Attacks on GNU/Linux and Free/libre software, but OIN cannot do anything about it
Summary: Microsoft’s patent litigation strategy has become clearer, and patents-centric efforts such as OIN offer no defence against such a strategy, which attempts to pressure everyone to flock to Microsoft for ‘protection’ (from Microsoft itself)
SEVERAL readers have sent us this latest article about OIN, which we no longer believe does anything beneficial to Linux, except in name. The USPTO continues to grant software patents (more rarely than before) and OIN plays a role in a group designed to promote software patents, or support their resurgence. Where has OIN been when we needed it? Our readers emphasise that OIN is not effective against trolls and Benjamin Henrion (FFII) recently said that OIN itself had admitted it. So if OIN isn’t trying to stop software patents and isn’t effective against trolls, what good is it anyway? It’s somewhat of a distraction from the real solutions. The latest puff piece for OIN says: “When you think of Linux and open-source companies, the automobile industry is not the first business to spring to mind. But maybe it should be. Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), the Linux and open-source non-aggression patent consortium.”
“Where is OIN now that Microsoft is coercing Linux/Android OEMs into bundling malware, using threats of patent lawsuits?”The piece was possibly initiated by some phonecall and/or a press release from OIN’s CEO (I should know as he phoned me too, in order to garner support). Where has OIN been when Microsoft attacked GNU/Linux? Where is OIN now that Microsoft is coercing Linux/Android OEMs into bundling malware, using threats of patent lawsuits? Microsoft already sued over it, e.g. Microsoft v Samsung.
We kindly remind readers that Microsoft is passing patents, usually in bulk, to trolls, which OIN can do nothing about (by its own admission). Buying patents before these make it into the hands of trolls would not work if the seller is Microsoft or a company intruded by Microsoft, such as Nokia when it sold patents to MOSAID. OIN is absolutely useless in circumstances such as these. Recall our recent article titled "As Long as Software Patents Are Granted and Microsoft Equips Trolls With Them, “Azure IP Advantage” is an Attack on Free/Libre Software" — one among several such articles, posted along with the following articles:
One reader that alerted us about the OIN piece had already found out a curious report from Microsoft’s booster Kurt Mackie. “I lost the link (ignored it because of Azure),” this reader explained, “but after thinking about it, if Microsoft is selling or renting patents to trolls (NPE) then their tactic works. In particular they are able to attract trolls with the bait on Azure, let them have a patent for a fee, and then point the troll at their competitors. Just speculation but I that’s what I though after considering the Azure news.”
Upon further exploration the article in question was found again. “I found where I saw it,” our reader explained, quoting the following passage from it:
Lastly, Microsoft is promising that if it transfers Azure-associated patents to “nonpracticing entities,” then the arrangement will be such that the holding company can’t assert IP claims against Azure customers. This latter arrangement is called a “springing license” arrangement in legal lingo.
This is pretty significant as it shows that our interpretation of the strategy was all along correct. “If Microsoft is doing those “transfers”,” our reader noted, then “it is effectively siccing trolls on its competitors’ customers.”
The strategy above is rightly compared to the Novell deal that we protested against for a very long time. To quote: “On the IP side, Microsoft early on provided “IP peace of mind” by issuing certificates for Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise server use in a controversial program that promised customers using that software that they would not be subject to IP claims from Microsoft. That program emerged from Microsoft’s early legal claims that Linux and other open source software had violated 235 of Microsoft’s patents.”
“This is pretty significant as it shows that our interpretation of the strategy was all along correct.”So again, just like we had said all along, Microsoft basically reintroduced the same tactics. It just markets them differently now, using similar words but a different platform. 10 years ago Microsoft tried to get everyone to use SUSE, which it taxed, and now it is trying to make everyone move to Azure, with perceived or concrete risk of patent lawsuits as an encouraging factor.
And some people naïvely believe (based on a PR campaign) that Microsoft has changed… █
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Marketing and an attack on one’s competition disguised as ‘news’
Summary: The new front against GNU/Linux, or the attempt by Microsoft to tax the platform using software patents, is glossed over in puff pieces from Microsoft, conveniently published under IAM’s own umbrella again
FOR a number of years now — and as recently as just months ago — we have been pointing out the role of IAM as mouthpiece/megaphone of Microsoft Corporation, or whoever pays the bills (e.g. by company-wide subscription). However one passes/creates financial strings, it’s not publicly disclosed and it can affect the editorial process.
Right now there is this new ‘article’ (actually ghostwritten) which repeats the lie that “Azure IP Advantage” is some sort of Earth-shattering thing and that it’s effective against trolls (it’s not because Microsoft cannot sue them; at best it could offer indemnification, but that’s not what this programme is about). It’s yet more of that scaremongering about what would happen to people, especially if they don’t pay Microsoft. We have already covered the subject in the following recent articles:
Is the Linux Foundation going to remark on Microsoft’s resort to software patents? Or playing dirty games with software patents in order to entice people? With Microsoft money on its table, the Linux Foundation’s staff is likely to just foolishly smile and hope that nobody will notice what kind of members it continues to let in.
A point worth emphasising about Azure’s supposed “IP Advantage” is, these are all Microsoft software patents, as inside mere VMs one can only run software. It’s not about hardware or gadgets; the “bare metal” argument in the context of so-called ‘clouds’ has totally changed.
In the above IAM piece, the editor in chief continues a pattern of speaking to Microsoft chiefs or former chiefs for talking points. In this case, it’s just a large copy-paste job. Why not just call IAM a “division of Microsoft” or something like that? Or the courier of sponsors, including patent trolls? They are doing this not for the first time, and it’s usually the same people (just reprinting them). Sometimes it’s the EPO. In Techrights alone we wrote about IAM’s proximity to Microsoft many times before (they also run on Microsoft platforms and proprietary software).
Here is a portion from this ‘article’:
Microsoft’s recent launch of its Azure IP Advantage programme for the company’s cloud customers has generated a great deal of coverage. On the IAM blog, we argued that it once again showed the company to be a world leader when it comes to creating value from its patent portfolio. Regular IAM blog contributor and former Microsoft chief patent counsel Bart Eppenauer – now managing partner of the Seattle office of Shook Hardy & Bacon – has put together a piece for us that explains why that is undoubtedly the case. Equally as important, however, is his observation that the Azure programme puts Microsoft way out ahead of the current number one cloud service provider, Amazon and its AWS programme, as well as (to a lesser extent) Google.
Microsoft can send trolls to attack Amazon or Amazon’s customers, then say, “flee to Microsoft or go bankrupt!” It’s not unthinkable given what we saw in recent history.
A lot of people use AWS to host GNU/Linux with a lot of Free software such as Apache. Only software patents can ever be asserted against customers of AWS and if Amazon was to offer indemnification of some kind, it would still enable Microsoft’s trolls to drive up the operation costs and thus hosting fees, rendering the platform less competitive. Amazon is actually one of the most sued (if not the most sued) company over patents.
As a side note, we often complain that Microsoft sends its trolls to attack Google. Microsoft’s legal targets (targets for bullies with patents) these days are typically Chrome or Chrome OS and Android, the GNU/Linux- and Linux-based operating systems (respectively) from Google. Microsoft goes after the pertinent OEMs as they have less incentive than Google to fight back in court. Having said that, Google too has gone to the dark side, as we noted a short while ago. TechDirt‘s founder too has just said that it’s “Disappointing To See Google’s Waymo Sue Over Patents” and this is what he published hours ago:
For years, we had pointed out that one of the nice things about the new generation of tech companies was that they rarely seemed to use patents offensively. Yes, they were subject to tons of patent lawsuits from trolls or from legacy players trying to hang on against innovators, but we’ve pointed out in the past that young companies innovate, while older companies litigate. So, we have a tendency to watch companies to see when they shift from being patent litigation defenders, to going on the offensive. For years — even as patent system supporters falsely claimed that Google only existed because of patents — it was good to see not a single example of Google going on the offensive and filing patent lawsuits against other companies.
That changed, unfortunately, back in 2012 when Google brought a patent lawsuit against Apple. Some argued that it wasn’t “really” Google, because it came from Motorola, a company that Google had purchased (mainly for the patents) and then only owned for a short while before dumping, but it was still a Google-owned property going on the offensive. At that time, we argued that if Google really wanted to support patent reform (as the company claimed) then it should stop being a patent aggressor.
Where are the large corporate actors that are willing to publicly and prominently fight back against software patents? Are there no real allies left, at least not among companies that grew too large to care? And what good is OIN or the Linux Foundation if they are mere lapdogs of some of the world’s largest patent bullies? █
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This definitely impacts GNU/Linux when Microsoft shamelessly passes Nokia‘s patents, for instance, to active patent trolls
Pay us or face the consequences? Terror tactics or Mafia tactics?
Summary: Microsoft is feeding enemies of GNU/Linux and Free/libre Open Source software (FLOSS) in order to sell its ‘protection’, which it names “IP Advantage” in a rather Orwellian fashion (same naming as back in the Novell days)
SOFTWARE patents are the most potent threat to Free/libre software. As we noted here just over a fortnight ago, Microsoft continues to use software patents to divide and conquer Free/libre software, essentially dividing it based on “safe” and “unsafe” (from litigation over patents). It’s that classic modus operandi that goes along the lines of, “pay us, or terrible things will happen…”
Corporate Counsel, a very popular site among lawyers, decided to write about Microsoft’s de facto attack (as above) but missed the main point. Having caught up with it nearly 3 weeks later, the summary (article’s body is behind walled gardens) says “Microsoft’s conversations with customers have led it to tackle an emerging risk through Azure IP Advantage, but others say the ‘umbrella’ program may not yet be legal necessity.”
“Microsoft can try to increase perceived and/or actual threat, making the only “safe” option for hosting of Free/libre software the option which is monthly payments to Microsoft (Azure subscription/veiled patent royalties).”Microsoft can send or unleash its many patent trolls (named here over the years, as recently as months ago) to make it more of a “legal necessity.” Microsoft can try to increase perceived and/or actual threat, making the only “safe” option for hosting of Free/libre software the option which is monthly payments to Microsoft (Azure subscription/veiled patent royalties). This strategy was last explained here two weeks ago and it shouldn’t be too hard to understand. It’s similar to what Microsoft attempted over a decade ago with Novell. We wrote literally thousands of articles on this topic. It doesn’t take a patent strategist to grasp it.
The threat of software patents is still very much real, in spite of Alice (whose impact can end as soon as SCOTUS under Trump revisits the matter, caving in to anti-§ 101 lobbyists).
“The threat of software patents is still very much real, in spite of Alice (whose impact can end as soon as SCOTUS under Trump revisits the matter, caving in to anti-§ 101 lobbyists).”Just in the past few days alone we saw patent maximalists from Greenberg Traurig promoting software patents [1, 2], among other things. They definitely want software patents back and they relentlessly work towards that goal, as we show here almost every day. They keep setting up more and more front groups for that purpose and they try to scandalise public officials whom they don’t agree with. They essentially try to oust reformers.
Software patents in the US are still being advertised; they are also still being celebrated in press releases, e.g. this new one (aside from that other press release about their activity in Texas) which says “Jigsaw, a leading provider of virtual training and education technology, recently became the first e-learning software to receive a patent for its game-changing, multi-dimensional learning solution. The patent, granted December 20, 2016, was especially noteworthy, as software patents of any kind are difficult to acquire and only infrequently approved by the U.S. Patent Office. Jigsaw’s proprietary technology proved itself unique not only among virtual learning tools, but among all software products.”
“Recall what, in the area of server-side security, the Microsoft-connected (financed, like Blackboard) Finjan had done until as recently as earlier this year.”They sound like another Blackboard-like entity, which probably intends to sue the competition, including Free/libre software (remember the sabre-rattling and patent lawsuits from the Microsoft-connected Blackboard).
Here is another new press release which speaks about newly-granted software patents:
IOMAXIS LLC, a leader in innovative computing and communication technologies, announced today that it has been granted two new patents for novel security approaches in the area of cloud-based computing by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patents, which give the company ownership of two unique approaches to identifying threats in cloud-computing environments, serve as part of IOMAXIS’ new cloud security practice. The establishment of the new practice provides commercial and federal clients unparalleled protection from internal and external threats within cloud-computing environments.
Recall what, in the area of server-side security, the Microsoft-connected (financed, like Blackboard) Finjan had done until as recently as earlier this year.
“If they start to sue and shake down more of these companies, raising the temperature in the room and making managers sweat a little, will Microsoft then step in to offer “Azure IP Advantage” for “intellectual property peace of mind” (a term it used ad infinitum back in the Novell days)?”Let it be emphasised in case it’s not obvious. There are many entities out there, both large and small (as large as the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures), which are strongly connected to Microsoft and are habitually threatening, using software patents of course, Free/libre software projects and companies that develop/distribute/deploy/support/maintain these. If they start to sue and shake down more of these companies, raising the temperature in the room and making managers sweat a little, will Microsoft then step in to offer “Azure IP Advantage” for “intellectual property peace of mind” (a term it used ad infinitum back in the Novell days)? █
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“Linux infestations are being uncovered in many of our large accounts as part of the escalation engagements.”
Summary: In an effort to combat any large deployment of non-Microsoft software, the company goes personal and attempts to overthrow even management that is not receptive to Microsoft’s agenda
IN LIGHT of the news (also the Microsoft-leaning fake news) from Munich, and also in light of Microsoft’s attempts to cause me trouble with my employer (that is their modus operandi apparently), now is a good time to share this story, which we learned about some months ago. Over the years we have covered examples of Microsoft retribution against individuals and organisations that were viewed as “enemies” of Microsoft. To Microsoft, competition is “enemy”, standards are an “enemy”, and even fair competition is an “enemy”. Less than a decade ago a government delegate compared Microsoft's methods to those of “Scientology cult”. That comparison was apt.
“I’ve been looking for Tim Bray’s blog post about how Microsoft went after his job; when they couldn’t get him fired, crushed his wife’s business.”
–AnonymousThe latest example of it happened in the UK and is still happening (we might have some updates on this at a later time). We have shared this information with some Techrights members and studied the patterns before publishing anything.
“I’ve been looking for Tim Bray’s blog post about how Microsoft went after his job,” one member wrote, “when they couldn’t get him fired, crushed his wife’s business.”
“Also,” this member noted, “Microsoft has been after you before, do you have a blog entry about it? If not, it might be a good idea.”
I learned some more about it a few months ago in my employer’s Christmas dinner, but that might be an interesting subject which would be better left aside for another day.
Today we would like to focus on a bigger story which has been long coming. We waited before writing about this, as Microsoft is evidently back to these dirty tricks that many assumed had already ended. It is pretty serious and lawyers along with police are involved (in the UK). In the mean time, in order to not compromise any ongoing processes, we shall refrain from naming people and companies.
“Life for my friend and I has been pretty horrific. Still dealing with the aftermath…”
–AnonymousA person we spoke to said something “isn’t quite right at the moment” in some local authorities in the UK. These local authorities are in England. It has gotten so severe that relocations were needed. “A friend/former colleague,” we were told, “is in similar situation, but is skeptical of larger issues…”
Several key groups in the UK, those professing to promote Free/Open Source software, are now “in the hands of someone influenced by some very Microsoft-friendly people,” we got told. It’s too early/premature to name the culprits, but we might do so one day. “Microsoft’s “open source” staff contacted my boss,” I told the person, and they “tried to get me fired or something…”
The matter of fact is, this isn’t so uncommon. “Nothing surprises me,” this person told me. “Just remember Microsoft acts like a cult,” I explained, and it “always did,” based on people who knew Microsoft as officials. Look what happened in Munich recently, including the politics preceding it all the officials involved. “Life for my friend and I has been pretty horrific,” the person explained to me. “Still dealing with the aftermath…”
We are afraid we cannot say much more at the moment. “Still just dealing with complaints,” the person told me, who will “will make little progress until solicitors return from leave…”
Whether we can proceed to naming and shaming some of the parties involved only time will tell. What we know for sure, however, is that Microsoft still plays dirty and people who are in denial about it do so at their own peril.
“I figure that even if Microsoft goes bankrupt, there will be a very long tail due to its cult-like nature and the spread of its minions throughout industry and, now, even academia.”
–Anonymous“I know someone non-technical who considers Microsoft mostly dead,” a member told us. “From my perspective, I don’t count them gone until the office furniture is auctioned off and the officers past and present brought to justice before the courts of law.
“I figure that even if Microsoft goes bankrupt, there will be a very long tail due to its cult-like nature and the spread of its minions throughout industry and, now, even academia. The big breakthrough needed there will be a court decision rendering anti-disparagement clauses invalid so that those that have had a change of heart can speak out.”
This isn’t so rare and unusual an incident. “About Microsoft,” one member told us, “my dad now came to the conclusion on his own that Microsoft put pressure on the administration in my old job to force me out, first removing my boss, then me, then harassing the hell out of my former students. I have no opinion on his conclusion in that area due to lack of data aside from the harassment, the removal of my boss with no warning or reason given, and the discontinuation of my contract with the excuse of the lie of no more teaching. I had not suggested Microsoft as a cause at all to him because I have no data other than that the new managers gave the appearance of being both incompetent and assholish. There was something going on though with or without Microsoft involvement. Anyway, it looks like that whole institution may close soon.”
This is similar to something that happened to a potential client of ours in the UK. They get rid of people’s entire role, in order to get rid of the people who occupy these roles. It’s quite obvious that Microsoft and its resellers do this intentionally and consciously.
“I was going to meet someone who had widely deployed GNU/Linux and was using it for nearly 100% of their machines. While I was physically en route to their site, they got a panicked call from the top regional Microsoft sales representative who kept them on the phone a long while, trying all kinds of methods to get them to purchase Microsoft, even trying to wheedle a meeting agreement when a sale could not be reached.”
–Anonymous“Another time,” told us a member, “I was going to meet someone who had widely deployed GNU/Linux and was using it for nearly 100% of their machines. While I was physically en route to their site, they got a panicked call from the top regional Microsoft sales representative who kept them on the phone a long while, trying all kinds of methods to get them to purchase Microsoft, even trying to wheedle a meeting agreement when a sale could not be reached. They thought it was coincidence, I did not. Fortunately he had a good working relationship with his boss and his boss’ boss so when Microsoft went over his head, he survived unscathed. However, that site really wishes to remain very low profile some years more to further build up their position.”
I have come to witness this sort of “low profile” policy myself; Microsoft likes to keep a sort of “naughty list” of institutions or companies (to convert to Microsoft). There’s nothing they won’t do to derail the competition, even just for the sake of driving it out of business.
If you too have a similar story to share, even if pertinent details like names must be omitted, please get in touch with us. The world needs to understand what Microsoft is still up to. █
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Companies that are using GNU/Linux in their datacentres have become the target of software patent lawsuits from a fake ‘friend’ of GNU/Linux
Summary: IBM’s poisonous policy on patents, which has long been incompatible with Free/Libre software, has gotten even worse and the company now takes the lead in lobbying for patenting of software
The “Open Invention Network,” Florian Müller told me a few hours ago in Twitter, “has co-founded a *pro-patent* advocacy thing,” called “The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding”. The press release reveals the involvement of the man who turned both IBM and Microsoft into massive patent bullies (Marshall Phelps, who is also quoted at the bottom):
“The IP knowledge gap is growing,” said Marshall Phelps, former head of IP at Microsoft and IBM and CIPU’s Vice Chairman. “Many people, including the general public and many in government, haven’t a clue what patents and other IP rights achieve. The incentive for taking IP seriously is at an all-time low. The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding will engage groups like schools, parents and the media about the benefits of respecting new ideas and the impact of failing to.”
It is worth noting that the Open Invention Network (OIN) was founded in part by IBM and was first headed by an IBM employee. The above serves to reinforce our growingly sceptical view of both OIN and IBM, which now engages in a lobbying campaign for software patents in the United States. Adding insult to injury, IBM is once again aligning itself with Watchtroll, which has been attacking people like Michelle Lee (USPTO Director) in an effort to engineer her dismissal [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and make way for a crooked person like Rader. Manny Schecter, IBM’s patent chief, actually contributed to Watchtroll — didn’t just link to it — and the headline was “Congress Needs to Act So Alice Doesn’t Live Here (in the Patent System) Anymore”.
“IBM’s willingness to do it so openly is a slap on the face of anyone who ever supported or praised IBM as some sort of guardian of GNU/Linux.”It doesn’t get any clearer than this. IBM is an enemy of software developers everywhere, and not just Free/Libre software developers. This was published yesterday, February 13th. Once upon a time IBM tried phoning me to control the narrative of my stories (I told them off immediately). They love shaping the media behind closed doors, but Schecter continues to make it abundantly clear that IBM is now just a business ally of Apple, not “Linux” (or GNU/Linux). IBM is actually rapidly becoming an enemy of GNU/Linux and everything that has helped IBM grow over the past 2 decades.
Others are also promoting software patents this week, for example Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP (as expected from patent profiteers). IBM’s willingness to do it so openly is a slap on the face of anyone who ever supported or praised IBM as some sort of guardian of GNU/Linux. IBM is now suing massively all sorts of companies with massive GNU/Linux deployment, using software patents. █
“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.”
–Marshall Phelps, IBM and then Microsoft
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Old tricks, new sheep’s clothing (don't change tactics, just market them better!)
Summary: Having disguised Android and Chrome OS patent settlements as OEM "bundling" deals (preinstalling Microsoft spyware), Microsoft now comes up with a new way to market its “protection” (of FOSS it didn’t even develop) from patent trolls, which requires that people pay Microsoft a subscription fee
LAST NIGHT, just before midnight, people started sending links like this or the original from Microsoft. It is despicable and it “does not work against trolls,” as Benjamin Henrion pointed out to me. In short, a massive patent troll claims that it offers protection from trolls and it’s all over the news, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4] (a near-exhaustive list of articles is not needed because there are many articles like these that are puff pieces). Not all the above was composed by Microsoft boosters, but it started from Microsoft and then Microsoft boosters, who probably coordinated this with Microsoft’s PR agencies before or during the charm offensive.
“What Microsoft basically says here is, use only our services (and pay us every month) for using Free/Open Source software that we did not even develop — only threatened and occasionally attacked — then enjoy “IP Peace of Mind” (or else we and our patent trolls will sue you with software patents).”Microsoft has got some nerve doing this; the company operates its own in-house patent troll (plus peripheral ones); it regularly attacks GNU/Linux with patents, yet now it pretends to be “defensive”? Or pretends to combat trolls? It doesn’t get any more laughable than this. This is the same company that keeps expounding and repeating the lie that it “loves [GNU/]Linux” (while constantly attacking GNU/Linux, GNU/Linux vendors and GNU/Linux advocates behind the scenes — we still have some new stories about that on the way).
What Microsoft basically says here is, use only our services (and pay us every month) for using Free/Open Source software that we did not even develop — only threatened and occasionally attacked — then enjoy “IP Peace of Mind” (or else we and our patent trolls will sue you with software patents). Microsoft already did this with Novell a decade ago. It’s not a new trick. It perpetually said, buy SUSE (pay us for patents) or risk lawsuits. Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer even directly threatened Red Hat and its customers. He publicly said: “People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.”
“Just because Microsoft paid the Linux Foundation (slush funds; that’s all it takes to ‘join’) doesn’t mean that Microsoft suddenly “loves [GNU/]Linux” or that all is OK now.”Dozens of new (or “news”) articles about Microsoft and patent trolls are currently googlebombing (filling up the indexes for searches), distracting from Microsoft as the patent troll or a ‘puppetmaster’ of trolls such as Intellectual Ventures. If this wasn’t the real purpose of this PR charade, then maybe it’s a side perk. Incidentally, the other day Linux Journal published an article about Microsoft’s patent attacks on GNU/Linux. It started like this:
From vs. to + for Microsoft and [GNU/]Linux
In November 2016, Microsoft became a platinum member of the Linux Foundation, the primary sponsor of top-drawer Linux talent (including Linus), as well as a leading organizer of [GNU/]Linux conferences and source of [GNU/]Linux news.
Does it matter that Microsoft has a long history of fighting [GNU/]Linux with patent claims? Seems it should. Run a Google search for “microsoft linux patents”, and you’ll get almost a half-million results, most of which raise questions. Is Microsoft now ready to settle or drop claims? Is this about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? Is it just a seat at a table it can’t hurt Microsoft to sit at?
Just because Microsoft paid the Linux Foundation (slush funds; that’s all it takes to ‘join’) doesn’t mean that Microsoft suddenly “loves [GNU/]Linux” or that all is OK now. From what we’re able to see, Microsoft is now trying to distinguish its offerings based on perceived protection from a problem that it itself created. People should be disgusted; nobody should praise Microsoft for this. Microsoft is again dividing the community; there’s the ‘protected’ option and the ‘under threat’ (of litigation) option. █
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Summary: The patents gold rush sees another company joining the ‘fun’, albeit this company should campaign hard against software patents rather than pursue any
After all that openwashing (or “open” marketing) by MapR, today we were greeted by headlines such as “MapR claims open source big data victory with patent award” and “MapR Nabs a Patent for its Converged Data Platform” (that’s software). CBR says the patent “covers key components such as protection for file, table and stream processing for technology advances such as convergence, fast processing with low latency, high availability and Strong consistency, and security.”
“If MapR intends to join the patents gold rush, then it is not a serious cooperative participant in the Hadoop community.”We can’t quite see a cause for celebration here because any new (additional) software patent is a case of adding fire to the fire, no matter who pursues and gets granted such a patent. There are no “good” software patents; there are benign ones, like those which got invalidated and can therefore not be sold, either (e.g. Red Hat getting liquidated and having its patents sold to trolls, or acquired in a potentially hostile takeover by a patent aggressor).
We recently noted that Blockstream had no patents yet oddly enough pledged not to sue using patents (which we therefore assume it was pursuing). We more recently wrote about the patent menace around Blockchain [1, 2] and now there is this new article about it:
Banks, Startups and Trolls to Duke Over Blockchain?
Reports came out during the holiday season last year of banks quietly stocking up on blockchain patents. Banks will compete with startups making the same moves. They will also compete for patents with trolls who suppress innovation.
The future of blockchain innovation depends on who exactly holds the keys to blockchain technology.
Bloomberg reported that Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Mastercard have all submitted requests for and hold patents for blockchain technologies.
The Economist reported that “startups, including Coinbase, Chain and 21 Inc, have been busy, too.”
If MapR intends to join the patents gold rush, then it is not a serious cooperative participant in the Hadoop community. It needs to rethink its strategy, wherever it got it from (probably some self-serving law firm/s), then focus on development and dissemination of code, not patents. █
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Those who have mastered monopolisation, not sharing, cannot be expected to behave as trusted partners
Part of the duopoly (with Visa)
Summary: Free/Open Source software in the currency and trading world promised to emancipate us from the yoke of banking conglomerates, but a gold rush for software patents threatens to jeopardise any meaningful change or progress
ANY company that built its presence/niche/empire on proprietary software sooner or later finds out that it is not sufficient in the face of competition that is based on sharing. Proprietary software is unable to compete with Free/Open Source software. Apple’s patent war on Android (Linux and Open Source), for example, is not new. We used to write a lot about it when it started (Apple v HTC) and Apple is gradually losing more and more of its battles (the higher up they do, the lesser the success rate, as the latest Supreme Court decision served to show — a decision to be discussed tomorrow). Even so-called ‘friends’ of GNU/Linux, Amazon for instance, are pursuing loads of software patents that are occasionally being used.
At the end of last year we gave new examples of software patents being used against Free/Open Source software in finance — the very topic which got this site started in the first place. Worrying about the same type of issues (the attack on Bitcoin/Blockchain [1, 2, 3]), yet another site wrote about it just before the year ended. To quote:
Creating a ‘Blockchain Industry:’ Patenting the Blockchain
Patent filings for blockchain technology have more than tripled since 2014; this spike includes patents filed by cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase, payment processors like Mastercard, and banks like Goldman Sachs and the Bank of America.
According to a report conducted by law firm Reed Smith, the most popular areas for these patent applications are payment systems: both for traditional forms of money and for systems that will be used to trade cryptocurrencies or digital tokens. Mastercard, by way of example, recently filed four blockchain patents for separate steps along authenticating a transaction on the blockchain.
Given the behaviour of IBM as of late and its ambitions in this space (not to mention clients such as Goldman Sachs), it wouldn’t shock us if Big Blue too became not just a participant in the patent gold rush but also a serial patent bully (recall TurboHercules v IBM). This isn’t a wish but a growing concern; all that patent hoarding, as noted in a variety of Bitcoin-themed news site, will likely culminate in some legal wars and out-of-court settlements, leaving the same old oligopolies in tact. That’s just protectionism, not innovation. These patents are not trophies to them; they intend to use them one way or another (they’ll probably claim “defensively”). █
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