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01.29.13

Microsoft Patents and Secrets in APIs

Posted in Antitrust, Microsoft, Novell at 3:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Man with cigarette

Summary: Groklaw’s latest articles about Microsoft’s abuses

APIs are ripe for patent extortion, so Microsoft fights hard to maintain API domination, e.g. with Mono and Moonlight — projects that Microsoft helped fund indirectly. Novell and Microsoft are still arguing over WordPerfect. The latest update comes from Pamela Jones, who writes:

Microsoft has filed its brief [PDF] in the appeal of Novell v. Microsoft, the antitrust litigation Novell brought against Microsoft over WordPerfect. I’ve done it as text for you. The judge in the case handed Microsoft a win on summary judgment after a jury couldn’t reach a verdict. So now it’s before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Microsoft’s airy arguments go something like this: Yes, we were a monopoly with 95% of the desktop market at the time, and yes, we reversed course after encouraging Novell to use APIs that we then decided not to support, but hey, we don’t owe competitors anything. “A monopolist generally has no duty to cooperate with or assist a competitor whether the decision is ‘intentional’ or otherwise.” We can change our business model any time we want to, as long as we are even-handed and the effect is on everyone, not just Novell. (Novell, however, was the one that Microsoft encouraged to use the APIs, and it was the one Microsoft feared, according to Novell, writing that the decision to drop support for the APIs “involved the intentional inducement of reliance.”)

Microsoft now uses API domination for patent extortion, with leading examples such as FAT. It is like the FRAND trick, which Microsoft likes to use to tax competitors including FOSS. Jones has two new updates regarding the use of FRAND against Android, courtesy of Microsoft in its own biased turf, Seattle. Jones writes:

Tomorrow, Monday, Microsoft and Motorola meet in a courtroom in Seattle at 1:30 PM to argue at a hearing before the Hon. James L. Robart about the meaning of a 2005 Google-MPEG LA patent license agreement and regarding a motion for summary judgment by Microsoft. I have all the documents for you so you can see what it is all about.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything when you read them. The parties’ lawyers don’t understand the licenses fully either, not for sure, in that they don’t agree at all on what they mean, and that’s why they are in a court of law.

Here is a report from the courtroom, which is being stuffed with Microsoft boosters acting and entering as 'reporters'.

We had a volunteer in the courtroom for the hearing in Seattle between Microsoft and Motorola, and we have his first report.

The hearing was in two parts. The first part had to do with the validity of Motorola’s patents, which Microsoft is challenging. The second part was on whether Google’s 2005 license agreement with MPEG LA sweeps Motorola’s FRAND patents at issue in this litigation into MPEG LA’s clutches and control. It’s all about how much Microsoft has to pay Motorola, if anything. For background, go here and here for lots more details and context on the license agreement issue.

MPEG-LA is a cartel and FRAND should be banned as a whole, but the above confrontation began with Microsoft suing. Google has tried to create deterrence against more Android extortion.

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