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

04.07.10

IBM Will Never be the Same After Taking Software Patents Out of Its Holster

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, Red Hat, SLES/SLED, Ubuntu at 8:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Watch IBM Slink Away

Shy dog

Summary: IBM runs away from bad publicity after making a poor decision and sending a Free software-hostile nastygram

JUST as we predicted, IBM does the usual PR thing and backtracks when the public backlash becomes too great. It happens every time IBM obtains or applies for patents that are so trivial that they are insults to the patent system and to the intelligence of everyone around.

This post relates to a development that we covered in (chronologically sorted):

  1. Microsoft Proxy Attack on GNU/Linux Continues With TurboHercules
  2. Eye on Security: Windows Malware, Emergency Patches, and BeyondTrust’s CEO from Microsoft
  3. IBM Uses Software Patents Aggressively
  4. IBM’s Day of Shame

IBM has lost a lot of credibility, even if the provocation came from a proxy of Microsoft (several sources suspect so, based on information they cannot share).

IBM partners from Red Hat and Canonical are trying to defend IBM’s actions. Some are in denial, including Matt Asay from Canonical (not direct link because of the comments). IBM may have a promise for developers and not for companies. In any event, IBM shows its affair with software patents, which is not a good sign. The president of the FFII hypothetically quotes “Ubuntu’s Matt Asay” as saying: “TurboHercules is violating IBM’s patents, shame on it” (we ought to remind readers that Asay has been flirting a lot recently with Gartner‘s de facto software patents lobbyist [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]).

He also asks, “Ubuntu/Canonical is now pro swpat [software patents]?”

Pieter Hintjens, FFII’s former president, also replies to Matt Asay angrily by writing: “Matt, shame on you. Every single open source project, including all of mine, infringe on at least one IBM patent somewhere. IBM hold 50% of the world’s software patents. You know this. How can you defend IBM’s use of its patent portfolio (knowing as you should that IBM finagled software into patent law both in the USA and in Europe) against an open source project, indeed against any software project?

“Has Canonical’s position changed since Mark spoke at Eupaco-2 about the need for freedom for the new economy? Are you doing some deal with IBM that makes this particular monopoly of ideas OK?”
      –Pieter Hintjens
Software patents are evil, because they allow the powerful and rich to exert undue control over the small and the weak in the marketplace. Your company exists thanks to the small and the weak. IBM has never been a friend of open source, always just a “so far, so good”.

Has Canonical’s position changed since Mark spoke at Eupaco-2 about the need for freedom for the new economy? Are you doing some deal with IBM that makes this particular monopoly of ideas OK?

Shame on you, Matt, shame.”

The short answer is basically “yes”. Canonical and IBM collaborate on at least one project. As one person writes in response to Hintjens, “Are you inferring that Matt is using this Blog to help the company where he is the COO?”

Matt Aslett from the 451 Group writes: “The OIN promise actually covers open source software “Distributed with, or for use with, the Linux Kernel (or is the Linux Kernel)” and so is pretty broad. The full list, here http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/pat_linuxdefpop.html, includes MySQL and OpenOffice.org, for example (although no Hercules, so the wider point still stands).

That’s not of much use if IBM is attacking. OIN (Open Invention Network) is essentially IBM and some companies that huddle around it after they have wasted money filing for software patents and putting them in a pool (what a wasteful process!). Here is a new OIN joiner:

Open Invention Network (OIN), the company formed to enable and protect Linux, today extended the Linux ecosystem with the signing of Ooma as a licensee. By becoming a licensee, Ooma has joined the growing list of companies that recognize the importance of participating in a substantial community of Linux supporters and leveraging the Open Invention Network to further spur open source innovation.

OIN is in favour of what it calls “high-quality” software patents, based on its CEO. It’s a bit like Peer-to-Patent, which does not genuinely help the ending of software patents.

IBM obviously broke its promise and IBM is in denial.

The open-source software community is up in arms over claims that IBM has broken a promise by asserting its patents against an open-source project. IBM denies that it has done so.

This does not agree with reports [1, 2, 3] that the source of the backlash (Mueller) brags about with a summary of resultant posts and articles, such as:

Australia’s iTWire writes that IBM has broken its 2005 promise. In the discussion part below the article, a reader (Richard Chapman) gives a vivid description of the situation: “Having IBM at your side in the land of Open Source is sort of like having a large carnivore as a pet. They may play and cuddle with you but you never know if or when they will revert to their natural ways and have you for lunch.”

Here is the original. ECIS is tied to IBM, so it is making the following claims (an assertion that’s likely true, but does not excuse IBM):

Thomas Vinje, the founder of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), which ranks IBM among its members, said that “Microsoft lies behind the antitrust complaints against IBM.” Mueller can in turn be linked to Microsoft, he said, because he joined forces with Microsoft to oppose the Oracle-Sun deal, which was approved after an in-depth investigation by the Commission that ended in December. Vinje acted for Oracle in that case.

We have attempted to see what led IBM to the nasygram and the following excellent article from LWN answers many of the questions.

The problem is that systems like z/OS and z/VM are proprietary software, subject to the usual obnoxiousness. In particular, IBM’s licensing does not allow these systems to be run on anything but IBM’s hardware. So when TurboHercules tried to get IBM to license its operating system to run on Hercules-based boxes, IBM refused. TurboHercules responded by filing a complaint with the European Commission alleging antitrust violations. According to TurboHercules, IBM’s licensing restrictions amount to an illegal tying of products.

One need not agree with IBM’s position to understand it. IBM understands well the power of commoditizing its competitors’ proprietary technology – that’s what its support for Linux is all about, in the end. Emulated mainframes running on generic Linux or Windows boxes can only look like an attempt to commoditize one of IBM’s cash cows. The fact that this product requires running IBM’s proprietary software gives the company a lever with which to fight back. Whether one feels that refusing to license that software in this situation is a proper action or not, one should agree that it’s unsurprising that IBM exercised that option.

TurboHercules evidently sent IBM a letter questioning whether IBM actually owned any useful intellectual property in this area. IBM responded with a letter listing 175 patents owned or applied for, all of which are said to apply to IBM’s mainframe architectures. Two of these patents, it turns out, are on the list of patents which IBM explicitly pledged not to assert against the free software community.

This is the best explanation we’ve found so far. TurboHercules is probably being dishonest, so we have ignored their attempts to contact us (they send PR people). Even if IBM is being provoked and teased by a company that’s possibly linked to Microsoft (even before officially joining the Microsoft lobby), IBM’s response is not acceptable. It even gave Microsoft MVPs like Miguel de Icaza ammunition against IBM and Eruaran says that “Miguel De Icaza has got some nerve tweeting about IBM’s behaviour given his own activities.” Yes, he does a lot worse himself [1, 2], and knowingly so [1, 2, 3]. Check out the following new post that’s titled “Microsoft and Patents”:

Microsoft initially started this patent crusade about 3 years ago, and after the initial wave of accusations the Redmond giant seemed to slumber. All was well for a while. Sure, we all felt as though Novell, Xandros, and Linspire had sold their souls to Satan, but we didn’t really care. There were no real effects of the deals seen. Microsoft claimed that 235 patents had been violated, but to date they have yet to say who violated those patents and in what way. To me, this seems like a massive FUD campaign.

[...]

Rather recently in the Microsoft crusade against Linux, Microsoft approached Amazon. The Kindle’s embedded OS is Linux based, OH NOES! This leaves a striking pattern. As soon as you start making money with Linux software, and Microsoft doesn’t get your money they attack you in some way. Amazon also paid Microsoft some money during the patent exchange, which raises my suspicions… If this kind of treatment continues, I hope that someone will have the ire to stand against Microsoft at some point, and demand that the accusations and the specifics of the violations and violators be made public. How can anyone comply if the information isn’t made public?

Amazon is indeed paying Microsoft for GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4] and IBM cross-licenses with Microsoft. That’s why they can’t quite sue each other. As far as Novell is concerned, Microsoft has made it clear that those who are making money from OpenSUSE are at risk of being sued and Microsoft already ‘taxes’ SLED and SLED.

“As far as Novell is concerned, Microsoft has made it clear that those who are making money from OpenSUSE are at risk of being sued and Microsoft already ‘taxes’ SLED and SLED.”Responding to the post above, Penguiniator writes: “Microsoft is not looking for compliance. The Linux kernel developers have made it clear to Microsoft that they will remove any infringing code if it is pointed out to them. Microsoft cannot make money on code that does not infringe.”

Going years back, we have already pressured IBM (and sent mail to the relevant people) asking them to take advantage of In Re Bilski and put an end to software patents (the current head of the USPTO is from IBM, which wields a lot of power in the patent system). IBM bloggers deleted comments on the subject and never replied. It’s what Pieter Hintjens called the “conspiracy of silence”, topped with censorship too (deleted comments).

According to Professor Eben Moglen’s essay for a new Red Hat Web site, the Bilski case and the end of gene patents are a stepping stone towards ending software patents.

In reaching his legal conclusions, Judge Sweet relied significantly on the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has primary responsibility for interpreting the nation’s patent law, In re Bilski, 535 F.3d 943 (2008), now pending in the Supreme Court. Bilski, as readers here will know, raises issues concerning the patentability of business methods and computer software, on essentially the same basic ground: that, as the Supreme Court has said, “phenomena of nature, though just discovered, mental processes, and abstract intellectual concepts are not patentable, as they are the basic tools of scientific and technological work.” Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 67 (1972). Judge Sweet’s opinion may be said to raise the stakes on Bilski slightly, but the parts of the Federal Circuit opinion on which Judge Sweet relies are not about the “specialized machine or transformation of matter” test adopted by the Federal Circuit to distinguish patentable from unpatentable inventions involving computer software and methods of doing business. Judge Sweet followed the Federal Circuit closely in its expression of the settled law of patent scope, making it more unlikely that the Federal Circuit, which will hear the inevitable appeal from Judge Sweet’s judgment, will be inclined to disturb the conclusion.

The FFII sometimes accuses IBM of stopping short of elimination of software patents. IBM wants to remove business method patents but to keep software patents in tact. The FFII’s president also says that the “European Commission [is] trying to promote High Quality software patents with the PATQUAL study.” That’s what IBM has been trying to do with OIN. IBM is part of the problem because it not only encouraged patenting of software; here in Europe, IBM is said to be part of the movement that helps legalise software patents.

Even if IBM retracts the threat (as some sources already suggest), it cannot be trusted again. And until IBM makes it clear that it had no software patents in its agenda, IBM deserves to be seen as a fake friend of Free software. It was already called just that even months ago, primarily by other sites that seek to end software patents. Yes, to end them, not to blend with them.

“Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source. Making it easier for companies and communities that have patents to make those patents available in a common pool for people to use is one way to try to help developers deal with the threat.”

Linus Torvalds

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

A Single Comment

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    April 7, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Gravatar

    Yea, funny that it has happened, since a long time ago I asked whether to trust IBM’s patent promises over MS’s.

What Else is New


  1. Links 31/5/2016: Linux Lite 3.0, Alpine 3.4.0, Krita 3.0

    Links for the day



  2. Data Mining Company: EPO is Like Suicide

    LinkedIn, one of several giants that spy on people to determine what's on their mind and what's similar to them, has yielded the above (for EPO)



  3. Patents Roundup: When the Patent Systems Turn Against People and Adjust According to Patent Lawyers and Their Largest Clients

    A look at the Singaporean, US, and Chinese patent systems, which are all becoming more aggressive and more disconnected from public interests, in favour of large multinational corporations



  4. Microsoft's Former Chief Patent Counsel Praises Elevation of Software Patents in Microsoft Case, Adds to Cherry-Picking and Lobbying by Patent Lawyers

    Microsoft, which is renowned (or notorious) for patent extortion against Linux, is still a big contributor to software patenting policy and Shelston IP -- much like Microsoft's front groups -- pretends to speak for small businesses in an effort to spread software patents outside the US (in spite of Alice)



  5. Extremely Dodgy Dealings at the European Patent Office

    Yet another dodgy contract between Battistelli's EPO and private contractors overseas, this time in an effort to whitewash or cleanse the image of the EPO's current regime



  6. The EPO's Media Partners Like Les Echos Already Produce EPO Puff Pieces (Marketing/Stenography)

    EPO promotion disguised as reporting or journalism, as seen in the media partners of the EPO well before these partnerships even begin



  7. Unitary Microsoft: EPO Excludes People Who Are Not Microsoft Customers From UPC Participation

    The EPO just can't help providing special treatment to Microsoft, not only when it comes to patent applications but also when it comes to rejecting stakeholders/applicants who dare not become Microsoft customers



  8. Links 30/5/2016: Linux 4.7 RC1, Best Linux Distros

    Links for the day



  9. Make Nothing, Sue Everybody: The Reality of Patent Trolls Increasingly Understood by the 'Mainstream'

    New patent stories and even extensive coverage at PBS, which dedicated a whole program to these matters but failed to address the core issue, which is software patenting



  10. [ES] Advertencia: La Vigilancia de la EPO Surveillance Puede Haberse Convertido en Más Intrusiva

    BlueCoat, que la EPO usa para oprimir a sus empleados en sus premisas Europeas, acaba de ajustar más y hacerse más intrusiva y los empleados pueden estar en riesgo



  11. [ES] Tarjeta de Victima Termina en Otra Torpeza para Battistelli Seis de su Guardia Pretoriana

    Battistelli esta destruyéndo lo que queda de la reputación de la EPO (después de las décadas que le costó a ella construírla) mientras los medios continúan escrutinando su desastroso régimen



  12. [ES] La EPO esta Excelente, Dice Sitio de ‘Noticias’ Conectado a Ella

    Los caraduras de la ‘revista’ IAM, viejo aliado de la EPO, da la impresión a la gente de que en la EPO todo esta bien y dandy aunque claramente ese no es el caso



  13. New EPO Caricature: Nouveaux Garde-Vélo (New Bicycle Guards)

    A new cartoon poking fun at Battistelli's bicycles and the perceived threat these are under



  14. Battistelli's 'Special Relationship' With Portugal and the 'Inventor of the Year' Charade

    What makes Portugal rather unique when it comes to Mr. Battistelli, who is allegedly desperate for support from smaller countries whose vote is easier to 'win'



  15. Patent Lawyers' Marketing Dominates and Marginalises Meaningful Analyses of Software Patenting in the US

    In an effort to create demand for software patents again, patent lawyers produce a huge heap of so-called 'analyses' which piggyback just one single decision (the exception, not the norm)



  16. A Mix of Patent Aggression and Sanctions/Raids (Using Controversial Patents) Against East Asian Companies

    New stories that demonstrate patent protectionism and show how Western industry, which barely makes anything anymore, relies on patents (software and design patents included) and this self-serving patent regime perpetuates itself even in Asia, where almost everything is actually being manufactured (and often/increasingly designed/developed too)



  17. Rumour: Battistelli Wants to Extend the Term of Topić's EPO Appointment in Spite of Criminal Charges Against Him

    The EPO's 'ringleader', Mr. Battistelli, is trying to keep his confidants (like Mr. Minnoye and Željko Topić) together for several more years to come, even defying rules regarding retirement age



  18. Links 29/5/2016: NetBSD 7.0.1, Genode OS 16.05

    Links for the day



  19. [ES] La Gerencia de la EPO Bajo Creciénte Estres por las Autoridades Legales Croatas, Políticas Alemanas, y los Medios Italianos

    Las cosas no son color rosa como la calma relativa sugiere, y esperamos en las próximas semanas mayores eventos otros que la protesta en todas las sedes de la EPO a través de Europa



  20. [ES] Los Medios de Comunicación Comienzan a Informar al Público Europeo Acercas de las Desventájas de la UPC Mientras que la EPO Acelera su Cabildeo por Ratificación

    La vergonzósa promoción de la UPC por parte de la EPO da otro paso adelánte mientras que venues de la prensa Europea (incluso canales de televisión) comienzan a explorar el arreglo secreto que es negociado por los abogados de patentes (con clientes corpórativos) y las oficinas de patentes, no el público o cualquier grupo que represente los intereses del público en general



  21. [ES] Algunos Detalles Acerca de ¿Cómo el Presidente de la EPO Es Rumoreado Estar Comprando Votos, y el Porqué es Suficientemente Base Para un Despido Inmediato?

    Algo de información tras las cortinas y una detallada explicación de la dependencia finánciera sistemática, creada por Battistelli a un costode €13 millónes o más, la cuál evita una efectiva supervisión de Battistelli



  22. Mishi Choudhary and Mike Masnick Explain Why India Should Reject Software Patents

    Both an Indian activist-lawyer and a widely-recognised author from the US explain to Indians why over-reliance on patents -- and acceptance of patents on software in particular -- is a very bad idea



  23. Microsoft Boosters Pretend Microsoft Fights for Privacy While the Company Uses Malware Tactics to Put Keyloggers on Everyone's Computers

    In spite of malware-inspired tactics that should land Microsoft in courts of law all around the world (as a defendant), Microsoft-friendly circles pretend that the company fights for people's rights like privacy -- all this when Microsoft installs keyloggers on people's PCs without their consent and obviously against their will



  24. Battistelli's Assault on EPO Staff's Right to Strike in Relation to French Politics and That 'Bicycle' Pretext for Crackdowns

    The latest bicycle 'gossip' and how it's being used, based on expectations from EPO staff, to introduce further crackdowns on human/labour rights



  25. Vice-President of the EPO Under Investigation: Treason, Abuse, Violations, Giving and Receiving Bribes

    An English translation of documents involving the Organised Crime Section of the Criminal Police Department in Zagreb, where the Vice-President of the EPO faces criminal charges



  26. EPO Management Warns People About Scams When the EPO's Management is Itself Falling for Scams

    Jesper Kongstad, the Chairman of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation, helps demonstrate that not even the EPO is intelligent enough to spot an obvious scam



  27. Links 28/5/2016: Wine 1.9.11, New Gentoo

    Links for the day



  28. Links 27/5/2016: Android for Raspberry Pi, Google Beats Oracle in Court

    Links for the day



  29. Warning: EPO Surveillance May Have Just Gotten Even More Intrusive

    BlueCoat, which the EPO uses to enable oppression inside its European premises, has just gotten even nastier and staff may be at risk



  30. Victim Card Ends up in Another Blunder for Battistelli and His Six Bodyguards

    Battistelli is wrecking what's left of the EPO's reputation (after decades it took the Office to earn it) as the media continues to scrutinise his appalling regime


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