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Microsoft’s and Apple’s #1 Weapon Against Software Freedom (Including Linux) is Software Patent Monopolies

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 4:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: A concise look at what Apple and Microsoft have been doing with software patents recently

RATHER than name companies we could name behaviours or policies that impede GNU/Linux adoption. But companies which attack Linux using software patents are almost exclusively Microsoft, Apple, and Microsoft-tied entities such as Acacia.

SCO too is funded by Microsoft, but its empty allegations were copyright based and they go a long way back. It’s all nonsense and obviously anti-competitive. “Rethinking Intellectual Property” is a recommended upcoming course from Stephan Kinsella. He does make the distinction between patents and copyrights. He also explains why both laws require change. They are tools of abuse.

Here is a new piece titled “Microsoft Keen On Protecting Its Intellectual Property” and some European propaganda about Microsoft “innovation” (often a prelude to patent lobbying). It ought to be clear by now that “Microsoft Is Playing Hardball with Motorola” over Linux as part of its attack on Android. From the beginning of the month we have:

Microsoft Marshals Dealmakers, Lawyers to Take On Android


On Monday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he looks forward to collecting revenue from Android handset makers, including HTC, which has a licensing agreement with Microsoft.

It’s not just Microsoft that’s doing this. Apple too is using these disgusting tactics (patent lawsuits against Linux) and Motorola is now pushing to invalidate Apple patents. From Engadget:

The smartphone intellectual property wars are seriously heating up, as Motorola sided with HTC this week in an effort to cover its own rear. Remember those twenty patents Apple aimed at the Taiwanese OEM? Motorola says they’re no good, and is trying to get them thrown out of court — an important tactic, because if the patents do hold water and are successfully used against HTC, Apple might turn around and sue Motorola with them too. That’s because there’s more at stake here than OEM phones, but Android as a whole, and as such other manufacturers that implement Android might potentially be targets as well.

Remember some of Apple’s outrageous software patents, including the very recent so-called ‘anti-sexting’ patent (text filtering) [1, 2]. “Do you really want to teach kids not to be creative with language,” asked Pamela Jones in Groklaw. “Now they can’t type LOL, unless someone in authority puts it in a dictionary? Think there might be a creative lag? I understand the purpose, but have they thought through all the implications and perhaps unintended consequences?”

“Now they [Apple customers] can’t type LOL, unless someone in authority puts it in a dictionary?”
      –Pamela Jones, Groklaw
Apple and Microsoft are both patenting limitations, i.e. they want a monopoly on attacking people’s freedoms and basic rights. “Game console ‘rejects’ under-age players” says this new article about Microsoft and there are some other weird ideas thrown around at Microsoft, often to be patented sooner or later.

The good news is that Apple and Microsoft may gradually learn their lesson (Apple in Texas and Microsoft in Canada because of i4i for example). TechDirt asks, “Will The Supreme Court Review Patent Invalidation Standard In Microsoft vs. i4i Case?”

“Patent suit targets Apple, Microsoft, others over digital distribution” says this article from Apple Insider, so there is still some smacking going on. There is hope that patent trolling will increase so much that Apple and Microsoft too will decide to just abolish software patents [1, 2, 3, 4]. Check out the article “One Cheer for Patent Trolls”:

As the Stanford paper suggests, in the vast majority of cases the authors studied the asserted patents were in fact junk, at least as determined at trial (judge and jury may have their own biases, of course). The inventors shouldn’t have gotten anything for them, either from the defendants or from the patent troll, because the patent never should have been granted in the first place. Again, the trolls may know better than the study suggests the real value of their holdings, and may be betting that the transaction costs of litigation will encourage defendants to settle anyway.

That bet is a game of chicken, for if the defendant chooses to litigate then both sides must absorb heavy litigation costs no matter who wins—the troll bets that the defendant will simply pay them to go away.

Patent trolls may make most of their money, in other words, from arbitraging the inefficiencies and failings of the current patent system.

“But stupid patents in the first place is the issue, is it not,” Pamela Jones asked rhetorically in Groklaw. “He’s writing about a study that found that only 10% of such patents are found valid at trial. So since only 10% of these patents that trolls use end up valid, and 90% of them are not, what’s the real loss in this picture if no one will buy up these predominantly invalid patents?”

Dave Methvin writes about “Microsoft’s Two Minds on Patents” and in an alleged “Exclusive” article/report, Tom’s Hardware says that “Microsoft Patents The Search Engine”:

Microsoft has received a patent that covers a search engine platform that is based on a “bag-of-words” and “essential pages” ranking system to make searches more efficient.

Well, it does not guarantee that this will stand in court. “Microsoft seeks a patent for its Helios distributed operating system” according to another report and “Microsoft Attempts To Patent The Optimus Keyboard” claims this new report among several which led to a lot of debate because there is prior art and it’s trivial [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Are patents all that’s left in Microsoft’s vision?

Fortunately, software patents become increasingly controversial and Patently-O indicates that in the United States too these patents are on rocky grounds:

In Ex parte Venkata, App. No. 2009–007302 (BPAI, October 5, 2010), the Board held that “the claim’s body recites nothing more than software [and therefore] lacks statutory subject matter.”

Software patents are probably the #1 enemy of software freedom. Let’s end them once and for all. Companies that use Free software (IBM, Google, Red Hat, etc.) will take care of the rest because unlike Apple and Microsoft, they do not use software patents offensively. Of course it would be helpful if IBM and Google joined Red Hat’s motions against software patents, too.

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