Proprietary software companies like Microsoft, Apple, Oracle etc. want lawyers to run their business
Summary: A decade after Free/libre Open Source software (FLOSS) surpassed its proprietary counterparts on technical terms/merit it is facing an increasing number of patent challenges, as well as disruptive takeover attempts
TECHRIGHTS was born out of the need to tackle Microsoft’s patent war on GNU/Linux. Back in 2006 Microsoft saw innovations such as Compiz whilst it had a lousy operating system called Vista (which even Microsoft executives were internally ranting about). It knew it was only a matter of time until Windows loses dominance outside the server room. Fast forward to 2016 and Android is expected to have nearly 90% of the market. Windows is in a state of disarray and Microsoft now tries to force people to use it, even if they don’t pay for it and don’t want it at all.
“Microsoft promotes lawyers to high management and tries to make patent extortion its new cash cow.”Microsoft tried to evolve, but it was all in vain. Remember the Microsoft Stores? Remember Surface (both the old and the new)? Microsoft is losing a lot of money in the hardware business (faulty by design ) and the online business (promises are being broken now in an effort to raise money ). Microsoft is now borrowing money — a lot of money in fact — to pay debts , confirming what we knew all along about Microsoft’s real financial situation.
As a result of Microsoft’s panic (losing billions of dollars) the company launched patent assaults on various companies (OEMs) that distribute Linux/Android. Microsoft promotes lawyers to high management and tries to make patent extortion its new cash cow. It is also disrupting Android from the inside, in an effort to better control it. Last month we wrote about Xamarin‘s (Microsoft proxy) takeover of RoboVM [1, 2, 3, 4] (still a subject of critical debate). Paul Krill wrote that “Hammond sees the bigger issue as Xamarin’s acquisition of RoboVM and its desire to support RoboVM iOS apps in the Apple App Store, which has taken a dim view of GPL licenses to date.”
Apple — like Microsoft — is also attacking Android backers like Samsung, using software patents that are inherently incompatible with the GPL. Apple is still bickering over patents in an effort to derail the dominant Linux-based platform, Android, according to this new report.
We expect the last remaining barrier for the triumph of Free software everywhere to be patents, and especially software patents. We are changing our site’s focus accordingly. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
IFIXIT HAS taken Microsoft’s first laptop apart and found that it’s probably not a good idea to try to fix it yourself.
Microsoft’s latest device went on sale last week in the US and has yet to see a UK release, but the people at iFixit have cracked it open and explained exactly what’s going on inside. And it’s not good.
There’s already a backlash against Microsoft’s surprise announcement, and it’s not a good look for the company given its impressive focus on mobile and the cloud. Microsoft is fighting a war against Amazon, Google, Salesforce, and many others for the business side of the cloud, but its consumer efforts are starting to look a lot more like Apple’s iCloud offering. Apple offers the bare minimum of free storage and entices consumers to pay more for iCloud by making its apps and operating system make the most of the cloud. Microsoft is now bullying OneDrive users into paying for the free storage it is now taking away.
It’s kind of embarassing to have to borrow money to pay debts… but that’s what M$ continues to do. It has $100 billion in liquid assets but it can’t repatriate them to USA without forking out a ton of money to Uncle Sam for taxes, so it borrows money at this end to pay for what it does day to day. The problem is chickens come home to roost. When the day inevitably comes that the world sees M$ has no clothes and that M$ is not the one true source of IT, the gravy train ends but the debts will have to be paid. At the last 10-Q quarterly report, M$ reported $36billion in short+long term debt. Now about half it’s liquid assets will be needed just to repay that debt.
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Photo source (Sarbakhsh): “IP Monetization”, New York (2015)
Summary: The bizarre ‘friend’ of Free/Open Source software (FOSS), IBM, is still trying to ensure patentability of software whereas Apple and SAP, based on new stories, surprisingly enough serve to crush or at least weaken some
THE IMPACT of the Alice case has been great. Everyone is happy about it. Unless one is a patent lawyer or a software monopolist…
The American Intellectual Property Law Association (with its dodgy Microsoft Windows site) is an echo chamber that has just regathered and congregated many stakeholders, excluding people who actually invent and create things. The audience profits from patents, so it’s not an unbiased event that’s open to the wider public or at least offers the public speaking opportunities.
Just like the UPC Forum Munich, which lobbies regarding courts and litigation (money to be made by lawyers), the American Intellectual Property Law Association thinks in a narrow-minded way.
Now, let’s talk about IBM, which is actively spreading (or trying to spread) software patents to even more countries. People who made a career out of cataloging the patent monopolies of massive corporations (that’s where the big money is) are pursuing as many of them as possible, even 50,000 for just one company. Small business with an infinitesimal number of patents hardly every become a bleep on the radar and lawyers who work for them do nothing but drive them closer to bankruptcy, without any obvious benefits. Remember that the EPO also discriminately deals with applicants, prioritising large corporations even when these are not European (prominent patent practitioners — to use a euphemism — are still discussing the impact of this).
According to this new report from LES 2015, the “lead IP attorney” at IBM (whatever that actually means) isn’t happy about Alice. Here are some quotes:
Legislation will ultimately be required to address the uncertainty created by the Alice Corp v CLS Bank ruling, a lawyer from IBM told the LES 2015 Annual Meeting.
Reza Sarbakhsh, who is lead IP attorney at the company, said the decision has provided little guidance on what is patentable in the computer software space.
“As with any other business, uncertainty is the enemy,” he said, asking whether legislation should be required.
While he admitted that “I don’t know if we can convince Congress to address problems from our perspective” in the short term, “eventually legislation is the answer”.
Sarbakhsh was speaking during a lively discussion on the impact of the US Supreme Court’s ruling from last June. The court said computer-implemented inventions are not eligible for patent protection.
Sarbakhsh does not explicitly say it, but knowing that he works for IBM, a booster and lobbyist for software patents, by clarity he means advocacy. To quote the author’s paraphrasing: “Sarbakhsh said some large corporations are still pursuing software patents because the costs of getting them issued and the subsequent maintenance fees have not increased, even if patent value might be lower.”
“It’s not a business, it’s protectionism. It ensures money continues to flow from the powerless to the powerful.”Sarbakhsh said (direct quote): “Simply because one or two patents have been invalidated doesn’t mean we’re getting out of the patent business.”
It’s not a business, it’s protectionism. It ensures money continues to flow from the powerless to the powerful.
The overall tone of this lawyers-led event is similarly saddening. Then see the article (paywalled) titled “AIPLA 2015: Don’t dump portfolios due to section 101, patentees told”. To quote the excerpt: “Software patent owners should not jettison their portfolios despite worries over the impact of Alice Corporation v CLS Bank and its application of section 101, an industry conference heard.”
Why not? Because it harms the profits of patent lawyers?
Alice is a very big deal.
Apple is trying to invalidate software patents using Alice, whereupon “Ericsson says Apple’s Alice motion against wireless patents threatens to swallow all of patent law,” to quote Florian Müller.
Well, if it swallows all of patent law, or software patents in this particular case, then all the better.
One person wrote to us, “so if Apple succeeds then that may be troublesome for many other patent holders on wireless communication.”
Separately, in Twitter and in his blog, Müller says that “Google-SAP cross-license agreement announced: is SAP once again critical of software patents?”
As we showed earlier this week, SAP is still trying to patent software in Europe, so we very much doubt a change of policy is in the making. However, with this cross-license pseudo-’peace’, one might assume that SAP won’t take any legal action against Android, and perhaps by extension GNU/Linux.
We’re living in interesting times as we are at the crossroad when it comes to software patents. Lose it, as IBM wishes, and software patents may expand to the entire world. If we win this battle, then maybe we can still contain this injustice, even put an end to it worldwide. Patent lawyers won’t give up and sit idly until everything, including life itself, becomes patentable (i.e. profitable to them). █
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Suddenly software patents don’t suit even Apple’s agenda all that much…
Summary: Another blow for software patents in the United States (US) as even a company that notoriously exploited them to impose embargoes on Linux (Android) devices is finally finding these patents unsuitable
THE USPTO has been thoroughly impacted by the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS), for a ruling from last summer meant that a lot of patent applications, especially ones that pertain to software, are no longer eligible and should thus be rejected/discarded. Techrights believes that Alice v. CLS Bank can gradually pave the way to a world free from software patents and that without this case, software patents would only gradually expand and become universally acceptable.
“Techrights believes that Alice v. CLS Bank can gradually pave the way to a world free from software patents and that without this case, software patents would only gradually expand and become universally acceptable.”The Alice case, which continues to squash a lot of software patents (those that are being tested in a court of law), changed the game and even Apple, a leading foe of Linux and Free/libre Open Source software, is now using Alice in order to squash software patents (those which are asserted against Apple). According to this article from Florian Müller: “The Apple v. Ericsson docket in the Northern District of California was worth taking another look (after quite a while): two weeks ago, Apple brought a motion for summary judgment of invalidity of two patents asserted by Ericsson in its counterclaims to Apple’s declaratory judgment complaint, and the motion is entirely based on 35. U.S.C. § 101 in light of last year’s famous (or infamous in the eyes of patent attorneys) Alice ruling by the Supreme Court on patent-ineligible subject matter…”
Patent Buddy took note of these patents [1, 2] and we wish to remind readers of our recent post about patent trolls in Europe and Ericsson's troll, Unwired Planet.
“Maybe the folks at the ITC think they’re above the law, even above the Supreme Court.”The fascinating thing here is that even Apple, which is attacking users with software patents (embargoes, feature removal, price hikes) and maliciously spying on users, is making use of the Alice case. But perhaps the most interesting article today concerns the United States ‘International’ Trade Commission (it’s not really international, it’s nationalistic and biased; it’s often used by Microsoft and Apple to ban Android devices), which according to patent lawyers remains reluctant to take account of the Alice case. Maybe the folks at the ITC think they’re above the law, even above the Supreme Court.
“Outside of the ITC,” wrote the author, “defendants have been increasingly successful in challenging the patentability of asserted claims under Section 101. Recent decisions by the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit have clarified, and arguably narrowed, the scope of patentable subject matter, and have repeatedly urged district courts to resolve any Section 101 defenses as soon as possible. At the ITC, however, this defense has rarely been asserted, and has only once been successful since Bilski. Nevertheless, ITC practitioners should expect to see more of these defenses in the near future, and there are interesting, open questions surrounding how the ITC will interpret and implement the Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue.”
“The injunctions are so biased that it’s just too hard to ignore.”We have been vocal critics of the ITC and its dubious practices since the Bilski days, so this one is yet another example for our list. It often seems like all that the can ITC offer is protectionism for US (mega)corporations, not justice. The injunctions are so biased that it’s just too hard to ignore. █
“Software patents have been nothing but trouble for innovation. We the software engineers know this, yet we actually have full-blown posters in our break-room showcasing the individual engineers who came up with something we were able to push through the USPTO. Individually, we pretty much all consider the software-patent showcase poster to be a colossal joke.” —Kelledin, PLI: State Street Overruled… PERIOD
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What a lovely company… it does photo ops like the Gates Foundation does.
“A photo op (sometimes written as photo opp), short for photograph opportunity (photo opportunity), is an arranged opportunity to take a photograph of a politician, a celebrity, or a notable event. [...] The term has acquired a negative connotation, referring to a carefully planned pseudo-event, often masqueraded as news. It is associated with politicians who perform tasks such as planting trees, picking up litter, and visiting senior citizens, often during election cycles, with the intent of photographers catching the events on film, generating positive publicity.” -Wikipedia
Summary: Apple is staging events and manufacturing misleading media reports that help portray Apple, a PRISM company, as a proponent of privacy
TRUTH be said, Apple has been cooling down its patent war against Android in recent years, so we don’t write about Apple as much as we used to. Apple’s main remaining battle now is against Samsung because Apple wants bans, extortion money, or both.
As I spend a lot of my weekends reading about privacy and security I was disturbed to see Tim Cook framed in the media (literally hundreds of articles) as fighting for people’s privacy when it fact it was him, after Steve Jobs had died, who added Apple to PRISM (Microsoft was the first to join — if not help create — PRISM). Last week and the week before that Cook presented himself and Apple as the anti-NSA (like Antichrist) when the fact of the matter is, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I ranted about this in ‘social’ media sites and maybe now is a good time to also write a short article about it. There is nothing more comical than seeing an Apple CEO ‘confronting’ Michael Rogers; it’s like a bogus, staged debate.
The NSA asked for (and got) front doors in proprietary operating systems like Vista 10 and Mac OS X, which according to the latest news  is full of holes.
“I don’t want a back door. I want a front door.” — Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), April 2015
BBC, a proponent of proprietary software and the “Mac versus PC” false dichotomy, has published this bizarre article which serves Apple’s promotional narrative and says: “Ordering Apple to access data against its will would be akin to making a reluctant drug company carry out a lethal injection, a US judge has said.”
Actually, this is a bogus analogy because Apple already gives the NSA access to its data and has done this for years, not because of pressure but because it hadn’t yet been found out by the public, hence the negative publicity (or “blowback”) wasn’t great enough. Right now Apple wants people to view itself as friendly to pregnant women (like the ones in China whom it ‘protects’ with suicide nets?) and a staunch support of privacy. Don’t believe this for even one second.
Proprietary operating systems such as Mac OS X and iOS have a lot of back doors, which Apple sometimes chooses to call “diagnostics”. By all means, the fiction of Apple as caring about privacy is just fiction. We need to antagonise it, or else people who really need privacy (whistleblowers for instance) will get in serious trouble. Earlier this week my sister in law in Singapore, who uses an iPhone, was mortified to learn that she was being spied on via her phone. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
GENTLEMEN ADJUST YOUR PC threat league tables. Apple has usurped Oracle as the top blight, according to security firm Secunia.
The picture is bleak across the board, and the firm found that a huge whack of PCs are are running old, beleaguered, unpatched and end-of-life versions of software. This presents a problem to the user and computers in general.
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Summary: An aggressive arm of the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, is going after Apple, vainly demanding (and probably getting) almost a billion dollars from Apple alone, using a single patent which potentially covers just about everything with multiple CPU cores
NOT MUCH is happening in Wisconsin, which isn’t known for academic excellence (definitely not on par with redbrick universities and in the 2015 QS World University Rankings, its best university was ranked only 54th, according to Wikipedia). Microsoft lost a case in Wisconsin, having committed competition crimes there [1, 2, 3], but we haven’t heard much since then.
The University of Wisconsin is now serving to embarrass Wisconsin as a whole, by acting like a greedy opportunist and patent aggressor.
“These claims can easily be used to target not just Apple but a lot of software and many devices that have multiple cores.”The top 3 most read articles at WIPR right now are about the EPO [1, 2, 3] and number four is the Apple case that was covered by WIPR several days ago. What is it all about? A couple of articles from Ars Technica (and a patent trolling expert whom they hired after he had blogged a lot on these issues) provide a decent introduction. The patent in question is patent number 5,781,752, which based on our reading relates to memory and computation management at the CPU level (“the processor may fetch multiple instructions at a single time and an allocation circuit allocates those instructions to separate processing units.”)
These claims can easily be used to target not just Apple but a lot of software and many devices that have multiple cores. Apple is just a rich target, hence convenient to sue, but if we let Apple lose this case, who will the University of Wisconsin go after next? Watch just how much damage is caused by just one single patent. We therefore hope for appeal/s, despite the fact that we don’t support Apple in general (it is a malicious company).
“The people behind this patent receive (or received) a salary from a state university, having enjoyed their cushy, quasi-state-level job.”See the article “Apple faces $862M patent damage claim from University of Wisconsin”. To quote: “A jury has found Apple’s A7 and A8 chips violate a patent belonging to the licensing arm of the University of Wisconsin, and the world’s richest smartphone maker is now on the hook for up to $862 million in damages.
“The Wisconsin jury reached a verdict on Monday that Apple infringed US Patent No. 5,781,752, and the trial now enters a separate damages phase. The patent is owned by Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a university patent-licensing organization that was suing over patents before it was cool.”
What a gross amount in so-called ‘damages’. The people behind this patent receive (or received) a salary from a state university, having enjoyed their cushy, quasi-state-level job. Do they want to become big millionaires overnight, using an old piece of paper that a state university helped them get? It’s more than just patent ‘welfare’. We have been covering the patent greed of some universities before, but noting ever came close to this.
Also see the article “Jury orders Apple to pay $234 million for infringing university patents”. It says that “Apple lost a patent case on Monday, when a federal jury in Wisconsin found that the smartphone giant infringed a patent that originated at the University of Wisconsin, and is now held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).
“That ended the liability phase of the trial, and the judge overseeing the case decided that damages should be decided in a separate phase. The damages trial concluded today when the jury came back with its decision that Apple should pay $234 million for its infringement.”
Wow, what a ‘bargain’. Who is WARF going to go after next? █
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Retarding innovation in the name of profit
Summary: A look at recent developments in the fight against mobile Linux (notably Android these days) and whoever is behind the patent attacks (not always as obvious as people are led to believe)
THERE IS A lot to be said about the impact of software patents on Free (as in freedom) software, such as Linux or Android. Yet another OIN ‘ad’ (among others) has just been published because the OIN turned 10 and decided to start a publicity campaign, approaching journalists and yanking out press releases in a lot of Web sites. The OIN is, in simple terms, a conglomerate of software patent holders, led by lobbyists for software patents (notably IBM). It is trying to make software patents and Free software look mutually compatible, reconciling or ignoring the fact that the two are inherently in conflict. SJVN wrote that “One reason why Linux weathered patent attacks and trolls to become today’s dominant server and cloud operating system is because the Open Invention Network united its supporters into a strong patent consortium.”
No, that’s not the reason. OIN might try to take credit for it, but that’s utter nonsense. Free software and GNU/Linux succeeded despite OIN and software patents. In many ways, Free software and GNU/Linux continue to suffer from software patents and this will be the subject of today’s post.
IBM is not the only company that supports GNU/Linux and software patents at the same time. As patent maximalists remind us right now, other large companies, even in China, are doing this. Consider Xiaomi’s story. “Responding to a question about recent high-profile executive hires,” writes IAM, “Lei said: “Former Qualcomm global senior vice president Wang Xiang joined Xiaomi in July. He’s in charge of our IP. We should be able to make progress in this. Xiaomi pays great attention to innovation. Last year we applied for 2,700 patents. This year’s goal is 4,000.””
This won’t protect them. The matter of fact is, those overall (aggregate) numbers are low compared to the likes of Microsoft, which uses patents to extort GNU/Linux and Android backers like Xiaomi (it’s allegedly, based on numerous recent reports, working on a GNU/Linux laptop, not just Android devices).
Microsoft Versus Android
Microsoft continues to attack Free software using patents. Ewan Spence wrote about this the other day. He is syndicated in some large sites and most prominent was probably this article from Forbes, titled “Microsoft’s Slow Yet Successful Infection Of Android”. Spence is right to claim that “Once more Microsoft has announced an updated patent licensing deal around smartphone technology, and once more a Microsoft deal includes the pre-loading of Microsoft’s productivity software on a smartphone. As more partners come on board, Microsoft’s cloud-based services and applications are becoming more prevalent within the Android platform.”
As we explained at the time, this is not a “patent licensing deal” but an extortion which targets a company from Taiwan, PRC. Microsoft is using blackmail (with patents) to get its way. Spence continued: “The more occasions that users encounter the software, the better the sign-up rate will be for Microsoft. Look back over the last year at Microsoft’s deals and you will find that many of the major manufacturers in the Android space have deals that include bundling Microsoft apps, with Sony, LG, Dell, and a number of other smaller manufacturers all signed up.”
This is a large-scale campaign of extortion and it continues to widen. If it wasn’t for software patents, this probably wouldn’t be possible. China’s government is trying to counter this (e.g. by publishing a secret list of Microsoft patents asserted against Linux/Android), but will this really help shield Chinese giants like Xiaomi and Huawei? It has not protected ZTE.
Speaking of patent attacks on Android, how about patent trolls? How about Microsoft’s troll, Intellectual Ventures? It has been attacking Android backers over their use of Android this year. Such patent bullies obviously help Microsoft against Android while Microsoft says it opposes these (Microsoft is clearly supporting them, even arming them, or at least those that are working for Microsoft or attacking Google, e.g. MOSAID and Vringo).
There is a silent war on Android and Google going on, paralleling Microsoft’s war on privacy.
Apple Versus Android
Several weeks ago the appeals court granted an injunction to Apple, banning some features from Samsung‘s Android phones, which are the world’s best sellers. Here is another take on it, aptly titled “Appeals Court: It Is In The Public’s Interest That Samsung Not Be Allowed To ‘Slide To Unlock’ Devices” (software patents).
To quote TechDirt: “The patent fight between Apple and Samsung has been going on for many years now with Samsung being told to pay a lot of money to Apple. But on one point Apple has been unsuccessful: getting an injunction barring Samsung from offering products for sale that include the “infringing” inventions — such as the concept of “slide to unlock.” I still have trouble understanding how “slide to unlock” could possibly be patentable, but there it is: US Patent 8,046,721 on “unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image.””
It’s a very simple concept, much like opening a gate that keeps cattle confined. The CAFC (Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) is once again helping software patents and Android antagonists like Florian Müller are visibly jubilant [1, 2, 3], even though this lobbyist with history of doing activism against Android (for money) seemingly flip-flops at times and occasionally criticises Apple, though not yet Oracle.
Just remember that Apple uses software patents against Linux. Here is an article titled “Samsung Infringed Apple Software Patent”. It was very big news at the time. Even the BBC covered it, but poorly (too shallow). Britain’s leading technology news site chose the clever headline “Apple VICTORY: Old Samsung phones not sold any more can’t be sold any more”.
What Apple did to Linux with patents in this case is more or less the same as patent trolling, except the size of the plaintiff is a lot larger and there are phones with the “Apple” name/logo on them (even though it’s not Apple that makes them, Apple is not an Asian company and it has no factories of its own).
Watch this space for followups as this legal fight is far from over. Apple won this round [1, 2, 3], but Samsung continues to outsell Apple.
At the end of last month some people were left with the false impression that Google and Microsoft had reached some kind of peace. See this analysis titled “Microsoft: Sacrificing Android Patents Licensing In Favor Of Platform-Agnostic Growth”.
Well, Microsoft is not “Sacrificing Android Patents Licensing”, it still attacks (with software patents) many companies. The Microsoft-Google deal is only applicable to the Motorola litigation; every other company that uses Android is still attacked, sometimes by proxy.
FOSS Force wrote that “[a]lthough it’s certain that some money is exchanging hands in the process — an appeals court in July ruled against Motorola in a case Google was defending — no terms of the agreement have been released.”
This kind of patent ‘peace’ between Microsoft and Google means that Microsoft proxies will do more suing. Android OEMs (not Google) will take the burden of extortion.
There were many articles about this, e.g. [1, 2, 3] and Müller, whom Microsoft had paid for Android FUD, wrote: “There’s nothing in it that would suggest Microsoft made any headway in five years of suing. This one is structurally reminiscent of the second-class settlement Google reached with Apple last year from a position of mutual weakness: neither do Android’s enemies hold patents that would represent a serious threat to the world’s most widely-distributed mobile operating system nor are the patents for which Google bought Motorola powerful enough to force Apple or Microsoft into a cross-license covering the entire Android ecosystem.”
The part that we didn’t like to see reappearing is this: “Microsoft has the industry’s best IP licensing team and is generating billions of dollars per year in Android patent licenses.”
This is not true; nobody has evidence to that Microsoft earns anything this way. It’s a leverage card for extortion and FUD.
BlackBerry Edging Towards Patent Trolling
BlackBerry is moving to Android these days (it won’t admit that its own proprietary operating system is on its death throes yet), but it doesn’t mean that it won’t be using patents to attack competitors who use Android (like Sony does for instance). It is still possible that BlackBerry will become a patent troll based on some recent reports [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], the most principal of which came from Reuters and was titled “BlackBerry CEO sees company patents as key to turnaround strategy”.
BlackBerry’s CEO has spoken of other things too [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. It may be premature to judge BlackBerry’s future direction, but either way, just like Nokia, it has the potential to do a lot of harm with its patents arm.
What we sorely need right now is a universal (global) end to software patents. Our next post will focus on India’s patent policy and US patent policy we shall cover some time in the coming days. █
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Summary: Microsoft continues its long journey towards ‘Linux tax’ (or Microsoft tax on Linux) as the ‘standard’ while trying very hard to derail Android and prevent nations from moving to Free/libre software
THE bubble of ‘good’ Microsoft is being burst on a daily basis because the company keeps — and sometimes even enhances — its hostile behaviour, having just taken away software from Android [1, 2], engaged in yet more “embrace, extend, extinguish” tactics against Android, and then started recording Android users remotely (always on), as reported by Mary Jo Foley and other Microsoft propagandists (Microsoft’s special relationship with the NSA notwithstanding). Based on this new article from IAM, there is also a monopoly being shielded here, with the prospect of litigation against Google and others (for royalties or product removal). “A new study by technology consulting and litigation support firm iRunway,” says IAM, “has analysed the patent landscape around speech recognition technology, finding that Microsoft and specialist company Nuance lead the way. The report highlights the growth in patent filings over the last 10 years as companies have made significant strides in the development of technology in this area.” Just watch how Apple has been suing Samsung. It is still pursing high royalties through a settlement. It wants “hundreds of millions of dollars”, as an Apple proponent/Android foe put it. Much of that is for software patents and it is the same strategy Microsoft has been sticking to for much longer than Apple.
Make no mistake about it. There is no 'new' Microsoft except a Microsoft that engages in patent racketeering against Linux and Android. There are only faceplate changes, site changes, logo changes, etc. The company is as aggressive as ever before.
“Make no mistake about it. There is no ‘new’ Microsoft except a Microsoft that engages in patent racketeering against Linux and Android.”Several years ago we noted that Microsoft had promoted Horacio Gutierrez, who is now a Microsoft Vice President. Microsoft was emphasising a litigation route, making it abundantly clear that patent extortion against Linux was a growing strategy. Anti-Linux patent men are once again being promoted inside Microsoft as Smith becomes President. Recall all the anti-Linux rhetoric from him and mind the “astroturf in the comments,” as noted by our reader iophk. Smith is an aggressor, so the way we interpret the news is, anti-Linux litigation is only further promoted (not demoted) as the strategy. Watch what Microsoft has been doing with Tuxera, putting and reinforcing patent tax as part of the ‘standard’ inside Linux. Here is a new press release from Tuxera and partners — a statement which says:
iWedia, a leading provider of software solutions for TV devices to service operators and Consumer Electronics manufacturers, today announced that it has integrated its Linux-based Teatro-3.0 Set-Top Box (STB) software solution for IP-connected zappers with the AllConnect streaming technology of Helsinki-based Tuxera, the market leader in embedded file systems, network storage and streaming technologies.
Well, Tuxera is a Microsoft partner and it pays Microsoft. This is the sort of GPL-hostile future Microsoft is after. Microsoft is trying to make Linux its own cash cow. Yes, cash cow! It’s an assault on the very heart of Free software. It impedes distribution rights.
Speaking of underhanded tactics such as these, the Gates Foundation is being used as a Trojan horse by Bill Gates, who is now an integral part of Microsoft’s management and according to this report China’s “President Xi is set to also have a private dinner with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates before leaving Seattle for Washington.”
Another report says “President Xi will also be visiting and meeting with Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, even before he visits Obama in Washington.”
“That makes Xi look very weak,” iopkh wrote to us. It’s not the first time that this happens. The same kind of story was reported here almost decade ago, back in 2007.
“Yes,” iopkh noted, “it’s happened with other presidents of China. It makes them look very foolish, to keep it polite.”
Our worry is that China will lift its ban (in government) on Office and Microsoft Windows, maybe after some ‘sweet’ (behind closed doors) deal with Gates, who is now officially back at Microsoft (in functional terms). At the moment, China is rapidly moving to GNU/Linux at many levels, not just when it comes to mobile devices but also when it comes to servers and desktops. We wrote a lot about it. China not only explored Free software, but also began moving to it en masse. It’s the world’s largest market and trend setter.
Don’t believe for even a moment that Microsoft has changed for the better. It’s just more discreet about its constant attacks on Free software. █
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Photo source: Intellectual Ventures
Summary: News collated which pertains to software patents, especially those which affect Free/libre software
TODAY’S series of links is divided based on themes, starting with what we deem most important.
Apple’s Attacks on Free Software
Joe Mullin is flabbergasted by Apple’s vicious assault on the Linux-powered platform that reduced the ‘i’ empire to rubble, with at most 18% market share (depending on the source and the geography).
“All that Apple does is dissemination of DRM, maximisation of (weaponised) patents, and exploitation of public ignorance/apathy to ‘sell’ (actually rent) proprietary software on overzealously locked-down hardware.”Android rose to unbeatable levels of dominance despite Apple’s assault (remember that Apple started it 5 years ago) and in one legal case alone there are now “3,200 documents [...] not including exhibits.” Imagine the cost of legal defence here. Apple and Samsung are still fighting in court and “Koh’s recent orders suggest she is fed up with the intense litigation by both parties,” Mullin notes. “The case docket for the first of two Apple v. Samsung lawsuits now has more than 3,200 documents in it, not including exhibits. Last week, Koh issued an order prohibiting the parties from making any further additions without permission.”
This is, at the very least, deterrence. More importantly, it’s Apple greed (it wants billions of dollars from Samsung). Apple is just hoping that companies with pockets less deep than Samsung’s will simply give up and pay Apple for profits made through distribution of Android (Free software). This is clearly an attack on Free software, so anyone still insisting that Apple likes “Open Source” is about as delusional as people who deem ‘i’ products superior and worthy of the high price tags.
Several years ago we openly and unambiguously called for a boycott of everything “Apple”. The company is malicious and it is dangerous to the future of Free software. All that Apple does is dissemination of DRM, maximisation of (weaponised) patents, and exploitation of public ignorance/apathy to ‘sell’ (actually rent) proprietary software on overzealously locked-down hardware.
Rothschild Connected Devices ‘Innovations’
Joe Mullin, covering and citing the original rant from the EFF, expands on Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations, which is essentially a patent troll. He provides some details on what Leigh Rothschild, whom the world’s biggest patent troll (Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft-connected) glamourises, has been up to:
Patent-holding company Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations (RCDI) owns US Patent No. 8,788,090, which was granted in 2014 and describes a system where a “remote server” “transmits” a “product preference” via a “communication module.” Using those broad claims, RCDI has sued more than 20 companies for making things that connect to the Internet. The company sued ADT (PDF) over its Pulse product that allows for things like adjusting a thermostat.
The patent relates to an application filed back in 2006 that essentially describes an Internet drink mixer. A consumer can customize products by connecting to a server on “the global computer network, e.g., the Internet,” which can then “provide product preferences of a user to a product or a mixing device, e.g., a product or beverage dispenser.”
This is an example not just of patent trolling but also software patents, which are the weapon favoured among patent trolls. If the latter can be eliminated, much of the former too will vanish (go bankrupt). This is why we emphasise the need to combat software patents (scope), not just “trolls”, however one defines them (definitions tend to vary somewhat as some very large companies act indistinguishably from classic patent trolls or patent sharks).
There are more new signs of the US patent system tightening. Yesterday for example Foley & Lardner LLP published an analysis of another criterion (not “abstract”) by which patents can be squashed in US courts, even the notorious Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). To quote the analysis: “As noted in the Federal Circuit decision, Dow Chemical Company asserted selected claims of U.S. Patent No. 5,847,053 and U.S. Patent No. 6,111,023 against NOVA Chemicals Corporation (Canada) and NOVA Chemicals Inc. (Delaware). A jury found the asserted claims to be infringed and not invalid, and the Federal Circuit affirmed, holding, among other things, “that the asserted claims were not indefinite.” The district court then conducted a bench trial for a supplemental damages period through the expiration date of both patents, granted $30M in supplemental damages in the form of lost profits and reasonable royalties, and denied Dow’s request for enhanced damages. NOVA appealed, and Dow cross-appealed.”
Earlier this year we wrote about the Nautilus case. This too is relevant here. “Applying the Nautilus standard,” says Foley & Lardner LLP, “the Federal Circuit held that existence of multiple methods that could lead to different results and the absence of guidance in the patent or prosecution history as to which method should be used rendered the claims indefinite because they “fail to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention.” The court therefore reversed the $30M supplemental damages award.”
This ought to discourage litigation, filing of new patent applications that are similar in nature to the above, and generally feed back (like in a loop) into the US patent system so as to modify examination guidelines, in very much the same way that Alice has done since last year. See this new article titled “After Alice: A Feedback Loop of Software Patent Invalidity”. The article comes from the pro-patents media (whose audience is patent lawyers) and it’s summarised as follows: “Ever since a major patent decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, patents have seemed to be invalidated right and left. But is that a result of the decision itself, or because of the feedback loop caused by the process by which patents are challenged?”
They are trying to dismiss the legitimacy of the decisions by casting them as an “echo chamber” of sorts. Well, that’s what one might expect from the patent profiteers, even thought some patent lawyers’ blogs already acknowledge that software patents may be on their death throes.
IP Kat, a blog run by patent lawyers (and other monopolies like copyrights, trademarks, etc.), is still openly concerned about voices of reason, or published opinions from people who don’t profit from this corrupt system of protectionism by patent monopolies. Watch this latest dismissal of The Economist‘s pair of articles.
“No,” insist sthe patents proponent, “what these articles are ultimately intended for is to try and set the narrative by which the patent system is discussed. To this end, economics is merely a hand-maiden. In so doing, The Economist joins a long tradition. We have seen the struggle to control the patent narrative played out several times in the recent past.”
OK, so the lawyers are upset at an opposing (not dissenting) view and insist that The Economist is basically trolling (in the Internet troll sense of the word). “No,” continue this particular lawyer (second in this blog this week to write about The Economist‘s articles from one month ago), “this Kat is not an IP Luddite. The patent system and the laws underlying it can certainly be improved. But this is not what the two pieces in The Economist are about.”
It was perfectly clear what The Economist meant to say. Rather than tip-toeing and making decorative, minor changes to a broken system (like all of these proposed ‘reforms’ we keep hearing about) the writers/editors at The Economist wish to just scrap the entire lot, potentially starting from scratch (if at all). Seeing the patent lawyers squirm over this very idea is hardly surprising. Their want their share. They want to tax everything, even if nobody needs them at all. █
“We cannot hope to own it all, so instead we should try to create the largest possible market and insert ourselves as a small tax on that market.”
–Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft at the time (now a patent troll)
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