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08.02.17

Growing Threat to Free/Libre Software From Software Patents: Apple, Microsoft and Nokia Charge Ahead

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 7:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We have warned about this for over 7 years (since the time when we made the cartoon below)

Patent stooges

Summary: The triplet of phone companies with dying ambitions (or declining market share) and just a big pile of patents is still a potent threat to the success of (GNU/)Linux-powered devices which now dominate the market

THE menace which is software patents has been more or less the basis for the existence of Techrights. We have done this for nearly 11 years.

“Even Android, which nobody can honestly claim to be a “failure”, is Free/Libre at its core (AOSP).”Yesterday, to our surprise, IAM put “the rise and rise of open source” on the cover (sort of). It’s in this introductory post’s headline and it says: “Another big change over the last decade has been open source software’s emergence as the primary underpinning of so many high-tech products.”

Even Android, which nobody can honestly claim to be a “failure”, is Free/Libre at its core (AOSP).

This probably alludes to this article by the publisher’s loudest pusher of software patents, Richard Lloyd. He wrote (outside the paywall): “Open source software has come to dominate the underlying infrastructure of much of the world’s technology. But with success have come the inevitable growing pains…”

“It’s no secret that software patents are probably the biggest barrier to Free/Libre (sometimes called “Open Source”) software.”Due to the paywall we can read no further, but we are pretty certain he is talking about patents (because it’s Lloyd, not just because it’s IAM).

It’s no secret that software patents are probably the biggest barrier to Free/Libre (sometimes called “Open Source”) software. I routinely chat about this with the founder of Free software, Richard Stallman (as I last did yesterday). But software patents are a profound threat to software development in general, not just Free software. That’s a very important point.

The matter of fact is, software patents are inherently incompatible with free distribution of software; in the case of proprietary software, this impacts pricing. Yesterday, a “New Podcast Series” was announced [1, 2] in a press release that said: “Shortly after Versata discovered Ford’s secretly-developed, copycat software, Ford raced to file a secret lawsuit in federal court. Ford sought a federal judge to recognize Ford’s copycat software as not infringing upon Versata’s software patents.”

“The matter of fact is, software patents are inherently incompatible with free distribution of software; in the case of proprietary software, this impacts pricing.”This is a case which we wrote about before. It’s about proprietary software and software patents. Just because something is proprietary software doesn’t mean a patent fight against it is in our interest; in fact, what we preferably want is to bring proprietary software vendors over to our side. Some of them already advocate Alice and openly oppose software patents.

Incidentally, earlier this week we said that software patents from Nokia are a threat to Android and GNU/Linux (a view which was reinforced by IAM the following day). The British technology publishers finally catch up with the news and sent to us by a reader this morning was another British article. The reader was quoting this passage: “It has not been a bad year for Nokia, despite appearances, and the firm has just welcomed a €1.7bn cash payment from Apple for some intellectual property {sic} hoo-hah.”

“As for Microsoft, its “Linux”-related patent deals with LG and Samsung go more than 10 years back.”See what Microsoft turned Nokia into? We were right all along about this.

Apple too continues to battle Android using patents. Yesterday, for example, Managing IP said: “The Northern District of California has ruled that the article of manufacture issue has not been waived in Samsung’s bid for a retrial of its design patents dispute with Apple. But Judge Koh deferred consideration of whether a new trial is necessary until further briefing”

This has gone on for half a decade. Going further back, Apple’s fight against HTC goes more than 7 years back. As for Microsoft, its “Linux”-related patent deals with LG and Samsung go more than 10 years back. It’s not hard to see the pattern and identify the main enemies.

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