EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

03.29.10

Microsoft and Its Patent Trolls Remain #1 Threat to Free Software

Posted in Apple, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 10:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft has not changed its patent spots. just its games (patent sports)

Zebra

Summary: How Microsoft, its offshoot Intellectual Ventures, and to a lesser degree Apple (which invests in Intellectual Ventures) harm Free software through the courtrooms

TWO weeks ago there was a blog post (semi-formal report) from Glyn Moody which led to some more sensationalism about Microsoft's intent following Apple’s lawsuit against Android [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Microsoft supported this course of action [1, 2], which led Moody to the conclusion that Microsoft will sue again and Ken Hess subscribes to exaggeration when he asks (in the headline): “Another Linux Lawsuit Storm Brewing?”

Now that Microsoft’s big operating systems, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, are on store shelves, is it time again for them to pick up the legal sledgehammer and go after Linux? I think the evidence for it is mounting. Microsoft has signed a deal with Novell, penned an agreement with Red Hat, sued and won against TomTom, signed a secret deal with Amazon, has lost costly suits against Uniloc and VirnetX and lost an appeal in its case against i4i. But this time, they’re going to go for the jugular with a broad and sweeping patent infringement suite against major Linux adopters that haven’t signed indemnification deals with them.

As one commenter points out: “This article is fraught with conjecture and not well thought out. It is pure FUD.

“Linux CAN’T be sued because one company does not control it. Linux CAN’T be stopped…because it has the GPL…and Microsoft has complied with the GPL on numerous occasions which subsequently means that they know they have to comply with it aka they’ve endorsed it with their actions.”

Luis Villa from GNOME responds to the presentation from Dr. Andrew Tridgell, who suggested that Free software developers should start reading patents. Villa, who is in the field of law, disagrees.

The problem here – with software patents in particular- is that they are so numerous, so broadly worded, and so inconsistently worded, that searching for them is like searching for a submarine in the ocean. It is incredibly difficult, incredibly expensive, and very frequently ineffective to look for the ones that could torpedo your software product. And so most of the industry doesn’t bother- they just cross their fingers and hope.

Sticking with software like Mono and Moonlight, which is already known to be surrounded by Microsoft patents (and even Miguel de Icaza acknowledges this [1, 2, 3]), would not be smart, would it? To quote DZone:

In an article titled “Does Windows cost Microsoft opportunities” by the SD Times, Novell VP and Mono Project lead Miguel de Icaza had some strong opinions about Microsoft’s handling of the .NET platform. For reasons unknown, the article has been taken down but is still available on Google’s cache. Here were some of the criticisms de Icaza had: “Unlike the Java world that is blossoming with dozens of vibrant Java Virtual Machine implementations, the .NET world has suffered by this meme spread by [Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer] that they would come after people that do not license patents from them. Microsoft has shot the .NET ecosystem in the foot because of the constant threat of patent infringement that it has cast on the system.”

As we stressed in the previous post, Microsoft has a lobby for software patents in India, South Africa, and Europe. Microsoft advocates software patents in Europe, notably with the help of the BSA and ACT (formerly related to ATL, also led by Microsoft lobbyist Jonathan Zuck, who pretends to represent ~3,000 European SMEs). This “advocacy” (lobby) not only harms Free software in Europe but proprietary software too. Software patents are a threat to small companies, not just Free software. It’s becoming a universal problem.

The following news article was listed here before, but it has just been republished in Times of India:

‘Vested interests behind discussion on patents’

[...]

Prominent sponsors and organizers of the GW Law programmes have included multinational pharmaceutical companies like Novartis, Gilead Sciences, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a club of the big pharma in the US, and the US-India Business Council (USIBC), and companies with a vested interest in software patents such as Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Many of these companies have patent applications pending in the Indian patent office and some like Novartis and Bayer are even dragging the Indian government to court in an attempt to undermine the safeguard provisions in Indian patent law.

Microsoft and its patent troll Intellectual Ventures are both sponsors and organisers of this. As we showed earlier this month, Microsoft is also responsible for spreading MPEG LA patents and Apple promotes these too (in HTML5 even).

What it also means is that it drives HTML5 farther towards a proprietary implementation. H.264 patents are owned by a group of companies who license the format through independent Denver-based MPEG LA, LLC. In countries that uphold software patents (like the U.S.), both browser makers (like Apple) and commercial content providers (like CBS) may have to pay to use the codec.

John Gruber, who writes quite a lot in favour of Apple, repeats the Apple/Nokia lies, which they used to interfere with Ogg adoption. There is a rebuttal to it coming from an unexpected direction:

To sum up: first, submarine patents have been impossible for the past 15 years, which severely limits this supposed threat. Second, the patent claims against Theora come from its competitor, and not from a neutral party; the threats are well-countered by Xiph. Third, Google supporting Theora so openly effectively means that Google believes that Theora’s patent threat is minimal.

In fact, this last part is delightfully interesting in light of Apple’s original complaint against Theora. Back in 2007, Apple’s Maciej Stachowiak argued that while Ogg/Theora/Vorbis are free of patents now, they might get into trouble later on.

Why did Gruber repeat these lies in the first place? Mozilla sure didn't fall for these.

I’ve been arguing with some people over the role of Apple in all of this, especially because of its recent lawsuit that has an impact on GNU/Linux. “Using software patents for aggression is always wrong,” Richard Stallman argues, “so Apple’s action is certainly bad. But it does make a difference to our community whether the software being attacked is our community’s free software, or proprietary software being distributed alongside our community’s free software.”

Apple’s challenge to HTC would generalise to almost any other distributor of Android. Thus, the patent case acts as a deterrent against a platform that uses Free software. I do agree with Stallman’s point, but looking at the circumstances, it’s exactly the same explanation given when Microsoft sued TomTom for various things including its VFAT support. This is a preparation to collection of “royalties” from all users of the same Free software.

“Apple’s challenge to HTC would generalise to almost any other distributor of Android.”The TomTom case taught that by claiming to just target one company the claimant clearly tries to establish a precedence that will make others buckle.

Stallman says that “Apple is suing HTC, and the HTC phone runs software which includes Linux. But that doesn’t make it clear whether the suit is about Linux, or other software.”

It’s worth explaining that Android will be remerged into Linux. Linux and Android had split before the latest release of Linux. Novell’s kernel hacker, Greg K-H, was among those who rejected it because it became improperly engineered. Several weeks ago Google said that it would tidy Android up and put it back in mainline Linux.

Android is a complete platform that includes modified Linux and no GNU at all. Android is maintained by many developers from Google and it’s now similar to a patchset to Linux (at least part of it), which cannot be included in the main branch anymore. I do not like Android all that much. I told Linus Torvalds about the issues with limitations like DRM in it, but he seemed apathetic.

“I think Microsoft’s VFAT patent attack targeted free code which is part of Linux,” Stallman recollected. And indeed, Tridgell developed a workaround shortly after TomTom had settled and enabled Microsoft to extort other users (distributors) of Linux using “TomTom” as the ammunition. Microsoft has used Novell in a similar way since 2006 and it was soon brought to light by Jeremy Allison and then Microsoft itself (in 2007). To Microsoft, patent FUD has been the strategy of choice for quite a few years, but it keeps quiet about it unless there is a lawsuit, cross-licensing, or an occsional roar.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Maybe It's Time for Class Action Lawsuits Against Microsoft for Forced Vista 10 'Upgrades', Which Were Definitely No Accident

    The sheer arrogance of Microsoft, which silently changes the operating system on people's computers (without their consent), makes lawsuits imperative, not just a possibility



  2. Readers' Article: A Strange Conspiracy of Silence in the German Media (Part II)

    Željko Topić's allegedly dark background, which includes a suicide, a retreat of potential witnesses, German funds in Topić's private bank account and several more interesting bits



  3. Links 5/2/2016: Wine 1.9.3, Slackware 14.2 Beta 2

    Links for the day



  4. Links 4/2/2016: Red Hat Upgraded, Ubuntu Tablet

    Links for the day



  5. The Siege Continues: Patent Lawyers Want More Patents, Including Software Patents, In Spite of Alice

    Lawyers who make money from patent disputes make rather apparent their aspirations, which include patent saturation even in domains that are patents-exempt



  6. European Patent Office Pretends It's Business as Usual and Prepares New Vanity Pieces

    The PR strategy of the EPO, whose destructive patent strategy continues unabated (for now), latches onto Colombia and strives to manufacture mythology wherein the public, patent examiners and patent applicants are all very happy with the EPO



  7. The 'International' Trade Commission Imposes/Reinforces Software Patents to Establish Another Embargo

    The International [sic] Trade Commission is meddling in competition and allowing a US giant, Cisco in this case, to potentially block rivals (no imports from abroad) using software patents



  8. Readers' Article: A Strange Conspiracy of Silence in the German Media (Part I)

    The views of some of our readers regarding reluctance in the German media to challenge the EPO's violations of German law, probably because Germany benefits from being a host nation of the EPO



  9. Benoît Battistelli's EPO: From Show Trials and Mock Trials to a Self-Aggrandising Propaganda Event Later Today in Rijswijk

    A headsup from a reader regarding today's highly misleading event in Rijswijk (e.g. to mislead the media or seed positive media coverage in the Netherlands) and how it was set up



  10. Caricature of the Day: EPO President

    New caricature about Benoît Battistelli, his bodyguards, and the assault on free speech at the European Patent Office



  11. Company Known as European Patent Office Provides Tips on How to Patent Software in Europe

    The European Patent Office (EPO) uses its attendance at CeBIT, which is a corporate expo, to promote software patents in spite of the European Patent Convention (EPC)



  12. Links 3/2/2016: Dell GNU/Linux Laptop, Wine 1.8.1

    Links for the day



  13. The Most Detailed Explanation (Yet) of What's Wrong With the EPO

    The EPO's insistence that it remains above the law is not only coming under fire by the media but is also being challenged based on people who are familiar with the applicability of law to international organisations



  14. Angry Trolls: Rovi (of Angry Birds Fame) Helps Microsoft's Largest Anti-Linux Patent Troll, Intellectual Ventures (Corrected)

    nce known as a game maker and later made notorious for mass surveillance on gamers, Rovi now liaises with the world's largest patent troll



  15. Patent Invalidation Statistics and Cost of Patent Litigation (Even If Bogus) Show That Patent Scope and Examination Standards a Problem in Europe, Not Just the US

    Far too many bogus patents (patents that should not be granted in the first place) and spurious patent lawsuits that end up in favour of the defendant serve to show the external cost (or externality) when it comes to low-quality patent systems that strive to grant a lot of patents irrespective of merit



  16. Es Oficial: Por Medio de Entrismo, Microsoft Ha Convertido a la Pro-Linux Nokia en un Parásito de Patentes Anti-Linux

    Microsoft ha convertido a Nokia en un troll de patentes que ahora ataca a Linux y Android.



  17. Richard Stallman: Patentes Europeas de Software Regresan con la Corte Unitaria de Patentes (UPC)

    Debates acerca de la UPC estan siendo peleados por profesionales de software (entidades prácticantes) y elementos PARÁSITICOS como los abogados de patentes.



  18. SUEPO (EPO Staff Union) Appears to Have Launched a New and Improved Web Site After Attempts to Crush ('Decapitate') SUEPO

    SUEPO, the largest staff union of the European Patent Office, shows signs of strength rather than signs of weakness amidst attacks on the staff and a lot of media coverage, political interventions, and much more



  19. Links 2/2/2016: Chimpbox Quad Core, UNICEF Supports FOSS

    Links for the day



  20. Münchner Merkur Explains That EPO Staff is Defecting to SUEPO, Even The Council Distrusts Battistelli Now

    Press report from Munich, highlighting the crisis of leadership at the EPO, where the President is increasingly viewed as a villain



  21. Microsoft's Policies Alienate Even Microsoft's Biggest Fans, Including Pro-Microsoft Web Sites

    Microsoft's aggressive behaviour and low-quality products leave even some of its last remaining 'fans' disheartened and upset



  22. Slides of New Talk Which Explains the Connection Between the Unitary Patent (UPC) and Software Patents

    Benjamin Henrion's Sunday talk about European software patents -- a presentation which speaks of the Unitary Patent Court that the EPO lobbies for and what it means to software patents



  23. UEFI is Bricking PCs, Yet Again

    A few remarks about a new defect which is starting to attract media attention this morning, serving to highlight the lesser-discussed dangers of UEFI/EFI



  24. Under Battistelli's Regime the European Patent Office is Rapidly Rotting

    Technical problems, patent maximalism (in a desperate effort to artificially elevate patent-related figures) and other serious issues observed inside the European Patent Office (EPO)



  25. It's Official: By Means of Entryism, Microsoft Has Turned a Pro-Linux Nokia Into an Anti-Linux Patent Parasite

    Microsoft has made a sort of patent troll out of Nokia and Nokia now attacks Linux and Android



  26. Microsoft Infiltrates Politics and Can Engage in Election Fraud in Iowa Right Now

    It is apparently acceptable to put a convinced serial abuser in charge of the country, simply because it frames this as volunteering



  27. Links 1/2/2016: Linux 4.5 RC2, KDevelop 5.0 Beta 2

    Links for the day



  28. MEP Konstantina Kouneva (Former Trade Unionist) Again Takes Action Against the European Patent Office for Union-Busting Actions

    Bulgarian-Greek politician Konstantina Kouneva (or Kostadinka Kuneva) is getting actively involved in EPO affairs once again, in order to support and protect unionists like she once was (before entering politics)



  29. Political Complaints About European Patent Office Abuses Keep Flooding in After Firing of Staff Representatives (Busting of Unions)

    Complaints from the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) against the European Patent Office (EPO) and their letter to the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour, Marianne Thyssen



  30. La Avara USPTO deja Ambiguedades, ¨Per Se¨, para el Patentamiendo de Software en los Estados Unidos A Pesar del Caso Alice

    La oficina de Patentes de los Estados Unidos, USPTO esta tratando de esquivar las decisiones de los que escriben las leyes en ese país, probablemente por codicia y no por motivaciones de control de cálidad.


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts