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10.10.18

Open Invention Network is a Proponent of Software Patents — Just Like Microsoft — and Microsoft Keeps Patents It Uses to Blackmail Linux Vendors

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 6:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rerun of last week: Microsoft Uses LOT Network to Spread Lies and Promote Its Protection Racket

OIN loves Microsoft

Summary: OIN loves Microsoft; OIN loves software patents as well. So Microsoft’s membership in OIN is hardly a surprise and it’s not solving the main issue either, as Microsoft can indirectly sue and “Microsoft has not included any patents they might hold on exfat into the patent non-aggression pact,” according to Bradley M. Kuhn

A LOT of patents granted by the USPTO are bogus, bunk, fake. They should not have been granted (e.g. based on 35 U.S.C. § 101), but prolific applicants that are large corporations enjoy favourable treatment and can gather as many as a hundred thousand low-quality patents; a very tiny proportion of these will have been tested in court before expiry. This is a problem. IBM and Microsoft have many such patents, which they cross-license so as to avoid actually testing these in courts or by means of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs).

“IBM and Microsoft have many such patents, which they cross-license so as to avoid actually testing these in courts or by means of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs).”Last week when Microsoft announced some news about LOT Network (complete with familiar lies and incredible revisionism) we predicted that it was likely some ‘test run’ ahead of OIN membership. Observers must bear in mind that such a membership imposes no actual new constraints on them. People don’t need to panic or get excited about the OIN thing (we’ll come to it in a moment), partly because it was predictable. As if joining an IBM-led front group for software patents changes much…

It doesn’t. Nothing really changed. What happened?

  1. Microsoft is now an OIN member, but it’s an IBM-centric group that favours software patents (I spoke to their CEO for hours on the phone over the years). We disagree on quite a few things and he told me Microsoft uses FAT patents. As we shall explain later, those were excluded from OIN, which says quite a lot.
  2. IBM and Microsoft both still promote and lobby for software patents. We write about it a lot. So what kind of goodwill gesture does Microsoft offer? It’s part of the problem.
  3. Microsoft nowadays leverages patent attacks via patent trolls. OIN has no way of thwarting/dealing with such tactics. We constantly give examples of such attacks. Intellectual Ventures is one of many.

Regarding the OIN membership, it is more or less the same thing as last week’s LOT Network news, which we wrote about in great length. Like we said at the time, LOT Network is the same as OIN (more or less).

I first learned about the news because ZDNet had sought comment from me personally (for an upcoming article). “The whole article on ZDNet is full of words of love and cuddles from the tops of Microsoft to Open Source and Linux,” said one of our IRC regulars, “and claims that in the past they “had no bicycle” (a reference to Prostokvashino about a mailman who was grumpy before he got a bicycle)…”

“Microsoft nowadays leverages patent attacks via patent trolls. OIN has no way of thwarting/dealing with such tactics.”This was soon mentioned in Slashdot, Linux Today, and various other sites.

Recent Techrights articles on OIN have all been critical of OIN. We don’t like the direction they’ve been choosing. It’s that (big) corporations-friendly policy we also see in the Linux Foundation these days. Microsoft “loves/ing Linux” is a sort of lie they openly embrace. But Microsoft actually hates GNU/Linux. That’s why it fuels patent trolls (financing, passage of patents etc.) that attack Linux vendors in courts.

When I first heard of the news I decided to wait patiently and gather more information (as I have for the past 7 hours). I did not want to write about the very same things I said before, such as last week’s post (just swap “LOT Network” with “OIN” and it’s still all true).

“Microsoft “loves/ing Linux” is a sort of lie they openly embrace.”The ZDNet headline says “​Microsoft open-sources its patent portfolio,” which is pure nonsense. That does not even make sense. That’s like saying “Fred makes his thoughts purple” or “Jane is dreaming about afternoons”. There’s no such thing as “open source patents”; Tesla is an example of openwashing of patents, with 2018 examples, 2014 examples, and a 2015 example from Panasonic.

But I guess the term “open source” doesn’t mean anything anymore. So okay, whatever…

I’ve been patiently observing truly ridiculous coverage about Microsoft/OIN for 7 hours today. There’s more to come later this week, no doubt. Purely comedic. Classic. Have journalism outlets been reduced to mere PR? Do we need to be reminded that Microsoft “loves Linux” (like BP loves wind power and children love ice cream before it vanishes)? So we get it; everything Microsoft is “open” now, even its patents. Its software patents (that it passes to trolls) are “open source”, or so they say to us. Never mind if patents, by their very definition, are monopolies and thus an antithesis of Open Source.

“Have journalism outlets been reduced to mere PR?”As a reminder, all of Microsoft’s core products (software) are still proprietary and in reality, in this age of mobile devices, its market share (Windows) is down to 35% and it’s trying to avoid complete irrelevancy. It’s just trying to dominate the competition too. It used to be called EEE or entryism. It’s something to be wary of.

So now, on to some coverage and our response to it. ZDNet (CBS) published somewhat of a marketing video with LOT Network involved, growing their cartel of “non-aggression” (cross-licensing) and bragging about it. This is what the introductory paragraphs said:

Several years ago, I said the one thing Microsoft has to do — to convince everyone in open source that it’s truly an open-source supporter — is stop using its patents against Android vendors. Now, it’s joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent consortium. Microsoft has essentially agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members.

Before Microsoft joined, OIN had more than 2,650 community members and owns more than 1,300 global patents and applications. OIN is the largest patent non-aggression community in history and represents a core set of open-source intellectual-property values. Its members include Google, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE. The OIN patent license and member cross-licenses are available royalty-free to anyone who joins the OIN community.

It doesn’t do anything to tackle the patents themselves. As Bruce Perens said not too long ago, OIN exists to protect software patents from the community rather than protect the community from software patents. What an apt and succinct description.

“As Bruce Perens said not too long ago, OIN exists to protect software patents from the community rather than protect the community from software patents.”Erich Andersen, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, lies for the second time in a week. It is a similar kind of lie, too. He says Microsoft will “protect Linux” from patents while the company passes patents to patent trolls for such attacks. That’s as ridiculous as claiming that China “protects Tibet”.

We were disappointed but not surprised that Phoronix is among those relaying Microsoft’s lies about those patents in relation to OIN. Microsoft is not their friend, yet they use Erich Andersen as a main source, repeating the propaganda from the headline to the body, which says:

Microsoft has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN) to as they put it “protect Linux and open-source.”

Open Invention Network is the community of members ranging from Google to IBM and Red Hat now to Microsoft whereby when joining OIN you agree not to assert patents against Linux and related open-source software while in turn members can utilize OIN patents/licenses royalty-free.

OIN membership is an extremely low price to pay to gag (using money) rivals and at the same time buy the laughable illusion Microsoft hopes will help ‘rope in’ developers into EEE ambitions, e.g. reducing GNU/Linux to just an ‘app’ for Vista 10 (WSL).

“OIN membership is an extremely low price to pay to gag (using money) rivals and at the same time buy the laughable illusion Microsoft hopes will help ‘rope in’ developers into EEE ambitions, e.g. reducing GNU/Linux to just an ‘app’ for Vista 10 (WSL).”If enough people are bamboozled by it, EEE will become easier. We live in a “public relations” world…

Do they not realise that the managers from Microsoft have a long history of lying about their actions (patent extortion in this case)?

LWN uses Microsoft as a source, as did Phoronix, regarding Microsoft’s patent attacks on Linux. It quotes Microsoft itself, preceded only by:

Microsoft has announced that it has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN).

Well, as we saw in Google and Oracle affairs, OIN does not defuse attacks or properly protects OIN members, e.g. from threats including patent lawsuits (direct attacks).

“No, Microsoft isn’t “protecting Linux” as it is claiming in its headline (Microsoft’s own headline as well as lazy bloggers’/journalists’ who copied it); it does the exact opposite.”Gaming on Linux, which typically focuses only on computer games, wrote about the above whilst openly admitting that it’s off topic. The headline started with “Embrace, extend, and protect?”

No, Microsoft isn’t “protecting Linux” as it is claiming in its headline (Microsoft’s own headline as well as lazy bloggers’/journalists’ who copied it); it does the exact opposite.

Here’s what Liam wrote in Gaming on Linux:

Surprising is one word for it! Honestly, I’m in shock at this news. Does this mean we can firmly put the “Embrace, extend, and extinguish” phrase to rest and replace it with Embrace, extend, and protect? With Microsoft joining, they’re bringing with them around 60,000 patents.

Moves like that, makes me seriously think about how Microsoft have changed, especially since their previous CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux “a cancer”.

I think it also shows how far Linux has come as a platform for all things too, especially with Microsoft having a “Windows Subsystem for Linux” along with their support for running Linux on their Azure cloud computing platform.

“He even included a “Microsoft loves Linux” picture. Yes, that’s OIN. The staff of OIN actively spreads this lie.”GNU/Linux is still a “cancer” to Microsoft. Nadella is still bossed by Microsoft’s Board, which incidentally includes many of the same people, including Bill Gates. Nadella is being used as a sort of new voice and a new face. They have changed strategies and they aren’t being sincere about it. Outwards they need to seem “nice”; deep inside they just want to swallow and control (or devour, or extinguish) GNU/Linux. This is nothing new.

OIN’s Mirko Boehm wrote about it a few hours later (probably on behalf of himself, not for his employer). To him, apparently, getting together with the company that attacks GNU/Linux via patent trolls is great news. He even included a “Microsoft loves Linux” picture. Yes, that’s OIN. The staff of OIN actively spreads this lie. And a few hours ago even Microsoft Peter wrote about it, under the headline “Microsoft promises to defend—not attack—Linux”. Protect from whom? Itself? This is a lie, but Microsoft boosters perpetuate this Orwellian lie. With obligatory “Microsoft loves Linux” image again (the Big Lie). Notice how career Microsoft boosters disseminate this very same lie that OIN staff spreads in blog posts. Not a good sign. What has OIN been reduced to with Microsoft’s new membership money?

“What has OIN been reduced to with Microsoft’s new membership money?”Over at Linux Journal, Jill Franklin cites ZDNet and says: “Microsoft has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent consortium. According to ZDNet, this means “Microsoft has essentially agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members.” OIN’s CEO Keith Bergelt says “This is everything Microsoft has, and it covers everything related to older open-source technologies such as Android, the Linux kernel, and OpenStack; newer technologies such as LF Energy and HyperLedger, and their predecessor and successor versions.””

So OIN’s CEO says it “covers everything related to older open-source technologies such as Android, the Linux kernel, and OpenStack,” but what does that not cover? Ask Bradley M. Kuhn, who wrote about it in his blog and the Conservancy’s blog. He explains that Microsoft intentionally excluded from OIN patents it uses for blackmail against Linux (and sometimes via patent trolls of choice). To quote:

We know that Microsoft has done patent troll shakedowns in the past on Linux products related to the exfat filesystem. While we at Conservancy were successful in getting the code that implements exfat for Linux released under GPL (by Samsung), that code has not been upstreamed into Linux. So, Microsoft has not included any patents they might hold on exfat into the patent non-aggression pact.

We now ask Microsoft, as a sign of good faith and to confirm its intention to end all patent aggression against Linux and its users, to now submit to upstream the exfat code themselves under GPLv2-or-later. This would provide two important protections to Linux users regarding exfat: (a) it would include any patents that read on exfat as part of OIN’s non-aggression pact while Microsoft participates in OIN, and (b) it would provide the various benefits that GPLv2-or-later provides regarding patents, including an implied patent license and those protections provided by GPLv2§7 (and possibly other GPL protections and assurances as well)

OIN’s CEO personally told me that FAT patents, like those Microsoft sued TomTom over, were the main culprit. What good is Microsoft’s new membership if those patents are excluded (they should be invalidated either way)?

“OIN’s CEO personally told me that FAT patents, like those Microsoft sued TomTom over, were the main culprit.”Understandably enough, Microsoft does not like to talk about all those patents that it passed by the thousands over the years to patent trolls. Some of our IRC channels’ regulars names some of these trolls. Funny that Microsoft didn’t mention that in its announcement, right? That interferes with the Big Lie. I have been following this and covering it for over a decade, so I have a good record of most things.

The media will no doubt continue to write Microsoft puff pieces like “Microsoft makes its 60000 patents open source to help Linux” and “Microsoft Just Did Something Big With 60000 Patents” because facts are less interesting than fancy, incredible-sounding headlines.

“OIN is in many ways part of the problem which is software patenting; the solution it offers requires us to think whose problem it is trying to solve. Large corporations is the answer.”For those who actually trust OIN, just remember who it works for. See this EPO tweet from earlier today — a short message which says (calling the Open Invention Network “Open Innovation Network”): “Herbert Zech of @UniBasel_en, Keith Bergelt of the #OpenInnovationNetwork and Heinz Goddar, European patent attorney, discussed general strategies for protecting AI inventions at our conference on patenting #artificialintelligence.”

For those who have been following our EPO coverage recently it will be clear and obvious that “AI” is just the EPO’s new cover for software patents in Europe. So OIN’s CEO is basically helping them with this stunt, wherein applicants are advised to frame software patent applications as “AI” and examiners are pressured to then award such “AI” patents.

OIN is in many ways part of the problem which is software patenting; the solution it offers requires us to think whose problem it is trying to solve. Large corporations is the answer.

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