Photo by Agência Brasil
Summary: A back door to software patents is left open by the competition commissioner, who would be wiser to forbid FRAND-encumbered standards
Joaquín Almunia, the Vice President of the European Commission in charge of competition policy (some background in [1, 2]), is promoting FRAND in his new speech. This is an implicit endorsement of software patents inside standards. From the transcript we have:
Standards and Protocols
When it comes to standards some minimum requirements must be met to ensure that the positive effects of standardisation can fully materialise. We have identified these requirements in the Commission’s draft guidelines on horizontal agreements which include an extensive discussion of standardisation.
The starting point is transparency: if technology is to be incorporated into a standard, then participants that own intellectual property that covers that technology should disclose their ownership. Without transparency, efficient decisions cannot be made.
For a standard to serve its purpose there should be a commitment to license on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. If so called “FRAND commitments” have been given, they should be adhered to. Moreover, those standardisation bodies that require full disclosure of the proposed terms and conditions of licensing can be assured that they will not infringe EU competition law by doing so.
Permitting FRAND is not a good idea. It permits more of the same abuse of bodies like ISO, on which Microsoft dumped patent traps. There was also the controversial process around MPEG, which essentially helped create another patent troll [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].
ISO allowed itself to be abused in this way and action is taken in response to Microsoft’s sheer abuse. It is far too little, far too late (over two years late). Jan Wildeboer says: “One can see this as admitting the process of OOXML standardisation was flawed.”
Here is how Rob Weir put it:
ISO/IEC JTC1 Revises Directives, Addresses OOXML Abuses
First, we see the elimination of the contradiction phase in Fast Track processing. If you recall, under previous rules, a Fast Track begin with a 30-day NB review period, sometimes called the “contradiction period”, where NBs were invited to raise objections if they think the Fast Track proposal contradicts an existing ISO or IEC standard. This was followed by a 5-month ballot. The problem was that the word “contradiction” was not defined, leading to various irreconcilable interpretations. In the case of OOXML 20 JTC1 National Bodies (NBs) raised contradictions. Evidently, the passage of time has lead to no progress on defining what exactly a contradiction is, so the contradiction period has been eliminated entirely. Instead, looking for “evident contradictions” (still undefined) is given to JTC1 administrative staff, which is the surest way of guaranteeing that we never hear of contradictions again. The Fast Track DIS ballot remains at 5-months, so net-net this accelerates processing by one month.
Next, we see some clarification around how NBs should vote on Fast Tracks. Back, during the OOXML ballot, Microsoft made a huge effort to convince NBs to vote “Yes with comments” if they found serious flaws in the text, with the promise that they would all be addressed at the BRM. Well, we now know that this was a big lie. Very few issues were actually discussed and resolved at the BRM. And most of them were addressed by merely saying, “Sorry, no change”. At the time I argued that the rules were quite clear, that disapproval should be voiced by a “No, with comments” vote. Well, we now see another small slice of vindication.
Another change is that if the DIS ballot fails to get sufficient votes, meaning less than 2/3 approval of ISO/IEC JTC1 P-members, or more than 25% disapproval overall, the proposal dies at that point. It doesn’t go on to the BRM. Game over. If this rule had been in place back in 2007, OOXML would not be an ISO standard today.
OOXML is a patent trap with RAND and it is also a proprietary format which nobody implements as it cannot be implemented. What the European Commission ought to do is stick to abolishment of software patents and perhaps an exclusion ZRAND. There is enough time for this to be done. █
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Summary: Alan Bryden of ISO infamy may now be hurting Europe as well, essentially by using ‘standards’ to help bring software patents to the continent
IS Alan Bryden the new Van Der Beld [1, 2, 3]? Two years ago we showed how Bryden helped Microsoft deny its corruption (he was also mentioned in [1, 2]) when Microsoft resorted even to bribery in order to derail/exploit ISO.
Alan Bryden is coming to Brussels (see page 41 of this document [
PDF]) and according to this short report his agenda is potentially similar to that of Microsoft lobbyists, who want to put (software) patents inside standards in a continent which is against such patents.
Wednesday morning, 23 June 2010 Alan Bryden, the former ISO general secretary who let it happen and made European standard setting organisations a laughing stock of an US corporation, would speak about “European standardisation in a global environment” in the European Parliament “Internal Market and Consumer protection (IMCO) committee.
Bryden was also a member of the Commission’s EXPRESS “expert panel” group on the future of European Standardisation which report advises for strong IPR policies against open standardization. The IMCO meeting relates to the Parliament phase of the EXPRESS process and the Future of European Standardisation. Read what the winding lobby snakes write in their report to actually promote standards locked down by software patents
Glyn Moody has remarked on these findings as well as others which we covered this morning [1, 2].
Let’s be frank: standards are pretty dull; but they are also important as technological gatekeepers. As the shameful OOXML saga showed, gaining the stamp of approval can be so important that some are prepared to adopt practically any means to achieve it; similarly, permitting the use of technologies that companies claim are patented in supposedly open standards can shut out open source implementations completely.
Against that background, the new EU report “Standardization for a competitive and innovative Europe: a vision for 2020” [.pdf] is a real disappointment. For something that purports to be looking forward a decade not even to mention “open source” (as far as I can tell) is an indication of just how old-fashioned and reactionary it is.
The president of the FFII says that the “EU [is] promoting the RAND term, aims to get rid of Free Software”; Separately today he wrote that the “EU [plans] to abandon its powers of harmonization of patent laws in favor of an autonomous international patent system
What is happening in Europe? Have enough lobbyists been gathered to impose software patents upon Europe through standards, which are almost the antithesis of monopoly, at least in principle? █
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Summary: Harsh words for MPEG-LA and also for Novell’s Banshee, which is a Mono patents Trojan that inflects Moovida (while masquerading as “a standard”)
THE patent trolls who run MPEG-LA are a subject that we wrote about in posts such as:
Simon Phipps (OSI) has tagged one of the following news items “troll” and commented as follows:
To be clear, MPEG-LA is a parasite using standards bodies as its host, whether they want it or not. This page makes it clear that the parasite is looking for new hosts. Patent reform is now way overdue.
Going by this definition of “troll”, one might extend the scope to account for Microsoft’s racketeering [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] (Phipps is a friend of neither). Novell makes a piece of software called Banshee which it knows very well to be excluded from Microsoft's MCP and thus a patent threat to anyone who uses it (except SUSE customers). This trap pretends to be a standard and Moovida turns out to be inheriting this Mono mess:
Moovida, the popular cross-platform GStreamer-using media centre, are lunching a new desktop media player application – called Moovida Core – as part of its’ ‘Moovida 2.0’ strategy. The player, which uses Banshee as its backend, is currently available for download on Windows with Linux and OS X versions to follow shortly.
Sebsebseb blames a Novell hackfest (“annual hack week”) and also shows us that some people want this patent liability inside Ubuntu 10.10 (which recently got rid of F-Spot [1, 2]).
It should be noted that this issue is, reportedly, one of the significant issues keeping Banshee from becoming the default media player in Ubuntu 10.10. Perhaps if Alan’s work goes well, and given we’re quite far from Mavericks’ feature freeze, Banshee could still be in with a shot at being the default media player in Ubuntu 10.10?
“Crapple emulation using Monoposoft technologies on Linux,” calls it Ryan Farmer, “I know you don’t care much about Banshee, but if there is already what is basically a proprietary version for Windows, the first link, then I guess it will be ported over to Windows soon and if it gets ported to Windows it will go to Mac as well I guess, but those versions won’t use Mono?” █
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Summary: Crimes aside, the obvious technical pitfalls of OOXML are made more apparent, whereas ODF proves to be future-proof because of its reuse of existing standards
A FEW YEARS after Microsoft corrupted national bodies and corrupted ISO, the convicted monopolist begs for people to forget the past and actually believe that OOXML is a standard.
Not only is OOXML not a standard, it is hardly even a format because nobody has ever implemented it. It’s just some words on paper with errata weighing thousands of pages (and nobody bothering with them). OOXML is a great example… of why Microsoft is still a criminal company. Those who do not understand why this is so probably ought to look back because it’s well documented. There is nothing Microsoft won’t do for its stagnating cash cow, even if it’s lying, intimidating, throwing people out of their jobs, hiring AstroTurfers, and bribing many people.
Stéphane Rodriguez, who is intimately familiar with the mechanics of Microsoft Office, has published a long post titled “The OOXML interoperability scam,” wherein he gives detailed examples.
Every time the Microsoft Office team pushes a comment on the wire, there is another pledge for interoperability. It has been so common for the last few years that if you haven’t actually watched what it might mean, pretty much OOXML is synonym with interoperability.
Of course, it does not matter that the word interoperability alone does not mean anything. That is why Microsoft uses it so much. You can pretty much put an interoperability label to anything as long as it is not accurately defined. Does it mean document-level interoperability? Application-level interoperability? Or, perhaps is it just Microsoft-only interoperability (a good guess!)?
The pledge for interoperability cannot possibly mean document-level interoperability since we are not there : OOXML is full of non-XML streams, barely defined at all (the official papers lack everything related to international features, and that is just one example), so that ends any serious discussion precociously. In the remainder of his article, I’ll be taking a look at application-level interoperability, in case Microsoft means that.
Simple tests like this leave me a bit speechless when you see that Microsoft Office is supposed to be the rolls royce of Office programs in the world, the de facto standard. And in fact it’s just crap. On the contrary OpenOffice, the free suite, is actually a more serious product when it comes to application-level interoperability. This had to be said…
Compare the proprietary mishmash that OOXML contains to something more elegant like ODF, which actually reuses international standards like SVG, MathML, and doesn’t have pseudo-leap years to contain one program’s bugs inside formal specifications. Here is a new post about that:
After a few posts around the net talking about the now 5 years of ODF. I want to talk about what I have lately been talking on what would this new web era can bring to ODF. For the most part of those 5 years I have heard and listen to talks about the future of ODF, it’s integration with semantic web. It’s advantages over security, digital signatures, third party applications and further development within OpenOffice.org.
We are now going into the era of HTML5 which is supposed to come with so much more advantages for the web and ODF would find a new niche were to grow and expand. So HTML5 have been talked about producing new technical advantages such as:
* Storage API
* Simple scripting (no namespaces)
* Audio and Video
* Interactivity like Drag and Drop
So why we keep comparing ODF and whatever happens on the web? Certainly ODF has always done this, with standards like Dublin-core, MathML, and other standards. Microformats, and Geo locational web can certainly be in that train of thought. If the applications support it or not, let’s be clear, ODF should mark the leadership, and the apps should follow, so is meant to be that the apps should catch up to ODF and not the other way around.
This ought to also address the CDF noise from the OpenDocument Foundation.
The links above were found in the blog of Rob Weir, who also included this link about Free/Open Source software in government
[PDF] and an interview with himself.
Last month OASIS ODF Adoption TC member Rob Weir sat down with Svante Schubert at the Plugfest in Granada to discuss a range of topics, including ODF 1.2′s RDF-based metadata and Svante’s work on ODFDOM. You can listen to this interview in our first episode of the ODF Podcast.
IBM has done a lot to help ODF. It’s time for IBM to also bury software patents, not promote them. And we know, we know… it’s not Weir’s department, so to speak. Bob Sutor deletes comments that ask about it while others in IBM ignore E-mails that inquire about software patents. █
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Summary: Europe’s policy-making process is serving the hands of multinationals or monopolies with vested interests in lock-in and reduced competition; new patent lawsuits against Apple
EXTENSIVE lobbying from Microsoft, its cronies, and European allies seems to be paying off.
The EBoA has not been discussed here for a while (I too made a submission to it), but it was an opportunity to squash ambiguity regarding software patents in Europe.
Here is the official response
[PDF]. It is about 100 pages in length and there is also this summary:
Today the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO handed down its opinion on referral G 3/08, taking the opportunity to set out and confirm the approach of the EPO regarding the patentability of computer programs under the European Patent Convention (EPC).
The opinion relates to four questions referred to the Enlarged Board in October 2008 by the President of the EPO concerning points of law of fundamental importance for the Office’s patenting practice in this field.
The Enlarged Board analysed in detail the development of relevant case law, and found that there was a divergence between two decisions of Technical Boards of Appeal. However, recognising that the “case law in new legal and/or technical fields does not always develop in linear fashion, and that earlier approaches may be abandoned or modified”, the Enlarged Board found that this constituted a legitimate development rather than a conflict of case law.
In the absence of conflicting Board of Appeal decisions, the Enlarged Board concluded that the legal requirements for a referral were not met. Nevertheless, the Board affirmed the right of the President of the EPO to “make full use of the discretion granted by Article 112(1)(b) EPC” in making a referral, and provided further guidance on how these requirements for such a referral should be interpreted.
The president of the FFII, Benjamin Henrion, says that the “EPO can continue to grant numerous software patents as it is doing for more than a decade” and Florian (from another push against software patents in Europe) says:
To answer your Twitter question to Benjamin, it’s not the end of the story. It just means the EBoA didn’t determine a significant difference in case law. I haven’t read the detailed ruling yet but the EBoA certainly doesn’t have the authority to overrule national court decisions. That’s for sure and doesn’t have to be verified by reading the EBoA’s statement.
BTW, I’ve participated very actively in today’s slashdot discussion related to Benjamin’s submission on the SUEPO letter. Tried to provide additional information and clarifications where people needed help.
To be honest, Florian has moved away from some dubious stances we saw before and more people — inside the FFII included — start to view him as trustworthy. He did disclose his interests to us, privately.
Regarding this Slashdot post which we mentioned the other day, Red Hat’s Wildeboer says: “Evil #swpat through the backdoor. EU parliament upset.”
“EPO can continue to grant numerous software patents as it is doing for more than a decade”
–Benjamin Henrion, FFIIBenjamin also alerts us about this document
[PDF] from Bruno van Pottelsberghe which is titled “Europe Should Stop Taxing Innovation”. The title is deceiving because the document is actually calling for the back door that may include software patents. The summary says: “The European Union failed to achieve its Lisbon agenda target of spending three percent of GDP on research and development, and so, in the EU2020 strategy, has given itself another decade to meet this goal. Meanwhile, the EU has been leapfrogged by China in terms of business R&D spend. One key element to stimulate innovation and ultimately drive European growth would be to create the long-awaited single EU patent. Today’s fragmented European patent system is poor value for money and overly complex, not least because national patent systems still have the last word over all European patents on their territory. After nearly 50 years of failure to create the EU patent, language issues and the design of a centralised patent litigation court remain unresolved. The recent EU Council deal on an ‘enhanced’ European patent system is potentially a step forward, though many problems remain unresolved.”
The aspects they don’t cover actually include increase of damages and scope (good for lawyers). Here is what the solicitors-targeted crowd from IAM have to say about Pottelsberghe:
What is absolutely clear to me is that a lot of people have a lot invested in the current system and want to see it changed as little as possible. National patent offices currently control the EPO, for example, and make a lot of money from it. They would still get substantial amounts of cash under van Pottlelsberghe’s proposals, but their influence would wane and they would no longer grant national patents. Then there is the legal profession. Just a couple of lines from the paper make it abundantly clear why so many patent attorneys and lawyers in Europe (not all, it is important to point out) are opposed to reform.
This is funny coming from lawyers. They too are interested in the same thing because it gives them revenue at the expense of those who suffer in this system.
Former MEP David Hammerstein, who provided valuable information about what Microsoft did to the EU Commission [1, 2, 3], has just said that Kroes is falling for Microsoft’s lobbying. “Open standards [are] out of EU Digital Agenda for ambiguous open architecture,” he writes, “Kroes back tracks on binding openness. for procurement and EIF” (there is no further information or links).
Only moments ago Glyn Moody wrote about a leak that says more.
European Commission Betrays Open Standards
Just over a month ago I wrote about a leaked version of the imminent Digital Agenda for Europe. I noted that the text had some eminently sensible recommendations about implementing open standards, but that probably for precisely that reason, was under attack by enemies of openness, who wanted the references to open standards watered down or removed.
Judging by the latest leak [.pdf] obtained by the French site PC Inpact, those forces have prevailed: what seems to be the final version of the Digital Agenda for Europe is an utter travesty of the original intent.
For example, the draft version [.doc] dealing with interoperability was headed “Open Standards and Interoperability”; this has now become just “Interoperability and standards”.
In short, this latest version of the Digital Agenda for Europe is an utter disgrace, and shows how beholden the European Commission remains to “significant market players”. There are no benefits for European citizens here: the Commission has abandoned them for who knows what reason, and ensured that millions of Euros will flow out of their pockets – and Europe – for costly software licences at a time when the European economy can ill afford such unnecessary expenses.
This disgraceful evisceration of the earlier sensible draft shows yet again why we need full transparency at the European Commission. We need to know who met with whom, and what was said. Until we do, these kinds of last-minutes stitch-ups will continue to occur, and will continue to add further blots to the Commission’s already besmirched record in this regard.
For some information about Microsoft’s involvement, see:
- European Open Source Software Workgroup a Total Scam: Hijacked and Subverted by Microsoft et al
- Microsoft’s AstroTurfing, Twitter, Waggener Edstrom, and Jonathan Zuck
- Does the European Commission Harbour a Destruction of Free/Open Source Software Workgroup?
- The Illusion of Transparency at the European Parliament/Commission (on Microsoft)
- 2 Months and No Disclosure from the European Parliament
- After 3 Months, Europe Lets Microsoft-Influenced EU Panel be Seen
- Formal Complaint Against European Commission for Harbouring Microsoft Lobbyists
- ‘European’ Software Strategy Published, Written by Lobbyists and Multinationals
- Microsoft Uses Inside Influence to Grab Control, Redefine “Open Source”
- With Friends Like These, Who Needs Microsoft?
Regarding this “Public consultation on the review of the European Standardisation System”, Glyn Moody suggests telling/asking them whether it’s “time to replace ISO?” (we have a fairly new Wiki page about ISO’s internal corruption, but it focuses on OOXML and not on the MPEG cartel, for example).
Nokia, one of Europe’s biggest lobbyists for software patents and an enemy of Ogg Theora, is currently suing Apple some more and so do other new claimants like SoftView.
Nokia is not the only company taking Apple to court over infringement of its patents. The latest mobile technology company to make that move is SoftView, a small startup based in Washington.
AT&T is also involved:
SoftView is not a patent troll, unlike Acacia whose defeat against Red Hat (and Novell) is still being covered by Rob Tiller. We also wrote about the subject in:
Apple is also said to have been sued by HTC (we will get to it later on) after Apple sued HTC, but Florian disagrees with the claim. He writes:
HTC patent counterstrike against Apple appears weak; Google still on the sidelines
HTC made this announcement today:
“HTC SUES APPLE FOR PATENT INFRINGEMENT”
The word “sues” in that headline appears to be a somewhat misleading overstatement of what’s actually happening. The press release only says that HTC lodged “a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) to halt the importation and sale of the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States.” By way of contrast, Apple’s March 2 announcement (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/03/02patents.html ) had said that Apple “filed concurrently with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and in U.S. District Court in Delaware.” So what’s missing from HTC’s announcement is a lawsuit in the traditional sense of the word, meaning a lawsuit that would be filed with a court. HTC appears to be less determined than Apple and much less sure of having a strong case because otherwise it would, like Apple, take concurrent action at both levels, or if it had to choose between the two, HTC would take Apple to a court of law. Only filing a complaint in hopes of a governmental agency doing most of the work looks weak.
Also, HTC asserts five patents while Apple asserted 20. HTC had to choose its five bullets out of a rather small arsenal while Apple could pick its 20 out of an arsenal amounting to thousands of patents, which makes it much more likely, in purely statistical terms, that Apple’s selection of patents poses a threat to HTC than vice versa.
Maybe HTC hopes that its announcement could build some kind of pressure on Apple via its customers and shareholders.
It’s unfortunate that the dispute between Apple and HTC now becomes a sue-me-sue-you game between closed source and open source, with Apple most probably having the upper hand and HTC just trying to create the appearance of a retaliatory measure. I have serious doubts that HTC’s apparently half-hearted counterstrike will scare Apple. HTC’s light warfare is probably no match for Apple’s heavy artillery. Just comparing the two different press releases that announced legal action, and knowing about the size of the patent portfolios of the two combatants, this is in all likelihood a very unbalanced battle.
There’s still no indication of Google [whose Android open-source project is the reason for which Apple sued HTC in the first place] entering the fray and trying to bail out HTC and, if necessary, other vendors who build Android-based phones. When HTC and other vendors decided to create Android-based products, they might have thought that Google would help them out if any patent issues came up. I’m wondering whether Google can really stay on the sidelines of this forever, not only with a view to Android but also its other open source projects — existing and future ones.
More about that shortly. It is relevant to Linux. █
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Summary: Microsoft’s and Apple’s cultural threat with MPEG-LA; Canonical listed as H.264 licensee; Google perceived as potential game changer with YouTube
OGG THEORA has been a hot topic recently because it’s under attack from Apple and from Microsoft. Previous and very recent posts about that subject include:
The Microsoft Bott continues his war on Theora this week, so Chips B. Malroy responds by calling him “major Microsoft shill” (which is actually true because his career is dependent on Microsoft). Malroy added that “audio and video codecs and the patents on them, are in some ways, an attack on the right of free speech” and later he argued that: “Most of us do disdain software patents. They only help the monopolies. They do not promote science or innovation. But there is a worse form of software patents, its software patents on codecs. This should never have been allowed in any reasonable world. Software patents on multimedia codecs are basically a patent on sight and sound, two inalienable senses of the human experience.
“Beyond that the monopolies (Microsoft and Apple) want to use software patents as a way to block free operating systems, to control the web, and to profit by taxing those who have to use these multimedia video and sound software patents.
“Multimedia software patents are completely against the idea of standards, or even standards that can be freely used on the web. We must try to educate those in power to reject software patents on video and audio codecs and to get free standards on these codecs for a free web. Not a web that will be controlled and taxed further by unnecessary Microsoft and Apple lockin.
“It is not enough to just have Theora or the new free Google codec.”
–Chips B. Malroy“As far as IBM and Google with their support of software patents. While we would be better off without the patents, in the meantime, Google has to play the patent game in some countries, as that is the law of the land in the USA. To be able to sue those who come against you, is a weapon that we should not say to Google; “do not sue MS or Apple.”
“It is not enough to just have Theora or the new free Google codec. All of these video and audio software codecs should be free if used on the web, as the web should be free. Free standards for a free web, should be the call. Invalidate the software patents on these video and audio codecs, and make them public domain.”
This point of view is further supported here:
Why Our Civilization’s Video Art and Culture is Threatened by the MPEG-LA
We’ve all heard how the h.264 is rolled over on patents and royalties. Even with these facts, I kept supporting the best-performing “delivery” codec in the market, which is h.264. “Let the best win”, I kept thinking. But it wasn’t until very recently when I was made aware that the problem is way deeper. No, my friends. It’s not just a matter of just “picking Theora” to export a video to Youtube and be clear of any litigation. MPEG-LA’s trick runs way deeper! The [street-smart] people at MPEG-LA have made sure that from the moment we use a camera or camcorder to shoot an mpeg2 (e.g. HDV cams) or h.264 video (e.g. digicams, HD dSLRs, AVCHD cams), we owe them royalties, even if the final video distributed was not encoded using their codecs! Let me show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Microsoft is of course choosing to lobby for MPEG-LA, of which it is a participant. Microsoft is going to use Internet Explorer* to promote H.264 and Canonical’s old codec affairs won’t help, either:
Canonical licenses H.264 – Theora out for the count?
Canonical are currently the only Linux company to license H.264/AVC, the patented non-free technology used to compress video and favoured by companies such as Apple & Microsoft for HTML5 Video.
Neither RedHat, makers of Fedora, or Novell, makers of Suse, appear on the list of over 800 licensee’s.
What’s interesting is that the rival, if you will, to H.264 is the free and open codec Ogg Theroa which one would naturally assume would be the favoured choice for a Linux distribution’s parent to support.
Let us remember that MPEG-LA's CEO (Larry Horn) is a patent troll. TechDirt has just caught up with this news.
Joe Mullin has a great blog post, looking in detail at MobileMedia, a recently launched “company” that fits all the traditional characteristics of a “patent troll” or “non-practicing entity” (if you’d prefer). It doesn’t appear to do anything but hold patents, demand licensing fees and sue. So what’s so interesting about this one? Well, it’s a subsidiary of MPEG-LA, the company that manages some important digital video standards, and manages the patent pools related to them — and both companies have the same CEO.
What I find interesting, of course, is that many patent system folks have said that patent pools are the “answer” to issues like non-practicing entities filing crazy lawsuits. And yet, here we have an example of one of the major patent pooling administrators apparently deciding it’s more lucrative to get into the other side of the business instead…
In the meantime, while all this has been going on, it’s worth noting that Steve Jobs — one of the targets in this lawsuit — has apparently been telling people that MPEG-LA is getting ready to sue open video codecs, such as Theora, for patent infringement. Of course, such threats have been made before and never carried out — but if MPEG-LA now thinks that suing for patent infringement (rather than just alerting the patent holders to possible infringement) is the way to go these days, perhaps the lawsuits above were an opening salvo.
MPEG-LA is hardly a legitimate business if it bullies like this, but ISO, which is a farce that sells out to whoever has enough money to corrupt it, won’t do anything/much to stop this. As the president of the FFII put it yesterday, “ISO [is] pushing for a patent-free video codec, committee stuffing, yes you can do it [...] The analysis of patents is outside of the scope and competence of ISO and MPEG [...] MPEG believes that 20 years after its publication some technology will become royalty-free” (posted in Twitter).
One new writer at IDG puts it like this:
It’s Apple and Microsoft versus Google and Mozilla in a tag team match for the video codec in HTML5
As I wrote about earlier, there has been a horse race going on about which video codecs will be supported by HTML5. With the stakes so high, the race is starting to get a bit rougher. Now it is turning into a tag team match, with Apple and Microsoft on one side and Google and Mozilla on the other.
This past weekend both Apple (of the open standards according to Steve Jobs) and Microsoft (never afraid to assert an alleged patent claim) have supposedly put down the hammer that Ogg Theora (supported by Mozilla) and other open source video codecs may violate patents.
This sets up an interesting tag team match. On one side, the defenders of “open standards that we like” Apple and Microsoft. In the other corner, the open source champions Google and Mozilla. Hey maybe Adobe can be the guest referee? The winner of this match will determine what technology will underlie the video you watch on the web or your TV in the future.
Dana Blankenhorn has more to say about Apple:
Will Apple put its lawyers behind the open codec patent attack?
All this makes the pending decision in Bilski vs. Kappos, still unknown at this writing, so important. A decision that encourages Apple to proceed, especially against Google, may make for the biggest lawsuit of all time.
Apple has already sued Android through HTC.
Do not support Apple and Microsoft, though not just because they produce non-Free software and engage in anti-competitive activities (bad faith and conduct); they are also a threat to freedom in culture. This helps nobody but stakeholders like Disney, which Apple is tied to. █
* Not that Internet Explorer matters so much anymore. Even Microsoft-friendly meters like Net Applications (mostly from the US, secret data and secret methods, funded in part by Microsoft) say that Internet Explorer is losing browser share while about one in two Windows PCs is infected with no foreseeable solution, certainly not even snake oil marketing like this new example:
The word about Immunet’s free anti-virus solution is spreading fast. The agent installed on my computer tells me that there are currently 162,597 people in the Immunet Cloud, and that I’m protected from 12,637,576 threats. When I first installed it almost a month ago, the number of users was around 122,000.
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Summary: Oracle’s attitude toward (or dedication to) ODF compares badly to that of Sun, IBM, and probably even Red Hat
LAST year was a fascinating year for Sun Microsystems. It was almost acquired by IBM, but the negotiations fell through at some stage. IBM’s hardware business, office suite, and many other software products (Eclipse comes to mind) nicely complement Sun’s portfolio and even IBM’s commitment to MySQL would have been better and more natural than Oracle’s.
“OpenOffice.org and many other office suites support ODF free of charge.”IBM is not perfect. Heck, IBM is far from perfect and the word “perfect” is rather silly to bring up. As the TurboHercules vs IBM case reminds us, IBM is not a friend when it comes to software patents* (malice from TurboHercules withstanding), but IBM is a big proponent of ODF, for example. It’s one of those areas where an IBM-Sun merger would be suitable. The FSF is strongly in favour of ODF as it probably should be.
Oracle has rightly come under some fire for putting a price tag on an important enabler of ODF. This is bad move in general (not prioritising ODF), but maybe it would give reasons to just abandon Microsoft Office altogether. OpenOffice.org and many other office suites support ODF free of charge. Microsoft does not support real ODF [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] or even OOXML, it only pretends.
Oracle start charging for Sun’s Office ODF plug-in
According to Oracle, the support cost is in line with Oracle’s support policy of approximately 22% of the license fee and is not mandatory. But the $90 per user license fee is required. As the plug-in was never open source, Oracle has not gone back on any open source assurances it gave. Oracle would not comment on the fact that the plug-in is almost as expensive as the cheapest edition of Microsoft’s MS Office suite.
Maybe if Oracle bought Novell (which is up for sale), then it would also charge $90 to download Mono. That would be nice.
Walt Hucks says: “I saw that coming back when Sun itself started requiring an account and mktg info to download the plugin.”
In better news regarding ODF, IBM’s Rob Weir points to ODF Fuzzer, which seems like a new tool that’s all about ODF.
ODF Fuzzer is a file format fuzzer developed to test star writer of Open Office.org. This will attempt to find security vulnerabilities, bugs and code flaw errors of the star writer. It uses byte mutation and insertion methods to create fuzzed files. ODF Fuzzer have a simple built in module to execute the star writer with the fuzzed files and monitor it’s behaviour.
There are also signs that Documents To Go will implement ODF support. The Product Manager says: [via Rob Weir]
Rest assured that many of the features you’ve mentioned (PDF, Google Docs integration, swirl zoom, localization, ODF support, etc) are being evaluated by our developers as we speak.
Here is what IBM’s Arnaud Le Hors wrote about Alex Brown’s [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] attempt to pretend that he did not expect Microsoft to disobey ISO [1, 2, 3, 4].
Well, let me give you a link to a prediction I made! In my post What Microsoft’s track record tells us about OOXML’s future of March 25, 2008 I wrote:
They can, and I predict will, ignore all these additions which are optional and stick to what they have. The only reason they were added was to remove reasons for National Bodies to vote against OOXML.
So, here we are. Two years later, Microsoft has done exactly that and Alex Brown is finally seeing the light.
One can only hope that the standards community will have at least learned a lesson from this sad story: you simply cannot take control away from a vendor who has a monopoly and isn’t willing to give it up through a mere standardization process.
One area where IBM has been helpful is ODF. It’s a shame that Oracle is not so serious about it, not based on its actions anyway. OpenSolaris comes to mind in relation to this strategy. █
* Here is another new analysis of the TurboHercules vs IBM case and more lobbying from Florian Müller, who criticises multimedia codecs with patents in them (he does not seem fond even of Ogg) and has harsh words for the film “Patent Absurdity” [1, 2]. From Müller’s new blog (for which he has just created a Twitter account):
I regret having had to say all of the above and I can only hope that someone else will do something better at some time, maybe with a more realistic goal, maybe with a bigger budget. But realistically, software patents won’t go away until the call for abolition is supported by some of the major players in the industry. Theoretically it could also work with small and medium-sized businesses but in my experience that just doesn’t work because those SMEs who oppose software patents don’t want to spend any significant amount of time and money on it. As long as it looks to politicians like mostly a cause for the FOSS community without major economic interests behind it, it’s hard to see how change could be brought about. Watching “Patent Absurdity” just reaffirms that view. Unfortunately.
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“ISO is dead for software standards. Do you need an official funeral?”
–Benjamin Henrion, FFII
Summary: This past week of Document Freedom brings even more abysmal news for Microsoft’s corruption-riddled response to ODF (OpenDocument Format)
LAST NIGHT we wrote about attempts being made by Alex Brown to pass the blame to Microsoft, having actually helped Microsoft be where they are. What a fox. Does he really believe that people will forget what he did to promote OOXML while serving as a supposedly-independent participant [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21]? Tim Anderson, a longtime Microsoft booster, has mentioned Brown’s mea culpa and so did Andy Updegrove, who apparently foresees failure for OOXML.
In reviewing my RSS feed this morning, I found this interesting blog entry by Alex Brown, titled Microsoft Fails the Standards Test. In it, Alex makes a number of statements, and reaches a number of conclusions, that are likely to startle those that followed the ODF-OOXML saga. The bottom line? Alex thinks that Microsoft has failed to fulfill crucial promises upon which the approval of OOXML was based. He concludes that unless Microsoft reverses course promptly, “the entire OOXML project is now surely heading for failure.”
Andy Oram points out in the comments: “The OOXML battle is no joke; it had serious repercussions throughout the public setting. Microsoft launched its OOXML campaign in the mid-2000s at a time when several countries and US states (notably the state Andrew and I live in, Massachusetts) made real efforts to move to ODF for the public good. The fake standardization of OOXML helped Microsoft’s propaganda campaign to keep MS Office in government use, although I’m sure it wasn’t the critical factor. The movement failed and history has moved on. Microsoft avoided the loss of customers and the PR boost open source could have achieved had ODF gotten into government agencies. Now the question is whether desktop office tools will be replaced by Software as a Service, so there’s little point in refighting the old battle. But open formats are more important than ever, and the new power of the movement for transparent government can correct the historical grievance.”
“The fake standardization of OOXML helped Microsoft’s propaganda campaign to keep MS Office in government use, although I’m sure it wasn’t the critical factor.”
–Andy Oram, O’ReillyAs we pointed out before, fragmentation issues already plague OOXML (there have always been too many Microsoft implementations, none of which complied with the specifications). These are further exacerbated by the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12], which revealed that Microsoft had hidden software patents affecting OOXML.
Some sources have spoken about a potential appeal in the i4i case (or a settlement), but OOXML seems to be dead in the water at least as a ‘standard’ because the i4i ruling is final, based on Reuters.
A federal appeals court denied on Thursday Microsoft Corp’s request that a full panel of judges rehear arguments in its long-running patent dispute with a small Canadian technology company.
One of the more troubling patent rulings in the past year involved a Canadian company, i4i, that held a patent (5,787,449) that appears to broadly (very broadly) cover editing a custom XML document, separate from the presentation layer of a document.
The 5th anniversary of ODF is less than a month away. From Rob Weir’s Web log:
We’ll be hitting a significant date next month. It was on May 1st, 2005 that Open Document Format (ODF) 1.0 was approved by OASIS.
I hope we can all take time to reflect on far we’ve gone, with the specification itself, with the quality and diversity of implementations and with world-wide adoption.
A lot of coverage about “Document Freedom” has appeared over the past week (included in our daily links), which is evidence of continued momentum for a real standard that everyone can use and many vendors have already implemented. According to this new gem from Glyn Moody, Tim Berners-Lee refuses to accept Microsoft Office files.
We all knew that Sir Tim was a total star, choosing to give away the Web rather than try to make oodles of billions from it. Some of us even knew that he contemplated using the GNU GPL for its licence, before being persuaded that placing it in the public domain would help it spread faster.
Tim Berners-Lee is also against software patents. █
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