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09.21.11

Patent Reform and Android

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 12:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hand pencil

Summary: Why Google blew it as the company continues to pursue its own security rather than become more of a team player in the FOSS world

ALTHOUGH Android is not as free/libre as one might hope, it is the most likely Linux-based mobile platform to rise to greatness.

Google disappointed us on numerous occasions because rather than antagonise software patents (even with an amicus brief) it just played along with the plot and bought many patents, including software patents. It also filed applications for software patents of its own. Google is in a position where it can afford to play those messy games, but how does that help the rest of us? Android patent defence does not magically indemnify Linux.

So anyway, Google became part of the Big Boys Club and the hoax of a patent reform got passed, not actually resolving the key issues that IDG explains as follows:

“3. No Real Change on Software

“Of critical importance to those of us in the information technology industry are software patents, which I’ve long opposed. While this reform could have been a great time to deal with this problematic issue, that didn’t happen. Only two narrow niches–financial products and tax strategies–are addressed in a limited way, but nothing broader is included to fix the problem overall.

“Android patent defence does not magically indemnify Linux.”“Pro: Patents are limited or clarified somewhat in two narrowly defined business niches.

“Con: Overall, the ongoing software patent debacle continues unchanged, and that can only hurt small developers.”

What a waste of a ‘reform’.

Google has done one thing right when it spoke out about the cartel against Android, but what else is it doing about it? Based on reports like this one or this one, “Android [is] hurt by patent wars, could lose features” (amid call for CEOs to attend the courtroom).

The many articles about the subject (even new timelines) say something along the lines of “Google, Oracle CEOs Said to Make Little Headway in Patent Talks,” but the idea of abolishing software patents altogether is totally off the table. We must remember that Oracle’s older official statement was against software patents and all those “Java” patents are in fact software patents. Has Google explored the possibility of cutting the umbilical cord of this whole attack among others (on other developers too)? Or is Google just interested in defending Google while considering no push to end software patents for good? Here is one particular article on the subject:

oogle and Oracle CEOs will square off in court today to resolve a dispute that may pose the biggest threat to Google’s Android mobile software, now running on more than 150 million devices.

Google’s Larry Page and Oracle’s Larry Ellison were ordered to appear before a federal court magistrate in San Jose after tussling over patents for more than a year. Oracle accused Google of infringing on patents related to its Java software, and a settlement means the companies avoid the risk of having a jury trial decide whether Google owes royalties.

What about explaining to the court or at least to politicians the ridiculousness of those patents in general? These are the politicians who pass a fake patent ‘reform’ to wash their hands. In the sick industry of lobbying surely Google could come up with something. Its foes constantly lobby for more patents (and a global patent system), not to mention embargo. To quote this new report: “A settlement will likely require HTC to pay Apple hefty royalty fees for using its patents. The Taiwan-based company already gives Microsoft $5 for every handset sold, which brings the Redmond, Wash.-based company more revenue than from its Windows Phone sales.”

Android is getting damaged here and in order to resolve the problem for good (before Microsoft sends more and more patent trolls to raise the price of Android) Google will need to strike at the root. Samsung has a huge patents portfolio, so it can afford to seek embargo against Apple as means of deterrence. Quoting the news:

There are now 19 patent lawsuits between Samsung and Apple, in 12 courts in nine countries. In addition to the United States, Germany, and Australia, patent suits are pending in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan and South Korea. Apple also has filed patent suits against HTC, Motorola Mobility and others.

Samsung is meanwhile considering more of Bada and it can afford to sue back against aggressors like Apple. But how many developers out there are able to do so? Google too has just grown up patents-wise, but it does not provide much comfort to the FOSS world at large. We must not lose sight of the real problem and the real solution to it. Google was only a potential ally in that regard.

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