03.08.10

Patents Roundup: TiVo Wins, VirnetX vs Microsoft Decision Imminent, Patent Rackets Thrive

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 9:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

TiVo

Summary: Dish Network Corp. and TiVo; VirnetX and Microsoft; Todd Bishop and Eric Engleman on RPX et al; Katherine Noyes on Microsoft and Amazon

TiVo Shares Surge on Court Ruling (see the report from AP and recall Microsoft vs TiVo)

A federal appeals court Thursday handed a key legal victory to TiVo Inc. in a long-running patent dispute with Dish Network Corp., sending shares of the maker of digital video recorders surging 62%.

TiVo said the court ruling clears the way for it to collect about $300 million from satellite-television provider Dish and sister company EchoStar Corp.

VirnetX stock soars as Microsoft patent trial nears (here is the press release)

On the surface, it sounds just like any patent-infringement claim against Microsoft: A relatively small technology company files a lawsuit in a plaintiff-friendly court and alleges a giant corporation has violated its patents for years.

Microsoft headed back to East Texas to fight another patent infringement case (more on VirnetX in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5])

On March 8, Microsoft will be back in U.S. District Court in East Texas to defend itself against another patent-infringement case.

The new case is being brought by real-time communications vendor VirnetX Inc. and involves three VirnetX patents which that company claims Microsoft is using improperly in Windows XP, Vista and Windows Server, among other products.

IP unites, divides tech companies

“There’s more awareness of patents as an asset class,” said John Amster, a former executive at Intellectual Ventures who now heads up RPX, a San Francisco-based firm that buys up patents on behalf of technology firms. “Companies are understanding the value of patent aggregation.”

Some of the most recent developments:

• A broad patent cross-licensing agreement announced between Microsoft and Amazon on Feb. 22 gives the companies new opportunities to collaborate while promising to keep them out of the courtroom, even as they increasingly find themselves in competition.

• A licensing pact between Bellevue-based patent firm Intellectual Ventures and Verizon gave the wireless giant extra ammunition in a dispute with TiVo.

• Apple this week sued smart-phone maker HTC Corp., which makes devices for Google and Microsoft, alleging that it violated Apple’s patents on technologies behind its popular iPhone.

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime (links to this fine example)

I can’t help but suspect that there is some major hypocrisy at work here in how copyright law is selectively applied in order to benefit special interests at the expensive of incentives for maximizing the creation and distribution of new works. (And please spare me the ‘fair use’ argument. I would completely agree that this should be considered fair use. But if it is, then one must concede that fair use should be applied by the courts far more generously that it currently is – so much so that it would effectively altogether omit the copyright protections which currently prevent the creations of ‘derivative works’.)

The Echo of TomToms in the Amazon Deal (more on this in [1, 2, 3, 4])

Why would Amazon want to cozy up with Microsoft on a patent cross-licensing deal? “Amazon isn’t the kind of company you can push around with the threat of lawsuits everybody knows you can’t win,” noted Slashdot blogger Mhall119. “It’s entirely possible that they have agreed to be interoperable with each other in order to ensure their unobstructed existence in the reader market,” said Slashdot blogger Eldavojohn.

[...]

Then again, “So long Amazon, it was nice knowing you,” chimed in Richy_T.

[...]

Still, “Microsoft has never successfully proven any patent infringement against Linux,” noted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

Will Microsoft Hold Android Hostage?

Right now, we’re all worrying about Apple’s patent claims against HTC, but Android may face a similar attack from Microsoft.

It’s not terribly well known that Microsoft claims that it owns significant intellectual property used in Linux, the operating system at the heart of Android. Starting in 2006, Microsoft began reaching licensing deals with a number of companies that use the open source OS, among them Novell, I-O Data, Samsung, LG Electronics and most recently, Amazon.

SCO’s Latest Cash Infusion and Urgent Call for Volunteers to Attend Trial Today (Utah)

Posted in Courtroom, Microsoft, SCO at 7:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Groklaw needs volunteers urgently, Yarro deal is now approved

Groklaw needs volunteers later on today (US citizens near the trial). “We need a volunteer to cover the first day of trial,” writes Pamela Jones. “Our volunteer has the flu, so it’s a crisis. This will be the day they pick the jury and possibly also do the opening statements, about the most important day of the week.” It starts in about an hour.

For those who do not follow the SCO case using sites like Lamlaw and Groklaw, the gist of the latest Novell versus SCO motions is that Yarro, a former SCO executive, [1, 2, 3], is making a deal with SCO. This is terrible and Pogson is rightly outraged.

The loan agreement from Yarrow and a few others includes provisions that if the debtor, SCOG, defaults, the group of insiders gets all the assets and walk away, subverting justice entirely. Why would two judges agree to let insiders in a bankruptcy have preference over creditors? That might be reasonable if the litigation has any chance of success but it has not. The copyright legislation is very clear. There must be an explicit transfer of copyright. Even if SCOG owned the copyrights, IBM has proven that they did not violate them, being the original authours of the code they contributed to Linux. So the outcome of this if let stand is that the insiders get to terrorize businesses that use GNU/Linux for years more until the dust settles. Even the death of SCOG will not stop this. Only the US Supreme Court can, in a year or two. Novell has appealed the Tenth Circuit result. There is a 200 page copy of a document purporting to be their request for certiorari on the web. We should have confirmation soon. The deadline for application has passed. I am hopeful that the SCOTUS will see the undermining of copyright law as sufficiently urgent to put this matter to rest ASAP.

Also in Groklaw over the weekend:

More filings in Novell

Novell Never Mentioned UnixWare in its press releases in 2003

March 5 Bankruptcy Hearing Report – Updated

12:28 – Ms. Burton, attorney for Mr. Yarro, spoke up by phone and assured the court that that the LLC is in existence under Utah Law

SCO does not want to die and neither does Microsoft. The SCO case has probably helped Microsoft gain billions of dollars so far (at the expense of GNU/Linux), so let’s get it done and over it. SCO’s trial was partly funded by Microsoft and it’s rather slanderous. Go speak to Pamela if you can help by attending the trial (she has detailed instructions).

Army drill versus Groklaw

What Would Happen to “Boycott Novell” If Novell Was Sold in Pieces

Posted in Boycott Novell, GNU/Linux, Linspire, Mandriva, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Site News, Turbolinux, Ubuntu, Xandros at 7:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A little interlude about where the site is going and why it needs help from readers

There is some discussion in the IRC channel about what may happen to Novell next. We are still producing almost 1 megabyte of IRC discussion per day (usually about 600 kilobytes on average), which makes up about 95% of feedback from readers (Boycott Novell is approaching an audience of 10,000 unique visitors per day, but commenting requires an account).

We thought it would be reasonable to say something about the future now that Novell is at a mortal crossroad because of a vulture fund that had a coup planned for 3-4 months [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. We append some more references at the bottom.

“If Novell was bought and dismantled, this Web site’s name would remain for all all sorts of practical/technical reasons and considerations.”Four GNU/Linux vendors (as opposed to users of it, mostly those who embed it in hardware) signed a Linux patent deal with Microsoft in 2006-2007. The GPLv3 may have stopped this flood of feeble vendors which ended up joining the racket. Linspire got picked up by Xandros, which appears to have almost quit the GNU/Linux market, Turbolinux sort of collapsed onto another firm in Asia, and Novell is now the last one standing. This is major as it means that almost all the companies we boycotted are dying, as opposed to those who kept it ‘clean’ (notably Mandriva, Canonical, and Red Hat). This just comes to show what happens to those who foolishly take Microsoft’s side.

The main issues are still the digital hydras known as Apple and Microsoft, both of which are now legally attacking GNU/Linux with software patents (Apple versus HTC [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], Microsoft versus TomTom, SCO versus IBM, et cetera).

If Novell was bought and dismantled, this Web site’s name would remain for all all sorts of practical/technical reasons and considerations.

We will try to focus on delivering news summaries on a daily basis (these are the most popular items here) and also address threats to Free software. With a Ph.D. completed, I hope to write Boycott Novell full time (sacrificing an academic career to advance the freedom of software), but it would not be possible without help from readers. We estimate that there are many thousands of regular readers who have enjoyed this site for over 3 years (almost 10,000 blog posts were published here), so if each reader was willing to donate a few bucks/quid, that would enable us to carry on going. At the same time, we realise that such moves rarely work as they do not bring in funds, so we are left reluctant to ask for financial assistance (even though it’s needed). Any advice would be appreciated.
____
[1] How Much Will Novell Go For? [The 451 Group reckons Novell's sale is inevitable]

As bargains go, Novell’s (NOVL) valuation in the recently floated bid from a hedge fund is a bit like a ‘crazy Eddie’ discount. Earlier this week, Elliott Associates offered $5.75 for each of the roughly 350,000 shares for Novell. Altogether, the equity value totals about $2bn.

[2] Will Novell Finally Be Acquired? [from the 'Microsoft press']

[3] Novell Gets $2 Billion Takeover Offer From Elliott

Whether they’re interested in breaking Novell into pieces or simply after Novell’s patent portfolio or intellectual property remains to be seen at this point. Either way I don’t see the acquisition being good for Novell or Open Source though. Which brings the next question. Is another suitor likely to jump in at this point. the Var Guy lists IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Computer Associates as potential options. I’d add Cisco as another potential Dark Horse candidate, but agree that IBM and HP are exceedingly unlikely. The realty is that Novell is going to be difficult to digest from a strategic standpoint. They have at least four divergent businesses and Linux only makes up about 20% of the company’s revenue. That means a private-equity firm taking the company private and restructuring may be the most viable option at this point.

[4] BBC America: Palast Hunts the Vultures [hedge funds are so unethical that some consider banning them]

Some vultures have feathers, but some have fancy offices and huge homes. Tonight, BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast follows the trail of one “vulture fund” chief, from a locked office door in New York to mud-brick houses in Africa.

How strange. When I arrive at the offices of Eric Hermann at hedge fund FH International, just outside New York City, the company’s corporate sign is unbolted from the wall and the suite number removed from the door.

But wait … I hear noises inside the office. Huh? I knock on the locked door and out steps the office building’s security manager.

Moonlight Disappoints

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Servers, Ubuntu at 6:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Olympic ski jump facility, Calgary
Olympic ski jump facility, Calgary

Summary: Fresh complaints about Moonlight and about Mono

MOST of our posts about the Olympic games have been about what Microsoft did to them using Silver Lie [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], with few exceptions. Moonlight was rarely allowing GNU/Linux to gain access to the content because it was not intended to; Moonlight is about selling the illusion of cross-platform for Silver Lie. It’s also a software patents liability.

ZDNet Australia has just published this rant:

Moonlight’s Olympic-sized failure

[...]

As history shows, Microsoft only produces the Silverlight runtime for Windows and OS X, leaving Linux support to Novell’s Mono project, which produces Moonlight. Mono developers argue that Mono is not chasing tail lights, but in the case of Moonlight it very clearly is.

The Olympics player made use of Silverlight 3.0, which was available from mid-2009. Moonlight on the other hand is only stable up to Silverlight 2 (first released in late 2008) and only offers Silverlight 3 support as a 3.0 preview release.

[...]

There were other such failures throughout the site that resulted in an overall very frustrating experience and not one to recommend at all. In comparison, watching the opening and closing ceremonies in HD on an iMac was far better than watching it via the analog TV option.

With all these problems, it is clear that Moonlight is not up to scratch; thank goodness Flash videos have less Linux issues and HTML5 video is (hopefully) coming. For a company that has $991 million in cash (PDF), I’d have hoped that Novell would back Moonlight to have it ready in time for the Olympics showcase, but alas.

This is just another important reminder of the fact that Moonlight is not much of a blessing. In another new Australian article about Canonical’s dependence on Yahoo! [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], there is an ending that mentions Mono.

But there is a little more of Mono in this release, with a third application, a game called gbrainy being dependent on the clone of Microsoft technology.

Earlier releases had the two applications F-Spot and Tomboy which were dependent on Mono. This trend seems to be growing.

We’ve covered gbrainy in [1, 2].

Microsoft Kills Windows Essential Business Server Due to Low Demand

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Marketing, Microsoft, Servers, Vista, Vista 7, Windows at 5:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Long live GNU/Linux!

Download Feature Pack 1 for Windows Essential Business Server 2008

Summary: Another Microsoft product bites the dust (leaving room for GNU/Linux) and Microsoft resorts to hype offensives

Add Windows Essential Business Server to the list of dead products from Microsoft. There is no sufficient demand for it, so Microsoft is killing it.

Microsoft launched EBS in November 2008 in part to give VARs a product to sell to customers whose needs exceeded the 75-user limit of Small Business Server, and potentially attract new midmarket customers. With support for up to 300 users, EBS filled a gap that had existed in Microsoft’s SMB product portfolio, but EBS apparently wasn’t seeing a satisfactory level of uptake.

Scott Fulton explains why people predicted this correctly.

It was a solid idea. But today it was left to EBS’ own product managers to announce on their team blog this morning that Microsoft has made a decision to cancel the product. The excuse they gave was especially disheartening, as it essentially caved in to the arguments naysayers used against EBS’ viability from the beginning.

The truth is simple:

Microsoft will discontinue future development of Windows Essential Business Server (EBS), effective June 30th, 2010.

Microsoft has a way of spinning it:

Microsoft will halt development of its mid-market oriented Windows Essential Business Server software bundle, as the company bets on “cloud computing” rather than lump licensing to woo penny-pinching IT markets.

When asked some further questions (outside the ‘spin zone’), Microsoft’s response was this:

Microsoft officials declined to comment further.

They would not speak to the press, not even IDG News Service. Since the early days of Microsoft, they have had this silence policy imposed at the behest of the PR people (source: Barbarians Led by Bill Gates, a book composed by the daughter of Microsoft’s PR mogul). In any event, here is some more coverage of it [1, 2] and more spin from Ina the booster, Mary Jo Foley, the 'Microsoft press' which covered it too gently, and Microsoft Nick with his weak, one-sided ‘reporting’ at eWEEK (it should be called “eWEAK”). They mostly play along with Microsoft’s PR message, which spins this failure as an evolving strategy. They should challenge Microsoft’s spin, not simply parrot it, which would make them participants in the PR machinery.

There was another article a few days ago about more products that Microsoft discontinues.

Microsoft announced two dates recently that Windows users should heed.

On April 13, Microsoft will no longer support Windows Vista that has no service packs installed.

Second and more importantly, on July 13, support will end for all versions of Windows 2000 and all version of Windows XP with Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2.

End of support means that Microsoft will no longer give phone and e-mail technical support and will no longer fix bugs and issue security patches.

Microsoft has some real problems these days, also financially [1, 2, 3, 4] (real numbers carry on declining). This past week, not a single headline about Vista appeared in the news, just some marketing lies for Vista 7 (fake figures of “sales”, just like Microsoft did for Vista, courtesy of Microsoft’s PR efforts). It’s a simple case of fake numbers and misclassification for hype (unused licences and XP counting as “sales” of Vista 7), but Microsoft is trying to create the false impression that many people already accept the newer version of the same old operating system. There is also the “R&D” lie from Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4], where the company basically categorises too many activities as “R&D” and then sells this illusion that it advances science. In any event, Microsoft (MSFT) suffered a decline last week because it admitted that its financial results wouldn’t quite meet expectations, not even in the next quarter.

U.S. stocks pared gains and the Dow Jones Industrial Average retreated as Microsoft Corp. slid after predicting higher operating expenses, triggering a decline in technology companies. Intel Corp. lost 1.3 percent.

In order to reduce those expenses, Microsoft has been killing many products and even divisions that were losing money. Microsoft is still shrinking and it only ever expands in countries where labour is inexpensive and working conditions utterly poor.

“If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

Bill Gates, Microsoft

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