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04.05.17

Patent Attacks on GNU/Linux Devices, Courtesy of Philips, Ericsson, Microsoft and Its Patent Trolls

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, TomTom at 6:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Now they do this with Azure instead of SUSE, offering selective ‘protection’

“But to the degree that people are going to deploy Linux, we want Suse Linux to have the highest percent share of that, because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft.”

Steve Ballmer

Summary: The strategy of scattering software patents to patent trolls in order for them to sue one’s competition is becoming ever more popular, and not only Microsoft is using this strategy to ‘tax’ GNU/Linux from many directions while the public fails to notice

LINUX devices (sometimes with GNU in them) are taking over the world. GNU/Linux isn’t just the de facto platform of servers anymore; it’s also a de facto platform in the embedded/devices/gadgets space. But Microsoft is eager to turn that into a Microsoft cash cow, e.g. with patented filesystems of Microsoft and much more. Watch TomTom and what Microsoft did to this modest Dutch company 8 years ago. It didn’t end too well for TomTom, which spent a lot of money on lawyers and ended up settling with Microsoft anyway (paying about half a million dollars and surrendering technically too). To Microsoft, the whole lawsuit was a warning shot, designed to scare other small- or medium-sized companies into paying ‘protection’ money without any questions asked. Even when patents granted by the USPTO are not valid elsewhere (no software patents in Europe).

“To Microsoft, the whole lawsuit was a warning shot, designed to scare other small- or medium-sized companies into paying ‘protection’ money without any questions asked.”Linux devices in the form of Android have become bigger (in the installed base/market share sense) than Windows. It’s still all over the news this week. Does that mean that proprietary software giants are doomed? Well, not if they become patent parasites. The top EPO grantee, Philips, has apparently notified Archos, which makes Android devices, that it wants ‘protection’ money. As a reminder, Philips’ patent assertion people are working by proxy via Intertrust among other tentacles. Here is a new article about the subject:

Dutch Court Rules in Standard Essential Patent Abuse of Dominance Claim

[...]

After Philips notified Archos that it was using Philips’s SEPs, the two parties entered into negotiations. In July 2015, Philips made Archos an offer of EUR 0.7 per product sold that used UMTS and/or LTE functionality. In January 2016, Archos countered with an offer of EUR 0.07 per product.

That does not even take into account trolls of Philips. Months ago we wrote about Ericsson and Microsoft operating via trolls, in an effort at patent stacking against competitors. The companies pretend to be “fair” and “reasonable” by masking the full extent of their tax, typically with the help of trolls.

In this new article from trolls-friendly media, the author calls tax “royalty” and gives the platform to a company that operates various (far more than one) patent trolls. Here is Ericsson’s talking point:

In a guest post for this blog shortly following the announcement, Eric Stasik of Swedish consulting firm Avvika AB, made the argument that in many way Ericsson’s announcement does not represent a big departure from its approach to 4G/LTE. In 2009, for example, Ericsson disclosed that its royalty rate for 4G/LTE devices was expected to be around 1.5% for handsets. In his piece Stasik then crunched the numbers arguing that for the average device the new rate would not be a significant change on the Swedish company’s approach to 4G/LTE but would be higher for the cheapest devices. At the very top end, he suggested, the new rate would represent a significant discount on the current position.

Conveniently enough, Ericsson does not speak about its patent trolls. It sends patents to them and expects them to ‘monetise’ these, to use their euphemism.

Right now at PTAB, one of the trolls of Ericsson is being challenged for attacking the steward of Android, the most widely used operating system that is based on Linux. Patently-O wrote about it this week:

The Federal Circuit has denied Google’s petition for rehearing en banc. The patent challenger asked the Federal Circuit to overturn Versata in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Cuozzo. The issue is well known to attorneys involved in the post-grant review of covered-business-method (CBM) patents.

According to the statute, the CBM process begins with a petition and institution decision by the Director. Once instituted, the PTAB holds trial and issues a final decision. The statute indicates that CBM review may be instituted “only for” CBM patents but that the Director’s institution decision “shall be final and nonappealable.”

That’s just the latest example (there are more) of Ericsson siccing patent trolls on Android and Linux. Over the years we have covered more such examples. “The Federal Circuit has denied Google’s petition for rehearing en banc of Unwired Planet v. Google,” Mr. Loney wrote and “Dennis Crouch Thinks this Case Is Headed for the Supreme Court,” alleged a proponent of software patents. We have not yet seen PTAB ‘cases’ being escalated so high; we suppose that patent maximalists would like to see PTAB as a whole challenged by the Justices. They have been trying for quite some time. Watch this new guest article which calls PTAB “inter partes review (“IPR”)” something like “proceedings to attack patents” when the reality of the matter is that PTAB does not “attack” anything or anyone. That old spin of law firms attempts to reverse the narrative and cast offense as defense (with words like “kill” and “survive”, where the defendant is the killer and the aggressor is the survivor). As I explained to the site’s administrator (in relation to this guest article), “patents and those who use them attack people/companies; when challenged, the patents are not “attacked”, it’s a defense.”

“These defensive patent pacts have one major loophole: they’re not effective against trolls.”In light of all this, recall what we wrote yesterday about PAX, which is definitely defensive. This was mentioned here the other day because we expect the facts to be twisted by patent maximalists.

“PAX looks a lot like the OIN (Open Invention Network) but Made By Google IMHO,” Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer wrote. “OIN is focused on Linux rather than Android,” I told him, noting that Oracle in OIN had attacked OIN’s Google. These defensive patent pacts have one major loophole: they’re not effective against trolls. Sometimes they even admit this publicly. Benjamin Henrion joked, “let’s submit those 230K patents for an Alice review,” but many of these patents (from the likes of Samsung and LG) are actually hardware patents, so the Alice test isn’t applicable.

It didn’t take long for pundits like Andrew Orlowski to pick on PAX. Here is what he wrote yesterday:

Samsung, LG and Foxconn are among the founding members of a patent pool for Android phone makers under Google’s benevolent eye. Google hopes the “community-driven clearinghouse” for IP sharing will fend off patent trolls.

Google already operates a non-aggression alliance for Android phone makers called License on Transfer, launched 2014, in which patent holders agree not to use them aggressively against other members after the sale of a patent. The LOT Network is run by ARM’s former head of IP, Ken Seddon. That move was designed to deter NPEs (Non-Practising Entities, aka trolls) from buying up industry-standard patents already in patent pools to collect royalties, and stemmed from Google’s panic purchase of Motorola in 2011 for its IP portfolio.

Microsoft and large Chinese vendors are notable by their absence from PAX.

Well, Microsoft sends the trolls to attack the members behind PAX, so why would Microsoft want to join PAX? Microsoft’s strategy as of late has been to sic trolls on those who are not ‘protected’ by Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] and as we recently showed, Microsoft is already doing that together with Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft’s biggest patent troll (also the world’s biggest patent troll).

“We expect a lot more of these trolls to go after Android OEMs, GNU/Linux distributors, so-called ‘cloud’ hosts like Amazon and their clients.”Yesterday, friends of Intellectual Ventures said that this troll now focuses on “monetising existing portfolio through sales and licences,” taking note of Dominion Harbor and Equitable IP (trolls of the troll of Microsoft). To quote: “Earlier this year IV announced the sale of more than 4,000 former Kodak patents to Dominion Harbor and it has made a number of disposals to other monetisation entities, including Equitable IP. Most if not all of those deals have involved some cash upfront with with IV then receiving a portion of future licensing revenues from the assets.”

We expect a lot more of these trolls to go after Android OEMs, GNU/Linux distributors, so-called ‘cloud’ hosts like Amazon and their clients. It’s the only way for Microsoft to survive now that Vista 10 brings no concrete income, just users’ data (while Windows’ relative market share keeps declining across form factors).

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