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10.23.13

Microsoft Culture Against Another Universal Standard: Unicode

Posted in Standard at 5:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Unicode

Summary: Microsoft’s long battle against character encoding standards such as Unicode, which bridge the gap for communication between people, not just applications

HALF A decade ago we spent a lot of time here promoting open standards — the grooves for connectivity between applications, operating systems, and pertinent pieces of code. Without standards, there is little collaboration because the cost of connecting separate pieces of software is quite high.

“But to Microsoft consistency was an evil threat; it threatened its monopoly.”Assuming that collaboration is the key to rapid advancement and innovation — reusing knowledge, pooling human resources, etc. — standards are important everywhere we look, e.g. electrics, plumbing, energy, automobiles and so on. Encoding of characters is not everyone’s field of expertise; it is a low-level area of computing, akin to assembly code and little/big endian. But the principles of standards stay the same across fields and standards are almost always beneficial. I have wasted many hours of my life trying to overcome issue associated with Microsoft’s broken character encodings. It was a long time ago that people appreciated the value of consistency in some areas (not to be confused with monoculture or monopoly). But to Microsoft consistency was an evil threat; it threatened its monopoly. The Scientist published a piece called “Standards Needed” [1] not too long ago and Linux Journal praised Unicode [2], which helps bridge character encoding barriers. Thanks to Unicode, many of us out there can access and render pages in almost any language, even rare languages (and even if we cannot understand them). The Register, however, thought it would be productive to bash Unicode [3]. And watch who wrote the piece: a Windowshead. What a surprise!

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Opinion: Standards Needed
  2. Unicode

    Let’s give credit where credit’s due: Unicode is a brilliant invention that makes life easier for millions—even billions—of people on our planet. At the same time, dealing with Unicode, as well as the various encoding systems that preceded it, can be an incredibly painful and frustrating experience. I’ve been dealing with some Unicode-related frustrations of my own in recent days, so I thought this might be a good time to revisit a topic that every modern software developer, and especially every Web developer, should understand.

  3. Down with Unicode! Why 16 bits per character is a right pain in the ASCII

    In the beginning – well, not in the very beginning, obviously, because that would require a proper discussion of issues such as parity and error correction and Hamming distances; and the famous quarrel between the brothers ASCII, ISCII VISCII and YUSCII; and how in the 1980s if you tried to send a £ sign to a strange printer that you had not previously befriended (for example, by buying it a lovely new ribbon) your chances of success were negligible; and, and…

    But you are a busy and important person.

    So in the beginning that began in the limited world of late MS-DOS and early Windows programming, O best beloved, there were these things called “code pages”.

    To the idle anglophone Windows programmer (ie: me) code pages were something horrible and fussy that one hoped to get away with ignoring. I was dimly aware that, to process strings in some of the squigglier foreign languages, it was necessary to switch code page and sometimes, blimey, use two bytes per character instead of just one. It was bad enough that They couldn’t decide how many characters it took to mark the end of a line.

    [...]

    As far as I know, there isn’t a creation myth associated with the unification of the world’s character sets.

    [...]

    For Windows C++ programmers, the manifesto identifies specific techniques to make one’s core code UTF-8 based, including a proto-Boost library designed for the purpose. (Ironically, the first thing you have to do is turn the Unicode switch in the Visual C++ compiler to ‘on’.)

    [...]

    Next weekend I will be scraping all my Unicode files off my hard disk, taking them to the bottom of the garden, and burning them. As good citizens of the digital world, I urge you all to do the same.

06.05.13

Interference With Free(dom) Software Policy in European Governments and Beyond

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 5:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EU flags

Summary: Countries where policy is written to prioritise Free software (i.e. software controlled by domestic companies) as well as open standards are facing interference from hostile pressure groups

With Microsoft moles inside many governments (we gave lot of examples) it is no wonder that taxpayers don’t have their interests served. As a bit of a primer, consider going through the following Wiki pages:

Over in France, which famously has gotten one of the strongest European pro-FOSS policies in place, funny business is going on. April writes: “The Senate, at first reading, and National Assembly commission of Cultural Affairs and Education, at second reading, voted for a provision giving priority to Free Software and open formats in the future “Public Service for Digital Education.” Regrettably, the government, yielding, without any doubt, to pressure from Afdel and Syntec Numérique, has just filed an amendment neutralizing this provision.”

“Over in Italy, rogue actions are being reported as people try to stall the famous migrations to FOSS.”Recall what Microsoft did about imminent ODF preference in France. It used proxies to derail the democracy and promote OOXML, i.e. Microsoft formats as a ‘standard’ [1, 2, 3, 4].

Speaking of people who boosted OOXML (e.g. Winterford in this case, the writer who became a Microsoft booster after receiving gifts from Microsoft [1, 2]), they are demonising FOSS, comparing the FOSS advocates to “crusaders” and even showing a photo of a medieval shield. The truth is exactly the opposite. The crusaders are the foreigners (multinationals) who try to impose proprietary software on populations across the world. Winterford must not be happy to see ODF elevated in his nation, Australia. He did a lot to promote OOXML after Microsoft had given him gifts.

“Microsoft can sometimes make the Italian Mafia look benign in comparison.”Over here in the UK, policy is being put in place which favours local companies like my employer (FOSS only). Pogson writes: “There it is, a whole government planning how to escape M$ and “partners” bloat. They are going to do IT the right way, considering what will give the desired outcome efficiently instead of just throwing money away to get the desired outcome any way possible. If we all did that would anyone pay ~$100 extra for a PC with M$’s OS on it, $150 extra for M$’s office suite, $thousands to run a server on a network? How about enduring endless malware aimed at the leaking hulk of that other OS and endless re-re-reboots?”

Over in Italy, rogue actions are being reported as people try to stall the famous migrations to FOSS. To quote: “The discussion in the working group that is supposed to detail when Italy’s public administrations should prefer open source over proprietary solutions, is stalling, says lawyer Ernesto Belisario, professor at University of Basilicata in the city of Potenza. “Some of the members think the law stipulates a technical and economical assessment, instead of reading it as a statement supporting open source.””

“The fight for FOSS in the public sector does not end when policies are written.”Recall the role played by Nichi Vendola. Microsoft can sometimes make the Italian Mafia look benign in comparison. Microsoft is desperate to stop FOSS expansion in Italy and some other news from Italy is now properly summarised in our Wiki.

The article above notes that “Carlo Piana, member of the working group on behalf of the Free Software Foundation Europe and the KDE foundation, confirms that the members do not agree on the reading of the law. “It is important that we agree on the interpretation as soon as possible, otherwise the working group will fall short on its tasks. “I don’t believe this will be the outcome, but if the current position persists, the communities I and the other members represent will strongly protest and we will have little choice but to take all the consequences on our contribution.”

“I am sure that the organisation will realise that this is a crucial point. The law clearly supports our position, for many good reasons. While we are aware that some level of compromise is necessary, this cannot be on the substance of the law and on the very mission of our activity. As Mr. Belisario correctly says, some may disagree with the law, in which case they can try to change it; but as long as it remains unchanged, the law must be abided with.”

“One strategy for impeding FOSS growth in Europe has been lobbying for FRAND and the unitary patent (software patents in Europe through the back doors). “The fight for FOSS in the public sector does not end when policies are written. Just look at what Microsoft did in Brazil to bypass policies.

One strategy for impeding FOSS growth in Europe has been lobbying for FRAND and the unitary patent (software patents in Europe through the back doors). Matthias Lamping does not think that the EU should embrace this trajectory for patents. He writes in a pro-patents blog that he “is not a big fan of the unitary patent package – not because it dislikes the idea of unitary patent protection for the Internal Market, but precisely because [he] does like it. However, creating a “unitary patent” which claims EU origin but disclaims EU character, just because something is supposedly better than nothing, is rather an act of desperation than sensible policy making. This is not the place and not the time to repeat old arguments, but [despite Merpel's warning that this might offend the sensibilities of some readers] one thing cannot be said often enough: False integration can be worse than no integration; and a bad court system is not necessarily better than no court at all. It may be true, to a certain extent, that the system can be improved once it is in force. But a house built on a shaky foundation will always be in danger of collapsing, no matter how many cosmetic repairs are made.”

It seems possible that, owing to pressure from countries like Spain, the unitary patent package will fall through. Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, the loudest opposer of the unitary patent package, said the other day:

that’s why I’m now 99.9999% sure that #UnitaryPatent will die, but what a waste of time/energy and political confidence!

The unitary patent package has taught many of us on the developers’ side that there will always be opportunistic lawyers/politicians looking to serve themselves and their friends at governmental/industrial levels. This incestuous relationship is all about self gain. The fight against corruption is perpetual and it is an important fight to be fighting.

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.’

Edmund Burke

05.30.13

Australia Steps in the Right Direction With New Document Formats Policy

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 8:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sydney
Sydney, Australia

Summary: Although the Australian government does not guarantee the use of open standards and/or Free software, it does give way for better facilitation of those

After years of OOXML-related abuses such as bribes, Microsoft might — just might — see some consequences. According to this announcement from Australia, ODF is a winner, but the “proposal does not require that ODF be used as a standard. Rather, it just specifies that productivity suites must support ODF. Recent versions of Microsoft Office, as well as Google Docs, Libre Office and OpenOffice support the file format,” says this post. It is not entirely true that Microsoft supports ODF; it is just its proprietary hybrid which it labels ODF. The news sites, nonetheless, welcome the news. Here is a bunch of reports about it:

  • Australia mulls requiring OpenDocument Format compatibility

    Australia’s government may mandate that its agencies use software compatible with OpenDocument Format (ODF), an international file standard.

    The country’s government agencies mostly use Microsoft’s Office software, but support for an open standard eliminates the “potential for a vendor ending support for specific format,” wrote John Sheridan, Australia’s chief technology officer.

    If the draft proposal is approved, however, government agencies would not be required to work only with ODF documents, Sheridan wrote. The proposal is now open for comments and will eventually be taken up by the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board for approval.

  • Feds propose Open Document Format support

    The office of the Australian Government Chief Technology Officer (AGCTO) is proposing support for the Open Document Format (ODF) in an annual review of computing system policies.

  • Australia government goes with ODF document standard

    The AGCTO’s office says that requiring support for ODF will not preclude use of other formats and does not mandate use of ODF 1.1. But it will establish ODF 1.1 as the baseline for compatibility within the Australian government. According to Australian tech news site Delimiter, in 2011, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) decided to standardise on Office Open XML, but was pushed to reconsider that choice after receiving complaints. The new proposal has now been published and the AGIMO and AGCTO are seeking public feedback before progressing further.

We previously covered outrage in Australia over choice of OOXML (entryism possibly the cause, i.e. Microsoft moles), so this latest news sure is a positive change and a step in the right direction. Have they just rewritten the policy to conform with a t prior decision of choosing Microsoft Office though? We shall see…

05.20.13

Not Satire: Microsoft Wants to Show the World How Security is Done

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Standard at 9:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft tries to paint itself as “fighting the bad guys”

Musketeers

Summary: Software security ‘standard’ to be led by the company which made insecurity an acceptable engineering practice?

According to this new report (criticised heavily in this LXer thread), Microsoft is trying to lead security standards as if Microsoft is the master of security. Oh! The vanity!

“Previously, roughly half a decade ago, Microsoft fonts also enabled remote hijacking of one’s Windows-running PC.”Microsoft is not just bad at security but also at patching security flaws; many people, especially in businesses, won’t install updates from Microsoft without qualms because these tend to break the software every now and then, even weeks ago. As IDG put it: “The saga of botched patch MS13-036 takes new twists and turns — including a problem with Multiple Master fonts” (familiar story, not the first of this kind).

Go on and wonder how poor modularity must be if a security patch can impact fonts. Previously, roughly half a decade ago, Microsoft fonts also enabled remote hijacking of one’s Windows-running PC.

“Our products just aren’t engineered for security.”

Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive

Microsoft is Struggling to Maintain Industry ‘Standards’

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard, Windows at 9:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The world has moved on and beyond the “desktop”

Scapshot

Summary: With Microsoft’s common carrier and browser share down considerably Microsoft finds itself increasingly irrelevant and it tries subversive means of making another comeback

According to this new article from IDG, Forrester has no faith in Vista 8, despite Forrester ‘research’ (for a fee, for agenda) being Microsoft-funded for years. To quote: “Windows 8, the most significant upgrade to Microsoft’s operating system since Windows 95 and one of the most important products in the company’s history, will not achieve enough adoption in enterprises to be considered a standard, according to Forrester Research.”

“Even the Microsoft boosters have ceased trying to lie about Vista 8 sales.”Britain’s leading Microsoft booster can offer damage control no more. He wrote: “Those who upgraded to Windows 8 aren’t the only ones unhappy with the new touch-driven operating system – Wall Street is too. Just don’t expect any of the criticism hurled at Steve “Teflon” Ballmer, Microsoft’s shy and retiring boss, to stick.

“The chief executive is under fire from money men who responded to tech reporters trolling the markets for blistering opinions on Microsoft’s leadership, given that: PC sales are crashing; Windows Phone 8 smartmobes are in fourth place in the US mobile OS market; and Windows 8 Surface gadgets are barely on the worldwide tablet sales charts. The new touchscreen-friendly Windows has not been that well received, resulting the software giant undoing decisions made at the highest levels.”

Here are his closing words: “Arguably, Ballmer’s pain has been postponed. Microsoft’s Windows growth isn’t coming from new Windows 8 PCs sold to consumers, rather sales of Windows 8 licences to distribution channel partners and volume customers. Actual Windows 8 machines haven’t moved in any significant numbers. The PCs that are selling run Windows 7.”

Even the Microsoft boosters have ceased trying to lie about Vista 8 sales. Android already became far more of an industry standard than Vista 7 and 8 combined. Android will soon celebrate one billion activations. It sometimes seems like Google has helped harm many Microsoft de facto standards, including multimedia ones, not just operating systems. The hardest part to knock down is Microsoft’s most profitable monopoly, Office, which relies solely on format-induced lock-in.

According to this piece from the pro-Microsoft 'news' site ReadWrite, “Google is Prepping a Sneak Attack on Microsoft Office” and the author says: “Google sources also say they’re confident that Microsoft won’t be able to block QuickOffice with licensing issues or other legal threats. Eventually, these individuals say, QuickOffice will become the foundation of Google Apps, although that’s still a ways off.”

“The hardest part to knock down is Microsoft’s most profitable monopoly, Office, which relies solely on format-induced lock-in.”Pamela Jones responded as follows: “I hope Google doesn’t make the mistake of thinking that building your business on a Microsoft “standard” format that includes a right for Microsoft to add proprietary doodads is going to work out for them. And if they don’t include ODF, Microsoft will be correct that then Microsoft will be more open than Google in that one area. On the other hand, if the lawyers are in this decision because Microsoft is a litigation bully and competes in courtrooms instead of in the marketplace, who knows what has gone into the decision? Dealing with Microsoft is a headache, and it causes others endless troubles for absolutely no good reason with folks ending up doing things to protect themselves from attack that they’d otherwise never have done.

“And speaking of openness, what’s with ReadWrite’s new policy of making their articles impossible to copy and paste? This is the Internet, and there are principles and a culture, and they are violating them.”

Recall how Microsoft resorted to corruption for OOXML, which Google, for some reason, no longer opposes as fiercely as it used to, partly due to Microsoft's pollution in formats space.

“Google has made good progress on weaning Microsoft lock-in, but the job is not done yet.”According to a post about OGC, Microsoft is now trying to ‘pull an OOXML’ again, this time not against video chats through Web standards, namely WebRTC (a threat to Skype) but against another common standard. As one person put it: “Most (all?) current OGC web service standards to date have an Open Source reference implementation, which was often (always?) part funded by OGC testbeds, and open source implementations were tested against proprietary implementations during OGC testbeds. As far as I’m aware, there has been very little up-take from the Open Source community of the “GeoServices REST API”, and I’m unaware of any testing of non-ESRI applications during OGC testbeds. (Someone may be able to correct me here).”

Here is the source. Pamela Jones, who fought against OOXML, calls this “Another OOXML,” noting that it is “a “standard” proposed when there is already a FOSS overlapping standard in use. ESRI lists Microsoft, Oracle, Novell and SAP as partners.”

In order to starve Microsoft, a longtime abusive monopolist and patent racketeer (Microsoft tries to extract money from devices using FAT patents in exFAT), one needs to erode its lock-in. Google has made good progress on weaning Microsoft lock-in, but the job is not done yet.

05.08.13

Patent Attack on Skype Following Microsoft’s Patent Attacks on Free Codecs, Media/Communication; Some More Microsoft Lobbying Regarding Patents

Posted in EFF, Microsoft, OSI, Patents, Standard at 1:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Unleashing the attack dogs on free Internet communication

Doberman

Summary: Patent news involving communications tools which either promote surveillance (Microsoft) or impede surveillance (FOSS and standards); more Microsoft involvement in patent law is seen

Skype is said to be a patent violation (inevitably, all software is a patent violation in a country where software patents are abundant) and a Microsoft friendly site adds that “CopyTele CEO Robert Berman, whose company filed two claims last week against Microsoft’s Skype service, says his case is nuanced.”

Hopefully he can destroy Skype, but the government would never allow that. Skype has been incredibly valuable not just for domestic surveillance but foreign surveillance too. The US records everything and stores it in datacentres with colossal machines that boast high disk capacity. On a per-person basis, this is rather cheap. See our Skype overview page for more information. It’s not the main topic of this particular post, which is really about patent abuses.

Skype’s rival which supports real privacy is SIP-based VOIP, but Microsoft’s partner BT is attacking it with software patents. There is a Slashdot discussion about it and we covered it the other day.

The OSI’s president, who is British, says that “BT mounts awesome visual aid of why standards should be patent free by law” and the FFII’s president writes:

After 20 years we still do not have a free video codec for the web, blame Microsoft, Nokia and other patent trolls.

He adds at a similar time that “BT claim patents on VoIP SIP, a disaster, covered by a minefield of 99 patents. Time to quick swpats out of EU” (swpats as in software patents).

He ridicules the recent “World IP Day” by calling it “World Imaginary Property” and adding that “Microsoft heavily depends on plant variety rights. Monsanto needs software patents”.

He also thinks that the “EFF does not push for abolition of software patents in the US,” calling “for an FFII.us branch” (the EFF has indeed disappointed in that regard).

The USPTO cannot be chastised by US entities as effectively as European entities doing the same thing. Additionally, the EFF is dominated by lawyers (part of the problem), whereas the FFII is dominated by software professionals. The EFF is working against trolls but not against software patents like it once said it would. Google too is adopting this method. The danger is that the USPTO will be expanding towards a global patent system (a subject we covered here many times before), inspired by the US, as usual. The first step is almost complete:

After decades of proposals and debate, a new European-wide single patent, known as the Unitary Patent may well be a reality by the end of 2014.

From the “World IP Day” (notice globalisation nuance) we have this tidbit:

Luke Johnson – too many patents now issued and undermine the value of IP protection (those ‘patent trolls’)

We said this many times before. Anyway, this “IP Day” is just more propaganda opportunism. It’s for lobbying. Microsoft is lobbying too, eternally striving to prevent the patent system from being truly fixed while its lawyers are committing RICA Act violations (racketeering). Here is the latest propaganda from Brad Smith (top Microsoft lawyer), with a British lawyer giving a shoutout:

Brad Smith laments the absence of a well functioning secondary market for patents — and patent lawyers who love their patents

Not so long ago Microsoft brought extortion to China (starting with a producing giant, Foxconn [1, 2]), calling it “licensing” to deceive regulators. This is crime disguised as “honouring the [patent] law.”

There will soon be a panel event involving a prominent opponent of software patent, Judge Posner. To quote this introduction: “A panel of distinguished jurists will discuss these two conflicting perspectives on whether the patent system today promotes or hampers innovation: Arthur Gajarsa, former Judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Paul Michel, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Richard Posner, Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The panel will be moderated by Douglas Ginsburg, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and a Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law.”

This panel does not look like it’s completely rigged, unlike the ridiculous "roundtable" (where all sides of the table held the same position/premise).

03.24.13

OOXML in Norway and Sarkozy-Gates Corruption Over OOXML Return to Discussion Amid Bribery Stories

Posted in Bill Gates, Europe, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 10:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ooxml_demo_4.jpg

Summary: Recalling the older corruption of Microsoft and Bill Gates, especially in light of some news from Europe

A

n anonymous Scandinavian reader wrote to tell us that Microsoft “has gotten inside the Norwegian public sector.” For context he gives these two links [1, 2] and reminds us that; “In 2007, Norway required that editable documents be in ODF within the state agencies. Now they’re following the “Microsoft too” tactic and “also” permitting OOXML and removing the requirement for ODF. Apparently the head of Microsoft Norway has had a series of closed meetings with the state council(?) (statsråden).

“”statsråden” is minister, but I don’t know which one. It would be good to hear from NUUG because they are the main opposition to the change.

“Apparently the king helped slam it through. Your country has royalty still. How does that complicate matters or does it affect things at all?

“Google Translate does an ok job.”

We wrote about OOXML-related abuses in Norway in posts such as this one. Citing the new article titled “DoJ, SEC investigating Microsoft over bribery claims” Pamela Jones writes: “While they are at it, I wish they’d look into the French about-face on OOXML.”

Nicolas Sarkozy and OOXML scandals in France were covered here before. Here are some of the more notable posts about it:

  1. More on France and Microsoft’s OOXML; ODF Still a Leader
  2. White-Collar Crime Pays Off, Shows Microsoft OOXML
  3. Hewlett-Packard Does Microsoft’s Dirty Job Again, Lobbies for the Monopoly
  4. Guilty Parties in OOXML Fiasco in France Gets Exposed (Updated)

Separately, adds Jones: “The first thing I thought of was France doing a 180 on OOXML, after reports of a phone call from Bill Gates to Sarkozy and the AFNOR letter from Microsoft France mentioning telephone contacts, the letter sent the day before the OOXML vote deadline. By the way, notice in that last link how Microsoft behaved at meetings of AFNOR, according to Frederick:

Q: Last August there were some reports that the AFNOR commission meetings were heated. Can you tell us anything about that?
Couchet: On August 29th 2007 the AFNOR standardization commission meeting took place with the objective of establishing the position of the commission and therefore consequently France’s position. The exchanges were stormy at some points since Marc Mosse, head of Legal and Public Affairs at Microsoft France, did everything, I thought, he could to sabotage the meeting. Marc Mossé, judging from appearances, seemed to have the very clear assignment to obtain AFNOR’s abstention. Absolutely not constructive, not very polite either, in particular with the representatives of the French administration, Marc Mosse seemed to have decided to ruin the meeting and heighten the pressure — well-known tactic to block the arrival at a consensus. But he did too much, way too much. The end was pitiful enough, notably when he accused one of the State’s representatives of serving a “banana republic”. He claimed by the way to be representing local administrations against the central administration. The resume of Marc Mosse is online but strangely, his stint at the BSA, the Business Software Alliance, is not mentioned in it. The meeting of March 25th 2008 was much more calm and cordial, perhaps because of the absence of Marc Mosse.
Does that not remind you of the behavior this month of those who seemed determined to disrupt Google’s presentations regarding Vp8 so as to avoid consensus, including the one on IPR?” (we just wrote about this in the previous post).

That last part we may cover in a separate post. Why is the English-speaking press not covering these scandals?

At ZDNet this month, Microsoft employee Jason Perlow has been actively bashing Android and promoting Microsoft products under the guise of ‘journalism’ (no links given, on purpose). This is a farce. Corruption is allowed to carry on because real journalism is left for sites like Groklaw to do while Perlow smears those real journalists.

11.26.12

Patents-free Standards in the UK

Posted in Europe, Patents, Standard at 10:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML on the trash can
Back in the trash can
where it belongs

Summary: Andy Updegrove writes about the standards situation in the United Kingdom

The other day we wrote about Portugal's embrace of ODF. Now we have this report about Britain:

Governments certainly have more than enough to concern themselves with these days – financial crises, natural disasters and terrorism, to name just a few. Given that’s the case, it’s surprising that so many are finding the time to worry about what kind of standards the products and services they purchase comply with. But they are.

That’s the case in the EU, where the final terms of version 2.0 of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) were the subject of heated debate, resulting in a watered down definition of what should be regarded as acceptable standards for use in enabling communications between EU member nations. It’s also the case within those EU member states that are considering adopting definitions similar to the original formulation that appeared in the original, 2004 version of the EIF.

It’s somewhat ironic that this discussion is occurring not in the context of standards generally, but with respect to information technology (IT) standards, where the standards of greatest concern are those that enable interoperability. I say ironic, because once a standard has become universally adopted in the marketplace, customers – including governments – have little choice but to adopt it as well, because interoperability standards not only enable government IT systems to interact with each other, but also with the citizenry. Moreover, one great economic benefit that can be gained from procuring products and services that comply with widely adopted standards is that it protects the purchaser from becoming locked in to the proprietary products and services of a single vendor.

Updegrove then writes about what happened in the UK very recently (regarding FRAND and beyond). It seems possible that FOSS adoption here will come through the requirement of fair competition via standards.

It is worth noting that, now that EPO is moving gently towards software patents*, Karsten Gerloff from the FSFE sounds his horn again:

How software patents are delaying the future

This fall, I went to Amsterdam to talk about “How Software Patents Are Delaying The Future”, on a discussion panel organised by the European Patent Office. The other people on the panel were patent attorney Simon Davies, and Ioannis Bozas, a patent examiner at the EPO. The panel was moderated by James Nurton of Managing IP. Despite our very different views on the subject, we had very friendly and informative conversations before, during, and after the panel.

For the EPO, organising this debate was something of a gamble. They’re widely criticised for their practice of awarding patents on computer programs, and the debate tends to get rather heated. While I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the way they do things at the EPO when it comes to software, I give them credit for putting this debate together. It was also refreshing to hear Ioannis state clearly that the EPO grants patents on software, as long as the program makes a “technical contribution”—that’s somewhat clearer than the line about “computer-implemented inventions” we’ve mostly seen the EPO employ so far.

A lot of this war on FRAND can suffer if the unitary patent is passed, whereupon lots of foreign patents can infiltrate the UK, for example. European programmers and even non-programmers should become active on this matter.
____
* Elver said today in the FFII’s mailing lists, “I was just sitting with a government official who mentioned that something or other will be decided on the 12th of December regarding the unitary patent system in Brussels.”

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