Patents on trivial concepts can’t carry water for Apple
Summary: Apple’s attacks on Android (and by extension Linux) run short of results
DESPITE Apple’s ‘generous’ payments to IDG (e.g. for advertisements), IDC‘s parent company, IDC now reports (as widely covered in the media) that Apple is unlikely to ever catch up with Android and Apple’s stock rapidly collapsed recently, costing the company around $100 billion in overall value.
Apple saw the writings on the wall some years ago. It started suing Android half a decade ago, taking advantage of a notorious patent system (the USPTO) that is such an utter joke that it actually let McDonalds have patents on making burgers (patents protectionism) just when in the US, based on this new report, some people are copyrighting a chicken sandwich (or at least trying to). Remember that Oracle attacks Android not only using patents but also copyrights (on APIs). CPTN, a consortium built around Novell’s patents with Apple, Microsoft and Oracle at its core, shows that there is a proprietary software collusion against Android/Linux. Microsoft has been destroying Nokia to turn it into a patent troll, using its patents to feed Android-hostile trolls like MOSAID.
Outside the US (although increasingly in the US too) Apple has not been so lucky when it comes to fighting Android. Watch Europe for instance. Aside from the fact that the system isn’t biased in favour of US companies (like the ITC tends to be), Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent, to give just one example, is nothing more than an old gate lock (thousands of years old) borrowed for digital metaphors. It’s just not patentable in many places, including in Europe. Apple has ultimately embarrassed itself by even trying to follow Steve Jobs' "thermonuclear" (apocalyptic) plan.
“Apple’s anti-Android/anti-Samsung patents are an endangered species in every jurisdiction in which they get challenged (and may soon be an extinct species in Europe)…”
–Florian MüllerAccording to Florian Müller, who has been working for Microsoft (and based on some reports also for Apple) as a sort of lobbyist, Apple continues to be defeated in Europe. To put it in his own words: “The spring 2014 armistice with Google has a major downside for Apple: it related only to infringement cases, not to challenges to the validity of its patents, a fact that was not clear at the time of the original announcement. Five months ago, the European Patent Office revoked Apple’s iconic rubberbanding patent on a Europe-wide basis. The sole remaining party opposing the grant of that patent was Motorola. I have no doubt that Google (not Lenovo) is the driving force behind this continuing effort to shoot down Apple patents, and I guess Google is paying Quinn Emanuel for representing Motorola in cases such as that one.
“Today, Google and QE’s continuing efforts have succeeded once again (and most probably not for the last time): the Federal Court of Justice, Germany’s highest court (besides, theoretically, the Federal Constitutional Court, which has never heard a patent case in its history), today announced (German-language press release) affirmance of the Federal Patent Court’s April 2013 decision to invalidate the German part of Apple’s European slide-to-unlock patent.”
In another article from Müller the failures of Apple are shown to be broader than just in Europe. To quote: “Apple’s anti-Android/anti-Samsung patents are an endangered species in every jurisdiction in which they get challenged (and may soon be an extinct species in Europe), except for the Northern District of California, where Judge Lucy Koh has so far acted as if she was the World Wildlife Fund for Apple patents. But a tipping point may have been reached at which conservation will come to an end even in her district court.”
When even Müller has no favourable opinion on Apple’s case it’s easy to conclude that Apple totally lost the plot.
Let’s hope that Apple will rot on its own, without (any longer) trying to take Android down along with it. █
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Patents not on engineering (or physical products) anymore
Summary: News about patents from all across the Web, placing special emphasis on software patents and how these affect Free software projects, including Linux and Android
THIS week’s patents roundup revolves around practicing companies that act in a way which is almost indistinguishable from patent trolls. As we have said here for several years, the term “patent trolls” can be misleading because many large companies act in the same way but don’t get labeled “trolls”, mostly because of their size. It means that a fight against “patent trolls” often turns out to be a fight over scale, waged by large corporations against smaller ones. Check again who is behind the PATENT Act [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
Today’s post brings together several stories and themes/strands in order to keep readers abreast of the latest developments.
Open Invention Network
We have spent over 8 years writing about the Open Invention Network (better known as OIN) and why it cannot effectively protect Free software projects. We also exchanged many E-mails with the OIN and some trolls. We saw how toothless the OIN can be in many scenarios and we challenged the OIN over it. I spoke in length with their CEO a few times over the telephone and I still think that it helps legitimise software patents and rarely achieves very much, except promote the interests of large corporations (like those which founded it and still fund it).
Earlier this morning FOSS Force published this very long interview with Deb Nicholson, who had worked for the FSF before she moved to OIN. This interview is very good and Nicholson’s views on patents are fine. We shared them here before.
“My work at OIN involves a lot of research,” Nicholson says. “I read academic papers on litigation trends and try to stay on top of who’s getting sued this week. It also involves a lot of behind the scenes emailing. I have lots of informal conversations with people about how you run a free and open source software project. Sometimes, they don’t realize that lots of other companies are succeeding with FOSS business models and shared community resources. Once they see that it can be done, they often feel more confident.”
Nicholson then speaks about the role of SCOTUS in lowering the risk of software patents.
“The Supreme Court,” she explains, “has given the lower courts the tools to rule against two specific categories of vague and frivolous patents. This is great for companies that have the cash and the time to go to court. For companies that don’t want to fight in court — which is lots of them, because it really is expensive and time-consuming — the letters will keep coming. Plus, there are still plenty of overly broad or obvious patents on the books that may not be affected by the recent rulings. So, things are improving but I wouldn’t say that we’re finished.”
She makes an important point regarding the cost of litigation, but the matter of fact is, USPTO examiners are now tougher on software patents and fewer companies (or shell firms) are eager to assert software patents for fear of losing them. Not only the extorted party (usually developers) is scared of the courts; the plaintiff, e.g. a patent troll, is too. What SCOTUS has done is, in our humble assessment, the best news in nearly a decade. We cannot recall anything bigger or better in terms of magnitude, at least not when it comes to systematically squashing software patents (not one patent at the time as per the EFF’s much-advertised earlier efforts, dubbed “patent busting”).
The Finjan-led patent extortion crusade was mentioned here just weeks ago (they are Microsoft-connected) and now, just weeks later, this firm’s troll entity (Finjan Holdings) gets extortion money from a really nasty company, Blue Coat, which some say the EPO hired to spy on people like yours truly and EPO staff. “Finjan Holdings,” as a trolls expert explains, is “a patent-licensing company operating in the cybersecurity space” and it has just “won a hefty $39.5 million jury verdict (PDF) on Tuesday, when a San Jose jury found that Blue Coat Systems infringed five of its patents.”
Keep an eye on Finjan, not just because of its Microsoft connections. Finjan has become a very malicious company. It deserves to go out of business. The sooner, the better.
Cisco, now known for its surveillance and back doors (which is even openly discusses when applying for standards), is receiving negative publicly because as its profits run dry (or more meager), it increasingly turns into more of a troll, just like Microsoft and Apple. Is this what Cisco wants to be renowned (or notorious) for? Remember that TrollTracker, a fighter against patent trolls. was a Cisco lawyer, but Cisco is now turning into what it fought. Arista, according to this article, says that Cisco is “Very Much Like a Patent Troll” (that’s the headline) and it’s coming all the way from the top. To quote the article, “Arista’s top lawyer used the company’s earnings call for trash-talk Thursday, saying Cisco is “behaving very much like a patent troll” in its intellectual property lawsuit against Arista.
“Arista Networks Inc. CEO Jayshree Ullal kicked off the badmouthing: “Despite all the overheated rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Cisco blogs about Arista’s brazen copying, we think the only thing brazen about the suit is the extreme length Cisco has gone to,” she said. “Our customers have shown unwavering support.”
“Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents.”“Arista Vice President and General Counsel Marc Taxay agreed. “Ironically … it appears to us at any rate that Cisco is behaving very much like a patent troll, which is pretty much what they’ve spent the last decade condemning.” Cisco is claiming patents for widely implemented features and functionality that exist on a broad range of switches today, and some of the patents affect features the patents were never intended to cover, Taxay said.”
The Wall Street Journal, taking note of “expensive legal battle with Cisco”, also expresses concerns about this case. “That may give some investors pause,” the author claims, “especially when Arista remains embroiled in an expensive legal battle with Cisco, which has accused it of infringing on patents.”
Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents. Cisco used to be on the defensive, but now it’s on the ofsensive, and not against trolls. For a company that is eager to be seen as a FOSS and GNU/Linux supporter, this surely is a dumb strategy whose gains — if any — are massively outweighed by public image erosion.
A new article from Timothy B. Lee helps chastise the bully called JDate, which we wrote about very recently. “JDate,” he explains, “recently sued JSwipe, a mobile dating app for Jews that works like Tinder. Most media coverage has focused on mocking JDate for essentially claiming that it has a monopoly on certain uses of the letter J.
“But in some ways, the part of JDate’s lawsuit that really merits mockery is the patent infringement claims. JDate is suing JSwipe for infringing a broad patent that essentially claims the concept of using a computer to match pairs of users who express interest in each other. The lawsuit illustrates the continuing need for patent reform, because the current system makes it too expensive for defendants to challenge dubious patents.”
There are some interesting comments about JDate here. Although this Web site only targets a small niche, we strongly encourage all readers to boycott JDate, or else they’ll continue their shameful bullying, perhaps inspiring other companies to do the same.
The Economist Versus Patents
The Economist, interestingly and surprisingly enough (given its strong pro-business bias), chastises the patents regime in at least two articles this month. One is titled “A question of utility” and says in its summary: “Patents are protected by governments because they are held to promote innovation. But there is plenty of evidence that they do not” (we have covered such evidence for almost a decade).
“The ability to patent,” says the author, “has been extended from physical devices to software and stretches of DNA, not to mention—notably in America—to business processes and financial products.”
Yes, patent scope is a huge part of the problem.
“Time to fix patents” is the second such article from The Economist and it too is an assault on the status quo. “Ideas fuel the economy. Today’s patent systems are a rotten way of rewarding them,” said the summary.
Here is a key part of this article: “Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils. An early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor business had to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spur bursts of innovation; instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.”
It is nice to see even The Economist debunking these tiresome myths, many of which still perpetually spread by patent profiteers rather than producing companies. Are we on the cusp of a mindset change?
Patent Propaganda From Lawyers’ Sites
Lawyers’ media, seeking to maximise dependence on patent lawyers, promotes patents on construction in this series that starts with the following paragraph: “In the first of this three part series, clean tech, or green construction, was defined as construction that reduces or minimizes the environmental impact in building construction, operation and use. That article also discussed the importance of building intellectual property walls, and especially with patents, to protect inventions from being incorporated into projects by unlicensed users. Equally important is knowing the patents that may prevent a company from incorporating patented technology for which it has no license. Patent rights can shape an industry; consequently, companies must develop patent strategies. Patents for green construction encompass everything from building materials, to software for optimizing various processes, to green energy systems, amongst others.”
Yes, they even suggest software patents right there.
“The US may not have a world class patent system,” say the patent maximalists of IAM, “but its professionals are second to none” (for taxing by lawyers perhaps). Another site of patent lawyers who lobby for a lot of ludicrous types of patents (including software) pretends that patents take a short time to receive, despite that infamous backlog and these notorious issues which can only be tackled by lowing examination standards, hence granting bogus patents (trivial, and/or with prior art).
“Intellectual property & intangible assets” is the headline of this British article which is so full of nonsense that we don’t know where to start. To quote one part of it: “Newton says the real value in business these days is in knowledge, which is tied up in intellectual property, patents, trademarks and designs.”
That’s nonsense. The term “intellectual property” refers to patents, trademarks, and copyrights, so it cannot be separated as above. Then there are designs, which are already (in most domains) covered by copyrights and if the author wishes to speak about trade secrets, that’s different from all the above and still pertains to knowledge, without having to introduce that vague notion of “intellectual property” and “intangible assets” — both horrible propaganda terms that equate ideas with objects.
“Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.”The article titled “9 Tech Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry” talks about proprietary software that patent lawyers use to keep track of their work. “Experts say the market for legal technology is as much as $400 billion,” the article says, but there is nothing like a citation to support such a figure.
“We hear the same complaints over and over every time Congress tries to improve the patent system,” Matt Levy wrote the other day. “In fact, we’ve been hearing some of them for over 70 years.” Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.
Design Patents and Linux Gadgets
Speaking of design patents, watch what patent maximalists celebrated this weekend: “The text cluster provided here shows that much of Hasbro’s portfolio of 1,772 patents (339 of which are active) are related to toy vehicles, electronic games and ornamental designs, indicating a fair amount of design patents.”
The notion of “design patents” has got to be one of the most loathsome and ridiculous. The article “Apple v. Samsung and a Fight Over the Patents for Designs” was published by Forbes the other day, reminding us of so-called design patents (such as the widely-ridiculed 'rounded corners' patents). Apple is very desperate to stop Android (and by extension Linux), but doing so by bullying with outright bogus patents isn’t the way to compete. CPTN members (i.e. holders of Novell’s patents) Oracle, Apple and Microsoft have been systematically attacking Android using patents and Oracle now takes this further. “Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Java copyrights probably won’t be back in a courtroom again until next year,” wrote The Register, “but in the meantime, Oracle has asked the court to let it expand the scope of its complaint to include events that have occurred since it was first filed in 2010.”
This forever-legal-limbo scenario helps hurt Android, so we cannot just pretend that software patents are not a problem. More FOSS and GNU/Linux site must learn to address these issues as a matter of priority. Not enough are doing this at the moment and it definitely helps our foes. Many people seem to forget that Microsoft still attacks GNU/Linux using patents (albeit more discreetly than before). █
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“Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source.”
Summary: The real patent battle is fought not in Congress (with corporate lobbyists) but in the courtroom, with a growing number of outcomes which are favourable to Free/libre software
SOFTWARE PATENTS are severely damaged in the US, especially following the Alice case (ruled by SCOTUS one year ago). The latest cases, which we covered this month, serve to show that software patents are dropping like flies in the courtrooms, even when landing on courts that are historically very friendly towards software patents.
“District courts used Great Atlantic to invalidate patents en masse, much like is done today after Alice,” Patent Buddy wrote the other day. Nevertheless, the corporate media focuses on other matters.
“It looks as though software patents are rapidly dying.”Joe Mullin has revealed that yet more software patents have just died and not a patent troll was behind them. “Rovi,” he explains, “provides digital entertainment guides to cable companies and others and has long used its patents to enforce its dominant position in the market. That strategy has come in for criticism, with Rovi’s patents being viewed as covering the basic idea of an electronic TV Guide. That was especially true when Rovi used its patents to go after Internet companies that wanted to make their own guides and not take Rovi content, like Hulu and Amazon.”
Well, these patents are now dead and Wall Street-centric media says that the company is downgraded. “Multichannel video programming distributors may face the same struggles in court,” says the author, “but those patents are less abstract than software patents, according to analysts.”
Mullin wrote also about Newegg (yet again), showing that it won a patent case that had been brought against it by TQP. “Two weeks after online retailer Newegg filed a petition complaining about “excessive and unreasonable” delays in getting a final judgment in its patent case,” explains Mullin, “the judge in that case has handed Newegg a big win.”
It looks as though software patents are rapidly dying. Every death of a software patents can become precedent for future cases involving software patents and the higher the court, the higher the impact. One lawyers’ site tries to frame this as a “troll” issue, talking about “the projected cost [7 billion dollars] of litigation filed by non-practicing entities, or patent trolls, in 2015.”
What about non-trolls (or very big trolls that the media won’t call “trolls”)? Some media circles are trying to tell us that Microsoft alone makes billions of dollars from extortion against Android alone. The main problem is the patents, not the entity asserting these patents.
Speaking of Google, which is an important example because Microsoft is still attacking it using patents (trying to force Android makers to bundle Microsoft software), there is a new effort to combat patents using prior art. As corporate media put it, “Google is bringing its search powers to bear in hopes of doing what Washington seemingly can’t — roll back a wave of abusive litigation from companies that, according to their critics, simply want to line their pockets with ill-gotten settlement money.” There are many articles about it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. In the form of sourse code, not just publications, it ought to be possible to demonstrate prior art and invalidate a lot of software patents. There is plenty of prior art and duplication in the field of software because a lot of people are able to practice it (requires just a keyboard, no manufacturing).
“It sure looks like this whole cult of “IP” proves problematic not just for Free software but for software in general (monopoly on APIs for instance).”When patent maximalists (IAM) covered it they said Google’s “mission” it to “help raise quality standards”, but that’s nonsense. Google just doesn’t want this patent mess that is looming over Free software like Android. It’s not about “quality” of patents, it’s about patents. Google is still wrestling with Oracle (patents and copyrights) and as this new post put it a couple of days ago: “Out in the real world, the lawsuit between Google and Oracle is preparing to head back to a lower court after the Supreme Court said it would not take the case. At UC Berkeley yesterday, the repercussions of that decision were discussed, along with many other topics around patents and copyright law as they pertain to software, art and more.”
It sure looks like this whole cult of “IP” proves problematic not just for Free software but for software in general (monopoly on APIs for instance). Large proprietary software corporations such as Microsoft and Oracle are abusing so-called ‘IP’ to impede if not altogether destroy their emerging rivals. █
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Summary: The efforts to empower Microsoft’s APIs, even if by lies and strongarming
THE MEDIA, including Microsoft-connected sites, is openwashing Visual Studio right now [1, 2]. A mixture of misleading headlines and half-truths are the means. We recently showed a lot of Visual Studio openwashing [1, 2, 3]. This in itself is disturbing and it is part of a trend to watch out for.
Will Hill points out that “Something odd is happening between Oracle and Xamarin. Oracle is strong arming customers into “the cloud” with license audit threats. What’s really weird is psycho babble about Xamarin being some sort of force in mobile and that silly cloud stuff with millions of developers. As far as I remembered Xamarin was a nasty little Microsoft shell designed to keep Mono around after Novell collapsed (2).
“I’ve asked Christine Hall on G+ what she knows about Xamarin and Oracle. Oracle pushing their customers onto Mono sounds like a suicide pact to me.
“Maybe they were dumb enough to push C# tools onto their database used [sic].”
–Will HillRemember that Xamarin has been one of Microsoft’s tools for openwashing both .NET and Visual Studio.
“No response from Christine Hall yet,” Hill added today. “The name Xamarin left an unpleasant buzz in my head, so I did a Techrights search and remembered who they were. I thought, “that can’t be those Mono monkeys, they don’t do that.” Then I dug to the stock fraud site and, yep, that’s who they are talking about. There’s still room for it to be a typo, but I’d laugh and laugh if Oracle were to saddle their “cloud” with C# or Mono via Xamarin.
“Maybe they were dumb enough to push C# tools onto their database used [sic]. I’ve seen it in medical software because one of the vendors is a terminal Microsoft used.” [sic]
We shall update this post with any additional information or clarification. █
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Fool of the day
Photo via Wikipedia
Summary: US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli urges the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to let APIs be covered by copyrights, rendering almost every program a potential copyright violation
YESTERDAY we received some disturbing news from iophk, who sent the official page and original material pertaining to Google’s fight against API copyrights — a subject that we covered here before. It’s like an extension of the patent threat to Free software.
“Superficially,” Simon Phipps wrote, “the Solicitor General’s advice to SCOTUS to find against Google and reject its appeal looks like bad news. But there are some substantial straws to grasp” (see the role of the Obama administration and the Justice Department). That is very disturbing because non-technical people, who never wrote a computer program in their entire life, want API monopoly and they are actively interfering with the process of courts of justice, even the highest court, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS).
“People in suits (sometimes with ornaments and white wigs), who obviously don’t know how computers work, always get to decide on what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.”SCOTUS now helps trolls and even says “patent troll”, which means that it knows what it’s doing. Jeff John Roberts from the corporate media which helps trolls (Fortune) wrote: “The term “patent trolls” is controversial, mostly because certain companies object to it. Now, a Supreme Court Justice has embraced it.”
Trolls are going mainstream with help from the top judges. What a corrupt system. It is inherently rigged against Free/libre software, even once it has managed to beat the FUD, the lobbying, etc. People in suits (sometimes with ornaments and white wigs), who obviously don’t know how computers work, always get to decide on what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. They are figureheads because they are influenced behind the scenes. It’s unthinkable, but that’s how it goes.
Marc Andreessen (the man behind Netscape) wrote: “Obama administration to software programmers: Drop dead!”
Even the Microsoft booster from Business Insider (owned in part or at least funded by Marc Andreessen) wrote about it, stating that “Oracle won another battle in its epic war with Google, and the whole computer industry is nervous about it”.
Our reader iophk wrote: “In a foaming at the mouth rabid desire to screw Google for any and all activity they are going to get the rest of us as collateral damage if APIs become copyrightable in the US. It boggles the mind. The very purpose of APIs is violated.”
This is what it looks like when a government is clueless about technology and is lobbied (at times bribed) by large corporations such as Oracle. █
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Nontechnical people in black gowns and white wigs to decide on huge things
Summary: The US Supreme Court may soon start dealing with a legal assault on Android and in the process hopefully end the notion of copyright on APIs
SOFTWARE bully Oracle, which pretty much put to rest all of Sun’s Free software except few successful items (e.g. MySQL and VirtualBox, but not OpenOffice) and now attacks Java’s integrity by preventing deviations using abuse/misuse of copyright law, is still at it. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), one of the most ridiculous and insidious courts in the world (both corrupt and biased), let Oracle have its way against Android, essentially sending a warning shot not just to those inspired by Java but everyone who reuses names of/in interfaces. This is dangerous and it is heading for judgment by the highest court, SCOTUS.
“Just like software patents, here we have something that both Free software and proprietary software developers should be united against.”According to some articles about SCOTUS, such as this report from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, the case that can affect so many programmers is potentially to be decided by the same court that recently defanged a lot of software patents (much to the regrets of the USPTO). Vaughan-Nichols writes: “Google has had enough of its long-running legal battle with Oracle over whether application programming interfaces (API)s can be copyrighted. The search giant has asked the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to bypass further battles in lower courts and address the API copyright issue once and for all. SCOTUS, in return, is soliciting the Obama administration for its view of the case before moving forward.”
Well, it is proceeding pretty much as expected. The British media put it like this:
The US Supreme Court hasn’t decided whether it will hear arguments in the long-running dispute between Google and Oracle over Java copyrights, and it has asked the Obama administration to weigh in before it makes up its mind.
An expert in legal matters of the Free software world recently  named this case one of the top 10 “FOSS legal developments of 2014″. It is probably one of the top “legal developments of 2014″ if not one of the top “technical legal developments of 2014″, especially when it comes to programming. The case affects not only FOSS. Just like software patents, here we have something that both Free software and proprietary software developers should be united against. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
The litigation surrounding Android continued this year, with significant developments in the patent litigation between Apple Computer, Inc. (Apple) and Samsung Electronics, Inc. (Samsung) and the copyright litigation over the Java APIs between Oracle Corporation (Oracle) and Google, Inc. (Google). Apple and Samsung have agreed to end patent disputes in nine countries, but they will continue the litigation in the US. As I stated last year, the Rockstar Consortium was a wild card in this dispute. However, the Rockstar Consortium settled its litigation with Google this year and sold off its patents, so it will no longer be a risk to the Android ecosystem.
The copyright litigation regarding the copyrightability of the Java APIs was brought back to life by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) decision which overturned the District Court decision. The District Court had found that Google was not liable for copyright infringement for its admitted copying of the Java APIs: the court found that the Java APIs were either not copyrightable or their use by Google was protected by various defenses to copyright. The CAFC overturned both the decision and the analysis and remanded the case to the District Court for a review of the fair use defense raised by Google. Subsequently, Google filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. The impact of a finding that Google was liable for copyright infringement in this case would have a dramatic effect on Android and, depending on the reasoning, would have a ripple effect across the interpretation of the scope of the “copyleft” terms of the GPL family of licenses which use APIs.
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Summary: Challenging the clueless ruling from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the United States (very pro-software patents and anti-computer science), notable programmers write to the highest court
The SCOTUS and CAFC don’t often agree about patents. One possible (and commonly named) explanation is that the CAFC is inherently corrupt after patent maximalists got hold of positions of power, whereupon hid their conflicts of interest. CAFC, especially in its current form, should not be allowed to exist. It’s rogue.
Ruling in favour of Oracle, CAFC recently made copyrights on APIs a dangerous precedent and computer scientists are rightly fuming, seeing how a bunch of ignorant lawyers make a mockery of anyone who understands how computers work. As IDG put it:
Computer scientists have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court decision that Java APIs, the specifications that let programs communicate with each other, can be copyrighted.
In a dispute between Oracle and Google, the 77 scientists argue that the free and open use of the application programming interfaces has been both routine and essential in the computer industry since its beginning, and depended on the “sensible assumption” that APIs and other interfaces were not copyrightable.
“When Google wrote its program-interface (API) for Android, the company made a strategic decision to mimic the method call structure of Java,” writes Dennis Crouch under a misleading headline. “In the Copyright [CAFC] lawsuit,” explains Crouch, “the district court held that the API method headers were not protectable under copyright. However, the Federal Circuit reversed on appeal — finding the Java API taxonomy copyrightable as a whole. In particular, the appellate panel led by Judge O’Malley rejected the idea/expression merger doctrine since there are many other ways that functionally equivalent method-calls could have been constructed besides those found in Java. “Merger cannot bar copyright protection for any lines of declaring source code unless Sun/Oracle had only one way, or a limited number of ways, to write them.””
Anyone with a bit of a clue about programming (which makes about every patent lawyers or judge unsuitable to comment) can say that this is a ridiculous case with pretty much no basis at all. Many famous computer scientists have already written to the Court about this. As TechDirt put it:
Perhaps the most interesting was put together by the EFF, and was signed by 77 computer scientists, including many of the most well-known and most respected computer scientists around, including Hal Abelson, Brian Behlendorf, Ward Cunningham, Peter Deutsch, David Dill, Dave Farber, Ed Felten, Mitch Kapor, Alan Kay, Brian Kernighan, Guido van Rossum, Avi Rubin, Bruce Schneier and Bjarne Stroustrup among others. There are a lot more, obviously, but those were just a few of the names that stood out.
Perhaps realising that fellow OIN members and Android users can attack Android itself, Google has meanwhile signed this defensive deal with LG:
LG Electronics and Google sign a 10-year cross-licensing agreement that gives Google access to wearable device patents while encouraging LG to continue marketing Android mobile devices.
Android is by far the best selling platform right now, so no wonder it comes under fire. Since it is inherently Open Source (AOSP) and even Free software for the most part (it uses and contributes to Linux), we do care about this case a great deal and will keep on following it as a matter of priority. █
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Summary: Google takes its fight over API freedom to the Supreme Court in the Unites States and it also takes that longstanding patent harassment from the Microsoft- and Apple-backed troll (Rockstar) out of East Texas
“Google makes a series of compelling points in its petition,” writes Simon Phipps in relation to Google’s defence against Oracle (SCOracle, continuing the tradition of SCO’s copyrights misrepresentation). Google has found some material errors in interpretation of laws/cases, citing the corrupt CAFC with its utterly ridiculous ruling that we covered at the time. “These points alone seem strong to me,” says Phipps, “[b]ut Google also says CAFC has made a serious error that ignores the precedent of earlier SCOTUS decisions and violates the distinction between copyright and patent as monopolies.
“On the first point, Google refers back to the SCOTUS Lotus v Borland case in 1996. Google points out that “methods of operation embodied in computer programs are not entitled to copyright protection,” then asserts that the Java class APIs are a method of operating the Java class implementations. Since Android’s implementations of the Java APIs are Google’s original work, the company claims copyright does not apply.”
Oracle in the mean time is grabbing some talent from Google and it is not yet clear if there will be a SCOTUS case (the request for appeal may be denied). It is clear that CAFC does not understand software APIs or maybe it is just too corrupt (which becomes an accepted view these day), so this appeal has merit. As Pogson explained: “Copyright should not apply to other’s works. If you write software to work with some API, no other authour should be able to forbid that or to tax that. Yet, that’s what Oracle wants to do and they found a lower court that agreed with that despite that being an illegal extension of copyright to others’ work. Stranger still, Java is FLOSS…”
Here is some of the earliest coverage:
The legal fracas started when Google copied certain elements—names, declaration, and header lines—of the Java APIs in Android, and Oracle sued. A San Francisco federal judge largely sided with Google in 2012, saying that the code in question could not be copyrighted. But the federal appeals court reversed, and ruled that the “declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection.
This goes beyond patents and into copyrights on ideas/words. Oracle should not be allowed to win this as the is not just about Android but about software development in general.
Do remember that Oracle is in a pact with Microsoft and Apple when it comes to patents. They share control over CPTN, which is made out of Novell’s patents. There is a similar arrangement around Rockstar, which also involves Apple and Microsoft (Apple, Microsoft, Ericsson, RIM and Sony is the complete list). Joe Mullin says that Rockstar too is still harassing Google (Android) and Google has just managed to take the lawsuit of of the capital of trolls, East Texas:
It’s been nearly one year since Rockstar Consortium, a patent holding company owned in part by Microsoft and Apple, launched a major patent assault against Google. Now, the issue of where the case will be heard has finally been resolved—in Google’s favor.
Google took the case to the nation’s top patent court to get it out of East Texas and back to its home state, California. The matter of venue isn’t a mere sideline skirmish. East Texas courts are generally considered tough on patent defendants, with few cases resolving on summary judgment, stringent discovery rules, and last-minute scheduling decisions. Google’s Texas case was scheduled to be heard in front of US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who hears far more patent cases than any other district court judge in the nation.
The war against Android is a big deal for those of us who care about Free software and GNU/Linux. Let’s not lose sight of the fight against this kind of abuse. Public apathy helps crooked judges and abusive companies like Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple. █
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