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01.10.12

Updates on Microsoft/Nokia and Apple Patent Wars on Linux

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 11:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent stooges

Summary: A roundup of news relating to Android/Linux and patent wars against Android backers

THE WAR on Android (and to some extent Linux) is partly hinged on the case from B&N [1, 2, 3], which challenged the Nokia/Microsoft patent game:

In recent legal actions, Barnes and Noble is requesting access to the contracts/principals of the Nokia-M$ relationship through the ITC. Nokia has protested vigorously indicating they really want to keep matters hidden. Apparently Barnes and Noble feel M$ and Nokia are abusing their patents to stifle competiton…

Here is the main report about this, courtesy of Groklaw:

Nokia is throwing quite a fit about the ITC approving Barnes & Noble’s request that the ITC send a Letter of Request to Finland to ask the country to aid Barnes & Noble to depose five Nokia executives, including CEO Stephen Elop, and provide Barnes & Noble its list of requested Nokia documents.

Barnes & Noble, you may recall, is asserting that Microsoft, partnering with Nokia and MOSAID, is plotting “to use patents to drive open source software out of the market,” saying it is threatening companies using Android with an anticompetitive choice: pay Microsoft exorbitant rates for patents — trivial, invalid, or not infringed, according to Nokia — or spend a fortune on litigation. It wants discovery to try to prove its claims.

Here’s how Nokia took the news. In its Motion to Quash [PDF], Nokia tells the ITC that it immediately contacted Finland and filed objections, and it also contacted the Office of Unfair Import Investigations at the ITC to try to block. And now it asks the ITC to quash the Letter, or in the alternative wait to see what Finland does.

And in a second development, the ITC has denied Microsoft’s November motion to force Google to hand over business information about Android, which Google opposed, the Commission saying the requests were unreasonable and not relevant. There was also a second Microsoft motion to depose Google, and the same order grants that motion, which Google had agreed to anyhow. All this means the schedule of discovery in the case has changed, but so far, the hearing is scheduled to be in February. Considering the way Nokia is fighting to quash discovery, threatening an interlocutory appeal if necessary, I’m guessing that date is not going to be the actual date.

Plucky Barnes & Noble is fighting for itself, but this ITC case has the potential to effect the entire Android ecosystem. Barnes & Noble is shining a light on what it views as an anticompetitive plot, with patents just the latest Microsoft weapons of war, probably hoping that if the light is shining right on them, the plotters will be unable to fulfill their unholy scheme. Don’t forget that Barnes & Noble has also filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, so it isn’t just us chickens who are now watching this play out. That may explain Nokia’s determination to avoid discovery. I mean, if there’s no such plot, why fight this hard to avoid handing over the contracts?

Nokia has been hijacked. In many ways, Microsoft has already bought it and one new report notes: “After all, some analysts are pushing Microsoft to buy Nokia on the basis that, in the open source-led mobile world, OS licensing fees alone are no longer a viable model without accompanying hardware. Even Google, which achieves huge service revenues via control of Android, is tempted by the hardware/software model with its Motorola buy and Nexus launches. Becoming a software/IP firm may prove to be RIM’s only option in future, but it will be a strategy of last resort, and gaining critical mass for a new platform which has suffered from teething troubles even before its launch will be tough, and not a battle on which Samsung is likely to expend much energy.”

“According to a senior person at Nokia, the Microsoft-Nokia deal was a takeover, but just like in Novell’s case, Microsoft prefers to use the hijacked company as a proxy; it helps keep the regulators away.”According to a senior person at Nokia, the Microsoft-Nokia deal was a takeover, but just like in Novell’s case, Microsoft prefers to use the hijacked company as a proxy; it helps keep the regulators away. Romours that Microsoft will buy Nokia’s smartphone division are being disputed and the matter was mentioned in the latest episode of TechBytes, albeit very briefly.

Microsoft is using patents anti-competitively and it very recently settled a case. For background: “Datel originally took Microsoft to court in November 2009 after claiming a 360 dashboard update blocked its accessories from working. Among the things that were blocked was Datel’s Max Memory cards.

“Datel claimed that Vole was playing monopoly and using its powers to cut out competition.”

As always.

Microsoft keeps collecting patents [1, 2] and goodwill-washing some patent monopolies too. Bloomberg plays along with this patents frenzy and a lawyers’ site glorifies “IP” litigation as though lawsuits should be commended:

McKool Smith namepartner Mike McKool had just scored a $290 million jury verdict in a patent case his firm had taken on contingency. But because the losing party was Microsoft Corporation, McKool wasn’t celebrating just yet. The software giant is known for getting substantial damage awards in patent disputes slashed on appeal. Which is why, in May 2009, McKool urged his client in the case, Canadian software developer Infrastructures for Information, Inc. (i4i), to bring in the man McKool calls “the best”: Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner name partner Donald Dunner.

We covered this case here many times before.

Moving on to Apple, the company is said to have little incentive to drop its lawsuits against Android backers:

Ever wonder why Apple doesn’t seem keen on settling the Android patent lawsuits it’s involved in? It’s because there’s more money in winning.

On Monday, Deutsche Bank’s Chris Whitmore sent a note out to clients outlining the four possible outcomes for Apple in its various battles with Android device makers worldwide.

IBM seems to be helping Google defend Android and John Dvorak alleges that there might be legal action coming:

quick look at the description of the patents tells me that these are not just a bunch of defensive plays, but a few offensive ones that might allow Google to begin to sue Apple and Microsoft, since that seems to be the game everyone is playing.

We are aware of a brewing patent battle from Android backers against Microsoft and Apple. The madness of the patent system is further illustrated by a story in Murdoch’s paper while new patents on software [1, 2] are boasted about in press releases as though these are products.

Our focus in this cause will be to stop Apple’s, Microsoft’s, and their proxies’ patent lawsuits against Android. One shortcut route is to strike the problem at the root — the USPTO. In the coming week we’ll concentrate some more on patents.

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3 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    January 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Gravatar

    Why support plagiarism? Why call a war against plagiarism a war against Linux?

    DaemonFC Reply:

    Apple’s war on “plagiarism” is no such thing.

    If you have the word “apple” in the name of your cafe, they sue you.

    If you have a lower case “i” in the name of a product, they sue you.

    If your graphical user interface sort of resembles one of theirs, they sue you. They even sued Microsoft over this, unsuccessfully, in the 1990s using copyright law as the basis.

    Since losing that case, they have started filing patents on elements of their GUIs, as if they were inventions (they aren’t).

    Now anyone who makes a tablet that is shaped “a little too much like an ipad” or only has one button “to turn it on or off”, gets sued.

    And don’t even think about calling something an app store. Amazon gets away with it because Apple doesn’t want to send legal threats to a company that can go toe to toe with them on the shaky ground the threat was based on.

    To believe Apple is only trying to protect its marks is pure fantasy. This goes way beyond that and into an anti-competitive attack on competing devices and software.

    Many of their lawsuits are against small businesses who aren’t even in the computer industry and never will be.

    Michael Reply:

    Apple’s war on “plagiarism” is no such thing.

    I have shown the evidence of the plagiarism and shown quotes of Apple and/or Jobs speaking in terms of fighting against people taking their ideas. In other words, I have shown support for the view that Apple is engaged in a war against plagiarism (at least against those who plagiarize their work – it is not as though they are going against all plagiarism in the world!)

    So other than nay-saying, what is your counter evidence to this view?

    If you have the word “apple” in the name of your cafe, they sue you.

    If you have a lower case “i” in the name of a product, they sue you.

    There have been cases of each, but to make these as blanket statements is incorrect. Heck, there is a café near my house with the name Apple in it… no law suit. And there are many products which start with a lower case “i”… and no law suit.

    Your claims are contrary to the evidence.

    If your graphical user interface sort of resembles one of theirs, they sue you. They even sued Microsoft over this, unsuccessfully, in the 1990s using copyright law as the basis.

    Again, vague and unsupported. There are many GUIs out there with many areas of resemblance but no lawsuit. Heck, look at Unity, Gnome, and even KDE. If what you said was accurate each would have faced a lawsuit. This has not happened, thus your claim is contrary to the facts.

    Since losing that case, they have started filing patents on elements of their GUIs, as if they were inventions (they aren’t).

    In what way are they not?

    Now anyone who makes a tablet that is shaped “a little too much like an ipad” or only has one button “to turn it on or off”, gets sued.

    Again, no evidence and there are many counter examples. You are, in short, making things up. You have nothing to back your nay-saying.

    And don’t even think about calling something an app store. Amazon gets away with it because Apple doesn’t want to send legal threats to a company that can go toe to toe with them on the shaky ground the threat was based on.

    I agree Apple was wrong on that one. But the fact they have taken incorrect steps in their war against plagiarism does not discount the fact that it is plagiarism they are fighting.

    To believe Apple is only trying to protect its marks is pure fantasy. This goes way beyond that and into an anti-competitive attack on competing devices and software.

    I do not doubt you hold that view, but do you see where your attempts to support that view lead you to making comments which are in contention with reality? This, of course, does not prove you wrong – but it leads to you having no or poor support for your view. Your view is held for emotional reasons and is not based on the evidence.

    Many of their lawsuits are against small businesses who aren’t even in the computer industry and never will be.

    Again, stated with no support. But, if I understand correctly, they *have* to work to protect their IP or they risk losing it. The laws are poorly constructed and force the hands of those who innovate.

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