The big story which silently began here in
#techrights and took over the Internet in September
The latest twist: Lenovo attacks free speech and silences complaints
Summary: The Lenovo/Yoga brouhaha (which came from Techrights last month) will from now on be covered in our main site, not just the IRC forums
SEVERAL weeks ago, we at the
#techrights IRC channel began discussing issues that had been encountered with Lenovo devices. Once publicised, these made it into the news in many countries, with hundreds if not thousands of articles, blog posts, forums threads etc. about the topic (we cataloged a lot of the coverage over at Tux Machines). It was a huge success story for us, as the news reached many millions of people all around the world. It did so much damage to Lenovo (not just the desktop business but servers and mobile also, to the point of major layoffs being announced last week) and Lenovo repeatedly lied, trying to blame everyone by itself and repeatedly changing the story (face-saving excuses and ‘damage control’), at some point even blaming Linux (although Alan Cox refuted them publicly about it).
We have not written about this until today because the media seems to be unwilling to cover the subject anymore, even when Lenovo’s lies are being debunked, necessitating new stories and corrections refuting Lenovo’s ‘official’ response. In the latest twist, Lenovo seems to be suppressing discussion. As Ryan from
#techrights put it last night:
So yeah, Lenovo Forums seems to have banned all Comcast users in the state of Illinois in order to try to silence me.
Apparently, they don’t want anyone to talk about Linux issues on their Yoga anymore. I have another account on their forums that I can use behind a proxy, but even deleting all of my cookies and stuff, no matter what IP address I get from Comcast, it gives me a screen saying “We’re sorry, but you have been banned from using this site.”.
Anyway, I can still see what’s going on in there and comment using my other account behind a proxy server, but the mods seem to have done the following in the Linux forum:
Banned me (and all Comcast IP addresses in Illinois, apparently).
Banned at least half a dozen or more other people who were complaining that they couldn’t run Linux, or stating that they would take their Yoga back to the store, or talking about ways to potentially mod their Yoga to get AHCI support back and install Linux in spite of Lenovo’s BIOS restrictions.
Changed the thread about no Linux support on the Yoga 900 ISK2 to “moderated”, which makes it look like you can post there, but you can’t, because the mods aren’t approving new posts since 9/27, apparently. The views on this topic have shot up over 130,000 people. Lenovo is trying to stop people from talking about it and is going back and deleting and modifying earlier posts to make them look less damning.
Deleting more posts about Linux not working or people taking their Yogas back to the store on other threads. Probably banned them too since many haven’t posted anything since Lenovo deleted their thread. One person in Germany said that he was talking to his lawyer and gathering evidence to force them to take back his 710S and give him a refund. They deleted that. He hasn’t been seen since.
The Private Message feature seems to be gone, so there’s no way for me to contact other users without the mods noticing and deleting another forums account.
At least one of the mods doing this is a Microsoft MVP. One of the other mods “Sarbin” said that it was just a coincidence after someone brought that fact up, and then moved the post about the MS MVP to a “Forum Housekeeping” forum. Instead of deleting some posts, they seem to be moving them to “the cornfield”, where it’s harder for people to read them or for Google to index it, or for archives of the main thread from being saved.
So if I say cover up, then certain people will roll their eyes and downvote me and proceed to take Lenovo’s side again, but it’s definitely a cover up.
I just wanted to let everyone know what happened in case they thought that people didn’t want to talk about the Linux problems on Lenovo’s Forums. In reality, people are steaming mad about this and their accounts are being banned and their threads deleted or modified.
Prior to this, Ryan submitted a letter to the Federal Trade Commission regarding Lenovo blocking GNU/Linux and other operating system installations on Yoga PCs. This can take a while to make progress on and here is the gist of it:
This is the letter I sent to the Federal Trade Commission and to the Illinois Attorney General’s office regarding Lenovo locking out Linux from their Yoga laptops.
“Lenovo sells computers known as “Yoga” under at least several models that block the installation of Linux operating systems as well as fresh installations of Windows from Microsoft’s official installer. They have the system rigged, intentionally, in a storage mode that is incompatible with most operating systems other than the pre-installed copy of Windows 10. If the user attempts to install an operating system, it will not be able to see or use the built-in SSD (Solid State Drive) storage. I believe that this is illegal and anti-competitive. These product are falsely advertised as a PC, even though it prohibits the user installing PC operating systems. Known affected models are the 900 ISK2, the 710, the 900 ISK for Business, the 900S, and possibly others. Lenovo’s position is that this is not a defect and they refuse to issue refunds to their customers, who have been deceived by the notion that their new PC is compatible with PC operating systems and that they should be able to install a PC operating system on a PC. Lenovo is therefore engaging in a conspiracy to defraud their customers through deceptive advertising. Lenovo’s official position is that Linux lacks drivers, however, Linux could easily be installed on these systems had Lenovo not removed the AHCI storage mode option from the BIOS and then wrote additional code to make sure that people couldn’t set it to AHCI in other ways, such as using an “EFI variable”. AHCI mode is an industry standard and should be expected on a computer describing itself as “PC” or “PC compatible” as it is broadly compatible with all PC operating system software. I feel that Lenovo should remedy the problem in one of three ways. (1) Offer full refunds for customers who want to install their own operating system but can’t. -or- (2) Release a small BIOS firmware patch to restore AHCI mode, which is simply hidden. This would be extremely easy for them since it would only be two lines of code and the user could do it themselves were they not locked out of updating their BIOS themselves. -or- (3) Provide open source drivers to the Linux kernel project that would allow Linux and other PC operating systems address the SSD storage in the “RAID” mode.”
Feel free to use this as your letter or a template for a letter of complaint to the FTC. Their consumer complaint form is available here.
Please also contact your state’s Attorney General’s office. They usually have a bureau of consumer complaints or something to that effect. If not, just shoot them an email.
Since the FTC form requires the company address and phone number, I used this:
Lenovo “Customer Center” Address: 1009 Think Pl, Morrisville, NC 27560 Phone:(855) 253-6686
Update: Lenovo just updated the BIOS for the Yoga 710, another system that doesn’t allow Linux installs. Wanna know what they changed? Update to TPM (secret encryption module used for Digital Restrictions Management) and an update to the Intel Management Engine, which is essentially a backdoor rootkit built into all recent Intel processors (but AMD has their version too, so what do you do?). No Linux support. Priorities…
Update: The mods at Lenovo Forums are losing control of the narrative and banning people and editing/deleting more comments. http://imgur.com/a/Q9xIE | But it appears that some people just aren’t buying it anymore. http://imgur.com/a/1K1t5
Watch this space. Techrights did not publicly speak about it as long as the mass media (including the BBC) covered the subject, but now that Lenovo enjoys silence from the media we shall take over the coverage, which all along came from us.
Eventually, as was the case in the Superfish saga (also lasting a long time), we hope to compel Lenovo to admit that it lied all along and get to the bottom of it, potentially demonstrating that Microsoft is the culprit and that Microsoft uses a secret contract (under NDA) to have BSD and GNU/Linux blocked by OEMs.
This story is far from over. █
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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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Summary: Microsoft-connected patent trolls like Larry Horn’s MobileMedia are still attacking Microsoft rivals and Microsoft wants more money from Korea, after it attacked Linux with software patents over there (notably Samsung and LG)
“US Pat RE39231,” wrote a patent attorney, eventually meant that “Apple Must Pat MobileMedia $3M for Infringing this Patent” (MobileMedia is not as real company and we wrote about it before, in relation to MPEG-LA and Larry Horn; we wrote about him in [1, 2]).
How many people out there know that MPEG-LA is a patent troll whose head himself is/was a patent troll? Not many people know this. Horn relies on dishonest lawyers from Proskauer Rose and sues Apple, which itself is part of MPEG-LA (we already took note of how bizarre this is).
Well, “Apple loses ringtone infringement case to Nokia and Sony’s patent troll firm,” according to the headline of this report. To quote: “Apple has been ordered to pony up $3 million in damages by a Delaware judge for infringing the patent of a firm partially owned by Sony and Nokia. The case, which has been running since way back in 2010, saw MobileMedia Ideas originally accuse Apple on 16 counts of patent infringement. Six years and plenty of court activity later, the original claim has been whittled down to just one patent pertaining to iPhone ringer alerts, for which MobileMedia has been awarded a tidy sum of money.”
A patent troll connected to Nokia — a legacy of Microsoft entryism and subsequent passage of patents to trolls like MOSAID — is somewhat of a pattern we’ve seen a lot of recently. Android too is being targeted by these trolls.
“MobileMedia Ideas just won a Delaware trial against Apple over a former Sony patent,” Florian Müller wrote about it. “May file further lawsuit now over iPhone 4S and later.”
Tom O’Reilly from Mobile Media Ideas is advertising for this patent troll. He passed around the press release “MobileMedia Ideas Wins Trial against Apple” and it said:
(CHEVY CHASE, MD, US – 21 September 2016) – MobileMedia Ideas LLC is pleased to announce that the US District Court for the District of Delaware today found MobileMedia Ideas’ “polite-ignore” patent (Re 39,231) for mobile phone call silencing valid and infringed by the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4 and awarded $3M in damages. The case did not include the iPhone 4S, 5/5C/5S and 6/6 Plus on which there may be further proceedings. The patent was filed in 1994 by Sony Corporation, a pioneer in the development of mobile and other consumer electronics technology, and is now part of the patent portfolio licensed by MobileMedia Ideas.
MobileMedia Ideas President and CEO Larry Horn said, “We thank the jury for its service and hard work. This case could have been avoided by the taking of a license, however. MobileMedia Ideas’ business model is based on offering reasonable licenses to a valuable portfolio of important inventions widely practiced across a broad array of mobile phone and other portable products. We still welcome Apple to respect intellectual property developed by others with the taking of a license.”
MobileMedia Ideas was represented by a team of litigators at Proskauer Rose led by Steve Bauer and Kim Mottley of the Boston office.
In relation to an article/report mentioned here earlier this week, there is now an important update. Coming from the Korea Times, it says that the tax authority is likely to reject Microsoft’s appeal for refund of tax. To quote the opening parts:
The South Korean tax authority is expected to reject an appeal by U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp. to refund 634 billion won ($575.7 million) in a withholding tax, according to the tax authority and industry sources Thursday.
Microsoft filed complaints last month against the National Tax Service (NTS), seeking a refund of the withholding taxes paid by Samsung Electronics Co. to the NTS for using the software giant’s patents.
When will Microsoft pay the tax it has evaded? Above the law, still? A lot of the above sum comes from Linux-powered devices (we wrote about this many times before).
Those who believe that Microsoft has changed surely aren’t paying attention to what it does through patent trolls, through Nokia (which Microsoft demanded should pass patents to trolls), and in various distant countries like Korea. Microsoft just became a little more covert in its war against Linux. █
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Summary: Another glimpse at where Nokia stands after Microsoft entryism and the ugly effects of patent trolling — something which Microsoft has played a considerable role promoting as it harms Free/Open Source software (FOSS) the most
ONCE UPON a time there was a mobile giant called Nokia, before Microsoft infiltrated the management (Elop), had it turn down Linux, and later turned it into a patent parasite, as expected by us all along. Any way one looks at it, Nokia is a patent parasite and Benjamin Henrion has said, “I booked http://nokiaplanp.com [P for patents] where that was the frenzy of its future. I was right.” See the latest articles in our Wiki for a detailed blow-by-blow chronology.
“Remember that IAM is funded by a troll of Nokia, MOSAID (now called Conversant, after all the negative publicity), armed with Nokia patents after Microsoft insisted on it (this is well documented).”According to IAM, Nokia is so large a patent parasite right now that it makes literally billions by taxing companies with its old patents. “Nokia Technologies head steps down just after company joins the $1 billion licensing club,” says the headline from IAM. Remember that IAM is funded by a troll of Nokia, MOSAID (now called Conversant, after all the negative publicity), armed with Nokia patents after Microsoft insisted on it (this is well documented). Microsoft has a certain ‘skill’ when it comes to creating and/or arming patent trolls, including the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures.
The other day we saw the article “Spotify Under Attack from Suspicious ‘Patent Troll’ Venadium LLC…” (probably not one among the thousands of satellites of Intellectual Ventures, but who knows)… [via]
We find it rather ironic, as the company which recently hired from Microsoft the patent mafioso who had armed patent trolls to attack rivals (including Linux, even after his departure) now faces the threat of an incognito patent troll. To quote this “Exclusive” report:
These companies often earn the dubious award of being known as “patent trolls,” of which Venadium may qualify within frustrated tech circles. The Eastern District of Texas is a well-known breeding ground and lawsuit haven for dubious, ‘patent troll’ type cases, with an 88% win for plaintiffs in patent infringement lawsuits, compared to a nationwide average of 68% (at least back in 2006).
The Eastern District of Texas and statistics about it put me in a long argument with the patent microcosm (they don’t like the characterisation of it as plaintiff-friendly), culminating in this citation that claims “36% win rate for plaintiffs”.
Regardless of the true numbers (can we trust lawyers more than we trust journalists?), here is a new article published very recently to explain how patent trolls operate.
How the current patent system actually hurts innovation (and how patent trolls are being fought)
One of the most common questions I get asked when talking to companies about their issues with innovation is “how do we prevent someone stealing our ideas? Should we get them all patented?”
Unfortunately, the answer to that isn’t so simple.
And that is because the current system for getting patents is in many ways no longer in line with how the world’s businesses work.
And worse than that, in many cases it is being abused by companies in ways which actually discourage innovation completely.
The issue seems to stem from the fact that the patent office just cannot check whether the people filing for a patent are in fact the original creators of the technology. For example, here is a patent granted to a person in 2002 for his description of “How to swing on a swing“.
If you want to prove that the patent was not valid, then the only way to prove that the lawsuit should not have happened in the first place is to have the legal system decide, analyse all the patents and claims, and determine once and for all whether the patent is valid.
This process can take 3+ years, and cost over $3 million.
This is much too expensive for most small companies to pay, so instead they are forced to pay the settlement claim to the patent troll.
A lot of the most innovative companies out there are making breakthroughs in the way we work, live and play using new software, whether we use it directly (a game on our phone) or to underpin their service (the vehicle prioritisation and routing within the Uber platform).
However, software is not always something that can be patented.
In some countries you can patent software (such as the USA, although this is often debated) while many other regions including most parts of Europe do not allow it.
As many software-based companies also operate on a global basis, this can make enforcement of patents extremely problematic, especially if software with different code is able to perform the same end-result.
In fact, there is a growing movement in Silicon Valley to open up patent portfolios and let anyone gain access to and build upon some of the most important software technology in the world. Echoing Henry Ford, who openly pined for the abolition of the patent system, Elon Musk has described patents as “intellectual property land mines” that inhibit progress.
That latter part speaks more specifically about software patents — a subject we shall focus on in our next post. Suffice to say, software patents are inherently incompatible with FOSS. █
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When enemies of the GPL (GNU) like Microsoft and VMware — not just GNU/Linux-friendly companies such as Red Hat — pay the Linux Foundation to get their way
Summary: The growing danger of a Linux Foundation which is funded not just by proprietary software giants but also direct opposition of Linux and serial violators of the licence of GNU (GPL)
THE level of entryism at the Linux Foundation has become way beyond acceptable and now that only corporations are involved in decision-making (see reminder below) we expect to see the verge of the farcical. How long before the Linux Foundation is not even pro-Linux but is instead pro-industry (for the industry giants that fund and thus dominate it)? Or, put another way, will it endorse things irrespective of the very spirit of both Linux and GNU? Whether something is or is not Free/Open Source software and whether it promotes (GNU) Linux? You know something is very wrong when the (paid-for) keynote speech at the biggest Linux conference is given by the company that called Linux “cancer” and continues to attack Linux to this date. That’s like having Donald Trump at the Democrat’s conventions and campaigns.
We have been trying to write more about patents, especially about the EPO, so not many articles mention Linux or talk about Microsoft these days. Microsoft’s latest patent attacks on Free software are revealing; Microsoft says it “loves Linux”, but its attacks on Linux definitely carry on (as recently as a couple of weeks ago or less).
“Microsoft’s latest patent attacks on Free software are revealing; Microsoft says it “loves Linux”, but its attacks on Linux definitely carry on (as recently as a couple of weeks ago or less).”The following points were mentioned a lot over the past 2 weeks, but we finally decided to write an article about it because sponsored articles (for Linux Foundation funders) continue to come out from the Linux Foundation’s Web site (this disclosure says IBM, but previously it was Microsoft). Why is the Linux Foundation simply morphing into a mouthpiece? Why, for example, is it willing to publish Microsoft lies? Just because Microsoft pays for it doesn’t mean it’s ethical or worthwhile. It reminds us of the years when Microsoft used (exploited) Novell for Microsoft marketing. I’ve exchanged nearly a dozen E-mails about this with Stallman this past week and he too is concerned about it.
The main subject of this article is actually VMware, a company that has been notorious for GPL violations for quite a few years (almost a decade). Some people wrote articles noting that Torvalds had publicly acknowledged the important role of the GPL at LinuxCon. Shortly thereafter, however, Torvalds blasted GPL enforcement. A week ago we saw at least two articles about exactly that [1, 2] (related but less relevant is this article).
“VMware recently poached Dirk Hohndel from Intel (head of Open Source [sic] or whatever they call it) and it was him who interviewed Torvalds as his trusted colleague less than a fortnight ago at LinuxCon, just shortly before the above attack on Kuhn et al.”Journalists then saw a rant in the mailing lists and decided to inform readers regarding Torvalds’ public rant against the Conservancy [1, 2] (these link to the original from the mailing list). A few more articles about the subject have been published since (these are in our daily links) and they serve to reinforce suspicions that Sandler (not just Kuhn) from the Conservancy got pushed out of the Linux Foundation, causing a lot of backlash about a year ago. The backlash was about abandonment of funds (material support) to the Conservancy; it happened after VMware had joined the Linux Foundation and the Conservancy got involved in a GPL enforcement lawsuit against VMware.
But here comes the interesting thing — an observation which I mentioned last week (in passing) over at Tux Machines. VMware recently poached Dirk Hohndel from Intel (head of Open Source [sic] or whatever they call it) and it was him who interviewed Torvalds as his trusted colleague less than a fortnight ago at LinuxCon, just shortly before the above attack on Kuhn et al. It reinforces the suspicion that the Conservancy’s decision to uphold the GPL on behalf of a client made Hohndel an enemy and then, by inference, made Torvalds somewhat of an enemy. Remember that a lot of ‘ex’ Microsoft executives now run VMware (look who has been running the company since 2008) and the company famously violates the GPL (this has been known for many years), just as Microsoft did when it created a shim for its proprietary, back door-compatible Hyper-V (that too was a GPL violation, but Microsoft moved quickly to comply once caught [1, 2, 3])?
“How long before the Linux Foundation is truly/entirely incapable of defending Linux from patent lawsuits and upholding the GPL because Linux foes and GPL foes develop financial strings, making them harder (or riskier) to publicly criticise?”The above observations came out late (I did not wish to write about the subject), but when Microsoft attacked Linux with patents it became too much to skip (I only say “Linux” because it’s Android in this case). How long before the Linux Foundation is truly/entirely incapable of defending Linux from patent lawsuits and upholding the GPL because Linux foes and GPL foes develop financial strings, making them harder (or riskier) to publicly criticise? █
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Has the U.S. International Trade Commission finally become less trigged-happy when it comes to embargoes?
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Sound Blaster
Summary: Some good news from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which may have put an end to Creative’s new war on Android (using old patents)
OVER THE years we have not had much (or anything) good to say about the ITC. It seemed nationalistic and unreasonable. Based on allegation or suspicion alone it could suspend operations or businesses in the United States, especially when these were foreign (non-US).
Earlier this summer we wrote about Creative Technology, based in Singapore, going after Android OEMs with massive patent demands, having been ‘endorsed’ by Apple payments. Well, it turns out Apple should never have paid them in the first place. Their patents are junk.
“When once-famous brands like Creative and BlackBerry become nothing but a pile of patents there’s a lot of trouble for FOSS such as Android, which is built on top of Linux. ““First spotted by Law360,” an Apple advocacy site wrote, “Administrative Law Judge David Shaw of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) has ruled that Creative Technology’s patent that addresses music library navigation and sorting in the iPod, and now iOS overall, was too abstract to be eligible for a patent.”
It also said: “A patent that Creative Technologies used in the beginning of the century against the iPod forcing a $100 million payout by Apple has been invalidated, saving the rest of the smartphone industry from costly settlements and protracted legal battles.”
According to this, “Apple paid Creative a single license fee of $100 million to use Creative’s software interface patent,” which is certainly a lot of money, probably enough to convince Creative to prey on Android OEMs that can barely afford it (and might prefer to settle out of court). The original report said “U.S. International Trade Commission judge handed smartphone makers a win Friday, ruling that a media player patent that netted a Singapore software company a $100 million settlement with Apple is invalid under Alice, in what appears to be the first time an ITC investigation has been terminated during its early review program.”
This is great news and a huge relief to some Android OEMs. On the face of it, ITC made a determination on another case, as reported by MIP. “In a first for its 100-day pilot programme, the ITC has invalidated a patent involved in a $100m iPod-related settlement a decade ago. In a separate ruling, the commission has ruled that Fitbit did not misappropriate Jawbone’ trade secrets,” says the summary. We wrote a great deal about the latter case too. It’s now a two-way battle. They would both be better off just focusing on development, not bickering over patents. The latter case was also mentioned in corporate media this week (albeit very briefly). To quote CNBC: “A U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Fitbit did not steal rival Jawbone’s trade secrets. Jawbone accused Fitbit of infringing six patents and luring away employees to with confidential data about Jawbone’s business.”
The behaviour of Creative without a doubt was becoming a problem for Android and by extension a threat to Linux, so the former of the two aforementioned cases is important. BlackBerry’s transition into ‘patent troll’ was also mentioned here recently and it’s receiving unwanted media attention from a trolls expert. “BlackBerry’s new round of patent lawsuits targets BLU—and Android,” says the headline. Here is an except:
BlackBerry has filed three patent infringement lawsuits in as many weeks. The struggling phone company’s offensive barrage began with a case filed against IP telephony company Avaya on July 27. Last week, BlackBerry filed two lawsuits against budget cell phone maker BLU’s products, alleging that BLU infringes a whopping 15 patents.
The dual lawsuits against BLU suggest that BlackBerry’s new turn toward patent licensing isn’t going to be a one-off event, but rather a more extended campaign. In a May earnings call, BlackBerry CEO John Chen told investors he’s in a “patent licensing mode” and is hoping to monetize his company’s 38,000 patents.
The new lawsuits also suggest that BlackBerry has patents it believes describe Android features, so don’t be surprised if more Android phones are in the crosshairs soon. One of the two cases filed last week accuses user-interface features that are more about Android than they are about BLU. A small manufacturer like BLU could make for a good “test case” against a maker of Android phones.
When once-famous brands like Creative and BlackBerry become nothing but a pile of patents there’s a lot of trouble for FOSS such as Android, which is built on top of Linux. Software patents need to end and patent sanity assured. Customers only lose when products are intentionally made more primitive due to fear of litigation. A lot of them are incredibly overpriced, too. █
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Another outrageous patent settlement that requires Microsoft bundling, but the Linux Foundation is too bribed by Microsoft to actually antagonise it any longer
“I’ve killed at least two Mac conferences. [...] by injecting Microsoft content into the conference, the conference got shut down. The guy who ran it said, why am I doing this?”
–Microsoft's chief evangelist
Summary: This morning’s reminder that Nadella is just another Ballmer (with a different face); Motorola and Lenovo surrender to Microsoft’s patent demands and will soon put Microsoft spyware/malware on their Linux-powered products to avert costly legal battles
MICROSOFT is not a friend. It’s a predator. It just changed the logo, the PR, and the CEO. It also started paying more and more money to its critics, including Linux OEMs, to keep them quiet. “Microsoft Keynoting LinuxCon,” said a headline from Phoronix yesterday. What it failed to say is that Microsoft actually pays the Linux Foundation to infiltrate it. This has gone on for a while. Earlier this month the Linux Foundation posted a Microsoft puff piece paid for by Microsoft. We mentioned it this worrisome development the other day (to their credit, the Linux Foundation did add a disclosure to this). The payment was made under the pretense of supporting a conference (i.e. interjecting Microsoft stuff into it).
Is Microsoft becoming more open? No, it’s spying more and more. All the core products are proprietary. What is PowerShell all about? Openwashing. “Embrace and extend” of
curl (soon to have Mono as well) while claiming to be “opening up” a part of Windows, which is proprietary spyware that defies law (and had Microsoft lose cases in court).
But never mind all the above. Has Microsoft actually made peace with GNU/Linux? Hardly. Au contraire. Microsoft is still attacking GNU/Linux. If “Microsoft loves Linux,” then it sure shows it like an abusive spouse that beats up the wife (to borrow the analogy from Simon Phipps). Microsoft extorts Linux again, but it has bamboozled the media like it first did when it attacked Acer. It did this several times more thereafter and we covered it earlier this year, e.g. in:
Remember what happened to Samsung when it said “No!”
Microsoft took it to court and Samsung later settled with bundling (early 2015). That’s like racketeering, but Microsoft is far too politically-connected to face charges under the RICO Act.
In the past, Microsoft was offering payments for bundling; right now, instead, it’s a patent settlement. A patent settlement over what? Linux. The media is calling it all sorts of things other than patent settlement (after threats), which is what it really is. Here is the coverage we see right now (misleading):
The following two articles suggest that Motorola too (already sued by Microsoft over patents) is a victim of this strategy:
All that Microsoft is trying to achieve here is control over Linux-powered mobile (or Android) users, e.g. using Skype malware. People who actually think that Microsoft has changed need to reassess their trust in corporate media (much of the above is Microsoft-connected media and Microsoft advocacy sites that help mislead other media). █
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Rounded corners? Apple’s invention!
Summary: Apple’s insistence that designs should be patentable could prove to be collectively expensive, as patent trolls would then use a possible SCOTUS nod to launch litigation campaigns
TROLLS, or patent sharks, typically use software patents, but what if they also had design patents at their disposal?
Apple‘s war on Android, which manifested itself in a now-settled case against HTC and later in a long patent war against Samsung, may prove to be counterproductive now that Apple attracts patent trolls like VirnetX, to which it might be forced to pay billions of dollars. A pro-software patents site now says that “Apple will also be an even richer target for the new breed of design patent trolls” if it wins its case against Samsung/Android (over design patents). To quote this new article:
On October 11, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear Samsung’s appeal of the Federal Circuit’s affirmation of the jury’s damage award to Apple of Samsung’s “total profits” on sales of the infringing smartphones even though it had only infringed Apple’s design of the iPhone’s outer shell. In upholding the “total profits” award, the Federal Circuit determined that it was bound to uphold the jury’s award by the “explicit” and “clear” statutory language relating to design patent infringement damages.
The importance of the Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling here is underscored by the numerous amicus curiae briefs filed (27 at last count). With over 205 billion in cash reserves at last count, Apple certainly doesn’t “need” the full nine-figure damage award. And, given the far reaching implications of this case, Apple may live to regret its aggressive pursuit of “total profits” for design patent infringement by finding itself battling design patent holders seeking to recover Apple’s total device profits for infringement of even a minor design feature. Apple will also be an even richer target for the new breed of design patent trolls already surfacing based, at least in part, on Apple’s success in this case. Clearly it is time for Congress to step in and amend Section 289 to add apportionment language.
No wonder technology companies are overwhelmingly supportive of Samsung in this case — a high-profile case over design patents.
In other news, Vera Ranieri from the EFF has this new update about one of their high-profile cases against patent trolls. Ranieri writes:
There has been significant activity relating to cases and patent infringement claims made by Shipping & Transit, LLC, formerly known as ArrivalStar. Shipping & Transit, who we’ve written about on numerous occasions, is currently one of the most prolific patent trolls in the country. Lex Machina data indicates that, since January 1, 2016, Shipping & Transit has been named in almost 100 cases. This post provides an update on some of the most important developments in these cases.
In many Shipping & Transit cases, Shipping & Transit has alleged that retailers allowing their customers to track packages sent by USPS infringe various claims of patents owned by Shipping & Transit, despite previously suing (and settling with) USPS. EFF represents a company that Shipping & Transit accused of infringing four patents.
The above is a timely and good example. It demonstrates not just of the harms of patent trolls but also the harms of software patents, which in the large majority of cases rely on them. If Apple made design patents stronger, with affirmation from the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), the damage would be enormous.
Apple is on the wrong side of history. █
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