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Patents Roundup: The Spreading of Software Patents and Microsoft ‘Patent Tax’ on GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Red Hat, Servers at 1:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft magnitude
Map representing the scale (number) of Microsoft
patents in the US and the EU

Summary: Microsoft’s expansion of the software patents push pays off in the sense that EU-style loopholes are introduced in more places and Amazon now offers Ballnux in HPC

Florian Müller, whom we generally distrust for reasons we covered before [1, 2], correctly points out (as did we) that New Zealand still has the “device” trick in place. “There’ll be patents on devices w/ ‘embedded’ software,” he writes.

The New Zealand Herald interpreted Minister Power as saying that “[g]uidelines rather than a law change will be used to allow inventions that contain embedded software to be patented.”

In other words, the law will contain an exclusion of software patents, but the national patent office will draw up guidelines that will allow patents on inventions containing embedded software.


This is a partial win for NZICT, which is a lobby for multinationals who love software patents [1, 2, 3, 4].

The New York Times covers the case of a patent troll, which is further interpreted by the Against Monopoly Web site:

The New York Times has a good short article on the growth of patent trolls…

It then describes the basic patent troll model: “The basic idea is that an investment firm buys a pre-existing patent for, say, $2 million. It then sues perhaps a dozen companies that use technology potentially overlapping the patent. Each firm that fights may end up paying $500,000 or more to defend itself and could also face penalties. The alternative is to settle for, say, $1 million or so. If just three firms pay up to avoid a battle, the patent owner makes big money.”

Microsoft loves using or feeding patent trolls (or equivalents) that attack Linux. Microsoft also establishes a bunch of deals whereby Microsoft itself is mooching Linux for patent royalties.

“Microsoft also establishes a bunch of deals whereby Microsoft itself is mooching Linux for patent royalties.”One of the companies that agreed to do this with Microsoft is also filled with former Microsoft executives (this wasn’t the case some years ago). That would be Amazon. Amazon’s Microsoft ‘patent tax’ on Linux is a subject that we wrote a lot about in the past and based on the latest news, HPC (supercomputing) is now available with Microsoft patent tax on GNU/Linux, courtesy of Amazon [1, 2, 3]. Based on this CNET article, only GNU/Linux is available (or mentioned), but it’s Ballnux, i.e. it’s paying Microsoft.

We generally encourage people to boycott services from Amazon, which pays Microsoft for GNU/Linux, even for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The company went rogue when many of its new managers were appointed from Microsoft. Likewise, there is VMware, whose story is eerily similar. According to the news from IDG:

VMware CEO Paul Maritz, a former Microsoft Windows executive, recently argued that operating systems are having their jobs stolen by virtualization and open development frameworks.

Essentially, VMware believes that Windows and other operating systems are no longer necessary to directly manage hardware because of virtualization, and the proliferation of cloud computing is lessening the importance of the operating system’s interaction with applications. But the OS still has a long future because many applications depend upon it and are unlikely to be re-written anytime soon, Bogomil Balkansky, VMware’s vice president of product marketing, said in an interview that expands upon Maritz’s comments.

VMware helps promote Ballnux these days [1, 2, 3] and it competes against real GNU/Linux such as Red Hat. Just don’t expect Microsoft apologists like Müller to have a problem with this.

“People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.”

Steve Ballmer

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