The patent ploy of Microsoft and Novell isn’t quite bearing fruit
Summary: The Microsoft-led CPTN now has Novell’s software patents, so the Microsoft-Novell-SUSE deal has officially come to an end, and there’s no sign of it ever continuing, with or without patents
WHEN Microsoft signed a 5-year deal with SUSE we called for/asked our readers to boycott SUSE. This deal has just officially come to an end, as we noted yesterday. Now, to be frank, there is not much to be said about it as two articles by Sam Varghese explored this subject a couple of months ago [1, 2] and this deal does not appear to have much to do with patents, so we don’t need to worry too much.
“So much for relying on Microsoft as a ‘partner’…”
–The deal was signed in 2011. An article from around that time took note of CPTN, saying: “In fact, it is so much money that it’s fair to argue that Novell would have imploded without the Microsoft cash injections and sold for a lot less money than the $2.2bn that Attachmate paid to get control of it. (The net cost to Attachmate was less than half of that, however, thanks to the cash Novell had on hand and another $450m that a consortium led by Microsoft paid for 880 of Novell’s patents.)”
What’s interesting here is that SUSE is no longer so ‘special’ a child in Microsoft’s eyes. So much for relying on Microsoft as a ‘partner’… █
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The ‘new’ Microsoft…
Satya Ballmer: different face, same strategy/policy
Summary: Microsoft continues its vicious patent war on anything resembling competition (however small), even the competition against which Microsoft previously committed competition abuses/crimes (subject of court cases) in order to attain total monopoly
MICROSOFT, which is connected to many patent trolls (including Intellectual Ventures, the world’s biggest), is still busy suing companies. Microsoft has a long history of patent aggression, including patent litigation against Linux (not just threats thereof). As longtime readers of this site may know, this and only this was the raison d’être of this Web site.
“…since winning a case for infringement of design patents can lead to a damage analysis based on “lost profits,” which can theoretically lead to a patent owner getting all of a defendant’s profits.”
–Joe MullinAs we noted the other day, referring to the original from the EFF, Microsoft is now attacking a company that once dominated word processing. Microsoft allegedly engaged in competition crimes against this company, leading to decades of expensive litigation. This company also pioneered some important GNU/Linux efforts until Microsoft shut these down with a mysterious deal (which we wrote about on several occasions around 2007). Well, Microsoft is now trying to drive this company into bankruptcy, using patents.
What’s the name of this company? Corel. We have a whole category about Corel (with 51 articles, as well as leaked court documents). History is important here and it’s imperative that people properly study Corel to truly grasp how severe this situation really is.
Microsoft is now attacking Corel with what the EFF calls “Stupid Patent of the Month”. As noted by one good journalist (Joe Mullin), “it’s serious ammo, since winning a case for infringement of design patents can lead to a damage analysis based on “lost profits,” which can theoretically lead to a patent owner getting all of a defendant’s profits.”
“Remember the company called Novell? Yes, that company that pretty much vanished half a decade ago and whose patent/special deal with Microsoft (SUSE) will expire tomorrow (there are no signs of renewal or continuation).”In other words, expect layoffs, liquidation, bankruptcy, etc. Legal fees aren’t low, either. Remember the company called Novell? Yes, that company that pretty much vanished half a decade ago and whose patent/special deal with Microsoft (SUSE) will expire tomorrow (there are no signs of renewal or continuation). Other than the name being similar, Novell and Corel have a lot in common because both competed against Microsoft until signing some infamous deals with Microsoft, leading to their demise, as well as the demise of their ongoing court cases against Microsoft (for competition abuses/crimes). When Novell imploded Microsoft grabbed its patents. Sweet deal for Microsoft. Novell is virtually gone (devoured by another company) and its patents are in CPTN, which is a ‘conglomerate’ pool of Linux and Android foes such as Oracle and Apple.
“Microsoft is now using patents primarily against Android, which the company is at war against (don’t believe the pretenses and the “loves Linux” baloney).”We quite liked how Glyn Moody framed the situation in his article “If Microsoft Wins Its ‘Stupid Patent Of The Month’ Lawsuit, Expect A Plague Of Trolls To Move Into Design Patents”.
As if Microsoft itself is not somewhat of a massive troll itself (we wrote a lot about this before). Just look what the company has been doing with patents this past decade. “The recent Techdirt article about Microsoft’s design patent on a slider,” Moody wrote, “understandably focused on the absurdity of companies being forced to hand over all of the profits that derive from a product if it is found to have infringed on someone else’s design patent even in just a tiny portion of that product. But there’s another angle worth mentioning here that picks up on something Techdirt has written about several times before: the rise and threat of patent thickets. Back in 2012, it was estimated that 250,000 active patents impacted smartphones. That makes it impossible to build devices without licensing large numbers of patents, and even then, it’s likely that claims of infringement will still be brought.”
Microsoft is now using patents primarily against Android, which the company is at war against (don’t believe the pretenses and the "loves Linux" baloney).
“The EPO’s lawyers who currently deal with my case were also recently seen working from the same side as Microsoft on the patent front, based on Reuters.”Here is another new article about Microsoft’s “Stupid Patent of the Month”. “The design patent,” says Softpedia, “numbered D554,140, basically states that Microsoft is the owner of the slider you can see in the photo attached to the article. This is the very same slider that the company uses in its Office productivity suite to allow users to zoom in or out of documents, but it has also been implemented in a wide variety of Microsoft and non-Microsoft products.”
But when patent examiners are pressured to issue patents in bulk and/or do a rushed job (as in the EPO for example, with Microsoft being on the high-priority list), no wonder such nonsense gets granted, leaving European courts to sort out the mess at a huge expense to the defendants. It is worth noting again that only articles of mine which mentioned Microsoft were even the target of threatening legal letters from the EPO’s lawyers, which gives room for speculation. The EPO’s lawyers who currently deal with my case were also recently seen working from the same side as Microsoft on the patent front, based on Reuters. █
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via Wikipedia but with the GIMP treatment
Summary: The de facto Microsoft satellite known as Xamarin reveals that it is still little more than a Microsoft mobile division
LAST MONTH we wrote about Xamarin‘s absorption of a FOSS Android tool, which quickly turned proprietary (almost instantaneously while takeover negotiations took place). Xamarin Studio, like a lot of Xamarin’s proprietary software, does nor even run on GNU/Linux. There is hardly any pretence anymore that Miguel de Icaza and his Microsoft-connected ilk even care about FOSS. These traitors show their true colours and disdain for anything FOSS.
“There is hardly any pretence anymore that Miguel de Icaza and his Microsoft-connected ilk even care about FOSS.”According to Microsoft's booster at El Reg (Anderson), the latest release from Xamarin still has no Java, just Microsoft lock-in like .NET, XAML, etc. To quote his piece:
Xamarin releases version 4.0 of its cross-platform mobile developer suite
The company has grown rapidly, since it solves a problem for Microsoft-platform developers who now need to target mobile, especially following the failure of Windows Phone to achieve significant market share. “We have over 10,000 customers, 350 consulting partners and 2,000 integration partners,” Friedman told the Reg.
When will everyone recognise that the real motivation at Xamarin is serving as some kind of Microsoft satellite or proxy? Nothing good has come of Xamarin since Novell dumped (laid off all the employees of) Mono and a firm/VC connected to Microsoft became its sugar daddy. █
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Systemd to be used for technical and support leverage in the same way Mono was?
Credit: unknown (Twitter)
Summary: Red Hat’s current management, which technically liaises (more deeply over time) with Microsoft, agrees on patents, works with the NSA, and increasingly deviates from the UNIX way (while becoming more secretive, except the openwashing), inevitably reminds us of Novell
Microsoft and the board- or shareholders-driven Red Hat now seem more and more like Microsoft and Novell, based on some of the latest reports and even press releases like this one
“The Microsoft/Red Hat partnership calls for a Red Hat engineering team to actually move to Redmond,” to quote a new report. 
“And don’t forget the patent agreement that they still refuse to tell us more about.”Mirroring the Microsoft-Novell ‘special relationship’, there is a lot of technical integration too. The men in suit “said that in the coming months Red Hat Enterprise Linux images will be enabled for on-demand billing directly in its marketplace.” Billing by who? Microsoft? Red Hat? It’s complicated. And don’t forget the patent agreement that they still refuse to tell us more about [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10].
Jono Bacon, from GitHub and Red Hat’s “Open Organization” [sic] marketing campaign, defends the companies’ new relationship (as he would defend his former employer, Canonical, as well). Citing a sort of Microsoft proxy and a new Red Hat partner (Black Duck), he frames this relationship as necessary and recalls that “Microsoft went a step further with then-CEO Steve Ballmer describing the poster-child of the open source revolution, Linux, as “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”
“Red Hat is living in a dream if it genuinely believes that a deal with Microsoft will leave them better off than Linspire or Novell.”Well, based on Nadella’s actions against Samsung, Kyocera, and Dell (there are more examples), he too views Linux as “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” Nadella insists on still using patents against Linux, and against Android in particular (using patents pertaining to the kernel, Linux).
Under Nadella’s management, Microsoft is even trying to delete Android from phones (we first took note of this at the beginning of this year and later on) or even absorb its software into Windows — a strategy which Microsoft reportedly did in fact consider . It’s like a derivative of the famous “embrace, extend, extinguish” strategy. Under Nadella there was also further lockdown of UEFI, impeding or making impossible installation of GNU/Linux on PCs that come with Microsoft’s unpopular spyware.
Red Hat is living in a dream if it genuinely believes that a deal with Microsoft will leave them better off than Linspire or Novell. Or maybe it can leave Red Hat just better off than everyone else in the GNU/Linux world. Red Hat’s patent agreement with Microsoft, concurrent with Microsoft attacking Android (with software patents), is truly problematic and we will escalate if Red Hat does not respond to us or becomes transparent by the end of this month. A lot of people want answers. The “Open Organization” [sic] ignores these people. It’s inherently antithetical to players in a community of developers. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
The Microsoft/Red Hat partnership calls for a Red Hat engineering team to actually move to Redmond to provide joint technical support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux workloads running in the Microsoft Azure public cloud and on its hybrid cloud offerings. That ensures that the companies will have closely tied cloud computing goals.
Microsoft has sidelined its plan to allow Windows 10 devices to run Android apps before it could do any serious damage, according to a report.
Daniel Rubino at the Windows Central blog gathered some convincing evidence that Microsoft’s Project Astoria has been wound down, while the runtime allowing the Android-on-Win10 magic to work has disappeared.
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Summary: It has been 9 years since the Novell-Microsoft deal and right now we are trying to find out just what exactly Red Hat did with Microsoft regarding patents
TECHRIGHTS has recently been focused on EPO affairs. We were always focused on patents here. That’s why we don’t write much about matters such as systemd.
As Shane Coyle put it at the very start: “The way to communicate with a corporation is economically” because Novell, when it signed a patent agreement with Microsoft, chose to “violate the very license that allows them to distribute the community’s work in the first place” (using software patents).
“We are still waiting for Red Hat staff whom we spoke to (no names needed here) to press the management of Red Hat to disclose what was agreed on, regarding patents, in the Microsoft-Red Hat deal.”Unfortunately, just 9 years later (almost exactly 9 years) Red Hat chose to betray the community in a similar way [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], but what Red Hat did is very different because no patent payments were involved, just a form of legitimisation of Microsoft’s patents. We are still waiting for Red Hat staff whom we spoke to (no names needed here) to press the management of Red Hat to disclose what was agreed on, regarding patents, in the Microsoft-Red Hat deal. We will continue to pressure for this kind of transparency from the self-acclaimed “Open Organization” [sic]. We need real answers, not in the form of some vague FAQ which does nothing to suggest entities other than Red Hat and its paid customers are ‘safe’ from Microsoft patent litigation. Remember that .NET too remains a patent trap [1, 2] and it’s part of the Microsoft-Red Hat deal. █
“There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to Novell customers.”
–Bob Muglia, Microsoft President
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Good for Red Hat, not so much for anybody else…
Summary: Informed (GNU/Linux-centric) journalists who looked beyond the misleading press releases and the distracting marketing campaign have managed to find out and highlight the patent issues associated with the Red Hat-Microsoft deal
AS WE noted in our previous coverage, Red Hat does not want anyone to speak about — let alone know — the patent aspects of its deal with Microsoft. Most articles, following a dry (on facts, not on marketing) press release, say nothing about it. Here is one puff piece that plays along with the “Microsoft Loves Linux” narrative, which is extremely misleading (lulling us into dangerous optimism). The author writes: “It’s a long way from the days when the former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described Linux as a “cancer.” Last year his successor, Satya Nadella, proclaimed that “Microsoft Loves Linux” mainly because of its importance in the cloud.” No, Nadella is still attacking Linux and Android using patents. Consider the deals with Samsung, Kyocera, ASUS and Dell. Patent extortion in action!
“Microsoft Loves Linux” hype… is just not true… covertly spread open-source-related FUD…”
–Simon PhippsWe quite liked Simon Phipps’ take on this (without IDG’s editorial shadow). He is the former head of the OSI, so this matters a lot. He wrote:
All the same, let’s be clear that all the “Microsoft Loves Linux” hype I saw at SUSECon in Amsterdam yesterday and at other events earlier this year is just not true. Microsoft Azure loves Linux, there is no doubt; it is a basic requirement for them to become relevant on a cloud market dominated by AWS and Linux. They have been out in force at every commercially-oriented open source I have attended this year and have a full-scale charm offensive in place.
But the rest of the company still does not. They still seem to covertly spread open-source-related FUD about LibreOffice here in Europe. They haven’t foresworn making embedded Linux vendors pay for patent licenses of dubious necessity. The Azure business unit is certainly embracing the ecosystem the same as many before them have done so in their steps towards open source. But the Windows and Office business units show no signs of “loving” Linux and only modest signs of co-existing with open source.
If they want to signal the end of hostilities, step one is to sign the Mozilla Open Software Patent License Agreement or join OIN. Until one of those happens, I remain sceptical of Microsoft’s love for Linux.
“Microsoft” and “Love” don’t belong in the same sentence. These sociopaths, as I only recently found out, tried to get me fired from my job. Microsoft hardly even behaves like a normal company. It’s more like an informant (of the NSA among others) and a cult, led by a fake ‘philanthropist’ egoistic thug.
Writing for IDG, Phipps softened his words somewhat and wrote: “Software patents have also been a sticking point. Red Hat made clear that it does not acknowledge the validity or enforceability of Microsoft’s patents, but all the same has demanded a stand-still agreement guaranteeing neither company will pursue patent claims against the other or its customers. There’s no indication whether this extends to partner ecosystems.
“As opposed to the Novell SUSE patent covenant, the Red Hat Microsoft partnership now provides for what Red Hat is referring to as a patent standstill in the FAQ.”
–Sean Michael Kerner“That is a key issue for the open source community. While its Azure business unit has been professing love for Linux and smothering everything in penguins, the rest of Microsoft has carried on attacking the Linux ecosystem with patent claims and showing little accommodation for open source in its cash cow Windows and Office endeavors. Azure may be desperate for validation in a tough an competitive market, but the rest of Microsoft still needs to change more than going silent on its antipathy for open source.”
Writing for another big publisher (but not IDG), Sean Michael Kerner shed some light on the patent situation:
The path to the Microsoft Red Hat partnership has followed a long and winding road over a decade of mistrust and competition. In 2007, Microsoft alleged that open-source software infringes on more than 200 of its patents. Previous Microsoft partnerships with Linux vendors, including SUSE (formerly part of Novell), involved a patent covenant to deal with intellectual property issues. At the time of the Novell deal, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was very clear on his views about Linux patents; he noted that Microsoft’s deal was only with Novell SUSE Linux, and others still have an issue with infringing on Microsoft’s intellectual property.
In an FAQ posted by Red Hat, the company states, “Red Hat and Microsoft have agreed to a limited patent arrangement in connection with the commercial partnership for the benefit of mutual customers.” As opposed to the Novell SUSE patent covenant, the Red Hat Microsoft partnership now provides for what Red Hat is referring to as a patent standstill in the FAQ.
In response to a question from eWEEK, Cormier strongly emphasized that Red Hat remains true to its core open-source principles and is not compromising on them in the Microsoft partnership.
“Red Hat and Microsoft did not acknowledge the validity or value of each other’s patents,” Cormier said. “This is a commercial deal spurred by strong customer demand for our solutions to work together.”
“In order for the deal to work, Scott [Guthrie] and I agreed early on that it would only work if neither of us compromised our core business principles, and we did not,” Cormier said.
Senior Red Hat employees who have spoken to me about this have done effectively nothing to refute what I wrote. One of them falsely claimed that I compared this to the Novell deal (I didn’t, it would make no sense).
Not many people have noticed the part about patents because Red Hat did a fine job hiding it. Phoronix just said that “Microsoft and Red Hat have jointly announced a partnership today to “deliver more flexibility and choice” in the cloud.”
That sounds a little bit like Novell and Microsoft trying to characterise their patent deal (colluding against GNU/Linux vendors other than Novell) as “collaboration”, “interoperability”, and so on. Tim Anderson, a Microsoft booster from The Register, did not mention anything about patents.
“Due to layoffs there are limited resources and Microsoft is now counting on patents as a strategy against GNU/Linux. “As other articles from The Register serve to remind us, Vista 10 has been a catastrophe (The Register, to its credit, wrote a great deal about this). Its latest article makes is apparent that OEMs too — not just useds [sic] — will be force-fed Vista 10 pretty soon. As it was put two days ago, “Satya Nadella’s firm has quietly let slip that October 31, 2016, will be the final day for PC makers to buy copies of the operating system for pre-install.”
Microsoft cannot maintain Windows like it did back in the days of Windows XP. Due to layoffs there are limited resources and Microsoft is now counting on patents as a strategy against GNU/Linux. It promotes people accordingly. Let’s not forget other assaults on GNU/Linux, such as UEFI restricted boot, which complicates and at times makes impossible installation of GNU/Linux on whiteboxes. █
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Patents not on engineering (or physical products) anymore
Summary: News about patents from all across the Web, placing special emphasis on software patents and how these affect Free software projects, including Linux and Android
THIS week’s patents roundup revolves around practicing companies that act in a way which is almost indistinguishable from patent trolls. As we have said here for several years, the term “patent trolls” can be misleading because many large companies act in the same way but don’t get labeled “trolls”, mostly because of their size. It means that a fight against “patent trolls” often turns out to be a fight over scale, waged by large corporations against smaller ones. Check again who is behind the PATENT Act [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
Today’s post brings together several stories and themes/strands in order to keep readers abreast of the latest developments.
Open Invention Network
We have spent over 8 years writing about the Open Invention Network (better known as OIN) and why it cannot effectively protect Free software projects. We also exchanged many E-mails with the OIN and some trolls. We saw how toothless the OIN can be in many scenarios and we challenged the OIN over it. I spoke in length with their CEO a few times over the telephone and I still think that it helps legitimise software patents and rarely achieves very much, except promote the interests of large corporations (like those which founded it and still fund it).
Earlier this morning FOSS Force published this very long interview with Deb Nicholson, who had worked for the FSF before she moved to OIN. This interview is very good and Nicholson’s views on patents are fine. We shared them here before.
“My work at OIN involves a lot of research,” Nicholson says. “I read academic papers on litigation trends and try to stay on top of who’s getting sued this week. It also involves a lot of behind the scenes emailing. I have lots of informal conversations with people about how you run a free and open source software project. Sometimes, they don’t realize that lots of other companies are succeeding with FOSS business models and shared community resources. Once they see that it can be done, they often feel more confident.”
Nicholson then speaks about the role of SCOTUS in lowering the risk of software patents.
“The Supreme Court,” she explains, “has given the lower courts the tools to rule against two specific categories of vague and frivolous patents. This is great for companies that have the cash and the time to go to court. For companies that don’t want to fight in court — which is lots of them, because it really is expensive and time-consuming — the letters will keep coming. Plus, there are still plenty of overly broad or obvious patents on the books that may not be affected by the recent rulings. So, things are improving but I wouldn’t say that we’re finished.”
She makes an important point regarding the cost of litigation, but the matter of fact is, USPTO examiners are now tougher on software patents and fewer companies (or shell firms) are eager to assert software patents for fear of losing them. Not only the extorted party (usually developers) is scared of the courts; the plaintiff, e.g. a patent troll, is too. What SCOTUS has done is, in our humble assessment, the best news in nearly a decade. We cannot recall anything bigger or better in terms of magnitude, at least not when it comes to systematically squashing software patents (not one patent at the time as per the EFF’s much-advertised earlier efforts, dubbed “patent busting”).
The Finjan-led patent extortion crusade was mentioned here just weeks ago (they are Microsoft-connected) and now, just weeks later, this firm’s troll entity (Finjan Holdings) gets extortion money from a really nasty company, Blue Coat, which some say the EPO hired to spy on people like yours truly and EPO staff. “Finjan Holdings,” as a trolls expert explains, is “a patent-licensing company operating in the cybersecurity space” and it has just “won a hefty $39.5 million jury verdict (PDF) on Tuesday, when a San Jose jury found that Blue Coat Systems infringed five of its patents.”
Keep an eye on Finjan, not just because of its Microsoft connections. Finjan has become a very malicious company. It deserves to go out of business. The sooner, the better.
Cisco, now known for its surveillance and back doors (which is even openly discusses when applying for standards), is receiving negative publicly because as its profits run dry (or more meager), it increasingly turns into more of a troll, just like Microsoft and Apple. Is this what Cisco wants to be renowned (or notorious) for? Remember that TrollTracker, a fighter against patent trolls. was a Cisco lawyer, but Cisco is now turning into what it fought. Arista, according to this article, says that Cisco is “Very Much Like a Patent Troll” (that’s the headline) and it’s coming all the way from the top. To quote the article, “Arista’s top lawyer used the company’s earnings call for trash-talk Thursday, saying Cisco is “behaving very much like a patent troll” in its intellectual property lawsuit against Arista.
“Arista Networks Inc. CEO Jayshree Ullal kicked off the badmouthing: “Despite all the overheated rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Cisco blogs about Arista’s brazen copying, we think the only thing brazen about the suit is the extreme length Cisco has gone to,” she said. “Our customers have shown unwavering support.”
“Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents.”“Arista Vice President and General Counsel Marc Taxay agreed. “Ironically … it appears to us at any rate that Cisco is behaving very much like a patent troll, which is pretty much what they’ve spent the last decade condemning.” Cisco is claiming patents for widely implemented features and functionality that exist on a broad range of switches today, and some of the patents affect features the patents were never intended to cover, Taxay said.”
The Wall Street Journal, taking note of “expensive legal battle with Cisco”, also expresses concerns about this case. “That may give some investors pause,” the author claims, “especially when Arista remains embroiled in an expensive legal battle with Cisco, which has accused it of infringing on patents.”
Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents. Cisco used to be on the defensive, but now it’s on the ofsensive, and not against trolls. For a company that is eager to be seen as a FOSS and GNU/Linux supporter, this surely is a dumb strategy whose gains — if any — are massively outweighed by public image erosion.
A new article from Timothy B. Lee helps chastise the bully called JDate, which we wrote about very recently. “JDate,” he explains, “recently sued JSwipe, a mobile dating app for Jews that works like Tinder. Most media coverage has focused on mocking JDate for essentially claiming that it has a monopoly on certain uses of the letter J.
“But in some ways, the part of JDate’s lawsuit that really merits mockery is the patent infringement claims. JDate is suing JSwipe for infringing a broad patent that essentially claims the concept of using a computer to match pairs of users who express interest in each other. The lawsuit illustrates the continuing need for patent reform, because the current system makes it too expensive for defendants to challenge dubious patents.”
There are some interesting comments about JDate here. Although this Web site only targets a small niche, we strongly encourage all readers to boycott JDate, or else they’ll continue their shameful bullying, perhaps inspiring other companies to do the same.
The Economist Versus Patents
The Economist, interestingly and surprisingly enough (given its strong pro-business bias), chastises the patents regime in at least two articles this month. One is titled “A question of utility” and says in its summary: “Patents are protected by governments because they are held to promote innovation. But there is plenty of evidence that they do not” (we have covered such evidence for almost a decade).
“The ability to patent,” says the author, “has been extended from physical devices to software and stretches of DNA, not to mention—notably in America—to business processes and financial products.”
Yes, patent scope is a huge part of the problem.
“Time to fix patents” is the second such article from The Economist and it too is an assault on the status quo. “Ideas fuel the economy. Today’s patent systems are a rotten way of rewarding them,” said the summary.
Here is a key part of this article: “Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils. An early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor business had to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spur bursts of innovation; instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.”
It is nice to see even The Economist debunking these tiresome myths, many of which still perpetually spread by patent profiteers rather than producing companies. Are we on the cusp of a mindset change?
Patent Propaganda From Lawyers’ Sites
Lawyers’ media, seeking to maximise dependence on patent lawyers, promotes patents on construction in this series that starts with the following paragraph: “In the first of this three part series, clean tech, or green construction, was defined as construction that reduces or minimizes the environmental impact in building construction, operation and use. That article also discussed the importance of building intellectual property walls, and especially with patents, to protect inventions from being incorporated into projects by unlicensed users. Equally important is knowing the patents that may prevent a company from incorporating patented technology for which it has no license. Patent rights can shape an industry; consequently, companies must develop patent strategies. Patents for green construction encompass everything from building materials, to software for optimizing various processes, to green energy systems, amongst others.”
Yes, they even suggest software patents right there.
“The US may not have a world class patent system,” say the patent maximalists of IAM, “but its professionals are second to none” (for taxing by lawyers perhaps). Another site of patent lawyers who lobby for a lot of ludicrous types of patents (including software) pretends that patents take a short time to receive, despite that infamous backlog and these notorious issues which can only be tackled by lowing examination standards, hence granting bogus patents (trivial, and/or with prior art).
“Intellectual property & intangible assets” is the headline of this British article which is so full of nonsense that we don’t know where to start. To quote one part of it: “Newton says the real value in business these days is in knowledge, which is tied up in intellectual property, patents, trademarks and designs.”
That’s nonsense. The term “intellectual property” refers to patents, trademarks, and copyrights, so it cannot be separated as above. Then there are designs, which are already (in most domains) covered by copyrights and if the author wishes to speak about trade secrets, that’s different from all the above and still pertains to knowledge, without having to introduce that vague notion of “intellectual property” and “intangible assets” — both horrible propaganda terms that equate ideas with objects.
“Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.”The article titled “9 Tech Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry” talks about proprietary software that patent lawyers use to keep track of their work. “Experts say the market for legal technology is as much as $400 billion,” the article says, but there is nothing like a citation to support such a figure.
“We hear the same complaints over and over every time Congress tries to improve the patent system,” Matt Levy wrote the other day. “In fact, we’ve been hearing some of them for over 70 years.” Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.
Design Patents and Linux Gadgets
Speaking of design patents, watch what patent maximalists celebrated this weekend: “The text cluster provided here shows that much of Hasbro’s portfolio of 1,772 patents (339 of which are active) are related to toy vehicles, electronic games and ornamental designs, indicating a fair amount of design patents.”
The notion of “design patents” has got to be one of the most loathsome and ridiculous. The article “Apple v. Samsung and a Fight Over the Patents for Designs” was published by Forbes the other day, reminding us of so-called design patents (such as the widely-ridiculed 'rounded corners' patents). Apple is very desperate to stop Android (and by extension Linux), but doing so by bullying with outright bogus patents isn’t the way to compete. CPTN members (i.e. holders of Novell’s patents) Oracle, Apple and Microsoft have been systematically attacking Android using patents and Oracle now takes this further. “Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Java copyrights probably won’t be back in a courtroom again until next year,” wrote The Register, “but in the meantime, Oracle has asked the court to let it expand the scope of its complaint to include events that have occurred since it was first filed in 2010.”
This forever-legal-limbo scenario helps hurt Android, so we cannot just pretend that software patents are not a problem. More FOSS and GNU/Linux site must learn to address these issues as a matter of priority. Not enough are doing this at the moment and it definitely helps our foes. Many people seem to forget that Microsoft still attacks GNU/Linux using patents (albeit more discreetly than before). █
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The Linux Foundation now helps Windows, too
Summary: By liaising with (or hijacking) existing members of the Linux Foundation, as well as by paying the Linux Foundation, Microsoft turns the Linux Foundation into somewhat of a Windows advocacy group
After the public embarrassment at DockerCon 2015 (causing GNU/Linux software to be tilted in Windows' favour) and more Microsoft payments to the Linux Foundation we can’t help wondering if the Linux Foundation is no longer dedicated to the promotion of GNU/Linux, the operating system. Microsoft is increasingly using its presence and pawns in the Linux Foundation in order to advance Windows at the expense of GNU/Linux. Hyper-V was an early example of that. It’s a Window program and it is proprietary. Why would the Linux Foundation bother supporting that? It was the Microsoft-bribed Novell that did this at the time. Microsoft has moles. In fact, the Linux Foundation now employs some former managers from Microsoft. Can it get much worse than that? One of the worst sites on the Web, a site that mostly rips off other Web sites without any attribution whatsoever, went with the misleading headline “Microsoft joins the Linux Foundation” and some other sites which speak about the Linux Foundation’s R Consortium are emphasising Microsoft [1, 2] as if Microsoft is now the official steward of R. For Microsoft, and by extension for Windows, this is clearly an attempt at buying out a language along with developers. As Linux Veda put it: “The creation of this consortium comes on the heels of Microsoft’s acquisition of Revolution Analytics at the end of January this year. Revolution Analytics are the leading commercial provider of software and services for R. It has been suggested by commentators that Microsoft’s competitors had joined this consortium in an attempt to keep R open.”
“Last month we showed how the Linux Foundation actually promoted Vista 10 because of AllSeen.”Here is the press release from the Linux Foundation and some resultant coverage [1, 2, 3]. Mac Asay, who had tried to work for Microsoft, suggested this “embrace” by Microsoft. In his own words:
Given R’s non-corporate nature, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the community’s response to my recent suggestion that Microsoft owned the R code and should consider contributing it to a foundation.
To paraphrase the response: “There already is a foundation — and the foundation, not some corporation, owns the code!!”
I’ll admit that I was taken aback. After all, my primary contention was that re-implementing R to get around its underlying GPL license would sacrifice R’s great community. I hadn’t bothered to take the time to dig into the provenance of the R code, as it wasn’t material to the bulk of my article. Why wasn’t that community grateful for the compliment, and indifferent to my eensie weensie faux pas?
Because the essence of R is important to its community, and that essence can’t be purchased by any corporation.
A reader who linked to the above article told us that Microsoft is “infecting a GNU project” here. It’s easier to see now why Microsoft bought an R company. It’s all about “developers developers developers developers” (Ballmer’s words) and it’s about them using Windows. Why is the Linux Foundation going along with this? Probably the same reason it goes along with horrible UEFI, Intel being a key financeer of the Foundation, even going back to the OSDL days. It’s all about who is paying. The Linux Foundation, and prior to it OSDL, is supposed to exist so that companies cannot snatch Torvalds with a huge salary but instead they will pool together money to pay Torvalds et al. This pooling mechanism is now being exploited or even compromised by Microsoft, which cleverly knows it can bribe or infiltrate the foundation (Nokia, Novell, and so forth) while the Foundation itself is defenseless as it’s not built to decline funds or repel (even ostracise) members. We wrote about this many years ago because Microsoft destroyed some consortia in this way exactly — by paying off to discredit/dilute/distract/alienate collective efforts, e.g. OSA. Zemlin’s Foundation should learn from other foundations which were cleverly destroyed by Microsoft (Android too is 'work in progress').
Watch this new article promoting proprietary Windows and framing it as “contribution” to “open source”, the context being the eerily-named AllSeen Alliance of the Linux Foundation:
Microsoft has contributed open source code called the AllJoyn Device System Bridge to the AllSeen Alliance in order to help connect legacy and purpose-built devices to the Internet of Things.
Last month we showed how the Linux Foundation actually promoted Vista 10 because of AllSeen. This is the same operating system which, according to the news a couple of days ago , “will share your Wi-Fi key with your friends’ friends”. Yes, AllSeen indeed. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Those contacts include their Outlook.com (nee Hotmail) contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, their Facebook friends. There is method in the Microsoft madness – it saves having to shout across the office or house “what’s the Wi-Fi password?” – but ease of use has to be teamed with security. If you wander close to a wireless network, and your friend knows the password, and you both have Wi-Fi Sense, you can now log into that network.
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