Setting up barriers to freedom
Summary: The duopoly continues its war on Android, with each side adopting a different approach
THE patent extortion by Microsoft continues because small companies give up. To quote one report about the latest, “Microsoft has announced that two more makers of Android-based devices, Coby Electronics and Aluratek, have signed on to the company’s patent licensing programme. Both Coby Electronics and Aluratek make low-cost Android tablets; Aluratek makes an Android 4.0 based tablet called the Cinepad which costs between $150 and $220 and Coby Electronics makes a Android 2.3 based Kyros tablet which retails for as little as $80.”
One reader sent us the link and asked, “what is going on? When will this end?”
“The problem is that Microsoft, as an award for racketeering, is already making money from many Android sales.”The matter of fact is, enough vendors remain which don’t pay Microsoft even a single dime. We have a growing list of companies to avoid. Meanwhile, argues Pogson, companies start to recognise that Microsoft tax is indeed a tax that they need not really pay, not in an age of Linux domination anyway. “Expect to see competition on retails shelves with that other OS getting less shelf-space in the future,” Pogson writes. “Wintel was worried about prices when a PC was ~$1K for a box and the OS cost 15% of the price. Imagine how terrified they are when the OS costs 50% or more of the price of a small cheap PC and on the same shelf a consumer is likely to see $200 and $100 prices for essentially the same hardware with the higher price covering that other OS… When prices are no longer hidden from consumers, choices will be made and M$’s share of the pie will plunge. The ultimate horror for Wintel? Seeing */Linux on all PCs everywhere in retail spaces. The house of cards will have the monopoly-card removed this fall.”
Microsoft is trying to make Android/Linux non-free (non-gratis) as means of deterring manufacturers and shops from making and stocking non-Windows devices. This is not going to work though; in fact, it is already failing because Android continues to grow. The problem is that Microsoft, as an award for racketeering, is already making money from many Android sales. This sheer injustice needs to stop.
Apple in the mean time is trying to altogether embargo some Android devices. Although it has been unsuccessful in the UK, Apple continues its litigation war in continental Europe (mostly via Holland and Germany) and in the US, with the aid of ITC and USPTO.
Reuters says that US politicians assess the effects of such bans. To quote: “The Congress is considering whether companies that hold patents essential to a standard, such as a digital movie format, should be forbidden from asking that infringing products be banned from the U.S. market.”
Andy Updegrove writes more on a related subject: “If you’ve been following the ongoing mobile operating system wars between companies like Motorola Mobility, Apple, Google and Samsung, you may recall that the biggest hammer a patent owner can wield is to prevent a competitor from selling a product. In the regular courts, this is achieved by obtaining an injunction, which is a court order that bars such sales from occurring. In this situation, the patent owner claims that it can’t be adequately compensated after the fact by damages.
“Recently, a judge in the Apple case questioned software patents as a whole.”“But the US courts haven’t been favorable to this approach since a key Supreme Court ruling in 2006, leading companies to seek an alternate route to a similar result: a judgment by the International Trade Commission (ITC), barring the competitor from importing any product into the U.S. that infringes on the patent. If that patent is essential for implementing a standard that is, in turn, essential to performing the device’s function, then you’ve effectively barred its competitor from being a competitor at all – at least in the U.S.”
Over at Groklaw, professor Mark Webbink covers another case which can have a profound effect on patenting in the US. “In a split decision of a three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit in CLS Bank International and CLS Services Ltd v. Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd.,” he writes, “the Court once again established that it has no clue what is or is not patentable subject matter. (CLS [PDF; Text]). The majority opinion written by Judge Linn again returns to the favored theory of the diehards on the Federal Circuit that almost anything involving a computer is patentable. The dissent, provided by Judge Prost, criticizes the majority for, for all intents and purposes, ignoring the recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, and in particular the Prometheus decision.”
Recently, a judge in the Apple case questioned software patents as a whole. At the moment, the best we can do it impede the spreading of software patents — a subject we’ll cover in a later post about Europe. █