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 10/12/2016: KDE neon User LTS Edition, AsteroidOS in Headlines Again

    Links for the day



  2. “Corrupt Benoît Battistelli and Željko Topić Today in Zagreb at 25th Anniversary of SIPO Croatia”

    Shortly after Željko Topić lost his court case for the third time (over allegations of corruption at SIPO), his EPO boss Benoît Battistelli joins SIPO celebrations



  3. The US Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Maintains High Pace of Patent Invalidation, in Spite of Appeals to CAFC

    The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), i.e. the court system, has become the last resort of serial litigators, as the PTAB gets in their way more and more often following AIA and Alice



  4. Good Luck to the US Supreme Court in Eliminating a Supremely Unjust Misuse of Patent Law

    In an important upcoming patent case, gross abuse of patent laws for the support of dubious business models can finally be tackled



  5. EPO Protest This Coming Wednesday Strives to Restore the Rule of Law and Freedom of Speech at the Office

    The level of autocracy at the European Patent Organisation, an institution which has effectively positioned itself above the law with Battistelli and his minions in charge of the Office, faces growing backlash from staff



  6. The EPO is Collapsing. Attacks on Journalists, Interns as Staff, Patents on Plants, and Bureaucratic Red Tape...

    A look at some of the latest issues surrounding the European Patent Office, whose insistence on denying the problems and instead attacking those who bring up legitimate concerns, will spell its doom



  7. Ignore the Bristows UPC Echo Chamber, the UPC is Not Happening

    Response to some of the latest UPC promotion, courtesy of some of the usual suspects, who stand to benefit financially if the UPC ever becomes a reality



  8. British Media Slams Battistelli for Attempting to Cover Up 2 Years of Juridical Abuses With Help From the Administrative Council of the EPO

    A growing voice of concern about the integrity of the European Patent Organisation, whose management appears to be in cahoots (overseers/regulators included) so as to cover up its own serious abuses



  9. Boards of Appeal Still Under Attack From Team Battistelli While the EPO Proceeds to Granting Patents on Carlsberg BEER!

    The lunacy of the EPO with its patent maximalism will likely go unchecked (and uncorrected) if Battistelli gets his way and turns the EPO into another SIPO (Croatian in the human rights sense and Chinese in the quality sense)



  10. Memo “Deliberately Leaked to Cover up the UPC” With Its Many Associated Issues Amid Brexit

    Some eye-opening updates about the awkward move from Lucy Neville-Rolfe, who made promises (expression of intent) she can neither fulfill nor justify to the British public



  11. Links 8/12/2016: Korora GNU/Linux 25, SparkyLinux 4.5.1

    Links for the day



  12. Links 7/12/2016: ROSA Desktop Fresh R8 Plasma 5, Ubuntu Touch OTA-14

    Links for the day



  13. The UPC Scam Part VII: A Fine Mess in the Making, as Nothing Can be Made of It Amid/After Brexit

    The final part in this multi-part series about UPC, which cannot be implemented in the UK as long as Brexit is on the agenda



  14. The UPC Scam Part VI: The Real Story Which People Missed Due to Puff Pieces Seeded by Battistelli-Bribed Media is That UPC Technically Cannot Come to the UK

    Another long installment in a multi-part series about UPC at times of post-truth Battistelli-led EPO, which pays the media to repeat the lies and pretend that the UPC is inevitable so as to compel politicians to welcome it regardless of desirability and practicability



  15. EPO Spiraling Down the Drain as Experienced Examiners and Judges Are Seemingly Being Replaced by Interns

    Implementing yet more of his terrible ideas and so-called 'reforms', Battistelli seems to be racing to the bottom of everything (patent quality, staff experience, labour rights, working conditions, access to justice etc.)



  16. A Lot of News From the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Today, With Some Important Decisions on Patents Coming Soon

    A roundup of today's outcomes from the US Supreme Court, which intends to review and decide on important patent cases



  17. In Historic Blow to Design Patents, Apple Loses to Samsung at the Supreme Court

    A $399 million judgment against Android devices from Samsung, with potential implications for other Android OEMs, is rejected by SCOTUS



  18. Good Riddance. Ray Niro is Dead.

    The infamous father of patent trolling is dead, so we need to remember his real legacy rather than rewrite his history to appease his rich relatives (enriched by destroying real companies)



  19. EPO Suicides Greater in Number Than is Widely Reported, Unjust System a Contributor to These

    The horrible regime of Benoît Battistelli has an enormous human toll (fatalities), far greater than the Office is willing to publicly acknowledge



  20. Lobbying Disguised as 'Reporting' by the Patent Microcosm, Which Wants More Patents and More Lawsuits (Lawyers Needed)

    A rebuttal to some new articles about patents, especially those that strive to increase patent-related activities (usually for personal gain)



  21. USPTO Echo Chamber That Lacks Actual Software Professionals Deciding on Patentability of Software

    A look at yesterday's "Roundtable on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility," which lacked involvement from those actually affected by patents rather than those who sell, trade, and exploit these



  22. More Examples of Microsoft and Its Patent Trolls Taxing Linux, Even After Microsoft 'Joined' (Paid) the Linux Foundation

    A quick look at the past week's news and clues about Microsoft's (and its broad army of patent trolls) strategy for taxing Linux, or imposing bundling at zero cost (to Microsoft)



  23. Heiko Maas, the SPD “Cash for Access” Affair, and Suspicions of Unwarranted Censorship at IP Kat (Again)

    Unsayable views or just a glitch? Readers of IP Kat express concern about a culture of censorship at IP Kat



  24. Endgame for Battistelli at the European Patent Office (EPO)

    Battistelli turns bad into worse by spitting on the very notion of accepting justice (from the highest court in The Hague or even the UN in this case)



  25. Les Échos Chamber: Having Corrupted the Media (With EPO Money), Battistelli Now Uses It for More UPC Propaganda

    The lies about the Unitary Patent are now being broadcast (Battistelli given the platform) by the publication that Battistelli pays



  26. Rumour: EPO in Berlin the Next Casualty of Battistelli's 'Reform' (Organisational Suicide Plan)

    Months after we learned that a former staff representative in Berlin had been dismissed we come across an anonymous claim that Berlin's 'branch' of the EPO will be folded onto Munich's



  27. Caricature: the Maas App

    The failure of Maas to even bother with regulation of Battistelli (among others) earns him this cartoon



  28. Links 5/12/2016: Linux 4.9 RC 8, DeepMind as FOSS

    Links for the day



  29. Leaked: Battistelli Acknowledges Bunk 'Justice' in About 100 Cases at the Internal Appeals Committee of the EPO

    A look at Battistelli's response to the latest from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), exceptionally delivering two decisions at the very end of last month



  30. The UPC Scam Part V: Unitary Patent Regime a Fantasy of Patent Trolls

    "Good for trolls" is a good way to sum up the Unitary Patent, which would give litigators plenty of business (defendants and plaintiffs, plus commissions on high claims of damages) if it ever became a reality


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