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05.02.10

“Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can’t, Sue.” (Updated)

Posted in Apple, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 2:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve BallmerSummary: Microsoft may have actually threatened to sue HTC in order to sign a patent deal covering Android for unnamed patents

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, sue,” said Canonical’s COO Matt Asay. Further he said: “This is the clearest indication of MS’s irrelevance: it’s now the hapless litigant” (whose products are being cancelled, Courier being the latest example).

He said pretty much the same thing about Apple when it sued HTC.

Florian wrote about Microsoft software patents in Europe, alluding to the bizarre new decision regarding FAT (at the core of the TomTom lawsuit).

Last week the Federal Court of Justice of Germany upheld a Microsoft patent related to the Windows file system named File Allocation Table (FAT). As H-Online mentioned in this context, European software patent critics dread the notion that rulings such as that one could elevate the status of software patents in Europe, where different national courts have different approaches to how to interpret the European Patent Convention and its exclusion of patents on “programs for computers [as such]“.

So Microsoft has just gone after HTC. Some articles suggest that there was a settlement and therefore a possibility that Microsoft threatened to sue in order to sign a patent deal (like in Melco’s case).

Some more thoughts about the HTC settlement have come from various influential GNU/Linux users, some of whom wait for software patents to be ultimately abolished.

I believe Bilski will be decided this year and software patents may be kicked into the garbage heap where they belong.

The other day we wrote about Klausner's latest round of patent trolling (against HTC). Here is another interesting perspective about what Apple and Microsoft did to HTC (and to Android by inference).

Microsoft claims that the Linux operating system infringes 235 Microsoft patents, and Android, which is Linux-based, violates Microsoft patents, too. Microsoft has convinced HTC to pay royalties for the alleged Microsoft technology in Google’s operating system.

Why would HTC do that?

Well, Apple is suing HTC for violating 20 Apple patents covering a wide range of technologies. One theory is that with both Microsoft and Apple claiming patent infringement, HTC has to pick sides. It chose Microsoft because the company also makes a wide variety of devices that run Microsoft operating systems. Because it has an extensive relationship with Microsoft, and none with Apple, choosing to work with Microsoft solves its Apple problem. In court, apparently HTC will be able to say that it’s already licensing the technology Apple claims as its own, but from Microsoft. That would imply that Apple’s beef is really with Microsoft, not with HTC. Case closed!

Can anyone confirm that Microsoft pressured and intimidated HTC (with a lawsuit) in order to sign that latest extortion deal [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]? Microsoft tried to paint it as something signed in good faith, but it’s beginning to seem doubtful.

Update: Florian wishes to correct that last reference by saying (via E-mail):

The “interesting perspective” you quote from the Datamation article on HTC is actually legally wrong. I’ve already contacted the author of that article and here’s the information for you as well:

Every patent stands on its own. Every patent is a little monopoly. So if Apple has some patents that read on HTC’s software, HTC can’t defend itself in court by saying it has a license from Microsoft. That’s legally impossible as a defense. Not only is it very likely that Apple’s patents read on different features (touchscreen etc.) than Microsoft’s patents (there may be some overlap but it’s just impossible that two such large players would have 100% overlapping patent portfolios), but even if that unrealistic scenario of both patent portfolios covering the same functionality that HTC needs was the case, then that still wouldn’t change anything about the monopoly rights connected to each single patent. If Apple has a patent on, say, selecting a menu on a touchscreen and Microsoft has one as well, and if there aren’t differences in the details of the “methods taught”, the fact that there are two patents on the same thing doesn’t mean you get a license to one of them and don’t need the other. Instead, it would have to be sorted out whether one of those patents is prior art based on which the other (newer) patent could be invalidated. Only in that case would it be sufficient to obtain only one patent license.

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