Summary: A look at some of the latest lobbying against “Linux” and “FOSS” in light of the news and bogus ‘advice’ from pretenders
Microsoft’s FUD tactics have evolved. No longer must we see lies perpetuated about the capabilities of GNU/Linux (or that it’s like “communism”). The new FUD tactics paint Linux and Android as disrespectful of the law (so-called ‘IP’) and “not free”. The monopolist has been hiring lobbyists accordingly and we named some of these before. Few of them must disclose their funding sources in order to comply with the law (disclosure weakens them).
Any pundit or other entity which promotes Microsoft’s party line on patents can be seen as endorsing the blackmail Microsoft has been engaging in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]; it’s bad for PR and for one’s karma. Justifying what Microsoft does with patents is extremely hard, so such pundits often turn to daemonising Microsoft’s competitors. A few years ago we referred to this tactic as the “equally evil” troll, where basically one ‘defends’ what Microsoft has been doing by saying that a competitor like IBM, Google, or Apple is just as “evil” for some specified reason (which usually does not compute).
Last year a lobbyist came out of the woodwork promoting a company now partly owned by Microsoft. He got some special access to documents with which he daemonised IBM. He is happy enough to accuse companies that are not patent trolls of being "trolls" while leaving parts of the Microsoft cartel — Intellectual Ventures (IV) included — unaddressed. He not calling IV a troll, even though it is the world’s biggest patent troll. The name of this lobbyist — you’ve guessed it — is Florian.
At Groklaw, Pamela Jones asks, “where can you go where you will be safe from patent trolls?”
She wrote this in relation to Microsoft and patent trolls when she added: “Plus the problem is bigger than patent trolls. Remember when Microsoft tried to sell patents to use against Linux to patent trolls? So proxy patent trolls are a much bigger problem than just patent trolls. Remember where Lodsys got its patents from and the picture gets clearer. There is a disturbed ecosystem here, and the problem is that software patents should never have been introduced into the environment. Now they are overwhelming everything. The only true solution is for software and patents to get a divorce. And the only entity that can accomplish that is Congress.”
This was written in relation to a patent from IV being used against iPhone and Android developers (but no Windows developers). We also wrote about the origin of this patent in [1, 2, 3]. The only good thing about patents is that no matter how much they are passed around, the names on them do not change; neither does the changelog, to speak, or the change of ‘ownership’ (however bizarre the notion of ‘selling’ ideas may sound). So, it’s not too hard to show Microsoft in the details.
“Remember when Microsoft tried to sell patents to use against Linux to patent trolls? So proxy patent trolls are a much bigger problem than just patent trolls. Remember where Lodsys got its patents from and the picture gets clearer.”
–Pamela Jones, GroklawBased on this item, “Lodsys LLC is a Marshall, Texas-based subsidiary of Lodsys Holdings LLC, a Delaware LLC. Some have speculated that the ownership trail leads to Intellectual Ventures” (yes, not news by now, not to mention that IV uses many other shells according to other reports, at least a thousand shells according to one source).
“Leverage If You Are Threatened with Patent Infringement (and why you should ignore FOSSpatents)” says the headline of a post about Microsoft Florian and the misdirection he gives to those sued by Lodsys; basically he instructs them to surrender and he neglects to tell them what IV really is and where it leads back to (Microsoft and Bill Gates, the patents maximalist who lobbies for patents even on poor people's basic food ingredients, for his own profit). Semi-truths and ill advice is what Florian is all about. As the blog post states, “Lodsys probably LOVES Florian’s analysis and opinions. (I have no connection or contact with anyone at Lodsys, Apple, and no longer any contact with Florian). He seems to be making all the arguments that support the troll’s business plan – you can’t afford to fight, don’t even try, the trolls arguments are decent, just give in and sign the license.”
To quote more:
Whatever you do, please ignore the advice of non-attorney commentators (such as Florian Muller @ fosspatents) because they can be shortsighted and are not qualified to provide the complex legal analysis and advice you will need. (e.g. from one of Florian’s latest posts about the Lodsys patents, any patent attorney should be able to recognize that Florian does not understand the law regarding patent infringement and numerous other issues.)
For example, some commentators (including Florian Muller @ fosspatents) are advising targets of patent trolls to roll over and pay the license fee; Florian is even advising you that the license agreement that has not been made public is acceptable for you to sign. I very much question the soundness of this advice, especially considering the above article at IP Watchdog. Contrary to the bad advice and legal analysis put forth by Florian, there are options available to companies threatened by patent trolls and even if the outcome is a license agreement, Florian’s legal analysis and advice is not solid. (I could write a white paper explaining why Florian’s analysis is messed up, but I don’t have the time right now. If anyone requests me to provide more detailed analysis, I will put it on my to-do list.)
For starters, in my opinion, Lodsys probably LOVES Florian’s analysis and opinions. (I have no connection or contact with anyone at Lodsys, Apple, and no longer any contact with Florian). He seems to be making all the arguments that support the troll’s business plan – you can’t afford to fight, don’t even try, the trolls arguments are decent, just give in and sign the license.
Any good negotiator (which IMO excludes Florian) will tell you that you do not negotiate with yourself. Thus, I have no idea why Florian claims to be supporting application developers when he writes analysis that attempts to shred their potential leverage arguments and advises them to pay what Lodsys is asking. If someone was truly supporting the application developers, they would be trying to bolster the application developers leverage arguments (as I have been trying to provide on this blog).
Some sites evidently fall for it because at least one writer wrote that the “best course of action for iOS developers faced with patent infringement suit threats issued by patent holding firm Lodsys earlier this month might be to play nice with licensing requests, according to one intellectual property researcher. Florian Mueller, who runs the FOSS Patents blog that posted an in-depth FAQ for concerned developers last week, says that indicating a willingness to play nice with Lodsys could be far less costly than the alternative, in the long run.” We have already challenged this FAQ, which is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a trap. Smells more like a lobbying/marketing exercise…
“Later on it turned out that Florian was indeed wrong and his advice was worse than useless.”
Later on it turned out that Florian was indeed wrong and his advice was worse than useless. It was pure poison. As Jones put it, “this was Mueller’s advice when the story began. Now that Apple has stepped in, which every lawyer I know thought was inevitable from day one, how does that advice look to you? It’s important for developers in a particular legal situation to have a lawyer and not to listen to “legal” advice from those not qualified to offer it.” Or worse — from a lobbyist! He also advised companies which Microsoft and its proxies sued to just surrender and pay up. it’s exactly what Microsoft needs. In order for these pieces of bad advice to make it into the press, this lobbyist (not a lawyer or a patents veteran, yet he pretends everyone but himself is not qualified t speak on the subject), whose main skill is mass-mailing journalists, has been working behind the scenes to get himself quoted. We are saddened to see that many people think he is quoted in articles due to merit as opposed to his lobbying skills. He is a veteran lobbyist. He knows the tricks.
This man seems to have been lobbying in vain to paint Google as a patent aggressor because, according to this new report, Microsoft’s lobbying (part of the same party line) failed to incite US regulators to the point of blocking a bid for Nortel's patents.
“According to this article,” notes Jones, “Apple has thousands of patents, Nokia has more than 10,000 patent ‘families’ (same patents, different jurisdictions), Microsoft has around 18,000 patents, and Google has about 600, mostly search-related”, so over whom would Google have an unfair advantage?” Google has its reasons for buying — not so much applying for — patents. Microsoft has been attacking Google’s Android (and by extension Linux) from many angles in an attempt to tax Google’s work and turn that into a Mirosoft cash cow. As we have argued all along, one of the next players that may sue or at least extort Android is Nokia, which Microsoft pretty much conquered in nefarious ways.
“Dying companies try to use patents and copyrights. That’s who does it, as we saw in SCO’s saga.”
–Pamela Jones, GroklawAbout the patent war that has been brewing in the mobile space, Jones writes: “It’s been going on for a while. Dying companies try to use patents and copyrights. That’s who does it, as we saw in SCO’s saga. Now it’s Nokia and Microsoft struggling to deal with a world that is passing them by. So out come the patents. If you find that nauseating, tell your Congresscritter. That’s who can change patent law.”
To quote some findings of interest, in case of “a breakup, Nokia’s three units may be worth about 21.9 billion euros, based on the sales multiples of its competitors this year. The breakup value may not include Nokia’s patents, which Tero Kuittinen, an analyst with MKM Partners LP, estimates are worth 5 billion euros. That would bring the total to 26.9 billion euros. Huawei, ZTE Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. (ZTCOF.PK) may also be interested in buying Nokia’s assets.” [via Groklaw]
“The breakup value may not include Nokia’s patents, which Tero Kuittinen, an analyst with MKM Partners LP, estimates are worth 5 billion euros.”
–Seeking AlphaSpeaking of lobbyists, recall those employed by the company of Bill Gates’ father [1, 2] and then watch who is going after Apple according to the following report. So, who represents Kodak, which we previously wrote about in relation to the Gates dynasty [1, 2]? Answer:
Pickard and fellow Sterne Kessler attorney David Cornwell are representing the firm against Kodak’s subpoena; Pickard declined to comment. K&L Gates is representing Kodak in the New York case. Kodak spokesman Gerard Meuchner confirmed that the firm will also handle the litigation in Washington.
Interestingly enough, the new York Times has published this piece about the demise of Microsoft as compared to Kodak’s (both resorted to using patents as their products are no longer desirable or necessary):
Technology upends companies in different ways. It allows new firms to deliver better products and services in a more efficient way; it also creates new goods and services for consumers to want. Eastman Kodak, the fifth-biggest company in the S.& P. 500 in 1975, was almost destroyed by digital cameras and is no longer in the index. General Motors, fifth biggest in 1985, was hobbled by rivals that could make more fuel efficient cars. Microsoft still rules the PC desktop. But that will matter less and less as users migrate to tablets and more computing takes place in “the cloud.”
There is another lesson in Microsoft’s long slide. It is about how far corporate behemoths will go to stop technology that threatens their dominance. Ten years ago, Microsoft tried to use its virtual monopoly of the operating system to strangle potential rivals and their new technologies. Fortunately, it failed. But the new rising behemoths will likely try similar tactics on whatever new gizmo challenges them.
As the Microsoft boosters note, “The New York Times this weekend had an editorial comparing the current state of Microsoft with the plight of Eastman Kodak.”
Kodak too is a patent aggressor as we showed in older posts. Curiously, at one point Kodak complained about Gates' accomplice at Intellectual Ventures. Guess which lobbyist dare not really criticise it? Instead, he tries to attribute its deeds to Google. Astonishing claims; look no further than Florian for those bits of humour disguised as serious allegations. If it’s bad for FOSS due to patents, then it’s good for Mr. FOSSpatents. █