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06.29.15

Google’s Fight to Keep APIs Free is Lost, Let’s Hope Google Continues Fighting

Posted in Apple, Google, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 2:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SCOTUS says no entry!

No entry sign

Summary: SCOTUS refuses to rule that APIs cannot be considered copyright-’protected’, despite common sense and despite Java (which the case is about) being Free/libre software

FOR anyone who has been paying attention, Oracle‘s hostility towards Android is not hard to understand. It is a CPTN member along with Microsoft and Apple and it has shown on numerous occasions over the years that it is eager to antagonise and badmouth Free software. Oracle killed many of the projects that it bought from Sun. Google, on the other hand, is at least trying to appease the Free software community and it has made Android (AOSP) an ‘open’ platform, even if most developers contribute just proprietary software to run on it.

Many of our readers have probably heard the big news by now. SCOTUS has aligned itself with foes of software development [1, 2, 3] (not just Free software development), reaffirming the ridiculous judgement from CAFC. Now that SCOTUS reaffirms the status of APIs as copyrightable, adding to mass surveillance with NDAs and software patents in the United States, why would software companies still choose to be there?

To give Google some credit, it did fight over this matter for nearly half a decade. After pressure from the clueless White House (exactly one month ago), however, reuse of APIs may be impossible and collaborative development with forking may soon be toxic. Today is a horrible day for software development in general and it’s not too clear to us what Google can do next. Some certain types of lawyers probably know Google’s next steps or options and knowing that this ‘legal’ system favours the deeper pockets, there is usually something someone can do given the correct fees (just see how long the SCO case goes on for).

“Google will hopefully continue to fight that case, whatever its options may be.”One reader of ours was disappointed with this article that FOSS Force published today, comparing Google to Microsoft. “Revisionism,” he said, “especially that closing sentence. People hate Microsoft not for the sake of hating Microsoft but because of how it (and its people) behaves and has behaved. It has held computing back at least 20 years and the damage spreads into all domains where desktop computers are used.

“It’s just that Microsoft pays for constant whine against Google. While Google has many shortcomings, it is not a problem like Microsoft has been and continues to be.”

“But on the topic of Google,” he continued, “here’s something fairly current with yet another ****up by SCOTUS” (he linked to the above news).

Google will hopefully continue to fight that case, whatever its options may be. As for Microsoft and Apple, they surely will keep trying to harm the market. They often work together these days (mostly true when it comes to patents, OOXML, DRM, and so on) and as this article by Galen Gruman reminds us:

If you thought Microsoft was finally treating the Mac as an equal citizen, you’ll be disappointed in the reality

Remember that Microsoft and Apple are both on Oracle’s anti-Android side (even publicly, on numerous occasions). These are all proprietary software giants, aspiring to control the entire market by patents, copyrights, litigation, and intimidation. Google simply does not fall under the same category. It deserves the public’s support in this particular case.

Patent Trolls in the Post-Alice World

Posted in Patents at 2:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A round-up of news about patent trolls in the United States, some of whom are are doing well and some of them not as well

Lawyers and other patent-centric parasites based in the unofficial home of patent trolls, the state of Texas, are very much upset with Alice — a case which essentially invalidates many of the patents they use for extortion. We covered this before and explained the reasons for it. Their livelihood is in jeopardy because they can’t quite prey on life savings of individuals and modest (at best) bank accounts of various startups around the US. “East Texas Federal Judge Sets Rules for Post-’Alice’ World,” says one article. We recently showed how patent practitioners in Texas were lobbying hard to keep the patent trolls going (antagonising patent reform), with their blackmail (as a ‘business’) flourishing. Using Lex Machina’s figures, Matt Levy very recently shared some statistics about Texas, and the Eastern District of Texas in particular. To quote: “The Eastern District of Texas had over 1,400 patent cases filed last year, and over 1,000 patent cases have been filed there in the first half of 2015. (Source: Lex Machina) Just last month (May), out of the 418 lawsuits filed, 295 were filed in Marshall, Texas, a town with a population of just under 24,000. For comparison, there were only 199 patent lawsuits filed in total in May 2014.”

“Apple sued the biggest Android distributor (Samsung) and Google’s/Android’s favourite child (Motorola), but then again so did Microsoft.”BlackBerry, which is rumoured to be exploring Android as the only route forward (not just one among several routes) was looking like an anti-Android troll in the making until not so long ago, but according to this analysis of “BlackBerry’s Licensing Revenue” (meaning patents): “There was little to no IP licensing done in the recent past.”

Perhaps BlackBerry is no longer a threat like Nokia, which Microsoft definitely turned into an anti-Android patent troll (of the bigger kind).

Speaking of trolls, Joe Mullin, a trolls expert, says that a “[p]atent troll wins $30M verdict against Sprint, has more trials on the way”. This story, for a change, didn’t develop in Texas. To quote Mullin, “Nebraska jury has ordered Sprint to pay $30 million to Prism Technologies, a patent-holding company that has sued the five largest cell phone carriers.

“Tuesday’s verdict (PDF) comes at a time when Congress is debating, for the second time in recent years, a bill to rein in companies like Prism, often referred to as “patent trolls.”

“Prism Technologies was founded as a successor to Prism Resources, an operating company that existed from 1991 to 2001 according to an online biography of co-founder Richard Gregg, who testified at trial. The company is now focused solely on licensing and litigation, and it has continued to get more patents.”

A week ago, citing this article from Ina Fried, BoingBoing asked, “Is patent trolling going out of style?”

That is indeed the case based on the booster of Microsoft and longtime promoter of Microsoft’s attacks (with patents) on GNU/Linux (Ina Fried did a lot of this while still at CNET/CBS). Fried writes: “For a while it seemed the mobile industry was deteriorating into a battle over who had the best patents — and the best patent lawyers.

“Apple was suing Samsung, Motorola was suing Microsoft and Google was in everyone’s cross hairs. And there were a lot more cases that weren’t making headlines.”

Apple sued the biggest Android distributor (Samsung) and Google’s/Android’s favourite child (Motorola), but then again so did Microsoft. The latter aggressor sued both companies and recently pressured the former to become a vassal of Microsoft in exchange for settlement. Microsoft has essentially itself become more like a patent troll, but since it refuses to let its own platform go (despite massive losses), it does not yet qualify, not as per the textbook definition of “patent troll”.

“Unified Patents,” said this one report from the other day, “works to deter nonpracticing entities from asserting weak patents” (whatever “weak” means).

When will Microsoft be recognised for what it really has become? When will European authorities react in lieu with their promise and stop Nokia from essentially becoming a European patent troll? Will BlackBerry ever sell its patents or itself become a patent troll? And in light of Apple‘s latest (over)hyped patent [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], will more people care to realise that Apple is not an innovator but an aggressor (using patents for lawsuits and imtmidation, not highlight any significant breakthroughs)? Also mind Amazon‘s latest Orwellian patent, which hardly comes across as anything that a 5-year-old wouldn’t have managed to ‘invent’.

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