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11.08.10

Microsoft is Stockpiling and Also Buying More Patents While Microsoft’s ‘Buddy’ Finjan Extorts McAfee With Software Patents

Posted in Microsoft, Patents, Security at 11:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Victoria and Disraeli cartoon

Summary: Microsoft’s new direction continues to include “enforcement” (as in aggression) with software patents and Finjan, which Microsoft partly owns, is just attacking companies with software patents because it’s failing as a real business

MICROSOFT is having real problems which we wrote about this morning [1, 2, 3]. The company needs to find new sources of revenue and patent racketeering [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] is just one possible source that would render Microsoft a “patent troll” if or when it gives up on Vista Phony 7 [sic] for example.

A Microsoft-sponsored site from Seattle says that Microsoft has just acquired 44 patents that could be applied in the mobile phones market (where Microsoft is said to have just around 5% market share):

Microsoft’s agreement to acquire Canesta Inc., confirmed late last week, will give the Redmond company 44 patents and about two dozen patent applications covering various ways of enhancing a computer’s senses — including gesture recognition, depth perception, and real-time camera and sensor calibration. Taken as a whole, they show how Microsoft could give users new ways of interacting with future versions of its PC and mobile operating systems.

This would enable aggression against rivals even if Microsoft quits this market (or never explores it at all). Microsoft need no longer feel ashamed of being viewed as a parasite. The company is already perceived that way among those who know better and having funded SCO, it is clear that Microsoft also feeds some other parasites. Speaking of parasites, the other day Groklaw wrote about one of Brian Proffitt’s articles: “If Oracle yearns for the title of Community Parasite, formerly held by Caldera, now SCO, they can follow this course. But how well is Oracle’s Linux doing? It’s really hard if you are used to thinking in proprietary ways to see the value in sharing, but there is value.”

“Microsoft need no longer feel ashamed of being viewed as a parasite.”Oracle is also said to be agitating HP at the moment, after Oracle hired Hurd who had been ousted by HP [1, 2, 3, 4], only to be replaced by a possible Microsoft mole, Apotheker [1, 2].

Techrights will be writing more about Oracle in the future. As long as Oracle still maintains and distributes some valuable Free software projects like OpenOffice.org and VirtualBox, however, Techrights prefers not to slam Oracle more than reasonably (what’s absolutely necessary). When it comes to patents, Oracle is a problem only when it comes to Android. The case is quite unique though and no claims are made about Linux in Android. Compare that to Apple’s and Microsoft’s patent lawsuits against Android distributors. A few days ago we wrote about the ITC taking Nokia's side over Apple's and argued that it can be good news for Android (ensuring it’s safe from embargo).

Microsoft’s own patent attack on Linux/Android/Motorola is now reaching review stages at the ITC, say several publications [1, 2, 3, 4] and an older article titled “Redmond’s Anti-Android Patent Trap” gets reposted by ECT. IDG’s Paul McNamara meanwhile blogs about “Microsoft patents ‘record button on a computer system’” (we covered it in [1, 2]) and he argues that “at least one patent expert says such muttering may be unwarranted in this case. (Unlike with Microsoft’s patent on a “butt hinge with integrally formed butt straps,” which proved to be not only funny but erroneous.)”

“The matter of fact is that some years ago Microsoft recruited the likes of Marshall Phelps to help the company mooch other companies just like IBM does.”These apologetics are expected from IDG. The matter of fact is that some years ago Microsoft recruited the likes of Marshall Phelps to help the company mooch other companies just like IBM does. Microsoft wants to make money without producing quite so many products and it even promoted Horacio Gutierrez, a leading person in Microsoft’s extortion crusades (including those against GNU/Linux). Microsoft is now employing the meta-industry not of engineers but of lawyers like this group which built a business model around patent litigation. How appalling. To Microsoft, it’s about quantity, not quality.

It is not too shocking that even Microsoft buddies like Finjan [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] (Microsoft connection to Finjan was last covered here a long time ago and it’s still a major shareholder) are resorting to just patent lawsuits, the latest of which was won by Finjan and forces McAfee to pay Finjan $13 million (for code that Finjan has absolutely nothing to do with). As Fahmida Y. Rashid put it last week, “Federal judges deny McAfee’s appeal to overturn the verdict in the patent infringement lawsuit with Finjan which would require it to pay more than $13 million in damages.”

Why is the company just suing? Well, according to Wikipedia (maybe not be accurate in this case due to lack of citations), “In 2001, the company ran into financial difficulties and Touboul [founder] was asked by the board of directors to rejoin the company as CEO. Touboul realigned the company’s strategy, moving away from developing only software solutions to combined hardware and software security appliances; additionally, the company moved to a channel sales model. But in 2005, following disagreements with the board, Touboul left again and started a new company Yoggie Security Systems.” The company was just sold last year. It probably helps show how patents are a loser’s game and everyone in this game loses, except lawyers perhaps.

There is more in Bloomberg and the official court documents.

Welcome to a world of software patents — a world where money can be made without writing a single line of code or shipping a single product. This is apparently the type of world that Microsoft and its ilk hope to thrive in. They can’t play fairly. Microsoft never could.

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

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