Publicado en Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, OIN, Oracle, Patentes at 4:01 pm por el Dr. Roy Schestowitz
Una solución que sólo los agresores de patentes y sus proponentes como IBM pueden coexistir
Photo fuente (modificada ligéramente): Las 10 Mujeres Más Poderosas en Tecnología Hoy
Sumario: Oracle (de la OIN) esta enjuciando a Google (también de la OIN) por Android (Linux-based) y buscándo casi $10,000,000,000 en ‘daños’ sirve para mostrar que la OIN no es una atajo/solución al problema clave, que son las patentes de software
La guerra de patentes de Apple contra Android todavía esta en los titulares esta semana [1, 2, 3] y también hay un montón de artículos del caso de Oracle contra Android en nuestras diarias links. No hay duda, dado que Oracle reciéntemente se unió a la OIN, su ataque contra Android comprueba que la OIN está muy lejos de una solución. Oracle quiere recuperárse de la compra de Sun al usar patentes de software por la que los trabajadores de Sun trabajaron, junto a derechos de autor. “El caso tendrá ramificaciones mayores para las patentes de software y licensiamento en todo el mundo,” dijo este reportaje.
Aqui esta un nuevo artícule acerca de la Linux Foundation y la OIN. Para citar las partes más relevantes:
Cumplir con los requisitos legales es uno de los elementos clave que las grandes compañías de software sopesan en sus ciclos de lanzamiento. Tienen equipos que comprueban las patentes de software que puedan impactar en su código, asegúrarse de que todos los derechos de autor sean reconocidos y mirar las cláusulas detalladas de uso en cualquier software de terceros que utilicen.
Una de las razones para hacer esto es para evitar litigios costosos de compañías que se conocen como trolles de patentes. Estas son empresas que han comprado grandes grupos de patentes de software. Su modelo de negocio es como sigue, utilizar estas patentes para demandar a los desarrolladores y en la última década hemos visto una serie de demandas de alto nivel contra compañías como IBM, Microsoft, Google y otros. Algunas de ellas han sido rechazadas por los tribunales, pero otros han sido reafirmadas lo que cuesta cientos de millones de dólares en multas y costos.
Mientras que desarrolladores de código de fuente abierta puedan pensar que ellos están inmunes a este tipo de ataque, lo cierto es que no. Pueda ser que una pieza de software publicada como open source es más tarde presuntamente haber infringido una patente de software. Esto podría significar que alguien usando ese software sea encontrado culpable de infracción.
Para reducir el impacto de reclamo de patentes Google, IBM, Red Hat, SUSE, NEC, Philips y Sony crearon el Open Innovation Network. Su objetivo fue crear una pool (grupo) de patentes defensivas que pudiera ser usada para proteger Linux y a sus desarrolladores. Este ha hecho que más de 1946 compañías se unan a la OIN para usar sus patentes para defenderse así misma de ataques.
Cuando tu trabajas en patentes de software para una compañíá – no importa cuán benigna esa compañía sea – tu nunca sabes quién las conseguirá/usará. Vean la respuesta que recibí de de un trabajador de Red Hat (Alexandre Oliva) después de haber escrito esto, habiendo hecho un llamado a Red Hat detenerse en perseguir patentes de software y descolmillar las existentes. Como Oliva lo puso, “cuando me di cuenta de esto hace 6 años, comenze una campaña para que Red Hat convierta su Promesa de Patentes en una licensia actual, pero hasta hora no suerte. hasta que este problema mayor sea arreglado, no más aplicaciones de patentes de mi…”
Un crítico por largo tiempo de la OIN, Florian Müller, fue uno de los primeros en señalar que la OIN no sería efectiva ya que un miembro de la OIN (Oracle) enjuició a otro (Google). El tiene este nuevo post que dice: “Hay un interesante paralelo entre Apple versus Samsung (quiero decir su primer caso, con respecto al cual la Corte Suprema ha otorgado certiorari) y el Oracle versus Google Android-Java litigación sobre derechos de autor: en ambos casos, la mayoría de los cargos en disputa están basados en la teoría de restitución de los beneficios del infractor, y a primera vista, el monto reclamado por los propietarios de derechos parecen muy altísimos. Hay incluso más similaridades. Por ejemplo, en ambos casos, los acusados son protagonistas claves de Android. Pero también hay importantes diferencias reales, no limitados al hecho que patentes de diseño y derechos de autor son diferentes tipos de propiendad intelectual.
Estos casos de alto nivel sirver para demostrar los peligros de las patentes de software (Novell terminó en manos de Microsoft, Oracle en las manos de Apple y Red Hat podría terminar en cualquier lugar, dependiendo de quién lo compre y cuándo) y la inútil que es la OIN. La verdaderos personaje buscando por una reforma deben hacer campaña para la completa abolición de las patentes de software ellos mismos. El próximo post tratará con otras ideas de reforma/estrategias deficientes. █
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A workaround that only patent aggressors and software patents proponents like IBM can coexist with
Photo source (modified slightly): The 10 Most Powerful Women in Technology Today
Summary: Oracle (from OIN) suing Google (from OIN) over Android (Linux-based) and seeking nearly $10,000,000,000 in ‘damages’ serves to show that OIN is not a workaround/solution to the key problem, which is software patents
Apple’s patent war on Android is still in headlines this week [1, 2, 3] and there are a lot of articles about Oracle‘s case against Android in our daily links. No doubt, given that Oracle had joined OIN, its attack on Android proved that OIN is far from a solution. Oracle wants to recover the cost of buying Sun by just using patents that Sun workers worked towards, along with copyrights. “The case will have major ramifications for software patents and licensing the world over,” this one report said.
Here is a new article about the Linux Foundation and OIN. To quote the relevant part/s:
Meeting legal requirements is one of the key elements that large software companies factor in to their release cycles. They have teams that check for software patents that may impact their code, make sure that every copyright is acknowledged and look at the detailed usage clauses in any third-party software that they use.
One of the reasons for doing this is to avoid expensive litigation from companies often referred to as patent trolls. These are companies that have purchased large software patent libraries. Their business model is to then use those libraries to bring lawsuits against developers and over the last decade we’ve seen a number of high profile lawsuits against companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Google and others. Some of these have been dismissed by the courts but others have been upheld costing hundreds of millions of dollars in both fines and costs.
While open source developers might think that they are immune from this type of issue they are not. It may be that a piece of software that has been released as open source is later alleged to have infringed a software patent. This would mean that anyone using that software could be found guilty of an infringement.
To help reduce the impact of patent claims Google, IBM, Red Hat, SUSE, NEC, Philips and Sony created the Open Innovation Network. The goal was to create a pool of defensive patents that could be used to protect Linux and developers using Linux. This has been successful with over 1946 companies signing up to the OIN to use their patents to defend themselves from attack.
When you work on software patents for a company — no matter how benign a company — you never know who will get/use them. See the response I got from Red Hat staff (Alexandre Oliva) after writing this, having called for Red Hat to stop pursuing software patents and defang all existing ones. As Oliva put it, “when I realized this, some 6 years ago, I started campaigning for Red Hat to turn its Patent Promise into an actual license, but no luck so far. until this major problem is fixed, no more patent applications from me…”
A longtime critic of OIN, Florian Müller, was among the first to point out that OIN was not effective because one OIN member (Oracle) sued another (Google). He now has this new post which says: “There’s an interesting parallel between Apple v. Samsung (meaning their first case, with respect to which the Supreme Court has granted certiorari) and the Oracle v. Google Android-Java copyright litigation: in both cases, most of the damages at issue are based on the theory of a disgorgement of infringer’s profits, and at first sight, the amounts claimed by the right holders appear very high. There are even more similarities. For example, in both cases, the defendants are key Android players. But there are also some important factual differences, not limited to the fact that design patents and copyright are different types of intellectual property.”
These high-profile cases come to show the dangers of software patents (Novell’s ended up in Microsoft’s, Oracle’s and Apple’s hands and Red Hat’s could end up anywhere, depending on who buys it and when) and the uselessness of OIN. The real reform people should campaign for is abolishment of software patents themselves. The next post will deal with other deficient reform ideas/strategies. █
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Publicado en GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 6:38 am por el Dr. Roy Schestowitz
Sumario: Various journalistas y bloggers expresaron disatisfacción sino cólera y desilución contra las actitudes de odio de Microsoft contra GNU/Linux, a quién todavíá esta atacando usando patentes de software y amenazas de juicios
HAY definitivamente una creciente conciencia de la campaña de Microsoft contra Linux. Eso es progreso. La compañía pasó casi toda una década atacándo a Linux con patentes, usualmente conservando un montón de ello bajo la mesa, o detrás de NDAs (entidades no-prácticantes). El sígilo no esta trabajando más tan bien.
“La Derrota Cultural de Microsoft” es un nuevo ensayo, que a pesar de no tocar el aspecto de patentes, ayuda a revelar los asuntos vitales que llevarón a Microsoft emprender su agresión de patentes. Swapnil Bhartiya ´despierta´ a toda esta situación, habiendo escrito acerca de esto hace una semana (revirtió abruptamente las intenciones de Microsoft). Basado en correos electrónicos que hemos estado recibiendo, muchos están molestos con el último artículo de Bhartiya en la materia, diciendo que se parece a una yuppie defensa de nuremberg (para Microsoft). Habló de una ¨sección de la comunidad de open source que ciégamente odia a Microsoft,¨ pero eso es una falacia porque mucha gente sable y recuerda lo que Microsoft ha hecho, no hay ceguera alguna acerca de ello. En realidad, aquellos que olvidan o están ignorantes al respecto son ciegos. Dejaremos los insultos de lado (alguna gente está molesta con Bhartiya -y con razón) y que simplemente decir que preocuparse acerca de la agresión de Microsoft no está fuera de lugar y que no hay excusa válida para Microsoft hacer esto.
En relación a las sugerencias de Phipps Bhartiya escribió:
5 reasons Microsoft may never give up on Linux patent claims
Hay muchas razones porque Microsoft pueda no unirsea al Open Innovation Network (OIN) cualquier momento pronto. Primero que todo, si una compañíá no quiere usar patentes como armas, no lo hará, se una o no a la OIN>
Al mismo tiempo, unirse a la OIN no garantiza que una compañíá no usará sus patentes como armas. Ambas Google & Microsoft son miembros de la OIN y han enfrascado cuernos en una de las mas fieras batallas en el mundo del open source. IBM es uno de los fundadores de la OIN y también ha enjuciado compañíás (como Groupon) acerca de varias patentes.
Así que por mucho que crea que unirse a la OIN envíe un mensaje positivo, no creo que sea la decisión final.
En esto podemos estar de acuerdo. Escribimos acerca de las materias de arriba varias veces antes. Pero el unirse a la OIN sería por lo menos simbólico. No hay todavía indicaciones de cualquier manera que Microsoft intente detener su agresión de patentes. Ninguna. Expandiremos este punto más tarde y on otro post.
Dias antes que Bhartiya, SJVN escribió un artículo similar:
La única cosa que Microsoft debe hacer – pero no lo hará – para ganarse la confianza de la comunidad open source
Así que, ¿Porqué la gente todavía esta pagando antes que pelear? Por que la litigación de patentes es INCREÍBLEMENTE ONEROSA. Es más barato pagar $5 a $15 por licencias de aparato que pagar una pequeña fortuna y tomar el riesgo de perder en corte.
¿Y Microsoft? Vamos, el 2014, Microsoft ya estaba ganando cerca de $3.4 billones de sus patentes de Android. Sólo Samsung pagó a Microsoft un billón de dólares para licenciar ´sus´ patentes de Android. Esto es dinero serio incluso bajo estándares de Fortune 500.
En su último quarteto, entre licencias de volumen y patentes, Microsoft contó por apróximadamente 9% de su total de ganancias.
Y, eso por supuesto, es el por que Microsoft nunca va a detenerse de cobrar por ´sus´ patentes de Android. Mientras que los muchachos de Redmon pueda ordeñar esas patentes por billones cada año, lo van a seguir haciéndo.
Un artículo por Susan Linton de acerca de aquel tiempo dice: ¨Mucha de la especulación alrededor y seguida de los últimos anuncios de Microsoft con muchas interrogaciones y algunos de sus declaraciones y motivos. La mayoría lo resume a que sólo Microsoft necesita a Linux y OpenSource que ha cambiado su canción. Muchos han dicho que si realmente Microsoft quisiera mostrar su nueva hoja, deben dejar de enjuiciar compañías por sus astutos infringimientos de patentes. Hoy Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols dijo que eso es como el lo ve. Muchas de las patentes por las que Microsoft esta enjuiciando son por ideas que ahora estan en el dominio publico. Microsoft nunca renunciara a esa fuente de dinero. ¿Porqué entonces compañías como Canonical y Red Hat han firmado contratos con ellos a pesar de sus acciones? “Mientras Microsoft pueda ganar de sus supuestas patentes de Android mientras todavía trabaje con compañíás de open source, la compañía no tiene razón de cambiar sus acciones?
¿Alguién cree que todavía esto es aceptable? O ¿es que Microsoft ¨ama¨ a Linux como no los quieren hacer creer? Microsoft no necesita hacer paz con Linux; GNU/Linux nunca se resistió a ello, únicamente es Microsoft el que esta atacando. Incluso sitios llenos de los apologistas de Microsfot estan no impresionados por lo que esta haciendo. Vean lo siguiente:
¿Esta Microsoft Tratando De Atacar a Open Source y Linux Con ´Sus´ “Bombas de Patentes”?
La semana pasad, Microsoft se envolvió en un asunto legal y se aseguró un licensiador de patentes de Wilstron de Taiwan así como Rakuten de Japón acerca de tecnologías Linux y Android. Mientras que Microsfot ya esta cosechando billones con ´sus´ patentes en Android, su historia de trolling Linux con patentes no está escondida para nadie. La comunidad de open source permanece asustada de Microsoft ya que nadie sabe quién será el próximo en recibir una noticia de los abogados de Microsoft.
En otro caso que viola la confianza de la comunidad de open source, Microsoft reciéntemente ha reclamado que fueron ellos los que idearon Continuum e ¨inventaron¨ el concepto. En la otra mano, Canonical ha estado trabajando en Convergence desde el 2013, aunque nunca fue publicado hasta reciéntemente.
No hay duda que Microsfot ha hecho algunas contribuciones a la comunidad de open source y ha expresado su ´amor´ por Linux. Sin embargo, si a Redmond realmente le importa, debería trabajar transparentemente para ganar la confianza de la comunidad de open source como cualquier otra exitosa compañíá en el mundo depende de sus usuarios y desarrolladores.
Satya Nadella también debería considerar unirse al Open Innovation Network (OIN) y enviar un mensaje al mundo de open source para convertirse en un confiable miembro de la comunidad.
Noten que ambos el de arriba y el artículo de Bhartiya dicen “Innovation Network” en vez de Invention Network. No parecen estar al tanto en esa area.
La cosa digna de notar es, más y más voces ahora reconocen el problema y llaman a un cese en al agresión de patentes. Eso es un progreso importante. █
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Summary: Various journalists and bloggers express dissatisfaction with if not anger and disappointment at Microsoft’s hateful attitude towards GNU/Linux, which it is still attacking using software patents and threats of lawsuits
THERE is definitely growing awareness of Microsoft’s campaign against Linux. That’s progress. The company spent nearly a whole decade attacking Linux with patents, usually keeping a lot of it under the table, or behind NDAs. The secrecy isn’t working too well anymore.
“The Cultural Defeat of Microsoft” is a new essay which, in spite of not touching the patent aspect, helps reveal the core issues which led Microsoft to its patent aggression. Swapnil Bhartiya ‘wakes up’ to this whole situation, having written about this over a week ago (he flip-flopped on Microsoft’s intentions). Based on E-mails we’ve been receiving, many are pissed off at Bhartiya’s very latest article on the subject, saying that it’s akin to a yuppie nuremburg defense (for Microsoft). He spoke of a “section of the open source community that blindly hates Microsoft,” but that’s a fallacy because some people just know and remember what Microsoft has done, there’s no blindness about it. In fact, those who forget or are ignorant about it are blind. We’ll spare the insults here (some people are upset at Bhartiya) and just say that concern about Microsoft’s patent aggression isn’t misplaced and there’s no valid excuse for Microsoft doing this.
In relation to Phipps’ suggestions Bhartiya wrote:
5 reasons Microsoft may never give up on Linux patent claims
There are many reasons why Microsoft may not join the Open Innovation Network (OIN) anytime soon. First of all, if a company doesn’t want to use patents as a weapon, it won’t, whether or not it joins OIN.
At the same time, joining OIN doesn’t guarantee that a company won’t use patents as a weapon. Both Oracle and Google are OIN members and they have locked horns in one of the fieriest battles in the open source world. IBM is one of the founders of OIN and it has also sued companies (like Groupon) over various patents.
So as much as I believe joining OIN sends a positive message, I don’t think that’s _the_ ultimate solution.
This we can agree on. We wrote about the above issues several times before. But the joining (OIN) would at least be symbolic. There is still no indication whatsoever from Microsoft that it intends to stop the patent aggression. None. We shall expand on that point at some later stage and a later post.
Days before Bhartiya, SJVN wrote a similar article
The one thing Microsoft must do – but won’t – to gain open-source trust
So, why are people still paying up rather than fighting? Because patent litigation is incredibly expensive. It’s cheaper to pay a $5 to $15 per device licensing fee than to pay a small fortune and take even a remote chance of failure in court.
And Microsoft? Come on, back in 2014, Microsoft was already making about $3.4 billion from its Android patents. Samsung alone paid Microsoft a billion bucks to license its Android patents. This is serious money even by Fortune 500 standards.
In its last quarter, between volume licensing and patents, Microsoft accounted for approximately 9 percent of Microsoft’s total revenue.
And, that, of course, is why Microsoft is never going to stop charging for its Android patents. So long as the boys from Redmond can milk these patents for billions every year, they’re going to keep them.
An article by Susan Linton from around that time said: “A lot of speculation surrounded and followed Microsoft’s latest announcements with many questioning some its statements and motives. Most surmise it’s only because Microsoft needs Linux and Open Source that it’s changed its tune. Several have said that if Microsoft truly wanted to show its new leaf, they’d stop suing companies for dodgy patent infringement claims. Today Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols stated that’s pretty much how he sees it. Most of the patents Microsoft is suing over are for ideas already in the public domain. Microsoft will never give up that revenue stream. Why should they when companies like Canonical and Red Hat sign deals with them despite their actions? “So long as Microsoft can profit from Android patents while still working with open-source enterprises, the company has no reason whatsoever to change its ways.””
Does anyone believe that this is acceptable? Or that Microsoft “loves Linux” as it wants us to believe? Microsoft does not need to ‘make’ peace with Linux; GNU/Linux was never resisting peace, it’s only Microsoft that’s attacking. Even sites that are full of Microsoft apologists are unimpressed by what Microsoft has done. See the following:
Is Microsoft Trying To Attack Open Source And Linux With Its “Patent Bombs”?
Last week, Microsoft got involved in a legal issue and secured patent licenses from Wistron of Taiwan and Rakuten of Japan around Linux and Android technologies. While Microsoft is already making billions with its patents in Android, its history of Linux-related patent trolling isn’t hidden from anyone. The open source community remains frightened of Microsoft as no one knows who could be the next one to get a notice from Microsoft’s legal guys.
In another case that violates the trust of open source community, Microsoft has recently claimed that it came up with the idea for Continuum and “invented” the concept. On the other hand, Canonical has been working on Convergence since 2013, even though it was never released to the public up until recently.
There’s no doubt that Microsoft has made some serious contributions to the open source community and expressed its love for Linux. However, if Redmond really cares, it should work transparently to win the trust of the open source community as any company’s success in the world of open source depends on its users and developers.
Satya Nadella should also consider joining the Open Innovation Network (OIN) and sending a message the open source world to become a trusted member of the community.
Notice that both the above and the article from Bhartiya say “Innovation Network” rather than Invention Network. They don’t seem to have been keeping up with that area.
The noteworthy thing is, more and more voices now recognise the issue and call for cessation of patent aggression. That’s important progress. █
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Summary: The Open Invention Network’s latest addition and resultant publicity calls for a timely explanation of its goals and its inherent weaknesses
THE Open Invention Network, or OIN for short, recently did a publicity stunt because it had turned 10. I spoke to the OIN on numerous occasions (phone, E-mail), but I was never able to see the logic of their strategy, nor was I able to see a single example where they foiled a patent attack on Linux. They might argue that they are merely a deterrent, but with only barks and no bites, how much of a deterrent can they ever be? They’re 100% ineffective against patent trolls, including satellites of aggressors such as Microsoft. They weren’t even effective against Oracle’s patent aggression (direct action).
“As longtime readers may know too well, we’re not against patents but against software patents.”A few days ago I found this article/press release which said: “Today Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation are joining the Open Invention Network as community members. Linux and Open Source software are becoming a mainstay in automotive computing. With the first global automotive companies joining OIN, a trend has been set towards Open Source collaboration and patent non-aggression in the automotive industry. The news is in the press here on Yahoo Finance, here on Fortune.com and in many other places.”
As we have pointed out numerous times over the years, among OIN backers there are many software patents proponents, and it’s not just IBM. They serve to legitimise these patents rather than battle to put an end to them. That’s what OIN is often all about. It sets apart so-called ‘good’ software patents — ones that are supposed to be incapable of attacking Linux (Oracle refuted this claim when it attacked Android despite its OIN membership).
As longtime readers may know too well, we’re not against patents but against software patents. This positions of ours is supported by the vast majority of software professionals. Surely there are some problems with today’s patent systems as a whole (scope and motivation gone awry), but this oughtn’t be interpreted as a case for abolition of all patents. The Onion has this new satire on “How To File A Patent”. It has some funny bits in it like “Wait one to two decades” (for A patent to be granted) and “carefully review patent legal documents, occasionally stopping to nod your head as if you understand what they mean” (if they’re written in legal terms, patent lawyers sometimes become necessary, i.e. a tax).
We hope that patent examiners too will agree with us that not all domains should have patents in them, e.g. genetics and software. Over-patenting leads to devaluation, cheapening, self-discretisation, and retardation of innovation. We don’t expect patent lawyers — collectively speaking — to ever agree with us because to them it’s clearly a case of the more (patents), the merrier. Thankfully, there are some patent lawyers who have been enlightened by the former group, especially after decisions such as Alice in the United States. Some of our sources in the campaign to change the EPO are actually patent lawyers. █
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A conspiracy of silence over harmful software patenting
Summary: The Open Invention Network (OIN) commissions or helps produce puff pieces in the corporate media because it has an anniversary and corporate interests to push forth (including the idea that software patents can coexist with Linux)
“OIN is a waste of time and money,” wrote the FFII’s President this week, “it was created by IBM [...] and collective shields don’t work against trolls” (we have explained this important point for nearly a decade).
Patent pools are not going to protect GNU and Linux, especially not from patent trolls. In private conversations between myself, the OIN and a potential patent trolls half a decade ago I was reminded of that. There is this press release titled “Open Invention Network Celebrates Its 10 Year Anniversary”, which even made it into Linux sites like LWN. OIN appears to have contacted journalists, as they did me on several occasions in the past. Katherine Noyes, who had worked for the Linux Foundation, was probably approached by OIN based on ‘exclusive’ (with quotations) coverage from IDG, which promoted OIN by throwing their stuff all over the place, in dozens of sites, to push their point of view [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12].
What we basically have here is a sort of front group for IBM, a proponent of (and lobbyist for) software patents, celebrating a massive software patents pact (not as effective as cross-licensing). Remember where the first person to head OIN came from…
OIN generally generated puff pieces in some other places, including mouthpiece of the plutocrats (like those who head large corporations, including IBM).
“Launched back in 2005,” Noyes wrote, “the OIN was formed by IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony to create a protected zone of patents around core Linux and open source software technologies — functionality that’s essential for open source projects and companies like OpenStack, Linux, Red Hat, SUSE, Android and Apache.”
The only surprising name above might be Red Hat, but Red Hat's weird stance on software patents these days is a subject we tackled many times before (over half a decade ago).
There is no room in this world for software patents, not even with the excessively glorified OIN. There is no way to reconcile and to coexist with software patents because small independent developers don’t have a war chest of patents. Companies like IBM and Microsoft have enormous leverage over them. OIN helps perpetuate an injustice. Is there an alternative to OIN? Yes. Just get rid of software patents altogether. █
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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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Summary: The debate about software patents in the United States is back because many Free software advocacy groups and companies (not Open Invention Network though) are getting involved in a Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case
OVER THE past 6 months or so there have not been many debates about software patents. There were debates about trolls and other such distracting debates; many of them were ‘pre-approved’ by corporations and covered by the corporate press. We had highlighted this appealing trend several dozens of times before pretty much abandoning this debate and giving up on involvement; generally speaking, providing coverage for these debates is basically helping those who create obstacles for small players (monopolies/oligopolies) just shift the public’s attention away from patent scope.
Debates about software patents returned about a week ago. The Open Invention Network (OIN) was mentioned in the article “Software patents should include source code”, but it’s such an offensive idea because it helps legitimise software patents, which is what the Open Invention Network often does anyway. To quote the article: “Computer-implemented inventions that are patented in Europe should be required to fully disclose the patented invention, for example by including working, compilable source code, that can be verified by others. This would be one way to avoid frivolous software patents, says Mirko Boehm, a Berlin-based economist and software developer working for the OpenInvention Network (OIN).”
Why on Earth does the Open Invention Network get involved in pushing the idea of software patents in Europe? Source code or not, software patents are not legal in Europe and the same goes in most of the world, including India where lawyers’ sites still try to legitimise them.
In another blog post, one from a proprietary software company, the ludicrous notion of “Intellectual Property” is mentioned in the context of Free software and patents. The author is actually pro-Free software, but the angle he takes helps warp the terminology and warp the discussion somewhat. To quote him: “My usual response to the question, “Do I have to worry about patent trolls and copyright infringement in open source software?” is another question, “Does your proprietary vendor offer you unlimited liability for patent trolls and copyright infringement and what visibility do you have into their source code?” In the proprietary world I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a vendor who provides unlimited liability for their products against IP infringement, or even much over the cost of the products or services rendered. How often do you review their source code and if given the opportunity are you able to share your findings with other users. In open source that’s simply table stakes.”
Contrary to all the above, the Software Freedom Law Center, together with the FSF and the OSI (Simon Phipps and Luis Villa) actually fight the good fight. To quote Phipps: “How important are software patents? We know they’re a threat to the freedom of developers to collaborate openly in communities, chilling the commercial use of shared ideas that fuels engagement with open source. We know that the software industry was established without the “incentive” of software patents. But the importance of the issue was spotlighted yesterday in a joint action by two leading open source organizations.”
Here is how Phipps concludes his article at IDG: “I endorse and welcome this joint position calling for firm clarity on software patents. (I was obviously party to the decision to take it, although I’m not writing on OSI’s behalf here.) With 15 years of history behind us, there’s far more that unites the FSF and the OSI than divides us. We’ve each played our part in the software freedom movement that has transformed computing. Now all of us in both communities need to unite to end the chilling threat of software patents to the freedom to innovate collaboratively in community.”
Red Hat too is joining this battle and announcing this to shareholders, making some press coverage in the process amid many articles about SCOTUS in the post-Bilski case era (see some coverage in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 910]).
Software patents are finally in the headlines again (not much sympathy for them), but there is also some focus on trolls, courtesy of companies like Samsung and Apple. Other recent reporting about patents covered patent lawyers’ business, the role of universities in patents (they help feed trolls these days), and also USPTO reform (that was a fortnight ago). None of this dominated the news, however, as much as the debate was on software patents. So, perhaps it’s time to get back to covering patents on an almost daily basis.
Software patents are the most important issue as they are the biggest barrier to Free software. We just need to have the subject of software patents and their elimination publicly discussed. █
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