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01.19.17

Shame on MapR for Pursuing Software Patents While Pretending to Stand for Free/Open Source Software

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 6:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MapR

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.

Trolls

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.

01.03.17

Financial Giants Will Attempt to Dominate or Control Bitcoin, Blockchain and Other Disruptive Free Software Using Software Patents

Posted in Finance, Free/Libre Software, IBM, Patents at 11:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Those who have mastered monopolisation, not sharing, cannot be expected to behave as trusted partners

MasterCard
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”).

12.26.16

Free/Open Source Software Under Attack From Software Patents

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 2:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Not only Microsoft is attacking Free/Open Source software using its software patents

“I find a considerable anxiety throughout the community of practicing computer scientists that decisions by the patent courts and the Patent and Trademark Office are making life much more difficult for programmers. ”

Donald Knuth

Summary: Free/Open Source software (FOSS), which encourages sharing, is increasingly becoming infested or subjected to software patents barbwire, courtesy of those who want to monopolise rather than share

THE OTHER day we wrote about Blockchain and related technologies coming under attack because of giants that hoard software patents and threaten small players/contenders. A news site dedicated to Bitcoin explains this as follows:

Increasing Blockchain Patents May Soon Hamper Innovation

[...]

Companies count their patents among prized possessions. Having a patent for something important can be worth a fortune, guaranteeing the company a constant stream of revenue until it expires. At the same time, it may also hamper innovation by preventing other from using the technology for free.

Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain are open source technologies and it has gained prominence in the banking and fintech industry lately. The potential of blockchain to change the future of banking has forced many institutions to invest heavily in the development and implementation of cryptocurrency technology based applications.

However, the increased involvement of mainstream institutions has created another problem in the cryptocurrency industry. The banks and financial institutions are increasingly filing patents for various blockchain based solutions that are commonly used by many open source crypto-communities. If these institutions were to gain the patents, then they will soon be dictating terms to Bitcoin and other crypto-platforms, hampering innovation and ease of access to millions of people.

We are beginning to hear more and more stories like this and it matters even more to us because of the direct connection to FOSS and to the Linux Foundation. The other day WIPR showed that Hadoop too, in spite of being FOSS, became subjected to patent wars:

Founded in 2012, Pepperdata provides customers with products that improve the performance of Hadoop-based computing clusters. A computer cluster consists of a set of connected computers that work together.

According to the suit, Yahoo uses Hadoop clusters within the US. It made a software patch identified as YARN-5202, titled “dynamic overcommit of node resources”, which it has used on the clusters.

So anyone who uses this Free/Open Source software can now become the defendant in a patent lawsuit? How does that work? And why don’t more FOSS developers becoming actively involved in ending software patents? This should be our top priority.

12.22.16

Blockchain and Bitcoin Patents Help Demonstrate How Software Patents Get Used by Giants to Crush Emerging Technologies (‘Threats’)

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 9:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

BitcoinSummary: Innovations associated with Bitcoin/Blockchain — advancements which are largely Free/Open Source software-centric — are under threat from financial giants that effectively besiege/threaten startups using a barrage of software patents

THE USPTO insists that it makes the US more competitive, but in many cases it actually helps large companies undermine small ones, not foreign ones.

Case of point: see the new article “When a patent-happy industry meets open-source technology” [1, 2]. To quote from the article:

When the financial services industry started paying attention to blockchain technology, many companies, seemingly as a reflex, sought patent protection for their ideas.

It was ironic, since the original bitcoin blockchain was a breakthrough of open-source development, in which software code is made freely available for anyone to use or modify. As the industry has gained a clearer understanding of how distributed-ledger technology could change its business, it’s begun to see the merits of such openness in supporting collaborative innovation, and the limitations of the traditional, you-can’t-touch-this approach.

Some are even using a hybrid strategy, pursuing patents to secure a competitive advantage – or at least protect themselves from legal challenges – while publishing code and inviting others to improve it by submitting fixes or patching bugs. The situation underscores the cultural differences between the banking and technology fields as the former looks to the latter for help meeting the demands of an increasingly digital world.

IBM’s Manny Schecter was interested in this and Benjamin Henrion told him that these conglomerates pursuing patents on Blockchain technologies is “like oil companies patenting everything solar.”

This isn’t entirely new a revelation. It’s an old trick in many industries (absorbing or denying competition that suggests alternative paradigms). Big Banks are essentially attacking Bitcoin, Blockchain etc. using software patents and today we found two more articles about it, “Blockchain patent filings by Goldman, others tip future cost risk” and “Corporate Patents on Blockchain Could Create Legal Problems for Startups”. Well, that’s the intention.

“Thankfully, a lot of software patents pertaining to payments and finance are being invalidated these days (thrown our by court), more so than in any other field.”“Over the past few months,” one of these articles says, “some of the world’s largest financial companies including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Mastercard – have been patenting promising Blockchain methodologies. Despite a common perception that Blockchain is Open Source and developers can freely use Sotoshi Nakamoto’s ideas from bitcoin to build new systems, it still could mean costly legal problems for fledgling startups, lawyers and others are saying.”

We wrote about this not too long ago in relation to MasterCard. A lot of the above culminated in the publication of “Big Banks Are Stocking Up on Blockchain Patents” (early yesterday in Wall Street media). To quote:

In the headlong rush to revolutionize modern finance, blockchain enthusiasts are overlooking one potentially costly problem: their applications, built on open-source code, may actually belong to someone else.

Recently, some of the biggest names in business, from Goldman Sachs to Bank of America and Mastercard, have quietly patented some of the most promising blockchain technologies for themselves. Through mid-November, the number of patents that companies have obtained or said they’ve applied for has roughly doubled since the start of the year, according to law firm Reed Smith.

Our readers are smart enough to know what’s wrong with this picture. Gullible people may try to frame this as a sign of “adoption” and “success”, but the large financial firms just want to guard their monopoly/oligopoly, they don’t want disruption.

Thankfully, a lot of software patents pertaining to payments and finance are being invalidated these days (thrown out by courts), more so than in any other field (about 90% of the time). That’s similar to business methods, too.

Are patent examiners in the US paying any attention at all to what courts have been arguing over and over again?

12.04.16

Patent Trolls of Microsoft and Ericsson Are Trying to Tax Everything, Especially Linux Devices

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 3:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A bat

Summary: An update on Intellectual Ventures and Unwired Planet, whose operations pose a growing problem for Free software and Linux-based products (e.g. Android)

Patent trolls, as we noted in the previous post, are a growing problem in China and UPC in Europe can also make them a growing problem in Europe, basically emulating the mistakes of the USPTO.

“”Working with” as IAM refers to it basically means agreeing to cooperate with an extortionist.”IP Watch, speaking to LOT Network’s Ken Seddon, mentioned the problems associated with trolls on the first of the month, taking stock of the type of trolls that FTC spoke about (against) a couple of months ago. To quote: “Patent assertion entity (PAE) activity has skyrocketed in the past decade and much discussion has occurred around what to do in response to patent holders whose strategy is more focused on legal battles than innovating. One notable group has risen up to bring together global companies to address the PAE issue with a novel sharing approach. In an interview with Intellectual Property Watch, Ken Seddon, CEO and President of LOT Network, talks about the group’s rapid growth, what’s coming next, and how not to bring a squirt gun to a nuclear fight. ”

In our previous post we showed that Intellectual Ventures had expanded in China. Well, IAM continues to groom this troll, the world’s largest patent troll, which is Microsoft’s patent troll. See this promotional article and another new article which euphemistically calls patent extortion “NPEs” “monetisation”. “Working with” as IAM refers to it basically means agreeing to cooperate with an extortionist. IAM makes patent trolls look so benign that it’s appalling if not disgusting. That’s what happens when the patent trolls pay IAM…

“IAM makes patent trolls look so benign that it’s appalling if not disgusting. That’s what happens when the patent trolls pay IAM…”In other news, a network of sites published an article titled “How Big Law and Big Banks Took the Fight to Intellectual Ventures” [1,2], reminding us that Intellectual Ventures is very malicious and parasitic.

Speaking of Microsoft’s biggest patent troll, watch what Microsoft does with Nokia‘s patents other than extorting Android OEMs and passing patents to patent trolls like those that fund IAM. To quote the new article: “Under the terms of the agreement, HMD got exclusive rights to use the Nokia brand on mobile phones and tablets globally (except Japan) for the next 10 years, standard essential cellular patent licenses, software for feature phones…”

Those “standard essential cellular patent licenses” are among the reasons Microsoft ‘stole’ Nokia and now taxes a lot of the mobile industry using patents, even without selling any phones of its own. Not only Nokia’s patents serve to accomplish this goal. Ericsson’s patents too have been weaponised and Ericsson essentially created patent trolls that even operate in Europe (London).

“Ericsson’s patents too have been weaponised and Ericsson essentially created patent trolls that even operate in Europe (London).”Recently, Ericsson’s most prominent patent troll (Unwired Planet) did some damage even to PTAB, which has been responsible for intercepting a great number of software patents in the US. We wrote quite a lot about it last weekend and for those who don’t remember, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruled to weaken PTAB. More coverage on CAFC coming out in favour of this patent troll of Ericsson — and indirectly against PTAB scope of operation — came from legal-centric sites [1, 2] at the beginning of last week.

Here in Europe, there may be some good news as Florian Müller, who used to promote/defend FRAND back in the days (it’s similar or related to standard essential patents), says that Germany pushes back against FRAND, citing antitrust reasons. To quote:

There was a time when I spent most Fridays–and occasionally also a Tuesday–in Mannheim (and on trains from Munich to Mannheim and back) to watch numerous smartphone patent trials. After coming to terms with a prohibition on making Internet connections from the courtroom (which prevented me from live-tweeting about the proceedings), I generally enjoyed my visits. I admired the depth of the judges’ technical understanding and their effective trial management (authoritative, but not authoritarian; highly facts-focused, but with a great sense of humor that I know other trial watchers also appreciated). There are, however, two notable exceptions from my fond memories: the incredibly dry air in the courtrooms and, more than anything else, the Mannheim judges’ take on what the obligation to license standard-essential patents on FRAND terms should mean for patent infringement remedies.

We certainly hope that these congregations of trolls, including those that try to tax every phone running Android, will be pushed back by courts. What we have here is a network of few large companies operating through patent trolls (i.e. resistant to lawsuits themselves), hoping to tax everything and everyone. Nobody benefits, except few rich people at the top.

12.03.16

Blockchain Domain Infested With Software Patents, MasterCard Among the Culprits

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Patents at 12:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MasterCard
Part of the duopoly (with Visa)

Summary: Worrying signs that an area of Free/Open Source software innovation is getting impacted by the plague of software patents

EARLIER this year we alluded to Blockchain patents in relation to a sham promise from a company with no patents. It ought to be be widely known — as it certainly is widely recognised among people in the profession — that software patents on financial stuff are the least likely to survive in courts (irrespective of what USPTO examiners do).

And yes, according to this new article, “MasterCard (MA) Files for Blockchain Patents” (!).

A new article from Fortune (published yesterday) is titled “Are Blockchain Patents a Bad Idea?”

Consider whose interests Fortune is serving.

“Remember the connection of Blockchain to Bitcoin, Free/Open Source software, GNU/Linux, and the Linux Foundation. A lot of those are inherently not compatible with patents.”Truly troubling.

Remember the connection of Blockchain to Bitcoin, Free/Open Source software, GNU/Linux, and the Linux Foundation. A lot of those are inherently not compatible with patents.

Earlier today Sam Dean published the article “Will Patent Wars Bog Down the Blockchain Movement?”

Well, they can certainly cause a lot of damage. Other news about Blockchain today is optimistic about business prospects of Blockchain, but what happens if over the next year or two the most news we hear about Blockchain and hyper-ledgers relates to patents? As we noted here before, even Goldman Sachs dives into this gold rush of patents in this particular area.

Software patents need to end, but while the US cracks down of them they appear to have already spread to China, as we shall show later in the weekend.

10.18.16

The ‘Sarah Sharps’ of Microsoft: Not the Kind of Scandal the Media Cares Enough to Write About

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 7:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related to this:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: women, don’t ask for a raise

Woman

Summary: Another example of the large (industrial) scale of sexual discrimination at Microsoft — a company that tries to advertise itself as diverse or tolerant and stigmatise Free/Open Source software (FOSS) as intolerant and/or not diverse

SEXUAL orientation-related and sexual discrimination at at workplace are a common theme. Microsoft’s propaganda mills, however, tried to stigmatise FOSS as hostile to minorities, women, and whatever else isn’t white, straight, middle-aged men.

Microsoft has got quite some audacity though. Microsoft’s hostility towards women [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] and hostility towards gay people (or homophobia) [1, 2] were covered here before. Even Microsoft’s new CEO came under fire for it. The latest example of Microsoft sexism is reaching the press now. To quote The Register (one among very few that covered it):

Microsoft will have to defend itself against a lawsuit alleging that its employee rating system was biased against women.

A US district court in Washington has tossed out [PDF] the Redmond giant’s motion to dismiss a complaint lobbed at it by three women engineers, who allege the system for evaluating engineering and technical positions unfairly penalized them.

At issue is the Windows giant’s “Connect” system, the evaluation method Microsoft used to replace the much maligned “stack ranking” process for evaluating employee performance.

The engineers allege that the review system relies on manager and peer input from a group that is overwhelmingly male and, as a result, the female employees they evaluated may have missed out on raises and promotions.

“Plaintiffs allege these performance evaluation methods are ‘invalid’ because they ‘set arbitrary cutoffs among performers with similar performance’ and are ‘not based on valid and reliable performance measures’,” the court’s ruling, dated October 14, reads.

As we noted several months ago, sexism at Microsoft is systemic and a year ago we noted that it's not really a FOSS issue, in spite of a stereotype created and spread by the likes of Microsoft. Hence the relevance to FOSS…

09.25.16

Patents Roundup: Accenture Software Patents, Patent Troll Against Apple, Willful Infringements, and Apple Against a Software Patent

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Patents at 11:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A quick look at various new articles of interest (about software patents) and what can be deduced from them, especially now that software patents are the primary barrier to Free/Libre Open Source software adoption

THE previous post spoke about misleading coverage which would have us believe there’s a software patents rebound in the US. There is none of that, it’s just wishful thinking.

According to this new Slashdot post, linking to a report already mentioned in our daily links, in spite of the huge number of payment technology software patents being crushed (about 90% of them!), Accenture (somewhat of an evil and manipulative Microsoft ‘proxy’ in the UK) rushes for software patents in that area. As we noted here a few months ago, patents in this area are a growing cause for concern because they can undermine innovation. Things like Bitcoin and even Free/Libre Open Source software are affected profoundly. It’s not necessarily companies like Accenture and Microsoft that sue, but Microsoft has many patent trolls out there. Those trolls are no longer just a problem in the US; even in east Asia’s markets they are a growing problem or an epidemic (patent trolls spread there and there are new reports to that effect from publications that deny the existence of patent trolls).

Speaking of patent trolls, Joe Mullin has this new article about the latest moves from Mr. Horn. He summarised that as “Company backed by Nokia, Sony, and MPEG-LA gets a $3M verdict.” MPEG-LA is a massive obstruction to Free/Libre Open Source software, for reasons we covered here many times over the years.

“MPEG-LA is a massive obstruction to Free/Libre Open Source software, for reasons we covered here many times over the years.”Times are rough for those who develop software whenever software patents maintain some potency and patent trolls have an incentive to sue, not just to threaten. According to last week’s post from Patently-O the “patent act authorizes district court to award enhanced damages.” But only if you actually read patents, so don’t. Willful infringement can induce further penalties. To quote Patently-O regarding Halo [1, 2]:

The patent act authorizes district court to award enhanced damages. 35 U.S.C. 284 (“the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed”). In Halo v. Pulse, the Supreme Court held that the statute grants district courts discretion in awarding enhanced damages – although noting that the punitive damages should ordinarily be limited to egregious infringement – “typified by willful infringement.” In rejecting the Federal Circuit’s Seagate test, the Court held proof of “subjective willfulness” is sufficient to prove egregious infringement. “The subjective willfulness of a patent infringer, intentional or knowing, may warrant enhanced damages, without regard to whether his infringement was objectively reckless.” Halo at 1933. As with other punitive damage regimes – proof sufficient for an award does not necessitate such an award. In patent cases, punitive damages remain within the discretion of the district court even after sufficient evidence establish the egregious behavior.

Another interesting article from Patently-O speaks about obviousness and prior art, along the lines stating that:

In response to being sued for patent infringement, Apple filed for inter partes reexamination of ClassCo’s Patent No. 6,970,695. That litigation (originally filed in 2011) has been stayed pending the resolution here. Although the patent had survived a prior reexamination, this time the Examiner rejected the majority of the patent claims as obvious; the PTAB affirmed those rejections; and the Federal Circuit has now re-affirmed.

The patent relates to a “caller announcement” system that uses a phone’s speaker (rather than screen or separate speaker) to announce caller identity information. The system includes a “memory storage” that stores identify information being announced.

The examiner identified the prior art as U.S. Patent No. 4,894,861 (Fujioka) that teaches all of the claimed elements (of representative claim 2) except for use of the phone’s regular audio speaker (rather than a separate speaker) to announce a caller’s identity (claimed as the “audio transducer”). A second prior art reference was then identified as U.S. Patent No. 5,199,064 (Gulick) that taught the use of the audio transducer for providing a variety of call related alerts.

What’s interesting here is that Apple, which uses software patents against rivals (including against Linux/Android), suddenly fancies invalidating one. Had there been no software patents, none of this mess would be necessary. Moreover, no money would flow into the pockets of patent law firms at the expense of developers and people who purchase products.

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