If it looks like a patent troll, IAM will certainty love it and agonise over the bad reputation of trolls
Summary: Selective coverage and deliberate misinterpretation of Microsoft’s tactics (patent settlement under threat, disguised as “pre-installation of some of the US company’s software products”) as seen in IAM almost every week these days
THERE IS A WAR against GNU/Linux. It’s a very big war. But a lot of it happens in the back room and it is being led by Microsoft, a notoriously corrupt company that still relies on bribes and blackmail for a lot of its deals (we have given many examples in the past).
Yesterday we saw a Microsoft-friendly site writing about the latest attack on Free software from Google. The site called it “Patently Ridiculous” (in the headline) that “Google [is] Ordered To Pay $20 Million Plus,” as we noted here the other day (it’s a notoriously trolls-friendly judge).
“Not all of this officially counts/qualifies as patent revenue (royalties) because Microsoft uses a clever trick now.”“Software patents are usually patents on the obvious wrapped up in as obscure, vague and technical a language as possible,” the site said. “In this case Google has been found guilty of infringing a “sandbox” patent in Chrome.”
That’s a software patent and it was found valid in one of those notorious courts in the Eastern District of Texas, so Google will hopefully appeal. But there is an even broader war going on, some of which involves Microsoft satellites that keep suing Android (or GNU/Linux) device makers. We provided plenty of examples in past years.
“This trick started about a year ago with Acer, not too long after it naturally followed from a lawsuit against Samsung that yielded a settlement 2 years ago (same effect, same consequences).”Microsoft itself is playing this aggressive game also directly, though it learned how to disguise it a little better. It is trying to make billions of dollars by shaking down Android OEMs and Chrome OS OEMs (often the same OEMs — more or less — as these two operating systems overlap one another more and more over time). Not all of this officially counts/qualifies as patent revenue (royalties) because Microsoft uses a clever trick now.
This trick started about a year ago with Acer, not too long after it naturally followed from a lawsuit against Samsung that yielded a settlement 2 years ago (same effect, same consequences). Then came Xiaomi (not only bundling of Microsoft malware but also payments to Microsoft, in the form of patent purchases). This was all along misportrayed by IAM, as we repeatedly showed. Either they are willfully ignorant or maliciously lying about it. Today IAM published another one of these puff pieces. It paints Microsoft as some kind of “good cop”, but what the author of this article conveniently neglects to say (or twists the facts of) is that Microsoft previously blackmailed HTC using software patents (around the same time Apple did so).
Here is how IAM put it:
The Microsoft petition – jointly filed with Taiwan’s HTC – argues that claims 14, 15 and 17 of the ‘695 patent should be invalidated on grounds of obviousness. The petition also notes that the ‘695 patent has been asserted by Philips along with several other patents in a series of infringement cases it filed in the District of Delaware back in December 2015. The seven of these lawsuits that remain active target Acer, Asus and HTC from Taiwan; Double Power Technology and Yifang from China; and US companies Visual Land and Southern Telecom. Microsoft has joined the Acer, Asus, Double Power, Visual Land and Yifang cases as a counter-defendant; it is also involved in the HTC case as an intervenor-plaintiff.
Of the defendants in the Philips lawsuits, we know that Microsoft signed HTC as a patent licensee back in 2010, and that it has revised and expanded existing IP licensing deals with Acer and Asus in recent years. With regards to both the latter, this involved the pre-installation of some of the US company’s software products on the Taiwanese manufacturers’ devices; this has also been a feature of headline patent deals signed with other major Asian companies, including Lenovo and Xiaomi. It may be the case that Microsoft has also offered some form of patent risk mitigation, similar to the aforementioned cloud customer programme, as part of these agreements – though that is just my speculation at this stage, and would be difficult to confirm since the details of such licensing arrangements are typically highly confidential.
Instead of ever acknowledging their mistakes/errors, Team IAM likes to pretend that I did not understand what they wrote. This Microsoft-powered site with many guests from Microsoft embedded in articles is fooling nobody. Microsoft is almost worshiped there and rarely is there even a single sentence critical of the company.
“Just using patents to coerce companies into doing what Microsoft tells them,” I told IAM. “It’s a form of blackmail.” But they keep repeating Microsoft’s talking points every month if not every week. That’s revisionism.
Watch how IAM framed a PTAB IPR petition (as if Microsoft cares for companies it blackmailed): “Microsoft IPR filed against Philips looks like another example of the company’s patent-plus value creation strategy.”
Blackmail with patent threats is not “Value creation”. It’s extortion, it’s blackmail. IAM needs to stop pretending that it’s a news site if trolls are painted as innocent victims and companies that terrify and bully the whole industry get treated like a banality to be ignored if not celebrated.
IAM, like the EPO which turned it into a propaganda mill, is a symptom of many of the things we stand against. The other day it celebrated European patent-based sanctions against Chinese companies (like the aforementioned OEMs from Taiwan or China) and only days ago it promoted patent tax through SEPs, which are inherently not compatible with Free/libre software. To quote:
Avanci was launched last September with Qualcomm, Ericsson, ZTE, KPN, InterDigital and Sony all agreeing to make their standard essential patents that read on 2G, 3G and 4G technology available for license across a range of IoT industry verticals. The first three sectors that Avanci has targeted are the auto industry, connected homes and smart meters. There’s no doubt that Avanci brings together some of the leading plays in wireless technology, but it also has some notable gaps such as Nokia and Huawei. Five months after it launched it is yet to conclude any licensing agreements, although Alfalahi insisted that feedback from the industry and from regulators has been positive and that his team continues to talk to a wide range of licensees and possible members. “We’re not saying that cross-licensing or one-on-one licensing doesn’t work, we just believe there’s a better way and over the last year it has become clear there is a need in the market,” he said.
By making up buzzwords like “IoT” or “4G” companies try to bundle together a bunch of patents that deny entry into the market (via standards) unless entrants pay a very large toll (sometimes more expensive than all the hardware combined). In reality, many of these patents are software patents, i.e. something which isn’t even patent-eligible in the vast majority of countries.
We read IAM not for information but mostly as an exercise in understanding the idealogical opposition; IAM stands for greed, protectionism, and litigation, in lieu with its funding sources (revenue sources are not limited to subscriptions). █
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“Linux infestations are being uncovered in many of our large accounts as part of the escalation engagements.”
Summary: In an effort to combat any large deployment of non-Microsoft software, the company goes personal and attempts to overthrow even management that is not receptive to Microsoft’s agenda
IN LIGHT of the news (also the Microsoft-leaning fake news) from Munich, and also in light of Microsoft’s attempts to cause me trouble with my employer (that is their modus operandi apparently), now is a good time to share this story, which we learned about some months ago. Over the years we have covered examples of Microsoft retribution against individuals and organisations that were viewed as “enemies” of Microsoft. To Microsoft, competition is “enemy”, standards are an “enemy”, and even fair competition is an “enemy”. Less than a decade ago a government delegate compared Microsoft's methods to those of “Scientology cult”. That comparison was apt.
“I’ve been looking for Tim Bray’s blog post about how Microsoft went after his job; when they couldn’t get him fired, crushed his wife’s business.”
–AnonymousThe latest example of it happened in the UK and is still happening (we might have some updates on this at a later time). We have shared this information with some Techrights members and studied the patterns before publishing anything.
“I’ve been looking for Tim Bray’s blog post about how Microsoft went after his job,” one member wrote, “when they couldn’t get him fired, crushed his wife’s business.”
“Also,” this member noted, “Microsoft has been after you before, do you have a blog entry about it? If not, it might be a good idea.”
I learned some more about it a few months ago in my employer’s Christmas dinner, but that might be an interesting subject which would be better left aside for another day.
Today we would like to focus on a bigger story which has been long coming. We waited before writing about this, as Microsoft is evidently back to these dirty tricks that many assumed had already ended. It is pretty serious and lawyers along with police are involved (in the UK). In the mean time, in order to not compromise any ongoing processes, we shall refrain from naming people and companies.
“Life for my friend and I has been pretty horrific. Still dealing with the aftermath…”
–AnonymousA person we spoke to said something “isn’t quite right at the moment” in some local authorities in the UK. These local authorities are in England. It has gotten so severe that relocations were needed. “A friend/former colleague,” we were told, “is in similar situation, but is skeptical of larger issues…”
Several key groups in the UK, those professing to promote Free/Open Source software, are now “in the hands of someone influenced by some very Microsoft-friendly people,” we got told. It’s too early/premature to name the culprits, but we might do so one day. “Microsoft’s “open source” staff contacted my boss,” I told the person, and they “tried to get me fired or something…”
The matter of fact is, this isn’t so uncommon. “Nothing surprises me,” this person told me. “Just remember Microsoft acts like a cult,” I explained, and it “always did,” based on people who knew Microsoft as officials. Look what happened in Munich recently, including the politics preceding it all the officials involved. “Life for my friend and I has been pretty horrific,” the person explained to me. “Still dealing with the aftermath…”
We are afraid we cannot say much more at the moment. “Still just dealing with complaints,” the person told me, who will “will make little progress until solicitors return from leave…”
Whether we can proceed to naming and shaming some of the parties involved only time will tell. What we know for sure, however, is that Microsoft still plays dirty and people who are in denial about it do so at their own peril.
“I figure that even if Microsoft goes bankrupt, there will be a very long tail due to its cult-like nature and the spread of its minions throughout industry and, now, even academia.”
–Anonymous“I know someone non-technical who considers Microsoft mostly dead,” a member told us. “From my perspective, I don’t count them gone until the office furniture is auctioned off and the officers past and present brought to justice before the courts of law.
“I figure that even if Microsoft goes bankrupt, there will be a very long tail due to its cult-like nature and the spread of its minions throughout industry and, now, even academia. The big breakthrough needed there will be a court decision rendering anti-disparagement clauses invalid so that those that have had a change of heart can speak out.”
This isn’t so rare and unusual an incident. “About Microsoft,” one member told us, “my dad now came to the conclusion on his own that Microsoft put pressure on the administration in my old job to force me out, first removing my boss, then me, then harassing the hell out of my former students. I have no opinion on his conclusion in that area due to lack of data aside from the harassment, the removal of my boss with no warning or reason given, and the discontinuation of my contract with the excuse of the lie of no more teaching. I had not suggested Microsoft as a cause at all to him because I have no data other than that the new managers gave the appearance of being both incompetent and assholish. There was something going on though with or without Microsoft involvement. Anyway, it looks like that whole institution may close soon.”
This is similar to something that happened to a potential client of ours in the UK. They get rid of people’s entire role, in order to get rid of the people who occupy these roles. It’s quite obvious that Microsoft and its resellers do this intentionally and consciously.
“I was going to meet someone who had widely deployed GNU/Linux and was using it for nearly 100% of their machines. While I was physically en route to their site, they got a panicked call from the top regional Microsoft sales representative who kept them on the phone a long while, trying all kinds of methods to get them to purchase Microsoft, even trying to wheedle a meeting agreement when a sale could not be reached.”
–Anonymous“Another time,” told us a member, “I was going to meet someone who had widely deployed GNU/Linux and was using it for nearly 100% of their machines. While I was physically en route to their site, they got a panicked call from the top regional Microsoft sales representative who kept them on the phone a long while, trying all kinds of methods to get them to purchase Microsoft, even trying to wheedle a meeting agreement when a sale could not be reached. They thought it was coincidence, I did not. Fortunately he had a good working relationship with his boss and his boss’ boss so when Microsoft went over his head, he survived unscathed. However, that site really wishes to remain very low profile some years more to further build up their position.”
I have come to witness this sort of “low profile” policy myself; Microsoft likes to keep a sort of “naughty list” of institutions or companies (to convert to Microsoft). There’s nothing they won’t do to derail the competition, even just for the sake of driving it out of business.
If you too have a similar story to share, even if pertinent details like names must be omitted, please get in touch with us. The world needs to understand what Microsoft is still up to. █
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Backed by IBM, Microsoft, and all the usual suspects…
Summary: An introduction to what the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding [sic] really is, what it is for, and who is behind it
YESTERDAY we wrote about OIN's role in the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), which is the opposite of what its name says (common practice among front groups). Watch the composition: this is a software patents lobby with David Kappos, a clear IBM role, and Microsoft role also.
IAM, the mouthpiece of patent maximalists, says this right now (shielded behind a paywall, so it’s easier for them to evade scrutiny):
As well as being headed by Berman, CIPU includes former IBM and Microsoft IP supremo Marshall Phelps as vice-chairman. A number of other high profile IP figures have helped with getting the Center off the ground. These include Philips CIPO Brian Hinman, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Paul Michel and former USPTO Director David Kappos. Microsoft, Philips and Duke University are among those providing support.
It is too easy to see whose interests are served by this front group. Now watch the sole comment on this blog post, published by Peter Harter of The Farrington Group (friend of IAM): “Glad to see that the FAKE NEWS of the infringer lobby can be countered. Perhaps all ethics reviews for IP professionals, journalists and bloggers should include a literacy evaluation built on the CIPU rubric?”
“They try to strike down Alice, bring back software patents, and extort a lot of companies for many billions of dollars.”We are probably going to hear a lot from this front group in the coming weeks/months. It will also lobby politicians behind closed doors, we are pretty sure about that…
It’s clear what they want as they repeatedly write about it. They try to strike down Alice, bring back software patents, and extort a lot of companies for many billions of dollars.
Christopher Hall, writing for the National Law Review right now, seems to be on that same bandwagon. He seems to have not gotten the memo about death of software patents, or maybe he just conveniently pretends that Alice does not exist. People like him, along with the CIPU backers, have been constructing a bunch of tricks for loopholes that often work in the EPO; they try to pass off algorithms as a “machine” (to quote, “could be a computing machine of some sort, for computer-based algorithms”).
These are technically meaningless terms (Deepak Chopra-style mumbo-jumbo) that may in fact suggest that Hall does not know how computer programs work (Watchtroll evidently has the same problem). Here is the full paragraph, which does cite §101:
Claims written with the above template capture initial values, iterative values and results in the context of an iterative algorithm tied to a machine (which could be a computing machine of some sort, for computer-based algorithms). Variations on this can be written for tangible media and for system claims. This approach should pass muster for arguments and subject matter patent eligibility under 35 USC §101, because the algorithm and presumably tangible result are inextricably tied to the machine that is executing the algorithm, so that a computer is not a mere field of use limitation.
We need to keep track of all these firms and front groups that are trying to spin things and even lie in major newspapers, basically telling people that the potency of software patents is just fine (when clearly that is not the case).
Apple, for example, based on its patent promotion sites (not affiliated with Apple but always pushing Apple agenda on patents), is still gambling its future on Steve Jobs’ “thermonuclear” patent wars against rivals. The same goes for IBM and Microsoft, both of which are attacking companies that use GNU/Linux. If software patents are taken away from them, then they are pretty hopeless. That’s why they lobby so hard against Alice (Apple, IBM and Microsoft pay Kappos through his front group for lobbying on this). █
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If you don’t pay Microsoft the ‘protection’ fee, then watch out!
Summary: The story of Huawei gets more complicated, even though software patents are losing their teeth and notorious patent trolls are altogether losing their patents
Microsoft has successfully blackmailed all the big Android (and Chrome OS) OEMs except Huawei (whose headcount is almost twice that of Microsoft). Microsoft now attempts to paint patent settlements as "bundling" (the latest trick among more for taxing GNU/Linux and Free software). This does not, however, suggest that Huawei is safe because Microsoft has an army of “punishers” (or trolls), ranging from classic trolls like Intellectual Ventures to companies like Nokia and trolls that Microsoft passes Nokia’s patents to, e.g. MOSAID/Conversant.
Will Huawei bear the brunt of trolls for ‘daring’ to repeatedly refuse to sign a patent settlement with Microsoft (like Xiaomi did)? Ericsson, according to this new blog post from IAM, uses its already-notorious patent trolls (like Microsoft does) to taunt Huawei in the Eastern District of Texas. What we were not aware of, however, is that Nokia too — having become Microsoft’s patent bully after Elop’s infiltration/entryism — goes after Huawei. To quote: “Already embroiled in a standards licensing dispute with competitors Ericsson and Nokia, Huawei now faces battle on a new front after NPE PanOptis sued the Chinese company for alleged infringement of its standard-essential patents (SEPs).”
What we are seeing here is the sort of sordid mess that makes so-called 'smart' phones grossly overpriced and helps Microsoft compete on pricing terms while also extorting the competition (extracting so-called ‘royalties’ from projects and products it contributed absolutely nothing to).
We hope to see Microsoft’s trolling coming to a halt, but with the Linux Foundation being so paralysed by Microsoft cash we doubt a reprieve will ever come from there.
One way out of this mess is the weakening of software patents and perhaps their complete phase-out in the US. MPHJ, one of the world’s most notorious patent trolls, turns out to have just lost its software patents. As Patently-O has just put it:
Scan-to-Email Patent Finally Done; Claim Scope Broadened by Narrow Provisional Application
MPHJ’s patent enforcement campaign helped revive calls for further reform of the patent litigation system. The patentee apparently mailed out thousands of demand letters to both small and large businesses who it suspected of infringing its scan-to-email patents. The primary patent at issue is U.S. Patent No. 8,488,173.
Ricoh, Xerox, and Lexmark successfully petitioned for inter partes review (IPR), and the PTAB concluded that the challenged claims (1–8) are invalid as both anticipated and obvious. On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed.
Nice to see PTAB saving the day again! That’s why we wholeheartedly support PTAB, whose role is still growing this year. █
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Companies that are using GNU/Linux in their datacentres have become the target of software patent lawsuits from a fake ‘friend’ of GNU/Linux
Summary: IBM’s poisonous policy on patents, which has long been incompatible with Free/Libre software, has gotten even worse and the company now takes the lead in lobbying for patenting of software
The “Open Invention Network,” Florian Müller told me a few hours ago in Twitter, “has co-founded a *pro-patent* advocacy thing,” called “The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding”. The press release reveals the involvement of the man who turned both IBM and Microsoft into massive patent bullies (Marshall Phelps, who is also quoted at the bottom):
“The IP knowledge gap is growing,” said Marshall Phelps, former head of IP at Microsoft and IBM and CIPU’s Vice Chairman. “Many people, including the general public and many in government, haven’t a clue what patents and other IP rights achieve. The incentive for taking IP seriously is at an all-time low. The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding will engage groups like schools, parents and the media about the benefits of respecting new ideas and the impact of failing to.”
It is worth noting that the Open Invention Network (OIN) was founded in part by IBM and was first headed by an IBM employee. The above serves to reinforce our growingly sceptical view of both OIN and IBM, which now engages in a lobbying campaign for software patents in the United States. Adding insult to injury, IBM is once again aligning itself with Watchtroll, which has been attacking people like Michelle Lee (USPTO Director) in an effort to engineer her dismissal [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and make way for a crooked person like Rader. Manny Schecter, IBM’s patent chief, actually contributed to Watchtroll — didn’t just link to it — and the headline was “Congress Needs to Act So Alice Doesn’t Live Here (in the Patent System) Anymore”.
“IBM’s willingness to do it so openly is a slap on the face of anyone who ever supported or praised IBM as some sort of guardian of GNU/Linux.”It doesn’t get any clearer than this. IBM is an enemy of software developers everywhere, and not just Free/Libre software developers. This was published yesterday, February 13th. Once upon a time IBM tried phoning me to control the narrative of my stories (I told them off immediately). They love shaping the media behind closed doors, but Schecter continues to make it abundantly clear that IBM is now just a business ally of Apple, not “Linux” (or GNU/Linux). IBM is actually rapidly becoming an enemy of GNU/Linux and everything that has helped IBM grow over the past 2 decades.
Others are also promoting software patents this week, for example Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP (as expected from patent profiteers). IBM’s willingness to do it so openly is a slap on the face of anyone who ever supported or praised IBM as some sort of guardian of GNU/Linux. IBM is now suing massively all sorts of companies with massive GNU/Linux deployment, using software patents. █
“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.”
–Marshall Phelps, IBM and then Microsoft
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Whereas in Munich, Microsoft’s allies from Accenture continue to game the media with claims (years in the making now, always in vain) that GNU/Linux is a “failure”
“I’ve heard from Novell sales representatives that Microsoft sales executives have started calling the Suse Linux Enterprise Server coupons “royalty payments”…”
–Matt Asay, formerly Novell
Summary: Microsoft’s so-called ‘love’ of GNU/Linux is conditional; Microsoft is willing to just tolerate GNU/Linux and not sue its users/distributors to death (or hefty settlement) as long as they pay Microsoft some royalties
AFTER a bunch of days without a single article (two of my laptops broke down, the connection went bust and other serious issues came up in the course of just 48 hours!) I can finally catch up with a lot of news which I was eager to write about. One might joke that for the past few days I’ve experienced the stress levels of EPO employees.
“The marketing/slogan was similar 10 years ago and we are beginning to see what Microsoft was plotting with this whole Azure “Microsoft loves [GNU/]Linux” façade.”Last week’s most popular article was this one about Microsoft's latest PR twist — a claim that balkanisation of Free/Libre Open Source software (“safe” and “unsafe”) is somehow benign and even desirable. A lot of the corporate press played along [1, 2] (Googlebombing “microsoft troll” as we noted here before). The latter, for example, is a highly misleading headline (“10,000 Microsoft patents free of charge”) because they pay Microsoft, otherwise Microsoft’s trolls can go after them. Notice the name of the programme, “IP Advantage”. If it sounds familiar, it should; these are same words that were used back in the Novell days. There was even a domain named along those likes. The marketing/slogan was similar 10 years ago and we are beginning to see what Microsoft was plotting with this whole Azure “Microsoft loves [GNU/]Linux” façade. It’s not too hard to see what really happens here and it’s probably not a coincidence or a side-effect but something that Microsoft’s strategists came up with. This is how they try to leverage software patents to ‘milk’ Free software.
“No other company pushes the envelope on IP value creation quite like Microsoft,” said Microsoft’s friends at IAM. “Yesterday the software giant was at it again with the announcement of a new level of patent protection for its cloud business through the launch of the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage programme.”
“So Microsoft is now looking for new ways to tax, using patents, the technology which is taking over (and isn’t Microsoft’s).”Watch how these mesmorised writers from IAM spin Microsoft’s passive-aggressive patent tactics. These tactics show that Microsoft has not changed. Only the marketing got tweaked a little. To quote more: “Microsoft’s recent value creation drive comes at a time when one of its traditionally strong IP areas — licensing fees — are on the decline; thanks, in large part, to a slumping smartphone market.”
So Microsoft is now looking for new ways to tax, using patents, the technology which is taking over (and isn’t Microsoft’s). Michael Loney too missed/lost sight of the Microsoft plot. He acts like a courier of Microsoft. “In an interview,” he wrote, “Erich Andersen explains Microsoft’s new programme to protect customers against IP litigation related to cloud computing, including making 10,000 patents available and pledging to Azure customers that if it transfers patents to non-practising entities they cannot be asserted against them” (like those entities that are operated by or are connected to Microsoft).
Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer after his promotion (showing increased focus on patents, not products, a couple of years ago), is promoting “Microsoft Azure IP Advantage programme,” but let it be clear that this is just the latest Microsoft assault on GNU/Linux and Free software. Anyone who believes otherwise is just refusing to see the obvious; or maybe we just failed to explain this clearly enough last week. We expect to say more about it in the near and distant future. Wait for trolls like Intellectual Ventures to go after hosts (or their customers) that are not Microsoft-’protected’. █
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Old tricks, new sheep’s clothing (don't change tactics, just market them better!)
Summary: Having disguised Android and Chrome OS patent settlements as OEM "bundling" deals (preinstalling Microsoft spyware), Microsoft now comes up with a new way to market its “protection” (of FOSS it didn’t even develop) from patent trolls, which requires that people pay Microsoft a subscription fee
LAST NIGHT, just before midnight, people started sending links like this or the original from Microsoft. It is despicable and it “does not work against trolls,” as Benjamin Henrion pointed out to me. In short, a massive patent troll claims that it offers protection from trolls and it’s all over the news, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4] (a near-exhaustive list of articles is not needed because there are many articles like these that are puff pieces). Not all the above was composed by Microsoft boosters, but it started from Microsoft and then Microsoft boosters, who probably coordinated this with Microsoft’s PR agencies before or during the charm offensive.
“What Microsoft basically says here is, use only our services (and pay us every month) for using Free/Open Source software that we did not even develop — only threatened and occasionally attacked — then enjoy “IP Peace of Mind” (or else we and our patent trolls will sue you with software patents).”Microsoft has got some nerve doing this; the company operates its own in-house patent troll (plus peripheral ones); it regularly attacks GNU/Linux with patents, yet now it pretends to be “defensive”? Or pretends to combat trolls? It doesn’t get any more laughable than this. This is the same company that keeps expounding and repeating the lie that it “loves [GNU/]Linux” (while constantly attacking GNU/Linux, GNU/Linux vendors and GNU/Linux advocates behind the scenes — we still have some new stories about that on the way).
What Microsoft basically says here is, use only our services (and pay us every month) for using Free/Open Source software that we did not even develop — only threatened and occasionally attacked — then enjoy “IP Peace of Mind” (or else we and our patent trolls will sue you with software patents). Microsoft already did this with Novell a decade ago. It’s not a new trick. It perpetually said, buy SUSE (pay us for patents) or risk lawsuits. Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer even directly threatened Red Hat and its customers. He publicly said: “People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.”
“Just because Microsoft paid the Linux Foundation (slush funds; that’s all it takes to ‘join’) doesn’t mean that Microsoft suddenly “loves [GNU/]Linux” or that all is OK now.”Dozens of new (or “news”) articles about Microsoft and patent trolls are currently googlebombing (filling up the indexes for searches), distracting from Microsoft as the patent troll or a ‘puppetmaster’ of trolls such as Intellectual Ventures. If this wasn’t the real purpose of this PR charade, then maybe it’s a side perk. Incidentally, the other day Linux Journal published an article about Microsoft’s patent attacks on GNU/Linux. It started like this:
From vs. to + for Microsoft and [GNU/]Linux
In November 2016, Microsoft became a platinum member of the Linux Foundation, the primary sponsor of top-drawer Linux talent (including Linus), as well as a leading organizer of [GNU/]Linux conferences and source of [GNU/]Linux news.
Does it matter that Microsoft has a long history of fighting [GNU/]Linux with patent claims? Seems it should. Run a Google search for “microsoft linux patents”, and you’ll get almost a half-million results, most of which raise questions. Is Microsoft now ready to settle or drop claims? Is this about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? Is it just a seat at a table it can’t hurt Microsoft to sit at?
Just because Microsoft paid the Linux Foundation (slush funds; that’s all it takes to ‘join’) doesn’t mean that Microsoft suddenly “loves [GNU/]Linux” or that all is OK now. From what we’re able to see, Microsoft is now trying to distinguish its offerings based on perceived protection from a problem that it itself created. People should be disgusted; nobody should praise Microsoft for this. Microsoft is again dividing the community; there’s the ‘protected’ option and the ‘under threat’ (of litigation) option. █
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Not only classic patent trolls are collapsing/folding
Picture contributed by a reader in 2008
Summary: The fantasy which is building a company on a foundation of patent revenue (like a patent troll) is quickly going away, as even some of the most notorious patent aggressors (companies that are failing in the real market and thus turn to patents) begrudgingly and inevitably find out
THE patent microcosm (people whose profession is just patents, not science and/or technology) is on the retreat. It is retreating from many fronts and it is sometimes willing to publicly acknowledge this. Sometimes it just resorts to insulting the Director of the USPTO, Michelle Lee ([1, 2, 3, 4] (as if she is in some ways comparable to the crooked EPO management).
The patent microcosm will lose a lot of people. The reason for their anger is the demise of their profession, or the bursting of the patent bubble. Below we present some of the latest examples.
Reading IAM (with a sceptic’s hat on) can be handy because looking past the spin and the damage control, it is clear that the patent microcosm suffers brain drain that goes all the way up to the top. After Creative had become a patent troll, as we explained here last year, its legal head finally — one might say belatedly — jumps ship (ignore IAM’s lipstick on this pig). We suppose that the litigation strategy didn’t work out as expected. To quote, “Anan Sivananthan has stepped down as associate vice president and head of legal after spending 17 years with the company in order to join the Singapore IP practice of Bird & Bird.”
So no more patent trolling for him?
Recently, as we covered here as recently as last month as a matter of fact, Psyhogeos left Microsoft, only months after Horacio Gutierrez had left. The significance of this is very high; it shows Microsoft’s trolling operations failing. Microsoft’s patent blackmail, using software patents as a weapon of choice, is not yielding any major gains and rumours in recent press reports say that there are more layoffs imminent (the company’s own troll entity’s chief left recently, possibly with more departures to come). It means that attacking Android OEMs with patents — something that Creative too has been doing — is a losing strategy. Here is the latest about the demise of Microsoft’s trolling operation:
There was more evidence last week of ongoing challenges for patent licensing when two giants of the tech world published their latest quarterly results.
Patent licensing, though, did not fare so well, as the software giant saw a 25% decline in revenues due to a drop in licensed units and licence revenue per unit.
As we have seen in other recent quarters, Microsoft’s royalty stream is slowing thanks to falling smartphone sales and decreases in the average price of a device. The Redmond-based tech company doesn’t split out the numbers for it IP business, so we don’t know exactly how much it brings in, but it is understood to have been as high as between $2 billion and $3 billion.
In other words, licensing is important for Microsoft (especially with regards to overall profitability), but it is not as a critical determinant of the company’s fortunes as it can be for others. Plus, as we have seen under new CEO Satya Nadella, the Windows giant has changed tack as its looks to forge new and develop existing business relationships, of which licensing agreements can be a useful part.
Microsoft is basically just a giant patent troll, especially in the area of mobile devices.
Another patent troll, one that Microsoft is a member of (see background in our wiki), is imploding. “IAM understands that RPX co-founder John Amster has stood down as CEO of the defensive patent aggregator,” it said the other day.
Great news again.
But wait, there’s more…
IAM, which adopts propaganda terms like ‘efficient infringement’ (to describe innocence from patent infringement), writes about Microsoft’s LinkedIn and its love of patents (the above mentions the takeover of LinkedIn as well). Is LinkedIn about to become a patent troll like the company that’s buying it for spying purposes? Will Microsoft shake down Twitter using patents in the same way IBM did? Maybe it’s premature to predict this, but either way, here is IAM’s editor about “Trump, IBM, LinkedIn”, accompanied with the propaganda terms:
While many in the US IP community hope that the arrival of President Trump will herald a new era in which patents become the valuable, enforceable assets they once were – and so-called ‘efficient infringement’ is consigned to history – hope is all they have at the moment.
Trump’s patent policy (or lack thereof at this stage) will be the subject of a later post.
Fitbit Falls on Its Patent Sword
There is yet another new example of patent abusers losing big. Not too long ago we wrote about Fitbit chickening out of a patent war which it itself had started. It turns out now, based on a quick/concise tweet from Tim Bradshaw, that “Fitbit fell 16% today after slashing its outlook & cutting jobs. At $1.3bn it’s now worth less than GoPro ($1.5bn)” (links to an article behind paywall).
Well, remember that Fitbit was the company that attacked its rival with patents and then ran away from the battle that it had created, saying that its RIVAL was financially weak! So perhaps it was just a projection tactic. It turns out that it’s Fitbit that’s utterly weak (financially). Here is a new report about it which is not behind paywall:
Fitbit Inc. will eliminate about 110 jobs, or 6 percent of its workforce, and said fourth-quarter results won’t meet analysts’ estimates amid declining demand for its fitness trackers.
Fitbit expects to report that it sold 6.5 million devices in the quarter ended Dec. 31 2016, with revenue of $572 million to $580 million, the company said in a statement Monday. Analysts were expecting $736.4 million, on average. Fitbit forecasts revenue in 2017 of $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion. Analysts had estimated $2.38 billion. Official results are due to be released Feb. 22.
Fitbit wanted to live by the (patent) sword and it fell on its sword. It didn’t help Fitbit when it attacked competitors using patents. It just made the company look foolish and now it is suffering. Money went to lawyers rather than salaries or R&D. █
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