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05.12.16

Large Firms Which Are Becoming Troll-Like Threaten Linux, Try to Embargo Imports

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Patents at 11:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents strike again

“Belief is no substitute for arithmetic.”

Henry Spencer

Summary: Legal battles which primarily involve Android (and by extension Linux) are noted by the media this week because there is a request for bans (injunction)

THERE is a growing trend in downturn economies because infinite growth is impossible and monopolists strive to make up for losses by overstepping new boundaries. Companies that once produced awesome products have nothing left but patents, so they resort to patent shakedowns and try to claw in other companies’ revenue. Watch how, amid massive layoffs, IBM is attacking legitimate companies using software patents these days, earning itself labels like "the World's Biggest Patent Troll". IBM’s victim said: “IBM, a relic of once-great 20th century technology firms, has now resorted to usurping the intellectual property of companies born this millennium.” Can anyone trust IBM with OIN anymore? IBM is not a credible ally, it’s a cornered animal afraid of not employing like half a million people anymore. ‘Poor’ IBM…

Not only companies which pretend to be all about Linux do this. One such company is Creative, which we wrote about the other day. As one new article put it, “Creative rises from the dead to try and destroy Android” and to quote:

Do you remember Creative? In the early 2000s, the company had a brief period of being cool, as its Zen MP3 players were the anti-establishment alternative to the iPod. These days, the Singapore-based company mostly makes gaming headsets and computer speakers — nothing to do with smartphones, in other words. But thanks to a complaint filed against every big Android phone manufacturer, Creative has quietly declared war on Android.

The complaint is filed against a who’s-who of Android smartphones: Samsung, LG, HTC, BlackBerry, Sony, ZTE, Lenovo and Motorola. The issue at hand is music players: all the phones have ’em, and Creative has a patent it thinks is being infringed on. Specifically, all the phones are capable of “playing stored media files selected by a user from a hierarchical display.”

Android Police wrote that “Creative Wants To Ban Most Android Phones From US Over Alleged Patent Infringement” and to quote some paragraphs:

Creative is not a name you hear as often in consumer electronics these days. The Singapore-based firm is known for making audio products, including the Zen line of media players. Creative has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging that basically every maker of Android phones is infringing its Zen patents by displaying your music. It wants them all banned, but what it really wants is money.

The complaint targets ZTE, Sony, Samsung, LG, Lenovo, Motorola, HTC, and BlackBerry. At issue is how everyone shows you songs and albums in a hierarchical menu system, which Creative says it invented. It went after Apple for the same thing a decade ago and eventually got a $100 million settlement. If the ITC agrees with Creative, it could lead to a ban on infringing devices, which would be a lot of phones.

Now, remember Microsoft, a partner of Creative? There is definitely no patent ceasefire as publicly claimed some months ago. Google’s stake in Motorola’s mobile business in mind, see this new report which shows that Microsoft is still attacking Linux/Android with software patents (while claiming to “love Linux). To quote Reuters (short report): “Microsoft Corp’s patent on a way to show that a web browser is still loading content is not invalid, a U.S. appeals court said on Tuesday in the face of a challenge by Motorola Mobility and Google Inc.

“A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found in favor of Microsoft and its Klarquist Sparkman attorneys, affirming a ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that refused to cancel a key part of the patent. The panel did not give reasons for its decision, which came just two days after oral arguments in the case.”

So Microsoft is still going after Motorola Mobility and Google (i.e. Android) and it says it “loves Linux”. Makes sense, right? Injunctions were sought not only by Creative (resorting to the ITC as Microsoft did nearby a decade ago in order to block an east Asian rival); it’s probably just growing strategy in America, judging by these new articles authored by law firms from Canada and Brazil [1, 2] to be pinned at IAM earlier this week.

“ITC to investigate Samsung and Sony over patent claims” says another new headline. Who benefits from this? To quote:

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has said it will launch an investigation into smartphone makers including Sony, Samsung, ZTE and LG over alleged patent infringement.

In a statement on its website, the ITC said its investigation would centre on “portable electronic devices with the capability of playing stored media files”.

Lenovo, Motorola, HTC and BlackBerry will also be targeted in the investigation.

The section 337 investigation is based on a complaint filed by Singapore-based Creative Technology and Creative Labs, based in Milpitas, California, in March.

Creative used to be OK in the 1990s, but it’s now notorious for its poor treatment of Linux (there are Microsoft and Intel connections). In addition to this controversial move from Creative we have also just learned about Ericsson's own patent troll that is still active in the UK and will apparently stay in the UK Patents Court rather than the Competition Appeal Tribunal, based on yesterday’s report which says: “For anyone keeping tabs, the mammoth patent dispute in Unwired Planet v Huawei & Samsung continues to thunder along at pace. The latest decision from the Patents Court in the saga addressed the question as to whether the antitrust issues – arguably the juiciest part of the case – could be transferred to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT)? At the end of April, Mr Justice Birss answered that question, deciding that the issues should remain in the Chancery Division [2016] EWHC 958 (Pat).”

We remain committed to meticulous tracking of these threats to Free software, including Android, as software patents are inherently not compatible with Free software such as Linux. When such patents start to overstep the European border we just know that this disease keeps spreading rather than contained (e.g. owing to Alice in the US). There is so much at stake.

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