05.17.10

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Bad Apple, Part II: Apple Carries on Armament With Software Patents, Harms Firefox

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Patents at 5:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fennek

Summary: As Apple’s fight against Linux continues, new lawsuits against Apple arrive, new patents are granted, and Theora is affected too (Mozilla employees who uses Macs ought to rethink their choice of relationships)

IN THE mobile industry, everyone is suing everyone else these days (Fennec is potentially affected). As we mentioned the other day, Wired highlights this serious issue because there are no winners here except the lawyers. It makes no sense. Apple is among the aggressors, not the defenders. Nokia is the same and its case against Apple we have already covered in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10].

In the previous post we showed that Apple not only sues Linux using software patents; Trademarks seem likely to have been used too.

There are some articles out there which describe HTC’s counter action against Apple as offensive. The Inquirer‘s headline says “HTC sues Apple again” (not again, that’s for sure). HTC is not the aggressor, but a lot of the mainstream press — MSBBC included — paints it that way. In the following video, the people in the studio get it wrong, but the lady whom they speak to corrects them.

Please someone explain how casio linux Qt-based pdas 12 years ago with touch screens did not infringe patents but todays Qt-based Nokias and Andriod Nexus does?

We criticised this poor type of coverage some days ago. Here is some better coverage and a list of software patents used by HTC:

* Patent #6,999,800 – Method for power management of a smartphone
* Patent #5,541,988 – Telephone dialer with a personalized page organization of telephone directory memory
* Patent #6,058,183 (PDF) – Telephone dialer with a personalized page organization of telephone directory memory
* Patent #6,320,957 – Telephone dialer with easy access memory
* Patent #7,716,505 (PDF) – Power control methods for a portable electronic device

It is interesting to see HTC filing for US patents on software. It’s distributing Linux, isn’t it? Well so does IBM and so does Novell. More software patents from Apple continue to be pursued:

Apple patent filing portends Google ad war

Apple has filed a patent to enable info and apps to be automagically loaded onto your iPhone/Pod/Pad based on your location – but exactly how it would affect location-based ads remains fuzzy.

The patent application, “Location Specific Content”, was published by the US Patent and Trademark office this Thursday, after originally being filed in November of 2008.

Another interesting one says: “Ad company Virtual Iris riding the HTML5 wave”

As the web format battle between HTML5 and Adobe’s Flash heats up, the creators of an ad-building tool called Virtual Iris say they can deliver the rich media experience of Flash in HTML.

Much of the interest in HTML5, which is the latest update of the basic format of the web, has been fueled by Apple, which doesn’t support Flash on the iPhone and the iPad (leading to back-and-forth insults between Apple and Flash-maker Adobe). Apple has also announced an ad-building service called iAd, which will feature HTML5 video. Not wanting to be left off by Apple’s devices, startups like Scribd have abandoned Flash for HTML5, and ad-building startup Sprout, which was initially all about Flash, now supports both formats.

Apple uses these offensively and it also fights against Theora — a move that in turn harms GNU/Linux and Mozilla for reasons that we mentioned in:

“The Firefox project has opted to exclude certain features due to software patents,” posts the FFII’s president who points to this new article.

Wild Fox: Firefox Fork with H.264 Support

[...]

Mozilla, sticking to its ideals of the open web, decided long ago that support for the patent-encumbered H264 codec would not be included in any of its products. Not only is H264 wholly incompatible with the open web and Free software, it is also incredibly expensive. Mozilla could use one of the open source implementations, but those are not licensed, and the MPEG-LA has been quite clear in that it will sue those who encode or decode H264 content without a license. Software patents, however, are only valid in some parts of the world, so an enterprising developer has started a project that was sure to come eventually: Firefox builds with H264 support.

Wild Fox may be valuable (and legal) outside the US and Japan, but its main problem is that it would encourage webmasters not to choose and to spread Ogg Theora. Mozilla would have to pay about $5 million per year for MPEG-LA licences (mostly covering places where software patents are not legal) rather than use the same amount of money to pay 50-100 more programmers.

Here is a video of Stallman talking about patents and Free software [Ogg] (thanks to tinyvid.tv, which is back to delivering Ogg).


The quality of this video is considerably high. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Theora.

As a bonus point for Apple, the Theora FUDMeister and saboteur, here is another lawsuit that might teach them a lesson if not anger them:

Bear and Monkey smack Apple with patent suit

[...]

Apple has been slapped with another patent infringement lawsuit – but the suit says more about the festering sore that is the US patent system than it does about the individual patents involved.

The lawsuit was filed by Austin, Texas inventor Eric Gould Bear, President and CEO of interface design firm MonkeyMedia. The core of his infringement claim is that his patents cover a user-interface concept that he calls “Seamless Contraction” – essentially a set of techniques to narrow the display of information to that which is most “salient,” to use his term, to the user’s needs.

Might Apple ever join the fight against software patents? It’s extremely unlikely. Apple actively uses those patents to harm competition, notably Linux/Android at the moment.

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