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08.16.13

Using Blackberry Patents Against Android/Linux Not a Far-Fetched Strategy in the Nation of Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Patents at 1:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The demise of Blackberry is a growing patent-stacking threat to Linux and Free software

Blackberry

Summary: Identification of a looming threat to Android/Linux, especially from a company with history of Microsoft deals and a growing patent portfolio that’s being considered for sale

The United States, whose patent system is run by large corporations like IBM and Microsoft (the USPTO has long been operating outside the public interest), is a very threatening environment to Free/libre software. To distribute computer programs for free might not be legal there, but it only becomes a problem when distribution is of high volume and by a large company like Google. Microsoft even got large companies paying it for Linux, a widely used operating system kernel. This is unjust and the core cause is software patents.

“The first step to fighting patent trolls is to limit software patents to five years,” says this new article, which puts forth a sort of compromise which at least targets the real problem. To quote:

There’s a lot wrong with America’s patent system — it often serves to undercut innovation, limits competition, and rewards trolls. But there’s a relatively easy short-term fix: Cap software patents at five years from issuance, a position adapted from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Defend Innovation Project. While comprehensive legislation is needed to fix patent law, this first step is critical to reviving and protecting entrepreneurship, R&D, and technological progress in the United States.

20 years if far too long a lifetime for patents that should have never been granted in the first place. Watch how software patents are preventing the spread of voice recognition, motivating this lawsuit over reasonably out-of-date ideas:

As Nuance Communications Inc. and ABBYY Software House — two competitors in optical character recognition — brought their long-running case to a jury in U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White’s courtroom on Monday, their lawyers traded classic barbs of patent warfare.

Representing plaintiff Nuance, partner James Bennett of Morrison & Foerster described ABBYY in his opening statement as “a follower, not a leader.”

Coming to the Russian company’s defense, partner Gerald Ivey of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner suggested that Nuance felt threatened by a more nimble competitor.

This is just protectionism. That’s what patents are about. When some companies cannot rely on technical advantage alone they then resort to patent monopolies.

Android, which is growing rapidly and taking over the world as a de facto platform (on which most Techrights posts are composed by the way), is actually the target of protectionism from the ‘old guard’ — companies it is making less relevant over time.

It is being alleged right now that patents from RIM might get sold. One reader wrote to say: “If BlackBerry sell company… Microsoft will… get QNX which is UNIX like operating system and… patents and QNX technology and Linux?”

“Remember SCO,” he added.

Well, Microsoft could pay BlackBerry to later see RIM/BlackBerry suing Android companies. The Nokia and SCO strategy more or less…

Blackberry is of virtually no practical use to Android backers; when Google bought part of Motorola and grossly overpaid it was intended to prevent Microsoft and Apple from getting the patents (which they had reportedly bid for, just like with Nortel).

What if another CPTN member like Oracle bought this company? A new interview with Oracle’s CEO was rather revealing. He spoke of Microsoft as an enemy of an enemy (Google) and one author thinks that “Oracle (ORCL) [is] The Perfect BlackBerry (BBRY) Buyer” (for patents at least). To quote:

So BlackBerry (BBRY) has put itself up for sale while also considering a private equity move. Some pundits wonder if the Z10 smartphone maker will break itself up into a mobile service provider and mobile device company. But The VAR Guy wonders: Does a more surprising fate await BlackBerry — at the hands of Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison? Before you dismiss Oracle potentially buying BlackBerry, consider this history lesson.

Microsoft has been publicly aiding Oracle’s litigation against Android, announcing collaborations other than CPTN (technical ones too) and filing together antitrust complaints. Here is more of what Oracle thinks of Google.

Speaking of Oracle, what about other CPTN members like Apple and Microsoft (to which Oracle is now very close)?

Apple has been fighting Samsung using patent-induced sanctions at the ITC, with support from Obama's government officials. The Against Monopoly Web site says:

ITC Allows Apple Imports That Violate Samsung Patents

The blog, Public Knowledge, argues that the International Trade Commission should consider the public interest in reaching regulatory decisions on patents. The Obama has so decreed when it overruled an ITC case and permitted imports of Apple phones that it had found to violate duly recognized patents of other companies, in this case foreign firms link here.

When I look at the mess in the whole patent system, I see a world of oligopolies and monopolies built on patents, supposedly designed to encourage innovation, but instead creating a self-perpetuating means to paralyze innovation.

Groklaw has been upset about this and the other day it covered Microsoft’s fight against Motorola, which now involves an injunction as well. To quote:

Judge James L. Robart has now ruled [PDF, 38 pages] on Microsoft and Motorola’s summary judgment motions, granting in part and denying in part.

The attacks on Android takes many different forms (also antitrust), but the main players behind this attack remain the same. Next week we will revisit the antitrust angle.

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