Summary: Microsoft-linked and Linux-hostile trolls continue their relentless attacks (albeit with little or no success) while patents as a weapon lose their teeth owing to a Supreme Court ruling
Microsoft’s cofounder is now a patent troll and his trolling activity resumes in the US. As Reuters very recently put it: “A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday revived part of a patent lawsuit brought by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen against AOL, Apple, Google and Yahoo, saying a lower court incorrectly found that the tech companies didn’t infringe one of its patents.
“The patent, held by Allen’s Interval Licensing, relates to the ubiquitous pop-ups that computer users routinely see while surfing the Web or shopping online.
“The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that Chief Judge Marsha Pechman of the federal district court in Seattle had made an “erroneous” interpretation of the patent in 2013 and it sent the case back to her for further hearings.”
Allen has also targeted Android and Microsoft produces patent trolls other than Allen (IV, Interval, Gates et al.) who tend to target Free software and Microsoft rivals such as Google.
Alice is killing the trolls — but expect patent lawyers to strike back
Open source software developers rejoice: Alice Corp. v CLS Bank is fast becoming a landmark decision for patent cases in the United States.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all appeals for patent cases in the United States, has often been criticized for its handling of these cases — Techdirt describes it as “the rogue patent court, captured by the patent bar.” But following the Alice decision, the Court of Appeals seems to have changed.
The Court of Appeals will be the subject of our next post. █
Just as weapons proliferation is an issue, not merely those who may use them
Summary: Reminder of the dangers of losing sight of the real patent problem, which is the patents themselves, not necessarily those who use them
Abusive, frivolous lawsuits against Linux by Apple and byMicrosoft should make it perfectly clear that not only patent trolls are the problem. TechDirt now focuses on Innovative Display Technologies, noting that it is a troll, but what about Microsoft and Apple? Are they any better just because there are a few products coming out from them? Or because they are not based in Texas only for the purpose of litigation? As TechDirt points out, “Innovative Technologies, LLC of Austin, Texas doesn’t make any products or even have its own website. What it does have, however, is a handful of weaponized patents its parent company, Acacia, acquired from “we’re not a patent troll” Rambus. It’s using a handful of display-related patents to sue anyone who utilizes an integrated LCD screen. Its latest targets are cell phone distributors like Verizon, AT&T and Apple, but other lawsuits have also been filed against auto manufacturers (Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda), camera companies (Canon, Nikon) and GPS suppliers (TomTom, Garmin).”
“It is not too shocking to find that lobby groups of corporations would rather divert all the attention to trolls in an effort to distract constructive debates.”But how is this troll different from Apple and Microsoft? All of them abusively sue companies that succeed at selling products, usually in very large numbers. The problem here is the patent themselves, not the person or the entity using them. “Software patents called into question” is the title of this new article that mostly quotes patent lawyers (like asking BP and Shell about green/alternative energy sources) but at least, quite correctly, contends that software patents (the favourite weapon of patent trolls) are now in trouble. To quote from one among 3 pages that largely contain quotes from patent lawyers: “Last month’s Supreme Court decision in the case of Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. vs. CLS Bank International is one of the more interesting findings applicable to businesspeople among software cases, according to von Simson. It’s yet another decision showing that software patents are being cut back.”
Techrights has consistently opposed the line of reform that goes after trolls rather than the real problem, which is rather clear to see and very simple to resolve (provided corporations, which control the US government, wish to resolve it). It is not too shocking to find that lobby groups of corporations would rather divert all the attention to trolls in an effort to distract constructive debates. █
Apple just hit a stumbling block in its second U.S. patent infringement case against Samsung thanks to a Patent and Trademark Office ruling that rejects some of the iPhone and iPad maker’s claims. The ruling targeted the summary judgement Federal Judge Lucy Koh issued ahead of Apple and Samsung’s trial this spring, and relates to infringement claims for Apple’s autocomplete patent.
Now that Android commands the lion’s share of the key market (85% of all sales, according to one source) all that Apple can do is lie and rely on trolls who claim “Apple’s resurgence” for some hits/clicks bait. Here is a new example:
In recent weeks, a drumbeat has grown among tech analysts that Apple’s iPhone is poised for massive uptake while Android smartphone sales may have peaked in developed nations. Also, Android is threatened in the developing world from a Google creation called AOSP, which strips out Google’s services (where Google makes its money) and lets any device maker avoid paying Google service royalties. This is especially significant in China, the world’s biggest emerging market, where AOSP is the top-selling mobile OS and which accounts for 20 percent or more of global “Android” sales. At the same time, various analysts have noted that Samsung is being squeezed by both Apple and AOSP, and Samsung may have already peaked in mobile, with 2012′s Galaxy S III representing the high point.
This is all speculative mambo-jumbo bearing the headline “Android has good reason to fear Apple’s resurgence”. Thankfully there is already a rebuttal to this, which says:
Partisan holy wars are part of the history of technology, and there have been few as bitter as Android versus Apple. While Android has had an amazing run of success over the last few years, some analysts are beginning to think that an Apple resurgence is at hand that could do serious damage to Android.
However, I also understand the need for a horse race in the media. Writers are under pressure to deliver traffic and page views, and a platform battle between Google and Apple certainly offers articles with compelling clickability for readers. And many analysts simply seem to go whichever way they think the wind is blowing without looking deeper into what’s actually happening.
Just remember that a lot of these analysts probably predicted Apple’s doom over the last few years, and now they’ve switched to predicting Android’s doom. So take everything they say with a gigantic grain of salt. I’m sure they’ll flip back over to the other side at some point in the future if they think it will get them attention, clicks and traffic.
Apple is not doing well and even people inside Apple (or fans of Apple) know this. The recent revelations about iOS back doors, the China ‘ban’, etc. are just some of the symptoms and contributing factors/causes. Hopefully, as Apple continues to lose market share, its ability to just sue with patents (frivolously) is going to diminish and the same goes for Microsoft, which is doing what Apple did a couple of years ago (suing Samsung with crappy software patents). █
Proprietary operating systems are demolished by Snowden’s valuable leaks that exposed and/or confirmed more back doors
Summary: China bans Apple’s operating systems (just like Microsoft’s) while Apple retreats on it litigation strategy from 2010, showing perhaps where Microsoft is heading now that it is suing Samsung (as Apple did some years ago)
Back doors in Windows are nothing new, but the media does not discuss them too often (unlike iOS back doors). Earlier this week, according to this report, “IT security firm Kaspersky Cyber security firm Kaspersky [...] claimed it has detected an old, widely known vulnerability that was used in a cyber attack to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme in some versions of Windows platform across 19 million computers, including in India.”
“Countries that the US does not like would be utterly irresponsible to still deploy and use proprietary software from the United States after all that.”The press seems to have quickly move on, without ever connecting it to material from NSA leaks showing Microsoft complicity with the NSA. Countries that the US does not like would be utterly irresponsible to still deploy and use proprietary software from the United States after all that.
China has already banned Windows and Russia moves away from x86 (hence no Windows). China is now banning Apple operating systems as well. Is Russia next? They’ve asked Apple and SAP for source code, having silently kicked Microsoft out (by moving to ARM).
According to this report from China, Microsoft is asked to obey the law it so often ignores (it is said to be bribing Chinese officials and engaging in other serious crimes). The report says: “Microsoft isn’t exactly welcome in China nowadays. The company and the government have many issues between them. The software company is believed to be guilty of breaching Chinese antitrust rules.
“Microsoft was told not to obstruct the antitrust investigation by Chinese regulators by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC).
“Special investigations by the Chinese government are common these days. It seems the SAIC only wants to make sure Microsoft isn’t doing anything that is against the law.”
China seems to be on a mission to isolate itself from the world, at least in terms of technology. After banning Windows 8 on government PCs and raiding several of Microsoft’s offices in China as part of an anti-trust investigation, Chinese officials have now prohibited to purchase of several Apple products for government use.
China will instead use Linux-based platforms. Some are AOSP forks.
We have often written about how software patents feed trolls and tax innovation. We’ve pushed for patent reform in Congress, in the courts, and at the Patent Office. While new legislation has stalled (for now), reformers have won significant victories in the courts. Of these, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank may be the most important. In this case, the court issued a landmark decision cutting back on abstract software patents.
He is explicitly talking out against software patents — something which they have not done in a while at the EFF. Even a Microsoft booster like Bill Snydercould support this with an article titled “The battle against stupid software patents is on”. We will cover patents in more depth in the next post, █
Posted in Apple at 10:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz
Summary: Net Applications (Apple- and Microsoft-funded) makes a misinformation comeback, Apple retreats from some Samsung litigation battles, and Microsoft dives deep into it
A couple of days ago we noticed that an editor had a headline changed from “Android users MORE ACTIVE than iOS fanbois for the first time” to something else. This report about numbers from “Net Marketshare” (part of Net Applications) coincides with contradictory reports like this from the Gates-friendly press (among others), titled “iOS Users Seven Times More Active Than Android Users, Suggests Net Applications”. These cite Net Applications, which is partly funded by Apple. There are some contradictions and reports about this are generally confusing. It’s not clear what they are measuring and based on past years, Net Applications is mostly a propaganda agent. This Apple-affiliated firm is saying something which makes Apple sounds more favourable than Android (common trick like citing buyer spendings, something about security — not absolute sales — and so on) because Android has the lion’s share of the market and it’s impossible to deny it’s unstoppable growth. Perhaps Apple paid Net Applications some more money to produce propaganda. Their pie charts are widely disgraced and recognised as inaccurate, misleading, and biased by design (improper data).
Anyway, Android is perpetually being smeared by both Apple and Microsoft. Apple had sued Samsung using patents and Samsung recently hit back at Apple using a case against software patents. Apple now retreats. “In a totally unexpected move,” writes SJVN, “Apple and Samsung, who’ve fought patent wars around the globe, agreed to drop all their cases outside of the US.”
Microsoft too had just sued Samsung. This was covered by the Microsoft-friendly press first (including BBC, as we noted the other day) and coverage has thus far been shallow. They just can’t call “racketeering” what clearly is racketeering. It oughtn’t be too shocking, except if one considers how close Microsoft and Samsung have been over the year (including UEFI restricted boot collaborations). “Apparently Secure Boot is blowing up on Windows too,” tells us Ryan in the IRC channels. “People upgrading their graphics card report their computer won’t boot up again until they disable secure boot, restart the system, install the signed drivers for the new card, and then they can turn secure boot back on.”
Maybe they should just stick to Free software, abandoning both Apple and Microsoft. The future is free/libre and no amount of misinformation can successfully deny it anymore. █
Summary: News about raids in Microsoft China mostly lacking when it comes to background, context, and information about Microsoft’s crimes in China
THE WORLD is moving away from Microsoft. It starts with countries like China, which makes its own hardware (as well as much of the world’s), and then there’s Russia, which abandoned x86 (Wintel) and will make its own chips on which only GNU/Linux will neatly fit. We covered all that earlier this year and it’s clearly not just rhetoric; these things are already happening as the wheels are in motion. Microsoft is desperate to keep up with the changes, but Wintel is like an order of magnitude more expensive than Linux with ARM. It’s game over. Android is dominating many areas, along with its derivatives or other Linux-based operating systems.
Not content to blow both feet off with a shotgun, Microsoft is going for the kneecaps now by blackmailing it’s customers. If you are still dumb enough to use Windows, you are about have your wallet shaken down by Microsoft in a familiar yet still unwelcome way.
We don’t feel the need to sugarcoat this much because the company’s behavior is so blatant and uncaring it is almost staggering. Worse yet the victims, that would be almost all Windows users, have only themselves to blame because the pattern has been well laid out for years now. Microsoft has been unapologetically blackmailing users for years, anyone who bought one of their products in the last few years should have known better.
China has an issue like this; even in the UK the NHS has faced similar issues and is constantly being pressured by Microsoft, as we showed some weeks ago. Office (online) and Windows (the platform for Office on the desktop) are both banned by the Chinese government now.
Leading Chinese media, the New York Times (trend-setting in the US) and BBC (trend-setting in the UK) covered this and have ended coverage by now, so we saw no urgency to point out the news immediately (unlike some bloggers), only to add some background information which has been omitted by the media. A year after Microsoft came under investigation in the US (over allegations that had bribed Chinese officials) it got a visit from Feds, so what is the likelihood that these raids are at least partly related to criminal activity? Microsoft bribery in China is nothing new; it’s how Microsoft does business and the investigation dealt with numerous countries in which Microsoft was alleged to have bribed officials. The BBC says:
Microsoft has confirmed that officials from China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce – the body responsible for enforcing business laws – have visited some of its offices.
Microsoft Corp’s biggest reduction in company history could cost China more than 1,000 jobs, analysts warned on Friday.
Apple too is laying off employees, 200 people in fact, so let’s not treat Microsoft alone as the problem. Moreover, based on today’s (and yesterday’s) news [1-7], Russia may be close to banning or kicking out Apple and SAP, due to the fact that their software is secret (proprietary) and thus cannot be trusted. █
Russia has suggested that IT-giants Apple and SAP disclose their source codes to Russian state specialists in order to clear up information security issues after the chain of spy scandals undermined trust in foreign products.
Summary: New examples where proprietary software giants are characterised as FOSS-embracing and FOSS-friendly by gullible or dishonest ‘journalists’
Apple has made many headlines recently because of its back doors and Microsoft has made many headlines recently because of its massive round of layoffs (almost 20% of the staff). Both companies are proprietary software companies and they have a lot in common.
Techrights is disturbed to have found continued distortion of the facts. “Microsoft might finally be committing to open source” is a new article (reprinted here) which says: “Microsoft is known for keeping its programming secrets to itself. But under CEO Satya Nadella, the maker of proprietary behemoths like Windows and Microsoft Office is starting to show up in the world of open-source software, whose code is public for anyone to see, borrow from and tinker with.”
No, this is fiction. This is the fairly recent PR strategy that tries to associate the new CEO with FOSS, even though he continues using patents to attack FOSS and is running blatantly dishonest attack ads against FOSS products, especially Google’s. If Microsoft brings proprietary software to Android, for instance, this has nothing to do with FOSS. Quite the contrary in fact; it is about contaminating FOSS with proprietary spyware. The puff piece continues: “Late last year Microsoft finally made itself an account on Github, now the de-facto platform that software writers use for sharing and working on open-source code. “Microsoft has changed as a company and is becoming more open in the way that we collaborate with others,” the account’s description reads.”
Wow! Microsoft “made itself an account on Github”! Imagine the heroic act! I already have two accounts on Github, one for my job and one for my personal projects. The article goes on and makes all sorts of softball claims, pretending to be giving Microsoft the sceptical treatment.
Here is another silly new article, pretending that a proprietary NSA-accessible platform called Azure has “Open Source Partnerships”. It then cites the Microsoft proxy/mole “Microsoft Open Tech” by saying: “Microsoft Open Tech (MS Open Tech), a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft, has added two new partnerships under its belt. Announced during the ongoing O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Oregon, they have teamed up with Packer.io and OpenNebula.”
This proxy has done nothing FOSS-like. It just wants to devour FOSS by putting it under a proprietary platform with surveillance. OSCON and O’Reilly have once again shown themselves to be soft on Microsoft. Based on the amount of press coverage this has received [1, 2], one might say that Tim O’Reilly keeps giving Microsoft an effective propaganda platform. Microsoft has paid him for this, ensuring that a proprietary surveillance platform gets coverage in a supposedly FOSS-centric conference.
But let’s not focus only on Microsoft. Misreporting is often seen when it comes to Apple, the most hyped-up company in the world. It’s all about perception and branding. One author’s bias (he is a “Mac”-branded PC user) can be found in this supposedly FOSS-centric site. He says that “Apple is a beloved company in the open source community,” but based on our experiences, this is patently false. There is other promotional language there, including: “Despite being one of the most well run technology companies ever, Apple has a surprisingly complicated relationship with open source. Ironically, Apple is a beloved company in the open source community, but, now more than ever, it needs to hear the call to become more open. I’ve also always noted here on OStatic that many open source enthusiasts favor the Mac over Windows systems. That’s no surprise. Apple’s culture closely aligns with many open source principles, though its culture certainly isn’t totally open.”
“Apple’s culture closely aligns with many open source principles”?
In what universe?
There are other large companies that try to openwash themselves these days. We recently covered HP’s publicity stunts and here we have another, pretending that defanging one’s software patents is somehow an act of becoming “Open Source” (Tesla uses this type of propaganda).
A man from HP, speaking about OpenStack, says that “just as we indemnified Linux 15 years ago, we are doing exactly the same thing now.” Well, indemnification does not achieve much. Why acquire software patents in the first place? Why has HP been so hostile towards GNU/Linux, including in Munich? Why is HP hiring so many executives from Microsoft? Why is HP lobbying for software patents?
The bottom line is that many companies (if not all) want to be seen as “open”, but most of them are faking it. For the press to play along with their marketing/PR ambitious is worse than irresponsible; it is reckless. █
Now, given the inherent corruption in the USPTO (serving corporations, not public interests) we were not too shocked to see Philip Johnson almost becoming its new head. It’s the outcry from some corporations — not from the public — that must have stopped his appointment. It’s corporations that still call all the shots and some hypothesise that resistance to him came from the technology/high-tech sector as opposed to pharmaceutical giants. They vote with their money in the White House (e.g. withdrawing funds or bribing politicians under the guise of campaign ‘contributions’). Previously, a man from IBM, David Kappos, ran the USPTO and unsurprisingly promoted software patents (IBM lobbies for them even in Europe and New Zealand).
Philip Johnson is Chief Intellectual Property Counsel of Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. He is also a representative member of the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, the leading trade group opposing patent reform this past year.
And now he’s rumored to be next in line to be the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
What we need is someone who understands the problems with patent law, especially when it comes to software patents. Some are pointing to the fact that David Kappos, the previous director of the Patent Office, was from the tech industry, so the next one has to come from pharma or biotech. This push does a great job of highlighting the fact that one single patent system shouldn’t apply to technologies as different as pharmaceuticals and software. In any event, the nominee to head the Patent Office shouldn’t be the face of opposition to patent reform that was championed by the White House, passed by a majority of the House, and supported by a considerable proportion of Senators.
Thankfully, as Ars Technica put it, “The White House has reportedly put its chosen nomination for head of the US Patent and Trademark Office on ice.”
The Mukt called Philip Johnson “patent extremist” and added: “The Obama administration was about to repeat the mistake it made by picking Tom Wheeler as the head of FCC. The administration was planning to hand over USPTO to Phil Johnson, a Johnson & Johnson executive who is a strong opponent of any patent reform in the country. Johnson actually played a pivotal role in the death of the patent reform bill this May.”
We still don’t know who will fill the seat formerly occupied by the software patents booster. Just because one patent extremist is not approved by the White House does not mean that a different patent extremist can’t take this place. We need to keep watching and praising/criticising, as appropriate, the decisions made by the White House. Corporations that sank billions of dollars in campaign ‘contributions’ (bribes) have a much louder voice than ours (collectively). They also get privileged access into private meetings in the White House, offering their ‘consultation’ (lobbying). █