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02.22.12

Patents Roundup: Oracle Lessens Android Demands, Red Hat Suggests Cure to Trolls, Debian Adopts New Patent Policy

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Patents, Red Hat at 1:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Proprietary giants and their trolls cut the Linux cake

Cake-cutting

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.”

This comes amid more updates on the copyright case of Oracle, which might even be easier to toss out because, just like in the SCO case, unless there are lines of code to be shown, this whole case is weak and hinged on the question of APIs.

Here is the report on damages:

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.

Red Hat aside (it has legal mechanisms that others do not), Debian sets a new software patents policy:

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.

When Proprietary Software Companies Speak for Open Source

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 1:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Open Source Think Tank is to FOSS what Microsoft lobbyist Florian Müller is to FOSS

Handyman

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.

Speaking of the hijacking of the term “Open Source”, recall what Microsoft did inside OpenStack and watch the Microsoft booster trying to promote proprietary Microsoft software inside this “Open” stack. They are polluting Open Source by means of deception and sooner or later we are left without a side — as the one that once existed is now occupied by FOSS foes. This way they win. They conquer both sides of the debate.

FOSS-Hostile Patent Policies in Europe and the FFII’s Response to That

Posted in Deception, Europe, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 12:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Euro

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 Lin
Marti 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.

The “European Parliament To Exclude Free Software With FRAND” says this new headline from Slashdot. Quoting the submission in full:

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 Unitary Patent will continue to be debated as questions about the Unitary Patent continue to be raised by the public. This is a separate but related threat that we’ll address another day.

Meanwhile, over in Israel (sometimes lumped in with Europe, e.g. the ERC), software patents are said to be getting legalised. Lior Kaplan writes:

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.

Down under in Australia there has not been patent news for a while, but this talk about software patents in Australia has just been uploaded, so we would like to share it.

Google continues to collect software patents much to the concern of some (“If Google Is Serious About Reforming Patent Mess, It Should Make A Bold Statement And Stop Using Motorola Patents To Demand Cash”) and the EFF, as mentioned the other day, gets increasingly involved in this battle over patents, even though it takes a Google-like approach that does not eliminate patents as a whole. As the FFII’s president put it some days ago, the “EFF does make clear is that advocating for the abolishment of software patents is not likely to be part of this project” (that it launched).

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 Hintjens
He 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).

Patents Let Giants Attack the Rest, Apple Attack FOSS

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 12:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

jupiter

Summary: A roundup of patent news with focus on Apple’s attack on FOSS projects, notably in the courtroom

PATENTS are still being used to push small players out of the market, as shown recently courtesy of Honeywell.

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.

Meanwhile, over in China, Apple is shown for the hypocrite it is:

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.

A few days ago we wrote about Apple's use of a "slide to lock" patent to try to ban Android devices. Apple has no shame and some of the press mocks Apple for it [1, 2, 3] although not sufficiently. One analysis shows why Apple’s patent should be considered invalid:

When I initially searched the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database and Google Patents, I missed something very interesting in the war [1][2] 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.

Currently, Apple is trying to embargo certain Android devices:

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).

Microsoft Spies on All Windows/Internet Explorer Users, But Chooses Google as FUD Target

Posted in Google, Microsoft at 11:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft Corporation: disseminating lies.

Office

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:

Yesterday, Microsoft accused Google of bypassing an Internet Explorer’s privacy policy. Today, Google declared that Microsoft’s claim were FUD and the Windows giant knows darn well that “Microsoft policy is widely non-operational.”

Of course. Microsoft too is non-operational because executives are fleeing too quickly for replacements to be appointed. Over time we turn more of our attention to other companies and stay focused on the core issues. Next up: more on patents.

Links 22/2/2012: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8, Firefox 10.0.2

Posted in News Roundup at 4:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Kiwi open sourcers invade Aus

    New Zealand open source digital media company SilverStripe is ramping up its presence in Australia, selecting Victoria as its Australian headquarters and hiring 50 new staff.

  • Is Open Source Software Falling Short?

    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 Is Made For The Cloud

    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.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

  • SaaS

  • Databases

    • Clustered NoSQL database Riak gets administration console

      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.

  • Education

  • Business

  • Funding

  • Openness/Sharing

Leftovers

  • Vic Toews Apparently Not A Fan Of Others Seeing His Personal Data

    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.

  • Finance

    • “Crooks on the Loose? Did Felons Get a Free Pass in the Financial Crisis?“
    • Looking for Someone to Blame? Congress is a Good Place to Start

      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.

  • Censorship

    • Twitter Sued For Defamation By Someone Who Thinks It’s Responsible For ‘Publishing’ Tweets

      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.

    • The U.N. Threat to Internet Freedom

      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.

    • Billionaire Romney donor uses threats to silence critics
  • Intellectual Monopolies

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