11.07.17

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Microsoft and Its Patent Trolls Pick Up Patents Whilst Attacking GNU/Linux and Dodging Infringement

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 7:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering.”

Mark Shuttleworth

Mafia

Summary: Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures are still pursuing and picking up patents of defunct operations; at the same time they leverage such patents against Microsoft’s competition, notably products/services with GNU/Linux

PATENT blackmail and extortion giant Microsoft has been the subject of this site for 11 years (it's our anniversary today). It was the original issue which gave purpose to this site. Microsoft decided to threaten and bully GNU/Linux OEMs, bolstered by a deal it had struck with Novell in November 2006.

“We need to keep an eye on this because Microsoft already reproduces its Novell strategy by offering indemnification only to people who pay Microsoft monthly rents…”According to this morning’s blog post from a Microsoft- and trolls-friendly site, Microsoft picks up more patents with which to habitually attack GNU/Linux OEMs. “The most recent assignment,” it says, “recorded one week ago, is Seiko Epson’s biggest of 2017 so far. Microsoft looks to be getting 33 US patent rights as part of an overall global package of just under 130 assets. While Microsoft has picked up significant portfolios in the last few years from the likes of Toshiba and LG Electronics, it is not a regular acquirer portfolios from other operating companies; that may be changing, though, as the company expands its ‘patent pick’ offering to cloud customers through the Azure IP Advantage programme.”

It then speaks of Intellectual Ventures (IV), Microsoft’s biggest patent troll with over 70,000 patents and Microsoft’s former CTO in sole charge. “If this last portfolio is NPE-bound,” the blog says. “it is not necessarily the first time that Seiko Epson has done a deal with this type of entity (even excepting IP Bridge!). In 2016, the Japanese firm transferred 53 US patents to Intellectuals High-Tech KFT, which IAM reported appears to be an Intellectual Ventures vehicle. Those assets did not end up in litigation however – they were soon passed on to a Chinese display maker.”

“As it stands at the moment, Microsoft is believed to be pocketing billions of dollars each year from threatening Linux hosts/OEMs using software patents.”We need to keep an eye on this because Microsoft already reproduces its Novell strategy by offering indemnification only to people who pay Microsoft monthly rents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] (while at the the same time distributing patents to aggressive patent trolls, both directly and indirectly).

In other news, regarding MasterMine v Microsoft (covered here over the weekend, back in the summer and the week before that), Peter Leung from Bloomberg speaks of Microsoft’s setback:

Microsoft Corp.’s software doesn’t infringe two patents on exporting data to spreadsheets, a federal appeals court held Oct. 30 while also ruling the patents themselves aren’t invalid.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a trial court ruling that several of the claims in patents held by MasterMine Software Inc. were invalid as indefinite because they covered both methods and systems. A patent claim can cover a method for performing a task, or an apparatus, which is often referred to as a system ( MasterMine Software, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp. , Fed. Cir., No. 16-2465, 10/30/17 ).

We don’t believe this case will be enough to compel Microsoft to change its strategy and call for elimination of software patents. As it stands at the moment, Microsoft is believed to be pocketing billions of dollars each year from threatening Linux hosts/OEMs using software patents. They pay ‘protection’ money.

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

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