06.02.11

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IBM Needs to Explain Office Suite Patents (and How Bill Gates Was Attacking Interoperability With Lotus, Using Patents Against OpenOffice.org)

Posted in Bill Gates, IBM, Microsoft, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Patents at 1:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Goodfellas

Summary: A look back at how Microsoft distorted the market of office suites and a candid suggestion for IBM to open up on the real issues, not the minor details

THE “RUTHLESS” Bill Gates is nowadays buying newspapers to call himself something else and distract from his evil side, rewriting history to a sufficient extent so that people will forget his poisonous legacy that everyone suffers from, to this date. It is called reputation laundering. Today we would like to go back and show people the real Bill Gates. Later this month we hope to get a helping hand from another editor who can help show some of today’s offences from Gates (but that’ll be left aside for now as it is partly off topic).

“On another occasion Gates showed not only his hatred of standards and interoperability but also his love of patents.”So yesterday we wrote about how IBM becomes a key player in ODF. IBM and Microsoft are rivals as much as Apple and Microsoft are rivals. They actually collaborate in some areas where it is beneficial to both companies (not necessarily to the externalities). Microsoft, which is is run by sociopaths, has quite a history of copying and also breaking Lotus. We showed this using Comes vs Microsoft court exhibits. A Techrights informant has just reminded us that, in Comes vs Microsoft, “PXE 3078 has Lotus working for interoperability and MS working against it.” We covered this several years ago. Bill Gates said that giving out the Office 2000 formats to competitors seems crazy and this type of remark occurred later too. On another occasion Gates showed not only his hatred of standards and interoperability but also his love of patents. On several occasions he tried to use software patents against OpenOffice.org, even resorting to patent blackmail against Sun. A lot of publications speak of the OpenOffice.org news in the context which excepts and excludes patents (see examples at the bottom of this post). This is a mistake. To give just one example of a typical interpretation of this announcement:

Continuing what it likes to describe as its “long-standing commitment to open source,” IBM has this week confirmed that it will now take an active role in the new OpenOffice.org code base submitted to The Apache Software Foundation Incubator.

IBM and open source you say? Should that be unusual?

This does not tell the whole story. Remember what we wrote about the Apache licence some weeks ago (this led to FUD). Remember who likes this type of licence, which Microsoft proponents sometimes champion (and Microsoft now gives money to the ASF too). As we stated yesterday, too much would have been written about the news and we wish not to bore with repetition. But what we shall say is that Microsoft is vehemently opposing interoperability (the problem is at the core, including Bill Gates), so we must defend ODF, even if it means tolerating IBM. But IBM should not be treated as our friend here (nor should The Document Foundation, which has some residues from Novell). After many observations were being made in our IRC channels we have reached the conclusion which some of us accept. It is possible that IBM, which cross-licenses (software patents) with Microsoft, can now take its proprietary version of OpenOffice.org (Lotus Symphony) and further extend it legally without contributing back the changes. That’s what an Apache licence will do assuming that the passage of copyrights to Apache works as IBM hoped. This whole thing shows the dangers of copyright assignment agreements (pay attention, Canonical) and if the LGPLv3 is abandoned as Bradley from the FSF suspects [3], then it will be possible for IBM to make Symphony the only patents-’covered’ derivative of OpenOffice.org (indemnification for example). The big vendors are playing evil games to increase their own power and ODF gets wedged somewhere in the middle. IBM could have joined hands with LibreOffice and its umbrella organisation. It hasn’t done so yet. There were even snide remarks from IBM. One person who urged IBM’s most relevant Vice President in this area claimed that the latter has not approved his comment, although after some discussion and an E-mail from this vice president we learned that he was too busy (which is probably true and not an excuse/afterthought). Anyway, IBM needs to clarify two things now: 1) will it join LibreOffice? 2) Where does it stand on the subject of licensing/copyrights and patents? IBM is generally a silent company after the antitrust complications, so it has communications problems (even when it communicates it is trying to hide the communication).

References:

  1. Statement about Oracle’s move to donate OpenOffice.org assets to the Apache Foundation

    The Document Foundation would welcome the reuniting of the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects into a single community of equals in the wake of the departure of Oracle. The step Oracle has taken today was no doubt taken in good faith, but does not appear to directly achieve this goal. The Apache community, which we respect enormously, has very different expectations and norms – licensing, membership and more – to the existing OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects. We regret the missed opportunity but are committed to working with all active community members to devise the best possible future for LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org.

  2. Oracle gives OpenOffice to Apache

    IBM’s Kevin Cavanaugh, VP of Collaboration Solutions., which lobbied for Oracle to spin OpenOffice off after it became clear that Oracle wasn’t going to put much, if any, resources into OpenOffice, said in a statement, “IBM welcomes Oracle’s contribution of OpenOffice software to the Apache Software Foundation. We look forward to engaging with other community members to advance the technology beginning with our strong support of the incubation process for OpenOffice at Apache.”

  3. Ditching Copyleft to Compete with a Fork?

    I was disturbed today to read that Oracle will seek to relicense all OpenOffice code under the Apache-2.0 license and move OpenOffice into the Apache Software Foundation.

    I’ve written recently about how among the permissive licenses, my favorite is clearly the Apache License 2.0. However, I think that one should switch from a copyleft license to a permissive one only in rare circumstances and with the greatest of care.

    Obviously, in this case, I oppose Oracle’s relicense of OpenOffice.org under Apache-License-2.0. It is probably obvious why I feel that way, but I shall explain nonetheless, just in case. I’m going to mostly ignore the motives for doing so, which I think are obvious: Oracle (and IBM, who are quoted in support of this move) for their own reasons don’t like The Document Foundation fork (LibreOffice) of OpenOffice.org. This is a last-ditch effort by IBM and Oracle to thwart the progress of that fork, which has been reported as quite successful and many distributions have begun to adopt LibreOffice. (Even non-software sites sites like Metafilter have users discussing changing to LibreOffice .)

  4. Oracle proposes OpenOffice.org to Apache Incubator
  5. The issue of bringing harmony to copyright assignment

    There is an entirely different class of CAAs where you give a company full right to your code, however. Sun (and later Oracle) demanded this for contributions to OpenOffice.org. They need this to be able to incorporate the contributions into non-free versions of OpenOffice like StarOffice or IBM’s Lotus Suite. So in essence, you have to give them the right to sell non-free versions of your code or you can’t contribute. As far as I’m concerned, this is clearly not a good use of CAAs!

  6. Oracle gives OpenOffice to the Apache Foundation — should we care?

    I guess Oracle thought the same thing. They ignored OpenOffice and its contributors after buying Sun. Sure they killed OpenSolaris first. It was only a matter of time before they ankled OpenOffice.

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7 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    June 3, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Gravatar

    Interesting that Larry Ellison’s company paid big bucks for what Sun had and promptly chucked two of the more valuable items in the purchase. Is Oracle’s staff really that slow or out of it? Sure they got MySQL but they also had Solaris and OpenOffice.org. They’ll have to do some serious hiring to get OOo going again. It looks like they could split the bill with IBM on that.

  2. JohnD said,

    June 5, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Gravatar

    Try reading the blog post from the IBM guy who’s responsible for the Lotus line:
    http://www.edbrill.com/ebrill/edbrill.nsf

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’ve read it, thanks. What part specifically?

    JohnD Reply:

    Really?
    can now take its proprietary version of OpenOffice.org (Lotus Symphony) and further extend it legally without contributing back the changes.

    The new project at Apache strengthens IBM’s ability to continue to offer our own distributions of productivity tools based on the OpenOffice code base and make our own contributions to reinforce the overall community.

    We have a number of new pieces of innovation under development for future releases that could fit well in the open source version of the product. The team has been thinking hard on how to add value to the project quickly.

    I’d like to think that, if this plays out right, we could find that OpenOffice.org reaches the ubiquity of other projects like Linux, with multiple established vendors and upstarts all taking the project forward individually and collectively. Now that would be truly liberating.

    For your readers who don’t know what Symphony is: it’s a version of OO that runs within the Eclipse framework. Symphony is available to anyone at no cost.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The issue is not cost however. Years ago I had correspondence with IBM about the licensing and distribution terms. It is not what people are led to believe and IBM deserves to be challenged on it (just like Sun re: CLA).

    JohnD Reply:

    I never said cost was the issue, I merely pointed it out because you always refer to Symphony as a proprietary product which most people equate with something they have to pay for. It also raises the question If they aren’t charging for the product – what do they have to gain by loading it up with patents?
    Things change over time, initially Symphony was not a stand alone – it was integrated into the Notes product. Yes Notes is proprietary and that is probably why they have limits on what can be redestributed when it’s in that form. It’s also possible that even as stand alone there is “leftover” code that remains that can’t be freely distributed, but I don’t know for sure.
    I would also like to point out that most of the “proprietary” changes that IBM made to OO to make it work in Eclipse (because Eclipse is now the foundation for Notes) is for the UI – changes that most end users wouldn’t need or want, but I digress.
    You wanted to know what IBM’s plans were, well Ed gave a nice little summary of what his group would like to do. Given that he posted shortly after the announcement it’s understandable that he was a little thin with details. Of course I’m sure what ever they decide to do it won’t meet your criteria for “free”.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Of course I’m sure what ever they decide to do it won’t meet your criteria for “free”.

    That is not true at all.

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