06.07.11

FSFE Head: “US Department of Justice Finally Seeing Software Patents as Threat to Competition?”

Posted in Antitrust, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 4:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nortel

Summary: In light of the Nortel patents situation, the US Department of Justice responds in a way that is similar to what it did about the CPTN/Microsoft acquisition of Novell’s patents

THE idea behind a patent (temporary monopoly) was long ago neglected and its application has been perturbed by a growing group of unethical opportunists. The comparison to nuclear weapons, however (not just a mere deterrence), is still a tad disturbing because, bar sanctions, anyone can ignore some pieces of papers claiming monopolies on mere ideas. This is why, as explained earlier, China and African should reject patents. Simply put, patents only exist to build artificial fences that keep over 90% of the world’s population in the dark. Here is a new article which uses the nuclear analogy:

Forget Google, DoJ Fears Apple Gaining Nortel’s “Stockpile Of Nuclear Weapons” — Here’s Why

Two months ago, Google disclosed that they were bidding on bankrupt Nortel’s patent portfolio. Why? They claim it’s a defensive maneuver to protect the “relatively young” company from would-be patent predators. And Google is very serious about it. They put up the $900 million “stalking-horse bid” (the initial bid) for the over 6,000 patents. Given the stakes, it should be no surprise that the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the bidding. But interestingly, it may not be Google they’re too concerned with.

We previously compared Nortel and Novell. Novell is mentioned in this new article, the context being patents:

The lawsuit filed by Mission Abstract Media over automation technology is moving forward despite the contention of some in the radio industry that automation systems already were well established in the market when the first automation patent was applied for in 1994 and issued in 1997.

[...]

“The largest hard drive we could find at the time was 2 GB. We had 10 [hard drives] in each server for 20 GB storage. We used a Novell network with SFT3 for transparent redundancy,” Paley said.

pointing to this report, Karsten Gerloff from the FSFE says that the regulators are finally watching (well, after CPTN had some intervention from the US Department of Justice). To quote what’s not behind a paywall:

The Justice Department is scrutinizing likely bidders for a trove of patents being sold by the bankrupt Canadian telecom-equipment maker Nortel Networks Corp. amid concerns the patents could be used to unfairly hobble competition, according to people familiar with the matter.

The antitrust review has enveloped some of the U.S.’s largest technology companies, including Apple Inc. and Google Inc. It’s the latest sign the Justice Department has heightened its interest in whether patents are being used to stifle competition in high-tech industries.

Carlo Piana, a lawyer, wrote: “I anticipate problems for #Apple buying #Nortel’s patent portfolio. [nudging Google] Isn’t it time to get rid of #swpats?

Microsoft Uses the Broken US Patent System to Attack Linux/Android From Multiple Sources, Wants Nokia’s Patents Too

Posted in Bill Gates, GNU/Linux, Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Patents at 3:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Roadsigns

Summary: Microsoft performs an MSDOS (Multi-Source Denial of Service) attack on Linux and on Android, using patent monopolies and patent trolls

FURTHER to the previous post, there is abundant evidence that the USPTO is broken as it fails to meet its goals. There is no such thing as a “quality” patent. A patent is a monopoly and all those applying to software impede the use of logic and mathematics. Here is another interpretation of the SCOTUS ruling, which we wrote about a few days ago (EN, ES). The Register reads that as follows:

In a case supported by HP, eBay, Red Hat, Yahoo!, and General Motors, the US Supreme Court has issued a ruling that may make it more difficult for a company to be sued for inducing another company to infringe a patent.

According to the ruling, a defendent accused of inducing patent infringement must be proven to have either known that it was infringing, or was “willfully blind” to that infringement. Actual knowledge of infringement can be proven through documentary evidence or sworn testimony.

That again does not address the main issues with the patent system — issues that even the Bilski case in SCOTUS failed to resolve. Let us look at some of the latest casualties based on this week’s news.

Twitter made it clear that it is against software patents and now it is being attacked by patent trolls again. Patent trolls are, statistically speaking, greatly dependent on software patents.

A patent troll called Kootol Software has put Twitter on alert. The ‘company’, which sports a corporate logo (and name) that is suspiciously reminiscent of Google’s, this morning said it has sent a caution notice to Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey and co to express “concerns” about possible intellectual property violations.

Quoting the original source (“Twirpy Patent Troll Threatens Twitter”), TechCrunch/AOL says:

The patent application in question (a patent number hasn’t been assigned yet) is titled “A Method and System for Communication, Advertising, Searching, Sharing and Dynamically Providing a Journal Feed.”

They are making it extremely complicated for software developers to develop in peace and it is only getting worse when people make money from the illness of this system. This incentivises keeping it broken. Jan Wildeboer, who is one of the most prominent among opposers of software patents in Europe, notes that some people built entire enterprises based on exploitation of the patent system’s loophole. He asks: “Is Myhrvolds Intellectual Ventures using patents CDO style to disrupt the market? Lodsys as example?”

He also asks: “Is Lodsys sign of new time? 1. License patents 2. Sell patent 3. New buyer tries licensing again? Patents == CDB business?”

Remember what the world's biggest troll (who came from Microsoft) said before he gave this patent to Lodsys. “Intellectual property is the next software,” he argued. Microsoft and him are in this together. Bill Gates is a close affiliate of this shakedown and Matt Asay challenges this by going back in time (back to the days when Gates denounced patents, as a small player):

Microsoft, once the ruler of the software universe, doesn’t even make Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s Gang of Four influential tech companies. It’s not that Microsoft has lost its ambition. But it may be that Microsoft’s ambition has changed, and for the worse.

Microsoft once prided itself on minting profits from licensing copies of Windows and Office. Now it seems more content with eking out $5 per unit from HTC and others it bullies over patents. That’s right: instead of selling product, it’s peddling intellectual property (IP).

We wrote about this extortion before. Not only Microsoft is extorting HTC; it seems as though Intellectual Ventures does too. Another person from Microsoft, Paul Allen of Interval the patent troll, is still attacking many parties including Android/Google for merely implementing some ideas. “People Concerned About Paul Allen’s Ridiculous Patent Claims Gets USPTO To Begin Re-Exams Of His Patents,” says TechDirt. To quote:

Last year, we covered Paul Allen’s ridiculous patent lawsuit against a ton of tech companies. He claimed that all of these companies violated four incredibly broad patents he held:

* 6,263,507: “Browser for use in navigating a body of information, with particular application to browsing information represented by audio data.”
* 6,034,652 & 6,788,314 (really the same patent, involving continuations): “Attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device”
* 6,757,682: “Alerting users to items of current interest”

Groklaw follows this case quite closely, or at least it used to. What the Microsoft people do (even those who left the company) is what Microsoft has always done, They want to tax everything sold rather than really make anything of value. They are waging legal wars and amassing patents that they lobby for, in order to increase their value.

Right now it seems like Microsoft is hunting for Nokia’s patent so that it can tax all mobile phones. Nokia is of value to Microsoft because of its software and hardware patents; we wrote so much about it that we need not repeat the evidence of this. This is a subject that we talked about in IRC the other day. Assuming Microsoft wants to ‘pull a CPTN’ on Nokia, it will be more about use of Nokia’s patents offensively and exploitation of Nokia’s brand (like Yahoo! and Novell). By sending out moles Microsoft just improves its chances of becoming the patent receiver. Watch how Microsoft put its mole in: [via F. Cassia]

Steve Ballmer was so determined to get Nokia on board with Windows Phone 7, he sent a super-extended prom-style limo to pick up Nokia’s Stephen Elop and other execs when they visited the Seattle area.

That’s one of the revelations in Businessweek’s long profile of Elop’s first six months at the company.

Microsoft is crushing Nokia as this may help Microsoft pick it up cheaply along with its patents. Considering what has happened so far, Elop did a wonderful job (for Microsoft, of which he is a top shareholder). The deal made no sense and it was signed in a rush by the two Stephens who are former colleagues. Watch Ye Booke of Elop for a funny slant. It is clear what’s going on there, but there is nothing amusing about it. Nokia represents the latest victim in the line of corpses left by Microsoft’s abusive-aggressive behaviour. Nokia was becoming a Linux company just before Microsoft put a mole inside it. “Elop” is “Pole” backwards and Microsoft put its Pole inside Nokia, to borrow Brandon’s joke. Rather than have MeeGo and LSB in Nokia, we now have another Microsoft ally out there, threatening to use its patents and promising to deliver a ‘new’ OS some time later this year (at which point Nokia will be ripe for picking by another company). The Linux Foundation’s head was very disappointed by this and it is easy to see why. Nokia was a valuable contributor to the Linux Foundation and its site has a new comic regarding software patents. It can be found here. Somehow Microsoft turned several Linux-friendly companies like Nokia, Yahoo!, and Novell into Microsoft boosters (former Microsoft partner Bartz did nothing of value except shake Ballmer’s hand, just like Elop). Some people still foolishly question what makes Microsoft so much more malicious than other companies of a similar scale. Microsoft is very, very destructive. It just doesn’t give a damn.

EPO Thinks More Patent Business (Filings) is a Good Thing, US Commerce Secretary Realises it is Not

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gary Locke official portrait

Summary: Addressing the fallacy that a rise in patent (monopoly) applications is indicative or success

SOFTWARE patents are the only mechanism that can prevent low-cost systems from gaining traction. China should reject patents for its own competitive reasons, but it is pressure to comply with some universal rules or suffer retaliation that has China ignore its own interests. It’s not a problem just for China though.

Here in Europe we have many zealous patent lawyers who are looking for new ways to make a buck (or a euro). To them, patents are not something designed to encourage publication or innovation; to them, it’s just business. The EPO is said to be giving them more business, which means that the EPO is taxing products more and more, harming consumers and developers at the same time by adding a thicket of litigation and bureaucracy. To quote a new report from Bloomberg:

Patent filings at the European Patent Office in 2010 increased 11 percent from the previous year, according to an EPO statement.

For shame. This may only indicate that the bar is being lowered or that patent taxation is increasing. This is not a measure of real innovation because, if anything, patents impede innovators.

This issue with software patents in Europe is further explored by the FFII in light of posts like this one about the newly-proposed hack that is lobbied for by foreign companies and monopolists. They want to be able to sue more companies more easily, or at least apply coercive force globally.

The EPO need not go down the same slide as the USPTO, which is already gaining great notoriety. The officials try to spin the crisis as something which it is not by promising to “increase the quality of patents.” It’s an implicit admission that the patents are of “low” quality, whatever that may mean. We’ll hopefully help show that the USPTO is broken in the next couple of posts.

Microsoft Has Internal Problems as Developers and Executives Rebel

Posted in Microsoft at 2:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Corridor sky

Summary: Microsoft’s CEO is being pressured to leave after many executives headed for the door; developers who fell for Microsoft’s promises are left hanging

AS explained earlier, the digital market grows increasingly unfit for Microsoft’s cash cows and antiquated business model. “The fear of .NET developers is that Microsoft’s Windows team now regards not only Silverlight but also .NET as a legacy technology,” explains this author who is a Microsoft booster, noting that:

There is a long discussion over on the official Silverlight forum about Microsoft’s Windows 8 demo at D9 and what was said, and not said; and another over on Channel 9, Microsoft’s video-centric community site for developers.

At D9 Microsoft showed that Windows 8 has a dual personality. In one mode it has a touch-centric user interface which is an evolved version of what is on Windows Phone 7. In another mode, just a swipe away, it is the old Windows 7, plus whatever incremental improvements Microsoft may add. Let’s call it the Tiled mode and the Classic mode.

Pretty much everything that runs on Windows today will likely still run on Windows 8, in its Classic mode. However, the Tiled mode has a new development platform based on HTML and JavaScript, exploiting the rich features of HTML 5, and the fast JavaScript engine and hardware acceleration in the latest Internet Explorer.

People who swallowed Microsoft’s medicine (or poison) and went with the Microsoft APIs are now wrecked. Ask Miguel de Icaza and his team, which was recently laid off, how it worked out for them. One of our readers summarised the above as: “Developers fear .NET along with Silverlight will be abandoned with Windows 8, Microsoft’s new vaporware. Microsoft has always jerked around the developers who depend on them most.”

If the stack is not free as in freedom, then the developers is at the mercy of shareholders’ interests in another company. It’s too risky.

But the problems run deeper than that. Thanks to some pointers from Malroy we now see yet more pressure for Microsoft’s CEO to step down or be fired. To quote:

Does Microsoft’s (MSFT) Steve Ballmer ever feel bad? It was almost a year ago that we published “Microsoft’s Future Is Hopeless With Steve Ballmer” and we felt bad about having to do it. But the truth had to be said. At the time we used terms like “ham-handed antics, head-in-the-sand-stubborn and beyond repair or reform as a technology company CEO” to describe him.

It turns out that even a “Microsoft board member refuses to back Ballmer”, not just people from the outside.

Here is some more information about that. To quote: “Steve is under attack again, but this time by someone with a bigger soapbox — namely David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital.”

Chips B. Malroy dropped some good links about it — ones that help show how Microsoft’s bad state of health is being passed to Nokia too (more on that later on).

“There are nine people on the MS board,” explains Malroy, “Gates and Ballmer both have a chair, that leaves seven others.” For the time being he is likely to stay, which is probably good for GNU/Linux because he is a terrible leader. The problem is, with him at the helm we can expect more lawsuits, extortion, and FUD. Yesterday’s brief FUD roundup was incomplete. As one of our readers immediately pointed out, there are insinuations of the GPL declining from Microsoft’s buddy Black Duck (which uses secret methods and proprietary data, some of which was picked from others who gave it for free). There is also IBM FUD which is related to alleged Microsoft proxy, Neon. Will Neon use that FUD to issue antitrust complaints against IBM?

Reader’s Thoughts: The Linux/UNIX and ARM World

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Hardware, Microsoft at 2:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Woman using a computer

Summary: Analysis of the changing face of the computers market as mobile devices grow ever more powerful

THE market is changing quickly. All those who predicted Linux “world domination” are becoming rather proud while those who discouraged them probably eat humble pie. The revolution may not be known as “Linux” because the trademarks issue means that each supplier of Linux (HP, Google, IBM, etc.) wants brand control. This is fine. What remains to be challenged right now is the subject and existence of software patents. Except for the “desktops” we now have the fast-growing market of tablets and phones, though patents are ruining this market. It is very easy to see that in the news, which we will address later.

Cringely is one among the many pundits who comment on Microsoft’s demise amid all these transitions between form factors and operating systems. He notes:

Look at the downward price erosion of Microsoft Office caused by a combination of Open Office and iWork, which is down to $30 on the iPad. How long will it be until Apple is giving iWork away to sell hardware — an option Microsoft doesn’t have? Not long. By then a bit more of Redmond’s goose will have been cooked.

Indeed. One of our longtime readers has done some analysis and surveyed the news on this matter, arriving at the conclusion that “Skipping the problems with Apple’s stance on Software Freedom for a moment, it is now worth more than Microsoft and Intel combined.[1] I hope that can change (back) to better architectures. The link Masters Tournament[2] has this quote from Mr “The Internet is just a passing fad”:

“What I can’t figure out is why he (Steve Jobs) is even trying (to be the CEO of Apple)? ” wondered Bill. “He knows he can’t win.”

“What a visionary,” adds our reader.

His links are as follows:

[1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/04/apple_passes_microsoft_and_intel_in_market_cap/
[2] http://www.cringely.com/2010/04/masters-tournament/

“An aside,” he adds, “I notice that TheReg uses the MS talking point of calling all non-MS gain ‘schadenfreude’ to spin the gain as other than gain for Apple.

“This article caused a ‘Softer to get his knickers in a twist and attack:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/04/apple_passes_microsoft_and_intel_in_market_cap/

“So I’d say, despite the DRM and other shortcomings of Apple, it’s worth pursuing a little.”

“Apple now worth more than Wintel (Microsoft and Intel combined)”

http://macdailynews.com/2011/06/03/apple-now-worth-more-than-wintel-microsoft-and-intel-combined/

“The numbers speak for themselves:

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=AAPL

vs

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=INTC

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=MSFT

“MS @ $201.59bn + Intel @ $115.21bn = $316.8bn.
“Apple =$317.6bn.

“Unfortunately, Intel also gets a piece of Apple since it (unwisely)
dropped PPC in favor of Intel Core.

“So, Apple @ 317.6bn + Intel @115.21bn = 432.81bn

“432.81bn > 316.8bn

Regarding what he mnemonically abeled the “Wintel vs Macintellintosh” battle, he concludes:

“The other way to do it is to compare the two without Intel, since it cancels out anyway. That gives an even sharper difference:

“Apple @ 313.6bn > MS @ 201.6bn

On another note, adds this reader: “PXE 5462 is probably not worth a post in and of itself. It does contain a tidbit where MS staff try to negotiate a deal with Stac to exclude IBM.

http://www.groklaw.net/pdf/iowa/www.iowaconsumercase.org/011607/5000/PX05462.pdf

As we showed last week on several occasions, Microsoft is now trying to sabotage Linux and Apple business at the hardware level, but it is not quite working and the hardware makers are snitching, complaining about Microsoft.

ES: Tim O’Reilly (EE.UU.): “Necesitamos una Seria Reforma de Patentes de Software.”

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 1:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Tim O'Reilly
Photo by Robert Scoble, former Microsoft AstroTurfer (“Evangelist”)

(ODF | PDF | English/original)

Resumen: Tim O’Reilly de la fama de O’Reilly (la casa editora) se une al ataque de lengua contra las patentes de software; Techrights lo elogia.

Tim O’Reilly ha tenido un poco de todo cuando se trata de techrights, en la que comentaba antes. Agradecemos el trabajo que hizo para traer al código abierto a la comprensión del público con los libros que su empresa publica definitivamente ayudan a la adopción de Free/Open Source (tenemos una entrevista sobre esto muy pronto). La principal cuestión que hemos tenido con O’Reilly es que es inclusivo hasta el punto que incluso intrusiones hostiles (sobre todo por parte de Microsoft) son toleradas y la financiación de Microsoft le permite tener impacto [1[http://techrights.org/2009/09/26/microsoft-and-oreilly-deal/], 2[http://techrights.org/2009/11/23/perversion-of-openness/], 3[http://techrights.org/2010/09/03/no-charlotte-no-oss/], 4[http://techrights.org/2010/10/01/self-promotional-and-outright-lobbying/]]. Otro problema con la empresa y no su persona es su reciente acuerdo con Microsoft[http://techrights.org/2010/10/17/oreilly-empowers-microsoft/] y también cierta negligencia de “apertura” a nivel de código, por no mencionar las normas. Las APIs no son realmente “apertura”, son una invitación para convertirse en dependiente de otra persona -Lock in-.

En cualquier caso, no queremos reprender a O’Reilly. Más bien, nos esforzamos por destacar las áreas donde hay espacio para el debate y con suerte un entendimiento mejor. Estamos de acuerdo con Tim en muchos de los puntos que hace, incluyendo su denuncia importante de las patentes de software en su tweet[http://twitter.com/timoreilly/status/76290114543828995], donde dice: “Yo estoy con fredwilson en que ¡Ya Basta! http://bit.ly/kfXXMV[http://techrights.org/2011/06/02/enough-is-enough_es/] Necesitamos una reforma seria sobre patentes de software. “Algunas personas que trabajan para O’Reilly, sobre todo Andy, son en realidad pro-patentes de software. Ojalá eso vaya a cambiar.

Sí, las patentes de software están siendo combatidas también por Tim (no decimos O’Reilly, ya que ello causaría confusión con la empresa/persona), que es muy influyente en los Estados Unidos. Fred Wilson si está muy satisfecho[http://www.businessinsider.com/some-stats-on-yesterdays-post-2011-6] con la atención que recibió por hablar en contra de las patentes de software el otro día:

Es evidente que este es un tema candente. Sí me pusó caliente así como algunos otros también. Eso es una buena cosa. Está claro que tenemos que hacer más para arreglar el lío de las patentes de software y la reacción al post de ayer es una señal fuerte para mí en ese frente.

Apoyamos eso ya que Techrights creció muy rápido desde que comenzó a cubrir las patentes de software en 2006. Ahora más que nunca vemos las patentes de software haciendo mucho daño[http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-02/fiserv-must-face-claim-over-patent-for-check-fraud-prevention.html] en todas partes, en las noticias, los desarrolladores de software propietarios – no sólo los desarrolladores de software libre – hablan en contra de estas[http://www.aaron.griffith.name/weblog/2011/06/01/help/]. Vamos a seguir luchando. La SCOTUS (Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos) [http://techrights.org/2011/06/03/scotus-vs-freedom-labour_es/] no puede traicionar al pueblo por mucho tiempo.

Translation produced by Eduardo Landaveri, the esteemed administrator of the Spanish portal of Techrights.

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