Summary: Google is playing ‘patent God’ by acquiring a monopoly on MapReduce and then pardoning those who worship its feet and don’t pose a commercial threat
IT IS PROBABLY obvious by now that among the benefactors of the patent system there are the monopolies in their respective field (the other benefactors being the patent lawyers/patent trolls).
IBM's support of software patents (even in Europe!) is a serious offence against Free software’s spirit and fundamental premise. Regarding the EPO, the president of the FFII wrote today that its position says: “a computer program is not excluded from patentability under Art52 if, when running on a computer, it causes a further technical effect” (this is the loophole companies exploit).
IBM excuses itself using a patent pool that Google joined after IBM had gotten the ball rolling. We’re talking about OIN, which only reinforces software patents (it calls for “good” software patents) rather than burying this unjust lunacy. Ruby cannot abolish software patents because it has no lobbying power like IBM’s or Microsoft’s, so the Ruby Association too has just joined OIN.
By becoming a licensee, the Ruby Association has joined the growing list of companies that recognize the importance of leveraging the Open Invention Network to further spur open source innovation.
This is probably better than nothing but it is not the solution. IBM’s so-called ‘promise’ regarding patents is not perfect either. IBM wants to have the cake (software patents) and eat it too.
Patents as ‘Charity’
Over two years ago we started to criticise IBM for its silly press releases which claim credit for ‘donating’ access to patents. IBM merely ‘gives back’ something that it took away — very much like the copyright cartel uses DRM to sell people back the “rights” they used to have. Disgusting.
IBM deserves no credit for ‘donating’ software patents; it should not apply for them in the first place and it ought to put its lobby where its mouth is; in other words, it should support Free/open source software by encouraging suitable laws.
We are saddened to see that Google is going down the same route as IBM. Here is Google ‘granting a licence’ to Hadoop:
Google has granted a license for one of its patents to the Apache Hadoop open source framework for distributed computing. Larry Rosen, the Apache Software Foundation’s (ASF) legal counsel, says that several weeks ago he contacted Google about its recently granted MapReduce process patent – patent 7,650,331 (“System and method for efficient large-scale data processing”) – for fear that it may be infringed by implementations of Hadoop or other Apache MapReduce projects.
This is also covered in [1, 2]. Google’s support of software patents is nothing new. It begs for someone to ask the question, why get this patent in the first place and then make it look like charity?
That’s what IBM does.
Google wants us to think along the lines of: “thank you so much, Google, for not suing over that monopoly you acquired on algorithms, using broken laws that could otherwise be mended.”
“It also sends out the signal that companies which vend Linux support software patents, by practice.”The main problem we have with IBM’s and Google’s attitude is that this practice gives ammunition to Microsoft’s similar tricks with its useless "Community Promise" and the likes of that. It also sends out the signal that companies which vend Linux support software patents, by practice. Later on, when Microsoft attacks Android with software patents (and by inference hurting Linux, which Android contains inside of it), the Linux defense is weakened, the obvious excuse being “hypocrisy” or whatever.
To Google’s credit, it works on creating an “open source” codec (usually meaning Free software-friendly as there are no software patents) and it helped fund Ogg for small devices. According to this press release from a few days ago, a lot of money is being spent on codecs right now, due to software patents.
Xorcom, a privately-held manufacturer of business telephony interfaces and appliances based on Asterisk open source software, and Howler Technologies, the high definition voice and video transcoding company, and providers of a wide range of cost-effective, carrier-grade transcoding solutions to the telecoms industry, announced today that they have successfully completed interoperability testing between Xorcom’s IP-PBX models and Howler Technologies’ G.729 software codec for Asterisk, known as “Howlet”.
“Howlet allows Xorcom integrators to avoid the responsibility of paying the license fee for the Open Source version of the G.729 codec (for which initial license fees are approximately $25,000 – $30,000), since Howlet is GPLv2 compliant and includes the G.729 Patent Royalty,” notes Eran Gal, CEO, Xorcom. “It supports our standard software platforms — Asterisk, Elastix and trixbox — out-of-the-box, so implementation is a breeze.”