Summary: More new stories and evidence which convince us that any suggested reforms are designed to serve the rich and ultra powerful, not to actually decrease pain and suffering felt by SMEs (globally declining force)
Patent trolls are receiving more attention than the controversy over software patents. They are viewed as enemy number one these days, even though many trolls are using software patents and a lot of patent abuse comes from huge companies like Microsoft, Oracle, and Apple. Here is a response to the New York Times setting the trend by focusing on trolls again:
We’ve covered patent troll Erich Spangenberg a few times over the years, starting with the time a court told him he needed to pay $3.8 million to DaimlerChrysler after he had signed a patent licensing agreement over some patents in one of his shell companies, transferred those patents to another shell company… and sued DaimlerChrysler once again.
Yes, this is troubling, but why ignore the massive, multi-million-patent cartels of large corporations? Consider what RPX is doing. On July 18th it wrote about ‘licensing’, noting that: “Interestingly, while the inefficiency of the legal system can often make fighting NPEs with small portfolios and small demands (regardless of the merits) seem economically unattractive, the opposite may be true for “aggregate-and-assert” NPEs with large portfolios and eight- or nine-figure demands. Fighting could often be the correct economic choice.”
They must be referring not just to Intellectual Ventures, which uses smaller shells to do the litigation. Consider how Lodsys is connected to Intellectual Ventures and see how nasty it gets:
Lodsys, as you may recall, is the rather infamous patent troll, which is demanding payment from a ton of app developers, claiming to have broad patents (which it got from Intellectual Ventures, of course) that cover all sorts of smartphone apps. Todd Moore, who runs app developer TMSOFT, was recently sued by Lodsys, claiming patent infringement, because his White Noise app has a hyperlink that would open a URL in another app — a rather basic thing that tons of apps do. However, it seemed odd to go after TMSOFT, given that, as Moore notes, the app itself only made $500, and Lodsys itself insists that it’s often just asking for less than 1% of revenues.
Here is what it’s like for startups. A personal story goes like this: “Once a month, Steve Wright* gets a large envelope from his lawyers and goes into a whir. “Every month when that hits my desk, I just get this feeling in the pit of my stomach, like, ‘How bad is it going to be?’” says Wright, the founder and CEO of a New York-based ecommerce startup.”
Summary: Now that there are rumours about the possibility of patent settlement with Apple, a reminder is needed addressing the futility of such a route
THE Microsoft-occupied Nokia is mentioned in a pro-Apple site which argues “Nokia’s failure to gain traction in the smartphone market with Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform is seen by one analyst as a sign that consumers are content with the two dominant options currently on the market: Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.”
“The real solution would be putting an end to software patents.”Well, we already know that Android is gaining, usually at Apple’s expense (depending on the country) and Apple (AAPL) is declining rapidly, even as a financial instrument.
Reports suggest that the best-selling Android devices, which are under patent attack from Apple, may get the clearance they need after a ‘settlement’ between Samsung and Apple. In order to be not GPL-incompatible this would have to encompass Android as a whole, not just Samsung’s use of it. We hardly know anything about the Apple-HTC settlement and Samsung failed to find out as well. If there was a one-time flat fee to pay for Apple to walk away for good, it would be similar to what Google did with MPEG-LA. Here is a report about it all:
There is no indication that the two sides are close to a settlement, but talks between the companies are still going on, the people familiar with the discussions said.
In the negotiations, described sparingly in heavily redacted documents from the U.S. International Trade Commission made public earlier this month and by people familiar with them, Samsung has pushed for a broad patent cross-licensing deal that could settle all outstanding litigation between the companies. It is unclear whether Apple was interested in such a deal.
Even if that happened, it would not prevent other CPTN members like Oracle and Microsoft (and numerous patent trolls/proxies like MOSAID) from attacking Android in court. The real solution would be putting an end to software patents. █
Posted in Patents at 10:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz
TechDirt’s Mike Masnick
Summary: Concepts such as patent monopolies and evergreening (loophole for extending the lifetime of a patent monopoly) explained by Masnick and Moody
In articles that are written mostly by Dr. Glyn Moody and are outside our standard scope of coverage (most of the time but not always) it is shown that medicine suffers from patents. Contrary to the propaganda about patents being essential for scientists to come up with cures, reality suggests that patents achieve the exact opposite or limit the reach of medicine once it’s available and is easy to produce in large quantities. Here are some recent articles of interest. They deserve increased attention, more attention than daily links would get.
One technique in the world of pharma that has started appearing here on Techdirt is “evergreening” — making small changes to a drug, often about to come off patent, in order to gain a new patent that extends its manufacturer’s control over it. The advantages for pharma companies are evident, but what about the public? What economic impact does evergreening have?
Remember how, just a month ago, the Supreme Court had struck down gene patents in the Myriad case? If you don’t recall, Myriad claimed, effectively, to have patented the isolated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are indicators of a likelihood for developing breast cancer. As such, they blocked anyone else from doing tests to find those two genes, and charged a whopping $4,000 or so for anyone who wanted the test. The Supreme Court, thankfully, tossed out those claims, noting that Myriad “did not create or alter any of the genetic information” in those genes, and that if found valid, it would “give it the exclusive right to isolate an individual’s BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.” That’s obviously crazy, so it was good that the Supreme Court rejected those claims.
We have already alluded to the Myriad decision [1, 2] because it is said to have an indirect impact on patenting of software, or at least on this whole debate which deals with software patents.
Evergreening is not unique to medicine. MPEG-LA does it and so do various other patent cartels, as we showed in previous years (we no longer have the capacity to cover as much as we did before). Maybe it’s time to legislate against this practice, for it is simply a loophole that subverts basic principles of patents. Think of how Hollywood always lobbies to indefinitely extend the duration/term of copyright monopoly. Similar trick. █
Summary: An apparent attempt by Microsoft boosters to crash the highly-anticipated launch event of Ubuntu hardware
Former Microsoft employee Zack Whittaker, who has a reputation for saying nonsense, spread FUD about Ubuntu Forums in order to heighten and increase the fear. Rather than feed the FUD let’s just say that some proprietary software which Canonical has been using got cracked. But what level of media exposure does this deserve given the abundance of such stories (tens or hundreds of thousands of sites get cracked every day)? Zack hardly covers anything FOSS; he has been busy defending his former employer, Microsoft, from antitrust regulators, as we noted numerous times. He was the first with access to a media platform through which to write an article about a negative Ubuntu occurence, before Monday even!
CBS‘s ZDNet rarely publishes anything in the weekend, but Microsoft Zack’s piece was published on Sunday. This is an effective way to distract from Ubuntu’s big announcement today (please don’t click this link, it is for future reference only).
I may not be a fan of Ubuntu anymore, but its phones and tablets ambitions/projects really fascinate me. It brings GNU to decent hardware and it is not expected to be locked down like Android (WebOS, Sailfish. Firefox OS, Tizen and Vivaldi have potential and are Linux-powered also). So today’s announcement is important and it comes just days after Microsoft collapsed, partly owing to the failure of Surface. Microsoft sure would love to distract from Canonical’s big day in the press, occupying the media with bad news about Ubuntu. Canonical has gotten some industry partners and it is looking for more right now. It’s good timing, too,
Vista 8 is so widely rejected/hated by so many that OEMs are exploring alternatives to Windows. The Vista 8.1 nonsense won’t change their mind because it is fundamentally “stupid” just like Vista 8. As one blogger put it some weeks ago: “Windows 8 was an attempt by Microsoft to change the way PC users use their PC. According to them, touch screen, is the wave of the future, and everyone should embrace it. While touch screens are a great way to ACCESS content on a TABLET. Nothing can beat CREATING content on a PC like the keyboard and mouse, and everybody knows this! Windows 8 has been by every definition, a failure because of this truth.”
When it comes to Surface RT and Pro tablet sales, Microsoft (MSFT) PR has lost all credibility. Why’s that? Just look at Microsoft’s statements about special Surface RT price discounts and sales on July 15 — and then fast forward to July 18, when the software giant said it’s taking a $900 million writeoff for the Surface RT tablet failure. Here’s the update.
As you may recall, Microsoft started slashing Surface RT prices by roughly 30 percent about a week ago. The media sensed that sales of the low-end tablet were bombing. But Microsoft put its best spin on the story, offering this quote to The Wall Street Journal on July 15:
“We’ve been seeing great success with pricing and cover promotions over the past several months on Surface RT in the U.S. and other markets. People who buy Surface love Surface, and we’re excited about all those additional people out sharing their excitement for Surface with other people.”
Some years ago there was a perception that if you support GNU/Linux nobody will buy hardware from you, whereas now Microsoft is in this position (Nokia being one example of several, large PC OEMs being others). It’s Android that’s increasingly perceived as the winner, but Canonical built sufficient brand recognition around Ubuntu and it can actually pull off a hit. Don’t let Microsoft or its minion distract journalists right now,
According to reports like this, Microsoft has been trying to hide just how much of a mess it’s in. ValueAct Capital Management LP wants to grab board seats and maybe the CEO will get ousted some time soon. █
So the real risk is much smaller than the headline numbers suggest. In all this, I can’t help feeling Black Duck want us to be afraid. It’s very important that Github takes its responsibilities seriously, and their new improvements show they are starting to do so. But the headline “60% of open source is dangerous” number from Black Duck, together with the “77% of Github is dangerous” number, seem over stated. Given their business model is to apply reassuring consulting and tools to corporate fears about open source, maybe that’s not surprising. But it’s regrettable.
Open source software is all about developers being able to achieve sufficient certainty to collaborate without the need to spend money on legal advice. OSI’s approved licenses deliver that, and the vast majority of active open source projects have this topic sorted. While Github’s laissez faire attitude to date has led to a good deal of inconvenience identifying the license in use for projects there, as well as pandering to the anti-bureaucratic instincts of the newer generation of developers, it’s now being sorted and it never rose to the level of a crisis for most people.
It must have been frustrating for Black Duck to have the PR spin on their new product thwarted by Github; I just wish they had responded by toning down the “danger, danger” message. Open source has a lower compliance burden than proprietary software and its endless, custom EULAs and developer licenses. Let’s shout that message, for a change.
After all the GPL fear that was spread by Black Duck it is too hard to believe anything it says. Black Duck was also honouring Microsoft with 'open source' awards (lending legitimacy with mere words and hype), not disclosing that it had a Microsoft business partnership and also a strong Microsoft connection (the firm’s founder) since its inception. The thing to remember about Black Duck is, they’re not selling FOSS or even any valuable information, just FUD and proprietary software. Moreover, they deserve no mercy or the benefit of the doubt (as there is doubt no more and the doubt only ever comes from them, along with fear and uncertainty about using FOSS code).
Yes, how profoundly ‘open source’. As long as the rest is all proprietary, everywhere else inside the stack… █
Summary: Various questions from different people answered by Richard Stallman
Having solicited some questions for this interview with Richard Stallman, we start with a question about FreedomBox. One person asks: “How about freedombox? For the uneducated, the progress seems to be horribly slow. Here is the chance of a lifetime to show how with free software we could revolutionize the people communicate in the internet but the progress is too slow to take advantage of it.”
To paraphrase what Alessandro asks, “what new project is the FSF going to or would want to sponsor in the near future? For example, as the FSF sponsored GNU Media Goblin to free us from YouTube, Flickr etc., will there be something to free us from other risks to our privacy, freedom, and control over data?”
Another reader asks: “What are your opinions about the companies that work with Free Software, notably Red Hat and Canonical, and are, every time, distancing themselves more and more from the ideals of Free Software and making small proprietary walled gardens in their so-called ‘ecosystems’ (which, of course, harm the whole GNU/Linux ‘ecosystem’ and community). Specifically, Canonical with its own graphical server, package format and init system and Red Hat with its own init system that’s breaking the *nix paradigm of KISS and shoving down the throats of the entire community something that the community does not want (Gentoo and Slack are opposing it, Debian is sitting in the fence).”