The office of bureaucrats and businessmen, not science and technology
Summary: The EPO is evolving into an independent monster lacking regulation and disconnected from seminal commitment to public interest
Patent offices are a funny sort of ‘organism’. They treat patents like business and the more patents (monopolies) they approve, the more money they can make. These organisations begin to justify their own existence by accentuating and emphasising their supposedly important role even when it harms the public. The USPTO offers plenty of examples of that and people sometimes die because of them (notable examples relate to drug treatment). The EPO has a blog now (who hasn’t?) and it goes on in MBA-speak about “Improving the patent system” (which means improving it for the EPO, not for the public). “EPO to go lobby physically MEPs and EU Ministers to become the institution outside the control of Parliament” is how the president of the FFII interprets this post and David Hammerstein, a former European member of parliament, writes:
Preparation for new EU framework for research and innovation in 2013. European Patent system. New financing mechanism. Remove bottlenecks
“Europe needs a new software patent directive, software patents through the backdoor,” adds the president of the FFI, who is linking to this article in French for support of his claim. The FFII’s Web site has meanwhile published a warning about the attempt to use liability burden as part of those legal instruments we see Microsoft pushing for because this marginalises Free/libre software. Our previous post was also about that blunder. To quote the press release from the FFII’s Web site:
The European Parliament wants to make software producers liable for defects. Ahead of the vote on the Consumer Rights Directive on Thursday 24 March, a political agreement amongst the groups in the European Parliament would put software and webservices providers liable for damages under the goal of providing consumer protection.
“During the software patent debate we underlined that Data processing is no field of technology”, explains FFII president Benjamin Henrion. “The physical world is different from the digital environment”. He continues: “Similar to the software patent directive, it is another piece of legislation that makes software development a much more risky business”.
Both Microsoft and Free software (their representatives at least) lobbied against that. But who is bound to suffer just financial toll and who is bound to be blown out of the market if this thing gets approved? Yes, it would be beneficial to Microsoft.
Over in Jamaica there is this report about so-called “anti-piracy software” (a concept which does not exist in the free software world) getting a software patent burden attached to it. How quaint:
Kariblink Digital, a local based web firm aims to patent software it has already developed to ‘Whiplash’ piracy by instantly shutting down illegal online rebroadcasters.
The firm currently awaits a response from the international copyright body having already paid the requisite fees.
About those “requisite fees”, guess who gets the money? The patent systems as they exist today are a disgrace because they are not obliged to actually serve the public, just themselves. The EPO takes that same sad road to irrelevance (in the public eye). █
“Staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money.
“One of the ways that the EPO has done this is by issuing software patents in defiance of the treaty that set it up.”
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“It is not the policy of the EPO to require or examine source codes […]. Moreover, given the length and complexity of source code listings, which can often stretch to hundreds of pages, it would be quite impossible to examine them.” —European Patent Office brochure
Summary: How Microsoft lobbies to change public policies such that they discriminate, intentionally, against software freedom
THE BRAND “Microsoft” may only be a scapegoat; it’s not the brand which corrupts systems, it is the highly-influential sociopaths who accommodate the corporation who view themselves as having infinite entitlement, to the point where they are allowed to bribe whoever necessary to change the laws. One self-serving law-changer is Bill Gates, who shelters himself behind a foundation which spends about $1,000,000 per day just buying the press (they call it “advocacy”). Other major lobbyists work behind the scenes and many of these activities are undisclosed.
The situation in New Zealand as far as software patenting goes is not encouraging and Daniel Reurich explains how Microsoft uses legal instruments (as mentioned yesterday) to make things worse for GNU/Linux and software freedom. It’s like barbwiring the market to protect Microsoft’s status quo, finding new ways to label the competition “illegal”. As Reurich put it (NZICT is a Microsoft-backed lobby, it's nothing to do with "NZ" interests):
Sounds to me like Microsoft is resurrecting it’s FUD campaign. Of course Chapman Tripp have in the past provided council for Microsoft in NZ and given that Microsoft used it’s power over NZICT to try and slip in a secret Supplementary Order Paper, I’d figure this is Microsofts next step.
It seems that Microsoft are franticly purchase the law that allows them to maintain their monopoly on computer systems right across the world.
In Europe Microsoft have been putting significant resources in backing the setting up of the European Patent Office.
Europe’s similarity to New Zealand in that regard is a subject we addressed before (the likes of Microsoft use “device” as a syntactic trick). Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps gloated about the EPO not being able to “distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.” That’s just what Microsoft wanted and later on it got its way with FAT patents in Europe. As part of the thread above we have:
They are never going to stop. They have a lot of money, they have a lot of influence, they have a lot of friends in very high places all over the world. It’s going to take an eternal vigilance to keep them at bay.
Microsoft is a very major player among the software patents lobby. Then we have the patent lawyers, who are desperately defending the acts of patent trolls, too (who are themselves part of the litigation pipeline that feeds lawyers). It’s all just a big pile of propaganda. Even Gates himself once admitted that “[i]f people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”
Microsoft has no qualm about lying if it helps pass laws that forbid software freedom and make Microsoft patent boosters like Nathan Myhrvold and Bill Gates a lot richer (they both accrue power and money using patents these days, including their patents on nuclear technology that they jointly lobby for). █
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Siim Kallas with George Bush
Summary: Vendor-neutral tendering processes which the Commission ought to be preaching for is not even a tenet honoured by the Commission itself; Jan Wildeboer speaks out against this unacceptable behaviour
The latest incarnation of Vista, called Vista 7, is hardly in the news anymore. There is nothing exciting about it. People could never really name any compelling reason to move from Windows XP to Vista 7. For all we know, based on very recent incidents, all that is special about Vista 7 is that it is a lot more likely to get bricked by updates (made unbootable) than Windows XP.
Earlier this week there was renewed interest in the way Europe handles software procurement. There is plenty of room for improvement and linking to Wildeboer’s blog, Robert Pogson has just said that “Switzerland [is] Owned” by Microsoft (reusing Wildeboer’s words). As a refresher:
A court has ruled that it is OK for the government to buy thousands of PCs with that other OS without public tenders preventing providers of GNU/Linux from competing. One judge disagreed but it was not enough to open the bidding process. This was a migration from XP to Vista/”7″ so it was a lot of work either way but the government did not use an open bidding process as is usual.
We wrote about this case of bad procurement in Switzerland under, e.g.:
- Microsoft Sued Over Its Corruption in Switzerland, Microsoft Debt Revisited
- Can the United Kingdom and Hungary Still be Sued for Excluding Free Software?
- 3 New Counts of Antitrust Violation by Microsoft?
- Is Microsoft Breaking the Law in Switzerland Too?
- Microsoft Uses Lobbyists to Attack Holland’s Migration to Free Software and Sort of Bribes South African Teachers Who Use Windows
- ZDNet/eWeek Ruins Peter Judge’s Good Article by Attacking Red Hat When Microsoft Does the Crime
- Week of Microsoft Government Affairs: a Look Back, a Look Ahead
- Lawsuit Against Microsoft/Switzerland Succeeds So Far, More Countries/Companies Should Follow Suit
- Latest Reports on Microsoft Bulk Deals Being Blocked in Switzerland, New Zealand
- Swiss Government and Federal Computer Weekly: Why the Hostility Towards Free Software?
- Switzerland and the UK Under Fire for Perpetual Microsoft Engagements
- Lawsuit Over Alleged Microsoft Corruption in Switzerland Escalates to Federal Court
- When Microsoft-Only/Lock-in is Defined as “Technology”
- Microsoft’s Allegedly Illegal Swiss Contracts to Take People to Court Again
- Microsoft’s Allegedly Illegal US Procurement Gets Frozen After Lawsuit
Bearing in mind the status of this case, there might still be room for reversal of Microsoft deals, so regarding this new report about Vista 7 plans in EU bodies, Wildeboer has a lot to say:
At a secret meeting last December, Commission civil servants agreed in principle to upgrade more than 36,000 desktop computers in European institutions to Windows 7 without holding a public tender. The proposed move could tie the Commission to Microsoft for the next four to five years, flying in the face of the Commission’s own advice to avoid public procurement lock-in.
Jan Wildeboer of Linux distributor Red Hat said on Wednesday that he was very disappointed in the decision. “The Commission’s supposed deal with Microsoft is not really strengthening its own message of avoiding lock-in. We are hopeful that the Commission will practice what it preaches. In the interests of a fair and free market we must have vendor-neutral tendering,” he said at an event organized by open source advocates in Brussels. Commission representatives attending the event were visibly uncomfortable, but did not comment.
The Commission should be pressured on this. This whole situation damages the Commission’s legitimacy and unless it assesses GNU/Linux in publicly-funded desktops, this sure will validate our observation that it is being derailed by lobbyists and newly-appointed cronies who serve Microsoft's interests. Maybe there will even be a lawsuit, which is possible given that the Swiss government got sued (nobody is immune to litigation). █
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Summary: Idle time is over as Internet service is up to speed and news starts rushing in
WE are gradually returning to normality as wired connectivity is up (although a few issues were encountered with it earlier today). BT will issue compensation for the problems it caused and the new connection will permit considerably higher upload speeds, which ought to help with TechBytes. I’ve also sorted out the monitors such that they are 4,000 pixels wide, all combined, just like it was in 2007-2009.
Logging of the IRC channels was done by our server administrator, Tracy, and complete logs will be published at a later point when more urgent issues subside. In the mean time, during the coming days, a little bit of old news will appear in the daily links. This may be a nuisance to those who follow other sites with GNU/Linux and Free/open source software news, but the intention here is to ensure proper coverage (at least by mention) of missed items. If a lot of today’s links digests constitute reruns or belated announcements, then be sure to check things out after the weekend (I will be away in London today and tomorrow, then catch up with the very latest).
“As promised earlier this month, greater emphasis will be put on concepts and not brands.”Our IRC channels have been thriving in recent months, especially with the return of some brilliant members. We also have a following in sites such as identi.ca and Twitter, having attempted to expand to other medium types as opposed to staying the same like “Linux Today” did (they appear to have some internal difficulties, which they will hopefully resolve because everyone needs them).
As promised earlier this month, greater emphasis will be put on concepts and not brands. There are already many brands in the Linux world, including WebOS and Android (which are decreasingly participatory, much less than Ubuntu for example). They have their own plans and their own promotion methods, so we need not help them. They don’t need the help. Instead, we should attempt to remove barriers that harm everyone (collectively), software patents for example.
Server load is very high at the moment, so it’s nice to be back. Thanks to all those who support us by active involvement, for example Eduardo Landaver who built the Spanish portal of Techrights. As we keep broadening our reach and focusing a bit more, meaning in terms of scope (departing a bit from pure politics for instance), we hope to have more impact and offer to our readers a platform in which they can make a positive difference. If you have relevant essays that you want published here, please mail them over or come to discuss this in the IRC channels. If we can sort of ‘outsource’ authorship, then we can post a lot more, leading to POV pluralism too. █
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The patent litigation system is getting rusty, must go away
Summary: Opposition to software patents appears to be on the rise and Microsoft’s lawsuits against Linux distributors (whom Microsoft just cannot compete with) contribute to this opposition; Google and Red Hat are encouraged to abolish software patents altogether, not adapt to them
“I’m trying to think of another business,where breaking the law is a necessary part of the business model,” explains this person whose article “Start-ups in the maze of software patents” sheds light on the real benefactors of the patent system:
Have you ever thought about patenting a pop up note, an online poll, a leaderboard in an online game, or a system where you open apps by clicking icons? I have some bad news for you – it’s impossible. Not because the claim is stupid, it’s just that all of those things are already patented (take a look here, here, here, or here).
And it’s all fun and factoids, until one day you find yourself in the role of a software start-up, looking down the long black tunnel of software patenting, leading from Happy Town to Reality Check Station in Breakdown City.
Alexandra Weber Morales argues that the Supreme Court should care about software patents. Really, it’s about time something is done about it. Having addressed the Bilski case, there seems to be not enough precedence to block similar patents from being granted and it’s “iculous software patents,” as Slashdot calls them, that turn into “a developer’s Nemesis”.
Things are not quite as the propaganda puts it — propaganda which typically comes from patent lawyers and lobbyists (working for large aggressors). Those who can benefit from software patents require a lot of patents, otherwise they can easily be defeated in court; everything infringes on everyone else’s monopolies and even Red Hat saw the need the get some patents, for what it claims to be defensive purposes. Sean Michael Kerner discusses a subject mostly brought up by Microsoft boosters who are openly hostile and very combative against Red Hat; he reassesses Red Hat’s relationship with software patents. We touched this subject before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], concluding that Red Hat must change its attitude.
Red Hat played a role in the patent fight in Europe back in the days. It even funded Microsoft Florian, who recently defected to clients on the other side on the face of it. To recall some of the things which happened back in the days, one blogger writes:
For years, the free software movement rallied European citizens and small and medium businesses to reject a very bad directive on patentability of ‘computer implemented inventions’ (in other words, software) that would have damaged society in the long run. We managed to coordinate a strategy between different organizations, like FFII and FSFE. The movement succeeded in building a vast coalition of supporters against the directive, across the political spectrum. We isolated European giants SAP and Nokia, left alone to support a directive that appeared to be written by US-based multinationals.
The FFII has also just responded to Microsoft’s latest attack on Linux — an attack which is of course using software patents. “We predicted years ago that Microsoft would go after Linux challengers with software patents”, the FFII’s president, Benjamin Henrion, is quoted as arguing and to quote the entire thing (from E-mail).
Patent wars on – Microsoft sues Android retailers
Berlin, May 25rd 2011 — This week Microsoft sued the retailers Barnes&Noble, Foxconn and Inventec for distributing devices using the Android platform. The Android is a Linux derivate from Google. It is the most recent lawsuit in a battle of dominance on the tablet and smartphone market.
“”We predicted years ago that Microsoft would go after Linux challengers with software patents”
–Benjamin Henrion“What a desperate sales argument to sue retailers which use a competing platform. It’s ‘Take our platform or get sued’. Patent war is on. I am inspired by products like Openmoko and Android, not libel and lawsuits.”, finds FFII vice president Rene Mages.
“We predicted years ago that Microsoft would go after Linux challengers with software patents”, explains FFII president Benjamin Henrion. “It shows how patents stifle innovation”.
The FFII has a track record of making contructive proposals for reforming the patent system to eliminate software patent threats for developers.
U.S. Patent 5,778,372 “Remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images” U.S. Patent 6,339,780 “Loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area”
U.S. Patent 5,889,522 “System provided child window controls”
U.S. Patent 6,891,551 “Selection handles in editing electronic documents”
U.S. Patent 6,957,233 “Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering
annotations for non-modifiable electronic content”
Microsoft press release
Complaint for patent infringement
Stop Software Patents in the EU petition
Permanent link to this press release:
FFII Office Berlin
Malmöer Str. 6
Fax Service: +49-721-509663769
office at ffii.org
+32-484-56 61 09 (mobile)
bhenrion at ffii.org
The FFII is a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.
Microsoft’s lawsuits are actually a sign of failure according to some people’s views:
It’s pretty clear that Microsoft, a many-time failure at mass-market tablets has decided that if they can’t beat Apple and Android at popular tablets, they’ll sue them instead. That’s my only explanation for Microsoft suing Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec over their Android e-readers.
Vista Phony 7 is still grappling with copy and paste, so Microsoft realises it simply cannot compete by making new products. More Microsoft partners are getting fed up too. Expensify’s CEO explains ‘Why We Won’t Hire .NET Developers’ and “Phone maker publicly says ‘No’ to WP7″, as we noted earlier this month.
The Consumerist says: “Microsoft says Barnes & Noble isn’t licensing the concepts that others, such as Amazon and HTC, pay Microsoft to use.” It’s just extortion. As noted here before, it’s easy to debunk Microsoft’s contention and as Tim noted before, it just shows how Microsoft really feels about “open source” and competition in general, namely:
Again I find myself making the observation that Microsoft’s future appears rather more in the courtroom than actual products on shelves. A rather sad state of affairs? Is Microsoft the dog that sits under the table in the hope that someone will take pity and throw it a scrap of food? I’ll let you decide.
Rob Pegoraro writes (about Microsoft and also Apple): “Throwing out ill-founded software patents is the solution. Until that happens, Microsoft may collect some extra royalty fees from companies like Amazon and HTC that find it easier to settle than to slug things out in court. But the company certainly won’t be earning any respect for this move.”
“Robocast Sues Apple For Infringing Its ‘Automated Browsing’ Patent,” says another headline about another patent, “which is, of course, utterly trivial,” says Glyn Moody.
Apple is on the receiving end of yet another patent infringement lawsuit. A company called Robocast alleges that Apple has willfully incorporated its patented automated browsing technology in a number of products, including iTunes, Apple TV and Front Row, without licensing their ‘invention’.
Robocast, which was founded by Damon Torres, who claims to have pioneered the use of automated web browsing in the nineties, has earlier sued Microsoft on similar grounds.
The court documents offer a fascinating read – as far as I’m concerned – so I’ve embedded them below.
In other news, from CNET, “U.S. backs I4i in patent case against Microsoft” (showing that Microsoft does not respect software patents, either, wilfully infringing some). Microsoft is trying to portray Google as some kind of firm that disrespects so-called ‘intellectual property’. Aoife White writes about Google’s latest patent-promoting move and “Google gets patent for its doodles” says another CNET headline:
And yet I still found myself sensing a momentary twitch of the single gray hair between my eyebrows when I heard that Google had been awarded a patent for its doodles.
Sometimes Google seems to be fighting against software patents, just like Red Hat. But at the same time both companies show no true commitment to such a goal, as we repeatedly showed before. Microsoft has just paid Nortel $7.5 million for IPv4 addresses, whereas Google considered buying Nortel’s patents. “Google hasn’t said what that means. But it appears to involve calling on the services of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Charles Verhoeven to help fend off the complaints,” states this new article, adding context later:
Verhoeven, who helped Google win several patent trials last year, has appeared on behalf of HTC Corp. or Motorola Inc. in four of the five Android-related suits filed at the International Trade Commission and in more than a half-dozen suits in federal court.
One of the most closely watched is Apple’s ITC claim against HTC, which is set for trial next month. Verhoeven and his firm joined the defense in August.
Neither Verhoeven nor his clients will confirm or comment on the arrangements under which he’s appeared on their behalf. “A lot of people like Charlie,” said Michelle Lee, who heads patent litigation at Google. She referred further questions to Google’s press office, which declined to comment.
Rather than concentrate on making products and hiring engineers Google is now wasting effort on lawyers and patents. Who does this benefit? But more importantly, it sometimes seems like there is internal tension between the lawyers and the engineers in companies like Red Hat and Google (the lawyers justify their existence by harbouring patents). This ought to be resolved. █
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