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More Evidence of Potential Microsoft Involvement in Apple-HTC Lawsuit Against Linux/Android (and Microsoft Loses to Virnetx)

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"Patent defence for free software by Andrew Tridgell"
Dr. Andrew Tridgell's talk from the LCA 2010 conference



Summary: Microsoft's top "IP" bullies commend Apple's legal action and Microsoft owes VirnetX $105.75 million for patent violation

BACK in January we wrote about Tridgell's talk, which is finally available for the public to watch (FFII made a copy). We covered his talk in a post about "Apple's Patent Threat to Linux". We partly predicted Apple's lawsuit against GNU/Linux, using software patents in fact [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Now we know that experts allege that Microsoft may have played role in Apple's lawsuit. Microsoft endorses this action publicly (in a Smith's talk) and now Microsoft endorses this in its lobbying blog too. One of Microsoft's chief racketeers, Horacio Gutierrez, wrote: "Apple v. HTC: A Step Along the Path of Addressing IP Rights in Smartphones"



One of our readers quotes the following portions: "There is a long history of IP litigation in the mobile phone market, and innovation has continued apace [...] as the IP situation settles in this space and licensing takes off, we will see the patent royalties applicable to the smartphone software stack settle at a level that reflects the increasing importance software has as a portion of the overall value of the device."

“Is this Microsoft-codespeak for, we expect people to start paying us a hardware tax.”
      --Anonymous reader
The simple translation is that Microsoft wants tax on Linux phones. Microsoft wants us to pretend that mobile Linux too is Microsoft's own property (the software layer). Our reader says: "Is this Microsoft-codespeak for, we expect people to start paying us a hardware tax. Something like they suggested to the OLPC developers? It's in the Comes documents, in references to either 'investing' in the OLPC or getting them to stump up a Linux tax, can't remember the exact words."

With Apple's lawsuit against GNU/Linux (via HTC/Android), the impact of Microsoft becomes increasingly suspect. Did Microsoft speak to Apple prior to this action? Either way, Apple is clearly a foe of software freedom and GNU/Linux users should cease viewing Apple as benign just because it competes against (or with) Microsoft.

Apple is clearly having a hard time competing against GNU/Linux. The iPad seems like a train wreck that even former Apple executives are negative about [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. It appears as though the iPad's target market is dyed-in-the-wool Apple followers. And surely enough, according to the following numbers, just fans are eventually buying it. [via Glyn Moody]

Orders for the Apple iPad fell sharply over the weekend, indicating that most of the real obsessives bought one on Friday.


As Ghabuntu reminds us this week, iPad is just a "toy" (Apple is irrelevant in places like Africa).

I just keep asking myself, what is it that makes Apple toys so special even if they come at a *huge* cost, both economically and philosophically?


SJVN writes about the iPad and resorts to discussing tablets that are better and run GNU/Linux.

After that, why not a wearable Mac or Linux PC? We've already had wearable Linux and Windows PCs, but those early models had all the problems I listed earlier. In 2010, it's a different story. We may not have flying cars, but we can certainly have wearable computers.

We already know that Asus is looking into running Google's Linux-based Chrome OS on wearable PCs. Who knows: in 2020, we may look back and see that iPads and tablet computers were only a brief rest stop on the way to wearable entertainment devices and computers.


Dell too is planning to release tablets that run Linux (maybe with GNU). Many of the ARM-based tablets look exceptionally promising.

The myth says that GNU/Linux is trying to catch up with the "Mac" and the "PC", but when it comes to devices, the very opposite is true. Apple and Microsoft are just taking legal actions (intimidation or rackets) to tax devices such as the Kindle for example [1, 2, 3], which leads to articles like this new one from South Africa (where software patents are illegal but Microsoft vainly breaks the patent law):

Microsoft licensing Linux



[..]

Proprietary giant is licensing open source to its partners. What is going on?

Over the past few weeks Microsoft has been licensing Linux to a number of its partners, most notably Amazon. Although the idea of Microsoft, a company steeped in proprietary software, licensing open source software is ludicrous it's not completely unexpected. It's also not the first time Microsoft has played the Linux patent game and we can expect to see more deals in the future. So what's going on?

[...]

Then in February Microsoft announced a deal with Amazon which it described as covering a "broad range" of products, including Amazon's Kindle and Amazon's use of Linux-based servers. Effectively Microsoft is licensing Linux to Amazon on the understanding that it won't sue the company for infringing on its alleged Linux-related patents.

This is not unlike the agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft in 2006 in which Microsoft agreed to indemnify Suse Linux users against potential patent suits. That deal too attracted significant ire from the open source community.

The most recent Linux patent deal from Microsoft is a deal with Japanese hardware maker I-O Data. Although the specifics of the agreement are not known the two companies said that the the deal "will provide I-O Data's customers with patent coverage for their use of I-O Data's products running Linux and other related open source software." Again, Microsoft is providing an assurance that it won't file a patent suit against I-O Data for its use of Linux.

This is not the first time that a company has tried to claim Linux patent ownership and used that against other businesses. SCO is the most obvious example and they even went so far as claim that they owned Unix. SCO, fortunately, was never that successful at winning its claim over Linux and Unix. Microsoft on the other hand is a potentially different case.

[...]

Suing a Linux vendor directly over patent claims would be a shortcut to ending up in court. And being hauled into court would force Microsoft to open its books and explain what it is that it claims to own.

For now Microsoft is prepared to rely on compliant partners to create uncertainty around Linux ownership.

It's a clever strategy by Microsoft and one hard to counteract.


It's not a "clever strategy", it's racketeering and it's illegal [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It should be reported by vendors like Red Hat as it probably violates laws introduced with the RICO Act. The racketeering from Gates and Jobs goes quite a long way back. It's just another SCO-like strategy, going back to around the same time as the SCO lawsuit (2003).

Speaking of SCO, a few days ago it turned out that SCO itself was behind the attacks on Groklaw. SCO was using Sys-Con as its attack dog and Sys-Con is now spreading lies about an important Free software project, leading to this reaction:

O’Gara Cloud Computing Article Off Base



[...]

This is just about the most naïve explanation for whether a product will or will not be stable that I’ve ever read. If Maureen had bothered to email or call any one of the core Drizzle developers, they’d have been happy to tell her what is and is not stable about Drizzle, and why. Drizzle has not changed the underlying storage engines, so the InnoDB storage engine in Drizzle is the same plugin as available in MySQL (version 1.0.6).


Watch the first comment which says: "There's no reason to be nice to MoG. She's the same hitwoman who wrote a bunch of pro SCO, anti GPL FUD during that whole trial (while being paid by them, while claiming to be impartial), including publishing a bunch of personal info about the previously anonymous blogger behind Groklaw."

Few more comments like this follow, but a lot more about the SCO/Sys-Con attack on Groklaw can be found in this new Slashdot discussion.

In other important news, the Virnetx case is over and Microsoft lost. We previously covered this in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] and here is the news from Microsoft Nick:

A Texas jury has sided with VirnetX in its patent-infringement lawsuit against Microsoft, recommending an award of $105.75 million.


TechDirt already responds with some witty remarks:

In the last few years, Microsoft has become a bigger and bigger supporter of patents, which is a bit ironic, given that Bill Gates once pointed out that the software industry never would have developed if there had been software patents back in the early days. But, proving that new companies innovate, while older companies litigate, Microsoft has become a big patent hoarder in recent years. But, to date, while it's used those patents to threaten lots of companies, it seems like Microsoft's decision to live by patents, is actually costing it quite a bit of money.


Sadly, Microsoft uses patent trolls like Virnetx only to justify its own patent attacks against rivals. Microsoft's #1 rival is Free software of course (although its embodiment can be companies like Google, IBM, Red Hat, and so on).

"I'd put the Linux phenomenon really as threat No. 1."

--Steve Ballmer, 2001



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