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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Summary: OpenStack grows mature enough to be bundled into the OIN’s ‘portfolio’ of protected (from patent litigation) projects
IT IS ALWAYS encouraging and very much rewarding to see the impact of Free software expanding to the higher layers/levels in the stack. OpenStack, an Apache-licensed project which may as well be called FreedomStack (but not “OpenCloud”), has just been added to OIN’s coverage, protecting it from the likes of SCO now that new trolls (Microsoft- and Apple-backed) arrive at the scene .
OIN has roots at IBM, which still promotes mainframes  and puts GNU/Linux in them , essentially to be managed by a proprietary hypervisor/platform (proprietary like UNIX/AIX ).
IBM is a big backer of OpenStack , but it’s not alone; almost all the large OEMs are embracing OpenStack (very recent examples in [6-15]), even Oracle [16-18]. Foes of OpenStack are Microsoft-funded groups like Gartner, who keep saying about OpenStack  what they used to say about GNU/Linux (Gartner was proven wrong, as usual). █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Am I the only one who’s been having a bit of SCO déjà vu when it comes to Rockstar’s suit against Google and a bevy of Android handset makers?
You remember SCO, don’t you? They’re the company, once a major Linux player with the Caldera distro, that bought the rights to Unix then turned around and sued IBM for $1 billion, claiming that Big Blue had been copying Unix code into Linux. They’re also the company that sued two of their former clients, AutoZone and Daimler Chrysler, for moving to Linux. Trouble was, they had nothing, not even the copyrights to the code they claimed had been infringed.
eWEEK 30: Unix remains a major server platform in enterprises and on the Internet three decades after PC Week started covering the computer industry.
Red Hat claims that its “enterprise-ready solution combines the stability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) with the innovation inherent in Red Hat OpenStack technologies to deliver a scalable and secure foundation for building an open private or public cloud.”
Dreamhost has emerged in recent years to become one of the world’s most popular shared hosting providers. The company is now expanding its lineup with new cloud compute and storage services, leveraging the open-source OpenStack platform serving as the foundation. Helping to fuel Dreamhost’s expansion is a new $30 million round of financing.
The difference between these two cloud giants is that everything OpenStack does, it does in the open. All of our successes and failures are in the open. So, we must beware to believe the OpenStack processes cannot support growth beyond the core IaaS feature set. If we do, we fail to grow OpenStack’s own portfolio of features, and we risk quickly becoming irrelevant as Amazon continues its proprietary quest for cloud market domination and saturation. In order to have a competitive open source offering for building clouds, both public and private—we need to add new services and features to the OpenStack portfolio to mature and stabilize the ‘core’ projects.
VIDEO: HP Distinguished Engineer Monty Taylor explains how the open-source OpenStack cloud platform is moving forward.
There are many hundreds of developers who contribute code to the open-source OpenStack cloud platform. For the recent OpenStack Havana release, the top developer as measured by the volume of code commits was Monty Taylor, distinguished engineer at Hewlett-Packard.
In a video interview with eWEEK, Taylor explains what he actually does at HP and how his team is contributing to making OpenStack the best it can be.
Internap Network Services unveiled the beta version of its new OpenStack-driven public cloud, AgileCLOUD. The company claims it’s the first cloud platform that “will fully expose both virtualized and bare-metal compute instances over a native OpenStack API and delivers significant performance, interoperability and flexibility benefits.”
Oracle has started sponsoring an open-source cloud tech that it already uses within its commercial offerings, as the company tentatively embraces a market it once reckoned inconsequential.
The company announced on Tuesday that it had become a “Corporate Sponsor” of the OpenStack Foundation, following El Reg reporting in September that the company’s new public cloud was partly based on the software.
Of course, Oracle has spilled a bit of open source bad blood in recent years so when it says it embraces an open source standard, it’s not as though the open source community jumps up and down with glee about it. It’s more likely that the OpenStack community is more than pleased to see Oracle join the party, but they may wonder if the hardware giant has some ulterior motives, rightly or not.
Debate continues to swirl over whether OpenStack has emerged as a successful cloud computing platform in terms of actual deployments, or whether it is overhyped and immature. Earlier this month, we reported on survey results from The OpenStack Foundation that showed that many enterprises are deploying or plan to deploy the platform.
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Summary: Distributions of GNU/Linux need not conform to people’s expectation of freedom and control, so even some restrictive systems like Chrome OS are in fact GNU/Linux
A recently-run poll in TuxMachines helped validate the claim that Google’s (GNU) Linux efforts do count towards the general cause of GNU/Linux, contributing in terms of volume probably more than lesser-known distributions like Doudou , SolydXK , Zorin OS , and Netrunner  (recent news intentionally chosen). As Ken Starks put it the other day : “For those that want to argue that Chromebooks don’t run on real Linux, that’s like saying oxygen isn’t really a part of water.”
He has a point. Those who never wanted GNU/Linux to enjoy high morale and gain momentum will say that Chromebooks should be ignored and not be defended from Microsoft's FUD campaigns. A lot of large companies (OEMs [6-8]), not just Google , are really falling in love with Chrome OS and it’s good that they use Chrome OS (never mind lockdown and privacy implications) instead of Windows. If one looks at the definition of a GNU/Linux system, then Chrome OS may definitely qualify; it might not be so freedom-respecting, but being freedom-respecting is not a requirement of being a GNU/Linux system. SteamOS is basically a platform for installing and running proprietary software (games), but that does not make it anything other than a Debian derivative and a GNU/Linux distribution.
“SteamOS is basically a platform for installing and running proprietary software (games), but that does not make it anything other than a Debian derivative and a GNU/Linux distribution.”Google has just joined OIN, making its commitement to GNU/Linux even stronger. As SJVN put it: “The Open Invention Network (OIN), the organization that was formed to promote collaboration and patent non-aggression in support of Linux, announced on Wednesday that Google has joined IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony as a full member of OIN.”
SJVN’s colleague at CBS said without concrete evidence that “Many companies using Linux pay Microsoft patent royalties for its operating system intellectual property.” (note the propaganda term at the end, classic CBS)
Google, unlike Novell for example, does not help Microsoft manufacture the above FUD; quite the contrary. We should boycott openSUSE , which is basically part of SUSE (Microsoft partners), not losing sight of the real issue which is patents/extortion, not a degree of versatility (more of a technical matter).
Bashing Google rather than companies like Apple and Microsoft is a wasteful move; it’s almost like bashing Canonical/Ubuntu. Let’s be happy that Chromebooks are gaining traction; for particular users they are very appealing as they would have practiced their freedoms even if they had them. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
My hopes were high, and if you go back and read some of my posts during that time it shows in the way I wrote about it. Then there were rumours that there might be a KDE version of LMDE, and I thought that would be Nirvana for sure.
Check the latest sales numbers for the various Chromebooks and Android phones this holiday season. I live in a little podunk town of less than 15,000 people and the Walmart here can’t keep Chromebooks on the shelves. Those Windows 8 “slablets” gathering dust day after day? They’re not doing so well, but our Walmart is getting ready to accept their third order of Chromebooks since Black Friday. Our mailman’s wife took on some part time work over the holidays at Walmart and she works in electronics. She sees it every day.
For those that want to argue that Chromebooks don’t run on real Linux, that’s like saying oxygen isn’t really a part of water. You ultimately end up sounding like someone with a mouth full of sour grapes. So when detractors jeer and ask, “So when is this year of Linux we’ve been hearing about?” just shrug your shoulders, smile and get out of the way. They don’t see the megalith bearing down upon them.
But with all of that being said, there are some things glaring back at us, things that need to be fixed, things that should have been fixed a long time ago. These problems or shortcomings in the Linux system aren’t really too hard to fix. The same tight-knit community that assumes someone else will fix it is the same tight-knit community that needs to pay attention to these problems.
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Summary: Students are being used to help write so-called “defensive patent publications”
IBM, a key component of the USPTO (with David Kappos, a former IBM employee, running it), helped form OIN, which was the creation run by another former IBM employee. OIN recently made it into the news again. There is a coordinated PR effort to get volunteers to help an agenda that legitimises some software patents (which IBM loves). To quote one output of this PR (in Red Hat’s site): “In Fall 2012, the Linux Defenders, from the Open Invention Network (OIN), teamed with the students of the Open Source Software Practices class at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (in Troy, NY) to write a set of defensive patent publications.
“OIN should join the efforts to end software patents, not tame them for the benefit of IBM et al.”“The students in the class first went through four lectures on the history and nature of patents, one of them given directly by Andrea Casillas, director of the Linux Defenders program at OIN. After this training, each one of the students wrote a defensive patent publication on a topic close to a class project that they were already working on.
“Members of OIN guided the students at every step of the process, providing instructions on how to write the publications and leading them to the finished product that was ready to be submitted to the US Patent Office.”
This is bad because they exploit a volunteer (as in unpaid) workforce to help legitimise software patents as a concept, just like Peer2Patent did. This is a lawyer’s non-solution to a real problem and another lawyer is proposing this rather misguided ‘solution’. Let’s stress that the solution is to abolish software patents, not help garden them. OIN should join the efforts to end software patents, not tame them for the benefit of IBM et al. █
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Summary: The goals of Black Duck are doubted by former Debian Leader and key OSI man
Bruce Perens, a key person in the FOSS movement, previously named OpenLogic negatively for their founder and manager from Microsoft.
Well, Black Duck is a similar story. It has strong Microsoft connections. It does not like the GPL, either. So who benefits from this if not Microsoft and perhaps some other proprietary software (and pro-patents) companies like Black Duck itself?
“I think it’s 100% B.S. And it appears to me that it’s driven by Black Duck and it really is time that someone called them upon it. ”
–Bruce PerensPerens was asked the following question some days ago: “What is your reaction to the frequent stories in various media about people migrating away from the GPL ”
Perens replied: “I think it’s 100% B.S. And it appears to me that it’s driven by Black Duck and it really is time that someone called them upon it. I think the stories get them publicity, and maybe they are appealing to a prospective customer base who are indeed nervous about the GPL. But the trend they portray isn’t a real one.” █
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Summary: News about steps that are taken or may be taken to weaken software patents in the largest market
SO APPLE is still trying to ban Linux-powered devices, using software patents of course. There are signs that unless we get rid of them, software patents will continue to harm Linux growth.
Meanwhile, a patent reform bill with some potential is making its debut:
New Patent Reform Bill Defines Software Patents; Targets Trolls
We’ve discussed the “America Invents Act,” a patent reform bill that passed last year after years of Congressional fighting. As we (and plenty of others) noted at the time, for all the hyperbole around the bill, it completely ignored nearly every problem with the patent system today, and seemed almost entirely useless. Our worry, then, was that this would kill off any appetite for Congress to take on the real problems of patents today. So it’s good to see that a new patent bill has been introduced — by Reps. Peter DeFazio and Jason Chaffetz, with a very, very minor change to patent law: it would allow those sued for hardware or software patents the ability to recover litigation costs if it’s determined that the suing patent holder “did not have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding.”
The new bill helps define software patents, which will in turn make it possible to treat them differently. Richard Stallman recently explained to us why it's an important first stage towards elimination or defanging of such patents.
In other patent news, a case with software patents at its core is being appealed:
A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived patent infringement claims brought by 01 Communique Laboratory Inc against LogMeIn Inc, sending LogMeIn shares down 16 percent.
According to another report, software patents are at risk from another direction:
The US court responsible for hearing patent appeals is showing fresh signs of disarray over the question of when software-based “inventions” can be patented. We recently covered a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that upheld a patent on the idea of using a computer to perform a particular kind of financial transaction. Now, just a couple of weeks later, the same court has reached the opposite conclusion about a patent on using a computer to manage a particular type of life insurance policy.
The patent in question dates to the late 1990s and is held by a firm called Bancorp Services. Because the courts have traditionally been skeptical of “business method” patents that merely claim a sequence of financial transactions—the Supreme Court invalidated one such patent in 2010, for example—Bancorp’s patent also claims a “system” for carrying out the necessary steps using a computer. It consists of a “policy generator,” a “fee calculator,” a “credit calculator,” and so forth.
The pro-Linux patent group claims to be growing, but it is not an opposer of software patents. To quote: “Open Invention Network (OIN) announced today significant growth in the size of its community of licensees year to date. Licensees continue to benefit from the value of OIN association and the freedom of action enabled by OIN’s licensing program. During the period, OIN had over 50 companies join its community of licensees, so that the community currently numbers over 460 open source supporters. OIN licensees, which include founding members and associate members, benefit from the leverage provided by a patent portfolio dedicated to the protection of Linux and access to enabling technologies through OIN and shared intellectual property resources.”
While we appreciate what the OIN is doing to protect Linux, it is far from a solution; it helps keep software patents in tact. █
“Writing non-free software is not an ethically legitimate activity, so if people who do this run into trouble, that’s good! All businesses based on non-free software ought to fail, and the sooner the better.”
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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. █
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Lo que Europa necesita no es lo mismo que los Estados Unidos necesita.
(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.
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