Summary: Gizmodo sells out to Microsoft’s patent troll; Oracle pays NetApp for alleged software patents relating to the Open Source (ish) ZFS
JUST OVER A WEEK ago, someone in our IRC channels mentioned Gizmodo selling out to Intellectual Ventures, the world’s largest patent troll which is groomed by Bill Gates, Microsoft, and Apple (all are founding and/or funding sources). We were going to post a rebuttal to Gizmodo, but decided it would be better to just never give attention to that puff piece. TechDirt has just caught up with this embarrassment at Gizmodo and responded by blaming “PR”.
A bunch of folks have been sending over this somewhat ridiculous love letter to Intellectual Ventures written up at Gizmodo (a site that usually is a lot more on the ball than what this post shows), which basically takes all of IV and Nathan Myhrvold’s favorite talking points (many of which make little sense) and simply parrots them back, acting as if the company is some sort of Willy Wonka chocolate factory of invention — but leaving out the hundreds of millions of dollars companies pay up as a sort of “don’t sue us tax,” and the incredibly sketchy nature of the over 1,000 shell companies set up by the firm and the entirely secret nature of many of its business dealings. Instead, the guy at Gizmodo is wowed by the fact that the company has computer hackers trying to cure cancer.
Why would that be mistaken? The article doesn’t say. Instead, the writer just seems wowed by the fact that IV has lots of old scientific equipment. What a shame. It would be nice if someone actually asked Myhrvold and his crew some actual tough questions, rather than fawning over the fact he once dug up dinosaur bones.
Nathan Myhrvold’s foolish patents are currently being promoted by Gates, for profit. It’s a mostly untold story, but one which we covered several times before. The above is yet another story of success in exploiting the media — convincing it to tell fairy tales, thanks to an army of PR agencies just like Gates’. Gizmodo should hang its head in shame for playing along with it. Just over a month ago Groklaw alleged that Gizmodo was getting close to Microsoft because it was riling people up against Apple and praised Microsoft projects at the same time.
Intellectual Ventures not only has a lot of PR with which to deceive the press; it also spends a lot of money lobbying governments, pushing for the obvious policies (allowing patent trolls, software patents, and so forth). Recently we showed how New Zealand’s patent law got subverted by foreign lobbyists, only for changes to eventually be reversed in some sense, as also explained in this new legal analysis.
Moving on to something a little different, Phandroid has this new article which characterises Palm as a gold mine of software patents, which is probably true.
After we figured HP was just about done with Android after their acquisition of Palm (which gave them full access to webOS and tons of neat software patents), rumors began swirling that those earlier suspicions were a tad bit preemptive and that HP still had plans to bring out an Android tablet.
It wasn’t long ago that Android came under a lawsuit from Oracle, not just from Apple (whose CEO is a close friend of Oracle’s CEO). Apple itself threatened Palm using patents and it is said to have withdrawn from ZFS because as we explained last year, patents killed ZFS to an extent. NetApp's aggression was a major factor and not much has changed because NetApp is now harassing Coraid for its use of ZFS. Watch how Oracle sells ZFS down the river, unlike Sun (paying ZFS so very submissively). That’s just another new example of software patents endorsement at Oracle:
- NetApp, Oracle Drop Suits
- NetApp, Oracle Drop Suits
- NetApp Rises: Settles Sun Suit With Oracle
- Oracle and NetApp dismiss ZFS lawsuits
- NetApp, Oracle dismiss patent suit
- NetApp, Oracle End ZFS Litigation
- NetApp and Oracle Agree to Dismiss Lawsuits
- Oracle and NetApp settle patent dispute
- NetApp, Oracle Agreed To Dismiss Patent Lawsuits Started In 2007 (ORCL,NTAP)
- Oracle and NetApp drop Sun Microsystems lawsuits
- NetApp and Oracle lift ZFS patent cloud
- NetApp, Oracle Agree To End Patent Litigation – Update
- Oracle, NetApp agree to settle patent litigation
- Updates, advisories and surprises
- NetApp, Oracle Agree To End Patent Litigation – Update
IDG says: “Storage vendor NetApp said Thursday it has reached an agreement with Oracle to dismiss patent litigation stemming from a 2007 suit NetApp filed against Sun Microsystems, which.Oracle acquired earlier this year. Terms were not disclosed.” NetApp’s founder speaks at Oracle OpenWorld 2010, so it seems like an amicable resolution.
“[N]ot much to celebrate in this settlement,” said to us FurnaceBoy, a Solaris/ZFS expert. Legitimising software patents is possibly what Oracle does here, so the FSF’s denouncement of Oracle for its unnecessary patent aggression [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] comes at a fairly good time. █
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Summary: In order to prevent software patents which are owned by Red Hat from falling into the wrong hands (e.g. in an acquisition like Oracle’s), something should be done to diffuse them
Red Hat’s patents are a subject we previously wrote about in posts such as:
Over a week after those scary SAP rumours we checked to see if Red Hat has done something to ensure that its patents will self-explode if they reach the wrong hands (like Oracle getting Sun’s Java patents). “I discussed that with @webmaven a few weeks ago,” Richard Fontana (Red Hat) told me today. It does not seem like progress has been made since then. Red Hat really needs to ensure that its portfolio does not get used against the Free software community in the same sense that Sun’s portfolio is being misused right now [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13].
“Red Hat really needs to ensure that its portfolio does not get used against the Free software community in the same sense that Sun’s portfolio is being misused right now.”Does Red Hat really need patents? I had a discussion about it with Red Hat earlier today and I was left overwhelmingly unconvinced. Hugo Roy, a software freedom activist whom we mentioned in the previous post, writes that “In 1985, someone filed a patent for a brilliant invention: the “Tool””
“I haven’t looked at the patent itself,” he told me, “so I don’t know if we can really say that. But sure, the title is not credible”
Patents have become so controversial that major newspapers occasionally call for an overhaul and maybe even abolition. We saw some examples last week.
Here is a new CERN article from the New Scientist. It helps show patents versus science, not for science:
You might imagine that vast patent royalties flow into the organisation that invented the touchscreen and the World Wide Web. But the atom-smashing outfit CERN, cradle of both these technologies, doesn’t make a bean from either.
The particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, has been reluctant to patent the inventions it creates in pursuit of exotic subatomic entities. But it hopes that will soon change: last week, it struck a deal with the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to ensure that it profits better from its engineers’ innovations in fields like imaging, computing, particle detection and superconducting magnets, says international relations adviser Maurizio Bona.
If Red Hat still sidles with science and not with patents (or the USPTO which legitimises software patents), then it will take care of those potentially-destructive weapons it has in its hands/arsenal. It’s too late to do this if/when a takeover is imminent. Red Hat has just announced the hiring of a lobbyist (“Mark Bohannon to Lead Red Hat Governmental Affairs and Public Policy” as pasted here) and together with the practice of software patents, Red Hat is at risk of being called a hypocrite; it doesn’t need to be.
Red Hat is not the only GNU/Linux proponent which claims to be collecting “defensive” software patents. Red Hat is unique though. IBM and Google, for example, are somewhat different in this case because they are not in a position where they can practically be sold along with their patents (not any time soon). █
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Summary: Google’s greed for patents may harm its Java/Dalvik/Linux cause and questions ought to be asked about unwise hires that seemingly subverted Google’s policy
GOOGLE was once a fine company created by software developers/scientists, but about 3 years ago we showed a video where Google hires are seen who are lawyers that loves software patents and insist on having them. This is sad. We have already posted a little memo to Google regarding software patents, but unless masses of people do something similar, Google (the ‘God’ of the Internet) will continue to ignore such pleas.
Oracle’s patent attack on Google/Dalvik [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] ought to have taught Google that the world would be a better place if it was without software patents. Why can Google not do more to end software patents? At the moment, Google reinforces patents using its USPTO search facility with improved features which are added over time. There are even patents on providing access to patents and there is a patent on patent trolling, too. Are tools like this one infringing on Google’s patents? Are patent trolls infringing on IBM’s patent? “Google Patents Indexing, Retrieval of Blogs,” says this item of news.
This week, Google Inc. was assigned a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO for the invention of a system and method for indexing and retrieval of blogs.
You can find details of this new patent 7765209 in IP.com’s Intellectual Property Library, which includes detailed information for this patent, first applied for in 2005 and granted in 2010 for what appears to be the core patent for Google’s system and method of indexing blogs, which are now included in the results of a Google search.
Has Google lost its head? There are other new patents from Google. Why are patent lawyers running this company now? And how can Google appeal for sympathy when it falls under patent attacks (the same goes for net neutrality)? To Google’s credit, so far it has used patents only defensively, but these policies don’t last forever. Microsoft and Apple are both patent predators and Sun’s patents, for example, became offensive when put in the hands of another company. “Clearly, Oracle is a strong believer in software patents. And if they can use patents as a lever for revenue generation, they will,” said RedMonk analyst Michael Cote to IDG. With Microsoft as a major barrier and Oracle as a true obstacle, Google’s smarter strategy ahead would be elimination of software patents. Here is a new article of interest:
If that weren’t about to become a sticky political wicket for the company, it also faces growing antitrust, privacy and patent scrutiny, fanned by a growing phalanx of Beltway opponents, the latest being Larry Ellison and Oracle. “There’s a set of people who are intrinsic oppositionists to everything Google does,” Mr. Schmidt acknowledges resignedly. “The first opponent will be Microsoft.”
Mr. Schmidt is familiar with the game—as chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems in the 1990s, he was a chief fomenter of the antitrust assault on Bill Gates & Co. Now that the tables are turned, he says, Google will persevere and prevail by doing what he says Microsoft failed to do—make sure its every move is “good for consumers” and “fair” to competitors.
We have a lot of the documents from this trial in Comes vs Microsoft. We also know that Microsoft threatened Sun with software patents. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer did it personally like Joe Pesci and Al Pacino playing mafia. █
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Summary: Gosling may have helped Sun gain bogus patents (violation of USPTO rules), the USPTO delegitimises itself with poor adherence to quality, and Acacia receives more money with which to further delegitimise the USPTO
THE GOOD thing about the Oracle lawsuit (which is generally very bad [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]) is that it motivates more people to end software patents right now.
The debate about software patents is hot again. Rui Seabra passes the message that “Merely asking #Oracle: “play nice” isn’t enough. We should demand abolition of their #swpats [software patents]”
Red Hat’s Richard Fontana says: “incidentally, whatever one thinks of #swpats, #disturbing if #Gosling knowingly signed off on bogus patent; see http://ur1.ca/16ox4 [§ 1.56 Duty to disclose information material to patentability. - Appendix R Patent Rules]”
Fontana is referring to joke patents [1, 2, 3], which continue to cause great controversy and stir up important debate.
Mike Masnick shows that “Patent Office [is] Back To Approving Pretty Much Anything”:
Of course, the unfortunate reality is that this won’t actually solve the backlog problem at all. You would think, with all the engineering/operations brains at the Patent Office, that they would understand that this will only make the backlog worse. Approving junk patents only makes it more lucrative to file ever more ridiculous patent applications, which only increases the backlog. In rushing through more patents, it only encourages a bigger and bigger backlog. In treating the symptoms, rather than the actual disease, we’re making the disease much, much worse.
Separately, Masnick shows that the court system (not the USPTO) rejects a controversial patent. The courtroom — unlike the USPTO — does not have special incentive in approving more and more patents.
Last fall we wrote about how a company named Ultramercial had sued Hulu, YouTube and WildTangent over patent 7,346,545 for requiring people to watch an ad before being able to access content. It resulted in an interesting discussion in our comments, where some patent system defenders insisted that the patent was perfectly legit. Unfortunately, the court disagrees with those folks. It has ruled that the patent is not valid (the ruling covers Hulu and WildTangent — YouTube was dismissed from the case). Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the court chose to use the “machine or transformation test” for judging the patent. While some have read the Bilski ruling to “reject” the “machine or transformation” test, that’s not quite true.
Simon Phipps responds to the Oracle lawsuit also by raising questions about OIN:
Software patents are broken and the only possible justification for having them is self-defence (which is itself a risky accumulation of armaments). Perhaps OIN and the Linux Foundation need to make membership conditional on members taking no first action against each other with software patents?
We criticised the OIN’s vulnerabilities long before other people did, even back in 2008. Additionally, we seemed to be among the first to suggest that Apple could have a role in Oracle’s action (we brought up the possibility hours after the announcement). We now find more articles noting the Jobs-Ellison connection and Apple booster Daniel Eran Dilger is adding to the FUD. We link just to comments on his article, not from his Apple choir, so for anyone who still thinks that Apple and its followers are not harmful to Linux, pay careful attention to this. It’s part of a pattern from this close friend of Apple. People like Denial should do more to tell their emperors at Apple to stop the patent greed, including the investment in the world’s biggest patent troll. When Apple threatened Palm with patents, Daniel of course defended Apple.
Speaking of the world’s biggest patent troll, Acacia too has just received a quarter of a billion dollars of investment money (in patent trolling). [hat tip: FFII]
Acacia Research Corp. in Newport Beach has established a fund to buy, license and enforce patents and other intellectual property.
The Acacia Intellectual Property Fund LP has received an initial $27 million from an unnamed institutional investment group. An Acacia subsidiary will be the fund’s general partner.
Acacia recently announced two separate settlements with IBM for undisclosed terms to license Acacia-owned patents for monitoring computer applications. One lawsuit was pending in federal court in Texas and the other in Nebraska.
Microsoft recently paid Acacia, which sued Linux (through Red Hat and Novell). █
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Photo from Oracle Corporate Communications
Summary: Good new find from SJVN and further explanation about comedy regarding software patents at Sun Microsystems
“IF an open source product gets good enough, we’ll simply take it,” said Oracle's CEO on one occasion. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (SJVN) has found another memorable quote that he mentions in relation to this article:
So why would Oracle, a Linux-supporter in its own right, introduce the evil of software patents into open-source programming? My answer: Because Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, thinks the company can profit from it.
You see there are two ways of looking at open source, as Eben Moglen, founder of the SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center), explained recently at LinuxCon. Moglen said, “The patent crisis is not going to go away. We’re now in a situation — after the Bilski decision — where clarity on the patent situation is not coming anytime soon.” And, “The patent system is built for secrecy and for trouble-making — it’s not a pro-innovation system.”
Because of this, Oracle decided to make hay while they could with its aging Sun Java patents. But, why did they choose this way? Well, Moglen answered that question as well even before anyone knew that Oracle was going to sue anyone.
Meanwhile we continue to gather more stories about the SUN/Java patents being part of a joke [1, 2]. Here is a new cartoon about those patent jokes and also a new article.
Sun engineers once ran an unofficial competition to see who could get the “goofiest” invention past the US patent office, according to former Sun man and Java founder James Gosling.
In suing Google over its use of Java on Android, Oracle is waving seven Sun patents, and one of them carries Gosling’s name. In a blog post sparked by the suit, Gosling says Sun didn’t pay patents much heed until the company was successfully sued by IBM for infringing on its so-called RISC patent. Then Sun went on a “patent binge”, and yes, this included some less-than-serious filings.
In later posts we are going to show that the Oracle case is technically weak [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. █
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Summary: By spilling coffee Oracle scares Solaris users, upsets the GNU/Linux community, and helps show what a joke (literally) software patents are
THE ORACLE lawsuit is clearly bad news [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12], but let’s find some positive things that can happen as a result of this ludicrously suicidal action.
Oracle is in many ways shooting itself in the foot. First of all, Oracle is harming Java — not helping it — by intimidating existing Java users (while claiming to fight for Java’s integrity). Secondly, Oracle pisses off many of the world’s developers, namely Free software developers (article from Katherine Noyes is an accumulation and Dana Blankenhorn takes it too far). Thirdly, by pissing off Java users and developers, in addition to betraying OpenSolaris, Oracle may only be pushing Solaris users right into GNU/Linux. To give a potential new example:
My opinion on OpenSolaris, Oracle and all open source Sun software
I will admit that this is most likely where I will end my use of Solaris, unless Oracle surprises the world and continues to maintain the type of quality that Sun brought to the operating system.
Regarding the claim about Java, this is where experts agree. Oracle is shooting its own foot, having bought a company whose stock symbol is JAVA (for no less than billions of dollars).
Oracle is suing Google over the use of Java in Android and that may change everything about Java and open-source development.
That’s one heck of a claim. Unfortunately, the experts agree.
Earlier today we wrote about the revelation that patents were somewhat of a joke inside Sun and elsewhere. It’s a hot news item at the moment. TechDirt writes:
Why The Oracle Java Patents Were Literally A Joke Played By Sun Engineers
While that patent that Gosling names isn’t included in this particular lawsuit, but others have noticed that one of the patents (RE38104) is a Gosling patent.
Of course, it’s easy to point out that the folks named on the patents are claiming themselves that the patents were part of a joke to see how bad the patent office is. But, you can take it to another level altogether, and have folks who actually know quite a bit about the technology go through the patents one by one and explain why each of them is a total joke.
This is yet another in an exceptionally long line of examples of what a complete mess our patent system has become. I’m curious if the patent system supporters out there can come up with some sort of way to defend the patent system in this particular situation.
Jan Wildeboer has this to say:
Oracle’s next target? Power switches
Yes. Remote power switches. James Goslin filed for a patent on remote power switches. And he/SUN got it. What originally was a joke, as the “inventor” explains here:
There was even an unofficial competition to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system. My entry wasn’t nearly the goofiest.
is now potentially a fortune for Oracle! If the play their cards right, millions and millions of infringing power switches must be destroyed!
As Groklaw has already found out and Pogson points out, Oracle made the same mistake as SCO, lending support to Android whilst also attacking it.
It appears as though the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing at Oracle. This is not unique to Oracle. Any organization of size will have this happen. I cut my left hand with a saw held by my right hand once and I am one.
It appears that the left hand, say the bosses and their legal advisors, were figuring out what to do about Android vis a vis Java, software patents and all that. It appears that the right hand, say the geeks in charge of certifying stuff for Java, certified Berkeley DB, JE, to run on Android…. Berkeley DB is a good database for smartphones because it is small and efficient. It has less overhead than some SQL databases.
This ought to weaken Oracle’s case, at least in the eyes of outside observers. █
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Photo by RightOnBrother
Summary: Leader of Sun’s open source programme is not at all positive about Oracle’s commitment to Free/libre software
THE ORACLE-GOOGLE case has gotten us increasingly distracted [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], but it’s an important issue. Simon Phipps‘ initial reaction was:
Hmm. Aren’t these both Linux Foundation members and OIN licensees? Fighting over open source technology in a Linux distro? Presumably this also indicates Oracle’s decision on Apache’s request for a TCK for Harmony.
Phipps was Sun’s key “Open Source” guy, so his opinion matters a great deal. He is calling for everyone to abolish software patents (again). “If you still think software patents are a spur to innovation, you’re not paying attention,” he wrote. More importantly, he goes on to show that Oracle is not serious about Free software, except as a control freak or a ‘consumer’ (exploiting without contributing much, pretty much like Apple). Oracle has grabbed MySQL and other such projects which relate to databases. In a 2006 interview Ellison made a revealing statement:
FT [Financial Times]: Is open source going to be disruptive to Oracle?
LE [Larry Ellison]: No. If an open source product gets good enough, we’ll simply take it. Take [the web server software] Apache: once Apache got better than our own web server, we threw it away and took Apache. So the great thing about open source is nobody owns it – a company like Oracle is free to take it for nothing, include it in our products and charge for support, and that’s what we’ll do. So it is not disruptive at all – you have to find places to add value. Once open source gets good enough, competing with it would be insane. Keep in mind it’s not that good in most places yet. We’re a big supporter of Linux. At some point we may embed Linux in all of our products and provide support.
Phipps also links to Carlo Daffara’s second insightful post about the subject:
I believe that the first one is the most probable one; Larry Ellison should know that cornering Google would not be sufficient to make them capitulate – they have too much to lose. But this will not be sufficient to create an opportunity for Oracle; I believe that the lawsuit will actually bring nothing to Oracle, and lots of advantages to Google. But only time will tell; the only thing that I can predict for sure right now is that Solaris will quickly fade from sight (as it will be unable to grow at the same rate of Linux) exactly like AIX and HP-UX: a mature and backroom tech, but nothing that you can base a growth strategy upon.
The FSF-backed swpat.org is already stepping in and Google promises to fight Oracle to defend Android/Dalvik. █
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Summary: An accumulation of news about Oracle’s software patents offence
SOFTWARE PATENTS are a good thing for those who are already dominant in one area of computing or those who make a living suing/defending companies.
Vivek Wadhwa, a co-author of software patents who recently protested against software patents [1, 2], claims that startups — not mega-corporations which love patents for obvious reasons — should be considered a priority. Oracle and Microsoft too get a mention. From the opening paragraph:
The big companies’ executives argued that abolishing patents would hurt their ability to innovate and thus hamper the nation’s economic growth. (They believe that companies like theirs create the majority of jobs and innovations, and they claim that without patents they cannot defend their innovations.) I am not convinced that software patents give Google any advantage over Microsoft and Yahoo, or make IBM’s databases any better than Oracle’s. But I do know one thing for sure: it isn’t the big companies that create the jobs or the revolutionary technology innovations: it is startups. So if we need to pick sides, I vote for the startups.
This leads us to the main story (still) in the technology press, namely the Oracle lawsuit [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Here is another cartoon about it; there’s nothing funny about the lawsuit. “In this case,” Asay told me, “it’s not what I’d like (I hate biz via lawyers), but I do think it’s Oracle’s purpose”
I have attempted to defend Asay’s position on this, but others disagree with me. Our participant FurnaceBoy was exceptionally dissatisfied with Matt Asay’s take on it, calling him rude names in the process. “This smells,” he wrote, “as expected from Asay. This article is FUD…”
“Well, cult of Mono has already overtaken Ubuntu Forums which is biggest meeting place, so prospects are bleak.”
–gnufreexAnother reader wrestled with the question about Google’s relationship with Canonical (a relationship Asay did not know about until quite recently when I told him about it). “[A]pparently google isn’t as important to them (or to Asay) now,” said one of our readers. “He’s a lawyer,” I explained to him, to which the response was: “that explains so much… complete cluelessness on technical terms… the crApple cultism stemming from it… lack of morals and ethics… resulting hatred of free software”
“He even recommends .NET like de Icaza,” wrote gnufreex. “Well, Canonical is pushing .net/mono,” responded to him that previous person and gnufreex wrote that “Oracle should sue Novell over Mono. It is same as Dalvik. It is incompatible with Java and competes with it. Well, cult of Mono has already overtaken Ubuntu Forums which is biggest meeting place, so prospects are bleak. That’s why I hope Oracle destroys Mono.” The full IRC logs contain the rest of this discussion.
FurnaceBoy then asked, ‘is anybody going to let Asay state unchallenged that Oracle-v-Google “might actually give Microsoft a chance in mobile, not to mention make .Net an even better alternative for Java developers, as Novell developer Miguel de Icaza postulates.”‘
“[T]his is disgusting,” said FurnaceBoy in response to sentences like “No one would casually borrow SAP’s proprietary software and expect to get away with it. In similar manner, no one should cavalierly take open-source code without inquiring into its provenance, ownership, etc.”
Asay’s opinions are his own, but as Canonical’s COO these can be seen as somewhat troubling. Shuttleworth, who understands engineering a little better due to his background, is a lot harsher on Oracle:
“This will complicate the relationships Oracle has with a very important audience, which is the broader open source community,” Shuttleworth said. “It will significantly undermine their efforts to establish many of their major products like Java, Solaris and Oracle Unbreakable Linux, and in due course, I’ll imagine that they’ll quietly wish they hadn’t taken this approach.”
“I certainly respect their right to take whatever approach they want to take with what they consider to be their property, but I cannot see any way in which this ultimately ends in a constructive outcome for them,” he added.
Compare that to Asay’s original post:
In this particular case, Google almost certainly took care to protect itself against IP infringement, which makes the lawsuit no easy slam-dunk for Oracle. But even an open-source luminary like Bruce Perens is quick to point out that Google’s replacement of Java ME’s Swing widget toolkit and AWT graphical user interface class in favor of its own GUI may have violated its license. This wasn’t a big deal when Sun was the owner because, as Gosling noted, lawsuits weren’t in Sun’s genetic DNA.
But Oracle, not Sun, now owns Java, and it has a very different genetic makeup. Hence, this lawsuit, while not a sign of Armageddon for open source, serves as a clear warning to Google and everyone else to take the same level of care when using open source as when using proprietary software.
We first learned about this post via “agentsmith”, who wrote: “What does Matt Asay want to tell us with this post http://bit.ly/drE3JD ? I’m puzzled… what’s his point? At least Glyn Moody, in a recent article, suggests to FORK everything. Mr.Asay leaves in the air.”
Pogson calls Oracle “Software-Patent Troll”:
Here is one person who thinks that the threat is exaggerated although Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer disagrees with him:
So what will be the outcome of the case? Baseless or not, Google hasn’t really (yet) clarified its stance and has only released a rather meek statement, expressing its disappointment at Oracle for attacking the open source Java community.
There’s also talk of this lawsuit killing Android. That’s just plain rubbish. If anything, Oracle wants Android to flourish. It would just heart it more if Android uses Java under Sun’s commercial license. And that’s what this lawsuit is about. License fees.
Leave the technical details for the engineers of the companies to fight over, in court. That is if this case ever escalates to that level.
One of the negative side effects of this whole action is that other Oracle projects lose some credence or legitimacy. OpenSolaris is already being made independent:
Illumos has garnered the support of some of the top minds in the industry; already the list of names of Solaris contributors and potential contributors that have already publicly committed to supporting this project is extensive. Many of the names are famous, people like Bryan Cantrill. Oracle’s actions and inaction have actually made this possible.
Brian writes about the Java situation and suggests making OpenOffice.org more independent too:
OpenOffice.org’s problem involves some history: when Sun ran the project, non-Sun developers often complained that Sun’s insistence copyright assignment discouraged external contributions, and that Sun’s (and now Oracle’s) tight control of the project inhibits developer initiative. So third-party developers already have a problem with Oracle, as more than one developer involved in OpenOffice.org has privately indicated to me in just the past few weeks.
Now, along comes Oracle with lawsuits and lock-downs that could adversely effect existing open source projects. Even if you can make an argument that right now, the OpenOffice.org community and project is doing just fine, just exactly how long would you expect this to be the case?
If I were an OpenOffice.org contributor, especially one not employed by Oracle, I would start to be very worried about the future of the project, at least until I heard Oracle publicly state what their plans were.
Novell’s Meeks has been trying to take control of OpenOffice.org and now he writes about copyrights in Java only to be heckled by Wildeboer who quotes Meeks as saying: “try not to fall in love [with a technology], if a single company owns, and controls it.”
Wildeboer evokes thoughts about the situation with Mono.
Gosling carries on commenting about the situation (“Quite the firestorm”) while prior art is being sought/collected to weaken Oracle’s case and help Java/Android.
Surprisingly enough, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (SJVN) has been doing a lot of scare-mongering about Java/Oracle/other, especially in Twitter. Dana Blankenhorn makes it more personal:
After pretending to kindness for many months, Larry Ellison has stepped up to be that villain. (I’m certain this costume would fit him nicely, just $799.95 from Buycostumes.com.)
Wayne Rash also makes it somewhat personal:
While Oracle’s love of domination hasn’t made the news so much lately, there is certainly a long history of the company’s activities in this area. James Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language, pointed out in his blog that Ellison is frequently referred to as, “Larry, the Prince of Darkness” or “LPOD”. Gosling also notes in his blog that the Oracle’s CEO’s approach to industry competition is best described by a saying attributed to Genghis Kahn that is a favorite of Ellison’s: “It’s not enough that we win, all others must lose.”
Ellison has had a long history of suing other companies, hostile takeovers, and harsh treatment of employees. Over the years he’s had a long line of respected senior executives quit because they simply can’t take his aggressive style and hostile culture.
Matthew Aslett from the 451 Group cites many items including Matt Asay’s and Susan Linton summarises too:
No one is really surprised. Oracle has always been a proprietary company. But Oracle’s actions of Friday the 13th come only days after offering up a keynote at LinuxCon. This hits after last year’s promises of no major changes in Sun’s open source community assets. Those hoping for a new soft and fuzzy Oracle are no doubt sorely disappointed. Experts have already stated Oracle could turn out to be more of threat to Linux and Open Source than either Microsoft or SCO ever was.
We’ll continue to watch this and especially to report FUD. █
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