09.05.11

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What We Learn From Novell’s Patents

Posted in Antitrust, Novell, Patents at 11:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: News of interest about patents that relate to Novell and harm GNU/Linux or Free software

NOVELL’S patents are a ticking time bomb that can basically be used by foes of Linux at any time. Software patents are without exception a bad thing, including all of IBM’s, Google’s, and Red Hat’s. As long as patents can be passed around as though they are a property, there is no telling who is going to ‘own’ them in their whole 20-year lifespan.

As FT reminds us in this new article, the prices of patents — including Novell’s — seem high because these are increasingly being used to block competition:

As we suggested a few weeks ago, the high prices bid recently for patents from Novell and Nortel will have prompted many others to dust off their IP portfolios. Since then, Eastman Kodak’s shares have bounced on news that it has begun seeking a buyer for some of its patents and Motorola Mobility has sold at a huge premium to Google.

Google has basically raised the perceived value of patents, helped legitimise some patents, and it did not even achieve all that much given that its foes are now using patent trolls like MOSAID as proxies. Mind the fact that pro-Microsoft, anti-Android lobbyist Florian Müller has sent me 20 un-responded dents in Identi.ca. this afternoon, trying to heckle me while justifying consulting services to patent trolls (perhaps his clients).

The issue here is not just Microsoft or even Apple; it is the law that they are exploiting and exploring in an attempt to ban or tax the competition, to the point where they can win not based on merit but based on market distortion. Rather than good programmers competing against one another, the competition is being passed to parasitical patent lawyers and lobbyists. No wonder the economy is doing so poorly with high unemployment rates and monopolistic billionaires who grow richer than ever before (they use patent monopolies).

Watch this new gem about Novell and a patent troll:

LL: There’s a famous re-exam petition involving Roger Billings. He tried to enter a licensing deal with Novell. The company sent in about 600 pages of what they claimed as prior art. But only one pertained to Billings

Instead of producing 600 pages of so-called “prior art” (a cause of nature), one could just produce 60,000 lines of good code that actually achieves something. Too much money is being drained in courtrooms, feeding a meta-industry that serves almost nobody except itself. Politicians too are basically being trained in the art of arguing and as long as they manage to engage with a dialogue against another side — no matter if they win the argument or not — they bill someone at the sidelines. Sadly, almost all politicians are lawyers or former businessmen. Is this the vision and future that we want? What about the billionaires who use those confrontations to marginalise competition too fearful of being sued because it cannot bear the legal costs?

Well, as we mentioned before, we are hopeful that there will be some real patent reform in the United States as a new antitrust chief turned out to have been involved in the CPTN fiasco:

Pozen joined the Antitrust Division in February 2009 as chief of staff and counsel. She was the lead antitrust lawyer in the CPTN/Novell case, which involved a group of tech firms including Microsoft and Apple being forced to license old Novell patents to the open-source community.

How about defanging them in all cases? Ensuring that Apple and Microsoft cannot abuse the patent system as they do to harm Linux? Pozen is smart enough to see the antitrust violations here, especially by Microsoft.

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