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Canon Has Proven That Microsoft’s Shell Game With Patent Trolls Makes ‘Peace’ Deals (Paying ‘Protection’ Money) Futile, Belatedly Joins OIN

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 1:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft will never co-exist with Linux; it just wants to eat it alive

Canon camera

Summary: The Open Invention Network (OIN), whose CEO used to talk about how Microsoft would attempt to pass patents for patent trolls to attack GNU/Linux, adds Canon as a community member and we are attempting to keep track of Microsoft’s intricate shell game (securing a multi-billion dollar patent ‘tax’ on Linux)

THE many patent trolls out there are not the main problem; the main problem is software patents, which patent trolls love to use. Lawsuits may have moved out of Texas, but patent trolls are still active and according to this group which is keeping track of such valuable, illuminating statistics: “Of the 26 patent suits filed on Friday, 15 were filed by patent trolls — that’s 58%.”

“Shortly after Microsoft blackmailed Canon for using Linux — using software patents as an extortion tool — Canon was sued by Microsoft’s biggest troll (Intellectual Ventures).”Sometimes it’s more like 90%. It depends on the day. We once estimated that about 90% of “news” about patents also boil down to lies and marketing from the patent ‘industry’, so it’s not easy to get the truth in this domain. One had to dig quite deep.

As we noted here before [1, 2], shortly after Canon had signed a patent agreement with Microsoft (probably protection racket) Microsoft’s biggest patent troll attacked Canon. These deals may be worthless if companies can go behind one’s back and send trolls to attack so-called ‘allies’. Several days ago Canon announced that it was joining the Open Invention Network (OIN), but that’s not going to protect is from patent trolls. Shortly after Microsoft blackmailed Canon for using Linux — using software patents as an extortion tool — Canon was sued by Microsoft’s biggest troll (Intellectual Ventures). How can OIN help in such a scenario? There is nothing it can do. Here is what the press release says:

Open Invention Network (OIN), the largest patent non-aggression community in history, announced today that Canon has joined as a community member. As a global leader in such fields as professional and consumer imaging and printing systems and solutions, and having expanded its medical and industrial equipment businesses, Canon is demonstrating its commitment to open source software as an enabler of innovation across a wide spectrum of industries.

“A key innovator in many technologies, Canon is one of the world’s most sophisticated corporations in developing and managing intellectual property,” said Keith Bergelt, CEO of OIN. “Canon has further distinguished itself by joining both the LOT Network and OIN. As a large patent holder, Canon has recognized the importance of participating in these complementary defensive patent networks together as part of a comprehensive IP strategy.”

“Open source technology, especially Linux, has led to profound increases in capabilities across a number of key industries, while increasing overall product and service efficiency,” said Hideki Sanatake, an Executive Officer, Deputy Group Executive of Corporate Intellectual Properties and Legal Headquarters at Canon. “By joining Open Invention Network, we are demonstrating our continued commitment to innovation, and supporting it with patent non-aggression in Linux.”

It speaks of “patent non-aggression in Linux,” but Microsoft is still aggressive (with patents) against Linux and it claims to be a ‘contributor’ to Linux (it certainly contributes to headaches). Microsoft’s ‘contributions’ in Munich speak for themselves. Financial ‘contributions’ to officials more-like…

“Dominion Harbor received a lot of patents from Microsoft’s patent troll (Intellectual Ventures) and a similar number of patents is passed from the Microsoft-connected Nokia.”Last week we mentioned VirnetX, which is a patent troll that got paid by Microsoft. It is still suing Apple, again earlier this month, and the following new blog post mentions Document Security Systems (DDS) in relation to the same business [sic] model of patent trolls. They intend to do nothing but prey on companies; no products in the pipeline:

Back in June, VirnetX Holding Corp announced plans to sell a 10% stake in itself to an obscure Japanese partner billed as a consortium of Japanese corporations and financial institutions. The PIPCO (which trades on the NYSE American exchange) was set to gain $20 million in expansion capital as well as an entrée into a potentially lucrative market for licensing its secure communications technologies and patents. But according to recent SEC filings, the stake in VirnetX will no longer change hands after the company’s favourable US district court verdict against Apple boosted its share price.


Times are tough for PIPCOs, no doubt, and it can’t be easy for them to find investors. VirnetX isn’t the only such company we’ve seen look to Asia for financing: Document Security Systems did a stock swap with a Singapore businessman only last month to save itself from being de-listed from the NYSE American exchange. Listed licensing companies understandably want to diversify, and Asia is a natural ground for expansion. But the big patent players in Asia have so far focused their partnerships on private NPEs and national patent funds like IP Bridge and Intellectual Discovery. I don’t expect that will change anytime soon.

This same blog, which favours patent trolls (we track it for information about trolls), speaks about InterDigital. We have been writing about InterDigital since 2007 and it turns out now that an antitrust investigation against it falls through. Here they go again pursuing a tax (share of it) on every mobile device:

What it doesn’t include, though, is some of the other giant SEP holders such as Qualcomm, InterDigital, Ericsson and Nokia. They have largely resisted attempts to license their wireless patents through pools, although the first three have joined Avanci, the collective licensing platform headed by former Ericsson CIPO Kasim Alfalahi that is looking to license patents relating to 2G, 3G and 4G mobile technology in a number of different Internet of Things (IoT) verticals.

What’s also worth noticing is that Nokia (mentioned above) has just passed thousands of patents to some obscure entity. We previously showed how Microsoft-connected patent trolls had been fed by Microsoft in order for them to attack Microsoft’s rivals. That’s why the following might be important. Portions from this new blog post:

Last Friday, this blog broke the story of a huge portfolio of Nokia assets that had been acquired by Provenance Asset Group, a company set up by IP advisory business Quatela Lynch McCurdy (QLM). With around 4,000 US assets it looks to be amomg the largest transactions so far in 2017.


Nokia’s recent spate of transfers is one reason for the significant jump. As well as the large stockpile recently acquired by PAG, the Finnish telco has also put a portfolio of 6,000 patents up for sale through AQUA Licensing. Following its purchase of Alcatel-Lucent last year, which significantly boosted its patent reserves, Nokia has clearly been busy assessing the size and scope of its portfolio. Intellectual Ventures has also shaken up the secondary deals market, significantly ramping up its rate of sales including, earlier this year, the disposal of around 4,000 former Kodak patents to Dominion Harbor.

Dominion Harbor received a lot of patents from Microsoft’s patent troll (Intellectual Ventures) and a similar number of patents is passed from the Microsoft-connected Nokia. Does that mean that Android will be targeted next? Time will tell, but that seems likely.

Microsoft is trying to make this entire space very toxic (lots of patent lawsuits and patent tax) in order to entice companies/people into Azure for perceived ‘safety’ [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]. That’s how it also coerces Android OEMs into pre-installing Microsoft software.


Microsoft Brings Its GNU/Linux-Hostile Patent Scheme to China

Posted in Asia, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 9:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft and trolls

Summary: Microsoft reiterates its intention to only offer ‘protection’ (or indemnification) for GNU/Linux users who pay Microsoft monthly fees while going further and hinting that it may send additional patents to trolls

THERE are still some people out there — not Richard Stallman, obviously — who have fallen for the lie and PR campaign which says “Microsoft loves Linux”. Some people, like Red Hat and Canonical (or Linux Foundation) staff, are paid not to understand, or at least to keep silent about it.

“As Bruce Perens recently explained, OIN exists to protect software patents from Linux rather than protect Linux from software patents.”On the surface it may seem like Microsoft’s patent aggression against GNU/Linux is no more. But that’s purely an illusion. We habitually show how Microsoft-connected patent trolls attack vendors who distribute GNU/Linux. They don’t always know who’s behind the trolls because the aggressors try to keep it complicated. It’s a shell game. Intellectual Ventures, for instance, has literally thousands of shell entities around it (one of these defames me).

Earlier today we found this press release about a firm from China (Guangzhou Automobile Group). No FOSS or Linux news site has caught it (so far). “By joining Open Invention Network,” (OIN) says the firm, “we are demonstrating our commitment to open source software, and supporting it with a pledge of patent non-aggression.”

The concept of “patent non-aggression” is OK, but OIN is next to worthless for Linux. As Bruce Perens recently explained, OIN exists to protect software patents from Linux rather than protect Linux from software patents. It’s an IBM front. It won’t oppose software patents (don’t even ask it about those) and it cannot do anything about patent trolls, by its own admission. That’s why Microsoft prefers using trolls — to distance itself from the negative publicity associated with patent aggression.

Here is a portion from the press release:

Open Invention Network (OIN), the largest patent non-aggression community in history, announced today that Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC Group), has joined as a community member. As owner of China’s fastest-growing auto brand, GAC Group is demonstrating its commitment to open source software (OSS) as an enabler of electronic vehicle systems.

More interesting, however, is this article published this morning by a patent trolls’ Web site. “Microsoft expands Azure IP Advantage to China,” the headline says. As we explained earlier this year in many articles (at least 13 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]), we expect that Microsoft will sic its patent trolls on rivals unless they pay protection money (in the form of Azure rents). We have already covered evidence of this. Here is the latest (emphasis ours, “NPE” is a euphemism for patent troll):

There are three key components to the Azure IP Advantage programme, which was rolled out back in February. First, the company’s uncapped indemnification policy was expanded to cover open source technologies; second, 10,000 Microsoft patents have been made available to customers for deterrent and defensive purposes; and finally, Azure customers can receive a ‘springing licence’ should Microsoft ever transfer patents to an NPE.

But the fine print noted that Azure IP Advantage was not yet available in China. Azure services in the country are operated by a Beijing-based company called 21Vianet, an independent entity. The unique arrangement meant a couple of extra hoops to jump through before the programme could take effect. But it will do just that at the start of next month, so from then on the Azure IP offering will be identical across all of the product’s international markets.

Do not believe for a moment that this is good news. Like we said earlier this year, it’s another Novell-like attempt to create two classes of GNU/Linux, “safe” (hosted by Microsoft) and “unsafe”. Microsoft isn’t stupid. We oughtn’t be stupid, either.


OIN is Still a Distraction Unless We Want GNU/Linux to Coexist With Software Patents (Rather Than Eliminate Those)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, OIN, Patents at 2:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Open Invention Network (OIN): the ‘solution’ of companies that love (to exploit) GNU/Linux and also love software patents


Summary: Another wave of media coverage by/for the Open Invention Network (OIN) necessitates a reminder of what OIN stands for and why it is not tackling the biggest problems which Free/Open Source software (FOSS) faces

THE notion that OIN can “protect” GNU/Linux from software patents may be a convenient one, but OIN never opposed software patents and it rarely offered any substantiative protection. With the USPTO de-emphasising patents on software (in no way owing to OIN) we might find some reprieve. With PTAB eliminating many such patents (already granted by the USPTO) we might feel safer.

“OIN is, in our assessment, somewhat of a distraction.”The latest OIN PR, however, has managed to entice at least a couple of GNU/Linux-centric writers. OIN is, in our assessment, somewhat of a distraction. It’s not at all useful against patent trolls and it never opposes software patents. It’s actually supportive of FOSS and software patents at same time, as contradictory as that concept can be (FOSS and software patents are inherently incompatible). SJVN wrote ‘for’ OIN that “everyone and their uncle — yes, even Microsoft– use Linux and open-source. A decade ago, Linux was under attack by SCO for imaginary copyright violations, and then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was claiming that Linux violated more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. So Open Invention Network (OIN) patent consortium was formed to defend Linux against intellectual property (IP) attacks. The stakes may not be so high today, but Linux and open-source software is still under attack from patent trolls and other attackers. That’s where the Open Invention Network (OIN) steps up by expanding its patent non-aggression coverage through an update to its definition of the Linux System.”

Well, notice that they never even mention GNU. It’s not a coincidence, it’s intentional. They certainly know all about GNU, but the brand “Linux” represents a friendlier (to them) philosophy. Published around the same time by Christine Hall was the following article, suggestive of a media outreach by OIN. It says: [via]

On Thursday, the Linux System got a lot larger. This is good news, and means that anyone using Linux and other other software often used with it, can sleep better nights, knowing that the Open Invention Network (OIN) is now watching their back on the patent front more than ever.

That’s what OIN does. It seeks to protect enterprise Linux and open source users against patent infringement claims, which is seen as open source’s greatest intellectual property vulnerability. It does so primarily with an ever growing portfolio of patents it offers to license free-of-charge to any person or organization that agrees to not enforce its own patents against core components of Linux and other key open source projects, which it calls the “Linux System.” It’s a carrot and stick approach, using a lot of carrot and going easy with the stick.

OIN is well-meaning (in its own mind), but it won’t tackle software patents and patent trolls that use them. As Benjamin Henrion put it, it’s “useless against trolls. But that’s not in the PR.” (press release).

“It claims to be trying to thwart sales of patents that would later be used to sue GNU/Linux vendors, but rarely have we seen a real example of that (they claimed this only once, more than half a decade ago).”We, ourselves, stopped engaging with OIN. It proved to be a waste of time, especially when we spent a long time communicating online with patent trolls who had approached us, then trying to get OIN involved (it was toothless and uninterested).

Right now, just to use a new example, the Microsoft-connected Acacia (Microsoft connections and history of suing GNU/Linux vendors) gets mentioned for former executives netting ZTE patents. “ZTE [is] revealed as vendor of Chinese patents sold to NPE set up by ex-Acacia executives,” says the headline and here is the relevant part from IAM (trolls’ proponent):

Longhorn – founded last year by former Acacia Research executives Christian Dubuc and Khaled Fekih-Romdhane – announced back in February that its Ox Mobile subsidiary had acquired “assets related to 4G/LTE with worldwide coverage, as well as Chinese assets related to smartphone implementation” from an unnamed Chinese company.

What could OIN possibly do here? Nothing. It claims to be trying to thwart sales of patents that would later be used to sue GNU/Linux vendors, but rarely have we seen a real example of that (they claimed this only once, more than half a decade ago). OIN can, at times, look like a placebo. It gives an illusion of safety and thus false comfort.

“It’s the ‘solution’ as envisioned by companies like IBM, which (as we shall show later today) spearhead a big push for software patents everywhere.”To clarify, OIN are not the “bad guys”; far from it…

OIN just isn’t the solution to our problems. It’s the ‘solution’ as envisioned by companies like IBM, which (as we shall show later today) spearhead a big push for software patents everywhere. If OIN took some concrete action, e.g. submitting an amicus brief against software patents or sending a letter against IBM’s latest plot — a ludicrous concept as OIN virtually came from IBM — we would possibly change our minds and reconsider this position.

Having just visited the front page of OIN’s Web site, it now seems abundantly clear that they collaborate with IAM (even pay IAM), proponents of software patents, patent trolls, and patent maximalism. If OIN tries to make itself look even worse, then it’s certainly doing a fine job.


PAX Means Peace, But It’s Making Peace With Software Patents Rather Than Destroy Them

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, OIN, Patents at 6:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Whether it’s called “PAX” or “SuperPAX”, it does not solve the issue but merely exacerbates the patent thicket problem

Jeremy Paxman
Jeremy Paxman

Summary: One last take on the whole “PAX” brouhaha, which is far from a solution to problems we’re all facing in the software world

THE announcement of “PAX” made a lot of headlines/press last week, e.g. in the financial press1. Well, Android-centric sites covered that quite a lot and to a lesser degree GNU/Linux-centric sites did too (like SJVN2). We wrote several articles about that, e.g. [1, 2]. We believe that as long as the USPTO grants software patents there is room for things like “PAX”, but they are not a solution to the underlying problem, which is the patents themselves (on software).

“We believe that as long as the USPTO grants software patents there is room for things like “PAX”, but they are not a solution to the underlying problem, which is the patents themselves (on software).”Jeff Roberts‏, a writer whom we respect for his firm grasp of these issues, published the article “Google-Backed Patent Network LOT Adds Cisco, Slack” and separately added: “Patent folks: Google-backed LOT adds Slack & Cisco to its non-aggression pact. (how long till @IBM joins too?)”

Well, IBM has already fed some patents into Android OEMs for defensive purposes (at great cost). It would not be shocking if it joined “PAX” sooner or later, even if it has OIN. Maybe there will even be some bridging between OIN and “PAX”, as one defends GNU/Linux (not just the kernel anymore) and another Android, which uses the Linux kernel and some Free software projects that are covered by OIN.

“Well, IBM has already fed some patents into Android OEMs for defensive purposes (at great cost).”“Collective shields don’t work against trolls,” Benjamin Henrion rightly reminded them. This is why we prefer different approaches. We don’t think that patent pools, even if advertised as “defensive”, will ever lead to eradication of deprecation of software patents.

1 Google Creates Community License to Unify Android Makers (GOOG, MSFT)

Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google (GOOG) is attempting to create peace in patent litigation.

The Mountain View company launched Android Networked Cross-License or PAX (Latin for Peace), a community license between manufacturers of Android devices that makes their collective patents available to each other minus royalties. “ We call it a community license because all members grant licenses to one another on a royalty-free basis, thereby promoting patent peace within the Android ecosystem,” the company wrote in a blogpost. (See also: Patents Are Assets, So Learn How To Value Them).

Signatories to the patent license include prominent makes of Android phones, such as the likes of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd (SSNLF) and HTC. Collectively, they hold more than 230,000 patents. According to Google, the agreement “materially reduces patent risk.” In other words, this means that members will not sue each other for using Android-related patents in their devices.

2 PAX: Android patent protection consortium formed

OIN was formed in 2005 when Linux was under legal siege from SCO for imaginary copyright violations and then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed Linux violated over 200 Microsoft patents. So, IBM, Sony, Phillips, Red Hat, and Novell formed Open Invention Network (OIN) to defend Linux against IP attacks. Since then, many major companies have joined OIN from both inside the technology business, such as Google and manufacturing companies like Damiler.


OSDL, OIN, Linux Foundation, PAX and the Likes of Them Dodge the Real Problem, Which is Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, OIN, OSDL, Patents at 10:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Their biggest sponsors simply do not oppose software patents and instead hoard some themselves

Linux Foundation sponsors

Summary: The arms race of patents, or the notion that bad patents can be countered using more bad patents, has become an infectious mentality that acts as a barrier to real progress and only makes the patent thickets a lot ‘thicker’ (impenetrable to small companies/market entrants)

THE US patent office is no longer as lenient as it used to be, but software patents continue to be granted on occasions and troll lawsuits are still being filed (albeit fewer of them than before). As so many companies out there now use Android (Linux), the targets of litigation are often users/distributors of Android and hence “PAX” has some real/perceived necessity. We recently wrote two articles about PAX [1, 2] and Andrew Updegrove, who had worked for the Linux Foundation, wrote the following about it yesterday, under the headline “Google Announces Android “PAX” Cross-License Program – But to What Purpose?”

The first meaningful OSS defensive initiative was Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), founded back in 2000 by companies like IBM, Intel and HP to reassure developers and customers in the face of the veiled threats then being made by Microsoft against users of Linux and other OSS, and in light of the actual (and ultimately unsuccessful) litigation by SCO, perhaps bankrolled by Microsoft, against four companies using Linux.


Like OSDL, OIN was heavily funded by its founding members and has a high-powered Executive Director and staff. Over 2,000 organizations have now signed the OIN License Agreement, which you can read here, without having to send in a request to be vetted, or incurring a confidentiality obligation.

And then there are the many efforts that were far less meaningful. Beginning with an announcement by IBM on January 11, 2005, many of the leading IT companies made public “patent non-assertion pledges” to reassure users of Linux (and sometimes other prominent OSS programs) that they would not be sued. Those companies ultimately included Motorola, Nokia, Sun, Google, Oracle and others, each publicly releasing its own slightly different legal pledge, and its own specified list of patents – dozens, scores and even hundreds of them. In the case of IBM, the package included exactly 500 patents, an oddly round number. (The same press release also noted that IBM had filed more patents than anyone else for the fourth year in a row, conveying a rather mixed message to the patent-averse open source community.)

PAX and OIN are both ineffective against trolls and as we reminded readers earlier this afternoon, companies like Ericsson and Microsoft pass patents for trolls to sue, bypassing all sorts of alleged defenses such as OIN.

Yesterday or earlier this week, more detailed analysis emerged on the cases involving Samsung, Apple and Qualcomm (which had abused its position against both Samsung and Apple). To quote what Florian Müller wrote this morning:

Procedural decisions relating to two major Apple cases have come down this week. With respect to design patent damages in Apple v. Samsung, Apple did not get its preferred way forward (affirmance of prior damages verdict and an immediate re-retrial necessitated by the Federal Circuit’s dismissal of Apple’s trade dress claims), but the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has granted Apple’s wish that its contract, patent and antitrust action against Qualcomm be kept separate from a long list of (consumer) antitrust cases related to the FTC’s mid-January complaint against Qualcomm.

There isn’t much to say right now about the Apple v. Samsung design patents case. In a case management order handed down on Tuesday, Judge Lucy Koh disagreed with Apple’s most aggressive suggestions, which would have cut the remand proceedings short (after the Federal Circuit decided that the district court should take a closer look at the record in light of the December Supreme Court ruling). I’m not surprised and I doubt Apple itself was.

Qualcomm’s abuses against all sorts of companies were covered here before [1, 2] and where were groups like OIN while this was going on? Nowhere. Because in practice they are something between “deterrent” and “bloody useless”. To properly address these issues, we need to tackle the underlying issues, which are the patents themselves, notably software patents that Qualcomm still uses and advocates for.


Recognising the Death of Software Patents, Microsoft’s Largest Ally in India Belatedly Joins the Linux-Centric Open Invention Network

Posted in Asia, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 5:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

But Microsoft carries on with its usual tricks, this time calling them “Azure IP Advantage”… (Microsoft-armed trolls attacking Azure’s rivals and non-customers)

Microsoft and trolls

Summary: With the demise of software patents come some interesting new developments, including the decision at Infosys — historically very close to Microsoft and a proponent of software patents — to join the Open Invention Network (OIN)

OVER the past month or so we’ve published 10 articles about Microsoft siccing patent trolls on GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. It’s already happening on the face of it (we have since our last article learned that the Toyota patent deal covers “OS” and “file systems”, i.e. Linux), and LG adopts similar tactics that prevent responsibility/reaction by ‘proxifying’ to trolls (see this old cartoon about it — one that we’ve just ‘massaged’ or flattened to fit our layout above). This is the kind of thing OIN was supposed to protect against, but we have hardly seen any evidence of effective defense (OIN told one such tale about half a decade ago, but nothing since).

“OIN cannot guard against this.”The idea that OIN will somehow ‘snatch’ patents before they reach trolls (even where Microsoft arranges for others’ passage, e.g. from Nokia to MOSAID/Conversant) assumes that Microsoft is naïve. See what happened with CPTN. OIN cannot guard against this. OIN is not the solution to the core issue, which is patents on software. OIN stakeholders, in particular the large ones, don’t want patents on software to stop. They want GNU/Linux and they want patents on software too; they want the impossible!

Over in India, thanks to vigilant populace and local businesses, software patents have been kept illegal all these years. Infosys, a Microsoft proxy which had a change of heart on software patents (because they’re impossible to attain/enforce), joins the Open Invention Network this week [1, 2, 3, 4]. It’s rather surprising, but given the nationality of Infosys (Indian), this is not entirely shocking. Their CEO has actually lashed out at software patents — a move which we very much welcome.

“OIN is not the solution to the core issue, which is patents on software.”Over in the United States, there is still some uncertainty over the death of software patents. Companies generally know that courts are hostile towards software patents (the higher the court, the more hostile) and fewer of them — albeit not all — dare sue. It’s the initiation of a long and expensive process which typically yields nothing after Alice (only court and lawyers’ fees).

IAM, an enemy of India [1, 2, 3] and a proponent of software patents (also the mouthpiece of patent trolls, as we last showed yesterday), worries about an impending SCOTUS ruling which would most likely further inhibit patent trolls and software patents in the US. IAM wrote the following yesterday:

As anyone with even a cursory interest in patents could tell you, this means that as things stand a large proportion of patent suits are concentrated in the Eastern District of Texas, which because of its handling of issues such as discovery and early case motions, is perceived to be particularly plaintiff friendly.

Because it is. And it’s even advertising itself as such! So much for justice! It’s like a disciplinary committee under Battistelli, which evidently continues to be a problem [PDF].

“Over in the United States, there is still some uncertainty over the death of software patents.”According to this new article (sheltered behind a paywall, as usual), the USPTO is probably realising that software patents are a thing of the past. To quote the summary:

Recent Federal Circuit decisions, and updated Guidance issued by the USPTO have provided practitioners with a new roadmap to navigate the minefield left in the wake of the “Alice” case.

Alice, as we repeatedly noted last year, is here to stay. There are no signs that Justices will revisit the matter (patentability of software) any time soon. Instead, again behind paywall, Justices now look into other matters. MIP give paying subscribers a glimpse at what happens in Impression v Lexmark (oral arguments). It’s a SCOTUS patent case which along with TC Heartland will quite likely further restrict patent scope in the US (a much-needed and overdue reform).


What’s OIN Doing While Microsoft is Siccing Patent Trolls on Azure Competitors’ Customers?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 9:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Attacks on GNU/Linux and Free/libre software, but OIN cannot do anything about it

Submarine (patents)

Summary: Microsoft’s patent litigation strategy has become clearer, and patents-centric efforts such as OIN offer no defence against such a strategy, which attempts to pressure everyone to flock to Microsoft for ‘protection’ (from Microsoft itself)

SEVERAL readers have sent us this latest article about OIN, which we no longer believe does anything beneficial to Linux, except in name. The USPTO continues to grant software patents (more rarely than before) and OIN plays a role in a group designed to promote software patents, or support their resurgence. Where has OIN been when we needed it? Our readers emphasise that OIN is not effective against trolls and Benjamin Henrion (FFII) recently said that OIN itself had admitted it. So if OIN isn’t trying to stop software patents and isn’t effective against trolls, what good is it anyway? It’s somewhat of a distraction from the real solutions. The latest puff piece for OIN says: “When you think of Linux and open-source companies, the automobile industry is not the first business to spring to mind. But maybe it should be. Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), the Linux and open-source non-aggression patent consortium.”

So what?

“Where is OIN now that Microsoft is coercing Linux/Android OEMs into bundling malware, using threats of patent lawsuits?”The piece was possibly initiated by some phonecall and/or a press release from OIN’s CEO (I should know as he phoned me too, in order to garner support). Where has OIN been when Microsoft attacked GNU/Linux? Where is OIN now that Microsoft is coercing Linux/Android OEMs into bundling malware, using threats of patent lawsuits? Microsoft already sued over it, e.g. Microsoft v Samsung.

We kindly remind readers that Microsoft is passing patents, usually in bulk, to trolls, which OIN can do nothing about (by its own admission). Buying patents before these make it into the hands of trolls would not work if the seller is Microsoft or a company intruded by Microsoft, such as Nokia when it sold patents to MOSAID. OIN is absolutely useless in circumstances such as these. Recall our recent article titled "As Long as Software Patents Are Granted and Microsoft Equips Trolls With Them, “Azure IP Advantage” is an Attack on Free/Libre Software" — one among several such articles, posted along with the following articles:

One reader that alerted us about the OIN piece had already found out a curious report from Microsoft’s booster Kurt Mackie. “I lost the link (ignored it because of Azure),” this reader explained, “but after thinking about it, if Microsoft is selling or renting patents to trolls (NPE) then their tactic works. In particular they are able to attract trolls with the bait on Azure, let them have a patent for a fee, and then point the troll at their competitors. Just speculation but I that’s what I though after considering the Azure news.”

Upon further exploration the article in question was found again. “I found where I saw it,” our reader explained, quoting the following passage from it:

Lastly, Microsoft is promising that if it transfers Azure-associated patents to “nonpracticing entities,” then the arrangement will be such that the holding company can’t assert IP claims against Azure customers. This latter arrangement is called a “springing license” arrangement in legal lingo.

This is pretty significant as it shows that our interpretation of the strategy was all along correct. “If Microsoft is doing those “transfers”,” our reader noted, then “it is effectively siccing trolls on its competitors’ customers.”

The strategy above is rightly compared to the Novell deal that we protested against for a very long time. To quote: “On the IP side, Microsoft early on provided “IP peace of mind” by issuing certificates for Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise server use in a controversial program that promised customers using that software that they would not be subject to IP claims from Microsoft. That program emerged from Microsoft’s early legal claims that Linux and other open source software had violated 235 of Microsoft’s patents.”

“This is pretty significant as it shows that our interpretation of the strategy was all along correct.”So again, just like we had said all along, Microsoft basically reintroduced the same tactics. It just markets them differently now, using similar words but a different platform. 10 years ago Microsoft tried to get everyone to use SUSE, which it taxed, and now it is trying to make everyone move to Azure, with perceived or concrete risk of patent lawsuits as an encouraging factor.

And some people naïvely believe (based on a PR campaign) that Microsoft has changed…


Patent Trolls on Their Way Out in the United States and Their Way Into China, No Thanks to the Open Invention Network (OIN)

Posted in America, Asia, IBM, OIN, Patents at 3:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OIN has in many ways contributed to the problem rather than or instead of working to tackle it

Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) logo

Summary: An update on patent trolls and the role played by supposed allies of Free/libre software, who in practice do everything to exacerbate the problem rather than resolve it

Trolls are a symptom of a big problem, typically the granting of far too many patents and too lenient a treatment (favouring the claimant) at the courts. This is why the US was so popular among patent trolls and China is now attracting if not giving birth to those same sorts of trolls.

Things are about to change for the better in the US. “Broad patent venue rules allowing corporations to be sued for patent infringement almost anywhere,” as this new article puts it, is a regime which will likely end soon (it’s reminiscent of what UPC proponents envision in Europe — a recipe for patent trolls in the EU and beyond).

“This is why the US was so popular among patent trolls and China is now attracting if not giving birth to those same sorts of trolls.”This new article refers to TC Heartland — a decision we eagerly await — and says this: “Broad patent venue rules allowing corporations to be sued for patent infringement almost anywhere are under siege both in Congress and in the courts. Yet, a non-patent case that was recently granted certiorari by the Supreme Court, although not widely noted in intellectual property law circles, may provide another potential front in this ongoing battle. [...] Based on the cert grant, the U.S. Supreme Court now appears set to decide when a claim sufficiently “arises out of or relates to” a defendant’s contacts with the forum state. Although Bristol-Myers is not a patent case, it involves the same specific jurisdiction criteria that the Federal Circuit has found satisfied in patent cases by product shipments into a forum. Therefore, it is possible that a Supreme Court decision that tightens the nexus between the claims and the defendant’s acts that is required to establish specific personal jurisdiction may curb patent owners’ abilities to bring suit in as wide array of fora as is possible under current Federal Circuit precedent.”

“OIN has become pretty useless and it’s likely that it was always this useless.”Some time later this year, assuming that new Justices grasp the damage caused by patent trolls, the whole business model of trolls is likely to collapse, having already suffered a great deal when Alice made their patents a lot weaker. We cannot rest on the laurels, however, as patent maximalists constantly try to sabotage all this progress and Make Trolls Great Again, as we last noted yesterday. Here, in this new article from Embry-Riddle, a person who makes a living by promoting patents (or patent maximalism) unsurprisingly promotes more and more patents. We see articles like these every day. This other new article, one from Beta News, is very wrong and misguided; it oddly enough calls or paints OIN as anti-trolls, even though OIN openly admits that it’s not (OIN is absolutely incapable of stopping trolls). Here is the key part:

More and more, we’re seeing businesses band together to find creative, efficient solutions to the patent troll problem.

Take OIN (Open Innovation Network) [sic, it's Invention] as an example. This organization operates in the open source community, cross-licensing patents to protect companies against litigation using Linux-related patents. Another example is the LOT Network, the non-profit community that I lead. More than 80 percent of patents litigated by patent trolls are acquired from operating companies through events like bankruptcies, M&A, or when a company is looking for an extra revenue stream. LOT members agree that if one of their patents falls into the hands of a troll, the other members get a free license. This acts as immunization for member companies — rendering a troll lawsuit involving that patent moot. At the same time, LOT Network does not affect the traditional uses of patents — like buying, selling, or even suing other companies.

One could argue that OIN helps weaken trolls by attempting to grab (buy) particular patents which would otherwise be given to trolls, but having seen how it works from the inside (long conversations more than half a decade ago), that just barely ever happens. It happened maybe once before (that we know of). OIN has become pretty useless and it’s likely that it was always this useless. Its stated goals are not its real goals. Recently, OIN pretty much endorsed a lobby for software patents, misleadingly named Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU). OIN often seems to have remained somewhat of an IBM front group, often aligned with IBM’s own agenda and even led by former IBM staff. Speaking of IBM, which is becoming an ally of Apple and a foe of GNU/Linux, its patent chief said the other day: “Patents should promote innovation regardless of inventor size (large co, small co, independent) and regardless of technology” (easy for him to say, coming from the largest patent assignee). Benjamin Henrion’s response to him can be see here; it’s all just mumbo-jumbo from IBM, equating patents with “innovation” — however one defines that thing. IBM uses its patents to bully competitors and extract ‘protection’ money from them. That’s hardly innovation.

“Recently, OIN pretty much endorsed a lobby for software patents, misleadingly named Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU).”Where was OIN when Acacia, a patent troll with connections to Microsoft, attacked GNU/Linux vendors such as Novell and Red Hat? As expected, patent trolls such as Acacia pivot/expand in China after SIPO and the courts had done damage to the country (diluting the patent system with low-quality patents). According to the trolls’ news site the “Texas-based NPE [which the headline calls "Acacia alumni NPE"] Longhorn IP announced this week that it has acquired a patent portfolio, including several China-only patent families, from a major Chinese telecoms company.”

Guess what will happen next…

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