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Software Patents Crisis

Summary: A look back at Professor Moglen's words about Java and last week's talk about software patents; a Microsoft-fueled agitator attacks Apple, Cisco and other Microsoft rivals using patents

TECHRIGHTS has covered software patents for several years, correctly foreseeing them as a major barrier to Free software adoption. A few days ago in LinuxCon Eben Moglen made the case for abolishing software patents, but there were signs of defeatism in his transcripts (no signs of video/audio yet). Moglen did not know at the time that Java too was about to be slapped by Oracle. Here is what he said about Java several years ago.



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Here is one last bit of overage which we found about Moglen's talk (there are more in the previous post).

Eben Moglen, director-counsel and chairman at the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), has long stood at the forefront of the free software revolution. At LinuxCon this week, Moglen delivered a keynote address in which he lauded the movement's many successes, ending with the capacity crowd giving him a standing ovation.

"At the beginning of this conspiracy of ours, we wanted to make it happen that freedom would go inside of everything, and then we could turn it on," Moglen said. "We are making freedom useful to people."


Based on this news, another patent troll/parasite which Microsoft paid to settle is attacking rivals of Microsoft (see background on VirnetX [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] and compare to Eolas [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] or Uniloc [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], which did exactly the same thing):

After being awarded $200m in a patent-infringement case that it brought against Microsoft, VirnetX has now gone after Apple, Cisco Systems, and others.

In a brief statement announcing the lawsuit, VirnetX accused Apple, Cisco, NEC, and the self-described "leading global enterprise communications provider" Aastra of violating five of its patents, each related to a greater or lesser extent to VPN.


We have come across comments on these cases (e.g. VirnetX, Eolas, Uniloc) which say Microsoft paid them to essentially attack Microsoft rivals (we don't subscribe to this theory though). Groklaw opines that Microsoft paid Acacia by settling a dispute just as SCO was paid directly by Microsoft (for UNIX). Here is Groklaw's latest take on SCO:

SCO Group's Chapter 11 Trustee, Edward Cahn, has now filed the monthly operating reports for June, as well as bills for Ocean Park Advisors for June and July. And take note: there's no hearing in bankruptcy court on Monday. Once again, it's called off.


The new SCO in town seems to be Oracle and we have just prepared some graphics for it (click to zoom, feel free to share):

SCOracle logo

Here is some more coverage about that case, which we wrote about four times yesterday [1, 2, 3, 4].



The patent system is seriously messed up, as this new post from TechDirt helps show:

Bas Grasmayer points us to the claim that the Austrian town of Frauenkirchen has apparently tried to patent the fact that it represents the geographical midpoint of Europe...


Patenting must have boundaries. Otherwise there's a crisis. And that's what we have right now.

“Oracle Corporation opposes the patentability of software. The Company believes that existing copyright law and available trade secret protections, as opposed to patent law, are better suited to protecting computer software developments.”

--Oracle Corporation (years ago)



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