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08.12.13

Patent Aggression, Patent Trolls, and the Increased Visibility of Microsoft’s Role

Posted in Bill Gates, Microsoft, Patents at 4:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bill and Nathan

Summary: Antitrust violators from Microsoft continue trying to portray patents as charity, or mix the two in order to blur the massive difference

The Gates Foundation needs Intellectual Ventures (IV) to portray itself as “innovative” and Intellectual Ventures needs the Gates Foundation to portray itself as “charitable” (e.g. “helping scientists” or “helping solve the world’s problems”). The heads of these two patent-centric operations, Bill and Nathan, are very close friends and they’re only part of Microsoft’s strong affair with patent monopolies. Microsoft’s co-founder is unequivocally a patent troll with great notoriety.

Isn’t it just stunning that a lot of patent trolls are strongly connected to Microsoft, including the company’s founders? There are many examples of this.

The other day, Will Hill looked at the history of a Microsoft executive who had crashed a plane into a building. He wrote:

Looking Closer at Bill Henningsgaard

A former Microsoft executive crashed his airplane into a home in Connecticut killing himself and son in the plane and two children on the ground. A priest is with the mom. Another, more detailed story. This was not his first air crash.

He shows up in Microsoft anti-trust documents, as part of the team pressuring Intel to migrate to Windows instead of gnu/linux for chip design [pdf] , this 2000 team chest thumping like fascists about beating Sun, Novell, Unix, Linux, Notes, world, dog, etc., wrecking Word Perfect and OpenDoc[pdf] and trying to get more money out of Windoze and office by having partners like Dell lease them instead of selling them outright.

Of more recent interest was last business, Social Venture Partners, which is described as philanthropy in the same way the Intellectual Ventures patent troll is. The two are not unrelated, “Nathan Myhrvold, CEO and co-founder of IV, recently delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Social Innovation Fast Pitch in Seattle. Created by Social Venture Partners, the Social Innovation Fast Pitch offers coaching, mentoring and workshops for local innovators to hone their ideas”. Here is a branch in San Diego, which claims,

We specialize in analyzing and valuing intellectual property assets such as brands, patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Essentially we work with IP owners to enhance the value of their assets.

In fact, a Google search turns up branches in Arizona, LA and other places. SVC has partnered with the Gates Foundation and other Microsoft affiliated organizations to fund yet more groups, and advertise a way to donate to “vetted” charities. What’s charity got to do with patent valuation and why would you want such people to direct your money?

Another current business of his was Eastside Pathways, which “that aims to connect different service agencies and advocates for bridging the education gap in Bellevue schools.” which is strange because Belleview is wealthy and has good schools. Helping schools is a fine idea but cooperation with the Gates Foundation is a good way to ruin public schools. Perhaps by invading them with unqualified TFA teachers, unfair teacher evaluations and defunding public schools in favor of charter schools. Other people from Bellevue have been accused of pushing the Gates/Broad agenda this way,

We are, in the state of Washington, once again having the battle over charter schools. The good people in our state have voted it down three times but it has come up again due to the “let’s go around the voters” shenanigans of a former Republican turned Democratic Senator from the upscale suburbs of Bellevue who has determined what is best for the rest of us in terms of charter schools. These charter schools staffed with TFA temps would of course not be proliferating in Bellevue but in the Central District of Seattle, a place that I dare say Senator Tom rarely ventures.

It is difficult to say from a distance, but things mixed up with patents and Gates stink.

The Gates Foundation is very much close to patent agenda, which is also among its business models (not charity). So here again we have a familiar pattern of plutocracy portraying itself as defending the society it is actively looting.

Remember Lodsys, the IV-connected (hence Microsoft- and Gates-connected) patent troll which sues everyone but Microsoft? Well, they too try to pretend to be about charity, but not everyone is buying it. Here is how one writer sees it:

That this item being claimed for (essentially, a button to allow in app payments) is part of what Apple supplies to developers makes it all the more interesting. For of course this provides Lodsys with a vast database of people to sue: all those developing apps are on that potential list.

There’s much more on the background here and here.

But what we all really want to know is, well, how do we stop the patent trolls like Lodsys? How can we still have a system where the rightful owners of useful and valid patents get to protect their intellectual property and yet people with shaky patents of variable validity don’t get to sue the rest of the industry into bankruptcy?

Go back to the roots of it and find Microsoft folks, among others. Here is another take:

One app developer fought back with the help of some pro bono attorneys who gave up a $200k paycheck to help. They brought Lodsys to its knees in a settlement that ended up putting money in the hands of a charitable organization. Which is winning on every.single.front.

This is horrible because charity is increasingly being associated with corruption, thanks to the likes of Lodsys and some plutocrats.

Google is worried about trolls, based on it actions. Google stands behind none of them (never as a proxy, unlike Microsoft). To quote one article:

Google has added 79 patents to the list of patents for which it pledges not to sue any user, distributor or developer of open-source software, unless first attacked.

The issue we have is, companies try to portray patents as some kind of charity or contribution to society and Google plays along with this notion in its original post, “Google: More patents in the service of open source” (IDG did not use the word “donate”). This is an issue which we mentioned the other day. No patent can be “donated”, it is a distortion of concepts. Saying you won’t sue is not the same as you offering a gift.

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