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Software Patents Complication Shows Why Linux Needs the FSF

GNU and Linux



Summary: Contrary to common misconceptions, the FSF's philosophy and work actually defend Linux from the patent attacks it currently faces from Apple, Microsoft, and possibly their henchmen at Intellectual Ventures

SEVERAL days ago, TuxRadar (a Linux Format magazine Web site) decided to run a strange poll with a strange introduction that can be seen as bait (the question seems like push polling [1, 2, 3]), or maybe an attempt to make the FSF look bad. That's fair enough as they can express an opinion or seek opinions, but as Jason from The Source put it:



This reminds me of a GNOME Foundation poll.


Jason refers to this incident [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], which ended up with tears.

“The FSF is actually fighting against the problems and the associated corruption of the patent system, for example.”Anyway, that poll about the FSF was seemingly alienating GNU/FSF and it led to this troll headline from ECT, which says "Would Linux Be Better Off Without the FSF?"

This is ludicrous. The FSF is actually fighting against the problems and the associated corruption of the patent system, for example. On the contrary, Linux is backed by some of the very same companies that are part of the problem. They have many software patents that they are not prepared to give up or give away (bar OIN).

Ciaran from the FSF has produced a full transcript of Andrew Tridgell's recent talk (video here) and The Source remarked on it as follows:

Well worth reading, especially in light of increasing patent-based FUD attacks against Linux from Microsoft and the doom-and-gloom appeasement arguments and anti-community actions from Microsoft lackeys.


In the comments, Jose_X points at this old article from Richard Stallman. It's about patents. The FSF should be commended for its work on the issue of software patents, not denounced or ostracised by people who choose to ignore reality. The reality is not as simple as "Linux is cool"; there are many legal attacks or even corruption (white-collar crime) involved in marginalising Linux and those who are blind to it are not helping the cause of GNU/Linux promotion. Moreover, those who stomp on the FSF are doing more damage than they realise.

Glyn Moody has published this follow-on post after a previous post where he wrote about Intellectual Ventures.

Free Software's Secret Patent Weapon



Yesterday I was warning about the threat that the super-troll Intellectual Ventures represents. To provide some balance, here's a surprisingly upbeat piece from Samba creator Andrew Tridgell on how to read software patents. It's incredibly well done, and I recommend it to everyone.


Tridgell's warnings were first mentioned by us in a post about "Apple's Patent Threat to Linux". We more or less foresaw what shortly afterwards became a reality because Apple sued Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and received Microsoft's support [1, 2, 3]. It smacks of racketeering [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. HTC and Google will fight back and as Lora Bentley put it, the circumstances make it apparent that Linux indeed is the target (Android).

The fact that Google issued a statement in support of HTC before HTC even commented on the lawsuit also lends credence to the idea that Apple is actually gunning for Google here.


Google is also harassed (sued for patent violation) by a company called Red Bend. It does not appear to have a software product (maybe just licensing). The company's Web site is vague about it and all the company talks about are some big numbers (new press release) and FOTA [PDF].

“People are gradually beginning to ask questions about the role of Intellectual Ventures and their immense holding of software patents.”
      --Simon Phipps
It is worth noting that Red Bend chooses Windows for its Web site and its latest blog post is about Microsoft.

Going back to Intellectual Ventures, which was funded by Apple, Microsoft, and Bill Gates, this patent troll has over 1,000 'satellite' firms that it is said to be using to sabotage the business of companies which refuse to pay "protection money" (secretly, under NDAs). Simon Phipps has this to say about Kodak's latest revelations about Intellectual Ventures: "People are gradually beginning to ask questions about the role of Intellectual Ventures and their immense holding of software patents. Kodak is not a company I like (they trolled Sun for a fortune) but this accusation is very serious. Getting to the bottom of it would take some serious and well-funded investigation. Or, plan B, we can ask our legislators to remove the mechanisms used for trolling…"

Stephen O’Grady explains why he is against software patents and uses Intellectual Ventures to make his case:

Still others expect me to argue that the greater good – a dangerous phrase if ever there was one – demands that software be unpatentable. That Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures is the epitome of evil in the world, with a revenue model based strictly on extracting value from an antiquated patent system that has been mistakenly applied to an industry that requires no such protections. But while I personally believe that Myhrvold’s company is based entirely on extracting profit from a broken system rather stimulating invention as he claims – that Intellectual Ventures is just a version of those infomercials seeking ignorant “inventors” to exploit writ large – this isn’t why I’m against software patents.


TechDirt also has this new example of why software patents have gone extremely silly.

Why Real Programmers Don't Take The USPTO Seriously: Doubly-Linked List Patented



[...]

It's pretty difficult to find software engineers who take the patent system seriously. There are a few, but it's still pretty difficult. For the most part, they recognize that code is just a tool: you can make it do all sorts of things, given enough time and resources, but that doesn't mean that doing any particular thing in code is an "invention" that no one else should be able to do. And then, sometimes, they discover that something pretty basic and old has suddenly been given a patent. Brad Feld discusses his discovery that doubly linked lists were apparently patented in 2006 (patent number 7,028,023)...


In the news this week we have: "Cognex and Fuji Resolve Vision Software Patent Dispute"

As we continue to emphasise, a lot of the bullying with software patents comes from Apple and Microsoft (among the large companies, IBM and Google do not do this, even though they have software patents). But there is more to Microsoft than just Microsoft itself; for instance, look at former Microsoft employees who created companies such as LikeWise [1, 2]. They are playing with software patents and with Microsoft. They bring that over to UNIX, Linux, and even VMware, which is also run by former Microsoft employees and it shows. Microsoft is trying to feed Linux with software patents by shoving them down its throat. What is Linus going to do about it [1, 2]? If it weren't for the FSF and FFII, for example, where would we be?

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