Still unleashing trolls like Intellectual Ventures at competitors that are actually successful at selling products
Summary: Like a swarm of blood-sucking bats, patent trolls prey on affluent companies that derive their wealth from GNU/Linux and freedom-respecting software (Free/libre software)
PATENT trolls are not just a nuisance. Sometimes they are intermediaries. For instance, Ericsson used a patent troll in order to sue in London and it won earlier this month. Microsoft does something similar and they both go after devices that run Linux, albeit they attack these not directly. They want the ‘protection’ money without all the negative publicity this entails (brand erosion).
“They want the ‘protection’ money without all the negative publicity this entails (brand erosion).”IAM has published this blog post about “Intellectual Discovery” [sic; twice even, for both words], revealing that it feeds trolls that litigate in the Eastern District of Texas. To quote: “Document Security Systems (DSS) has filed lawsuits in the Eastern District of Texas alleging infringement of LED-related patents acquired from Intellectual Discovery. The assertion campaign – and its eventual outcome – could represent a major test not just for the embattled publicly traded IP company (PIPCO) model, but also for sovereign patent funds (SPFs) and third-party IP litigation funding at a time when pure-play patent monetisation has become riskier than ever before.”
Not too long ago we wrote that “Bascom Research is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lexington Technology Group, which announced its merger with Document Security Systems…”
“Microsoft would be too hypocritical to join Apple in complaints about Qualcomm (which does similar things to Microsoft on the patent front), so its meddling in complaints appear to have adopted a very familiar intermediary.”Bascom became better known for a CAFC case involving software patents (in their favour) — the very thing that CAFC usually bins straight away.
Microsoft would be too hypocritical to join Apple in complaints about Qualcomm (which does similar things to Microsoft on the patent front), so its meddling in complaints appear to have adopted a very familiar intermediary. William New covered this at IP Watch and Florian Müller had beaten him to it with this post based on a quick tipoff. To quote: “I just received–and wanted to immediately share–an open letter addressed by major automotive and information and communications technology companies to President Donald J. Trump, urging him to shield the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from political interference that could derail the ongoing antitrust litigation in the Northern District of California against Qualcomm (this post continues below the document)…”
“Nokia is commercially if not medically/clinically dead, but Microsoft ended up scattering the company’s patents into the hands of patent trolls that Microsoft is able to control.”Worth noting are the non-corporate entities in there. Notice that Microsoft’s AstroTurfing front ACT is in there too. This is a bunch of patent thugs who now devise patent trolls as a weapon against GNU/Linux and Free/libre software, as we explained this month and last month [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. They have, for example, passed Nokia‘s patents to patent trolls like MOSAID (renamed since, after a lot of negative publicity) and today we learn that the Acacia lawsuit which we mentioned here the other day (Friday) utilises a bunch of patents from Nokia in fact! As Joe Mullin put it, the Microsoft-connected Acacia “uses ex-Nokia patents to sue Apple, phone carriers…” (that’s the headline).
The largest publicly traded patent-assertion company, Acacia Research, has launched a new lawsuit (PDF) against Apple and all the major cell phone carriers.
Cellular Communications Equipment, LLC, a unit of Acacia, has sued Apple, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The company says that the five industry giants infringe four patents related to basic cell phone technologies. All four patents originated at Nokia, which has been sharing its patents in so-called “patent privateering” arrangements for some years now.
Another company using Nokia patents, MobileMedia Ideas, won a $3 million jury verdict last year. Nokia did a major deal with another patent-licensing company, Pendrell, in 2013.
Just witness the degree of corruption and recall what Microsoft entryism inside Nokia has caused (we have a lot more to say about it in the future). Nokia is commercially if not medically/clinically dead, but Microsoft ended up scattering the company’s patents into the hands of patent trolls that Microsoft is able to control. Quite a clever strategy… if you want to be evil. █
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Whether it’s called “PAX” or “SuperPAX”, it does not solve the issue but merely exacerbates the patent thicket problem
Summary: One last take on the whole “PAX” brouhaha, which is far from a solution to problems we’re all facing in the software world
THE announcement of “PAX” made a lot of headlines/press last week, e.g. in the financial press1. Well, Android-centric sites covered that quite a lot and to a lesser degree GNU/Linux-centric sites did too (like SJVN2). We wrote several articles about that, e.g. [1, 2]. We believe that as long as the USPTO grants software patents there is room for things like “PAX”, but they are not a solution to the underlying problem, which is the patents themselves (on software).
“We believe that as long as the USPTO grants software patents there is room for things like “PAX”, but they are not a solution to the underlying problem, which is the patents themselves (on software).”Jeff Roberts, a writer whom we respect for his firm grasp of these issues, published the article “Google-Backed Patent Network LOT Adds Cisco, Slack” and separately added: “Patent folks: Google-backed LOT adds Slack & Cisco to its non-aggression pact. (how long till @IBM joins too?)”
Well, IBM has already fed some patents into Android OEMs for defensive purposes (at great cost). It would not be shocking if it joined “PAX” sooner or later, even if it has OIN. Maybe there will even be some bridging between OIN and “PAX”, as one defends GNU/Linux (not just the kernel anymore) and another Android, which uses the Linux kernel and some Free software projects that are covered by OIN.
“Well, IBM has already fed some patents into Android OEMs for defensive purposes (at great cost).”“Collective shields don’t work against trolls,” Benjamin Henrion rightly reminded them. This is why we prefer different approaches. We don’t think that patent pools, even if advertised as “defensive”, will ever lead to eradication of deprecation of software patents. █
1 Google Creates Community License to Unify Android Makers (GOOG, MSFT)
Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google (GOOG) is attempting to create peace in patent litigation.
The Mountain View company launched Android Networked Cross-License or PAX (Latin for Peace), a community license between manufacturers of Android devices that makes their collective patents available to each other minus royalties. “ We call it a community license because all members grant licenses to one another on a royalty-free basis, thereby promoting patent peace within the Android ecosystem,” the company wrote in a blogpost. (See also: Patents Are Assets, So Learn How To Value Them).
Signatories to the patent license include prominent makes of Android phones, such as the likes of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd (SSNLF) and HTC. Collectively, they hold more than 230,000 patents. According to Google, the agreement “materially reduces patent risk.” In other words, this means that members will not sue each other for using Android-related patents in their devices.
2 PAX: Android patent protection consortium formed
OIN was formed in 2005 when Linux was under legal siege from SCO for imaginary copyright violations and then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed Linux violated over 200 Microsoft patents. So, IBM, Sony, Phillips, Red Hat, and Novell formed Open Invention Network (OIN) to defend Linux against IP attacks. Since then, many major companies have joined OIN from both inside the technology business, such as Google and manufacturing companies like Damiler.
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Their biggest sponsors simply do not oppose software patents and instead hoard some themselves
Summary: The arms race of patents, or the notion that bad patents can be countered using more bad patents, has become an infectious mentality that acts as a barrier to real progress and only makes the patent thickets a lot ‘thicker’ (impenetrable to small companies/market entrants)
THE US patent office is no longer as lenient as it used to be, but software patents continue to be granted on occasions and troll lawsuits are still being filed (albeit fewer of them than before). As so many companies out there now use Android (Linux), the targets of litigation are often users/distributors of Android and hence “PAX” has some real/perceived necessity. We recently wrote two articles about PAX [1, 2] and Andrew Updegrove, who had worked for the Linux Foundation, wrote the following about it yesterday, under the headline “Google Announces Android “PAX” Cross-License Program – But to What Purpose?”
The first meaningful OSS defensive initiative was Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), founded back in 2000 by companies like IBM, Intel and HP to reassure developers and customers in the face of the veiled threats then being made by Microsoft against users of Linux and other OSS, and in light of the actual (and ultimately unsuccessful) litigation by SCO, perhaps bankrolled by Microsoft, against four companies using Linux.
Like OSDL, OIN was heavily funded by its founding members and has a high-powered Executive Director and staff. Over 2,000 organizations have now signed the OIN License Agreement, which you can read here, without having to send in a request to be vetted, or incurring a confidentiality obligation.
And then there are the many efforts that were far less meaningful. Beginning with an announcement by IBM on January 11, 2005, many of the leading IT companies made public “patent non-assertion pledges” to reassure users of Linux (and sometimes other prominent OSS programs) that they would not be sued. Those companies ultimately included Motorola, Nokia, Sun, Google, Oracle and others, each publicly releasing its own slightly different legal pledge, and its own specified list of patents – dozens, scores and even hundreds of them. In the case of IBM, the package included exactly 500 patents, an oddly round number. (The same press release also noted that IBM had filed more patents than anyone else for the fourth year in a row, conveying a rather mixed message to the patent-averse open source community.)
PAX and OIN are both ineffective against trolls and as we reminded readers earlier this afternoon, companies like Ericsson and Microsoft pass patents for trolls to sue, bypassing all sorts of alleged defenses such as OIN.
Yesterday or earlier this week, more detailed analysis emerged on the cases involving Samsung, Apple and Qualcomm (which had abused its position against both Samsung and Apple). To quote what Florian Müller wrote this morning:
Procedural decisions relating to two major Apple cases have come down this week. With respect to design patent damages in Apple v. Samsung, Apple did not get its preferred way forward (affirmance of prior damages verdict and an immediate re-retrial necessitated by the Federal Circuit’s dismissal of Apple’s trade dress claims), but the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has granted Apple’s wish that its contract, patent and antitrust action against Qualcomm be kept separate from a long list of (consumer) antitrust cases related to the FTC’s mid-January complaint against Qualcomm.
There isn’t much to say right now about the Apple v. Samsung design patents case. In a case management order handed down on Tuesday, Judge Lucy Koh disagreed with Apple’s most aggressive suggestions, which would have cut the remand proceedings short (after the Federal Circuit decided that the district court should take a closer look at the record in light of the December Supreme Court ruling). I’m not surprised and I doubt Apple itself was.
Qualcomm’s abuses against all sorts of companies were covered here before [1, 2] and where were groups like OIN while this was going on? Nowhere. Because in practice they are something between “deterrent” and “bloody useless”. To properly address these issues, we need to tackle the underlying issues, which are the patents themselves, notably software patents that Qualcomm still uses and advocates for. █
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Ericsson is a patent troll by proxy
Summary: The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is grappling with dubious patents that Ericsson’s patent troll is using against GNU/Linux/Android while this troll continues to taunt and pursue ‘protection’ money from various large Android OEMs, including the largest one (Huawei)
PTAB is an essential ‘tool’ for eliminating bad patents and patent trolls. It can stop them before they even initiate a lawsuit, sometimes before they even make a threat thereof.
“PTAB basically applies the law and does so in an affordable fashion which is thus accessible to small(er) companies.”Google’s petition against Unwired Planet’s patents, as we covered here recently, is an example of this. Unwired Planet is nothing but a troll, and this troll is directly being armed by Ericsson — a company whose aggressive patent strategy IAM has been repeatedly grooming in recent weeks. Here, in this new IAM article, IAM continues to protest against PTAB. “The Patent Trial and Appeal Board,” IAM writes, “has allowed Shire to cancel all claims instituted for inter partes review except for one multiple dependent claim that was amended to depend on only non-instituted claims”
In another new article, IAM’s Richard Lloyd uses talking points from Martin M Zoltick and Derek F Dahlgren from Rothwell Figg; Finnegan’s Jason Stach and Joshua Goldberg; and Scott McKeown from Oblon. They are, as usual, bashing PTAB, which they view as an obstruction to patent maximalism. “Since its establishment in 2012,” Lloyd says, “the Patent Trial and Appeal Board has reshaped the US patent litigation landscape. Whether you think it is helping to improve patent quality or killing IP rights, there is no doubt that the changes have been profound…”
Yes, and yet, it's under persistent attack/scrutiny from 'Establishment' microcosm like Crouch. They want to stop PTAB and thus empower patent aggression, trolling, etc. There’s no secret about that. They’re hardly even hiding these desires.
In the latest bit from Crouch, which is as usual about PTAB, he writes: “The most interesting aspects of the decision are found under the surprising heading: Prior Judicial Opinions Did Not Bind the PTAB. When taken out-of-context, we can all agree that the statement is silly and wrong. The PTAB is obviously bound by Supreme Court and other precedent.”
“We certainly hope that, especially at this point, Google will appeal and repeal (or invalidate) all of Unwired Planet’s patents.”“The PTAB is obviously bound by Supreme Court and other precedent.”
Well, yes. PTAB basically applies the law and does so in an affordable fashion which is thus accessible to small(er) companies. It’s not surprising that proponents of trolls hate PTAB so much. Trolls rely on being able to go after vulnerable companies one by one and blackmailing them in isolation. PTAB potentially puts that at risk. Moreover, trolls prefer going after Android OEMs rather than after Google itself because the OEMs have less financial incentive to fight back (a costly process); in some rare cases, for this very reason, Google actually helped particular OEMs by buying patents and passing these to the vulnerable OEMs for legal defence, e.g. against Microsoft and Apple.
Going back to our original point about Google’s use of PTAB against the troll (Unwired Planet), see what we wrote about it earlier this week and just over a week ago.
James Nurton, who habitually produces EPO puff pieces, suggested in his latest report that Unwired Planet keeps rolling and trolling Android (Linux) though he did not mention the Ericsson connection (which is rather obvious) and the implications for GNU/Linux. “Unwired Planet,” he wrote, “did not abuse its dominant position by seeking to enforce standard-essential patents against Huawei, and is entitled to damages and possibly an injunction, Mr Justice Birss of the UK Patents Court has ruled…”
This also mentions “the manufacturers Huawei, Samsung and Google.” We are not going to resort to judge bashing (that’s what Watchtroll likes to do) but instead we shall concentrate on the role of Unwired Planet, a satellite of Ericsson.
“Sadly, however, Ericsson has created trolls/proxies other than Unwired Planet and they too are running after legitimate companies all around the world — a strategy now shared by Microsoft.”The Bristows lobbyist quoted the judge as saying: “I have found to be FRAND, and since Unwired Planet are not in breach of competition law, a final injunction to restrain infringement of these two patents by Huawei should be granted.”
We certainly hope that, especially at this point, Google will appeal and repeal (or invalidate) all of Unwired Planet’s patents. It’s a monumental task. It has not much to sue Unwired Planet over because unlike Unwired Planet’s ‘feeder’ (Ericsson) it has no products. Sadly, however, Ericsson has created trolls/proxies other than Unwired Planet and they too are running after legitimate companies all around the world — a strategy now shared by Microsoft.
None of this spurs innovation. It’s more like legalised extortion by losers (those who lost the race on purely technical grounds). As GNU/Linux grows in prominence and dominance we should expect the losing firms (Apple, Microsoft, Ericsson, Nokia and so on) to do nothing but attack with patents, significantly raising the prices of everything and thus harming end users. It’s the hidden cost of public apathy. █
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Now they do this with Azure instead of SUSE, offering selective ‘protection’
“But to the degree that people are going to deploy Linux, we want Suse Linux to have the highest percent share of that, because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft.”
Summary: The strategy of scattering software patents to patent trolls in order for them to sue one’s competition is becoming ever more popular, and not only Microsoft is using this strategy to ‘tax’ GNU/Linux from many directions while the public fails to notice
LINUX devices (sometimes with GNU in them) are taking over the world. GNU/Linux isn’t just the de facto platform of servers anymore; it’s also a de facto platform in the embedded/devices/gadgets space. But Microsoft is eager to turn that into a Microsoft cash cow, e.g. with patented filesystems of Microsoft and much more. Watch TomTom and what Microsoft did to this modest Dutch company 8 years ago. It didn’t end too well for TomTom, which spent a lot of money on lawyers and ended up settling with Microsoft anyway (paying about half a million dollars and surrendering technically too). To Microsoft, the whole lawsuit was a warning shot, designed to scare other small- or medium-sized companies into paying ‘protection’ money without any questions asked. Even when patents granted by the USPTO are not valid elsewhere (no software patents in Europe).
“To Microsoft, the whole lawsuit was a warning shot, designed to scare other small- or medium-sized companies into paying ‘protection’ money without any questions asked.”Linux devices in the form of Android have become bigger (in the installed base/market share sense) than Windows. It’s still all over the news this week. Does that mean that proprietary software giants are doomed? Well, not if they become patent parasites. The top EPO grantee, Philips, has apparently notified Archos, which makes Android devices, that it wants ‘protection’ money. As a reminder, Philips’ patent assertion people are working by proxy via Intertrust among other tentacles. Here is a new article about the subject:
Dutch Court Rules in Standard Essential Patent Abuse of Dominance Claim
After Philips notified Archos that it was using Philips’s SEPs, the two parties entered into negotiations. In July 2015, Philips made Archos an offer of EUR 0.7 per product sold that used UMTS and/or LTE functionality. In January 2016, Archos countered with an offer of EUR 0.07 per product.
That does not even take into account trolls of Philips. Months ago we wrote about Ericsson and Microsoft operating via trolls, in an effort at patent stacking against competitors. The companies pretend to be “fair” and “reasonable” by masking the full extent of their tax, typically with the help of trolls.
In this new article from trolls-friendly media, the author calls tax “royalty” and gives the platform to a company that operates various (far more than one) patent trolls. Here is Ericsson’s talking point:
In a guest post for this blog shortly following the announcement, Eric Stasik of Swedish consulting firm Avvika AB, made the argument that in many way Ericsson’s announcement does not represent a big departure from its approach to 4G/LTE. In 2009, for example, Ericsson disclosed that its royalty rate for 4G/LTE devices was expected to be around 1.5% for handsets. In his piece Stasik then crunched the numbers arguing that for the average device the new rate would not be a significant change on the Swedish company’s approach to 4G/LTE but would be higher for the cheapest devices. At the very top end, he suggested, the new rate would represent a significant discount on the current position.
Conveniently enough, Ericsson does not speak about its patent trolls. It sends patents to them and expects them to ‘monetise’ these, to use their euphemism.
Right now at PTAB, one of the trolls of Ericsson is being challenged for attacking the steward of Android, the most widely used operating system that is based on Linux. Patently-O wrote about it this week:
The Federal Circuit has denied Google’s petition for rehearing en banc. The patent challenger asked the Federal Circuit to overturn Versata in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Cuozzo. The issue is well known to attorneys involved in the post-grant review of covered-business-method (CBM) patents.
According to the statute, the CBM process begins with a petition and institution decision by the Director. Once instituted, the PTAB holds trial and issues a final decision. The statute indicates that CBM review may be instituted “only for” CBM patents but that the Director’s institution decision “shall be final and nonappealable.”
That’s just the latest example (there are more) of Ericsson siccing patent trolls on Android and Linux. Over the years we have covered more such examples. “The Federal Circuit has denied Google’s petition for rehearing en banc of Unwired Planet v. Google,” Mr. Loney wrote and “Dennis Crouch Thinks this Case Is Headed for the Supreme Court,” alleged a proponent of software patents. We have not yet seen PTAB ‘cases’ being escalated so high; we suppose that patent maximalists would like to see PTAB as a whole challenged by the Justices. They have been trying for quite some time. Watch this new guest article which calls PTAB “inter partes review (“IPR”)” something like “proceedings to attack patents” when the reality of the matter is that PTAB does not “attack” anything or anyone. That old spin of law firms attempts to reverse the narrative and cast offense as defense (with words like “kill” and “survive”, where the defendant is the killer and the aggressor is the survivor). As I explained to the site’s administrator (in relation to this guest article), “patents and those who use them attack people/companies; when challenged, the patents are not “attacked”, it’s a defense.”
“These defensive patent pacts have one major loophole: they’re not effective against trolls.”In light of all this, recall what we wrote yesterday about PAX, which is definitely defensive. This was mentioned here the other day because we expect the facts to be twisted by patent maximalists.
“PAX looks a lot like the OIN (Open Invention Network) but Made By Google IMHO,” Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer wrote. “OIN is focused on Linux rather than Android,” I told him, noting that Oracle in OIN had attacked OIN’s Google. These defensive patent pacts have one major loophole: they’re not effective against trolls. Sometimes they even admit this publicly. Benjamin Henrion joked, “let’s submit those 230K patents for an Alice review,” but many of these patents (from the likes of Samsung and LG) are actually hardware patents, so the Alice test isn’t applicable.
It didn’t take long for pundits like Andrew Orlowski to pick on PAX. Here is what he wrote yesterday:
Samsung, LG and Foxconn are among the founding members of a patent pool for Android phone makers under Google’s benevolent eye. Google hopes the “community-driven clearinghouse” for IP sharing will fend off patent trolls.
Google already operates a non-aggression alliance for Android phone makers called License on Transfer, launched 2014, in which patent holders agree not to use them aggressively against other members after the sale of a patent. The LOT Network is run by ARM’s former head of IP, Ken Seddon. That move was designed to deter NPEs (Non-Practising Entities, aka trolls) from buying up industry-standard patents already in patent pools to collect royalties, and stemmed from Google’s panic purchase of Motorola in 2011 for its IP portfolio.
Microsoft and large Chinese vendors are notable by their absence from PAX.
Well, Microsoft sends the trolls to attack the members behind PAX, so why would Microsoft want to join PAX? Microsoft’s strategy as of late has been to sic trolls on those who are not ‘protected’ by Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] and as we recently showed, Microsoft is already doing that together with Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft’s biggest patent troll (also the world’s biggest patent troll).
“We expect a lot more of these trolls to go after Android OEMs, GNU/Linux distributors, so-called ‘cloud’ hosts like Amazon and their clients.”Yesterday, friends of Intellectual Ventures said that this troll now focuses on “monetising existing portfolio through sales and licences,” taking note of Dominion Harbor and Equitable IP (trolls of the troll of Microsoft). To quote: “Earlier this year IV announced the sale of more than 4,000 former Kodak patents to Dominion Harbor and it has made a number of disposals to other monetisation entities, including Equitable IP. Most if not all of those deals have involved some cash upfront with with IV then receiving a portion of future licensing revenues from the assets.”
We expect a lot more of these trolls to go after Android OEMs, GNU/Linux distributors, so-called ‘cloud’ hosts like Amazon and their clients. It’s the only way for Microsoft to survive now that Vista 10 brings no concrete income, just users’ data (while Windows’ relative market share keeps declining across form factors). █
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A slap on the wrist from Microsoft
Summary: Only a week or two after going for Toyota’s bank account (over operating systems and file system patents, i.e. Linux) Microsoft goes after another Japanese giant, Casio, which uses Android
TODAY and yesterday there have been many reports about Windows’ market share dropping below that of Android, which is powered by Linux.
Microsoft can coexist with Linux only as long as Microsoft is controlling and taxing Linux. Microsoft recently did that in cars (the latest victim is Toyota of Japan, in spite of OIN membership and its long tradition with Microsoft) and now it is Casio of Japan. Casio, which uses Linux, was already targeted by Microsoft 6 years ago [1, 2], but this time it’s about Android. This disturbing new development got covered by pro-Microsoft sites, general news sites, and sites about wearable technology, notably watches. Quoting the latter category: “What we do know is that Casio has thus far embraced Android Wear, and that the Casio WSD-F20 will be sporting Wear 2.0 when it hits stores this month. We also know that Casio has spent quite a bit of time customizing the Android Wear Casio experience to make it a little more unique, unlike many other smartwatch makers embracing Google’s smartwatch OS.”
“Microsoft can coexist with Linux only as long as Microsoft is controlling and taxing Linux.”Here is the part about software patents: “And, of course, Microsoft also has plenty of software patents that Casio could use if it wanted to continue to customize Android Wear for its needs – or even if it decided to one day run with its own OS.”
This isn’t about hardware but about software features, which wouldn’t even qualify for patents in the vast majority of the world.
“This isn’t about hardware but about software features, which wouldn’t even qualify for patents in the vast majority of the world.”Recently, as we noted in a series of posts, Microsoft took up a notch its patent war on Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12], culminating in last week’s news about Samsung.
Yesterday, incidentally, the following articles were published:
IAM (last of the above) mentioned Microsoft: “As for HMD, the patent licences it presumably has to Nokia’s and Microsoft’s portfolios as a result of its formation last year are arguably going to offer it a lot more in terms of risk mitigation than the PAX licence. It is hard to see how those who choose to directly monetise their patents (Microsoft, of course, has an extensive Android-relevant portfolio that has helped it to generate significant revenue) will join a community that would substantially restrict their licensing opportunities.”
“The last thing Microsoft wants is an informed public which is able to see that Microsoft eats Linux, it doesn’t love Linux.”IAM, being a Microsoft and trolls proponent (years of tradition to that effect), also said it “would put PAX in a similar bracket to Microsoft’s recently announced Azure IP Advantage programme,” but these are very different things, for a lot of reasons. “Azure IP Advantage” is basically the latest Microsoft trick for gathering patent “royalties” (tax, ‘protection’ money) from GNU/Linux users. PAX is nothing like that at all. PAX is defensive.
It’s not hard to see why large Android OEMs are pooling their patents together. Their common enemy here is notably Apple and/or Microsoft (and the trolls Microsoft is arming to attack Android). Based on the latest news about Casio, Microsoft has truly accelerated its patent assault on Linux and those refusing to see it just need to research the subject further. I have spent over a decade writing about this almost every day, amassing over 22,000 blog posts. The last thing Microsoft wants is an informed public which is able to see that Microsoft eats Linux, it doesn’t love Linux. █
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Samsung was the largest Android OEM when it all started
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.”
“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.”
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Reference: Police get warrant for entire Minnesota city’s Google searches in wire fraud case
Summary: Putting in perspective the campaign for justice at the EPO, which to a large degree relies on whistleblowers and thus depends a great deal on freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and anonymity
WHEN we started covering the social conflict at the EPO (we had already written about the EPO, but different aspects of it, typically but not always software patents in Europe), Merpel had beaten us to it. Merpel started writing about it in early 2014 if not 2013; we only started studying the conflict in early 2014 and published nothing about it until the summer of that year. Prior to that we had written a lot about software patents at the USPTO; remember that this was almost exactly the same time as Alice (summer of 2014), wherein the US Supreme Court ruled against software patents — in retrospect a truly historic decision with profound implications (more so than In Re Bilski).
“In the interim, truth itself got compromised, human rights got abolished, and the workplace atmosphere darkened.”I’ve written about software patents since my teenage years or early twenties (at different capacities), so the subject isn’t new to me. It’s a very important subject, particularly so as more and more things get implemented in software over time. The issues associated with overpatenting visibly irritated EPO staff too. About a decade ago we wrote about and posted many photographs from an EPO walkout. Things got a lot more serious in recent years, as management chose to start a campaign of oppression rather than a process of reconciliation. In the interim, truth itself got compromised, human rights got abolished, and the workplace atmosphere darkened.
IP Kat, to its credit, especially Merpel and Jeremy, wrote about the conflict. But some people chose to move on, possibly at the worst time. “Don’t stop covering the EPO,” one person wrote the other day. “Everything changes, so does the IPKat. Don’t change too much please. It would be good if you could keep some of the charm this blog used to have in abundance under Jeremy, Johanna, Illana, Brigit [sic], David.”
“Jeremy,” another person wrote, “Jeremy! Wherefore art thou Jeremy? Missing you…”
“Many ‘free’ (public) hotspots engage in DPI and try hard to decipher one’s identity, then put the data up for sale.”Well, he retired after he had made a real difference in EPO matters. Since then it has felt like free speech suffered a bit. “I wonder why my comment was deleted,” a person said a couple of days ago, “my question is genuine: what is the point of this post?”
IP Kat censorship has become a real issue that we’ve composed several articles about as some of our readers had their comments deleted. I too had my few comments there deleted. I know the feeling and I know it’s not due to obscenities. And yet, when the EPO censored IP Kat I stood up for them. Now, a year later, rather than the EPO censoring IP Kat it’s IP Kat self-censoring, i.e. not covering EPO scandals anymore.
“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men,” Plato said. It seems apt now.
“For some people, this could potentially be threatening to their career (if Google, which is close to the EPO, was ever to drop a hint to Team Battistelli).”“…a thousand quarrels arise and numberless insults of offensive words could be heard across the IP world,” said this person over the weekend (responses to that were posted last night), but many of these insults are heard offline, not online. When asked about it confidentially, it’s clear how stakeholders feel about the EPO.
Thankfully, quite a few insiders and stakeholders have, over the years, left anonymous comments in IP Kat, which at one point added a restriction by insisting that people at least use a pseudonym (that was about 2 years ago). Such pseudonyms only represent growing danger as they enable correlation between disparate comments, potentially posted from different locations (e.g. one from home and another from a public hotspot somewhere). We have all along warned that Google (which owns and operates Blogspot) cannot be trusted for anonymity and we cited court cases to that effect. Things escalated even further in recent weeks (earlier this month) as Google’s practice of activity/log retention is clearly becoming a liability to users. One journalist asked me about it the other day, knowing that I’ve covered privacy for a number of years. It’s worth quoting just so that readers are aware of the pitfalls of Google for anonymity:
Dear Dr. Roy Schestowitz,
I was forwarded your contact information by █████. My name is ████ Walsh and I write for ████ about digital privacy and > cybersecurity issues. I am currently writing a story about Edina Police in Minnesota being granted a warrant to collect every person’s data that searched for a specific name on Google during a 5 week period. The police believe that someone from the area searched for the victim’s photo on Google to create a fake passport.
The implications for digital privacy are obviously huge, as this could set quite a nasty precedent. The warrant is far too broad and if this type of procedure became the norm it is a slippery slope toward blanket search engine surveillance. The good news is that Google does intend (apparently) to fight the warrant. Any quote on the subject from yourself (plus how you would like me to refer to you in the article) would be a valuable addition to the article. Thanks.
My response was this: “The core of the problem is that Google logs and maintains (in the long run) logs of people who search, what they search for, and even compiles this information (for purposes of advertising or customised results) in a fashion that facilitates such warrants. No search engine ought to collect this much information. People who choose to use search engines that do put themselves at risk of wrongful accusations, i.e. a potential legal Hell even if they are entirely innocent. Society which is based on the principles of privacy is required for free inquiry, be it about a particular topic, a person, and a lot more.”
This is true also for comments, not just search. It is likely that Google has the real identity of each anonymous commenter who ever left a comment at IP Kat (based on browser cookies/MAC address/DPI and so on). Many ‘free’ (public) hotspots engage in DPI and try hard to decipher one’s identity, then put the data up for sale. For some people, this could potentially be threatening to their career (if Google, which is close to the EPO, was ever to drop a hint to Team Battistelli). Such leads needn’t be traceable back to Google if Parallel Construction tricks were implemented. We already know, based on one EPO dismissal (Els Hardon), that EPO investigators managed to intrude Google’s GMail. Whether that was owing to hidden cameras, screenshots, keylogging, DPI or even a tip from Google (or spying agencies that intercept Google traffic and are connected to Control Risks) we don’t know. Whatever the case may be, never trust anything from Google to preserve anonymity or even offer true anonymity in the first place (incompatible with Google’s business model). █
Older: Why Anonymous Dissent Against EPO on Google Platforms May be Risky
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