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11.07.17

Microsoft and Its Patent Trolls Pick Up Patents Whilst Attacking GNU/Linux and Dodging Infringement

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 7:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“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

Mafia

Summary: Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures are still pursuing and picking up patents of defunct operations; at the same time they leverage such patents against Microsoft’s competition, notably products/services with GNU/Linux

PATENT blackmail and extortion giant Microsoft has been the subject of this site for 11 years (it's our anniversary today). It was the original issue which gave purpose to this site. Microsoft decided to threaten and bully GNU/Linux OEMs, bolstered by a deal it had struck with Novell in November 2006.

“We need to keep an eye on this because Microsoft already reproduces its Novell strategy by offering indemnification only to people who pay Microsoft monthly rents…”According to this morning’s blog post from a Microsoft- and trolls-friendly site, Microsoft picks up more patents with which to habitually attack GNU/Linux OEMs. “The most recent assignment,” it says, “recorded one week ago, is Seiko Epson’s biggest of 2017 so far. Microsoft looks to be getting 33 US patent rights as part of an overall global package of just under 130 assets. While Microsoft has picked up significant portfolios in the last few years from the likes of Toshiba and LG Electronics, it is not a regular acquirer portfolios from other operating companies; that may be changing, though, as the company expands its ‘patent pick’ offering to cloud customers through the Azure IP Advantage programme.”

It then speaks of Intellectual Ventures (IV), Microsoft’s biggest patent troll with over 70,000 patents and Microsoft’s former CTO in sole charge. “If this last portfolio is NPE-bound,” the blog says. “it is not necessarily the first time that Seiko Epson has done a deal with this type of entity (even excepting IP Bridge!). In 2016, the Japanese firm transferred 53 US patents to Intellectuals High-Tech KFT, which IAM reported appears to be an Intellectual Ventures vehicle. Those assets did not end up in litigation however – they were soon passed on to a Chinese display maker.”

“As it stands at the moment, Microsoft is believed to be pocketing billions of dollars each year from threatening Linux hosts/OEMs using software patents.”We need to keep an eye on this because Microsoft already reproduces its Novell strategy by offering indemnification only to people who pay Microsoft monthly rents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] (while at the the same time distributing patents to aggressive patent trolls, both directly and indirectly).

In other news, regarding MasterMine v Microsoft (covered here over the weekend, back in the summer and the week before that), Peter Leung from Bloomberg speaks of Microsoft’s setback:

Microsoft Corp.’s software doesn’t infringe two patents on exporting data to spreadsheets, a federal appeals court held Oct. 30 while also ruling the patents themselves aren’t invalid.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a trial court ruling that several of the claims in patents held by MasterMine Software Inc. were invalid as indefinite because they covered both methods and systems. A patent claim can cover a method for performing a task, or an apparatus, which is often referred to as a system ( MasterMine Software, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp. , Fed. Cir., No. 16-2465, 10/30/17 ).

We don’t believe this case will be enough to compel Microsoft to change its strategy and call for elimination of software patents. As it stands at the moment, Microsoft is believed to be pocketing billions of dollars each year from threatening Linux hosts/OEMs using software patents. They pay ‘protection’ money.

“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

10.28.17

Canon Has Proven That Microsoft’s Shell Game With Patent Trolls Makes ‘Peace’ Deals (Paying ‘Protection’ Money) Futile, Belatedly Joins OIN

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 1:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft will never co-exist with Linux; it just wants to eat it alive

Canon camera

Summary: The Open Invention Network (OIN), whose CEO used to talk about how Microsoft would attempt to pass patents for patent trolls to attack GNU/Linux, adds Canon as a community member and we are attempting to keep track of Microsoft’s intricate shell game (securing a multi-billion dollar patent ‘tax’ on Linux)

THE many patent trolls out there are not the main problem; the main problem is software patents, which patent trolls love to use. Lawsuits may have moved out of Texas, but patent trolls are still active and according to this group which is keeping track of such valuable, illuminating statistics: “Of the 26 patent suits filed on Friday, 15 were filed by patent trolls — that’s 58%.”

“Shortly after Microsoft blackmailed Canon for using Linux — using software patents as an extortion tool — Canon was sued by Microsoft’s biggest troll (Intellectual Ventures).”Sometimes it’s more like 90%. It depends on the day. We once estimated that about 90% of “news” about patents also boil down to lies and marketing from the patent ‘industry’, so it’s not easy to get the truth in this domain. One had to dig quite deep.

As we noted here before [1, 2], shortly after Canon had signed a patent agreement with Microsoft (probably protection racket) Microsoft’s biggest patent troll attacked Canon. These deals may be worthless if companies can go behind one’s back and send trolls to attack so-called ‘allies’. Several days ago Canon announced that it was joining the Open Invention Network (OIN), but that’s not going to protect is from patent trolls. Shortly after Microsoft blackmailed Canon for using Linux — using software patents as an extortion tool — Canon was sued by Microsoft’s biggest troll (Intellectual Ventures). How can OIN help in such a scenario? There is nothing it can do. Here is what the press release says:

Open Invention Network (OIN), the largest patent non-aggression community in history, announced today that Canon has joined as a community member. As a global leader in such fields as professional and consumer imaging and printing systems and solutions, and having expanded its medical and industrial equipment businesses, Canon is demonstrating its commitment to open source software as an enabler of innovation across a wide spectrum of industries.

“A key innovator in many technologies, Canon is one of the world’s most sophisticated corporations in developing and managing intellectual property,” said Keith Bergelt, CEO of OIN. “Canon has further distinguished itself by joining both the LOT Network and OIN. As a large patent holder, Canon has recognized the importance of participating in these complementary defensive patent networks together as part of a comprehensive IP strategy.”

“Open source technology, especially Linux, has led to profound increases in capabilities across a number of key industries, while increasing overall product and service efficiency,” said Hideki Sanatake, an Executive Officer, Deputy Group Executive of Corporate Intellectual Properties and Legal Headquarters at Canon. “By joining Open Invention Network, we are demonstrating our continued commitment to innovation, and supporting it with patent non-aggression in Linux.”

It speaks of “patent non-aggression in Linux,” but Microsoft is still aggressive (with patents) against Linux and it claims to be a ‘contributor’ to Linux (it certainly contributes to headaches). Microsoft’s ‘contributions’ in Munich speak for themselves. Financial ‘contributions’ to officials more-like…

“Dominion Harbor received a lot of patents from Microsoft’s patent troll (Intellectual Ventures) and a similar number of patents is passed from the Microsoft-connected Nokia.”Last week we mentioned VirnetX, which is a patent troll that got paid by Microsoft. It is still suing Apple, again earlier this month, and the following new blog post mentions Document Security Systems (DDS) in relation to the same business [sic] model of patent trolls. They intend to do nothing but prey on companies; no products in the pipeline:

Back in June, VirnetX Holding Corp announced plans to sell a 10% stake in itself to an obscure Japanese partner billed as a consortium of Japanese corporations and financial institutions. The PIPCO (which trades on the NYSE American exchange) was set to gain $20 million in expansion capital as well as an entrée into a potentially lucrative market for licensing its secure communications technologies and patents. But according to recent SEC filings, the stake in VirnetX will no longer change hands after the company’s favourable US district court verdict against Apple boosted its share price.

[...]

Times are tough for PIPCOs, no doubt, and it can’t be easy for them to find investors. VirnetX isn’t the only such company we’ve seen look to Asia for financing: Document Security Systems did a stock swap with a Singapore businessman only last month to save itself from being de-listed from the NYSE American exchange. Listed licensing companies understandably want to diversify, and Asia is a natural ground for expansion. But the big patent players in Asia have so far focused their partnerships on private NPEs and national patent funds like IP Bridge and Intellectual Discovery. I don’t expect that will change anytime soon.

This same blog, which favours patent trolls (we track it for information about trolls), speaks about InterDigital. We have been writing about InterDigital since 2007 and it turns out now that an antitrust investigation against it falls through. Here they go again pursuing a tax (share of it) on every mobile device:

What it doesn’t include, though, is some of the other giant SEP holders such as Qualcomm, InterDigital, Ericsson and Nokia. They have largely resisted attempts to license their wireless patents through pools, although the first three have joined Avanci, the collective licensing platform headed by former Ericsson CIPO Kasim Alfalahi that is looking to license patents relating to 2G, 3G and 4G mobile technology in a number of different Internet of Things (IoT) verticals.

What’s also worth noticing is that Nokia (mentioned above) has just passed thousands of patents to some obscure entity. We previously showed how Microsoft-connected patent trolls had been fed by Microsoft in order for them to attack Microsoft’s rivals. That’s why the following might be important. Portions from this new blog post:

Last Friday, this blog broke the story of a huge portfolio of Nokia assets that had been acquired by Provenance Asset Group, a company set up by IP advisory business Quatela Lynch McCurdy (QLM). With around 4,000 US assets it looks to be amomg the largest transactions so far in 2017.

[...]

Nokia’s recent spate of transfers is one reason for the significant jump. As well as the large stockpile recently acquired by PAG, the Finnish telco has also put a portfolio of 6,000 patents up for sale through AQUA Licensing. Following its purchase of Alcatel-Lucent last year, which significantly boosted its patent reserves, Nokia has clearly been busy assessing the size and scope of its portfolio. Intellectual Ventures has also shaken up the secondary deals market, significantly ramping up its rate of sales including, earlier this year, the disposal of around 4,000 former Kodak patents to Dominion Harbor.

Dominion Harbor received a lot of patents from Microsoft’s patent troll (Intellectual Ventures) and a similar number of patents is passed from the Microsoft-connected Nokia. Does that mean that Android will be targeted next? Time will tell, but that seems likely.

Microsoft is trying to make this entire space very toxic (lots of patent lawsuits and patent tax) in order to entice companies/people into Azure for perceived ‘safety’ [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]. That’s how it also coerces Android OEMs into pre-installing Microsoft software.

10.21.17

Microsoft and Nokia’s Patent Trolls by Proxy: First Conversant, Now Provenance Asset Group Holdings LLC

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 6:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Provenance Asset Group Holdings has no presence on the Web; it’s only mentioned by IAM and this shady page

Rhode Island courtSummary: Microsoft’s shell game with patents (passing Android-hostile patents to trolls) carries on and publishers funded by these trolls offer the details, albeit vaguely and with obvious spin

FIVE years ago, after this long case which we had been covering for a long time, Uniloc was probably paid hundreds of millions of dollars by Microsoft (they never revealed the exact amount of money).

“Microsoft also fed Nokia’s patents to MOSAID (now known as Conversant, one of the funding sources of IAM) and Google complained that Microsoft was feeding this patent troll in order to extort Android OEMs.”This patent troll, Uniloc, does not make anything. It’s just suing a lot of companies and it is still going after Apple. This post from last night said:

After a brief hiatus, patent troll Uniloc is back and looking to milk Apple for claimed damages and fees related to allegedly infringed patents, this time involving Apple Watch GPS functionality.

At the same time we also see Nokia, not too long after it was hijacked by Microsoft (the Elop routine), shaking down Apple for a lot of money (possibly several billions of dollars) and BlackBerry is going down a similar route.

“Basically, Microsoft not only killed Nokia’s business but it is also making it a patent troll, sometimes by proxy (by passing Nokia’s patents to classic trolls).”As a reminder, Microsoft also fed Nokia’s patents to MOSAID (now known as Conversant, one of the funding sources of IAM) and Google complained that Microsoft was feeding this patent troll in order to extort Android OEMs. Basically, Microsoft not only killed Nokia’s business but it is also making it a patent troll, sometimes by proxy (by passing Nokia’s patents to classic trolls).

Yesterday this blog post from IAM revealed that yet more of Nokia’s patents are being scattered to trolls. Acacia, which is connected to Microsoft, got mentioned and also Conversant, which pays IAM for such bias. Here we go again:

In what looks like one of the biggest patent deals of the year so far, Nokia has transferred a portfolio of almost 4,000 US grants to an entity called Provenance Asset Group Holdings LLC. The deal was recorded on the USPTO assignment database in mid-September. Although full details of the deal and the team behind Provenance are not yet clear, former AST head and RPX executive Dan McCurdy lists on his LinkedIn page that he became CEO of Provenance in September 2017. Late last year McCurdy left RPX to team up with Tim Lynch and Laura Quatela’s IP advisory business which is now known as Quatela Lynch McCurdy. Quatela is currently the chief legal officer at Lenovo but previously served as vice president of IP at Alcatel Lucent where she was based at the time of Nokia’s initial bid for the company.

[...]

Ever since it started to re-order its operations including the sale of its devices business to Microsoft, the Finnish company has been a relatively active seller of patents including to the likes of Acacia and Conversant. In a tough assertion market those assets have been monetised with varying degrees of success, but it’s interesting that with this latest transfer the giant telco has opted to work with one entity rather than do a series of smaller deals. The portfolio currently being sold by AQUA has been made available to buy in whole or in part.

It will be interesting to see what happens with these patents next (if not behind closed doors then out in public). Never underestimate Microsoft’s hatred of Linux, Google, and Android (unless Microsoft can blackmail the OEMs into pre-loading Android with Microsoft software).

10.14.17

Patents Are Turning BlackBerry and Nokia, Which Used Android, Into Anti-Android Fronts That Tax Android OEMs

Posted in America, Courtroom, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft at 4:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

When patents are treated like an ‘insurance’ plan for the moment business runs dry

BlackBerry finances

Summary: The Canadian BlackBerry has sued BLU in the US only to compel it to pay ‘protection’ money; Nokia’s patents are being scattered to trolls, which are doing something similar (without risking litigation themselves)

MR. Kokes has left BlackBerry, but his ugly and (self-)destructive legacy remains. It probably won’t be long before BlackBerry’s bankruptcy (maybe a couple of years). What would happen to the company’s trove of patents then? BlackBerry has a very large number of patents. Would these be sold to trolls? BlackBerry’s rise and fall were pretty fast (in relative terms), which means that many patents remain that aren’t expired and can potentially do a lot of damage.

Currently, things are not rosy. It has been pretty grim for a number of years. BlackBerry already operates a bit like a troll. The patent microcosm crafts many misleading terms by which to refer to such behaviour, so the term “troll” is only occasionally used in relation to BlackBerry (some of the mainstream media did this years ago). If only the public knew better what BlackBerry had been reduced to…

“BlackBerry already operates a bit like a troll.”When patent litigation/settlement is being framed as “licensing” and then “technology transfer” (see this new example) it’s difficult to trust the mainstream media. Days ago there were many articles to that effect, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4]. They were all about BlackBerry and BLU, but the headlines were mostly misleading. The outcome of the trial makes one wonder if the BlackBerry “licensing” campaign is nothing but a cover for blackmail; in other words, maybe the true story is that BlackBerry threatens litigation and when there’s settlement it’s touted as an amicable agreement instead (Microsoft does its blackmail this way). Remember that
BlackBerry uses patents against Android OEMs and even takes litigation down to Texas (BlackBerry is based in Canada).

“BlackBerry is a lost cause. It’s just a pile of patents now.”Here is what Indian media wrote, what Canadian media wrote, and what Android sites wrote yesterday [1, 2]. These mostly repeat the same euphemisms as the press release [1, 2], which went along the lines of “BlackBerry (BBRY) Announces Patent License Agreement with BLU Products”. To quote: “BlackBerry Limited (NASDAQ: BBRY) and BLU Products announced today they have entered into a patent license agreement. This will result in settlement of all existing patent litigation between the two companies and withdrawal of pending actions in the United States. The financial structure of the agreement includes on-going payments from BLU Products to BlackBerry. Additional terms of the agreement are confidential.”

They keep it secret, as usual. This secrecy is intended to help BlackBerry leverage better negotiation power in ‘protection’ money (or “settlement” as they euphemistically call it).

“This secrecy is intended to help BlackBerry leverage better negotiation power in ‘protection’ money (or “settlement” as they euphemistically call it)”BlackBerry is a lost cause. It’s just a pile of patents now. A better coverage said “Here’s How BlackBerry Plans to End Its Patent Dispute With This Google Android Phone Maker” or “BlackBerry details patent deal with Android maker BLU” (Reuters).

Reuters actually wrote not one but two articles about this [1, 2], emphasising the role of Android in the grand scheme of things:

BlackBerry Ltd (BB.TO) said on Thursday it signed a new license agreement with BLU Products Inc, a Florida-based maker of low-end Android phones, that would end patent disputes between the two companies.

Canada’s BlackBerry filed lawsuits against BLU in 2016, as part of the handset-maker-turned-software-company’s move to make cash off a bunch of technology patents it had collected in its heyday.

Does BlackBerry intend to use this to demand money from many more Android OEMs? “They still own QNX,” one person told me. “It’s a very impressive RTOS.”

“Does BlackBerry intend to use this to demand money from many more Android OEMs?”But it’s competing with Linux and Android.

We are saddened to see not only BlackBerry being reduced to this but also Nokia. Look what Microsoft has turned Nokia into (intentionally, in order to attack rivals). It is connected to MPEG-LA, as explained in
this new report. Apple is being sued by proxy after settling with Nokia:

New patent-holder grabs Nokia patents, sues over Apple iPhones

A patent-holding company that stands to win 12.5 cents for every iPhone sold has filed a new lawsuit (PDF) against Apple.

Ironworks Patents LLC is a patent-enforcement company formed earlier this year, with no apparent business other than filing lawsuits over patents. It’s a business model that’s now decades old, and companies that engage in it are often derided as “patent trolls.”

Yet Ironworks isn’t your everyday patent enforcer. The company has inherited a patent portfolio belonging to MobileMedia Ideas LLC, which has already proven its value. MobileMedia Ideas was a kind of “corporate troll,” majority-owned by a patent pool called MPEG-LA. Minority stakes in MobileMedia were owned by Sony and Nokia, who also provided patents that could be used in lawsuits against other tech companies.

How long before these patents are also used against Android OEMs (if it’s not happening already)? Remember that Microsoft has already passed some of Nokia’s patents to this notorious patent troll.

09.28.17

Microsoft is Doing to ‘Open Source’ (OSI) What it Did to W3C

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 11:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Mind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input. Take control of the channels by which developers receive information, then they can only think about the things you tell them. Thus, you control mindshare!”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Summary: The corporate/mainstream media keeps telling us that Microsoft has changed and can now be trusted within its competition, but this media merely plays along with an expensive PR campaign which is intended to shift attention and systematically launder Microsoft’s reputation

THE OSI is responsible for the term “Open Source” and thus the FSD. Jargon and history aside, even though OSI has become pretty irrelevant (it does not do much enforcement of the brand anymore), it still represents something pretty important. It was only a matter of time before Microsoft managed to sneak in (the requirement is basically little more than a payment).

“It was only a matter of time before Microsoft managed to sneak in (the requirement is basically little more than a payment).”We are not interested in writing about Microsoft. We would rather focus on the EPO and patents in general. But seeing what happened to the mainstream media, we cannot keep silent. It not only promoted proprietary Microsoft software in “Linux” (or “open”) clothing but also engaged in rather gross revisionism and misrepresentation of the Free/Open Source software community. It’s almost as though the mainstream media now actively and consciously participates in a PR campaign.

Earlier today the head of the FSFE wrote a couple of tweets. The first one said: “Microsoft is doing a mini-”survey” @OpenSourceLx on their “relationship” with Linux.”

Notice the tongue in cheek-like tone. “Send me your answers,” he wrote, “I’ll use the best ones.”

“Watch what Microsoft does with patents and see what it is doing in Munich, too. There’s no doubt about it; Microsoft attacks GNU/Linux.”“Finally got round to filling in the Microsoft survey,” he wrote later (there are photos with these tweets).

As one can tell, FSFE does not like Microsoft and people out there don’t like Microsoft either. But based on what the mainstream media tells us, we’re supposed to think or believe otherwise. Hence the necessity of this post. Watch what Microsoft does with patents and see what it is doing in Munich, too. There’s no doubt about it; Microsoft attacks GNU/Linux.

The mainstream media, conveniently enough, rarely writes about these attacks. It certainly looks the other way every time Microsoft sends some patent trolls to attack rivals. What happened to investigative, independent journalism? No money in it?

The mainstream media was certainly right on the scene to mention Microsoft joining (i.e. paying) the OSI. We posted links to many articles about it; it’s in our daily links (with some accompanying commentary). It went further with all these ridiculous characterisations of Microsoft as an “Open Source company” which now “loves Linux”. Obviously a lot of people out there raised their eyebrows and shrugged. “This isn’t true,” they said to themselves. The media, moreover, tried to get across the message that FOSS geeks are now “OK” with Microsoft. Even Tim Bray wrote a post to that effect the other day (we argued about it and he eventually accepted my point).

“As these lies keep spreading around the Web people might be misled and therefore a rebuttal may be needed, not just in commenting sections/replies (almost all the comments we have seen are against Microsoft as readers are rejecting the assertions made by the articles’ authors).”Geeks are not “OK” with Microsoft, but a lot of marketing is supposed to give us the impressions that things have changed and only “radicals” still “hate” (they use that word to describe reactionary distrust) Microsoft. Today we even saw LWN writing about it, linking to the party which Microsoft has just paid (obviously it can only say positive things; it’s being paid to do that).

As these lies keep spreading around the Web people might be misled and therefore a rebuttal may be needed, not just in commenting sections/replies (almost all the comments we have seen are against Microsoft as readers are rejecting the assertions made by the articles’ authors). The media keeps writing about it, even today [1, 2], so it’s hard to keep track of all the nonsense and rebut it all in one place. It’s now scattered everywhere. In one example from today Microsoft and/or gullible reporters are trying to reframe “Linux” as just a “feature” of Windows. How about this for a headline today?

On Windows, PowerShell vs. Bash comparison gets interesting

We are saddened to see this. So is Richard Stallman, who is reading Techrights and recently had the opportunity to comment (in the mainstream media) on things like the above.

Microsoft PR money (or covert ‘bribes’) to supposedly FOSS-centric organisations can show that we’re not any more immune/robust to subversion than W3C was (the DRM crisis). “Microsoft loves Linux” is nothing but an expensive PR campaign designed to disguise/distract from a patent attacks (like the Novell deal of 2006). I spent many years of my life refuting their lies about that.

“Microsoft PR money (or covert ‘bribes’) to supposedly FOSS-centric organisations can show that we’re not any more immune/robust to subversion than W3C was (the DRM crisis).”As I put it yesterday, I had stopped writing articles about Microsoft a few years back. But I find it hard when they (1) attack GNU/Linux secretly and (2) bribe media for PR. Meanwhile, Microsoft is blackmailing GNU/Linux for billions of dollars; what does the media say? Hey, let’s focus on millions of dollars it invests in W3C-type entryism and frame it as “altruistic”.

This morning we saw Mike Milinkovich‏ (Eclipse Foundation chief) linking to this article. Responses to apologists of this move are more revealing than the apologists. Just see the comments; “since Microsoft is now paying your foundation,” I told him, “you would rather think it won’t stab you in the back like it did W3C” (the DRM thing).

“Now they have effectively kill[ed] the web, they move on to OSS,” one comment said.

“No amount of sponsorship will make the Halloween documents from Microsoft disappear down the memory hole,” said another comment. “This is just another EEE play” (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish).

“Meanwhile, Microsoft is blackmailing GNU/Linux for billions of dollars; what does the media say? Hey, let’s focus on millions of dollars it invests in W3C-type entryism and frame it as “altruistic”.”I added: “How can we ignore Microsoft blackmailing Free software and GNU/Linux using software patents in 2017?”

Citing a famous video that we used before, another person wrote [1, 2]: “Sir Humphrey Appleby explains why Microsoft is joining the Open Source Initiative: You have to get behind someone in order to stab them in the back. Windows and Office are proprietary. Microsoft doesn’t respect user freedom” (or even openness).

In 2017 Microsoft’s strategy is:

  1. Pass patents to trolls.
  2. Blackmail/’monetise’ GNU/Linux
  3. Bring money to LF/OSI/Linux OEMs
  4. “That’ll keep em quiet!” (3)

Microsoft is now behaving like Monsanto or Saudi Arabia. It now gives money to those who criticised it and pays the media to commission ‘articles’ (PR) while gagging itself when it comes to criticism (biting the hand that feeds). Quite a few writers who cover GNU/Linux now need to wear a badge (or add a disclosure) to the effect of (partly) “Microsoft-funded” because those who pay them to write articles are receiving a lot of money from Microsoft. That includes the Linux Foundation, which sometimes ‘forgets’ to add disclosures.

Based on comments that I have seen online (not so-called ‘journalists’ paid/commissioned by Microsoft-funded organisations), people aren’t falling for the PR campaign. Not many people bother reading comments, however, so the PR might still be effective.

“Paying the media to relay messages (and sometimes graphics/banners) like “Microsoft loves Linux” may be a waste of money.”Microsoft will learn the hard way that GNU/Linux users aren’t stupid enough (or stupid as Microsoft needs them to be). Maybe MBAs who make technology choices are sometimes gullible enough, but not technical people. Paying the media to relay messages (and sometimes graphics/banners) like “Microsoft loves Linux” may be a waste of money. It sometimes only angers if not enrages those who truly care about — not merely exploit — GNU/Linux.

Here is one comment from Phoronix:

Microsoft is charging Android manufacturers $1B/yr for Linux patents, and giving a couple million back in PR (and to keep that revenue stream going). And if you don’t think that Microsoft’s lawyers are working on figuring out how its contributions in software and dollars can be used to claim ownership, then you’re probably too young to remember the thousands of companies that Microsoft consumed to get where it is. Remember, patent law allowed a company to take away the lawn string trimmer (“Weed Eater”) from the man that invented it. It’s not about logic or what’s right, it’s what lawyers do.

Whatever you read about Microsoft these days, be careful. They’re pouring a lot of money into PR and a charm offensive. They are literally paying to relay lies about themselves. There’s a whole industry which does just that and in the US alone it’s valued at over a trillion dollars.

09.22.17

Intellectual Ventures, GNU/Linux/Android/FOSS Patents, and the Ascent of European Patent Trolls

Posted in Antitrust, Asia, Europe, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 3:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The existing status of GNU/Linux in a world full of patent trolls, which not only target OEMs from Asia — typically in the US — but are also dragging them into Europe, aided by the EPO’s ‘patent bubble’

THE FREE/LIBRE software world is thriving. It’s spreading everywhere. But that does not mean that users of such software are protected from frivolous lawsuits, especially in countries where software patents exist. Developers too are occasionally being threatened or sued; we have given examples where projects got shut down due to these actions.

Readers might rightly wonder why we haven’t said a single thing about Red Hat’s latest press release; we instead included about a dozen stories in our daily links under the Red Hat section (not much new there, just reiteration of a promise from a decade and a half ago). We are more concerned about real, existing, potent threats to software.

According to today’s blog post from IAM, Microsoft’s patent troll Nathan Myhrvold now dominates the world’s largest troll, Intellectual Ventures. IAM is a fan of his and this is what it wrote:

Intellectual Ventures founder Greg Gorder has left the firm, becoming the latest of the quartet of its founders to step away from the business, following Peter Detkin and Ed Jung. According to his bio, which remains on the IV website, Gorder left earlier this month and will now “focus on his family’s philanthropic activities”.

Detkin stood down as vice chairman in January 2015, although he has continued to devote part of his time to IV-related work. Earlier this year he became a senior adviser to Sherpa Technology Group, the consulting business that was established by former VP of IP at IBM and IP Hall of Fame member Kevin Rivette. Jung also took on a new role at the start of the year, becoming CEO of Xinova, the innovation business that was spun out of IV in 2016.

“Intellectual property is the next software,” Myhrvold once said. It means that to him it’s all about patents. This Microsoft-connected patent troll is already suing quite a few companies that distribute BSD and/or GNU/Linux. It’s not a matter of “if” or “when”. The battle began years ago, but Intellectual Ventures operates through various shells. One of those is Dominion Harbor, which is publicly defaming me and smearing the EFF. To them, there’s much money at stake.

“HTC took some of these patents for defensive purposes after Apple and Microsoft had sued or blackmailed.”As is widely known by now (it’s in our daily links also), Google is taking over a large portion of HTC and IAM notes that “HTC does have around 2,000 US patents including third-party assets from the likes of HP, NEC and Nokia. It is now clear that those patents will stay in the Taiwanese company’s possession.”

HTC took some of these patents for defensive purposes after Apple and Microsoft had sued or blackmailed. HTC was Apple’s first Android target (before Apple moved on to Samsung, the largest Android OEM at the time).

Samsung’s home base, South Korea, still seems to have very low tolerance for patent parasites/trolls (and the likes of them). IAM says that the new antitrust boss (KFTC) will be tough on those who seek to restrict competition using patents:

Over the past few years, South Korea’s antitrust regulator has been one of the toughest on issues of intellectual property. Now, the leader of the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) says the body is about to start an inquest focused on how patents affect competition in the Internet of Things (IoT) or 5G space.

KFTC chairman Kim Sang-jo mentioned the role of patents in IoT during an appearance Monday at which he outlined five priorities for competition policy. 5G communications, digital broadcasting and connected devices were named as fields in which the KFTC plans to study the market for “monopolistic and oligopolistic situations”. Apparently the watchdog will establish a “monitoring network for prevention of patent rights abuse”; it is not clear what that means, but if it leads to investigations of specific patent owners, it will make waves given the commission’s history of dealing out major fines.

Germany, on the other hand, goes the other way, with the EPO being a prominent symptom of it. German companies, in a country where trolling has become a fast-growing epidemic, are stockpiling patents and Florian Müller expects those companies to become trolls before these patents expire. To quote what he wrote the other day:

Meet the patent trolls of the 2030s: Bosch, Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW

our days before the 67th International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt will end, I’d like to offer a bold prediction: unless a miracle of the kind I can’t imagine happens, Germany’s automotive industry (car manufacturers as well as suppliers) will suffer a fate similar to that of the smartphone divisions of the likes of Nokia and Ericsson, ultimately resulting in “trollification” by the 2030s.

As Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted last month, 52% of all patent filings related to self-driving cars belong to German companies, with Bosch alone (which is number one and followed by Audi and Continental)holding three times as many patents in that field as Google and Apple or Tesla not having any significant patent holdings in that field yet. Besides Bosch, Audi, and Continental, three other German companies are among the top 10 patent holders in this field: BMW, Volkswagen, and Daimler.

Patent filings related to self-driving cars are picking up speed, so the landscape will almost certainly change in some ways in the coming years, but not entirely.

Müller can see these writings on the wall. We could not agree more; the situation at the EPO is untenable and patent grants in Germany are disproportionately high (almost an order of magnitude more than the UK’s). We certainly hope that EPO workers are paying attention to these trends; every patent grant can cause to an innocent engineer an equal (or greater) amount of agony than that inflicted by Battistelli. We’ll say more about patent trolls in our next post.

09.17.17

Microsoft is Promoting Software Patents in India in Another Effort to Undermine Free/Open Source Software, Microsoft-Connected Trolls Are Still Suing

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 3:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Watch the men behind the curtain

Microsoft and trolls

Summary: The ongoing patent threat to Free/libre Open Source software (FLOSS) and the role played by Microsoft in at least much of this threat

THE company which claims that it “loves Linux”, Microsoft, unsurprisingly (given its track record on this) attacks GNU/Linux. It is still promoting software patents in India even though the rules are clearly preventing this. It is not allowed.

“…Microsoft, unsurprisingly (given its track record on this) attacks GNU/Linux.”How do we know?

See this report from a few days ago: “GNLU Centre for IPR in collaboration with GNLU-Microsoft chair on IPR and policy research, is organising a panel discussion on ‘Protecting software’s through Patents: Current Challenges and Future Solutions’ on 7th October, 2017 at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.”

Why would Microsoft organise a discussion on “Protecting software’s [sic] through Patents” in country that does not permit such patents?

“Why would Microsoft organise a discussion on “Protecting software’s [sic] through Patents” in country that does not permit such patents?”The matter of fact is, Microsoft is still an enemy of GNU/Linux, yet certain people choose not to see it.

Where is Microsoft when it comes to OIN? Non-aggression is not something Microsoft can commit to. As Simon Phipps keeps stating, he would not believe Microsoft unless or until it decides to join OIN. But that too would not be sufficient because we already know that Microsoft operates through trolls, too.

OIN made the headlines (again) a few days ago. But it required some digging to find (none of the major Linux news sites picked this).

According to the press release, JD.com Joins the Open Invention Network (OIN) ‘Community’, but OIN is not against software patents and it certainly cannot stop patent trolls, even by its very own admission, making itself susceptible to loopholes. To quote from the press release:

“The retail space is undergoing a significant sea change — perhaps the largest in its history — as consumers worldwide continue to accelerate their purchasing via online retailers. To meet this growing demand, sophisticated e-commerce platforms today are built on Linux and adjacent open source technologies,” said Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network. “We greatly appreciate JD.com’s leadership in joining OIN and supporting patent non-aggression.”

OIN is still IBM-led (to some degree) and as we noted in our previous post, IBM lobbies for software patents. To patent aggressors, patent law firms and patent trolls that’s just extra business. Lawyers profit from both sides (plaintiff and defendant). To real companies that champion development/production these lawsuits are nothing but a money drain (lawyers’ gain). To OIN? Well, the greater the fear and uncertainty over patent lawsuits, the more money it will harvest. It just cares about its own relevance, i.e. it benefits from threat.

“Where is Microsoft when it comes to OIN?”Earlier this year we published many articles about Microsoft siccing trolls on its competition while offering ‘protection’ (or indemnification) from these trolls [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. A few days ago we also saw Finjan, a Microsoft-connected patent troll, suing some more companies while attempting to dodge PTAB, which we wrote a lot about earlier today (two articles about PTAB, published earlier today, explain the relation to software patents). Finjan even issued this press release about it to say (about its software patents):

Finjan Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: FNJN), a cybersecurity company, and its subsidiary Finjan, Inc. today provide an update on four separate, but related matters including a summary judgment, IPR proceedings, Germany trial and an oral argument against Blue Coat Systems, Inc. (Blue Coat).

[...]

Second, in post-grant proceedings before the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the PTAB denied two additional Blue Coat petitions for Inter Partes Review (IPR), namely, IPR2017- 00996, which challenged the validity of U.S. Patent No. 9,141,786 (the “’786 Patent”) and IPR2017-00997, which challenged the validity of Finjan’s U.S. Patent No. 9,219,755 (the “’755 Patent”), and instituted trial on IPR2017-00995, which challenges the validity of U.S. Patent No. 9,189,621 (the “’621 Patent”). Notwithstanding institution, Finjan remains confident that the ’621 Patent will survive IPR. To-date only 20% of IPRs have been instituted against Finjan’s patents and, more impressively, after institution, 99% of Finjan’s claims remain intact.

Incidentally, a former adviser of Finjan is unhappy to see them turning to what he called “patent blackmail”. He wrote this a few days ago, right after reading our articles about it.

“Earlier this year we published many article’s about Microsoft siccing trolls on its competition while offering ‘protection’ (or indemnification) from these trolls.”Obviously, Microsoft wants to be seen as a friend of Linux, but all of Microsoft’s competitors seem to be sued by Finjan these days. Almost everybody except Microsoft (which used to lend a hand to this troll). Classy.

Incidentally, the USPTO is nowadays distributing its data in Microsoft OOXML format (which Microsoft famously corrupted ISO for). As Patently-O put it some days ago:

Beginning this week, the USPTO has transitioned its Private Pair system to include text versions of its office action rejections as well as notices of allowances (actual XML and DOCX versions). It is a straightforward step to move these documents into a searchable database available for public consumption.

I’ll note here that the XML/DOCX files are quite nice and, although not well tagged, will make it easy for patent attorneys to cut & paste from the OA in their responses or client emails. The system also includes a new mechanism for submitting documents to the PTO.

The bottom line is, Microsoft has long leveraged software patents to undermine the competition. None of that has changed, it just takes a little more effort to track or trace back to the source.

“The bottom line is, Microsoft has long leveraged software patents to undermine the competition.”We began this post by highlighting what Microsoft had just gone in India and Watchtroll too, only four days ago, did something similar, ascribing the term “IP integrity” to “software patents”. To quote:

Open source software can provide significant benefits to an organization—it can decrease product development time, distribute development across a community, and attract developers to your organization—but some organizations shy away due to perceived risks and disadvantages around intellectual property (IP). Too many people fear that once they’ve incorporated open source into their products or open sourced their own code they’ve surrendered control over their most valuable assets, or even worse, left themselves vulnerable to litigation with no defensive weapons to counter the threat.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Utilizing open source doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. It’s possible to simultaneously support an open source program while maintaining an active IP program. A smart organization can avail themselves of the ease of use and constant updating of code that open source provides, they can identify aspects of their software to open source which are of interest to a broader development community or that encourage adoption of their platform, and they can protect those aspects of their software which are unique to their business or provide a competitive advantage through various IP protections.

“As long as Microsoft so stubbornly pursues software patents, as it has done for well over a decade, it cannot be friends with GNU/Linux.”In reality, the Free software community/ies would rightly shun companies/people for bringing software patents. Just watch what is happening to Facebook and React these days (the latest development is, WordPress dumped React over it, as noted in our daily links).

Free software and software patents cannot co-exist. As long as Microsoft so stubbornly pursues software patents, as it has done for well over a decade, it cannot be friends with GNU/Linux.

08.29.17

Many Patents Are Being Passed to Android-Hostile Patent Trolls (by the Thousands) and Microsoft is in the Shadows

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft at 11:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Shadow and trees

Summary: Some of the latest moves and actions (and auctions) which pose a danger to GNU/Linux in mobile devices in particular

THE daily (and sometimes bi-daily) links that we post here contain many news items about Android. It’s now dominant with nearly 90% of the mobile market. Android is based on Free/Libre Open Source software (AOSP) and contains Linux at the core, so it matters to us. We are not huge fans of Google, but having said that, Google is at least supporting Linux and not just posting promotional materials like leaflets with heart symbols on them. Microsoft actively attacks Linux in many ways (see recent examples in Munich and even patent lawsuits); Google does not.

“Microsoft actively attacks Linux in many ways (see recent examples in Munich and even patent lawsuits); Google does not.”Earlier today Benjamin Henrion pointed out that David Pridham, “CEO of the patent advisory [sic] Dominion Harbor Group,” now has a blog (even an attack on Google) over at Forbes. Dominion Harbor Group is a patent troll, not “patent advisory” or whatever euphemism they may choose. It’s also connected to Intellectual Ventures, the world’s largest patent troll. So what we have here are anti-Google articles from a man who is connected to Microsoft’s patent troll. Ain’t that just too shallow? Is he going to sue Google next? He recently got a big load of patents from Intellectual Ventures [1, 2]. Such patents can never be used against Microsoft because Intellectual Ventures is deep in the pockets of Microsoft and Bill Gates (at a personal capacity, too).

“Telecom equipment giant Nokia is offloading more than 6,000 patents related to 4G, 5G, SDN, VR, and more in the wake of its recent merger deal with Alcatel-Lucent.”
      –WirelessWeek
A couple of days ago we also learned that after Microsoft ‘took over’ Nokia it is still passing patents to patent trolls which are likely to attack Microsoft’s rivals (even under Microsoft’s direct guidance). This is the latest:

Telecom equipment giant Nokia is offloading more than 6,000 patents related to 4G, 5G, SDN, VR, and more in the wake of its recent merger deal with Alcatel-Lucent.

According to a listing from transaction firm Aqua Licensing LLC, which was first spotted by Law360, Nokia is selling a portfolio containing 6,069 granted patents and 734 patent applications. The patents up for grabs come from patent families in six different technology categories, including Wireless; Services; IP and Networks; Access, Fixed, and Optical Networks; Hardware and Components; and User Experience, Mechanics, and Materials.

How many of these patents (many of which are likely bogus or ripoffs) are going to be used against Android OEMs? As we last showed earlier this year, Nokia is already shaking down some Android OEMs directly. So does Qualcomm, which has taken its battle to Europe in spite such battles being bad for business. The latest on Qualcomm is, they too acknowledged lack of merit in some of the claims:

In early July, Qualcomm brought an ITC complaint against Apple over six non-standard-essential patents (NEPs) related to efficient battery usage, seeking an import ban against iPhones with Intel (or other third-party chips) but not against devices that might include Qualcomm’s own chips.

A couple of weeks ago, the ITC instituted the investigation. As I wrote last month, it would have been unusual for the ITC not to investigate the complaint, despite the partly valid points raised in various public-interest statements.

But something unusual has happened now. On Friday, Qualcomm filed a motion (unopposed by Apple) for partial termination of the investigation by withdrawal of U.S. Patent No. 8,487,658 on a “compact and robust layout shifter design.”

What’s unusual here is not Qualcomm’s decision to drop a patent. I’m sure they’ll drop more as this investigation unfolds because that’s what the ITC expects complainants to do so it can keep its relatively ambitious timelines (Qualcomm’s motion makes reference to the normal course of business at the ITC, though the motion tends to portray a totally ordinary ITC timeline as something special, which it is not in my observation). What is strange and even pretty much unprecedented is the timing: two weeks into a just-launched investigation. In all other cases I’ve watched, with an exception I’ll discuss next, parties withdrew patents after significant procedural progress. At a minimum, parties would want to review the respondent’s non-infringement and/or invalidity arguments. Here, Qualcomm withdrew the patent without anything happening other than Qualcomm having changed its mind.

This case has a lot to do with Android because if Apple loses it, so will Android OEMs (some have already dissented).

As usual, when it comes to large companies like Microsoft, Nokia and Qualcomm (many thousands of patents), they just throw a whole bunch of patents of varying levels of quality to over-encumber the accused with legal fees. When this method targets Android OEMs (many small ones, unlike one large OEM known as Apple) the incentive to fight back or take things to court is very low. Sometimes Google jumps in to assist, but a lot of the time there are back room settlements. We can safely assume that this is part of Microsoft’s patent stacking strategy, so we cannot carry on pretending that Microsoft now “loves Linux”. It’s a colossal lie.

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