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03.08.12

Patents Roundup: Android, FRAND, and Patent Hype

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 5:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

World in hand

Summary: Patent news of interest

LINUX/Android is affected in a very real way by patents, with notable cases like this assault by Oracle [1, 2, 3] or even Apple's extortion, in addition to Microsoft’s. If 3 giants want $15 from each Android device sold (plus patent trolls toll/fines), then the tax on Linux becomes significant. This is exactly what they are hoping to achieve because some of the latest numbers from the United States suggest that Android extends its lead, having long ago conquered the #1 spot with almost 1 million device activations per day.

Android was never about patents, but foes of Linux decided to use patents as a last resort that Windows 95 never really had to cope with. The EFF has a new infographic which shows how patents hinder innovation. And to quote:

Patents may have been created to help encourage innovation, but instead they regularly hinder it. The US Patent Office, overwhelmed and underfunded, issues questionable patents every day. “Patent trolls” buy too many of these patents and then misuse the patent system to shake down companies big and small. Others still use patents to limit competition and impede access to new knowledge, tools, or other innovations.

Over at patent lawyers’ sites there is yet more RAND advancement/promotion, neglecting the fact that RAND (or FRAND) is not compatible with Free software. They neglect ZRAND and other options that actually are being marginalised. To quote part of this post:

On its face, it is easy to see why a FRAND commitment might reassure implementers of a standard. If a patent is essential to the standard, the patent holder must license the patent on terms that are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory. Unfortunately, the devil has proven to be in the details of FRAND, and no two companies seem to have the same view of what constitutes fair, reasonable or non-discriminatory licensing terms. This lack of agreement has troubled regulators for some time and has led to an increasing number of litigation claims alleging that one party or another to a standards effort has failed to comply with its FRAND obligations.

The February FRAND statements by Apple, Microsoft and Google are thus informative and potentially of great importance. To understand the statements, and why the DOJ viewed them differently, it is helpful to compare them side-by-side. The following table summarizes what Apple, Microsoft and Google said FRAND means to them.

Apple and Microsoft pretend to be victims. Google never really wanted anything to do with patents, but it was attacked fiercely by the duopoly. The OIN meanwhile looks for solutions to this duopolistic aggression (not patent trolls) and articles about it reach as far as CNN, which says:

An alliance of technology corporations, including IBM, is expanding the scope of patent protection it provides to developers, vendors, and users of open source software such as Linux. The move cuts against the grain of major companies going after each other, filing suit over patent infringement.

Notice how they single out IBM. It’s not exactly inaccurate though. Other quarters of the business press spread patent propaganda in this week’s press and PR circles.

Adobe, which previously stood up against software patents, is now pursuing them:

Adobe’s patent-pending software technology is used in a variety of plug-ins for popular desktop apps such as Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. Adobe says it is also working on support for Microsoft Outlook, PowerPoint, and Chrome in the future.

Something called “Patent Research Platform” has just gotten funding:

You won’t have to go far in Silicon Valley to find someone who will tell you that the patent situation in the tech industry is a mess. While trouble has been brewing for a decade, the last year has been marked by a continuous stream of litigation, and some might say it’s beginning to take its toll on innovation. Take Yahoo’s recent threats to Facebook, for example. Back in September, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt warned that “overbroad patents will slow” the progress of the software industry, saying that the current state of patents in the U.S. was “terrible.”

At the time, Schmidt suggested that dealing with patents in a way that is more systematic might be beneficial to the industry, even broadly making reference to the idea of crowdsourcing. The Google Chairman isn’t alone in thinking this approach could help make a difference in the ongoing patent wars, evidenced by the growing community that is Article One Partners’ global patent research platform.

This was already attempted by others, including Peer-to-Patent. The issue with this approach is, it inadvertently helps validate patents. How about companies that base themselves on patents? Here is a funny opening paragraph:

Good news for gamers –start up Numecent has announced further details of its patented cloudpaging technology which could vastly lower the time needed to stream software applications.

Why does it seem necessary to patent it? This a bubble.

NASA: Funded by the Public to Feed Patent Trolls

Posted in Patents at 5:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NASA Windows

Summary: NASA is doing its controversial patents feast again

A FEW years ago we wrote about NASA doing something very unjust by potentially feeding patent trolls through an auction. NASA did not learn any lessons from the backlash. According to this article from IDG, NASA is doing it again:

Originally developed for control of satellite systems and other mission specific needs, these patent lots have a number of potential applications in software development, robotics, telecommunications, utilities, smart grids, wireless sensor networks, quantitative finance and cyber security.

Patent lots fall into three categories: automated software generation, autonomic computing architectures and autonomic management of environmental monitoring systems.

Does the public approve this poor use of public money?

A Year After Novell’s Sale

Posted in Novell at 4:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Upon the first anniversary of Novell’s death (or thereabouts) we look back at news of interest

THE POST-NOVELL world is getting very quiet because Attachmate does almost thing. Several years ago we saw de Rojas is moving again [1, 2, 3], having left Novell quite a while back. Over here in the business press we are reminded that Novell was dismantled by a monster, Mr. Singer:

Elliott Management Corp., the hedge fund that pushed Novell Inc. to sell itself in 2010, amassed an 8.5 percent stake in Brocade last year, gaining a position it could use to agitate for change. Elliott, based in New York, cut its stake to 7.5 percent on Jan. 13. At the time, Brocade stock had gained about 64 percent on renewed speculation about a potential sale since Elliott built its stake on Aug. 5.

The real story behind it remains mysterious and we wrote about Brocade before, not just the apparent shell game. In the coming weeks we’ll look closer into it. Considering how Microsoft got Novell’s patents out of it (and then had SUSE sell out), there is plenty of room for suspicion, still.

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