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03.31.17

Microsoft’s Patent Blackmail Against Samsung Part of a Strategy of Divide and Conquer Against Android

Posted in America, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, Samsung, SLES/SLED at 8:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Samsung was the largest Android OEM when it all started

Microsoft's embrace and extend strategy with patents
Microsoft’s embrace and extend strategy with patents (for coercion under legal threats)

Summary: The ‘new’ Microsoft turns out to be the same old Microsoft, where software patents are used not just for extortion and extraction of ‘protection’ money but also to compel OEMs to use Microsoft’s own ‘version’ (or distribution) of Android

THE EPO scandals are certainly outrageous, but another outrageous thing which we have spent more than a decade covering is Microsoft’s patent blackmail against GNU/Linux. Recently, we took note of another wave of Microsoft patent attacks (albeit shrewdly marketed as “IP Advantage“) on GNU/Linux and Free software. For those who missed it, there is a listing of our articles about it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], which will soon be shelved in some Wiki page.

“Recently, we took note of another wave of Microsoft patent attacks (albeit shrewdly marketed as “IP Advantage“) on GNU/Linux and Free software.”In short, Microsoft is trying to divide the market into “safe” and “unsafe”, or “protected” (from Microsoft and its trolls) and “unprotected”. The former requires annual or monthly payments to Microsoft (subscription plus patent royalties, similar to Novell with SLES/SLED in 2006 onwards). In the mobile space, as one might expect, Microsoft is using a similar strategy. Microsoft will be Microsoft. It will continue to embrace and extend, then attempt to become an Android OEM while siccing patent trolls on all others. 3 years ago Microsoft sued Samsung, the biggest Android OEM at the time, using patents and then they settled, with the condition/provision of Samsung being Microsoft’s slave, preinstalling Microsoft malware (sends user data to Microsoft) on Samsung’s Android devices. We never forgot about that, but Mary Jo Foley seems to have conveniently left that out of her new article. She ought to know this because she covered the subject of the lawsuit pretty well 2 years ago (she was one of our primary sources at the time, hence we reproduce her article at the top). What is shown now is that “Microsoft touts Microsoft-customized edition of Samsung Galaxy S8″.

So Samsung’s ‘flagship’ product is becoming just a vessel or a carrier of Microsoft malware. Does Microsoft pay Samsung for this? No. That’s just part of the patent settlement we presume. And Microsoft is now selling these phones, i.e. making a profit as an Android OEM, where Android is not really Android but some ‘bastardised’ version of it which is dominated by Microsoft and designed to give Microsoft total control of everything (collecting input from the file system, cameras, microphone and so on).

“And Microsoft is now selling these phones, i.e. making a profit as an Android OEM, where Android is not really Android but some ‘bastardised’ version of it which is dominated by Microsoft and designed to give Microsoft total control of everything (collecting input from the file system, cameras, microphone and so on).”Is this justice? Is Samsung happy about this?

In the meantime, Florian Müller writes about another patent bully that victimised Samsung, namely Qualcomm with its software patents [1, 2]. To quote some relevant parts:

When routinely checking for Twitter news about Qualcomm’s antitrust issues, I found a job ad for an antitrust counsel at Qualcomm. Seriously, if you’re an antitrust lawyer looking for a job, this might be one of the most interesting places to be in the months and years ahead. While some secondary issues such as a case brought over oversight duties go away from time to time, various regulators on multiple continents are currently doing everything to provide job security for San Diego-based antitrust attorneys…

[...]

At first sight, that denial appears to be complete and clear, but at a closer look it doesn’t convince me. Apart from the fact that Qualcomm obviously could never admit to totally anticompetitive behavior (restriction of competition), in this case going back to an agreement signed in 1993 and failed negotiations a few years ago, the denial merely says that Samsung could somehow have sold chips to third parties, but not that Samsung could have sold, for example, CDMA-capable chips to third parties.

As AndroidAuthority notes, Qualcomm sued a Chinese Samsung customer (Meizu), which built some devices incorporating Samsung’s Exynos chipset, and I agree with AndroidAuthority that “we have to wonder why the Korean giant only sells its mobile SoCs to one small company in China” (in light of Samsung’s large customer base for other types of chipsets).

This is why phones have become so incredibly expensive (manufacturing of the underlying components is not expensive). It boils down to patent tax everywhere. That money one pays for an Android device ends up not entirely in the coffers of the OEM but all sorts of patent parasites, including Microsoft.

“That money one pays for an Android device ends up not entirely in the coffers of the OEM but all sorts of patent parasites, including Microsoft.”Microsoft does not want the patents challenged in a court, and it makes it so by strategically picking victims and throwing a huge number of dubious patents at them. In that regard, Microsoft operates much like a patent troll. Consider Erich Spangenberg. This is the crook who used a bogus (now invalidated!) patent to blackmail thousands of companies, eventually becoming a multi-millionaire from ‘protection’ money. It ended when he picked on a victim not sufficiently frail and vulnerable, namely Newegg, which chose to fight back again and again (and won repeatedly, in spite of all the expensive appeals). Now armless, Spangenberg seems to be walking away with his loot, based on this new article from trolls’ media. It says: “The current status of IPNav – the company founded by Spangenberg back in 2003 as one of his first major forays into patent monetisation – is unclear. Spangenberg stepped down as IPNav’s CEO in 2014 to dedicate time to other projects, handing over the reins to company president Deirdre Leane. Leane’s LinkedIn profile indicates she became vice president of licensing at Technicolor in December, while IPNav’s website is currently offline awaiting relaunch.”

Technicolor has itself become a patent troll, as we noted several times this year (in January and again in February). We certainly hope that the USPTO, together with the US courts, will help curb patent trolling. More action is also required when it comes to serial patent aggressors; antitrust action may be needed against Microsoft’s crooked modus operandi.

“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

“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

03.29.17

Recognising the Death of Software Patents, Microsoft’s Largest Ally in India Belatedly Joins the Linux-Centric Open Invention Network

Posted in Asia, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 5:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

But Microsoft carries on with its usual tricks, this time calling them “Azure IP Advantage”… (Microsoft-armed trolls attacking Azure’s rivals and non-customers)

Microsoft and trolls

Summary: With the demise of software patents come some interesting new developments, including the decision at Infosys — historically very close to Microsoft and a proponent of software patents — to join the Open Invention Network (OIN)

OVER the past month or so we’ve published 10 articles about Microsoft siccing patent trolls on GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. It’s already happening on the face of it (we have since our last article learned that the Toyota patent deal covers “OS” and “file systems”, i.e. Linux), and LG adopts similar tactics that prevent responsibility/reaction by ‘proxifying’ to trolls (see this old cartoon about it — one that we’ve just ‘massaged’ or flattened to fit our layout above). This is the kind of thing OIN was supposed to protect against, but we have hardly seen any evidence of effective defense (OIN told one such tale about half a decade ago, but nothing since).

“OIN cannot guard against this.”The idea that OIN will somehow ‘snatch’ patents before they reach trolls (even where Microsoft arranges for others’ passage, e.g. from Nokia to MOSAID/Conversant) assumes that Microsoft is naïve. See what happened with CPTN. OIN cannot guard against this. OIN is not the solution to the core issue, which is patents on software. OIN stakeholders, in particular the large ones, don’t want patents on software to stop. They want GNU/Linux and they want patents on software too; they want the impossible!

Over in India, thanks to vigilant populace and local businesses, software patents have been kept illegal all these years. Infosys, a Microsoft proxy which had a change of heart on software patents (because they’re impossible to attain/enforce), joins the Open Invention Network this week [1, 2, 3, 4]. It’s rather surprising, but given the nationality of Infosys (Indian), this is not entirely shocking. Their CEO has actually lashed out at software patents — a move which we very much welcome.

“OIN is not the solution to the core issue, which is patents on software.”Over in the United States, there is still some uncertainty over the death of software patents. Companies generally know that courts are hostile towards software patents (the higher the court, the more hostile) and fewer of them — albeit not all — dare sue. It’s the initiation of a long and expensive process which typically yields nothing after Alice (only court and lawyers’ fees).

IAM, an enemy of India [1, 2, 3] and a proponent of software patents (also the mouthpiece of patent trolls, as we last showed yesterday), worries about an impending SCOTUS ruling which would most likely further inhibit patent trolls and software patents in the US. IAM wrote the following yesterday:

As anyone with even a cursory interest in patents could tell you, this means that as things stand a large proportion of patent suits are concentrated in the Eastern District of Texas, which because of its handling of issues such as discovery and early case motions, is perceived to be particularly plaintiff friendly.

Because it is. And it’s even advertising itself as such! So much for justice! It’s like a disciplinary committee under Battistelli, which evidently continues to be a problem [PDF].

“Over in the United States, there is still some uncertainty over the death of software patents.”According to this new article (sheltered behind a paywall, as usual), the USPTO is probably realising that software patents are a thing of the past. To quote the summary:

Recent Federal Circuit decisions, and updated Guidance issued by the USPTO have provided practitioners with a new roadmap to navigate the minefield left in the wake of the “Alice” case.

Alice, as we repeatedly noted last year, is here to stay. There are no signs that Justices will revisit the matter (patentability of software) any time soon. Instead, again behind paywall, Justices now look into other matters. MIP give paying subscribers a glimpse at what happens in Impression v Lexmark (oral arguments). It’s a SCOTUS patent case which along with TC Heartland will quite likely further restrict patent scope in the US (a much-needed and overdue reform).

LG Not Only Suing Rivals Using Patents But is Also Passing Patents for Trolls Like Sentegra to Sue

Posted in Asia, GNU/Linux, LG, Patents at 4:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LG is copying Microsoft (or Microsoft’s method of attacking its competition)

LG

Summary: LG gives yet more reasons for a boycott, having just leveraged not just patents but also patent trolls in a battle against a competitor

TEN years ago we called for a boycott of LG, after it had agreed to pay Microsoft for Linux (over alleged patents). LG did not even put up a fight and later it adopted Android.

LG is now turning hostile even against Android (and by extension Linux), taking advantage of the US-centric ITC. It has has begun legal action. Korean companies going aggressive with patents is rather unusual (cultural reasons), but apparently not anymore. The trolls’ voice, IAM, reveals that LG used to do this via trolls. To quote the relevant parts (below):

LG Electronics appears to have launched its first-ever patent enforcement actions in the United States with a Delaware district lawsuit and International Trade Commission (ITC) complaint targeting US phone maker Blu Products.

LG’s complaint and exhibits as filed with the Delaware district court are currently under seal, while any documentation outlining the ITC filing is apparently yet to be published. As such, details are thin on the ground at the moment, though some particulars can be determined from an LG press release announcing the actions.

[...]

Indeed, these latest LG filings are not even the first time that Blu has been sued using LG patents. In January, Blu was named in litigation filed in the District of Colorado by an NPE named Sentegra LLC. One of two patents asserted by Sentegra against Blu had originally been owned by LG, and had been assigned to the NPE by the South Korean company in November 2015.

LG is doing this not in Texas but in Delaware, with the troll in Colorado. We’re going to keep an eye on this because it represent a new kind of threat and this time it comes from Korea, for a change.

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.

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