 percent of the previous quarter – that’s a little over 150 percent increase in three months. And that market share was achieved very quickly, Android only released its first phone in September 2008, a doubly impressive performance.

As a reminder, Apple also sues Nokia, but Nokia is the company that sued first [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. This case could take years, according to:

1. U.S. Judge Suspends Apple-Nokia Case

The judge stayed litigation in the case pending the outcome of the International Trade Commission investigations that each company requested against the other. The investigation into Apple was announced by the ITC in late January, while the responding investigation into Nokia was launched late last month. After Nokia’s first lawsuit, launched in October of last year, Apple filed a counterclaim in the Delaware district court, also accusing Nokia of patent infringement. Nokia subsequently launched a second suit, aiming to block importation of Apple hardware into the U.S.

2. Nokia, Apple seek patent trial in 2 years

Top phone makers Nokia and Apple will seek a U.S. court hearing in a key patent battle in mid-2012, a court filing showed, raising the specter of a prolonged legal struggle.

Here is a note about prior art and LWN with a list of the patents and a discussion. IDG has this list of top smartphone lawsuits.

Over the past decades, the software patent has become a weapon of choice in tech circles.

One writer argues that “Apple’s patent offensive sends message to rivals”. It’s a bully’s technique, like “Shock and Awe” or “crazy dictator” (always be aware of the lawsuit-loving, trigger-happy one).

Apple’s patent infringement case against HTC is part of a larger effort to give rival smart phone manufacturers pause as they pursue iPhone-like features in their devices, according to a research note from Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Brainstorm Tech relates the note, which recounts the way Apple is working behind the scenes to stop what it calls the rip off of its intellectual property. It also suggests that Apple’s IP battle could deal a blow to Google’s Android operating system and manufacturers relying on it.

Apple and Microsoft are actually both in it, having previously bullied companies like Sun over the use and support of Free software [1, 2]. They keep the abusive behaviour secret for the most part.

This also brings us back to Amazon’s patent deal with Microsoft [1, 2, 3]. “Microsoft’s Amazon deal was all about Linux,” says this one article.

However, buried in the small print of the press release about the deal was a set of technologies covered by the agreement including the Kindle, which employs open source software, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers.

What this could mean is that Microsoft is popping around to some of the bigger Linux based technology outfits and saying: “Look you have some stuff we want to use, give us the rights to use it and we will not make you the first person we sue over Linux”.

[...]

What surprises us is that the Open Source community has not kicked up more of a stink about it.

Jim Zemlin, of the Linux Foundation, wrote of the deal that most technology companies have invested heavily in patents and that a cross-licensing agreement is a non-news event. The fact that two entities with expensive stockpiles of outdated weapons felt the need to negotiate détente is not surprising.

We have already complained about apathy from Zemlin and a few others [1, 2]. There is a poor approach from the Linux Foundation, which is not opposing software patents (its funding sources don’t). Instead, the foundation plays along with the dirty games of lobbying. “Software freedom has a posse – in Washington DC,” says Phipps from the OSI, who adds that:

You’ll recall I posted a long analysis of the sick position the IIPA took urging the US Trade Representative (USTR) to discriminate against countries around the world if they have a preference for software freedom. That analysis become an input for the excellent position statement, written collaboratively by the OSI Board and posted by OSI President Michael Tiemann, calling for action by national groups.

Here is OSFA’s announcement and some resultant press coverage. OSFA should have spent energy lobbying to abolish software patents once and for all, but then again, some of the companies it represents are fake friends of Free software who actually like software patents (companies like Google and IBM, for example).

One issue that we mentioned before is that Google had gotten sued by some obscure company [1, 2] and Microsoft did too [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] (there are $242,000,000 at stake, a similar amount to that of the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]).

One would think that Google and Microsoft can abolishing software patents, but the benefits they receive from these monopolies are greater than the occasional damages. According to this new report from IP Watch, Microsoft is now joined by it patent troll Nathan Myhrvold, who helped the company hack the patent system.

Indian Civil Society Raises Concerns Over US Industry-Sponsored IP Summits

[...]

Public interest groups in India are raising questions over annual summits involving Indian judges and policymakers that are being funded by major western industry groups, in particular pharmaceutical companies. At this year’s summit, held recently, a section of India’s patent law which prevents the extension of monopoly power for incremental innovations came under attack, the groups have said.

[...]

Companies with a “vested interest in software patents” such as Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft, and Qualcomm also have been involved, although such patents are not currently allowed in the country, it added.

Why is Intellectual Ventures even involved in this? It has no products and it contributed nothing to society or industry. It’s just a leech that spends over a million dollars per year lobbying while bullying a variety of companies, which lose their income to this leech.

Change is needed and it involves abolishing software patents, not working one’s way around them. OSFA ought to work towards that goal and identify Apple, Microsoft, or even their shells that they fund as foes not worth working with.

“Intellectual property is the next software.”

Nathan Myhrvold, funded by Apple, Microsoft, and Bill Gates

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2 Comments

  1. mcinsand said,

    March 15, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Gravatar

    The problem with Apple is that its lemmings refuse to wake up, even as they show up on FOSS sites claiming to support open-ness. Then, there are the FOSS people that think that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend. Thus, since Apple isn’t MS, Apple must be a ‘friend’ despite the fact that they have forgotten more about vendor lock-in than MS will ever learn! My best analogy for the Apple lemmings are the cat people that claim that their house doesn’t smell despite the fact that the cats have repeatedly marked every wall.

    (No, I am not anti-cat or anti-dog in the least, but there are those owners that refuse to recognize that some pets make themselves known.)

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, exactly.

    I sometimes argue that Apple is the “everything but Microsoft” option (or “anti-Microsoft”), whereas GNU/Linux and BSD are the “everything but proprietary” option (or “pro-choice” and “pro-independence”),

    Boycott Novell is not about Microsoft and Novell. It deals with whatever behaviour threatens the freedom of software the most at any given time. Apple is currently a big problem and it uses US patent law+ITC for ‘teeth’.

    Like many others, I got into Free software because it was technically solid. It makes some companies like Apple nervous, jealous, and thus aggressive. Schwartz knows.

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