IBM promoting legitimisation of software patents through the peer-to-patent project
It is not news that IBM is in some ways part of the problem. The former FFII president wrote a few days ago: “Would you trust a legal framework that was co-written by Microsoft said “reasonable and non-discriminatory” wrt patents?”
Presumably, Allen has to comply and finally tell us what this lawsuit is actually about. Until he does, how in the world do the accused comply with any of it? You don’t know what documents are relevant or what employees might have evidence until you know what it is you allegedly did. Maybe that’s the judge’s point, to force the issue and cut the gaming short.
What is this adherence to patenting of software? Traul Allen is not the only Microsoft troll who is attacking Microsoft rivals (including Linux players) right now. Linking to this recent report that we already responded to similarly, Pamela Jones wrote last night: “So first Microsoft funded SCO. Now it’s funding Acacia. Acacia subsidiary IP Innovation sued Red Hat and Novell for patent infringement. It lost, but it cost the companies plenty to defend. Get the picture? Here are the complete trial transcripts, so you can see how utterly ridiculous the claims were. The jury ruled nothing was infringed and the patents asserted were not valid. And now we know the rest of the story.”
Dan Bricklin, the creator of the first spreadsheet program, VisiCalc, has been mentioned in a number of articles recently concerning the issue of software patents, and he’s now speaking up about the basic question of what would have happened if he’d been able to patent VisiCalc. He’s responding to someone who suggests that the lack of a patent on VisiCalc slowed innovation by making everyone just copy VisiCalc. Bricklin responds smartly (of course) by pointing out that this wasn’t true at all. First, plenty of others tried to come up with other, completely different systems to replace spreadsheets — and none caught on.
There’s a big difference between invention and innovation — and it’s the innovation that helps the economy.
Here is another new reason not to turn to patents as a strategy:
Crosbie Fitch alerts us to the news that skiing manufacturer Armada apparently secured a patent 7,690.674 earlier this year on a “snow riding implement,” and the company has started sending out threat letters to a bunch of competitors. Now, two interesting things have happened in response. First, at least one of the companies threatened, Rossignol, has responded by pulling out one of its own patents (6,986,525 and filing a lawsuit against Armada for infringement, while also asking for declaratory judgment that it does not infringe on Armada’s patent:
Microsoft is no better than this company called Armada, but Microsoft uses proxies for some of its litigation. Unless the super-corporations that compete against Microsoft (Google, IBM, etc.) do something to end the problem at the root, there will be no imminent solution. It’s also them one needs to pressure. █
Summary: Apple’s patent aggression against rival smartphones is failing the early tests (potentially good news for Android); federal intervention helps those who support abolishment of some patents
BULLISH AND BULLYING toy makers from California have not gotten their way at the ITC (embargo/sanction appeal), which they attempted to use for blocking import of Android devices and Nokia devices. Yes, Apple may have started it. “ITC staff sides with Nokia in Apple complaint” says one article and another says that “Nokia Didn’t Violate Apple Patents” according to ITC staff. Might this also put Android in the clear (as far as the ITC goes)? This may be interesting and the patents are worth another look because the complaints are dissimilar.
Murdoch’s site has this new blog post titled “What Smartphone Makers Can Learn From the Sewing Machine Patent War” and it says:
The smartphone market is highly lucrative, has many competing players, and involves countless patents. In other words, it’s a recipe for lawsuits. In the last month alone, Microsoft lobbed a suit at Motorola, who in turn sued Apple. Nokia and HTC both have sued Apple, and Apple has sued both Nokia and HTC.
The web of competing claims on smartphone technology might seem a uniquely 21st-century problem. But according to legal scholar Adam Mossoff, the smartphone woes are reminiscent of a forgotten 19th century legal melee: the Sewing Machine War.
Mike Masnick, another critic of this whole patent mess in the smartphones arena and in general, writes about patent zeal at the USPTO, which views granting of monopoly powers simply like business as usual:
USPTO Not At All Happy About Justice Department Saying Genes Shouldn’t Be Patentable
Last week, the Justice Department surprised a ton of people by filing an amicus brief saying that isolated genes should not be patentable. The NY Times has an article quoting a bunch of outraged patent attorneys, who are worried about their own jobs more than anything else, but also has some tidbits suggesting that the Patent and Trademark Office is not at all happy either, despite the fact that they’re both part of the same administration.
For those who missed it, unlike the USPTO, the US government opposes gene patents and the Australian press is the latest among many sources to cover this:
The patenting of genes is not the highest profile political issue today, but Professor Ian Frazer, the inventor of the cervical cancer vaccine, believes there is no more important public health issue before the Parliament.
And so it was refreshing to see that at least for one evening a few weeks ago a rare bipartisanship seemed to be within our grasp.
Speaking of federal opposition to bad patents (the ITC is a quasi-judicial federal agency), NASA is still being silly about patents and Mike Masnick is the latest (amongst others [1, 2]) to say why NASA is very misguided:
A couple of years ago, we questioned why NASA was auctioning off patents that were taxpayer funded. It appears that NASA doesn’t care.Ben points us to the news that NASA is about to auction off a bunch of other patents as well, including five patents around “automated software generation.” There’s simply no reason not to put this research into the public domain where it can actually be used to benefit both commercial and non-commercial projects. By auctioning off a patent monopoly, it will almost certainly be using taxpayer-funded research to stifle innovation.
The USPTO is ruined by bureaucracy and lawyers, but there is hope that governments — not corporations and their lawyers (the head of the USPTO came from IBM) — will manage to rectify things. In the mean time, patents slow down advancement. Who benefits from it if not the rulers of the status quo? Apple is one of them, but Google, IBM and Nokia are on a similar boat (and they are not against software patents). More on that in our next post. █
Summary: The backlash from developers carries on as Microsoft loses control of them and fails to spread excitement in the Xbox universe
XBOX developers are again being betrayed by Microsoft, helping to prove that Microsoft no long cares so much about developers. As Will put it in IRC (logs will be up soon), “More Microsoft love for “Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers!”… as long as they aren’t indie…”
So just days after Microsoft threw fire or poured cold water on Silver Lie developers we now see that Xbox Live developers get bad treatment too. An article from 3 days ago says that “Microsoft has changed the way it handles indie games on Xbox Live, prompting an outcry from developers.”
“[E]very review I’ve seen about the KINect mentions the need for a lot of space in your room to use the device.” –WillMoreover, argued Will, “every review I’ve seen about the KINect mentions the need for a lot of space in your room to use the device. There’s even been a few Kinect guides for how to change your furniture around to accommodate KINect… I’ve seen some of the kinect stuff; it’s kinda ridiculous… speaking of kinect, we now have our first case of a broken TV from kinect, just like those accidents that happened with the Wii when it first released…”
And “something tells me this is as far as Microsoft will get with emulating the Wii,” MinceR added sarcastically. The full exchange can be read later today (past midnight).
For those who wonder why there is so much coverage about KINect, Microsoft is said to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars (yes, more than on Office 2010) just marketing the darn thing. It’s fake hype, just like the hype generated for KIN’s other replacement, Vista Phony 7 [sic]. The press reacts to money, not to value. More posts about KINect are listed below. █
Summary: Apple keeps developers on a leash, blocking those who are seen as a competitive threats, and the company finally gets sued again, this time over hypePhone
APPLE IS not a victim of its own success. It is possible that “success” (as in profit, assuming the profit motive defines success) gave Apple a Hubris-like status and a big ego that now spins out of control and lets Apple mistreat a lot of people. It’s this type of Hubris which nearly brought Apple to bankruptcy over a decade ago. Apple — like Microsoft — has launched patent lawsuits against Linux and it harms Java too. Apple is therefore very much relevant to us and Free Software Magazine has this new Apple cartoon and an Apple rant from Mauro Bieg. As a reminder, Apple is suing to prevent Linux-based phones from incorporating some simply ideas like multi-touch. From the conclusions of the article:
So let’s hope that at least one of the three free software platforms I have identified for post-PC touchscreen devices is going to catch up with Apple and provide a compelling user interface and platform before it’s too late and we have another Microsoft.
It had to happen eventually. Open source software is all about letting anyone have access to the source code, and Apple is all about restricting any software access on its platforms. So when questions began to be raised about whether VideoLAN’s popular VLC Media Player, which is licensed under the GPLv2, could legally be sold on the Apple’s App Store, you knew something had to give. Well, it just did.
There’s more in our daily link summaries. A lot of articles covered it and mobbyists from Apple attacked the FSF for it.
Apple’s bad behaviour (justified or driven by arrogance) has already led to a backlash against the company. Yesterday we saw someone passing around an image of Apple’s CEO as Hitler, but on the softer side there’s this new bit of humour about him and there are even lawsuits now:
We all saw this one coming a mile away: Apple is finally being taken to task over iOS 4 performance on the iPhone 3G. In a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California for San Diego, plaintiff Biana Wofford alleges that Apple purposely crippled the iPhone 3G with its introduction of iOS 4 in order to boost iPhone 4 sales, and hopes to get her lawsuit elevated to class action status.
Apple originally marketed iOS 4 as a major upgrade for iPhone 3G and 3GS users. That operating system came out just days before Apple started selling the iPhone 4 to the public, but iPhone 3G users quickly learned that it wasn’t what they had been hoping for. There were soon widespread reports of extremely slow and buggy performance of iOS 4 on the iPhone 3G, not to mention the fact that the iPhone 3G didn’t get all of the features that came with iOS 4 in the first place.
People who understand the value of freedom not only avoid Microsoft; they avoid proprietary software, including the products of Apple. █
Summary: The overpriced UNIX-like operating system from Apple cannot compete with rising stars like GNU/Linux, so Apple calls the whole thing off
IN THE SERVER ROOM, the workload counts. Where it’s all about performance, heavy and overly expensive machinery whose looks nobody would care about (it’s in the back room after all), Apple is a non-starter and indeed, the avalanche of dead Apple products may start to arrive (it began a while ago but we had not kept track). Say goodbye to Xserve:
Apple has announced it will discontinue Xserve from 31 January, saying it will “transition away” from the line of server solutions.
A document has been posted on the resources section of its site, stating it will not create a future version of the Xserve line and will stop selling it from January.
If you’re a network administrator in love with the svelte, stackable design of Apple’s Xserve line, you’d better stock up: Apple has announced that they will be discontinuing the Xserve line starting January 31st, 2011.
Microsoft, which has a stake in the privacy shredding social network Facebook, built the feature as part of what it calls “social search”. The Vole’s American users will now be able to “access their friends inside Bing as they already have inside Facebook”, said Paul Yiu, group program manager of Bing.
Ubuntu has a totally un-biased poll asking their readers “If the decision was up to you which media player would you choose as a default?”
The only choices in this pool are Banshee and Rhythmbox, and the numbers are very close (even considering the poll is being flogged by Team Apologista on Twitter) but the point I’d like to make here isn’t really about the poll itself, but about what the comments reveal.
As we pointed out some days ago, OMG!Ubuntu claims that Banshee will be in the next release of Ubuntu even though this is not certain. Sam Varghese writes about this subject as follows:
Much has been written about the fact that the next version of Ubuntu, Natty Narwhal, will switch its interface from GNOME to Canonical’s own Unity interface.
Little has been said about the plan to introduce a Mono-dependent application, Banshee, as the default music player.
This is yet to be finalised; it is dependent on the application fitting into a single CD, along with the rest of the distribution.
Mono is an attempt to reproduce some parts of Microsoft’s .NET development environment as an open source offering. It has been said more than once, and by more than one authority, that it may could well pose patent dangers to developers as it is core technology from Microsoft.
The man behind it, Miguel de Icaza, a co-founder of the GNOME desktop project and a vice-president of Novell, has been trying very hard for the last nine years to make it an acceptable alternative. Yet it has won few followers.
Last year, de Icaza admitted to having developed portions of .NET, which were not submitted to ECMA by Microsoft, as part of his open source project.
As Microsoft's Community Promise helps prove (the terms show it clearly), Mono (not ECMA-adherent) and Moonlight are patent traps. The latter has just been rendered quite obsolete, so we are unlikely to hear about it in the future. It is developed by Novell staff, just like the Mono-based Pinta for example. We have written about Pinta many times before, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] and Webupd8wrote about it some days ago. Why promote Mono applications? They do not advance the cause of GNU/Linux. █
Summary: The latest inexcusable security problems in Windows (affecting software as old as one decade) and how Microsoft pushes additional control mechanisms (restrictions) via Windows Update
“Unpatched IE bug exploited in targeted attacks,” reportsThe Register and what’s truly mystifying is that Microsoft refuses to end support of old Web browser versions, whose lifetime is partly caused by Microsoft’s misuse of web standards:
Unknown attackers have been targeting a previously unknown vulnerability in Internet Explorer to take control of machines running the Microsoft browser, security watchers warned on Wednesday.
The exploits were hosted on a page of an unidentified website that had been breached without the owner’s knowledge, according to antivirus provider Symantec, which discovered the attacks a few days ago. The perpetrators then sent emails that lured a select group of people in targeted organizations to the booby-trapped page, causing those who used IE versions 6 and 7 to be infected with a backdoor trojan.
This causes expensive havoc that everyone must pay for (not just Internet Explorer users because costs are collectively covered). SJVN has valid reasons to complain:
God help us: Internet Explorer 6 Lives On
Please, please, just let Internet Explorer 6 die. It was an awful browser even in its day, 2001. The only reason it became popular was that Microsoft got away with illegally beating Netscape into the ground. Unfortunately, many corporate developers created crude, IE 6-specific Web applications that we’re stuck with to this very day. And, now thanks to Browsium’s UniBrows, we may be stuck with for many more years to come.
UniBrows will let users run IE6 within IE8. Yes, that’s right; people will be able to keep running IE 6 for years to come.
All these security problems may also allow Microsoft to sell the ‘medicine’ and take even more control over people’s PCs (e.g. flagging which applications are “good” and “bad” and sometimes flagging controversial ones as “bad” too, as is currently the case with an application that demonstrates wireless-imposed vulnerability in large sites). In order to push this control mechanism into Windows even more rapidly Microsoft may be exploiting anti-competitive advantage, based on this new article that says “Microsoft Security Essentials now offered via Windows Update”:
We’re big fans of Microsoft Security Essentials — it’s lightweight, free, and offers malware protection that’s every bit as good as (if not better than) more recognized names like Norton and McAfee (quit giggling, DS regulars…). Today, Microsoft has begun offering Security Essentials as an optional install via Windows Update.
Based on the comments, this is not entirely new. It does not make it any more justified, though. Just as a bogus threat (alarmist calls) of “cyberwar” is used by authorities to gain power and take more control over the Internet, Microsoft may be using security problems in its own software to take greater (and remote) control over it. It’s already similar with Apple, but its customers are more willing to accept servitude, with hardly even resistance or protest.
For computing one controls, Free software is an essential ingredient. Transparency breeds trust. █