Bonum Certa Men Certa

On Matters of Patents, Google Less of a Problem Than Microsoft, Apple

GNU Google



Summary: Google has no history of patent aggression and hoarding (unlike IBM), it mostly falls prey to patent attacks, and it actively spreads Linux; thus, it should also help abolish software patents

A FEW MONTHS ago we wrote many posts about WebM, e.g. [1, 2, 3]. VP8 is important not just because of source code but also issues relating to software patents. As Wayne put it yesterday:



Some of the titles of articles about WebM have been hilarious. CNNTech has an article titled ‘Patent cloud looms over Google Web video plan‘ by Stephen Shankland. While the title is wildly inaccurate, the article is actually well balanced. But it does miss a couple of points. First, WebM is at present a software solution, and in over 90% of the world you cannot patent software. The only place the article might be topical is the United States – note that I said might. The Supreme Court of the United States is due to hand down a ruling in ‘Bilski” which could possibly wipe out software patents in the United States as well. If so, the so-called patent cloud becomes clean air. Of course the group, MPEG.LA, which is claiming that there are patent issues with WebM (previously known as VP8), has acted as a patent troll over H.264, which is why that codec hasn’t been more widely adopted. Like Microsoft and The SCO Group, they are prone to extravagant claims, and a total lack of proof.


It wasn't long ago that the patent troll who runs MPEG-LA also attacked Ogg with FUD, helped by his friends from Apple. As Wayne argues quite correctly, these formats are "prone to extravagant claims" just like in the SCO case where it's suspected that a case against Google could be made next. Groklaw wrote yesterday:

Darl's purchase of the [SCO] mobility assets was all done pretty much in the dark. We, the public were told one thing in advance, but something else after the fact. But now we get to see the final agreement.

Darl and Me Inc Holdings LLC, Darl's LLC, got not only the copyrights but a patent application as well, including rights to sue for any past infringement. The patent is entitled "Systems and Methods for Providing Distributed Applications and Services for Intelligent Mobile Devices," and the application was filed in 2006, #11/533347. We were told in advance of the sale that this patent application was excluded, but then he got it anyway.

What was SCO thinking, I was asking myself as I read the agreement? I could just see it: "Darl sues Google's Android". Why not? Everyone else and his dog is. Of course there's some prior art on that method of making fast, easy money. Seriously, though, if you check the transaction history for this patent application with the USPTO's PAIR system, what you learn is fascinatingly funny.


Oracle has of course already attacked Google and Paul Allen is attacking everybody with a semi-endorsement from Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak (we covered this before). Let's remember that Apple too is suing Android. Sooner or later it becomes apparent that Google is attacked from many directions and Oracle is rather close to Apple (inter-personal-wise [1, 2, 3]).

Watch Microsoft getting ridiculed for patenting shutdown [1, 2]. We covered this before, but one blogger explains why it's a bad thing to patent anyway. [via TechDirt, which also remarks on the latest patent marking issue]

As the Linux in Exile post said, the Windows Update process holds the computer hostage during shutdown, and given the relatively high frequency of updates that need to be installed at shutdown, this is a major contributor to long shutdown times (especially considering that there are a lot of Microsoft Windows users who do not have access to broadband). Well, there you have it: Microsoft's long shutdown times demystified. You know what? Let them have the patent. Why would anyone else want to license such a long and complicated shutdown procedure anyway?


Let's remember that Microsoft taxes a lot of Android using mythical software patents.

Google ought to work against software patents. The company suffers a great deal from these. For the time being, Google never attacks using any patents whatsoever; Apple and Mirosoft, on the other hand, both use software patents offensively, even against Linux. What has Google gained from patents so far?

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