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03.25.17

It Certainly Looks Like Microsoft is Already Siccing Its Patent Trolls, Including Intellectual Ventures, on Companies That Use Linux (Until They Pay ‘Protection’ Money)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The patent strategy of Bill, Steve and Horacio seems to be alive and well even in their absence

Ballmer on patents
Full, 6-frame explanation of Microsoft’s strategy

“People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.”

Steve Ballmer

Summary: News about Intellectual Ventures and Finjan Holdings (Microsoft-funded patent trolls) reinforces our allegations — not mere suspicions anymore — that Microsoft would ‘punish’ companies that are not paying subscription fees (hosting) or royalties (patent tax) to Microsoft and are thus in some sense ‘indebted’ to Microsoft

THE analysis we presented here last month turns out to be very accurate. Our predictions didn’t take long to materialise.

Let’s start with some background. In spite of courts in the US limiting the patentability of software, the USPTO keeps granting these and failing to invalidate those already granted, unless someone petitions PTAB to look into particular patents. This means that, for the time being, even bogus patents continue to exist and they can be used for litigation. Challenging them, especially if they are used in bulk, can be very expensive (legal fees). Recently, some companies challenged Intellectual Ventures‘ claims against them and won. All of the software patents of Intellectual Ventures were found to be invalid. But at what cost? These cases had to be escalated all the way up to CAFC before that happened. How many companies out there can afford justice and how rarely would that be an option cheaper than just settling?

“How many companies out there can afford justice and how rarely would that be an option cheaper than just settling?”Nowadays, a lot of small companies choose the so-called ‘cloud’ for hosting. There are numerous reasons for this and they don’t typically receive legal protections or indemnification from the host. There have already been cases where companies got hit with a lawsuit (or more) for a bunch of virtual machines.

This new article by Richard Kemp, providing a good example of what we mean by cloudwashing of software patents (adding something like “on the cloud”, in order to fool examiners into granting software patents, thinking these are novel and combined with a machine).

“Cloud software patent claims will likely increase as more users migrate to the cloud,” it says in the summary, alluding in particular sections about trolls to this phenomenon. Here are the relevant parts:

As the public cloud services market continues to mature and grow – up from $178bn in 2015 to $209bn in 2016 according to research company Gartner – the concentration of computing resources into cloud data centres is increasingly attracting the attention of Non-Practising Entities (NPEs) as a target for patent litigation. At a time when data security and privacy risks are front of mind for cloud service providers (CSPs) and their users, the intellectual property (IP) risks to cloud service availability posed by NPE patent claims are rising up the business agenda.

NPEs are businesses that assert patents through litigation to achieve revenues from alleged infringers without practising or commercialising the technology covered by the patents they hold. NPEs are uniquely well placed to monetise their patents at each stage of the litigation cycle. They have access to capital and all necessary forensic and legal resources; and an NPE doesn’t practise its patents so is immune to a counterclaim that a defendant might otherwise be able to bring against a competitor, or a cross-licence that the defendant could otherwise offer.

[...]

From the CSP’s standpoint all this is bad enough, but software patent risks are further exacerbated by increasing use of open source software (OSS) in the cloud. OSS, long in the mainstream, now commonly powers cloud computing systems. OSS developments are created by communities of individual developers. With no single holder of software rights, patent infringement issues are unlikely to be top of mind, and if they are, developers will generally lack the resources to help them navigate the risks. Simply because they are open, OSS developments and communities are easier targets for NPEs than proprietary software as they don’t need to go to the same lengths to discover potential infringement. The softness of the target increases risk for CSPs using OSS and their users.

Cloud software patent risk is evident and growing, so it is perhaps surprising that it has figured so little in the register of perceived risks up to now, especially when data protection, privacy and information security figure so high. Yet an unsettled cloud software patent claim runs risks to cloud service availability that are arguably of the same order as information security risks. The reason why cloud computing IP risks have had little public airing so far is probably that, while implicitly acknowledged, they have yet to be thoroughly expressed and articulated. For example, in UK financial services, now one of the most heavily regulated sectors, cloud computing is treated as outsourcing and in its cloud guidance, the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority, the UK regulator) states that regulated firms should, amongst other things: “monitor concentration risk and consider what action it would take if the provider failed ….”

How does that relate to Microsoft? Now comes the key part. Microsoft is trying to turn Azure into its new cash cow and it is also trying to turn its patents into cash cows. It’s now doing in the cars what it’s planning to do in the ‘cloud’, namely demand payments for patents (where [GNU/]Linux is used), otherwise send a bunch of trolls to make a legal mess. The Mafia model.

“It’s now doing in the cars what it’s planning to do in the ‘cloud’, namely demand payments for patents (where [GNU/]Linux is used), otherwise send a bunch of trolls to make a legal mess. The Mafia model.”The other day we wrote about what Microsoft and its biggest troll (Intellectual Ventures) had been doing lately, having recently written about Microsoft marketing of “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] — eerily similar in many ways to the Microsoft-Novell patent deal.

It looks like Microsoft is already siccing its patent trolls on companies that don't pay 'protection' money, we noted, and now it looks like we have another new example, as covered yesterday by friends of Intellectual Ventures, IAM magazine. To quote the relevant bits:

The auto industry has been a hive of patent activity for several years. Manufacturers and suppliers are far more sophisticated players in terms of their own patenting, have become more assertive in fighting claims and are increasingly signing-up to defensive initiatives such as the LOT Network and Unified Patents. The emerging dynamics in the sector were on full display in two separate developments this week.

First up, on Monday, Intellectual Ventures filed seven lawsuits in Delaware against Toyota, Honda and BMW, and the suppliers Denso, Nidec, Aisin Seiki and Mitsuba. Each has been accused of infringing between one and five patents. IV has been attempting to license the auto sector for several years and in a significant boost to its efforts did a deal with Ford in 2015. Obviously not everyone in the industry has been as willing as Ford, hence this week’s move.

[...]

On Wednesday Microsoft announced that it had agreed a new patent licensing deal with Toyota that includes broad coverage for connected car technologies. That deal, the software giant says, is the first in its new auto licensing programme; and so we can presumably expect some similar announcements in the coming months. The deal release was light on details, but the two companies have an existing IP relationship thanks to Microsoft’s recent Azure IP Advantage initiative, which Toyota was quick to sign up to. What will be interesting to follow is how any upcoming deals are structured given that Microsoft’s recent focus has been on using its IP as leverage in getting more of its products onto devices rather than as a driver of licensing dollars.

The Japanese car giant is clearly looking to ensure it has freedom to operate in a rapidly changing market. That strategy, so far, has not included signing a licence with IV — which Microsoft was an early investor in — but the Delaware lawsuit might bring things to a head.

The Microsoft-Toyota patent deal was mentioned here the other day. We later said that Microsoft is using software patents against GNU/Linux and relies on secrecy around what’s covered (Android, file systems, etc.); for those who don’t yet know, Toyota was historically close to Microsoft, but it recently defected to the Linux camp. Microsoft can’t be too happy about that. Here are three items from the news:

  • Toyota licenses Microsoft’s portfolio of connected car patents

    In a blog post, Microsoft Intellectual Property Group chief IP Counsel Erich Anderson suggests the company’s software patents will play a significant role in the automotive industry’s “digital transformation” as more vehicles are connected to the internet and cloud services.

  • Microsoft expands connected car push with patent licensing

    Rather than trying to build a high-tech automobile of its own, Microsoft is focusing on providing carmakers with the tools they need to create smarter vehicles and the Toyota deal is the first of what it hopes will be a series of such agreements.

    [...]

    The deal signed with Toyota includes intellectual property {sic} related to information processing technology and communication technology used in connected cars. In typical Microsoft fashion, the terms of the deal beyond that have been kept secret.

  • Daimler Jumps on Linux Bandwagon

    Not long ago, if a major corporation were to take out membership in an open source project, that would be big news — doubly so for a company whose primary business isn’t tech related. Times have changed. These days the corporate world’s involvement in open source is taken for granted, even for companies whose business isn’t computer related. Actually, there’s really no such thing anymore. One way or another, computer technology is at the core of nearly every product on the market.

    So it wasn’t surprising that hardly anyone noticed earlier this month when Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz and the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, announced it had joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an organization that seeks to protect open source projects from patent litigation. According to a quick and unscientific search of Google, only one tech site covered the news, and that didn’t come until a full 10 days after the announcement was made.

That third one is particularly noteworthy as Daimler may be looking for some sort of protection though OIN — a protection that will not come for reasons we explained some days ago. There’s no redemption from trolls there, by OIN’s own admission. OIN has in fact done nothing against Microsoft’s latest patent manoeuvres against Linux. Nothing.

“Our prediction is that in various fields, be it security, car navigation, or anything “on a cloud” Microsoft will send trolls to wreak havoc unless/until the victims join some Microsoft ‘protection’ scheme such as “Azure IP Advantage”.”To clarify, Intellectual Ventures is not the only Microsoft-connected troll which is storming and suing companies that Microsoft dislikes, particularly Linux distributors (e.g. devices). There are a lot of Microsoft-armed and Microsoft-funded trolls out there (we’ve named many over the years). Last night in the news for example, we saw this patent troll which is connected to Microsoft (even financed by it) settling with Avast. Based on the wording, it’s maybe a settlement or ‘protection’ money (they don’t say), but the text does say “Finjan remains, in various capacities, involved in patent-associated cases against FireEye, Sophos, Symantec, Palo Alto Networks, Blue Coat Systems, ESET (and affiliates) and Cisco Systems.”

Finjan is a troll (as last mentioned earlier this year) and it seems to be going after every security company out there, equipped with nothing but software patents which we looked at closely in the past. Our prediction is that in various fields, be it security, car navigation, or anything “on a cloud” Microsoft will send trolls to wreak havoc unless/until the victims join some Microsoft ‘protection’ scheme such as “Azure IP Advantage”.

03.19.17

What’s OIN Doing While Microsoft is Siccing Patent Trolls on Azure Competitors’ Customers?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 9:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Attacks on GNU/Linux and Free/libre software, but OIN cannot do anything about it

Submarine (patents)

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.”

So what?

“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…

03.15.17

Microsoft Continues to Hoard Patents — Even Buying Patents — While Using Them Against GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

Protection racket
Wikipedia

“Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering.”

Mark Shuttleworth

Summary: Basic scrutiny of Microsoft’s patent activity and its latest moves serves to reinforce the prior analysis, which says Microsoft uses patents to force OEMs to ‘bundle in’ Microsoft ‘apps’ (typically spyware that sends user data to Microsoft) and pressure companies to host GNU/Linux virtual machines only in Azure, for perceived “peace of mind” (they call it “Azure IP Advantage”) in a climate of patent aggression which Microsoft contributes to by sending patents to large patent trolls

THE USPTO continues to grant software patents, albeit at a slow pace (because of the courts and the most recent, post-Alice guidelines). We should not take things for granted and simply assume that software patents will always be toothless.

“Microsoft attacked the independence of both Yahoo and Nokia, leading their patents into the hands of patents trolls.”Microsoft, in the mean time, continues using software patents to blackmail or at least coerce large GNU/Linux/ChromeOS/Android OEMs, either for money, for bundling of Microsoft spyware, or both (see this recent hybrid deal with Xiaomi). This is a very serious matter because at the midst of all that coercion Microsoft claims that it “loves Linux”, which is of course an utterly ridiculous lie. As we put it last year, "Microsoft Loves Linux Patent Tax" (it loves Linux inside its plate, like people love beef).

Now watch this (via). From the company that continues to attack GNU/Linux using patents there is now a large patent purchase. The proponents of Microsoft (and software patents and patent trolls), namely IAM, said “[i]t is worth noting that Microsoft itself does not compete directly in the chipmaking market. This makes it unlikely that the US company purchased the patents purely to secure its own freedom of action. Rather, the acquisition may be intended to provide defensive coverage for strategic partners, or for customers of Microsoft’s cloud computing services through its Azure IP Advantage programme.”

“At the same time Microsoft is harvesting all sorts of patents which it actively uses to attack the independence of various Android OEMs, forcing them to put Microsoft spyware on phones and tablets (or else face ruinous patent lawsuits).”This is Microsoft’s latest trick for taxing GNU/Linux and Free software, using all sorts of patents.

In addition, need we remind readers that Microsoft sent Nokia‘s patents to Google-hostile patent trolls like MOSAID (Conversant), which incidentally also pays IAM? Something quite similar may be happening with Yahoo (another famous victim of Microsoft entryism) as IAM reveals that Yahoo’s software patents find their way into the hands of trolls. It also recalls the following:

This is a sensible tactic to try to convince potential buyers that the company has plenty of options. Plus it’s worth remembering that one of Altbaba’s board members, Jeffrey Smith of Starboard Capital, has a track record of pushing companies to do more with their patents. In 2012 the activist investor bought into AOL and forced the company to look at actively monetising its portfolio, ultimately leading to a $1 billion patent sale to Microsoft.

Microsoft attacked the independence of both Yahoo and Nokia, leading their patents into the hands of patents trolls. In Novell’s case, Microsoft grabbed Novell’s patents. At the same time Microsoft is harvesting all sorts of patents which it actively uses to attack the independence of various Android OEMs, forcing them to put Microsoft spyware on phones and tablets (or else face ruinous patent lawsuits).

So much for ‘new’ Microsoft… new PR and new CEO, but same old villainous tactics. We have been writing more on that subject recently. See the list of articles below.

03.10.17

With Latest Promotions, Microsoft Puts Its Tokens in the Patent Shakedown Basket, Its Patent Trolls Fight for Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 2:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

More on the latest defeat to software patents in the US; Microsoft keeps pursuing these anyway

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

Summary: Microsoft is again promoting its patent extortion staff — those who attack GNU/Linux with software patents — while its trolls, notably Intellectual Ventures, fight for software patents (but thankfully lose their battle, yet again)

BELATEDLY published in Techrights (late because of more urgent EPO news) is this reminder that Microsoft not only persists in patent shakedown against GNU/Linux but also PROMOTES the patent extortion folks (after Brad and Horacio, both of whom were repeatedly promoted, it is happening yet again). For those who have not been paying attention, see the following posts from last month and earlier this month:

Anyone who still believes that “Microsoft loves Linux” is clearly paying too little (if any) attention to the facts.

According to a blog post from IAM, “Microsoft IP supremo promoted after overseeing series of value creation initiatives,” which in IAM’s terminology (it’s a pro-trolls site) means aggressive litigation (“value creation” is the euphemism). Mind the following part, which whitewashes the above-shown initiative that creates the notion of “unsafe” (or uncovered from litigation by Microsoft or its trolls) GNU/Linux and Free software:

Most recently, the company announced a package of IP-related benefits for users of its Azure cloud service which expanded its indemnification policy to include open source technology providers that power Azure services, made 10,000 patents available to Azure customers to help defend themselves from infringement lawsuits and guaranteed that if Microsoft sold patents to an NPE they couldn’t be asserted against those customers. The initiative, known as the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage programme, demonstrated how the software giant is prepared to use its significant IP resources to gain an advantage over key cloud competitors Amazon and Google.

It would not at all surprise us if Microsoft-connected trolls started hammering Amazon with patent lawsuits or instead targeted AWS customers, thus pushing them towards the perceived ‘safety’ of Microsoft with “IP Advantage”.

“Anyone who still believes that “Microsoft loves Linux” is clearly paying too little (if any) attention to the facts.”Microsoft’s biggest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, is suing a lot of companies (sometimes directly, sometimes though its huge collection of shells), but it has just failed to revive software patents again, after a case got escalated to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).

CAFC will be the subject of some longer articles, probably to be published over the weekend, but the above case is unique because of the Microsoft angle. There have been many articles about it, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], and yesterday Patently-O called it “yet another Intellectual Ventures loss” (at CAFC) and added a statement about “NO STANDING TO SUE”. To quote: “In yet another Intellectual Ventures loss, the the Federal Circuit has affirmed the W.D. Pennsylvania district court ruling that the asserted patents are invalid as ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.[1] This decision was issued in parallel with IV v. Capital One discussed previously. I’m going to put-off the Section 101 discussion for another post, however, and write here about the assignment debacle.”

“It would not at all surprise us if Microsoft-connected trolls started hammering Amazon with patent lawsuits or instead targeted AWS customers, thus pushing them towards the perceived ‘safety’ of Microsoft with “IP Advantage”.”What Dennis Crouch describes is unique (not mentioned in the above press articles) and states that “before reaching the Section 101 eligibility issues, the district court dismissed IV’s infringement case related to the ‘581 patent for lack of standing – finding that IV didn’t actually own the patent.”

We mentioned such a debacle last weekend as well. It’s a recurring theme now. How is that not treated as a serious offense? Thankfully, in this scenario (Erie Indemnity Co.), Intellectual Ventures failed to revive software patents, but it will certainly keep trying and Microsoft will count on it. Quite a few victims of Intellectual Ventures bullying are companies that use GNU/Linux a lot; some of them even distribute GNU/Linux.

03.02.17

The Long Reach of Microsoft’s Patent Troll, Intellectual Ventures, and the Impact on TiVo

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 3:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Becoming more of a patent parasite than it already was

TiVo

Summary: Patent wars in the broadcasting market and the role played by Microsoft and its largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, headed by Microsoft’s former CTO

THE CONNECTIONS between Intellectual Ventures (IV) and Rovi were covered here before, e.g. in [1, 2]. IV is the world’s largest patent troll, which covertly operates through thousands of shells and it is financially connected to Microsoft and Bill Gates. IV is a major threat to Free/libre software and GNU/Linux because, as we have shown here in the past, it also blackmails companies that manufacture and/or distribute BSD- and Linux-based devices.

TiVo is an infamous Linux-based device and also a company. It’s infamous because of what became known as “TiVoisation” (we covered it here repeatedly more than a decade ago) and all sorts of patent aspects which we covered half a decade ago (see our Wiki page about TiVo).

TiVo exploits Free software and Linux, but it’s hardly an ally or a friend. Now that Rovi has bought TiVo and considering “Rovi’s deal with Intellectual Ventures,” as IAM put it today, it’s hardly surprising that it’s followed by TiVo’s patents turning into shakedown or extortion. As IAM put it (obviously lauding and praising the aggressor):

Pre-dating last year’s merger was Rovi’s deal with Intellectual Ventures, where the two agreed to package together their IP relating to over-the-top (OTT) technology for Rovi to license. Since they announced that relationship, licensing deals have been unveiled with both Netflix and HBO. Armaly contends that it’s a model that can be replicated. The digital entertainment and OTT sectors weren’t necessarily high on IV’s list of licensing priorities, so last year’s agreement means that it can benefit from TiVo’s growing experience in the space and its technology offering.

There’s more history to it. Back in 2010 we wrote about how Intellectual Ventures fueled patent wars against TiVo, which had already been sued by Microsoft. And Microsoft keeps telling us that it “loves Linux”…

Microsoft is very malicious and its latest attack plan is reminiscent of the Microsoft/Novell deal. We explained this plan in the following four articles:

When patents get weaponised like that and where Microsoft’s patent trolls have influence over such decisions we simply cannot ignore the persistent danger.

02.28.17

IAM ‘Magazine’ Rented Out to Microsoft Again, in Order to Attack Amazon (as Host of Free/Libre Software) Using Software Patents FUD

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 6:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Marketing and an attack on one’s competition disguised as ‘news’

Microsoft IAM

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?

02.27.17

A US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Which is Hostile Towards Patent Maximalists May Closely Examine More Patents That Apple Uses Against Android

Posted in America, Apple, Courtroom, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents, Samsung at 5:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNU/Linux-powered devices are habitually being targeted by artsy design patents, but might this end soon?

Designer

Summary: A company which often takes pride in designers rather than developers (art, not technical merit) may lose that leverage over the competition if its questionable patents are taken away by the Supremes

THE SCOTUS, in its current composition at least (many nominations and appointments by Democrats — a trend that is now changing), has handed down some important decisions on patents over the past half a decade and most of them were favourable to patent reformers. Reformist scope-oriented measures such as restriction if not elimination of software patents are just the tip of the iceberg; a few months ago we wrote about the Lexmark case.

“This time around it’s about the second California Apple v. Samsung case (the one that went to trial in 2014, resulting in a $119 million verdict).”
      –Florian Müller
Florian Müller scooped an important story the other day. “I tried to find media reports on Samsung’s new Apple v. Samsung Supreme Court petition,” he wrote, “and couldn’t find any, so maybe I scooped’em all” with the blog post “Samsung is now taking the second Apple v. Samsung patent case to the Supreme Court”. To quote: “The first Apple v. Samsung case went all the way up to the Supreme Court and has meanwhile gone all the way back to the Northern District of California to take a new look at the question of design patent damages. But the steps to the Supreme Court are like a revolving door for this huge commercial dispute: a new petition for writ of certiorari (request for Supreme Court review) is already in the making! This time around it’s about the second California Apple v. Samsung case (the one that went to trial in 2014, resulting in a $119 million verdict).”

Someone disputed the number, saying that “it’ll actually be the third. They had another petition denied on a very technical issue.”

Müller insisted, however, that “by “second case” I meant the second case filed by Apple against Samsung in U.S. district court…”

“If this is all that Apple has left in its future plans (suing competitors), then it doesn’t look particularly bright; nor does it look innovative…”Techrights had been sceptical of Apple for a long time, even before Apple began attacking Android with patents (there was sabre-rattling even before that, e.g. against Palm). Apple and its nonsensical patents never end. Our sources at the EPO indicate that it’s not different in Europe, but we cannot publicly share any further details on that (in order to protect sources). Watch this article from CNN, published just 6 days ago. “Apple often patents interesting hardware or futuristic iPhone designs that may never see the light of day,” it says. “But in its latest patent granted on Tuesday, Apple (AAPL, Tech30) describes something a little less innovative, and already wildly popular.”

They’re ignoring prior art and also neglecting the fact that software patents are a dying breed. If this is all that Apple has left in its future plans (suing competitors), then it doesn’t look particularly bright; nor does it look innovative…

We look forward to that (potentially second) SCOTUS case which might, due to Apple, spell doom for design patents, which are often similar to software patents (in the GUI sense).

Life Technologies Corp. v Promega Corp.

“We look forward to that (potentially second) SCOTUS case which might, due to Apple, spell doom for design patents, which are often similar to software patents (in the GUI sense).”SCOTUS rulings on patents actually made a lot of headlines this past week, but this did not involve software patents or anything like that. Mayer Brown LLP, for example, wrote about Life Technologies Corp. v Promega Corp. (at SCOTUS) in lawyers’ media. “In an effort to curb efforts to circumvent patent protection,” they said, “the Patent Act imposes liability for infringement on anyone who supplies “all or a substantial portion” of a patented invention’s components from the United States for combination overseas. 35 U.S.C. s 271(f)(1). The Federal Circuit had held that a single component—in this case, of a five-component test kit—could be sufficiently important to a patented invention to constitute “a substantial portion.””

“The Supreme Court has reversed the Federal Circuit in Life Tech v Promega, ruling that manufacture and exportation of a single component of a patented invention assembled in another country is not enough for infringement in the US. However, as a concurring opinion and observers note, the Supreme Court did not indicate how much more than one is enough,” MIP wrote.

“IAM is basically ranting about this ruling because SCOTUS didn’t rule for patent maximalists.”IAM, the lobby of the patent maximalists (disguised as press whilst lobbying/preaching), wrote: “Yet again #SCOTUS left #patent community in the dark on a key part of its latest ruling” (misinformation).

Well, by “patent community” they mean something like “hedge funds of the patent world”, not a community per se. And nobody is really left “in the the dark”; it’s just a dark day for patent maximalists.

IAM is basically ranting about this ruling because SCOTUS didn’t rule for patent maximalists. To quote their blog post about it:

Seven US Supreme Court justices issued their latest patent ruling yesterday in a case that may not have been awaited with the same level of expectancy as next month’s oral arguments in the venue selection case TC Heartland, but which nonetheless showed them sticking to form. As ever with this court it was a case of what wasn’t said as much as what was outlined in the decision.

The case in question, Life Technologies Corp v Promega Corp, involved the supply of a single infringing component manufactured in the US by Life Technologies but then shipped to the UK for assembly. Promega sued citing the Patent Act’s prohibition of the supply from the US of “all or a substantial portion of the components of a patent invention” for combination abroad.

As for Patently-O, it said about Life Technologies Corp. v Promega Corp. that “[i]n a largely-unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court has ruled that the “supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention for manufacture abroad does not give rise to §271(f)(1) liability.””

“Patent maximalism is good for nobody except those who make a living from nothing other than patents (no actual invention, production and so on).”“Writing for the court,” Patently-O added, “Justice Sotomayor found that the “substantial portion” should be seen as a quantitative requirement and that a single component is not sufficient.”

The very fact that sites like IAM are upset about it should say quite clearly that it’s a good and positive development. Patent maximalism is good for nobody except those who make a living from nothing other than patents (no actual invention, production and so on).

As Long as Software Patents Are Granted and Microsoft Equips Trolls With Them, “Azure IP Advantage” is an Attack on Free/Libre Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 3:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This definitely impacts GNU/Linux when Microsoft shamelessly passes Nokia‘s patents, for instance, to active patent trolls

Email cache proves Turkish oil minister’s links to Isis oil trade, WikiLeaks claims
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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