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06.29.15

Google’s Fight to Keep APIs Free is Lost, Let’s Hope Google Continues Fighting

Posted in Apple, Google, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 2:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SCOTUS says no entry!

No entry sign

Summary: SCOTUS refuses to rule that APIs cannot be considered copyright-’protected’, despite common sense and despite Java (which the case is about) being Free/libre software

FOR anyone who has been paying attention, Oracle‘s hostility towards Android is not hard to understand. It is a CPTN member along with Microsoft and Apple and it has shown on numerous occasions over the years that it is eager to antagonise and badmouth Free software. Oracle killed many of the projects that it bought from Sun. Google, on the other hand, is at least trying to appease the Free software community and it has made Android (AOSP) an ‘open’ platform, even if most developers contribute just proprietary software to run on it.

Many of our readers have probably heard the big news by now. SCOTUS has aligned itself with foes of software development [1, 2, 3] (not just Free software development), reaffirming the ridiculous judgement from CAFC. Now that SCOTUS reaffirms the status of APIs as copyrightable, adding to mass surveillance with NDAs and software patents in the United States, why would software companies still choose to be there?

To give Google some credit, it did fight over this matter for nearly half a decade. After pressure from the clueless White House (exactly one month ago), however, reuse of APIs may be impossible and collaborative development with forking may soon be toxic. Today is a horrible day for software development in general and it’s not too clear to us what Google can do next. Some certain types of lawyers probably know Google’s next steps or options and knowing that this ‘legal’ system favours the deeper pockets, there is usually something someone can do given the correct fees (just see how long the SCO case goes on for).

“Google will hopefully continue to fight that case, whatever its options may be.”One reader of ours was disappointed with this article that FOSS Force published today, comparing Google to Microsoft. “Revisionism,” he said, “especially that closing sentence. People hate Microsoft not for the sake of hating Microsoft but because of how it (and its people) behaves and has behaved. It has held computing back at least 20 years and the damage spreads into all domains where desktop computers are used.

“It’s just that Microsoft pays for constant whine against Google. While Google has many shortcomings, it is not a problem like Microsoft has been and continues to be.”

“But on the topic of Google,” he continued, “here’s something fairly current with yet another ****up by SCOTUS” (he linked to the above news).

Google will hopefully continue to fight that case, whatever its options may be. As for Microsoft and Apple, they surely will keep trying to harm the market. They often work together these days (mostly true when it comes to patents, OOXML, DRM, and so on) and as this article by Galen Gruman reminds us:

If you thought Microsoft was finally treating the Mac as an equal citizen, you’ll be disappointed in the reality

Remember that Microsoft and Apple are both on Oracle’s anti-Android side (even publicly, on numerous occasions). These are all proprietary software giants, aspiring to control the entire market by patents, copyrights, litigation, and intimidation. Google simply does not fall under the same category. It deserves the public’s support in this particular case.

06.17.15

A Glance at Free/Libre Software Foes With Their Software Patents

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 4:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A quick roundup of news of interest about patent abusers, especially those who jeopardise the freedom of software

“Ray Niro, one of the lawyers who pioneered the wave of contingent-fee patent litigation, says he’s ready to exit the business,” according to an article cited by a patent trolls expert. Given all the things we have seen coming from Niro, this sure seems like a relief. As Mike Masnick put it: “Anyone remember Ray Niro? He’s the lawyer who so perfected patent trolling that the term “patent trolling” was first used (by future patent troll Peter Detkin) back in the 1990s to describe… Ray Niro for his lawsuits. Niro was the original uber patent troll, demanding settlements and suing all sorts of people. Perhaps his most famous move was that he had control over a patent that he argued covered any use of a JPEG image — and would use it to go after basically anyone who displeased him (if they had any JPEGs on their websites). This included the Green Bay Packers and a resort in Florida. When noted patent system critic Greg Aharonian described that patent as “crap,” Niro sued him for infringing on it as well. Niro also put a bounty on the identify of an (at the time) anonymous blogger who called himself the “Patent Troll Tracker.””

Meanwhile, the world’s largest patent troll IV (which now targets companies that distribute Android) fights more companies in court (not through shell entities/proxies but directly) and another infamous troll, Vringo, targets ZTE (which also distributes Android). Vringo has been behind plenty of anti-Android and anti-Google actions. There are Microsoft connections as we pointed out before (Microsoft gave Vringo patents with which to attack Microsoft’s competition), just like in IV’s case.

Microsoft itself is now being accused of infringing on ‘out-of-band’ patents. As the Washington Examiner put it: “A New Jersey-based software company has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft Corp., alleging the computer giant is infringing on three of its patents.

“StrikeForce Technologies Inc., headquartered in Edison, N.J., filed its lawsuit against Microsoft in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware June 5.”

Apple, being Apple, is hoarding more patents and its promotion sites celebrate this [1, 2, 3], even if Apple is a patent aggressor with a notorious track record (especially against Samsung). Samsung too is making headlines for some of its latest patents (Samsung is one of the top companies when it comes to patent numbers in recent years, but it’s hardly an aggressor).

Ericsson, acting similarly to patent trolls in Europe (yes, even in Europe!), is still chasing Apple with patents. Sometimes Ericsson feeds trolls with patents, hurting not only Apple but also Android (which Ericsson itself uses).

Apple’s patents are especially annoying because some of them limit the freedom to develop in my field, computer vision. Here is a new article which alludes to “Apple’s camera software patents.” It says that “June’s co-founders seem like the right kind of people to bring this product to reality. CEO Matt Van Horn helped found Zimride, which spun off the popular ride-sharing service Lyft. Nikhil Bhogal, who serves as CTO, designed the camera software used on the first five generations of the iPhone, and is listed as an inventor on many of Apple’s camera software patents.”

Software patents are still the leading issue, especially if one minds the freedom of software (without it, there is no secure software, among other things). The media does not entertain this debate anymore, or hardly ever does. It’s all about “trolls” now.

06.12.15

The Disturbing Rise of Openwashing: Today’s Case of Apple and Microsoft

Posted in Apple, Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 5:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Proprietary is not “Open Source”, it’s the very opposite of it

Watercolour

Summary: Apple and Microsoft are trying to change their colours (public perception), but underneath this thin cover the same old spots remain

NON-TECHNICAL FOLKS may easily be led into the illusion of ‘open’ Microsoft and ‘open’ Apple (openwashing), much like that of ‘green’ (and yellow) BP or ‘green’ Shell (greenwashing). There is also whitewashing, e.g. of Bill Gates, but these two examples are different matters. They all involve mass deception with a huge budget. it’s quite a theatre!

We have patiently watched hundreds of headlines about Apple. Some talking points were mentioned even in Linux sites/blogs of Swapnil Bhartiya [1, 2], not just a lot of general news sites [1, 2, 3]. Bloomberg went as far as saying that Apple has gone “open source” (that was the headline!), so we decided a rebuttal was needed. It reminded us of what Microsoft had done with .NET last year, re-announcing the news almost every week, even this week (using the term “Open Source .NET”, despite the fine prints that refute it; we wrote numerous articles to rebut that).

Bloomberg went as far as saying that Apple has gone “open source” (that was the headline!), so we decided a rebuttal was needed.”Here is ECT’s coverage of the Apple PR (there are literally hundreds more like it), complemented even by this tacit endorsement from Jim Zemlin [1, 2]. He claims “Developer Applause”. “It’s inspiring to see companies like Apple and Microsoft validate the work we’ve been doing for more than two decades,” Zemlin writes. “Applause” is the bizarre word here; it was also used by Sam Dean, speaking ‘on behalf’ of what he calls “Open Source” (some recent Web-centric poll, involving only about 100 subjects, also tried to paint Apple users/developers “Open Source” developers because they work on Web sites using Macs). We reject these claims based on observations and we are going to show some real responses from the real “Open Source” community, not some Apple fans who label themselves “Open Source” and label Apple likewise (often citing Apple marketing material/sites).

Digital Trends asked, “what’s in it for Apple?”

That’s a good question and it’s not hard to answer. In the “Open Source” community not everyone is enthusiastic at all, except perhaps Apple fans and people who buy stuff from Apple (including software) while wishing to label themselves “open”. It’s a branding exercise, putting aside API lock-in.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols asked (in his headline), “Just how open will Apple allow Swift to be?”

“Some people love that Apple is open sourcing its Swift programming languages,” he wrote. “Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude about just how ‘open’ Apple will make Swift.”

Simon Phipps, the outgoing OSI President (i.e. top authority for the “Open Source” brand), wrote that “questions loom over ‘open source’ Swift”. “Programming languages alone don’t make programs,” he wrote, but “the SDKs they leverage are the key. When Apple speaks of the SDKs that work well with Swift, it is highly unlikely it is talking about anything that works seamlessly on Android or indeed within any other Linux-based open source platform (not to mention Windows).

“Swift may be offering lip service to open source to pay table stakes with modern developers, but I’m not holding my breath when it comes to extending software freedom to anyone beyond Apple’s walled garden.”

Larry Cafiero, an “Open Source” proponent for many years, wrote: “While there have been no injury reports yet from the multitudes simultaneously jumping on the Swift-as-open-source bandwagon — and no shortage of “Apple to tailor Swift to open source” headlines (can someone hand me an air-sickness bag?) — you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t share the rampant enthusiasm for a couple of reasons.

“To be clear, like Microsoft’s foray into FOSS, Apple’s entry is a small step for FOSS, to paraphrase Neil Armstrong. It is hardly a giant leap for FOSSkind.”

Many others are refuting Apple’s and Microsoft’s recent claims of “embracing” FOSS (for languages or SDKs). These are self-serving moves, intended to make people blobs-dependent (whose blobs? their own!).

Microsoft openwasher Cade Metz weighed in too. Referring to his article, our reader iophk wrote: “One of thousands of articles, but doesn’t this noise obscure the fact that it is still locked in to iOS and OS X? I thought Objective C at least was cross-platform, except for a few libraries.”

Despite these obvious facts, the Linux.com “administrator” (perhaps meaning editor) went with flattery for Apple just earlier today. It also flattered Microsoft for trying to trap GNU/Linux (two bird with one stone), having recently openwashed Vista 10 using the modified (by him/her) headline “Microsoft’s Big Secret Windows 10 Feature is Open Source” (because of the Linux Foundation-connected AllSeen Alliance).

We are rather disturbed to see Apple and Microsoft openwashing even in the Linux Foundation’s sites, this latest example referencing a Microsoft puff pieces for Vista 10. They are now attempting to openwash it because of one paragraph that says: “Microsoft announced last November Windows 10 would pack a technology called AllJoyn. An open source framework that encourages devices to be interoperable, AllJoyn was developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group of more than 150 companies including the likes of Electrolux, Honeywell, LG, and Qualcomm that have banded together to make an open standard for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to speak to each other.”

That’s about as bad as calling Microsoft “open source” because it continues to compile proprietary spyware Skype for GNU/Linux, except GNU/Linux that threatens Microsoft’s desktop monopoly (Chromebooks). As the British media put it the other day, “MICROSOFT is continuing to shun Google’s Chrome OS, opening up its browser-based Skype for Web service to all except those using a Google Chromebook.”

To summarise, don’t fall for the illusion that Microsoft and Apple are somehow ‘embracing’ FOSS; they are trying to exploit the “Open Source” brand to attract people to their proprietary crown jewels. That’s an entirely different thing.

05.21.15

GNU/Linux Still Under Attack From Apple and Microsoft, Patents Remain the Weapon of Choice

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, Samsung at 4:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Aiming their biggest guns at Android

Bunker

Summary: A timely reminder of the importance of patent matters, for they are being used to eliminate the zero-cost advantage of Free/libre software and make it more proprietary, privacy-infringing, and user-hostile (as a result of blackmail)

WHILE pro-Apple sites keep bragging about new Apple patents (granted despite being monopolies on dumb or trivial ideas) there are many dozens of articles, such as [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] , about Apple’s latest assault and taxation of Android (nearly a billion dollars against just one Android backer). On the receiving end there is Samsung, which Microsoft blackmailed (using patent lawsuits) into including Microsoft's software/spyware, by default, in Android. Anyone who still considers Apple and/or Microsoft increasingly friendly towards Linux (or Android) is clearly not paying attention… or paying attention to proprietary software-leaning propaganda which calls extortion “licensing”, “settlement”, “agreement”, and so on. In the coming days we are going to refute a lot of patent propaganda in a rather long series of posts.

04.29.15

Microsoft’s Patent Attacks on Android Not Covered in the Corporate Media, Only Microsoft as the ‘Victim’

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 10:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues”

Noam Chomsky

Summary: Omission of important developments around Microsoft’s war on GNU/Linux and Free software, notably against Android and ChromeOS as of late

II IS HARD to remain apathetic or even maintain neutrally towards the corporate (or “mainstream”) media when it shamelessly does so much Microsoft promotion, including dissemination of utter lies, which Microsoft calls "marketing" (nice euphemism for lies). Here is Eric Knorr, IDG’s editor of InfoWorld (one of several IDG technology ‘news’ sites), continuing to act more like a Microsoft salesman. If Microsoft can get away with gross distortion of facts, like saying that it “loves Linux”, then truth is a primary casualty and the press/media becomes complicit in Microsoft’s war.

Here is Microsoft’s propagandist Paul Thurrott writing about the "embrace extend extinguish" endeavor bu Microsoft against Android and Linux. Microsoft loves neither of them; it hates both of them and it is busy trying to destroy them from the inside (because attacks from the outside have not worked so far). Where is the media in all this and why is it not covering Microsoft’s patent war on Android and Linux? It’s nowhere to be seen, even when new extortion deals are announced (almost nobody covered this at all!). We only find a lot of comments about it, but nowhere in the corporate press is there sign of that. It’s like there’s an effort to hide evidence that Microsoft is viciously attacking Android and Linux using patents and other subversive means.

Microsoft is trying to stay relevant and keep Windows within the game by mixing it with the platform which is now most dominant and Linux-based (Android) while at the same time attempting to devour GNU/Linux in its ‘cloud’ (Azure). Remember what Microsoft did to Netscape and Java in the 1990s. Any such “embrace” by Microsoft usually means an embrace of a python; the ultimate goal is to kill.

What we found rather disturbing was the degree to which the narrative of Microsoft of the victim got pushed into the media. “Microsoft loses mobile patent infringement lawsuit,” said a Microsoft-friendly site. It is not about patent extortion failing but about Microsoft being the target of a troll, much like itself and its own trolls. “A U.S. International Trade Commission judge,” says the report, “has ruled against Microsoft in a patent infringement lawsuit, finding the company used patented software from InterDigital Inc. in its mobile phones.

“The judge ruled Microsoft infringed on two wireless cellular patents, which date back to original patent infringement claims against Nokia in 2007, which Microsoft acquired in 2013. The judge said it would not be against the public interest to ban the Microsoft devices from being imported into the United States, though the full trade commission must review the decision before any ban takes place.

“In a statement, Microsoft confirmed it would continue to challenge the patent infringement claims as an ongoing part of the process.”

ITC rulings do not immediately take effect, so Microsoft will most likely get its way at the end (see I4i vs Microsoft for similarities). Why is this even such massive news? We wrote about InterDigital before and there is nothing exceptional about it. It has been around for a long time (it used to fight with Nokia), Google wanted to buy it, and it hired an executive from Mozilla. Reuters considered that to be top news with subsequent updates (at least two of them). It said that “Microsoft Corp lost a round in a potentially costly patent battle when a U.S. International Trade Commission judge on Monday found that the software giant used InterDigital Inc’s technology in its mobile phones without permission.

“The judge, Theodore Essex, said that Microsoft infringed two wireless cellular patents owned by InterDigital, a patent licensor, and said it would not be against the public interest to ban the Microsoft devices from being imported into the United States.”

That’s about it. No real reports, i.e. reports which add something new, have since then arrived. There have since then been many dozens of superficial (PR-like) articles about this [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36], despite the fact that almost nobody ever buys these phones and Microsoft barely even counts in the mobile market. There is not even a ban, expect an appeal to come.

By contrast, here is some of this week’s coverage about Apple in China [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Apple, unlike Microsoft, at least has some market share. Why is it that corporate media only ever covers patents-related news when giants like Google, Apple or Microsoft are in some way involved and pro-patents slant is possible?

As we mentioned the other day, Google is not looking for a real patent reform anymore, it just wants to buy a lot of patents. We found about a hundred different articles about this, including 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18].

Where are the stories about Microsoft’s patent attacks on Android and GNU/Linux? Why is there such deafening silence on this important matter? There is seemingly no interest in investigative/original journalism anymore, just promotion of brands.

04.22.15

The Dying Debate Over Patent Scope (Including Software Patents) Replaced by ‘Trolls’ (But Not the Biggest Ones)

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents, Samsung at 5:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“In a world where there are $500 million dollar patent infringement lawsuits imposed on OS companies (although this is not completely settled yet), how would somebody like Red Hat compete when 6 months ago they only had $80-$90 million in cash? At that point they could not even afford to settle a fraction of a single judgment without devastating their shareholders. I suspect Microsoft may have 50 or more of these lawsuits in the queue. All of them are not asking for hundreds of millions, but most would be large enough to ruin anything but the largest companies. Red Hat did recently raise several hundred million which certainly gives them more staying power. Ultimately, I do not think any company except a few of the largest companies can offer any reasonable insulation to their customers from these types of judgments. You would need a market cap of more than a couple billion to just survive in the OS space.”

SCO’s Strategic Consultant Mike Anderer

Summary: The corporate media and Web sites or people who are funded by large corporations have essentially suppressed any debate about issues in the patent granting process, thereby guarding software patents and preventing criticism of large corporations’ power grab

WE are deeply disturbed to see the already-elusive debate about patent scope getting lost in the noise, essentially drifting further away. This long post will put forth observations spanning almost 2 months in the English-speaking media.

Apple, which is patenting a lot software, even image editing software (according to Apple propaganda sites), “ramps up patent portfolio to take on Samsung,” to quote the ToryGraph (UK). Samsung is a backer of Android (albeit one that leans towards Microsoft) and it sells the most mobile phones, which run Linux at their core. So, Apple’s anti-Android (using software patents) agenda is very much relevant to the Free/Open Source software community. We have covered this for 5 years (Apple’s attacks on Android using software patents go back to 2010).

“Why does the corporate media not dedicate much space to cover the inherent issues which cause billions in damages to the technology sector?”Is Apple a patent troll? Well, it often behaves like one, but the media reserves the term “trolls” to small entities/actors. We are supposed to believe that Apple is some kind of heroic titan full of innovation, magic, sparkles and wonder, even though manufacturing for Apple is often done by other companies, including the underlying innovations (Samsung, other Korean/Japanese giants, and many Chinese companies make the components of ‘i’ devices).

Why does the corporate media not dedicate much space to cover the inherent issues which cause billions in damages to the technology sector? Why are corporate shakedowns by large corporations not newsworthy (or hardly worth covering)? These should be legitimate questions. Lies by omission are, by all means, lies.

The recent “John Oliver [segment] on patents [is] mostly just a critique of trivial patents and patent trolls but entertaining,” wrote one person among many who saw the HBO coverage. “I didn’t think it was all that funny anyway or maybe I don’t agree with the focus on trolls instead of patent scope,” wrote another person in response to my post. Even TechDirt said that John Oliver chose to focus on “Patent Trolls”. Since when is the patent issue simply reducible to “trolls”? What happened to the fierce debates over patent scope, as those which were of daily recurrence less than a decade ago? The problem of scope has not been addressed. It’s definitely not resolved.

One article that we found some time ago (a week back) portrayed the issue as “poorly written software patents”. To quote in full: “Congress is expected to take up legislation this year that would make it tougher to claim patent infringement.

“The bill has become a top lobbying priority this year for the tech industry, which says it repeatedly fends off frivolous lawsuits because of poorly written software patents and laws that favor patent holders.”

“There oughtn’t be patents on software in the first place.”The problem is software patents, not “poorly written software patents”. There oughtn’t be patents on software in the first place. They cost a lot of money and their toll on society would probably weigh at hundreds of billions of dollars (aggregated over the years worldwide).

Referring to the US-centric ITC, the British media recently shifted focus to patent trolls yet again. “US trade watchdog ITC needs reform to end $bn blackmail,” it said. What about software patents? Are they off topic now?

Consider press releases such as this one about how the USPTO “will grant RES Software two patents for its technological innovations Dynamic Rule Management and Taskbar Affinity.”

This is a couple of software patents. The USPTO is still granting those, despite changes following a SCOTUS ruling.

What was probably most frustrating this month would have to be Associated Press. It unleashed a lot of biased or narrow articles which lay virtually all blame on “trolls”. Consider this article [1, 2, 3]. The Associated Press (AP) set the tone for some widely-spreading AP reports [1, 2, 3] put only “Patent trolls” in the headlines. See for example the article “This year’s fight for the tech industry: Patent trolls”.

The Associated Press helped spread this kind of assumption under different headlines around the world [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and so did PBS/NPR (Bill Gates-funded), among other large news networks.

“What are politicians going to think? It’s like they are being lobbied by large corporations through the corporate media (often owned directly by those corporations).”Where is the focus on patent scope? What are politicians going to think? It’s like they are being lobbied by large corporations through the corporate media (often owned directly by those corporations).

The political debate has already been perturbed. Watch what Chuck Grassley says. We can see politicians only ever speaking about “trolls” (or “Abusive Patent Litigation” to use Grassley’s term). Consider this report titled “Dem senator looking to slow ‘patent troll’ debate”. To quote: “Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) is trying to end the rush to get a bill through Congress to rein in “patent trolls.”

“Judging by the speedy approval of the Innovation Act in the House last Congress, Coons said many members might not be in tune with the debate.”

They call it “Innovation Act”, but all it does is target trolls. It does nothing to or about innovation. It just helps large corporations push aside patent trolls, except themselves.

“Regarding the Innovation Act”, another article about this misleadingly-named bill, says: “As a student at the University of Minnesota, one of the top research universities in the nation, I am greatly concerned with the proposed legislation dealing with patent reform. I agree there is a need to cut down on abusive patent practices under the current law by so-called “patent trolls.” However, current legislation in Congress is too broad in addressing this problem. The unintended consequences of the Innovation Act are too great to ignore.”

Well, that is not the issue. The analysis above, courtesy of a student, is too shallow and does little to actually show what’s wrong with the so-called ‘Innovation Act’. the “Innovation Act” as they call it is just a wishlist of large corporations. That’s not to say that patent trolls are not a problem at all; they’re mostly a symptom of a much larger problem. What the “Innovation Act” would do is tackle only some actors while leaving large corporations exempt from reform. Rather than call it “Innovation Act” we should call it “The Large Corporations’ Act”.

“532,900,000 Reasons Why We Need Patent Reform Now” is the headline from TechDirt in which a ruling about software patents (or relating to software patents) gets mentioned. TechDirt writes: “Over the last year, there’s been plenty of good news in the fight against the abuse of patents to stifle innovation. A bunch of court rulings have gone the right way, with the biggest being the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, that has resulted in many courts invalidating patents, the US Patent Office suddenly rejecting more patents and a rapid decline in patent lawsuits.”

“A real reform would tackle the patents, not the actors who use them.”A real reform would tackle the patents, not the actors who use them. Many of these actors are parasites, but one can generalise the means, not the ends.

“Conservatives and Patent Reform,” an article by Gary Shapiro, alludes to the above and says: “A serious case can be made that they should reconsider their opposition.”

With or without a bogus bill that does little or nothing to tackle the core issue we will all remain between a rock and a hard place. The problem of “trolls” is being overly exaggerated (not dealing with the patents they so often use) in stories like ““Shopping cart” patent troll shamelessly keeps litigating, and losing”. Corporate media pundits like Bill Snyder also play a role in the misdirection, with articles like “Patent trolls are on the run, but not vanquished yet” or “Why Congress must ensure ‘game over’ for patent trolls” (from The Hill).

It sure looks like the corporations hijacked the debate, it’s all about “trolls” now. Debate over patents must focus on patent scope, yet all the large corporations want us to obsess over trolls (smaller trolls than them). “The FTC should release an interim report to help patent reform,” said this other headline from The Hill and on the third of April we learned from this site that “Conservatives wrong to oppose patent reform” (the bogus reform, not the reform that is actually needed).

In the Web sites of patent lawyers we learn of “Two signs that patent reform momentum may be slowing” and get told the typical myth of “Startups and Patents”. Patents are protectionism for large corporations and only a waste of time and money for startups, which can usually not sue large corporations because it would get them sued back, using a much larger heap of patents from these large corporations.

A recent article by Glyn Moody was titled “Does Patent Licensing by Patent Trolls – Or Anyone – Serve A Useful Purpose?”

Moody alludes to a “paper [which] also provides yet more evidence that the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, designed to encourage the commercialization of research results through licensing, actually turns universities into patent trolls — something that Techdirt has discussed before. Although the authors suggest that further research is needed to confirm their results, it already seems pretty clear that both patent trolls and Bayh-Dole need to go.”

“When some nonsense like “Innovation Act” says it targets “trolls” what it actually means to say is that it targets small entities with no real products. These are a nuisance to large corporations because the corporations cannot sue back (there are no products to sue over).”Yes, universities too can act like patent trolls, not just large corporations do. When some nonsense like “Innovation Act” says it targets “trolls” what it actually means to say is that it targets small entities with no real products. These are a nuisance to large corporations because the corporations cannot sue back (there are no products to sue over).

There was recently some discussion about the case of Life360, including the ‘Dear Piece of Shit’ letter. “Fresh off his patent win against a company called AGIS,” said one trolls expert, “Life360 CEO Chris Hulls has published an op-ed advising other companies on how to respond to similar patent threats.” Here is more from the same expert: “In May 2014, Life360 CEO Chris Hulls received an aggressive patent demand letter. The letter, from lawyers representing a company called Advanced Ground Information Systems (AGIS), told him he needed to pay for a “royalty-bearing license” to its four patents, or Life360 and its customers would have to “cease and desist” from infringement.

“In other words: pay up, or shut down your company.”

In the case of large corporations it would be “pay up, or we’ll block imports.” It can also be “pay up, reduce your revenue/increase running costs, pass costs to your customers”.

How is that different from what Apple is doing? How is that different from Microsoft’s patent extortion? It’s only semantics and labels (“trolls”), revolving around either scale or branding. The debate has been littered with propaganda, so a lot of people have been systematically incited against “trolls” while ignoring the broader picture.

Over a month ago there was a large online argument over trolls because “Patent trolls serve valuable role in innovation, Stanford expert says”. Defending patent trolls is not unthinkable, especially from universities where trolling has become a common practice (we have covered some examples over the years). Stanford staff, some allege, was probably paid to say that or has some conflict of interest. But we suspect the cause of this stance is different. This whole “Stanford” story (it was framed as a Stanford thing, despite involving just one person) led to some strong responses from ‘anti-trolls’ (and trolls only) sites [1, 2, 3], with one arguing that proof is required. To give some background to this (quoting the above): “So-called patent trolls may actually benefit inventors and the innovation economy, according to a Stanford intellectual property expert.

“Stephen Haber, a Stanford political science professor, suggests in new research that concerns about too much litigation involving patents is misguided.”

“There’s almost a refusal to return to talking about patent scope.”The obsession over patent trolls is what bothers us the most, not the stance — however dumb — of Stephen Haber. There’s almost a refusal to return to talking about patent scope. One site that focuses on trolls (“Patent Progress”) lobbies hard for the “Innovation Act”, stating in one of its headlines: “If the Innovation Act Is Bad For Patents, Why Do Large Patent Owners Support It?”

Those “Large Patent Owners” are large corporations, such as those which are funding “Patent Progress” (through CCIA). Watch the tone of recent posts. It’s like lobbying on behalf of large corporations. Another post says “Professor Stephen Haber of Stanford recently came out with a paper that, according to him, “suggests in new research that concerns about too much litigation involving patents is misguided.”

Well, the real issue is too much patent granting, not too much litigation, which usually is simply the result of too much patent granting. Tackle patent scope, not scale of plaintiffs.

Here is a recent “I.P. Scholars’ Letter to Congress re Patent Reform”. “This open letter to Congress,” says the abstract, “signed by 51 economics and legal scholars, responds to claims that there is little empirical evidence available to assess the performance of the American patent system. The letter explains that a large and increasing body of evidence indicates that the net effect of patent litigation is to raise the cost of innovation and inhibit technological progress. The letter also includes a bibliography of relevant empirical studies of patent litigation.”

Why focus on patent litigation and not the scope of patents foolishly being granted by the USPTO?

Covering patents have become frustrating in the sense that mega-corporations keep distracting from the real debate(s), lobbying for laws that instead protect only themselves. A lot of blogs that proclaim to be speaking for patent reform are actually tools of large corporations that fund them. Pseudo activism (lobbying) is when you’d be led to believe that you’re reading from real activists while in reality they’re tools of corporate power. The academics (non-’IP’ academics, i.e. not boosters of the parasitic elements) want software patents and other software patents to end, but corporations want to demolish only their own competition and rivals, thus they focus on ‘trolls’ and the corporate media helps them achieve this.

“Well, the real issue is too much patent granting, not too much litigation, which usually is simply the result of too much patent granting.”The EFF, a relatively independent (from corporations) activism group, now says it is “Fighting for Patent Reform in Washington, D.C.”. Having just tackled the infamous podcasting patent as part of a broader new action to take on software patents, the EFF receives a lot of positive publicity [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18]. Can real change come about this way? Is the EFF influential enough?

There is currently another piece of useless ‘reform’, but nothing is as bad as the America Invents Act, which we wrote about before. “Using the new Post Grant Review and Inter Partes Review procedures in the America Invents Act,” Steph writes, “hedge funds are extorting money from pharmaceutical companies by either filing or threatening to file for re-exam.”

When it comes to pharmaceutical patents, there is no lack of articles about “trolls”, including pro-trolls articles. There are anti-reform lawyers writing about it because to patent lawyers the trolling can be good business; their main concern is that it harms the legitimacy of the system through which they prey on real (producing) workers, acting more like parasites than scientists or even lawyers.

04.12.15

The ITC’s and US Media’s Surprisingly Soft Treatment of Patent Bully Apple

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 4:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A thorn

Summary: Despite Apple’s history of initiating patent aggression against its competition (mostly Android-backing companies), the US corporate media treats Apple like a victim

OUR previous article showed how Apple was helping Microsoft extort Linux. It’s not hard to see and it’s not hard to understand. Both companies are proprietary software giants to which Linux is a massive threat. Outside the United States Android is slaughtering Apple’s ‘i’ devices and outside some very large (and monolithic) corporations it’s getting hard to see Windows dominance. Many people use Android, GNU/Linux, and sometimes “Apple”-branded PCs.

Neglecting to mention the ITC‘s role in pushing Apple‘s agenda of blocking the competition (usually foreign, as in non-US), the US media obsessed over Apple as the victim of patents, citing this case where not Apple was the troll. “The patents relate to accessing and storing downloaded songs, videos and games,” said one report (i.e. software patents), and “Apple [was] Ordered To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Case”.

Poor Apple. Now it knows what it feels like to have trolls (like Apple) attacking the competition. See this report titled “ITC Trims Software Patent Probe For Apple Products”. It says that “The International Trade Commission has cut back an investigation into Apple Inc.’s consumer hardware devices after nonpracticing patent entity Enterprise Systems Technologies S.a.r.l withdrew claims that the devices infringed one of its software patents, according to a Tuesday order.” This shows a sort of confirmatory action wherein Apple is treated gently by the ITC — a trend we noted here before (going back years ago). Also see this report titled “Apple Patent Tips Real-Time Route Tracking”. Some innovation, eh? Harming society one patent at a time.

In other news, Ericsson, which uses Android, seeks a ban on Apple products and it’s suing. This news is over a month old, but Ericsson’s action is mostly reactionary because it’s Apple that started bullying Android, striving to embargo imports. One report said that “Apple had been paying royalties to Stockholm-based Ericsson before a license expired in mid-January. When talks over renewal failed, the companies sued each other, seeking court rulings on whether Ericsson’s royalty demands on fundamental technology were fair and reasonable.”

Here is some additional coverage [1, 2, 3, 4].

If we follow the narrative painted or thrown together by US media we may be left with the illusion of parity or reciprocity — a hypothetical situation where Android companies are basically the aggressors against Apple. Historically it was Apple that started it all by suing multiple Android backers, starting with HTC and Samsung.

To be fair, Google does pursue its share of software patents these days, the latest example of which is this creepy software patent: “As of March 31, 2015, Google owns a shiny new patent (8,996,429) outlining a robot that changes personalities based on circumstance and a wide variety of user information. The system stores useful data in the cloud where it can be accessed by other robots. Adorable robots, if we’re to go by Google’s “conceptual graphical representations” (above).”

Google never sued Apple over patents. In fact, Google never sues other companies over patent infringement unless those companies sue Google first. Therein lies the massive difference between Apple and Google, not just Microsoft and Google. Putting aside the “don’t be evil” mantra, Google is definitely a lot less evil than Apple and Microsoft.

Microsoft Continues to Attack (and Tax) Linux Using Software Patents

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Knife

Summary: Microsoft stabs Linux in the back while it continues to insist that it ‘loves’ Linux

SOME PEOPLE (usually Microsoft boosters) would have us believe that Microsoft is not only “Open Source” but also a friend of Linux (they mean GNU/Linux). This couldn’t be further from the truth, as we explained a couple of weekends ago in this 6-part series:

Half a year or so ago the President of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) published the article “Microsoft ‘loves’ Linux? Then stop attacking open source”. It’s worth recalling his arguments. He wrote that “evidence suggests Microsoft “loves” Linux the same way abusive partners “love” their spouses.”

Microsoft is bleeding. It’s laying off staff. Android, or by extension Google, is probably causing Microsoft the most damage right now, eroding Windows’ status as the dominant platform. Android market share is now estimated at around 2 billion or more. It’s based on Linux.

The other say Ahonen wrote that “iHS iSupply promised us Windows Phone would zoom up to 15% market share (reality? stayed at 3%. 5-fold error).”

It’s not working out for Microsoft, is it? Android dominance cannot be stopped. Microsoft and Apple are now in cahoots against Android/Linux (using patents), as noted by a Microsoft booster, Todd Bishop, the other day. iophk wrote: “Trying to allow RAND in ‘essential’ patents?”

Yes, Microsoft and Apple long ago joined forces to fight Android using patents. An alliance of convenience — that’s what it is. This is just a continuation of a destructive strategy.

“It is a multi-faceted attack on Android, hacking at the very core (Google/Motorola).”Going deeper into Microsoft’s and Apple’s joint patent assault on Android, the Microsoft booster says that “[l]awyers for Microsoft and Google will appear Wednesday morning at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a long-running dispute over patents that were originally owned by cell phone maker Motorola Mobility.”

Remember that Motorola’s Android-centric unit was also recently sued by (and lost to) Intellectual Ventures. This massive patent troll funded by Apple too, not just Microsoft, as we noted years ago. It is a multi-faceted attack on Android, hacking at the very core (Google/Motorola).

Last month we saw reports about so-called ‘consumers’ (in the cited article), who are basically just a couple of lawyers whining for Microsoft about Android, deciding to “withdraw U.S. lawsuit against Google over Android app limits”. That’s misleading on many levels. As Reuters put it: “The lawsuit argued that Google requires Android handset manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) favor Google’s apps such as YouTube and restrict competing apps like Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) Bing search.”

So it’s really about Microsoft. After patent extortion against Samsung Microsoft managed to coerce Samsung into preinstalling Microsoft spyware and lock-in, hence the lawsuit becomes irrelevant.

The media has covered this very poorly if it covered this at all.

Todd Bishop, who wrote the above article, also spoke to Microsoft’s Brad Smith, the chief patent bully who had been attacking Linux using patents for nearly a decade. Rather than challenge him over patent and extortion (taxing Linux) he focused on the angle of Microsoft’s infamous tax evasion. Here is how Slashdot summarised it this morning:

After stressing how important the funding of Washington State education — particularly CS Ed — is to Microsoft, company general counsel Brad Smith encountered one of those awkward interview moments (audio at 28:25). GeekWire Radio: “So, would you ever consider ending that practice [ducking WA taxes by routing software licensing royalties through Nevada-based Microsoft Licensing, GP] in Nevada [to help improve WA education]?” Smith: “I think there are better ways for us to address the state’s needs than that kind of step.” Back in 2010, Smith, Steve Ballmer, and Microsoft Corporation joined forces to defeat Proposition I-1098, apparently deciding there were better ways to address the state’s needs than a progressive income tax.

It’s about time more people asked questions about Microsoft’s extortion of Linux, not just its other crimes. There are laws against extortion (e.g. the RICO Act), but they are not being upheld/enforced. To say “Microsoft loves Linux” [companies, developers or users i.e. most people] (whom it’s attacking) is just adding insult to injury and perjury.

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