Large companies love Android but also love patents
Summary: A survey of last week’s news with special focus on Google and Android, which are trying to coexist and thrive in a world full of patent maximalists
ONCE upon a time there was a giant called Xerox that supposedly changed the world by packaging together components that can help replicate documents on a piece of paper. “Xerox” became a household name (or ‘officehold’ name), much like Hoover or Google, although neither was the first to do what it was doing (e.g. search), they just did something very well, perhaps much better than the rest of their industry, at the time they became synonymous with the function at least. Xerox leaned on patents for protectionism, causing all sorts of well-documented issues (not to be covered today) and IP Troll Tracker tells us that Xerox created an entity or a proxy do do its patent aggression. “Xerox is doing just that,” wrote Steph, “preventing its financial coffers from being depleted by abusing the patent system.”
Blackberry, which seems to be transitioning into an(other) Android OEM, just bought a firm, based on financial news sites. “The company’s software sales rose year-over-year,” says one source, “but some analysts were disappointed with the increase because it also included revenue from the licensing of technology patents.”
So Blackberry is already becoming parasitic with its patents, much as we feared a couple of years ago [1, 2] and a year ago [1, 2], alleging that Blackberry was becoming somewhat of a troll or feeder of so-called ‘patent assertion’ entities. What does Google (the Android steward) say about this now that it works with Blackberry on a more secure Android variant? After all, Free software such as Android is inherently incompatible with patents.
“What does “free patents” even mean? It’s a meaningless term.”As we pointed out the other day, some famous Android backers now turn to patents as well. An article by Glyn Moody has warned that “Chinese Smartphone Leader Xiaomi Adds Special New Feature In Order To Enter US Market — A Patent Hoard”. To quote Moody: “The smartphone sector is undergoing an upheaval at the moment, as Chinese manufacturers move up the global market share rankings. Already, the third, fourth and fifth places are occupied by Chinese companies: Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi. But it’s the last of these that has emerged as the real star. Although Xiaomi was only founded in 2010, in 2014, the company sold 61 million phones, and hopes to sell 100 million in 2015. Much of that growth will come from outside China: Xiaomi has already started selling its products across Southeast Asia, especially in India, as well as in Mexico, Turkey, Russia and Brazil.”
Google does not seem to mind this and just like Tesla or Panasonic, Google now uses its growing pile of patents for publicity stunts. Google can’t fight back against trolls as they have no products, but it sure likes to pretend to be a champion against trolls.
“Google wasting resources to fight patent troll,” wrote the President of the FFII about this, for it “won’t work anyway” (he linked to this article about “Troll Deterrent” and “Google holds patent giveaway for startups to ward off trolls”).
We have found nearly a hundred articles about this (effectively serving to amplify Google PR), including [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. Nobody really challenges Google’s claims. It’s a PR charade. There are headlines like “Google Offers Free Patents To Halt The Trolls”. What does “free patents” even mean? It’s a meaningless term. It’s something we might expect lawyers to say because they compare ideas to “property” and implementation to “rights” (among other nonsensical metaphors).
One maker of many Android-running boards, Qualcomm, is now in trouble in Europe (we covered this last week) because of patent aggression that goes a long way back, elevating prices and marginalising competition. One writer from IDG calls the effort to split Qualcomm “patently absurd”. “The proposed breakup of Qualcomm by activist investment firm Jana Partners,” he wrote, “as reported by the Wall Street Journal this week, would be a blunder of biblical proportions. The equivalent of Delilah cutting off Samson’s hair while he slept, dividing Qualcomm into separately traded semiconductor and technology licensing businesses would produce two companies of lesser value than the former whole.”
The question is, will that reduce Qualcomm’s ability to exploit patents in a predatory fashion? Qualcomm has become very notorious for that (globally, not just in Europe). We’re not concerned about the “value [of] the former whole”, just the fairness of the competition and one’s ability to enter the market. It’s very relevant to Linux and Free software because whether people know this or not, many devices running Linux (more so than Windows) use stuff from Qualcomm and pay patent tax to Qualcomm even if they avoid Qualcomm.
There is some other patent news pertaining to Android, such as Google’s dumb CCTV Glasses (the Android-powered ‘Google Glass’). We are reminder of this effort and the ambition to hoard people’s CCTV stream, to be retained/stored on the server for searching, based on a new patent [1, 2. Google is treating human lives as an inventory or a resource, which raises all sorts of ethical questions. Apple is hardly better though because it wants to collect people’s fingerprints based on a new patent. Apple’s advocacy sites celebrate other dumb patents from Apple. Android is often being attacked by Apple using patents, so this is definitely relevant.
In summary, Android exists in a hostile environment. Despite that, Android has become the most dominant platform in the world (in terms of growth, sale numbers and so on), so we need to watch out for patent threats. There will be more of them in years to come and Microsoft is blackmailing Android supporters using patents, still. █
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Seeing the dark side of Apple…
Summary: Apple is desperately trying to stop Android from increasing its levels of dominance (in phones, tablets, watches, and so on), so Silicon Valley is lining up against Apple, antagonising its misuse/abuse of patents for anticompetitive purposes
APPLE became somewhat of a patent troll around 2010 when it filed its first anti-Android patent lawsuit, having threatened to do the same to Palm years beforehand (Tim Cook played a big role in these threats at the time). Microsoft and Apple are both bullies and they are not hiding it. They really hate Linux; they try to destroy it rather than adopt it like the rest of the industry, especially in Silicon Valley. With the exception of Microsoft, which habitually supports Apple’s court cases against Android, almost every significant company is now supporting Samsung‘s defence against Apple [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Engadget wrote: “Samsung has also found a powerful group of backers in its fight against Apple in court. According to a document unearthed by Inside Sources, Google, Facebook, eBay, Dell, HP and other big tech corporations have submitted a “friend of the court” brief on July 1st, supporting Samsung’s stance. The two companies have been embroiled in legal fisticuffs for years, ever since Apple first filed a lawsuit against Samsung for violating various intellectual properties, such as tap-to-zoom, sinle-finger scrolling and two-finger zooming, as well as edge-to-edge glass design, among other things.”
“Supporting Apple these days is supporting an arrogant bully, hell-bent on destroying Linux.”There is no “patent fight with Samsung” as some media puts it. It is Apple attacking Android by targeting a top Android entity other than Google (it is clear that Google has far greater an incentive to fight back). It is, by extension, an attack on Linux. Apple fans’ site keep bragging about new Apple patents, perhaps not caring to realise that they now support the equivalent of a giant patent troll, the world’s richest troll.
Google, by contrast, is trying to fix the patent system and to reduce litigation. As Mike Masnick put it a few days ago, “Google Revamps Patent Search To Actually Do What Patent Office Should Do” (that’s Masnick’s headline).
Masnick correctly recalls that this is not the first such effort from Google. To quote some background: “A few years ago, Google seemed to downgrade its patent search features, pulling away a separate “Google Patents” section and mixing it back into the main Google search. This seemed like a major step backwards, especially given how terrible the US Patent Office’s own patent search engine was. Google has tried to do a few things like launching a “prior art finder” and teaming up with StackExchange to help crowdsource prior art.”
Supporting Apple these days is supporting an arrogant bully, hell-bent on destroying Linux. Please don’t buy anything from Apple as it only makes this aggressor stronger. █
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“Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source.”
Summary: The real patent battle is fought not in Congress (with corporate lobbyists) but in the courtroom, with a growing number of outcomes which are favourable to Free/libre software
SOFTWARE PATENTS are severely damaged in the US, especially following the Alice case (ruled by SCOTUS one year ago). The latest cases, which we covered this month, serve to show that software patents are dropping like flies in the courtrooms, even when landing on courts that are historically very friendly towards software patents.
“District courts used Great Atlantic to invalidate patents en masse, much like is done today after Alice,” Patent Buddy wrote the other day. Nevertheless, the corporate media focuses on other matters.
“It looks as though software patents are rapidly dying.”Joe Mullin has revealed that yet more software patents have just died and not a patent troll was behind them. “Rovi,” he explains, “provides digital entertainment guides to cable companies and others and has long used its patents to enforce its dominant position in the market. That strategy has come in for criticism, with Rovi’s patents being viewed as covering the basic idea of an electronic TV Guide. That was especially true when Rovi used its patents to go after Internet companies that wanted to make their own guides and not take Rovi content, like Hulu and Amazon.”
Well, these patents are now dead and Wall Street-centric media says that the company is downgraded. “Multichannel video programming distributors may face the same struggles in court,” says the author, “but those patents are less abstract than software patents, according to analysts.”
Mullin wrote also about Newegg (yet again), showing that it won a patent case that had been brought against it by TQP. “Two weeks after online retailer Newegg filed a petition complaining about “excessive and unreasonable” delays in getting a final judgment in its patent case,” explains Mullin, “the judge in that case has handed Newegg a big win.”
It looks as though software patents are rapidly dying. Every death of a software patents can become precedent for future cases involving software patents and the higher the court, the higher the impact. One lawyers’ site tries to frame this as a “troll” issue, talking about “the projected cost [7 billion dollars] of litigation filed by non-practicing entities, or patent trolls, in 2015.”
What about non-trolls (or very big trolls that the media won’t call “trolls”)? Some media circles are trying to tell us that Microsoft alone makes billions of dollars from extortion against Android alone. The main problem is the patents, not the entity asserting these patents.
Speaking of Google, which is an important example because Microsoft is still attacking it using patents (trying to force Android makers to bundle Microsoft software), there is a new effort to combat patents using prior art. As corporate media put it, “Google is bringing its search powers to bear in hopes of doing what Washington seemingly can’t — roll back a wave of abusive litigation from companies that, according to their critics, simply want to line their pockets with ill-gotten settlement money.” There are many articles about it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. In the form of sourse code, not just publications, it ought to be possible to demonstrate prior art and invalidate a lot of software patents. There is plenty of prior art and duplication in the field of software because a lot of people are able to practice it (requires just a keyboard, no manufacturing).
“It sure looks like this whole cult of “IP” proves problematic not just for Free software but for software in general (monopoly on APIs for instance).”When patent maximalists (IAM) covered it they said Google’s “mission” it to “help raise quality standards”, but that’s nonsense. Google just doesn’t want this patent mess that is looming over Free software like Android. It’s not about “quality” of patents, it’s about patents. Google is still wrestling with Oracle (patents and copyrights) and as this new post put it a couple of days ago: “Out in the real world, the lawsuit between Google and Oracle is preparing to head back to a lower court after the Supreme Court said it would not take the case. At UC Berkeley yesterday, the repercussions of that decision were discussed, along with many other topics around patents and copyright law as they pertain to software, art and more.”
It sure looks like this whole cult of “IP” proves problematic not just for Free software but for software in general (monopoly on APIs for instance). Large proprietary software corporations such as Microsoft and Oracle are abusing so-called ‘IP’ to impede if not altogether destroy their emerging rivals. █
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Image credit: Linux Veda
Summary: Cyanogen continues to expose itself for what it really is and who it is serving, owing to staff background
MICROSOFT took over not only Nokia, inciting it to attack Android (Nokia now attacks Android using patents) but also Cyanogen, the company whose agenda seems to now closely align with Microsoft’s. Many of its employees are based near Microsoft, but that’s not too shocking. It puts the NSA’s leading partner (Microsoft) right at the centre of AOSP whilst smearing Google, which developed AOSP and gave it away as Free software. We previously covered this in posts such as:
Microsoft’s proxy Cyanogen has just hired Microsoft’s Lawler, based on this article. What a surprise? Not! To quote CBS ZDNet: “Formerly Lawler was also chief technology officer of Microsoft’s Bing Maps…”
Microsoft’s strategy against Android has become utterly ugly as it includes patent extortion. Some of the media tries to nevertheless characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free software. The latest example is Windows (proprietary) promotion by payments to OpenBSD — a move that is criticised by FOSS Force, which says: “Of course, it isn’t revealed how much, in code, Microsoft is going to contribute going forward, but as long as the money is there…I guess the money is there.”
Microsoft keeps trying to use its money to disrupt Free software projects. It did this in 2006 with Novell (a GNU/Linux actor at the time) and it is still doing that with other companies or nonprofit entities. Cyanogen is one of these and OpenBSD hopefully has the moral strength to bite the new hand that feeds. █
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Summary: CIO, a Web site of IDG, smears Microsoft’s competition by quoting sources that are closely aligned with and/or subservient to Microsoft
AN old ‘friend’, a branch of Microsoft AstroTurfing ‘Consumer’ ‘Watchdog’, has just reared its ugly head again with help from IDG‘s “CIO” (a misleading site name). Consumer Watchdog is not a watchdog and it’s not for consumers. IDG should know better than that by now. Consumer Watchdog is an attack dog and a front group against Google. Right now it complains that Google is not censoring enough (as if censorship is a good thing). Remember that censorship is not privacy and “Consumer Watchdog” cares only about making Google look bad, it never cared about privacy at all.
To quote the nonsense from IDG’s “CIO” site (neglecting to correctly identify the messenger): “Consumer Watchdog will file a complaint against Google with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Tuesday, said John Simpson, director of the group’s Privacy Project. The complaint will ask the FTC to rule that Google, by declining to delete search engine links on request from U.S. residents, is an unfair business practice that violates the U.S. FTC Act.”
‘Consumer’ ‘Watchdog’ has a Privacy Project? That’s just hilarious. That’s would be like BP forming a “green group”. Moreover, it is hilarious that IDG covers “privacy” and pretends that it cares about the concept because CIO, for example, based on NoScript, want to run a massive number of scripts on my machine from just about thirty different domains! Holy cow! The reader is the product and browsing habits are up for sale to so many entities at the same time. The same is true for other sites of IDG (there are many of them).
“The original source of that really bad scraper site is a CIO trash opinion piece,” wrote someone to us. IDG has become complicit in lobbying and AstroTurfing, whether it realises this or not.
Another new piece of garbage came from IDG only a short while ago, quoting XenSource (Microsoft-friendly as we have shown many times in past years) as some kind of authority on FOSS. This is again mischaracterising the messenger to give the messenger undeserved credibility. That’s like calling Richard Stallman an “open core” proponent. The headline boldly states that “open source business model is a failure” and the body belatedly adds vital context to this headline: “That’s the conclusion of Peter Levine, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm that backed Facebook, Skype, Twitter and Box as startups. Levine is also former CEO of XenSource, a company that commercialized products based on the open source Xen hypervisor.”
“…sites that pretend to offer ‘news’ often just treat readers (audience) as the product, selling the audience to the real client (the advertiser or agenda setter).”Levine is not a truly technical person and he ignores plenty of evidence that open source as a business model works, and often works very well. A lot of people can easily claim that the proprietary software business model is inherently flawed because very few proprietary software companies sell stuff (only a few giants do). A lot of those claiming that no open source business model can work also say FOSS is sexist, racist, not secure, brings licence/liceinsing risk, etc. — the very same things that can be said about proprietary software. If only 10% of Free/libre software companies manage to survive in the long term (based on level of sustainable income) it might not be any different, statistically, from their proprietary counterparts. The company my wife and I work for does manage to make income from Free/libre software development and maintenance. This company is far from the only one in Europe and many are doing very well. Proprietary software is not a business model. Free/libre software development is not a business model either. It’s modality of distribution/development. People buy services, not zeros and ones. For IDG to publish and republish misleading headlines like “Why the open source business model is a failure” is merely to provoke. For IDG to call ‘Consumer’ ‘Watchdog’ a “privacy group” (even in the headline) and to label censorship “right to be forgotten” is to reveal sheer bias. Remember that Microsoft is a huge client of IDG (advertising, IDC contracts and so on), so maybe we oughtn’t be very shocked by that. Here is a great new example of proprietary software advertment disguised as an article. It bashes Free/libre software as a whole, too, while promoting one particular piece of proprietary software in Computer Weekly.
Watch out what you read because there is plenty of agenda on sale everywhere. Moreover, sites that pretend to offer ‘news’ often just treat readers (audience) as the product, selling the audience to the real client (the advertiser or agenda setter). That’s their business model. Very unethical. █
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SCOTUS says no entry!
Summary: SCOTUS refuses to rule that APIs cannot be considered copyright-’protected’, despite common sense and despite Java (which the case is about) being Free/libre software
FOR anyone who has been paying attention, Oracle‘s hostility towards Android is not hard to understand. It is a CPTN member along with Microsoft and Apple and it has shown on numerous occasions over the years that it is eager to antagonise and badmouth Free software. Oracle killed many of the projects that it bought from Sun. Google, on the other hand, is at least trying to appease the Free software community and it has made Android (AOSP) an ‘open’ platform, even if most developers contribute just proprietary software to run on it.
Many of our readers have probably heard the big news by now. SCOTUS has aligned itself with foes of software development [1, 2, 3] (not just Free software development), reaffirming the ridiculous judgement from CAFC. Now that SCOTUS reaffirms the status of APIs as copyrightable, adding to mass surveillance with NDAs and software patents in the United States, why would software companies still choose to be there?
To give Google some credit, it did fight over this matter for nearly half a decade. After pressure from the clueless White House (exactly one month ago), however, reuse of APIs may be impossible and collaborative development with forking may soon be toxic. Today is a horrible day for software development in general and it’s not too clear to us what Google can do next. Some certain types of lawyers probably know Google’s next steps or options and knowing that this ‘legal’ system favours the deeper pockets, there is usually something someone can do given the correct fees (just see how long the SCO case goes on for).
“Google will hopefully continue to fight that case, whatever its options may be.”One reader of ours was disappointed with this article that FOSS Force published today, comparing Google to Microsoft. “Revisionism,” he said, “especially that closing sentence. People hate Microsoft not for the sake of hating Microsoft but because of how it (and its people) behaves and has behaved. It has held computing back at least 20 years and the damage spreads into all domains where desktop computers are used.
“It’s just that Microsoft pays for constant whine against Google. While Google has many shortcomings, it is not a problem like Microsoft has been and continues to be.”
“But on the topic of Google,” he continued, “here’s something fairly current with yet another ****up by SCOTUS” (he linked to the above news).
Google will hopefully continue to fight that case, whatever its options may be. As for Microsoft and Apple, they surely will keep trying to harm the market. They often work together these days (mostly true when it comes to patents, OOXML, DRM, and so on) and as this article by Galen Gruman reminds us:
If you thought Microsoft was finally treating the Mac as an equal citizen, you’ll be disappointed in the reality
Remember that Microsoft and Apple are both on Oracle’s anti-Android side (even publicly, on numerous occasions). These are all proprietary software giants, aspiring to control the entire market by patents, copyrights, litigation, and intimidation. Google simply does not fall under the same category. It deserves the public’s support in this particular case. █
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Microsoft uses patent/royalty stacking strategy to abuse and game the market
Summary: Nokia is now gunning down or picking on Linux-centric (and/or Android-focused) companies, extracting patent tax from at least some of them after Microsoft left this dead company with many of its patents, scattering the rest to strategic (Microsoft-leaning) patent trolls
WE ARE truly troubled to have just found out that Nokia, which was destroyed by Microsoft’s Elop (now outside of Microsoft again), is officially extracting money from LG. LG uses only Android for its phones (WebOS for other products and this too is Linux-powered) and since Nokia is Microsoft’s proxy and LG already pays Microsoft, this is a bit like double-dipping; this is patent stacking (the official term for this practice is sometimes “royalty stacking”, as this paper from Mark Lemley explains). According to CBS, “Nokia Technologies and LG have agreed to a smartphone patent licensing agreement, the companies announced on Tuesday. Under the terms of the deal, LG will pay royalties to Nokia for use of its patents on mobile communications.”
“Microsoft is quickly becoming more and more like patent troll and its sidekick, Nokia, sure works hard to ensure that Microsoft’s rivals cannot get a breath of fresh air.”So it’s not so much of a deal. It is hardly mutual because it’s LG which is said to be paying Nokia, the company which was already warned by European officials about becoming a troll like this (after Microsoft practically took over). Microsoft is now an almost non-practising firm, just a troll, directly and by proxy, attacking Android from many directions in an effort to increase its cost. According to this one new roundup of articles (relating to Nokia and Microsoft) “Microsoft Lumia phones are DEAD”, leaving Microsoft and Nokia in more of a “patent troll” status (but big trolls, not the stigma thereof). They hardly have any market share, but they sure attack the market’s winners.
To quote IDG: “Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s reorganization of the company is causing some serious head-scratching. Commentators — including this Humble Blogwatcher — are reaching the inescapable conclusion that the ex-Nokia Lumia business is dead (or, at least, mortally wounded).
“Redmond certainly seems to be sidelining the perpetually loss-making Windows phone devices group. And the departure of two notable scapegoats seems to confirm the view: Yes, Stephen Elop is out, along with one of his trusted lieutenants, Jo Harlow. Do you hear echoes of the KIN débâcle?”
Microsoft is quickly becoming more and more like patent troll and its sidekick, Nokia, sure works hard to ensure that Microsoft’s rivals cannot get a breath of fresh air. Free and fair competition is apparently not an option because Microsoft cannot cope with real competition. If “Microsoft loves Linux”, then it’s equally reasonable to say that I love Microsoft. █
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The Scorpion and the Tortoise
Summary: Microsoft pretends that it is ‘embracing Android’ whilst actively trying to delete Android from Android devices
IT was only months ago that media sources said that Microsoft would work on ways to delete Android from Android devices. The sources were not wrong. They were at least partly right because Microsoft now “takes a free ride of Android hardware,” to quote the headline from Linux Veda. “Tables have turned,” it says, “gone are the days when Linux users used to buy Windows hardware to run their OS. Now Microsoft is doing the same. Since no one is interested in Windows phones Microsoft is trying to put Windows on Android hardware.” Microsoft is only dominant if ones ignores devices, telephones, tablets, servers, supercomputers, various gadgets, televisions, home utilities, and so on. Android and Linux are now more dominant than Windows.
SJVN covered this latest news without chastising Microsoft, instead quoting Microsoft. Windows is for “power users”, according to Terry Myerson from Microsoft, who wasn’t even joking. As if Android is easier to use and only “power users” can handle Windows. Nice shot in the foot there.
“Windows is for “power users”, according to Terry Myerson from Microsoft, who wasn’t even joking.”Windows on phones (or tablets for that matter) is rubbish. I saw it for myself. I saw it running on the most expensive hardware. It requires rebooting, it is buggy, and it has almost no apps, except malware (which unlike with Android, the user does not need to willingly download and install).
Microsoft loves Linux for the same reasons a deer hunter loves deer. It is now trying to delete Linux while telling us that everything has changed and that it finally “loves Linux”. It is telling us that it is adopting “Open Source” while a Free/Open Source-leaning software policy in India comes under attacks from Microsoft, still. India’s watered-down policy is a result of lobbying primarily from Microsoft, but corporate media now tells us that Cisco, IBM and Oracle also play a role:
Industry bodies US-India Business Council and the Confederation of Indian Industry have urged the government to reconsider its push for open source software that will cut the cost of licensing from big companies such as Cisco, IBM and Oracle.
In submissions to the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), which were seen by ET, the two bodies suggested the government replace the clause on mandatory use of open software with “best-fit and best-value technologies that support interoperability through open standards”.
Let’s not forget what Microsoft's direct lobbying (and lobbying by proxy) has done. Does anyone really think that Microsoft has changed? To such people we would kindly offer a Darwin Award. █
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