Renting Microsoft software rather than using Free (as in freedom, or libre) software?
Summary: Equipped with PR about toilets, Gates’ lobbying arm is stepping into a GNU/Linux and Free/libre software vanguard, namely Kerala
It is no longer controversial to say that many foundations set up by rich people have an agenda other than or beyond what they publicly say. Many journalists take that as a given because they have come across stories that convince them of that. The Gates Foundation has been arranging panels around the world and scheduled lobbying journeys for Gates to guard his ever-growing wealth and investments. Last month Dubai was the destination and Gates was scheduled to meet public officials there for lobbying and some investments (he is lobbying leaders as though he is a technology expert because he is wealthy, which evidently is his main skills, monopolising and then profiteering).
“They are lobbying governments to give taxpayers’ money to companies they invest in, essentially a subsidy for billionaires to profit from, as usual”One notable outcome of the meetings in the middle east is a pact of foundations of the super-rich, including another Gates pact with Alwaleed Bin Talal. See [1, 2, 3] for background about those two. They are lobbying governments to give taxpayers’ money to companies they invest in, essentially a subsidy for billionaires to profit from, as usual. That is the business model. As one report in the Indian press put it: “Other participants at the summit also announced their contributions — USD 457 million from Britain, USD 250 million from Canada, and USD 240 million from Norway.”
The headlines all parrot the same taking point about “eradicating polio”, but Gates should not be given credit (he tries to hoard and opportunistically monopolise credit). People in this area of research know he wasn’t the one to eradicate polio, which is almost eradicated anyway. He wants to grab credit for it and funnel further investment/taxpayers’ money to companies he is investing in, for personal gain, e.g. through patent monopolies. Watch the press release health-washing it for reputation laundering benefiting Gates and his plutocrat friend.
With all that said, let us recall the EDGI tactics of Microsoft, and in particular Gates’ role in it. When India was going towards software freedom something disruptive happened. Gates was announcing AIDS-related activities, essentially a lot of hype, to help Microsoft derail GNU/Linux-friendly policy in India. They are buying politicians this way and the hype usually turns out to be in vain some time down the line (a journalist recently gave me an example of this from Microsoft and Gates in Egypt).
Something similar might be happening in Kerala right now. The political camps there can be played off against one another based on new Wikileaks material and Gates seem to be appealing to politicians in Kerala, a famous adopter of GNU/Linux.
” We gave a lot of examples where Gates pushes for Microsoft in libraries in prior years.”The Gates Foundation has announced some health-related stuff and got a lot of fake press (PR) for it, e.g. [1, 2] (publicity and lobbying go hand in hand) , so watch out for politicians who call for Microsoft in schools and government (public sector) again. We saw this before.
Having just lobbied the middle east’s richest nations, Gates managed to impose Microsoft software on many libraries in the region. From last month’s news: “Reach Out To Asia (Rota) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a three-year collaboration deal to increase public access to libraries in Asia and the Middle East.”
So basically that’s more Microsoft in the public sector, courtesy of Gates. We gave a lot of examples where Gates pushes for Microsoft in libraries in prior years [1, 2, 3]. Don’t let him do the same in Kerala with his toilets-themed (“sanitation”) PR. █
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Microsoft customer, not by his own choice (AICTE’s choice)
Summary: Weakening of a Microsoft pact after intervention by freedom-respecting software advocates in India and abroad
THE latest sellout by AICTE was covered here earlier, not before some readers from India sent yours truly links and asked for coverage (the international press totally ignored it). The subject of it, as introduced by Muktware, is total Microsoft lock-in in colleges. Total. Surveillance included. As one man of Indian descent put it: “It seems that the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has finally rediscovered its wisdom. AICTE is the prime decision-making national-level council that takes care of technical education in India. It accredits postgraduate and graduate programs under specific categories at Indian institutions as per its charter. You can judge its importance from the fact that some of the top Indian universities/colleges like NITs and IIITs are affiliated with AICTE.”
The original announcement came from “Bhuvan Krishna, General Secretary, Free Software Movement of India (FSMI), [who] announced on the FOSSCOM mailing list that AICTE has finally agreed to remove the the mandatory clause from the notice on implementing Office365. The decision comes in light of concerns raised by some eminent politicians, free software supporters and people from the academia.” (source).
To quote the original: “We understand that the AICTE has now agreed and is removing the mandatory clause from the notice. We welcome this decision. However, we demand that AICTE should revise the decision of using Office-365 totally, as it is not in the interest of the students, institutions and colleges. AICTE as a public funded body should not engage in supporting proprietary systems.”
This move is not ideal, but it is a step in the right direction as it permits keeping/using Free software, unlike the deal is written before (prior to revision). This whole thing is still EDGI and should be treated formally as abuse. As we explained before, a software-savvy nation like India, its education sector in particular, hardly needs Microsoft. Moreover, it is against national interests, with or without Microsoft bribes. Even NASA dumps Windows, which ought to tell everyone just how bad Microsoft’s products are from a technical perspective. As one of us (from the US, a former Microsoft MVP) put it: “According to an article at ExtremeTech, NASA has given Microsoft Windows the boot out of the nearest airlock that it should have gotten a long time ago.
“According to the article, dozens of laptops aboard the space station will be purged of their Windows infestations and transitioned over to the more reliable Debian GNU/Linux.”
The Telegraph says: “Computers aboard the International Space Station are to be switched from Windows XP to the Linux operating system in an attempt to improve stability and reliability.”
Here is some more coverage. There is a lot more in a bulk of links in our daily links. This utterly embarrassing new display of Windows error messages in an elevator helps remind us why NASA cannot afford Windows, irrespective of cost. If US government agencies reject Microsoft, why don’t Indian government agencies? Amid bribery investigations against Microsoft it is plausible to suggest Microsoft might be bribing — one way another — the officials involved. Every Free software advocate in India should call for a federal investigation; AICTE should be probed to see why it put forth the outrageous deal to begin with. That deal is not totally dead yet. █
“I’ve been thinking long and hard about this, and the only conclusion I can come to is that this is ethically indistinguishable from bribery.”
–Former Microsoft manager
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Summary: Having conquered the China-controlled Taiwan and the two Korean giants, Microsoft now goes deeper into China and demands payments for Linux-powered products
A few years ago we found out Microsoft’s strategy for patent extortion, thanks to a legal leak. The company behind this leak continues to protest to its government about the USPTO and contrary to what it said after Microsoft had bribed it, it continues with Android, not Windows, at least based on reports such as this. For those who cannot quote remember, B&N (Barnes & Noble) brought out the NDA-concealed extortion proposition (nastygram) with a list of patents included therein and then it got bribed by Microsoft for silence and lack of further legal challenges.
Microsoft is worried about its total defeat in the mobile world. “MS percent of the US market is larger than its percentage of the World market,” tells us a reader. So Microsoft decided to extort Android, maybe even bribing companies to make it appear feasible (financial details are never disclosed, but it’s about FUD). It recently went after Foxconn, based in Taiwan where patent collusion might be brewing. We don’t know if Foxconn pays anything. Now Microsoft got a patent deal with ZTE, another Chinese company. One site says:
For several years now, Microsoft has been asserting that any company making Android phones owes it money, because Microsoft has patents that cover various aspects of those phones.
Last week, the company said that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn, which makes 40 percent of consumer electronics worldwide including a variety of Android and Chrome-powered products, had agreed to license its patents. Today, the company announced a patent-licensing deal with another huge Asian electronics company: Chinese telecom ZTE.
A reader sent us “more coverage” such as this, but there is nothing to suggest they pay Microsoft. Remember that another Chinese giant, which reportedly spurned Microsoft’s attempts to tax Android phones, rejects the US market and refuses to sign such a patent deal for Android. Disguising extortion as “licence” is not an acceptable business practice. Microsoft increasingly uses proxies like Nokia, too, either to litigate in Europe or to feed patent trolls such as MOSAID. Nokia itself recently attacked a Taiwan-based company, HTC, in several places in Europe.
Over at IDG, software patents promotion continues with lobbyists for this cause, such as Martin Goetz [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], getting a European platform. Shame on IDG. The patent lawyers, a tiny minority of the overall populations, already have their platforms where they try too find rarity like developers who favour software patents. Groklaw, despite its strength in this area, also gives a platform for trolls but only as means of balance.
In order to stop Microsoft’s patent extortion we need either to kill software patents or take Microsoft executives to prison for RICO Act violations. In a system controlled by corporations, both are hard goals to attain. █
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Summary: Yet more depressing stories about government officials kowtowing to Gates and his monomaniacal gang
LAST month we chastised AICTE for its latest (not the first [1, 2]) sale of Indian children to the foreign abusive monopolist, Microsoft, whose criminal activity is unique and truly deserving of a boycott. The Indian Express has an article about it and it is titled “Against freedom” [via Atul Jha]
“Why the AICTE’s decision to partner with Microsoft is unimaginative” is the summary and it frames the situation as follows: “The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has become Microsoft’s biggest customer for cloud services. By June 30, students and teachers at 11,500 technical institutions will be locked down to Microsoft’s online productivity applications and storage. Cloud services reduce the cost of computing and increase reliability, so this is a good route to go. But a better fork in the same road could have been taken. What would it have cost to develop a free and open source cloud? Or to catch the interest of free and open source software providers who already offer such services to large populations? Even if big brands are in favour, Microsoft has competition which may have been more open.
“Comparisons between proprietary and free and open systems usually focus on the cost advantage — free means free to use. It is a compelling argument for poorer countries that face the challenge of educating, skilling and connecting large populations very rapidly. But the real, long-term advantages lie in the alternative meanings of free — free to play with, free to change, free to reprogramme, free to apply to unintended purposes. And most importantly, free to learn from and free to share. When the users of a system have technical interests, the potential gains from these flavours of freedom are immense. Instead of being passive users of a locked system, they would be encouraged to be curious, to tinker with the very tools they use and innovate ways to adapt them to their needs — or to future needs. The cloud itself could be adapted. And users would have access to at least 40,000 software packages to use, study or get involved in developing.”
It has long been the ambition of Microsoft to use state mandates to indoctrinate populations at taxpayers’ expense (passing cost to leverage tax). Bill Gates publicly said, “they’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”
Right now, using the Gates Foundation, Gates seeks total control of education, going far further than just IT.
Toby showed me this new report which he says is about “Pro-Bill Gates propaganda is part of mandatory Washington State tests for grades 3-8… How predictable”
Here is what the post says:
In a 3rd grade student workbook for MSP Reading Assessment preparation, which is a Washington State mandated test for grades 3 through 8, a parent found this question:
Dora Taylor sums up with: “Propaganda fed to our children? Gates and his foundation are starting to feel the heat of controversy over his ideas of how public education should be managed as well as his investments in Monsanto. a company that produces GMO seeds. This pushback is happening in his own backyard and around the world.”
As we shall show in a later post, Microsoft veterans now directly manage many of the public policies in this state. The Monsanto agenda is also being promoted in Washington universities in particular with funds from Gates, a Monsanto shareholder and part-time lobbyist. It’s a nice way for the food monopoly to pass a bribe to academics while making it look like charity.
India, one of the main victims of Monsanto (high suicide rates due to Monsanto-induced debt and record yield without GMO dependence), should reject this cult of monopolies and choose freedom to assure a promising future for the next generation. █
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The Microsoft mafia takes on China
Summary: New strategy in the fight against free Android, adding another layer of crime and corruption to Microsoft’s behaviour in China
Microsoft is really desperate to stop Android, which kills Windows as the common carrier and the primary target for developers. One crime that I know Microsoft has not yet committed (as far as I’m aware) is assassination of or an attempt at assassination of its opposition — a practice more common in China and companies like Coca-Cola, which Bill Gates admires, praises, and invests in (for profit through monopoly). Microsoft has tried dirty tricks and bribery, it even tried filing an antitrust complaint through a proxy and there is a lot of Microsoft FUD against Chromebook, which Ed Bott is spreading through ZDNet, seeding more rhetorical FUD. But the main attack on Android is a patent attack. Lauren Weinstein wrote: “Why did the patent troll cross the street?
“To work for Microsoft.”
After allegedly bribing Chinese officials (those are the ones we know of, but the phenomenon is more widespread based on circumstantial evidence and recent examples from the OOXML saga) Microsoft is going to the manufacturer which is less likely to have incentive to take this to court, demanding payments for Android or making it seem like such payments are necessary. This is outright blackmail and should be dealt with as RICO Act violation. Well, the Microsoft booster puts Microsoft spin on it, under the headline “Foxconn must pay Microsoft for EVERY Android thing it makes” (is it that not posturing? Cannot verify, citation needed).
Microsoft will collect a royalty for every device built by Foxconn that runs Google operating systems Android or Chrome OS.
Hon Hai, the parent of the Chinese electronics behemoth, confirmed today it has inked a deal to license unspecified Microsoft patents on smartphones, tablets and TVs built by Foxconn that use Google’s Linux-derived system software.
Neither party revealed exactly how much money was exchanged, or will be paid, under the new agreement, although Microsoft said a “broad” range of its patent portfolio had been licensed.
Foxconn builds its own Android tablets powered by Nvidia’s ARM-compatible Tegra processors, but it is best known as the maker of Apple’s iPads and iPhones, Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s PlayStation 3, and a huge range of other electronics including laptops.
Since this deal is secret, we don’t know what financial arrangements are involved. Recall the HTC FUD [1, 2], which was also affecting a Taiwan-based company. Here is a more balanced report which calls it a broad patent deal. It says:
Drummond specifically made reference to the attempt to acquire many Novell patents by a Microsoft-led consortium.
That would be CPTN. This Web site was launched in response to that Microsoft/Novell deal, which was the first to legitimise claims that Linux has debt to Microsoft.
Here is a news report about the deal, some spin from MSBBC, and finally a good report from Joe Mullin, an expert in patent trolls. Microsoft’s patent terrorist, Horacio Gutierrez, thinks that because he wears a suit his mafia tactics won’t have him treated like a criminal. Here is the response everyone seems to be citing:
One company—Taiwan’s Foxconn—makes a staggering 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronic devices.
Starting now, Microsoft will be getting paid a toll on a large number of those devices. The company’s long patent-licensing campaign has landed its biggest client yet in licensing Foxconn, formally named Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Foxconn has agreed to take a license for any product it produces that runs Google’s Android or Chrome operating systems.
The Redmond software giant has insisted for years now that any company making Android phones needs to license its patents. That campaign has generally been successful; so successful, in fact, that by 2011 Microsoft was making more money from patent licensing than from its own mobile phone system.
Now, Microsoft says that more than 50 percent of the Android phones in the world come from companies that have agreed to take licenses to its patents, including smartphone makers like LG, HTC, and Samsung. And that number is likely going to jump up today, as it announces that Foxconn, the Chinese company that makes 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronic devices, has agreed to join its licensing program.
The details of the agreement remain undisclosed, although the press release makes sure everyone knows which way the money is flowing: Foxconn will be paying Microsoft, and not vice versa. The agreement will apply to all Android and Chrome OS devices made by Foxconn worldwide, including smartphones, tablets, and televisions.
So when you buy a product with Android, then you have to pay additional fees to Microsoft, as if Microsoft contributed to those products. The strongest response we found came from Swapnil Bhartiya, who called it a bogus licence:
Microsoft has signed yet another ‘bogus’ patent deal with Taiwan’s Foxconn, the world’s lagest electronics maker. In a Microsoft blog the company claimed, “Microsoft Corp. and Hon Hai, the parent company of Foxconn, signed a worldwide patent licensing agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for devices running the Android and Chrome OS, including smartphones, tablets and televisions.”
Foxconn seems to have chosen the ‘easy’ path of simply paying up a ‘tiny’ fee to Microsoft instead of going to the court. There is no doubt that Microsoft’s claims that Android infringes upon it’s patents are bogus as we have already seen in the B&N case where the company was taken to the court and then fearing that the case will expose Microsoft, the Windows maker surprisingly settled outside the court and ‘paid’ a heavy fee to B&N in the name of an alliance.
Microsoft not only dodges blackmailing the distributors (e.g. Samsung) or the developers (notably Google), it goes deep down onto the manufacturers, who have no incentive to fight in court. That’s what makes it unique. This is criminal behaviour, but in the age of euphemisms they get to call blackmail “licensing” and monopoly “patent”. █
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Summary: The India Council for Technical Education gives Microsoft total control over students, even in schools that adopted Free (as in freedom) software
Several years ago we wrote about BECTA in the UK (it got shut down since then), noting that Microsoft had been using it to covertly infiltrate British schools, turning children into clients at taxpayers’ expense. In India, something similar to it was already on the chopping block, but it got lucky. As Pogson explains in his post about the latest scandal: “In 2009, the government of India threatened to close down this organization. After some reforms they were allowed to continue. Perhaps this move will prompt further reform, like getting rid of the folks who made this decision.”
Well, the India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which we wrote about in [1, 2], has hardly changed. And as noted before, its main function seems to be contracting multi-nationals to take the money and the minds of Indian people, who need not depend on foreign companies (India has bright software developers). Well, as Saurav Modak pointed out:
Closed source apps like Windows Skydrive, Outlook and Microsoft Office 365 have no accessible source code and are developed and managed by large companies for their vested interests. Implementing on them in colleges will mean that teachers and student cannot see and edit the source code to their liking, and will have to fully rely on Microsoft for support and service. This will lead to vendor locking. Also, proprietary software is costly and implementing this project in a big country like India will lead to waste of several thousand dollars.
We already alluded to this the other day.
It is not just a case of promoting proprietary software and dependence on a criminal organisation with a long proven record; fog computing, or ‘cloud’, makes it far worse for many other reasons. Time for India to abandon the people behind this atrocious decision? It would be long overdue. Microsoft recently came after probes for bribing officials sand here too it is likely to have happened. It’s just how Microsoft does ‘business’. █
“I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft.”
–Professor Deepak Phatak
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Summary: Small businesses too — not just middle- and large-sized corporations — increasingly targeted by patent trolls and software patents; opposition to patent maximalism on the rise
The USPTO has been taking a lot of beatings recently. Many people from all around the world are berating and condemning the USPTO as well as key utilisers like Monsanto. SAP has been hit too, despite being based in Europe. The patent trolls went after American customers. To quote the British press, “SAP has moved to defend the users of its Sybase database software by filing suit against Pi-Net International, a “patent troll” that has filed several patent infringement lawsuits against SAP customers in the US financial services sector over patents it claims SAP is infringing.
“Pi-Net claims that SAP’s Financial Fusion software, used for online banking, among other things, infringes three of its software patents. SAP acquired the Financial Fusion product as a result of its 2010 acquisition of Sybase.”
Masnick’s site says that small companies too begin to realise the threat of trolls. To quote:
Startups Realizing That Patent Trolls Are An Existential Threat
Most people used to think that patent trolls tended to focus on bigger companies — those with huge bank accounts who’d rather pay the troll off than deal with a lawsuit. But over the last few years, we’ve been hearing more and more stories about startups hit by patent trolls, who are taking advantage of the fact that a patent lawsuit — win or lose — would almost certainly kill the company. One common tactic? Wait until a startup announces a round of fundraising and then pounce — knowing that the company (a) has some money and (b) has little time to deal with a lawsuit. Finally, this issue is getting some attention. Crain’s recently had a piece on patent trolls going “downmarket” after startups, which has some quotes from startup execs (many who want to remain anonymous to avoid further attacks).
Wired continues to have a lawyers-only debate about software patents. The latest comes from someone who was previously at the University of Miami (law) and there is still no call to abolish software patents. Here is a baffling statement:
Infringement of software patents is usually a good thing because in most cases the alternative to infringing is to produce nothing new. So, what if we could fix the patent problem by rethinking the assumption that infringement should always be penalized?
Another lawyer gets platform at Wired to say: “It’s become clear that the patent system is impeding, rather than incentivizing, innovation. The laundry list of what’s gone wrong is long: a standard for patentable subject matter that makes no sense, notoriously vague and hard-to-understand claim language, the rise of the patent trolls … and all of these problems disproportionately impact software.”
Yes, so why not call for the end of them all? Where are the software developers in this series of articles from the popular magazine? Do the editors at Wired even approach developers, or even science professors as opposed to law professors? Nope, hardly.
Speaking of controversial patents, there is some good news this week:
In a case closely watched by global drugmakers, Switzerland’s Novartis AG has been fighting since 2006 to patent its leukemia-treating drug Glivec in India on the grounds that it is a newer version. India revised its patent protection law in 2005.
India’s Supreme Court rejects plea from Swiss pharmaceutical giant, paving way for more affordable, generic medicines worldwide
The Australian government has released the draft report of its Pharmaceutical Patents Review, which had been tasked to “review the effectiveness of the Australian patent system in providing timely access to affordable pharmaceutical and medical treatments and supporting innovation.” The report considered domestic law on patents, data exclusivity, and pharmaceuticals, as well as Australia’s current trade obligations and its position in ongoing trade negotiations.
India’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected a Swiss pharmaceutical company’s effort to patent an updated version of its cancer drug, a decision aimed at boosting a domestic generic drug manufacturing industry that supplies cheap versions of lifesaving cancer and HIV medicines for much of the developing world.
We wrote about Novartis in [1, 2, 3, 4]. Through proxies specialising in PR, Bill Gates and his friend Nathan Myhrvold love to prop up international monopolies of such companies; they help disguise clinical trials (at the expense of fragile populations) as ‘charity’, never mind the truth of the matter. Slashdot has become a pathetic wuss for helping Myhrvold whitewash himself today. Who on Earth thought this would be a good idea? There are PR talking points all over the place, as we expected right from the start.
Patents that help cause death or limit access to cures based on one’s personal wealth are not ethical. They might even be more harmful than software patents and patents on seed DNA, which India will hopefully squash just like Novartis patents. █
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Summary: Negotiations over laws which can spread patent policy to more continents (other than America and to a lesser degree Australia)
We have been tracking the globalisation of the patent system for quite some time (this subject was covered here many times before) and also discussed in a high level of detail what was being done in Europe. Perhaps being a European-centric site is the outcome of yours truly being European, but in any event, the problem is global.
The USPTO, an instrument of US corporations of large size, wishes to expand its scope of monopolies not just in terms of how abstract a patent can be but also what geographical locations (scope) the patent becomes applicable in.
There is a lot of OS news from China these days, notably Microsoft bribery and a Ubuntu-based national operating system. But recently we wrote about China following the wrong path on patents and this page says that China is now talking about patents in standards, i.e. something like FRAND. To quote:
On March 7th, USITO and representatives of local and foreign trade organizations and companies attended a meeting co-organized by the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) and the China National Institute of Standardization (CNIS) to discuss comment submissions on the Regulatory Measures on National Standards Involving Patents (Measures).
Standards should involve no patents. It is as simple as that. To require patents to merely implement standards is to be anticompetitive. FRAND-type policies also tend to serve as opportunity for software patenting where such patents are not legal. There are other such loopholes, the unitary patent in Europe for instance. Glyn Moody wrote about it just the other day, complaining about lack of proper analysis of the impact on Europe.
In other words, despite all the grand talk about how wonderful the Unitary Patent would be for Europe, that’s only potentially true if most patents are issued to European companies. As the latest EPO report makes clear, it’s companies outside the EU that are increasingly being granted patents here. That means the EU has just created a powerful new rod for its own back that will allow US and Asian multinationals to gain patents more cheaply and sue local companies more easily. And given the US experience, we can be sure they will.
But those at the EPO needn’t worry: they’ll probably still get their patent inflation bonuses next year, regardless of the knock-on consequences for European businesses. Whether that will be much comfort if your company gets sued under the Unitary Patent scheme in the years to come is another matter….
The pursuit of software parents everywhere (through FRAND and other means of globalising patent tax) is definitely noteworthy. A lot of money flows in the direction of very few people and new, small companies are not permitted to compete in the market unless they can overcome patent thickets. █
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