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Patents Roundup: Linux, Acacia, Microsoft, Samsung and More

Linux



IN some of our previous roundups we looked at Red Hat and Acacia [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], whose patent case is reappearing because Red Hat looks for prior art. Someone who goes by the alias "stickster" put it in OSNews and Slashdot:



Didn't Groklaw garner about 500 comments at the time (towards the end of 2007), some of which suggesting that there was prior art? Readers provided examples. Here is some coverage from around that time [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] and here is Acacia's very latest extortion, which it brags about to its investors.

Acacia Subsidiary Enters into Settlement and License Agreement with NetScout



EWPORT BEACH, Calif., Feb 17, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) ----Acacia Research Corporation (Nasdaq: ACTG) announced today that its Diagnostic Systems Corporation subsidiary has entered into a settlement and license agreement with NetScout Systems, Inc. covering a portfolio of patents that apply to rule-based monitoring.


"Enters into Settlement" is an understatement. Those who invest in such a company, which only ever does what's akin to racketeering with stuff it buys solely for this purpose, should be ashamed of themselves. This is very different from being a company that actually develops a technology or owns its creation, thus making these patents self-derived, e.g. (from the news):

1. CyberLink signs License Agreement for Macrovision’s IPG Patents and TV Guide Data Solutions to Enhance TV on the PC Experience

innovative solutions provider for the connected media lifestyle, announced today that it has entered into an agreement to license Macrovision’s interactive program guide patent portfolio and its TV Guide Data Solutions for use with CyberLink’s TVEnhance and PowerCinema software.


So TV guides are patentable now?

2. IDTELi Announces Agreement with Piedmont Credit Union of Danville VA

IDTELi LLC is an authorized distributor of the GUARDED ID€® keystroke encryption software to the financial services industries


That would be keystroke encryption. Patentable? Well, at least they own it.

What's with this mentality of Acacia then? When will it actually develop something? Or patent something rather than just acquire and coerce?

Need it be said that there is overlap -- in terms of staff's background -- between Microsoft and Acacia? Well, they think alike and Microsoft is investing in even bigger 'Acacias'.

Microsoft



Microsoft is a classic hypocrite when it comes to patents. It lies with 'honesty' about the need for patents while pretending that dissenters are worthy of labels like "communist". One person reposts a classic old article from Richard Stallman who rebuts this perception.

Today's Microsoft is a megacorporation with thousands of patents. Microsoft said in court that the main competition for MS Windows is "Linux," meaning the free software GNU/Linux operating system. Leaked internal documents say that Microsoft aims to use software patents to stop the development of GNU/Linux.

[...]

Mr. Gates' secret is out now - he too was a "communist;" he, too, recognized that software patents were harmful - until Microsoft became one of these giants.


A survey of the company's patenting carries on in Patently-O. It's part of a series.

However, only about 20% of patents that discuss Microsoft are actually assigned to the company.


In reference to the Brother patent deal (involving Linux), Matt Asay adds that Microsoft intends to force IP into IT talk. He should say "patents" really, not "IP".

Microsoft convinced Brother recently to license its patents so that Brother can run Linux drivers in some of its devices. Did you catch the oddity in there? Microsoft doesn't make drivers, Linux-based or otherwise. What intellectual property of Microsoft's did Brother need to license?

Only Microsoft knows, and it's not telling, despite repeated requests for Microsoft to open up on the patents it alleges that Linux violates. It's fine for Gutierrez to claim that intellectual property is the foundation for competition and cooperation, but when Microsoft is only willing to cooperate behind closed doors, it smacks of extortion, not partnership.


That last sentence is key. For prior information about the Brother deal:

  1. Microsoft Distorts the Linux and Virtualisation Markets
  2. Boycott Brother Industries
  3. Microsoft: Deal with Brother Similar to Novell's
  4. Patents Roundup: Apple, Microsoft Trolls, and Linux


Speaking of extortion, although it's not directly related to patents, here is an interesting new report.

According to Dilger, Microsoft has orchestrated a behind-the-scenes attack on Android, using its considerable leverage with manufacturers up and down the supply chain to discourage them from promoting Android devices too enthusiastically.


The article above refers to the essay titled "Did Microsoft kill Android at Mobile World Congress 2009?"

Android is clearly a threat to Microsoft’s plans for Windows Mobile. After all, how does one sell an aging mobile operating system lacking the multitouch sizzle of the iPhone and the addictive messaging savvy of the BlackBerry in a world where Google is butting in with a free, open source alternative that allows manufactures to freely customize it as they like?


We don't fully agree with Roughly Drafted because many Linux-related announcements -- Android included -- were made at the event (we assembled them among our daily links in Boycott Novell). But there are other things to ponder.

Does Samsung Pay Microsoft for Android?



And what about LG?

Samsung, like a few other companies including Linux phone maker LG, compromised Linux when it signed a patent deal with Microsoft. It was quite similar but not identical to the Brother deal. The news this week says that Samsung is to unleash 3 Android (Linux) phones.

Reuters reports that Won-Pyo Hong, Samsung’s head of product strategy, confirmed at least three Android smartphones and at least a Linux one, which will all be outed by the end of 2009.


This is also covered here

Samsung's Android Linux Handsets Coming Soon



[...]

Those who thought Samsung was on a mobile phone spewing spree so far at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), here's more news for you.


Since Samsung pays Microsoft for Linux, what does this mean to Android/Google? Google recently paid Microsoft for patents on a technology, so it's worth exploring or at least watching more closely. Speaking of Samsung, also in the news we find that this company, which is corrupt, has resorted to an embargo strategy against Bill Gates' latest darling (Kodak).

Samsung asks U.S. panel to ban Kodak camera imports



Samsung Electronics Co Ltd [...] asked a U.S. trade panel to block imports of Eastman Kodak Co's digital cameras [...] alleging mobile phones and other wireless devices by Samsung and home rival LG Electronics Inc infringed on patented Kodak technology [...]


How does this promote consumers' needs?

EU Propaganda Watch



One of our readers turned our attention to this new video of the event where, as we noted a few days ago, a Microsoft employee was among people in the panel. It's a pro-patents forum and the guy in the video says that "whoever speaks against it speaks against Europe." There is a lot of cronyism -- some from Microsoft -- inside Europe, comprising maximalisms of centralised (as in personal) wealth and monopolies. They have hired guns. Here is the latest examples where one of Microsoft's paid shills, Jonathan Zuck [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], is used to further the agenda of illegalising Free software.

The existing intellectual protection (IP) system - under which companies have to file a patent in every EU member state - is "a telling example” of the Union's fractured regulatory framework, argues the study presented at an IP Summit in Brussels.

To bypass the EU regulatory framework, many innovative companies and especially SMEs end up skipping the European market by applying for a patent in the US. Jonathan Zuck of the Association for Competitive Technology said: "For the EU to even consider catching up with the US and Japan, a single IP-protection must be put in place."


USPTO Broken



In light of all this chaos, some people call for the dumping of Intellectual Monopolies, altogether. [via Digital Majority]

Time to rethink intellectual property laws?



[...]

Conversely, there is widespread anecdotal evidence that the act created a mind-set among many researchers that their knowledge represents a potential goldmine not to be shared with potential competitors (i.e. those working in other universities) - at least until it has been protected by a patent application.

Similarly, the act has led to a flood of “upstream” patents on basic scientific knowledge, leading to what some commentators describe as a virtually impenetrable “patent thicket” blocking small-scale inventors from marketing their products. For example, restrictive software patents limit further development and commercialisation in the field of information technology.


TechDirt shares a couple more embarrassments for this existing system:

1. Nokia, Qualcomm Move Forward With Non-Patent-Fight-Based Relationship

Qualcomm and Nokia have been involved in a long-running series of patent disputes over chips in mobile phones. The two companies settled the bulk of their disputes last summer, with Nokia throwing a chunk of change at Qualcomm and the two making nice.


2. Patent Hoarding Firms Discover The ITC Loophole

We've been discussing the ITC loophole, that allows patent holders to get two cracks at charging a company with infringement over the same patent (using different rules) for a while now. Patent holders can sue in court and they can complain to the International Trade Commission, which has the power to issue an injunction, barring the import of any "infringing" products. Even worse, the ITC doesn't necessarily need to follow the rules set forth by the Supreme Court over what is and what is not infringing.


So Much 'Innovation'



Looking at the past few days' news, we truly find a lot of evidence of the glaring problem, so hereby we present some exemplary stuff to be used as 'ammunition' against the status quo.

Here is a company that 'innovates' noise cancellation and another which 'innovates' mapping barcode to a URL (patent here). Delta is sued by a company that 'innovated' Wi-Fi on a plane (for background see this).

Theft protection too was 'innovated' (not 'stolen', to be a tad sarcastic), with details of the embarrassment for the USPTO right there.

Here is another patent hoarder in action:

General Patent Corporation (GPC), a leading patent licensing and patent enforcement firm, announced today on behalf of its client, Renhcol, Inc., that four additional licensing agreements for the “Web-Based Prediction Marketplace” Patent have been finalized as a result of settlements in a patent infringement lawsuits with patent infringement lawsuits with Pregame, LLC (Las Vegas, NV), 1402487 Ontario Limited (Toronto, ON), IGC Entertainment Corporation (Vancouver, BC) and National Sports Services (IGC), Inc. (Las Vegas, NV)"


"A leading patent licensing and patent enforcement firm," it calls itself. Nice name for an extortion firm. Look at the actual patent. This is ridiculous.

There are other bizarre picks from the news, e.g.:



When will this end? Or rather, when will the USPTO be ended? With stuff like this abound, it's only reasonable to demand that it's reformed or shut down. This current, dysfunctional USPTO does not promote any innovation at all. It's a marketplace so ripe for abuse where both patent examiners and the abusers make a lot of money, not to mention all which is gained by lawyers.

Some of the big advocates of this state of affairs are lawyers, monopolists, and patent trolls, none of whom are scientists or engineers. They are mooching off other people's hard labour and brains.

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