04.04.11

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Software Patent Supporters Among ‘Us’

Posted in Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 11:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Black Duck, Microsoft, Hadapt, and Red Hat talk about products and/or patents which relate to them

AFTER this previous post, the pro-patents crowd (the lawyers who confront us over these issues) suggested we focus more attention on the company Walker Digital. To quote the relevant parts:

The first lot, for Automatically Captured Images contained only a set of patent applications and foreign patents, yet the bidding petered out at $7,000,000. Bidding for a lot described as a Single Use Transaction Code stopped at $3,000,000. The last two lots, for Driving Directions with Visual Cues and a Certified Audio Vault reached $6,000,000 and $4,500,000, respectively. Altogether, that’s $20.5 M in exchange for the freedom for one company each to practice and manufacture the technology described in these patents. Generally, when good technology is adopted by one company, it gets copied by others, so it’s entirely likely that substantial additional value exists, not just for these patents, but Walker Digital as a whole.

But how did the covenants end up being sent to auction in the first place? Earlier this year, Walker Digital announced the hiring of a consulting firm to help create value out of its substantial patent portfolio

Black Duck, the pretending-to-be-a-Free-software-company founded by a Microsoft manager, has bought Olliance Group, the group which organises the "Open Source Think Tank". At the same, Black Duck is now accepting money from Microsoft and its close friend, Accenture. With this, proprietary software zealots can influence the “Open Source Think Tank”, and effectively speak on behalf of their competition.

The Open Source Think Tank is the most unique invitation-only event of its kind, bringing together many of the world’s top thought leaders in a challenge to solve real world situations. The event is focused on the evolution and practical implications of open source and cloud computing.

It’s invitation-only, eh? Was Microsoft invited to an “Open Source Think” or does it get automatic admission by simply paying? This whole event is organised by a familiar entity.

Black Duck in reality promotes proprietary software covered by software patents. It is yet another firm that does not see the big picture and realise the hindrance to innovation by software patents. Like the Tea Party, these closed-minded firms play a game where the bigger players (Microsoft, Apple) have the advantage and exploit the smaller players without consequence or guilt. Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of misguided software companies with a patent strategy that is not progressively oriented around immediate abolition. “Our patent-pending Adaptive Query Execution™ capability is unlike any other offering in the market,” drones Justin Borgman, co-founder of Hadapt Inc. Next there will be a patent on using the equation “y=mx+b” with cloud (Internet) spreadsheet programs (that is, if one does not exist already).

Meanwhile, even Red Hat has not proven immune to the software patent bug. It’s legal team has produced harmful statements in a recent post; they spout praise and endorsement over the “strength” of Red Hat’s patent portfolio while still maintaining that the company is a fighter for patent reform:

The ranking of Red Hat’s patent portfolio as the 50th strongest in IT represents a jump of 16 spots from The Patent Board’s previous ranking on November 5, 2010.

[...]

At the same time, Red Hat continues to fight for software patent reform.

Red Hat has made itself open for accusations of hypocrisy. This is the last thing it needs at this point, especially in the light of the source code obfuscation controversy we discussed earlier. Red Hat needs to do what is right and stand up and firmly for its beliefs and the Free software community and software it originates from and depends upon. It can not continue to act like a “wishy-washy” politician if it seeks long-term viability.

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