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03.31.17

Microsoft’s Patent Blackmail Against Samsung Part of a Strategy of Divide and Conquer Against Android

Posted in America, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, Samsung, SLES/SLED at 8:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Samsung was the largest Android OEM when it all started

Microsoft's embrace and extend strategy with patents
Microsoft’s embrace and extend strategy with patents (for coercion under legal threats)

Summary: The ‘new’ Microsoft turns out to be the same old Microsoft, where software patents are used not just for extortion and extraction of ‘protection’ money but also to compel OEMs to use Microsoft’s own ‘version’ (or distribution) of Android

THE EPO scandals are certainly outrageous, but another outrageous thing which we have spent more than a decade covering is Microsoft’s patent blackmail against GNU/Linux. Recently, we took note of another wave of Microsoft patent attacks (albeit shrewdly marketed as “IP Advantage“) on GNU/Linux and Free software. For those who missed it, there is a listing of our articles about it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], which will soon be shelved in some Wiki page.

“Recently, we took note of another wave of Microsoft patent attacks (albeit shrewdly marketed as “IP Advantage“) on GNU/Linux and Free software.”In short, Microsoft is trying to divide the market into “safe” and “unsafe”, or “protected” (from Microsoft and its trolls) and “unprotected”. The former requires annual or monthly payments to Microsoft (subscription plus patent royalties, similar to Novell with SLES/SLED in 2006 onwards). In the mobile space, as one might expect, Microsoft is using a similar strategy. Microsoft will be Microsoft. It will continue to embrace and extend, then attempt to become an Android OEM while siccing patent trolls on all others. 3 years ago Microsoft sued Samsung, the biggest Android OEM at the time, using patents and then they settled, with the condition/provision of Samsung being Microsoft’s slave, preinstalling Microsoft malware (sends user data to Microsoft) on Samsung’s Android devices. We never forgot about that, but Mary Jo Foley seems to have conveniently left that out of her new article. She ought to know this because she covered the subject of the lawsuit pretty well 2 years ago (she was one of our primary sources at the time, hence we reproduce her article at the top). What is shown now is that “Microsoft touts Microsoft-customized edition of Samsung Galaxy S8″.

So Samsung’s ‘flagship’ product is becoming just a vessel or a carrier of Microsoft malware. Does Microsoft pay Samsung for this? No. That’s just part of the patent settlement we presume. And Microsoft is now selling these phones, i.e. making a profit as an Android OEM, where Android is not really Android but some ‘bastardised’ version of it which is dominated by Microsoft and designed to give Microsoft total control of everything (collecting input from the file system, cameras, microphone and so on).

“And Microsoft is now selling these phones, i.e. making a profit as an Android OEM, where Android is not really Android but some ‘bastardised’ version of it which is dominated by Microsoft and designed to give Microsoft total control of everything (collecting input from the file system, cameras, microphone and so on).”Is this justice? Is Samsung happy about this?

In the meantime, Florian Müller writes about another patent bully that victimised Samsung, namely Qualcomm with its software patents [1, 2]. To quote some relevant parts:

When routinely checking for Twitter news about Qualcomm’s antitrust issues, I found a job ad for an antitrust counsel at Qualcomm. Seriously, if you’re an antitrust lawyer looking for a job, this might be one of the most interesting places to be in the months and years ahead. While some secondary issues such as a case brought over oversight duties go away from time to time, various regulators on multiple continents are currently doing everything to provide job security for San Diego-based antitrust attorneys…

[...]

At first sight, that denial appears to be complete and clear, but at a closer look it doesn’t convince me. Apart from the fact that Qualcomm obviously could never admit to totally anticompetitive behavior (restriction of competition), in this case going back to an agreement signed in 1993 and failed negotiations a few years ago, the denial merely says that Samsung could somehow have sold chips to third parties, but not that Samsung could have sold, for example, CDMA-capable chips to third parties.

As AndroidAuthority notes, Qualcomm sued a Chinese Samsung customer (Meizu), which built some devices incorporating Samsung’s Exynos chipset, and I agree with AndroidAuthority that “we have to wonder why the Korean giant only sells its mobile SoCs to one small company in China” (in light of Samsung’s large customer base for other types of chipsets).

This is why phones have become so incredibly expensive (manufacturing of the underlying components is not expensive). It boils down to patent tax everywhere. That money one pays for an Android device ends up not entirely in the coffers of the OEM but all sorts of patent parasites, including Microsoft.

“That money one pays for an Android device ends up not entirely in the coffers of the OEM but all sorts of patent parasites, including Microsoft.”Microsoft does not want the patents challenged in a court, and it makes it so by strategically picking victims and throwing a huge number of dubious patents at them. In that regard, Microsoft operates much like a patent troll. Consider Erich Spangenberg. This is the crook who used a bogus (now invalidated!) patent to blackmail thousands of companies, eventually becoming a multi-millionaire from ‘protection’ money. It ended when he picked on a victim not sufficiently frail and vulnerable, namely Newegg, which chose to fight back again and again (and won repeatedly, in spite of all the expensive appeals). Now armless, Spangenberg seems to be walking away with his loot, based on this new article from trolls’ media. It says: “The current status of IPNav – the company founded by Spangenberg back in 2003 as one of his first major forays into patent monetisation – is unclear. Spangenberg stepped down as IPNav’s CEO in 2014 to dedicate time to other projects, handing over the reins to company president Deirdre Leane. Leane’s LinkedIn profile indicates she became vice president of licensing at Technicolor in December, while IPNav’s website is currently offline awaiting relaunch.”

Technicolor has itself become a patent troll, as we noted several times this year (in January and again in February). We certainly hope that the USPTO, together with the US courts, will help curb patent trolling. More action is also required when it comes to serial patent aggressors; antitrust action may be needed against Microsoft’s crooked modus operandi.

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

“Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering.”

Mark Shuttleworth

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