05.03.15

PATENT Act a ‘Reform’ for Big Corporations, Hence Does Not Address the Core Issues, Including Patent Scope and Massive Patent Aggressors

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 7:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Chuck Grassley
Chuck Grassley’s 1979 congressional photo

Summary: Big corporations, including some of the biggest patent aggressors out there, successfully lobbied for what has essentially become a bipartisan bill to eliminate the thorn in their side

“TROLLS” has become the dominant term in today’s news about patents. It has been like this for at least a couple of years. It’s all about trolls, trolls, trolls. The EFF, which sometimes speaks about software patents (especially this year), is still obsessing over “patent trolls”. In one of its recent articles it said: “Suppose you get sued by a patent troll. You then learn that the troll has been sitting on its patent for years without giving you any warning. If you’d known about the risk, you might have been able to design your product differently to avoid infringement. Even worse, when you try to prove that the patent covers an obvious invention, all of the best evidence (such as websites or code repositories) has disappeared because of the passage of time. Instead of winning the case, you must pay years worth of damages to the troll.”

To rephrase the above text, suppose you get sued by a large corporation. You then learn that the corporation has been sitting on its patent for years without giving you any warning. If you’d known about the risk, you might have been able to design your product differently to avoid infringement. Even worse, when you try to prove that the patent covers an obvious invention, all of the best evidence (such as websites or code repositories) has disappeared because of the passage of time. Instead of winning the case, you must pay years worth of damages to the corporation.

“Busting one patent at a time is not a practical approach to solving the overall issue.”The point here is simple; it makes no difference if the plaintiff is some corporation or a troll, but large corporations want to only eliminate the trolls, not themselves. Watch the ongoing AP obsession with trolls, this time too courtesy of Anne Flaherty. The Associated Press has almost literally flooded news houses and newspapers with articles that only focus on trolls, as we showed last week (dozens if not hundreds of large papers reposted/reprinted AP). This looks like propaganda. It’s a form of lobbying through media. AP’s obsession with trolls is exceptional mostly in the sense of impact, it’s not necessarily unique. AP is embedded or put in hundreds of Web sites around the world, shifting all focus to one misdirected ‘reform’ effort [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. The headlines vary a little, but the storyline is always the same.

Here is a better article from the EFF, focusing on a patent it squashed quite recently. The site says “EFF recently won our challenge to invalidate claims of the “podcasting patent” using a procedure at the Patent Office called inter partes review. This procedure allowed us to challenge a patent that was being used to demand licenses from individual podcasters, even though EFF itself had never been threatened by the patent owner. EFF’s ability to file this petition was important because many of those targeted by the patent owner—small podcasters—would be unable to afford the $22,000 filing fees to challenge the patent, let alone the attorneys’ fees that would come along with it. Also, if an individual podcaster had filed an inter partes review it would have faced a risk of retaliation in the form of a district court lawsuit from Personal Audio. Instead, EFF was able to defend the public interest on behalf of the community as a whole.”

The word “troll” is not even mentioned. Compare that to related coverage from “IP Troll Tracker”, which wrote: “Let’s just come right out with my point…the “podcasting patent” is no more. I’m not quite sure how to feel about it because I never really saw Personal Audio as a troll (as evidenced here and here). Why? Well, chiefly because the company’s owner actually patented something himself rather than buying a patent on the open market for the sole purposes of extorting payments from (alleged) infringers, or, worse, purporting to be “inventor friendly” and convincing people to “innovate” for him and then monetizing whatever crap he can manage to patent out of the process. You know, like Intellectual Ventures does. Further, Mr. Logan spent his own money trying to commercialize the idea, something a troll would never do because the idea isn’t to add value of any kind, it’s to add volume to their wallets.”

Busting one patent at a time is not a practical approach to solving the overall issue. It is impractical and expensive to do this a million times. The only proper solution is to eliminate software patents, which obviously would invalidate this “podcasting patent” (along with hundreds of thousands — if not over a million — other US patents).

So, now there’s this relatively new talk about some ‘reform’ with a new name. It’s not really reform for the people but reform for the nation’s largest corporations (to better suit large corporations’ interests). The New York Times used a misleading headline: “With Patent Litigation Surging, Creators Turn to Washington for Help” (by “Creators” they don’t mean individuals). We quickly found a lot more coverage of this (usually following trend-setting media) and it kept mentioning this thing called “PATENT Act”, which is fairly new. Lawyers’ sites covered it [1, 2, 3] and so did a lot of corporate news sites [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23]. Mike Masnick wrote about this thing called “PATENT Act” a few days ago, highlighting early signs that this is just another “act” with gimmicks and branding rather than substance, just like “Freedom” Act and “Patriot” Act. He said that the “Patent Reform Bill [is] A Good Step, But Still Falls Way Short Of Fixing A Broken System”, explaining that: “As was widely expected, earlier this week, a bunch of high-profile Senators introduced a big patent reform bill, known as the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act. It’s backed by Senators Chuck Grassley, Patrick Leahy, Chuck Schumer and John Cornyn, and has a decent chance of becoming law. From a quick look at the bill itself, it looks an awful lot like what we expected to show up last year, right before Senator Harry Reid stepped in and killed the bill. With the Republicans taking over in Congress, however, Reid no longer has the power to do that. Meanwhile, Schumer, who has long been supportive of patent reform and is basically taking over Reid’s leadership position as Reid prepares to retire, has declared that this time the bill is getting done.”

It looks like it will really become law (based on dozens of articles we saw), but what will this achieve? “2015 could be the year Congress takes action on patent trolls,” wrote Timothy B. Lee, noting that it’s all about trolls.

“There’s a growing problem with patent trolls,” he wrote, “the companies that create no products of their own but earn money threatening other companies with patent lawsuits. The problem has become so widespread that even low-tech companies like restaurants and grocery stores have begun lobbying Congress to do something about it.

“It’s not really reform for the people but reform for corporations (to better suit large corporations’ interests).”“Now Congress could be on the verge of taking action. On Friday, a Senate aide close to the negotiations told me that a bipartisan group of senators is “very close” to introducing legislation with broad support in the Senate.

“Supporters of the legislation have good reason to be optimistic, as the coalition supporting the legislation is broader and more unified than in the past. But given Congress’s penchant for gridlock, it’s far from a sure thing.”

We wrote about Grassley before (in relation to Microsoft) and mentioned some of the other supporters of this bill. They are not necessarily corrupt, they are probably just misled by the lobbying. Our conjecture is that to make the bill passable they don’t really want a proper and complete reform, they just amend it based on input from corporations (lobbying). A slightly later (and very good compared to the rest) article from Timothy B. Lee explains “how big companies are stopping Congress from fixing the patent system”. He hits the nail on the head when he says that “the problem of large companies exploiting the patent system hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s gotten worse as the courts made it easier to get broad, vague patents in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“A modern example is Microsoft, which has more than 40,000 patents and reportedly earns billions of dollars per year in patent licensing revenues from companies selling Android phones. That’s not because Google was caught copying Microsoft’s Windows Phone software (which has never been very popular with consumers). Rather, it’s because low standards for patents — especially in software — have allowed Microsoft to amass a huge number of patents on routine characteristics of mobile operating systems. Microsoft’s patent arsenal has become so huge that it’s effectively impossible to create a mobile operating system without infringing some of them. And so Microsoft can demand that smaller, more innovative companies pay them off.

“The proliferation of software patents has triggered an arms race. Google, for example, spent $12.5 billion for Motorola, largely for access to its large patent portfolio. A consortium of technology companies including Microsoft and Apple spent another $4.5 billion on patents from the defunct technology company Nortel. Their vast patent libraries help protect them from each other — but they could also help them crush potential future competitors.”

Grassley, we venture to guess, is not trying to tackle abuse by large corporations, he is just listening to some abusive large corporations (and the corporate media). As The Hill put it not so long ago: “Bipartisan senators on the Judiciary Committee are close to unveiling legislation to fight so-called patent trolls.

“Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters at the National Press Club that negotiators are “close to getting a final agreement,” with his office later saying it could come as soon as this week. Another aide familiar with the talks said senators are close to a bill.

“The proposal is not expected to look like the House’s Innovation Act but will include some of the same provisions. It will have provisions on discovery and pleading requirements that are less strict than the House version, according to Grassley.”

Call it “PATENT Act” or “Innovation Act”, these are just labels. What it’s really about is tackling trolls, but not promoting innovation or even improving patents. The bill targets the plaintiff type, not the patent type. These are just an opportunist’s methods for promoting oneself without really serving the public. Recall the patent 'reform' from the GOP and watch this latest publicity stunt for Rick Santorum (disgraced GOP candidate who never gained traction).

As with many giant corporations that support Linux (IBM or Google), there's no chance of them tackling software patents as a whole. They are not Free software communities. Their problems are different. “Google collects patents while lobbying against them,” wrote one vocal proponent of software patents. It is a correct observation actually, exploited by proponents of overly broad patents in this case. Here are the British lawyers from IP Kat taunting Google as well in their article “Google says ‘We want your patent. Maybe.’”

Never expect large corporations to do the right thing unless their interests somehow coincide with the interests of people (which is rare). Patent reform will require popular action and pressure from the public, not from the likes of IBM and Google, not even Red Hat. This is why the effort to stop software patents must regain some momentum (lost several years ago).

Openwashing of Binary Blobs That Microsoft Uses to Attack Free Software and GNU/Linux From the Inside

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 5:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

‘Gifts’ from Microsoft

Trojan

Summary: Media which is either willfully ignorant or complicit has successfully, based on volume of coverage, framed Microsoft’s proprietary software as openness and nicety

THERE is a truly disturbing thing going on in the media right now. News that Microsoft announced last year resurfaces again and it only serves to mislead the public.

The Microsoft BUILD event would be better off named BLOB. There’s no build process (for the public at least) when the end product is only binary, like Visual Studio Code or blobs for open/free/modular/hacker-friendly computer boards (Arduino and Raspberry Pi). The latest moves which Microsoft tries to paint as “open” are actually Microsoft injecting proprietary software into open platforms that aren’t Microsoft’s. It’s a form of abduction and ‘bastardisation’. Linux is replaced by Windows. Some “openness”, eh? Why does the media cover it so poorly and what’s with all the promotional language? The ‘newsflash’ here is that Microsoft gives a proprietary code editor to developers. Why would they need that? Because there aren’t any good code editors that are FOSS? There are plenty of them, including versatile ones like Eclipse, which also function as complete IDEs and support many hardware architectures.

According to this article from Phoronix (which has been helping Microsoft’s PR efforts a little too much as of late), “Ubuntu Make Adds Support For Visual Studio Code”. The original and the links to it (Softpedia covered this too) remind tell that “Ubuntu Make 0.7 is available via a PPA for users of Ubuntu 14.04, 14.10, and 15.04.”

So what’s the big deal? Do they really want us to download this? It’s proprietary software. It’s serves Microsoft, just like Skype, a malicious surveillance program. It is understandable that people like Adrian Bridgwater cover it because of their history of Microsoft apologetics (also see this new article from him), but why do FOSS- or GNU/Linux-leaning sites give Microsoft a platform/space? Here is Linux Veda treating as ‘news’ (from last year) proprietary software for several platforms (to help promote Microsoft APIs). This proprietary software story is receiving more publicity than Free software equivalents, even in GNU/Linux-focused sites. Why is that? Are they just parroting what they see on corporate media, which is actively being manipulated by Microsoft PR agencies? This is not important news and it’s not FOSS news.

Softpedia went further by reviewing this proprietary software in the GNU/Linux section. The author wrote: “After extracting the ZIP package, you’ll see a new folder that has the same name as the archive. To start Visual Studio Code on your Linux box, open the extracted folder and double-click the “Code” executable file.”

Microsoft’s Trojan horse for .NET is distributed as a binary blob and given Microsoft’s track record on back doors, surveillance, DRM and so forth it’s not a good idea to encourage others to run such programs. Here is OMG! Ubuntu doing the same thing, telling people how to install this blob in Ubuntu.

What was probably must frustrating would have to be this post from the body representing Linux. The Linux Foundation should know that Microsoft releasing a proprietary software binary (blob) is not “Microsoft Opens Up” (as the headline puts it, referring to just two links about proprietary software from Microsoft).

Our article about this was mentioned in Soylent News the other day, countering Microsoft’s self-serving (and misleading) narrative. This is what openwashing looks like: calling Microsoft “open source” because it released a binary blob. See the headline “Say goodbye to Micro$oft – the new Microsoft is all about openness”. Yes, blobs are “all about openness”. White is the new black.

Microsoft is also trying to make FOSS compilers more Windows-oriented, i.e. tied to proprietary platforms, based on Phoronix and Linux Veda [1, 2]. If this is “opening up”, then proprietary software is the new “Open Source” and ultimately, it’s all about Windows.

Phoronix, incidentally, also published this article about Mono, Microsoft’s Trojan horse for .NET promotion and dependency on Microsoft’s software patents. Why focus on such bits of software? They are part of the proprietary software stack which is actively attacking GNU/Linux in all sorts of ways, e.g. ‘secure’ boot (preventing people from using kernels of their choice or modifying and then executing them). This is an attack on Free software. Why help Microsoft’s agenda? Stockholm syndrome?

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols believes that “Windows embracing Android and iOS is a bad idea”. Well, if it’s an "embrace, extend, extinguish" approach, then it’s not such a bad idea. It’s evil and potentially effective (Microsoft destroyed competition this way many times before). Vaughan-Nichols asks: “How can there be a future for Windows on smartphones and tablets when Microsoft is encouraging developers to bring its apps from Apple and Google’s ecosystem?”

The basic idea is, take away all the applications and make them Windows applications while at the same time replacing applications from Apple or Google with Microsoft applications. Microsoft's booster Tim Anderson explained how it’s supposed to work and several other sites covered it [1, 2] as though it’s a nice gesture rather than an aggressive coup. Microsoft must be salivating at the sight of many who actually believe Microsoft wants peace.

“I once preached peaceful coexistence with Windows. You may laugh at my expense — I deserve it.”

Be’s CEO Jean-Louis Gassée

Microsoft Kills Netscape Again, This Time Removing It From the History Books

Posted in Deception, Microsoft at 4:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Book burning time

Book burning

Summary: Microsoft’s embarrassing crimes against Netscape — the ones that put Bill Gates on trial and nearly split Microsoft — virtually forgotten as Netscape itself is made to ‘disappear’

THE grooming of Microsoft has gotten pretty bad, but it’s not nearly as bad as gross distortion of facts. The ToryGraph, an oftentimes pro-Microsoft paper, does some professional revisionism in the “Microsoft” section today, disguised quite shrewdly as “a brief history” of “Web browsers”. It’s really just a Microsoft ad, as one can instantaneously see.

“If often seems like Microsoft’s PR campaigns know no boundaries; they make what is perhaps the most famous Web browser in history just vanish, and not just once.”“Somehow they manage to leave out Netscape,” iophk wrote to us. Watch the comments and especially those commenters who allude to Netscape. One comment says: “Bloody rubbish. Internet Explorer was based on Mosiac and where is Netscape in the list?!”

This is disgusting. Microsoft propaganda that distorts history like this is something we have become accustomed to and have seen in the British media before. Having committed crimes against Netscape (see this petition text), Microsoft is yet again deleting it from history, like the Microsoft-connected BBC did for Microsoft half a decade ago in a TV programme. If often seems like Microsoft’s PR campaigns know no boundaries; they make what is perhaps the most famous Web browser in history just vanish, and not just once. We have shown more examples of this over the years. It’s not accidental. It’s extremely likely to be deliberate and conscious because only a fool or a self-deceiving journalist can make gross omissions like that.

“Microsoft is, I think, fundamentally an evil company.”

Former Netscape Chairman James H. Clark

Microsoft India’s Unofficial ‘Branch’ Infosys is Torturing the Meaning of Open Source Software

Posted in Asia, Microsoft at 4:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Disinformation system of Microsoft

Book

Summary: Infosys, which is best known for its promotion of Microsoft in India, is distorting the meaning of ‘Open Source’ and joins a non-profit that is supposed to promote programming, not binary blobs

Open Source software, which is basically another label for Free/libre software (but with a different agenda), is essential for distinguishing not between brands but between development and distribution philosophies. Attacking the meaning of “Open Source” is means for confusing and impeding rational judgment. It is quickly becoming essential for proprietary software players in India. The government is increasingly stubborn on issues like software freedom and this government sometimes makes it imperative to share code.

Infosys is generally loathed here for all the dirty work it did for Microsoft in India over the years. It’s like Accenture in the UK. They may both seem like independent and local companies, but they are de facto salespeople or distributors of Microsoft. They are like channel partners. They are middlemen.

Yesterday we saw that “Infosys partners with Microsoft to offer Finacle on Azure”. Well, Infosys does not need to “partner with Microsoft”, it is already an integral part of Microsoft in many ways (Microsoft even outsources some of its jobs to Infosys). Finacle is therefore a horrible trap that not only makes people dependent on proprietary software but also spies on the users all across in India (Microsoft works with the NSA, so it is foreign surveillance via Microsoft/PRISM). In the midst of many articles about it — basically a load of promotional rubbish with minimal variation in wording [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] — we found ourselves distracted by a non-Indian news site going with the headline “Infosys turns to open source to drive data innovation”. So many buzzwords must mean it’s more like promotional rubbish and it most likely is. To quote the opening: “Infosys has released details of its Infosys Information Platform (IIP), which includes new pre-packaged solutions from Infosys Finacle and Infosys BPO.”

“Infosys is about code and non-profit to the same degree that BP is about ecology and charity.”Why does the headline say “open source”? It’s nothing of that kind. There is nothing at all that is Open Source about it. Infosys is doing something disgusting by even trying to exploit that angle. Claiming to make an “Open Source” platform when in fact using proprietary software with spying is beyond shameless, it is not just false marketing. Alas, being a Microsoft proxy in India, Infosys’ openwashing of proprietary software is only to be expected, especially because of new government policies in India (favouring Free/Open Source software, as we noted here before and above).

Watch another appalling move from Infosys, mimicking the likes of Facebook. Yet another Microsoft pusher, Infosys (also see what its Web site runs), makes code.org (Computer Science education push) a proprietary software plot. Infosys is about code and non-profit to the same degree that BP is about ecology and charity.

In order for Microsoft to fail in India it is probably very important that activists take action against Infosys. It’s a parasite and a leech. It harms India’s interests, not just the interests of Free/Open Source communities.

Microsoft Windows is Dying, British Government Should Spend No More Money on It

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Vista 8, Windows at 4:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Kicking a dead horse no more

Horse

Summary: Time for the Establishment in the UK to abandon the out-of-support Windows XP (from 2001) and join the next generation of computing, which increasingly revolves around GNU/Linux and Free/libre software, supported by truly British companies

“Windows 8 market share grows just 2.5 percent in year since Windows XP’s demise,” says this new report from the British media, which bases its claim on Microsoft-friendly or Windows-centric sites (these are the sites that relinquish their logs and betray visitors’ privacy). Windows “XP use takes the biggest dip to 15.93, down just over one percent,” it says, showing that Vista 8 is not being adopted despite being the latest version of Windows.

“Pirate Party UK (PPUK) is probably the only political party that would actively promote GNU/Linux if it got elected or at least earned some seats.”Microsoft is clearly in a state of crisis as governments refuse to adopt Vista 8. Some parts of the British government are still clinging on to Windows XP (as foolish and irresponsible as that is); we recently wrote about the Met and about the NHS. Now it turns out that “Windows XP support deal [is] not renewed by [the British] government, which is an important step. They should migrate to GNU/Linux because currently they waste about ~$10,000 per Windows desktop per year, according to some estimates. Surely GNU/Linux can be both cheaper and more secure than that, but the cited article spins that in an alarmist fashion to make it sound as though the British government has no choice but to pay Microsoft some more. “The government has not renewed its £5.5m Windows XP support deal with Microsoft,” it says, “despite thousands of computers across Whitehall still running the ancient software, leaving them wide open to cyber attacks.”

“No. Use of Windows itself leaves PCs open to attack,” iophk remarked about it. Right now they should move to GNU/Linux, which is becoming a standard not just in the server room but also in devices such as phones and tablets. Large OEMs in the UK now distribute laptops with GNU/Linux preinstalled and supported.

Ignore the Microsoft propaganda which seeks to make the only choice a choice between versions of Windows. See this kind of propaganda from Mark Hachman again (one of the most recent Microsoft boosters in IDG), who probably played along with some kind of a PR campaign, based on our humble assessment. We see the same kind of marketing spam (disguised as ‘articles’) in other corporate media sites, grooming Microsoft and promoting Windows as though it’s still loved, despite Vista 8 marking the end of Windows monoculture (people are gradually moving elsewhere — other form factors and operating systems).

There is an election coming very soon and a new government will take form/shape, maybe a coalition government. Taxpayers’ money will hopefully not be wasted supporting a criminal company like Microsoft anymore; it’s time to end this heist, which depended on back room deals, lobbying, and various abuses that we have shown here before. Technically speaking, Windows in the government makes no sense at all. From a financial point of view, it’s more like suicide. Pirate Party UK (PPUK) is probably the only political party that would actively promote GNU/Linux if it got elected or at least earned some seats.

IRC Proceedings: April 5th – May 2nd, 2015

Posted in IRC Logs at 1:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IRC Proceedings: April 5th – April 12th, 2015

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IRC Proceedings: April 13th – April 18th, 2015

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IRC Proceedings: April 19th – April 25th, 2015

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IRC Proceedings: April 26th – May 2nd, 2015

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Enter the IRC channels now

Links 3/5/2015: Black Lab 6.5 RC2

Posted in News Roundup at 11:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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