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. Techrights Cited by European Politicians in Support of EPO Staff's Causes

    Benoît Battistelli's right-hand man is charaterised as suspected of corruption in European Parliament questions



  2. When the EPO Came Under Fire From the Netherlands and Before Systemic Corruption Was Revealed

    Questions that targeted the Dutch Minister of Justice amidst EPO abuses against staff and a shameful failure to enforce a court's decision



  3. Links 29/3/2015: Red Hat's Stock Soars, Kodi 14.2 Released

    Links for the day



  4. Speculations That Microsoft is About to Buy Cyanogen (or at Least Officially Partner) to Attack Google's Android/Linux, Replacing Everything With Microsoft

    Articles in the corporate media and some analysis from smaller media sites serve to highlight the role which Microsoft plays in Cyanogen



  5. Links 28/3/2015: FoundationDB FOSS Shut Down by Apple, European Commission Support for Free Software

    Links for the day



  6. Microsoft Keeps Pretending to be 'Open Source', Despite Relentless Assaults on Open Source

    Microsoft's charm offensives against Free/libre software are proving to be rather effective, despite them involving a gross distortion of facts and exploitation of corruptible elements in the corporate media



  7. Željko Topić and Ivan Šimonović, Two Residues of Ivo Sanader's Corrupt Regime, Seen as Indirectly Connected

    Further exploration of the remnants of Sanader's highly notorious record and those whom he had brought to power before he landed in jail



  8. Links 27/3/2015: Ubuntu 15.04 Second Beta, Dart 1.9

    Links for the day



  9. The EPO's Dutch Scandal Leaves Battistelli and His Cronies on the Run

    EPO management is making concessions and issues statements which admit defeat, allowing the staff union to continue its activities



  10. Microsoft Won't Let People Wipe (Off) Windows But Happily Wipes Android, Wipes Android Apps Through Cyanogen and Blackmailed 'Partners'

    Microsoft's obscene double-standards leave Android and Linux between a rock and a hard place



  11. Links 26/3/2015: GNOME 3.16 Officially Released

    Links for the day



  12. Links 25/3/2015: India Moving to Free Software

    Links for the day



  13. Another Reason to Boycott UEFI: Back Doors or Crackers

    UEFI makes computers more prone to infections, according to some security experts



  14. The EPO's Administrative Council is Under Increased Pressure to Rein in and to Finally Stop Benoît Battistelli

    The EPO's Administrative Council (AC) is about to have a meeting, so the Member States' delegations are urged to call for action



  15. IRC Proceedings: February 22nd - March 21st, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  16. The Latest Microsoft Attacks on GNU/Linux and Free/Libre Software

    Microsoft is still hiding behind the façade of 'love' whilst actively attacking GNU/Linux and Free software from many directions



  17. Attempts to Disrupt Android by Pushing Microsoft Software Into It (Using Patent Blackmail and Cyanogen)

    Microsoft's Android coup d'état is succeeding owing to public apathy and poor comprehension of what Microsoft really is up to, partly due to media misdirection



  18. Links 24/3/2015: WebKitGTK+ 2.8.0, Black Lab Linux 6.5

    Links for the day



  19. Concerns Over Željko Topić's Alleged Powerful Links in Croatian Diplomacy

    Rikard Frgačić explains the powerful connections acquired though Ivan Šimonović, who is himself connected to EPO Vice-President Željko Topić



  20. Benoît Battistelli's EPO Comes Under Fire From Prominent Figures Who Are Key EPO Stakeholders, Expect Battistelli to Resign 'in the Longer Term'

    The ‘reign of terror’ which is primarily attributed to Battistelli and his cronies may be about to end; the Luxembourg parliament approves the Unified Patent Court



  21. Benoît Battistelli's EPO is Under Attack From French Politicians Yet Again

    More EPO interventions -- this time from France -- target Benoît Battistelli over his abuses and take it up to Eurocrats for political actions



  22. Bribes and Extortion Help Turn Android (Linux-powered) Into 'Microsoft Android'

    A strategy involving harassment and bribes drives large Android players into Microsoft's arms (PRISM and lock-in), much to Google's (and users') detriment and beyond regulators' range of visibility



  23. Microsoft-connected Black Duck Software Created by Microsoft Marketing Man as an Anti-GPL Operation, Admits the Management

    Black Duck "was founded [on] the idea ... to keep GPL-licensed code out of corporate codebases entirely," according to a new report



  24. Links 23/3/2015: Linux 4.0 RC5, Kubuntu Celebrates Ten Years

    Links for the day



  25. Microsoft Admits Lying (or Deceiving) About the Cost of Vista 10

    After much hype in the press about Windows being 'free' it turns out that Microsoft just lied yet again, leaving that lingering perception that Windows is as inexpensive as GNU/Linux



  26. Politics of Blackmail at the EPO

    Comments serve to highlight the role of bribes (or contrariwise blackmail), as allegedly exercised by the current management of the European Patent Office



  27. Benoît Battistelli's EPO Comes Under Attack From the British

    A British MEP criticises Battistelli and the management of the European Patent Office (EPO) while Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, UK Minister for Intellectual Property, gets closer to Battistelli in a tactless effort to improve relations



  28. The Royal Norwegian Department of Labour on the Right of European Patent Office (EPO) Workers to Strike

    The role of bureaucrats from Norway in defending (or not) the rights of EPO workers -- rights that the EPO's management is actively trying to deny and punish for



  29. Michael Silver Back to Acting as Gartner's Microsoft Agent, Promoting Vista 10 Based on False Promises

    Vista 10 in the headlines as its marketing propaganda zones in on false perceptions around cost, aided in part by longtime foes of GNU/Linux such as Gartner, especially its Microsoft-embedded elements (Michael Silver and co-workers)



  30. Despite Media Propaganda About Security, Microsoft Windows Remains the Least Secure Operating System, by Design

    Amid highly misleading security-centric reports that rely on Microsoft's bogus number of vulnerabilities (Microsoft already admitted hiding many of them) Techrights presents recent news about Windows 'security'


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