EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

03.25.17

It Certainly Looks Like Microsoft is Already Siccing Its Patent Trolls, Including Intellectual Ventures, on Companies That Use Linux (Until They Pay ‘Protection’ Money)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The patent strategy of Bill, Steve and Horacio seems to be alive and well even in their absence

Ballmer on patents
Full, 6-frame explanation of Microsoft’s strategy

“People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.”

Steve Ballmer

Summary: News about Intellectual Ventures and Finjan Holdings (Microsoft-funded patent trolls) reinforces our allegations — not mere suspicions anymore — that Microsoft would ‘punish’ companies that are not paying subscription fees (hosting) or royalties (patent tax) to Microsoft and are thus in some sense ‘indebted’ to Microsoft

THE analysis we presented here last month turns out to be very accurate. Our predictions didn’t take long to materialise.

Let’s start with some background. In spite of courts in the US limiting the patentability of software, the USPTO keeps granting these and failing to invalidate those already granted, unless someone petitions PTAB to look into particular patents. This means that, for the time being, even bogus patents continue to exist and they can be used for litigation. Challenging them, especially if they are used in bulk, can be very expensive (legal fees). Recently, some companies challenged Intellectual Ventures‘ claims against them and won. All of the software patents of Intellectual Ventures were found to be invalid. But at what cost? These cases had to be escalated all the way up to CAFC before that happened. How many companies out there can afford justice and how rarely would that be an option cheaper than just settling?

“How many companies out there can afford justice and how rarely would that be an option cheaper than just settling?”Nowadays, a lot of small companies choose the so-called ‘cloud’ for hosting. There are numerous reasons for this and they don’t typically receive legal protections or indemnification from the host. There have already been cases where companies got hit with a lawsuit (or more) for a bunch of virtual machines.

This new article by Richard Kemp, providing a good example of what we mean by cloudwashing of software patents (adding something like “on the cloud”, in order to fool examiners into granting software patents, thinking these are novel and combined with a machine).

“Cloud software patent claims will likely increase as more users migrate to the cloud,” it says in the summary, alluding in particular sections about trolls to this phenomenon. Here are the relevant parts:

As the public cloud services market continues to mature and grow – up from $178bn in 2015 to $209bn in 2016 according to research company Gartner – the concentration of computing resources into cloud data centres is increasingly attracting the attention of Non-Practising Entities (NPEs) as a target for patent litigation. At a time when data security and privacy risks are front of mind for cloud service providers (CSPs) and their users, the intellectual property (IP) risks to cloud service availability posed by NPE patent claims are rising up the business agenda.

NPEs are businesses that assert patents through litigation to achieve revenues from alleged infringers without practising or commercialising the technology covered by the patents they hold. NPEs are uniquely well placed to monetise their patents at each stage of the litigation cycle. They have access to capital and all necessary forensic and legal resources; and an NPE doesn’t practise its patents so is immune to a counterclaim that a defendant might otherwise be able to bring against a competitor, or a cross-licence that the defendant could otherwise offer.

[...]

From the CSP’s standpoint all this is bad enough, but software patent risks are further exacerbated by increasing use of open source software (OSS) in the cloud. OSS, long in the mainstream, now commonly powers cloud computing systems. OSS developments are created by communities of individual developers. With no single holder of software rights, patent infringement issues are unlikely to be top of mind, and if they are, developers will generally lack the resources to help them navigate the risks. Simply because they are open, OSS developments and communities are easier targets for NPEs than proprietary software as they don’t need to go to the same lengths to discover potential infringement. The softness of the target increases risk for CSPs using OSS and their users.

Cloud software patent risk is evident and growing, so it is perhaps surprising that it has figured so little in the register of perceived risks up to now, especially when data protection, privacy and information security figure so high. Yet an unsettled cloud software patent claim runs risks to cloud service availability that are arguably of the same order as information security risks. The reason why cloud computing IP risks have had little public airing so far is probably that, while implicitly acknowledged, they have yet to be thoroughly expressed and articulated. For example, in UK financial services, now one of the most heavily regulated sectors, cloud computing is treated as outsourcing and in its cloud guidance, the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority, the UK regulator) states that regulated firms should, amongst other things: “monitor concentration risk and consider what action it would take if the provider failed ….”

How does that relate to Microsoft? Now comes the key part. Microsoft is trying to turn Azure into its new cash cow and it is also trying to turn its patents into cash cows. It’s now doing in the cars what it’s planning to do in the ‘cloud’, namely demand payments for patents (where [GNU/]Linux is used), otherwise send a bunch of trolls to make a legal mess. The Mafia model.

“It’s now doing in the cars what it’s planning to do in the ‘cloud’, namely demand payments for patents (where [GNU/]Linux is used), otherwise send a bunch of trolls to make a legal mess. The Mafia model.”The other day we wrote about what Microsoft and its biggest troll (Intellectual Ventures) had been doing lately, having recently written about Microsoft marketing of “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] — eerily similar in many ways to the Microsoft-Novell patent deal.

It looks like Microsoft is already siccing its patent trolls on companies that don't pay 'protection' money, we noted, and now it looks like we have another new example, as covered yesterday by friends of Intellectual Ventures, IAM magazine. To quote the relevant bits:

The auto industry has been a hive of patent activity for several years. Manufacturers and suppliers are far more sophisticated players in terms of their own patenting, have become more assertive in fighting claims and are increasingly signing-up to defensive initiatives such as the LOT Network and Unified Patents. The emerging dynamics in the sector were on full display in two separate developments this week.

First up, on Monday, Intellectual Ventures filed seven lawsuits in Delaware against Toyota, Honda and BMW, and the suppliers Denso, Nidec, Aisin Seiki and Mitsuba. Each has been accused of infringing between one and five patents. IV has been attempting to license the auto sector for several years and in a significant boost to its efforts did a deal with Ford in 2015. Obviously not everyone in the industry has been as willing as Ford, hence this week’s move.

[...]

On Wednesday Microsoft announced that it had agreed a new patent licensing deal with Toyota that includes broad coverage for connected car technologies. That deal, the software giant says, is the first in its new auto licensing programme; and so we can presumably expect some similar announcements in the coming months. The deal release was light on details, but the two companies have an existing IP relationship thanks to Microsoft’s recent Azure IP Advantage initiative, which Toyota was quick to sign up to. What will be interesting to follow is how any upcoming deals are structured given that Microsoft’s recent focus has been on using its IP as leverage in getting more of its products onto devices rather than as a driver of licensing dollars.

The Japanese car giant is clearly looking to ensure it has freedom to operate in a rapidly changing market. That strategy, so far, has not included signing a licence with IV — which Microsoft was an early investor in — but the Delaware lawsuit might bring things to a head.

The Microsoft-Toyota patent deal was mentioned here the other day. We later said that Microsoft is using software patents against GNU/Linux and relies on secrecy around what’s covered (Android, file systems, etc.); for those who don’t yet know, Toyota was historically close to Microsoft, but it recently defected to the Linux camp. Microsoft can’t be too happy about that. Here are three items from the news:

  • Toyota licenses Microsoft’s portfolio of connected car patents

    In a blog post, Microsoft Intellectual Property Group chief IP Counsel Erich Anderson suggests the company’s software patents will play a significant role in the automotive industry’s “digital transformation” as more vehicles are connected to the internet and cloud services.

  • Microsoft expands connected car push with patent licensing

    Rather than trying to build a high-tech automobile of its own, Microsoft is focusing on providing carmakers with the tools they need to create smarter vehicles and the Toyota deal is the first of what it hopes will be a series of such agreements.

    [...]

    The deal signed with Toyota includes intellectual property {sic} related to information processing technology and communication technology used in connected cars. In typical Microsoft fashion, the terms of the deal beyond that have been kept secret.

  • Daimler Jumps on Linux Bandwagon

    Not long ago, if a major corporation were to take out membership in an open source project, that would be big news — doubly so for a company whose primary business isn’t tech related. Times have changed. These days the corporate world’s involvement in open source is taken for granted, even for companies whose business isn’t computer related. Actually, there’s really no such thing anymore. One way or another, computer technology is at the core of nearly every product on the market.

    So it wasn’t surprising that hardly anyone noticed earlier this month when Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz and the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, announced it had joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an organization that seeks to protect open source projects from patent litigation. According to a quick and unscientific search of Google, only one tech site covered the news, and that didn’t come until a full 10 days after the announcement was made.

That third one is particularly noteworthy as Daimler may be looking for some sort of protection though OIN — a protection that will not come for reasons we explained some days ago. There’s no redemption from trolls there, by OIN’s own admission. OIN has in fact done nothing against Microsoft’s latest patent manoeuvres against Linux. Nothing.

“Our prediction is that in various fields, be it security, car navigation, or anything “on a cloud” Microsoft will send trolls to wreak havoc unless/until the victims join some Microsoft ‘protection’ scheme such as “Azure IP Advantage”.”To clarify, Intellectual Ventures is not the only Microsoft-connected troll which is storming and suing companies that Microsoft dislikes, particularly Linux distributors (e.g. devices). There are a lot of Microsoft-armed and Microsoft-funded trolls out there (we’ve named many over the years). Last night in the news for example, we saw this patent troll which is connected to Microsoft (even financed by it) settling with Avast. Based on the wording, it’s maybe a settlement or ‘protection’ money (they don’t say), but the text does say “Finjan remains, in various capacities, involved in patent-associated cases against FireEye, Sophos, Symantec, Palo Alto Networks, Blue Coat Systems, ESET (and affiliates) and Cisco Systems.”

Finjan is a troll (as last mentioned earlier this year) and it seems to be going after every security company out there, equipped with nothing but software patents which we looked at closely in the past. Our prediction is that in various fields, be it security, car navigation, or anything “on a cloud” Microsoft will send trolls to wreak havoc unless/until the victims join some Microsoft ‘protection’ scheme such as “Azure IP Advantage”.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. PTAB Inter Partes Reviews (“IPRs”) Are Essential in an Age When One Can Get Sued for Merely Mocking a Patent

    The battle over the right to criticise particular patents has gotten very real and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) fought it until the end; this is why we need granted patents to be criticised upon petitions too (and often invalidated as a result)



  2. Chinese Patent Policy Continues to Mimic All the Worst Elements of the American System

    China is becoming what the United States used to be in terms of patents, whereas the American system is adopting saner patent policies that foster real innovation whilst curtailing mass litigation



  3. Links 20/11/2017: Why GNU/Linux is Better Than Windows, Another Linus Torvalds Rant

    Links for the day



  4. “US Inventor” is a “Bucket of Deplorables” Not Worthy of Media Coverage

    Jan Wolfe of Reuters treats a fringe group called “US Inventor” as though it's a conservative voice rather than a bunch of patent extremists pretending to be inventors



  5. Team Battistelli's Attacks on the EPO Boards of Appeal Predate the Illegal Sanctions Against a Judge

    A walk back along memory lane reveals that Battistelli has, all along, suppressed and marginalised DG3 members, in order to cement total control over the entire Organisation, not just the Office



  6. PTAB is Safe, the Patent Extremists Just Try to Scandalise It Out of Sheer Desperation

    The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), which gave powers to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) through inter partes reviews (IPRs), has no imminent threats, not potent ones anyway



  7. Update on the EPO's Crackdown on the Boards of Appeal

    Demand of 35% increases from the boards serves to show that Battistelli now does to the 'independent' judges what he already did to examiners at the Office



  8. The Lobbyists Are Trying to Subvert US Law in Favour of Patent Predators

    Mingorance, Kappos, Underweiser and other lobbyists for the software patents agenda (paid by firms like Microsoft and IBM) keep trying to undo progress, notably the bans on software patents



  9. Patent Trolls Based in East Texas Are Affected Very Critically by TC Heartland

    The latest situation in Texas (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in particular), which according to new analyses is the target of legal scrutiny for the 'loopholes' it provided to patent trolls in search of easy legal battles



  10. Alice Remains a Strong Precedential Decision and the Media Has Turned Against Software Patents

    The momentum against the scourge of software patents and the desperation among patent 'professionals' (people who don't create/develop/invent) is growing



  11. Harm Still Caused by Granted Software Patents

    A roundup of recent (past week's) announcements, including legal actions, contingent upon software patents in an age when software patents bear no real legitimacy



  12. Links 18/11/2017: Raspberry Digital Signage 10, New Nano

    Links for the day



  13. 23,000 Posts

    23,000 blog posts milestone reached in 11 years



  14. BlackBerry Cannot Sell Phones and Apple Looks Like the Next BlackBerry (a Pile of Patents)

    The lifecycle of mobile giants seems to typically end in patent shakedown, as Apple loses its business to Android just like Nokia and BlackBerry lost it to Apple



  15. EFF and CCIA Use Docket Navigator and Lex Machina to Identify 'Stupid Patents' (Usually Software Patents That Are Not Valid)

    In spite of threats and lawsuits from bogus 'inventors' whom they criticise, EFF staff continues the battle against patents that should never have been granted at all



  16. The Australian Productivity Commission Shows the Correct Approach to Setting Patent Laws and Scope

    Australia views patents on software as undesirable and acts accordingly, making nobody angry except a bunch of law firms that profited from litigation and patent maximalism



  17. EPO 'Business' From the United States Has Nosedived and UPC is on Its Death Throes

    Benoît Battistelli and Elodie Bergot further accelerate the ultimate demise of the EPO (getting rid of experienced and thus 'expensive' staff), for which there is no replacement because there is a monopoly (which means Europe will suffer severely)



  18. Links 17/11/2017: KDE Applications 17.12, Akademy 2018 Plans

    Links for the day



  19. Today's EPO and Team UPC Do Not Work for Europe But Actively Work Against Europe

    The tough reality that some Europeans actively work to undermine science and technology in Europe because they personally profit from it and how this relates to the Unitary Patent (UPC), which is still aggressively lobbied for, sometimes by bribing/manipulating the media, academia, and public servants



  20. Links 16/11/2017: WordPress 4.9 and GhostBSD 11.1 Released

    Links for the day



  21. The Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) is Rightly Upset If Not Shocked at What Battistelli and Bergot Are Doing to the Office

    The EPO's dictatorial management is destroying everything that's left (of value) at the Office while corrupting academia and censoring discussion by threatening those who publish comments (gagging its own staff even when that staff posts anonymously)



  22. EPO Continues to Disobey the Law on Software Patents in Europe

    Using the same old euphemisms, e.g. "computer-implemented inventions" (or "CII"), the EPO continues to grant patents which are clearly and strictly out of scope



  23. Links 16/11/2017: Tails 3.3, Deepin 15.5 Beta

    Links for the day



  24. Benoît Battistelli and Elodie Bergot Have Just Ensured That EPO Will Get Even More Corrupt

    Revolving door-type tactics will become more widespread at the EPO now that the management (Battistelli and his cronies) hires for low cost rather than skills/quality and minimises staff retention; this is yet another reason to dread anything like the UPC, which prioritises litigation over examination



  25. Australia is Banning Software Patents and Shelston IP is Complaining as Usual

    The Australian Productivity Commission, which defies copyright and patent bullies, is finally having policies put in place that better serve the interests of Australians, but the legal 'industry' is unhappy (as expected)



  26. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Defended by Technology Giants, by Small Companies, by US Congress and by Judges, So Why Does USPTO Make It Less Accessible?

    In spite of the popularity of PTAB and the growing need/demand for it, the US patent system is apparently determined to help it discriminate against poor petitioners (who probably need PTAB the most)



  27. Declines in Patent Quality at the EPO and 'Independent' Judges Can No Longer Say a Thing

    The EPO's troubling race to the bottom (of patent quality) concerns the staff examiners and the judges, but they cannot speak about it without facing rather severe consequences



  28. The EPO is Now Corrupting Academia, Wasting Stakeholders' Money Lying to Stakeholders About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    The Unified Patent Court/Unitary Patent (UPC) is a dying project and the EPO, seeing that it is going nowhere fast, has resorted to new tactics and these tactics cost a lot of money (at the expense of those who are being lied to)



  29. Links 15/11/2017: Fedora 27 Released, Linux Mint Has New Betas

    Links for the day



  30. Patents Roundup: Packet Intelligence, B.E. Technology, Violin, and Square

    The latest stories and warnings about software patents in the United States


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts