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07.07.13

UEFI is a Patent Trap

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Kernel, Patents at 8:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

UEFI comes with untold baggage

A retired home

Summary: A word about the lesser known threats in UEFI, which has many patents tied to it (including pure software patents)

We very recently (the end of last week) wrote two posts tying together restricted boot and software patents as a threat [1, 2]. UEFI apologist Dr. Garrett says that “Intel-based systems often implement something called Intel Rapid Start Technology. Like many things with the word “Technology” in the name, there’s a large part of this that’s marketing.” (via) And patents, too. Another term often used is “innovation”, which is a euphemism for patent monopoly.

“Another term often used is “innovation”, which is a euphemism for patent monopoly.”One subject that came up in the conversation I had with UEFI Forum's president is patents. We spent quite a long time chatting about it (I had asked for permission to record but not to publish). Basically, he agreed that many patents were involved in UEFI and I reminded him that Intel lobbies for software patents, which makes Intel a foe of Free software at an ideological level. Based on the posts above, licensing is part of the deal with UEFI. In my hour (and beyond) long conversation I brought up Intel legal actions, patent acquisitions, patent thickets, etc. These are definitely worth discussing. They are the black elephant in the room. Never assume that because the patent holder is a FOSS-friendly company like Sun the patents would never be scooped by some troll like Intellectual Ventures or TMSoft, aggressors who deny being trolls. The former of those, Intellectual Ventures, is notorious for hoarding hardware patents, too, then extorting semiconductor makers, too (this firm got the patents from Torvalds' former employer, Transmeta, which also had Torvalds' patents).

Don’t ever forget how Oracle used Sun’s patents to fight against Linux. Here is the latest:

Oracle has filed its Reply [PDF] to Google’s Appeal and Cross-Appeal Brief. Google’s was in response to Oracle’s opening appeal brief, so now the 3-section symphony of appellate briefs is complete. Next will come oral argument, and then a decision from the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

This case is nearly 3 years old now. It can go on for several more years. The SCO case is over a decade old and still going.

The bottom line is, patents related to UEFI are not benign and one day they can come to haunt us just like Java patents. This is yet another reason to cling onto BIOS legacy (old and expired patents) and not eschew another trap which has multiple dimensions of threat.

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