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

06.15.10

Debate Rages on Regarding the Open Invention Network (OIN)

Posted in Europe, IBM, OIN, Patents, Standard at 3:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ford and Carter

Summary: Groklaw defends IBM and OIN very stubbornly (as well other initiatives that help legitimise software patents rather than immediately eradicate them), but Florian Müller from Germany disagrees with this approach

A COUPLE of days ago, Pamela Jones (PJ), the editor of Groklaw, started what we consider to be an unfair attack. PJ shoots the messenger (Florian Müller) once again in order to defend IBM/OIN (Groklaw always defends IBM, which is a software patents proponent and a monopolist for several decades). To quote the criticism:

Mueller calls OIN a scam
02:42AM June 06/13/10, 2010
Florian “Floyd” Mueller of Fosspatents has found a new windmill to tilt at — the Open Invention Network.

“There’s absolutely no evidence it has ever helped any FOSS company” he charges at his blog.

[PJ: As usual, Mueller is totally wrong. Blankenhorn says Mueller's nickname is "Floyd". It should be Florian "FUD" Mueller. OIN has helped every FOSS company by intercepting and buying up the patents Microsoft tried to shop around so that third parties could sue Linux. Where was he when that happened? Microsoft tried to auction off some patents that they claimed relate to Linux. Patent trolls could have bought them. Instead Open Invention Network (OIN) got them. And OIN also helped TomTom, who instead of paying Microsoft to use FAT, instead removed it. Here's one bit of what Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation said at the time about the case, and notice the credit given to OIN: "There is another silver lining here. We read the outcome of this case as a testament to the power of a concerted and well-coordinated effort by the Linux industry and organizations such as the Open Invention Network, the SFLC and the Linux Foundation. This was not merely a typical David vs. Goliath story. This time David aligned itself with the multiple slingshots of the Linux community. Microsoft relented as soon as TomTom showed they were aligned with that community and ready to fight. The system is working." So if Blankenhorn is thinking that Mueller is a FOSS person, he's mistaken. He's not even an Open Source person, I'd opine. If he were one, he's very much out of the loop, judging from his ignorance of the role OIN is playing. As for Blankenhorn's suggestion that Mueller should carry Richard Stallman's torch, that is laughable as well as creepy.] – Dana Blankenhorn

Dana Blankenhorn wrote about this little Groklaw controversy in a new ZDnet blog post yesterday. “He’s a character with his special sense of humor,” told us Müller, “and I try not to take things personal the way he writes them.”

Blankenhorn is not a proponent of Free software and neither is Groklaw (which spends a lot of time defending Apple, posting links about its products, and even Fog Computing sometimes). Blankenhorn ought to actually start using GNU/Linux in order to understand it. As mentioned in the comments and in here or here, “does the guy even know what he’s writing about? FreeBSD among “Linux outfits”? jeez.”

“IBM has an immense library of software patents, which give it a place at the table of every open source debate.”
      –Dana Blankenhorn
Blankenhorn responds to Groklaw’s outburst and he correctly states: “When idealists are attacked from inside their party, it’s useful to note where the criticism is coming from, and why. Groklaw, for instance, has to my knowledge never set itself in opposition to IBM in any great open source debate. They are a player in all debates, but their word is never definitive.

“IBM has an immense library of software patents, which give it a place at the table of every open source debate. Through the Open Invention Network, it has created a commons with other open source players. But it is, as Mueller notes, a closed system, a poker table where your ante is your patent portfolio.”

We asked Müller to respond for quoting. Regarding the allegations posted in Groklaw, Müller sent us the following statement which he considers fine for quoting verbatim:

My nickname is neither “Floyd” (Dana confuses me intentionally with another person: http://floydmueller.com) nor “FUD”. Of course there are issues, including in the OIN context, where I personally have fears, uncertainty and doubts, and there are reasons for it. That does not make “FUD” my agenda. Instead, my agenda with the FOSS Patents blog is to provide information that (i) helps FOSS developers, distributors and users identify, avoid and deal with patent-related problems and (ii) puts a spotlight on ulterior motives
and hypocrisy on the part of false friends of Free and Open Source Software. A long time ago I thought Groklaw shared the first goal. But by writing that IBM is free to sue the pants off TurboHercules, PJ has unfortunately shown that her agenda is different.

Throughout all those years PJ has never criticized IBM for anything other than disagreeing with that company on software patents. By contrast, on my blog and in my speeches, including recently such as at LinuxTag, I have meanwhile criticized something about every major player in the industry who has something to do with FOSS and patents. Not sparing any company is also the TechRights approach as far as I can see. But it’s not the way Groklaw operates.

I don’t claim to be a community leader. It’s Dana Blankenhorn’s journalistic freedom to portray me as a future community leader but after the article came out I told him in an email that I’m focused on patent issues and not at all aspiring to be what he thinks.

The only source PJ has for her theory of OIN having helped TomTom (although TomTom only became a non-paying licensee like dozens of others) is the Linux Foundation. Jim Zemlin is His Master’s Voice when IBM, the Linux Foundation’s largest sponsor, is involved, and IBM is a driving force behind the OIN as well.

If the OIN could solve the problem,
- why did TomTom have to agree to rewrite its software over the next two years to work around Microsoft’s patents?
- why did TomTom have to agree to pay royalties to Microsoft?
- why is Apple suing HTC?
- why is HTC paying patent royalties to Microsoft?
- why can’t the OIN use its patents to obtain legally binding statements of
non-assertion from key MPEG LA members (especially given that MPEG LA recently announced the possible creation of a WebM-related patent pool and considering that Google is an OIN licensee just like TomTom)? And one could find countless other examples that indicate that the OIN isn’t the answer.

Also, PJ asked where I was when the OIN bought up patents that Microsoft auctioned off. Under the subhead “So what is the OIN good for”, I clearly mention OIN’s patent-buying activity and provide my view on it. I’ve copied
the passage here:

The OIN continues to buy patents at auctions that might otherwise be acquired by regular trolls. At first sight, that may sound good. But given the intransparent and arbitrary structure of the OIN, it’s not clear whether that’s actually the lesser or the greater evil than a conventional troll. In the end, the OIN is under the control of those six companies who could decide to use some of those patents against competitors, including FOSS competitors. By controlling the definition of what the OIN calls the “Linux System”, they can always ensure that their competitors don’t benefit from it, even if they were or became OIN licensees.

I didn’t say the trolls should have those patents. Not at all. But on my harmfulness ranking of ways to use software patents, trolls only rank second and malicious strategic holders rank first.

I wonder why PJ thinks it’s a good idea that the OIN has completely arbitrary definition of the “Linux System” (meaning the software that is protected) in place, without any objective criteria such as “software shipped with major GNU/Linux distributions”…

Finally, I would like to stress that I have a lot of hope for the Defensive Patent License (DPL), which has not yet been published but on which several media (though not Groklaw) have reported. When the DPL is finally available, and provided that it is as good as I hope it will be, it will be interesting to see how the OIN’s backers respond to it.

Hope this helps — please let me know if there’s any aspect that’s important to you but has not yet been addressed by me.

Müller then proceeded to claiming that ECIS is hypocritical and that “there are three companies who are members of both organizations [OFE and ECIS]: IBM, Oracle, Red Hat.” In another post he noted: “On Thursday and Friday of last week, I saw hypocrisy of the worst kind: two IBM vice presidents preaching open standards values to EU decision-makers and FOSS community members instead of practicing them at their own company, which would really need that kind of lecturing.”

“On Thursday and Friday of last week, I saw hypocrisy of the worst kind: two IBM vice presidents preaching open standards values to EU decision-makers and FOSS community members instead of practicing them at their own company, which would really need that kind of lecturing.”
      –Florian Müller
Our criticism of IBM’s approach toward software patents goes about a year back (the attitude changed after FFII had helped show that IBM was lobbying for software patents). There are certain questions IBM ought to answer, but IBM is very discreet and it rarely speaks to the public about this taboo subject. It mostly speaks using press releases. Müller’s new posts also contain a word about Google’s “promise” not sue (not against Free/open source projects anyway). It’s similar to IBM’s strategy and we have criticised Google for it [1, 2]. We oppose certain behaviours, not certain brands.

Groklaw does not always stand up for software freedom. Florian Müller does not stand up for software freedom either, as his actions in Munich show quite clearly, but he did work hard to keep software patents out of Europe and for that he deserves credit. We ought to look at IBM sceptically as well as at others. We should view groups of people (companies) not just based on brands, but based on policy/behaviour. We should utilise a judgment/meter which is based on a moral compass, not a brand compass.

There might be a difference in perspective because here in Europe we generally don’t have software patents (that are formally legitimate). In the US they need to resort to civil disobedience and challenge existing laws which are lobbied for by companies like IBM which built vast portfolios of software patents with parasites like Marshall Phelps, who later did the same for Microsoft.

I personally view OIN as a temporary fix. It can be very effective sometimes [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], but it’s not a permanent solution. I know other people who have been feeling the same way for several years. The real solution is abolition of software patents. OIN is M.A.D., abolition is disarmament.

Florian Müller comes from Europe (where we don’t have software patents), so the difference in perspectives wrt Groklaw ought to make sense. Maybe it’s the geographical divide and diversity of opinions is always a good thing. Without it, no better solutions can ever be found. It’s like evolution. Techrights sidles with neither side in this argument and this post hopefully presented both sides fairly, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions.

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

4 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    June 15, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Gravatar

    It looks like OIN only feeds the patent trolls and, worse, appears to be trying to legitimize the very idea of software patents.

    There is an interesting case study of how problematic even a single patent really is and how patent trolls work:

    http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/twit.cachefly.net/floss0117.ogg

    Novell gained in the SCO case, and now the FOSS projects its workers try to infect will have to be doubly on their guard. It will be too easy for them to torpedo the through projects through tainted code or to use influence to send precious developer resources on unproductive dead ends or on Microsoft products.

    http://technocrat.net/d/2006/11/2/9945/

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Novell gained in the SCO case, and now the FOSS projects its workers try to infect will have to be doubly on their guard.

    Some FOSS projects are harmless. OpenSUSE does a lot for KDE, to give just one example. We really need to separate Massachusetts stuff like Mono/Moonlight* from the predominantly European component (inherited with the acquisition of S.u.S.E., not Ximian). I am personally hopeful that Novell will rescue OpenSUSE by spinning it off. Then, it’ll be easier to talk about the “bad Novell” and the “good [formerly] Novell”.
    ____
    * These are not even GNU/Linux projects and some are made proprietary, e.g. MonoTouch.

  2. Needs Sunlight said,

    June 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Gravatar

    The “bad Novell” is the group of staff currently working there and the “good [formerly] Novell” is the group of staff that was there back when the late Ray Noorda was still alive. One problem that arises now is that the individuals at Novell are collectively harmful yet as individuals (mostly) try to deny involvement. Some things are binary: either they are a member of the gang or they are not. The test is simple. Check the pay stub and if it is Novell and the date is significantly after November 2006, then they are “bad Novell”.

    OK. KDE, Samba, and OpenOffice are at risk from Novell operating towards Microsoft’s agenda. What other projects?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    As we wrote in the IRC channels on numerous occasions, we are very worried about OpenOffice.org. Meeks et al at Novell often seem like the circulating vulture waiting for Oracle to put the kibosh on OOo, which would then allow Novell to take over as a “community” with a foundation and Go-OO’s goals. We’ve brought up some other projects that have the same issue.

What Else is New


  1. Links 28/3/2015: FoundationDB FOSS Shut Down by Apple, European Commission Support for Free Software

    Links for the day



  2. Microsoft Keeps Pretending to be 'Open Source', Despite Relentless Assaults on Open Source

    Microsoft's charm offensives against Free/libre software are proving to be rather effective, despite them involving a gross distortion of facts and exploitation of corruptible elements in the corporate media



  3. Željko Topić and Ivan Šimonović, Two Residues of Ivo Sanader's Corrupt Regime, Seen as Indirectly Connected

    Further exploration of the remnants of Sanader's highly notorious record and those whom he had brought to power before he landed in jail



  4. Links 27/3/2015: Ubuntu 15.04 Second Beta, Dart 1.9

    Links for the day



  5. The EPO's Dutch Scandal Leaves Battistelli and His Cronies on the Run

    EPO management is making concessions and issues statements which admit defeat, allowing the staff union to continue its activities



  6. Microsoft Won't Let People Wipe (Off) Windows But Happily Wipes Android, Wipes Android Apps Through Cyanogen and Blackmailed 'Partners'

    Microsoft's obscene double-standards leave Android and Linux between a rock and a hard place



  7. Links 26/3/2015: GNOME 3.16 Officially Released

    Links for the day



  8. Links 25/3/2015: India Moving to Free Software

    Links for the day



  9. Another Reason to Boycott UEFI: Back Doors or Crackers

    UEFI makes computers more prone to infections, according to some security experts



  10. The EPO's Administrative Council is Under Increased Pressure to Rein in and to Finally Stop Benoît Battistelli

    The EPO's Administrative Council (AC) is about to have a meeting, so the Member States' delegations are urged to call for action



  11. IRC Proceedings: February 22nd - March 21st, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  12. The Latest Microsoft Attacks on GNU/Linux and Free/Libre Software

    Microsoft is still hiding behind the façade of 'love' whilst actively attacking GNU/Linux and Free software from many directions



  13. Attempts to Disrupt Android by Pushing Microsoft Software Into It (Using Patent Blackmail and Cyanogen)

    Microsoft's Android coup d'état is succeeding owing to public apathy and poor comprehension of what Microsoft really is up to, partly due to media misdirection



  14. Links 24/3/2015: WebKitGTK+ 2.8.0, Black Lab Linux 6.5

    Links for the day



  15. Concerns Over Željko Topić's Alleged Powerful Links in Croatian Diplomacy

    Rikard Frgačić explains the powerful connections acquired though Ivan Šimonović, who is himself connected to EPO Vice-President Željko Topić



  16. Benoît Battistelli's EPO Comes Under Fire From Prominent Figures Who Are Key EPO Stakeholders, Expect Battistelli to Resign 'in the Longer Term'

    The ‘reign of terror’ which is primarily attributed to Battistelli and his cronies may be about to end; the Luxembourg parliament approves the Unified Patent Court



  17. Benoît Battistelli's EPO is Under Attack From French Politicians Yet Again

    More EPO interventions -- this time from France -- target Benoît Battistelli over his abuses and take it up to Eurocrats for political actions



  18. Bribes and Extortion Help Turn Android (Linux-powered) Into 'Microsoft Android'

    A strategy involving harassment and bribes drives large Android players into Microsoft's arms (PRISM and lock-in), much to Google's (and users') detriment and beyond regulators' range of visibility



  19. Microsoft-connected Black Duck Software Created by Microsoft Marketing Man as an Anti-GPL Operation, Admits the Management

    Black Duck "was founded [on] the idea ... to keep GPL-licensed code out of corporate codebases entirely," according to a new report



  20. Links 23/3/2015: Linux 4.0 RC5, Kubuntu Celebrates Ten Years

    Links for the day



  21. Microsoft Admits Lying (or Deceiving) About the Cost of Vista 10

    After much hype in the press about Windows being 'free' it turns out that Microsoft just lied yet again, leaving that lingering perception that Windows is as inexpensive as GNU/Linux



  22. Politics of Blackmail at the EPO

    Comments serve to highlight the role of bribes (or contrariwise blackmail), as allegedly exercised by the current management of the European Patent Office



  23. Benoît Battistelli's EPO Comes Under Attack From the British

    A British MEP criticises Battistelli and the management of the European Patent Office (EPO) while Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, UK Minister for Intellectual Property, gets closer to Battistelli in a tactless effort to improve relations



  24. The Royal Norwegian Department of Labour on the Right of European Patent Office (EPO) Workers to Strike

    The role of bureaucrats from Norway in defending (or not) the rights of EPO workers -- rights that the EPO's management is actively trying to deny and punish for



  25. Michael Silver Back to Acting as Gartner's Microsoft Agent, Promoting Vista 10 Based on False Promises

    Vista 10 in the headlines as its marketing propaganda zones in on false perceptions around cost, aided in part by longtime foes of GNU/Linux such as Gartner, especially its Microsoft-embedded elements (Michael Silver and co-workers)



  26. Despite Media Propaganda About Security, Microsoft Windows Remains the Least Secure Operating System, by Design

    Amid highly misleading security-centric reports that rely on Microsoft's bogus number of vulnerabilities (Microsoft already admitted hiding many of them) Techrights presents recent news about Windows 'security'



  27. Canonical Goes to Bed With Company That Sues Linux Using Software Patents and Copyrights (Through SCO)

    Despite Microsoft's continued assault on GNU/Linux, Canonical is foolish enough to give Microsoft control over many Ubuntu instances



  28. Links 22/3/2015: GNOME 3.16 Shaping Up, LibrePlanet 2015

    Links for the day



  29. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part VI - Propaganda Wars Against Free Software Facilitated While Media Control is Secured and Abused

    How Microsoft systematically lies to the public, including decision-makers and officials who can be tricked into choosing proprietary software, thinking it is in fact "open"



  30. Microsoft Hates Linux - Part V - Dumping and Surveillance to Counter GNU/Linux Insurgence

    Microsoft makes false claims about future versions of Windows (with more surveillance) becoming 'free' in order to stop migrations to GNU/Linux


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