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07.07.10

Microsoft’s Undercover Lobbyists for Software Patents in Europe

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, IBM, Microsoft, OpenOffice, Patents at 7:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ACT Microsoft

Summary: Microsoft lobbyists from ACT are still actively pushing for software patents in Europe and Florian Müller defends Microsoft when faced with questions about its patent aggression against FOSS

The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) pretends to represent small businesses, but in details registered with European authorities the relationship with Microsoft is disclosed and a few days ago we found Mr. "letters from dead people" Zuck (ACT) lobbying for Europe to enable a loophole for software patents:

Jonathan Zuck, President of the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), said the proposal is a “crucial milestone which can revitalize the EU patent dossier”.

“Until now, language discussions have hindered the completion of this long awaited step. Political considerations on linguistic issues should not distract us from realising the full potential of innovation in Europe. Innovative small and medium size enterprises should be able to compete and fully develop their business. It is high time we eliminated unnecessary barriers and make the single patent system a reality once and for all,” he said.

He said he hoped the Belgian Presidency would deliver a deal on a single EU patent system during its six-month tenure.

Florian Müller has meanwhile been raising suspicions too. Here is what Charles (from OpenOffice.org) wrote about him yesterday:

To the credit of Florian Mueller, he’s been involved in the fight against software patents for over 10 years. He also seems to have worked for the Real Madrid Football Club before landing back in Brussels to defend the poor millionaire Monty Widenius against Oracle. Now Florian is all about IBM and claims that IBM essentially shot down the debate on software patents at the Supreme Court by addressing a “Friend of the Court Brief” in which IBM was essentially explaining the Court should not outlaw software patents right away, as these were valuable intangible assets that could badly hurt US companies. Florian Mueller has also been behind the infamous “Open Mainframe” initiative, targeted again at IBM and involving himself in an existing anti-trust case.

I disagree with Dana Blankenhorn on several points. First, Florian Mueller is by no means a leader of the Free & Open Source movement. Florian had his shot several years ago when the debate on software patents in Europe emerged and was a defining moment for the European community of digital rights and innovation proponents. It was in a sense a “rite of passage” for many. Since that time, some went their own way, some others maintained the flame and vigilance that is tested again these days. Florian was part of the former group. He went to work for the Real Madrid Football Club, and we somehow lost his track. Sometimes after the OOXML standardization odyssey, Florian took several planes to Brussels. He went to see many people, including many of my own personal friends and colleagues. His big project was to crush IBM, and Oracle, and anyone who was benefiting from software patents. Well, not exactly anyone: Microsoft was thoroughly avoided each time, sliding through the raindrops, but leaving everyone with an odd taste in the mouth. Soon enough, Florian’s campaigns, backs and forths appeared to many as they have always been since his come-back: an over-inflated bag of wind.

[...]

In this sense, Florian Mueller has been rattling his saber for almost a year now, launching “fatwas” and anathemas on selected vendors (IBM and to a lesser extent, Oracle) while refusing to address the very big elephant in the room: Microsoft. Now this is not a rant against Microsoft I’m engaging into, but truth be told, Ballmer must have a crack at watching its competitors diving into various anti-trust cases in which they’re involved. And he sure must be very grateful to Florian Mueller, although Florian’s actual impact is very much limited to his own buzz: There is a reality distortion field that seems to be on around Florian’s weblog. It does not go beyond it. Florian has no troops, no clout, no beef, no legitimacy, no credibility among the Free & Open Source Software community.

[...]

Make no mistake though: we all stand against software patents. But Florian Mueller’s tactic is strange, extremely partial, and leaves some big questions unanswered: Who does benefit from an anti-IBM campaign? Who does benefit from Oracle not merging with a dying Sun? Who does benefit if everybody thinks Google infringes your privacy?

Müller is against software patents based on his track record, but he is only picking on Microsoft competitors like IBM and Apple while mostly defending Microsoft (it’s a case of deflection). Yes, he defends Microsoft’s aggression with patents, somehow suggesting that Microsoft gives an option (the spin of choice). See the comments on this last post. It’s almost shocking. By the way, it seems like Dana Blankenhorn was pressured to remove his photo of Müller (which was replaced by a Broadway image). If one looks at people whom Müller follows in Twitter, many of them are easily-recognisable Microsoft boosters. It’s just something to think about. We are not suggesting that Müller is paid by Microsoft, but evidence does show that he a Microsoft apologist and deserves to be treated as such.

Jonathan Zuck: I represent small businesses (not!)

Florian Müller: I represent FOSS (not!)

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3 Comments

  1. Agent_Smith said,

    July 8, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Gravatar

    Florian Mueller must be the “Joe Smith” from Germany. When I searched for his name on Twitter, got tens of results, but, no one “the” No SWPATS Florian Mueller…

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The account is “FOSSPatents”.

  2. Florian Mueller said,

    July 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Gravatar

    It’s true that my name (first and last name combined) is very common in my country by now. The last name always was — the first name became popular over the last few decades.

    Anyway, it’s not difficult to find me in connection with keywords such as patents.

    As for Dana Blankenhorn’s article and the photo he removed, maybe someone claimed rights. The photo was taken at an O’Reilly conference (EuroOSCON) in Brussels a few years ago. I for my part didn’t object to its use in any way.

    I don’t think it’s a “spin” to distinguish between companies collecting patent royalties and companies aiming for the destruction or technological crippling of competitors.

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