Summary: The spiritual leader of Apple is accused of trying to “kill” Linux development (money with strings attached)
ONE OF our participants, Oiaohm, says that OSDL (now merged into the Linux Foundation) pays Linus Torvalds because he received some outrageous job offers that put in jeopardy the development (or coordination of development) of Linux. Steve Jobs, the man behind the vicious attack on Android, turns out to have been behind another blow against Linux:
Apple Tried to Hire Linus Torvalds, Kill Linux
The founder of Linux was invited to Apple HQ in Cupertino by Steve Jobs at the turn of the millennium, where is was invited to join Apple and work on (what would become) OS X.
The lure? ‘Unix for the biggest user base’.
The catch? That he would have to stop development on Linux, a condition that led Torvalds to flatly refuse the offer.
Imagine: no Linux would have meant no Ubuntu, no ChromeOS, and no Android; the entire ecosystem of technology could have been dramatically changed by acceptance of this one job offer.
Thanks to the reader who brought this to our attention. █
Summary: The primary patent extortion vector against Linux is falling apart with help from the creator of Linux
A FINNISH company called Tuxera is doing a lot of damage by making it standard practice to pay Microsoft for Linux, due to dubious claims of file system patents. Here is the latest attack from Tuxera and Microsoft. But another Finnish entity, Linus Torvalds, is meanwhile knocking down the very basis for this extortion, namely some controversial file system patents. As one writer put it:
Open source pin-up Linus Torvalds has managed to stuff up an important Microsoft patent which was being used to force Google Android and Linux handset users to pay up.
According to Wired, the Vole had forced many Android phone makers into paying licensing fees for various Microsoft patents related to operating system design.
It looked like Microsoft was vindicated when ITC Administrative Law Judge Theodore R. Essex found that Motorola had violated four Microsoft patents. But Torvalds helped convince the Administrative Law Judge that the patent was invalid.
Linus Torvalds just can’t help but be a thorn in Microsoft’s side.
First, he created an open source project that completely upset Microsoft’s business model. And now, he has helped shoot down an important Microsoft patent in Redmond’s crusade to wring licensing dollars out of Google Android and other versions of Linux.
Microsoft has coerced many Android phone makers into paying licensing fees for various Microsoft patents related to operating system design, and in some cases, it has actually taken legal action against such companies, including smartphone manufacturer Motorola. In October of 2010, it sued Motorola in federal court, and it filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission, or ITC.
Last December, Microsoft scored a victory when the ITC Administrative Law Judge Theodore R. Essex found that Motorola had violated four Microsoft patents. But the ruling could also eliminate an important Microsoft software patent that has been invoked in lawsuits against Barnes & Noble and car navigation device-maker Tom Tom.
According to Linus Torvalds, he was deposed in the case this past fall, and apparently his testimony about a 20-year-old technical discussion — along with a discussion group posting made by an Amiga fan, known only as Natuerlich! — helped convince the Administrative Law Judge that the patent was invalid.
This is very important news.
One debate which relates to this is whether software patents should be permitted in standards. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a Microsoft front group, lobbies in favour and Glyn Moody takes note:
This is a perfect example of why this is not just about big companies versus little companies. Samba is not a company, and has no funds, and yet it has created and continues to develop one of the most widely-used pieces of software in the world. According to Mutkoski, it should be perfectly acceptable that this group of public benefactors – for that is what they are – should be denied access to key information held by a company that was found to have abused its monopoly, simply because that group has no funds. And that, in general, is what will happen if open standards are allowed to be FRAND, and not RF.
And to the argument that Samba did, indeed, obtain that key interoperability information, which proves the current system works, and doesn’t need changing, consider this. Samba obtained that information only because, once more, two things happened: a one-time access fee was charged, and a Fairy Godmother appeared to pay it.
But the point is, a belief that companies will always grant one-time fees, and that Fairy Godmothers will always magically turn up in the nick of time to save open source projects that otherwise will be excluded from key sectors, is not a basis for European policy making. The European Commission must plan on the basis of reality, not fantasy. The only rational way of protecting open source projects and allowing them to continue to make their contributions to society is to insist on RF, not FRAND licensing for open standards.
Of course, there is an alternative which Mutkowski may like to consider: that Microsoft commits irrevocably, perpetually and unconditionally to take on the role of Fairy Godmother by covering all FRAND fees that may be demanded from any open source project for implementing open standards.
exFAT is a major sham that should not be permitted as de facto standard because of patents. Now that the patents in question are scrutinised, might there be a massive refund for Microsoft extortion? Unlikely perhaps, but one can hope. █
Summary: A roundup of press coverage on the subject of software patents and reasons for optimism
THE software patents backlash surely will increase as we see more and more patent trolls doing what they do best: sue en masse.
According to this article, entire cities are now the target of some patent trolls with software patents (there is a proven correlation between the two):
The crisis that is the American software patent system has reached a tipping point. It’s no longer just established companies who are being hit with frivolous lawsuits, it’s startups as well. And in a new twist, American cities that are already strapped for cash are getting the shakedown from patent trolls.
Another writer explains why software patents are problematic. To quote:
YAHOO has recently gone to court. Its case: a software patent claim against Facebook, a distinctly profitable social network on the cusp of floatation and at the very centre of the social web. Yahoo was once the Internet’s most profitable search engine, an original dotcom boomer from a time when people said “cyberspace” and meant it. Hard times have lead them to pursue a claim that Facebook have been abusing Yahoo’s techniques for serving targeted advertising to users.
Software patents have been at the centre of some heavyweight industrial disputes over the last few months, though the patents themselves can seem rather insignificant. Apple is currently locked in battle with Motorola, Samsung and other phone manufacturers, with one recently settled case being to do with code for zooming in to photos. Samsung is suing Apple right back, claiming they infringe a patent that deals with displaying text messages.
To be granted a patent, you must have a concrete invention, not an idea. Is a computer program an idea or a patentable process? Does our patent apply to the description of the process, the code written by a human, or the low-level instructions generated by the machine? Can we enforce a patented procedure across programming languages, across computers with fundamentally different modes of operation? Questions like these highlight the inherent difficulties in patenting pure information.
We still find it disheartening that patent trolls are being whitewashed by the media. Here is a new example of Australian press propaganda, where a patent troll gets called “innovator” instead of “troll”. They put it like a fairy tale, which it’s not, even if Microsoft is the defendant in this case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. The Australian patent maximalists also do this in other sites, Here is the new article titled “LBT Innovations: international patent applications to bolster commercial prospects”. Contrariwise, another site says that “sharing patents encourages innovation” (although the notion of “sharing” monopolies is odd). To quote the analysis:
Instead of preventing competitors from infringing on their patents with costly litigation, business researchers now say that patent holders can often profit even more by free-licensing their patents to competitors.
The reality tends to upset patent lawyers, such as Lundberg. To them, all that matters is their own interests. As this new piece puts it, “patent lawyers are clueless about the software industry.” The outspoken promoter of software patents (a patent lawyer, Lundberg) is having his message debunked:
A major reason for the recent explosion of patent litigation is that it’s hard for software firms to figure out which patents they’re in danger of infringing. There are hundreds of thousands of software patents in existence, with more than 40,000 new ones issued each year. Indeed, in a recent paper, Christina Mulligan and I estimated that it’s effectively impossible for all software-producing firms to do the legal research, known as a “freedom-to-operate” (FTO) search, required to avoid infringing software patents–there simply aren’t enough patent attorneys to do the work. That’s a major reason why most software firms simply ignore the patent system.
So why is Lundberg so oblivious to the realities of the software industry? Julian wrote on Wednesday about peoples’ tendency to extrapolate from their own experiences. Lundberg’s post is not an accurate description of the software industry as a whole, but it probably is an accurate description of the parts of the software industry he sees on a regular basis. By definition, Lundberg’s clients are drawn disproportionately from the minority of software firms with the resources and infrastructure to effectively navigate the patent system. This means he rarely interacts with the vast majority of software-producing firms who only deal with the patent system when they are forced to do so by an unexpected cease-and-desist letter.
Consider, for example, the patent troll Lodsys, which began extorting money from small app developers last year. For the small firms targeted by Lodsys, the rational thing to do is to pay the money Lodsys demands whether or not the target believes he’s actually guilty. That’s because the legal costs of defending against a patent lawsuit is likely to vastly exceed the amount of money Lodsys is demanding. But because many targets of frivolous patent threats settle their cases quickly, guys like Lundberg rarely interact with them. In other words, Lundberg works with the patent system’s winners on a daily basis, but he rarely interacts with the system’s losers, even though there are many more of them.
As a result, there’s a deep and persistent rift between the community of computer programmers, who are overwhelmingly hostile to software patents, and patent lawyers who seem mystified by all the outrage. The job of a patent lawyer gives him a systematically skewed understanding of how the patent system affects the software industry.
This debate was never about reason, not when it’s dominated or monopolised by panels of lawyers. We previously mentioned how even Google was getting occupied by lawyers, especially in light of cases like this one. Google might not be doing evil, but why can it not do good? Why can it not help end software patents? Right now there is a legal case that can help eliminate software patents in the US and while Red Hat addresses the subject, Google does not. Google is too busy indexing patents, which only helps the very same system that harms Android. Groklaw brings us the latest from this important case:
As Dennis Crouch of Patently O earlier predicted, the world-changing Mayo v. Prometheus decision by the US Supreme Court is already impacting the other case regarding gene patents, Myriad Genetics. Today, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded [PDF] the case back to the Federal Circuit, telling it to take another look and come up with a ruling in harmony with their Mayo decision:
ASSN. FOR MOLECULAR PATHOLOGY V. MYRIAD GENETICS, ET AL.
The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for further consideration in light of Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 566 U.S. ___ (2012)
Techrights will keep track of this case because the #1 priority right now is to eliminate software patents, which can in turn guarantee the triumph or at very least safety of Free software. █
Summary: Despite Novell involvement in Go-OO (and later LibreOffice), the rolling release of OpenSUSE does not have it
OPENSUSE’S rolling release gets the latest KDE while the mainline release shows almost no signs of real progress. Greg K-H, who recently left SUSE, writes about the subject and notes that LibreOffice cannot be included:
From there the report states that Linux kernel 3.3 is in Tumbleweed and Greg K-H said it seems to be working well. Also in Tumbleweed is KDE 4.8, which was released by the KDE project on January 25. Because of the KDE 4.8 update, Greg K-H explained that LibreOffice had to be dropped because it won’t build with current packages in Tumbleweed or Factory. A bug report has been filed and hopefully will be addressed soon.
It seems as though Greg cares about SUSE even after leaving the company. Since a lot of the community jumped ship there is not much that can be done. █