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Patents Roundup: OIN Grows, Microsoft Ally LG Uses Patent Bullies, Microsoft and Amazon Advance Anti-Free Software Laws

Summary: As the title suggests, this is an accumulation of patent news that affects Free software

MICROSOFT and its affiliates (or the likes of it) carry on attacking the very foundations of Free software, but a lot of people in the Free software world are still not paying close attention to it. This post about the latest developments will hopefully serve as a reminder.

Open Invention Network (OIN)



OIN recently proved that it serves a real role in defending Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], so credit is given where it's due. OIN has just added a new member to its pool of patentees and we append the press release at the bottom. Here is the opening paragraph.

Open Invention Network (OIN), the company formed to enable and protect Linux, today extended the Linux ecosystem with the signing of Messaging Architects as a licensee. By becoming a licensee, Messaging Architects has joined the growing list of companies that recognize the importance of participating in a substantial community of Linux supporters and leveraging the Open Invention Network to further spur open source innovation.


LG and Patent Trolls



LG



As an important reminder, LG signed a Novell-type patent deal with Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], which constitutes an attack on the Freedom and price of Linux (and by extension -- GNU). LG's criminal activities seem to be followed right now by what the President of the FFII calls "proxying", akin to the idea of sending thugs and bullies to beat up your competitors or foes. He claims that "LG Electronics [is] proxying lawsuits through patent trolls," which brings back memories of Sisvel, the 'patent mafia' of Philips [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

This latest incident (as referred to above) is covered in at least two places; the first is TechDirt, which published: "A Look Behind The Curtain: How A Patent Hoarder Makes Money"

A few months back, someone sent over some details about a legal battle involving Peter Boesen, who is both a convicted felon in jail and a patent hoarder who licensed his patents to a "patent troll" firm to assert against tons of tech companies, and Niro Scavone, the law firm representing the patent company (and the law firm famous for, among other things, having been the inspiration for the term "patent troll").


In light of the term used by TechDirt, think about Microsoft's own patent hoarder, Nathan Myhrvold. TechDirt links to this post as its source. Here is Johnny Ward again, the troll-loving bully who sued his critic in order to silence him [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].

Most intriguing is the sum paid by Apple to settle an SPT suit brought over the iPhone in the Eastern District of Texas in 2008: $865,000. Without any motions being filed after the intial complaint or any substantive discovery, a bit more than 30 percent of that amount, $271,817, went to Niro Scavone, which also billed $46,568 in expenses. Nearly $40,000 went to someone identified as "Ward"--most likely Johnny Ward Jr., who served as local counsel to SPT in the case. Of what was left, almost $109,000 went to SP Technologies, then owned by investor Courtney Sherrer, and $311,400 went to Boesen.


Eolas recently attacked a lot of companies using patents [1, 2, 3], having already attacked Microsoft successfully [1, 2]. Damage control from Eolas now comes via Heise:

First they wrestled down Microsoft, now they're litigating against other big IT players: Eolas intends to enforce its patent on web technologies and plug-ins for integrating interactive content at all cost. However, a partner of the legal firm representing Eolas assured the readers of German Focus magazine that the vendor does not intend to cripple the internet. The lawyer also said that individuals, such as Facebook users or bloggers, using the technologies for integrating, for example, videos into their web pages or profiles, have nothing to fear. Litigation against such individuals doesn't make sense economically, he added.


Spin and damage mitigation is all that is.

Microsoft



Microsoft is at the moment circulating the following E-mail, which seemingly encourages software patents in Europe. It also has free trips to Redmond as a prize/incentive. This is the type of thing which Microsoft typically does using front groups like ACT.

Microsoft on ICT



Amazon



Amazon, which accepted several Microsoft executives into its higher management, is not a friend of Free software. Amazon may be a user of Free software, albeit an abusive user [1, 2] that is a major part of the software patents madness in the United States. In Canada, Amazon's notorious "one-click" patent was rightly rejected, but Amazon is fighting back to break the Canadian patent system too, forcibly injecting a most insanely controversial software patents into it. Suffice to say, the Free Software Foundation is against Amazon.

Sun



A few days ago we wrote about how Sun's attitude towards software patents has actually turned against it, potentially killing the excellent ZFS. K&L Gates, which has worked with Microsoft for many years until very recently when its priority was lowered, is now abusing innocent people on behalf of "SPARC", using intellectual monopolies. [via TechDirt and Slashdot]

SparkFun is all about open. Whether sharing the pcb design files for our products or posting pictures from the office on flickr, we're pretty open about what it's like to work here. Today we'd like to share with you a cease and desist letter we received from SPARC International. Here's a link to SPARC on wikipedia in case you don't know who SPARC is.


Red Hat



Although it has nothing to do with official company policy, the following new post comes from a Red Hat employee in India, who strongly agrees with the views expressed by Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi in Africa:

Even slaves were considered property: South African Minister



[...]

It is good to remember this at a time when organizations aim to justify the privatization of knowledge and ideas under the guise that this is essential for promoting innovation.

In the area of software patents, this is nothing but a land grab, a conversion of was in the commons into a private enclosure.


Here is a video of Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi speaking about these issues

Software patents should be rejected by Africans and Indians alike; they are weapons of colonialists and fortunately there are those who understand this and turn against the WTO [via Richard Stallman], not just WIPO.

Ten years ago, citizen activists shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial in Seattle to protest the devastating impact of the WTO's corporate globalization agenda on our jobs, wages and the environment. Now, big corporations are back at it, again pushing an expansion of the WTO's power.


The intellectual monopolies system is mostly about protecting dominant forces in the industry, not facilitating young innovators ("disruption"). To suggest anything else is to sell the illusion marketed by those in industry who benefit from protectionist measures, i.e. the status quo. Incidentally, companies that are wrongly perceived as "friends" of Free software (IBM for example) should be counted among the culprits. IBM is the principal entity behind the OIN*, which mostly defends large vendors (with an extensive patent portfolio) that incorporate Linux into their non-Free products. _____ * Jerry Rosenthal came from IBM, which still owns a vast number of OIN patents. It turns much of it into a feud between patent coalitions, but an optimal solution for all is the abolishment of software patents.




Open Invention Network Extends the Linux Ecosystem as Messaging Architects Becomes Licensee



DURHAM, NC -- 10/27/09 -- Open Invention Network (OIN), the company formed to enable and protect Linux, today extended the Linux ecosystem with the signing of Messaging Architects as a licensee. By becoming a licensee, Messaging Architects has joined the growing list of companies that recognize the importance of participating in a substantial community of Linux supporters and leveraging the Open Invention Network to further spur open source innovation.

Patents owned by Open Invention Network are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. This enables companies to continue to make significant corporate and capital expenditure investments in Linux -- helping to fuel economic growth. By developing a web of Linux developers, distributors, sellers, resellers and end-users that license its patent portfolio, Open Invention Network is creating a supportive and shielded ecosystem to ensure the growth and adoption of Linux.

"We are pleased to have Messaging Architects, a leader in Email risk management and compliance, become a licensee as we seek to enable the Linux Ecosystem," said Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network. "Messaging Architects is one of a growing number of companies that recognize the value provided by open source software and the Linux community. We applaud their support for Linux."

"Globally, Linux drives the vast majority of Email routing and security infrastructure. As such it plays a critical role as the enabler of innovative messaging technology platforms," said Pierre Chamberland, CEO of Messaging Architects. "By becoming an Open Invention Network licensee, we encourage ongoing Linux development which helps to ensure the continued improvement of our products and services. This relationship will be incredibly beneficial for Messaging Architects, our customers and partners worldwide."

OIN has accumulated more than 300 strategic, worldwide patents and patent applications. These patents are available to all licensees as part of the patent portfolio that OIN is creating around, and in support of Linux. The Open Invention Network license agreement can be found at http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/pat_license_agreement.php.

About Open Invention Network

Open Invention Network(SM) is a collaborative enterprise that enables innovation in open source and an increasingly vibrant ecosystem around Linux by acquiring and licensing patents, influencing behaviors and policy, and protecting the integrity of the ecosystem through strategic programs such as Linux Defenders. It enables the growth and continuation of open source software by fostering a healthy Linux ecosystem of investors, vendors, developers and users.

Open Invention Network has considerable industry backing. It was launched in 2005, and has received investments from IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony. For more information, visit www.openinventionnetwork.com.

About Messaging Architects

Founded in 1995, Messaging Architects is a global builder of infrastructure for Business Driven Email. Messaging Architects provides software and services that deliver 100% uptime and compliance. Thousands of organizations worldwide depend on the firm's solutions for risk-free messaging and collaboration. For more information, visit www.messagingarchitects.com.

Open Invention Network, the Open Invention Network logo, Linux Defenders, Linux Defenders 911 and the Linux Defenders 911 logo are the property of Open Invention Network, LLC. All other names and brand marks are the property of their respective holders.

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