Bonum Certa Men Certa

It's All Down to Patents Now

Co-authored with G. Forbes

Summary: Why patents are worth treating as the principal barrier to Free software adoption

MICROSOFT has already lost the battle for technical superiority over its competitors. Without a legitimate advantage, all that is left for Microsoft to do is to struggle using legal battles enabled by broken patent legislation instead. We at Techrights have repeatedly driven this point home. After covering the Yahoo! case, Thomson Reuters has proceeded to cover Microsoft's own cases against patent trolls (a rather ironic situation considering Microsoft itself is increasingly becoming a patent troll as we have demonstrated in the past). In this specific case, the troll is Uniloc [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. It's clear the case is not quite over yet:



A U.S. appeals court that specializes in patent disputes said on Monday that it would not review a decision to toss out a common method of calculating damages in patent lawsuits.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had said in January that Microsoft infringed a Uniloc patent to prevent software piracy but also tossed out the popular "25 percent rule," which assumes that the company licensing a patent is due 25 percent of the value of the product.

Uniloc USA and its Singapore-based parent originally filed suit against Microsoft in 2003, accusing it of infringing a Uniloc patent to prevent unlicensed use of its Windows XP operating system and parts of its Office suite of software products.


Meanwhile, GNU/Linux sites are in celebration of the news that Mark Webbink is helming Groklaw now. Wasting no time, Webbink has already tackled the Bedrock case, following the news from Yahoo:

"There was a good deal of gnashing of teeth," he writes, "just two weeks ago when Google was found to have infringed the patents of Bedrock Computer Technologies, Inc. with respect to caching in Linux. In terms of patent judgments, the award was relatively small, just $5 million. But it still raised issues with respect to other developers and users of Linux, many of whom were engaged in related infringement suits brought by Bedrock.

"Well, lo and behold, in the same court in the Eastern District of Texas this week Bedrock lost [PDF] on its infringement claim against Yahoo (related NewsPick), another defendant using exactly the same technology, albeit without executing the Bedrock code."

Though Webbink's appointment seems to have been a positive addition, there is a notable downside. As we feared, Groklaw seems to be switching focus more narrowly onto on patents and losing sight of the niche but critical area that is SCO. "Walterbyrd" has told us that "UnXis, Inc[,] Claims to Own The UNIX and UnixWare Trademarks". He quotes:

"APPLICANT’S REPLY IN SUPPORT OF HIS COMBINED MOTION AND BRIEF TO RESUME OPPOSITION PROCEEDING AND RESET AND EXTEND THE SCHEDULE [...]UnXis, Inc. ('UnXis') SCO's successor, now states it, not X/Open, lawfully owns the UNIX and UnixWare trademarks. SCO just completed the bankruptcy sale of its UNIX..."


Fortunately, it seems extremely unlikely that anything other than FUD will ever come out of this development. Groklaw has done so much to show that SCO (or TSG or UnXis or whatever it chooses to call itself) has no case. We do hope that Groklaw will continue to keep an eye on SCO in the future though.

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