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. Links 25/4/2017: Kali Linux 2017.1 Released, NSA Back Doors in Windows Cause Chaos

    Links for the day



  2. Astoundingly, IP Kat Has Become a Leading Source of UPC and Battistelli Propaganda

    The pro-UPC outlets, which enjoy EPO budget (i.e. stakeholders' money), are becoming mere amplifiers of Benoît Battistelli and his right-hand UPC woman Margot Fröhlinger, irrespective of actual facts



  3. EPO Fiasco to be Discussed in German Local Authority (Bavarian Parliament) Some Time Today as the Institution Continues Its Avoidable Collapse

    Conflict between management and staff -- a result of truly destructive strategies and violations of the law by Benoît Battistelli -- continues to escalate and threatens to altogether dismantle the European Patent Office (EPO)



  4. In the US and Elsewhere, Qualcomm's Software Patents Are a Significant Tax Everyone Must Pay

    The state of the mobile market when companies such as Qualcomm, which don't really produce anything, take a large piece of the revenue pie



  5. In South Asia, Old Myths to Promote Patent Maximalism, Courtesy of the Patent Microcosm

    The latest example of software patents advocacy and patent 'parades' in India, as well as something from IPOS in Singapore



  6. Links 24/4/2017: Linux 4.11 RC8, MPV 0.25

    Links for the day



  7. Why Authorities in the Netherlands Need to Strip the EPO of Immunity and Investigate Fire Safety Violations

    How intimidation and crackdown on the staff representatives at the EPO may have led to lack of awareness (and action) about lack of compliance with fire safety standards



  8. Insensitivity at the EPO’s Management – Part IX: Testament to the Fear of an Autocratic Regime

    A return to the crucial observation and a reminder of the fact that at the EPO it takes great courage to say the truth nowadays



  9. For the Fordham Echo Chamber (Patent Maximalism), Judges From the EPO Boards of Appeal Are Not Worth Entertaining

    In an event steered if not stuffed by patent radicals such as Bristows and Microsoft (abusive, serial litigators) there are no balanced panels or even reasonable discussions



  10. EPO Staff Representatives Fired Using “Disciplinary Committee That Was Improperly Composed” as Per ILO's Decision

    The Board of the Administrative Council at European Patent Organisation is being informed of the union-busting activities of Battistelli -- activities that are both illegal (as per national and international standards) and are detrimental to the Organisation



  11. Links 23/4/2017: End of arkOS, Collabora Office 5.3 Released

    Links for the day



  12. Intellectual Discovery and Microsoft Feed Patent Trolls Like Intellectual Ventures Which Then Strategically Attack Rivals

    Like a swarm of blood-sucking bats, patent trolls prey on affluent companies that derive their wealth from GNU/Linux and freedom-respecting software (Free/libre software)



  13. The European Patent Office Has Just Killed a Cat (or Skinned a 'Kat')

    The EPO’s attack on the media, including us, resulted in a stream of misinformation and puff pieces about the EPO and UPC, putting at risk not just European democracy but also corrupting the European press



  14. Yann Ménière Resorts to Buzzwords to Recklessly Promote Floods of Patents, Dooming the EPO Amid Decline in Patent Applications

    Battistelli's French Chief Economist is not much of an economist but a patent maximalist toeing the party line of Monsieur Battistelli (lots of easy grants and litigation galore, for UPC hopefuls)



  15. Even Patent Bullies Like Microsoft and Facebook Find the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Useful

    Not just companies accused of patent infringement need the PTAB but also frequent accusers with deep pockets need the PTAB, based on some new figures and new developments



  16. Links 21/4/2017: Qt Creator 4.2.2, ROSA Desktop Fresh R9

    Links for the day



  17. At the EPO, Seeding of Puff Piece in the Press/Academia Sometimes Transparent Enough to View

    The EPO‘s PR team likes to 'spam' journalists and others (for PR) and sometimes does this publicly, as the tweets below show — a desperate recruitment and reputation laundering drive



  18. Affordable and Sophisticated Mobile Devices Are Kept Away by Patent Trolls and Aggressors That Tax Everything

    The war against commoditisation of mobile computing has turned a potentially thriving market with fast innovation rates into a war zone full of patent trolls (sometimes suing at the behest of large companies that hand them patents for this purpose)



  19. In Spite of Lobbying and Endless Attempts by the Patent Microcosm, US Supreme Court Won't Consider Any Software Patent Cases Anymore (in the Foreseeable Future)

    Lobbyists of software patents, i.e. proponents of endless litigation and patent trolls, are attempting to convince the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to have another look at abstract patents and reconsider its position on cases like Alice Corp. v CLS Bank International



  20. Expect Team UPC to Remain in Deep Denial About the Unitary Patent/Unified Court (UPC) Having No Prospects

    The prevailing denial that the UPC is effectively dead, courtesy of sites and blogs whose writers stood to profit from the UPC



  21. EPO in 2017: Erroneously Grant a Lot of Patents in Bulk or Get Sacked

    Quality of patent examination is being abandoned at the EPO and those who disobey or refuse to play along are being fired (or asked to resign to avoid forced resignations which would stain their record)



  22. Links 21/4/2017: System76 Entering Phase Three, KDE Applications 17.04, Elive 2.9.0 Beta

    Links for the day



  23. Bristows-Run IP Kat Continues to Spread Lies to Promote the Unitary Patent (UPC) and Advance the EPO Management's Agenda

    An eclectic response to some of the misleading if not villainous responses to the UPC's death knell in the UK, as well as other noteworthy observations about think tanks and misinformation whose purpose is to warp the patent system so that it serves law firms, for the most part at the expense of science and technology



  24. Links 20/4/2017: Tor Browser 6.5.2, PacketFence 7.0, New Firefox and Chrome

    Links for the day



  25. Patents on Business Methods and Software Are Collapsing, But the Patent Microcosm is Working Hard to Change That

    The never-ending battle over patent law, where those who are in the business of patents push for endless patenting, is still ongoing and resistance/opposition is needed from those who actually produce things (other than litigation) or else they will be perpetually taxed by parasites



  26. IAM, the Patent Trolls' Voice, is Trying to Deny There is a Growing Trolling Problem in Europe

    IAM Media (the EPO's and trolls' mouthpiece) continues a rather disturbing pattern of propaganda dressed up as "news", promoting the agenda of parasites who drain the economy by extortion of legitimate (producing) companies



  27. The Patent Microcosm Keeps Attacking Every Patent Office/System That is Doing the Right Thing

    Patent 'radicals' and 'extremists' -- those to whom patents are needed solely for the purpose of profit from bureaucracy -- fight hard against patent quality and in the process they harm everyone, including individual customers



  28. Another Final Nail in the UPC Coffin: UK General Election

    Ratification of the UPC in the UK can drag on for several more years and never be done thereafter, throwing into uncertainty the whole UPC (EU-wide) as we know it



  29. Links 19/4/2017: DockerCon Coverage, Ubuntu Switching to Wayland

    Links for the day



  30. Links 18/4/2017: Mesa 17.0.4, FFmpeg 3.3

    Links for the day


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