The demise of Blackberry is a growing patent-stacking threat to Linux and Free software
Summary: Identification of a looming threat to Android/Linux, especially from a company with history of Microsoft deals and a growing patent portfolio that’s being considered for sale
The United States, whose patent system is run by large corporations like IBM and Microsoft (the USPTO has long been operating outside the public interest), is a very threatening environment to Free/libre software. To distribute computer programs for free might not be legal there, but it only becomes a problem when distribution is of high volume and by a large company like Google. Microsoft even got large companies paying it for Linux, a widely used operating system kernel. This is unjust and the core cause is software patents.
“The first step to fighting patent trolls is to limit software patents to five years,” says this new article, which puts forth a sort of compromise which at least targets the real problem. To quote:
There’s a lot wrong with America’s patent system — it often serves to undercut innovation, limits competition, and rewards trolls. But there’s a relatively easy short-term fix: Cap software patents at five years from issuance, a position adapted from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Defend Innovation Project. While comprehensive legislation is needed to fix patent law, this first step is critical to reviving and protecting entrepreneurship, R&D, and technological progress in the United States.
20 years if far too long a lifetime for patents that should have never been granted in the first place. Watch how software patents are preventing the spread of voice recognition, motivating this lawsuit over reasonably out-of-date ideas:
As Nuance Communications Inc. and ABBYY Software House — two competitors in optical character recognition — brought their long-running case to a jury in U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White’s courtroom on Monday, their lawyers traded classic barbs of patent warfare.
Representing plaintiff Nuance, partner James Bennett of Morrison & Foerster described ABBYY in his opening statement as “a follower, not a leader.”
Coming to the Russian company’s defense, partner Gerald Ivey of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner suggested that Nuance felt threatened by a more nimble competitor.
This is just protectionism. That’s what patents are about. When some companies cannot rely on technical advantage alone they then resort to patent monopolies.
Android, which is growing rapidly and taking over the world as a de facto platform (on which most Techrights posts are composed by the way), is actually the target of protectionism from the ‘old guard’ — companies it is making less relevant over time.
It is being alleged right now that patents from RIM might get sold. One reader wrote to say: “If BlackBerry sell company… Microsoft will… get QNX which is UNIX like operating system and… patents and QNX technology and Linux?”
“Remember SCO,” he added.
Well, Microsoft could pay BlackBerry to later see RIM/BlackBerry suing Android companies. The Nokia and SCO strategy more or less…
Blackberry is of virtually no practical use to Android backers; when Google bought part of Motorola and grossly overpaid it was intended to prevent Microsoft and Apple from getting the patents (which they had reportedly bid for, just like with Nortel).
What if another CPTN member like Oracle bought this company? A new interview with Oracle’s CEO was rather revealing. He spoke of Microsoft as an enemy of an enemy (Google) and one author thinks that “Oracle (ORCL) [is] The Perfect BlackBerry (BBRY) Buyer” (for patents at least). To quote:
So BlackBerry (BBRY) has put itself up for sale while also considering a private equity move. Some pundits wonder if the Z10 smartphone maker will break itself up into a mobile service provider and mobile device company. But The VAR Guy wonders: Does a more surprising fate await BlackBerry — at the hands of Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison? Before you dismiss Oracle potentially buying BlackBerry, consider this history lesson.
Microsoft has been publicly aiding Oracle’s litigation against Android, announcing collaborations other than CPTN (technical ones too) and filing together antitrust complaints. Here is more of what Oracle thinks of Google.
Speaking of Oracle, what about other CPTN members like Apple and Microsoft (to which Oracle is now very close)?
Apple has been fighting Samsung using patent-induced sanctions at the ITC, with support from Obama's government officials. The Against Monopoly Web site says:
ITC Allows Apple Imports That Violate Samsung Patents
The blog, Public Knowledge, argues that the International Trade Commission should consider the public interest in reaching regulatory decisions on patents. The Obama has so decreed when it overruled an ITC case and permitted imports of Apple phones that it had found to violate duly recognized patents of other companies, in this case foreign firms link here.
When I look at the mess in the whole patent system, I see a world of oligopolies and monopolies built on patents, supposedly designed to encourage innovation, but instead creating a self-perpetuating means to paralyze innovation.
Groklaw has been upset about this and the other day it covered Microsoft’s fight against Motorola, which now involves an injunction as well. To quote:
Judge James L. Robart has now ruled [PDF, 38 pages] on Microsoft and Motorola’s summary judgment motions, granting in part and denying in part.
The attacks on Android takes many different forms (also antitrust), but the main players behind this attack remain the same. Next week we will revisit the antitrust angle. █
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Summary: Microsoft’s hostility towards FOSS and Linux persists, based on the company’s actions
A few years ago Microsoft was building attack groups to halt migrations to OpenOffice.org. That was before Oracle messed things up. It is now being demonstrated that Microsoft is censoring results:
In its efforts to take down as much infringing content as it can, Microsoft has started to censor legitimate links to competing software. Hoping to remove pirated versions of Microsoft Office from the Internet, the software company has sent several DMCA takedowns to Google, listing copies of its open source competitor Open Office as copyright infringements. An honest mistake perhaps, but also a terrible one.
And Microsoft trying to accuse Google of doing this. Look who’s talking.
Incidentally, Microsoft hates Google so much that it is leaving out the market leader, Android, which is Linux-based. According to this report about the Microsoft-acquired Yammer:
Android, for now, remains on the outside of the Yammer love circle.
Also see this:
Yammer is opening up its social features to third-party enterprise apps built for iOS phones and tablets and Windows Phone 8 devices — but for Android for now.
And later they tell us that they’re warming up to Linux and playing nice, They just simply rely on moles like Walli to infiltrate FOSS sites and pretend there’s a pro-FOSS angle at Microsoft. Deeds don’t stack up to match the PR.
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Summary: Patent litigation, de-emphasis on freedom etc. now a common trick for dismantling FOSS projects as they emerge
With a licensing fiasco and other scandals abound, MySQL is hardly treated so favourably these days. Oracle‘s megalomaniac CEO (God complex like his best friend Steve Jobs) warned a long time ago that if some FOSS competition gets good enough, then he will just buy it. He bought several such products/projects and also started attacking FOSS in court, using patents of course. Recently he also joined hands with Microsoft. The real contender these days is free/libre software, not any particular brand. Few people will challenge this claim because of Android, Firefox, Apache, the GNU toolchain and so on (Microsoft is already trying to crush or subvert Apache from the inside, making it just another Windows/SQL Server ‘app’). The main point, however, is that one way to challenge FOSS is spurious litigation, potentially SLAPP, and another is buyout. Just look what Microsoft recently did to Barnes and Noble.
“The real contender these days is free/libre software, not any particular brand.”A few days ago we found this article about Microsoft’s friends at the Washington D.C.-based Blackboard, who infiltrated and disrupted the good FOSS project known as Moodle (I installed it on my site and experimented with it earlier this year)
The article asks: “How does one compete against FREE? That’s an interesting question for Blackboard, a company which creates learning management systems (LMS). Blackboard previously engaged in buying up and either dismantling or integrating the competition into its own products–such as Elluminate, Prometheus, or WebCT–but open source alternatives like Moodle and Sakai present a different issue.”
“The main point, however, is that one way to challenge FOSS is spurious litigation, potentially SLAPP, and another is buyout.”This has indeed been disturbing, We wrote about it before.
“In the meantime,” says this article, “officials at Blackboard, Moodlerooms, and NetSpot paint a rosy picture with a “statement of principles” that commit to keeping the OSS development alive. So far, there is no word on what may occur if a value conflict arises between Blackboard and Moodle, and there is no indication if there will ultimately be a split in the development community as happened after Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems forked LibreOffice from OpenOffice. Informed of some pending corporate strategies, Moodle creator Martin Dougiamas shows cautious optimism for positive synergies resulting from more interrelation between Blackboard’s products and the two companies it purchased.”
Blackboard is trying to do here what other proprietary software giants did and it can result in reduced community support for the FOSS side, helping to strengthen a proprietary agenda. █
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Photo credit: Dana Blankenhorn
Summary: The anti-FOSS, pro-patents lobbyist Florian Müller (deceivingly called “FOSS patents”) is at it again and this time his lies are being challenged by one who is better informed about the subject at hand
Grooming an unaccountable liar for agenda-serving by spin is not a novel concept. Microsoft has done that for ages and it also paid Florian Müller to achieve this. Some people sell themselves this way. Perception management is their business model.
Oracle, a CPTN member and a Microsoft partner as of late, employed Florian Müller to help smear Android. This lobbyist is not known for using facts; being a lobbyist, he needs to use spin and lies. The amount of factual errors in what he writes led Pamela Jones to writing a detailed breakdown of his inaccuracies, preceded by:
Oracle is another client of Mueller’s. Oracle hired him to “advise” the company, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that he generally mirrors the Oracle point of view in an endless stream of anti-Google articles. And if that is what you want, X marks the spot. Read whatever you enjoy.
But if what you want is an analysis that includes both sides in litigation, not to mention predictions that actually come true, I fear you will not find it there. So let’s take a look at what he wrote about Oracle’s brief, and I’ll try to give you a better understanding of the issues in this appeal by adding some accurate information about Google’s position.
For those who see Florian Müller quoted in the press after mass-mailing journalists (that’s his business method and model), be sure to point out to the author who Florian Müller really is and what his record is. He sells agenda. A lot of reports don’t know this, so they continuously fall into his trap. He exploits their nativity and he misrepresents himself to them. █
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Meanwhile in Taipei…
Summary: Foxconn and other Taiwan-based corporations seem to be grouping against Android, which has mostly benefited the Koreans
Foxconn, which sold Linux down the river (to Microsoft), does not self-brand devices it makes, so adding it to the list of companies to avoid for Linux patent tax would be hard. But there are other issues to consider.
The other day we saw Microsoft seeding some new types of FUD against Android; I heard some of those lies repeated by salesmen at a store when I bought Android devices. The reality is, Google is much more secure than Microsoft and when Google got cracked it was Windows’ fault (thereafter it got banned for internal use). There is still some FUD about everything Google, but Microsoft is always behind it. The Foxconn patent deal may in fact involve nothing but FUD; we don’t know if Microsoft is really being paid and we cannot check due to secrecy. This secrecy should be challenged by government officials; it’s detrimental to everyone but the conspirators, that’s why they insist on it.
Upon the signing of this deal Pamela Jones wrote: “I hope Foxconn loses all that business, then, followed by the FTC and DOJ investigating antitrust issues.” Wishful thinking. Microsoft has got the government in its pocket. It is one of its biggest sponsors (Obama’s top technology funder when he got elected).
Recently it turned out that the home of Foxconn liaised against Android. To quote a pro-Apple site:
Apple is also believed to be playing a key anti-Samsung role for Taiwanese companies over display panels. Last year, device manufacturer Foxconn attempted to buy a 10 percent stake in panel maker Sharp Corp., a move that the AP noted was believed to have been spurred by Apple as the company expressed “eagerness to find an alternative supplier to Samsung.”
“Well, well,” wrote Jones. “This puts the Foxconn-Microsoft patent deal into an interesting context, wouldn’t you say?”
Pamela Jones separately added: “Remember when SCO Group complained to the courts that the GPL, the license on Linux, was UnConstitutional? No one, Darl McBride, told them can compete with free. And Microsoft helped to fund SCO. So did Sun, now belonging to Oracle. And here we go again. How pitiful.
“Evidently the first complaint against Google didn’t go the way they hoped, so they regroup and try a new angle. Here’s the problem: Google isn’t guilty of anything like what they claim. You can just modify you phone any way you want, including removing Android altogether and using Linux, purely, instead. Or you can fork Android, without any consequences, as Amazon has done, without consequences and without having to prominently display a thing for Google. You have freedom of choice. So this new complaint is, frankly, ludicrous. It’s actually offensive, because it’s cynical. Here’s how I read their complaints: they are saying to me, “We can’t compete with Google as far as products are concerned. We are accustomed to gouging our customers on price, and with a free offering in the market, we can’t keep doing that.” Is that really something antitrust agencies like the EU Commission should be helping them with? And how about the EU Commission look into how come the same companies keep suing and complaining about Google? Any antitrust implications if the old guard plots together to kill off the new guy trying to compete with something better than the world has fallen in love with? I do want to commend Apple for apparently not joining in this.”
The European authorities have been too weak for effective action recently. They also helped ligitimise software patents after they had rejected them in 2005. US law keeps spreading. As noted recently in relation to the CFAA, that’s how it goes (and thus we cover a lot of US news):
How can all of us non-US people help with this? Just by mentioning “Your senseless laws will create dangerous precedents and will “inspire” other law-makers around the world!”?
In relation to Android a new petition was set up, stating:
As can be seen in the Oracle v Google lawsuit, legacy vendors are getting together to try to overturn a court ruling that APIs are NOT copyrightable. If successful in their appeal, the ruling would prevent competitive implementations of the same API, resulting in a new kind of lock-in that reduces competition and set a precedent that affects all APIs and programming languages
Oracle is a member of the CPTN conspiracy (as in conspiracy to harm common rivals, using patents), which received Novell’s patents. A “Novell exec plots company’s return,” says this article which states/quotes claims as follows:
“Since the Attachmate acquisition, Novell has been asleep at the wheel in several competitive markets,” said Hyoun Park, principal analyst at IT research firm Nucleus Research
Well, Nokia is the same. Microsoft destroyed it just for its patents. A pattern is emerging here, with Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Nokia, and even some manufacturers in Taiwan seeking to use their patent-stacking tactics to destroy the market leader, Linux/Android. Apathy from the public is the greatest thing the conspirators could hope for. █
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Summary: New smears against Android come from an Oracle- and Microsoft-funded lobbyist; Oracle and Microsoft now openly collaborate in the fight against Android while Apple, longtime friend of Oracle and Microsoft, fails to stop Android’s momentum
The antics of Microsoft Florian, better known as Florian Müller or (anti-)FOSS Patents, are well known by now and his history of deception should leave no informed journalist in a position/decision to cite him. But groomed by Microsoft’s PR and the MSBBC he is doing some more of his personal attacks. It’s almost as though the PR agents ‘serve’ him with smears to publish (which according to my communications with him is likely, hence making him a communications proxy). To quote the latest from the BBC:
Sir Robin – who is also a law professor at University College London (UCL) – is now acting as a consultant to a law firm helping Samsung defend itself against a patent infringement complaint filed in the US by network equipment provider Ericsson.
After news of this spread his clerk, John Call, issued a statement.
“Sir Robin had not discussed any role as an expert, or any related matter, with Samsung or any of its representatives either directly or indirectly before 9 January 2013, when he was approached through his clerk by Bristows in the normal way to enquire as to his availability to give an expert opinion,” it said.
“Sir Robin accepted those instructions on 21 January 2013.
“Sir Robin’s role is entirely unrelated to his judgment in the Court of Appeal given on 18 October 2012 in the case of Samsung Electronics (UK) Ltd and Apple Inc. The instruction does not relate to any UK litigation or advice of any kind. Sir Robin is being remunerated for providing his expert opinion at his usual rates.”
As Open Source Consortium (UK) put it the other day:
#swpats and reputations – good article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21613152 … note anonymous sniping at Prof Jacob reminiscent of #odf and Peter Quinn
BBC is Android-hostile and has been like this for quite some time. It did not point out Microsoft’s ties to Florian, only Oracle’s. Here is a rebuttal:
FOSS Patents is a blog run by Florian Mueller who gets paid by Microsoft (and Oracle) and writes anti-Android stories in wholesale. He then feeds them to lazy bloggers who prefer copy+paste over doing their own research. He has again weaved an anti-Android story. This time he has questioned the integrity of the UK judge Sir Robin Jacob by writing a blog titled “UK judge who issued extreme ruling for Samsung against Apple hired by… Samsung!”
I am not saying that he gets paid by Microsoft and Oracle to write anti-Android stories and spread FUD against Android, but looking at the amount of time he spends on long boring posts, I wonder when does he get time to do anything else. Nilay Patel of The Verge once wrote, “Mueller’s enormous volume of output on FOSS Patents fairly raises the question of when he finds the time to do any serious consulting work for Oracle in between his diligently granular tracking of several international patent lawsuits, his frequent media appearances, and his additional work as a paid consultant to Microsoft.”
Another Linux foe actually takes a shot at Apple after promoting SCO for years. Oracle’s case (SCO 2) is back in the court and to quote this one report: “Oracle tries to undo Google’s successful defense of Android by claiming that software code is no different than literary text in matters of copyright.”
Florian has spread a lot of copyright-themed lies about Android, including some for Oracle’s case, which is actually supported by Microsoft. Check out this BSA event. “Of course,” Pamela Jones pointed out, “Microsoft General Counsel and Executive VP Brad Smith will be there, as will Oracle SVP, General Counsel, and Secretary Dorian Daley, and IBM Software Group VP and Assistant General Counsel Neil Abrams.”
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) shows Microsoft and Oracle standing shoulder to shoulder. Microsoft is behind Oracle in it and Jones has the details which are based on the original documents. She says: “That is, of course, exactly what SCO was asking for, before it flamed out and fell into oblivion. SCO used the same law firm as Oracle, Boies Schiller, so perhaps it’s not astounding that they raised that same theory of copyright for SCO, an adventure Microsoft and Sun (now part of Oracle) funded, and here it is again, this time in Microsoft’s mouth. I’d like to correct several misleading elements in this amicus brief. And we now have all the amicus briefs as PDFs.”
Apple and Oracle are closely connected by their leaders as well and Jones has this update on Apple’s foremost case:
I told you that the jury’s damages award in Apple v. Samsung would not stand. And this isn’t even the end, but Judge Lucy Koh has just ruled on both Apple and Samsung’s motions on damages. The jury’s award, she says, was excessive, being based on wrong theories. In some cases, she can’t even figure out what they did, and so she has ordered a new trial on damages for certain products and has reduced the award on those she could figure out herself to $598,908,892:
Apple is truly desperate to stop Samsung:
“To say that the Samsung momentum is an issue for Apple is an understatement,” said Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes.
Apple has got the most to lose here; Oracle and Microsoft mostly clear the path to Apple, perhaps fearing that Free/open source platform will become a de facto standard (Oracle and Microsoft have de facto proprietary monopoly in desktop and databases). This is case of patent stacking and conspiracy to sue.
Samsung stole Apple’s thunder and it shows. All that Apple can do now it take public knowledge that was funded by the public (later purchased by Apple to deprive others from having it) and then use patents around it to hound Android/Samsung. As a pro-Microsoft site, put it:
“Here’s a great example of this R&D ecosystem at work: Apple’s iPad. It’s amazing – a device that perhaps only Apple could have designed. But every distinctive aspect of this device – the multi-touch user interface, the sensors, the processor – has its origins in federally sponsored research,” said Lazowska in his written testimony.
That’s about all we have to say about the war on Android for now. It’s more complicated that an outsider may realise. There is a cartel at work. █
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Leveled against the #1 rival
Summary: Microsoft and a Microsoft front are trying to help Oracle tax Android
IT DID not take long for Microsoft to show its true face and intentions. Google and Oracle are back to the court’s procedures, exchanging all sorts of legal papers and the BSA shows its ugly face along with Microsoft. Here is how Groklaw put it:
Microsoft, BSA, Scott McNealy, others file amicus briefs in support of Oracle’s appeal against Google ~pj
Yesterday there were numerous amicus briefs filed all on the same day and all in support of Oracle against Google in Oracle’s appeal at the Federal Circuit. None of the briefs are posted publicly yet, but they should be available soon.
Microsoft has filed one, together with EMC Corporation, and NetApp, Inc. Scott McNealy has filed one with Brian Sutphin. Can McNealy be a witness for Oracle at trial, which he was [PDF], and also file an amicus brief? Well, he has. The Picture Archive Council of America, Inc. has filed one with the Graphic Artists Guild. Also there’s one from the BSA. And finally Eugene Spafford, Zhi Ding, and Lee A. Hollaar have filed an amicus in support of Oracle. Hollaar seems to file a lot of amicus briefs.
Susan Decker wrote the article “Microsoft Joins Oracle to Defend Software Patents Against Google”:
The top lawyers for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Oracle Corp. (ORCL), saying software patents are important drivers of U.S. innovation and economic growth, pressed Congress today to reject calls to limit that legal protection.
Companies including Google Inc. (GOOG) and Facebook Inc. (FB) have said too many software patents are being used primarily to generate lawsuits instead of contributing to new products and services. Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker, and Oracle say discussions of ways to curtail litigation shouldn’t become an excuse to limit the ability to patent software.
The partly Gates-owned Monsanto also got support from the BSA, as noted in the previous post and Microsoft is well aware of the BSA’s involvement in this latest move. Microsoft IPG wrote in Twitter:
Microsoft to join @BSANews, @ShopFloorNAM in DC on Thurs to discuss #softwarepatents & innovation. http://bit.ly/WnDCyl
Here is a Reuters report:
Microsoft Corp is backing Oracle Corp’s bid to revive a billion-dollar copyright lawsuit over Google’s use of the Java programming language, according to court filings on Tuesday.
Oracle’s intellectual property battle against Google has attracted intense interest from software developers, many of whom believe the structure of a programming language should not be subject to copyright protection.
Last year a San Francisco federal judge found that Oracle could not claim copyright protection on much of the Java language that Google used on its Android mobile platform. Oracle has appealed.
For background on this case we have ECT’s article:
There appears to be little to encourage Oracle to believe it can win a reversal of the verdict Google won in last year’s bitter Java trial. Nevertheless, it has mounted an appeal, arguing that Google stole its intellectual property just as surely as fictional author Ann Droid plagiarized a Harry Potter book. Oracle might need to cast a spell on the appellate court to pull this one off, though.
In other Android patent news we have this update on Apple:
On February 14, Apple and Samsung met with the Hon. Lucy Koh, who is presiding over their current patent dispute in Apple v. Samsung II, in the very same courtroom where she presided over their first patent litigation in San Jose, CA back in August. The purpose was to go over the parties’ claims in the patents they say are infringed, explaining to her how the technology works. This is in preparation for the upcoming Markman hearing next month, where they will argue officially over what the terms in the claims mean. We had a volunteer in the courtroom, and we have that report for you.
Meanwhile, in Apple v. Samsung I, which is still going on, the parties will be arguing before the Federal Circuit on March 26, as both parties believe the magistrate judge is threatening to unseal too many documents in that case, and things are on hold until the appeals court decides who is right. So far, that is about the only thing the parties *do* agree on, that the magistrate has gone too far. Here’s Apple’s supplemental appeal brief [PDF] on that issue of sealing from Apple v Samsung I. William Lee of Wilmer Cutler will argue [PDF] for Apple on March 26, and Victoria F. Maroulis of Quinn Emanuel will argue [PDF] for Samsung. That’s at 10 AM on March 26 at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC.
One ought to remember the undeniable personal tie between Apple and Oracle (whose CEO considers Steve Jobs to be his “best friend”). There is surely a conspiracy of companies liaising against Android. █
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Summary: A protest “led by COTS suppliers Microsoft and Oracle” left loopholes in UK standards policy
WE were a wee premature in celebrating FRAND defeat in the UK. Mark Ballard, a good investigative journalist, digs deeper and finds loopholes:
The government ordered public bodies to purge their computer systems of proprietary software standards, those data formats and interfaces over which dominant software companies had made property claims established under US patent law.
It decreed that public bodies must instead implement non-proprietary, open standards; under rules it had codified so tightly that it left little room for doubt that it had at last found the courage of its convictions.
Well, almost. The policy didn’t apply to “commercial, off-the-shelf software”, those ubiquitous, proprietary software packages against which government had formulated its open standards policy in the first place. It was written in reference only to bespoke systems. But let’s not spoil the party by picking hairs, for a moment at least.
Disregarding COTS, the policy was far cry from the prevarication that has characterised UK technology policy since 2010, when the coalition was elected. The government committed its open standards pledge to paper in 2011. The proprietary software industry immediately protested at what would amount to the confiscation of its means to assert monopoly power. The protest was led by COTS suppliers Microsoft and Oracle. The government’s resolve was so weak it recanted.
europa.eu calls it a boost for open source nonetheless:
United Kingdom open standards policy a boost for open source
One of the aims of the United Kingdom’s Open Standard Principles, published today, is to boost the use of free and open source software solutions by the country’s public administrations. The new policy describes principles for the selection and specification of open standards which can be implemented in both open source and proprietary software.
A belated post by Glyn Moody accentuates the positive, focusing on what he and the FSFE have been working hard to get across:
Finally: UK Open Standards are RF, not FRAND
In a huge win for open standards, open source and the public, the long-awaited UK government definition of open standards has come down firmly on the side of RF, not FRAND. The UK government’s approach is enshrined in an important new document defining what it calls Open Standards Principles.
Transparency is crucial for another reason. As readers may recall from the many Open Enterprise blog posts over the last year describing the extremely long process that has led to the framing of this new policy, companies like Microsoft have fought very hard to prevent RF being enshrined in the new rules. They and their proxies will be looking for any opportunity to challenge the new rules – not least in the courts.
However, I think opponents of the Open Standards Principles will need to think carefully before taking that course. The Cabinet Office has been scrupulous in giving them a chance to make their case, along with everyone else. The original definition of open standards was withdrawn as a result of pressure being applied, and not one, but two consultations have been carried about to solicit views in this area. Indeed, the UK government has made what are probably unprecedented efforts to hear all sides of the argument.
That’s evident in the home page listing the Open Standards Consultation documents. There you will find not only Principles themselves, but a host of ancillary information. These include the Government’s Response, which explains the process that led to them, including consolidated statistics, a more detailed analysis of every question, and an independent review of the evidence by the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University, which is essentially the report that I wrote about back in September.
This extraordinary level of detail in terms of the consultations and their analysis is a clear sign that the Cabinet Office means business here, and that it is prepared to defend its work in the courts if necessary. The time and money that it has invested in this project over the last few years is also a token of its seriousness and desire to make open standards a reality in this country, and to establish a level playing field for government computing.
Assuming that happens – and based on the new Principles, the signs it will are good – that would represent the start of a new era for IT procurement in the UK. The Cabinet Office team deserves kudos for at least giving us that possibility.
While it’s a step in the right direction, flaws remain and if FOSS proponents celebrate too much, nothing will improve. █
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