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The Patents Cartel Against Linux Brings Together Linux Allies

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Novell, OIN, Oracle, Patents at 12:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fiasco Cisco

Summary: How the attacks on Android and on GNU/Linux merely bring large companies that compete against Microsoft even closer; another look at Apple’s abominable behaviour

Cisco joining the OIN is an important piece of news because of the scale of Cisco and Sean Michael Kerner claims, based on reliable sources, that Microsoft’s patent cartel (built in part with Novell and Nortel patents) is the driver of OIN’s growth:

The Open Invention Network (OIN) got its start in 2005 as an organization tasked with creating a patent commons to help Linux.

Over the years it has grown, and in the second quarter of 2011, the organization added 35 new member companies. That number is down from the 70 new members that the OIN added in the first quarter of the year.

As to why growth was faster in the first quarter, the reason has to do with an event that caused many organizations to consider their patent positions.

“The first quarter was somewhat extraordinary as there was the hangover from the Department of Justice’s investigation of the Novell patent sale,” Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network told InternetNews.com.

It is nice to see that the OIN recognises threat in Novell’s patents. We have warned about this for almost 5 years. CPTN includes Oracle, Apple, and Microsoft, all of which attack Android.

Groklaw tracks quite closely the Oracle case [1, 2, 3] and Lodsys cases, which also affect Android. Apple is meanwhile trying to embargo more Android tablets (Motorola’s), but Motorola is not too nervous because it has its own large patents arsenal, just like Samsung.

Apple’s aggression and embargo attempts were covered here before and these come under yet more scrutiny, even from OS News. To quote:

Earlier this week, we learned that Apple managed to get a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, barring it from being sold in the entire European Union – except for The Netherlands. The legal construct on which this injunction hinges was not a patent or trademark – it was something else entirely. It’s called a Community Design, was instated in 2002 and 2003, and, as I have learned, is far, far worse than anything the United States Patent and Trademark Office has ever come up with.
The Community Design was instated as part of Council Regulation No 6/2002. A Community Design is basically a trademark on the design of a product, whether it be software, hardware, or packaging. It is filed at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), and once granted, is valid in the entire European Union. Initially it is valid for a period of five years, but it can be extended five times to reach a total of 25 years. Every member state has several Community Design courts, which are regular courts allowed to take on matters relating Community Designs. So far, nothing special.

Apple is meanwhile stacking up more patents it can attack with (e.g. touchscreen patents).

Murdoch’s press shows more prior art which weakens Apple’s story (this one is concrete, not some sci-fi from many decades ago) and more calls are made for resentment against Apple:

A huge win for anti-competitive practices, lawyers, and patent trolls.

A huge loss for consumers, choice in the market place, and free competition.

Muktware too has a string of strongly-worded posts, such as [1, 2]. One of these even breaches Godwin’s Law.

The bottom line is, those inside Microsoft’s cartel (notably Apple and Oracle) get some serious flak. They have become nasty and anti-competitive.


ES: IBM Trae la Mentalidad Semejante al OIN a Europa

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, OIN, Patents at 2:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Lo que Europa necesita no es lo mismo que los Estados Unidos necesita.

IBM Electronic Data Processing Machine

(ODF | PDF | English/original)

Resumen: Las noticias sugirien que IBM está mayormente entre los que trajeron el Intercambio de Patentes a Europa.

IBM es una empresa sobre las que tenemos sentimientos ambivalentes. Por un lado, IBM ayuda a que el fenómeno del software libre (abarcándolo más bien de atacarlo), pero por otra parte, IBM sigue siendo una empresa de software propietario en su núcleo y por lo tanto, aboga por políticas que entran en conflicto con una mentalidad/doctrina de software libre. No es ningún secreto que IBM prefiere mantener las patentes de software[http://techrights.org/2009/08/12/ibm-promoting-software-patents/] y su estrategia para defender el software libre en el proceso abarca sólo el software que IBM depende. OIN (Invención de Red Abierta) y RPX[http://techrights.org/wiki/index.php/RPX], por ejemplo, no hacen más que legitimar el sistema al mismo tiempo tratar de la reforma en algunos aspectos (la disuasión demandas), especialmente en formas que son beneficiosas para IBM y sus aliados. En la superficie, esto puede parecer bien. OIN hace que el deteriorado sistema actual de un poco menos letal. Sin embargo, distrae la atención de una mejor y permanente solucion al problema en cuestión. En particular, la OIN hace casi nada para destacar los problemas fundamentales con las patentes de software. Una mirada a sus partidarios muestra por qué.

Recientemente escribimos sobre una iniciativa cuyo impacto es muy similar[http://techrights.org/2011/06/01/patent-mopolies-in-the-eu_es/]. El problema es que ahora esta iniciativa va más allá a Australia y el Reino Unido, que podría, a su vez, ayudar a validar algunas patentes allí. Para citar el presidente de la FFII (Fundación para una Infraestructura de Información Libre)[http://twitter.com/zoobab/statuses/76318976887619584]:

IBM validaría sus patentes de software a través de la Peer2Patent en el Reino Unido:

El punto de enfoque del Intercambio de Patentes está en cierto modo empeorando las cosas. Toma patentes que ya pueden ser dudosa y luego se extiende a los demás a despedir a uno o reforzarlas. Esto es lo que una publicación pro-patentes[http://www.managingip.com/Article/2840709/Managing-Patents-Archive/IBM-prominent-in-peer-to-patent-pilot.html] escribe sobre este tema:

Las primeras 20 solicitudes de patentes en la salida a bolsa del Reino Unido piloto de Intercambio de Patentes se han publicado en línea

Ahora es el momento de voluntarios para regar jardín o cosecharlas para aquellos de la talla de IBM, ¿eh? Bueno, citando este informe[http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/patent-site-broadens-public-access-to-review-process-30819], el presidente de la FFII señala[http://twitter.com/zoobab/statuses/76321802871255040] que:

Las solicitudes de patentes concedidas después de usar el sitio web de revisión intercambio de patentes será potencialmente más fuertes.

Nosotros explicamos nuestros puntos de vista[http://techrights.org/2011/05/25/peer-to-patent-in-the-uk/] sobre el tema muchas veces antes. APOYE A LA FFII, NO AL ENFOQUE de Intercambio de Patentes. La solución al problema de patentes depende de los intereses creados; para IBM, las “malas” patentes son el problema. Para Microsoft, las patentes “anti-Microsoft” son el problema. Para la gran mayoría de la gente, TODAS las patentes de software (tal vez las patentes en general, dependiendo de la zona/país) son un problema.

Translation produced by Eduardo Landaveri, the esteemed administrator of the Spanish portal of Techrights.


IBM Brings OIN-Like Mentality to Europe

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, OIN, Patents at 1:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What Europe needs is not what the United States needs

IBM Electronic Data Processing Machine

Summary: News suggesting that IBM is majorly among those who brought Peer to Patent to Europe

IBM is a company which we have ambivalent feelings about. On the one hand, IBM helps the Free software phenomenon (embracing it rather than attacking it), but on the other hand, IBM is still a proprietary software company at its core and therefore it advocates for policies which conflict with a Free software mentality/doctrine. It is no secret that IBM prefers to keep software patents and its strategy for defending Free software in the process mostly covers software that IBM depends on. OIN and RPX, for example, do nothing but legitimise the system while also trying to reform it in some ways (lawsuits deterrence), especially in ways that are beneficial to IBM and its allies. On the surface, this may seem fine. OIN makes the current broken system a little less lethal. However, it does distract from much better and more permanent solutions to the problem at hand. Notably, the OIN does nearly nothing to highlight the fundamental problems with software patents. A glance at its backers shows why.

Recently we wrote about an initiative whose impact is largely similar. The problem is, this initiative now goes further into Australia and the United Kingdom which might, in turn, help validate some patents there. To quote the FFII’s president::

IBM to validate its software patents through the Peer2Patent in the UK:

The peer-to-patent approach is in some ways making matters worse. It takes patents that may already be dubious and then it reaches out for others to either dismiss or reinforce them. Here is what a pro-patents publication writes about this subject:

The first 20 patent applications in the UK IPO’s peer-to-patent pilot have been posted online

Now it is time for volunteers to garden or groom them for the likes of IBM, eh? Well, citing this report, the FFII’s president points out that:

Patent applications granted after using the Peer To Patent website review will be potentially stronger

We explained our views on the subject many times before. Support the FFII, not the Peer To Patent approach. The solution to the patent problem depends on the vested interests; to IBM, “bad” patents are the problem. To Microsoft, “anti-Microsoft” patents are the problem. For the vast majority of people, all software patents (maybe patents in general, depending on the area/country) are a problem.


ES: Los Defensa de los Cárteles de Patentes vs. La Total Supresión de Patentes de Software

Posted in GNU/Linux, OIN, Patents at 3:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

(ODF | PDF | English/original)

Resumen: ¿Por qué la “defensiva licencias de patentes” no forma parte de la solución al problema que el software libre está teniendo.

“La lucha contra las patentes una por una nunca eliminará el peligro de las patentes de software, al igual que aplastar mosquitos eliminará la malaria”, como Richard Stallman celebremente lo expuso. Por eso, todos lo que los refuerzos patentes dicen ser “defensivas” las patentes están totalmente perdiendo el punto, o simplemente mintiendo a todos. Considere la posibilidad de Novell, por ejemplo. Un año que dice ser “defensor” de Linux con OIN y al año siguiente vende esas patentes a Microsoft. Sí, eso es “defensiva” para usted. Tomemos Sun como otro ejemplo. Las llamados patentes “defensiva” que había en Java se utilizan ahora para demandar a Google, que pasa a compartir un asiento con Oracle dentro de la OIN. ¡Qué fracaso! Y luego están las estafas de Microsoft, que la empresa utiliza para fingir que es seguro usar las patentes de Microsoft. Nathan Willis ayuda a promover el software Mono de un empleado de Novell[http://www.linux.com/learn/tutorials/444154:pinta-turns-10-and-brings-simple-image-editing-to-linux] a pesar del hecho de que el MCP de Microsoft deja vacíos legales. El análisis jurídico de los que resulta ser inútil.

Hay sin embargo otras de esas “defensivos” piscinas de patentes como se llama a sí misma (o de su proposición) de la Licencia de Patentes Defensivas (DPL), que se ha mencionado aquí antes [1[http://techrights.org/2010/05/08/8-stories-re-swpats/], 2[http://techrights.org/2010/05/19/germany-software-patents-ruling/], 3[http://techrights.org/2011/04/16/how-mobbyists-operate/]]. Se acaba de dar la charla siguiente, como se esperaba.


He escuchado toda la conversación y todavía no está a la altura de la realidad: la eliminación de las patentes de software. Los ponentes son gente amable, pero inútilmente hablan de “propiedad intelectual” y repiten como loros algunos pro-patentes temas de conversación. Ellos no se ocupan de la cuestión, o difícilmente lo harán. Es más como un grupo de defensa, de los cuales ya hay varios. Ellos tratan de encontrar los mecanismos legales para reducir el riesgo sin llegar a cuestionar el status quo, en lugar de limitarse a tomar las patentes de software concedidas. Tampoco proponen una solución a los trolls de patentes. Como señalamos ayer por la noche[http://www.law.com/jsp/tal/digestTAL.jsp?id=1202493630932&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1], Yahoo consiguió batir un troll de este tipo[http://techrights.org/2011/05/12/bedrock-swpats-loss/] (que dirigidos contra Linux), pero esto no es una estrategia sostenible. Linux ya está siendo gravado por algunas patentes de software y Red Hat, por ejemplo, esconde este hecho. Lo mismo hizo Novell. Es necesario eliminar con urgencia las patentes de software, sin excepciones. La FFII(Fundación para una Infraestructura de Información Libre), la FSFE (Fundación Europea de Software Libre) y la FSF (Fundación de Software Libre) ha estado en lo correcto todo el tiempo.

Translation produced by Eduardo Landaveri, the esteemed administrator of the Spanish portal of Techrights.


Patent Defence Cartels Versus Abolishing Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, OIN, Patents at 11:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Why the “Defensive Patent License” is not part of the solution to the problem Free software is having

“Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria,” Richard Stallman famously alleged. This is why all those patents boosters who claim to be gathering “defensive” patents are totally missing the point or simply lying to everyone. Consider Novell for example. One year it claims to be “defending” Linux with OIN and the following year it sells those patents to Microsoft. Yes, that’s “defensive” for you. Take Sun as another example. Those so-called “defensive” patents it had on Java are now being used to sue Google, which happens to share a seat with Oracle inside the OIN. What a failure. And then there are the Microsoft scams, which the company uses to pretend that it’s safe to step in Microsoft patents. Nathan Willis helps promote Mono software from a Novell employee despite the fact that Microsoft's MCP leaves legal holes. Legal analyses of that show it to be useless.

There is yet another one of those “defensive” pools and it calls itself (or its proposition) the Defensive Patent License (DPL), which was mentioned here before [1, 2, 3]. It has just given the following talk, as expected.

Direct link (TinyOgg could not do conversion to Ogg, unfortunately)

I have listened to the entire talk and it still falls short of actually eliminating software patents. The speakers are lovable people, but they unhelpfully speak about “Intellectual Property” and parrot some pro-patents talking points. They do not address the issue, or hardly ever do. It’s more like a defensive pool, of which there are already several. They try to find legal mechanisms to reduce risk without actually questioning the status quo, instead just taking for granted software patents. They also do not propose much of a solution to patent trolls. As we noted last night, Yahoo! managed to beat one such troll (who targeted Linux), but this is not a sustainable strategy. Linux is already being taxed by some software patents and Red Hat, for example, hides this fact. So did Novell. Software patents need to be eliminated urgently, without exceptions. The FFII, the FSFE and the FSF got it right all along.


ES: IBM y Google No Mantienen El Compromiso de Triturar las Patentes de Software

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, OIN, Patents at 1:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Benjamin Henrion and Andre of FFII

(ODF | PDF | English/original)

Resumen: IBM y Google se siguen perdiendo una oportunidad maravillosa para hacer de uno de los productos básicos una plataforma de comodidad y defender esta comodidad, poniendo fin a las patentes de software.

Las patentes de software son la mayor no-amenaza-bar a la libertad del software y las compañías que defienden su existencia son sin duda parte del problema. Por lo general, trabajar en conjunto contra de los intereses de aquellos cuyo plan es la eliminación de las patentes de software en su conjunto (FFII – Fundación para una Infraestructura de Información Libre – es una excepción).

El mes pasado criticamos a Google por querer comprar las patentes de Nortel[http://techrights.org/2011/04/06/benjamin-henrion-on-google-nortel/]. Si Google pelea las patentes con todavía más patentes, entonces simplemente legitima la existencia de matorrales, los abogados de patentes y los monopolios protegidos por el gobierno. Hemos sido críticos de la hipócrita postura de Google desde hace bastante tiempo.

El último consorcio de patentes de Google para WebM es diferente sin embargo. Al igual que el pool (grupo) de OIN, viene con algunos compromisos. Desde el sitio oficial[http://www.webm-ccl.org/]: “Los miembros del CCL (Comunidad WebM licencia cruzada )se están uniendo a este esfuerzo porque se dan cuenta que el ecosistema entero de la red – usuarios, desarrolladores, editores y fabricantes de dispositivos – van beneficiarse de una alta calidad, desarrollada por la comunidad de código abierto formato de los medios de comunicación. Esperamos con interés trabajar con los miembros del CCL y la comunidad de estándares web para promover el papel WebM en video de HTML5. ”

“”A IBM no le gusta hablar acerca de su política en favor de las patentes y cuando le pregunté el doctor Sutor sobre ella se negó a responder.””Es un asunto difícil de defender, pero dado que la alternativa es hostil hacia el software libre y el software propietario, WebM es por mucho la mejor opción. El mismo argumento vale para la estrategia de patentes de IBM, que no está en contra de las patentes de software[http://techrights.org/2009/08/12/ibm-promoting-software-patents/] (lo mismo ocurre en cierta medida para Oracle y Red Hat). Las hilanderas, como Microsoft Florian[http://techrights.org/wiki/index.php/Florian_M%C3%BCller], en un gran esfuerzo para distorsionar los hechos. Quieren que la gente cree que la hipocresía se extiende a todo el mundo del software libre. De hecho, IBM y su adhesión a la concesión de licencias con Microsoft no acaba de hacerlo parte del cartel, porque también está la OIN (Invención de red abierta), que fue creado por un hombre de IBM. La OIN hace una labor encomiable. Es por eso que la OIN es odiada por refuerzos de Microsoft.

Otro punto de contacto digno de Google e IBM tiene mucho que ver con sus esfuerzos de código abierto que no son del todo abiertos, y mucho menos libre. Los hilanderos Microsoft intenta tirar “barro” sobre la base de que, sobre todo para enbarrar a sus mejores competidores. IBM prefiere algo así como la licencia Eclipse y no la licencia de Apache que Google favorece al parecer. Esto es perfectamente aceptable, aunque el tema de patentes sigue siendo descubierto. Hemos hablado de esto en el IRC ayer por la noche. A IBM no le gusta hablar acerca de su política en favor de las patentes y cuando le preguntó el doctor Sutor sobre ello se negó a responder. No le gusto la pregunta. No es como si estuviera haciendo caso omiso, ya que habíamos tenido una relación amistosa durante años. Sobre la base de su currículum, IBM cambió el título de su trabajo (VP) de “código abierto y estándares” a “Open Source y Linux” y luego a “Sistemas Abiertos y Linux” (2010 al presente). De las normas a Linux y de código abierto para sistemas abiertos, ¿eh? Diversas explicaciones se podría dar para eso.

IBM es un amigo de código abierto, pero su política de patentes tiene un gran margen de mejora porque ahora que la persona # 1 en la USPTO es de IBM, es muy claro que la empresa no tiene interés en poner fin a las patentes de software para bien. Si bien ese es el caso, para los desarrolladores de software libre y propietario por igual (los jugadores pequeños) seguirán sufriendo. Aquí es una empresa que anuncia que va a poseer otra patente “a través del Internet”[http://www.renalbusiness.com/news/2011/05/doctors-xl-charge-capture-software-now-patent-pending.aspx]:

DoctorsXL el03 de mayo, dijo que su “software basado en web MobileXL 3.0 está ahora pendiente de patente”.

Necesitamos que las empresas más grandes que hablen en contra de las patentes de software. Pero las patentes son beneficiosas para los carteles con muchos empleados, por lo que es poco probable que las mega-corporaciones levantarán un dedo para reformas reales.

IBM y Google no son amenazas para el Libre/Software de Código Abierto, pero en conclusión, que merecen mucha más presión. Deben unirse a la lucha contra las patentes de software en vez de actuar como defensores de software libre (con patentes) y sus niñeras.

Translation produced by Eduardo Landaveri, the esteemed administrator of the Spanish portal of Techrights.


IBM and Google Still Not Committed to Crushing Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, OIN, Patents at 10:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Benjamin Henrion and Andre of FFII

Summary: IBM and Google are still missing a wonderful opportunity to make the platform a commodity and defending this commodity by putting an end to software patents

SOFTWARE patents are the greatest-bar-none threat to software freedom and companies which defend their existence are definitely part of the problem. They usually work against the interests of those whose plan is to eliminate software patents altogether (FFII being an exception).

Last month we criticised Google for its bid to take Nortel's patents. If Google fights patents with yet more patents, then it merely legitimises the existence of thickets, patent lawyers, and government-protected monopolies. We have been critical of Google's stance for quite some time.

Google’s latest patent pool for WebM is different however. Like the OIN’s pool, it comes with certain commitments. From the official site: “CCL members are joining this effort because they realize that the entire web ecosystem — users, developers, publishers, and device makers — benefit from a high-quality, community developed, open-source media format. We look forward to working with CCL members and the web standards community to advance WebM’s role in HTML5 video.”

“IBM does not like to talk about its pro-patents policy and when I asked Dr. Sutor about it he refused to answer.”It is a tricky one to defend, but since the alternative is hostile towards free software and proprietary software, WebM is by far the better choice. The same argument goes for the patent strategy of IBM, which is not against software patents (the same goes to some degree for Oracle and Red Hat). The spinners, such as Microsoft Florian, try very hard to distort the facts. They want people to believe that the hypocrisy extends to the whole Free software world. In fact, IBM and its cross-licensing with Microsoft does not quite make it part of the cartel because there is also OIN, which was created by a man from IBM. The OIN does commendable work. That’s why the OIN is loathed by Microsoft boosters.

Another touch-worthy point about Google and IBM has a lot to do with their open source efforts that are not entirely open, let alone free. The Microsoft spinners try to generate ‘dirt’ based on that, mostly for smears against those top competitors. IBM prefers something like the Eclipse licence and not the Apache licence like Google apparently favours. This is perfectly acceptable although the patent issue remains uncovered. We discussed this in IRC last night. IBM does not like to talk about its pro-patents policy and when I asked Dr. Sutor about it he refused to answer. He was not comfortable with the question. It’s not as though he was ignoring, as we had had a mostly amicable relation for years. Based on his CV, IBM changed the title from of his job (VP) from “Open Source and Standards” to “Open Source and Linux” and then to “Open Systems and Linux” (2010 to present). From standards to Linux and from Open Source to Open Systems, eh? Different explanations could be given for that.

IBM is a friend of Open Source, but its patent policy has room for improvement because now that the #1 person at the USPTO is from IBM, it is made abundantly clear that the company has no interest in ending software patents for good. While that is the case, Free and proprietary software developers alike (small players) will continue to suffer. Here is a company announcing that it is going to own another “over the Internet” patent:

DoctorsXL said May 3 that its web-based software MobileXL 3.0 is now patent pending.

We need more large companies that speak out against software patents. But patents are beneficial to cartels with many employees, so it is unlikely that mega-corporations will lift a finger for real reforms.

IBM and Google are not menacing to Free/open source software, but in conclusion, they deserve a lot more pressure. They should join the fight against software patents rather than act like FOSS defenders (with patents) and its babysitters.


Why Google Will Invalidate Linux-Hostile Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 4:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Explanations given to clarify that Linux is not under siege and that OIN helps deter Microsoft, leaving it using patent trolls and proxies for the attempted taxation of GNU/Linux

Microsoft feeding patent trolls with “anti-Linux patents” (not our own term but a term that was widely used at the time) is not a conspiracy theory, thanks in part to proof obtained by the OIN and the Linux Foundation [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. As we showed before, the patent troll-led MPEG-LA is batting for Microsoft’s and Apple’s benefit, directly aiming at Google as well (there is reactive defence from Google). Google’s GNU/Linux servers, the free codec, the free Web browser, and Android are some of the lucrative targets these days. It is a subject which we tackled repeatedly over the past week [1, 2, 3], more latterly because of Microsoft Florian and his FUD about a patent ruling which will most probably be overruled.

Here are some interesting details about the source of the lawsuit:

Can’t let it pass without comment: A mystery-company called Bedrock Computer Technologies sues Google in the Eastern District of Texas for infringing on a patent. And that patent names Linux! It’s also going after Yahoo, MySpace, Amazon, PayPal, Match.com, and AOL (What??? Does AOL use Linux?).

You can just about throw a dart and hit a tech blog reblogging the story today, but I like Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols & Paula Rooney’s take on it the best: “Idiotic Anti-Linux & Google Patent Decision” says it all.

It’s almost a parody of a patent troll case. “Bedrock Computer Technologies” has a website, and what’s on that home page? A showcase of technologies for sale by them? A shopping-cart section where you can actually buy something from them? Nope, just an Art-Deco logo straight out of Atlas Shrugged, linking to an email drop – I take it whomever’s job it is to read the mail from that drop is having a jolly time hosing it out today. Bedrock is a patent troll, and they don’t give a thin damn who knows it.

Given the geography of the case and given the depth of Google’s pocket, this is more noise than signal. This will go away. It is a timely lesson, however, regarding the ridiculousness of software patents and it can rekindle this important debate.

Well, guess what? Even Microsoft boosters acknowledge that it’s not as serious as Microsoft Florian tried putting it and Groklaw has this productive suggestion and constructive response which seeks to eliminate software patents as a whole. It is the only real solution. From the introductory summary:

This article provides a detailed factual explanation of why software is mathematics, complete with the references in mathematical and computer science literature. It also includes a detailed factual explanation of why mathematics is speech, complete once again with references. My hope is that it will help patent lawyers and judges handling patent litigation understand these fundamental truths, so they can apply that technical knowledge to their field of skill.

Case law on software patents is built on a number of beliefs about how computers and software work. But as you will see, when you compare the technical facts presented in this article and in the authoritative works referenced, with expressions in case law on how computers and software work, you will find they are often in complete opposition. I believe this is a foundational problem that has contributed to invalid patents issuing.

If you are a computer professional, I hope you pay attention to another aspect of the article, on how the lawyers and judges understand software. This is critical to understanding their point of view. After reading case after case on the topic, I have concluded that the legal view of software relies on beliefs that are in contradiction with known principles of computing. Computer professionals explain their profession based on an understanding that is, on its face, the opposite of a few things the legal profession believes to be established and well understood facts. Moreover, the law is complex and subtle. Computer professionals don’t understand it any better oftentimes than patent lawyers understand software, and so they can make statements that make no legal sense.

I believe that coming to a clear and fact-based definition of what an algorithm is can help both sides to communicate more effectively. So let’s do that as well.

Brian Proffitt says that there is “no reason to worry about Linux” because this patent verdict can be overturned quite soon. To quote his column:

I was on the road in Boston late last week, and thus was unable to easily write something up on the April 15 jury finding in the case of Bedrock Computer Technologies, LLC v. Softlayer Technologies, Inc. et al.

That’s the catchy name for the patent infringement lawsuit launched in 2009 by Tyler, Texas-based Bedrock against Softlayer and CitiWare Technology Solutions, LLC, two Texas-based software companies, and a few firms that are decidedly not from Texas: Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc., MySpace Inc., Amazon.com Inc., PayPal Inc., Match.com, Inc., AOL LLC and CME Group Inc. The suit alleges that a patent that Bedrock owns, US 5,893,120, is infringed by the defendants in the suit, because such a method is employed by the Linux operating system and as major users of Linux, the defendants are liable for damages.

Back on April 15, after a five-day jury trial, the Federal jury in Tyler, Texas indeed found in favor of Bedrock and specified that Google owed the company a huge, staggering amount of $5 million in damages. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

Patent law followers will note the location of the trial venue. The United States District Court Eastern District of Texas is well-known as a favored district for patent infringement suits. It is no coincidence, surely, that Bedrock’s founder David Garrod opted to start his company, which exists only as a holder of patents like 5,893,120, in such a patent-friendly location.

Proffitt’s former colleague, Sean Michael Kerner, reminds us of the role played by the OIN, which has no built-in immunisation against patent trolls (e.g. those whom Microsoft feeds), unlike large companies that wage patent wars under different rules. To quote Sean:

Patents remain a source of risk for the open source ecosystem, though the Open Invention Network (OIN) is doing its’ part to help reduce the risk.

The OIN launched back in 2005 as a group tasked with acquiring patents and then licensing them back to the open source community on a royalty-free basis.

OIN has continued to grow over the years, and for the first quarter of 2011, the group grew by over 70 new licensees including HP, Facebook and Juniper Networks.

Since those who bemoan Linux (and constantly spread patent FUD about it) also smear the OIN, surely there is something about the OIN which worries Microsoft; it acts as a deterrent. For example, Microsoft is not suing OIN members for patent violations, assuming they join early enough, unlike TomTom. The monopolist can use patent trolls to file these lawsuits however. Microsoft is, after all, the genesis of the world’s biggest patent troll. It cannot deny this fact.

“In a world where there are $500 million dollar patent infringement lawsuits imposed on OS companies (although this is not completely settled yet), how would somebody like Red Hat compete when 6 months ago they only had $80-$90 million in cash? At that point they could not even afford to settle a fraction of a single judgment without devastating their shareholders. I suspect Microsoft may have 50 or more of these lawsuits in the queue. All of them are not asking for hundreds of millions, but most would be large enough to ruin anything but the largest companies. Red Hat did recently raise several hundred million which certainly gives them more staying power. Ultimately, I do not think any company except a few of the largest companies can offer any reasonable insulation to their customers from these types of judgments. You would need a market cap of more than a couple billion to just survive in the OS space.”

SCO’s Strategic Consultant Mike Anderer

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