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Fraunhofer FOKUS and the Software Patents Lobby in Germany

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, Patents, Protocol, Red Hat, SLES/SLED, Standard at 2:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fraunhofer ISE
Photo by Joachim S. Müller

Summary: Fraunhofer continues to do a disservice to software freedom and instead does a service to Microsoft (which is among Fraunhofer’s sources of income)

Yesterday we wrote about Knut Blind from Fraunhofer FOKUS. Jan Wildeboer from Red Hat wrote his name as “Kurt Blind” and quoted him as saying that a software patent “reduces transaction costs”. This was not at all shocking to us given the similarities, intersections, and payments that go between Fraunhofer, Microsoft, and even the Gates Foundation — a subject we previously covered in:

Professor Blind (yes, that’s not a pun) has initiated this survey which led Carlo Piana to writing: “Answer en masse to the questionnaire… or it’ll be slanted twrds royalty-bearing FRAND standard policy.” Blind’s background is in finance, not software development. He is influencing the EU’s legislators, so this is important.

“Answer en masse to the questionnaire… or it’ll be slanted twrds royalty-bearing FRAND standard policy.”
      –Carlo Piana
Florian Müller is meanwhile attacking all of Microsoft’s big competitors (yes, again). He labels them a threat to software because of software patents while so conveniently leaving companies like Siemens (see previous post as well as older ones [1, 2, 3]) and of course Microsoft out. That’s just why we urge people not to trust Müller and we’ll carry on showing his bias.

Unlike Fraunhofer, S.u.S.E. was a big pusher for the end of software patents, but when Novell bought the Germany-based S.u.S.E. (with IBM’s help) it turned SUSE into Ballnux, which is all about paying Microsoft for “IP peace of mind”, meaning software patents in Linux. OpenSUSE 11.3 is here, but does anyone care? There are not even many reviews of this release (here is one). Money from companies like Novell and IBM has shattered SUSE’s views on software patents and Microsoft’s payments to Fraunhofer (Bill Gates pays Fraunhofer too) can’t help Europe, can they?

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  1. Florian Mueller said,

    July 21, 2010 at 11:16 pm


    > Florian Müller is meanwhile attacking all of Microsoft’s big competitors (yes, again). He labels them a threat to software because of software patents while so conveniently leaving companies like Siemens (see previous post as well as older ones [1, 2, 3]) and of course Microsoft out. <

    Siemens and Microsoft don't lobby the EU in the name of open source, thus can't be accused of hypocrisy in that particular context.

    I mentioned that Siemens patent ruling, I have already mentioned Microsoft in several software patent contexts and will write about them more (as I also announced in my recent posting on Mono/DotGNU), but at any rate I encourage you to make a distinction between what you call a "bias" and what I have chosen as a "focus". If the focus of an article is hypocrisy about open standards and fake representation of open source in the particular context of Monday's NY Times articles, there's nothing to be said about Microsoft in that context.

  2. Florian Mueller said,

    July 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm


    I’d like to add that you don’t accurately describe the content of the article with the following summary:

    > He labels them a threat to software because of software patents <

    It's about their actual non-openness in their core businesses vs. the openness they demand politically.

    Some of that, such as Oracle charging $90 for an ODF plugin for Microsoft Office, is unrelated to software patents. They don't have to charge that money because of patent royalties.

    OpenForum Europe's lobbying for software patents is mentioned because the author of the Open Source Definition debunked OFE as a fake representative of open source, and so did (in greater detail, actually) the FFII.

    The IBM/TurboHercules issue comes up for the reasons explained in my posting: if IBM wants royalty-free access to interoperability-related patents, it should grant such access when its own patents are concerned. Or it might advocate FRAND, which isn't nearly as good as royalty-free from my point of view but at least they'd practice what they preach. What I criticize is the inexplicable gap between saying "FRAND isn't enough" in the EU context and not even offering FRAND but simply going for a company's destruction with patents in the TurboHercules context.

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    “at least they’d practice what they preach” was incomplete: I meant to say that they could advocate *and* offer FRAND, and then they’d practice what they preach.

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