Patents on trivial concepts can’t carry water for Apple
Summary: Apple’s attacks on Android (and by extension Linux) run short of results
DESPITE Apple’s ‘generous’ payments to IDG (e.g. for advertisements), IDC‘s parent company, IDC now reports (as widely covered in the media) that Apple is unlikely to ever catch up with Android and Apple’s stock rapidly collapsed recently, costing the company around $100 billion in overall value.
Apple saw the writings on the wall some years ago. It started suing Android half a decade ago, taking advantage of a notorious patent system (the USPTO) that is such an utter joke that it actually let McDonalds have patents on making burgers (patents protectionism) just when in the US, based on this new report, some people are copyrighting a chicken sandwich (or at least trying to). Remember that Oracle attacks Android not only using patents but also copyrights (on APIs). CPTN, a consortium built around Novell’s patents with Apple, Microsoft and Oracle at its core, shows that there is a proprietary software collusion against Android/Linux. Microsoft has been destroying Nokia to turn it into a patent troll, using its patents to feed Android-hostile trolls like MOSAID.
Outside the US (although increasingly in the US too) Apple has not been so lucky when it comes to fighting Android. Watch Europe for instance. Aside from the fact that the system isn’t biased in favour of US companies (like the ITC tends to be), Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent, to give just one example, is nothing more than an old gate lock (thousands of years old) borrowed for digital metaphors. It’s just not patentable in many places, including in Europe. Apple has ultimately embarrassed itself by even trying to follow Steve Jobs' "thermonuclear" (apocalyptic) plan.
“Apple’s anti-Android/anti-Samsung patents are an endangered species in every jurisdiction in which they get challenged (and may soon be an extinct species in Europe)…”
–Florian MüllerAccording to Florian Müller, who has been working for Microsoft (and based on some reports also for Apple) as a sort of lobbyist, Apple continues to be defeated in Europe. To put it in his own words: “The spring 2014 armistice with Google has a major downside for Apple: it related only to infringement cases, not to challenges to the validity of its patents, a fact that was not clear at the time of the original announcement. Five months ago, the European Patent Office revoked Apple’s iconic rubberbanding patent on a Europe-wide basis. The sole remaining party opposing the grant of that patent was Motorola. I have no doubt that Google (not Lenovo) is the driving force behind this continuing effort to shoot down Apple patents, and I guess Google is paying Quinn Emanuel for representing Motorola in cases such as that one.
“Today, Google and QE’s continuing efforts have succeeded once again (and most probably not for the last time): the Federal Court of Justice, Germany’s highest court (besides, theoretically, the Federal Constitutional Court, which has never heard a patent case in its history), today announced (German-language press release) affirmance of the Federal Patent Court’s April 2013 decision to invalidate the German part of Apple’s European slide-to-unlock patent.”
In another article from Müller the failures of Apple are shown to be broader than just in Europe. To quote: “Apple’s anti-Android/anti-Samsung patents are an endangered species in every jurisdiction in which they get challenged (and may soon be an extinct species in Europe), except for the Northern District of California, where Judge Lucy Koh has so far acted as if she was the World Wildlife Fund for Apple patents. But a tipping point may have been reached at which conservation will come to an end even in her district court.”
When even Müller has no favourable opinion on Apple’s case it’s easy to conclude that Apple totally lost the plot.
Let’s hope that Apple will rot on its own, without (any longer) trying to take Android down along with it. █
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Why would anyone still support a bully like Apple?
Summary: Apple’s attacks on Android (using bogus patents) may be soon be escalated to the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS)
PATENTS are the long-term foe of Free software because as long as there are software patents (even in just a few countries) import of devices with Linux or Android or whatever other Free software inside them can be banned, barred, blocked at the border. It’s a massive injustice.
The other day we saw the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP (prolific when it comes to pro-patent-maximising opinions) spreading FUD against Free software licences and promoting software patents. These are the sorts of parasites that continue to stand in the way of a Free software-run world — one in which transparency and participation are part of the social contract. Suffice to say, transparency and participation reduce corruption and empower peace, whereas the opposite creates suspicion, hostility, betrayal, and conflict.
Florian Müller has spent a number of years attacking Android, sometimes as part of the contracts he was paid for, e.g. by Microsoft. He recently wrote about how Apple lost a key design patent. It’s one which we covered before. It’s laughable.
Sarah Burstein says that “SCOTUS hasn’t heard an issue of substantive design patent law for over 100 years.” She cites Howard Mintz who wrote that “Federal Circuit refuses to rehear Samsung appeal of verdict in patent trial against Apple. Scotus or bust” (i.e. last resort).
The SCOTUS has thus far been the best weapon against ridiculous patents (more on that in our next post) and Müller says that Samsung will appeal to it, answering questions from Apple propaganda sites (see questions like “will Samsung ask SCOTUS?” regarding this article from Mac Rumors).
“These are the sorts of parasites that continue to stand in the way of a Free software-run world — one in which transparency and participation are part of the social contract.”This development has been covered a lot by corporate media in the US and it hardly shocks us that a US court ruled in favour of a US company, not a Korean company. We wrote about such biases many times before (the ITC is a good example of that) and since the corrupt CAFC is involved, it makes this anything but shocking, just expected.
There is no CAFC hearing for Samsung, say lawyers from London. Someone “wrote in to say that the method by which the figure was arrived at would, if unchallenged, lead to “absurd results” on the basis that three design patents could not encompass the entire value of a smartphone which has hundreds (if not thousands) of IP-protected features.”
The bottom line is, Apple’s patent war on Android has turned 5 (it started against HTC and then Samsung was added). HTC is still suffering and Apple hopes to destroy Samsung not by innovating but by litigating. By extension, Apple attacks the whole Android world, including Linux. We can’t let Apple get its way. █
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Patents not on engineering (or physical products) anymore
Summary: News about patents from all across the Web, placing special emphasis on software patents and how these affect Free software projects, including Linux and Android
THIS week’s patents roundup revolves around practicing companies that act in a way which is almost indistinguishable from patent trolls. As we have said here for several years, the term “patent trolls” can be misleading because many large companies act in the same way but don’t get labeled “trolls”, mostly because of their size. It means that a fight against “patent trolls” often turns out to be a fight over scale, waged by large corporations against smaller ones. Check again who is behind the PATENT Act [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
Today’s post brings together several stories and themes/strands in order to keep readers abreast of the latest developments.
Open Invention Network
We have spent over 8 years writing about the Open Invention Network (better known as OIN) and why it cannot effectively protect Free software projects. We also exchanged many E-mails with the OIN and some trolls. We saw how toothless the OIN can be in many scenarios and we challenged the OIN over it. I spoke in length with their CEO a few times over the telephone and I still think that it helps legitimise software patents and rarely achieves very much, except promote the interests of large corporations (like those which founded it and still fund it).
Earlier this morning FOSS Force published this very long interview with Deb Nicholson, who had worked for the FSF before she moved to OIN. This interview is very good and Nicholson’s views on patents are fine. We shared them here before.
“My work at OIN involves a lot of research,” Nicholson says. “I read academic papers on litigation trends and try to stay on top of who’s getting sued this week. It also involves a lot of behind the scenes emailing. I have lots of informal conversations with people about how you run a free and open source software project. Sometimes, they don’t realize that lots of other companies are succeeding with FOSS business models and shared community resources. Once they see that it can be done, they often feel more confident.”
Nicholson then speaks about the role of SCOTUS in lowering the risk of software patents.
“The Supreme Court,” she explains, “has given the lower courts the tools to rule against two specific categories of vague and frivolous patents. This is great for companies that have the cash and the time to go to court. For companies that don’t want to fight in court — which is lots of them, because it really is expensive and time-consuming — the letters will keep coming. Plus, there are still plenty of overly broad or obvious patents on the books that may not be affected by the recent rulings. So, things are improving but I wouldn’t say that we’re finished.”
She makes an important point regarding the cost of litigation, but the matter of fact is, USPTO examiners are now tougher on software patents and fewer companies (or shell firms) are eager to assert software patents for fear of losing them. Not only the extorted party (usually developers) is scared of the courts; the plaintiff, e.g. a patent troll, is too. What SCOTUS has done is, in our humble assessment, the best news in nearly a decade. We cannot recall anything bigger or better in terms of magnitude, at least not when it comes to systematically squashing software patents (not one patent at the time as per the EFF’s much-advertised earlier efforts, dubbed “patent busting”).
The Finjan-led patent extortion crusade was mentioned here just weeks ago (they are Microsoft-connected) and now, just weeks later, this firm’s troll entity (Finjan Holdings) gets extortion money from a really nasty company, Blue Coat, which some say the EPO hired to spy on people like yours truly and EPO staff. “Finjan Holdings,” as a trolls expert explains, is “a patent-licensing company operating in the cybersecurity space” and it has just “won a hefty $39.5 million jury verdict (PDF) on Tuesday, when a San Jose jury found that Blue Coat Systems infringed five of its patents.”
Keep an eye on Finjan, not just because of its Microsoft connections. Finjan has become a very malicious company. It deserves to go out of business. The sooner, the better.
Cisco, now known for its surveillance and back doors (which is even openly discusses when applying for standards), is receiving negative publicly because as its profits run dry (or more meager), it increasingly turns into more of a troll, just like Microsoft and Apple. Is this what Cisco wants to be renowned (or notorious) for? Remember that TrollTracker, a fighter against patent trolls. was a Cisco lawyer, but Cisco is now turning into what it fought. Arista, according to this article, says that Cisco is “Very Much Like a Patent Troll” (that’s the headline) and it’s coming all the way from the top. To quote the article, “Arista’s top lawyer used the company’s earnings call for trash-talk Thursday, saying Cisco is “behaving very much like a patent troll” in its intellectual property lawsuit against Arista.
“Arista Networks Inc. CEO Jayshree Ullal kicked off the badmouthing: “Despite all the overheated rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Cisco blogs about Arista’s brazen copying, we think the only thing brazen about the suit is the extreme length Cisco has gone to,” she said. “Our customers have shown unwavering support.”
“Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents.”“Arista Vice President and General Counsel Marc Taxay agreed. “Ironically … it appears to us at any rate that Cisco is behaving very much like a patent troll, which is pretty much what they’ve spent the last decade condemning.” Cisco is claiming patents for widely implemented features and functionality that exist on a broad range of switches today, and some of the patents affect features the patents were never intended to cover, Taxay said.”
The Wall Street Journal, taking note of “expensive legal battle with Cisco”, also expresses concerns about this case. “That may give some investors pause,” the author claims, “especially when Arista remains embroiled in an expensive legal battle with Cisco, which has accused it of infringing on patents.”
Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents. Cisco used to be on the defensive, but now it’s on the ofsensive, and not against trolls. For a company that is eager to be seen as a FOSS and GNU/Linux supporter, this surely is a dumb strategy whose gains — if any — are massively outweighed by public image erosion.
A new article from Timothy B. Lee helps chastise the bully called JDate, which we wrote about very recently. “JDate,” he explains, “recently sued JSwipe, a mobile dating app for Jews that works like Tinder. Most media coverage has focused on mocking JDate for essentially claiming that it has a monopoly on certain uses of the letter J.
“But in some ways, the part of JDate’s lawsuit that really merits mockery is the patent infringement claims. JDate is suing JSwipe for infringing a broad patent that essentially claims the concept of using a computer to match pairs of users who express interest in each other. The lawsuit illustrates the continuing need for patent reform, because the current system makes it too expensive for defendants to challenge dubious patents.”
There are some interesting comments about JDate here. Although this Web site only targets a small niche, we strongly encourage all readers to boycott JDate, or else they’ll continue their shameful bullying, perhaps inspiring other companies to do the same.
The Economist Versus Patents
The Economist, interestingly and surprisingly enough (given its strong pro-business bias), chastises the patents regime in at least two articles this month. One is titled “A question of utility” and says in its summary: “Patents are protected by governments because they are held to promote innovation. But there is plenty of evidence that they do not” (we have covered such evidence for almost a decade).
“The ability to patent,” says the author, “has been extended from physical devices to software and stretches of DNA, not to mention—notably in America—to business processes and financial products.”
Yes, patent scope is a huge part of the problem.
“Time to fix patents” is the second such article from The Economist and it too is an assault on the status quo. “Ideas fuel the economy. Today’s patent systems are a rotten way of rewarding them,” said the summary.
Here is a key part of this article: “Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils. An early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor business had to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spur bursts of innovation; instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.”
It is nice to see even The Economist debunking these tiresome myths, many of which still perpetually spread by patent profiteers rather than producing companies. Are we on the cusp of a mindset change?
Patent Propaganda From Lawyers’ Sites
Lawyers’ media, seeking to maximise dependence on patent lawyers, promotes patents on construction in this series that starts with the following paragraph: “In the first of this three part series, clean tech, or green construction, was defined as construction that reduces or minimizes the environmental impact in building construction, operation and use. That article also discussed the importance of building intellectual property walls, and especially with patents, to protect inventions from being incorporated into projects by unlicensed users. Equally important is knowing the patents that may prevent a company from incorporating patented technology for which it has no license. Patent rights can shape an industry; consequently, companies must develop patent strategies. Patents for green construction encompass everything from building materials, to software for optimizing various processes, to green energy systems, amongst others.”
Yes, they even suggest software patents right there.
“The US may not have a world class patent system,” say the patent maximalists of IAM, “but its professionals are second to none” (for taxing by lawyers perhaps). Another site of patent lawyers who lobby for a lot of ludicrous types of patents (including software) pretends that patents take a short time to receive, despite that infamous backlog and these notorious issues which can only be tackled by lowing examination standards, hence granting bogus patents (trivial, and/or with prior art).
“Intellectual property & intangible assets” is the headline of this British article which is so full of nonsense that we don’t know where to start. To quote one part of it: “Newton says the real value in business these days is in knowledge, which is tied up in intellectual property, patents, trademarks and designs.”
That’s nonsense. The term “intellectual property” refers to patents, trademarks, and copyrights, so it cannot be separated as above. Then there are designs, which are already (in most domains) covered by copyrights and if the author wishes to speak about trade secrets, that’s different from all the above and still pertains to knowledge, without having to introduce that vague notion of “intellectual property” and “intangible assets” — both horrible propaganda terms that equate ideas with objects.
“Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.”The article titled “9 Tech Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry” talks about proprietary software that patent lawyers use to keep track of their work. “Experts say the market for legal technology is as much as $400 billion,” the article says, but there is nothing like a citation to support such a figure.
“We hear the same complaints over and over every time Congress tries to improve the patent system,” Matt Levy wrote the other day. “In fact, we’ve been hearing some of them for over 70 years.” Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.
Design Patents and Linux Gadgets
Speaking of design patents, watch what patent maximalists celebrated this weekend: “The text cluster provided here shows that much of Hasbro’s portfolio of 1,772 patents (339 of which are active) are related to toy vehicles, electronic games and ornamental designs, indicating a fair amount of design patents.”
The notion of “design patents” has got to be one of the most loathsome and ridiculous. The article “Apple v. Samsung and a Fight Over the Patents for Designs” was published by Forbes the other day, reminding us of so-called design patents (such as the widely-ridiculed 'rounded corners' patents). Apple is very desperate to stop Android (and by extension Linux), but doing so by bullying with outright bogus patents isn’t the way to compete. CPTN members (i.e. holders of Novell’s patents) Oracle, Apple and Microsoft have been systematically attacking Android using patents and Oracle now takes this further. “Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Java copyrights probably won’t be back in a courtroom again until next year,” wrote The Register, “but in the meantime, Oracle has asked the court to let it expand the scope of its complaint to include events that have occurred since it was first filed in 2010.”
This forever-legal-limbo scenario helps hurt Android, so we cannot just pretend that software patents are not a problem. More FOSS and GNU/Linux site must learn to address these issues as a matter of priority. Not enough are doing this at the moment and it definitely helps our foes. Many people seem to forget that Microsoft still attacks GNU/Linux using patents (albeit more discreetly than before). █
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Seeing the dark side of Apple…
Summary: Apple is desperately trying to stop Android from increasing its levels of dominance (in phones, tablets, watches, and so on), so Silicon Valley is lining up against Apple, antagonising its misuse/abuse of patents for anticompetitive purposes
APPLE became somewhat of a patent troll around 2010 when it filed its first anti-Android patent lawsuit, having threatened to do the same to Palm years beforehand (Tim Cook played a big role in these threats at the time). Microsoft and Apple are both bullies and they are not hiding it. They really hate Linux; they try to destroy it rather than adopt it like the rest of the industry, especially in Silicon Valley. With the exception of Microsoft, which habitually supports Apple’s court cases against Android, almost every significant company is now supporting Samsung‘s defence against Apple [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Engadget wrote: “Samsung has also found a powerful group of backers in its fight against Apple in court. According to a document unearthed by Inside Sources, Google, Facebook, eBay, Dell, HP and other big tech corporations have submitted a “friend of the court” brief on July 1st, supporting Samsung’s stance. The two companies have been embroiled in legal fisticuffs for years, ever since Apple first filed a lawsuit against Samsung for violating various intellectual properties, such as tap-to-zoom, sinle-finger scrolling and two-finger zooming, as well as edge-to-edge glass design, among other things.”
“Supporting Apple these days is supporting an arrogant bully, hell-bent on destroying Linux.”There is no “patent fight with Samsung” as some media puts it. It is Apple attacking Android by targeting a top Android entity other than Google (it is clear that Google has far greater an incentive to fight back). It is, by extension, an attack on Linux. Apple fans’ site keep bragging about new Apple patents, perhaps not caring to realise that they now support the equivalent of a giant patent troll, the world’s richest troll.
Google, by contrast, is trying to fix the patent system and to reduce litigation. As Mike Masnick put it a few days ago, “Google Revamps Patent Search To Actually Do What Patent Office Should Do” (that’s Masnick’s headline).
Masnick correctly recalls that this is not the first such effort from Google. To quote some background: “A few years ago, Google seemed to downgrade its patent search features, pulling away a separate “Google Patents” section and mixing it back into the main Google search. This seemed like a major step backwards, especially given how terrible the US Patent Office’s own patent search engine was. Google has tried to do a few things like launching a “prior art finder” and teaming up with StackExchange to help crowdsource prior art.”
Supporting Apple these days is supporting an arrogant bully, hell-bent on destroying Linux. Please don’t buy anything from Apple as it only makes this aggressor stronger. █
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Who’s copying who?
Summary: Europe is being drained by the patent industry (lawyers, judges, etc.) while the US gradually takes on the problem
“So Software isn’t Patentable in the EU but the EPO is ignoring the Law?”
That’s a comment made the other day by “AntiSoftwarePat” over at Twitter. Well, we have already shown many other instances where the EPO ignores the law — knowingly too — including the extension of patent scope (in order to artificially elevate patents count).
The Unitary Patent will take expansion of patent scope even further, transcending borders. “UK Unitary Patent ratification before Brexit referendum, Mr Cameron is taking risks by giving EU super patent powers,” wrote the FFII’s President regarding this new article about UK-IPO. “In a statement sent to Out-Law.com,” said the author, “the IPO ruled out ratification of the Agreement this year but said that it intends to complete the “domestic preparations” for ratification ahead of the UK referendum on whether the country should remain in the EU, which is scheduled for some time in 2017.”
So they are jumping the gun. The public isn’t even taken into account.
“Hey, let’s patent life,” some folks may think (they can make a lot of money from that). According to this article from a London-based blog of lawyers, “Life sciences come to life again, this time in Berlin”. To quote: “Arrangements are now being made for the training of judges, the provision of court facilities and the projecting of existing patenting and dispute resolution techniques on to a fresh canvas. This is a scenario in which the accumulated experience, knowledge and wisdom of the life science sector cannot be relied upon in the absence of rigorous double-checking against a new framework for patenting, new litigation rules and — this is going to hurt the most — a set of complex transitional provisions.”
This shows that Europe is rushing (even fast-tracking) these expansions without public consent. While the US is narrowing down patent scope, Europe seems to be expanding patent scope.
A new article from the US (CBS) asks: “What would ‘real’ patent reform look like?”
The author correctly points out that “last year, the US Supreme Court issued a number of patent-related decisions that drew modest limits around both the process and substance of newly created categories of patents, including for software and business methods. Courts and the Patent Office became more aggressive about rejecting or overturning applications that should never have been granted. As a result, the overheated market for low-quality patents collapsed.”
The whole patent system in its current form is so utterly corrupt, biased and inherently protectionist (that’s just its goal, not publication). Too few people are willing to say that. Watch what Apple is patenting right now [1, 2]. It’s computer vision, i.e. software patents, on selfies! Will Europe go down the same abyss? hopefully not. European citizens need to educate themselves about what today’s patent system really is and who it benefits. █
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SCOTUS says no entry!
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. █
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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. █
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Proprietary is not “Open Source”, it’s the very opposite of it
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. █
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