Proprietary giants and their trolls cut the Linux cake
Summary: Patent news which applies to Linux or other vital parts of the Free software world
THE hype of patents is everywhere in the news [1, 2] (more so than in prior years), but more and more cases are “[r]equesting a government evaluation of whether a patent was properly issued,” as part of a process “known as reexamination [which] is cheaper than a lawsuit and has an easier standard for discrediting a patent than what is allowed before a judge or jury. With a success rate of about 90 percent, companies have almost doubled requests in the past five years, turning the patent office into a reliable forum to shoo away competitors’ claims of patent infringement.”
What this tells us is that many patents get granted which should never have been granted in the first place. There is clearly a bubble. This system is not working, except for lawyers.
“This system is not working, except for lawyers.”According to this important bit of news, Oracle changed its tune because its patent assault is failing. This is covered here, citing Pamela Jones, who writes: “Oracle has told the court it wishes to withdraw its last claim of the ’476 patent, claim 14, no doubt having read Google’s letter to the judge asking for permission to file a motion for summary judgment of invalidity of claim 14. This is the last claim of that patent still in the case. The USPTO in December issued a final rejection of 17 of the 21 claims of this ’476 patent, anyway, including all seven of the patent’s independent claims, and while Oracle has until February 20 to appeal, the handwriting is on the wall. Whatever it decides about an appeal, claim 14, and hence patent ’476, is no longer in this litigation.”
Last Friday Google filed a motion to substantially strike both the third damages report submitted by Dr. Cockburn on behalf of Oracle and the conjoint analysis report submitted by Dr. Shugan on behalf of Oracle. (718 [PDF; Text]) If successful, this motion will virtually preclude the Oracle damages experts from testifying at trial. PJ did a fine job covering the flaws in these reports identified by Google. Now we consider the likelihood of success of the motion.
Oracle’s case against Android is not the only case, but many of the others involve Apple, Microsoft, and their patent trolls. They strive to elevate the cost of Android. Here is the unofficial Red Hat message regarding fix for the common troll (not for software patents in general)
First, create a compulsory licensing mechanism for patents whose owners are not making competitive use of the technology in those patents. Patent owners should be required to declare the areas or products that incorporate the patented technology. All other non-practiced areas should be subject to a compulsory license fee. (A non-practiced “area” would be a market or technology sector or activity in which the patent owner is not using or licensing the invention rights, though the owner may be using the patent in other “areas.”) Licensing rates for patents could be set by patent classification or sub-classification based on industry average licensing rates for each such technology. Again, this would only apply to applications where the patent is not being practiced or voluntarily licensed by the patent owner.
Given the vast number of patents issued, an accused party should have a reasonable, set time after receiving notice of a patent within which to pay for the license going forward. Compulsory licenses are authorized by the treaties we have entered into, and we have significant experience with compulsory licensing of copyrighted works from which to develop an analogous patent mechanism. Uniform rates could be set.
Second, cap past damages for trolls at $1 million per patent and eliminate the possibility of obtaining injunctive relief for infringement of patents that are not in use, or are not used commercially, by the patent owner.
Third, a mandatory fee shifting provision should be put in place where the plaintiff is required to pay the defendant’s reasonable defense fees if the plaintiff does not obtain a better recovery than what was offered by the defendant. (Presently, there is such a cost shifting mechanism in place; however, the relevant costs typically are a tiny fraction of the legal fees in a case.)
Fourth, for U.S. domestic defendants, require that suits be brought in the venue where the defendant’s primary place of business is located.
Fifth, if a party wants more than limited discovery from the opposing side, particularly for electronically stored information (ESI), the requesting party should pay the cost of production. For large technology companies, ESI production alone can cost into the seven figures.
A new software policy from the Debian Project seeks to minimize its exposure to patent litigation. But could the new policies create friction with other projects within the community?
At first, you might think a statement from the Debian Project denouncing software patents was as obvious as “the sky is blue,” or “Richard Stallman will make you write GNU/Linux 500 times if you call free software ‘open source,’” but nonetheless, I thought the policy itself was rather interesting.
The policy is rather brief, which makes it very clear and concise. Consisting of only five clauses, the policy outlines how the Debian Project wants to handle patents associated with software: namely, it wants nothing to do with them. The meat of the policy is in the first three clauses:
For users of Debian there is no indemnification, so it they don’t choose Red Hat, then they are left in a different legal position. SJVN has this new article advising CIOs in case of patent lawsuits:
The recent Bilski Supreme Court decision has made it far, far too likely that your company may face a patent lawsuit at some point.
You may think that the last thing on earth that could happen to your company would be that your business might be sued because it used a particular software program. You’d be wrong.
In the aftermath of the Bilski Supreme Court decision, the Supreme Court did nothing to stop software or business method patents. As a result, not only software development companies but all businesses are now in more danger from patent lawsuits than ever before.
The Bilski case affects the US and for the time being it is a different story for companies located (and operating) outside the US. We need to work hard to prevent software patents from spreading. █
Open Source Think Tank is to FOSS what Microsoft lobbyist Florian Müller is to FOSS
Summary: The “think tank” which claims to speak on behalf of Open Source is in fact organised and partly funded by foes of Open Source
CONTROLLING one’s opposition or competition is extremely powerful a tactic. In some industries, such as the beverages sector, companies use fake brands to make their own look more appealing or to drive up the prices, Sometimes a company might create or buy the anti-self so that even its opponents will become its own clients. In some circles, fake opposition is consciously used to make the opposed-to side look reasonable and reach an audience that otherwise would reject it as a matter of principle.
When Microsoft says that it “reaches out” to Open Source what it means to say is that it tries to change options that are “not proprietary” or “not Microsoft” to be both proprietary and Microsoft (or ‘open’ on top of proprietary). When Microsoft signed a deal with Novell it turned SUSE, a GNU/Linux distribution, into Ballnux, a distribution that makes Microsoft money. OpenSUSE is the marketing angle of this product (always less reliable and not suitable for production).
Last year we explained that something called a think tank for open source is in fact controlled by Black Duck with additional help from Microsoft. Those who promote it should be aware of it and perhaps add a cautionary disclaimer. Not that anyone does, as there are proxies at play:
Black Duck Software’s Olliance Group and DLA Piper have now announced core sponsors for the upcoming Open Source Think Tank 2012 conference. Adobe, Global Inventures, HP, Motorola, SAP and SugarCRM are all among the sponsors of the seventh annual conference, which promises to have some interesting keynotes and sessions. What’s more the event takes place in April, in Napa, California–one of the more beautiful locations for a conference. Interested attendees need to apply for invitations, which you can do here.
The “Open Source Think Tank” is not an Open Source event. It should not be treated as such, either. The name is deceiving.
Summary: Patent updates from Europe in particular, including commentary from sound figures of authority
TECHRIGHTS writes a great deal about the “Fraude das Patentes de Software” because this issue was identified as the #1 barrier to FOSS some time in 2006 when Novell went to Microsoft in order to use its software patents against Red Hat et al. Being mere monopolies, software patents impede competition in the software field.
“Software patents without a debate” is the title of the recent presentation slides from the FFII’s president. He chose this title because right now there are private (behind closed doors) discussions and the FFII’s president alleges that “RAND will become will EU law soon thanks to BSA.” The BSA is a Microsoft front group.
Andy Updegrove, whom Microsoft hired some time in the past (it helps pay critics and thereby gag them), has this new piece about FRAND and to quote his Q&A:
A: I think so. What the events of the last few weeks indicate is that perhaps it’s no longer necessary to define what “FRAND” means. Like open source software, more and more people recognize the value and importance of open standards. And just like open source software, you don’t necessarily have to have a narrow definition of what FRAND means. You simply know it when you see it, not by its individual characteristics, but by whether or not it offends the community.
And just like open source, if you take action against one user of open standards, you will increasingly be seen as taking an action against all users of open standards – in other words, against all users of technology. If you decide to do so nevertheless, then you’d better be prepared to answer to that wider audience as well.
If you think about it, you might say that’s not only fair, but reasonable, too.
Microsoft’s disgraced FRAND lobbyists like Florian Müller (whose output is just anti-Google propaganda for his client, Microsoft) take no day of rest. They are doing this on the payroll and cite one another. FRAND policies are for the monopolists, not for the people. Some people might pretend to work for the people or even call themselves “FOSS” something, but they work against the people, for their own bank account.
“The majority of FOSS enthusiasts seem to be unaware or ignoring FRAND” –Marti van LinMarti van Lin correctly points out that “[t]he majority of #FOSS enthusiasts seem to be unaware or ignoring #FRAND ? is.gd/jqyfRc or perhaps I’ve misinterpreted it!”
He is right. And moreover, there is a lot of FRAND propaganda going on. A lot of it is Microsoft-funded.
First time submitter jan.van.gent writes “The European Parliament is on the verge of adopting a directive reforming standards, reform which would introduce FRAND patent licensing terms, an undefined term which has been seen as a direct attack on the fundamental principles of Free and Open Source software. The Business Software Alliance has been very active trying to get FRAND terms into the directive.”
Here is what the FFII’s press release says: “The European Parliament Consumer Committee is on the verge to reform the standardisation process in Europe. The reform recognises patented interface specifications which discriminate Free Software implementations. Royalties over standards create an unavoidable barrier of entry in the market for small software companies and independent developers.”
The Israeli patent registrar have reverted previous ruling regarding patents on software and published a draft for the procedures to accept such patents. The procedures are open to public comments for the next 30 days.
Later he added: “FFII should open a US branch, EFF is incapable of campaigning against software patents” (FFII comprises many engineers, unlike the EFF. Groklaw, which is typically people who are in the field of law and not engineering, takes a similar approach).
As shown here, “EFF still believes in software patents” based on phrases that it uses. Pieter Hintjens writes: “When someone pretentiously talks of “IP violations” I ask, “Patent? Trademark? Copyright? Ship hull design? Plant variety rights?”
“When someone pretentiously talks of “IP violations” I ask, “Patent? Trademark? Copyright? Ship hull design? Plant variety rights?” –Pieter HintjensHe is then told: “You are also missing semiconductor topography rights, design rights. Maybe “trade secrets” as well, M$ likens secrets == IP.”
One might argue that forbidding the sharing of ideas is, in general, a bad thing. That’s more like the FSF approach.
It ought to be mentioned that some of the backlash against Google patents is a PR campaign from Microsoft and its lobbyists, who call the kettle black and hammer on politicians to ensure that Ballmer and his gang can carry on with extortion (under the façade that others are doing it too). █
As we also showed some days ago, there is impact [1, 2, 3] on dentists. This was mentioned here some days ago when we stressed the human toll of patents. There are too many reports of software patents out there and they have a negative effect on the inclination to develop (this factor is rarely being taken into account in cost analyses). GCC and other examples of widely used Free software are always at the mercy of patent holders. This works well for those who can wield an axe while exploiting Free software – companies such as Apple, which hoarded KHTML and many other FOSS projects (before starting to attack FOSS with patent lawsuits).
It was only a matter of time really, especially given Apple’s arrogance. Watch what Apple is doing to CUPS right now. It’s not just technical sabotage but also legal sabotage. It helps nobody except Apple, the selfish company that promotes selfishness. “Software patents do create jobs for litigation lawyers and patent attorneys in Europe,” writes the FFII, which keeps emphasising that patents are not about innovation but about profit for very few people. Given Apple’s legal attacks on FOSS, lawyers’ blogs are providing tips for fellow patent lawyers. Paul Cole is not interested in innovation but only in ways of exploiting the EPO to extract money. To quote:
According to BBC News last Friday, Apple has succeeded in the German courts in enforcing a patent for a user interface feature for its mobile devices. The ruling demonstrates the value of European patents for “software” inventions where a “technical” effect can be demonstrated. The claims in the granted patents and the problems that they solve provide insight about what features of a user interface might be regarded as “technical” by the EPO. The advantages to a software developer of being able to patent innovative interface features that are important to the “look and feel” of the device and the software running on it are self-evident.
One take-away message for US applicants is the need to draft applications bearing in mind the exclusions under the EPC: stating as one of the main objects of the inventions “to provide more aesthetically pleasing operations” plays straight into the hands of an Examining Division or Appeal Board within the EPO and even if such objects can and should be stated, functional objects are best set out first. Another message is not to overlook the role of the human user in the invention: in the refused application the needs of the computer and the attractiveness of the micro-movie as a matter of shape were explained but what was necessary for the user to see the “micro-movie” and how long it should last were left unstated.
INTERNATIONAL LITIGATOR Apple could be faced with the prospect of a ban on its Ipads in China, after a lower court ruled in favour of Shenzhen Proview Technology.
Proview claims that it owns the rights to the Ipad name in China and wants a ban on sales of its rival’s device in the country. So far it has had some success in China, and now, according to a report at the Associated Press, it can claim another victory.
This is far from the first time Apple is accused of taking other companies’ names. But Apple and its followers just ignore the reality of inspiration and simultaneous discoveries/advancements. Apple created this illusion that it is a great innovator and that everything resembling an Apple product is just a ripoff, never mind prior art and Steve Jobs’ admission of copying others massively.
One thing that Android backers definitely did not copy from Apple is defective antennas, which even Apple with its hype machine can no longer cover up.
When I initially searched the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database and Google Patents, I missed something very interesting in the war  between Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Android’s “Big Three” — Google Inc.’s (GOOG) new acquisition Motorola, HTC Corp. (TPE:2498), and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930) — regarding swipe-to-unlock intellectual property.
Neonode Inc. (NEON) appears to be the first to patent this technology, holding a claim I missed.
Apple raised the stakes in an intensifying global patent battle with Samsung Electronics by targeting the latest model using Google’s fast growing Android software, a move which may affect other Android phone makers.
Please boycott Apple and also explain to other people why Apple is an enemy of fair competition. There is nothing “magical” there. This sort of behaviour oughtn’t be tolerated, and not only because Android is based on Linux. This harms everyone in the market and outside of it (customers). █
Summary: Microsoft uses a baseless slur against Google in an attempt to discourage people from using Google
THE PATHETIC nature of Microsoft these days almost borders the comical. Several good folks in our IRC channels mentioned the latest slur from Microsoft, claiming that the monopolist had decided to become a major hypocrite for a day.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has already written a good rebuttal, but that main point we would like to add is that since the days of iE7, all surfers on Microsoft Windows are being spied on by Microsoft (pages that they visit logged remotely by Microsoft). With that in mind read the following:
Last week I posted an image quality comparison of the Radeon Gallium3D driver versus AMD’s Catalyst Linux driver to highlight some visual differences between the open and closed-source Radeon graphics drivers. Now here’s a look between the Nouveau Gallium3D driver and NVIDIA’s proprietary Linux graphics driver.
Gnome‘s Power Statistics application is a very easy-to-use way of getting hard numbers about your power usage. As far as out-of-the-box experiences go for power statistics, Gnome’s is probably the best. While it doesn’t have as many power options as Windows and Mac OS X, I don’t know of either having a way to see power statistics as detailed as Gnome’s from the get go.
Text LCD’s are handy for any occasion, a printer port on your PC is also darn handy as well. Mix together and add in a splash of linux and you get a very handy Linux device driver for a 16×2 LCD connected to the parallel port.
The response to the Spark pre-order registration program has been phenomenal. Thousands have registered and we’ve exchanged hundreds emails with various interested parties answering questions and receiving great feedback and input.
Martin Gräßlin, lead developer of the compositing window manager KWin, has been considering the future of OpenGL 1.x support in KWin in a blog entry titled “The costs of supporting legacy hardware”. He is considering removing the code because almost all modern graphic chips and drivers support the more recent OpenGL 2.0.
As well as bug fixes and improved hardware support, the eighth minor revision of Linux distribution RHEL 5, which was first released in 2007, also includes new virtualisation and power management features.
Ubuntu is taking small steps to get into the mobile game – at the same time, RIM’s big efforts have been underwhelming to the say the least. Is this reversible or can the veteran learn a thing or two from the open-source platform’s more restrained pace?
There have been some recent accusation that the Ubuntu community isn’t taking criticism well. However, those making the accusations seem to have a misunderstanding about what exactly criticism is. In an effort to improve the quality of that feedback, I’ve put together a short, simple list of things you can check to make sure your criticism is in fact criticism.
This tutorial is supposed to guide the reader through the features of the Cinnamon desktop, Mint’s new desktop environment to be used in Linux Mint 13. Cinnamon concentrates on holding on to classic design and functionality in times where Gnome 3 and Unity come up with different innovations to the user interface.
The questions for which I would like accurate stats include: how many GNU/Linux users are there? Has Linux Mint really overtaken Ubuntu as the most popular distribution? Has GNOME gained or lost users with the start of its third release series? All these questions and more would benefit from reliable figures, yet we don’t have any. Instead, we have a series of indicators that are approximate at best, and completely unreliable at worst.
Intel Corp. is expected to provide more details next week on its plans to become a key supplier for the smartphone market when wireless industry experts gather for the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain.
Intel is the kingpin of personal computer technology but a late arrival in a smartphone market crowded with such providers as Apple Inc., Nvidia Corp. and Qualcomm Inc.
Intel has been trying to push into the mobile products market for years without much success. Analysts say a few of its recent attempts — chips called Menlo and Moorestown — fell short of the mark.
Panasonic, looking to toss their name into various smartphone conversations, has unveiled an ultra-thin, high-end Android handset ahead of Mobile World Congress. Dubbed the Eluga, the hardware puts the device right in the mix with some of today’s elite Android combatants.
Thinner than most smartphones, the Panasonic runs Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread and offers a 4.3-inch (540×960) qHD display, a 1GHz TI OMAP dual-core chip,1GB RAM, and 8GB internal storage. There’s a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera on the backside however there’s no front-facing shooter.
Open source software has managed to find its way into the minds and hearts of users on all three popular desktop platforms. I know of countless Windows users who enjoy free access to applications such as Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, Filezilla, among others. Users of these popular software titles know all to well the benefits of using open source software.
Yet, there’s still the question of using open source software in place of proprietary software. Specifically: can open source software provide an adequate replacement for legacy software?
This is the question I’ll answer in this article. I’ll look at the open source applications I use, and how they differ from their proprietary alternatives.
Open source software has been maligned and celebrated over the years. Proponents of the open source concept claim that collaboration and openness will lead to better technological results for the consumer at a fraction of the price. Opponents of the concept claim that without a profit motive, technological progression will grind to a halt. Both sides may be right, but with many technology companies finding ways to turn a profit outside of software sales over the past decade, open source software has gotten a significant boost in popularity.
Cloud computing encompasses many things, but a major part of it is the ability for multiple people in disparate places to collaborate on a single project at the same time. Since the information and processing are done in the cloud, each user only needs a way to log in to the cloud and all users can view updates in real time. This spirit of collaboration makes for an ideal pairing with open source software. Having the source code of a cloud service available to everyone makes it that much easier to spot bugs and improve performance.
The Riak distributed database has been updated to version 1.1, and has a new administration console and diagnostic console. Riak creator Basho believes the changes in 1.1 make Riak the most scalable and stable NoSQL database available.
It raised $30,000 in 72 hours on Kickstarter with its plan to disrupt the music industry using open source, but what is the CASH Music project about? The H talked with co-executive director Maggie Vail to find out.
The Utah Office of Education (USOE) announced a new program late last month. Starting in the next couple months, Utah is going to develop and release open source digital textbooks for science, and mathematics, and English.
You may recall that Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews announced Canada’s “lawful access” (read: government monitoring of the internet) bill by saying that if you weren’t in favor of the bill, you supported child porn. Over the weekend, he also seemed to admit that he didn’t even understand the bill he was supporting.
While we here are committed to exposing the actions of Goldman Sachs – many of which helped, if not directly, created our economic problems – we often over look and under report on those who have and had the power to prevent the actions of Goldman Sachs and their band of merry banksters (including The Fed). Charlie Reese says it in plain and simple language. A report that he began in the 1980′s and modified several times. The version below was the one from 1995, long before anyone could have ever imagined the mess we would be in at the beginning of the 21st century.
I would have hoped that, by now, most people could understand basic secondary liability issues, such as the difference between a service provider who provides the tools/service for communications and a content creator and/or publisher who actually creates or chooses the content. Unfortunately, when large sums of money are involved, people often have difficultly distinguishing the two. The latest situation involves a guy in Australia, named Joshua Meggitt, who appeared to have a legitimate defamation claim by Australian writer/TV personality Marieke Hardy. On her blog, she accused Meggitt of writing “ranting, hateful” articles about her. She then posted a link to her blog on Twitter, where it got a lot of attention. Hardy and Meggitt have already “settled” the dispute between each other, with a rumored $15,000 changing hands, but Meggitt has now sued Twitter directly claiming that it “published” the tweet by putting it on its front page.
On Feb. 27, a diplomatic process will begin in Geneva that could result in a new treaty giving the United Nations unprecedented powers over the Internet. Dozens of countries, including Russia and China, are pushing hard to reach this goal by year’s end. As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last June, his goal and that of his allies is to establish “international control over the Internet” through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a treaty-based organization under U.N. auspices.
The universities of Western Ontario and Toronto have signed a deal with Access. Copyright that allows for surveillance of faculty correspondence, unjustified restriction to copyrighted works and two million dollars in fees that will be passed along to students.
The Belgian anti-piracy group, SABAM, has been one of the most aggressive anti-piracy groups out there. The group recently lost two huge court cases in which it tried to get courts to force ISPs and hosting firms to put in place filters to stop infringement. Perhaps more controversially, the organization has tried to require social networks to pay a flat fee for all the infringement happening on their networks. A year ago, there was a story of SABAM taking cash for a band they didn’t represent after a TV show played a “joke” on the group.
If you’ve been paying attention lately, you’ve probably heard SOPA/PIPA/ACTA supporters insisting that anyone against those bills is involved in a misinformation campaign. This seems pretty ridiculous, considering the level of misinformation that has been spewed for decades in support of these kinds of laws. But it’s reaching a new level of crazy over in the Netherlands, where the Dutch Econimics Minister Maxime Verhagen has apparently announced that “ordinary” people have nothing to worry about concerning ACTA because its focus is to take down child porn sites. Talk about misinformation. ACTA is about intellectual property infringement and has nothing to do with child porn.