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01.13.14

Patents Roundup: Bogus Solution to the Problem FOSS Faces and More Litigation via Proxies

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 1:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rockstar Consortium

Summary: A quick look at some recent patent news and what we can lean from it

THE truth of the matter is that we have, for the most part, neglected patent news for quite a while. It’s not because this matters less now. Patents have become a hot topic in FOSS . Entire sessions in FOSS events are dedicated to this topic [1] and it seems like not only trolls are an issue; patents continue to be devoured by large companies [2]. There is no simple solution to it. OIN can defend from large companies with patents, but not from their troll proxies. DPL is another rather pointless ‘solution’, or a distraction even.

We previously criticised the DPL, which was favoured by people on Microsoft’s payroll. And although this new milestone is celebrated Glyn Moody says it is not of much use and he explains why: “few entities in the club to start with mean that few patents are made available on an royalty-free basis, and so there’s little incentive for more entities to join. Still, it’s nice to see people thinking innovatively in this space as we work towards the ultimate goal of full abolition of software patents everywhere.”

Patents on software are increasingly becoming a problem in standards too. Intel uses UEFI to advance its patent monopolies, Microsoft has been bribing people to vote for OOXML, which is also a patent trap, and both Apple and Microsoft prop up MPEG-LA, which uses standards bodies as a Trojan horse. There is a new article about this practice [3] of using standards as traps. IBM’s Rob Weir, the main force behind ODF over there, has some strong words also [4]. Some standards seem to be more useful for surveillance [5] than for anything else. Standards on their own are not enough; we need software freedom and annulment of software patents.

Last but not least, recall how Microsoft, Blackberry (close to Microsoft) and Apple created a bogus ‘consortium’ to attack Android/Linux. As Christine Hall put it the other day: “In light of their association with the Rockstar Consortium, we already knew that Blackberry was trolling by proxy. Now it appears as if they’re doing a little patent trolling on their own. On January 3 the Canadian firm announced they had filed a patent infringement suite against Typo Products LLC, a company co-founded by “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. Typo has been taking pre-orders for a keyboard that can be attached to some iPhone models.

“Blackberry, which ruled the smartphone market as recently as five years ago, has fallen on hard times. By most accounts, their phones now lag behind even Microsoft in sales. However, they retain a core customer base of users who prefer a physical keyboard. Evidently the device being marketed by Typo utilizes angled keys that are similar to those found on Blackberry devices.

“The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the northern district of California.”

Android too is one of the targets, meaning that Apple uses a proxy to distort the market along with Microsoft. Over at ZDNet, the Apple boosters pretend Apple is peaceful when it comes to patents — a ludicrous claim which could not be further from the truth (Jobs wanted to go “thermonuclear”). Apple is just unable to get its way, so it’s bailing out.

The bottom line is, patents continues to be a major headache and potentially the sole barrier to FOSS adoption everywhere. Microsoft’s and Apple’s advocacy (and lobbying for) of FRAND proves it.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Legal and policy issues devroom
  2. Nintendo picks up patent portfolio from defunct ‘exergaming’ company IA Labs
  3. Open Standards in Computing: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

    How companies undermine open standards to advance their own agendas, obscure information, and enforce their patents.

  4. The New Technology Consumers

    I see open source and open standards activists in a similar way. Many consumers care not only in the direct good they receive from technology, but also in how that good was generated, whether from exploitative sweat labor, whether from environmentally invasive methods, and yes, whether by perpetuating software monopolies or damaging the ecosystem of open source and open standards.

  5. Semantic Web Business: Going Nowhere Slowly

    I’ve been a semantic web skeptic for years. SemWeb is a narrowly purposed replica of a subset of the World Wide Web. It’s useful for information enrichment in certain domains, via a circumscribed set of tools. However, the SemWeb offers a vanishingly small benefit to the vast majority of businesses. The vision persists but is unachievable; the business reality of SemWeb is going pretty much nowhere.

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