11.05.12

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FRAND Trials in the US Kept Secret

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 11:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Wall of secrecy between corporations and the public

Texture

Summary: Patent deals are kept out of the public eye, allowing software patents to tax everything

Apple pretends to be a victim of Android-affiliated patents. But this unbelievable reversal of victim-worthiness is not working:

The judge handling another F/RAND royalty case, Apple v. Motorola, in Wisconsin, the Hon. Barbara B. Crabb, has noticed [PDF] that Apple’s request for the court to set a royalty rate for Motorola’s standards-essential patents appears to be conditional — or maybe a better word would be illusory — since Apple revealed in a filing and then at the final pretrial conference that it won’t be bound by the court’s rate if it doesn’t agree that it’s low enough. As a result, the trial may not happen. There will be a hearing on the matter on Monday, the day the trial is supposed to begin.

Motorola is not the problem here. It did not initiate lawsuits, either. The reckless Feds got deceived by an astroturf campaign and secrecy is not helping:

It looks like everything that really matters in the Microsoft v. Motorola trial, now scheduled to begin on November 13, will be kept secret from the public. Not only are the parties asking the judge to keep their secrets, a substantial list of non-parties are asking that their license agreements with the parties be kept a secret as well. One of them, RIM, even asks the court not only to keep the public from the details but to keep Microsoft from seeing the details of its agreement with Motorola. So any time a license is discussed in detail, the public could be ushered out of the courtroom. That’s what they are asking for. IBM specifies that it wants its materials kept out of the public record, meaning sealed forever.

Secret trials are exactly what the US legal system was set up to try to avoid, and for a good reason — so the public can keep an eye on the courts. This case seems particularly inappropriate for heavy-handed secrecy, in that Microsoft refused to negotiate with Motorola privately to arrive at a royalty figure, opting for a public trial instead of following the typical RAND process.

There is a great deal of back-room dealings here. One thing that Microsoft has been trying to hide is its method for extorting Linux and Android. The above secrecy shows a sort of systemic corruption spreading to the courts. Collusion and blackmail are now harboured — not antagonised — by judges. That is just revolting.

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